Freshly led out of Egypt, the children of Israel were delivered by a series of miracles that seem like they must have been incredible to witness. Camped at the base of mount Sinai, they were left alone without their leader, Moses. During this time they could have lived by the memory of what they had seen, they could have remembered and been true to what was shown to them. Instead, in a matter of days they were building new gods to worship. How quickly they had forgotten, how unable they were to walk when left alone.
Walking alone is part of the process
The following is a few excerpts from a paper written by Terryl L. Givens called “Letter to a Doubter” which I read recently on Mormon Interpreter. He illustrates this principle of patience when walking alone and the importance of remembering.
I have experienced this phenomenon often in my life where I have these incredible revelatory and enlightening experiences followed by silence and a sense of spiritual isolation. I’ve often wondered if I was being rejected by God or if I had done something to offend him by my actions or not being true enough to his commandments. I’ve talked to others that have felt this way from time to time.
Brother Givens’ words are insightful:
“Patience does not mean to wait apathetically and dejectedly, but to anticipate actively on the basis of what we know; and what we know, we must remember…To remember is to rescue the sacred from the vacuum of oblivion. To remember Christ’s sacrifice every Sunday at the sacrament table is to say no to the ravages of time, to refuse to allow his supernal sacrifice to be just another datum in the catalogue of what is past.”
“…remembering rather than experiencing moves us toward greater independence and insulates us from the vicissitudes of the moment. Brigham said God’s intention was to make us as independent in our sphere as he is in his. That is why the heavens close from time to time, to give us room for self-direction. That is why the Saints rejoiced in a Pentecostal day in Kirtland’s temple but were met with silence in Nauvoo—silence, and their memories of Kirtland. One can see the Lord gently tutoring us to replace immediacy with memory when he says to Oliver, “If you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:22–23). Citing C. S. Lewis, Rachael Givens writes, “God allows spiritual peaks to subside into (often extensive) troughs in order [to have] ‘servants who can finally become Sons,’ ‘stand[ing] up on [their] own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish . . . growing into the sort of creature He wants [them] to be.’ ”
For that which is most worthy to be blest—
Delight and liberty, the simple creed
Of Childhood, whether busy or at rest,
With new-fledged hope still fluttering in his breast: —
Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise;
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realised.…
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may,
Are yet the fountain light of all our day.
– William Wordsworth
You see, it was in the midst of his perplexity, of his obstinate questions, uncertainties, misgivings, and shadowy recollections that almost but don’t quite pierce the veil, that he found the prompt, the agitation, the catalyst that spurred him from complacency to insight, from generic pleasures to revelatory illumination, from being a thing acted upon to being an actor in the quest for his spiritual identity.”
These times when we think we are left alone are valuable and important. These times allow us to see what we currently are and many times we might not like what we see. This also can be a great blessing if we choose to press onward instead of shrugging our shoulders and giving up. NO – even if we feel that our sins are as red as scarlet and we are dyed head to toe in all that is unholy, we can be made as white as snow through Christ.
Our sins are not more powerful than the atonement!
What is being prepared for us?
How different might have that moment have been when Moses descended from the mount with blessings from God in hand, to discover Israel on its knees worshipping God in humble patience, still strong in remembrance of what was done for them?
In contrast to the children of Israel’s impatience and willing forgetfulness, the Nephite and Lamanite remnants were left for perhaps a longer length of time alone after the destructions in their land and hearing the voice of the Lord. With perhaps up to an entire year left alone, the survivors were found at the temple “marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place. And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death” (3 Nephi 11:1-2).
They had not forgotten, and in the very act of moving themselves closer to God’s temple and speaking of Christ, they were found worthy to receive Christ, the Second Comforter, himself. That day, they were probably not expecting the great Jehovah to descend out of heaven and look them in the eye. They were probably not expecting their hands that were performing the usual tasks of the day would soon be touching nail prints in the hands and feet of the risen Lord. How could they have imagined hosts of angels encircling them as Christ blessed each of their children one by one?
What are our hands busy doing each day? What might God be preparing for each of us at this moment?
It’s easy to do right when God is showering us with blessings, but how do we walk when he leaves us to our own devices? American basketball player and coach, John Wooden once said:
“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
The truth is that someone is always watching: God, our ancestors, our posterity, spirits of perdition and perhaps countless others we do not perceive. However, I think that the true test of a man’s character is simply what he does, period, whether he’s being watched or not.
Whatever one wills, exists, and what we cause to exist defines us as beings.
So in those times you feel alone, remember and have patience because how you perform will determine your worthiness for those blessings being prepared for you on God’s mountain. May he find each of us like the remnant Nephites and Lamanites waiting with eagerness for the Lamb and not bowing at the feet of our hand-made golden calves.