Mormons are incredibly industrious. The beehive, and the word, industry, were on the first flag when Utah attained statehood in 1896. And that pioneer heritage of working almost harder than is humanly possible, is still a cherished trait. Words like “striving” and “personal progress” are part of our vocabulary as we constantly take inventory of our efforts to excel and grow . “Be ye therefore perfect” rings through our culture like it has a 5 o’clock deadline.
And, despite church leaders telling us not to run faster than we are able, many of us have grown up with a good bit of pressure to “be about good works,” or at least be busy serving and doing. And here’s where the problem lies: Many of us have crammed our lives so full of tasks to complete each day, that we’ve cut out one of the most important directives of all: To ponder.
It’s hard for high achievers to ponder, or meditate. It looks lazy and unproductive, like daydreaming. People who ponder aren’t visibly working or sweating. It certainly isn’t something a honeybee would do. So off we dash in our effort to cross things off our list and get things done.
Satan is thrilled. He has cleverly disguised meditation as something you do when you have nothing else to do. He packages it as a dispensable idea for those times when you’re waiting in a doctor’s office and you’ve already read all the magazines. So you sit there and think. And, even then, he hopes you will think of trivial blather that doesn’t lift your spirit: What to fix for dinner, whether Sister Jones might agree to sub in Primary, do we really need new tires on the van?
He has also taken our industrious nature, and turned it on us. Because a strong work ethic is a good thing, he has convinced us it is every thing. He has sold us the idea that the harder we work, the better we are. Accomplishments reign supreme, and we stack them up like medals. Slowing down is indolent and lazy-speed up and show your worth.
We need to regroup, and take another look at what pondering actually is. It isn’t just a casual notion to think a little bit about the latest scriptures you’ve read. It isn’t something you can do as you fix meals, drive to work, or go shopping.
Gordon B. Hinckley said he once heard David O. McKay tell the Council of the Twelve that they didn’t spend enough time meditating. President Hinckley said we get extremely busy, running from one thing to another. “We wear ourselves out in thoughtless pursuit of goals which are highly ephemeral,” he said.
So what is it? David O. McKay called meditation a form of prayer, “one of the most secret, most sacred doors through which we pass into the presence of the Lord.”
Pondering is not simply sitting still and letting your mind wander. It’s a focused concentration on things of eternity, on matters of the spirit. It’s weighing and deliberating, reaching with our minds to a higher level, for higher answers. It can open our eyes to spiritual understanding, and unlock revelation.
Joseph Smith wrote, “On the third of October, in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures; And reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world… As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me…” (D&C 138:1-2, 11.)
There is tremendous power in pondering. Sometimes it’s the only way to truly understand something you’ve heard or read. Jesus told the Nephites, “Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand.” (3 Ne. 17:3.)
Yes, we can learn a bit if we don’t meditate. But why settle for scraps? Why not magnify our learning tenfold by adding meditation to the mix? Henry B. Eyring says, ” We may be nourished more by pondering a few words, allowing the Holy Ghost to make them treasures to us, than by passing quickly, and superficially, over whole chapters of scripture.”
This cannot be done on the fly. We must set aside quiet time alone. Is that hard to do when you have a large family and many demands on your time? Yes, but aren’t you then the person who most needs help from the Holy Ghost? Stressed living requires pondering all the more. So choose a time and write it into your schedule (Boyd K. Packer recommends early mornings). Select a place free from distractions and noise. Turn off the electronics.
Ponder over your problems looking for solutions, not just feeling sorry for yourself. Allow enough time for the Holy Ghost to break through your pride/selfishness/stubbornness. In addition to opening our eyes and hearts to awesome spiritual insights, Church leaders have taught that pondering can build your testimony, refine your spirit, and teach you the right questions to ask in prayer. Meditation should always accompany fasting, and is a perfect Sunday activity. It can improve our relationships, direct our paths, and bring us joy.
No wonder the adversary wants to keep us so busy.
Listen to Hilton’s radio advice show at blogtalkradio.com/jonihilton on Thursdays at 2 pm PST.
Joni Hilton is also “Your YouTube Mom” and shares short videos that teach easy household tips and life skills at: http://bit.ly/YourYouTubeMom
Be sure to read her blog at jonihilton.blogspot.com.
She is currently serving as Relief Society President of her ward in Northern California.