Brief IntroductionAs a pre-mission teenager studying at Brigham Young University, I took a number of religion classes. It has been satisfying to look over some of the papers I wrote for those classes and to see how my understanding and writing style have progressed. While this text certainly doesn’t represent my best work, I thought I’d include it here just for fun.
Steps to Spiritual Understanding
IntroductionImagine God upon His Celestial throne, surrounded by numberless concourses of angels. His perfection is evident on all levels: physical, spiritual, and mental. He stands as the supreme governor of the universe, for by His power, by His priesthood, the universe is ordered and maintained. In contrast, we, His children, are infinitely different than He. While His heavenly glory is intrinsic, we earthly creatures hurt and deride each other in order to gain the glory of men. He commands and orders all of creation, but we mortal beings have a hard time commanding and ordering our own lives. Of all the physical, spiritual, and mental differences between God and men, the greatest is this: spiritual understanding. If men are to become more like their creator, they must see and understand the way He sees and understands. That may seem like an insurmountable task, and indeed it would be if not for His mercy. Fortunately, He loves us enough to give us the spiritual understanding we need to fully emulate Him.
It seems like I’ve read the Book of Enos at least a million times, usually just skimming over the 27 verses casually. “Oh, Enos was such a neat guy,” I’d think to myself. “I could never pray all day like he did.”
But this last time it really hit me, especially in the context of our class discussion. The Book of Enos isn’t about a guy who prayed all day as much as it is about the process Enos used to gain spiritual understanding. This process is not limited in scope to Enos alone; it is used throughout the scriptures and has modern-day application.
PonderingPondering is an essential precursor to spiritual understanding. In verse three Enos relates his pondering process:
“Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests; and the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.”
I can picture Enos walking quietly through the tall trees as he hunted beasts. No doubt small insects chirped as he passed by, and the birds overhead sang their morning songs. In contrast, on a more recent day I was walking through the stadium parking lot. Cars and students, rather than insects and birds, provided the background noise for my pondering, but I think I probably felt a lot like Enos did. I had recently received the Melchizedek priesthood, and I desperately wanted to learn to use it better.
PrayerPerhaps I am strange, but for me pondering and prayer are, at times, nearly synonyms. I often ponder as I walk, and, if I’m thinking about the gospel, my mind has a tendency to jump between a pondering state and a praying state until the two are almost the same. This so-called “gospel pondering” is not entirely intellectual; the spirit often influences how I feel and think. This spiritual influence gives my pondering prayer-like characteristics and makes it hard for me to distinguish between the two. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that instead of kneeling at our bedsides we should all go on a walk before we fall asleep; some of my most spiritual experiences have occurred when I got on my knees. Still, for me at least, there is something special about communing with God as I walk between classes. I’ve come to rely upon those quiet moments to get me through the noisy ones.
Perhaps it isn’t really important, but the idea that Enos’ prayer was a combination of knelling and walking seems reasonable to me. I can really identify with Enos that way.
“And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.”
Regardless of whether kneeling or walking, Enos makes it clear that prayer is essential to spiritual understanding. As I walked across the concrete of the stadium parking lot that day, I told my Father about my desire to learn to use the holy priesthood.
ActionAction is by far the hardest step to implement. It’s one thing to ponder and pray, but it’s another thing entirely to act upon our thoughts and supplications. For me, this last step is the one most often overlooked.
Verse nineteen describes how Enos’ acted:
“And now it came to pass that I, Enos, went about among the people of Nephi, prophesying of things to come, and testifying of the things which I had heard and seen.”
Enos had prayed for the welfare of his brethren in verses nine and thirteen, but that was not enough. Afterward he went and tried to strengthen them by preaching and testifying. His pondering and prayer were insufficient without action.
I can picture Enos boldly declaring the gospel in the presence of the proud and learned of his people. My action, on the other hand, was not so courageous. I acted in the presence of dirty dishes, not intellectual antagonists, but my action was just as essential to my spiritual understanding as Enos’ preaching was to his.
I was all alone in my apartment the following Sunday when a young man and a young woman walked through my door. The young man abruptly asked, “Do you hold the Melchizedek priesthood?”
I was a little startled; after all, that isn’t a question you hear every day. I responded yes, and he asked me if I would give the young lady a blessing.
Unlike Enos of old who acted in the Nephite villages, I acted in my kitchen. Perhaps the Lord recognized that I was not self-motivated enough to go out and act of my own free will like Enos did, so he sent the action to me. I blessed her and the young couple left as abruptly as they had come.
Now I’m not claiming to have a complete understanding of the Melchizedek priesthood. I could spend my whole life studying the power of God and never fully understand it. Nevertheless, as a result of my pondering, prayer, and action, my spiritual understanding increased. I came to see and understand the priesthood of God and its accompanying power to bless others in the same way that God sees and understands that power.