“Now it came to pass that there were many of the rising generation that could not understand the words of king Benjamin, being little children at the time he spake unto his people; and they did not believe the tradition of their fathers.” Mosiah 26:1
Recently, I have been thinking about why I tend to put up walls whenever I hear pioneer stories. Don’t get me wrong some of them are amazing, but I have a hard time relating to them and I feel like their experience is not the same as mine. Now I admit fully that this is not something that is good. There are amazing sources of faith and inspiration in pioneer stories and in many ways they can be even more valuable than the canonized scriptures. I probably need to repent for feeling the way I do, but it is still how I feel a lot of times and it has brought me to a realization that I think could be really valuable.
We need more stories from our time that show how God interacts with us, and show miracles, and show revelation and inspiration. In particular parents need to share their stories of their relationship with Jesus Christ. I want to hear more about someone’s desperate search for God and the constant struggles (sin, addiction, disbelief in history and doctrine) they go through before finally connecting with Christ and becoming new and spreading the gospel to others in their life. I want to hear more about the divorced sister raising 4 children and has no one to help her move into her house in the middle of a snow storm and by chance someone who was out doing the work of the Lord stumbles upon her and is able to rally many people to help her. I want to hear more stories about the man who’s pacemaker malfunctions while playing tennis and is killing him and a priesthood holder lays hands on his head and heals him before the pacemaker destroys his heart. I want to hear more about the dream someone has that inspires a life decision that either saves a life or brings lives together that may not have connected. I want to hear about the still small voice that brings peace to a teenager who is depressed. These (real-life) stories relate to me and get into my heart and make me want to believe even more. Why don’t we have more of them, and why do we insist on ignoring the ones we do have for the older pioneer stories. I have two ideas of why and some thoughts on what we can do different.
- We quit writing in our journals in particular we aren’t recording our spiritual experiences and we aren’t recording our thoughts about God and doctrine.
We have a tendency to sensationalize the past and trivialize the present. Most of the Pioneer stories that I often hear are from journals written by those men and women. They shared those journals with their children, but at some point the journals either stopped being written, or they stopped being shared with us. I can say that I have never seen or heard of a journal from my parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents. These lives stretch back to 1901. 1901!!!! One more generation is pioneer territory. Am I the only one who feels this way? The time frame between King Benjamin and the rising generation not believing his words was between 24-32 years. In the church we are constantly being told how the focus and concern is on keeping youth and young adults in the church. Well if they are anything like me they might not have been able to read or hear real stories of people’s experiences with God in their sphere of influence. It is just one observation but I think it has merit. Since it is impossible to change the past I have a solution that is personal.
Wilford Woodruff is one of the pioneer men that I truly love. His journal is one of the most important documents we have on church history. Here is an important quote from him:
In his 6 September 1856 journal entry, Wilford Woodruff wrote: “We are not apt to think of the importance of events as they transpire with us, but we feel the importance of them afterwards. We are living in one of the most important generations that man ever lived on earth, and we should write an account of those important transactions which are taking place before our eyes in fulfillment of the prophecies and the revelation of God. There is a great flood of revelations fulfilling in our day, and as they are transpiring before our eyes we want a record made of them” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 4:444; punctuation, capitalization, and spelling standardized).
Not long after I started coming back to church in 2005 I still had many doubts but I still had a desire to remember my testimony from before. I was asked to teach a lesson out of the Wilford Woodruff Lesson Manual for Elder’s Quorum and the lesson was on journals. The above quote really hit me hard for some reason and I felt inspired to get my old journals. I started reading them and I read all of the journal entries I wrote from when I was 18 until I was 22. I was blown away at the experiences I had and it even prompted me to remember even more experiences I hadn’t written down. I received a distinct revelation that I should write my personal history and write in my own journal every week. I began in earnest to write in my journal and began writing my history. Nearly nine years later I have written in my journal nearly every week, I do my best to write down my spiritual experiences, and I have compiled and written my history up to half way through my mission. The experience has changed my life. Along with the incredible boost of faith it has given me, it has helped me see myself and those in my life in a new way. I cannot express enough how much of a difference this experience has made in my faith and testimony. I wonder if a similar experience might help my children, my struggling friends, or anyone. I feel like we receive revelations and experiences when they can help us and others. Committing to write them down and share them might allow us more opportunity to commune with God.
Sometimes it takes a journal entry, or a shared experience from a direct loved one to open someone’s mind to believe in God. The church publishes the The Friend, New Era, Ensign, and Liahona and these magazines contain many modern faith stories, but in my experience it is much easier to trivialize something from someone we don’t know than it is for someone we do know. We need more stories from people we are close to, that we can relate to, that increase our faith and our journals are a perfect place to start.
- We are apathetic in our desires to seek God personally and have a tendency to trivialize and downplay miraculous events.
“And now because of their unbelief they could not understand the word of God; and their hearts were hardened. And they would not be baptized; neither would they join the church. And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after, even in their bcarnal and sinful state; for they would not call upon the Lord their God.” Mosiah 26:3-4
In the early days of almost all restorations (Adam, Enoch, Noah, Moses, Christ, Early Modern Church) there are amazing revelations, experiences, and miracles that get recorded for future generations. From that point the leaders of the church (prophets, priests, apostles, general authorities) interpret, catalog, explain, and define those revelations for the resulting years. Along the way the people tend to become reliant on them for their relationship with God. This process eventually ends with an apostasy and people falling away from God. I am convinced that this is a result of the apathy that comes from too much reliance on “The Law” and its interpretations by leaders, instead of personal revelation and communication with God. You can see in the scripture that the children did not find out for themselves because “they could not understand the word of God…for they would not call upon the name of God.”
A friend of mine who is in a bishopric recently told me that in a regional conference the church has done a study into what are the biggest factors into why young adults are still active in the church. The two biggest factors were personal prayer and scripture study. I would like to assume that the reason for this is because these young people are learning from God and communicating with him in their own way. It is not a surprising thought that someone who communes with God is also someone who is actively involved in His Gospel. I can say from my own experience that my most profound revelations and spiritual experiences have come as I have dedicated myself to studying the scriptures, the words of prophets, my own spiritual experiences as I pray for God to help me and inspire me.
Because many of us, especially those without faith in the world, are not interacting with God and recording our interactions it is easy for us to dismiss our and other’s experiences with God as contrived, delusional, or coincidences. The people in the Great and Spacious building are always looking down and mocking the saints of God. It will never be generally accepted that miracles happen everyday, but they do. All of the stories I mentioned above are real stories that I have either witnessed myself, or an immediate friend has recounted to me as their experience. Those experiences inspired me spiritually and they need to be shared with others. The more we have, write down, and share those experiences the more we can stem the tide of apostasy that comes from apathy and not relating with the things of God.
I desperately want the Rising Generation to connect with God and have many of the experiences that I have had. A journal entry or shared experience might be the only thing that will inspire our children, friends, or grandchildren to believe in God. It certainly may be the most powerful thing that could inspire them. If we do not seek God in study and prayer and write down our experiences for the rising generation, many of them may meet the same fate as those in Mosiah when it says, “And they were a separate people as to their faith, and remained so ever after.” My prayer is that we can help them avoid this fate and seek God for themselves after they have been inspired to believe.