It’s interesting to me that I write this account at our semi-annual Conference weekend for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In His instructions to the multitude that listened to Him in the account in 3 Nephi, Christ understands that they have had about as much information as they are able to endure. In their current state they are not ready to receive more.
Isn’t that similar in some ways to what happens at General Conference? After 2 hours of inspired speeches, it’s almost as much as the listeners can assimilate. So we are given a break, and we go home (or in many cases we are already at home) and we ponder the things we have been taught.
“Behold, now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words, he looked round about again on the multitude, and he said unto them: Behold my time is at hand. I perceive ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time. Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.” (3 Nephi 17:1-3).
You aren’t yet strong enough to receive more. Go to your homes, rest a little bit. But ponder the things I have told you. Think about what you have heard at Conference. Ponder, think, meditate, review.
“Pondering, which means to weigh mentally, to deliberate, to meditate, can achieve the opening of the spirtual eyes of one’s understanding.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, Ensign, May 1982, page 23).
According to Webster’s Dictionary, meditate means to contemplate and become absorbed in thought. I love that picture of becoming absorbed in thought. You are sitting there, thinking, and nothing else matters. You’re mind and spirit are absorbed like a sponge, sucking up those things you are considering.
Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency described the powers of pondering: “As I have read the scriptures, I have been challenged by the word ponder, so frequently used in the Book of Mormon. The dictionary says that ponder means to weigh mentally, think deeply about, deliberate, meditate . . . .
“Pondering is, in my feeling, a form of prayer. It has, at least, been an approach to the Spirit of the Lord on many occasions. Nephi tells us of one such occasion:
“‘For it came to pass’ he wrote, ‘after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat PONDERING in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceeding high mountain. . . .’ (1 Nephi 11:1. Italics added.)
“Then follows Nephi’s account of the great vision he was given by the Spirit of the Lord, because he believed the words of his prophet father and had such a great desire to know more that he pondered and prayed about them.” (Ensign, July 1973, page 90).
As I have been reading and pondering the words of the Savior in 3 Nephi chapters 17-19, I have been struck forcefully by his message of Joy.
In 3 Nephi 17:20 after Christ had prayed to the Father on behalf of the gathered multitude, it states: “And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my JOY IS FULL.” (Emphasis added.)
Christ gives some words of instruction to his called disciples, and then speaks to the 3 who have chosen to be left on the earth “that they might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand. And for this cause ye shall have FULNESS OF JOY: and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father. . . . (3 Nephi 28:9-10.)
What is it that gives Christ a fulness of joy? That the multitude has accepted through faith his atoning sacrifice. What will give the 3 Nephites a fulness of joy? That they will “bring the souls of men” unto Christ.
When I explore this concept a little further, I find some more beautiful and explanatory scriptures. Some that apply directly to you and to me–not just to the 3 Nephites.
Christ says: “Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.” (D&C 101:36.)
We do not receive a fulness of joy in this world, but we can receive it in the next world on certain conditions set forth by Jesus Christ. A more complete description of this process to receive a fulness of joy, is given in D&C 93:26-37, which also explains the agency of man. (Actually you would be well served to review that whole section 93 in this regard.)
“The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth; And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
“Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
“And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation. For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy.
“And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy. The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.
“The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one.”
The Apostle Peter gives us these wonderful and reassuring words: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ; ” (1 Peter 1:3.)
Notice the reward which will be much more precious that gold. And those receiving this reward will be found praising and honoring the glory of God at the coming of Christ.
Nephi tells us who will inherit this great gift. “But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and THEIR JOY SHALL BE FULL FOREVER.” (2 Nephi 9:18, emphasis added.)
Joseph Smith, in a letter directed to the Church, which is now Doctrine and Covenants section 128, asks the Church members what do we hear in the gospel message. “Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great JOY.” (verse 19.)
What do you hear from the gospel message. When you were converted you sang a song of great joy. Do you still sing that song of redeeming love? (Alma 5:26.) An important part of that message is the announcement of the resurrection. “Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them the spirit and the body to be untied never again to be divided, that they might receive a FULNESS OF JOY.” (D&C 138:17, emphasis added.)
Adam explained how this all came about, and it was because of his transgression. “And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying : Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy and again in the flesh I shall see God. And Eve, his wife, heard all these things (the gospel message) and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have known good and evil, and the JOY of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. And Adam and Eve blessed the name of God, and they made all things known unto their sons and their daughters.” (Moses 5:10-12.)
Alma adds: “Now was this not exceeding joy? Behold this is joy which none receiveth save the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness.” (Alma 27:18.) Penitence means not only repentance, but also allowing Christ to succor you through His atoning sacrifice. You must repent and accept Christ to partake of this blessing and His fulness of joy.
Moroni’s explanation and invitation was my cousin, Ron Price’s favorite scripture: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.” (and full of JOY!) Moroni 10:32-33.)
As Marion D. Hanks said: “To believe in God is to know that all the rules are fair, and there will be some wonderful surprises.” And I would add–there will also be a great FULNESS OF JOY!