Moroni visited Joseph Smith three times in one night and again the next morning. With each visit, Moroni repeated the same instructions and included additional information. One of the “Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening” in the January 11-17, 2021 Come, Follow Me lesson invites us to read the account of Moroni’s visitations in Joseph Smith—History 1:33-54 four times and reflect on these questions: “Why might the Lord repeat important messages several times? What are some other ways the Lord teaches us through repetition?”
A Law of Learning
The Lord is the Master Teacher and knows the value of repetition for our learning. Nephi was inspired to quote numerous verses and chapters of the prophet Isaiah (see 1 Nephi 20, 21 and 2 Nephi 12-24). The Book of Mormon prophets Jacob (2 Nephi 7-8) and Abinadi (Mosiah 13) also recited Isaiah. These prophets help us heed Jesus Christ’s command in 3 Nephi 23:1 to “search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.”
Elder Dieter F. Utchdorf further clarifies the role of repetition: “Prophets have always taught by repetition; it is a law of learning. You will hear repetition in themes and doctrines in general conference. Let me reassure you: this is not due to a lack of creativity or imagination. We continue to hear messages on similar issues because the Lord is teaching and impressing upon our minds and hearts certain foundational principles of great eternal importance that must be understood and acted upon before we can move on to other things. A wise builder first lays the foundation before erecting the walls and the roof” (“General Conference—No Ordinary Blessing,” Ensign, Sept. 2011).
Repeated messages from the Lord’s prophets and teachers are indicators that there is something of importance to hear, see, and understand. Repetition invites us to stop, look, and learn. Truths are emphasized through repetition.
A Way to #HearHim
There are gospel ordinances that are repeated word for word every time, such as: baptism (Doctrine and Covenants 20:73), the sacrament prayers (Doctrine and Covenants 77, 79), and temple ordinances. What can we learn from such repetition? These ordinances are essential, sacred, and exact. Exactness is important. For example, when we listen to the sacramental prayers, we may be prone to let our minds drift away to other thoughts. What would happen if we focused on those sacred words? We could have the opportunity to be transported to the very moment when we made covenants with the Lord, and a spiritual witness could be renewed.
Repetition is a pattern for recognizing and receiving revelation. It can expand or intensify the meaning of an idea. Elder David A. Bednar has explained, “Repetitious learning and teaching as a line upon line and precept upon precept pattern of revelation can invite the Holy Ghost to renew, enrich, and enlarge the knowledge we already have obtained; it also can bring new knowledge and understanding into our minds and hearts” (“Repeat Over Again…the Same Things as Before,” [Brigham Young University devotional, Jan. 26 2016], speeches.byu.edu).
Have you noticed as you read a verse of scripture that the Spirit teaches you a specific teaching? Another time, the same verse of scripture and the Spirit may teach you a different lesson although the words in the scripture have remained the same. What has changed? You have changed or your circumstances have changed. Heavenly Father is always aware of our needs, and He sends the Holy Ghost with the message that is most relevant for our time and situation. The scriptures are a tool in the hands of God to send us current and relevant guidance. Repetition is a way to #HearHim.
Preparation for the Future
Repeated stories can prepare us with promptings to meet future events. Elder Scott D. Whiting, of the Seventy, describes seeing a young woman in a train station with a screaming baby.
This incident reminded him of a story he had often heard about President Spencer W. Kimball offering to help a young mother with a sobbing two-year-old daughter in an airport. This memory prompted Elder Whiting to stop and offer immediate assistance. That interaction enabled him to introduce a young homeless couple to his stake president and bishop, who helped get them the basic necessities.
Eventually, this couple were taught the gospel and joined the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Of his experiences Elder Whiting concluded: “There was a reason I heard stories from and about prophets throughout my youth. Heavenly Father knew that someday I would need that story about President Kimball and that it would be used to bless someone else … When we hear a message more than once, it’s better to recognize that it’s for our good rather than tuning out because we’ve heard it before. Oftentimes there’s a greater message that may prove valuable for us down the road” (“A Reason for the Repetition,” New Era, Oct. 2016).
Manifestation of Love
The love of God for each of us is manifested in repetition. The Lord’s plan does not include any pop quizzes. We are generously given repeated instructions and ample opportunity to know, apply, and try again. God has promised the faithful, “I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:13). Repentance is repetition—a recurring opportunity to change, turn, and joyfully face God.
I find great comfort in repetition. It is evidence of the constancy of the gospel and the love Heavenly Father has for each of us. The exactness of covenants and ordinances demonstrates that God loves each of us equally. The promises to one are the same as to another without variation. This repetition can remind us of our individual worth.
Pathway to Perfection
Our purpose on earth is to acquire celestial qualities. An apprentice learns by watching, studying, and emulating the Master Teacher. Christlike attributes are developed try after try.
Children exemplify the value of repetition. My adopted grandson loves to read the same book again and again. He is happy when his parents repeat the same actions. Through repetition, his spirit is learning the skills required of a mortal body.
There is power and strength in repetition. Jesus teaches, “Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God“ (3 Nephi 9:22). We can follow the example of children on our pathway to perfection. Through daily prayer, daily scripture study, and striving to stay on the covenant path, we can become constant, consistent, and Christ-like.