Curt Holman, an associate professor of dance at BYU, spoke at Tuesday’s campus devotional on the importance of recognizing and remembering spiritual experiences to stand as personal monuments.
While searching to understand a line from one of his favorite songs, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” Holman discovered that Ebenezer means “stone of help.” In the book of Samuel, after the Lord saved the Israelites from the Philistines, Samuel took a stone and the called it Eben-ezer, “saying, Hithero hath the Lord helped us,” Holman said.
“This raised stone was a reminder to the Israelites of what the Lord had done for them. This Ebenezer, quite literally, was a monument set to remember the great help that God granted the one raising the stone.” Holman said.
He spoke of an experience he had as a young missionary in Chile. After teaching and testifying of the plan of salvation to a family, he said, “I was overcome with the spirit and remember feeling that the Holy Ghost was bearing witness to me in a very personal way that the work I was engaged in was true and that God was the author of this plan of salvation.
“At the conclusion of the discussion I felt an urgency to get back to my apartment and record this special experience in my journal,” Holman said. “This experience is an example of a monument that I raised to help me remember what Heavenly Father had done for me.”
Holman recalled watching “The Ten Commandments” as a young boy and remembering the stories of the miraculous Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea and the River Jordan. “After they had crossed over Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua and commanded him that a representative of each tribe pick up a large stone from the dry river bed and stack the stones as a memorial to remember what God had done for them,” Holman said.
“It seems as if the Lord recognized the tendency of the natural man to quickly forget their God. Perhaps this monument would help the Israelites remember the Lord and turn their hearts to him,” Holman said.
In the scriptural account of the Israelites’ experience, the Lord tells them that their monuments “will also stand as a witness to their children, who may ask of its meaning,” Holman said. “Each experience that we have with the spirit can be like placing a stone in our own personal monument reminding us of God’s hand in our lives. These monuments can also serve to strengthen others as we share our experiences.”
Holman added, “Some of us may have large stable monuments that are continually built and fortified with great personal spiritual experiences that acknowledge God. While there are others who may believe that their monuments are small or insignificant, maybe even eroding.” Holman taught students and staff two ways to fortify and build upon their monuments. “First, look to your past and reflect upon your own life and you will see the divine guidance of our Heavenly Father and how he has brought you to where you are today. Second, earnestly seek opportunities and environments where the spirit can touch your heart.”
“Each of us was born into this world with the light of Christ and most of us have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost. At some point, you have felt the presence of God, maybe it was a small prompting to make a particular decision or a simple witness that you felt when someone bore testimony. By recognizing these experiences you are building your own monument. If we do not reflect upon these moments then, as the children of Israel, we risk forgetting that they ever happened.”
Quoting Elder Snow of the Seventy, he said, “When it comes to our own gospel progression, we cannot rely alone on our long-term memory. That is why in all our remembering, we must remember to renew. Our testimonies must continually be fed with new spiritual experiences.” He encouraged those listening to actively seek opportunities to feel the spirit.
He shared his family’s experience of performing in the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Unlike other family vacations to Disneyland and New York, Holman said, “our hope was that our participation in this pageant would place our children in an environment where they would have an opportunity to have their very own personal meaningful spiritual experience. It was a way for them to build their own testimony and provide a stone in their own monument that they would always remember.”
After their time there, Holman and his family recorded their experiences and feelings in their journals. “The protection of these precious delicate memories deserved all our efforts to preserve them. After all, it is possible that the very recollection of these moments at a yet undetermined time in the future might provide much needed strength. This experience certainly served as a very large stone in each of our monuments to remember,” Holman said.
He closed his remarks, saying, “I testify that as we seek opportunities to feel of the spirit and make efforts to reflect often upon those experiences we will raise our own Ebenezer – our own stone of remembrance, which will enable us to see God’s hand in our past and give us assurance and faith that he will provide for us in the future.”
To read the talk in its entirety, visit speeches.byu.edu. The devotional will also be rebroadcast on BYUtv. Check byutv.org for schedules, as well as on demand availability.