“If Ye Do Always Remember Me Ye Shall Have My Spirit to Be with You”

Alan C. Miner

Jesus placed the Nephites in ancient Bountiful under covenant to "always remember" him (3 Nephi 18:7, 11), yet a few verses later this term is put into perspective when Christ says, "Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments" (3 Nephi 18:14). This is one of many instances in which the term "remembrance" or "remember" is used. According to Louis Midgley, by placing emphasis on the concept of "remembering" and its correlate "keeping," the Book of Mormon captures one of the most significant and distinctive aspects of Israelite mentality. Moreover, like the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Mormon uses the expression keep and remember interchangeably

Brevard Childs demonstrates that more than two hundred instances of the various forms of the Hebrew verb zakher occur in the Old Testament. He shows that what is understood in the Old Testament by memory and remembrance goes far beyond the mere mental recall of information. . . . the word in Hebrew thus carries a wider range of meaning than is recognized in English. Indeed, to remember in Hebrew involves turning to God, repenting, acting in accordance with divine injunctions. . . . From the perspective of the Nephites, remembrance included active participation in some form. For them it meant recalling not merely or simply with the mind but also with the heart (the heart being the seat of will, cognition, and memory for biblical peoples). For the Nephites, as for ancient Israel, to remember was to place the event upon the heart, or to turn the heart toward God--to repent or return to him and his ways as their righteous forefathers had done. One demonstrated remembrance through a faithful response to the terms of the covenant--in strict obedience to statutes and ordinances, by keeping the commandments.

The high density of words for memory and remembrance in the Book of Mormon remains unnoticed by casual readers. Though the range of uses of remembering in the Book of Mormon is perhaps not quite as extensive as that identifiable in the Old Testament, the idiom of remembrance in both books includes warnings, promises (especially those found in the blessings and cursings that accompany covenant making and renewals), threats, pleas, and complaints, and also the same deep connection between memory and action that is so prominent in the Old Testament. As in the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Mormon language of remembrance provides a clear link between the commandments and covenant history. It is linked with the possession of records. It is a special brand of historical memory that establishes the continuity of Israel as God's people.

By focusing on language which articulates the ways of remembrance, we uncover the presence of yet another deep structure in the Book of Mormon that stands as a witness to Joseph Smith's remarkable prophetic powers. [Louis Midgley, "'To Remember and Keep': On the Book of Mormon as an Ancient Book," in The Disciple As Scholar: Essays on Scripture and the Ancient World in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, pp. 111-122]

Note* Rather than include the multitude of scriptural references to the various aspects of remembrance in the Book of Mormon included within the text of this article, the reader is strongly advised to read the article and/or make a computer word search. In doing a quick review myself, I have found 158 instances of the word "remember," and 23 occurrences of the word "remembrance." [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]

Step by Step Through the Book of Mormon: A Cultural Commentary