When I was a college freshman, the teacher in my physical anthropology course reviewed the evolutionary history of humanity, as found in the fossil record. Early on you have creatures with five fingers and toes; then there are the numerous details in feet, ankles, knees, and hips for fully upright walking; then comes an enlarged chest cavity for long-distance running; and finally a reshaping of the cranium for increased brain capacity. As the professor described the millions of years of shaping and molding, I felt joy as a sense of warmth and light filled my awareness. A voice in my mind said, “Look at this! This is how much I love you—the patience, the care, and every detail.” God has truly created his children in his image, and in our very bodies he created for us a memory of him.
Although we bring these memories with us into this world, when we are born we are not conscious of them. We develop implicit memories, the memory of how our emotions were triggered by sensations; and explicit memories, those we are conscious of and can retell. No matter the type, we create all of them in an imperfect world. As a consequence, our memories are not perfect. Every time we remember an event we subject it to reinterpretation, reconstruction, and increasing error. We experience unhappy circumstances, painful challenges, and even tragic events, the intensity of which can carve them durably into our memories in ways that shape the remainder of our experiences and actions. We may also commit sin and be burdened with the memory of our mistakes.
According to the 16th century mystic, St. John of the Cross, though the faculty of memory is a divine gift, for us in this life it is imperfect, and must be supplemented by, and eventually overcome with the virtue of hope. One place to find this hope is again in our memory. We can exercise some agency in choosing which experiences from our lives we will relive and ruminate with, deliberately influencing the state of our consciousness. Yet sometimes what we can accomplish on our own is not quite enough.
Jesus has said, “But the Comforter… whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” (John 14:26-27)
A few years back when I was on a retreat of prayer and meditation, I was struggling with allowing God to be with me in a particular aspect of my life. I prayed and with some effort made myself open to whatever the Lord wanted to show me. As I did so, images began to come into my mind, faint memories of events long past. It was like seeing a montage about how this issue had played out in my whole life. And when I saw what had occurred in this new perspective, I was able to let go and feel closer in my relationship to God.
In order to help retain this peace, and a remission of our sins, Mormons practice the sacrament, taking bread and water in memory of Jesus Christ. Each week, as we take the sacrament, we have a chance to catch hold on the thought of Christ and choose to remember the expression of His love. It is an expression that can reach the very center of your being, and it has the power to transform you. As you symbolically take the substance of the Savior into your own body, he is showing you that he is creating you more perfectly in his image.