Very often, we look back to the past and brood over it for too long. We can reminisce about the old days and wish that those days were still now, or these moments bring back bad memories or can make us feel disappointed and disheartened at opportunities missed. We need to look forward with faith for a brighter tomorrow.
The Saviour, in speaking about the day of His Second Coming, spoke of how people should not return to their home to retrieve things, or possessions, left behind. He then gives a very ambiguous but meaningful phrase – “Remember Lot’s wife.” (Luke 17:32) Who exactly was Lot’s wife? What did she do that we have to remember, as we have been counselled by Christ to do?
Lot and his family were living in Sodom and Gomorrah at the time in which the Lord declared it time for it to be destroyed. However, Lot and his family were slow to leave. Although they were clearly obedient and righteous to some degree (else why would the Lord wish to preserve them?) they felt ‘at home’ in that wicked place. This reluctance indicates a problem that we sometimes may have. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained “As Elder Neal A. Maxwell…said, such people know they should have their primary residence in Zion, but they still hope to keep a summer cottage in Babylon.” In Lot’s account we continue “And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand…the Lord being merciful unto them…and set him without the city.” (Genesis 19:16) – the men being angels of God – led them out. The Lord told them to “…look not behind thee,” (Genesis 19:17) and to continue to flee. However, “…his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” (of Genesis 19:26) She disobeyed, and looked back to her past. This may not have just been a physical ‘looking back’ but also a mental wishing to be back. Elder Holland says “…she looked back longingly. In short, her attachment to the past outweighed her confidence in the future. That, apparently, was at least part of her sin.” Hence, why she was punished for it.
Applying this to our own lives – we need to look forward “…with an eye of faith,” (Ether 12:19) toward our future, knowing that we are in the safe hands of our Father in Heaven. “To yearn to go back to a world that cannot be lived in now, to be perennially dissatisfied with present circumstances…and to miss the here and now and tomorrow because we are so trapped in the there and then and yesterday are some of the sins of Lot’s wife,” continued Elder Holland. Paul had the right idea in writing to the Philippians. Paul, previously known as Saul, had a very high-ranking, privileged life (in worldly terms) and so, could have easily looked back longingly to the ease of his previous years. But he wasn’t like Lot’s wife, in fact he wrote “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul forgot about his past and looked forward to the future. Just like a burnt fire, we can use the glowing embers of experience, but we shouldn’t try to reclaim the ashes.
Now, of course, something that often occurs when dwelling in the past is that past wrongs and embarrassments of others are reclaimed. We should always remember the counsel from the Lord, which says “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42). We have also been told by the Lord “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” (D&C 64:10). Therefore, we should not bring back old problems to tease or hurt someone. Elder Holland puts it perfectly when he said “If something is buried in the past, leave it buried. Don’t keep going back with your little sand pail and beach shovel to dig it up, wave it around, and then throw it at someone, saying, “Hey! Do you remember this?” Splat! Well, guess what? That is probably going to result in some ugly morsel being dug up out of your landfill with the reply, “Yeah, I remember it. Do you remember this?” Splat.” – basically, it will end up very dirty and very contentious and “…the spirit of contention…is of the devil…” (3 Nephi 11:29) as Christ taught to the Nephites.
As we put the past behind us, remembering the glowing good times and character-building experiences we endured, our future will be our focus and it will become better. As Mormon wrote to his son, Moroni, to remember Christ and let “the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever…” (Moroni 9:25) and as we do this, the best is truly yet to be!