Evidence #57 | September 19, 2020

Remember and Forget

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Scripture Central


The Book of Mormon’s use of the terms "remember" and "forget" is internally consistent and similar, in both frequency and range of meanings, to their use in the Bible.

“To Remember” in the Bible

Forms of the Hebrew word zakar show up over 200 times in the Bible. Drawing upon the work of biblical scholars, Louis Midgley has noted that

what the Old Testament understands by ‘memory’ goes well beyond the mere mental recall of information, though of course that is part of its meaning. To remember often means to be attentive, to consider, to keep divine commandments, or to act. The word in Hebrew thus carries a wider range of meaning than is common with the verb remember in English. Indeed, to remember involves turning to God, or repenting, or acting in accordance with divine injunctions. … Conversely, the antonym of the verb to remember in Hebrew—to forget—does not merely describe the passing of a thought from the mind, but involves a failure to act, or a failure to do or keep something. Hence, failing to remember God and his commandments is the equivalent of apostasy.1

Image via biblestudytools.com.

“To Remember” in the Book of Mormon

Midgley noted that like the Bible, the “Book of Mormon uses terms related to remembering and forgetting well over two hundred times.”2 Furthermore, Midgley has shown in three different studies that the Book of Mormon’s use of remember and forget consistently express a similar range of meanings as is found in the Bible.3 This range of meanings includes but is not limited to the following summaries:4

  • Image via churchofjesuschrist.org. 
    Remembrance refers to action. King Benjamin taught his sons about how their forefathers suffered afflictions in the wilderness “to stir them up in remembrance of their duty” (Mosiah 1:17).
  • The call to remember is often a passionate plea to see God’s hand in delivering His people from bondage and captivity (Alma 29:10–12). Formal acts of remembrance—such as the performance of ordinances or ritual actions—allow us to feel like we are actually participating in the past events of God’s deliverance.
  • Remembrance includes active participation in some form; it means turning one’s heart toward God, that is, repenting.
  • To remember God leads to prospering and being lifted up at the last day (3 Nephi 15:1; Alma 38:5). In contrast, forgetting God leads to perishing and being cut off from Him (Alma 37:13; 42:11). Those who forget are in a dreadful sleep (2 Nephi 1:12–13); they suffer from spiritual blindness and disbelief (3 Nephi 2:1–2).
  • To remember is also to keep the commandments (Helaman 5:14). In fact, to remember and to keep are sometimes used interchangeably in both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon (Deuteronomy 5:12; Exodus 20:8; Jarom 1:5; Mosiah 18:23).
  • Remembering, in the Book of Mormon, is to keep the terms of the covenant between God and His people (1 Nephi 2:24; Alma 37:13; Mosiah 1:5–7).


Midgley’s analysis shows that the Book of Mormon’s use of remember and forget is extensive, internally consistent, and strikingly similar—in both frequency and range of meaning—to their use in the Bible. As Midgley concluded, “This high density is not noticed by casual readers, but it vividly reflects a sensitivity on the part of Book of Mormon prophets that is remarkably similar to that of other Israelite prophets.”5

Steven L. Olsen, “Memory and Identity in the Book of Mormon,” Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22, no. 2 (2013): 40–51.

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, ed. Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 95–137.

Louis Midgley, “The Ways of Remembrance,” in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon: Insights You May Have Missed Before, ed. John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1991), 168–176.

Louis Midgley, “‘O Man, Remember, and Perish Not’ (Mosiah 4:30),” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research, ed. John W. Welch (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1992), 127–129.

Remember and Forget
Book of Mormon

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