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Sunday, August 17, 2014

06. Walking and Talking with God, Part 5: The Perfect Start

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the fifth examining the phrase "obeyeth my voice".

After A Two and a Half Month Hiatus...A Dream


This morning, I had a vivid dream (12 hours later, I still remember it as if it happened an hour ago). Here, I'll share it with you:

In my dream, I was in some kind of fighter pilot morning briefing.  There were pilots and co-pilots galore in the briefing, with the briefing officer behind a desk in the front of the room.

As the clock struck the top of the hour (to the second), the officer began giving instructions on where the flights needed to go.  Yet during his briefing, the pilots and co-pilots were asking questions, listening to music, thinking about this and that, and in general, gabbing but not necessarily listening to the briefing officer.

When the briefing was over, the pilots and co-pilots got up and flew to whatever direction fancied them...which may or (most likely) may not have been congruent with the briefing officer's plans.

Were You At That Briefing, Too?


Is there a chance your lifestyle conflicts with your chances of staying with the Lord and His people?

On one hand, we have the Lord's personal introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants:
"Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;
And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.
And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;" (D&C 1:14-16; emphasis mine).
On the other hand, we have a routine that's all too familiar to us:

We wake up, say a prayer, go to the bathroom and start our day.  As we proceed through our day, we (hopefully) knock out as many "urgent and important" items as possible on our personal to-do lists.  Then we crash asleep, and it starts all over again X hours later.

Then (if we're lucky), at some point in our day or week, we wonder why it seems like we rarely (if ever) hear the Lord's voice in our lives.

This is a serious scenario...with a very do-able solution.

Hearing the Voice of the Lord


Two things seem pretty self-evident to me: First, the Lord places a primary importance on us hearing His voice.  Second, the ability to hear His voice is not limited to prophets and apostles.  If the Lord wants all of us to hear His voice, then all of us have the capacity to do so.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27).
"for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts" (D&C 29:7).
Let's be straight here: Not only should you be able to hear the Lord's voice (audibly or not), you also need to be doing so.  It's a matter of temporal and spiritual salvation.

So...how's it going?

If you're like me, the answer is "not very well."  Why?  Because I can relate with those fighter pilots in the briefing who were so adept at talking and not listening, and giving in to the distractions:
"My testimony is that the Lord is speaking to you!  But with the deafening decibels of today’s environment, all too often we fail to hear him." (Elder Graham Doxey, October 1991 General Conference).
The whole situation reminds me of some passages from Hugh Nibley's book, "Enoch the Prophet":
"Enoch never allows us to forget that the real tragedy is not what becomes of people, but what they become. That's the sad thing. The people of Enoch's day and Noah's day were quite satisfied with themselves as they were, and they hotly resented any offers of help or advice from God's messenger."
"The refrain is ever 'Wo unto you foolish ones, for you shall perish through your own folly.' 'They denied the Lord and would not hear the voice of the Lord but followed their own counsel. They go astray in the foolishness of their own hearts.' They know not what they are doing when they say to God, 'Turn away from us, for the knowledge of thy ways gives us no pleasure' though God gave them promise of all that he would give them and all that he wanted them to do."
Or, as we read in the Book of Moses,
"...why counsel ye yourselves, and deny the God of heaven?" (Moses 6:43).
And how do we counsel among ourselves?  What do we counsel about?  Perhaps it's our own "flight plans", our own "to do" lists, or as we read in Moses 8:22,
"...every man was lifted up in the imagination of the thoughts of his heart."
These "imagination of the thoughts" of the heart need not be centered in any grievous sins:
"Many of us are not guilty of violations of the law of chastity or the Word of Wisdom or the law and order of the Church in general. But too often, perhaps, we are guilty of preoccupation or distraction; the blessings of the Spirit of the Lord, the consummate blessings of spiritual rebirth, are not enjoyed by us as they could be, simply because we do not seek earnestly for them. President Brigham Young taught: 'There is no doubt, if a person lives according to the revelations given to God's people, he may have the Spirit of the Lord to signify to him His will, and to guide and to direct him in the discharge of his duties, in his temporal as well as his spiritual exercises. I am satisfied, however, that in this respect, we live far beneath our privileges" (in Journal of Discourses, 12:104; also Robert L. Millet, Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth, p. 198-199).

A Better Way


The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of continual revelation.  As His followers, our challenge is not one of getting the Lord to speak to us. Our challenge is hearing what He has to say. He has promised, "As often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit" (D&C 6:14).

It really is a challenge, too.  Take Samuel, for example.  When he was young, he lived with the priest, Eli.  One night, the Lord called Samuel's name. Each time he heard it, he ran to Eli and essentially asked, "What's up?"  After this happened three times, Eli explained to Samuel what was really happening.  When the Lord called again, Samuel recognized His voice and responded, "Speak; for thy servant heareth" (1 Samuel 3:10).

In order for us to say, "Speak; for thy servant heareth," we've got to be able to hear what the Lord has to say:
"Learning to hear the voice of the Lord is like learning a language, the language of revelation. Learning any language takes time. It takes repetition and practice. It takes an immersion in that language. And it takes learning the rules that govern the language. If we were learning Portuguese or Chinese, we would not only have to memorize vocabulary words but learn syntax and grammar as well. Similarly, as we set out to better learn the language of revelation, there are guidelines and rules to govern us." (Sherri Dew, "No Doubt About It")

What is "God's Wavelength"?


It's only logical to conclude that if we want to hear the Lord's voice, then we need to be on the same "wavelength". Although at times His voice can be heard audibly, it is most often heard not through our ears:
"How do we listen to the Lord? In a sense, think of the heart as the ear or the listening instrument of the spirit. From my study of the scriptures, I am convinced that the heart is exactly that, and the Lord's voice is the still, small voice of our own conscience that speaks to our hearts. President McKay has said that the Holy Ghost speaks through the conscience of members of the Church who are in the line of their duty. This still, small voice can pierce to the core and center of a person's soul. It is sharper than a two-edged sword, but it must be carefully listened to, and a person must be in tune in order to hear it: 'He hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words' (1 Nephi 17:45)" (Stephen R. Covey, Spiritual Roots of Human Relations, p.144).
Joseph Smith knew this.  History shows us that when he was under the influence of the Spirit of God, his mind was perfectly calm and collected, and his countenance beamed with heavenly intelligence (Elder Andrew Jenson, January 16, 1891 as quoted in Collected Discourses, Brian H. Stuy, ed., 5 vols., 2).

So it is with us.  The Lord's voice
"...is a still, small, and whisper-like voice. It is one that is felt more than it is heard. It comes in the form of thoughts, feelings, and impressions. To hear such a voice, you must be still and quiet in your own soul, laying aside your excess laughter and light-mindedness. While it may not seem easy to so discipline your life, hearing the precious, loving voice of the Lord will sustain you in every circumstance and is therefore worth every effort" (Elder James J. Hamula, "Winning the War against Evil", October 2008 General Conference; also see 1 Kings 19:12; Helaman 5:30; 3 Nephi 11:1-7; D&C 85:6; D&C 88:69, 121).


The First Step in Hearing the Lord's Voice


One of the best pieces of advice I've read on how to "be still" is this, directly from the Savior:
"He who seeketh to save his life shall lose it; and he who loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (JST Matt 10:34)
To truly be still (and access "God's Wavelength"), you must first get rid of all your worries, concerns, plans, etc.  Get rid of them ALL. Just...lose yourself!

Here are three previous blog posts which cast greater light on this concept:

An Invitation


Without delay, I invite you to seek not your own, but the Lord's voice in far greater abundance in your life.

The next time you're tempted to kneel and talk with the Lord, start by pushing all your thoughts out of the way.  After all, we sometimes see things more clearly by stepping away from them -- no matter if it's for a few minutes, hours, two and a half months or more.

Just "Empty Your Cup" until there's not a drop, not a particle, of your own thoughts (or worries or concerns) left.

Then wait until it is quiet, still and calm.

It is then, when you have basked in the strength that is silence, that you may begin to sense words, phrases, even sentences:
"Another manifestation of revelation is the unspoken word, a good illustration of which is given us by Enos. He says: '...while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again, saying' (Enos 1:10). Then he tells us what the voice of the Lord put in his mind. This is a very common means of revelation. It comes into one's mind in words and sentences. With this medium of revelation I am personally well acquainted." (Marion G. Romney, "Revelation", April 1964 General Conference, emphasis mine)
Then talk with Him -- as one person speaks with another -- about what He has said to you.

As you do so, you'll begin to realize something profound:

The Lord's "flight plan" of your life -- and the experiences you will have on that flight -- will (in most cases) surpass your own mortal expectations...

...which is the subject of my next post in this series.