If you prefer to listen over reading an article, keep an eye on A Balanced Saint of Mind on YouTube. I post video versions of my blog posts on my channel. The video versions are often posted a little later than the written blog posts.
One of the most frequent admonitions I’ve heard lately from the prophet is to learn how to “Hear Him.” This is a process that takes practice and plenty of discipline. It is a skill, and like any other skill, you have to legitimately practice it. You’re never going to learn the piano by going to church on Sundays and hearing someone else play; you’re never going to effectively learn to communicate back and forth with your Heavenly Father by only going on Sundays and listening to someone else give a talk that was given to them by the Spirit.
Though it’s been emphasized lately, this is not the first time the Lord has taught this concept.
Doctrine and Covenants 18:34-36
34 These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man;
35 For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them;
36 Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.
A long time ago, Oliver Cowdery read these words aloud to some of his brethren. Though it was coming through Oliver’s voice, the Lord is very clear that He was the one who was speaking. The experience of Oliver reading these words aloud was recorded, and it was said that the Spirit was very strong. Oliver had to pause more than once for tears, and it left an indelible mark on the men who were listening.
I had an experience years ago right after my mission that reminds me of these verses. I had a question I had been seeking for a long time; it was a doctrinal question, not really a personal-situation-kind-of-question. My sister recommended asking a temple president because apparently you’re allowed to go and ask them questions, and I had never known that before then.
I remember walking into his office, and I asked him my question. It was a very distinct experience. He was speaking, but the Spirit was saying something else to me. I’m not saying the temple president was teaching false doctrine; that wasn’t the case at all. He simply wasn’t sharing what I needed to hear about my question at that moment. I remember feeling like I had been talking to someone else as I thanked him and left the office.
As I look back on this experience, I feel like I have “heard” the voice of the Lord.
Commencing the process
As I mentioned previously, this kind of hearing takes practice. I did not have a similar experience for a very long time afterwards. At the time, I didn’t fully comprehend that this was something I could practice. I could practice listening for the Spirit to speak to me in a very conscious, deliberate manner.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said this: “…this revelation speaks of Spirit speaking to spirit—the Holy Spirit speaking to the spirit within me and in a way incomprehensible to the mind, but plain and clear to spiritual understanding—conveying knowledge, giving intelligence, giving truth, and giving sure knowledge of the things of God. Now this applies to everyone.”(italics added)
Spirit speaking to spirit. We used to know this language very well because we used to only be spirits. Now we have a body and a veil placed over our eyes, and we have to work through all the physical aspects of the world to remember this spiritual language.
There are many things you can do to learn a new language, and I have a feeling that these are similar things that will help us remember “speaking” and “hearing” through the medium of the Spirit.
Quick disclaimer before I continue. I echo President Howard W. Hunter as he says this, ““Let me offer a word of caution. … I think if we are not careful … , we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means.” We can practice listening for the Spirit always, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Spirit is constantly talking so don’t expect that. Do not attempt to force things to come; our job is to provide the environment so that the Spirit can speak when the Lord wants us to know something.
With that in mind, let’s talk about learning a new language. I figured one of the best ways to learn how to study a language was in Preach My Gospel. I did not learn a new language on my mission, but I studied this chapter occasionally and found principles that helped me learn how to speak with and by the Spirit. We’ll only talk about a couple of them today.
“Recognize that you have been called by a prophet of God”
You may not be currently called as a full-time missionary for the church, but you have been called. President Nelson has called all of us to help gather Israel, and in some ways, it’s much harder for us than it is for full-time missionaries. Unlike full-time missionaries, we have to learn how to balance life priorities. Also unlike full-time missionaries, there is far more flexibility to our personal missions. Many full-time missions look the same; they are all supposed to wake up at the same time, study, and then there are approved activities for them to accomplish throughout the day. This is not the case with the rest of us. We all have unique missions which further emphasizes our need to learn how to speak to the Spirit and to receive guidance back.
Your life and mission will look so different from your friend’s or sister’s or father’s life and mission. There may be patterns, but there are also specifics for you. You have been called. You do have a responsibility. You have to learn to speak to the Spirit so you know what your mission should look like.
“Do not be surprised if the task seems hard at first”
Learning to hear the Spirit can be as difficult as learning a language if we’re not regularly practicing. It may feel easy to get frustrated when you study, and you’re not sure whether anything is coming. You may feel frustrated when you try to start following the Spirit and you run into obstacles.
Learn to appreciate the difficult in its own sphere. You don’t have to love the difficulty; there’s a reason it’s supposed to be a sacrifice, but you will find yourself a happier person if you learn to appreciate the difficulty for what it is. That difficulty you experience has a two-fold purpose. The first purpose is its ability to make you grow. Difficulty is the only way for you to reach your exaltation, plain and simple. Second purpose: the sacrifices you make as you run into obstacles will actually bless your mission. These videos that I make are a part of what Heavenly Father wants me to be doing. There have been times when the videos come seamlessly, and there have been times when I’m ready to tear my hair out because it feels like I can’t put one together. The weeks that are steeped in difficulty have been the weeks that seem to help other people the most (or at least that’s how it seems from the comments). You don’t have to love difficulty, but recognize and respect its place in the Plan of Salvation.
“Strive to use the language at every opportunity”
Elder Bednar gave a talk at a General Conference recently where he spoke of topis. Topis are animals in Africa. Elder Bednar taught some principles about topis and cheetahs, but the main principle I learned from him was that we can learn from the Spirit in any situation. Elder Bednar learned about the gospel observing African animals. We can learn from the Spirit as we pause during our prayers. We can learn from the Spirit as we read our scriptures, write in our journals, drive to work, listen to any kind of good music, watch Disney movies, wash dishes. Strive to use the language of the Spirit at every opportunity. Check in periodically to see if the Spirit has anything to say.
I can look at my phone and receive a quick and helpful message from a friend, and it only takes moments. I can pause for 10-20 seconds at a time, and tell my Heavenly Father that I’m listening if He has anything to share.
“Improve your ability to read and write”
I can’t stress this one enough.
I didn’t know why Heavenly Father wanted me to start a blog, and I especially didn’t know why I should start making YouTube videos. I’m still not sure that I understand all of His purposes, but I have learned one very specific principle. Joseph Smith used the Urim and Thummim to help him translate The Book of Mormon. They were a tool prepared by Heavenly Father to help Joseph receive revelation. These videos have become my Urim and Thummim. They have become a means of receiving revelation because they force me to write and speak and think about complete ideas.
Before these videos, I studied my scriptures but with far less depth. I would be reading, I would find a phrase that stuck out to me and I would underline it and keep moving so I could finish the page. I’ve learned how to stop at those phrases and explore them. I’ve paused long enough. Instead of glancing down at my phone and seeing that I received a text, I pause and I open up that text. I read it, I respond, and I receive more. I have come to recognize when the Spirit is saying, “Pause here.” When I take the advice to pause, I receive so much more. When I ignore the pause and move on, I miss out on so much.
These pauses give way to principles and doctrine I’ve never known before as I start to write. If you don’t like writing, try typing. If you really hate typing and writing, start a vocal journal. Record your thoughts by speaking them rather than writing. Find a way to continue on with “speaking,” and I promise you that so much comes.
“Pray sincerely for divine assistance”
The Lord has given principles about how He speaks to His children through the Spirit. Record what you know about how the Lord speaks, and then understand that there is so much more. The Lord has truths that He reveals through His prophets and other servants to all the world, and then the Lord has truths that He only reveals to those who truly seek. Be one of those servants who truly seek, and you will learn things you didn’t know you didn’t know.
Pray. Kneel down, and say, “Heavenly Father. Please help me learn how to hear the Spirit. Please help me know which steps to take. Please help me recognize when the Spirit is talking.” He will answer your prayer, and He will be so excited to answer your prayer.
I promise that you have heard the Lord’s voice, and that He speaks to you, just like He spoke about in Section 18. I also promise that you can learn to recognize it better. I promise that you can have full conversations with Him in ways that you never knew was possible. I can promise these things because I have experienced them.