22 November 2020

How to Hear the Voice of the Lord

 I delivered this talk during Sacrament meeting on November 22, 2020:

I’m so glad to be able to speak to you today, and about something that has been on my mind in the past few weeks.


I think my message is a simple and straightforward one, but in some ways that makes it a little more challenging.


Our society is obsessed with complexity.  When things are simple, they are easy to overlook. But it is true what Alma taught his son Helaman:

“...by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.“

“...by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.”


I see this in my work as a financial advisor. There seems to be a never-ending search for the next great investment idea, or the next big company or product that will revolutionize the world and provide a huge return, a fast payday. I’m sure that the same is true in other fields like medicine, nutrition, and technology- what magic pill or shot will eliminate the need for exercise, healthy eating, or tedious tasks?


The truth is, for almost all of us, there is no get-rich-quick, magic pill, or shot that will eliminate all of our problems. AND THAT IS OKAY. It’s not a flaw in the plan, but actually an important part of it.


My clients who are best prepared for their future are the ones who have done small and simple things for a long time. If they are able they save, they put money to work in a systematic and consistent pattern over a long period of time. They plant the seeds that eventually bear good fruit. This same principle applies to our spiritual health and readiness.


BUT, EVEN KNOWING THIS, WE STILL LOOK FOR THE EASY ROUTE, not realizing that the easy route is the one that has been in front of our face the entire time.


In that same talk to Helaman, Alma provided one of my favorite teachings in the Book of Mormon, and it centered on the role that the Liahona played in the lives of their ancestors Lehi and Nephi. I will read some parts of what Alma taught:


38 And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.

39 ....And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.

40 And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.

41 Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;

42 Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.

43 And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.

44 For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

45 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.

46 O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.


Alma refers several times to the “easiness of the way.” Many of us may thing, “Life isn’t easy.” And often it isn’t. Another way to think of “easy” may be simple, straightforward, or plain. The way is not mysterious and doesn’t require some guru to show it to you. It has been provided to us plainly through prophets of God.


What I want to share today is how we can better receive guidance from our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ- how we can make sure that our personal Liahona is functioning?


Hopefully you have seen some of the brief videos that the Church has published on YouTube and elsewhere titled “How I Hear Him.” Members of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles and the other general leaders of the Church share how they receive guidance from the Lord. If you haven’t, I recommend watching them.


One of the recent ones is from Elder Dale Renlund and it really stuck with me.


A longer version of his thoughts is available on the Church website and I strongly encourage you to read it. I’ll just share a few pieces of it with you now:


Through the difficult challenges in my life, I have learned an important lesson about myself: my initial impulse sometimes has been to back away from personal, private acts of devotion that keep me connected to heaven. And yet I have learned this is the time when, instead of leaning back, I should lean in and do my utmost to continue seeking the Lords guidance.


It is powerful to hear an apostle of the Lord share a challenge that so many of us can identify with. 


There is a reason that the scriptures associate this impulse with the term “the natural man.” To feel this is not something to be ashamed of. What matters is what we choose after that feeling. 


After all, what separates the spiritually successful from those who go down a different path is what they do when that impulse arrives


Another story from Elder Renlund illustrates this, during a time when he was training as a physician.


My internship was overwhelmingly busy and exhausting. One Sunday, I knew that if I hurried home from work, I could go with Ruth and Ashley to church. They left at about 2:00 in the afternoon to go to our ward that met at 2:30. But, instead, I decided to stall on my way home from work. That way, I would just walk home and lie down for a nap. And I did that.

But when I got home and I lay down, I couldnt sleep. I realized that the testimony and the zeal that had always been part of me werent there anymore. I remember getting off the couch, kneeling down, pleading for forgiveness, and pledging that I would change.

The next day, I took a paperback copy of the Book of Mormon to the hospital so I could read in the scriptures every day, no matter what. And some days it was not very much—but every day I read something. I made a list of things I would do, including praying at least twice a day and going to church if my schedule allowed. And then within just a couple of weeks, that zeal and warmth of my testimony were back. I shudder to think what would have happened if Id continued down that course—if I had fallen asleep and found joy in skipping church. I believe our lives would have been very different


What did Elder Renlund do that allowed him to feel “the zeal and warmth” of his testimony again? Did he fast alone in the wilderness for 40 days? Did he take a trip to the Holy Land? Did he perform some dramatic act that reconnected him to the Spirit and fired up his personal Liahona?


No. Maybe those would have been impactful things to do, but he did what most of us could do, something that is within all of our reach.


He made sure he could read in the scriptures, specifically the Book of Mormon, every day without fail. 


He decided to pray at least two times a day.


He committed to attending Church whenever he could.


Small and simple things. Elder Renlund also said:


That experience, and many others, taught me about the importance of feeding myself spiritually. When I am struggling or busy, I need to lean in and do my best to engage in personal revelation. Those are the times when I need heavens help most in determining my priorities.


Sometimes, when people are challenged spiritually or otherwise, they feel the temptation to blame the gospel, or blame the church, or blame God. The do not consider, as Elder Renlund did, whether they are doing the small and simple things that bring about miracles and that will lead us on a straight course back to our Heavenly Father.


On Friday, President Russell M. Nelson, the president of the church and our living prophet, shared an important message about gratitude and the important of focusing on our blessings and not our challenges, especially during a year as distressing as this one. In addition to teaching this principle and inviting us to flood social media with messages of gratitude, he offered a prayer of gratitude to the Lord, providing a great example.


He explained why he decided to share this important message with us:


A few weeks ago, I woke in the middle of the night with the thought that I should offer a prayer of gratitude to God for all of His children around the globe. Thoughts flooded my mind of all of the things for which we should be grateful and how expressing that gratitude could become a healing spirit in our lives. As the inspiration came, specific details, including when and how I should share this message, came to my mind and heart. The video message shared today was not one that came by chance; it is one that came from heaven.

Since my service as President of the Church in 2018, one of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will. The marvelous privilege of receiving revelation is one of the greatest gifts of God to His children—available to every one of us.

No matter who you are, you can pray to your Heavenly Father for guidance and direction in your life. If you learn to hear the Lord through His promptings, you may receive divine guidance in matters large and small.


Elder Renlund received revelation from Heavenly Father to help him rekindle his passion for worship.


Through revelation, President Nelson taught us that gratitude can be a way of reconnecting to the Spirit as well, and he has taught this for many years. In 2016, he said:


Saints can be happy under every circumstance. We can feel joy even while having a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year!

My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.

When the focus of our lives is on Gods plan of salvation and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy. We feel it at Christmastime when we sing, Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” And we can feel it all year round. For Latter-day Saints, Jesus Christ is joy!


I want to repeat part of that message:


The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.


Why does this matter?


Because we cannot control all of the circumstances of our lives. Despite our best efforts, illness, hardship and other problems will ruin plans and expectations.

But we can choose where we focus our mental and spiritual energy.


Is the gospel different for some people than it is for others?


NO! The gospel of salvation, which proclaims the atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ, is a universal gospel. The promises of the Lord are totally reliable. The love that he has for us is unending. I testify to all of you that He knows who you are, as individuals. He wants you to hear HIM and he will teach you how to do that.


This is how we receive and maintain the strength to place the focus of our lives where it needs to be. This is not an empty self-esteem message to just think positive thoughts. This is the actual receipt of truth and spiritual strength through the power of Christ’s atonement.


The Holy Ghost WILL provide this knowledge, comfort, and peace if we seek it. If we are having a difficult time feeling that, we can ask ourselves a few questions:


“What am I doing that is helping me to hear His voice?”


“What am I doing that is making it harder for me to hear Him?


“What should I start doing to help me in the goal?


I’m going to stop for a moment so we can consider these questions for ourselves.


I hope that during my talk something has come to your mind, some answer to one of these questions or something else that will help you better hear the voice of the Lord in your life.


It is my testimony that Our Heavenly Father DOES speak to us, We can learn to hear that voice. We can make the small and simple choice EVERY DAY, to look to God. The way is prepared for all of us and if we will we can look to God and live.


I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I know that he knows me and loves me in spite of my many imperfections. The Holy Ghost has testified to me, in a manner clear and undeniable to me, that this is true.


This is my testimony, and I leave it with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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