“Monty” is 96 years old. He grew up in Payson, Utah and joined the church at the age of 13. His mother was a Latter-day Saint, but His father saw no need for religion of any sort. “We never even had a bible in the house”, he said. While I’ve heard this story before, perhaps suggesting a tad of forgetfulness, this man’s mind is amazing, and one would be a fool to dismiss him in any way.
A friend had told me the previous day that he has asked about us – Diana and me – and why we weren’t in church. I knew that I needed to go visit him and explain.
For the past 10 days or so, I have been bombarded by people who have expressed a mixture of genuine concern, disdain, confusion, disbelief, and out-right rejection upon finding out that Diana and I had resigned from the church. Some have been exceedingly kind while others have been exceedingly cold, with many variations in between. There have been subtle suggestions – and some not so subtle – that we are motivated by pride and arrogance. Even more conclude that we are listening to a deceiving spirit. I offer this description of their reactions primarily as a contrast to that of my 96-year-old friend.
As we sat on the couch together, me with my right leg crossed in front of me, and my right arm on the back of the couch so I could be facing him, he said, “So, I haven’t seen you in Church recently. I’ve been worried about you”. I proceeded to tell him that we had resigned from the church. He calmly, with just a hint of surprise – the kind of understated surprise that one would expect from a man who has lived for 96 years – and said, “Why?”. I wish you could have heard how he said it. There was a tone of pleading, but not like, “Why in the hell would you do that?” There was a bit of surprise, but there was also a healthy dose of respect, like, “I know you’re not stupid or a liar or insincere, so I’d really like to understand what would cause you to make that decision.” He truly wanted to understand. There have been several friends who sought understanding in their responses to the news, but they did so with at least a hint of condemnation, absolutely convinced, and making no bones about it, that I was wrong. “Monty”, however, seriously sought to understand. He wanted to know what would cause someone like me to leave the church.
Well, this post is not about my answer or my reasons. That’s old hat, and it’s not going to bring anyone closer to Christ. You see, I was arrogant in posting my last blog – because I sent links to people that I knew would reject it. I have repented of that act, and in doing so, I learned that I am not to write anything that does not bring people closer to Christ, or at least present them with the opportunity to draw closer to Him.
This post is, however, about something Monty said while we talked. As part of my explanation, I updated him on our plans for the foreseeable future, which have been defined for us by direct commandment from the Lord. I told him that we had learned to hear the voice of the Lord, that He talks to us, and that we listen. When I said that, he got this very reflective look in his eye and said, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever asked to hear the voice of the Lord.” Later, he said, “I’ve just always known that what I was doing was right for me, so I never asked Him what I should be doing, I just knew.” Monty said something like this about ½ dozen times during our 30 minute conversation. Each time, he seemed just a little more thoughtful, until at the end, I could clearly see that he was wondering, “What would my life have been like if I had?”
Monty asked sincerely, seeking to understand. He did not judge, he just loved. He pondered deeply what I told him while sharing experiences from his own life that he thought applied to our situation, but he never condemned. All of this was quite refreshing, but the thing that impacted me the most from our conversation was him saying, “You know…I don’t think I’ve ever asked to hear the voice of the Lord”.
I was rather stunned when I heard this, and just a little bit saddened. He said this one last time just before I left, and I finally said, “Monty – ASK HIM!” Wouldn’t you love to hear His voice? Wouldn’t you love to hear him tell you that your life has been pleasing unto Him, because I know He will.” Knowing my friend, I suspect he will do exactly that. I suspect that he did so that very night.
Which brings us to the point of this post. Have you asked Him if you can hear His voice? Have you asked Him to speak to you? Scriptures are myriad that invite, suggest, and even command that we seek, hear, and listen to the voice of the Lord. Yet, how many of us go through life like my friend, Monty – who at age 96 is suddenly faced with, “How would my life have been different if…?”
Seek His Voice?
Why do we not seek personally to hear His voice, and then listen and obey? If I may speculate:
- We think we are not worthy
- We have succumbed to the myth that only certain people are privileged to hear His voice (very similar to thinking we are not worthy)
- We are afraid if we do, we might have to listen
- We are afraid we won’t be able to distinguish between His voice and our thoughts
- We’re lazy, or we think we already have enough
- We don’t pray long enough or often enough to ever be able to hear His voice
Let me just cut to the chase on this topic:
It is my testimony that He wants to talk to us. He craves talking to us. He wants us to hear His voice. This is what He lives for – it is even what He died for! Why in the world would He sacrifice as He did in order to just sit up there on the right hand of the Father and watch from a million miles away as we flail around here on the earth without even knowing Him? Is this the Christ that you know? It’s certainly not the Christ that I know!
So, let’s examine a few things that might make this easier to do; that might make it easier to seek, hear, understand, and obey the voice of the Lord:
- Live righteously. Not necessarily perfectly, but righteously. Especially, live with integrity. I don’t know why exactly, but guilt and hearing the voice of the Lord just don’t go hand in hand. They tend to interfere with each other. D&C 121:45 says:
Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
- Learn to discard pride. If you are trying – that is enough. Just trying…because He will help you.
- Ask questions, and then listen for the answers. You’ve all heard things like, “you need to ask the right questions” or “start out with yes or no questions”. This is nothing new – but you have to ask, and you have to listen.
- Finally, when you listen, believe. Learn to listen, and then believe the answers. Remember, we’ve already established that you’re living righteously, right? Why, then, would your thoughts necessarily be at odds with His word? Let’s try a few very familiar scriptures:
And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you. (2 Nephi 18:20)
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? (Matthew 7:9-10)
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. (Luke 11:9)
Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. (3 Nephi 9:14)
As I said, these scriptures are very familiar. There are, of course many others that communicate a similar message. There’s nothing earthshaking here. So why do we not believe? It’s not as if the Lord’s sitting up there thinking, “How can I confuse them even further? They’ve asked, but I’m going to make them work for it!” No, if you ask for a loaf, He’s not going to give you a stone. Can’t we just believe that the answers – typically in the form of thoughts – that come into our head are truly from Him? Furthermore, what does it mean to “come unto me?” Can we do that, can we have eternal life, if we do not speak to Him, and hear His voice? Can we really be passive bystanders and expect to gain eternal life? Would the Lord really encourage us to do something without providing the means to do so? (I know – dumb question. Really dumb question.)
In Lectures on Faith, 3:2-5, we read:
Let us here observe, that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.
- First, the idea that he actually exists.
- Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.
- Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive ; but with this understanding it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness, unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
How can we hope to gain a correct idea of God’s character, perfections, and attributes, and gain actual knowledge that the course of life which we are pursuing is according to His will, if we can’t hear His voice?
May I suggest an experiment? Pick a day, maybe a Sabbath day, but any day – a day when you can spend an hour in communion with the Lord. If you’re fasting, that’s good. Get a tablet, or a computer, or some type of writing medium and put it close by. Now, pray. You may need to pray for 30 minutes. Praise Him – the creator of Heaven and earth and Savior of the world. Pray for forgiveness – that you might be worthy to approach Him. Give thanks…for everything! Pray for others, then ask Him for knowledge. Declare your intention, of course – that you are seeking to hear His voice. You might have something specific on your mind, or you might ask Him what He would tell you. You might say, “Is my life pleasing to you?” or even “What would you have me learn today?” If you’ve done this for 30 minutes, as I said, you may well be in position to hear His word. Once you have done this, when you feel the time is right, begin writing or typing. Let the words flow. Whatever comes into your head is fine. Just do it! Don’t second guess, just let it flow. Be sure to think like you’re hearing the word of the Lord unto you.
You will want to do this many times. I was lucky. I was surprised when He said, “Get up and write” for the first time. I am convinced that if you will do this, if you will practice, you will learn to hear His voice and understand it.
I want to make a couple of points about this:
Many are the cautions about “seeking signs”. Korihor sought after a sign, and it was accounted to Him for evil (Alma 30:43). That’s because he was saying, “If you’ll show me a sign, I will believe, but without it, I do not believe.” This is very different from “Lord, I believe. I love you. I desire to serve you and to please you. Please, will you show me a sign, that I may know that the course of my life is pleasing unto you?” Many are those who will discourage this type of “sign-seeking”, but I firmly believe that is a tool of the adversary. It’s a lie and a deception! Do not fear to ask the Lord, in faith, desiring to believe, for a confirmation that He has heard your prayers.
Any and all Heavenly manifestations, whether it be a personal revelation through hearing His voice, the burning in the bosom, a baptism by fire, angelic visitation, or an interview with the Savior and the Father, are worthless if they do not empower us to better serve Him. Seeking such “signs” or manifestations for any other reason is simply to satisfy our own lusts – for power, for the honors of men, or for personal gain. Such desires could easily bring about individual condemnation rather than the power to serve.
Brethren and Sisters, I have heard so many who express a desire to hear the voice of the Lord. I testify again that He wants us to come to Him, and that if we will, He will receive us. How He receives us is up to Him. We must be forever grateful for any and all communications that we have. Then, as we receive, we must act – in love, in charity, in service. I close with D&C 50:24:
That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
It is my prayer that we will each ask, seek, and knock; that we will each believe; and that we will each, in the Lord’s time, cast our eyes upon the bright, bright light of that perfect day.