The scriptures teach us a many example of a still small voice. We learn in 1 Kings of Elijah on the mountain top where the Lord was not in the earthquake or the thunder or the wind but it was a still voice. We learn from Oliver Cowdrey’s experience that He will tell us in our mind and our heart. We learn from the Nephites that it was as like a whisper. Samuel was spoken to by night in a voice that he thought was Eli, but counseled to answer, “Thy servant heareth” to God. (1 Samuel 3) So if the Spirit speaks to us so subtly then how do we align ourselves, or have ears to hear? This is the thought that I desire to explore.
The often used references throughout the scriptures to illustrate the hearing of the spirit often show 2-3 times where individuals need to hear before they recognize. A few of these specific examples were cited above. They are rich examples in teaching us about tuning our ears to hear the voice of the Spirit. However, as we look at two of these specifically, namely the Nephites at Bountiful and the young Samuel, we see that these came early in their learning. After these moments they had tuned themselves to the Spirit for further light and knowledge.
The scriptures are filled with examples of following the spirit of the Lord. We just need to know how to recognize what they teach us. We all recall the verse in 1 Nephi that states, “I will go and do” (1 Nephi 3:5) but do we also know the pattern of what follows? Do we comprehend what Nephi learned and did to get him to that point? Within the first few chapters of the Book of Mormon we learn of Nephi’s desire to go to God in prayer to learn the truthfulness of all things. (See 1 Nephi 2) Because he knows that God has called Lehi to go into the wilderness he doesn’t have a hard time being willing to go back to Jerusalem when Lehi tells him it is a commandment of God. (1 Nephi 3:4) We too, need to have that initial conviction to set the stage for life’s many tests and trials.
Meditate and Ponder
Over the past few years the world has become more accepting of the process of meditation. It has become a regular practice of tech executives and CEO’s. The Savior has taught us this practice for many years. My children starting singing about it at a very young age when they sing, Search, Ponder, and Pray. Pondering is just active meditation.
It is difficult to count the number of apps for meditation in the app store. It just keeps going. The world is seeking a way to escape the craziness of the everyday and become in tune with something more. We should be doing the same. If we give ourselves to regular prayer and meditation then we can align our thoughts to God. It is when we are aligned that He can then begin to guide us and teach us by His spirit. Elder Richard G. Scott gave us a great truth of meditation a few years back when he stated,
As you ponder–not just read but ponder and meditate–on scriptural passages, the power of the Holy Ghost will distill truths in your mind and heart as a secure foundation in this uncertain time in which we live. — Elder Richard G. Scott, CR Apr 2010
Utilizing the power of meditation helps us to harness our thoughts and become more in tune to the mind and the spirit. We then allow God room to talk to us spirit to spirit. (see John 4:24 and JST John 4:26)
Avoid Harmful Substances
Several years ago, President Packer shared with the young adults of the church a portion of his patriarchal blessing. In it he was given rich counsel that ought to apply to each of us.
“You have been given a body of such physical proportions and fitness as to enable your spirit to function through it unhampered by physical impediments. You should cherish this as a great heritage. Guard and protect it—take nothing into it that shall harm the organs thereof because it is sacred. It is the instrument of your mind and the foundation of your character.” [Patriarchal blessing of Boyd K. Packer, 15 January 1944, 1]
If we choose to take things into our bodies that harm us or alter our perceptions or dull our senses, then we will have a hard time hearing the voice of God. This is why addictions become bad. we give up control and sensitivity. We begin to want what we are addicted to more than the things that bring us to God. President Packer then reiterates that the importance of keeping the Word of Wisdom in our lives is not to keep us physically active all of our lives, but to continue to be in tune.
“The point is, if you want to move on spiritually and do as you ought to do in this life, the principle outlined in the Word of Wisdom shows you the requirements. You cannot just toy with it…And so, like it or not! If you are tampering, if there is any mischief, you have got to quit it! It is not that you are going to be a healthy athlete all of your life, and it is not that you are going to avoid old age. It is that you will have the key to revelation. When your body begins to deteriorate, the patterns of revelation will be augmented and magnified.” — President Packer
Tuning is an active practice. My daughter plays the violin and is constantly tuning her instrument to have the right sound. This has to be done every time she plays or practices. It is a constant tuning. Even if it slightly gets bumped she will adjust the tune to keep her notes precise. This too applies to our ability to hear the spirit. The Nephites needed to turn their hearts to hear the voice. Jesus often asked the people if they had ears to hear. We are always in constant need of tuning. It is a continual process that occurs every day.
Nephi, again, teaches us great truths about following the spirit. After having arrived in Jerusalem they decided to use the ancient custom of divining to determine who would go into the house of Laben to obtain the record. They cast lots and the lot fell on Laman. He was not successful and was run out. They then decided to use their father’s wealth to purchase the record. That failed. Nephi did not doubt that God could help them so he decided to go in humility. As he humbled himself he chose to go being “led by the spirit not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do. [But he] went forth.” (1 Nephi 4:6-7; see 1 Nephi 3-4 for the complete experience)
If we have tuned our hearts to the spirit we can follow Him without knowing what lies ahead of us other than the ability to do God’s will. He will show us.
Align Your Actions
Be obedient. The Lord says, He who hath clean hands and a pure heart shall ascend unto the Hill of the Lord (see Psalm 24:3-4). Are your hands doing good things? Are they used as tools of service and doing good. Where does your heart stand? Do you want good for others? Do you love everyone, or just those that believe what you believe? Do you reach out to new friends, or just those that reach out to you? God wants our hearts pure so that he can help to shape us to be better and understand His children better. Love, serve, reach out. When we do these things we will be more in tune to His spirit.
Using Objects to Tune
Throughout the history of the scriptures, God has given man various objects to help to tune their hearts and minds to Him and His ways. Beginning with Adam was the alter of sacrifice. Abraham and others were given the Urim and Thummim. Moses had a staff and later the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Solomon built a temple for the High Priest to commune, after the manner of Moses’ Tabernacle. Later, while journeying through the wilderness, Lehi woke up to a ball of curious workmanship outside his tent. They called this Liahona. It was a sort of compass that would lead through the wilderness. It worked based on their faith and diligence. They had to be in tune to follow it, but also used it to keep them in tune as to where to go. (See 1 Nephi 16). Likewise, the Prophet Joseph Smith was given the Urim and Thummim as well as seer stones to help to align his thoughts and keep himself in tune to receive divine revelation.
Today, we are blessed with many oracles that help us to attune our hearts and minds to the spirit of God. These are not stones or divining rods. However, our oracles are available to each of us to tune our souls and put us in a place to receive revelation from God. Today, we have the scriptures and words of living prophets that are placed before us to read and ponder to come into a meditative state to receiving revelation from God. These tools help us to control and hone our thoughts. They accomplish the same task of that of an alter, a seer stone, or a Liahona.
It takes work to be in tone but it is worth the effort. When I am doing the things above are when I am learning the most. It is these times when I truly see the revelations of God manifest. They become easier because I am aligned. Make time in your schedule to study the word of God, commune in prayer, meditate, and serve others.