I Hear Him through Thoughts and Feelings
“Hear Him” are the two words used by God the Father in introducing His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to Joseph Smith to usher in the glorious Restoration of the gospel (Joseph Smith—History 1:17). These two words resonate persuasively with me as I reflect on experiences during my life. I have given many talks, and in my experience inspiration for those talks comes as thoughts to the mind. Sometimes it is an impression to look at something I read earlier. But most often, it is a succession of ideas that I would describe by saying they are written on the blackboard of my mind. I do not hear a voice, but sometimes I see and feel words.
I Hear Him through Strong Impressions
I often reflect on an experience I had over 50 years ago while serving as a counselor in the Chicago Illinois South Stake presidency. I had received an invitation to be the sacrament speaker in the evening at our far west unit near Aurora, Illinois. This was about a one-hour drive from my home. Whenever I received an invitation to speak without an assignment of subject, I usually received an impression about what I should say, but on this particular occasion, I did not receive any impression.
As the Sabbath day wore on without an impression, I pondered as I drove. I thought, “What will I say for the 45 minutes that I have been invited to speak?” I was halfway to Aurora before I got an impression. I remember it was strong, and it came to me with such force that I knew it was the answer to my prayers. The impression was “Speak about your experiences in the criminal courts in Chicago.” At the time, I was working over the summer as a prosecutor in the Cook County Criminal Court to gain additional experience to help me in my teaching responsibilities. I had never spoken about my experiences in the criminal courts. I rarely spoke about any personal experiences in my talks, so the impression was a great surprise.
I spoke about the various kinds of thievery that youth offenders were being prosecuted for, including shoplifting. I stressed how serious this kind of crime was and what happened to these youth when they were found guilty of such offenses. After I concluded my talk, a mother came up to me, thanking me for my talk. She told me she had a young son who had been involved in shoplifting. She and her husband tried to impress upon him the seriousness of that activity, but they had not been able to make any headway. This mother said, “When I learned that you were going to speak this evening, knowing about your background, I prayed to the Lord that you would say something that would help our son. You did,” she said. “He listened to you in a way he has never listened to us, and I thank you for hearing the Spirit of the Lord and following it, and I thank you for what you have said.”
I Hear Him through Following the Guidance of the Spirit
As I pondered that experience in the Aurora Branch so many years ago, I have related it to the many talks I have to give. I am rarely assigned a particular subject, but the Lord has been good to me in impressions on subjects I should speak about. For reasons I cannot explain, my pattern in preparing and giving talks has been to focus on gospel doctrine and not my own personal experiences. So, when I receive a strong impression to speak about a personal experience, I listen to that impression and try to hear Him and follow it.
There are times when one or two people in a congregation really need to hear a particular subject. That was my experience in Aurora, Illinois, that evening, and it has been my experience often since that time. Hear Him—listen to the promptings of His Spirit—and instead of just giving a talk that will be generally helpful to a large group, you may be prompted to answer the prayers of someone for specific inspiration and instruction on a particular subject. When something like that happens to me, I am filled with gratitude. My pattern is to thank the Lord and to pray that the desired effect will take place in the hearts and minds of those who needed to hear that message.
I Hear Him through the Actions and Ministrations of Others
Most of the time when we ask the Lord for help, it does not come by a visitation such as Joseph Smith had or as the Apostle Paul had on the road to Damascus. Most of the answers we receive are through the actions of others. The Lord might impress someone to minister, to send a letter, to make a phone call, or to offer a suggestion here and there. That is the typical way the Lord helps us. Every person in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who has the gift of the Holy Ghost has the right to be prompted of the Lord, regardless of status or circumstance.
Our hands are His hands when we hear Him and feel impressed to help one of His children.
We Hear Him in Our Own Circumstances
When the Lord invited us to “hear Him,” He was appealing to each of us in our own individual circumstance, with our own cultural awareness and our own abilities to understand a message. In a worldwide Church such as we have, there are so many different cultures, languages, symbols, and other methods of communication that surely the Lord speaks to us through the languages, the symbols, and the circumstances we individually can understand and hear.
When you receive an impression, act upon it, however unusual it seems or however inadequate you feel in following it. Act upon it. There is a reason for it. You may not know the reason, but blessings will come to you and to others if you hear Him and follow His direction.