When I think of the ways that I “hear Him,” I am reminded of the various ways that my colleagues in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles receive the voice of the Lord through the Spirit. If anyone were to have an extended discussion with members of the Quorum, they would find the voice of the Lord comes in many ways.
Elder David A. Bednar talks about hearing Him in the scriptures. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf talks about feeling the love of the Savior. Sister Joy D. Jones hears names in her mind. Many of us have these same experiences in receiving revelation. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is so unforgettable that the memory may never leave you. President M. Russell Ballard spoke about a special prompting he felt as a missionary 70 years ago and has never forgotten. Those are powerful, defining memories. Many times receiving heavenly guidance is like that. Other times it is quick and sure but not nearly as intensive.
Here are some of the ways I currently hear Him.
I Hear Him When I Am Willing to Change
One of my favorite scriptures is “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers” (Doctrine and Covenants 112:10). I find that I hear Him most strongly when I come before Him with humility, true honesty, a willingness to let Him prevail, and a desire to become more than I am through change and repentance.
I have found that in my own life, when a loved one or a friend suggests things that I need to change, the natural man inside of me sometimes responds first: “You are not seeing it from my point of view. Who are you to judge?” However, when I kneel humbly before my Heavenly Father and ask in the depth of sincerity, “Father, what do I need to change? Where am I lacking?” a calm feeling comes upon me. And at the appropriate time, I hear Him and the truth penetrates my heart. At times it is uncomfortable. But if I do not reject the spiritual insight, hearing His honesty with me allows me to be honest with myself.
Real change rarely happens in a day, but with time, we can become more like we want to be. As I hear Him and act on the spiritual direction I receive from Him, He showers His Spirit and His approval upon me. There is nothing better than feeling His Spirit and approval.
I Hear Him through Sincere Prayer and Reflection
Many years ago, I had a difficult situation. At the time, I was working with President James E. Faust, who was then in the First Presidency. I took the problem to him because I knew he could solve it. After I asked for his advice about the problem, rather than just giving me the answer, he said to me, “Well, Neil, have you prayed about it?” I told him I had prayed about it. Then he paused as if I was not understanding him, and he said, “Have you prayed all night like Enos prayed?” I had to admit I had not done that. And he said, “When you do that, you will have your answer.” He was right—when I prayed for an extensive period of time, the answer came clearly.
I try to pray every morning: “Heavenly Father, if there is something I can do for Thee, please allow me to do it.” Then as I go through my day, I pay attention to things around me. It might be someone who needs financial help or someone who just needs a good word of encouragement or simply a thank-you. Knowing that the Lord will prompt me keeps me more attuned to listening to that Spirit inside of me so that I actually do the things I am prompted to do.
I Hear Him through the Influence of My Wife
I also receive promptings by listening to the spiritual counsel of my wife. I had a mission president who referred to his wife as his “eternal passport.” This rings true for me as well because my wife, Kathy, is very much influenced by the power of the Holy Ghost, and it would be foolish for me not to listen carefully to her. I have found that having the Spirit of the Lord with me very much depends on how I interact with my precious, dear companion. If I want to feel the Spirit of the Lord strongly in my life, then I need to be responsive to her, quick to listen to her, and slow to be impatient with her. Now that we have been married 46 years, I have learned it in great abundance. I knew it after we had been married for a year, but after 46 years, it is in my DNA. My relationship with Kathy has influenced my ability to have the Spirit with me and to hear Him more than any other thing in my life.
I Hear Him through Repentance and Eternal Progression
None of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes in this life. We all have weaknesses, and becoming like the Savior is a high mountain to climb. My experience is that while the Lord is very honest with me, He is also very willing to forgive me. So when a correction comes, I cannot expect forgiveness in the next breath. I know if I am sorrowful and repentant for what I have done, the Lord quickly showers His love upon me and lets me know I am heading in the right direction. One of the things I learn about the Godhead, as I come to know Them well, is that Their love is well beyond our love and Their ability to forgive is well beyond our ability to forgive. Their desire to bring happiness to us far surpasses our willingness to bring happiness to others.
President Russell M. Nelson said, “Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance.”1 In my prayers, I try to review the happenings of my day, asking myself: Did my actions reveal honesty and unselfishness? What thoughts and emotions do I need to better control? How could I have been more kind, more loving, more forgiving and merciful, more helpful to those in need? I also try to ask the positive questions: Where did I see the Lord’s hand in my life? Where did I make progress? Where did I follow the example of the Savior? I then pause and quietly listen. The Holy Ghost confirms our Heavenly Father’s love for me and assures me that my small steps of progress are helping me to come unto Him.
Honest, sincere, personal prayer opens the window to revelation from our Heavenly Father. Trying to listen to the quiet impressions of the Spirit and promising my Heavenly Father that I will be more attentive to those things seem to bring a greater ability for me to hear Him.
1. Russell M. Nelson, “We Can Do Better and Be Better,” general conference, Apr. 2019.
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