Hearing His Voice in Troubled Times
previous next

Hearing His Voice in Troubled Times

S&I Annual Training Broadcast for 2020

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

What a privilege to be with you today. I have a great love for all of you who work so diligently in Seminaries and Institutes of Religion (S&I). I first began teaching seminary full time 42 years ago this year, and I wonder where all that time has gone. I treasure the memories I have of students, fellow teachers, and other colleagues I have served with over the years in different assignments. I stand in awe of the tens of thousands of called teachers who give so much of their time and heart to bless the young peoples’ lives. I have been in some of their classes in countries all over the globe and have been touched by what happens in those classes. Jill and I are at the stage of life where some of our grandchildren are old enough to attend seminary and institute, and we are grateful for those of you who influence them. Thank you to all of you who are engaged in this great work.

Earlier this year President Russell M. Nelson released a video entitled “How Do You #HearHim?”1 In that video he said, “In this special year as we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, I invite you to think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him? I also invite you to take steps to hear Him better and more often.” I have pondered this invitation, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that began to spread across the world near the time the video was released and its repercussions.

I have even thought that the past several months have been a special opportunity to refine how I hear Him. Many people have lost loved ones to this terrible disease. The pandemic has changed our lives and schedules and has stripped away much of the normal day-to-day routine we have become so used to. It has changed our venues for teaching, worship, and leisure. We have been compelled to do things differently. It gives us, in S&I, a window to reexamine what we do and how we do it and to see if the Lord would have us make some changes. He will guide us if we will hear Him.

It seems that challenging times and times of stress are often special times of heavenly guidance to those who are open to it. Think about what led up to the First Vision. It was a time of “no small stir and division amongst the people”2 and a time of “great confusion and bad feeling.”3 The Prophet Joseph Smith said that his “mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness.”4 He “felt to mourn for [his] own sins and for the sins of the world.”5 It was in this time of challenge for him that he went into the grove of trees and the heavens opened.

And what about his time in Liberty Jail? The conditions for him personally were horrible, and the weight he felt when the Saints were being driven out of Missouri while he was in the jail must have been very heavy. And yet, in that difficult setting, the Lord opened Joseph’s understanding.

When Alma the Elder faced the challenge of dealing with problems in the Church, where many members were committing sin, he “was troubled in his spirit”6 and wondered how to handle those members who had transgressed God’s laws. He “feared that he should do wrong in the sight of God,”7 so he “poured out his whole soul to God,”8 and the Lord taught him how to handle the transgressors.

Consider the extremely dire circumstances with the widespread death and destruction in the Western Hemisphere that accompanied the Crucifixion of the Savior. In the midst of the impenetrable darkness, they all heard and understood the Savior’s voice.9 Later, when the people were gathered around the temple, they heard the Father’s voice but didn’t understand it until the third time, when they “did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof.”10 That is when they heard the Father introduce the Son and heard the words “hear ye him.”11 This opened the astounding events of the Savior’s ministry to the people who were privileged to hear Him.

In each of these examples there was an outpouring of revelation that was a blessing to the Church and to the world—for the people both then and for years to come. The individuals involved also received some very personal revelation and blessings.

During Joseph’s experience in the Sacred Grove—in addition to finding out that he should join none of the churches—he was taught “many other things.”12 The Lord also told him that his sins were forgiven.13

In Liberty Jail Joseph was promised that “the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.”14

Alma the Elder was not only instructed on how to handle the transgressors but also received a very personal message. He was told that he would have eternal life.15

The people who heard the Savior when He visited the land Bountiful were not only taught about the doctrine of Christ and other crucial teachings, but they were also each individually allowed to touch the wounds in His body and become personal witnesses of the reality of the Savior Jesus Christ.16

We cannot only expect to receive guidance and inspiration for decisions in our assignments and callings, but the Lord loves us enough to add personal blessings and inspiration in times of challenge.

Toward the end of the book of Alma we read that “because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, … and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility.”17 As we face these challenging times, we can be softened and humble ourselves. That makes this an opportune time—a remarkable time—to hear Him.

We have had enough change these last couple of months to help us learn what things can be stripped away—things that may have served us well but are not essential going forward and may even slow our progress if we hold on to them. We may be in a time when we can adjust and prepare for the future with fewer constraints than we may have seen in the past.

I have wondered at times if I have been called many times but “I would not hear.”18 The current situation may help us overcome that. I feel we have an opportunity for changing and preparing “in a manner which never had been known.”19

I endorse the efforts being made to achieve our objective by focusing on how best to bless the lives of this rising generation in our changing times. I have been intrigued that when the Lord is teaching the Church about spiritual gifts, He explains “to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, … suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.”20 The conditions of the children of men change, and He suits His mercies according to those conditions. We need this gift of knowing the differences of administration so that we can help according to the conditions of the children of men. These conditions have changed and will change in the future.

As we learn to better hear Him and receive the help we need to teach our precious students, I sense that we will also have personal treasures and knowledge made available to us—just as Joseph Smith, Alma, and the people of Bountiful did. These personal messages will come to us as we are humble and open to the guidance of the Lord. They may come unexpectedly, as they often do to those who are focused on others, but they are powerful blessings.

Last summer the Norwegian singer Sissel performed with The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square. She sang a beautiful song titled “Slow Down.”21 It was moving and powerful. I invite you to find it and watch it on YouTube.com. The message seems especially applicable in this particular time. Here are some of the lyrics:

In the midst of my confusion,

At the time of desperate need,

When I am thinking not too clearly,

A gentle voice does intercede.

Slow down, slow down, be still.

Be still and wait on the Spirit of the Lord.

Slow down and hear His voice

And know that He is God.

In the time of tribulation,

When I’m feeling so unsure,

When things are pressing in about me

Comes a gentle voice so still, so pure.

Slow down, slow down, be still, my child.

Be still and wait on the Spirit of the Lord.

Slow down and hear His voice

And know that He is God.

Let us take advantage of this historic moment. Slow down. Hear Him. Then move forward. This will make a difference for the young people whose lives we are striving to bless, and it will make a difference for us individually.

I pray the Lord will bless each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.