This is a sermon I gave in church last year. This isn’t formatted perfectly, grammar or otherwise, because it was just a guide for me as I spoke in person, but I still thought I would share it here for whoever can get any use out of it. <3
“My dear friends, today I wish to share with you a special invitation. There are a few wonderful occasions in the scriptures when our Heavenly Father personally introduced His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, with a specific charge to ‘Hear Him!’
Today, this most important invitation from our loving Heavenly Father to listen to the voice of the Lord and to follow His teachings is extended to us.
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?” -President Russel M. Nelson
The topic of learning to Hear Him is one that I love and have been actively practicing and discovering my whole life, but especially in the last couple years. When the church then came out with their official “Hear Him” campaign it felt so inspired, because I had already been on that path and learned for myself how vital it is in this world to know ourselves, and to teach our children how to recognize that voice of the spirit through all the noise of the world. I want to give you all some ideas today for ways I’ve discovered to hear the voice of the Divine. Some of them you may already be doing, but some of them may resonate and touch your heart in new ways, or ways you’ve forgotten, and you decide you want to try them. It may also give you new ideas for your children in helping them discover and follow their path in this life as they learn to Hear Him.
As I share some ideas for ways to “Hear Him”, I want to first talk about the importance of writing it down, as soon as you can, when you get an answer and feel that strong spirit and light. When out of our peaceful, enlightened element and back in the world, it is so easy to forget what we’ve felt and to question or doubt our inspiration. It’s so helpful to be able to read back on how we felt about it.
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said,
“Write down in a secure place the important things you learn from the Spirit. You will find that as you write down precious impressions, often more will come. Also, the knowledge you gain will be available throughout your life.”
I often think of Nephi, who not only followed everything God asked of him, but also took the time to write these stories down so that we could learn from them as well.
1 Nephi 1 & 3 says “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days…
And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.”
I have several journals full, because writing always helps me listen and remember what God is trying to tell me. It may even benefit my future posterity as well! Sometimes I write things down as I listen to music or read my scriptures or sit down in nature. Every time I write, I feel like I’m listening and recording rather than coming up with what to write myself. One activity to try is writing in a Q&A style. Sometimes I will simply write down a question I have, and then after the question, I just write down whatever comes to mind. This has helped provide me with clarity countless times!
With that said, the first way I hear him is through:
We know how to pray and learn from a young age at church, but less often do we hear a focus or instruction on the meditation part of it, the pondering, the sitting and listening part. In Genesis 24:63 we read that “Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide…” Psalm 143:5 says “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.” And in D&C 76:19 we read “And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about.” Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers right away as we sit there listening, but I’ve found that oftentimes He does, and it’s just a matter of sitting there long enough. I once had a friend (who was an accomplished athlete) tell me she couldn’t meditate, it wasn’t possible for her to sit still for very long, but I told her that just like any muscle in your body, you can practice every day and your ability to meditate will become stronger and she’d be able to do it for longer periods of time. To train yourself to sit long enough there are also different breathing techniques and visualizations you can do. One is box breathing, and another is counting your breathing. These are just two examples that relieve anxiety and stress and open your mind to joy and happiness, which is the place where all inspiration comes from.
So one way to hear him is by being in that prayerful meditative state, but that doesn’t always mean sitting down, closing our eyes. It can and it’s very effective for some people, but there are also other ways to get in tune.
Some of our greatest stories of answers to prayers and talking with God are found in nature. Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove, and Moses high on a mountain are just a few that come to mind.
My first year at girls camp, I was so sick. I spent most of the time in the first aid tent, but I was so stubborn about staying there, because I had been looking forward to it for soo long! One night we went on a hike with the theme of “holding to the iron rod”. In the end, it led us to a big campfire with a picture of Christ next to it, and we had a devotional there. I don’t remember what was said, but I remember feeling so peaceful, enjoying being surrounded by all those big, tall, sturdy, beautiful trees, and looking up to see countless stars in the sky. As I looked up to the sky full of gratitude, I wondered if God really did see me and know me and love me personally. Suddenly I felt like I could see this tunnel open up from the heavens and it shone it’s light straight to me. I could see my Heavenly Father looking right down at me as I looked right up at Him, and I knew that he saw me individually. Alma 30:44 says “…all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.” We can discover this for ourselves as we go out in nature to seek and Hear Him.
Speaking of nature, I want to talk a little bit about animals. I don’t have nightmares or even remember my dreams regularly, but I once woke up from a nightmare very dramatically with my arm outstretched and reaching forward. As soon as I opened my eyes, our cat Simba was there nuzzling his head into my hand and purring with a calm reassurance. I always joke that he’s Nephi’s cat, that I’m not a cat person, but I’ll never forget that moment when he was there, and I knew I was safe.
I took my journal to the creek once when I felt lost and directionless in life, and as I sat there meditating for a pretty long time, a baby chipmunk appeared from out of the tall grass and approached me, looking very curious. After a minute it ran behind the tree I was sitting on and peeked out again to get one last look at this peculiar person.. I thought about the baby chipmunk after it disappeared and heard the whisper of the spirit tell me to “follow my curiosity” as this chipmunk had, as I was trying to figure out where my daily priorities should be.
President Spencer W. Kimball gave a beautiful talk titled “Fundamental Principles to Ponder and Live” He speaks on how sacred animals are, and I want to share a part of that.
“We look to the Prophet Joseph Smith for proper teaching. He said once: “We crossed the Embarras river and encamped on a small branch of the same about one mile west. In pitching my tent we found three… prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, ‘Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.’ The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger.” (History of the Church, 2:71–72.)”
Ponder on any domestic pets you have or any animals you have observed in nature, and lessons they may have taught you.
In an October 1994 talk from Dallin H. Oaks titled “Worship through Music”, we read of a time when Elder Stephen D. Nadauld was so inspired by the power of music that he wrote a poem about it. It reads,
“If I would teach with power
The doctrine and the plan,
I’d wish for gentle music
To prepare the soul of man.
And then to press forever
These truths upon his mind,
We’d sing the hymns of Zion,
With their messages sublime.”
There have been countless moments when music facilitated my ability to hear god speak to me and the most recently was in my car, as I went for a drive by myself. I had been struggling that day, feeling so anxious, and I didn’t listen this time to anything with words, but just an album with traditional Tibetan instruments. Within 5 minutes I felt the fog dissipate, and my heart and mind opening up to gods light and love again. I felt indescribably happy for the rest of the drive and made a note of the specific type of music I had been listening to. I’ve loved discovering different instruments of the world and music that uplift my soul. One recommendation I have is to discover new instruments from around the world for yourself. Find the ones that bring you peace. Another is to download the Sacred Music app from the church if you haven’t yet. They have made so many new, beautiful adaptations to the traditional hymns there.
Anna Pavlova is one of the most famous ballerinas in history. She once said “Dancing is my gift and my life ... God gave me this gift to bring delight to others. I am haunted by the need to dance. It is the purest expression of every emotion, earthly and spiritual. It is happiness.”
Author: Gerard Van Der Leeuw once wrote that “The surrender of oneself to a stronger power, the unification of one's own movements with the movements of the whole is what makes dance religious and lets it become a service of God.”
When I think of movement I think of dance but there are many ways to move our bodies!
Our spirits were SO excited to come to earth and receive a body, and part of us can only be uplifted when we move our bodies in a way that is joyous to our souls! When I close my eyes and picture my spirit, I often see myself joyfully dancing for or with my Heavenly parents, usually in a beautiful garden or palace courtyard. It’s a way that I express gratitude and I always feel them smiling down at me when I dance. Others may also feel this same way when they play a sport or go running, stretch, or even go for a walk. However it’s done, our spirits were so excited to gain a body and they crave movement! It is uplifting and inspiring and puts us in tune with our spirit, and Satan will do whatever he can to keep us from using our bodies to their full potential.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.”
This is one of our family’s favorite quotes and something we always urge people to do. Create, build, make something! It is so innately in all of us to create and we often forget how uplifting it can be. When we are inspired to create something good, we can forget that it’s not just a random idea, but the voice of God inspiring us to do something that will bring joy and light to the world.
The Greatest Showman is a movie our family loves that always inspires us to be creative. One of the song lyrics says,
“Every night I lie in bed
The brightest colours fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it's gonna take
Oh a million dreams for the world we're gonna make”
To learn to recognize God’s voice you have to practice every day.
Elder Peter M. Johnson famously called us to pray and read our scriptures “Every day, every day, every day” repeating these words to emphasize their importance!
A couple years ago I made this a priority in my own life. When my mom was in her young twenties she converted to the church and eventually passed down to me her first scriptures, marked up with testimonies of the missionaries who taught her, as well as her own notes and thoughts in the margins. I treasure those scriptures and thought I would do the same for each of my children in their own scriptures that they receive at age 8. I started with my daughters’. I would wake up in the morning with her scriptures and my journal, with a prayer in my heart to find the things that would be useful and inspiring to her in the future and me for that day. I would then read and listen and write, and I learned how to discern God’s voice so well that I could tell the difference even as I put my scriptures down for the morning and walked throughout my regular day. Through the noise of the world I could always hear the still small voice in my mind guiding me. It became a protection to me and provided so many answers. It is the one thing we have been promised countless times by countless prophets and apostles that if we do, we will learn to Hear Him.
The last thing I want to share is the most powerful testimony of the Book of Mormon that I have ever heard. It was given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.
“May I refer to a modern “last days” testimony? When Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum started for Carthage to face what they knew would be an imminent martyrdom, Hyrum read these words to comfort the heart of his brother:
“Thou hast been faithful; wherefore … thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father.
“And now I, Moroni, bid farewell … until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ.”
A few short verses from the 12th chapter of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Before closing the book, Hyrum turned down the corner of the page from which he had read, marking it as part of the everlasting testimony for which these two brothers were about to die. I hold in my hand that book, the very copy from which Hyrum read, the same corner of the page turned down, still visible. Later, when actually incarcerated in the jail, Joseph the Prophet turned to the guards who held him captive and bore a powerful testimony of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Shortly thereafter pistol and ball would take the lives of these two testators.
As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?
Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.”
I testify that one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these, our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies. If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages—especially without accounting for their powerful witness of Jesus Christ and the profound spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now tens of millions of readers—if that is the case, then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived; and if he or she leaves this Church, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit. In that sense the book is what Christ Himself was said to be: “a stone of stumbling, … a rock of offence,” a barrier in the path of one who wishes not to believe in this work. Witnesses, even witnesses who were for a time hostile to Joseph, testified to their death that they had seen an angel and had handled the plates. “They have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man,” they declared. “Wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true.”
Now, I did not sail with the brother of Jared in crossing an ocean, settling in a new world. I did not hear King Benjamin speak his angelically delivered sermon. I did not proselyte with Alma and Amulek nor witness the fiery death of innocent believers. I was not among the Nephite crowd who touched the wounds of the resurrected Lord, nor did I weep with Mormon and Moroni over the destruction of an entire civilization. But my testimony of this record and the peace it brings to the human heart is as binding and unequivocal as was theirs. Like them, “[I] give [my name] unto the world, to witness unto the world that which [I] have seen.” And like them, “[I] lie not, God bearing witness of it.”
I ask that my testimony of the Book of Mormon and all that it implies, given today under my own oath and office, be recorded by men on earth and angels in heaven. I hope I have a few years left in my “last days,” but whether I do or do not, I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true, that it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth and was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the travail of the latter days.
My witness echoes that of Nephi, who wrote part of the book in his “last days”:
“Hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, … and they teach all men that they should do good.
“And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day.”
Brothers and sisters, God always provides safety for the soul, and with the Book of Mormon, He has again done that in our time. Remember this declaration by Jesus Himself: “Whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived”—and in the last days neither your heart nor your faith will fail you. Of this I earnestly testify…”
I want to invite you to do three things.
One, read your scriptures and write down promptings in a notebook or journal every day.
Two, search for “Hear Him” in the church app and read what the current apostles and prophet have said about how they Hear Him for more ideas.
And third, try one of the suggestions I mentioned today (meditation, nature, animals, music, dance&movement, and creation) try one of these that touched your heart. If you were touched by one of the ideas I said today, that is the voice of the spirit. In this room today, you have “Heard Him”, so I hope you will follow it. :)
In the name of Jesus Christ amen