How do I hear Him?
It’s a question I often ask myself.
I know that God is trying to communicate with me as I go about my daily life.
He has a vested interest in me.
He wants me to succeed in all I do.
And He wants to use me in building up His Kingdom here on earth.
Imagine that—Him using me to do mighty things.
But He can, and He will.
I need only hear Him, and act on the instruction I receive.
A BURNING QUESTION
Centuries ago, a teenage farmer lived with their family in a simple house, where they helped their father in the fields.
They had limited education, but a passionate interest in the church and in God.
With the country in commotion, it was a precarious time, filled with much confusion, with leaders contradicting each other and fighting for power—all claiming to have the answer that burned in the heart of the people in this small town.
YOUNG AND FAITHFUL
This person prayed frequently and fervently at an early age. They saw visions and had visits from Heavenly Messengers who taught truth and offered encouragement.
They were told that they had a great mission to fulfill, and even as they doubted their ability to accomplish such a mission, they did not doubt that these messengers were indeed from heaven and must be taken seriously, for God Himself was calling them to the task at hand. They would not disobey, and would not relent until they had done what the Lord had commanded.
When the appointed time had come, specific instructions were given regarding how to fulfill their mission.
They had the support of their family, but many others thought they were crazy, so they experienced great hardship—including severe injuries and death threats.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE
Nevertheless, they shared a message that embodied hope.
They taught others to not swear, to confess their sins, to be just in everything they did, to treat people kindly even while their homes were being looted and burned.
This person performed miracles, had the ability to prophesy, and loved to sing the hymns.
They were told where something was buried and did remarkable, nearly impossible, things in a short period of time.
They went to government leaders to discuss the state of affairs of the country, and prophesied that if the leaders and people would not obey the counsel given, death would come upon them.
IMPERFECT BUT VALIANT
They had many allies, some of whom later betrayed them.
They were imperfect, bringing upon themselves the judgment of God.
They received unfair trials, and attempted to avoid imprisonment, but instead, turned and walked the other direction, directly to a martyr’s death.
As they died, they call out to Jesus. They had fulfilled their mission.
It was later acknowledged that they had been innocent.
The events that transpired were so great that they are celebrated even today.
The person to whom we are referring, of course, is Joan of Arc—the national heroine of France who, at the age of 18, led the French army to victory over the English, which turned the tide of The Hundred Years’ War in favor of France.
I find the similarity between the stories of Joan of Arc and Joseph Smith to be astonishing, and often wonder why it is that a person can except Joan’s story as truth while completely rejecting the story of Joseph Smith.
How, we must ask ourselves, does one receive truth? Can it be found in a history textbook? And if so, which one, for they all vary slightly in what they say?
Fortunately, as members of the church, we know that we have a direct conduit to Heaven, through which the Spirit can testify to our hearts pure truth.
Alma the Younger knew this. When speaking of his testimony to his son Helaman, he proclaimed:
“And I would not that ye think that I know of myself — not of the temporal but of the spiritual, not of the carnal mind but of God.” (Alma 36:4)
Alma did not gain his testimony from anything carnal or man-made, he gained it directly from God.
HOW DO YOU HEAR HIM?
Unfortunately, knowing that we can receive personal revelation is the easy part; the hard part is understanding how the Spirit communicates that truth to us.
- Joan and Joseph had visions.
- Alma saw an angel.
- Oliver Cowdery felt a burning in his bosom.
- Elijah heard a still small voice.
- Samuel the Lamanite had words carried into his heart.
President Russell M. Nelson recently extended to us an exciting invitation: 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.”
FIVE FORMS OF SPIRITUAL COMMUNICATION
Reflecting on how my testimony of the First Vision came to be has clarified for me the ways in which I receive personal revelation. Five forms of spiritual communication, in particular, stand out. The first is the power of words.
As a young girl, it didn’t take me long to recognize the power that came from the pages of the Book of Mormon. I knew that a book with that much power could only come from God, and that was the beginning of my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
For as long as I can remember, the song “Praise To The Man” has filled me with such warmth and emotion that I feel I might burst. Some people might call that “a burning in the bosom”.
Years ago, the Apostles combined their testimonies of the Savior and of Joseph Smith into a video called Special Witnesses. Each time I hear Elder Bednar testify of the events that took place on the Banks of Susquehanna River, and President Faust bear his testimony of the Prophet Joseph while standing in Nauvoo, and President Hinckley share his witness of the First Vision while in the Sacred Grove, I am overcome with happiness and gratitude, as well as a tremendous desire to help build the Kingdom of God, which I attribute to the workings of the Spirit.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but when I arrived in the mission field, I had not yet prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true. I didn’t think I had to, because I felt I had always known the book to be true. “But how,” my companion asked me, “can you invite others to pray about the truthfulness of the Book, if you haven’t done so yourself?” She had a point, so I went and prayed. I don’t have time to recount the entire experience, but it included an empty room, one wooden chair, an open window, a full moon, and an answer, as if it came from heaven on moonbeams aimed directly at my heart.
5) SACRED PLACES
Sacred places can be places of instruction and inspiration.
Several months ago, I found myself alone in the Sacred Grove in Palmyra, NY. It was an overcast and rainy day and the Grove was wet and muddy, but I savored each moment I spent in that sacred place.
Walking slowly along a path, I was overcome with great sadness and despair, for I did not want to leave this peaceful place and return to my day-to-day life—a blessed life, but one filled with occasional chaos and uncertainty. Consequently, I prayed, “Heavenly Father, please…I just want to stay here. Why can’t I just stay here and experience this peace forever?”
A WRONG TURN
Continuing down the path, I did my best to avoid the puddles as raindrops, dripping from the tree branches, disguised the hot tears on my cheeks.
Soon, the time to leave arrived so, with a defeated spirit, I began walking in the direction of home. Somewhere along the way, however, I took what I thought was a wrong turn. As it turns out, it wasn’t wrong at all, for the Spirit had something to share with me.
The path I was now on was taking me to higher ground, deeper into the grove, where I experienced less noise, fewer distractions, and more beauty. I was in awe of the transformation.
Before long, I came to a large puddle that made me stop in my tracks. As I looked up, I noticed a fork in the road—a short path, on higher ground, that led around the puddle, providing a way around the muddy mess. I was grateful for this tender mercy.
I continued down the path, deep in thought, my feet avoiding the occasional small puddle, until I came to a sign that read, “Drier Path”.
“What an unexpected surprise!” I thought to myself and, without delay, made my way to the drier path.
With the stillness of the grove surrounding me, and with my feet on drier ground, I found myself feeling grateful.
I knew God was trying to teach me something, and He had my full attention.
I could hear Him loud and clear.
It felt surreal, being completely lost in one of the most sacred places on earth.
As much as I would have liked to remain there, it was time for me to go home.
All I needed now was to know which way was home.
THE WAY HOME
For several more minutes, I meandered down paths, this way and that, taking in the beauty around me when, suddenly, there it was: an exit sign, pointing the way to freedom.
Turning to look behind me, I reflected on the things I had just learned.
I gazed up at the trees, the sky, the heavens.
I closed my eyes, the sacredness of the moment nearly consuming me.
Smiling to myself, I pivoted my feet on the wet ground and headed towards home, filled with a sense of peace that was beyond description, for I had just received my own “vision” in the Sacred Grove.
Like Joseph Smith, I had received an answer to my prayer.
Like Lehi, I had seen symbols offering guidance as to how to live my life with a renewed sense of trust and hope.
Like Joan of Arc, I had received encouragement.
I now knew, without a doubt, that the peace I so desperately longed for that day in the Sacred Grove is available to me in my everyday life through my own personal sacred groves, for I, in the midst of my personal storms, will have access to higher, drier ground, forks in the road that provide temporary relief during hardship, and exit signs that point the way to freedom. There will be beauty that surpasses all understanding, and impressions from the Spirit that will be life-changing.
All of these things are made possible for EACH of us by a loving Heavenly Father and Savior who know us, love us, and desire to be with us every step of the way–through the chaos and uncertainty of our lives—as we make our way home, back to Them.
PLAYING A PART IN THE RESTORATION
Brothers and Sisters, I BELIEVE the story of Joan of Arc is true, but I KNOW the story of Joseph Smith is true, for I have received many witnesses throughout my life from the Holy Spirit—through the power of words, song, testimony, prayer, and sacred places.
As we prepare to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the Restoration, let us not forget that we, too, are part of that Restoration.
Just as Joan and Joseph were given missions to fulfill, so, too, have we each been given a mission to fulfill in preparation for the Savior’s Second Coming. Though we may doubt our ability to accomplish such a mission, we need not fear, we need only connect with Heaven to receive the knowledge and power we need to be able to go and do the things that the Lord has commanded.
IMPERFECT BUT QUALIFIED
We need not be perfect. I love the fact that both Joan and Joseph made mistakes because that means that God can use me with all my imperfections.
A wise person once said,
“When perfection is the bar by which we measure men then there exists no course in life, no matter how divinely sanctioned or driven by providence, where we won’t somehow be disappointed in its participants. But the godliness within us allows us to believe the deep and poignant things of eternity independent of its imperfect messengers.” (Eli Bowman)
ASK AND YE SHALL RECEIVE
May we accept President Nelson’s invitation to “think deeply and often about the question: How do I hear Him? And take steps to hear him better and more often.”
If you have not yet received your own personal witness that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, why not begin that journey today, for it often times is a journey—-not just a one-time witness.
“Ask, and ye shall receive; seek and ye shall find.” (Matthew 7:7)
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God… and it shall be given him.” (James 1: 5-6)
It worked for Joseph, it worked for me, and it will work for you. Fervently seek your own testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and you will receive it, for his story is true, Brothers and Sisters. It is true!
God is trying to speak with you. Can you hear Him?
DISCUSSION: In what ways, as you go about your daily life, do you hear Him?
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The information in this post about Joan of Arc came from this insightful book by Best-Selling Author Eric Metaxas:
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