Archive for October, 2011

The topic of this post was prompted by several comments from the recent October 2011 General Conference. What does it mean to hear the voice of God, or to hear the voice of His Spirit?

Boyd K. Packer presented this message as part of his address in the Saturday morning session:

What I needed to know about the promptings I found in the Book of Mormon. I read that “angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, … feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”

Perhaps the single greatest thing I learned from reading the Book of Mormon is that the voice of the Spirit comes as a feeling rather than a sound. You will learn, as I have learned, to “listen” for that voice that is felt rather than heard.

Nephi scolded his older brothers, saying, “Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.’

Some critics have said that these verses are in error because you hear words; you do not feel them. But if you know anything at all about spiritual communication, you know that the best word to describe what takes place is the word feeling.

The gift of the Holy Ghost, if you consent, will guide and protect you and even correct your actions. It is a spiritual voice that comes into the mind as a thought or a feeling put into your heart. The prophet Enos said, “The voice of the Lord came into my mind.” And the Lord told Oliver Cowdery, “Behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you.”

It is not expected that you go through life without making mistakes, but you will not make a major mistake without first being warned by the promptings of the Spirit. This promise applies to all members of the Church.

Elder Packer speaks of his interpretation of how the Spirit communicates with us. In his opinion, ‘the voice of the Spirit comes as a feeling rather than a sound.’ He tells us that we will learn, as he has learned, ‘to listen for that voice that is felt rather than heard.’

Do some promptings come as feelings rather than words? I would have to answer ‘yes.’ There have been many times in my life when I have had a feeling and, sometimes, that feeling was validated by an event in the future. At the same time, I must admit that sometimes these ‘feelings’ that could be attributed to the Spirit do not apparently connect to any complementary event.

But, let’s look a little deeper into Packer’s assertion that the voice of the Spirit is a feeling rather than a sound.

It is interesting to me to note that two other speakers in this General Conference also make reference to this topic. Before Packer spoke in the first session of conference, Barbara Thompson spoke on personal revelation. She had this to say regarding hearing the voice of the Spirit:

As a child I thought personal revelation or answers to prayers would come as an audible voice. Indeed, some revelation does come by hearing an actual voice. However, I have learned that the Spirit speaks in many ways.

Does Packer’s interpretation of hearing the voice of God allow for revelation that comes by ‘hearing an actual voice?’ His statement above is that the voice of the Spirit comes as a feeling rather than a sound and seems at odds with Sister Thompson’s statement.

In the Saturday afternoon session, Elder Neal L. Anderson shared this story:

Years ago, Elder James O. Mason of the Seventy shared this story with me: “The birth of our sixth child was an unforgettable experience. As I gazed on this beautiful, new daughter in the nursery just moments after her birth, I distinctly heard a voice declare, ‘There will yet be another, and it will be a boy.’ Unwisely, I rushed back to the bedside of my absolutely exhausted wife and told her the good news. It was very bad timing on my part.” Year after year the Masons anticipated the arrival of their seventh child. Three, four, five, six, seven years passed. Finally, after eight years, their seventh child was born—a little boy.

According to this story, we have a member of the Seventy distinctly hearing a voice declaring personal revelation. Was the voice that Elder Mason ‘heard’ just a feeling? If so, why didn’t he characterize the event as such? This second message delivered from the pulpit at conference also seems to be at odds with what President Packer ‘learned’ from the Book of Mormon.

My concern here is that we have the president of the quorum of the twelve who seems to acknowledge that he has never received personal revelation through hearing a voice. It has only come to him as a feeling. Should I expect that a man holding this position in the Church would have heard the voice of God? Should he be able to make a similar statement as did Joseph Smith in the following D&C 130?

14  I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:

15  Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.

Was the ‘voice’ that Joseph Smith heard just a feeling? What are the expectations we should have of those who lead this church regarding the means of revelation? What should we expect relative to personal revelation in our own lives?

Who is teaching correct doctrine from the pulpit regarding the receipt of revelation by the voice of the Spirit? Is it only a feeling as Boyd Packer suggests or are we able to actually hear a voice as would be posited by Barbara Thompson or Neal Anderson?

Boyd Packer supports his assertion by quoting from the seventh chapter of 1 Nephi:

45  Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God.  Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words; wherefore, he has spoken unto you like unto the voice of thunder, which did cause the earth to shake as if it were to divide asunder.

Packer suggests that since Nephi states that his brothers ‘could not feel his words’ that communication from the angel was only a feeling. Is the still small voice just a feeling? I would suggest that there are two components to this type of personal revelation. We would hear the voice AND have our souls touched by the Holy Spirit. In this way, we have a dual witness of the source of this revelation.

This idea is also found in the another scripture reference by Boyd Packer from the Doctrine and Covenants, section 8, when Oliver Cowdery attempted to translate the Book of Mormon:

1  OLIVER Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records, which are ancient, which contain those parts of my scripture of which has been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit.

2  Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

3  Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.

Oliver was told in this revelation that the answer would come by the Holy Ghost in his mind AND in his heart. We can receive revelation from the Spirit which speaks to our mind as a voice and confirms that revelation as a feeling such as the burning in the bosom or the peace that the Spirit can bring to our souls. I have come to believe that this dual assurance is necessary to know that the message has come from God.

Another example is found in Jacob, chapter 7:

5  And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me.  And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.

Jacob heard the voice of the Lord ‘in very word.’ I believe this passage clearly affirms the ability for us to receive the voice of the Lord as words, not just feelings.

Sincere prayer, as in the case of Joseph Smith, was answered by the voice of the Spirit. We find a similar experience recorded in the Book of Mormon from Alma in the 26th chapter of Mosiah:

13  And now the spirit of Alma was again troubled; and he went and inquired of the Lord what he should do concerning this matter, for he feared that he should do wrong in the sight of God.

14  And it came to pass that after he had poured out his whole soul to God, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying:

15  Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon.  Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi.

16  And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them.

17  And blessed art thou because thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established, and they shall be my people.

18  Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine.

19  And because thou hast inquired of me concerning the transgressor, thou art blessed.

20  Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep.

21  And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive.

For Alma the voice of the Lord came to him as a result of earnest prayer. I sincerely believe that the experience demonstrated by Joseph Smith, Alma, Jacob, Elder Mason, and Barbara Thompson is available to all of us. We can indeed have the voice of the spirit speak to our minds and have that message confirmed to us in our hearts. If our hearts are hardened, we may hear the voice of an angel, as did the brothers of Nephi, but it will not be received.

I included the longer quote from Mosiah, chapter 26 because I also feel that the last verse quoted is very important. The Lord tells us here that we must hear His voice if we are to be ‘his sheep’ and be received into His church. If someone has never heard the voice of the Lord, they cannot belong to his church. I am speaking here of the ‘spiritual’ church not the ‘corporate’ church.

This message is the same as found in John, chapter 10:

27  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

Should we take the charge to hear the voice of God as a literal or figurative commandment? Just as Moroni 6:4 tells us that we must be sanctified before we can be numbered with His church, do we need to literally hear His voice to be numbered with those of His church. You can make your own decision regarding that question, but I believe that it is imperative that we seek the Lord, that we hear and recognize His voice. This is necessary for us to be ‘known by Him’ and be received into his church.

Let me add my personal testimony regarding personal revelation. I have had several occasions where I have heard the voice of God through the Holy Spirit. I recounted one such event when I described my experience of baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost in an earlier post. I would like to share another, not out of boastfulness but out of a sincere desire to open someone’s mind to the idea that personal revelation can come from angels as they speak to our minds AND our hearts ‘by the power of the Holy Ghost.’

A number of years ago, I had interviewed for a job in another state. While the job was very attractive, I did not expect to be offered the position. I had been through many job interviews that all ended with no offer so I was not inclined to expect anything different from this one. The next Sunday after my interview, I had pondered my situation and had engaged the Lord in fervent prayer in the morning and then took my family to church.

I still have this vivid memory of sitting in the pew on the left side of the chapel. The opening hymn was “I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go.” I am not a great singer but I do cherish the opportunity to sing the hymns and make a feeble attempt at the bass part. I was fully engaged in singing the first refrain when I heard a voice as clear as any voice I had ever heard speak to my mind saying “I want you to go.” With those words came an deep and lasting peace to my soul. As this sunk into my heart I became aware that I had stopped singing. I had a flood of emotion as I listened to the rest of the song. I couldn’t sing with my mouth but my heart was full of this song and the message I had received from God.

I came away from that experience with an understanding that I would be offered the job and that I should accept it when it came. Several weeks later, events transpired as expected; the job offer came. The move was made with a calm assurance that it was what I should do.

I affirm that we can HEAR the voice of God through His Spirit. It comes to our minds as clear as the voice of someone standing right in front of us. God does speak to our minds AND to our hearts and I attest to our ability as individual to receive personal revelation in this manner.

It may not be on the mountain’s height,
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front,
My Lord will have need of me;
But if by a still, small voice He calls,
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in Thine,
I’ll go where You want me to go.

Refrain:
I’ll go where You want me to go, dear Lord,
O’er mountain, or plain, or sea;
I’ll say what You want me to say, dear Lord,
I’ll be what You want me to be.

Perhaps today there are loving words
Which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now in the paths of sin,
Some wand’rer whom I should seek;
O Savior, if Thou wilt be my guide,
Though dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo Thy message sweet,
I’ll say what You want me to say.

There’s surely somewhere a lowly place,
In earth’s harvest fields so white,
Where I may labor through life’s short day,
For Jesus the Crucified;
So trusting my all to Thy tender care,
And knowing Thou lovest me,
I’ll do Thy will with a heart sincere,
I’ll be what You want me to be.

This song will, forever, be a reminder to me that we can hear the still small voice.

What think ye?

I wonder who I should call upon to substitute for me?

The question asked by President Monson in the Saturday morning session of General Conference caused me to ponder upon an answer. What are the markers that one should use to identify those that are called to lead the church of Christ? How do we recognize the true leader versus a ‘substitute?’ What guidance do we find in the scriptures that can assist in our understanding of this role in God’s dealing with man?

There are fifteen men who were sustained on the first day of conference as ‘prophets, seers, and revelators.’ These men, the first presidency and quorum of the twelve apostles, represent the highest leadership of the organization tasked with the care and nurturing of the restored gospel. What have we sustained them to do?

Prophet – “The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will. The message was usually prefaced with the works “Thus saith Jehovah.” (LDS Bible Dictionany) Should a prophet be expected to prophesy? Should we expect those who claim to wear the mantle of a prophet to ‘forthtell’ the events of the future based on our actions today?

Seer – One of the callings of a seer is to bring forth knowledge through the use of translaters. In Mosiah 8 we read:

13  Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God.  And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish.  And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.

14  And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.

15  And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet.

16  And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.

17  But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.

18  Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.

 A seer can know of things in the past, as well as the future. It is the greatest gift that God can bestow upon a human. A seer has all things revealed through them and knows secret and hidden things. Have the men who have been sustained to these positions within the Church demonstrated this greatest gift of God – the seership? Should we assume a man is a seer if he is misled by one offering them forged documents? Should we assume a man is a seer if he does not reveal the hidden things of the future?

There is no definition of revelator in the dictionary of our scriptures. A good example of a revelator is found in the Bible. Revelations was given to us through John the Revelator. Should revelations should be the product of a revelator? Should we expect to see the body of scripture expanded by this act?

What of a prophet that does not prophesy, a seer that does not ‘see,’ or a revelator that does not reveal? Are we not to measure a person by their fruits? Is it the expectation that these men deliver on their calling or simply be satisfied that if God needs to say something, these men are ready to provide the conduit?

What other markers of this calling can we find in the scriptures? When Jesus Christ ministered among the Nephites at the meridian of time, He taught the twelve disciples that, in order for the church to be His, it must exhibit certain criteria. Among these we find this direction in 3 Nephi, chapter 27:

10  And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.

11  But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.

12  For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.

What are the works of the Father, what are the works of men, and what are the works of the devil? Perhaps it is easiest to deal with these in reverse order. The works of the devil could encompass war, bloodshed, anger, strife, and any other action that destroys human life, dignity, or the right to choose. I would suggest that unrighteous dominion is akin to the works of the devil in that it restricts our ability to exercise free agency.

I would suggest that the works of men are represented by the things we can acquire or build with our own hands. Certainly the construction of shopping malls fit in this category, but I would also add the construction of temples and other material structures. The works of men would also encompass the financial ‘kingdom.’ found among men. Are these church leaders relying on the works of men, including the building of temples, to fortify their ‘right and privilege’ as representatives of God? If so, we shall see them enjoy their works for a season and then see them hewn down.

And finally, what are the works of God? When Christ spoke the words quoted above, he was only speaking to the twelve disciples; not the general membership. After defining His gospel in 3 Nephi, chapter 27, He gave the twelve this direction:

21  Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;

The twelve disciples were to do the same things that they saw Christ do. Not only did Christ minister and preach to the congregation at large, but he healed the sick, caused the lame to walk and the deaf to hear. He healed many of their afflictions as recorded in 3 Nephi, chapter 26:

15  And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven—the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father—

These works of God continued after Christ ascended into heaven. The twelve continued to bless the people with miracles as recorded in 4 Nephi:

5  And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.

The marker of the true church of Christ and the true leadership of that body is the presence of miracles, of healings, and the other gifts of the spirit. If these things are not present and not demonstrated by those who lead the church, it is NOT the true church of Christ as defined in the scriptures.

Should a substitute be sought for the president of the Church? If so, I would hope that the designate can demonstrate seership. I would expect this person to exhibit the works of God in healing. I would rejoice as this person revealed the hidden things of the kingdom and not be duped by forgers and imposters.

The sad truth is that none of these markers are exhibited by the leadership of the church today. My only solace is that the apostasy of the restored church was prophesied by men who truly held the position of prophet, seer, and revelator. They recorded the prophecies of such an apostasy in the Book of Mormon, in the Doctrine and Covenants, and in the inspired translation of the Bible.

We are in the midst of apostasy and are generally oblivious of the fact. We go about our routines and rituals ignoring the core message of the gospel and pointing confidently at the works of our own hands as our validation. We shall enjoy our works for a season and then suffer the consequences.

As President Monson asked: “Who should I call upon to substitute for me?” One who demonstrates the calling of a seer. One who demonstrates the works of God. That would be a good place to start.

What think ye?