While not an undeserving setting, Yosemite National Park was an unexpected location to hear the voice of the Lord. I was a missionary at the time, serving in the California – Fresno Mission, and our mission president had chosen to hold a half-mission conference in an outdoor amphitheater. I remember listening to some messages prepared by the assistants to the president when I had an experience I am glad I recorded in my journal.
Previous to that occasion, I had been praying about a question for some time. It was a question that I already knew the answer to, or rather, I felt the answer but I didn’t quite know how to express it. My question was, “Why are the scriptures so important?”
As I sat on a bench in the amphitheater, listening to one of the assistants, I had a feeling or an impression. It was more like experiencing a meaning – something that wasn’t necessarily spoken but was understood. In my journal I wrote, “The feeling I had, as Heavenly Father put the answer in my head, was a great feeling. It was a sure feeling, confident, and exciting.” I began to write my thoughts until I had a few sentences down on paper. And then I marveled at what had just happened. Again I felt the Spirit confirming that what I had written down was an accurate and correct representation of what I felt.
Reflecting on the experience has given me a greater understanding of what Father was trying to teach me. He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, but I had new insight on how my knowledge fit together and how it could be applied. Knowing something and knowing what to do with it are two very different things. A person may have knowledge but still lack common sense or wisdom. For me, it was as though I had the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I knew the pieces fit together somehow and that the full picture was worth figuring out. Once Father gave me an understanding of how the pieces fit together, I was able to assemble them in my mind and could then appreciate what had happened. More important than the information that I comprehended was the witness I gained that Father hears and answers prayers and that He does speak to His children. I learned what it meant to feel the voice of the Lord.
There is a beautiful key to receiving answers to prayer in Doctrine and Covenants 84:62-66. The Lord told Joseph Smith, “And again, verily I say unto you, my friends, I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near—Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you; … Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness—in the wilderness, because you cannot see him—my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound.
Our Father wants us to ask questions. He wants us to receive. Jesus promises that if we seek we will find. Because He does not lie, His promise is sure. If you truly seek, you will truly find. The process becomes clearer as we draw near to him.
It stands to reason that if you see a familiar friend in the distance whom you wish to talk to, you will approach them until you are close enough to converse. When you are yet at a distance, but within earshot, you may shout a greeting because you are glad to see your friend. However, this is usually not sufficient for a lengthy conversation. Instead it is easier to continue approaching your friend until you can talk openly and freely, face to face. It is hard to hear a whisper from a distance.
Learning to hear the Master’s voice is synonymous with learning to feel and recognize the Holy Spirit, or the influence of the Holy Spirit. Feeling His influence is the same as feeling the spirit, or the light of Christ that is given to everyone. Whether we describe His voice as spirit, or light, or truth, it matters not. They are the same. This influence is the word of the Lord.
One question I consider often is, “Am I close enough to Father to recognize His voice?” It is not enough to acknowledge that I once was if I no longer am. I want to stay close to Father at all times, just as a young child wants to cling to his or her mother. I want to hear his voice clearly enough to know what it is He wants me to hear. When I am close, I can more easily put words to the feelings and impressions that I feel. Understanding what the Lord wants us to know requires deliberate effort.
As an architect, I often compare what I do with the work of a tailor. A tailor has a specific job to fashion a piece of clothing for a very specific person. Thus a tailored fit is an exact fit. Similarly, I design buildings for people, very often communities. I feel that architecture should be the clothing of a community, and it should be a perfect fit. If we desire to receive answers to our prayers, it is our responsibility to not only feel an answer, but to dress it appropriately with words that are an accurate and correct representation of what we felt, lest we are deceived or miss a very significant part of the meaning.
When we have these experiences – when we feel the influence of the Holy Ghost and are uplifted, edified, and enlightened – we receive revelation. The information we may seek may be religious or secular. It may be large or small. Regardless of the nature, context, content, or weight of that knowledge, Father has promised to reveal the answers to our questions if we follow His pattern and direction.
Joseph Smith taught, “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.”
Joseph Smith further taught: “The Holy Ghost is a revelator.” And, “No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations.”
After an individual follows the example of the Savior and is baptized, the ordinance of confirmation is administered. It is here that the Gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed to any and every person desiring to come unto Christ. At the end of that prayer is a directive to “receive the Holy Ghost.” It is not an absolute to be taken for granted, nor is it merely an invitation. It is a gift being offered with the obligation of the receiver to formally receive or take the gift. We accept Father’s gift when we take the Holy Spirit as our constant companion and guide. This privilege is not rescinded as long as we are willing. One hand reaches out to extend the offer, the other hand is required to reach out and accept. As both hands reach out, we draw near to Father and He draws near to us.
More and more I recognize the Lord’s hand in my life, especially when I am looking, asking, or seeking. I recognize what he is offering me. He speaks to each of us far more than we acknowledge or give credit. If there is a time when his voice is silent, I find that it is either because I am not listening, or he is waiting for me to stretch a little more, to reach toward him a little more. It is in those moments when I reach out in faith that the answers come.
Revelation is a reality. The realization of this privilege has everything to do with my continuous efforts to draw near to Father – to approach him in faith, looking for moments of revelation each day.
This is not an official publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am solely responsible for the views expressed here.