Sister Nielson has served in a variety of Church callings, but her favorites have been working with the Young Women organization and as a gardener at the Twin Falls Idaho Temple. The Nielsons currently have 26 grandchildren.
Hearing the Voice of the Lord
That was beautiful. Thank you so much for that beautiful music.
My dear brothers and sisters, it is a privilege for me to join you today for this devotional. President and Sister Kusch live across the street from me, and Sister Kusch and I are ministering partners in our ward. I have the highest regard for them and often hear about what is happening at Ensign College while standing in my front yard visiting with them. You can never go wrong following their inspired leadership
I am always extremely interested to hear what our prophet will tell us each conference and I’ve been pondering something that President Nelson spoke to us about in April General Conference 2020. This was the first conference that we all sat in our living rooms stunned that the quickly moving pandemic had just closed borders around the world and brought many things, including attending conference in person, to a screeching halt. I believe the pandemic and the uncertainty of what was emerging around me, made me listen even more intently.
It was on Sunday morning of that conference that he gave a talk entitled, “Hear Him”. During this talk, President Nelson invited each of us to improve our ability to hear the voice of the Lord, declaring that the Lord has much to teach us in our own individual lives. Interestingly, President Nelson has returned to this counsel in each succeeding conference, and I will refer to some of what he has said in my comments today.
My hope today is that you will listen to the impressions that come to you as I share some thoughts of my own about improving your ability to hear your Heavenly Father’s voice. I have a few questions for you to consider as I tell you about some experiences that I’ve had with my own ability to hear.
Brothers and sisters, I am hard of hearing. I don’t really know how long I’ve been hard of hearing because it has come upon me very slowly. During my marriage to Elder Nielson, I’ve observed that he hears much better than I do, but I just thought that my hearing was normal and that he had supersonic hearing. During most of our married life, if I came into a room where he was watching television, the volume would be so low that I couldn’t believe he could even hear it. As I frequently asked him to turn up the volume of the television, I would tease him that he should join a K-9 emergency rescue team because his hearing is so phenomenal. I would always tell him that he had puppy dog ears. But as time went on, I began to realize that I just might need to check my hearing. So, believing my hearing was just fine, I went to an audiologist.
The audiologist had me sit in a soundproof booth as he adjusted a large set of headphones over my ears. His instructions were simple. I was to repeat back each word that I heard. I listened carefully and the words were all short and easy. I repeated everything that I heard and was certain that I completely passed the test, but the audiologist knew better. With a great deal of kindness, he told me that I was hard of hearing and needed hearing aids. He told me that I was not clearly hearing any of the hard consonant sounds. I was misinterpreting the words. I couldn’t believe it. I was devastated, and went out into the parking lot, sat in my car, and burst into tears. Wearing hearing aids was simply not part of my life plan. I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t hear. How was it that I had become someone who needed hearing aids? As I sat there and struggled to calm down, I felt the spirit enter my heart and quietly instruct me. “Hey there, Marcia, I have provided the technology necessary for you to hear everything around you. Why would you not take advantage of this blessing? It is time for you to admit that you need help with your hearing.”
I humbled myself, dried my tears, walked back into the doctor’s office, and ordered a pair of hearing aids. As I began to wear them, I was astounded at how much better I could hear.
This is a picture of what my hearing aids look like. The brown oblong part is the receiver and sits behind my ear. There is a wire that comes up over my ear. The triangular part fits inside my ear and the curved wire tucks inside to keep the device in place.
So now, I have a question for you to ponder. Ask yourself: Is it possible that I am somehow lacking in my ability to hear my Heavenly Father’s voice? Does He have things He wants me to know, but I’m just not hearing Him?
The answer to this question, undoubtedly for each of us, would be YES! Like my dismissal of my own diminished ability to hear, we often dismiss the importance of truly hearing what our Heavenly Father wants us to know. Perhaps we feel that we hear Him well enough. Yet, we have a prophet of God consistently and kindly urging us to test our spiritual hearing.
In April conference of this year President Nelson said, “I hope you have found an increased ability to hear Him and receive personal revelation...I testify that He has been, and is, indeed leading us along, as we seek to hear Him.”
Does your Heavenly Father have things that He would like YOU to hear? YES. ABSOLUTELY He does.
I would add my personal testimony to President Nelson’s that each of you is a beloved child of God and He has blessed you with the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is a powerful personalized spiritual hearing device. My hearing aids are not just a generic device that amplifies sound. My hearing aids are highly technical and were specifically fine-tuned to make up for exactly what my ears cannot hear. I have come to understand that the Lord has instructions for each of His children that He delivers through the Holy Ghost in distinct and unique ways, tailored to the hearing of each individual child. Our Heavenly Father knows who you are, how you hear and what the very best method of communication is for you. It is imperative that you use the simple methods of desire, church attendance, prayer, scripture study and commandment keeping, to increase your understanding of this tool. The initiative is yours to reach for better hearing.
I agree with Sister Julie Beck, former General President of the Relief Society who said, “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.”
Hearing the voice of the Lord, with the intent to act is a spiritual skill. It is a skill that each one of us can develop. It takes practice and perseverance to hear Him.
My hearing aids have proven to be a blessing in my life, but I’ve had to learn to use them effectively. Since they can amplify every sound around me, I must adjust them for what I truly want to hear.
For example, if I’m at a basketball game with Elder Nielson and he tries to talk to me, the sound of the game is so loud that I still cannot hear what he is saying. My hearing aids are trying to help me hear the game, which is the most dominant sound. That overpowering noise around me makes it difficult for me to pick up my husband’s voice.
Luckily, there is a very helpful button on my left hearing aid that can be pushed to narrow the range of which sound is being picked up. It decreases louder surrounding noise but focuses the range of hearing in a specific direction. I can push that button and turn towards him, and it greatly increases my chance of hearing what he is saying more clearly. Pushing that button focuses my ability to hear while diminishing the overpowering noise around me.
Consider asking yourself this question. “Am I experiencing so much commotion in my life that I can’t actually hear a quiet voice?”
President Nelson has instructed us, “the voice of the Lord is not “a voice of great tumultuous noise, but it [is] a still voice of perfect mildness, [like] a whisper, and it [pierces] even to the very soul.” In order to hear this still voice, you too must be still!
To emphasize this difference, please watch this short video which was released in anticipation of President Nelson’s talk about hearing the voice of the Lord. It is an invitation to quiet your life. At first, it doesn’t seem that this video is playing loudly enough, so think carefully about the message it is delivering.
As you see these images, it is easy to quickly differentiate between the world’s loud voices and the environment in which we can more easily hear Heavenly Father’s voice. As we quiet the world, the sounds of our Heavenly Father increase. It is well worth your time to invest in moments of quiet. I testify that there needs to be some quiet time in your life to hear what your Father in Heaven wants you to hear.
In his closing remarks in general conference, just a few weeks ago, President Nelson said, “If most of the information you get comes from social or other media, your ability to hear the whisperings of the Sprit will be diminished…nothing invites the Spirit more than fixing your focus on Jesus Christ.”
There needs to be moments where you literally focus on tuning into the still small voice that is constantly trying to break through the noise.
I want to testify to you that He has things to say to you that will guide you consistently and continually through this life. Work to become skilled at quieting the louder voices around you and focusing on what the Spirit is trying to help you hear.
As I’ve continued to wear my hearing aids, I have appreciated the way that my hearing has improved and my gratitude for their help has increased. I wear them all the time and have learned to tune them to bless my life. I would like to share an experience I had with my hearing aids which taught me an important lesson.
A couple of years ago I put my hearing aids in and went hiking with my friend Julie (on the left) and my sister Natalie (on the right). Here we are on the very day we hiked.
We all love hiking, and we chose a well-worn trail and headed into the mountains on the morning of a clear and beautiful day.
It was May, and the trees, mountains and landscape were beautiful.
While hiking, we laughed and chatted and had a great time climbing up the mountain.
About halfway through our hike, Julie suggested that it would be fun to move off the path and go through the trees and bushes. She convinced us that we could get to the top by bushwhacking our way up. It sounded like fun, so we followed her off the path and into the forest.
Soon we were having to use our arms and hands to move tree branches out of the way to find a new path through the forest. It looked a lot like this as we climbed our way through the trees and bushes up the mountain.
The path was long gone, and we were slowly picking our way through the trees and bushes moving steadily upward, when I felt a tree limb scrape across my face, grab my hearing aid and fling it onto the forest floor. I knew I was in big trouble.
This is what the forest floor looked like. This is a scene that my sister Natalie and I recreated for this talk. My hearing aid is somewhere in this picture, but of course I could not see where it had landed. Can you see it? It is there somewhere.
I stopped dead still and shouted, “I’ve lost my hearing aid. Stop walking!” Everyone froze! We stood in place and began searching the ground but could not see it anywhere. After searching for a few minutes, we knelt, and offered a heartfelt prayer. My hearing aids are one of the most expensive things that I own, and I was determined to find it. We stood back up and divided the ground into quadrants, looking carefully and intentionally around us. Still unable to locate it, we knelt again and sincerely asked the Lord for help. We started again and hunted everywhere on our hands and knees, slowly, and carefully. By now about 45 minutes had passed. I knew we couldn’t stay in the forest forever, so I reached deeper inside my heart and mind for what we should do.
Following the promptings of the spirit, we knelt one last time and pled with Heavenly Father to help point our eyes towards my hearing aid. Soon after resuming the search, Natalie spotted it, yelled that she had found it and stood up with it in her hand.
She found it at the base of the tree. Can you see it?
What about now?
What about now?
Natalie had spotted the tiny wire sticking up out of the leaves against the tree. Look right below the tip of the arrow. What were the chances? With the help of our Heavenly Father, our chances increased significantly. Feeling overcome with gratitude, we dropped back down to our knees to thank our Heavenly Father for His help.
Here is my final question for you to ask yourself, “Does the Lord expect me to be intentional about my ability to hear Him?”
President Nelson certainly thinks He does. Here are President Nelson’s thoughts…“As we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to Hear Him need to be ever more intentional. It takes conscious and consistent effort to fill our daily lives with His words, His teachings, His truths.
Brothers and sisters, may I testify to you that hearing the voice of the Lord is worth every effort you could give. Consistent, focused, intentional effort will be rewarded by increased ability to understand the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
I learned from my experience in the forest that intentional persistence, asking sincerely in prayer and doing everything in my power, brought back my ability to hear. Our Heavenly Father wants to speak to you. The more intentional you are, the greater will be your ability to hear Him.
One of my biggest life lessons in hearing the voice of the Lord came to me when I was a college student in need of answers. Elder Nielson and I were both attending BYU when my cousin introduced us to each other. Elder Nielson had just returned from his mission to Finland. I had spent the previous year in Santiago, Chile where my father was serving as the mission president. I spent my senior year in an International High School there in Santiago. This was my first year in college and for the first time in my life, I was on my own, which was overwhelming. I was anticipating several years of dating and single college life, but the connection Elder Nielson and I felt to each other was strong from the very beginning, and it wasn’t long before Elder Nielson proposed that we get married.
Brent Nielson was the most incredible person I had ever met. I loved him instantly, with all my heart, but I was unsure if I should marry him. I was 19 years old, and he was 22. I felt too young and inexperienced to make such a decision. My parents were far away and difficult to talk to long distance, and I honestly did not know what to do. The proposal came long before I was prepared. How was I to make such an important decision. How could I know if marrying Brent Nielson was what I should do?
I’ve been a member of the church my entire life and had listened to many talks and lessons about the gift of the spirit. Using what I knew, I began to seek the inspiration I needed to make the most important decision of my life. I read the scriptures and prayed. I asked for advice from many people I trusted and became incredibly intentional about this decision.
I think I was doing a lot of things right, but I wasn’t sure how to hear an answer or understand an answer. I had full faith that I could receive an answer. Elder Nielson was certainly positive about his answer. In hindsight, I now know that because of my lack of spiritual maturity, I was basically waiting for an angel to come down and tell me what I should do. I was expecting something grand and earthshaking to help me be sure. It was a confusing and frustrating experience that went on for many many months.
In desperation one day, I had a long conversation with my father. He listened to what I had tried so far and could understand the confusion that I was feeling as well as the incorrect assumptions I was making. He acknowledged and applauded what I was trying to do and then he began to teach me about the workings of the Holy Ghost.
What he taught me that day has blessed me all my life. This is what he said. “Since you were baptized and given the gift of the Holy Ghost you have never been without the Spirit’s influence. The spirit is in you like breathing. It is a part of you. It is always there. Always.
Think about breathing for a moment. You are always breathing, in and out, but you barely register it. If you run a race and become short of breath you might stop and think about exactly how you are breathing, but most of the time it is in the background sustaining your life.
My father continued. The Holy Ghost is like that. It is with you always, quietly whispering what you should do. It is sustaining your spiritual life. At any moment you simply turn your attention to it and focus on what is going through your mind. You quietly listen to what you are being instructed to do. You do not need to have an angel to answer this question for you, you simply need to turn inward and focus and listen. The spirit is right there and is in you like breathing. Trust that spirit inside of you.”
I was able to calm down, focus my attention on the quiet beautiful feelings that surrounded me when I was with Elder Nielson and feel the promising spirit of our growing love and friendship. I began to quietly hear the promptings of the spirit and decided to move forward with our marriage, and before long, the quiet and peaceful voice of the Holy Ghost confirmed to me that I was making the right decision. My confusion left. I have never ever questioned my decision since.
It is in you like breathing, this magnificent spiritual hearing mechanism that has been given to you to hear the voice of the Lord.
Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 &3 teaches this beautifully,
“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.
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.”
This scripture is fascinating to me in that we are being told that Moses used the very same gift that you and I have been given to part the Red Sea. Think about that for a moment. Moses used the spirit of revelation or the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift, this wonderful spiritual hearing mechanism was dwelling inside of Moses, and it is dwelling inside your heart as well. Like breathing, it has taken up residence inside your being and is always there. Like the hearing aids that I have so carefully placed inside my ears to help me hear mortal sounds, there is a God-given gift implanted inside of you, speaking quiet words of truth to your very soul. It can direct you in all you do if you will acknowledge it, focus on it, and be intentional about your ability to hear it. This quiet voice can help you know how to part the Red Seas of your own life.
My prayer for each of you is that you will ask yourself,
Can I hear His voice like I should? Do I need to quiet down my life? Am I intentional about learning how to hear Him?
I testify that just like my earthly father helped me, your Heavenly Father stands ever ready to help you increase your ability to hear Him.
And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.