Editor's note: Our bi-weekly Friday column, “Found in the footnotes,” explores some of the footnotes from remarks given by General Authorities and General Officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This is the year the prophet has encouraged us to “think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him?”
And maybe as you’ve pondered this question, you’ve found yourself asking, “Why am I not hearing Him?”
The footnotes of Elder Neil L. Andersen’s talk “Spiritually Defining Memories” include some ideas as to why we may not be hearing the voice of the Lord. Here are three reasons revelation might not come.
1. We might be “past feeling.”
In footnote 17 of his address, Elder Andersen shares a powerful statement, “Feelings always accompany spiritual knowledge.” I found the use of the word “always” particularly poignant. Spiritual knowledge will always have feelings with it.
But we can get to the point where we don’t receive that knowledge because we are “past feeling.” Elder Andersen then references the words Nephi spoke unto his brethren: “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” (1 Nephi 17:45).
In April 2004 general conference, President James E. Faust spoke about how “spiritual dead spots” can cause us to be past feeling:
My first radio was a crystal set. It was hard to tune to the frequency of a particular radio station. I had to literally scratch the receiving wire whisker over the top of the rough crystal to find the right pinpoint, a little valley or peak on the crystal where the signal was received. Just a millimeter off on either side of that point and I would lose the signal and get scratchy static. Over time, with patience and perseverance, good eyesight, and a steady hand, I learned to find the signal point on the crystal without too much difficulty. So it is with inspiration. We must attune ourselves to the inspiration from God and tune out the scratchy static. We have to work at being tuned in. Most of us need a long time to become tuned in. When I was a newly called General Authority, President Marion G. Romney, who was in his 70s at the time, told us, “I know when I am working under the Spirit and when I am not.” To be able to recognize when one is being guided by the Spirit is a supernal gift. In terms of modern communication, crystal radio sets helped us emerge from the dark ages of communication. With advanced technology, cellular phones are used for much of the communication in our time. Occasionally, however, we find dead spots where the signal coming to a cell phone fails. This can happen when the cell phone user is in a tunnel or a canyon or when there is other interference. So it is with divine communication. The still, small voice, though still and small, is very powerful. It “whispereth through and pierceth all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 85:6). But like my old crystal set, the message may be there but we fail to pick it up. Perhaps something in our lives prevents us from hearing the message because we are “past feeling”( 1 Nephi 17:45). We often put ourselves in spiritual dead spots—places and situations that block out divine messages. Some of these dead spots include anger, pornography, transgression, selfishness, and other situations that offend the Spirit.
During the times when revelation doesn’t come, perhaps we can ask ourselves if we, too, are “past feeling.” And if we are, perhaps we can consider what put us in that “spiritual dead spot.”
2. We might be oversharing our spiritual experiences.
In his general conference address, Elder Andersen says, “Some experiences are so sacred that we guard them in our spiritual memory and do not share them.”
In the 20th footnote of his talk, he shares two teachings related to this statement:
- “It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him” (Alma 12:9).
- Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “It takes inspiration to know when to share [spiritual experiences]. I recall hearing President Marion G. Romney, who combined wit and wisdom, say, ‘We’d have more spiritual experiences if we didn’t talk so much about them.’”
Yes, there are moments when it is appropriate to share spiritual experiences, but I found the counsel of President Romney interesting, that we would have more spiritual experiences if we didn’t talk so much about them.
President Boyd K. Packer gave this advice: “I have come to believe also that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences. They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts you to use them to the blessing of others.”
3. We might be forgetting what revelation the Lord has already given us.
In his general conference address, Elder Andersen encourages us to let our sacred memories “bring patience to [our] doubts and understanding to [our] difficulties.” Elder Andersen expands on this in the 25th footnote of his talk:
One of President Thomas S. Monson’s favorite quotes is from the Scottish poet James M. Barrie: “God gave us memories, that we might have June roses in the December of our lives” The same is true with spiritual memories. They may be most helpful in the cold, trying times of our lives when we need those “June” spiritual memories.
During times of doubt and during difficulties, perhaps we can turn to our “June” spiritual memories. We can remember the times when the Lord spoke “peace to [our] mind[s] concerning the matter” (D&C 6:22).
Persisting with Patience
As a missionary, I constantly questioned whether I was doing my part to receive personal revelation. One of my leaders gave me a copy of remarks Elder Richard G. Scott shared with missionaries in October 2010. In the address he says:
Have patience as you are perfecting your ability to be led by the Spirit. That is a gift so precious as to warrant a lifetime of effort to perfect it.
Revelation might not come immediately. And there will be times when we especially need to rely on our “spiritually defining memories” during times of doubt and difficulty. But as we have patience, we will perfect this precious gift.
Lead image: Shutterstock
In footnote 24 of his address, Elder Andersen writes, “In the week prior to conference, after my talk was completed, I was spiritually drawn to a book called Divine Signatures: The Confirming Hand of God, authored by Gerald N. Lund, who served as a General Authority Seventy from 2002 to 2008. To my delight, Brother Lund’s words were a beautiful second witness to the principles shared in this conference talk and will be enjoyed by anyone desiring to study more about spiritually defining memories.” You can find Divine Signatures at DeseretBook.com.