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Found in the Footnotes: How the 1st Word of Doctrine & Covenants Applies Perfectly to President Nelson’s “Hear Him” Invitation

by | May 22, 2020

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.

On Monday, May 18, something wonderful happened. The doors of the Seoul Korea Temple and the Taipei Taiwan Temple opened for husband-wife sealings as part of phase 1 of temple re-openings. When I saw those two temples on the re-opening list, my heart was so full. The temples in Korea and Taiwan were the first to close due to COVID-19 on February 21. Things might not ever go back to the way they used to be—and certainly I hope that we emerge from this pandemic with newfound gratitude for things we took for granted—but when the temples started to reopen, I felt as though I caught a glimpse of sunlight in the wilderness of the pandemic.

As I sat to write in my journal about those temples reopening, a poignant question came to my mind: “Have you learned what you were supposed to learn during COVID-19?”

Immediately, a quote I read from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in a Church News article popped into my head: “This is a rare time of enforced solitude when we don’t have a lot of trivia or superficial busyness distracting us from considering the truly important things in life. Such times invite us to look into our soul and see if we like what we see there.”

More questions followed: What have I learned about my soul during solitude? And more importantly, how has it changed my relationship with the Savior?

President Russell M. Nelson has invited us to “think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him?” As I’ve thought about this question, I’ve thought about part of President Nelson’s April 2020 general conference address:

“The very first word in the Doctrine and Covenants is hearken. It means ‘to listen with the intent to obey.’ To hearken means to ‘hear Him’—to hear what the Savior says and then to heed His counsel. In those two words—'Hear Him’—God gives us the pattern for success, happiness, and joy in this life. We are to hear the words of the Lord, hearken to them, and heed what He has told us!”

► You may also like: Here's How to Get Your Own Wide-Margin Journal Edition of the April 2020 General Conference Talks

In the 13th footnote of his talk, President Nelson writes, “In the Old Testament, the word hearken is translated from the Hebrew shama, which is a strong verb that means to ‘listen with the intent to obey.’ Hearken is a scriptural word that occurs in 40 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants.”

When I saw this footnote, I was naturally curious about the uses of the word “hearken” in the Doctrine and Covenants. As I started looking at the references, I found the uses of the word “hearken” deepen the significance of the question, “How do you hear Him?” Here are just some of the verses that stood out to me:

  • • “Hearken and hear, O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God, ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings, ye that hear me; and ye that hear me not will I curse, that have professed my name, with the heaviest of all cursings” (D&C 41:1).

  • • “Hearken ye to these words. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds” (D&C 43:34).

  • • “Wherefore, hearken and I will reason with you, and I will speak unto you and prophesy, as unto men in days of old” (D&C 45:15).

  • • “Behold, and hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, your advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted” (D&C 62:1).

  • • “They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble” (D&C 101:7).

  • • “And by hearkening to observe all the words which I, the Lord their God, shall speak unto them, they shall never cease to prevail until the kingdoms of the world are subdued under my feet, and the earth is given unto the saints, to possess it forever and ever” (D&C 103:7).

  • • “And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place” (D&C 124:45).

The importance of hearing Him sunk into my heart through these verses. I saw a compassionate Lord anxious to bless those who hearken to His words. I also saw the consequences of being slow to hearken to His words, for if we do so, He in turn will be slow to hearken to us. Truly, as President Nelson said in conference, “As we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to hear Him need to be ever more intentional.”

Heavenly Father began this dispensation by telling the boy Joseph Smith, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17).  Latter-day scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants begins with the invitation to “Hearken” (D&C 1:1). So, as I began my journal entry about what I’ve learned during coronavirus, I chose to begin, not with the 11-letter pandemic name, but rather with two words that I hope define my memories of this bicentennial year: “Hear Him!”

Lead image: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Image titleThe General Conference Addresses Journal Edition has all the text of the General Conference addresses from April 2020 in one spiral-bound paperback. Extra-wide, lined margins give you space to record your impressions and document insights you receive. Create an enduring record to make this General Conference truly unforgettable. Available now at DeseretBook.com.


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Lindsey Williams

Lindsey Williams joined the LDS Living team with a passion to find the stories that matter most. Previous stops in her career include BYU-Pathway Worldwide, the Special Projects Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Utah Valley Magazine. When she's not searching for stories to write, the Colorado Springs native is most likely on a hiking trail. 

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