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Describing the young Samuel, the Bible reports “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed to him.” (1 Samuel 3:7). Under the Prophet Eli’s tutorage, Samuel was told how to hear the Lord. Samuel did exactly as the prophet instructed and Samuel heard the Lord and spoke with him and became a great seer prophet of Israel.
What if you lived in his day and Eli came to you and said the Lord wants to talk with you and reveal great mysteries to you. Would you do what the Prophet of God told you to do?
Instead of Eli’s time, let’s concentrate on the here and now. We do have a prophet today. What if he asked to meet with you and told you the Lord wants to talk with you and reveal great mysteries to you, and told you how. Would you do what he tells you to do?
I had that very opportunity! A few weeks ago, I met with the new prophet, President Russell M. Nelson. His face was radiant. I could see the warmth in his eyes and the smile lines at the corners of his mouth. He told me some amazing things. He said that the Lord wants to talk with me. He promised if I did what he said, I would be given the knowledge that I seek and even miracles would follow! (Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I was not the only one in our meeting, there were several million in attendance, and I was viewing him and hearing him via satellite TV, however, that did not detract from his message nor the realization that he was in fact talking directly to me too). The meeting took place Easter morning at his General Conference talk, April 1, 2018.
In this meeting, the Prophet asked, “Does God really want to speak to you?” Then he answered, “Yes!”
He taught, “The Prophet Joseph Smith set a pattern for us to follow in resolving our questions… In like manner, what will your seeking open for you? What wisdom do you lack? What do you feel an urgent need to know or understand? Follow the example of the Prophet Joseph. Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort.”
One of my first experiences with these principles happened while serving a mission in Toronto, Canada. I was tasked to take the signed Baptismal Records, organize them and mail them to the mission office in Brampton. I took them to our apartment and my companion and I arranged them and put them in a large 8×10 envelope, addressed it and sealed the flap closed. I then tucked it under my heavy winter coat and we set off to the post office walking through a winter storm. Forty five minutes later we arrived in the dark. We brushed off the snow and were grateful for the warmth of being in doors. We waited in line to buy postage and at the counter I opened my coat to retrieve the envelope. It was gone. I took off my coat and shook it. My companion checked his coat. Nope. We realized somewhere along the way I had dropped it.
We retraced our steps only able to see between street lights. Six inches of snow had accumulated, hiding even our tracks. We kicked the snow side-to-side off the walk trying to see the envelope which was now probably wet and soggy with blurred ink for an address. We arrived at our apartment empty-handed. I was crest-fallen. I had been entrusted with important records and given the responsibility to get them to the mission office and had failed. We knelt at our bed side. I confessed to the Lord my failure and asked forgiveness. Then we took turns asking the Lord to help us find them. I was determined to borrow the landlords shovel and clear the two miles of sidewalk in order to find them. I expressed my determination and then felt a soft, serene sense of peace. As I calmed, a thought — not even words — came to mind. I knew this problem was in the Lord’s hands and everything was alright. I felt we should go to bed, instead of back into the storm. And, thats what we did.
The next day, Sunday, we again walked the route we had taken to the Post Office, but found nothing. I called the mission office on Monday and explained what happened. They said the Mission President would get back to me with instructions.
Tuesday morning one of the assistant’s called. He had the envelope; it had arrived in the mail. Even though I hadn’t bought any stamps, it had the proper number of stamps to cover the postage. The envelope was dry, the records were fine.
Our prayers had been answered in a most miraculous way. Apparently someone had found the envelope before the snow had ruined it, taken it to the post office, bought the postage and sent it to the mission office. That this or something like this had happened was miraculous, but to me the most miraculous part was that the Lord had spoken to me through a feeling of peace and a simple thought assuring me that everything would be alright. I felt I had been given a revelation from a loving, attentive, caring Heavenly Father.
In his talk, our Prophet gave us more specific instructions about speaking with the Lord and receiving his answers. “Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will ‘grow into the principle of revelation.’… I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that ‘if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”
When I returned from my mission, I had to rush to get my application and paperwork in on time to be accepted to BYU. I had dated a special young lady before my mission who was interested in continuing our relationship and she had been very busy. She applied for me and had lined up a job and an apartment, and I was accepted at BYU for winter semester. Everything was smooth sailing.
At dinner with my parents my dad asked me what my plans were. I shared how everything had come together and I was going to move to Provo in two weeks.
My dad said that sounded like a good plan, then asked me what the Lord thought of my plan. I stared at him for a moment then asked him what he meant.
He explained, “Well you’ve put together a fine plan, but is that what the Lord wants you to do? It’s a pretty important decision.”
I hadn’t even considered praying about it. Everything had come together so well, I assumed it was the Lord’s doing. I decided to fast and submit my plan to the lord to ascertain his will.
At the end of my fast, I prayed to Heavenly Father and presented my plans in great detail, then I asked him if this was his will.
I heard a clear voice in my mind, that wasn’t my own say, “No.” I was shocked.
I simplified my question, “Do you want me to go to BYU?” The clear answer voiced in my mind was, “No.”
I was dumbfounded and quiet for several moments, then I asked, “Am I to go to school?”
“Yes” was the response.
“Where?” I wondered. The answer that came to me was “The University of Utah.” As I heard those words, the peace, the wonderful peace I recognized as the Spirit filled me. I knew the Lord was telling me in my mind and in my heart his will for me.
I called my girlfriend, she was sad. We continued to date over the next year, but eventually happily married different people. I was called to be the Mission Leader in my student ward where we had many convert baptisms. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and was hired as a full time Seminary Teacher. I experienced a rich, difficult, wonderful three years at “the U.”
Of course I don’t know what would have happened if I continued with my original plan; but I am so very grateful that I followed the Lord’s plan for me and that I was learning how to hear him.
In his conference address President Nelson said “Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon, and regular time committed to temple and family history work.”
He continued by making us a promise: “ I promise…you will be given the knowledge and understanding you seek. Every blessing the Lord has for you—even miracles—will follow. That is what personal revelation will do for you…”
As a senior in high school, one of my daughters asked me to help her improve her prayers. We talked about asking for the Spirit, then reading the scriptures until you feel the Spirit. Next, ask the Lord your question and write down the Lord’s answer.
When she followed these steps for the first time, the question she asked was, “Is there someone who needs my help?” A name that came to mind and she wrote“Paul.” (Not his real name). He was a friend she knew well and she was surprised to be given his name. She wondered how she could help him. The opportunity came when after a party she invited him to sit with her and talk.
“How are you doing Paul?” she asked.
He was in the middle of a wise-crack answer when she stopped him. “No Paul, how are you really doing?”
After a long pause, he answered, “I don’t know.”
My daughter asked caring questions and listened as they discussed how lost he felt. He explained how he had always assumed he was going on a mission, but had been partying a lot, taking drugs and using alcohol. He said he couldn’t go on a mission because he wasn’t worthy and didn’t think Heavenly Father would want him. He felt he had nothing to offer. “I’ve just drifted too far” he confessed.
She felt the Spirit leading her. “Paul, who do you think is making you feel you’re not good enough to serve a mission? The Savior or the adversary?”
He realized it wasn’t the Savior.
She testified that the Savior loved him and would forgive him and help him back on the path of happiness. She promised him that she would be there to support him. And, she was.
That night was a major turning point in his life. In their many conversations together he tearfully thanked my daughter for her caring and her advice and for reaching out to him in the moment he needed someone the most.
After a year of hard-work, Paul received a mission call. As he prepared to leave, he spoke in Sacrament meeting. He bore a strong witness of the Savior’s healing power and love.
While he was on his mission, my daughter received a Priesthood blessing telling her that the Lord was pleased with how she had influenced Paul to repent and to serve a mission. The Lord through the blessing told her “You have been a Savior on Mount Zion for Paul.” She cried and was filled with gratitude that the Lord answered her prayer and worked with her to perform a miracle. This miracle began with her simple prayer asking the Lord to tell her who he wanted her to help.
I suspect moving a mountain and turning water into wine are easy miracles for the Lord. I think the harder ones are changing people’s hearts. To do that he often needs one of us to help. All we have to do is ask and listen and obey.
After teaching us how to pray, the Prophet gave us powerful promises from the Lord if we will do what he instructs.
However, President Nelson did not just give us promises, he gave us a severe warning and a final plea:
“ . . . in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.
My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. Let this Easter Sunday be a defining moment in your life. Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.”
We have received instruction from God’s prophet as to how to speak with the Lord and hear him. He has given us amazing promises if we do and fearful warnings if we do not. The Prophet, our Prophet pleads with us to obey.
Now we face the the ultimate question, will we do what he has told us to do?