I turn to a scriptural text found in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Give ear to the voice of the living God.” 1 The voice of the Spirit is available to all. The Lord said, “The Spirit enlighteneth every man [and every woman] … that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.” He further said that “every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.” 2 Some people are seeking to find the abundant life. Paul made it clear that it is “the spirit [that] giveth life.” 3 Indeed, the Savior said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” 4
Joy Is a GiftOne might ask, then what are the fruits of the Spirit? Paul answered this by saying they are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” 5 The joy we seek is not a temporary emotional high, but a habitual inner joy learned from long experience and trust in God. Lehi’s teaching to his son Jacob declares, “Men are, that they might have joy.” 6 To achieve this great objective, we must “give ear to the voice of the living God.”
I wish to testify as a living witness that joy does come through listening to the Spirit, for I have experienced it. Those who live the gospel learn to live “after the manner of happiness” 7 as did the Nephites. All over the world, in the many countries where the Church is established, members could add their testimonies to mine. Abundant evidence verifies the promise of peace, hope, love, and joy as gifts of the Spirit. Our voices join in a united petition for all of God’s children to partake of these gifts also.
Voices of the WorldBut we hear other voices. Paul said, “There are … so many kinds of voices in the world” 8 that compete with the voice of the Spirit. The Spirit’s voice is ever present, but it is calm. Said Isaiah, “The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” 9 The adversary tries to smother this voice with a multitude of loud, persistent, persuasive, and appealing voices:
• Murmuring voices that conjure up perceived injustices.
• Whining voices that abhor challenge and work.
• Seductive voices that offer sensual enticements.
• Soothing voices that lull us into carnal security.
• Intellectual voices that profess sophistication and superiority.
• Proud voices that rely on the arm of flesh.
• Flattering voices that puff us up with pride.
• Cynical voices that destroy hope.
• Entertaining voices that promote pleasure seeking.
• Commercial voices that tempt us to “spend money for that which is of no worth, [and our] labor for that which cannot satisfy.” 10
• Delirious voices that spawn the desire for a “high.” I refer not to a drug- or alcohol-induced high, but to the pursuing of dangerous, death-defying experiences for nothing more than a thrill. Life, even our own, is so precious that we are accountable to the Lord for it, and we should not trifle with it. Once gone, it cannot be called back.
Bombarded with MessagesToday we are barraged by multitudes of voices telling us how to live, how to gratify our passions, how to have it all. At our fingertips we have software, databases, television channels, interactive computer modems, satellite receivers, and communications networks that suffocate us with information. There are fewer places of refuge and serenity. Our young people are bombarded with evil and wickedness like no other generation. As I contemplate this prospect, I am reminded of the poet T. S. Eliot’s words: “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” 11
It may be harder for our rising generation to be faithful, perhaps in some ways even more challenging than pulling a handcart across the plains. When someone died in the wilderness of frontier America, that person’s physical remains were buried and the handcarts continued west, but the mourning survivors had hope for their loved one’s eternal soul. However, when someone dies spiritually in the wilderness of sin, hope may be replaced by dread and fear for the loved one’s eternal welfare.
Many in the younger generation have been conditioned by the world to want it all and to want it now. They do not want to save or work. Such self-centered, impatient desires make them susceptible to temptation. The Book of Mormon identifies four categories of enticements that Satan appeals to:
• Getting gain.
• Gaining power over the flesh.
• Gaining popularity in the eyes of the world.
• Seeking the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world. 12
Satan’s tactic is to “turn their hearts away from the truth, that they become blinded and understand not the things which are prepared for them.” 13 He creates a smoke screen that obscures our vision and diverts our attention.
President Heber J. Grant (1856–1945) stated: “If we are faithful in keeping the commandments of God His promises will be fulfilled to the very letter. … The trouble is, the adversary of men’s souls blinds their minds. He throws dust, so to speak, in their eyes, and they are blinded with the things of this world.” 14
Hearing Righteous VoicesHow are we possibly going to select which voices we will listen to and believe? The implications for us as individuals are staggering. To spiritually survive, we must do at least these four things.
First, we must exercise moral agency wisely. Amaleki tells us how we can make proper choices: “There is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord: and that which is evil cometh from the devil.” 15 Every moment demands that we choose, over and over again, between that which comes from the Lord and that which comes from the devil. As tiny drops of water shape a landscape, so our minute-by-minute choices shape our character.
Second, we must have a purpose. The late prime minister David Ben-Gurion of Israel once made a statement about Leon Trotsky, one of the architects of the Russian Communist revolution. Trotsky, he said, was no leader. He was brilliant, but he was no leader because he had no purpose. 16 Everyone in life needs to have a purpose. As members of Christ’s Church, we are to consider the end of our salvation. 17 Someone has said, “You must stand up for something, or you will fall for everything.”
The more righteous part of the Nephites had to focus their attention in order to hear the voice that preceded the Savior’s appearance among them. “They heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.” 18 They heard the voice a second time and did not understand. When they heard the voice the third time, they “did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.” 19 If we are to hearken to the voice of the Spirit, we too must open our ears, turn the eye of faith to the source of the voice, and look steadfastly towards heaven.
Third, we must strengthen our testimony. We all need to study the plan of salvation and learn of our relationship to God. As we walk by faith, we will have confirmed in our hearts spiritual experiences which will strengthen our faith and testimony.
Fourth, we must search the scriptures, which are “the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.” 20 The Lord also said of His word, as found in the scriptures, “For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you.” 21
I suggest a simple solution for selecting the channel to which we attune ourselves: listen to and follow the voice of the Spirit. This is an ancient solution, even eternal, and may not be popular in a society that is always looking for something new. It requires patience in a world that demands instant gratification. This solution is quiet, peaceful, and subtle in a world enamored of that which is loud, incessant, fast paced, garish, and crude. This solution requires you to be contemplative while your peers seek physical titillation. (This may seem foolish in a time when it is not worth remembering much of the trivial tripe to which we are exposed.) This solution is one unified, consistent, age-old message in a world that quickly becomes bored in the absence of intensity, variety, and novelty. This solution requires us to walk by faith in a world governed by sight. 22 With the eye of faith we are to see eternal, unseen, spiritual verities, while the masses of mankind depend solely on temporal things which can be known only through the physical senses.
We need to learn how to ponder the things of the Spirit and to respond to its promptings—to filter out the static generated by Satan. As we become attuned to the Spirit, we “shall hear a word behind [us], saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.” 23 Hearkening to the “voice of the living God” will give us “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” 24 These are the greatest of all the gifts of God. 25