I have an ancestor who, years after she had passed on, had a journal published in her honor. In her journal, there is a collection of family pedigree charts, family photos, family stories, budget sheets, and poems that she had written, among other things. And although I find all of the things in her journal fascinating, one thing always stands out to me far more than anything else: the story of how she lost her hearing following an illness and the birth of her fourth child.
In her journal, in her own words, Elethier Bunker Leavitt talks about how she woke up on “the silent side of the river,” which became the title of her journal many years after her passing. I always felt like I had a special connection with my great-great-grandmother even though we never met. We share many similar interests, but above all, a similar hardship. I had recurrent ear infections while I was growing up. I would go to school with cotton balls in my ears to soak up the drainage from a ruptured eardrum. The other kids laughed at me and made fun of me because of this, even though I had no control over it. I was also no stranger to speech tests and hearing tests. During the hearing tests, I was locked in a soundproof booth or tiny room. I would sit extremely still and intently listen for beeps that would range in pitch, tone, and volume, to which I would either speak the word “yes,” raise my hand when I heard the beep, or press a button. Sometimes there would be extra noise in the booth that would muffle the sound of the beeps, making them harder to hear.
Then when I was 15, I got really sick and I had a hard time hearing. I was referred to a doctor at the University of Utah. I became a lab rat as medical students would come in and examine me and listen as the doctor talked. Again, I did more hearing tests. Still, I sat extremely still and listened intently for the different range of beeps. But this time around, they were harder to hear — and many beeps, I didn’t hear at all. After a lot of prayers and a priesthood blessing, I was taken in for surgery, not sure what the doctor and medical students would find. While in surgery, the doctor discovered that I had a rare infection that had eaten the hearing bones and eardrum in my right ear, and part of the hearing bones in my left ear. I came out of surgery with a partially shaved head, as they used tissue just under my scalp to rebuild my eardrum and hearing bones. It was a humbling experience for a 15-year-old. Some of my hearing was restored, but not all. From this point forward, I knew that life wouldn’t be the same — and I was right.
Today, I occasionally still have problems with my ears. I definitely do not have all of my hearing like other people do. Certain pitches in people’s voices or music or outside noise will cause pain. I try not to offend people with these pitches when they sit next to me by remaining seated and enduring the pain, as opposed to getting up and finding a new seat. I also can’t hear from behind. I oftentimes have unintentionally offended people who tried to speak to me from behind just to have me walk away because I didn’t hear them speaking to me. And although my trial felt great as a 15-year-old, I can’t begin to imagine the adversity that my great-great-grandmother endured when she lost all of her hearing. Like her, I have learned great lessons on how God speaks to us because I’ve had to learn to listen to His voice, and listen in a different way to help me from day to day.
Oftentimes, we complain that our Heavenly Father doesn’t answer our prayers in our time of need. But how often do we sit in pain from the tones and pitches of the world drowning out the still small voice? Or when we’re facing challenges, do we get offended because we didn’t hear God’s voice when He spoke to us all along, but we chose to tune Him out? And what would happen if we removed the painful noise of the world and remained still and intently listened for our Heavenly Father to speak to us? Would we hear Him loud and clear, or would His voice be muffled because we still the outside noise in? Our Heavenly Father speaks to us in our time of need, but whether or not we tune Him in is completely up to us. Sometimes we might hear Him loud and clear because we removed the excess noise, remained still, and intently listened for the still small voice. Other times, the still small voice might be muffled because while God was trying to speak to us, we didn’t completely remove the outside noise. And sometimes we don’t hear Him at all because we turn and walk away from the still small voice.
Elder L. Tom Perry advised:
“We must never let the noise of the world overpower and overwhelm that still small voice.”
President Thomas S. Monson, former President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also gave similar advice when he said:
“I admonish you to turn the volume down and to be influenced instead by that still, small voice which will guide you to safety.”
And Elder Neal A. Maxwell also taught us just how quiet and still the still small voice really is when he stated:
“God does not send thunder if a still, small voice is enough.”
And in the scriptures, we are also reminded how quiet the still small voice is. 1 Kings 19:12 reads:
“And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”
I add my own testimony to these wise words! I know without a doubt in my mind that God speaks to us! It’s not going to come in the form of thunder or earthquakes, but rather through the still small voice. The voice is so soft, so still that we need to intently listen for it. To hear this voice, we need to put on our spiritual ears, remain still, and allow God to speak to us — and we need to listen! He is always there, always willing to speak to us, and He will help us in our time of need. But we choose whether or not we want to hear Him. If we want to hear His voice, then we need to turn the volume down, be still, and listen.
Marie Yvonne is a motivational and devotional speaker for teens and young adults. In her devotionals, she shares her personal testimony and journey of learning to accept herself as God created her. Her journey can also be found on social media and her personal blog and website, TheConfidenceToShine.com.