Over the last several months, we have been counseled by President Nelson to think about how we “Hear Him.” I have been pondering this counsel and what I’ve noticed is that I most often hear Him when I’m pondering, writing, teaching, or speaking. Before I get out of bed each morning, I like to take the time to ponder. Sometimes I will wake up during the early hours of the morning and feel prompted to go to my computer and just start writing. When I see words on the screen that I know didn’t come from my thinking, I know Spirit has awakened me so I can capture whatever the Lord wants me to pay attention to.
The same thing will happen when I prepare to teach or if I’m asked to speak in a meeting. When I hear myself say something that I have never thought about — or something that gives me pause to ponder, I know it isn’t coming out of my own efforts. I think some people are impacted by the words they hear — especially when those words come out of their own mouth and into their own ears. Occasionally I will hear myself say something and then say “Stop! I have to write that down — that was really important.”
The Spirit Speaks to (and Through) Me
Let me give you some examples that come to mind. In one of the Addiction Recovery meetings I facilitated for the spouses of pornography and sex addicts, one sister spoke of her extended family wanting to minimize the trauma of behavior that involved family members, and didn’t want anyone in the family to speak about it. This is a situation called “a conspiracy of silence.” Everyone knows and no one is “allowed” to speak of it. When she finished sharing how upsetting it was that she was the victim and was told not to talk about it, out of my mouth came these words: “I can promise you that more pain is caused by keeping secrets than was ever caused by telling the truth.”
Over the years, I’ve learned that you can “invite” the Spirit to be with you. What you can’t do is “instruct” the Spirit to be with you. You simply can’t anticipate when the Spirit will speak, impress upon your mind, touch your heart, or provide you with the words the Lord wants you to say. Let me illustrate what I mean. One of the sentences in my patriarchal blessing is, “The Lord will magnify you in the eyes of those you teach and they will have a desire to follow your counsel.” I take that to mean that I am not to “magnify myself” by putting a well-prepared script together for a class or a talk.
I have learned to trust this scripture: “Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men; for it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say” (Doctrine & Covenants 100:5-6).
Without Purse or Scrip
As a result of this awareness, and the instruction that the Lord said He would magnify me when I speak (or write), there is instilled in me a commitment that I would never want to lead anyone astray with the words I use. I have been called a “wordsmith” (a person who can effortlessly string words together in a way that impacts the listener(s)) and it has made be hypersensitive to wanting to make sure I don’t use my thoughts and words when I write/teach/speak. The only way I can be sure I won’t inadvertently be a negative impact on someone is to make sure I literally go without “purse or scrip,” so to speak.
One recent experience happened as a result of being asked to speak at the Saturday night session of our stake conference about the Addiction Recovery Program (ARP). I was given about 10 minutes to speak. As soon as I hung up the phone, I went to my computer and started writing down what I thought would be meaningful and would only take 10 minutes to speak about. The conference was still a couple of weeks away, so I felt comfortable that I had a plan for how to present the material. As the time grew near, the thought that came to my mind was “Now we know what YOU want to say — let’s see what the Lord wants you to say.”
Since my husband and I have been Church Service Missionaries in the ARP for almost 8 years, it wasn’t a subject that I had to research or write down. Because of that, I knew my best preparation was to pray and ask Heavenly Father to allow the Spirit to bring the words that He wanted me to share in my talk — that I would be able to “hear Him.” Then I dismissed it from my mind. The minutes before the meeting, I spoke briefly with our stake president and told him I had no idea what I was going to say and I would appreciate it if he would let me know when my 10 minutes were up. He asked me how I would like him to do that and I said, “Just stand up next to me and I’ll know.” He said he had done that before from time to time and he didn’t seem too alarmed when I told him I didn’t know what I was going to say.
So what do you say to address your stake’s adult congregation to help them understand the importance of breaking the conspiracy of silence around the subject of pornography and sex addition? I remember opening my talk by saying “I’ve been asked to speak about the elephant in the room.” I remember saying that if you don’t have this issue in your life, I can promise you someone in your circle of concern does. By coming to this support group, you can learn how to minister to loved ones with this issue in their life. Our task is to reach out in love and compassion and gather in the very people who we would prefer sometimes to just push away.” Other than that, I have very little memory of what I said.
Using Our Agency to “Hear Him”
One of the many topics I’ve pondered is related to the reason we came to earth. I know that the “Sunday school” answer is simple: to get a body. More insight teaches us that as long as we have existed, we have always been endowed by our Heavenly Father to have agency. Some refer to it as “free” agency rather than “moral” agency. Moral agency is an individual’s ability to make moral judgments based on their understanding of right and wrong and to be held accountable for these actions. A moral agent is a being capable of acting with reference to right and wrong.
We are literally free to choose whether we will live our lives in obedience to the Lord’s commandments, or to strike out on our own and make choices with our limited understanding of the consequences of those choices. I refer to these as either “conscious choices” or “unconscious choices.” You are literally free to make any choice you want; however, the consequences of those choices have already been assigned. As we are told, “There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (Doctrine & Covenants 130:20-21).
For the purposes of this article, my definition of “conscious choices” is a situation where I have considered the potential consequences of my choice — realizing that, based on the information available to me at the time, there may be additional unintended and unanticipated consequences because I have limited experience and knowledge. My definition of “unconscious choices” is a casual attitude of “I want what I want when I want it” and I have given little or no consideration of the natural consequences of that choice.
As I learn to make conscious choices based on the knowledge and experiences of my life, I begin to see the connection between obedience to laws that unlock the blessings associated with them. The interesting part is that even though I can see that connection, my actions are not attached to the blessing it unlocks. (Have you ever heard someone (or been someone) who said, “I’ll do (fill in the blank) because I need the blessings?) As you evolve, you do it because that’s what brings you joy or happiness. It’s what you DO because of who you ARE. It is your very being. As you get comfortable with this level of obedience to the laws and strive to “hear Him,” you are consciously choosing to co-create yourself with the guidance of Heavenly Father through the Spirit. Since I love metaphors, I think of it as sculpting a masterpiece out of a piece of marble, painstakingly removing the parts that don’t belong to the finished product.
I’ve long believed that our developmental stages that are healed through the Atonement will leave no scars. I wonder if the only scars we see in the eternities will be on the hands, feet and side of the Redeemer. Perhaps even those scars will be no more.
Sonja lives with her husband, Dale, on Anderson Island, Washington. She and her husband are Church Service Missionaries serving in the Addiction Recovery Program, focusing on pornography and sex addiction. She is also a certified life coach and teaches "Life Skills for Emotional Self-Mastery" in her stake twice a month. She does not teach you only to process something traumatic done to you in the past; rather, she helps you learn to feel it, heal it, and LET GO of whatever you still do to yourself and to others in order to cope with what was done to you in the past.