It takes effort to listen well. Listening is not a passive activity; it’s not something that just happens to us.
Some time after the destruction which coincided with the death of Jesus Christ, a large number of people were gathered at the temple in the land of Bountiful on the American continent. I can imagine there being quite a bit of noise, as “they were marveling and wondering one with another” (3 Nephi 11:1). After all, there were about 2,500 of them (3 Nephi 17:25). But I imagine things getting quiet very quickly as they collectively heard a voice from heaven.
This voice was not harsh or loud. It was small but piercing. “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” (3 Nephi 11:3).
The experience was undeniable. They were hearing a voice. They were receiving a message. But they couldn’t understand what the voice was saying.
The same thing happened a second time, and again, “they understood it not” ((3 Nephi 11:3).
But when they voice spoke a third time, they were more prepared. 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.” (3 Nephi 11:5).
This time they understood. It was the voice of God, announcing the arrival of His Son: “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him” (3 Nephi 11:7).
This admonition to hear Him must have had particular resonance with this group of people. They had just heard a message three times and only understood it when they put forth a particular kind of effort. They must have intuitively understood that to “hear Him” would require the same kind of effort and the same kind of openness which they had to achieve in order to understand the voice.
In a recent Face to Face event, Sister Melanie Rasband encouraged us to follow the example of this multitude:
I invite each one of you to “look steadfastly” always “towards heaven,” with a willing heart and ears open to “hear Him.”Young Adult Face to Face with Elder and Sister Rasband, 13 September 2020
President Russell M. Nelson said, “As we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to hear Him need to be ever more intentional. It takes conscious and consistent effort to fill our daily lives with His words, His teachings, His truths” (“Hear Him,” General Conference, April 2020).
Today, I will strive not only to be aware of the voice of God, but to make the effort required to listen and understand.