The Still Small Voice

During a particularly discouraging time, the prophet Elijah traveled to Mount Horeb, the same place Moses had seen the burning bush. In a cave on that mountain, he prayed, expressing frustration for his lack of success. In response, God told him to step out of the cave onto the side of the mountain.

Standing there, Elijah saw several dramatic and powerful things: a wind so strong that it broke rocks, an earthquake, and a fire. But Elijah perceived that God was not in any of these. Then he heard what the King James translators called “a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). Elijah recognized it as the voice of God.

The Hebrew word for “still” in this passage, demamah (דְּמָמָה), means a whisper. Some Bible translations render the phrase “still small voice” as “a gentle whisper” or “a low whisper.” Others emphasize the contrast with the natural disasters preceding it by calling it a “gentle breeze.” (See 1 Kings 19:12 on biblehub.com.) In all of these translations, the message is clear: God’s voice is quiet and calm. You have to be quiet and calm to hear it.

When Nephi’s brothers refused to help him build a ship, he reminded them of the dramatic things they had experienced. “Ye have seen an angel,” he said. But he added that God had also spoken to them “in a still small voice” which they had failed to recognize. “Ye were past feeling,” he said, “that ye could not feel his words” (1 Nephi 17:45).

When W. W. Phelps was struggling to organize members of the church arriving in Missouri, Joseph Smith wrote a letter with some instructions. Joseph described the inspiration for the letter in this way:

Thus saith the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things.

Doctrine and Covenants 85:6

Sister Vickie F. Matsumori explained what we can do to hear God’s voice in our lives:

Because the Spirit is often described as a still, small voice, it is…important to have a time of quiet in our lives as well. The Lord has counseled us to “be still, and know that I am God.” If we provide a still and quiet time each day when we are not bombarded by television, computer, video games, or personal electronic devices, we allow that still, small voice an opportunity to provide personal revelation and to whisper sweet guidance, reassurance, and comfort to us.

Helping Others Recognize the Whisperings of the Spirit,” General Conference, October 2009

Today, I will carve out space in my life to hear the gentle whisper of God’s voice. I will remember that His voice is calm and quiet, and that I must therefore eliminate distractions and noise in order to hear Him.

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