Hearing God’s Voice: The Lord’s Pattern for Making Decisions, Finding His Will [Video & Transcript]
God, Please Just Tell Me What to Do: Agency & Inspiration
Have you ever said to God, verbally or silently, “I don’t know where to move, or if I should go to school A, B, or C, or marry this guy or not; can you just tell me?” Have you ever just wanted the answer straight out of the sky with God’s signature on it, without any due diligence? God is a loving Father who wants to help us, but not dictate our lives in advance. He has an amazing template or pattern for discovering and receiving His will.
Without this template, I think we can easily fall into extremes in anticipating prayer and answers to prayer. On one end of the spectrum, we could trust only in intellect and so feel little need to call upon God in the name of the Savior, and head on a wrong, completely self-determined path. On the other end of spectrum, we could pray but without much previous thought or analysis and catalog any thought that then comes to us, assuming it is from God.
God’s Pattern for Making Decisions, Knowing His Will: Study It Out & Ask
I absolutely love the fact that God has given us a pattern in His word on how to make decisions and discern His will for our lives, which accounts for and allows a balance between both agency and inspiration. And some decisions are left to us to make without having to be led every inch.
If God made all our decisions for us, there would be no purpose to our lives, no growth.
Here’s the pattern and a few reflections.
You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right …you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought.
Modern Revelation: Book of Doctrine and Covenants 9:7–9.
Recognizing God’s Answers Through His Spirit
I love this pattern for us. Study it out–map it out on paper, pros and cons, costs, benefits, losses–think through the possible consequences of an idea or plan the best we can. Then, make a decision and ask God if that tentative one is right. He promises He will answer. He says if it’s right, we’ll feel it; His voice comes as a thought-feeling, entering both mind and heart. An idea expands or grows in our minds when it is right, and our sense of urgency or rightness about moving in a given direction also expands in our hearts.
In other words, it occupies our mind and presses in on our feelings. It tastes delicious–you’re able to proceed with what you were thinking and grow more satisfied and complete in your understanding of how that might be best
When it’s wrong, for me, it’s like a thundercloud over me; there is confusion, disharmony, the inability to proceed with that thought. I’m distracted, or even forget the idea that seemed so marvelous. The next day it’s just not as exciting or promising or right. That’s the stupor. You’ll recognize it in your mind and heart. I’m describing it for me to help you.
In that sense, and what I so love, is that there are always two inner witnesses of truth or the correct major course of action—one that comes to the intellect, and one that comes to the core of feeling, the heart. Neither alone is dependable enough alone.
Sometimes, we may have a sense in our mind of one way to go about doing something, and be pursuing it when we find another way is edging into our hearts and minds in a way that seems to settle in, covering us in quiet conviction. Then we need to let go of our previous design, no matter how reasonably sound it appears, and make room for the Spirit’s restraint or re-direction, however different it looks from our original design. We can ask for confirmation of that second plan pressing in on our spirits. God will confirm it, if we’re willing to go that direction once He does.
Enlightenment comes as voice or sentences or ideas in mind. My daughter, when young, after saying something that was clearly inspired to me, said, “But Mom, those were just my thoughts.” To which I responded, “But Kira, whose thoughts and feelings will God work through in you?” She got it. Sometimes thoughts that come into our minds are recognizable as coming from without, but sometimes they show up and we don’t realize they’ve come in through the Spirit. But when it’s the Spirit working in us, some things happen. It’s often not that we are not getting those impressions, but instead failing to recognize them.
We often feel enlightened when the Spirit comes to us–we learn something or see something in a different way, or dots connect for us.
I love how the Lord says it: “Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:15; emphasis added).
When sudden strokes of ideas come after prayer and sincere reflection, or as we are going about our daily activities, we should write those down and act on them,
Those promptings, nudges, inner directions, enlightened thoughts, convictions, also are marked by peace. That can assure us they are from God’s Spirit.
The Lord says it this way:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?
Doctrine and Covenants 6:22-23
To feel and seek these answers of the Spirit, we may need to move away from the noise of cell phones, tweets, alarms, dryers, washers, cars beeping, lawnmowers, and all the rest.
If No Clear Answer After Seeking Direction, Move Forward
We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it. If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgment.
Dallin H. Oaks, Oct. 1994.
Sometimes as we move forward with our best reasoning, having felt no hesitancy but no confirmation either, the Lord will intervene as we move when our steps need adjustment. I’m reminded of Paul.
When Paul was preaching in Turkey, He was following a natural pattern across Turkey moving from east to west and south to north. He came to a point where the next logical step was to go to Ephesus, and the Lord said, “No, not there.” So then he went up to the north, to Bythnia, and the Lord said, “No, not there.” Finally He said, “Go to Greece.” So sometimes, the Lord moves our steps and redirects us as we exercise our agency as far as we can. He will not let us go astray if we are seeking to do His will. We don’t have to be afraid that He’ll forget us or isn’t watching us.
Fear that God is Answering but You’re Not Getting It
Nor do we have to fear that God won’t get His answer across to us. Don’t worry about His ability to communicate. He is God, and you come to earth equipped to hear His voice; His voice is Spirit and communicates with our Spirit. It’s our native language.
If you’re a worried listener, know that you can know God is speaking to you just as you know when your friend or coworker is speaking to you. You’ll be able to distinguish those voices and recognize your Heavenly Father’s voice as He speaks to you through His Spirit as you ask Him and cultivate that. It’s actually the duty of a member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost, to teach us and guide us into all truth, as is stated in John 16:13: “The Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth.”
Take comfort in the fact the Spirit of God will provide answers “according to [our] own language and unto [our] own understanding” (Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, 2 Nephi 31:3).
As long as we’re not engaging in activities that destroy the lines of communication between us and God, and we’re striving, even imperfectly, to do His will, we’ll be able to hear His voice. It’s quiet—it’s a nudge, a feeling of constraint, a feeling of urgency, a time when dots connect and clarity comes, peace comes, and there’s a growing, increasing sense of rightness about a particular thing or course of events.
Remember, too, that answers often come when we’re up and about—out of the blue, or piggy-backed onto serving others. Some scriptural examples: Gideon, threshing wheat; Moses tending sheep; Zachariah in the temple; Peter and Andrew, fishing—all were about their work. “While the Lord will magnify us in both subtle and dramatic ways, he can only guide our footsteps when we move our feet” (Marion G. Romney, May 1981).
I love the story of Nathaniel who was under the fig tree, pondering and thinking; about what, we don’t know–things personal, private things in his heart and mind–whatever it was, Jesus knew it and no one else did. And when He saw Nathaniel, He said, “Before you were under the fig tree, I knew you” (John 1:48). He knows what your tree-house moments are–those times when you sit back, wonder, ask, think, dream, worry, and He’ll speak into those moments and you’ll know it’s Him because no one else in the world knows those private thoughts and can respond in quite the same way.
Then, as you study the Word, you’ll see Him pick up the conversation you were having in your mind with Him or yourself, and He’ll teach you what matters most and what steps you need to take next in your life.
A word, a song, a person who shows up at the right time and says the right thing, a radio program you tune into at the right nanosecond, a sentence in a book that seems to jump out at you as if highlighted for you and that fits the context of your spiritual emotional state that’s beyond coincidence, a scripture that strikes you through to center, a thought that comes across the screen of your heart and mind, something that connects some dots for you in a way you could not have yourself, any of these ways. It can come through and you know it was Him. That reminds me of this scripture: “And now, behold, you have received a witness; for if I have told you things which no man knoweth have you not received a witness? (Doctrine and Covenants 6:24).
God is Personal, Not Distant Force
I think one of the reasons that spiritual things can’t be forced is because God wants to find the very best way and the very best time to manifest His will, and His presence to you, as we’re able to follow Him.
Is This Real? Can I Trust This Revelation?
And I want to tell you that you will know this is real, and not your imagining or self-will, because then the scripture also says this, “O then, is not this real? I say unto you, Yea, because it is light; and whatsoever is light, is good, because it is discernible, therefore ye must know that it is good” (Alma 32:35). So real? Yes! Very, very real. And you need to have the confidence that those answers which come this way, to your mind and heart, through God’s Spirit, are trustworthy and real.
So, if you desire to know God’s voice, never consider the final outcome or the possible results. Obey Him even when He asks you to move when you see only darkness, for He Himself will be a glorious light within you. And as you do, you’ll have an overpowering knowledge of God’s plan unfolding, one step at a time, and an increased love for Him and His awareness of you. You will be changed by Him. Drop me a line so we can share your story if this helps you make a decision in your life, God’s way.
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