Joseph Smith told Brigham Young to “tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it.” So when we think that we know something, or are sure about something, we will still be open to the Holy Ghost and accept revelations, promptings, and chastisements.
One reason I love the Book of Mormon is because it’s full of ordinary people having extraordinary experiences. Nearly every character exemplifies this principle of being open to the Holy Ghost, or not.
Unfortunately, Laman and Lemuel didn’t keep their hearts open to the Holy Ghost. They told Nephi, “for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” (1 Nephi 15:9).
Ether began calling people to repentance during the reign of Coriantumr. Moroni wrote that “Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not” (Ether 12:5).
Conviction to See, Hear, and Know
A couple of years ago, my scripture study focused on the Savior’s injunction to hear, see, and know. I couldn’t really understand what He meant by “seeing, they would not see” or “hearing, they would not hear.”
At the time, I played the organ for our ward. I got the hymn numbers from the chorister, went to practice the hymns (I even had plenty of time to practice during the week.) I really felt prepared to play the music for Sacrament meeting.
During the Sacrament hymn, I began sensing that something was wrong, really wrong. I usually mentally sing along during the hymn, but the words weren’t jiving with what I was playing. I finished the first verse, a three-lined hymn, and realized the congregation was still singing…the hymn across the page, a four-lined hymn.
My eyes dashed to the posted hymn number and then to my book. I played the wrong hymn! The chorister saw my panic. We stopped. There was just no efficient way to transition to the correct hymn.
Stop. Breathe. Reset. We started again.
I had written down the correct hymn number to practice. I saw the correct hymn number posted on the wall. I saw the correct hymn number in the bulletin. But, I played the wrong hymn. I gained understanding on my scripture study question. Seeing, I did not see. [Candidly, I wish some spiritual lessons didn’t have to be sooo public.]
So how did the Book of Mormon people open their heart to see and hear and know the things of the Holy Ghost?
Seeing Leads to Faith
After hearing Alma’s preaching, the poorest Zoramites approached him. Their leader—I can hear his dejected plea—said, “we have no place to worship our God; and behold, what shall we do?” Alma turned to them with joy and saw “that they were in a preparation to hear the word” (Alma 32:5-6).
They’d gone to a place where they could be taught. They’d gotten up and gotten out of their homes and probably out of their comfort zones. They opened themselves up.
Alma told them that, realistically, they might not understand everything they learned at first. Faith is a process. But, as they “aroused their faculties” and approached the Gospel with at least a “desire to believe” then Alma promised that the Holy Ghost would confirm their baby-steps. And step-by-step, their knowledge and comprehension would expand, if they maintained that desire to receive truth from God.
My first real experience with the Book of Mormon was when I was 8. My grandmother challenged me to read the whole book by myself. She said if I did, she’d give me $5. That was a lot of money to me. My family read the Book of Mormon together when I was a child, so I’d already read it through with them several times, but this was my first time to do it by myself. I finally finished.
Seeing for Myself
At around the same time, my Primary teacher challenged us to pray to know for ourselves if the Book of Mormon was true. I knelt on my bed and I decided I wouldn’t leave until I received an answer. I began to pray and asked that question. Then I waited, for what seemed like forever. Clearly and distinctly, I heard a voice in my mind saying, “Delisa, you already know the Book of Mormon is true.”
During times of doubt or frustration, this experience, one of the first where I knew God communicated to me through the Holy Ghost, returned to my mind and reconfirmed what I knew to be true. “Delisa, you already know this is true.”
Do you know that the Book of Mormon is true? If you don’t, I challenge you to ask God, and to be open to whatever way He speaks to you and to hear His answer.
Hearing leads to Repentance
Enos’ faith led to his repentance. I love the verbiage of his story.
He talked about “the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins” (Enos 1:2).
Sometimes we choose to wrestle with our sins for many years before deciding to repent. God honors our choices, but we cannot find true peace and happiness until we have wrestled ourselves and our bad habits and asked God to forgive our sins.
Enos’ heart was open because words which he’d often heard sunk deep into his heart. His soul hungered. He cried to God.
And then, Enos heard the voice, “thy sins are forgiven thee.” Enos said, “Lord, how is it done? And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ…wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole” (Enos 1:2-8).
Another man had a similar experience. After opening his heart to conviction and learning that he needed to repent, King Lamoni’s father bowed down to God and cried mightily. “O God…if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee” (Alma 22:18).
Knowing Leads to Covenant
God will make Himself known to us. Through covenants.
At great peril, Alma the Elder heard, and accepted, the truth Abinadi preached. He taught other believers Abinadi’s words. They expressed their faith. They repented. They were prepared for the next step. Baptism.
Alma taught the commitment expected by the covenant—looking outside of self towards others and the Lord. Baptism isn’t a first step for this life only, but for redemption and eternal life. Baptism precedes confirmation of the Holy Ghost.
“And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts” (Mosiah 18:11).
King Benjamin’s people demonstrate the sanctifying and purifying power of receiving the Holy Ghost.
“And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.
And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things” (Mosiah 5:2-3).
Because of the covenant, they became the children of Christ and because of Christ, they were free.
Enduring in Power
For me, the most impactful Book of Mormon story about hearing and seeing is of Nephi. Nephi and his brothers listened to Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life. Nephi learned later that while his brothers had lots of questions about the vision, none of them asked God for answers.
At the end of his record, Nephi’s still lamenting about people not asking God.
“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.
I am left to mourn because of the unbelief, and the wickedness, and the ignorance, and the stiff neckedness of men; for they will not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto them in plainness” (2 Nephi 32:4, 7).
After hearing Lehi’s dream, Nephi desired to see and hear and know for himself.
“For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Nephi 11:1) and he saw and heard and knew for himself.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie described how tv and radio signals are bouncing around all around us. but he said,
“The minute…we tune a radio to the proper wave band and tune a television receiving set on the proper channel, we begin to hear and see and experience what otherwise remains completely unknown to us.
And so it is with the revelations and visions of eternity. They are around us all the time. This Tabernacle is full of the same things which are recorded in the scriptures and much more. The vision of the degrees of glory is being broadcast before us, but we do not hear or see or experience because we have not tuned our souls to the wave band on which the Holy Ghost is broadcasting.
The Comforter knoweth all things; he is commissioned to bear witness of the Father and the Son, to reveal, to teach, and to testify—and he is broadcasting all the truths of salvation, and all the knowledge and wisdom of God, out into all immensity all of the time.”
Joseph Smith said “The Holy Ghost is a revelator.” And, “No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations.”
The Lord’s covenanted promise to us is to reveal Himself when we seek Him. These experiences are not just for people in the scriptures!
The Lord promised “then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:12-13).
So in seeing, we are seen. In hearing, we are heard. In knowing, we are known.
The Book of Mormon is our how-to guide, our direction manual to seek and find Jesus Christ. I pray we choose to live our lives so that our “hearts will be open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to [us], [our] hearts will be ready to receive it.”
Previously posted on LDSBlogs.com