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Devotionals

When I Hear Him


My Brothers and sisters, aloha!

I’m humbled to be invited to address you today in this setting. April 6 is an important date in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was on this day in 1830 that this Church was organized in the home of Brother Peter Whitmer. Of this date and the organizing of the Church, President Howard W. Hunter stated, “The claim that God had spoken, that Christ’s church was again organized and its doctrines affirmed by divine revelation, was the most outstanding declaration made to the world since the days of the Savior Himself when He walked the paths of Judea and the hills of Galilee.[1]” A bold claim indeed in those days, that the heavens were once again opened and that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, were once again directly communicating with their children. In one of his first addresses as prophet, President Russell M. Nelson taught, “One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church, is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will. The privilege of receiving revelation is one of the greatest gifts of God to His children.[2]” Today, I hope to be able to share with you how I hear the voice of the Lord, in hopes that it might help you to recognize a few of the ways the Lord speaks to His children. I have come to learn that the process of receiving revelation is not a mysterious process, and if we come to follow the pattern that prophets and apostles have taught us to follow, we will learn, as President Nelson has testified, that God is anxious to speak to His children. By sharing with you instances when I hear Him, I hope to demystify the process of receiving revelation.

During this talk, when I refer to hearing “Him,” I will mostly be referring to hearing the voice of the Holy Ghost. But in referencing the Holy Ghost, I believe that I am also hearing the voice of our Heavenly Father and the voice of His Son, Jesus Christ. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe, know, and understand that God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are one in purpose, but completely separate beings. Further, we believe, as taught in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 130, verse 22, that the Father and the Son are personages of flesh and bone, but that the Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit. As a spirit, the Holy Ghost can dwell in each of us. President Nelson taught, “In the Godhead, the Holy Ghost is the messenger.[3]” In other words, the Holy Ghost sends us messages that God our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, would like us to hear.

When the Savior was preparing to leave His chosen apostles, He promised them that He would not leave them comfortless. Said the Lord Jesus Christ, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.[4]” As the messenger of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost will teach us and help us to remember the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. But how do we hear and recognize the voice of the Holy Ghost, and thus hear God’s messages for us?

The Apostle Paul taught the Galatians that the Holy Ghost communicates through feelings. Said the Apostle Paul, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.[5]” These fruits represent feelings through which the Holy Ghost communicates with us.

I hear Him when I am in sacred settings. As I reflect on my childhood growing up in the Wahiawa Ward, church was a place where I always felt the fruits of the Spirit. I felt feelings of love, joy, and peace as I attended church meetings with my family. These feelings of the Holy Ghost confirmed to me that this Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was God's true church. I never doubted it and never had to ask God if this Church was His restored New Testament Church, because of these feelings of the Holy Ghost that I recognized at a young age and in this setting. I hear the voice of the Lord in sacred settings.

I hear Him when I read the scriptures. These same fruits of the Spirit confirmed to me the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon when I picked it up and read it from cover to cover for the first time as a senior in high school as a part of the church seminary program. As I read from its pages, the voices of these Book of Mormon prophets spoke to me as “one(s) crying from the dust.[6]” The Holy Ghost filled me with feelings of love, joy, peace, goodness, temperance, and meekness as I read from its pages. I can testify to the words of Alma found in Alma 32 when he compared the word of God to a seed being planted. When I gave place for the seed of the Book of Mormon to be planted in my heart, “it began to enlarge my soul...to enlighten my understanding, and began to be delicious unto me.[7]” Because of these feelings given to me by the Holy Ghost, I came to know that The Book of Mormon was truly the word of God. As a result, I never needed to ask God if it was true, because its truthfulness was revealed to me each time I read from its pages, and that was all the witness I needed. I hear His voice when I read from the scriptures.

I hear His voice when I associate with others who are true followers of Christ. This same kind of communication of feelings from the Holy Ghost confirmed to me that my wife, the former Nizhoni Whaley, would be an excellent eternal companion, if only I could somehow convince her to marry me. Whenever I was with Sister Chun, I felt like being my best self. Her testimony shone through her countenance, and I knew that she loved the Lord with all of her heart, might, mind and strength. Feelings of love, joy, peace, gentleness, and goodness enveloped our relationship. I always wanted to be a better person when I was with her, and just thinking of her inspired me to be my best self. And like my testimony of the Church and of the Book of Mormon, I never needed to ask God if Nizhoni was the right one for me. I was more worried about how I would convince someone like her to marry me, so my prayers were probably something like, “Please Lord, help me to look better in her eyes than I really am.” I don’t know if there is one person meant for us to find and marry, but I thank our Father in Heaven every day that I was able to meet and court and marry Sister Chun, and I’m glad she said yes. I always felt the Spirit in her presence, and those feelings from the Holy Ghost continue to bless our marriage every single day. I hear His voice when I associate with people who are true followers of Christ.

Another way that the Holy Ghost communicates with us is through whisperings that we can hear with our mind, and understand with our heart (See D&C 8:2). Speaking in the April 2020 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson renewed his plea for us to understand how to receive divine revelation, by stating: “I renew my plea for you to do whatever it takes to increase your spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation.” President Nelson continued: “We also hear Him more clearly as we refine our ability to recognize the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. He will bring thoughts to your mind which the Father and Son want you to receive.[8]

In my personal life, I hear Him and His whisperings when I am striving to keep the commandments of God. In all instances when I have heard the whisperings of God, it was in still and quiet moments. One experience stands out early in our marriage. We were living in Wahiawa, and I was a teacher and coach at Leilehua High School. In the Wahiawa Ward that I grew up in, I was called as a young counselor in the bishopric to my former Boy Scout leader, Bishop Wayne Chang. Circumstances for our family changed when the home we were living in and renting at the time suddenly became unavailable to us. We needed to move and to move quickly. We did everything we could to find a place to live, but nothing seemed to be available. Our stake president even gave us permission to look within the stake boundaries, and he said he would grant approval for us to continue serving in the Wahiawa Ward. Despite this offer, we were unfruitful in our efforts to find a home to live in. I remember lying in bed one evening, and in my frustration, mentally shaking my fists towards Heaven complaining to God on high, “Why aren’t you helping us? I’m doing everything that I can. Why won’t you help us?”

The very next day, I recall sitting alone in my classroom at Leilehua High School. It was during my prep period when I had no students, and I was staring at the sun shining through the open classroom door. In that state of quiet reflection, I heard the Spirit whisper to my mind, “Apply for graduate school at BYU.” I heard that whisper in my mind, and felt an excitement in my heart knowing that this communication was from God. I immediately got online and looked at the only graduate program I had thought of one day completing, a master’s degree in educational leadership. I was disheartened to see that the date for applying for this program had already passed. As soon as I noticed that date, the Spirit whispered again to me, “Call that number and see if the date is correct.” The whisper to my mind was clear. It was not an audible voice I heard with my ears, but like President Nelson stated, words were placed in my mind, coupled with a feeling of inspiration in my heart. That is how God whispers to me. I felt enlightenment upon hearing those words, so I immediately called that number. I still remember the secretary's name that answered my call. Her name was Bonnie. When I expressed my interest in applying for graduate school, but explained that I had seen the date had already passed, she said in a matter-of-fact way, “Oh, that date is not correct. We have to update the website. The deadline has been extended by two weeks. But here are the things you need to do.” I could barely contain my excitement as she listed the things I needed to do, like take the GRE, secure letters of recommendation, etc. As difficult as those things were to complete in such a short time frame, I had no doubt that I would be able to meet these deadlines because this was revelation from the Lord. And, I had great faith that I would be accepted because I knew this is what God wanted me to do. When the acceptance letter from BYU came, it was confirmation of the faith I had in the revelation that was given to me through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. I hear His whisperings when I am striving to live the commandments and in still and quiet moments.

I learned from this experience that when God speaks through the Holy Ghost, He speaks plainly and simply. As President Nelson taught, “Messages from our Heavenly Father are strikingly different. He communicates simply, quietly, and with such stunning plainness that we cannot misunderstand Him.[9]” Such a plain and simple message came to me in another quiet moment when the Lord once again wanted to guide our family to a different place in His vineyard. While living in what we called our dream home in Provo, Utah, and serving as the bishop of our ward, the whisperings of the Spirit came to me early one morning while I was exercising and listening to the scriptures. In this setting, the Spirit whispered to my mind, simply and plainly, “Apply for the State Superintendent position.” Once again, that whisper came in the form of words being placed in my mind and accompanied by a feeling of enlightenment and even clarity in my heart. I was dumbfounded. I was living my dream as a high school principal and member of the Board of Trustees for Utah Valley University. I was also teaching graduate-level courses in Educational Leadership at the University of Utah. I had no intentions to apply for such a position. So, I thought I would confirm this revelation by talking to my sweet wife. If she thought this was a good idea, I would do it. So that evening, while we were preparing dinner, I casually asked her, “What would you think if I applied for the State Superintendent position?” I was surprised when without hesitation, my wife said, “You should do it.” Once again, I was dumbfounded. I had already moved my family a lot as a result of my career in educational leadership, and I thought we were finally settled. When I brought this up, she simply said, “You always talk about how you would fix the system if you were in charge, so why not apply? Shoot for the moon, you have nothing to lose.” So with that counsel, I pursued this position.

It may surprise you that I did not get the position, even though I felt prompted to apply. Through a very rigorous process, I became one of two finalists for this position, but ultimately, I was not selected. I believed that everything I learned from the rigors of the many interviews and meetings I participated in was the reason for the prompting I had to apply for this position. That journey was a growing experience for me and had that been the end of the journey, I would have profited much from this prompting from God. Little did I know that the Lord was preparing me to apply for the position that I now hold as the Head of School for the Kamehameha Schools Kapālama. That opportunity came as a surprise to me, as I was not intending to apply for this position either. You see, earlier in this same year, a family member and a friend separately told me about the opening at Kamehameha. I replied to them both that I was not interested because I was enjoying a lot of success in my current career in the state of Utah, and I had no plans of leaving. However, a few months later, after I had just concluded this rigorous process of interviewing for the Utah State Superintendent Position, the search firm representing the Kamehameha Schools contacted me. They strongly encouraged me to apply for this position and expressed great interest in seeing my application. I told them, “Look, I just applied for the Superintendent Position for the state of Utah. I have all of these application materials on hand. If you’ll accept them as a part of my application, then I’ll submit my name. If not, I’m not interested in going through all of these hoops again after just completing this other search.” To my surprise, but not to the Lord, they said yes, and the rest is history.

Once again, said our Prophet President Nelson, “Through the manifestations of the Holy Ghost, the Lord will assist us in all our righteous pursuits. If we will truly receive the Holy Ghost and learn to discern and understand His promptings, we will be guided in matters large and small.[10]” By following the promptings of the Holy Ghost, our family has been led to serve wherever God has wanted us to go.

I hear Him when I am serving in my calling. A little over a year ago, my wife and I were extended the calling for me to serve as the bishop of the Lanakila Ward. Prior to my call and while the counselors I had recommended to serve in the bishopric with me were going through the approval process, I continued to serve as a high councilman. While sitting on the stand of the Lanakila Ward which I advised, Brother Wainwright Piena got up to bear his testimony. As he did so, the Spirit whispered to me, “This man will be the next bishop.” The words placed in my mind were so clear, accompanied by a feeling of inspiration and revelation in my heart, that I knew this was revelation from God. I began to doubt whether or not I should be the bishop of the Lanakila Ward, thinking that our good stake president had somehow made a mistake. Little did I know that a few weeks after I began serving as bishop, an announcement was made that a stake reorganization conference would be held in two month’s time. Because I just started my tenure as bishop, I thought I was safe from consideration as stake president. I even asked my wife if she felt any promptings, and she did not, so my mind was put at ease. Well, the end of that story is that after only serving as a bishop of the Lanakila Ward for two months, I was called as stake president. And the revelation that I received from the Spirit that Wainwright Piena would be the next bishop of the Lanakila Ward, came to fruition shortly after. I hear Him when I am serving in my callings.

Our family hears Him when we watch general conference together. Our family has a general conference tradition. Before each semiannual and general conference of the Church, we take the time to write down questions that we would like to receive answers to and revelation to guide our lives. Without fail, we have always received answers to our questions, and we always hear the voice of the Lord in general conference. A great example of hearing the Lord’s voice through general conference happened to my daughter Camilla. In October of 2011, we had recently moved from Provo to Salt Lake City. This move was particularly hard for Camilla, so we decided to home-school her for the remainder of that school year. Not having friends was hard on Camilla, as it would be for any 3rd grader. Her question for the October 2011 General Conference was simple, “How can I make more friends?” Our family is always aware of each other’s questions, so we can be mindful of and help each other to find answers during conference. The very first speaker of this entire conference was Elder Richard G. Scott. Listen to the following comment he made about the power of the scriptures and its ability to be a friend to us: “The scriptures provide the strength of authority to our declarations when they are cited correctly. They can become stalwart friends that are not limited by geography or calendar. They are always available when needed.[11] We all looked at Camilla when Elder Scott said this, and her eyes lit up and she smiled the biggest smile. Not only did Camilla learn that the scriptures can be a source of strength and companionship to each of us, even to the point of being stalwart friends, but she learned that God does speak to us through general conference.

Our son Christian had a similar experience of hearing the Lord’s voice in general conference when he posed this question prior to the October 2014 General Conference, “How can I become a better reader?” You see, Christian found reading difficult, and he wanted so badly to become a better reader. In the Saturday afternoon session of conference, Elder Tad Callister began his address by talking about the life of world renown heart surgeon Dr. Ben Carson. After describing his difficult upbringing and his own challenges getting good grades in school, Elder Callister shares the following about Dr. Carson’s mom and her efforts to help her sons become better readers: “One day a turning point came in her life and that of her sons. It dawned on her that successful people for whom she cleaned homes had libraries—they read. After work she went home and turned off the television that Ben and his brother were watching. She said in essence: You boys are watching too much television. From now on you can watch three programs a week. In your free time you will go to the library—read two books a week and give me a report. The boys were shocked. Ben said he had never read a book in his entire life except when required to do so at school. They protested, they complained, they argued, but it was to no avail. Then Ben reflected, “She laid down the law. I didn’t like the rule, but her determination to see us improve changed the course of my life.[12] Not only did Christian receive a clear answer to how he could become a better reader, but like Camilla, Christian learned that he could hear the voice of the Lord in general conference. Our family always receives answers to the questions we bring to general conference, always! We hear Him in general conference.

Brothers and Sisters, I know that our Heavenly Father desires to communicate with us, His children, daily. Said President James E. Faust, “The comforting Spirit of the Holy Ghost can abide with us twenty-four hours a day: when we work, when we play, when we rest. Its strengthening influence can be with us year in and year out. That sustaining influence can be with us in joy and sorrow, when we rejoice as well as when we grieve.[13]” Each week when we partake of the sacrament and renew our covenants with God, we have the opportunity to have the Spirit to “always be with us.[14]” As President Faust describes, always means twenty-four hours a day! Speaking to us through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord declared, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.[15]

Today I’ve shared with you just a few of the ways I have heard His voice in my life, but this topic could fill volumes. I bear testimony to you, my brothers and sisters, that God our Father in Heaven speaks to His children today. That Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior speaks to us today, and that the Holy Ghost is Their messenger and will reveal Their words to us. I close by sharing with you that because the Holy Ghost, as a Spirit, has borne witness to my Spirit, that these things are true, that my testimony has become a literal part of my identity. I cannot unknow the things I know to be true through the confirmation of the Holy Ghost, and should I ever deny them, yet in my soul I would still know that these things are true, because my testimony is a literal part of my soul and identity. May each of you come to learn how our Heavenly Father, our Savior and the Holy Ghost, communicates with you, is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

[1] The Sixth Day of April, 1830, Howard W. Hunter, April 1991 General Conference

[2] Revelation for Ourselves, Revelation for our Lives, Russell M. Nelson, April 2018 General Conference

[3] Hear Him, Russell M. Nelson, April 2020 General Conference

[4] John 14:26

[5] Galatians 5:22-23

[6] 2 Nephi 33:13

[7] Alma 32:28

[8] Hear Him, Russell M. Nelson, April 2020 General Conference

[9] Hear Him, Russell M. Nelson, April 2020 General Conference

[10] Revelation for Ourselves, Revelation for our Lives, Russell M. Nelson, April 2018 General Conference

[11] The Power of Scripture, Richard G. Scott, October 2011 General Conference

[12] Parents: The Prime Gospel Teacher of their Children, Elder Tad R. Callister, October 2014 General Conference

[13] The Gift of the Holy Ghost, James E. Faust, April 1989 General Conference

[14] D&C 20:77

[15] D&C 88:63