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Reader Voices: In an age of 24/7, which and whose voices are we responding to?

By Mel Borup Chandler

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Sept. 11 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

You can tell how a person orients himself to the world around him by the things he does and says. Someone says, “I see what you mean.” You recognize that person is probably visual. Most people probably fall into that dominant category. Another might say, “I feel your pain,” which is tactile. Or “I heard that,” which is audio, and so forth.

Because I am audio, I don’t need to turn the TV or radio up loudly, and I usually can hear even the tiniest sounds. Sometimes my wife speaks to me and thinks I am not listening because I seem distracted by other things. When she says, “You are not listening,” she is shocked when I can repeat almost verbatim everything she has told me. Perhaps my listening abilities seem unusual to visually oriented people, but they work for me.

Sometimes my wife and I like to watch movies and DVDs. When possible, we set special features like closed captioning, designed for people with disabilities. They provide a transcript of dialogue and sometimes describe sounds and scenes that a handicapped person would ordinarily miss. These features give added meaning.

My wife and I do not have a specific disability, at least not physically, but closed captions help us understand what is going on with greater clarity. If we are interrupted by a phone call or some other distraction, even if we mute the TV, the other person can still continue to enjoy the program. In an odd way, it is like reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon together. Each clarifies the other and increases understanding.

In the scriptures, Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him up a mountain. (See Matthew 17:5) In the narrative, they are overshadowed by a bright cloud and hear a voice saying, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Hear ye him.”

A similar experience occurred when Joseph Smith sought out the Lord in prayer in the sacred grove. I suspect that God did not have in mind the type of listening we usually experience but a more refined and difficult type — the type you hear with your heart and your entire being.

When I pray, I hope to communicate with my Creator in a meaningful way. Sometimes I merely praise and thank him for blessings I perceive. I know that there are many blessings I probably take for granted and don’t acknowledge or recognize as blessings.

When I pray, most often I want something also. I don’t always pray for myself but for others. Even so, I doubt there is a whole lot of listening going on.

Listening to the Lord is the challenge. In today’s world, we have many competing sounds and voices that compete with God for our attention, time and heart. Media is so prevalent; it is a form of information overload. Additionally, we are also surrounded by wives, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers and bosses, all making demands on us. Even in the middle of it all, we are still commanded to “hear him.” Now is the time to sharpen our communication and observation skills and listen and recognize Jesus’ voice to us. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus says, “Not my will, but thine (the Father’s) will be done.”

It is importance that we learn to filter competing voices in our lives. Who are we responding to? It is a compelling question. Our spiritual well-being and even mental health demand we pay closer attention. We truly are connected, but our most important connection needs to be with loved ones and our Lord and Creator. It requires vigilance and insight and effort.

Mel Borup/Chandler is a former guidance counselor. He worked for many years in social service agencies and is a graduate of Weber State University. He and his wife Sandra live in Southern California.

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