Eliminate all the "noise" from your life and you may be surprised at what you hear, a Brigham Young University professor says.
"We currently live in a very noisy world, so noisy in fact that we live in peril that the messianic and millenial messages of the ages will not get through, or the signal will become so distorted that these messages are no longer recognizable," said Spencer J. Condie, an ancient scripture and sociology professor.Delivering the sixth annual Harman Lecture, "Be Still and Know," Condie said the word "noise" is generally associated with unpleasant audible sounds, static on a television set or typographical errors in a news article.
But "noise refers to anything that detracts from the true content of a message and causes uncertainty in the mind of the receiver," he said.
To reduce uncertainty, messages can be repeated until they are understood. Condie said repetition, referred to as redundancy by some scholars, often is found in theology.
"My study has led me to conclude that, generally speaking, there is no major doctrine or teaching that is not expounded at least twice, either within the same volume of scripture or within two or more different volumes of scripture.
"Skeptics may speak of prophetic plagiarism, but an information theorist recognizes repetition as a key to understanding."
Decoding messages is another important aspect of understanding, he said. "The decoding of spiritual messages involves more than the mind and the ears - one must also feel the message."
Improving channel capacity also resolves problems of uncertainty, he said. Once a channel reaches its maximum capacity, additional information only increases noise and uncertainty. That is why "a patient Father in heaven reveals his will to his children on Earth in piecemeal fashion."
Disobedience and sin make up the noise that clogs the communication channel, but a person's channel capacity increases as noise is removed from his life.
"Perhaps we can also learn an important lesson from communication in Morse Code," Condie said. "As important as the short and long bursts of sound may be, the silent pause between each signal is also indispensable.
"It might be well for each of us to ask ourselves how many miles we are able to drive without turning on the car radio. It is very difficult for the still small voice to guide our lives if we seldom stop to listen."
He said everyone must work to extend the channel capacity of the rising generation. "The message must get through, and it must get through with as little noise and uncertainty as possible."
If the messages are to get through, continuing education must become a way of life in every home, Condie said.
The Harman Lecture began in 1984 to honor Caroline Hemenway Harman, after whom the BYU Harman Continuing Education Building is named.