President's Pen 12-18-17 (Hark & Hearken!)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ, by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! “We begin with the End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ that teach repentance and baptize converts and the best missionaries in the world!

 Dear Elders & Sisters,

I love ya! Thanks for your incredible efforts and for your continued examples of those who #LightTheWorld.  We have another full week ahead to live as the Savior lived and serve as the Savior served.  It won’t stop there for us, however, as we will continue to be a light on a hill that can’t be hid!

One of my favorite Christmas hymns is, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.  I vividly remember being a young boy and singing this song at the top of my lungs at Christmas time.  I had seen it sung this way by the characters in the classic Christmas cartoon, “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas” and I was happy to raise my voice with theirs.

Today, I draw your attention to the first word in this memorable hymn; hark!  Hark means to listen carefully or attentively, and if herald angels are singing, you couldn’t use a better word to get our attention.  We also find the use of the word hark throughout other well-known hymns, including the great missionary hymn, “Hark, All Ye Nations”.  In like manner, hark is a great way to describe to the nations that we’re about to hear heaven’s voice and that all will rejoice!  While the term isn’t used often in modern language, we find a cousin of the word used often in scripture; hearken…

To hearken, however, isn’t simply to listen carefully or attentively to someone, it has more meaningful implications.  In the scriptures, we come to understand that it is to listen to and obey the voice of the Lord and His teachings.  In other words, it’s not just good enough to hear the voice of the Lord, it must also be obeyed.   The Lord, throughout the standard works, calls on His people to hearken unto His voice and has attached specific outcomes as we do. 

For those that hearken, a few notable blessings, we will not perish (2 Ne 26:8), we will be enlightened and come unto the Father (D&C 84:46-47), we will be blessed with a multiplicity of blessings; (D&C 124:13), we shall learn wisdom (2 Ne 28:30). For those that choose not to hearken; we are told that we are not His sheep (Alma 5:38), that He will be slow to hear our prayers (D&C 101:7-9), and that we will be chastened (D&C 103:4).  To hearken or not to hearken, kind of an easy question? ;) (use the topical guide to continue the study on hearken)

The Prophet Nephi was one that often called on his brothers and people to hearken to the voice of the Lord.  He had many exchanges with Laman and Lemuel where he pleaded with them to no longer harden their hearts and to hearken to the voice of their father and the Lord.  A few examples… As they wandered through the wilderness and began to murmur, we read of his boldness and love directed towards his brothers, “How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord?” (1 Ne 7:9)  Following the interpretation of the vision of the tree of life Nephi taught, “And I said unto them that it was the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Ne 15:24) When Nephi’s words were hard for them to hear he declared, “And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth…” (1 Ne 16:3)  Nephi understood the blessings, he knew it was wise to hearken, he prayed for his brothers to hearken (1 Ne 2:18), why couldn’t he help Laman and Lemuel understand?

You may have an investigator or two that is slow to hearken to the voice of the Lord.  We may all be slow at times.  To understand why Laman and Lemuel struggled, Nephi uses some pretty strong descriptors… Our hearts are hardened, our minds are blind, we set the Lord at naught, we deny the power of God, we hearken unto the precepts of men, and we seek our own will.  I love the scripture written by Mormon in Helaman 12:6 that describes it the best, “Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.” Ouch, the truth is hard to hear!  We would rather listen to our own voice and the one that pleases us most than the voice of mercy, love, and everlasting life.  Oh, how fallen we are, but how blessed we are to have a Savior who continues to call us home and invites us to listen and obey.  I want to be found as one that will hearken!

Elders & Sisters, when we sing, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Hark, All Ye Nations” we are inviting all to hear heaven’s voice, but we are also asking all men and women to receive the blessings of obeying the voice.  When you invite investigators in the name of Jesus Christ to pray, teach them that it is the Lord’s voice that invites them to do so.  When you invite them to read the Book of Mormon in the Savior’s name, teach them that they will learn to hear His voice and know how to follow it as they study and ponder.  When you invite them in the name of Jesus Christ to keep any of the commitments and commandments, teach them that if they will listen and obey, their hearts will soften, their eyes will be opened, they will recognize the power of God, and they will align themselves to His will.  Simply stated, teach them to not only hark, but hearken!

I invite you today to reflect on how you hearken to the Lord’s voice, His teachings, and His prophets.  Can you be slow to listen to His counsels, or are you quick to listen and obey?  I also invite you to focus on how you invite others to hearken to the voice of the Lord as you invite them to listen and obey.  Like Nephi, we need to be sweetly bold as we pray for and invite men and women to hearken unto the counsels of the Lord.  I testify in the name of Jesus Christ that to hark and hearken helps God and sinner reconcile and that in every land, all will rejoice.  How grateful I am that we can sing these hymns at the top of our lungs and know why we do it. Love ya!

President Hall