Why did the Nephites in 3 Nephi 9 and 10 hear the voice of God, but then in 3 Nephi 11 not hear/understand it until the third time in 3 Nephi 11? Also, in Mosiah 27 Alma and the sons of Mosiah hear the voice of an angel speaking unto them with a voice like unto thunder, but they do not understand it the first time either. The angel told them in Mosiah 27:15 that he spake to them with a voice that shook the earth. Why do the people only sometimes hear and understand the voice of God
Thank you for your question.
3 Ne 9 is at the time of he crucifixion. Very OBVIOUS signs were had that all could see. Such signs got the attention of the people. The anger of the Father was unleashed and the world was shown that without the Lord, there was no light. During this time when the people knew something was up, when the voice from heaven came, they were already looking to heaven.
3 Ne 11 was perhaps a year or so later. It was enough time that recovery was under way. People had settled into normal activity. But it was still soon enough that they had their memories of the signs that had been given. Yet they were still involved in their everyday activities that often serve as a distraction to our spiritual callings, and our spiritual senses.
It was in the middle of this distraction that they needed to have multiple “taps on the shoulder” rather than a single “trumpet in the ear” to get their attention.
Why a “tap” vs. a “trumpet”? That is a good question. It has to do with how the Spirit tends to speak to us.
If we have the Spirit with us on a regular basis, we tend not to know what it is like to not have it. But when it leaves abruptly, we DEFINITELY know it. You may as well tear an arm off for how obvious it is. Such was the condition of the faithful Nephites who were left alive after the death of the Savior. They had light. Then, suddenly the Light of the World was taken away. And they knew it. They thirsted for it. When a voice came from heaven, they were looking for it and waiting for anything that the Lord could do to help them and guide them. And as they heard the voice, they knew it was the sign that had been foretold of the death of the Savior.
But if we tend to have the Spirit guiding us, then another nudge here or there is not that much different than most of the feelings we have of “good decisions”. Some are stronger than others. But it is all too easy to simply ignore the Still, Small Voice when we’re being distracted by every-day life. When they were ready to let go of their earthly cares long enough to hear it, they heard it and understood it.
And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came. 3 Ne 11:5
I do want to add one more note about this phenomenon that we have in our own lives. It starts, right before the voice came from heaven.
1 And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.
2 And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.
3 And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn. 3 Ne 11:1-3
Prior to this, they were conversing one with another. While it is encouraged that we converse one with another about the things of the Lord, it appears to me that these people were doing what I see all too often. They were looking to each other for answers instead of the Lord.
Have you noticed how many times that the new Come, Follow Me manual will ask more questions than it has answers? It is because the Lord’s way is for us to listen to the Spirit as much as possible.
I know a certain father who has raised some very smart children who are very well versed in the scriptures, gospel doctrine, and Church history. But whenever he has some insights he wishes to share with his children, he can’t get past the introduction before the children take the conversation a completely different direction because “they already know all the answers.” And they completely miss out on the next level insight that they may have received if they simply listened.
Are we ready to say the following?
- No matter how much we think we know, we’re always ready to receive more.