September 29, 2015

Dear Ohana,

What is the first word that the Lord speaks to the Church in our dispensation?  The Doctrine and Covenants begins, “Hearken, O ye people of my church” (D&C 1:1).  As the opening statement in the Lord’s Preface to these revelations, “hearken” may be regarded as both the first word and the first commandment given to the Church in these latter-days.

Notably, the Lord’s Appendix to the Doctrine and Covenants begins with the same phrase (see D&C 133:1).  The injunction to hearken thus served as bookends to the original Book of Commandments.  The revelations were framed by the command to hearken.

“Hearken” also introduces many revelations gathered between the Preface and Appendix.  In fact, the command to hearken appears in the first verse of 28 other revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants! (See sections 15, 16, 25, 33, 34, 39, 41, 42, 43, 45, 46, 49, 50, 51, 56, 57, 58, 61, 63, 64, 65, 67, 69, 70, 72, 75, 78, and 81.)  This does not count other instances of “hearken” in the D&C. The word rings through modern revelation, sounding the opening and closing notes and a repeated refrain in the Lord’s voice of warning to our dispensation.

So what does “hearken” mean?  Clearly it means to “listen,” and even more emphatically to “pay attention” or “listen up,” as we might say today.  But in addition, “hearken” connotes to “heed.”  Those who hearken not only listen, they obey.   

Too often we hear without listening, and listen without heeding.  The Lord wants us to hear, listen, and heed His words.  He wants us to hearken.

He looks for neither faultfinders nor fans, but for followers.  As Ezekiel says, some “people still are talking against thee by the walls.” For others “thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice.” Both grumblers and admirers are condemned because “they hear thy words, but they do them not.” (Ezek. 33: 30-32).  They hear but do not hearken.

Similarly, Jesus condemns those who listen to his teachings but do not live them.  They are like a foolish man who builds a house on the sand (Matt 7:26).

We will soon have the opportunity of hearing the voice of the Lord through His servants in General Conference.  In order to better hearken to what I hear, I no longer take notes about what the speakers say.  I can read the talks later.  Instead, I now note what the Spirit says for me to do or become.  I place “Hearken” at the top of my notes.  Then I record promptings from the Spirit.  These are invitations from Heaven to hearken.

To hearken is to hear with a heart inclined to heed, then to mold our lives to messages from on high.  May we not only hear but heed such messages.  May we hearken to the Lord.

John Tanner