'Are we listening?'

The naturalist John Burroughs, born in 1837 into a farm family in New York's Catskill Mountains, devoted his life to observing nature and sharing his discoveries through many literary works. An example of the steadiness and patience he developed lay in the fact that to his ear there was a marked difference between the trills of the wood thrush and the hermit thrush.

A story is told that one day as he was walking in a park he heard the song of a bird above the din of the city. Apparently, others had tuned out nature's pure sounds, for he was the only one in the park who stopped to listen. Perhaps the others were concentrating on business affairs or other events that held specific interest to them. Mr. Burroughs removed from his pocket a coin and flipped it in the air. When it struck the walkway with a distinctive ring - which was not any louder than the song of the bird - nearly everyone turned to see what piece of money had been dropped and who had dropped it.Why did Mr. Burroughs hear the bird sing while others did not? And why did the others hear the coin hit the walkway? Perhaps the answer to both questions is the same: Everyone heard what he or she was listening for. Mr. Burroughs was attuned to birds' melodies. He loved them and listened for them wherever he was, even amid city noise. Perhaps money was a motivating factor in the lives of others in the park that day so they were attuned to its distinctive sound.

We hear what we listen for.

We might liken general conferences to a walk in a park that is surrounded by the clamor of the world. To help us walk in the paths of righteousness, twice a year general conferences are held. We have the privilege of listening to prophets and apostles of the Lord - seers and revelators specially called to instruct us in His ways. Some of us attend these conferences on Temple Square, a 10-acre block of beauty and tranquility amid a busy city. Others go to one of the 3,000 or so meetinghouses where conference sessions are transmitted by satellite. And yet others listen to conference broadcasts on radio or watch the sessions on television.

For those who are unable to hear or see conference proceedings, or who wish to refresh their memories, extensive reports are given in the Church News the following weekend, and other media carry reports or excerpts from the conference. Full texts of conference addresses are published in the next month's Ensign.

Much is said during a general conference to lift and inspire, to motivate and encourage us. The teachings of the Savior are foremost in the messages of all general conferences.

We ought to ask ourselves a simple question: Are we listening for these messages? Some steadiness and patience might be required of us before we hear above the world's distracting sounds what Heavenly Father, through His servants, has to say to us. We might need to discipline ourselves to hear, amid much tumult of the world or the muddle of our own thoughts, the Lord's mind and will.

Paul, while a prisoner in Rome, sent a letter instructing Timothy regarding teaching the Saints: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts they shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

"And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Tim. 4:2-4.)

Our spiritual well-being depends upon our listening to "the word." If we fail to listen, we are in danger of "

turningT our ears from the truth" and following false teachings.

When the Church was organized 164 years ago, the Lord commanded the Saints to hearken to the counsel of the Prophet: "Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he received them, walking in all holiness before me;

"For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in patience and faith." (D&C 21:4-5.)

The Lord, in His infinite wisdom and boundless compassion, restored His Church to earth. The Restoration has come at a time when we are able to participate in it and receive its full blessings. As we attend conference or read its reports, let us listen with ears trained by and attuned to the Spirit so that we may hear the pure word of the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is taught by His servants.

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