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Ancient Testaments: Prophets attuned to voice of the Lord

In the beginning, God communicated openly and often with Adam and Eve. Then came their exodus from the Garden, and "they saw him not, for they were shut out from his presence."

But even then, they could receive commandments, understanding, comfort and strength from him.

How? By "the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden, speaking unto them" (Moses 4:14; 5:4).

They soon found that this voice had special acoustics, for it spoke to the spirit within, rather than to the physical ear.

And it turned out that this voice was not affected by physical distance. It addressed their needs just as wisely, and spoke to their inner selves just as surely, no matter how many hundreds or thousands of miles they were from the source.

We have a statement from the Lord that describes this special communication as "the voice of one crying in the wilderness — in the wilderness, because you cannot see him." Like Adam and Eve, and like the oft-mentioned wandering sheep, we have lost visual contact with our shepherd. But it is not necessary to see him. There is still that voice.

"My voice," he says, "is spirit" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:66).

We are all spirit beings. So, shouldn't detecting those spirit-signals come naturally to us?

Not exactly. While in the mortal world — wandering around in this shadowy and noisy wilderness — the natural man is barraged with intense sensations, busy sights and competing noises.

A wonderful thing about the prophets is that, by purity and care, they have grown super-sensitive to the shepherd's special acoustics.

For example, Samuel the Lamanite was trusted to "prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart." His audience was made up of fine-looking folks who seemed functional in the humdrum of life. And yet, when Samuel stood before them and said, "I … do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart," he delivered messages that shocked them, and prophecies that took their breath away. He spoke what the people were not perceptive enough to detect on their own (Helaman 13:3-5).

God whispers into the microphone, and the prophets are his public address system, you might say. That is a great reason to sustain them — a great reason to honor and heed their words.

One of them once pointed out that the voice is "difficult to describe to one who has never experienced it," and yet, "almost unnecessary to describe to one who has."

It "comes more as a feeling than it does as a sound." He warned that "it is difficult to separate from the confusion of life that quiet voice of inspiration. Unless you attune yourself, you will miss it" (Boyd K. Packer, The Holy Temple, 107; and Ensign, Nov. 1979, 19).

Another who is able to separate the voice from the confusion of life pointed out one of the competing noises:

"A little prosperity and peace … can bring us feelings of self-sufficiency. … Pride creates a noise within us which makes the quiet voice of the Spirit hard to hear. And soon, in our vanity, we no longer even listen for it" (Henry B. Eyring, Ensign, Nov. 2001, 15).

All this suggests volumes about our first parents — about the way they must have associated with each other, about the way they conducted their lives for hundreds of thousands of days. They perceived "the voice of the Lord … speaking unto them," and gave heed.

That, above all, is our heritage from them. For the voice now speaks to us.

Wayne E. Brickey, who lives in Gallatin, Mo., is a retired Church Educational System teacher and curriculum writer and has been a tour guide to Holy Land and Mormon history sites. His novel "Before His Manger: The Long Wait for Christ's First Coming" can be found in serialized segments on MormonTimes.com.