INSIDE SOURCES

Developing a listening heart: The beginning of understanding

Oct 3, 2021, 1:00 PM

religion COVID-19 elder david a bednar listening heart...

Elder David A. Bednar speaks from a studio in the Church Office Building to participants at the G20 Interfaith Forum on Wednesday, October 14, 2020. The digital 2020 forum is hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Photo copyright 2020 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

This is an editorial piece. An editorial, like a news article, is based on fact but also shares opinions. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with our newsroom. 

I have been studying what it means to truly listen. Listening is much more than recognizing sounds, words and phrases. True listening requires us to spiritually see and sense. It mandates that our hearts are as invested in the process as our ears. This is true whether we are listening to a spouse, child or friend, discerning the whisperings of the Spirit or seeking to hear the voice of the Savior or our Heavenly Father.

The journey of listening begins

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief Rabbi to the United Kingdom was, and remains, one of the great moral voices of our day. Before his passing in 2020, I was blessed to conduct an extended interview with him. It would turn out to be one of his last public interviews. Despite the absence of his earthly presence, I have been learning from this great Rabbi ever since. In fact, Rabbit Sacks is the one who sent me on this exploratory journey into a listening heart.

I learned from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks that the Hebrew verb sh-m-a, often interpreted as “listen,” has no single translation into English.

There is no single English word that means to hear, to listen, to heed, to pay attention to and to obey. Sh-m-a also means “to understand.” When combined these attributes of spiritual listening provide a powerful path to hearing in a higher and holier way.

When God appeared to King Solomon in a dream and asked him what he would like to be given, Solomon replied: lev shome’a, literally “a listening heart” to judge the people (1Kings 3:9).

The choice of words is significant. Solomon’s wisdom lay, at least in part, in his ability to listen, to hear the emotion behind the words, to sense what was being left unsaid as well as what was said. It is common to find leaders, teachers and friends who speak, but very rare is it to find those who listen. But listening often makes all the difference.

To listen, be still

An Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, has spent his ministry on “matters of the heart, from describing broken hearts to offering the answers for healing hearts. Elder Holland described the heart as a listening organ and that such a heart was more important than ever to our relationship and connection to things human and divine.

Listening, especially spiritual listening, is becoming a lost art in our noisy, judgmental and often argumentative world. Lack of listening keeps us a safe distance from critical conversations and far away from deeper understanding, greater love and more inspired solutions.

Elder Holland shared that the beginning of a listening heart requires us to be still and to gain insight by getting away from the noise of the world in solitude.

Rabbi Sacks taught that, “Crowds are moved by great speaking. Lives are changed by great listening. Truly, it isn’t great speaking, but great listening that matters most. A speaker who can create space for attendees to listen with their heart invites inspiration, revelation and transformation to occur.

Heart-led listening with Elder Bednar

I observed this once when I followed Elder David A. Bednar of The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to a devotional he was giving in Rexburg, Idaho, in front of more than 12,000 college students.

Typical note-taking for university students is a stress-inducing, exhaustive experience filled with frenetic attempts to copiously capture everything the teacher is saying. When Elder Bednar stepped to the podium. Pens were poised, digital tablets were set to document and personal note-taking systems were ready to record his message in binders and journals. Elder Bednar humbly invited his listeners to do something different — and everything changed.

There was an initial rush to write and capture what Elder Bednar was saying. I admit I found myself racing to keep up. I then watched in amazement as Apostle of Jesus Christ taught those listening to listen different. He cautioned the crowd about how they were approaching their learning at the devotional.

“Don’t write down what I am saying,” he said. Then, conveying his trust in the audience and with distinct emphasis, he continued, “If you are hearing what I am saying, I am failing, and you aren’t truly listening.” What Elder Bednar was really doing was teaching that there is a pattern to learning with a listening heart.

The longer Elder Bednar taught, the fewer dictation-style notes were being taken – personal impressions, spiritually customized messages, personal testimony along with answers to questions known and unknown were carefully, thoughtfully and thankfully written.

As I looked around the hall, I observed the most intense listening and learning I had ever witnessed in such a setting. It was a still and silent edification. Those in attendance were developing a listening heart.

In his book “The Spirit of Revelation,” Elder Bednar described this as the Hearing-what-is-not-said principle.

We must “Be careful not to let the noise of your mind overpower the whispers of your heart. I see so much suffering when problems arise in marriages, families and communities because we have become so prone to rush in with accusations rather than ask questions and truly listen to responses with our hearts. Accusations discourage deeper dialogue and prevent elevated understanding. Sincere questions combined with compassion and a listening heart, fosters understanding and a new kind of listening.”

True listening is a strengthening spiritual act and the highest form of respect toward others. Heart-led, rather than head-led, listening reflects our determination to live as disciples of Jesus and love one another as He loves us. Such listening will enable us to see each other deeply, even as He sees us, and compassionately lift each other along life’s path.

Bonneville International Corporation, the company that owns KSL NewsRadio, is a subsidiary of Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Read more: 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Inside Sources

Dow...

Curt Gresseth

Dow closes down more than 500 points

The Dow dropped more than 750 points before closing down 525 points as inflation numbers rose higher than economists were anticipating.

17 days ago

cellphone schools...

Curt Gresseth

Governor’s message to students: ‘hang up and learn’

Gov. Spencer Cox wants cellphones to be banned in Utah schools during instruction time.

1 month ago

debt...

Curt Gresseth

Romney and Moore look to tame $34 trillion U.S. debt

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, weighing in on the $34 trillion U.S. debt and what, if anything, can do about it.

2 months ago

Cooper Brannon, 8, watches his father, Austin, vote at the Salt Lake County Government Center in Sa...

Simone Seikaly

One more day to officially switch political parties in Utah

This voter switching date is important for anybody who wants to participate in the Republican caucus on March 5.

2 months ago

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, center left, and Texas Department of Public Safety chief Steve McC...

VALERIE GONZALEZ and STEPHEN GROVES

Speaker Johnson demands hard-line policies during a border visit

A congressional trip to Eagle Pass, Texas, follows demands for more hard-line immigration policies in exchange for Ukraine funding.

2 months ago

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and Jon Batiste speak on stage during MTV's Mental Health Is ...

Mariah Maynes

A look into the surgeon general’s efforts against loneliness epidemic

Following the issuance of a public health warning about loneliness, the surgeon general has been visiting college campuses to promote social connection.

2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Developing a listening heart: The beginning of understanding