Sunday, September 7, 2014


During the wonderful years we spent in Reno, Nevada, which was before the ‘Biggest Little City in the World’ had the ‘Biggest Little Temple in the World (our eldest son Cevin pointed that out when he was helping with the construction because they enclosed the entrance patio making it slightly larger than other small temples), we had to make the trip over Donner Pass to attend the Oakland, California Temple. Gratefully, this was long after the ill-fated Donner Party had struggled over that pass in October of 1846 through April of 1847. It should be noted that there were times when we were unable to go to the Temple and times when our return was delayed because of weather, even with the beautiful interstate having replaced the unbroken trails of yesteryears.

Anyway, on one of our trips Kathleen was doing some research for a presentation she was giving and was reading quotes from the modern day apostles. We were about half way through our three hour trek from Reno to Oakland when she turned to me and remarked that a strange thing was happening in her mind. She said that as she read silently the words of Elders Boyd K. Packer and Bruce R. McConkie, in her mind she was hearing their intonations and their phrasing of the words she was reading. It seemed to her it was as though she was actually hearing their voices as if they were speaking to her.

As we discussed this phenomenon we were both able to recall several times when this same ‘voices out of the printed word’ had happened to us in in the past. Subsequently, when discussing this strange happening with others, I discovered that it was a very common sensation. During our discussion, I think we simultaneously came to the realization of a gospel principle which we previously hadn't understood. It is always a wonderful moment when the glass darkly becomes clearer.

In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, the Savior gives the parable of the Good Shepherd, where he tries to teach us that the Shepherd knows His sheep so well that He can call them by name and they will respond. He also says that the sheep know the Shepherd so well that they can distinguish His voice from any would-be imposter. The Shepherds voice would be familiar and would bring a positive response while the sheep would flee from the voice of a stranger.

I have been puzzled by the ability some of the Good Shepherd’s sheep have to hear and respond to his voice while others, maybe even a great majority of the sheep wandering in the hills of the world, seldom have the opportunity of being enfolded in His caring arms and having His voice soothe away their cares.
After our discussion on the ‘voices out of the printed word’ Kathleen went back to her reading and my mind was drawn to a scripture in the 18th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. When I got home I looked it up and the words I was thinking of were in the 34th through the 36th verses: These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify that they are of me and not of men. For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you, for they are given by my spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another, and save it were by my power you could not have them. Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.

The prompting Kathleen had received had turned the key. It seems that if I have frequently heard someone speak or sing, whenever I read their words or poetry or even just the title of one of the songs they made popular, their voices come into my mind, even to the degree that their performance comes alive.

The verses I referred to earlier in the Doctrine and Covenants seem to indicate that the reverse of this phenomenon is also true. Evidently, a human sheep can, through constant and continual reading of a person’s words, become so familiar with the phrasing and mannerisms of speech that the reading of the word becomes as if they are hearing the actual voice. The scripture also leads us to understand that when we hear the actual voice of the person’s words we have been reading we will recognize their voice from the familiarity we have gained while reading their words.

I have read several studies of how computers can identify writers by the patterns they establish in their writings. We have all been amazed as we were introduced to the app on smart phones which can identify a song and the performer of that song immediately. Just this last week, I saw a commercial for a new app which will identify any movie which might be playing on the television or over the internet. It doesn't seem to matter what verse might be being sung or what scene in the movie might be playing the apps can immediately give you the name of the song or the movie. It isn't much of a stretch to believe that if we sheep can develop a machine which has this capability that the ’developer sheep’ of that machine may have even greater capabilities when it comes to identifying sounds or recognizing live voices from words they have read on the printed page.

I personally know many sheep that, after only a few words, can recognize the speaker as Hamlet or Macbeth and can tell you what scene the words were spoken of and, of course, know that he who penned the words was William Shakespeare. Sadly, many of these sheep would be sent into a stammering fit if they were asked to identify the reference of a verse of scripture or whether they had ever heard the still small voice of the Savior or the Holy Spirit.

I suspect, if we sheep really understood the power of voice recognition it would become the greatest of motivators for us to be constantly reading the scriptures. I believe that that sheep who has been diligently reading the words of the True Shepherd, when He calls his name, will recognize His voice and respond to His call.

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