Steve put up a great post today over at Kulturblog on developing tastes for the finer things in life — food, music, art, etc. It is an interesting subject in itself and in the comments Clark linked to another very interesting blog with a cool listening experiment. Go try it yourself.
As hard as I found it to believe, apparently a lot of people can’t tell which version of the music is askew. It was painfully obvious to me, but then again I have a degree in music and have played semi-professionally, etc. So let me know if it is obvious to you or not. If it is not, don’t fret — apparently you are in the majority. According to the study cited, most people don’t currently have the ability to discern any difference. But if it is not this might serve as an interesting object lesson on the spiritual subject of discernment.
I have a friend with perfect pitch. Not just relative perfect pitch but real perfect pitch. When he hears and A he can tell if it is A440 or not. I can’t tell though. He can discern the difference where I can’t.
So what about hearing and discerning messages from God? Is that process any different? I don’t think so. Some people have developed the ability to hear and discern messages from God where others hear nothing.
When it comes to music, some people are born with “better ears” than others. Some people are prodigies when it comes to discerning musical things. But many others have pretty bad ears. The good news is that even though lots of people think they are tone deaf, nearly no one really is. Tone deaf is an actual medical condition and most folks that wonder if they are tone deaf are just poorly trained. With enough work very few cannot attain good ears of their own.
The same can be said of hearing and understanding communications from God through the Holy Ghost, I think. No matter what kind of spiritual ears we are born with I believe that with work we can all become very good at two-way communication with God. Good spiritual ears may not be our primary spiritual gift but we can develop it in ourselves anyway. Plus, we have a huge advantage in this area as Mormons. The restoration of the priesthood also meant the restoration of the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I suspect getting this gift is like receiving a major jump-start to the potential of our spiritual ears. I think we greatly underestimate the importance of this gift.
So why is having good spiritual ears so important? Consider the following scriptures:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: (John 10: 27)
And he that will hear my voice shall be my sheep; and him shall ye receive into the church, and him will I also receive. (Mosiah 26: 21)
And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts; (D&C 29: 7)
Do you see that? The Lord’s elect and sheep are by definition those who hear His voice! By contrast, those who will not hear his voice are not his sheep and not his elect.
It appears that when it comes to our spiritual ears, the goal is to work hard enough to have perfect pitch.