English Faculty Member
Scott Cameron received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Brigham Young University, followed by a master’s degree and a doctorate in English from Boston University. His scholarly interests include American literature, poetry, and environmentalism. He has published poetry in a variety of works including the anthology Fire in the Pasture and an upcoming collection Blossom as the Cliffrose.
A good day for Scott includes running, biking, or swimming. A really good day includes a trail run along a river, a long hike with family and friends, or the attempt to keep up with his oldest son while mountain biking. He is grateful for spring and the ability to look for wildflowers again.
Scott and his wife, Hilary, have five children who also enjoy, or at least put up with, both poetry and hiking.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
In preparation for the April 2020 general conference, President Nelson asked us to consider carefully how we hear the voice of the Lord. Please share your experiences about how you best hear Him. Is your experience connected to a specific time or day or particular place? Do you hear Him while engaging in particular activities? I realize that these may be sacred and possibly very personal experiences, so please share your experience in a way you feel is appropriate.
Near the end of 2 Nephi, the prophet presents what he calls “the doctrine of Christ” and specifies that as mortals we need to repent, be baptized of water, and receive the Holy Ghost. This gateway to the “strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life”  is universal; it is designed for all people who desire to return to God’s presence.
Two chapters later, however, Nephi takes an interesting and instructive turn to the personal. He writes, “I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.”  I must have read this verse at least a dozen times before the use of the first-person possessive “my” caught my attention: “I glory in my Jesus.”
In this statement, Nephi is not glorying in a theoretical Jesus and His universal sacrifice; he is glorying in a very personal and particular relationship with “his” Christ.
The difference between glorying in Jesus and glorying in my Jesus may seem minute, a matter of a single word, but in terms of meaning, I believe there is an eternity of difference. Nephi is suggesting that while the doctrine of Christ offers a strait and narrow path for all people, the pressing forward along that path “with steadfastness in Christ”  is not so much a universal journey as a personal one, one that is ultimately unique for each of us.
While Nephi shared many common spiritual experiences with his father, Lehi, ultimately, his connection to the Savior was unique, built upon experiences that were different from his father’s. Similarly, even though Nephi joined the ranks of Noah and the brother of Jared as inspired prophet shipbuilders, his process of receiving heavenly help and his process of shipbuilding was different, and through that individualized experience, his relationship with deity was similar to but different from theirs.
As essential as it was for Nephi to show us the universal gateway to the strait and narrow path, it was equally important for him to suggest the need to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God the Father. But how do we forge a personal relationship with Christ and Heavenly Father? While I cannot address all of the particularities of experience that those listening to this devotional represent, I hope that sharing a few principles will help you deepen and personalize your relationship with Christ and Heavenly Father.
Principle one: strong relationships are forged in the sharing of individuality. We might be tempted to think that healthy friendships are primarily based upon key beliefs and major experiences we have in common with others. And when relationships begin, this is generally true, but it is equally true that our closest connections come when we know and embrace the many small facets of those around us.
In the most recent general conference, Elder Gerrit W. Gong briefly introduced us to his father, stating, “Although he passed away 20 years ago, there are times I miss my father.” And then in a short but endearing statement, he demonstrates this love not by describing his father as a generic patriarch but as someone who “loved adventure except in food. Even in France, noted for its cuisine, he would say, ‘Let’s eat Chinese food.’”  Elder Gong demonstrates how well he knew the particularities of his father, and how he loved him precisely because of those particularities.
Right now, I am missing my father as well. Due to an accident that has left him in the hospital and due to COVID restrictions, I am unable to visit him in person. But I want to share some of his quirks that I love dearly. My father is not a fan of camping, but he came to a majority of my scout camps as I grew up, including my first backpacking trip, where he volunteered us to carry a fellow scout’s tent when that boy was struggling. I took the poles, and my father took the rest of the tent. I remember vividly a long drive we took together where we read Terry Tempest Williams’s beautiful book Refuge out loud. We both started crying at the same point. And it used to drive me nuts that when the forecast predicted six inches of snow, my dad would be out when just two had fallen and then return to the driveway two more times to remove the next batches of snow. But now that I have my own driveway to shovel, I often start shoveling before the snow has ended in a restless desire to keep the driveway free of icy tire tracks. And while I shovel, I think of how wonderful my father is. He and I are bound together by myriad small instances and preferences like these, too many to count where he and I have laid bare our wonderfully peculiar particularities. If I have some conception of a loving Heavenly Father, it is because of this individual bond I have forged with my earthly father.
So far, I have demonstrated how individuality plays a role in earthly relationships, but you may be wondering how they apply to heavenly ones. Although our earthly relations are an imperfect analog for the divine relationship we have with our Savior and Heavenly Father, these positive bonds to family and friends can teach us valuable lessons about how to draw closer to the divine.
While I am not sure that in this life we will get the chance to know the Savior and Heavenly Father’s preferences in cuisine or outdoor activities, they care about our individual joys and failures, likes and dislikes, no matter how small. As President Henry B. Eyring taught, “The Book of Mormon clearly teaches that God is aware of each of us. . . . He loves us individually. He knows us better than we know ourselves.”  We can more frequently recognize Their attention and more powerfully experience Their love when we see that attention and love tied up in the things we are passionate about.
Let me offer two examples. First, the 1981 film Chariots of Fire. There are no explosions or wars for galactic control, but this film is definitely worth watching. It chronicles the rise to fame of Scottish sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell. Liddell gained notoriety when he dropped out of the 100 meter race he was favored to win because he would have to run on Sunday, but I want to focus on something else. Early in the film, there is a scene where Liddell’s sister is worried that his running is preventing him from continuing their family’s work as Christian missionaries in China. Eric’s response is noteworthy; he says, “Jenny . . . I believe God made me for a purpose, for China, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  For Liddell, running gave him access to God’s love; it allowed him to share something particular to himself with a loving Father in Heaven, and his time running was woven into a heavenly relationship.
Now, if you are like me, God may not have made you particularly fast, but he made you particular. And if you pay attention, you will feel his pleasure in your individuality—perhaps when you play the piano, tackle a new rock-climbing route, or possibly when you read or write poetry.
As an undergraduate, I was assigned to read Walt Whitman’s poem “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.” As I read the somewhat lengthy poem (those of you who have read Whitman know he can get a bit verbose), I realized that while I only understood about a third of the poem, I was enthralled with the language, the unique arrangement of words. And in my excitement, I felt in a way that I had never felt before that my Savior was reading alongside me, rejoicing in the words that I was rejoicing in.
I believe that both God and His Son are poets, but in this instance, it was less a matter of them loving poetry and more a matter that we were loving the experience together. In this relationship building moment, I learned that God and Christ cared about my fascination with words. Since then, on more than a few occasions, I have felt their pleasure as I read and write.
For most of you, these moments of feeling God’s pleasure will not come in sprinting or writing poetry, but they will come. And at times they may surprise you because you had never before considered that God and Christ delight in mathematical equations, in computer code, in the moment you can name every bone in the human body, in the pan of brownies you just perfected. And while you may not feel that pleasure every time you engage in an activity you are passionate about, you can deepen your ability to feel their pleasure if you recognize that expressing your individual gifts and talents binds you to God and Christ.
Principle two: strong relationships are founded on communication. In preparation for the April 2020 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson invited us to think deeply about how we hear our Savior. He says, “There are a few wonderful occasions in the scriptures when our Heavenly Father personally introduced His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, with a specific charge to ‘Hear Him!’. . .Today, this most-important invitation from our loving Heavenly Father to listen to the voice of the Lord and to follow His teachings is extended to us.” Then, at a very poignant moment of his invitation, President Nelson said, “I invite you to think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him?” 
As he shared this invitation, the prophet’s intonation put particular emphasis on how you hear Him. This is a recognition that while our experiences listening to the Savior may carry similarities from one person to the next, they also carry specifics that apply to us uniquely.
Such specifics might be tied to time. In a brief message about how he hears the Lord, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland remarks that we need to “carve out time, good time, high priority time” for prayer. “If you wait until midnight, when you are exhausted, and then say your prayers, it might be only a half-hearted effort before you tumble into bed. Consider moving that prayer up to earlier in the evening, when you are alert and attentive and can make it more powerful.”  Elder Holland’s injunction describes me perfectly; if I wait until bedtime—which all too often is later than it should be—my prayers are half-hearted and half-awake, or perhaps it would be more precise to say half-asleep. But where late at night is not ideal for me, it may be the perfect time for others.
For my father, some of his clearest heavenly communication comes in the middle of the night when something stirs his soul awake and over the next hour, he receives ideas about what he should do or, at times, counsel he should share with his family. For me, my prayers are often best when I address my Father in Heaven while doing the dishes at the end of the day. Because I am standing, I am not likely to fall asleep, and this time at the kitchen sink has become a holy time when others are doing homework or getting ready for bed. It is a time when I can reflect on the day that is coming to a close and think about how my family and I have been blessed and what things we need tomorrow.
For you, doing dishes may not be a prime time for conversing with the Lord. So, when do you hear the Lord most clearly? In the morning? In the evening? When you take a break from a particularly vexing homework assignment? When you are out for a walk or run? Or, as Sister Brenda Summers shared in last week’s devotional, you might hear the Lord when you record in your journal how you have seen the hand of the Lord in your life.
There are certainly tips and tricks that we can share one with another, but in the end, it is our challenge and privilege to find what works best for us individually. Think back on the past to the circumstances when your prayers have been rich and powerful. Where were you? When did this prayer happen? If your current prayers feel lacking, experiment with changes in time or place. I am not discouraging traditional morning and evening prayers, but perhaps you will find that the Lord speaks to you particularly well at certain times and when you are engaged in certain activities.
Nephi writes that the Lord God “speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.”  I believe that this runs deeper than that the Lord speaks in various languages. I believe it also means that He addresses us through enlightening concepts and enriching activities we are drawn to.
For instance, in Doctrine and Covenants 25, the Lord declares, “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.”  If songs count as a means of addressing the heavens, wouldn’t it also make sense that for some people the heavens respond intricately and individually through song? I would guess that most of us at some point have felt that a song expresses precisely how we feel or provides the courage to carry on just a bit longer when we were certain moments before that we might stumble. And if this speaking through song uplifts all of us no matter what our skill with music, wouldn’t this be even more true for those with a particular passion and training in music? And wouldn’t this also mean that God can reach out to us in a variety of media depending on our personal interests and predilections?
I have stated already that I have heard the Lord many times in reading and writing poetry, but from forcing many students against their wills to read poetry, I have learned that my experience is atypical. So, what about others? I have a neighbor who hears Him when he muses over the physical laws that govern the universe. He is able to hear God’s voice and love in theories that are too complex for me.
I loved the responses on the discussion board; while there were definite patterns in the responses, there were also very unique experiences. Teya wrote, “I hear Him best when I am moving,” and added, “It is always when I am in action. I know faith is nothing without works.” And Julie commented that as primary president she can “hear Him loud and clear when [she is] around the children.” Each of us hear Him in ways that are particular to ourselves.
Principle three: strong relationships are grounded in sacrifice. It should come as no surprise that there are few better ways to connect with someone than giving up something you love to show that you love them even more. How could Lehi and Nephi have become so thoroughly acquainted with the Lord if they hadn’t given up the riches and comforts of Jerusalem to follow the Lord’s commands? It was in the terrible moments of aching muscles and blistered feet, the excruciating experience of listening to their children and grandchildren moan from hunger (because trust me the suffering of your children is harder to take than suffering yourself); it was through these moments of sacrifice that they bound themselves to the Lord and received glorious visions of Heaven’s celestial blessings.
If you are like me, your marveling at these sacrifices might start to edge over into despair. You may question, “But I’m not certain I could give so dramatically,” or “What if I have nothing grand to offer up to the Lord?” Certainly, at moments this sort of godly giving up is requisite for forging strong relationships.
But another important way to define sacrifice is the act of taking something common and making it sacred. Think of the sacrament. In this ordinance, we take the most common elements of daily sustenance, bread and water, and we bless them to turn them into something sacred, a reminder of Christ’s body and blood. These everyday emblems of bread and water then help us transform our common selves into beings that are striving for divinity.
And this sort of sacrifice can be extended to our daily lives. It is a matter of taking something incredibly ordinary and approaching it as something sacred. For example, for years, my mother made sack lunches for myself and my five sisters. I’m not sure that she ever saw this as a sacred act; I doubt that the five thousandth sandwich made a lasting impression. But as I have looked back on my childhood, I recognize this as a consistent sacrifice in that my mother was taking a daily ordinary action that she made sacred by trying to make each day a little better for her children. And now, I have tried to carry on that tradition by preparing lunches for my own children.
As you scour over your lives, perhaps there are a few small things you can give up, or perhaps more importantly, there are some small, daily but necessary, individual experiences that you can sacrifice by making them sacred. What if you made your chemistry homework a sacrifice, not by giving it up, but by making it a sacred act where you gave of your individual experience to bind yourself to Christ and Heavenly Father?
What if you used something you are particularly passionate about as a means of honoring God, perhaps through painting or photography, perhaps through physical exertion, perhaps through academic excellence? My challenge for you is to find some way to share your individuality with Christ and Heavenly Father, possibly in prayer or possibly in some small, ordinary act that you make sacred. Part of this process of sacrifice will be a change in mindset where you focus on Christ and Heavenly Father as you use your talents as an expression of honor and love. Another part of the process may be adding prayer to the experience. I promise that this experience will help you more clearly recognize who Christ and Heavenly Father are for you, and you will find beyond any doubt that they value you, not as a generic member of the fold, but as a unique individual that brings them pleasure as you engage in acts that are profoundly particular to you.
In closing, I want to share one of my poems with you because it is a part of my ongoing effort to build a personal relationship with Christ.
There is little stillness in devotion.
Pioneers bloody their fragile feet on stone,
Charting their slow path to God through motion.
Migrating birds crisscross entire oceans;
Willows slump and heave as they are blown;
There is little stillness in devotion.
Mountains kneel slowly through long erosion.
A scraping rosary of rock-made moans
Charting an age-long path to God through motion.
The quilter’s quiet hands in commotion
Place fabric blocks in patterns to be sown;
There is little stillness in devotion.
The sacrament should fill with what emotion?
The cup and bread of blood and bone
Chart a remembered path to God through motion.
An olive grove, man and God in contortion
Twisting with sheer energy to atone—
There is little stillness in devotion.
What is holy? We have scarcely any notion
Beyond the rupture we feel when we’re alone.
There is little stillness in devotion.
We chart our paths to God through motion.
I believe that God and our Savior love us dearly as individuals, that They are seeking to know us, and that we are seeking to know Them. And I promise you that as you reach out in honest prayer, and as you try to make your daily lives sacred, They will reach out to you in ways that you might not have even imagined and will share Their love with you. I share this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 2 Nephi 31:2, 18.
 2 Nephi 33:6.
 2 Nephi 31:20.
 Gerrit W. Gong, “Room in the Inn,” Ensign, May 2021.
 Henry B. Eyring, “Open House Shares Message of Book of Mormon,” Deseret News, Feb. 28, 1998.
 Colin Welland, Chariots of Fire, 1981.
 Russell M. Nelson. “President Nelson’s Second Invitation of 2020: ‘How Do You Hear Him?’ #HearHim,” Church News, Feb. 26, 2020.
 Jeffrey R. Holland. “To ‘Hear Him’ Is the Essence of the Restoration,” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/inspiration/to-hear-him-is-the-essence-of-the-restoration?lang=eng.
 2 Nephi 31:3.
 Doctrine and Covenants 25:12.