Literary OTGD #28: The Still Small Voice by George H. Brimhall

July 9, 2014 | one comment
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George_H_BrimhallThe story of Elijah listening for the voice of the Lord (1 Kings 19:9-13) is frequently used by Mormons to describe the manner we can receive revelation. Old Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson #28 includes that story, along with others discussing Elijah’s acts as prophet, but focusing on his listening to the Lord to accomplish those acts.

While it is undeniably important for a prophet like Elijah to listen to the still small voice, in latter days Mormons emphasize that all people should receive revelation, an idea that is found in the following poem.

Its author, George H. Brimhall (1852-1932), was the second president of BYU, succeeding Benjamin Cluff, who elevated the institution from an “Academy” (or high school) to a University. Born in Salt Lake City, Brimhall grew up in Spanish Fork and studied at the academy, graduating as his class’ valedictorian. After working as principal of the Spanish Fork schools and then as superintendent of the Utah County schools, Brimhall returned to the academy in 1897 as a faculty member.  He was elevated to the new University’s presidency in 1904, less than a year after it became a University, and served until he resigned in 1921 because of the increasing chest and abdominal pain that plagued him for much of his life. He continued teaching and served as the chair of the department of Theology and Religion, until the pain became unbearable, leading Brimhall to commit suicide in 1932, two years after the following poem was published.

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The Still Small Voice

By George H. Brimhall

The still, small voice to the Prophet said,
Speak, speak, speak,
Proclaim the power of God o’er head,
Speak, speak, speak.

 

The still, small voice to the poet said,
Sing, sing, sing,
Before thy voice despair hath fled,
Sing, sing, sing.

 

The still, small voice to the scientist said,
Seek, seek, seek,
Bring forth the truth from its curtained bed,
Seek, seek, seek.

 

The still, small voice to the artist said,
Make, make, make,
Let comfort’s car be onward sped,
Make, make, make.

 

The still, small voice to the teacher said,
Teach, teach, teach,
By children’s needs let man be led,
Teach, teach, teach.

 

The still small voice to the statesman said,
Plan, plan, plan,
For freedom’s ever forward tread,
Plan, plan, plan.

 

The still, small voice to the toiler said,
Rise, rise, rise,
Let labor proudly hold up its head,
Rise, rise, rise.

 

The still, small voice to the wealthy said,
Help, help, help,
That all may earn, be clothed and fed,
Help, help, help.

 

The still, small voice to the nations said,
Peace, peace, peace,
Let gods of war no more be fed,
Peace, peace, peace.

 

The still, small voice to the peace world said,
Grow, grow, grow,
O, tree of joy with branches spread,
Grow, grow, grow.

The Instructor v65 n9
September 1930 p. 521
[HT: Keepapitchinin]

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The beauty of the original story in 1 Kings is the idea that revelation doesn’t necessarily come in the way generally expected. Brimhall’s message shows that revelation is also not limited to prophets, nor even to our private lives. Instead, revelation, the still small voice, also comes to each of us according to our roles and callings, our responsibilities in life.

With that view, Brimhall suggests potential revelations for seven different roles—and in some cases these suggestions may rub some church members wrong; not because of the idea that each of us deserve revelation for our vocations or avocations, but because they disagree with Brimhall’s proposed potential revelations.

I suspect Brimhall may have been surprised at that.

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One Response to Literary OTGD #28: The Still Small Voice by George H. Brimhall

  1. charlene on July 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm

    what a beautiful voice for a leader in education. theology and religion. wonderful that he validates different paths. so sad that his constant pain led to difficult choices and actions.

    thank you, Kent, for finding and sharing these nuggets.

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