The Unexpected Signal


I know a kid who struck out on his own early in life.

He’s been living solo for a few years now. Came from a big family where he easily felt lost in the crowd. He’s seen all his older siblings go and live their lives, some in the Church, some not. He’s a brilliant young man. He got a scholarship to attend an elite math and science academy boarding school as a 14 year old.  Living away from home as a teenager, it was quite natural for him to just not bother going to Church. Being Mormon just wasn’t a ‘thing’ for him there. He didn’t have a quorum to join or weekly youth nights to attend. So we watched him out there, finding his own way for a few years.

He’s gone on to university now as a freshman, just turned 20 years old. Going on a mission just hasn’t entered his mind. (He has followed more of Hitchens and Dawkins than Hinckley and Holland.) I’d still try to find ways to stay in contact with him, whether it be discussing the philosophical differences of Star Wars Ep. VII vs. the Prequels, or geeking out on our mutual love for Brandon Sanderson novels. Of all the ways we’ve tried connecting with each other, the Gospel has never really worked for us.

This morning he texted me.

7:42 AM txt msg :: “Hey man, can we talk?”

When you get a text like that early on a Sunday morning, yeah, you forget everything else that’s going on and you talk.

He tells me that he’d just gotten a new apartment and a new roommate. He said “Ben, I don’t know any other way to explain this, but I got something like an impression in my heart that I needed to be both careful and helpful with this new guy…like I could be a light to him somehow, like I could somehow support him in his life. And I don’t get it.. I don’t get those kinds of feelings.”

I could read between the lines of what he was telling me. I told him that sometimes when we use things like cell phones or laptops or radios, sometimes we may get weird little signals from places we weren’t meaning to tune in to. Sometimes folks with ordinary terrestrial radios have picked up snippets of broadcasts from the International Space Station even though they weren’t trying to. Sometimes people with baby monitors can hear phone conversations in neighboring apartments.

And sometimes God will still send impressions to people who aren’t used to talking to Him.

Granted, such impressions won’t always be very strong and they won’t necessarily override the agency we have. But sometimes we just may get a little pulse of a signal from something of a higher plane, something out there reaching to us, trying to talk to us.

His experience reminds me of the beautiful sublime Truth —  there is a God in Heaven who loves us. And He can find ways to talk to us through little tiny pulses of light and intelligence. And then we have the choice as to how we’re going to respond.

So that’s what I told him.

“Are you going to find ways to maybe tune in a little bit more, seeing if you can get closer to that signal, shut out the noise, and make the signal a little bit stronger? Are you going to actually act on what you feel?

Or are you going to just let it wash over you and fade away?”

He said “Well, I think I know what I need to do.”

So we talked for a few more minutes and I felt a little pulse hit me with a prompting. And the irony wasn’t lost on me; there I was, trying to help him have the courage to follow the Spirit, while I was simultaneously welling up my own courage to do the same.

So I said a silent prayer, took a breath and big gulp and said “You know…I think God is trying to call you back.”

And what wonderful joy as I could hear him smile over the phone as his tension melted away.

He said “I…I think He is too.”

This may be the first time he’s realized on his own what God could really be. He’s had a whole life of people talking at him about the Church and he’s had people talk at him about Gospel stuff and what he should do.

But this was the first time where he felt a dose of truth that helped him know why. And now he could say he knew for himself. And yes it was small, only candle-sized. But he knew that if he would take steps to get closer to the source of that signal, then it would get signal and the light would go brighter.


There is a God who lives and knows each one of us. He’s there. And if we tune in to His signals, get out of the dead spaces, eliminate the noises and do what we can to truly listen, he’ll speak to us in the ways we need to hear.

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