Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Elder Dale G. Renlund on the blessings of choosing to obey

Elder Dale G. Renlund (born November 13, 1952) served in the First Quorum of Seventy starting in 2009, until his call to the Quorum of Twelve in October 2015.
"God’s plan includes directions for us, referred to in the scriptures as commandments. These commandments are neither a whimsical set nor an arbitrary collection of imposed rules meant only to train us to be obedient. They are linked to our developing the attributes of godliness, returning to our Heavenly Father, and receiving enduring joy. Obedience to His commandments is not blind; we knowingly choose God and His pathway home. The pattern for us is the same as it was for Adam and Eve, wherein 'God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption' (Alma 12:32). Though God wants us to be on the covenant path, He gives us the dignity of choosing.
"Indeed, God desires, expects, and directs that each of His children choose for himself or herself. He will not force us. Through the gift of agency, God permits His children 'to act for themselves and not to be acted upon' (2 Nephi 2:26; see also 2 Nephi 2:16). Agency allows us to choose to get on the path, or not. It allows us to get off, or not. Just as we cannot be forced to obey, we cannot be forced to disobey. No one can, without our cooperation, take us off the path."
- Dale G. Renlund, "Choose You This Day," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Renlund addressed a question that many have asked: why does God give us commandments? They are not "whimsical" or "arbitrary"—not randomly imposed to "train us to be obedient." Our loving, caring Father in Heaven has a purpose for our mortal experience, and that purpose is to help us develop "the attributes of godliness" that will bring us ultimate joy:

Furthermore, God does not ask "blind obedience" but wants us to willingly choose the "covenant path" of happiness. We have the agency to choose to follow that path; and we have the agency to choose to stop following the path. But true joy can only be found in one way.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Monday, November 12, 2018

President Joseph Smith on the process of personal revelation

Joseph Smith (December 23, 1805-June 27, 1844) was given the apostolic authority when the Church of Jesus Christ was organized on April 6, 1830 and he was designated the first president of the church at age 24. He was martyred in 1844 at age 38.
"A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus."
- Joseph Smith, discourse on June 27, 1839, in Commerce, Illinois; see HC 3:381 or TPJS 151

Among the doctrinal foundations established by Joseph Smith as part of the restoration is the very fundamental concept of man's communication with God. This principle doesn't apply just to prophets and leaders, but to every person who will do what is necessary to open the lines of communication.

I love this quote; we can discover the beginnings of the "spirit of revelation" when we notice "pure intelligence flowing" to us from God.

The real key is to act upon the intelligence when it comes, and to then notice the fulfillment of the promptings; that strengthens our confidence and faith in God and in the process of revelation, and opens the door to more and greater communication in the future. Until, as Joseph noted, we may ultimately "grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on making the Sabbath a delight

President Russell M. Nelson (born Sept 9, 1924) was an internationally-renowned heart surgeon when he was called to serve as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984. He became president of that quorum on July 15, 2015. Following the death of President Monson, he was set apart as president of the Church on January 14, 2018.
"I am intrigued by the words of Isaiah, who called the Sabbath 'a delight' (Isaiah 58:13). Yet I wonder, is the Sabbath really a delight for you and for me?
"I first found delight in the Sabbath many years ago when, as a busy surgeon, I knew that the Sabbath became a day for personal healing. By the end of each week, my hands were sore from repeatedly scrubbing them with soap, water, and a bristle brush. I also needed a breather from the burden of a demanding profession. Sunday provided much-needed relief.
"What did the Savior mean when He said that 'the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath' (Mark 2:27)? I believe He wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal. God gave us this special day, not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest from duty, with physical and spiritual relief."
- Russell M. Nelson, "The Sabbath Is a Delight," General Conference, April 2015, Sunday afternoon session
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a landmark talk by President Nelson, in which he gave us many insights into the doctrine of the Sabbath Day. I always appreciate the personal touch he often uses, describing his own experiences that led to insights, such as the life of a busy surgeon benefiting from a day of rest; the Sabbath, for him, "became a day for personal healing." And he learned that the healing was not only physical, but also spiritual:

The Sabbath was made for us. It is a gift from God to help us find that physical and spiritual rejuvenation from the labors of the week. It's not some pre-existing mandate into which man is forced to comply. We should show our gratitude for the gift by learning to truly make the Sabbath a delight in our homes and personal lives.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

President Boyd K. Packer on family life and eternal compensation

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death on July 3, 2015 at age 90.
"When we speak of marriage and family life, there inevitably comes to mind, 'What about the exceptions?' Some are born with limitations and cannot beget children. Some innocents have their marriage wrecked because of the infidelity of their spouse. Others do not marry and live in single worthiness.
"For now I offer this comfort: God is our Father! All the love and generosity manifest in the ideal earthly father is magnified in Him who is our Father and our God beyond the capacity of the mortal mind to comprehend. His judgments are just; His mercy without limit; His power to compensate beyond any earthly comparison. 'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable' (1 Corinthians 15:19)."
- Boyd K. Packer, "The Plan of Happiness," General Conference April 2015
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We didn't know it at the time, of course, but President Packer's talk in the April 2015 conference would be his final public address; he passed away three months later. This segment represents part of the testimony that was his message throughout his lifetime of teachings: God is our Father, and He will love and sustain us through mortality.

Having spoken about marriage and families, President Packer acknowledged that one of the challenges of mortality is that not every individual has the ideal opportunities in this area. Not all will have happy marriages; not all will have the opportunity to raise children. But yet, when we know and trust God, we must also know and trust that "His power to compensate [is] beyond any earthly comparison."

If we can think of the most ideal example of fatherhood we know of in the earthly setting, President Packer's message is that God's role as our loving Heavenly Father is magnified beyond our comprehension.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Elder Robert D. Hales on learning to exercise agency wisely

Elder Robert D. Hales (August 24, 1932-October 1, 2017) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"Though He 'was in all points tempted like as we are' (Hebrews 4:15), with every choice and every action He exercised the agency to be our Savior—to break the chains of sin and death for us. And by His perfect life, He taught us that when we choose to do the will of our Heavenly Father, our agency is preserved, our opportunities increase, and we progress.

"Evidence of this truth is found throughout the scriptures. Job lost everything he had yet chose to remain faithful, and he gained the eternal blessings of God. Mary and Joseph chose to follow the warning of an angel to flee into Egypt, and the life of the Savior was preserved. Joseph Smith chose to follow the instructions of Moroni, and the Restoration unfolded as prophesied.Whenever we choose to come unto Christ, take His name upon us, and follow His servants, we progress along the path to eternal life.
"In our mortal journey, it is helpful to remember that the opposite is also true: when we don’t keep the commandments or follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, our opportunities are reduced; our abilities to act and progress are diminished. When Cain took his brother’s life because he loved Satan more than God, his spiritual progress was stopped."
- Robert D. Hales, "Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life," General Conference October 2010
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In this excerpt, Elder Hales discussed one of the grand, eternal principles related to agency. As we choose to exercise our agency in beneficial ways, following God's will for us, we preserve that agency and grow in opportunities and in our personal progress. However, if we exercise our agency in a negative way, choosing to disobey commandments or ignore spiritual promptings, we gradually lose the ability to choose and to progress.

Learning to use our agency wisely is truly one of the crucial lessons of mortality.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on the discipline of the gospel way

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1961. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1981-1995, then as Church President until his death in 2008.
"The Lord himself declared that 'strait is the gate and narrow is the way.' Any system dealing with the eternal consequences of human behavior must set guidelines and adhere to them, and no system can long command the loyalties of men that does not expect of them certain measures of discipline, and particularly of self-discipline. The cost in comfort may be great. The sacrifice may be real. But this very demanding reality is the substance of which come character and strength and nobility.
"Permissiveness never produced greatness. Integrity, loyalty, strength are virtues whose sinews are developed through the struggles that go on within a man as he practices self-discipline under the demands of divinely spoken truth.
"But there is another side of the coin, without which this self-discipline is little more than an exercise. Discipline imposed for the sake of discipline is repressive. It is not in the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is usually enforced by fear, and its results are negative.
"But that which is positive, which comes of personal conviction, builds and lifts and strengthens in a marvelous manner. In matters of religion, when a man is motivated by great and powerful convictions of truth, then he disciplines himself, not because of demands made upon him by the Church but because of the knowledge within his heart that God lives; that he is a child of God with an eternal and limitless potential; that there is joy in service and satisfaction in laboring in a great cause."
- Gordon B. Hickley, "The True Strength of the Church," General Conference April 1973
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Hinckley reminds us that we should expect to be challenged by our beliefs; there should be sacrifice and self-discipline involved.  It brings to mind the statement attributed to Joseph Smith: "A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation." (Lectures on Faith, p. 58.) We should expect that "the cost in comfort may be great." But we should also see the rewards, expressed in character, strength, integrity, loyalty, and nobility.

President Hinckley also teaches that the reason for discipline is crucial. "Discipline imposed for the sake of discipline is repressive" and is usually enforced by fear; that is not the Gospel way. Our discipline should be motivated by our knowledge of God's existence and our relationship to Him. Joy comes as we accept the path of obedience for the right reasons.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Elder Mark E. Petersen on living the gospel with enthusiasm

Elder Mark E. Petersen (1900-1984) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve from 1944 until his death in 1984.
"Do you see why the Lord said we should be in the world but not of the world? How do we know he expects enthusiasm from us? Did he not say that we were to love him with all our heart, might, mind, and soul? Is that not enthusiasm? And when he talked about love of God, he talked in terms of service to God: 'O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day' (D&C 4:2).
"He expects us to put our priorities in order, too. What is to come first in our lives? Pleasure? Even work here at this university? You remember what the Savior said in the Sermon on the Mount. He was talking about shelter and food and raiment, what I call the bread-and-butter blessings, but he did not put them first. He said, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you' (Matt. 6:33).
"Do we have the faith and the courage to be Latter-day Saints first, last, and always, and to put the gospel of Jesus Christ first in our lives, knowing that if we do God will bless us and prosper us in all of our righteous activities? He gives many illustrations, but I mention only one. What did Malachi say would happen if we pay our tithes and offerings? The windows of heaven would be opened to such an extent that we could hardly receive the blessings (see Mal. 3:8-10). Do we believe Almighty God? Do we really accept Jesus as the Christ? He said, 'If ye love me, keep my commandments.... He that hath my commandments and keepth them, he it is that loveth me' (John 14:15, 21).
"I pray earnestly that we will love him and serve him and honor him by our righteous lives."
- Mark E. Petersen, "The Covenant People of God," BYU Fireside, September 28, 1980
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I was a student at BYU when Elder Petersen gave this address. I remember the first part of the talk, when he described the meetings and setting for the weekly gatherings of the Quorum of Twelve in the Salt Lake Temple. That was impressive to me. But I had forgotten these later words, where he offers great counsel about how we should live the gospel in our lives.

The concept of living the gospel with enthusiasm underscores both the joy that we should feel in the process, and the deep commitment we should have to be obedient and to serve others. As we make wise choices in our beliefs and actions, we will feel this spirit:

Elder Petersen asks if we have enough courage and faith "to be Latter-day Saints first, last, and always." There should be no other priority that eclipses this one, in any setting or situation of our lives!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)
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