Saturday, July 22, 2017

Elder L. Tom Perry on life lessons from the faithful pioneers

Elder L. Tom Perry (1922-2015) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1972, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1974. At the time of his passing at age 92, he was the oldest living general authority and the third in seniority among the leading quorum.
"Former United States president Ronald Reagan has been quoted as saying, 'I do not want to go back to the past; I want to go back to the past way of facing the future.' (Quoted in George F. Will, 'One Man's America,' Cato Policy Report, Sept.-Oct. 2008, 11.) His counsel still resonates within me. There is something about reviewing the lessons of the past to prepare us to face the challenges of the future. What a glorious legacy of faith, courage, and ingenuity those noble early Mormon pioneers have left for us to build upon. My admiration for them deepens the longer I live.
"Embracing the gospel resulted in a complete change of life for them. They left everything behind—their homes, their businesses, their farms, and even their beloved family members—to journey into a wilderness. It must have been a real shock when Brigham Young announced, 'This is' (Quoted in Wilford Woodruff, 'Celebration of Pioneers' Day,' The Utah Pioneers (1880), 23.) Before them was a vast desert wasteland, barren of green hills, trees, and beautiful meadows which most of those early pioneers had known. With firm faith in God and their leaders, the early pioneers went to work to create beautiful communities in the shadows of the mountains."
- L. Tom Perry, "The Past Way of Facing the Future," General Conference, October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We can learn much about our lives today by looking at the past. Even though circumstances are very different in our world than they were when the Mormon Pioneers first entered the Salt Lake valley 170 years ago, Elder Perry suggests that their "legacy of faith, courage, and ingenuity" will teach us much about confronting the challenges we face today.

As we focus on the pioneer journey to the west, we sometimes forget the sacrifices that preceded that undertaking. So many of the early Church members left behind their whole life, including employment, family members, and possessions, to answer the call to "come to Zion." Most were not "trained" in pioneering skills. But they moved on with faith, learning as they went, and feeling the blessings of divine providence in their efforts—"with firm faith in God and their leaders." Those are lessons we should remember today!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Friday, July 21, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley on confronting life's challenges with temple peace

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.
"Take advantage of the blessings of the house of the Lord. What a privilege. Every man or woman who goes to the temple comes out of that building a better man or woman than he or she was when entering into it. That’s something that’s remarkable that happens with all of us.
"Is life filled with cares for you? Do you have problems and concerns and worries? Do you want for peace in your heart and an opportunity to commune with the Lord and meditate upon His way? Go to the house of the Lord and there feel of His spirit and commune with Him and you will know a peace that you will find nowhere else. Take advantage of it. What a great and wonderful blessing it is."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Wandsworth, England stake conference, 27 Aug. 1995; see Ensign, Apr. 1996, p. 72

President Hinckley describes several blessings of temple worship in this excerpt. The first is self-improvement: we come out from the temple "a better man or woman" for the experience.
The second benefit is perhaps far more valuable. As we deal with the cares and challenges of our lives, we are promised a peace through temple attendance that we won't find in any other way:

More specifically, President Hinckley identifies blessings of the temple that include the chance to commune with God, to meditate on His plan for us, to feel His spirit, and to know deep peace. It's no wonder he encourages us to take advantage of the great and wonderful blessing of temples!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on Christ's constant support for us

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (born December 3, 1940) served as Church Commissioner of Education from 1976-1980, as the president of BYU from 1980-1989, as a Seventy from 1989-1994, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1994.
"Christ walked the path every mortal is called to walk so that he would know how to succor and strengthen us in our most difficult times. He knows the deepest and most personal burdens we carry. He knows the most public and poignant pains we bear. He descended below all such grief in order that he might lift us above it. There is no anguish or sorrow or sadness in life that he has not suffered in our behalf and borne away upon his own valiant and compassionate shoulders (see Luke 15:5)....
"That aspect of the Atonement brings an additional kind of rebirth, something of immediate renewal, help, and hope that allow us to rise above sorrows and sickness, misfortunes and mistakes of every kind. With his mighty arm around us and lifting us, we face life more joyfully even as we face death more triumphantly.
"Only on the strong shoulders of the Master can we 'fear not.' Only in his embrace is there safety. Only in covenant with him is there freedom from death and 'every sin, which easily doth beset you' (Alma 7:15; Matt 11:28-29). Only in him is there peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant [1997], pp. 223-224

Elder Holland's book Christ and the New Covenant is packed with insights and testimonies of the Savior, His love for us, and His mission for us. This example testifies of that sweet love and the power of His atonement. When we truly come to know and believe that "He knows the deepest and most personal burdens we carry" as well as "the most public and poignant pains we bear," our ability to draw on the power of His love becomes magnified. Coming to that appreciation constitutes a rebirth in itself, according to Elder Holland, as we feel the immediate help and hope of His powerful love.

Truly, "With his mighty arm around us and lifting us, we face life more joyfully even as we face death more triumphantly." What a sweet and powerful testimony from Elder Holland, and what a treasured blessing for each of us who comes to understand and appreciate the sacred gift of love offered to us.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

President Joseph Fielding Smith on finding peace through life's trials

Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) was the son of Joseph F. Smith, 6th president of the Church, and grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph. He was called as an apostle in 1910, and served as the 10th president of the Church from 1970 until his death in 1972 at age 95.
"If we shall search diligently, pray always, be believing, and walk uprightly, we have the Lord’s promise that all things shall work together for our good [see D&C 90:24]. This is not a promise that we shall be free from the trials and problems of life, for this probationary state is designed to give us experience and difficult and conflicting situations.
"Life never was intended to be easy, but the Lord has promised that he will cause all trials and difficulties to result in our good. He will give us strength and ability to overcome the world and to stand firm in the faith despite all opposition. It is a promise that we shall have peace in our hearts despite the tumults and troubles of the world. And above all, it is a promise that when this life is over, we shall qualify for eternal peace in the presence of Him whose face we have sought, whose laws we have kept, and whom we have chosen to serve."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, “President Joseph Fielding Smith Speaks on the New MIA Theme,” New Era, Sept. 1971, 40
Click here to read the full article

Sometimes, we have difficulty seeing that "all things" are "work[ing] together for our good" in the midst of trials and challenges. We strive to do the things the Lord asked, but still the difficulties continue. Often, the problem is that we try to set our own timetable for trials to end; but the Lord may have things for us to learn. President Smith reminds us that trials are needed as a part of life, and that ultimately they will result in our good if we are willing to trust God and His timing:

We can "have peace in our hearts" even in the midst of difficulties, knowing that God is in charge and that ultimately all will be made right. Truly, that is the peace "which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). How important it is to learn to trust in Him and His timing for our learning experiences! That has to be one of the greatest purposes of this mortal experience.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Elder Robert D. Hales on the roles of parents

Elder Robert D. Hales (born August 24, 1932) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"The calling of father or mother is sacred and carries with it great significance. One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities given to us is that of being a parent—helping to bring to earth a child of God and having the sacred responsibility to love, care, and guide children back to our Heavenly Father. In many ways earthly parents represent their Heavenly Father in the process of nurturing, loving, caring, and teaching children. Children naturally look to their parents to learn of the characteristics of their Heavenly Father. After they come to love, respect, and have confidence in their earthly parents, they often unknowingly develop the same feelings towards their Heavenly Father.
"No parent on earth is perfect. In fact, children are very understanding when they sense and feel that parents truly care and are attempting to be the best they can be.
"It helps children to see that good parents can have differing opinions, and that these differences can be worked out without striking, yelling, or throwing things. They need to see and feel calm communication with respect for each other's viewpoints so they themselves will know how to work through differences in their own lives.
"Parents are counseled to teach their children by precept and example."
- Robert D. Hales, "How Will Our Children Remember Us?", Ensign, November 1993, pp. 8-10
Click here to read or listen to the full article

Most parents realize that the opportunity to act in that role is, as Elder Hales teaches, "One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities given to us" because it involves "the sacred responsibility to love, care, and guide children back to our Heavenly Father." Providing appropriate teaching and setting the right example is critical:

Just to raise children in today's world is very challenging; but that added need to do all possible to guide them back to Heavenly Father makes the task seem almost overwhelming, if we consider only our personal knowledge and ability. It is comforting to be reminded that no parent is perfect—we all fall short in our efforts to be ideal parents. But miracles happen when we attempt to do the best we know how.

I like Elder Hales' suggestion that among the example parents set for children is how to work through disagreements and differences in appropriate ways. When children observe "calm communication with respect for each other's viewpoints" they are taught a critical life lesson that will help in many settings, not just in their own future family.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Monday, July 17, 2017

Elder M. Russell Ballard on feeling and sharing peace

Elder M. Russell Ballard (born October 8, 1928) was called as a Seventy in 1976, and has served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1985.
"On more than one occasion, the Lord urged His followers to be 'peacemakers,' promising that such would 'be called the children of God' (Matt. 5:9). That concept is woven throughout the scriptures, creating a patchwork of peace through parable and proclamation:
"• 'Agree with thine adversary' (Matt. 5:25).
"• 'Love your enemies' (Matt. 5:44).
"• 'Judge not' (Matt. 7:1).
"• 'Love thy neighbour as thyself' (Matt. 22:39).
"• 'Condemn not' (Luke 6:37).
"• 'Forgive' (Luke 6:37).
"• 'Love one another' (John 13:34).
"Those are but a few of the scriptural instructions clearly indicating that God's peace is not to be hoarded. Rather, it is to be shared liberally with our families, our friends, and our communities. It is to be shared with the Church as well as those who are not members of our Church. While those around us may not choose to taste the sweetness and peace of the fulness of the restored gospel for themselves, surely they will be blessed by seeing it in our lives and feeling the peace of the gospel in our presence. The message of peace will grow and expand through our example.
"'Live in peace,' said the Apostle Paul, 'and the God of love and peace shall be with you' (2 Cor. 13:11)."
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom," Ensign, May 2002, pp. 87-89
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

How can we follow the Savior's injunction to be a peacemaker? Elder Ballard offers suggestions on things we can do in our lives to bring more peace to ourselves and to share it more effectively with others. It begins as we find peace for ourselves, and then share it with others:

So a peacemaker is one who can share peace by words and actions in all associations with others; but also, be an example of peace even when others may not be ready to receive or follow. We we are filled with peace, others will feel that peace in our presence. What a gift, to be that kind of person in a world filled with conflict and confusion!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on deepening our personal discipleship

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) served as a Seventy from 1976-1981, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until his death from cancer in 2004.
"These comments are for the essentially 'honorable' members who are skimming over the surface instead of deepening their discipleship and who are casually engaged rather than 'anxiously engaged.' (D&C 76:75; D&C 58:27.) Though nominal in their participation, their reservations and hesitations inevitably show through. They may even pass through our holy temples, but, alas, they do not let the holy temples pass through them.
"Such members accept callings but not all of the accompanying responsibilities; hence, their Church chores must often be done by those already 'anxiously engaged.' Some regard themselves as merely 'resting' in between Church callings. But we are never in between as to this soaring call from Jesus: 'What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.' (3 Ne. 27:27; see Matt. 5:48; 3 Ne. 12:48.) It is never safe to rest regarding that calling! In fact, being 'valiant' in one’s testimony of Jesus includes striving to become more like Him in mind, heart, and attributes. (D&C 76:79.) Becoming this manner of men and women is the ultimate expression of orthodoxy!
"All are free to choose, of course, and we would not have it otherwise. Unfortunately, however, when some choose slackness, they are choosing not only for themselves, but for the next generation and the next. Small equivocations in parents can produce large deviations in their children! Earlier generations in a family may have reflected dedication, while some in the current generation evidence equivocation. Sadly, in the next, some may choose dissension as erosion takes its toll."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Settle This in Your Hearts,” General Conference October 1992
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It's interesting to ponder the difference between being anxiously engaged and casually engaged. There is probably a continuum of options between two extremes, but we might each consider if there are areas in our life where our commitment is not as deep as it might be. The example Elder Maxwell gives of "passing through" the temple without having the temple really pass through us is particularly illustrative.

The Church needs members who are thoroughly converted and willing to serve with faithful devotion. As we strive to be more valiant in our testimony, our lives will show the difference:

It's also important to note that these choices never impact just the person making the choice. They also reach across generations and circles of influence. President John Taylor's classic statement comes to mind: "If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty." (Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 6 Aug. 1878, 1.) How important it is that we make those ongoing efforts to be valiant in our testimony of Jesus, "striving to become more like Him in mind, heart, and attributes."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)
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