Saturday, October 20, 2018

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on standing in holy places to overcome fear

Elder Ronald A. Rasband (b. February 6, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 2000.  He was the senior president of the Seventy when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"When we stand in holy places—our righteous homes, our dedicated chapels, the consecrated temples—we feel the Spirit of the Lord with us. We find answers to questions that trouble us or the peace to simply set them aside. That is the Spirit in action. These sacred places in the kingdom of God on earth call for our reverence, our respect for others, our best selves in living the gospel, and our hopes to lay aside our fears and seek the healing power of Jesus Christ through His Atonement.
"There is no room for fear in these holy places of God or in the hearts of His children. Why? Because of love. God loves us—always—and we love Him. Our love of God counters all fears, and His love abounds in holy places. Think about it. When we are tentative in our commitments to the Lord, when we stray from His path leading to life eternal, when we question or doubt our significance in His divine design, when we allow fear to open the door to all its companions—discouragement, anger, frustration, disappointment—the Spirit leaves us, and we are without the Lord. If you know what that is like, you know it is not a good place to be. In contrast, when we stand in holy places, we can feel God’s love, and 'perfect love casteth out all fear' (Moroni 8:16)."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "Be Not Troubled," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Rasband's message responded to the challenges and uncertainties we sometimes face in our lives that cause fear. We all have them from time to time, in different degrees and for varied reasons; but there are ways to compensate and overcome as we strive to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. His first suggestion was to learn to find comfort and hope as we recognize and "stand" in the places in our lives that are holy—temples, chapels, homes.


Perhaps we would do well to evaluate whether our homes, in particular, provide the kind of sacred environment Elder Rasband is describing, where reverence, respect, and gospel living are the normal condition.

Holy places are filled with God's love, Elder Rasband teaches; and that love drives fears away. "Our love of God counters all fears, and His love abounds in holy places." But Elder Rasband warns of things that might cause the Lord's spirit to depart, leaving us with the fears of the world:

  • when we are tentative in our commitments to the Lord
  • when we stray from His path leading to life eternal
  • when we question or doubt our significance in His divine design
  • when we allow fear to open the door to all its companions—discouragement, anger, frustration, disappointment

A good warning for us all, to do the things that will enable us all to "stand in holy places and be not moved."

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

Friday, October 19, 2018

Elder Neil L. Andersen on the Savior's power to heal our wounds

Elder Neil L. Andersen (born August 9, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"We each understand that difficulties are part of life, but when they come to us personally, they can take our breath away. Without being alarmed, we need to be ready.... Along with the bright colors of happiness and joy, the darker-colored threads of trial and tragedy are woven deeply into the fabric of our Father’s plan. These struggles, although difficult, often become our greatest teachers....
"Never give up—however deep the wounds of your soul, whatever their source, wherever or whenever they happen, and however short or long they persist, you are not meant to perish spiritually. You are meant to survive spiritually and blossom in your faith and trust in God.
"God did not create our spirits to be independent of Him. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through the incalculable gift of His Atonement, not only saves us from death and offers us, through repentance, forgiveness for our sins, but He also stands ready to save us from the sorrows and pains of our wounded souls.
"The Savior is our Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30–35), sent 'to heal the brokenhearted' (Luke 4:18; see also Isaiah 61:1). He comes to us when others pass us by. With compassion, He places His healing balm on our wounds and binds them up. He carries us. He cares for us. He bids us, 'Come unto me ... and I shall heal [you]' (3 Nephi 18:32)."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Wounded," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Andersen joined with others in the recent conference who discussed the challenges that come to us in life. Using the example of the missionaries who were critically injured in the airport bombing in Belgium, he emphasized that these trials and tests come to the righteous who are doing all they can to be faithful and obedient. But yet, when the trials come, "they can take our breath away" with their suddenness and severity.

But with the proper understanding of God's plan for our mortal experience, we can retain the perspective and hope that will allow us to endure through such challenges with faith and with Divine help. Elder Andersen teaches that we are "not meant to perish spiritually" and will not only survive but "blossom in your faith and trust in God" as we move forward, trusting in Him and drawing on the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.


That's a beautiful reminder; the Savior will come to bind our wounds and carry us to safety as we trust in Him.

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

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on having the gospel as our defining focus

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (born January 24, 1945) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"To persevere firm and steadfast in the faith of Christ requires that the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrate one’s heart and soul, meaning that the gospel becomes not just one of many influences in a person’s life but the defining focus of his or her life and character....
"Most of us find ourselves at this moment on a continuum between a socially motivated participation in gospel rituals on the one hand and a fully developed, Christlike commitment to the will of God on the other. Somewhere along that continuum, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ enters into our heart and takes possession of our soul. It may not happen in an instant, but we should all be moving toward that blessed state.
"It is challenging but vital to remain firm and steadfast when we find ourselves being refined 'in the furnace of affliction' (1 Nephi 20:10; see also Isaiah 48:10), something that comes soon or late to all of us in mortality. Without God, these dark experiences tend to despondency, despair, and even bitterness. With God, comfort replaces pain, peace replaces turmoil, and hope replaces sorrow. Remaining firm in the faith of Christ will bring His sustaining grace and support. He will convert trial into blessing and, in Isaiah’s words, 'give … beauty for ashes' (Isaiah 61:3)."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Firm and Steadfast in the Faith of Christ," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was one of several talks from the recent conference that taught about the importance of focusing our efforts and attention on Jesus Christ, our Savior. Elder Christofferson explained powerfully the difference between having the gospel as one of many influences in our life, versus having it be the "defining focus" of all we do as it penetrates our very heart and soul. I felt the truth of his warning about the "continuum" of conversion that we are on:


Clearly, many of us are on that "socially motivated participation" end of the spectrum. It's interesting for each of us to honestly and seriously consider where we might be along that path towards a "fully developed, Christlike commitment to the will of God." That's what Elder Quentin L. Cook referred to as a "deep and lasting conversion"; it happens when the gospel "takes possession of our soul."

The blessings from this whole-souled conversion become apparent to us when we take our turn "in the furnace of affliction." The one who is truly converted will find comfort, peace, and hope, and feel God's "sustaining grace and support." Those are the critical times in life when our previous preparation is so crucial to our survival. How important for us to be moving steadily towards that state of whole-hearted conversion!

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on nurturing deep and lasting conversion at home

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"The Church’s traditional curriculum has emphasized the Sunday Church experience. We know that when we have better teaching and more spiritually prepared class members, we have a better Sunday Church experience. We are blessed that often the Spirit increases and strengthens conversion in the Church setting.
"The new home-centered and Church-supported curriculum needs to influence more powerfully family religious observance and behavior and personal religious observance and behavior. We know the spiritual impact and the deep and lasting conversion that can be achieved in the home setting. Years ago, a study established that for young men and women the influence of the Holy Ghost most often accompanies individual scripture study and prayer in the home. Our purpose is to balance the Church and the home experiences in a way that will greatly increase faith and spirituality and deepen conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
"In the home-centered, Church-supported portion of this adjustment, there is flexibility for each individual and family to determine prayerfully how and when it will be implemented."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Deep and Lasting Conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Nelson spoke briefly at the beginning of general conference, introducing what would become an important theme and focus:
"For many years, Church leaders have been working on an integrated curriculum to strengthen families and individuals through a home-centered and Church-supported plan to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Opening Remarks," General Conference October 2018, emphasis added
Elder Cook had the assignment to then expand and explain the new focus. After introducing the concept of the adjusted Sunday meeting block and the various manuals and resources that will be provided to support it both in meetings and at home, he expanded on the vision of what these changes are intended to accomplish:


While resources including manuals and guidelines are provided for individuals and families, so much will depend on our individual willingness to seek inspiration as we begin to implement these programs in a few months. Elder Cook explained that "there is flexibility for each individual and family to determine prayerfully how and when it will be implemented." But the vision of the changes is to enable each of us to find "a deep and lasting conversion" as disciples of Jesus Christ.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Elder David A. Bednar on gathering together all things in Christ

Elder David A. Bednar (born June 15, 1952) was serving as the president of BYU–Idaho when he was called and sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2004.
"Sometimes as members of the Church we segment, separate, and apply the gospel in our lives by creating lengthy checklists of individual topics to study and tasks to accomplish. But such an approach potentially can constrain our understanding and vision. We must be careful because pharisaical focus upon checklists can divert us from drawing closer to the Lord.
"The purpose and purification, the happiness and joy, and the continuing conversion and protection that come from 'yielding [our] hearts unto God' (Helaman 3:35) and '[receiving] his image in [our] countenances' (Alma 5:14) cannot be obtained merely by performing and checking off all the spiritual things we are supposed to do. Rather, the power of the Savior’s gospel to transform and bless us flows from discerning and applying the interrelatedness of its doctrine, principles, and practices. Only as we gather together in one all things in Christ, with firm focus upon Him, can gospel truths synergistically enable us to become what God desires us to become (see Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48) and endure valiantly to the end. (see D&C 121:29.)"
- David A. Bednar, "Gather Together in One All Things in Christ," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Bednar's theme in his message was to help us understand the critical importance of focusing on the Savior, based on Paul's letter to the Ephesians in which he prophesied of our day:
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:10)

While Paul was speaking of the Lord doing the gathering, Elder Bednar extended the principle as an admonition for us to participate in those gathering efforts by understanding how critical it is for us to have Him as the center of our focus, permeating all things we do and experience.

I appreciated the discussion of "spiritual checklists." We don't become the kind of person He wants us to be "merely by performing and checking off all the spiritual things we are supposed to do." Beyond that, we must comprehend the power of the gospel and the Atonement of Jesus Christ to transform us as we focus on Christ:


This whole-life approach to discipleship is necessary to eventually achieve "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13) and be perfected in Him.

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

Monday, October 15, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on overcoming the sadness and misery of the world

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf (born November 6, 1940) served as a Seventy from 1994-2004, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve.  He served as second counselor in the First Presidency from 2008 to 2018.
"There is a word in German, Weltschmerz. Loosely defined, it means a sadness that comes from brooding about how the world is inferior to how we think it ought to be.
"Perhaps there is a little Weltschmerz in all of us.
"When silent sorrows creep into the corners of our lives. When sadness saturates our days and casts deep shadows over our nights. When tragedy and injustice enter the world around us, including in the lives of those we love. When we journey through our own personal and lonely path of misfortune, and pain darkens our stillness and breaches our tranquility—we might be tempted to agree with Solomon that life is vain and devoid of meaning.
"The good news is, there is hope. There is a solution to the emptiness, vanity, and Weltschmerz of life. There is a solution to even the deepest hopelessness and discouragement you might feel.
"This hope is found in the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the Savior’s redemptive power to heal us of our soul-sickness.
"'I am come,' Jesus declared, 'that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.' (John 10:10.)
"We achieve that abundant life not by focusing on our own needs or on our own achievements but by becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ—by following in His ways and engaging in His work. We find the abundant life by forgetting ourselves and engaging in the great cause of Christ.
"And what is the cause of Christ? It is to believe in Him, love as He loved, and do as He did."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Believe, Love, Do," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Uchtdorf is the Great Optimist; his messages always present visions of hope and encouragement in spite of the challenges and troubles we frequently confront in mortality. His introduction of the German word Weltschmerz in this message helps to present the contrast between the gloomy, discouraged view of the world, and the hopeful view offered to the faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.


Another apt and descriptive word Elder Uchtdorf uses to describe the challenges we face is soul-sickness. When we become too much influenced with the world's negativity, our soul can feel the burden of misery and we can be weighed down by the grief it brings.

But how blessed we are to know of "the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and ... the Savior’s redemptive power to heal us." Truly, we will find the "abundant life" through following the gospel plan for happiness and becoming "true disciples of Jesus Christ."

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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on overcoming pains and hurts in life

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.
"I testify that forgiving and forsaking offenses, old or new, is central to the grandeur of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I testify that ultimately such spiritual repair can come only from our divine Redeemer, He who rushes to our aid 'with healing in his wings' (Malachi 4:2; see also 2 Nephi 25:13; 3 Nephi 25:2). We thank Him, and our Heavenly Father who sent Him, that renewal and rebirth, a future free from old sorrows and past mistakes, are not only possible, but they have already been purchased, paid for, at an excruciating cost symbolized by the blood of the Lamb who shed it.
"With the apostolic authority granted me by the Savior of the world, I testify of the tranquility to the soul that reconciliation with God and each other will bring if we are meek and courageous enough to pursue it. 'Cease to contend one with another,' the Savior pled. (D&C 136:23.) If you know of an old injury, repair it. Care for one another in love.
"My beloved friends, in our shared ministry of reconciliation, I ask us to be peacemakers—to love peace, to seek peace, to create peace, to cherish peace. I make that appeal in the name of the Prince of Peace, who knows everything about being 'wounded in the house of [His] friends' (Zechariah 13:6; see also D&C 45:52.) but who still found the strength to forgive and forget—and to heal—and be happy."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Ministry of Reconciliation," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a beautiful and tender message from Elder Holland, a call to greater love and peace among ourselves as we learn to "forgive and forget" the occasional challenges in our interactions with others. With personal examples and inspired teachings, he invited us all to heed the example and call of the Savior as we learn to overcome grievances and disagreements. We can thereby participate in "the grandeur of the Atonement of Jesus Christ":


Elder Holland's testimony of the tranquility (what a beautiful word!) that comes to the soul in the midst of "reconciliation with God and each other" should urge us all to pursue this path in every way possible. But it requires that we be "meek and courageous enough to pursue it." It is often not an easy thing to overcome our pride as we repair the wounds of the past. But in learning to be true peacemakers, we truly can find the happiness promised by the Savior.

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