Friday, January 18, 2019

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on the power of the Book of Mormon

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (born August 5, 1955) was called as a Seventy in 2008, then as Presiding Bishop in 2012. He was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"When you read the Book of Mormon and pray with a desire to know it is true, you too can receive the same impression in your heart that [others have] received. You may also find that as you stand and bear witness of the Book of Mormon, you will feel the same spirit of confirmation. The Holy Ghost will speak to your heart. You can also feel this same spirit of confirmation when you hear others share their testimonies of the Book of Mormon. Each of these spiritual witnesses can lead to the Book of Mormon becoming the keystone of your testimony.
"Let me explain. The Prophet Joseph Smith, who translated the Book of Mormon through 'the gift and power of God,' described the Book of Mormon as 'the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion.' (Introduction to the Book of Mormon.)
"Since the Book of Mormon’s first printing in 1830, more than 174 million copies have been published in 110 different languages, demonstrating that the Book of Mormon is still the keystone of our religion. But what does this mean for each of you?
"In architectural terms a keystone is a main element in an arched gateway. It is the wedge-shaped stone in the very center and at the highest point of an arch. It is the most important of the stones because it keeps the sides of the arch in place, preventing collapse. And it is the structural element that ensures the gate, or opening below, is passable.
"In gospel terms it is a gift and blessing from the Lord that the keystone of our religion is something as tangible and graspable as the Book of Mormon and that you can hold it and read it. Can you see the Book of Mormon as your keystone, your spiritual center of strength?"
- Gary E. Stevenson, "Look to the Book, Look to the Lord," General Conference, October 2016
Click here to read or listen to the complete talk

Elder Stevenson teaches that a personal witness of the validity of the Book of Mormon can come differently—as we read, as we hear others teach and testify, or even as we ourselves share our feelings about the book. Gaining and strengthening our personal testimony will lead to that book taking its place as the keystone of our testimony:

It truly is a blessing to have something so "tangible and graspable" to cling to. The more we learn from the power of the Book of Mormon, the more powerfully we will know of its validity and the better equipped we will be to deal with life's challenges. It truly can be the "spiritual center of strength" for any who take advantage of its gifts.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Thursday, January 17, 2019

President Thomas S. Monson on the path of faithfulness

President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1963. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency with Presidents Benson, Hunter, and Hinckley and then became Church president in 2008. He led the Church for almost a decade until his passing in January 2018.
"There is no resting place along the path called faithfulness. The trek is constant, and no lingering is allowed. It must not be expected that the road of life spreads itself in an unobstructed view before the person starting his journey. He must anticipate coming upon forks and turnings in the road. But he cannot hope to reach his desired journey's end if he thinks aimlessly about whether to go east or west. He must make decisions purposefully.
"As Lewis Carroll tells us, Alice was following a path through a forest in Wonderland when it divided in two directions. Standing irresolute, she inquired of the Cheshire Cat, which had suddenly appeared in a nearby tree, which path she should take. 'Where do you want to go?' asked the cat. 'I don't know,' said Alice. 'Then,' said the cat, 'it really doesn't matter, does it?' (See Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, p. 89.)
"We know where we want to go! Do we have the resolution, even the faithfulness, to get there? President N. Eldon Tanner answered this question in his own mind when he declared: 'I would rather walk barefoot from here to the celestial kingdom... than to let the things of this world keep me out.' (Conference Report, Sept.-Oct. 1966, pp. 98-99.)"
- Thomas S. Monson, "Happiness—The Universal Quest," Ensign, October 1993, pp. 2-4
Click here to read the full article

What does it mean to be faithful? President Monson suggests that it involves constant, steady focus in our journey of life. More importantly, it's critical that we know where we want to go, and make clear and informed decisions at every point along the way. We must not waver and wander!

Having a sure knowledge of our destination becomes a crucial factor in making directional decisions along the way. We gain that knowledge through inspired words that we read in the scriptures and the teachings of living prophets, and through our own pondering and inspiration. We will be blessed as we pursue a steady and clear course!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

President Gordon B. Hinckley on finding peace and strength through prayer

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.
"Never assume that you can make it alone. You need the help of the Lord. Never hesitate to get on your knees in some private place and speak with Him. What a marvelous and wonderful thing is prayer. Think of it. We can actually speak with our Father in Heaven. He will hear and respond, but we need to listen to that response. Nothing is too serious and nothing too unimportant to share with Him. He has said, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' (Matt. 11:28). He continues, 'For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light' (Matt. 11:30).
"That simply means that when all is said and done, His way is easy to bear, and His path is easy to trod. Paul wrote to the Romans, 'For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost' (Rom. 14:17).
"Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ must be a beacon light before you, a polar star in your sky."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Stay on the High Road," General Conference April 2004
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What classic counsel: "Never assume you can make it alone." How much we need one another to help bear our burdens and endure to the end; and so much more critically, how desperately we need the help of our loving Heavenly Father!

Prayer truly is the choicest of gifts and will bring us rich blessings and profound support as we learn to communicate with God. Another profound truth: "Nothing is too serious and nothing too unimportant to share with Him." We should never hesitate to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on the value of loyal friends

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.
"Many years ago, in March of 1839, the Prophet Joseph Smith, with several of his companions, had been wrongfully incarcerated for months at Liberty Jail. Many writers of Church history have said that this experience for the Prophet Joseph was certainly one of the most difficult and darkest periods of his entire life. His words 'O God, where art thou?' (D&C 121:1)—as recorded in section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants—speak of a desperate loneliness in the bleakest of settings.
"The Lord did not appear or send angels; He did not thrash the guards or swing wide the door of that damp, dirty cell. Put simply, He did not change the circumstances, but He spoke comfort and reassurance to Joseph like no other could: 'My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment' (D&C 121:7). It was as if the Lord put His arm around Joseph when He said, 'My son.' Those are precious and tender words. And then He put a timetable on Joseph’s hardship—'a small moment.' What a lesson for all of us to remember. Our hardships will be brief—in eternal terms—and the Lord will be right there.
"Then the Lord said this: 'Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands' (D&C 121:9).
"Here was Joseph, locked in jail by the treachery of men, some of whom had once been his close associates. But the Lord made the point so clear—'thy friends do stand by thee.' How comforting that declaration was to the Prophet Joseph; how comforting to us. Think for a minute what it means to you to know you have someone standing right by you, someone you can trust to be your friend on good days and bad, someone who values you and supports you even when the two of you are apart.
"Our most prized friend is Jesus Christ Himself. Is there any greater assurance than His 'I will be on your right hand and on your left, . . . and mine angels round about you, to bear you up' (D&C 84:88)? So often those 'angels round about' are our friends."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "Thy Friends Do Stand by Thee," BYU Devotional March 7, 2010
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The challenging and difficult conditions to which Joseph Smith and his companions were subjected in Liberty Jail are heart-rending to us—"a desperate loneliness in the bleakest of settings." For Joseph it was certainly "one of the most difficult and darkest periods of his entire life." Elder Rasband talked about the Lord's reassurance to Joseph during that time, in speaking peace to his soul; but then commented on the further reminder the Lord provided about Joseph's loyal friends:

Certainly the knowledge of friends standing by our side is for us a great blessing, as it was for Joseph. The love and confidence of a devoted friend can be a powerful blessing. We should cultivate and treasure those friendships, and more importantly, seek to be that kind of friend to others.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is the knowledge that Jesus Christ can be "our most prized friend." The Savior gave these beautiful instructions to his ancient disciples:
"Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
"Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you" (John 15:14-15).
It should be a great desire for each of us to be called His friend. And then, to reflect that gift of inspired and inspiring friendship to those around us.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Monday, January 14, 2019

Elder Neil L. Andersen on how we are perceived by others

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.
"I witness that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He suffered and died for our sins and rose the third day. He is resurrected. In a future day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is the Christ. (See Romans 14:11.) On that day, our concern will not be, 'Do others consider me Christian?' At that time, our eyes will be fixed on Him, and our souls will be riveted on the question, 'What thinks Christ of me?'"
- Neil L. Andersen, "What Thinks Christ of Me?," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We sometimes have the tendency to worry about how we are perceived by others. There are good aspects of that; we want others to recognize our discipleship, to know where our loyalty lies, or to see the differences between worldly ways and our ways. These kind of perceptions enable us to be a "light" to those around us. But there are also dangers if we're only worried about being recognized for our importance, having influence and respect, being in charge, etc. Prideful self-importance is a dangerous thing, very contrary to humble discipleship.

In this message, Elder Andersen points out a critical point related to this concept. The day will come when the perceptions of others matter not a whit. Ultimately, there is only One's opinion about us that will matter:

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

President Russell M. Nelson on the necessary process of death

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.
"Anyone who studies the workings of the human body has surely 'seen God moving in his majesty and power' (D&C 88:47). Because the body is governed by divine law, any healing comes by obedience to the law upon which that blessing is predicated. (See D&C 130:21) ...
"If the body’s capacity for normal function, defense, repair, regulation, and regeneration were to prevail without limit, life here would continue in perpetuity. Yes, we would be stranded here on earth! Mercifully for us, our Creator provided for aging and other processes that would ultimately result in our physical death. Death, like birth, is part of life. Scripture teaches that 'it was not expedient that man should be reclaimed from this temporal death, for that would destroy the great plan of happiness' (Alma 42:8). To return to God through the gateway we call death is a joy for those who love Him and are prepared to meet Him. Eventually the time will come when each 'spirit and ... body shall be reunited again in ... perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame' (Alma 11:43), never to be separated again. For these physical gifts, thanks be to God!"
- Russell M. Nelson, "Thanks Be to God," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Nelson is particularly qualified to testify of God's miraculous creation in the human body, having studied it so thoroughly as part of his professional career. As a man of deep faith, he truly sees a witness of God's hand in the intricacy of creation, and can testify of the miraculous inherent power in the body to heal and recover—as well as the power of the Priesthood to aid in that process.

However, he also understands God's eternal plan for His children well enough to know that our bodies are designed to eventually fail in mortality:

What a fascinating concept: God's plan for His children would not leave them "stranded here on earth" when there is eternal progress to be considered! We must pass on to the next stage of our eternal existence in order to achieve the fulness of our potential.

Though we sometimes struggle to comprehend the timing of that transition, there is no question that it is ultimately necessary. And as President Nelson testifies, we are assured that the separation of body and spirit, like the separation of us from loved ones who pass on ahead, is temporary in God's eternal plan!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on covenants and the Holy Ghost

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.
"When we have entered into divine covenants, the Holy Ghost is our comforter, our guide, and our companion. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are 'the peaceable things of immortal glory; the truth of all things; that which quickeneth all things, which maketh alive all things; that which knoweth all things, and hath all power according to wisdom, mercy, truth, justice, and judgment' (Moses 6:61). The gifts of the Holy Spirit are testimony, faith, knowledge, wisdom, revelations, miracles, healing, and charity, to name but a few (see D&C 46:13–26).
"It is the Holy Ghost that bears witness of your words when you teach and testify. It is the Holy Ghost that, as you speak in hostile venues, puts into your heart what you should say and fulfills the Lord’s promise that 'you shall not be confounded before men' (D&C 100:5). It is the Holy Ghost that reveals how you may clear the next seemingly insurmountable hurdle. It is by the Holy Ghost in you that others may feel the pure love of Christ and receive strength to press forward. It is also the Holy Ghost, in His character as the Holy Spirit of Promise, that confirms the validity and efficacy of your covenants and seals God’s promises upon you."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Power of Covenants," General Conference April 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full article

At the conclusion of a talk that discussed the power and importance of covenants, Elder Christofferson shared this interesting segment about the relationship of the Holy Ghost to those covenants. Covenants lead to the gifts of the Spirit as outlined in the scriptures, that can bless our lives in countless ways. They also bring the companionship of the Holy Ghost and all its attendant blessings to the life of the faithful disciple:

In addition to all of those profound blessings that come to us as we receive the blessings of the Holy Ghost into our lives, the final one completes Elder Christofferson's message: the Holy Spirit of Promise "confirms the validity and efficacy of your covenants and seals God’s promises upon you." How important it is that we seek and cultivate this gift in our life!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)
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