Thursday, February 21, 2019

President Joseph Fielding Smith on worshiping God

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.
"Our responsibility in the Church is to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, and this we are seeking to do with all our heart, might, and mind. Jesus said: 'Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.' (Matt. 4:10.)
"We believe that worship is far more than prayer and preaching and gospel performance. The supreme act of worship is to keep the commandments, to follow in the footsteps of the Son of God, to do ever those things that please him. It is one thing to give lip service to the Lord; it is quite another to respect and honor his will by following the example he has set for us.
"Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the great Exemplar. Our mission is to pattern our lives after him and do the things he wants us to do."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth," General Conference October 1971
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What does it mean to worship something or someone? Does it mean to hold it in high regard, to speak of it quietly and reverently, to sing about it and respect it and pray to it? Yes, all of that, but much more, as President Smith points out. Real worship leads to real obedience:

As we come to recognize God as our Father and as our guide and source of help, we will worship through obedience and through discipleship. Our daily actions will demonstrate our feelings of devotion and respect. That is the key to honoring God. As we strive to follow the teachings and example of the Savior, we discover that "Our mission is to pattern our lives after him and do the things he wants us to do."

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

President Harold B. Lee on recognizing God's hand

President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1941. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1970-1972, then as Church president from July 1972 until his passing less than 18 months later in December 1973.
"I read something a while ago that started me thinking along this line. It was that when a man leans to his own understanding and boasts by his own strength... he forgets God and claims he is his own master, [and] the result is untold suffering. Even though one's position is maintained, even though material wealth increases, a success quickly turns to failure when God has been forgotten. There is no peace of mind, no personal satisfaction of inward joy. To 'trust in the Lord with all thine heart' (Proverbs 3:5) is a mark of strength and is the only path to happiness, success, and true fulfillment."
- Harold B. Lee, memorial sermon given February 7, 1957; see Teachings of Harold B. Lee p. 620

The verse President Lee quotes from Proverbs has long been one of my favorite scriptures—simple, yet clear and profound:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)
President Lee warns us of what can happen when we fail to do that:

Learning to "trust in the Lord" is a great key to our happiness in life. It requires that we learn to find His word (in the scriptures and the teachings of inspired leaders) and that we learn to hear and feel His word (though the whisperings of the Spirit directly to our mind and heart). Truly, that is "the only path to happiness, success, and true fulfillment."

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

President Spencer W. Kimball on not wasting our time

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Jacob was thinking partly of sins of omission when he uttered the solemn words:
"'But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!' (2 Ne 9:27, italics added.)
"Waste is unjustified, and especially the waste of time—limited as that commodity is in our days of probation. One must live, not only exist; he must do, not merely be; he must grow, not just vegetate. John the Revelator recorded for us significantly:
"'Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the [eternal] city.' (Rev. 22:14, italics added.) ...
"To be passive is deadening; to stop doing is to die. Here then is a close parallel with physical life. If one fails to eat and drink, his body becomes emaciated and dies. Likewise if he fails to nourish his spirit and mind, his spirit shrivels and his mind darkens."
- Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 92-93

Even though President Kimball had a weak and raspy voice in his later years (after dealing with throat cancer), his talks and his writing were so expressive and, at times, almost poetic. I loved how he would choose words that were so descriptive and vivid. This is a great example, as he discusses the importance of using time wisely, taking care not to "[waste] the days of [our] probation":

When we become passive, we lose so much: "to stop doing is to die." Just as our physical body needs nutrients, our spirit and mind must also be nourished in the right ways in order to retain their vitality. And so we must use our precious time carefully and wisely!

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

President Ezra Taft Benson on characteristics of humility

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1943, and served as the 13th President of the Church from 1985 until his death in 1994 at age 94.
"Pride is characterized by 'What do I want out of life?' rather than by 'What would God have me do with my life?' It is self-will as opposed to God’s will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God.
"Humility responds to God’s will—to the fear of His judgments and the needs of those around us. To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts.
"Someone has said, 'Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.' Of one brother, the Lord said, 'I, the Lord, am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel, and he is not sufficiently meek before me.' (D&C 58:41.)
"The two groups in the Book of Mormon that seemed to have the greatest difficulty with pride are the 'learned, and the rich.' (2 Ne. 28:15.) But the word of God can pull down pride. (See Alma 4:19.)
"With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there come many blessings."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Cleansing the Inner Vessel," General Conference, April 1986
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We often ask ourselves the question President Benson shares here: "What do I want out of life?" But he suggests a more profound question is, "What would God have me do with my life?" It's a good reminder that He is willing to help and guide us in all things, as we are willing to turn to Him in humility. There are some great keys in understanding where we find our motivation, our desire for approbation:

The Book of Mormon warns us about being learned and rich. Both of those are relative terms; the standard of learning, and the standard of wealth, in which most of us today find ourselves far exceeds both those of times past and so many who live in our world today. If I then, am learned and wise, how cautious I should be about the pride that too often accompanies those conditions!

The thoughts in this earlier talk were expanded three years later in the more familiar discourse "Beware of Pride" (General Conference April 1989).

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

Sunday, February 17, 2019

President Howard W. Hunter on reverence in society and in church

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"There are wide areas of our society from which the spirit of prayer and reverence and worship has vanished. Men and women in many circles are clever, interesting, or brilliant, but they lack one crucial element in a complete life. They do not look up. They do not offer up vows in righteousness, as the requirement is stated in the Doctrine and Covenants, 'on all days and at all times.' (D&C 59:11.) Their conversation sparkles, but it is not sacred. Their talk is witty, but it is not wise. Whether it be in the office, the locker room, or the laboratory, they have come too far down the scale of dignity who display their own limited powers and then find it necessary to blaspheme those unlimited powers that come from above.
"Unfortunately we sometimes find this lack of reverence even within the Church. Occasionally we visit too loudly, enter and leave meetings too disrespectfully in what should be an hour of prayer and purifying worship. Reverence is the atmosphere of heaven. Prayer is the utterance of the soul to God the Father. We do well to become more like our Father by looking up to him, by remembering him always, and by caring greatly about his world and his work."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Hallowed Be Thy Name," General Conference October 1977
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Hunter points out some important differences between worldly attitudes, and the "humble followers of Christ" (2 Ne 28:14). Too often men and women in the world seek only to be "clever, interesting, or brilliant," coming across as witty but forgetting to be wise and humble. There is a desire to impress their peers, to stand out and be influential—but without regard for a divine power and its righteous principles. Certainly as we grow in our spirituality and understanding of the Savior's love for us and His plan for happiness, we will see how little the approbation of the world means compared to God's approval for our lives.

President Hunter warns too about the risk of forgetting sacred things, sacred times, sacred places. When we gather in our meetings, we should remember why we are there and strive to do nothing that would detract from the spirit of worshipful reverence. As we strive to "always remember Him," that will be more natural for us.

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

Saturday, February 16, 2019

President Gordon B. Hinckley on finding happiness in spite of problems in life

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.
"You have all heard my talk on the Be’s—Be grateful, Be smart, Be clean, Be true, Be humble, Be prayerful. And I add for you, Be happy.
"All of us have problems. We face them every day. How grateful I am that we have difficult things to wrestle with. They keep us young, if that is possible. They keep us alive. They keep us going. They keep us humble. They pull us down to our knees to ask the God of Heaven for help in solving them. Be grateful for your problems, and know that somehow there will come a solution."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "A Challenging Time—a Wonderful Time," Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings (2004), 15–19
Click here to read the full article

This excerpt comes from a collection of material prepared to help teachers in various levels of the Church's religious education programs, and provides some classic counsel from President Hinckley on teaching youth. The whole article is very worth reviewing. In this excerpt, President Hinckley teaches about confronting challenges and obstacles with optimism and confidence.

Recognizing our problems and challenges as opportunities and blessings is a critical skill to develop. President Hinckley lists many of the ways that those apparent difficulties can turn into positive things in our lives, and ways in which they help us learn and grow. Truly we should "be grateful for [our] problems," knowing that they will not last forever.

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

Friday, February 15, 2019

President Thomas S. Monson on prayer's help in a challenging world

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.
"Many of the challenges we face exist because we live in this mortal world, populated by all manner of individuals. At times we ask in desperation, 'How can I keep my sights firmly fixed on the celestial as I navigate through this telestial world?'
"There will be times when you will walk a path strewn with thorns and marked by struggle. There may be times when you feel detached—even isolated—from the Giver of every good gift. You worry that you walk alone. Fear replaces faith.
"When you find yourself in such circumstances, I plead with you to remember prayer....
"We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help if we but ask. We have the promise: 'Pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good' (D&C 90:24)....
"Of course, prayer is not just for times of trouble. We are told repeatedly in the scriptures to 'pray always' (Luke 21:36) and to keep a prayer in our hearts (see 3 Nephi 20:1)."
- Thomas S. Monson, "We Never Walk Alone," General Relief Society Meeting 9/28/13, General Conference October 2013
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Monson defines a very real challenge that we face in this life: keeping our "sights firmly fixed on the celestial" while we are struggling with the realities of a telestial world. It's a great key to remember the gift of prayer, and to develop our abilities in using that gift. That becomes especially crucial in those times when we seem "detached" or "isolated" from God. We must develop the ability to remember that we need not face those challenging times alone:

How blessed we are to have the chance to receive help, guidance, and strength from our Divine Father—and, as President Monson reminds us, not just in times of struggle or loneliness, but at all times in our life! We need only turn to Him.

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