Monday, October 23, 2017

President Ezra Taft Benson on how Christ changes men

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.
"The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature....
"Yes, Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world. Men changed for Christ will be captained by Christ. Like Paul they will be asking, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' (Acts 9:6.) Peter stated they will 'follow his steps.' (1 Pet. 2:21.) John said they will 'walk, even as he walked.' (1 Jn. 2:6.)
"Finally, men captained by Christ will be consumed in Christ. To paraphrase President Harold B. Lee, they set fire in others because they are on fire. (See Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 192.)
"Their will is swallowed up in his will. (See John 5:30.) They do always those things that please the Lord. (See John 8:29.) Not only would they die for the Lord, but, more important, they want to live for Him."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Born of God," Ensign, July 1989, 2
Click here to read the full article

This is a classic excerpt from President Benson, frequently quoted because of the importance of the insight it offers:


It truly is insightful to compare the approaches the world takes, compared to how the Jesus Christ works in our lives to cause change and growth. The fundamental difference between attempts to change behavior and to change basic nature are the essence of this difference.

A true disciple is eager to be "captained by Christ" and to have their will "swallowed up in his will." This is not mindless following; it is a conscious choice to follow One who is believed to provide ultimate happiness. It is true discipleship.

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on the importance and blessing of prayer

President Thomas S. Monson (b. August 21, 1927) 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 before becoming Church president in 2008.
"Perhaps there has never been a time when we had greater need to pray and to teach our family members to pray. Prayer is a defense against temptation. It is through earnest and heartfelt prayer that we can receive the needed blessings and the support required to make our way in this sometimes difficult and challenging journey we call mortality....
"Do not pray for tasks equal to your abilities, but pray for abilities equal to your tasks. Then the performance of your tasks will be no miracle, but you will be the miracle."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Three Goals to Guide You," General Conference, General Relief Society Meeting, October 2007
Click here to read or listen to the full message

Throughout his ministry, President Monson has often counseled about the power and importance of prayer. In this address to the sisters of the Church, he provided counsel on three goals: study diligently, pray earnestly, and serve willingly.

As he shared experiences and counsel about the principle of prayer, President Monson expressed his awareness of the challenges of our time, and the blessing established habits of prayer can provide as "a defense against temptation" and a source of "needed blessings and the support" that God will provide to assist us in our quest.

He then concludes his counsel on prayer with this concise summary:


This is a great reminder that God is willing to bless and strengthen us as we turn to Him in humility.

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

President Spencer W. Kimball on Jesus' example of principled and loving leadership

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Jesus operated from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as he went along. Thus, his leadership style was not only correct, but also constant. So many secular leaders today are like chameleons; they change their hues and views to fit the situation—which only tends to confuse associates and followers who cannot be certain what course is being pursued. Those who cling to power at the expense of principle often end up doing almost anything to perpetuate their power.
"Jesus said several times, 'Come, follow me.' His was a program of 'do what I do,' rather than 'do what I say.' His innate brilliance would have permitted him to put on a dazzling display, but that would have left his followers far behind. He walked and worked with those he was to serve. His was not a long-distance leadership. He was not afraid of close friendships; he was not afraid that proximity to him would disappoint his followers. The leaven of true leadership cannot lift others unless we are with and serve those to be led."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Jesus: The Perfect Leader," address to the Young Presidents organization, Sun Valley, Idaho, 15 January 1977; see Ensign, August 1979, p. 6
Click here to read the full talk

It's important to be correct, but it's also important to be constant. In an interesting analysis, President Kimball explains how Jesus manifested both of those characteristics in His leadership. We have seen many recent examples of the statement, "Those who cling to power at the expense of principle often end up doing almost anything to perpetuate their power." It's very sad when the desire for fame or wealth eclipses moral foundations and even common decency.

How blessed we are to have the pure example of leaders like the Savior, who invited us to follow His example:


This is an important message for any of us, since we are periodically given opportunities or assignments to function in leadership roles. The best leaders are those who care the most about the people they lead and desire only to serve and bless. Another way to look at it is that the people who care the most about those around them often become the leaders!

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on the blessings of temple attendance

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President for only nine months, from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"Truly, the Lord desires that His people be a temple-motivated people. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be temple worthy. I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it.
"Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. Let us hasten to the temple as frequently as time and means and personal circumstances allow. Let us go not only for our kindred dead, but let us also go for the personal blessing of temple worship, for the sanctity and safety which is provided within those hallowed and consecrated walls. The temple is a place of beauty, it is a place of revelation, it is a place of peace. It is the house of the Lord. It is holy unto the Lord. It should be holy unto us."
- Howard W. Hunter, "The Great Symbol of our Membership," Ensign, October 1994, pp. 2-5
Click here to read the full article

President Hunter felt deeply the blessing and importance of temple worship, and taught about it frequently during his service as an apostle and particularly when he became president of the Church. This article was written as one of the monthly "First Presidency Messages" during his tenure as the President, and the excerpt gives a sense of the importance and urgency President Hunter felt.

It's insightful to ponder the description "a temple-motivated people." In what ways does the temple motivate us? When we understand its blessings and all it has to offer, it surely does influence our decisions and our actions.

Having a temple recommend, and being worthy of it, is a symbol, according to President Hunter, of our understanding and willingness to follow the Lord's plan for us.

I love his brief summary of temple blessings:


Truly, there are many blessings in the Lord's temples. As we learn about worship and service, we will confirm President Hunter's descriptions in our own lives: "a place of beauty, a place of revelation, a place of peace."

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

President James E. Faust on the Savior's message of hope and deliverance

President James E. Faust (1920-2007) was called as a Seventy in 1976, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve in 1978. He served as a counselor to President Hinckley from 1995 until his death in 2007 at age 87.
"The Divine Shepherd has a message of hope, strength, and deliverance for all. If there were no night, we would not appreciate the day, nor could we see the stars and the vastness of the heavens. We must partake of the bitter with the sweet. There is a divine purpose in the adversities we encounter every day. They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless.
"When we pluck the roses, we find we often cannot avoid the thorns which spring from the same stem.
"Out of the refiner’s fire can come a glorious deliverance. It can be a noble and lasting rebirth. The price to become acquainted with God will have been paid. There can come a sacred peace. There will be a reawakening of dormant, inner resources. A comfortable cloak of righteousness will be drawn around us to protect us and to keep us warm spiritually. Self-pity will vanish as our blessings are counted."
- James E. Faust, "The Refiner's Fire," General Conference, April 1979
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The gospel of Jesus Christ truly does provide "a message of hope, strength, and deliverance for all." There is hope for the eventual resolution of all concerns and trials; strength to endure while we prepare, and deliverance from evil and from suffering.

But yet, the challenges are part of the plan, as President Faust points out. They enable us to appreciate the blessings of God more fully. Our adversities are often part of His hand in our lives as well, as "They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless." It takes faith to comprehend that great truth.


And this is the great promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ: there is "a glorious deliverance" that will surely come. What a sacred blessing to have this hope within!

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley on service as an antidote for worry and despair

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.
"Said the Lord, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' (Matt. 25:40.)
"I am not suggesting that you become a Florence Nightingale or a Clara Barton. But you can help. There are so many out there whose burdens you can lift. There are the homeless, there are the hungry, there are the destitute all around us. There are the aged who are alone in rest homes. There are handicapped children, and youth on drugs, and the sick and the homebound who cry out for a kind word. If you do not do it, who will?
"The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best medicine for despair is service. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "To Single Adults," talk given 26 February 1989 at a Single Adults fireside satellite broadcast; see Ensign June 1989, p. 72
Click here to read the full article

So often, our leaders remind us of the blessing of "getting outside ourselves"—being aware of the needs around us and doing something to help with the many opportunities that exist. President Hinckley even provides a list of the kinds of needs that we often overlook. This is truly the essence of the Christian life: doing good to others, as a symbol of our love for God.


President Hinckley helps us see the blessings that come to us as we love and serve. It can help us overcome worry, despair, and weariness. When we learn to care about others, we worry less about ourselves.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on trials, challenges, and growth

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.
"Trying to comprehend the trials and meaning of this life without understanding Heavenly Father’s marvelously encompassing plan of salvation is like trying to understand a three-act play while seeing only the second act. Fortunately, our knowledge of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Atonement helps us to endure our trials and to see purpose in suffering and to trust God for what we cannot comprehend....
"So often in life a deserved blessing is quickly followed by a needed stretching. Spiritual exhilaration may be quickly followed by a vexation or temptation. Were it otherwise, extended spiritual reveries or immunities from adversity might induce in us a regrettable forgetfulness of others in deep need. The sharp, side-by-side contrast of the sweet and the bitter is essential until the very end of this brief, mortal experience. Meanwhile, even routine, daily life provides sufficient sandpaper to smooth our crustiness and polish our rough edges, if we are meek....
"Part of enduring well consists of being meek enough, amid our suffering, to learn from our relevant experiences. Rather than simply passing through these things, they must pass through us and do so in ways which sanctify these experiences for our good (see D&C 122:7). 
"Life is carefully designed to produce for us, if we are willing, a harvest of relevant and portable experience. But there is such a short growing season! The fields must be worked intensively amid droughts, late springs, and early frosts. For the disobedient and despairing who refuse to plant, plow, or harvest, theirs is not simply a 'winter of discontent' but a despair for all seasons. The indifferent and lackluster who work only on the surface of life will harvest little. Only for the perspiring and 'anxiously engaged' faithful will the harvest be manyfold (see Matt. 19:29)."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Enduring Well," Ensign, April 1997, p. 7
Click here to read the full article

It's always thrilling to me to read Elder Maxwell's beautiful and thought-provoking writing. These four related segments from one of his talks speak of trials and suffering, and of the ways we can respond so those things are a blessing to us.

First of all, it's critical to view our mortal challenges in the broad expanse of eternity. This is only the short middle segment of a much broader and grander eternal existence. We are here to learn to "trust God for what we cannot comprehend" in our restricted vision.

The relationships between times of blessing or comfort, and times of trial and struggle, is good to contemplate. It's important to recognize the interplay of those events in our lives and understand the purpose for each. That will allow us to not just pass through trials, but have the trials pass through us to cleanse and purify in the process.


What a beautiful and profound analogy. A harvest is only reaped when great effort is invested. We must do our part to earn the bountiful harvest or "relevant and portable experience." I'm especially impressed by the portability of experience and knowledge; the ability to apply lessons from one challenge or trial to other situations is a great blessing.

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