Friday, November 17, 2017

Elder Quentin L. Cook on learning civility and love at home

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. September 8, 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"How we treat those closest to us is of fundamental importance. Violence, abuse, lack of civility, and disrespect in the home are not acceptable—not acceptable for adults and not acceptable for the rising generation. My father was not active in the Church but was a remarkably good example, especially in his treatment of my mother. He used to say, 'God will hold men responsible for every tear they cause their wives to shed.' This same concept is emphasized in 'The Family: A Proclamation to the World.' It reads, '[Those] who abuse spouse or offspring … will one day stand accountable before God.' Regardless of the culture in which we are raised, and whether our parents did or did not abuse us, we must not physically, emotionally, or verbally abuse anyone else.
"The need for civility in society has never been more important. The foundation of kindness and civility begins in our homes. It is not surprising that our public discourse has declined in equal measure with the breakdown of the family. The family is the foundation for love and for maintaining spirituality. The family promotes an atmosphere where religious observance can flourish. There is indeed 'beauty all around when there’s love at home' (“Love at Home,” Hymns, no. 294)."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Can Ye Feel So Now?," General Conference October 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We live in a time when basic civility in society seems to be disappearing; when the "public discourse" is greatly facilitated by technology, but is dramatically declining in decency. Elder Cook maintains that the foundation of these interactions is set in the home and family, and that we have never had a greater need to focus on strengthening that setting:

The prophetic foresight in the Family Proclamation, issued in 1995, is astonishing as we see the moral decline that has occurred since then. It is so critical for us to know those principles and cling to them!

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Elder David A. Bednar on the continuing process of being born again

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.
"And after we come out of the waters of baptism, our souls need to be continuously immersed in and saturated with the truth and the light of the Savior’s gospel. Sporadic and shallow dipping in the doctrine of Christ and partial participation in His restored Church cannot produce the spiritual transformation that enables us to walk in a newness of life. Rather, fidelity to covenants, constancy of commitment, and offering our whole soul unto God are required if we are to receive the blessings of eternity.
"'I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved' (Omni 1:26).
"Total immersion in and saturation with the Savior’s gospel are essential steps in the process of being born again."
- David A. Bednar, "Ye Must Be Born Again," General Conference, April 2007
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I love this concept of the continuous process of discipleship. Just being baptized is not nearly enough; Elder Bednar teaches that from that point on, "our souls need to be continuously immersed in and saturated with the truth and the light of the Savior’s gospel." Nephi said it this way:
"And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save." (2 Nephi 31:19)
So having started on the Gospel path, we then must be fully committed and fully immersed in the spiritual life that follows:

I've always appreciated Omni's description too, that we must offer our whole souls to God; a partial offering or a partial commitment just won't bring the redemption and salvation that we seek.

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

President Joseph F. Smith on shining with original light instead of borrowed light

President Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) was the son of Joseph's brother Hyrum. He was ordained an apostle in 1866 at age 28, and served as a counselor to Brigham Young and the three presidents who followed.  He became the 6th president of the Church in 1901, and served until his death in 1918 at age 80.
“One fault to be avoided by the Saints, young and old, is the tendency to live on borrowed light, with their own hidden under a bushel; to permit the savor of their salt of knowledge to be lost; and the light within them to be reflected, rather than original.
"Every Saint should not only have the light within himself, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but his light should so shine that it may be clearly perceived by others.
“Men and women should become settled in the truth, and founded in the knowledge of the gospel, depending upon no person for borrowed or reflected light, but trusting only upon the Holy Spirit, who is ever the same, shining forever and testifying to the individual and the priesthood, who live in harmony with the laws of the gospel, of the glory and the will of the Father. They will then have light everlasting which cannot be obscured. By its shining in their lives, they shall cause others to glorify God; and by their well-doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light."
- Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era 8:60-62, 1904-05; see Gospel Doctrine, pp. 87–88

President Smith warns us of the tendency to "hide our light under a bushel," and then to reflect the light of others instead of having our light be original within us:

When our own light is burning clearly, it comes "through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." Having that companionship fills us with light. I'm reminded of the beautiful counsel and invitation given by the Lord through Joseph Smith:

"And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things." (D&C 88:67)

A body that is full of light will shine directly and powerfully, not needing to reflect the light of others. As President Smith notes, one of the great blessings of this shining light is that others will see it and glorify God. It will also help to overcome criticism and foolish ignorance, and will ultimately bring glory to God who is the source of the light.

As far as I know, the concept of "borrowed light" originated with Heber C. Kimball who spoke of it several times. Click here to read an example of his teachings, with an added insight from Robert J. Matthews about our occasional tendency to borrow from our own light.

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on developing character and continuing to learn

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.
"At the end of your lives you will not be judged by academic successes, the degrees or diplomas earned, the positions held, the material wealth acquired, or power and prestige, but rather on the basis of what you have become as persons and what you are in conduct and character. Yours is the power individually to transform yourselves into the persons you want to be....
"Leave school with your books and your minds still open, and make your lives a quest for knowledge. Plato thought knowledge the highest human good, and Matthew Arnold thought the primary purpose of education was to help students to see things as they really are, to see the world about them as it really is. Only as we see the world as it really is can we hope to solve its problems. Only by knowledge can we banish ignorance, superstition, prejudice, fear, and hatred, the evils from which spring most of our world's problems. Therefore it is imperative that you continue to seek knowledge."
- Howard W. Hunter, "A Time for Wise Decisions." Commencement Address, BYU—Hawaii Campus, 23 June 1979; see THWH p. 177

It's important to remember what really matters "in the long run" in our lives. As he addressed a graduating class at BYU-Hawaii, who would naturally have their future careers and vocational aspirations in the forefront of their thoughts, President Hunter reminded them that recognition of men or accumulation of possessions are not the critical things in life; rather, the kind of character that is developed:

Part of the development of character occurs as we continue to gain knowledge throughout life. President Hunter gives the classic advice, "Leave school with your books and your minds still open." We need to continue to learn new things throughout our lives; and we need to have our minds open to new ideas, different approaches, changed opinions. This is a great key to ongoing success and happiness, individually and collectively: "Only by knowledge can we banish ignorance, superstition, prejudice, fear, and hatred, the evils from which spring most of our world's problems." That is a bold statement, one that we should all put to the test!

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Elder Dale G. Renlund on God's eternal fairness to His children

Elder Dale G. Renlund (born November 13, 1952) served in the First Quorum of Seventy starting in 2009, until his call to the Quorum of Twelve in October 2015.
"Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are the ultimate Givers. The more we distance ourselves from Them, the more entitled we feel. We begin to think that we deserve grace and are owed blessings. We are more prone to look around, identify inequities, and feel aggrieved—even offended—by the unfairness we perceive. While the unfairness can range from trivial to gut-wrenching, when we are distant from God, even small inequities loom large. We feel that God has an obligation to fix things—and fix them right now! ...
"The sacrament truly helps us know our Savior. It also reminds us of His innocent suffering. If life were truly fair, you and I would never be resurrected; you and I would never be able to stand clean before God. In this respect, I am grateful that life is not fair.
"At the same time, I can emphatically state that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, ultimately, in the eternal scheme of things, there will be no unfairness. 'All that is unfair about life can be made right' (Preach My Gospel, 52). Our present circumstances may not change, but through God’s compassion, kindness, and love, we will all receive more than we deserve, more than we can ever earn, and more than we can ever hope for. We are promised that 'God shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away' (Revelation 21:4)."
- Dale G. Renlund, "That I Might Draw All Men unto Me," General Conference, April 2016, Saturday morning session
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Life is unfair. Neither blessings nor challenges are distributed equally. From our perspective, at least, it often doesn't "make sense" when we face inequity or unfairness. Elder Renlund points out the irony that those who are furthest from God are often the ones who seem to expect blessings and protection from God and are offended or caused to doubt further when He doesn't respond as they expect.

But through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we are assured that ultimately, all unfairness will be erased:

As the "former things pass away," we have that beautiful assurance that through "God's compassion, kindness, and love," we will be blessed not only beyond what we deserve but also beyond all that we could hope for. Truly, as Paul testified, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor 2:9).

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on remembering God in every season

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.
"If there is a spiritual lesson to be learned from our experience of that fateful day, it may be that we owe to God the same faithfulness that He gives to us. We should strive for steadiness, and for a commitment to God that does not ebb and flow with the years or the crises of our lives. It should not require tragedy for us to remember him, and we should not be compelled to humility before giving him our faith and trust. We too should be with him in every season.
"The way to be with God in every season is to strive to be near him every week and each day. We truly 'need him every hour,' not just in hours of devastation. We must speak to him, listen to him, and serve him. If we wish to serve him, we should serve our fellow men. We will mourn the lives we lose, but we should also fix the lives that can be mended and heal the hearts that may yet be healed."
- Thomas S. Monson, Thoughts on Sept. 11, The Washington Post 9/11/11; see "Remembering 9/11: Mormon leaders share messages of comfort," Deseret News, September 11, 2013
Click here to read the full article

These words were prepared by President Monson for a compilation of the thoughts of religious leaders on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11/01 attacks in the eastern United States. I was impressed by his efforts to find a "spiritual lesson" from the tragic events of that day. He reminds us all that it is not just in times of tragedy or profound sorrow that we should turn to God:

We should strive to "be with him in every season" of our lives, challenging or peaceful. It's that "steadiness" at all times that will provide the rock of faith to help us through the times of storm and challenge.

And President Monson reminds us how that is done: one day at a time, as we turn to God "every hour, and not just in hours of devastation." The keys are:

  • Speak to him
  • Listen to him
  • Serve him.
And we serve God by serving those around us: comforting, mending, healing. As we follow His example, we draw near to Him and feel His power in our lives, that will bless us when the times of need come.

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

President Henry B. Eyring on recognizing God's blessings in our life

President Henry B. Eyring (1933- ) served in the Presiding Bishopric from 1985-1992, as a Seventy from 1992-1995, then was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. He has served in the First Presidency since 2007.
"You could try the same thing as you write an entry in your book of remembrance. The Holy Ghost has helped with that since the beginning of time. You remember in the record of Moses it says: 'And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration.' (Moses 6:5.)
"President Spencer W. Kimball described that process of inspired writing: 'Those who keep a book of remembrance are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives. Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity.' (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, p. 349.)
"As you start to write, you could ask yourself, 'How did God bless me today?' If you do that long enough and with faith, you will find yourself remembering blessings. And sometimes, you will have gifts brought to your mind which you failed to notice during the day, but which you will then know were a touch of God’s hand in your life.
"You can choose to remember the greatest gift of all. Next week, you can go to a meeting where the sacrament is administered. You will hear the words, 'Always remember him.' You can pledge to do that, and the Holy Ghost will help you."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Remembrance and Gratitude," General Conference, October 1989
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Eyring's suggestion that we write in our personal "book of remembrance" promises powerful results.

When I was young, commercial LDS channels heavily marketed something called a "book of remembrance" that was a binder for genealogical research, usually printed on legal-sized pages. We became used to using that title only for that kind of collection. While that is a valid application (remembering our ancestors), I think it served to somewhat limit our scope. As President Eyring describes the concept in this excerpt, a book of remembrance can also be any form of personal writing, whether in a hard-printed journal, or in an electronic format such as a document or even a blog.

One important key, he suggests, is that like Adam we learn to "write by the spirit of inspiration." As we allow the Spirit to direct our personal reflections and then record the impressions that follow, great blessings will result.

President Spencer W. Kimball was a big proponent of writing in journals, and he described the blessings of the "book of remembrance" concept in this way:

I love those points and promises! As we reflect and record impressions, counting our blessings, we will be more likely to remember the Lord in our daily living. And we will be leaving an "inventory of those blessings" for our descendants. How I would love to have more of that kind of record from my ancestors.

President Eyring's very practical suggestion on how to "count our blessings" is perhaps the greatest message of the excerpt for me. Examining our daily life and seeking to identify how God blessed us in the day that just passed not only helps document His hand in our life, but also opens the door to inspiration that will help us learn more about how He blesses us. That brings greater humility and gratitude to us, and is a powerful way to help us always remember Him. I know from my own experience that this is a true principle!

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