Wednesday, May 22, 2019

President Joseph Fielding Smith on serving with love like the Savior

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 Savior came into the world to teach us love for each other, and as that great lesson was made manifest through his great suffering and death that we might live, should we not express our love for our fellowmen by service rendered in their behalf? Should we not show our appreciation for the infinite service he rendered us, by giving service in his cause?
"The man who does only those things in the Church which concern himself alone will never reach exaltation. For instance, the man who is willing to pray, to pay his tithes and offerings, and to attend to the ordinary duties which concern his own personal life, and nothing more, will never reach the goal of perfection."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, Apr. 1968, 12

Among the greatest messages of the Savior's gospel, as taught during His earthly ministry, is the call to love others. That love is best manifest through service on their behalf. As we reach out to one another, we can demonstrate our appreciation to the Great Giver:

President Smith points out that an inward-focused interpretation of the Gospel has no power to save. If all a man does is comply with commandments and guidelines, attending to the "ordinary duties which concern his own personal life," he will have missed the mark and fallen short.

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on eternal perspective for our trials

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.
"The cares of the world that, on occasion, can rob us of cheerfulness are certainly real cares, but they are not lasting cares; they pass with the passing of the world. Like the pleasures of the world, the cares of the world are fleeting.
"Someday, when we look back on mortality, we will see that so many of the things that seemed to matter so much at the moment will be seen not to have mattered at all. And the eternal things will be seen to have mattered even more than the most faithful of the Saints imagined."
- Neal A. Maxwell, Even As I Am (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), p. 104

Elder Maxwell often wrote or spoke about very real-world situation. He dealt with his own share of struggles and trials in life, and I think spoke with sincerity and experience.

This perspective about "the cares of the world" is so important. Though they seem heavy and sometimes unending, Elder Maxwell testifies that they truly are "passing" and "fleeting" when we consider the perspective of eternity.

The blessing of perspective! As we look back on our past experiences, we can realize that some things that seemed to matter very much at the time did not deserve all the care we gave to them. But things of eternal worth matter so much more than we sometimes recognize! This principle can apply to the challenges and trials of our life as well, when we recognize the relative value of our learning experiences in the broader perspective.

The grand key to happiness is to learn to see with that divine perspective in the present, not just in retrospect. We must learn to truly value those "eternal things" that will prove ultimately to be the only things that really matter.

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

Monday, May 20, 2019

President Joseph F. Smith on the dangers of internal enemies

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.
"For my part I do not fear the influence of our enemies from without, as I fear that of those from within. An open and avowed enemy, whom we may see and meet in an open field, is far less to be feared than a lurking, deceitful, treacherous enemy hidden within us, such as are many of the weaknesses of our fallen human nature, which are too often allowed to go unchecked, beclouding our minds, leading away our affections from God and his truth, until they sap the very foundations of our faith, and debase us beyond the possibility or hope of redemption either in this world or that to come. These are the enemies that we all have to battle with, they are the greatest that we have to contend with in the world, and the most difficult to conquer. They are the fruits of ignorance, generally arising out of unrebuked sin and evil in our own hearts. The labor that is upon us, is to subdue our passions, conquer our inward foes, and see that our hearts are right in the sight of the Lord, that there is nothing calculated to grieve his Spirit and lead us away from the path of duty.
"Those only who possess the light of the Spirit of God and the faith of the Gospel, which can only be possessed through faithfulness and obedience to the requirements of heaven, can discern and know the voice of the true Shepherd when they hear it. We need not expect to be able to discern the right from the wrong, the truth from error, and light from darkness, unless our eye is single, and we have declared ourselves for God and his work. If we are divided in our thoughts, affections, and interests, like the rest of the world, we need not expect to comprehend the will of the Lord when made known to us, no matter how powerfully or directly it may come."
- Joseph F. Smith, General Conference Oct. 6, 1875; Journal of Discourses 18:90-91
Click here to read the full talk

President Smith's insights are intriguing to me. We have many external enemies, physical and spiritual. But he warned us about the "lurking, deceitful, treacherous enemy hidden within us" when we fail to deal with our weakness or challenges, or resolving the "unrebuked sin" that we may have committed and not resolved. We must strive to "conquer our inward foes" and make our hearts right before God in order to overcome these inward enemies.

As we set our lives in order and fill our lives with the light of God's spirit, we will more readily recognize the Shepherd's voice and feel His assistance, support, and guidance in our lives.

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

Sunday, May 19, 2019

President Harold B. Lee on the personal gift of revelation

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.
"Any Latter-day Saint who has been baptized and who has had hands laid upon him from those officiating, commanding him to receive the Holy Ghost, and who has not received a revelation of the spirit of the Holy Ghost, has not received the gift of the Holy Ghost to which he is entitled. Therein lies a very important matter....
"On what matters may you receive a revelation? Is it startling to you to hear that you—all members of the Church who have received the Holy Ghost—may receive revelation? Not for the president of the Church, not on how to look after the affairs pertaining to the ward, the stake, or the mission in which you live; but every individual within his own station has the right to receive revelation by the Holy Ghost.…
"Every man has the privilege to exercise these gifts and these privileges in the conduct of his own affairs; in bringing up his children in the way they should go; in the management of his business, or whatever he does. It is his right to enjoy the spirit of revelation and of inspiration to do the right thing, to be wise and prudent, just and good, in everything that he does. I know that is a true principle, and that is the thing that I would like the Latter-day Saints to know. Now then, all of us should try to strive and give heed to the sudden ideas that come to us, and if we’ll give heed to them and cultivate an ear to hear these promptings we too—each of us—can grow in the spirit of revelation....
"I bear you my solemn testimony that the Church today is guided by revelation. Every soul in it who has been blessed to receive the Holy Ghost has the power to receive revelation. God help you and me that we will always so live that the Lord can answer the prayers of the faithful through us."
- Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, 140–42, 145

President Lee's message was a challenge to each member of the Church. When we were confirmed members of the Church, we were invited to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. His reminder is that those who receive that companionship will also receive revelation, as they live worthy of that gift.

Every single person "within his own station," or within the reach of his stewardship and responsibilities, "has the right to receive revelation by the Holy Ghost." We should seek that gift; we should cherish it and use it wisely! One of the keys President Lee offered was that we should learn to "give heed to the sudden ideas that come to us" as we "grow in the spirit of revelation." We will soon discover that God is eager to assist in this grand experience of life.

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

Saturday, May 18, 2019

President Spencer W. Kimball on the privilege of scripture study

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Besides the almost constant encouragement and prompting which we receive from our present-day Church leaders, the prophets of old seem to cry out to us in almost every page of the scriptures, urging us to study the word of the Lord, the holy scriptures, 'which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.' (2 Tim. 3:15.) But we do not always hear, and we might well ask ourselves why.
"Sometimes it seems we take the scriptures too much for granted because we do not fully appreciate how rare a thing it is to possess them, and how blessed we are because we do have them. We seem to have settled so comfortably into our experiences in this world and become so accustomed to hearing the gospel taught among us that it is hard for us to imagine it could ever have been otherwise....
"In addition to our access to these precious works of scripture, we have, to an extent unknown at any other time in the history of the world, the education and the ability to use them, if we will.
"The ancient prophets knew that after the darkness there would come light. We live in that light—but do we fully comprehend it? With the doctrines of salvation easily within our grasp, I fear that some are still overcome with the 'spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear.' (Rom. 11:8.)"
- Spencer W. Kimball, "How Rare a Possession—The Scriptures," Ensign September 1976, pp. 2-5
Click here to read the whole article

This excerpt comes from a "First Presidency Message" prepared by President Kimball, one of his truly classic articles. He shared his vision of the precious and sacred nature of the scriptures, and encouraged us to make better use of them in study and application. With a historical perspective, President Kimball warns us about the tendency to take our scriptural record for granted and thus fail to receive the benefits it offers to us:

In the 43 years since this article was published, it's interesting to note how much more our access to the sacred record has grown and improved. Most of us carry a complete copy in our pocket or purse as part of our digital devices; and we have the ability to search and study in ways that were not even dreamed of in past years. But again—do we take for granted that access and those abilities?? Or are we truly doing all we can to "live in the light"?

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

Friday, May 17, 2019

President Ezra Taft Benson on finding hope in times of challenge

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.
"To press on in noble endeavors, even while surrounded by a cloud of depression, will eventually bring you out on top into the sunshine. Even our master Jesus the Christ, while facing that supreme test of being temporarily left alone by our Father during the crucifixion, continued performing his labors for the children of men, and then shortly thereafter he was glorified and received a fullness of joy. While you are going through your trial, you can recall your past victories and count the blessings that you do have with a sure hope of greater ones to follow if you are faithful. And you can have that certain knowledge that in due time God will wipe away all tears and that '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.)"
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Do Not Despair," General Conference October 1974
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was one of my favorite talks by Elder Benson; well worth reviewing the whole thing. He encourages us to maintain a perspective of hope and gratitude in spite of the challenges and difficulties of life—"even while surrounded by a cloud of depression." Pressing on through the clouds eventually leads to sunshine:

Three important strategies for success, in surviving times of challenge, are:

  • Remembering past achievements
  • Recognizing current blessings
  • Holding to promises for the future, knowing that "in due time God will wipe away all tears"

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

Thursday, May 16, 2019

President Howard W. Hunter on our call to follow the Master

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.
"Let us study the Master’s every teaching and devote ourselves more fully to his example. He has given us 'all things that pertain unto life and godliness.' He has 'called us to glory and virtue' and has 'given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these [we] might be partakers of the divine nature' (2 Pet. 1:3–4).
"I believe in those 'exceeding great and precious promises,' and I invite all within the sound of my voice to claim them. We should strive to 'be partakers of the divine nature.' Only then may we truly hope for 'peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come' (D&C 59:23)."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises," General Conference October 1994
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This excerpt is from President Hunter's first remarks just after he was formally sustained in a solemn assembly as the president of the Church in 1994. It was a beautiful invitation to "study the Master’s every teaching and devote ourselves more fully to his example." It's now been almost 25 years since that invitation was given, and perhaps in this year of renewed emphasis of gospel study in the home, we're responding to that invitation in better ways than before.

The promises from God to those who choose to accept His call are there; but it us up to each of us to claim them, and become "partakers of the divine nature."

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