Tuesday, May 30, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on finding divine light and hope in our trials

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (born November 6, 1940) served as a Seventy from 1994-2004, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve.  He has served as second counselor in the First Presidency since 2008.
"There may be some among you who feel darkness encroaching upon you. You may feel burdened by worry, fear, or doubt. To you and to all of us, I repeat a wonderful and certain truth: God’s light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things. (See D&C 88:11–13.) It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn....
"Nevertheless, spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in darkness waiting for someone to flip a switch. It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the Light of Christ....
"So how do we open our eyes to the hope of God’s light? ...
"Lift up your soul in prayer and explain to your Heavenly Father what you are feeling. … Pour out your heart and express your gratitude. Let Him know of the trials you are facing. Plead with Him in Christ’s name for strength and support. Ask that your ears may be opened, that you may hear His voice."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Hope of God’s Light," Ensign, May 2013, p. 75
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In the midst of a world that sometimes feels like the darkness is "encroaching" or even overwhelming, and the burdens we carry are oppressive, this testimony is needed and powerful: "God’s light is real. It is available to all!" President Uchtdorf reminds us of the power of that light to strengthen and heal, offering eternal hope:

I love the thought that the light rarely comes to us when we're just sitting in our personal darkness waiting for a switch to be turned on, on our behalf. Instead, "It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the Light of Christ." President Uchtdorf discusses in this talk how we can access that light. His suggestions include the power of sincere and consistent prayer. As we truly ask for God's help, we will find the "strength and support" we desperately need in those times of encroaching darkness.

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

Monday, May 29, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on gratitude for sacrifices of the military

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 until becoming Church president in 2008.
"Wherever I travel I try to pay a visit to the town cemetery. It is a time of contemplation, of reflection on the meaning of life and the inevitability of death....
"The largest cemeteries, and in many respects those which evoke the most tender emotions, are honored as the resting places of men who died in the caldron of conflict known as war while wearing the uniform of their country. One reflects on shattered dreams, unfulfilled hopes, grief-filled hearts, and lives cut short by the sharp scythe of war.
"Acres of neat, white crosses in the cities of France and Belgium accentuate the terrible toll of World War I. Verdun, France, is—in reality—a gigantic cemetery. Each spring, as farmers till the earth, they uncover a helmet here, a gun barrel there—grim reminders of the millions of men who literally soaked the soil with the blood of their lives.
"A tour of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and other battlefields of the American Civil War marks that conflict, where brother fought against brother. Some families lost farms, others possessions....
"One sentence only, spoken by one person only, provides a fitting epitaph: 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' (John 15:13.)"
- Thomas S. Monson, "He Is Risen," General Conference, October 1981
Click here to read or watch the full talk

In his many discourses over the years, President Monson several times expressed a particular sensitivity for the victims of war. In this example, he reflected on the visual impact of a military cemetery and all it represents of the lives of those whose mortal remains rest there. How tender and fitting to contemplate "shattered dreams, unfulfilled hopes, grief-filled hearts, and lives cut short by the sharp scythe of war."

President Monson identified the greatest tribute that would be offered to those who so unselfishly gave their lives in defense of country and freedom: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And he goes on in the talk to replace the darkness of despair with the hope of eternal life offered by the death and resurrection of the Savior. How blessed we are to have that eternal hope!

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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on what it means to follow Jesus Christ

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.
"If, then, Jesus is indeed the Christ, as we so testify, what must we do?
"Christ's supreme sacrifice can find full fruition in our lives only as we accept the invitation to follow him. This call is not irrelevant, unrealistic, or impossible. To follow an individual means to watch him or listen to him closely; to accept his authority, to take him as a leader, and to obey him; to support and advocate his ideas; and to take him as a model. Each of us can accept this challenge. Peter said, 'Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.' (1 Pet. 2:21.) Just as teachings that do not conform to Christ's doctrine are false, so a life that does not conform to Christ's example is misdirected, and may not achieve its high potential destiny."
- Howard W. Hunter, "An Apostle's Witness of Christ," fireside satellite broadcast, 30 October 1983; see Ensign. January 1984, p. 71
Click here to read the full talk

How do we accept the invitation to follow Jesus Christ? What does it mean to follow Him? These are critical, eternal questions; President Hunter has some wonderful suggestions for us to consider.

This is an interesting list to ponder: what does it mean to follow someone? According to President Hunter:

  • to watch him or listen to him closely
  • to accept his authority, to take him as a leader, and to obey him
  • to support and advocate his ideas
  • to take him as a model

Those steps are worth considering carefully; am I doing all I can to truly follow Him? Where can I improve? President Hunter teaches that a life that does not conform to the doctrines of the Savior is "misdirected, and may not achieve its high potential destiny."

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

Saturday, May 27, 2017

President Ezra Taft Benson on gratitude for blessings

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.
"We need to be more grateful. I think there's no true character without gratitude. It's one of the marks of a real strong character, to have a feeling of thanksgiving and gratitude for blessings that are ours. We need more of that spirit in our homes, in our daily associations, in church, everywhere. It doesn't cost anything. It's so easy to cultivate the spirit of appreciation and gratitude. And it's so easy, also, to be dissatisfied and to be envious of other people....
"I hope we can be happy where we are, be grateful for our blessings—now—here, accept the challenge that is ours and make the most of it, and don't be envious of others.
"God help us to be grateful. Someone has said that an ungrateful man is like a hog under a tree eating apples and never looking up to see where they come from. Do we look up to see where our blessings are coming from?"
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Receive All Things with Thankfulness," New Era, Nov. 1976, p. 4
Click here to read the full talk

President Benson suggests that there are two tendencies that are both relatively easy to follow in our lives: choosing to be "dissatisfied and envious of other people" or learning to "cultivate the spirit of appreciation and gratitude." He invites us to choose the path of gratitude and thanksgiving for our blessings.

With our very limited mortal vision, it's very easy to forget the source of our blessings. I've always been impressed by King Benjamin's teachings about how eager God is to "immediately bless" us as we follow him, leaving us "indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever" (Mosiah 2:24). Truly, we should be continually and eternally grateful.

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Elder Neil L. Andersen on our dependence on God

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.

This excerpt is from the talk he gave shortly after being sustained to the Quorum of Twelve.
"I know that I am not what I must become. I pray that I might be willing and moldable to the Lord's tutoring and correction. I take comfort from the words of President Monson last night in the priesthood session that the Lord will shape the back to fit the burden placed upon it.
"Just after my call as a General Authority 16 years ago, in a stake conference where I accompanied President Boyd K. Packer, he said something I have not forgotten. As he addressed the congregation, he said, 'I know who I am.' Then after a pause, he added, 'I am a nobody.' He then turned to me, sitting on the stand behind him, and said, 'And, Brother Andersen, you are a nobody too.' Then he added these words: 'If you ever forget it, the Lord will remind you of it instantly, and it won't be pleasant.' ...
"Above all, we proclaim our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. All that we are—all that we will ever be—we owe to Him. While we gaze in awe at His majesty, He does not ask us to stay our distance but bids us to come unto Him. 'I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him' (Revelation 3:20)."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Come Unto Him," Ensign, May 2009, pp. 78-80
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

As a newly-sustained apostle, Elder Andersen was justifiably overwhelmed at this setting, knowing how the rest of his life would be impacted by what was taking place. But recognizing his own inadequacy, he prayed to be "willing and moldable to the Lord's tutoring and correction." That's a marvelous attitude. The word "moldable" is very descriptive; we should be willing to be changed and transformed into the image that God would see fit for us. A beautiful scriptural phrase for this attitude is "easy to be entreated" (Alma 7:23).

The personal anecdote Elder Andersen shares of his exchange with President Packer is a good reminder of the need for humility and perspective. Truly, each of us is a "nobody" in the sense that we are only a servant in God's great work. If we get caught up in our own supposed strength and achievements, we have forgotten where the power really comes from.

And this is a great key. The Lord never wants us to feel alone or deserted. He is always willing and eager to bless and sustain us, to work through us to accomplish His work. We need only be willing to come to Him, to open the door to Him and allow that miracle to happen.

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

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on seeking daily help and sustenance from God

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (b. January 24, 1945) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"Included in the Lord's Prayer is the petition 'Give us this day our daily bread' (Matthew 6:11) or 'Give us day by day our daily bread' (Luke 11:3). I believe that we would all readily acknowledge that we have needs each day that we want our Heavenly Father's help in dealing with. For some, on some days, it is quite literally bread—that is, the food needed to sustain life that day. It could also be spiritual and physical strength to deal with one more day of chronic illness or a painfully slow rehabilitation. In other cases it may be less tangible needs, such as things related to one's obligations or activities in that day—teaching a lesson or taking a test, for example.
"Jesus is teaching us, His disciples, that we should look to God each day for the bread—the help and sustenance—we require in that particular day....
"The Lord's invitation to seek our daily bread at our Heavenly Father's hand speaks of a loving God, aware of even the small, daily needs of His children and anxious to assist them, one by one. He is saying that we can ask in faith of that Being 'that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given' (James 1:5). That is, of course, tremendously reassuring, but there is something at work here that is more significant than just help in getting by day to day. As we seek and receive divine bread daily, our faith and trust in God and His Son grow."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread," BYU Fireside, January 9, 2011; see also Ensign, January 2012, p. 21
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I've always appreciated the subtle difference between the Lord's prayer as shared by Matthew and Luke. While Matthew recorded "Give us this day our daily bread" (the more familiar rendition), the Luke account seems to expand and emphasize the ongoing blessing implied in the petition by saying, "Give us day by day our daily bread." Not only are we asking for God's help each day, one at a time, but also with the awareness that His help is available to us each and every day as we continue to petition in faith.

Elder Christofferson points out the help we ask for sometimes is "quite literally bread" as we may struggle to survive physically in the world. But at other times, it is "physical and spiritual strength" as we confront the challenges of life, or other more immediate and personal needs. But the key is that we can, we must, ask today for the needs of today.

I am grateful for this reminder. The blessing and power of asking for "daily bread" is not just in getting the bread to help survive each day. It's also in developing and strengthening personal trust and faith in Jesus Christ and in the Father. As we learn to turn to Them in confidence, we will be blessed with ever-growing faith and hope.

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Elder Quentin L. Cook on the role of youth in family history work

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.
"What a great time to be alive. This is the last dispensation, and we can feel the hastening of the work of salvation in every area where a saving ordinance is involved. We now have temples across much of the world to provide these saving ordinances. Attending the temple for spiritual renewal, peace, safety, and direction in our lives is also a great blessing....
"The question is, what do we need to do? The Prophet Joseph's counsel was to present in the temple 'the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation' (D&C 128:24).
"The leadership of the Church has issued a clarion call to the rising generation to lead the way in the use of technology to experience the spirit of Elijah, to search out their ancestors, and to perform temple ordinances for them. Much of the heavy lifting in hastening the work of salvation for both the living and the dead will be done by you young people.
"If the youth in each ward will not only go to the temple and do baptisms for their dead but also work with their families and other ward members to provide the family names for the ordinance work they perform, both they and the Church will be greatly blessed. Don't underestimate the influence of the deceased in assisting your efforts and the joy of ultimately meeting those you serve. The eternally significant blessing of uniting our own families is almost beyond comprehension."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Roots and Branches," Ensign, May 2014, pp. 44-48
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"The hastening of the work of salvation" is a fascinating theme. In general, work can be hastened for a number of reasons: running out of time for completion, increased awareness of the importance of the work, improved tools to perform the work, etc. Perhaps all of those apply to the "work of salvation" that Elder Cook is discussing. Certainly, we are blessed to have increased access to temples as one of the great tools to facilitate that work. And the additional benefit of worshiping in temples "for spiritual renewal, peace, safety, and direction in our lives" is a profound blessing.

But the interesting aspect of this quote is the focus on youth. I love the "clarion call" that has been issued to today's youth to step up and do "much of the heavy lifting" of this work:

I am thrilled as I serve as a temple worker to see the youth coming early in the mornings in great numbers to participate in baptisms. It's inspiring to see their faithfulness and eagerness to serve in that sacred setting. So many are taking the "clarion call" seriously in helping to hasten the work!

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