Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Elder Quentin L. Cook on gratitude for our blessings

Elder Quentin L. Cook (born September 8, 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"I hope you will be grateful for your blessings – especially your heritage. Gratitude and humility are closely intertwined. We live in a very self-centered age. Social media, in particular, can easily be used for self-promotion. It has never been more important to be grateful and humble. Those who possess these attributes express appreciation for their blessings as they follow the Savior’s example....
"I would suggest that we need to be especially grateful for our heritage. I know that your parents and families are very pleased with what is transpiring today. I hope you are appreciative of them. When we are blessed with goodly parents, we should be grateful. This is the debt each of us owes for our heritage. An old Chinese proverb reads: 'When you drink the water, don’t forget the well from whence it came.' It is clear from the scriptures that we are to honor our parents. Proverbs reads, 'My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother…' Ephesians teaches us to 'honor thy father and mother;' The great German philosopher, Goethe, put it this way, 'What from your father’s heritage is lent, earn it anew to really possess it.' It is clear that we need to be grateful for our parents and take positive action to acquire that which they would hope to bestow upon us."
- Quentin L. Cook, "The Good Life," BYU-Idaho graduation address, December 18, 2015
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Cook was speaking to young college graduates in this address. They are particularly challenged by social media's lure, and the temptation of "self-promotion" that Elder Cook warns of. The need to find a proper focus of gratitude and humility is more important than ever:

Elder Cook particularly encouraged his audience to be grateful for their heritage, to recognize the contributions of those who went before them. Truly we can never overestimate how much we owe to those who have helped establish foundations of faith for us.

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

Elder David A. Bednar on seeking a Christlike character

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.
"We can in mortality seek to be blessed with and develop essential elements of a Christlike character. Indeed, it is possible for us as mortals to strive in righteousness to receive the spiritual gifts associated with the capacity to reach outward and appropriately respond to other people who are experiencing the very challenge or adversity that is most immediately and forcefully pressing upon us. We cannot obtain such a capacity through sheer willpower or personal determination. Rather, we are dependent upon and in need of 'the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah' (2 Nephi 2:8). But 'line upon line, precept upon precept' (2 Nephi 28:30) and 'in [the] process of time' (Moses 7:21), we are enabled to reach outward when the natural tendency is for us to turn inward.
"It is interesting to me that one of the central elements of the word character is created by the letters A, C, and T. As we already have seen in the examples of Christ's character from the New Testament, the nature and consistency of how one acts reveals in a powerful way his or her true character. In the case of Christ, he is described as one '. . . who went about doing good' (Acts 10:38)."
- David A. Bednar, "The Character of Christ," BYU-Idaho Religion Symposium, January 25, 2003
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Bednar delivered this address after hearing Elder Neal A. Maxwell teach, "There would have been no Atonement except for the character of Christ." He was led to ponder the character of Christ and how we can be blessed as we come to understand it. As we humbly and sincerely see the spiritual gifts that will allow us to emulate Him, we will be deeply blessed and enhanced through His grace.

Elder Bednar points out that it becomes key for us to act in accordance with the principles we have learned, in seeking His character. Like Him, we should "go about doing good."

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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on treating others with love and forgiveness

Elder 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 served as second counselor in the First Presidency from 2008 to 2018.
"This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:
"Stop it!
"It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, 'Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.'
"We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?
"Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?"
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Merciful Obtain Mercy," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

While serving as a member of the First Presidency, President Uchtdorf shared many powerful messages, and this is a very memorable one. He encouraged us to consider our relationships with one another and to think about the need for love and forgiveness in those interactions. Too often we hold on to grudges and disagreements, as well as treating others with less respect than they deserve; and his advice was very simple: "Stop it!"

When we truly have "a heart full of love for God and His children" it will change our interactions with each other, and we will be more accepting, loving, and forgiving. We depend on mercy from God; we must offer it freely to one another.

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

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on having courageous hearts in challenging days

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (born December 3, 1940) served as Church Commissioner of Education from 1976-1980, as the president of BYU from 1980-1989, as a Seventy from 1989-1994, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1994.
"Prophecies regarding the last days often refer to large-scale calamities such as earthquakes or famines or floods. These in turn may be linked to widespread economic or political upheavals of one kind or another.
"But there is one kind of latter-day destruction that has always sounded to me more personal than public, more individual than collective—a warning, perhaps more applicable inside the Church than outside it. The Savior warned that in the last days even those of the covenant, the very elect, could be deceived by the enemy of truth. (See Matthew 24:24.) If we think of this as a form of spiritual destruction, it may cast light on another latter-day prophecy. Think of the heart as the figurative center of our faith, the poetic location of our loyalties and our values; then consider Jesus’s declaration that in the last days 'men’s hearts [shall fail] them' (Luke 21:26).
"The encouraging thing, of course, is that our Father in Heaven knows all of these latter-day dangers, these troubles of the heart and soul, and has given counsel and protections regarding them.
"In light of that, it has always been significant to me that the Book of Mormon, one of the Lord’s powerful keystones in this counteroffensive against latter-day ills, begins with a great parable of life, an extended allegory of hope versus fear, of light versus darkness, of salvation versus destruction....
"Love. Healing. Help. Hope. The power of Christ to counter all troubles in all times—including the end of times. That is the safe harbor God wants for us in personal or public days of despair. That is the message with which the Book of Mormon begins, and that is the message with which it ends, calling all to 'come unto Christ, and be perfected in him' (Moroni 10:32) ...
"Brothers and sisters, God always provides safety for the soul, and with the Book of Mormon, He has again done that in our time. Remember this declaration by Jesus Himself: 'Whoso treasureth up my word, shall not be deceived' (JS—Matthew 1:37)—and in the last days neither your heart nor your faith will fail you."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Safety for the Soul," General Conference October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The Savior's warning about "Men’s hearts failing them for fear" in the last days has always impressed me; there will be trying times, even for "the very elect"—perhaps especially for them. But Elder Holland points out that the Lord offers light and hope in the midst of the darkness and fear that otherwise might consume us.

"Love. Healing. Help. Hope." There is certainly a "safe harbor" available to each of us, as we turn to Him. In the rest of this encouraging and hopeful talk, Elder Holland testifies of the power of the Book of Mormon to help us find those sources of faith and light.

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

Friday, March 15, 2019

President M. Russell Ballard on standing as witnesses of God

President M. Russell Ballard (born October 8, 1928) was called as a Seventy in 1976, and has served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1985. He became acting president of the Twelve in January 2018.
"When we covenant in the waters of baptism to 'stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places' (Mosiah 18:9), we’re not talking solely about fast and testimony meetings. It may not always be easy, convenient, or politically correct to stand for truth and right, but it is always the right thing to do. Always. ...
"Standing for truth and right is not solely a Sunday thing. Every day our neighborhoods and communities are in desperate need of our support and our commitment to safety and law and order. Crime, in all its pervasive manifestations, is a serious worldwide evil and a moral problem about which Church leaders have great concern. The social, economic, and moral costs of crime are incalculable. It is no respecter of race, religion, nationality, age, culture, or socioeconomic status."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Standing for Truth and Right," General Conference October 1997
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What does it mean to "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places"? President Ballard challenges us, in this address shared with a Priesthood session of conference, to be more involved in our communities in defending the truth and being voices for righteousness.

Wickedness continues to grow in society; the modern analogs to Book of Mormon concerns about "secret combinations" are rampant. It becomes more and more critical for faithful disciples of Christ to be willing to be visible and vocal in our efforts to combat the adversary.

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

Thursday, March 14, 2019

President Henry B. Eyring on encouraging youth to be their best

President Henry B. Eyring (born May 31, 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.
"As a young father I prayed to know what contributions my children might make in the Lord’s kingdom. For the boys, I knew they could have priesthood opportunities. For the girls, I knew they would give service representing the Lord. All would be doing His work. I knew each was an individual, and therefore the Lord would have given them specific gifts for each to use in His service.
"Now, I cannot tell every father and every leader of youth the details of what is best for you to do. But I can promise you that you will bless them to help them recognize the spiritual gifts with which they were born. Every person is different and has a different contribution to make. No one is destined to fail. As you seek revelation to see gifts God sees in those you lead in the priesthood—particularly the young—you will be blessed to lift their sights to the service they can perform. With your guidance, those you lead will be able to see, want, and believe they can achieve their full potential for service in God’s kingdom."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Help Them Aim High," Priesthood Session, General Conference October 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

These remarks were addressed to a gathering of men and boys at a General Priesthood session of conference. President Eyring was talking specifically about the role of fathers and Church leaders in working with youth, encouraging them to discover their gifts and become their best selves. The same counsel clearly applies to mothers and leaders of young women.

I love the counsel to pray about each individual child, seeking to better understand their gifts and what the Lord has in store for them. A parent or leader could then tailor his efforts to helping that young person grow in the best ways, and to recognize their own spiritual gifts. President Eyring's testimony about their individual potential is clear:

Sometimes we all need to be reminded that "No one is destined to fail." We all, youth and adults, have divine potential that can be realized as we focus on the gifts we have been given and strive to serve with faithfulness and unselfishness.

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

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

President Dallin H. Oaks on communicating with love and understanding

President Dallin H. Oaks (born August 12, 1932) served as president of BYU from 1971-1980.  He was then appointed as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and resigned when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984. He became President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and also 1st Counselor in the First Presidency in January 2018.
"The Savior taught that contention is a tool of the devil. That surely teaches against some of the current language and practices of politics. Living with policy differences is essential to politics, but policy differences need not involve personal attacks that poison the process of government and punish participants. All of us should banish hateful communications and practice civility for differences of opinion.
"The most important setting to forgo contention and practice respect for differences is in our homes and family relationships. Differences are inevitable—some minor and some major. As to major differences, suppose a family member is in a cohabitation relationship. That brings two important values into conflict—our love for the family member and our commitment to the commandments. Following the Savior’s example, we can show loving-kindness and still be firm in the truth by forgoing actions that facilitate or seem to condone what we know to be wrong."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Loving Others and Living with Differences," General Conference October 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We live in challenging times. Our communication system is far more extensive than it ever has been; we are able to be informed rapidly of events around the world, through a variety of communication media, both formal and informal. In the midst of this "information onslaught" we sometimes are exposed to very strongly voiced opinions from different points of view, and often those opinions are expressed aggressively, harshly, and critically. That seems almost to be expected in political discussions; President Oaks warns that the "personal attacks" now so common in that arena can "poison the process of government." Truly, we can see that "contention is a tool of the devil" that we must learn to avoid.

While the world of political discussion is one area to be concerned about, President Oaks points out that our family settings are far more critical. Differences of opinion will occur in the home; but how we respond to them can tell a lot about the depth of our discipleship. There are fine lines to be drawn between loving acceptance and commitment to God's standards. We must never forget that both are needful. And some have a tendency to forget that love, mercy, and charity are among the greatest qualities of the Savior and His disciples.

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