Thursday, December 13, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on power through the atonement of Jesus Christ

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.
"Live so that the atonement can be fully efficacious in your life.
"As indicated previously, rationalization for bad choices will not be effective, but repentance will. Those who repent will be particularly blessed by the atonement. Without the atonement the eternal principle of justice would require punishment (see Alma 42:14). Because of the atonement mercy can prevail for those who have repented and allow them to return to the presence of God (Alma 42:15).
"I first understood the full significance of the atonement when my grandfather was dying. I was studying for the California bar exam when my mother called and said if I wanted to see my grandfather before he died, I better come to Utah. My grandfather, who was 86 years old, was very ill. He was so pleased to see me and share his testimony.
"There were three concerns that he had:
"1. He loved his ten children very much. They were all good people. He wanted them all to be temple worthy.
"2. His father was one of the young men who had carried members of the Martin Handcart Company across the Sweetwater. His father had died when my grandfather was three years old and he looked forward to seeing him and hoped his father and other family members would approve of his life.
"3. Finally, and most importantly, he told me how he looked forward to meeting the Savior. He referred to the Savior as the 'Keeper of the Gate,' a reference to 2 Nephi 9:41. He told me that he hoped he had been sufficiently repentant to qualify for the Savior’s mercy.
"All of us have sinned and it is only through the atonement that we can obtain mercy and live with God. I can remember to this day the great love that grandfather had for the Savior and the appreciation he had for the atonement."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Strengthen Faith as You Seek Knowledge," BYU-Idaho devotional, March 14, 2006
Click here to read the full talkClick here to watch a video of the devotional

The opening line of this excerpt is so crucial: "Live so that the atonement can be fully efficacious in your life." Many of us perhaps have felt portions of the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But for it to be fully efficacious requires that we be fully humble, fully repentant, fully obedient, and fully devoted as disciples of Jesus Christ. The blessings of repentance come to those who open their hearts to Him:

Elder Cook's memories from his youth of a devoted grandfather's last wishes are instructive. What counsel would we give to those we love if we knew our time were short? What would we be able to identify as the highest concerns and priorities we felt? Clearly Elder Cook had a wonderful heritage of faith based on the words of his grandfather.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Elder David A. Bednar on acting as agents in our own progress

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.
“Worldly influences would hinder use of our agency afforded through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  But we are agents who can act, and that affects everything in terms of how we live the gospel in our daily lives. It affects how we pray, how we study the scriptures, how we worship at church. There is a difference when one goes to a sacrament meeting essentially as an object waiting to be acted upon—‘Feed me, give me something’—as opposed to worshiping in sacrament meeting as an agent where you are acting—asking, seeking, and knocking."
- David A. Bednar, training shared with Church members in Europe, September 2011
Click here to read more information about this event

Elder Bednar provides an interesting insight into the world's influence on our lives and actions: the world strives to hinder or limit our agency. As we are "caught up" in the philosophies and activities of the world, we gradually lose ability to act as agents to ourselves. We must always resist that limiting influence and strive to retain our agency to the fullest possible, as we act according to God's plan for us:

So much depends on how we approach the opportunities and settings in our lives! Specifically, Elder Bednar suggests that we will be blessed as we actively seek to take control of our own growth and learning, "asking, seeking, and knocking" as we attend meetings or in any other setting. Good reminder!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the value of work

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.
"How I admire men, women, and children who know how to work! How the Lord loves the laborer! He said, 'In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread' (Genesis 3:19), and 'The laborer is worthy of his hire' (D&C 84:79). He also gave a promise: 'Thrust in your sickle with all your soul, and your sins are forgiven you' (D&C 31:5). Those who are unafraid to roll up their sleeves and lose themselves in the pursuit of worthwhile goals are a blessing to their families, communities, nations, and to the Church.
"The Lord doesn’t expect us to work harder than we are able. He doesn’t (nor should we) compare our efforts to those of others. Our Heavenly Father asks only that we do the best we can—that we work according to our full capacity, however great or small that may be.
"Work is an antidote for anxiety, an ointment for sorrow, and a doorway to possibility. Whatever our circumstances in life, my dear brethren, let us do the best we can and cultivate a reputation for excellence in all that we do. Let us set our minds and bodies to the glorious opportunity for work that each new day presents."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Two Principles for Any Economy," General Conference October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Uchtdorf encouraged us all to be hard workers—he commends those who are "unafraid to roll up their sleeves and lose themselves in the pursuit of worthwhile goals." That assumes that we do have some "worthwhile goals" in life, and then are able to focus our efforts on them. Sometimes it helps to take a step back and ask, "Why am I doing this work? What will it lead to? What is my 'goal,' defined or not?" That may help us to find better motivation for our work.

Note that those who are able to focus and work devotedly, will be "a blessing to their families, communities, nations, and to the Church." This applies to any person, in any setting, regardless of the role they play in the family or in the Church. Any individual who is willing to "put the shoulder to the wheel" will contribute in ways that will bless others.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Monday, December 10, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on sharing the love of the Lord

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.
"Our hope and faith are rooted in the profound understanding that He lives today and that He continues to lead and guide His Church and His people. We rejoice in the knowledge of the living Christ, and we reverently acknowledge the miracles He continues to work today in the lives of those who have faith in Him. He is the head of the Church, which bears His name. He is our Savior and our Redeemer. Through Him we worship and pray to our Heavenly Father. We are grateful beyond measure for the essential and awesome power His Atonement has in each of our lives.
"Because we love the Lord, we should be spiritually sensitive to moments when the powerful and important truths of the gospel can be shared with others. Perhaps more importantly, however, we should seek at all times to purify ourselves and to lead such worthy lives that the Light of Christ emanates from us in all that we say and do. Our day-to-day lives should stand as immutable witness of our faith in Christ. In the words of the Apostle Paul, 'Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity' (1 Tim. 4:12)."
- M. Russell Ballard, "How Is It with Us?", General Conference April 2000
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Those who strive to follow Christ have much to be grateful for. "We rejoice in the knowledge of the living Christ, and we reverently acknowledge the miracles He continues to work today in the lives of those who have faith in Him." We truly feel "essential and awesome power" through His Atonement.

Given those profound blessings, we should be moved to share them with others around us. We can be prompted, if we are "spiritually sensitive," in those moments when we can appropriately share the message of His love with those around us:

Even more important than the words we share, we also should be the light to those around us. Coincidentally, I subscribe to a "quote of the day" message that contained this thought today: "You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips." (Oliver Goldsmith, Irish Writer, 1728-1774)

As we strive to "purify ourselves" and live "worthy lives," we will find that "the Light of Christ emanates from us in all that we say and do." A true disciple of Jesus Christ will always be seen and will be noticed by those around him!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Sunday, December 9, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on how the blessing of the Holy Ghost helps us watch ourselves

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.
"King Benjamin taught that we are responsible for the determined effort necessary to resist temptation. He warned his people about specific temptations. But after giving those warnings, he put the obligation on them. As often as we pray not to be overcome by temptation and to be delivered from evil, we are responsible for ourselves. Here are the words he spoke, which are not his, but from God:
"'And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.
"'But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.' (Mosiah 4:29–30.)
"With the help of the Holy Ghost, we can watch over ourselves. We can pray to recognize and reject the first thoughts of sin. We can pray to recognize a warning not to speak words which would hurt or tempt someone else. And we can, when we must, pray for the humility and the faith to repent.
"There will surely be some who hear my voice who will have this thought come into their minds: 'But the temptations are too great for me. I have resisted as long as I can. For me, the commandments are too hard. The standard is too high.'
"That is not so. The Savior is our Advocate with the Father. He knows our weaknesses. He knows how to succor those who are tempted. (See D&C 62:1.)
"I bear you my witness that the Savior lives and that He is the sure foundation. I know that by acting on our faith in Him we can be cleansed and changed to become pure and strong, as a little child. I bear you my testimony that the Holy Ghost can lead us to truth and away from sin."
- Henry B. Eyring, "As a Child," General Conference April 2006
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Eyring spoke of "times of moral peril" in this message, identifying the challenges and dangers that we face in our modern era. But there is hope, if we follow the Lord's prescribed path: "Our natures must be changed to become as a child to gain the strength we must have to be safe."

Children are more naturally filled with faith in God and trust in His help. As we become more like children, and experience the "change of heart" that comes through discipleship, we receive strength to co what is right and to be blessed through our challenges.

Learning to "watch over ourselves" is a great gift that blesses our search for peace and happiness. President Eyring promises that through the gift of the Holy Ghost, our abilities to watch are enhanced:

No challenge is beyond our capacity; no temptation is to great to overcome, as long as we approach it with Divine help. We must learn to act with faith in God, humbly doing all we can and then relying on His merits through the Holy Ghost.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Saturday, December 8, 2018

President Brigham Young on having the spirit of prayer

President Brigham Young (1801-1877) was part of the first Quorum of Twelve Apostles of this dispensation, called and ordained in 1835. He served as the second Church president, succeeding Joseph Smith, from 1847 until his death in 1877.
"If the Devil says you cannot pray when you are angry, tell him it is none of his business, and pray until that species of insanity is dispelled and serenity is restored to the mind.
"We are inhabitants of a world of sin and sorrow; pain and anguish, every ill that can be heaped upon intelligent beings in a probation we are heirs to. I suppose that God never organized an earth and peopled it that was ever reduced to a lower state of darkness, sin and ignorance than this. I suppose this is one of the lowest kingdoms that ever the Lord Almighty created, and on that account is capable of becoming exalted to be one of the highest kingdoms that has ever had an exaltation in all the eternities. In proportion as it has been reduced so it will be exalted, with that portion of its inhabitants who in their humiliation have cleaved to righteousness and acknowledged God in all things. In proportion to our fall through sin, so shall we be exalted in the presence of our Father and God, through Jesus Christ and by living the righteousness of his Gospel. All this the people will understand in due time through their faithfulness, and learn to rejoice even in the midst of afflictions....
"Let us be just, merciful, faithful and true, and let us live our religion, and we shall be taught all things pertaining to the building up of Zion. Let us train our minds until we delight in that which is good, lovely and holy, seeking continually after that intelligence which will enable us effectually to build up Zion."
- Brigham Young, Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, May 24, 1863; see JD 10:175, 177
Click here to read the full talk

There are certainly times in our lives when we feel more inclined to pray than others. President Young suggests that the Adversary takes advantage of our emotions to discourage us from praying at the times when we might most benefit. Are we inclined to pray when we are angry? Or when we feel discouraged, disappointed, annoyed at another, taken advantage of, overburdened? This is a powerful principle: when we don't feel like praying, we should pray anyway until we feel like praying again!

President Young goes on to describe the challenges of the world in which we live, full of "sin and sorrow; pain and anguish" and plenty of difficulties to go around. But we have the ability, individually and collectively, to rise above that world and to help raise the world to a better state as we turn to God and life faithfully. A great key is in the last sentence of this excerpt; we must begin to "train our minds until we delight in that which is good, lovely and holy, seeking continually after that intelligence which will enable us effectually to build up Zion." That training happens gradually, but must occur steadily in order for the miracle of change to occur.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Friday, December 7, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on diversity and tolerance

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.
"Anyone who preaches unity risks misunderstanding. The same is true of anyone who questions the goal of diversity. Such a one risks being thought intolerant. But tolerance is not jeopardized by promoting unity or by challenging diversity....
"In short, we preach unity among the community of Saints and tolerance toward the personal differences that are inevitable in the beliefs and conduct of a diverse population. Tolerance obviously requires a noncontentious manner of relating toward one another’s differences. But tolerance does not require abandoning one’s standards or one’s opinions on political or public policy choices. Tolerance is a way of reacting to diversity, not a command to insulate it from examination....
"In conclusion, diversity and choice are not the weightier matters of the law. The weightier matters that move us toward our goal of eternal life are love of God, obedience to His commandments, and unity in accomplishing the work of His Church. In this belief and practice we move against the powerful modern tides running toward individualism and tolerance rather than toward obedience and cooperative action. Though our belief and practice is unpopular, it is right, and it does not require the blind obedience or the stifling uniformity its critics charge. If we are united on our eternal goal and united on the inspired principles that will get us there, we can be diverse on individual efforts in support of our goals and consistent with those principles."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Weightier Matters," devotional address at BYU on 9 February 1999, reprinted in Ensign January 2001, p. 13
Click here to read the full talk

What is the interplay between unity and diversity? Can a group or community be one, be united, but yet have differences in belief or approach? President Oaks advocates both "unity among the community of Saints and tolerance toward the personal differences" that exist within the population. We must learn to relate to differences in a way that avoids contention, while still holding on to our own beliefs and opinions.

Importantly, President Oaks points out that there are higher principles than choice, individualism, and tolerance. Our society wants to focus on those issues to the exclusion of more important ones, including "love of God, obedience to His commandments, and unity in accomplishing the work of His Church."

In seeking to support good and true principles including tolerance, it's important that we not neglect the "weightier matters" of eternal truth that will lead us back to our Father in Heaven, while still allowing for diversity and acceptance of differences.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)
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