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)

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

President Gordon B. Hinckley on finding real beauty in the world

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1961. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1981-1995, then as Church President until his death in 2008.
"There is much of beauty about [the people of the world], but without the root that finds itself in faith and conviction concerning God and the risen Lord, there isn't much of real substance when it comes to a crisis or a showdown of some kind. Seek for the real things, not the artificial. Seek for the everlasting truths, not the passing whim. Seek for the eternal things of God, not for that which is here today and gone tomorrow. 'Look to God and live' [Alma 37:47], as the scripture enjoins us."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Plano Texas Regional Conference, 17 March 1996; see TGBH 494
Click here to read more about this event

Recognizing the beauty that exists in many ways in the world, President Hinckley adds his insight that beauty is enhanced by "faith and conviction concerning God and the risen Lord." That foundation of faith enables us to confront the crises of life that will surely come. And so President Hinckley shares this wise advice:


We would do well to evaluate our priorities:
  • Can I distinguish between real and artificial?
  • Do I make choices based on understanding the differences between things that bring everlasting joy and those that are temporary whims?
  • Am I truly focused on "the eternal things of God"?

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

President Thomas S. Monson on responding to calls to serve

President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) 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 and then became Church president in 2008. He led the Church for almost a decade until his passing in January 2018.
"Then and now, servants of God take comfort from the Master's assurance: 'I am with you alway' (Matt. 28:20). This magnificent promise sustains you....
"An abiding faith, a constant trust, a fervent desire have always characterized those who serve the Lord with all their hearts....
"The call to serve has ever characterized the work of the Lord. It rarely comes at a convenient time. It brings humility, it provokes prayer, and it inspires commitment."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Tears, Trials, Trust, Testimony," General Conference, April 1987
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This message was shared in a Priesthood session of conference when President Monson was serving as a counselor to President Benson. He recognized the challenge that comes to all members of the Church when we are given callings to serve, as we have opportunities to help others in need. The "call" to serve can come as a formal invitation from a leader to fill a particular position or role; or it may be a less formal prompting of a need that we could address in our personal ministry. But for disciples of Christ, that urge to bless others should be a part of our souls.


President Monson himself characterized this inherent attitude of a willingness to serve and bless. His lifetime of formal service in callings was, in a way, almost secondary to the way he often willingly and eagerly followed promptings to bless others in need.

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

Elder Ulisses Soares on learning and teaching the gospel

Elder Ulisses Soares (born October 2, 1958 in Brazil) has served as a Seventy since April 2005, and as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy since January 2013. He was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles on April 1, 2018.
"As recorded in the book of Acts, Philip the evangelist taught the gospel to a certain Ethiopian who was a eunuch in charge of all the treasures belonging to the queen of Ethiopia. (See Acts 8:27.) While returning from worshipping in Jerusalem, he read the book of Isaiah. Compelled by the Spirit, Philip came closer to him and said, 'Understandest thou what thou readest?
"'And [the eunuch] said, How can I, except some man should guide me? …
"'Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.' (Acts 8:30–31, 35.)
"The question asked by this Ethiopian man is a reminder of the divine mandate we all have to seek to learn and to teach one another the gospel of Jesus Christ. (D&C 88:77–78, 118; 130:18–19; 131:6.) In fact, in the context of learning and teaching the gospel, we are sometimes like the Ethiopian—we need the help of a faithful and inspired teacher; and we are sometimes like Philip—we need to teach and strengthen others in their conversion.
"Our purpose as we seek to learn and to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ must be to increase faith in God and in His divine plan of happiness and in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice and to achieve lasting conversion. Such increased faith and conversion will help us make and keep covenants with God, thus strengthening our desire to follow Jesus and producing a genuine spiritual transformation in us—in other words, transforming us into a new creature, as taught by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17.) This transformation will bring us a more happy, productive, and healthy life and help us to maintain an eternal perspective. Isn’t this exactly what happened to the Ethiopian eunuch after he learned about the Savior and was converted to His gospel? The scripture says that 'he went on his way rejoicing.' (Acts 8:39.)"
- Ulisses Soares, "How Can I Understand?," General Conference April 2019
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Soares speaks of a two-fold "divine mandate" given to each of us: "to seek to learn and to teach one another the gospel of Jesus Christ." Learning must precede teaching, and so our quest should be continually to study, ponder, ad build on our understanding and testimony. Truly in this quest "we need the help of a faithful and inspired teacher." We should seek them out and be eager for their influence. Then, we are preparing to accept our opportunities to pass on what we have learned.


Our quest for divine knowledge brings many benefits: lasting personal conversion, increased faith, growing resolve to follow Jesus, spiritual transformation. And ultimately, the changes we experience "will bring us a more happy, productive, and healthy life."

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

Sunday, May 12, 2019

President Russell M. Nelson on the sacred role of mothers

President Russell M. Nelson (born Sept 9, 1924) was an internationally-renowned heart surgeon when he was called to serve as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984. He became president of that quorum on July 15, 2015. Following the death of President Monson, he was set apart as president of the Church on January 14, 2018.
"During my professional career as a doctor of medicine, I was occasionally asked why I chose to do that difficult work. I responded with my opinion that the highest and noblest work in this life is that of a mother. Since that option was not available to me, I thought that caring for the sick might come close. I tried to care for my patients as compassionately and competently as Mother cared for me.
"Many years ago the First Presidency issued a statement that has had a profound and lasting influence upon me. 'Motherhood,' they wrote, 'is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels.' (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay, General Conference October 1942; see Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency, 6:178)
"Because mothers are essential to God’s great plan of happiness, their sacred work is opposed by Satan, who would destroy the family and demean the worth of women.
"You young men need to know that you can hardly achieve your highest potential without the influence of good women, particularly your mother and, in a few years, a good wife. Learn now to show respect and gratitude. Remember that your mother is your mother. She should not need to issue orders. Her wish, her hope, her hint should provide direction that you would honor. Thank her and express your love for her. And if she is struggling to rear you without your father, you have a double duty to honor her."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Our Sacred Duty to Honor Women," General Conference, April 1999
Click here to read or listen to the full talk 

President Nelson has spoken a number of times about the influence of his own mother. He developed a great respect for women as he was blessed by a kind and humble woman early in his life. For him, motherhood became "the highest and noblest work in this life"—the most significant and important role anyone could fill.

Meanwhile, President Nelson teaches that Satan seeks to disrupt our perception of the sacred role of mothers, to "destroy the family and demean the worth of women." We must be aware of those tactics and combat them.

This counsel to young men (and young women) is a great message:


As we come to understand the role of women and mothers, we will be eager and sensitive to support and sustain.
Photo taken in 1964 shortly before my father's death

The final sentence of the excerpt is particularly poignant to me, since I was raised by a single mother who was left with five children between ages 4 and 11 when her husband was killed in an accident. I love and honor her and pay tribute to her sacrifices and love for her children. It's hard to conceive of the struggles of single mothers. I wish I had been more aware of the principle President Nelson suggests for youth to be aware and attentive.

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