Sunday, August 19, 2018

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on the Savior's invitation to come to Him even amidst 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.
"Do we naively expect Christ to come to us—instead of our going to Him? Truly He waits 'all the day long' with open arms to receive the repentant. (2 Ne. 28:32; Morm. 6:17.) There are no restrictive 'office hours.' But it is we who must arise and go to Him! (See Luke 15:18.)
"Blessed are the meek for they shall not be easily offended, which is especially important, since 'My people must be tried in all things, ... and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom.' (D&C 136:31.)
"Genuine faith makes increasing allowance for these individual tutorials. In view of these tutorials, God cannot, brothers and sisters, respond affirmatively to all of our petitions with an unbroken chain of 'yeses.' This would assume that all of our petitions are for that 'which is right' and are spiritually 'expedient.' (3 Ne. 18:20; D&C 18:18; D&C 88:64-65.) No petitioner is so wise! Paul even acknowledged that we sometimes 'know not what we should pray for as we ought.' (Rom. 8:26; see also D&C 46:30.)
"For example, in process of time, our personal inconsistencies may be made inconveniently clear. How else shall we see what we lack? Spiritual refinement is not only to make the gross more pure but to further refine the already fine! Hence, said Peter, we should not think a 'fiery trial' to be 'some strange thing.' (1 Pet. 4:12.)
"Real faith, however, is required to endure this necessary but painful developmental process."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds," General Conference April 1991
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The Savior's invitation was, and always has been, "Come unto me" (Matt. 11:28)—and so it is each of us who must chose to arise and come. He continues to invite, and to wait:

It requires humble, sincere faith to arise and come. Elder Maxwell describes the "genuine faith" that will lead us to Him; and will also bless our lives as we avoid being easily offended, as we understand the nature of our trials and challenges in life, and as we come to comprehend the purpose of petitionary prayer.

Sometimes our prayers for relief or change are denied in order that we have the refining opportunities He would give to us. We learn from every challenge, and are blessed as we trust in God's plan for our growth and tutoring.

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

President Boyd K. Packer on the choice to be obedient

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death on July 3, 2015 at age 90.
"It may seem unusual at first to foster self-control by centering on freedom of choice, but it is a very sound doctrinal approach.
"While either subject may be taught separately, and though they may appear at first to be opposites, they are in fact parts of the same subject.
"Some who do not understand the doctrinal part do not readily see the relationship between obedience and agency. And they miss one vital connection and see obedience only as restraint. They then resist the very thing that will give them true freedom. There is no true freedom without responsibility, and there is no enduring freedom without a knowledge of the truth. The Lord said, 'If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' (John 8:31–32.)
"...Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God.
"We are the sons and daughters of God, willing followers, disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and 'under this head are [we] made free.' (Mosiah 5:8.)
"Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. There is an obedience that comes from a knowledge of the truth that transcends any external form of control. We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see. The best control, I repeat, is self-control."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Agency and Control," General Conference April 1983
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Packer considered in this talk the goal of obtaining the obedience of others. If we want to make sure someone obeys directions or guidelines, how is that best accomplished? One option is expressed in the military setting: the dominance and intimidation that are often portrayed as the officers and leaders "control" the enlisted men. But another very different option is shown in the Gospel's approach. A loving Father invites us to follow and exercise our own self-control. As we choose to be obedient, we find joy and blessings that follow—and so we are motivated to continue in that path.

President Packer discusses the charge that those in such a setting are obeying the requests or instructions of their leaders "blindly":

The sweetest form of discipleship is choosing to willingly follow the teachings of the Master, knowing that there is wisdom and joy in that path. As we begin to see more clearly, we will know that we are choosing wisely and will continue to choose to follow that path.

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

Friday, August 17, 2018

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on finding peace in the storms and challenges of life

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1986, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1986 until his passing in 2008 at age 91.
"Living the gospel does not mean the storms of life will pass us by, but we will be better prepared to face them with serenity and peace. 'Search diligently, pray always, and be believing,' the Lord admonished, 'and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly.' (D&C 90:24)
"Draw close to the Lord Jesus Christ. Be of good cheer. Keep the faith. Doubt not. The storms will one day be stilled. Our beloved prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, has said: 'We have nothing to fear. God is at the helm... [and] He will shower down blessings upon those who walk in obedience to His commandments.' ('This Is the Work of the Master,' Ensign, May 1995, 71.)
"In our own storms in life the Savior is our solace and our sanctuary. If we seek peace, we must come unto Him. He Himself spoke this eternal truth when He said, 'My yoke is easy, and my burden is light' (Matt. 11:30). When our souls are anchored in the safe harbor of the Savior, we can proclaim as did Paul: 'We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed' (2 Cor. 4:8–9)."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Finding a Safe Harbor," General Conference April 2000
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is one of my favorite talks by Elder Wirthlin; it's worthwhile to review the whole message. Elder Wirthlin teaches that faithful living does not guarantee freedom from challenges in life; but it does ensure that we don't have to face the challenges alone or unprepared. Instead, we can confront difficulties "with serenity and peace" knowing that all will be well in the Savior's care. Even more, we are promised that "all things shall work together for [our] good" when we live according to the four conditions outlined in the revelation: search diligently, pray always, be believing, walk uprightly.

If we seek peace, we must come to Him. Ultimately, there is no other way. With Him, there is nothing to fear, regardless of the challenges that surround us. This is a powerful message!

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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

President Howard W. Hunter the sacred blessing of holy temples

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.
"We should strive to 'be partakers of the divine nature' (2 Peter 3:1-4). Only then may we truly hope for 'peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come' (D&C 59:23).
"In that spirit I invite the Latter-day Saints to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership. It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple. It would please the Lord if every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families.
"Let us be a temple-attending people. Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing.
"If proximity to a temple does not allow frequent attendance, gather in the history of your family and prepare the names for the sacred ordinances performed only in the temple. This family research is essential to the work of the temples, and blessings surely will come to those who do that work."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises," General Conference October 1994
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I love the invitation from Peter to "be partakers of the divine nature." As we learn more about God, we are moved to follow and emulate, and we begin not only to act like them but to gradually become like them, taking their very nature upon us.

President Hunter suggests that a very real way to do that is through worshiping and serving in the temples. In the preparation to be worthy for those blessings, and in the action of attending, we truly become more and more like Him.

The temple recommend is a wonderful symbol of Church membership. In our continuing search for peace and happiness, President Hunter assures us that "the things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families." That's a great promise and a wonderful indicator of our efforts to take upon us His nature!

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on facing life's challenges with optimism

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.
"I am suggesting that we look for the great good among those with whom we associate and live, that we speak of one another's virtues and positive qualities more than we speak of one another's faults, that optimism replace pessimism, and that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and tended to be critical of others, my wise father would often say, 'Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve.' Who wants to be around someone who is always forecasting doom? Who wants to be fed a steady diet of the negative? Optimism, on the other hand, and looking on the bright side, refreshes everyone.
"In my ninety-plus years, I have learned a secret. I have learned that when good men and good women face challenges with optimism, things will always work out! Truly, things always work out! Despite how difficult circumstances may look at the moment, those who have faith and move forward with a happy spirit will find that things always work out."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Way to Be! [2002], p. 84

President Hinckley was a quintessential optimist. He regularly counseled Church members to seek the positive, to look on the bright side, and to focus on the good. This is a good example of that attitude in his writings. These attitudes apply to how we treat and interact with one another, as well as how we think and approach our personal life situations and challenges.

"Things always work out"—he says it three times, bringing greater emphasis to the point. Facing our challenges with optimism and faith, with a happy spirit in spite of the difficulties, gives us power beyond expectation in finding good solutions and overcoming the problems.

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on pursuing the highest ideals of manhood

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.
"Good men sometimes make mistakes. A man of integrity will honestly face and correct his mistakes, and that is an example we can respect. Sometimes men try but fail. Not all worthy objectives are realized despite one’s honest and best efforts. True manhood is not always measured by the fruits of one’s labors but by the labors themselves—by one’s striving.
"Though he will make some sacrifices and deny himself some pleasures in the course of honoring his commitments, the true man leads a rewarding life. He gives much, but he receives more, and he lives content in the approval of his Heavenly Father. The life of true manhood is the good life.
"Most importantly, when we consider the admonition to be men, we must think of Jesus Christ. When Pilate brought Jesus forth wearing a crown of thorns, he declared, 'Behold the man!' (see John 19:4–5). Pilate may not have fully understood the significance of his own words, but the Lord indeed stood before the people then as He stands today—the highest ideal of manhood. Behold the man!"
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Let Us Be Men," General Conference October 2006
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The sign of a good person is not whether he or she makes mistakes; but what the reaction or response to those mistakes is. People of integrity "will honorably face and correct [their] mistakes" in appropriate and mature ways.

These remarks were addressed to a Priesthood session of conference, during which Elder Christofferson challenged his listeners to "be men"—to be spiritually mature and willing to resolve mistakes in the proper way.

The greatest ideal of manhood is in the life and example of the Savior, and in the rest of the talk Elder Christofferson uses examples and teachings from the New Testament to illustrate that ideal to which we can aspire. The life of a "true man" is a wonderful life, he points out; "He gives much, but he receives more, and he lives content in the approval of his Heavenly Father." What more could anyone, man or woman, seek?

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on priorities for family stewardships

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"With respect to our stewardship for our families, some have taught that when we report to the Savior and He asks us to give an account of our earthly responsibilities, two important inquiries will relate to our families. The first will be our relationship with our spouse, and the second will be about each of our children. (See Robert D. Hales quoting David O. McKay, 'Wisdom: Understanding of the Heart,' BYU Devotional, March 15, 1988; see also 2 Nephi 9:41.)
"It is easy to confuse our priorities. We have a duty to secure the physical safety and well-being of our children. However, some parents place undue priority on temporal and material possessions. Some are far less diligent in their efforts to immerse their children in the gospel of Jesus Christ. (See Joseph Fielding Smith, Take Heed to Yourselves! p. 221.) Remember that having religious observance in the home is as important as providing food, clothing, and shelter.
"Parents can also help children discover and develop their talents. We are responsible for the talents we have received. Children who are not taught that they are accountable for their time and talents are increasingly subject to the foolishness and unrighteousness that are so pervasive in the world. (See Mark 7:20–23.) The family proclamation warns that individuals 'who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.' ('The Family: A Proclamation to the World,' Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102)"
- Quentin L. Cook, "Stewardship—a Sacred Trust," General Conference October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This statement rings very true to me: "It is easy to confuse our priorities." Perhaps one of the more difficult choices we make in life is that of deciding what matters most to us, and what can be delayed or left behind. We don't always know all the implications of our choices in advance, making the choosing of priorities even more challenging.

But applied to the family situation, Elder Cook helps identify a particularly timely challenge. It's important for parents to be concerned about "the physical safety and well-being" of children. But we sometimes confuse that requirement, placing "undue priority on temporal and material possessions" and neglecting far more important needs of spiritual training and protection.

That's an interesting concept, "immersing" our children in the Savior's gospel. They should be surrounded and encompassed by its teachings and principles in order to be properly protected in the world!

Elder Cook goes on to discuss a further priority, that of helping children explore and expand talents and make proper use of time. Setting children on a good path in these areas will bless their lives and protect them from "the foolishness and unrighteousness that are so pervasive in the world" in using time and talents inappropriately.

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