Sunday, July 15, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on the need for optimism in a stress-filled 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.
"Looking at the dark side of things always leads to a spirit of pessimism which so often leads to defeat....
"I have little doubt that many of us are troubled with fears concerning ourselves. We are in a period of stress across the world. There are occasionally hard days for each of us. Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to you. Do not let the prophets of gloom endanger your possibilities."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Continuing Pursuit of Truth,"  BYU—Hawaii commencement 18 June 1983; see Ensign, April 1986, p. 2
Click here to read the full article

President Hinckley's consistent message of hope and optimism rings true today. While we sometimes face storms and challenges that seem to block the sunlight in our lives, we should always remember that storms are temporary and we must never despair. This applies both to a "period of stress across the world" and to the most individual challenges in our own lives.

I think perhaps one of life's great challenges is to "look for the sunlight through the clouds." Our nature is to focus on the clouds, forgetting that the sunlight is still there behind them. Once we develop that gift, we will find our challenges much easier to bear.

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

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the joy of choosing to turn to 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.
"As in the days of Nehor and Korihor, we live in a time not long before the advent of Jesus Christ—in our case, the time of preparation for His Second Coming. And similarly, the message of repentance is often not welcomed. Some profess that if there is a God, He makes no real demands upon us (see Alma 18:5). Others maintain that a loving God forgives all sin based on simple confession, or if there actually is a punishment for sin, 'God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God' (2 Nephi 28:8). Others, with Korihor, deny the very existence of Christ and any such thing as sin. Their doctrine is that values, standards, and even truth are all relative. Thus, whatever one feels is right for him or her cannot be judged by others to be wrong or sinful.
"On the surface such philosophies seem appealing because they give us license to indulge any appetite or desire without concern for consequences. By using the teachings of Nehor and Korihor, we can rationalize and justify anything. When prophets come crying repentance, it 'throws cold water on the party.' But in reality the prophetic call should be received with joy. Without repentance, there is no real progress or improvement in life. Pretending there is no sin does not lessen its burden and pain. Suffering for sin does not by itself change anything for the better. Only repentance leads to the sunlit uplands of a better life. And, of course, only through repentance do we gain access to the atoning grace of Jesus Christ and salvation. Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it. It points us to freedom, confidence, and peace. Rather than interrupting the celebration, the gift of repentance is the cause for true celebration.
"Repentance exists as an option only because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It is His infinite sacrifice that 'bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance' (Alma 34:15). Repentance is the necessary condition, and the grace of Christ is the power by which 'mercy can satisfy the demands of justice' (Alma 34:16)."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Divine Gift of Repentance," General Conference October 2011
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Christofferson suggests that in our world today, we are seeing an ancient pattern re-expressed: the adversary continues to attempt to confuse believers with philosophical arguments about the nature of God and of sin, getting many off-course with his deceptions. The fundamental nature of eternal principles, commandments, sin, and obedience are so critical to understand. And the interplay of repentance in that situation is perhaps the most critical of all, since that is the key that opens the door to "real progress or improvement in life":

How rarely do we think of repentance in such a positive, encouraging way! It's the source of joy and peace, and even thinking about the prospect of repenting should bring happiness to us. It truly is the reason for celebration and rejoicing in our lives! How grateful we should be, always and forever, for the Atonement of Jesus Christ that makes it possible to us.

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

Friday, July 13, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on persistence in family scripture study

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.
"Clearly, a dividing line between those who hear the music of faith and those who are tone-deaf or off-key is the active study of the scriptures....
"I hope we are reading the Book of Mormon with our children regularly. I have discussed this with my own children. They have shared with me two observations. First, persistence in reading the scriptures daily as a family is the key. My daughter in a lighthearted way describes their early-morning efforts with mostly teenage children to consistently read the scriptures. She and her husband wake up early in the morning and move through the blurry mist to grasp the iron railing that lines their staircase to where their family gathers to read the word of God. Persistence is the answer, and a sense of humor helps. It requires great effort from every family member every day, but it is worth the effort. Temporary setbacks are overshadowed by persistence....
"We know that family scripture study and family home evenings are not always perfect. Regardless of the challenges you face, do not become discouraged."
- Quentin L. Cook, "In Tune with the Music of Faith," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We often underestimate the importance of "active study of the scriptures" in our lives. Elder Cook reminds us how critical that is for us, and for parents who are teaching their children:

Most families face challenges in finding the patterns of consistent and beneficial scripture study. Elder Cook encourages patience and steadiness: "Temporary setbacks are overshadowed by persistence." We may not think our efforts are doing much good, but we often underestimate the impact of those ongoing and consistent efforts.

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

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Elder David A. Bednar on what we do and what we are

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.
"The thirteenth article of faith begins, 'We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men.' It is significant to me that the first trait listed in this inspired summary of basic Christian virtues is honesty. Indeed, the very fountain and foundation of our daily discipleship are integrity and honesty.
"People of integrity and honesty not only practice what they preach, they are what they preach. And the Savior stands as the finest example. He said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me' (John 14:6). It is not just that the Son of God brought light into a darkened and fallen world; He is the Light (see 3 Ne. 11:11). It is not just that our Savior showed us the way; He is the Way. It is not just that Christ made the resurrection available; He is the Resurrection (see John 11:25). And it is not just that Jesus of Nazareth restored the truth and taught the truth; He is the Truth."
- David A. Bednar, "Be Honest," BYU-Idaho devotional September 10, 2002; see New Era October 2005, p. 7
Click here to read the full talk

Virtues such as honesty seem so basic and fundamental to Christian discipleship. And on the surface, perhaps in our interactions with others, we seem to do a fairly good job. But Elder Bednar is talking about a more in-depth view of that virtue and its companion integrity, relating to the deeper motivations and subtleties of our behavior and actions.

So in this interpretation, integrity relates more to not just what we do, but what we are in our internal and spiritual motivations. And what we are will then define what we do.

The Savior is the premiere example; it's not just what He did, but what He is that demonstrate the power of His life and message. As our hearts and motivations become pure and clarified, we will realize how much of our discipleship depends on that same principle.

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on rising up when we fall

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.
"Our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward.
"We know this mortal life is a test. But because our Heavenly Father loves us with a perfect love, He shows us where to find the answers. He has given us the map that allows us to navigate the uncertain terrain and unexpected trials that each of us encounters. The words of the prophets are part of this map.
"When we stray—when we fall or depart from the way of our Heavenly Father—the words of the prophets tell us how to rise up and get back on track.
"Of all the principles taught by prophets over the centuries, one that has been emphasized over and over again is the hopeful and heartwarming message that mankind can repent, change course, and get back on the true path of discipleship.
"That does not mean that we should be comfortable with our weaknesses, mistakes, or sins. But there is an important difference between the sorrow for sin that leads to repentance and the sorrow that leads to despair."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "You Can Do It Now!" General Conference October 2013
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I've learned from my outdoor experiences that even the strongest hikers occasionally stumble and fall! Some of us do it more frequently than others. President Uchtdorf employed that analogy in discussing our spiritual lives to remind us that it's not the fall that matters, ultimately—but how we respond to it. The most important thing is to get back up quickly, "dust ourselves off" (repent), and begin moving forward again:

One of the keys President Uchtdorf shared was that we should know and follow the words of the prophets to help us remain on the proper path in life, to avoid losing our way and getting off-course. The prophets will continue to remind, as they always have, that repentance is available and will bless our lives, regardless of where we are and what has happened in our past.

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the Church as a hospital and not a monastery

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.
"Mercy, with its sister virtue forgiveness, is at the very heart of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the eternal plan of salvation. Everything in the gospel teaches us that we can change if we need to, that we can be helped if we truly want it, that we can be made whole, whatever the problems of the past.
"Now, if you feel too spiritually maimed to come to the feast, please realize that the Church is not a monastery for perfect people, though all of us ought to be striving on the road to godliness. No, at least one aspect of the Church is more like a hospital or an aid station, provided for those who are ill and want to get well, where one can get an infusion of spiritual nutrition and a supply of sustaining water in order to keep on climbing.
"In spite of life’s tribulations and as fearful as some of our prospects are, I testify that there is help for the journey. There is the Bread of Eternal Life and the Well of Living Water. Christ has overcome the world—our world—and His gift to us is peace now and exaltation in the world to come. (See D&C 59:23.) Our fundamental requirement is to have faith in Him and follow Him—always."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "He Hath Filled the Hungry with Good Things," General Conference October 1997
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The idea of describing the Church as a place of healing, and not merely a place to display or honor the healthy and perfect, has a long history. It was employed in a 1964 article by advice columnist Abigail Van Buren ("Dear Abby"). A variation is attributed to the early Christian theologian St. Augustine. And it may even have its roots in the words of the Savior Himself: "They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick..." (Mark 2:17).

However, we still seem to struggle with that idea, and hence Elder Holland's reminder. We come to Church to be "made whole" and to "get well" from whatever ailment is holding us down, holding us back.

"Spiritual nutrition" and "sustaining water" are wonderful symbolic promises. Elder Holland emphasizes in his talk the blessing of both the "Bread of Eternal Life and the Well of Living Water" that are offered to us, as we turn to God in faith.

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

Monday, July 9, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on the sacred role of teachers

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.
"Surely no teachers in the Church are more important than fathers and mothers. No classroom is more important than the home. Parents have been commanded to teach their children the gospel. (See D&C 68:25.)
"My brothers and sisters, I believe that every human soul is teaching something to someone nearly every minute here in mortality. May we consider with great reverence the trust that the Lord has placed in us to 'teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom.' (D&C 88:77.)
"May I urge each member of the Church, when you are serving as a teacher, to remember that every human soul is precious to our Father in Heaven, for we are all his children. God’s children are entitled to be taught the truths of the gospel in clear and understandable terms so that the Spirit can confirm the truths of the gospel to them."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Teaching—No Greater Call," General Conference April 1983
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

For years, the message "Teaching—No Greater Call" has been emphasized in the Church. The role we all play as teachers is far more important than we often acknowledge. President Ballard helped to explain that emphasis in this address, as he gave perspective on how that role is a part of so much that we do, both in formal callings and in informal settings. Being a parent in the home is certainly one of the most crucial teaching settings.

This insight was interesting—we truly are teaching far more frequently, even constantly, than we realize:

So we are "teaching something to someone nearly every minute" of our lives. If not in words, it's in our attitude, our actions, our priorities. Those around us notice the message more than we know, and so it is important that we never waver from the clear and pure message of righteousness. Since we are all God's children, we all deserve to be taught through righteous examples "so that the Spirit can confirm the truths of the gospel" in each of our hearts.

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