Friday, January 19, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on the spiritual divide growing in the world

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.
"The spiritual divide gets even wider as evil becomes ever more deceptive and subtle and pulls people toward it like a dark magnet—even as the gospel of truth and light attracts the honest in heart and the honorable of the earth, who seek what is moral and good.
"We may be relatively small in number, but as members of this Church we can reach across these widening gaps. We know the power of Christ-centered service that brings together God’s children regardless of their spiritual or their economic status....
"The Church is a mooring in this tempestuous sea, an anchor in the churning waters of change and division, and a beacon to those who value and seek righteousness. The Lord uses this Church as a tool in pulling His children throughout the world toward the protection of His gospel."
- M. Russell Ballard, "That the Lost May Be Found," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

There is a great "spiritual divide" in the world, and President Ballard discusses aspects of that separation in his talk. Evil grows stronger in our time, but so does righteousness. I thought the description of evil as a "dark magnet" was appropriate; it can pull men and women towards the darkness especially as it becomes "more deceptive and subtle." But that is not the only force that pulls at our hearts; those who are honest and seeking will feel the pull of "the gospel of truth and light." Our calling and opportunity is to help spread the light and draw people towards that which is good.


In the midst of the storms of our time, we can always be grateful for the anchor and the beacon provided for us by the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is protection and safety in the Lord's way!

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on staying close to God

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.
"We need to feel now that God knows us and loves us as individuals. There are times you have felt the closeness of God, your Father, and that you are his child. Those times can come more often. There is a simple way to think about it.
"If you want to stay close to someone who has been dear to you, but from whom you are separated, you know how to do it. You would find a way to speak to them, you would listen to them, and you would discover ways to do things for each other. The more often that happened, the longer it went on, the deeper would be the bond of affection. If much time passed without the speaking, the listening, and the doing, the bond would weaken.
"God is perfect and omnipotent, and you and I are mortal. But he is our Father, he loves us, and he offers the same opportunity to draw closer to him as would a loving friend. And you will do it in much the same way: speaking, listening, and doing."
- Henry B. Eyring, "To Draw Closer to God," General Conference April 1991
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The opening statement of this excerpt is important: we must know of God's love for us and feel its influence. And the way to feel that more strongly and more frequently is clear. President Eyring shares an analogy that is profound, but simple and obvious: just as we must follow steps to stay close to those we love in this life, we must follow similar steps to create and retain a nurturing relationship with our Heavenly Father.


So we must learn to speak, to listen, and to do as we nurture our relationship with God. President Eyring describes aspects of those activities in the article, and it's a worthwhile review of fundamental counsel. It's always impressive how great the promises and the blessings are when we perform the basic actions of a disciple!

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on sustaining leaders and dealing with differences

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.
"Our Father in Heaven has not compelled us to think the same way on every subject or procedure. As we seek to accomplish our life’s purposes, we will inevitably have differences with those around us—including some of those we sustain as our leaders. The question is not whether we have such differences, but how we manage them. What the Lord has said on another subject is also true of the management of differences with his leaders: 'It must needs be done in mine own way.' (D&C 104:16.) We should conduct ourselves in such a way that our thoughts and actions do not cause us to lose the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord.
"The first principle in the gospel procedure for managing differences is to keep our personal differences private....
"Why aren’t these differences discussed in public? Public debate—the means of resolving differences in a democratic government—is not appropriate in our Church government. We are all subject to the authority of the called and sustained servants of the Lord. They and we are all governed by the direction of the Spirit of the Lord, and that Spirit only functions in an atmosphere of unity. That is why personal differences about Church doctrine or procedure need to be worked out privately. There is nothing inappropriate about private communications concerning such differences, provided they are carried on in a spirit of love."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Criticism," talk to an LDSSA fireside on 4 May 1986; see Ensign, February 1987, p. 68-70
Click here to read the full talk

This interesting talk was shared with a group of youth early in President Oaks' service as an apostle. In his various assignments over the years, he had likely been exposed to his fair share of criticism and disagreement, and the advice he offers is very valuable. He provides a very thorough analysis of situations when we might disagree with another, either a peer or a leader, and describes the inappropriate and appropriate ways to do that. He describes principles that apply not just to our response to Church leaders, but also to public figures and government leaders as well.

This acknowledgement of differences that will occur, as natural and expected events in life, is a good foundation:


Our modern tools of communication make it possible at times to be very public in our criticisms. But Preisdent Oaks suggests how inappropriate that is, and the kind of damage it can do. Instead, he gives five suggestions in his article about the ways we might react when we disagree with a leader or a Church position:

  • Overlook the difference, recognizing that God is in charge and men are not always perfect
  • Delay acting, reserving our judgement, since we may not have all the facts or the individual may be able to clarify or correct
  • Confront the difference privately and directly with the individual
  • Communicate with the individual's presiding authority to discuss the situation
  • Pray for resolution, leaving things in God's hands
President Oaks discusses these points in detail, along with other important aspects of the topic. I think it's a wonderful and valuable talk to review and learn from as we strive to support and sustain one another in our various roles, both in the Church and in society.


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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on divine calls and apostolic doctrine

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.
"I have implicit faith in the Lord and in His prophets. I have learned not to put question marks but to use exclamation points when calls are issued through inspired channels of priesthood government....
"While nominally I come to you from the science of surgery and its mother of medicine, in a truer sense, I have been forged from the stern discipline of law—not the laws of men, as mastered by our brethren of the legal profession, but the eternal and unchanging laws of our Divine Creator. The surgeon soon learns the incontrovertibility of divine law. He knows that hopes and wishes are sometimes simply powerless sham. Desired blessings come only by obedience to divine law, and in no other way. My lifetime thus far has been focused on learning those laws. Only as the laws are known, and then obeyed, can the blessings we desire be earned. To this extent, there will be little difference for me in the activities of the past and those of the future. The endless laws of the Lord are the doctrines taught by His Apostles."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Call to the Holy Apostleship," General Conference, April 1984
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It seems appropriate today to review the first remarks offered by a then 59-year-old Elder Russell M. Nelson as he was sustained by the Church to the office of the apostleship. He expressed natural feelings of inadequacy, but shared this remarkable statement of his faith in prophetic leadership and calls that come through Priesthood channels:


Throughout his life, President Nelson has expressed this same faith and confidence not just in callings but in any teaching or instruction from inspired channels: he has responded with exclamation points!

The second paragraph of the excerpt quoted above demonstrates the solid foundation on which President Nelson built his life and service, and his confidence in "the eternal and unchanging laws of our Divine Creator." He sees eternal law and truth expressed in all kinds of settings, and knew innately that "Only as the laws are known, and then obeyed, can the blessings we desire be earned." His life has been dedicated to learning, and to obeying. What a marvelous example!

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on finding joy in life

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.
"I experienced the joy of coming closer to the Savior and of His coming closer to me most often through simple acts of obedience to the commandments....
"We are under covenant both to lift up those in need and to be witnesses of the Savior as long as we live.
"We will be able to do it without fail only as we feel love for the Savior and His love for us. As we are faithful to the promises we have made, we will feel our love for Him. It will increase because we will feel His power and His drawing near to us in His service....
"By His words and His example, Christ has shown us how to draw closer to Him. Every child of Heavenly Father who has chosen to enter through the gate of baptism into His Church will have the opportunity in this life to be taught His gospel and to hear from His called servants His invitation, 'Come unto me' (Matthew 11:28).
"Every covenant servant of His within His kingdom on earth and in the spirit world will receive His guidance by the Spirit as they bless and serve others for Him. And they will feel His love and find joy in being drawn closer to Him."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Come unto Me," General Conference, April 2013
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

There are lots of paths in life that we might choose in pursuit of joy; most of them may find temporary happiness but not the pure, lasting joy that truly matters. President Eyring points out the "secret" to establishing a closeness with the Savior, through "simple acts of obedience to the commandments":


The Savior's invitation "Come unto me" still provides the greatest source of peace and joy available to us. President Eyring testifies of this truth through his own experiences; and he challenges us to have the same opportunities to learn for ourselves.

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

Sunday, January 14, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on making the Sabbath a delight

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 was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015. With the death of President Monson, at age 93 he currently presides over the Church as senior apostle.
"When Isaiah described the Sabbath as 'a delight,' he also taught us how to make it delightful. He said:
"'If thou turn away... from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, ... and shalt honour [the Lord], not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
"'Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.' (Isaiah 58:13–14; emphasis added.)
"Not pursuing your 'own pleasure' on the Sabbath requires self-discipline. You may have to deny yourself of something you might like. If you choose to delight yourself in the Lord, you will not permit yourself to treat it as any other day. Routine and recreational activities can be done some other time.
"Think of this: In paying tithing, we return one-tenth of our increase to the Lord. In keeping the Sabbath holy, we reserve one day in seven as His. So it is our privilege to consecrate both money and time to Him who lends us life each day. (See Mosiah 2:21.)
"Faith in God engenders a love for the Sabbath; faith in the Sabbath engenders a love for God. A sacred Sabbath truly is a delight.
"Now, as this conference comes to a close, we know that wherever we live we are to be examples of the believers among our families, neighbors, and friends. (See 1 Timothy 4:12.) True believers keep the Sabbath day holy."
- Russell M. Nelson, "The Sabbath Is a Delight," General Conference April 2015
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

As we strive to "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Genesis 20:8) President Nelson's counsel from this wonderful address is helpful. Not only can we remember it, but we can make it "a delight" as we follow the counsel to focus on the things of the Lord. It's one of the small things we can do to express our gratitude to God for the many blessings we receive from Him:


I like the association President Nelson makes between love for God and for the Sabbath. They build and reinforce each other. As "true believers" in Him, we should desire to continue to grow in that association and in those blessings.

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on what it means to be a saint

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 was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015. With the death of President Monson, at age 93 he currently presides over the Church as senior apostle.
"Despite its use in ninety-eight verses of the Bible, the term saint is still not well understood. Some mistakenly think that it implies beatification or perfection. Not so! A saint is a believer in Christ and knows of His perfect love. The giving saint shares in a true spirit of that love, and the receiving saint accepts in a true spirit of gratitude. A saint serves others, knowing that the more one serves, the greater the opportunity for the Spirit to sanctify and purify.
"A saint is tolerant, and is attentive to the pleadings of other human beings, not only to spoken messages but to unspoken messages as well. A saint is different from an individual whose response to a concern might be a selfish 'What do I care' attitude. A real saint responds, 'What? I do care!' Do is an action verb, and it becomes the driving force in the reply of one who will care for another in need. (See 1 Cor. 12:25-27; 2 Cor. 7:12.)
"A saint 'refrain[s] from idleness' (Alma 38:12) and seeks learning by study, and also by faith....
"A saint resolves any differences with others honorably and peacefully and is constant in courtesy—even in traffic at the rush hour.
"A saint shuns that which is unclean or degrading and avoids excess even of that which is good.
"Perhaps above all, a saint is reverent. Reverence for the Lord, for the earth He created, for leaders, for the dignity of others, for the law, for the sanctity of life, for chapels and other buildings, are all evidences of saintly attitudes. (See Lev. 19:30; Alma 47:22; D&C 107:4; D&C 134:7.)
"A reverent saint loves the Lord and gives highest priority to keeping His commandments. Daily prayer, periodic fasting, payment of tithes and offerings are privileges important to a faithful saint.
"Finally, a saint is one who receives the gifts of the Spirit that God has promised to all His faithful sons and daughters. (See Joel 2:28–29; Acts 2:17–18.)"
- Russell M. Nelson, "Thus Shall my Church be Called," General Conference April 1990
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The use of the term "saint" among Latter-day Saints is somewhat different from most of the rest of the world, as President Nelson points out. He begins his overview of the characteristics of saints with this summary:


So a saint not only believes in Christ, but knows of Christ's love for him. That implies a level of relationship beyond the casual, one that requires an intellectual understanding as well as spiritual experience. A saint can thus express love and feel gratitude.

But then those feelings and understandings are translated into action in the life of a true saint: service, tolerance, unselfishness; being active, peaceful, pure, reverent, and obedient. For those who profess to be latter-day saints, it's good to consider President Nelson's analysis and see how well it describes us, or perhaps to identify areas where improvement is needed!

Finally, this is a wonderful summary: "A saint is one who receives the gifts of the Spirit that God has promised to all His faithful sons and daughters." We should be feeling and experiencing those gifts in our lives!

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