Sunday, May 27, 2018

Elder Dale G. Renlund on the sacredness of the sacrament

Elder Dale G. Renlund (born November 13, 1952) served in the First Quorum of Seventy starting in 2009, until his call to the Quorum of Twelve in October 2015.
"I would like to share what we learned about the sacrament from members of the Church in Kigali, Rwanda. The background to the story is that in 1994 there was a horrific genocide in Rwanda. Between 600,000 and 900,000 people were killed in a matter of 60 to 90 days.
"Eventually, the Church established a branch in the capital city of Kigali. The branch was doing well, without full-time missionaries. In 2011, Ruth and I were serving in that Africa Southeast Area when we learned, sadly, that our registration as a church with the country of Rwanda was invalid, which meant that we were functioning illegally as a church. We also learned that our meetinghouse, a converted two-story home, was not appropriately zoned to hold church meetings. For these reasons, the Area Presidency, in consultation with our first contact in the Quorum of the Twelve, made the agonizing decision to close the branch. Our members were no longer able to meet for church meetings.
"Lawyers in Kigali, Johannesburg, and Salt Lake City began working fervently and feverishly and hopefully to resolve the problems. Nothing seemed to work. Brick walls were hit at every turn. All the while, the Saints kept asking when they could meet together again. Months went by without resolution or progress.
"After 9 to 10 months, Ruth and I decided to fly to Kigali to visit those Saints and try to buoy up their spirits. Before we did, I asked that the matter be placed on the temple prayer roll of the weekly meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.
"The Tuesday before our scheduled trip from Johannesburg to Kigali, we were notified that, in a surprising move, the government had granted the Church provisional registration in the city of Kigali. Then, on Thursday of the same week, in another surprising move, the Zoning Commission granted an exemption from the zoning ordinance. The Kigali Saints could once again meet in our building without violating the law.
"This was miraculous! Members were quickly notified that the branch would be meeting on Sunday. Ruth and I arrived on Friday and invited members to come to church. The members cleaned and prepared the building enthusiastically. When Sunday came, all the members—all of them—and many of their friends came to church. They arrived early, eager to be together again. As the sacrament was blessed and passed, we all experienced an extraordinary renewing, refreshing, and cleansing spirit.
"I remember, in the meeting, wondering why I did not feel this same spirit every week as I partook of the sacrament. I looked around at the Saints, and I realized that they had come hungering and thirsting for the sacrament. Their faith, diligence, and patience brought all of us blessings. I pledged to myself that whenever I again partook of the sacrament, I would remember this experience with the Kigali Saints. I committed that I too would hunger for the blessings of partaking of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper."
- Dale G. Renlund, "Come Unto Christ," BYU-Idaho Devotional, 26 Sep 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Frequency and repetition can lead to taking something for granted or approaching it with casualness. Elder Renlund suggests that we may be susceptible to this challenge with one of the more sacred things we participate in, the sacrament service. The wonderful, touching story of Church members in Rwanda who were denied that privilege should give us all pause to consider.

So what does it take to bring back "an extraordinary renewing, refreshing, and cleansing spirit" to the weekly action of partaking of the sacrament? Elder Renlund identifies the crucial difference: we must "come hungering and thirsting for the sacrament." When we truly understand the significance it represents for us, and when "faith, diligence, and patience" are present in our lives, then we will hunger for the blessings that the action can bring.

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

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on having righteous hearts

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.
"One of the major messages of our Lord and Savior was to be righteous within our hearts. Jesus, who knows with complete clarity and compassion all the diverse ways of sin, spoke with special intensity and passion about the soul-destroying effects of hypocrisy. He despised hypocrites—those who feign righteousness and make a public display of it but are in reality shams and frauds. Jesus intoned, 'Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity' (see Matthew 23:27–28).
"The antithesis of hypocrisy is integrity, with its connotation of wholeness of spirit and completeness of personality. How glorious is integrity! Those who have it display a constancy of character. Their behavior is the same in private as in public. Their goodness is not dependent on whether someone is watching. Their actions are based on principle, not expediency. Perhaps that is what Jesus had in mind when he said, 'He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me' (John 14:21; emphasis added).
"A true measure of whether one has integrity, therefore, is provided by an honest answer to the following question: Am I righteous when no one is watching? Your answer to that simple query tells much about your true character....
"Our behavior, both public and private, does not happen by accident. It is the product of conviction, resolution, and habitual practice. We become what we believe; we practice the principles that are etched upon our souls. When the moment of decision is upon us, we act according to the principles that have become internalized in our hearts and minds."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Being Righteous in Our Hearts," BYU devotional, January 21, 1997
Click here to read the full talk

Some of the Savior's strictest warnings and condemnations in the New Testament record were against individuals Elder Wirthlin describes as "those who feign righteousness and make a public display of it but are in reality shams and frauds." This is a stern warning, since we all face the temptation or tendency now and then to put on a fa├žade of outward commitment or obedience when we are struggling with something in our personal life.

The contrast between hypocrisy and integrity is a dramatic one. Elder Wirthlin goes on to describe the "glorious" nature of a soul with true integrity:

Elder Wirthlin suggests that the private moments, when we think no one is aware of us, are a sign of our true state of heart. Do we live with integrity when no one is watching? Does that make any difference to us in our decisions and actions? There is always One who watches and knows, and that should be all that matters to us.

Elder Wirthlin suggests that we develop integrity through efforts of "conviction, resolution, and habitual practice." It's a gradual process; a pure heart is the result of pure actions, which follow sincere desires.

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

Friday, May 25, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on the miracles of healing and of aging

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.
"The Fall of Adam (and Eve) constituted the mortal creation and brought about the required changes in their bodies, including the circulation of blood and other modifications as well. They were now able to have children. They and their posterity also became subject to injury, disease, and death. And a loving Creator blessed them with healing power by which the life and function of precious physical bodies could be preserved. For example, bones, if broken, could become solid again. Lacerations of the flesh could heal themselves. And miraculously, leaks in the circulation could be sealed off by components activated from the very blood being lost.
"Think of the wonder of that power to heal! If you could create anything that could repair itself, you would have created life in perpetuity. For example, if you could create a chair that could fix its own broken leg, there would be no limit to the life of that chair. Many of you walk on legs that were once broken and do so because of your remarkable gift of healing.
"Even though our Creator endowed us with this incredible power, He consigned a counterbalancing gift to our bodies. It is the blessing of aging, with visible reminders that we are mortal beings destined one day to leave this 'frail existence' (Eliza R. Snow, 'O My Father,' Hymns, no. 292). Our bodies change every day. As we grow older, our broad chests and narrow waists have a tendency to trade places. We get wrinkles, lose color in our hair—even the hair itself—to remind us that we are mortal children of God, with a 'manufacturer’s guarantee' that we shall not be stranded upon the earth forever. Were it not for the Fall, our physicians, beauticians, and morticians would all be unemployed."
- Russell M. Nelson, "The Atonement," General Conference October 1996
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Given President Nelson's scientific and medical training, these thoughts are particularly interesting. He has seen first-hand the miraculous ability of the human body to heal, repair, and strengthen itself. Sometimes we take those abilities for granted; but we experience that miracle constantly, continuously in our lives—far, far beyond the ability of any man-made creation to care for itself.

And yet, there is a counterbalancing miracle that also takes place:

What a profound perspective, to realize that aging and eventual death are just as much a part of God's miracle as are the wondrous gifts of growth and healing! We have that beautiful promise not to be "strranded upon the earth forever" but to know we will move on to a next phase of our eternal existence.

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Elder Ulisses Soares on the power of faith and trust in God

Elder Ulisses Soares (born October 2, 1958) 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.
"If we are not rooted by steadfast trust in God and the desire to serve Him, the painful experiences of mortality can lead us to feel as though we are burdened by a heavy yoke; and we can lose the motivation to live the gospel fully. Without faith, we will end up losing the capacity to appreciate those designs of our God regarding the things that will happen later in our life. (See D&C 58:3.)
"In these moments of trial, the adversary—who is always on the lookout—tries to use our logic and reasoning against us. He tries to convince us that it is useless to live the principles of the gospel.... We must not allow him to deceive us; for when we do, we falter in our faith and lose the power to obtain God’s blessings.
"If we are steadfast and do not waver in our faith, the Lord will increase our capacity to raise ourselves above the challenges of life. We will be enabled to subdue negative impulses, and we will develop the capacity to overcome even what appear to be overwhelming obstacles....
"Brothers and sisters, I invite you to place all of your trust in God and in the teachings of His prophets. I invite you to renew your covenants with God, to serve Him with all your heart, regardless of the complex situations of life. I testify that by the power of your unwavering faith in Christ, you will become free of the captivity of sin, of doubt, of unbelief, of unhappiness, of suffering; and you will receive all of the promised blessings from our loving Heavenly Father."
- Ulisses Soares, "Confide in God Unwaveringly," General Conference April 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Soares shared these remarks as a member of the Seventy a year before his call as an apostle. He talked about the challenges of mortality and the difficulties that enter each life, often bringing feelings of burden and discouragement. One of the Adversary's tactics is to attack us in those times of challenge and steal our motivation to live the Gospel and continue in obedience. Elder Soares reminds us that through faithfulness and trust in God, we grow in our capacity to "raise ourselves above the challenges of life."

These are wonderful promises of help and inspiration. Elder Soares invites us to recommit, to renew covenants, and to continue in faithfulness in order to receive God's help now and attain the promises of eternity.

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on the companionship of the Holy Ghost

Elder Ronald A. Rasband (b. February 6, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 2000.  He was the senior president of the Seventy when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"Through confirmation and by the laying on of hands, you have already been given the gift of the Holy Ghost. As it states in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 39:23, 'And again, it shall come to pass that on as many as ye shall baptize with water, ye shall lay your hands, and they shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost…'
"This will be a great privilege for you throughout your lives to have this special gift from the Lord.
"Enjoying the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is quite a different matter—and a goal for all of us to try and achieve.
"Anger, disunity, contention, lying, and impurity of thoughts and deeds to name a few vices, chase away the holy presence of this Third Member of the Godhead. Such unaltered and unrepentant behavior causes Latter-day Saints to lose the Spirit, and lose confidence....
"I would offer you a little formula today that you can remember easily, that through my experience as a father, student-ward bishop, mission president, and General Authority, almost certainly will enable you to have the Spirit as your constant companion....
"I invite you today to consider your passions and where necessary, bridle them in your life.
"I invite you today to take greater control of your thoughts, garnish them with virtue, such as of the beloved Word of God.
"I invite you to humbly and prayerfully plead with the Lord to bless you with the Holy Ghost.
"I invite you to go before the Lord and ask him to bless you with strength, to be the greatest generation of young people, going into the world with power and authority and the Holy Ghost, inviting people of all lands to come unto Christ.
"I promise you as a servant of the Lord, that he will bless you with the presence and companionship of the Holy Ghost. Bridle your passions, garnish your thoughts, and by the prayer of faith you will be led by the Spirit and join in this magnificent miracle."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "Having the Constant Companionship of the Holy Ghost," BYU-Idaho devotional, February 28, 2006
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Addressing students at BYU-Idaho when he was serving as a Seventy, Elder Rasband taught and encouraged them on ways to increase the influence and companionship of the Holy Ghost in their lives. Three steps make all the difference in enabling us to have that influence in greater ways:

  • Bridling passions - controlling appetites and choosing to obey
  • Garnishing thoughts - filling heart and mind with wholesome, uplifting things
  • Praying in faith for an increase of spiritual influence

Elder Rasband gives examples and details in these areas in the full transcript of the talk.

When we are promised by one of the Lord's servants that blessings will follow certain actions, we should be eager to choose those actions and claim the blessings! In this case, the blessing of increased companionship with the Holy Ghost is worth any effort we give.

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on home as a temple

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (b. August 5, 1955) was called as a Seventy in 2008, then as Presiding Bishop in 2012. He was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"Recently, in a stake conference, all present were invited by the visiting authority, Elder Glen Jenson, an Area Seventy, to take a virtual tour of their homes using their spiritual eyes. I would like to invite each of you to do this also. Wherever your home may be and whatever its configuration, the application of eternal gospel principles within its walls is universal.
"Let’s begin. Imagine that you are opening your front door and walking inside your home. What do you see, and how do you feel? Is it a place of love, peace, and refuge from the world, as is the temple? Is it clean and orderly? As you walk through the rooms of your home, do you see uplifting images which include appropriate pictures of the temple and the Savior? Is your bedroom or sleeping area a place for personal prayer? Is your gathering area or kitchen a place where food is prepared and enjoyed together, allowing uplifting conversation and family time? Are scriptures found in a room where the family can study, pray, and learn together? Can you find your personal gospel study space? Does the music you hear or the entertainment you see, online or otherwise, offend the Spirit? Is the conversation uplifting and without contention?
"That concludes our tour. Perhaps you, as I, found a few spots that need some 'home improvement'—hopefully not an 'extreme home makeover.'
"Whether our living space is large or small, humble or extravagant, there is a place for each of these gospel priorities in each of our homes."
- Gary E. Stevenson, "Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples," General Conference April 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It's an interesting exercise, to compare our home to a temple. Elder Stevenson suggests aspects of the temple that could apply to our home setting and help to create the "refuge from the world" that would bless our families in current challenging times. Even the outward appearance of the rooms and arrangements can have a significant impact on how we feel and how we act when we are there!

Most of us definitely can find areas needing "home improvement" in this exercise. I hope we feel the blessings of actually following this advice and striving to create a more holy place in our home.

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

Elder Gerrit W. Gong on remembering the Savior

Elder Gerrit W. Gong (born December 23, 1953) was called as a Seventy in April 2010, then to the Presidency of the Seventy in October 2015. He was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in April 2018.
"Each week, in partaking of the sacrament, we covenant to always remember Him. Drawing on the nearly 400 scripture references to the word remember, here are six ways we can always remember Him.
"First, we can always remember Him by having confidence in His covenants, promises, and assurances....
"Second, we can always remember Him by gratefully acknowledging His hand throughout our lives....
"Third, we can always remember Him by trusting when the Lord assures us, 'He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.' (D&C 58:42) ...
"Fourth, He invites us to remember that He is always welcoming us home....
"Fifth, we can always remember Him on the Sabbath through the sacrament....
"Finally, sixth, our Savior invites us to always remember Him as He always remembers us."
- Gerrit W. Gong, "Always Remember Him," General Conference April 2016
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

When Sunday is done and we return to our "normal" daily lives, how much are we impacted? How do we keep the spirit of the Sabbath alive? Specifically, how do we maintain awareness of the covenants and promises of the sacrament through the coming days?

Elder Gong offered these suggestions when he was serving as a member of the Seventy, before his call as an apostle. Only a brief summary is presented here; it's very worthwhile to review the entire talk by clicking on the link above, and read the further details he offers for each of the six suggestions.

The challenge to "always remember Him" is perhaps one of the most important ones we are given. Elder Gong's suggestions are very valuable in providing ideas on how we can do that more effectively.

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