Sunday, August 20, 2017

Elder Marvin J. Ashton on serving and growing in spite of obstacles

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915-1994) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1971 until his death in 1994 at age 78.
"We are all God’s children. If we love Him, we will feed His sheep wherever they may be found, without regard as to our own personal plight or situation. Often we can best feed others when we are hungry ourselves or not completely comfortable in the fold that we presently occupy. Very often those who are hungry, helpless, and cold can best be rescued by those who have been through the same exposures. Marking time or stalling should not be indulged in by the weak, weary, uncertain, and unrecognized. Instead, there is a healing power as we use our energy in action, in service, and in lifting others.
"It was Booker T. Washington who wisely stated, 'Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.' (The International Dictionary of Thoughts, comp. by John P. Bradley and others, Chicago: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, 1969, p. 698.) Victories in life come through our ability to work around and over the obstacles that cross our path. We grow stronger as we climb our own mountains....
"Let me share four basic contributing factors which might prevent our personal progress and church activity: (1) the constant nursing of personal hurts, (2) yielding to the sorrow of tragedy and grief, (3) being fettered with the habits and mistakes of misconduct, (4) letting fears inhibit progress."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "Roadblocks to Progress," General Conference, April 1979
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Ashton shared thoughts in this talk about some of the challenges we create for ourselves in life that prevent us both from progressing personally, and from serving others along the path. Often our own challenges seem to provide such obstacles that we feel unable or incapable of reaching out to others. But he points out that those times might actually be the best and most important for us to be serving!

It's clear that overcoming obstacles provides one of the best chances for us to grow:

Elder Ashton goes on to consider four of the reasons we find ourselves stalled and blocked. This was a very interesting discussion, and reviewing the full article is recommended as we consider our individual lives and opportunities to grow and to serve.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

President James E. Faust on strengthening families

President James E. Faust (1920-2007) was called as a Seventy in 1976, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve in 1978. He served as a counselor to President Hinckley from 1995 until his death in 2007 at age 87.
"In a sense, a family can foster the teachings of the Savior better than any other institution. In large measure, the Church exists to strengthen families. I wish to define family very broadly. In the Church we have traditional families and single-parent families. Furthermore, each single member is considered to be, in a sense, a Church family....
"The fact that some members do not have functioning traditional families is no reason to move in a direction that would diminish or abandon family activities among those who can and should foster them. With the increased onslaught of forces that cause families to disintegrate, we ought to dig in our heels to preserve all that is great and good in the family. We are reminded that in times of tribulations, the Nephites were not fighting for a political cause, such as monarchy or power; rather, they 'were inspired by a better cause.' For 'they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.' (Alma 43:45.)"
- James E. Faust, "Where Is the Church?," BYU fireside, Sept 24, 1989; see also Ensign, Aug. 1990, p. 64
Click here to read the full talk

The Church exists to strengthen and reinforce families, by fostering the teachings of the Savior. Regardless of whether the family is "traditional" or not, President Faust points out that there is no better chance of success than by carefully following the Church's programs and teachings.

I appreciated the invitation to "dig in our heals" and attempt to do all we can to preserve families against the forces in society that would destroy or oppose them. It's important for us each to consider our personal family situation, as well as areas where we might have influence in society, and determine ways we could more faithfully defend and protect the sanctity of that sacred institution.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on patience and preparation in serving others

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.
"One of the recurring challenges of life for some, both in and out of the Church, is the feeling that they occasionally have that they have more to offer in the way of talent, skill, or insight than they are permitted to give or than is being used by their fellowmen....
"Since patience is one of the traits of a saint (see Mosiah 3:19), it should not surprise us that we must sometimes learn patience not only by physical suffering, but also by sometimes having something to offer which, for one reason or another, we are prevented from offering, at least on the terms we would like to make the contribution. To trust God enough to accept the reality that he knows perfectly both what we have to offer and what we desire is a special form of trust. After all, when we sing in the hymn, 'I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord' (Hymns, no. 75), presumably our pledge includes a willingness to stay right where we are, if that is where the Lord wants us....
"Finally, this should sober us with sweetness: God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability!"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "It's Service, not Status, that Counts," Ensign, July 1975, p. 7
Click here to read the full article

This article presents a fascinating look at service and motivations to serve. One of the things Elder Maxwell considers is our desire to serve more, at times when we seem not to have the opportunity for various reasons. We occasionally feel, "in the hymnal words of Philip Paul Bliss, 'More used would I be.' (Hymns, no. 114)"  At those times when we seem not to have the opportunity to serve as much as we wish we could, we might consider the possible reasons suggested by Elder Maxwell, and also the possible remedies.

This concluding paragraph from the article, though cleverly worded (in Elder Maxwell's unique and wonderful style), points out a great truth. It truly is important for us to "prove our dependability" to God; and when we do, our capability will be enhanced and the opportunities to use those gifts will increase.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on the Savior's promised help in trials and challenges

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.
"Many today feel troubled and distressed; many feel that, at any moment, the ships of their lives could capsize or sink. It is to you who are looking for a safe harbor that I wish to speak today, you whose hearts are breaking, you who are worried or afraid, you who bear grief or the burdens of sin, you who feel no one is listening to your cries, you whose hearts are pleading, 'Master, carest thou not that I perish?' To you I offer a few words of comfort and of counsel.
"Be assured that there is a safe harbor. You can find peace amidst the storms that threaten you. Your Heavenly Father—who knows when even a sparrow falls—knows of your heartache and suffering. He loves you and wants the best for you. Never doubt this. While He allows all of us to make choices that may not always be for our own or even others' well-being, and while He does not always intervene in the course of events, He has promised the faithful peace even in their trials and tribulations....
"Jesus comforts us when He said, 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid' (John 14:27).
"Draw close to the Lord Jesus Christ. He bears a special love for those who suffer. He is the Son of God, an eternal king. In His mortal ministry He loved them and blessed them.
"To the meek and discouraged, His every word was one of compassion and encouragement. To the sick, He brought a healing balm. Those who yearned for hope, who yearned for a caring touch, received it from the hand of this King of Kings, this Creator of ocean, earth, and sky.
"Today Jesus the Christ stands at the right hand of our Heavenly Father. Do you suppose that today He is any less inclined to aid those who suffer, who are sick, or who appeal to the Father in prayer for succor?
"Be of good cheer. The Man of Galilee, the Creator, the Son of the Living God will not forget nor forsake those whose hearts are drawn to Him. I testify that the Man who suffered for mankind, who committed His life to healing the sick and comforting the disconsolate, is mindful of your sufferings, doubts, and heartaches."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Finding a Safe Harbor," General Conference, April 2000; see Ensign, May 2000, pp. 59-61
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We are frequently reminded by Church leaders that times of trouble or distress will come in our lives; but that we do not ever have to face them alone. Sometimes we cry out, with the ancient apostles, "Master, carest thou not that I perish?" And the answer is always, YES, He does care—infinitely and perfectly. Elder Wirthlin testifies that while He may not always intervene in our lives, in the way we hope and ask, He will always be available to provide peace and strength.

The critical need is for us to draw near to Him, so that we can be ready and open to feel His love and comforting spirit.

What a profound message of hope and reassurance! We truly can know that the Savior "will not forget nor forsake those whose hearts are drawn to Him." May we continue to be open to that healing and empowering influence!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley offers a call to greater faithfulness

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.
"Now, my brethren and sisters, the time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike.
"We have nothing to fear. God is at the helm. He will overrule for the good of this work. He will shower down blessings upon those who walk in obedience to His commandments. Such has been His promise. Of His ability to keep that promise none of us can doubt."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "This Is the Work of the Master," General Conference, April 1995; see Ensign, May 1995, 71
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"Stand a little taller"—classic President Hinckley. He believed in gradual, consistent, ongoing efforts as a means of growth and improvement. If you stand taller each day than you did the day before, then over time you'll have made significant progress. And he suggested that this is a crucial time for us to be standing tall and true:

Our time needs Christlike examples of faithful discipleship. President Hinckley certainly provided that kind of example throughout his life, and he invites us to do likewise.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

President Spencer W. Kimball on Satan's work of deception and counterfeit

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Satan can perhaps give us examples of efficiency. He really motivates. He has established and stated his overall objective. It is his plan to divert every soul, and to degrade him and enslave him to that end, the arch deceiver has studied every way possible to achieve his ends, using every tool, every device possible. He takes over, distorts, and changes and camouflages everything created for the good of man, to make it desirable to men so he may take over their minds and pervert their bodies and claim them his.
"He never sleeps—he is diligent and persevering. He analyzes carefully his problem and then moves forward diligently, methodically to reach that objective. He uses all five senses and man's natural hunger and thirst to lead him away. He anticipates resistance and fortifies himself against it. He uses time and space and leisure. He is constant and persuasive and skillful. He uses such useful things as radio, television, the printed page, the airplane, and the car to distort and damage. He uses the gregariousness of man, his loneliness, his every need to lead him astray. He does his work at the most propitious time in the most impressive places with the most influential people. He overlooks nothing that will deceive and distort and prostitute. He uses money, power, force. He entices man and attacks at his weakest spot. He takes the good and creates ugliness. He takes beautiful art and gives it sensualness. He takes divine music and changes it to excite passion and lewdness. He uses sacred things to divert. He uses every teaching art to subvert man."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "How to Evaluate Your Performance," Improvement Era, Oct. 1969, pp. 12-16

President Kimball had a wonderful way of organizing thoughts, considering aspects of a subject that were unusual. In this excerpt he pondered Satan's techniques and abilities as he attempts to "degrade and enslave" them: "He takes over, distorts, and changes and camouflages everything created for the good of man." Every powerful took, every development of technology, every positive instrument gets counterfeited by the adversary:

Truly Satan "takes the good and creates ugliness" in his attempts to lead us astray and drag us to destruction. He is practiced and skillful.

In the face of such masterful opposition, we can't ignore Satan's efforts or pretend they don't matter. It becomes critical that we safeguard the tools and gifts we have, and exercise vigilant care to use them only in proper ways. We must seek always for the things that are "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Monday, August 14, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on achieving true greatness in life

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President for only nine months, from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"Many Latter-day Saints are happy and enjoying the opportunities life offers. Yet I am concerned that some among us are unhappy. Some of us feel that we are falling short of our expected ideals. I have particular concern for those who have lived righteously but think—because they haven't achieved in the world or in the Church what others have achieved—that they have failed. Each of us desires to achieve a measure of greatness in this life. And why shouldn't we? As someone once noted, there is within each of us a giant struggling with celestial homesickness. (See Heb. 11:13-16; D&C 45:11-14.) ...
"What is true greatness? What is it that makes a person great? ...
"Giving consistent effort in the little things in day-to-day life leads to true greatness. Specifically, it is the thousands of little deeds and tasks of service and sacrifice that constitute the giving, or losing, of one's life for others and for the Lord. They include gaining a knowledge of our Father in Heaven and the gospel. They also include bringing others into the faith and fellowship of his kingdom. These things do not usually receive the attention or the adulation of the world....
"True greatness is never a result of a chance occurrence or a onetime effort or achievement. Greatness requires the development of character. It requires a multitude of correct decisions in the everyday choices between good and evil that Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke about when he said, 'Over the years these little choices will be bundled together and show clearly what we value.' (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 21.) Those choices will also show clearly what we are."
- Howard W. Hunter, "What is True Greatness?," BYU devotional, February 10, 1987; see Ensign, Sept 1987, pp. 70-72
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Have I achieved anything worthwhile in life? Have I lived up to my potential? Sometimes questions like this are a result of comparing ourselves with those around us who seem to have accomplished more than we have. But sometimes they are honest inquiries about our personal efforts. President Hunter considers what it means to "achieve greatness" in our lives.

The phrase "celestial homesickness" is an interesting one to ponder; perhaps there is something deep inside us longing to return to our heavenly home.

The real message of this excerpt for me lies in how we define greatness. The world's definition often involves recognition and prominence; but in God's sense, it's the development of character, the commitment to principles, the ongoing faithfulness demonstrated by disciples who give "consistent effort in the little things in day-to-day life." That's what we really should aspire to!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)
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