Saturday, September 22, 2018

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the infinite reach of Christ's Atonement

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.
"However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.
"Whether you are not yet of our faith or were with us once and have not remained, there is nothing in either case that you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the vineyard still stands beckoning. 'Come boldly [to] the throne of grace,' (Hebrews 4:16) and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast 'without money and without price' (Isaiah 55:1) at the table of the Lord."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Laborers in the Vineyard," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

There likely  comes a time in each of our lives when we feel overwhelmed or discouraged by the challenges we face. Sometimes through our own negligence, laziness, or deliberate sinfulness, we postpone change or choice. Elder Holland speaks of past mistakes and missed opportunities that we might regret. And at times we feel that God and even loved ones are far distant. But the apostolic witness is that we can never sink to a spot where the Savior's Atonement can't reach:


I love Elder Holland's testimony and invitation to all, no matter where we stand, to come and allow the blessings of the Savior in our lives as we "feast... at the table of the Lord." Truly there is so much available to us if we only choose to accept, regardless of who we are and where we are in our eternal progress!

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

Friday, September 21, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on the power and blessing of unified service

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 beehive symbol is found in both the interiors and exteriors of many of our temples. This podium where I stand is made from the wood of a walnut tree grown in President Gordon B. Hinckley’s backyard and is adorned with carved beehive images.
"All of this symbolism attests to one fact: great things are brought about and burdens are lightened through the efforts of many hands 'anxiously engaged in a good cause' (D&C 58:27). Imagine what the millions of Latter-day Saints could accomplish in the world if we functioned like a beehive in our focused, concentrated commitment to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"The Savior taught that the first and great commandment is:
"'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. …
"'And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
"'On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.' (Matthew 22:37, 39–40).
"The Savior’s words are simple, yet their meaning is profound and deeply significant. We are to love God and to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. Imagine what good we can do in the world if we all join together, united as followers of Christ, anxiously and busily responding to the needs of others and serving those around us—our families, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Be Anxiously Engaged," General Conference October 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The Savior's teachings invite us to love God and our fellowman. His example showed that we demonstrate love for one another through unselfish service. President Ballard built upon that thought to encourage greater efforts to serve those around us. Indeed, as our efforts to serve build upon one another, the combined blessing to humanity can become a marvelous thing:


The work of a single bee may seem relatively insignificant; but combined with hundreds and thousands of others who share a beehive, that work becomes profound and meaningful. If we maintain that vision, great things will come to pass through our efforts to serve and bless!

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

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Elder Orson Pratt on God's eternal role as King

Elder Orson Pratt (1811-1881) was one of the members of the original Quorum of Twelve ordained in 1835.
"God is the King. In him exists all legal authority. He alone has the right of originating a system of government on the earth. He claims this right by virtue of his having made man and the earth he inhabits. Man, therefore, is indebted to God for his own formation and for the formation of the planet on which he dwells. He also claims the right of establishing his government among men, by virtue of his superior wisdom and power.
"If God had sufficient wisdom and power to construct such a beautiful world as this, with all the infinite varieties of vegetables and animals appended to it; if he could form such an intricate and complicated piece of machinery as the human tabernacle as a dwelling place for the human spirit, then we must admit that his wisdom and power are immeasurably greater than that of man, and hence he is qualified to reign as king.
"An order of government, established by such an all-wise, powerful being, must be good and perfect, and must be calculated to promote the permanent peace, happiness, and well-being of all his subjects.
"The great King is a very amiable being, full of benevolence and goodness, and never turns any person away empty, that comes requesting a favor which he sees would be for his benefit."
- Orson Pratt, "The Kingdom of God. Part I" (Liverpool: R. James, Printer, 1848); see "The Essential Orson Pratt" pp. 49-50
Click here to read the full article

Orson Pratt wrote many philosophical and intellectual investigations of the Gospel in the early part of this dispensation. Much of the understanding of the doctrines of the Restoration was still in its infancy, and these kinds of writings helped to expand the understanding of the early Saints as they built upon the foundation established by the revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith. This particular excerpt, which I believe comes from a pamphlet written while Pratt was serving as a missionary in England, explores the theocracy of God's kingdom and what it means for God to be King.


The concluding paragraph is also very insightful: because of God's friendly and benevolent nature (a true Good King), He "never turns any person away empty, that comes requesting a favor which he sees would be for his benefit." Many can testify of the truth of that statement!

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

President Marion G. Romney on pondering the scriptures

President Marion G. Romney (1897-1988) was born in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. He was ordained an apostle in 1951 and served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1972 to 1985. After the death of President Spencer W. Kimball, President Romney was released and returned to serve in the Quorum of Twelve until his death in 1988.
"As I have read the scriptures, I have been challenged by the word ponder, so frequently used in the Book of Mormon. The dictionary says that ponder means 'to weigh mentally, think deeply about, deliberate, meditate.' Moroni thus used the term as he closed his record:
"'Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things … that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men … and ponder it in your hearts.' (Moro. 10:3. Italics added.)
"Jesus said to the Nephites:
"'I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words. …
"'Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand. …' (3 Ne. 17:2–3. Italics added.)
"Pondering is, in my feeling, a form of prayer. It has, at least, been an approach to the Spirit of the Lord on many occasions."
- Marion G. Romney, "Magnifying One’s Calling in the Priesthood," General Conference April 1973
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Romney served as a member of the First Presidency through much of my youth. I remember being impressed at his use of the scriptures in his messages; he was clearly a devoted student of the Lord's written word. In this excerpt, we learn part of the reason why. He understood the meaning of pondering.


Most of us need to spend more time weighing mentally, thinking deeply about, and meditating on the things we read in the scriptures and the words of modern prophets. It will truly bring us closer to the Spirit of the Lord, as President Romney testifies.

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on having gratitude for our current blessings

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.
"For men and women, obsessed as they should be with the eternal results that take so long, it helps to see the blessings already in hand. The prettiest flowers I’ve ever seen were among rocks near the tops of mountains. That must have been partly because I worked so hard to get there, for something else. And then, suddenly, there they were. By forcing yourself to look at them, at the blessings around you, it will be easy to do what King Benjamin suggested: 'O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!' (Mosiah 2:19).
"Among the reasons we ought to be thankful is that it will improve our vision. And with an eye on today’s blessings you’ll have more staying power for the distant goal."
- Henry B. Eyring, "A Law of Increasing Returns," BYU Devotional, March 28, 1982
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Eternity seems a long ways away, and the supposed "rewards" of our mortal efforts can appear very elusive in that distance. President Eyring points out that there are many blessings near at hand that confirm we are on the right path and bring joy along the way. By noticing the current blessings, we  can maintain the long-term vision of our purpose.


Being thankful, then, can "improve our vision" and help provide "more staying power for the distant goal." As we walk the path of discipleship, we find blessings that are frequent and often unearned (Mosiah 2:24); as we learn to notice them more readily, our lives are truly blessed.

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

Monday, September 17, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on making scripture study more powerful

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.
"There’s one thing that I’ve learned about scripture study that I wish I’d been taught when I was of an age to be attending seminary or institute, and that is that it is a great mistake to try to read the scriptures like you read a magazine or a newspaper. What I refer to is the fact that I pick up a newspaper and I just read it, or I pick up a magazine or a textbook and I just read it. But when I pick up the scriptures, I’m picking up the word of God, written by prophets under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord. Those should never be read without praying over them first.
"When I go to the table to eat, I don’t take physical nourishment without asking the Lord to bless that food to nourish and strengthen my body. Similarly, I think when we study the scriptures, we should bow our head and pray—often it would be silently because of the surroundings—but we would pray that the Lord would bless us that we’d be able to understand what we’re reading and that the act of reading the scriptures would summon the Spirit of the Lord to guide us on things other than simply the meaning of what we’re reading. In this way the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to help us receive revelation. But it begins with prayer; it doesn’t begin with reading, like a newspaper or a magazine."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "A Panel Discussion with Elder Dallin H. Oaks," August 7, 2012
Click here to read the full discussion

These remarks were offered in a somewhat less formal setting than a typical conference talk. Elder Oaks was participating in a broadcast to teachers from the seminary and institute programs, and in this section offered some guidance about personal scripture study that is very helpful.


By first contrasting scripture reading with other types of reading, and then comparing it to taking nourishment into our bodies, he makes the same point in two different ways: we are blessed to include prayer as a precursor to our study of God's words. And the promise he offers should inspire us: "In this way the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to help us receive revelation."

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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on becoming linked to the Savior

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 nearly lost my life learning a lesson that I now give to you. As we go through life, even through very rough waters, a father’s instinctive impulse to cling tightly to his wife or to his children may not be the best way to accomplish his objective. Instead, if he will lovingly cling to the Savior and the iron rod of the gospel, his family will want to cling to him and to the Savior.
"This lesson is surely not limited to fathers. Regardless of gender, marital status, or age, individuals can choose to link themselves directly to the Savior, hold fast to the rod of His truth, and lead by the light of that truth. By so doing, they become examples of righteousness to whom others will want to cling."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Set in Order Thy House," General Conference October 2001
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In this memorable talk, President Nelson described an experience of rafting through the Grand Canyon with several of his daughters. At one point he was thrown from the raft and nearly drowned; he learned of the importance of holding on to the raft, and not just holding on to his family members. At that point, he drew the comparison in this excerpt; we must cling to the Savior and the gospel in order to find safety in life's perilous journey:


So the key is that process of linking ourselves to Him, and finding the ways to cling to Him. As we learn to access Divine assistance in our lives, we recognize what a treasure it is, and what a necessity in our world. We learn to depend on that assistance for safety, and to turn to it at every opportunity. We must certainly have the proper priority for the focus of daily efforts, and with the Savior's help, we are assured of ultimate safety and success!

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