Saturday, March 17, 2018

President James E. Faust on remembering the seeds of divinity within us

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.
"If we are constantly aware of the seeds of divinity in us, it will help us rise above earthly challenges and difficulties. Brigham Young said: 'When I look upon the faces of intelligent beings I look upon the image of the God I serve. There are none but what have a certain portion of divinity within them; and though we are clothed with bodies which are in the image of our God, yet this mortality shrinks before that portion of divinity which we inherit from our Father.' (Discourses of Brigham Young p. 168) Being aware of our divine heritage will help men [and women] young and old to grow and magnify the divinity which is within them and within all of us.
"All of us who wish to be honored by the Lord and receive of His goodness, mercy, and eternal blessings must, I repeat, be obedient to these four great principles.
"1. Have a reverence for Deity.
"2. Have respect for and honor family relationships.
"3. Have a profound reverence for and obedience to the ordinances and covenants of the holy priesthood.
"4. Have respect for yourself as a son [or daughter] of God."
- James E. Faust, "Them That Honour Me I Will Honour," General Conference, April 2001
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

These remarks by President Faust were shared with a Priesthood session of general conference, and he was especially encouraging young men to be aware of their divine potential and the goodness within them. But clearly the message applies to all. Being "constantly aware" is similar to the injunction to "always remember" the Savior and His gifts to us:

The main portion of Elder Faust's talk had been to elaborate on those four principles that will lead to divine understanding and increased influence in our lives. It was excellent counsel, worth reviewing. The title of the talk is taken from a passage in 1 Samuel 2:30,  “For them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” This caution was given because Eli the priest was not being faithful in his duties. Clearly the Lord invites us all to look to Him, to remember Him, to be obedient and to serve Him. And then His honor and blessings will be returned to us.

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

Friday, March 16, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on striving for excellence

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.
"There is a sign on the gate of this campus that reads: 'Enter to learn; go forth to serve.'
"I invite you, every one of you, to make that your motto. Mediocrity will never do. You are capable of something better. Give it your very best. You will never again have such an opportunity. Pray about it. Work at it. Make it happen. Drink in the great knowledge here to be obtained from this dedicated faculty. Qualify yourselves for the work of the world that lies ahead. It will largely compensate you in terms of what it thinks you are worth. Walk the high road of charity, respect, and love for others and particularly those who are less fortunate. Be happy. Look for the sunlight in life. Reach for the stars."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Remarks at the Inauguration of President Cecil O. Samuelson," BYU, Sep. 9, 2003
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

These remarks were addressed to a gathering of mostly students at BYU when Cecil O. Samuelson was inaugurated as the new BYU president in 2003. However, the principles apply broadly to all of us, young or old, formal student or informal learner. President Hinckley was always very optimistic, but also very inviting and challenging for all to do their very best, to try harder, to be more committed to the things they knew were true and right. He doesn't want mediocre efforts; he encouraged us to do our very best:

Success in learning, like success in most areas, doesn't come free. As President Hinckley notes, we must work hard, we must pray, and be very diligent to take advantages of the opportunities that are presented to us.

His final encouragement regarding our attitudes towards others is more general—to be kind and charitable to those around us. And then, never forget that optimistic outlook for which President Hinckley is well remembered: "Be happy. Look for the sunlight in life. Reach for the stars." Great counsel.

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on feasting upon the words of Christ

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.
"We need to feast upon the words of Christ in the scriptures and as these words come to us from living prophets. Just nibbling occasionally will not do. (See 2 Nephi 31:20 and 32:3.) Feasting means partaking with relish and delight and savoring—not gorging episodically in heedless hunger, but partaking gratefully, dining with delight, at a sumptuous spread carefully and lovingly prepared by prophet-chefs over the centuries. These words plus the gift of the Holy Ghost will tell us all things we should do. The scriptures, ancient and continuing, are the key of knowledge....
"Appreciation for and the acceptance of the scriptures and the words of the living prophets are much more important steps than many realize. The Lord has said, '...he that will not believe my words will not believe me—that I am.' (Ether 4:12.) To turn aside His teachings is to turn away from Him, and disdain for His doctrines is disdain for Him."
- Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward [1977], pp. 28-29

With his remarkable gift of expression, Elder Maxwell teaches us the power of feasting on the words of Christ, as opposed to nibbling occasionally. Considering the difference in those two types of consuming physical food gives good insight into the spiritual application employed in the scriptures:

The additional insight Elder Maxwell offers is that to some extent, the attention we give to the scriptures reflects how we really feel about our Father in Heaven and our Savior. Disregard for the word of God is a sign of disregard for God Himself. We should be very careful what our behavior demonstrates! Our efforts to feast—"with relish and delight and savoring"—will be rewarded more than we anticipate.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Elder Marvin J. Ashton on enduring challenges and disappointments

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.
"Sometimes the most challenging form of endurance is found in trying to stay with our priorities, commitments, and assignments. How easy it is for some of us to lose our way when the unexpected, and seemingly undeserved, surface in our lives. Greatness is best measured by how well an individual responds to the happenings in life that appear to be totally unfair, unreasonable, and undeserved. Sometimes we are inclined to put up with a situation rather than endure. To endure is to bear up under, to stand firm against, to suffer without yielding, to continue to be, or to exhibit the state or power of lasting.
"Day by day we can make the effort to gain the power to last and to suffer without yielding. Inspiration and motivation are found in many places—from the cases I have cited and from many other examples to be seen on every hand. We can also receive strength from studying the scriptures and praying constantly.
"Friends and loved ones often offer strength and support when our own resolve is weak. In turn, our own strength and capacity will be doubled when we help others endure.
"I pray that God will help us to endure well, with purpose and power. When we so do, the meaningful declaration in 2 Tim. 4:7 will take on a new dimension:
"'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.'
"When heartaches, tragedies, disappointments, injury, unusual attention, fame, or excessive prosperity become part of our lives, our challenges and responsibilities will be to endure them well. God will assist us in our quest to conquer, triumph, and continue if we humbly rededicate ourselves to the meaningful declaration 'We have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.' (A of F 1:13.)"
- Marvin J. Ashton, "If Thou Endure It Well," General Conference, October 1984
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What does it mean to "endure"? Elder Ashton points out that it's easy to maintain our course in life when things are going as planned or expected; but when something happens that seems "undeserved" and we face unexpected challenges, a new form of distraction arises. And that is the interesting context Elder Ashton sets for his definition of greatness:

So the challenge is to continue steady and faithful, come what may in our life. Elder Ashton lists some of the difficulties we might encounter:
  • heartaches
  • tragedies
  • disappointments
  • injury
  • unusual attention
  • fame
  • excessive prosperity

It's interesting to note the difference between the early items in his list, and the later ones. Challenges are not always the sad, painful, overwhelming things that happen; they can also be the unexpected successes and blessings that try us in different ways. Through all of those unexpected things, the disciple's challenge is to "[fight] the good fight" and endure faithfully. Strength to do that comes from building on our spiritual foundation and drawing from the good people we are blessed to find in our path.

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Elder Neil L. Andersen on the relationship between inner desires and choices

Elder Neil L. Andersen (born August 9, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"A desire is a conscious, private longing for which each person is responsible. It is a powerful hope, a quiet, soul-felt anticipation originating from that sovereign territory we each possess. We are all influenced by our families [and] our culture, and yet I believe there is a place inside of us that we uniquely and individually control and create. These desires are being constructed or developed, fortified or weakened constantly, whether they are righteous or unrighteous....
“I have come to understand that before choices, come our desires. Our desires influence our choices. Because many of our thoughts are private, protected, and hidden from view, our actions for a time may not always reflect our inner desires. However, eventually, our inner desires are given life and they are seen in our choices and in our actions.”
- Neil L. Andersen, "Educate your Desires," BYU Investment Professionals Conference,September 2011
Click here to read a more complete report of the talk

How important are our desires, the quiet inner thoughts and yearnings of our hearts? Elder Andersen suggests that they are critically important. Though we may not always acknowledge it, they influence our choices and actions. We each have a quiet inner place, known only to us and God, where those desires live and where they grow and develop.

While we may temporarily, "for a time," have choices and actions that externally differ from the true nature and desires of our hearts, eventually the the real inner nature will also be expressed externally. It is so critical to be truly honest in our actions and deeds; and to cultivate the most pure and wholesome inner desires.

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on knowledge of God's existence

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.
"Misunderstanding God’s justice and mercy is one thing; denying God’s existence or supremacy is another, but either will result in our achieving less—sometimes far less—than our full, divine potential. A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who does not exist. A world without God, the living God who establishes moral laws to govern and perfect His children, is also a world without ultimate truth or justice. It is a world where moral relativism reigns supreme."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Free Forever, to Act for Themselves," General Conference, October 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a classic talk by Elder Christofferson on the nature and importance of agency in God's eternal plan for us. In this section, he is commenting on the trend in the world today of denying God's existence or involvement in man's affairs; there is danger in failing to acknowledge "God's existence or supremacy." Furthermore, we must recognize that God gives instructions and commandments for a reason:

Not only do we need the idea of God's existence in our world to function well, we need a correct understanding of His role and involvement in our lives. He is eager to give instructions and guidance to help us live happily and successfully!

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

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on not comparing ourselves with others

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.
"A third area of distraction that can destroy joy is comparing our talents and blessings with others. The growth in our own talents is the best measure of personal progress. In recent years the concept of 'personal best' has become widely accepted. This has great merit. Remember we usually judge others at their best and ourselves at our worst. In the parable of the talents, the servants who received five talents and two talents were praised by the Lord for increasing their talents and told to 'enter thou into the joy of thy lord.' The servant who was rebuked was the servant who buried the talent given him. (See Matt. 25:14–30.) Comparing blessings is almost certain to drive out joy. We cannot be grateful and envious at the same time. If we truly want to have the Spirit of the Lord and experience joy and happiness, we should rejoice in our blessings and be grateful."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Rejoice!," General Conference October 1996
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It's such a natural tendency to compare ourselves with others. Elder Cook warns us that we can quickly "destroy joy" by doing that; the usual concern is that we end up seeing the best in others (not their struggles or shortcomings) but compare that with the worst in ourselves. Instead of that comparison, we need to learn to observe our own personal progress and the growth and development we are making. We should be achieving our own "personal best" repeatedly in those important areas as we grow and improve.

If we remember to be grateful for what we have, the proper perspective will prevail, since "we cannot be grateful and envious at the same time." We just need to focus on the gifts and talents that are ours, seeking earnestly to magnify and add to them, and God will bless us for those endeavors.

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