Tuesday, November 20, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on developing an attitude of gratitude

President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1963. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency with Presidents Benson, Hunter, and Hinckley and then became Church president in 2008. He led the Church for almost a decade until his passing in January 2018.
"Regardless of our circumstances, each of us has much for which to be grateful if we will but pause and contemplate our blessings.
"This is a wonderful time to be on earth. While there is much that is wrong in the world today, there are many things that are right and good. There are marriages that make it, parents who love their children and sacrifice for them, friends who care about us and help us, teachers who teach. Our lives are blessed in countless ways.
"We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues."
- Thomas S. Monson, "The Divine Gift of Gratitude," General Conference October 2010
Click here to read or listen to the full address

President Monson was the master of cheerful optimism. It seemed the sun was always shining in his life. And if it wasn't, he knew it would soon return! In this message he emphasized that we all have much to be grateful for, in spite of any circumstances that might have us discouraged or concerned. President Monson encouraged us to find the things that are right in our world:

President Monson truly believed that we have the ability to "refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought" if we learn to develop and expand that "attitude of gratitude." It would be good for us each to evaluate which direction our attitude causes us to lean!

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on seeing God's handiwork in our lives

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf (born November 6, 1940) served as a Seventy from 1994-2004, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve.  He served as second counselor in the First Presidency from 2008 to 2018.
"How blessed we are if we recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life. Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes! A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues.
"The Lord has given us His promise that those 'who [receive] all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto [them], even an hundred fold, yea, more.' (D&C 78:19; emphasis added.)
"May we 'live in thanksgiving daily' (Alma 34:38)—especially during the seemingly unexplainable endings that are part of mortality. May we allow our souls to expand in thankfulness toward our merciful Heavenly Father. May we ever and constantly raise our voices and show by word and deed our gratitude to our Father in Heaven and to His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Grateful in Any Circumstances," General Conference April 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full address

It is truly a miracle to "recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life." When we begin to comprehend that His hand is involved in so many aspects of our existence, we will discover more and more ways in which His blessings come to us. Our recognition and gratitude to Him are the ways we become like Him, and the ways we draw more of His influence to ourselves.

There can hardly be a greater promise than the Lord's statement that when we receive everything with thankfulness, we'll be "made glorious" and receive a hundredfold of God's blessings. The invitation to each of us is to "show by word and deed our gratitude to our Father in Heaven and to His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ."

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

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Pres. M. Russell Ballard on the doctrine of inclusion

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.
"If we are truly disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will reach out with love and understanding to all of our neighbors at all times, particularly in times of need....
"I have never taught—nor have I ever heard taught—a doctrine of exclusion. I have never heard the members of this Church urged to be anything but loving, kind, tolerant, and benevolent to our friends and neighbors of other faiths.
"The Lord expects a great deal from us. Parents, please teach your children and practice yourselves the principle of inclusion of others and not exclusion because of religious, political, or cultural differences....
"That is our doctrine—a doctrine of inclusion. That is what we believe. That is what we have been taught. Of all people on this earth, we should be the most loving, the kindest, and the most tolerant because of that doctrine."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Doctrine of Inclusion," General Conference October 2001
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Ballard discussed a challenge in this 2001 Conference address that is probably even more timely now. There is increasing diversity in our society and cultures and ethnic groups intermingle. We see increased mobility and more moving between nations, especially as many flee challenging situations. And in many countries around the world there is a long history of racial tension and struggle for understanding.

True disciples, as President Ballard notes, will see beyond these differences and will "reach out with love and understanding to all of our neighbors at all times":

President Ballard discussed particularly the issues among youth and encouraged parents them to be more tolerant and understanding. He also noted that often the youth are the best examples of doing the right thing, and we all all learn from them. In any case, we should never forget that we are all children of God and we should treat each other as brothers and sisters, regardless of differences in background and traditions!

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

Saturday, November 17, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on the spiritual gift of nurturing

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.
"As daughters of God, you have an innate and great capacity to sense the needs of others and to love. That, in turn, makes you more susceptible to the whisperings of the Spirit. The Spirit can then guide what you think, what you say, and what you do to nurture people so the Lord may pour knowledge, truth, and courage upon them....
"Your practical challenge is to know whom to nurture, how, and when. You need the Lord’s help. He knows others’ hearts, and He knows when they are ready to accept your nurturing. Your prayer of faith will be your key to success. You can depend upon receiving His guidance....
"So you will take more time to pray, to ponder, and to meditate on spiritual matters. You will have knowledge of truth poured out upon you and grow in your power to nurture others in your family....
"You can know whom to nurture in your family. If you pray with real intent, a name or a face will come to your mind. If you pray to know what to do or what to say, you will feel an answer. Each time you obey, your power to nurture will grow."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Women and Gospel Learning in the Home," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In his address to the General Women's Session of the recent conference, President Eyring shared his feelings with the sisters about their special gift of nurturing. Though women have an "innate" capacity in this area, men can also develop the gift, so it is good counsel to all of us.

The process described in the first paragraph is profound. It starts with the desire "to sense the needs of others and to love." Women have a particular gift in that area. When we feel that kind of desire, we are more open to guidance from the Holy Ghost that will help us find the ways to nurture others more effectively. Then we can apply the prompting:

Through prayer, pondering, and meditation, we will be guided to those most in need and most willing to receive our nurturing efforts. As we seek those prompting, we will be blessed in moving forward. And then faithful obedience brings a greater capacity to receive guidance and to serve effectively in the future: "Each time you obey, your power to nurture will grow."

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

Friday, November 16, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on the importance of kindness

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.
"Be kind to others. Kindness is something many of our youth are doing already. Some groups of youth in some communities have shown the way for all of us. We have been inspired by our young people’s acts of kindness to those in need of love and help. In many ways, you give that help and show that love to one another. We wish all would follow your example.
"At the same time, we know that the adversary tempts all of us to be unkind, and there are still many examples of this, even among children and youth. Persistent unkindness is known by many names, such as bullying, ganging up on someone, or joining together to reject others. These examples deliberately inflict pain on classmates or friends. My young sisters, it is not pleasing to the Lord if we are cruel or mean to others."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Parents and Children," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Speaking to the General Women's Session of the recent conference, and addressing remarks to the young women in the audience and in the Church, President Oaks gave some general reminders of counsel that would encourage them as they strive to do what's right. We live in a time when the virtue of kindness seems to be fading, and so this was timely:

The phrase "simple acts of kindness" has become common in recent years, but perhaps the deeds themselves need to be more common. The phrase emphasizes that it doesn't take much effort to be kind. There are so many ways our little acts of service and love can make a difference. This is a good reminder for us all.

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

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Elder L. Tom Perry on the decisions of mortality

Elder L. Tom Perry (1922-2015) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1972, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1974. At the time of his passing at age 92, he was the oldest living general authority and the third in seniority among the leading quorum.
"Life is full of choices.... Decisions are before us every step of the way. Richard L. Evans said in the film Man’s Search For Happiness: 'Life offers you two precious gifts. One is time, the other, freedom of choice—the freedom to buy with your time what you will. You are free to exchange your allotment of time for thrills. You may trade it for base desires. You may invest it in greed. You may purchase with it vanity; you may spend your time in pursuit of material things. Yours is the freedom to choose. But these are not bargains, for in them you find no lasting satisfaction' (italics added)....
"Have more confidence in yourself than allowing your decisions to happen just by chance."
- L. Tom Perry, "Making the Right Decisions," General Conference October 1979
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I remember the classic film Man's Search for Happiness (produced by the Church in 1964) so well from my youth and from my missionary service. The beautiful narration of Elder Richard L. Evans was calm and strong, and the message so timely. (View the original video here.) Elder Perry quotes from the movie, expressing the choice we all have in how we use our time during our mortal experience. We can choose to follow a path of pleasure, entertainment, selfish desires, greed, or material prosperity. But if we choose that direction, we will "find no lasting satisfaction." The movie points out the difference between temporary, temporal pleasures and the lasting, eternal joy of the Gospel path.

Elder Perry emphasized in his talk that we need to be bold and certain in making our decisions in life. He talked about the principle of deciding in advance to be committed to the Gospel path, including specific principles and commandments that might confront us; and to make sure our decisions are carefully made based on our principles, not "allowing your decisions to happen just by chance." We must ponder and prepare in order to be wise in our choices, since those choices so quickly establish the path we will follow in life—and in eternity.

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

President Howard W. Hunter on commitment to a Christian life

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"A successful life, the good life, the righteous Christian life requires something more than a contribution, though every contribution is valuable. Ultimately it requires commitment—whole souled, deeply held, eternally cherished commitment to the principles we know to be true in the commandments God has given. We need such loyalty to the Church, but that must immediately be interpreted as a loyalty in our personal habits and behavior, integrity in the wider community and marketplace, and—for the future’s sake—devotion and character in our marriages and homes and families.
"If we will be true and faithful to our principles, committed to a life of honesty and integrity, then no king or contest or fiery furnace will be able to compromise us. For the success of the kingdom of God on earth, may we stand as witnesses for him 'at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death.' (Mosiah 18:9.)"
- Howard W. Hunter, "Standing As Witnesses of God," General Conference April 1990
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What does it mean to be a Christian? What kind of effort is involved? President Hunter suggests that it's more than a casual or occasional contribution; it requires "whole souled, deeply held, eternally cherished commitment" to the commandments and principles we have been given:

One who has that level of commitment will be noticed not just in Church settings, but "in the wider community" as we stand up for the principles of truth and defend virtue. We truly should be "witnesses of God" in all situations of our lives and let our light shine in the world around us.

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