Monday, February 18, 2019

President Ezra Taft Benson on characteristics of humility

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1943, and served as the 13th President of the Church from 1985 until his death in 1994 at age 94.
"Pride is characterized by 'What do I want out of life?' rather than by 'What would God have me do with my life?' It is self-will as opposed to God’s will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God.
"Humility responds to God’s will—to the fear of His judgments and the needs of those around us. To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts.
"Someone has said, 'Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.' Of one brother, the Lord said, 'I, the Lord, am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel, and he is not sufficiently meek before me.' (D&C 58:41.)
"The two groups in the Book of Mormon that seemed to have the greatest difficulty with pride are the 'learned, and the rich.' (2 Ne. 28:15.) But the word of God can pull down pride. (See Alma 4:19.)
"With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there come many blessings."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Cleansing the Inner Vessel," General Conference, April 1986
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We often ask ourselves the question President Benson shares here: "What do I want out of life?" But he suggests a more profound question is, "What would God have me do with my life?" It's a good reminder that He is willing to help and guide us in all things, as we are willing to turn to Him in humility. There are some great keys in understanding where we find our motivation, our desire for approbation:

The Book of Mormon warns us about being learned and rich. Both of those are relative terms; the standard of learning, and the standard of wealth, in which most of us today find ourselves far exceeds both those of times past and so many who live in our world today. If I then, am learned and wise, how cautious I should be about the pride that too often accompanies those conditions!

The thoughts in this earlier talk were expanded three years later in the more familiar discourse "Beware of Pride" (General Conference April 1989).

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

President Howard W. Hunter on reverence in society and in church

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.
"There are wide areas of our society from which the spirit of prayer and reverence and worship has vanished. Men and women in many circles are clever, interesting, or brilliant, but they lack one crucial element in a complete life. They do not look up. They do not offer up vows in righteousness, as the requirement is stated in the Doctrine and Covenants, 'on all days and at all times.' (D&C 59:11.) Their conversation sparkles, but it is not sacred. Their talk is witty, but it is not wise. Whether it be in the office, the locker room, or the laboratory, they have come too far down the scale of dignity who display their own limited powers and then find it necessary to blaspheme those unlimited powers that come from above.
"Unfortunately we sometimes find this lack of reverence even within the Church. Occasionally we visit too loudly, enter and leave meetings too disrespectfully in what should be an hour of prayer and purifying worship. Reverence is the atmosphere of heaven. Prayer is the utterance of the soul to God the Father. We do well to become more like our Father by looking up to him, by remembering him always, and by caring greatly about his world and his work."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Hallowed Be Thy Name," General Conference October 1977
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Hunter points out some important differences between worldly attitudes, and the "humble followers of Christ" (2 Ne 28:14). Too often men and women in the world seek only to be "clever, interesting, or brilliant," coming across as witty but forgetting to be wise and humble. There is a desire to impress their peers, to stand out and be influential—but without regard for a divine power and its righteous principles. Certainly as we grow in our spirituality and understanding of the Savior's love for us and His plan for happiness, we will see how little the approbation of the world means compared to God's approval for our lives.

President Hunter warns too about the risk of forgetting sacred things, sacred times, sacred places. When we gather in our meetings, we should remember why we are there and strive to do nothing that would detract from the spirit of worshipful reverence. As we strive to "always remember Him," that will be more natural for us.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

President Gordon B. Hinckley on finding happiness in spite of problems in life

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.
"You have all heard my talk on the Be’s—Be grateful, Be smart, Be clean, Be true, Be humble, Be prayerful. And I add for you, Be happy.
"All of us have problems. We face them every day. How grateful I am that we have difficult things to wrestle with. They keep us young, if that is possible. They keep us alive. They keep us going. They keep us humble. They pull us down to our knees to ask the God of Heaven for help in solving them. Be grateful for your problems, and know that somehow there will come a solution."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "A Challenging Time—a Wonderful Time," Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings (2004), 15–19
Click here to read the full article

This excerpt comes from a collection of material prepared to help teachers in various levels of the Church's religious education programs, and provides some classic counsel from President Hinckley on teaching youth. The whole article is very worth reviewing. In this excerpt, President Hinckley teaches about confronting challenges and obstacles with optimism and confidence.

Recognizing our problems and challenges as opportunities and blessings is a critical skill to develop. President Hinckley lists many of the ways that those apparent difficulties can turn into positive things in our lives, and ways in which they help us learn and grow. Truly we should "be grateful for [our] problems," knowing that they will not last forever.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Friday, February 15, 2019

President Thomas S. Monson on prayer's help in a challenging world

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.
"Many of the challenges we face exist because we live in this mortal world, populated by all manner of individuals. At times we ask in desperation, 'How can I keep my sights firmly fixed on the celestial as I navigate through this telestial world?'
"There will be times when you will walk a path strewn with thorns and marked by struggle. There may be times when you feel detached—even isolated—from the Giver of every good gift. You worry that you walk alone. Fear replaces faith.
"When you find yourself in such circumstances, I plead with you to remember prayer....
"We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help if we but ask. We have the promise: 'Pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good' (D&C 90:24)....
"Of course, prayer is not just for times of trouble. We are told repeatedly in the scriptures to 'pray always' (Luke 21:36) and to keep a prayer in our hearts (see 3 Nephi 20:1)."
- Thomas S. Monson, "We Never Walk Alone," General Relief Society Meeting 9/28/13, General Conference October 2013
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Monson defines a very real challenge that we face in this life: keeping our "sights firmly fixed on the celestial" while we are struggling with the realities of a telestial world. It's a great key to remember the gift of prayer, and to develop our abilities in using that gift. That becomes especially crucial in those times when we seem "detached" or "isolated" from God. We must develop the ability to remember that we need not face those challenging times alone:

How blessed we are to have the chance to receive help, guidance, and strength from our Divine Father—and, as President Monson reminds us, not just in times of struggle or loneliness, but at all times in our life! We need only turn to Him.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

President Russell M. Nelson on how love for God enhances our love for one another

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.
"Love for family and friends, great as it may be, is much more profound when firmly anchored in the love of Jesus Christ. Parental love for children has more meaning here and hereafter because of Him. All loving relationships are elevated in Him. Love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ provides the illumination, inspiration, and motivation to love others in a loftier way."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Redemption of the Dead and the Errand of the Lord," Salt Lake Temple Devotional, October 11, 1998; see Teachings of Russell M. Nelson p. 189

This is a pretty straightforward message: love is a wonderful thing, but it is "much more profound" when it is built upon a foundation of love of Jesus Christ. Having a love for Him amplifies our ability to feel and share love in every other way:

When we truly love our Father in Heaven, we receive "the illumination, inspiration, and motivation to love others in a loftier way." The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ focuses on love. The Savior taught his disciples: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (John 13:34.) When we begin to comprehend how He loves us, we are able to emulate that love in our relationships with others.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on becoming submissive to God's will

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.
"As one’s will is increasingly submissive to the will of God, he can receive inspiration and revelation so much needed to help meet the trials of life. In the trying and very defining Isaac episode, faithful Abraham 'staggered not ... through unbelief' (Rom. 4:20). Of that episode John Taylor observed that 'nothing but the spirit of revelation could have given him this confidence, and ... sustained him under these peculiar circumstances' (in Journal of Discourses, 14:361). Will we too trust the Lord amid a perplexing trial for which we have no easy explanation? Do we understand—really comprehend—that Jesus knows and understands when we are stressed and perplexed? The complete consecration which effected the Atonement ensured Jesus’ perfect empathy; He felt our very pains and afflictions before we did and knows how to succor us (see Alma 7:11–12; 2 Ne. 9:21). Since the Most Innocent suffered the most, our own cries of 'Why?' cannot match His. But we can utter the same submissive word 'nevertheless ...' (Matt. 26:39).
"Progression toward submission confers another blessing: an enhanced capacity for joy. Counseled President Brigham Young, 'If you want to enjoy exquisitely, become a Latter-day Saint, and then live the doctrine of Jesus Christ' (in Journal of Discourses, 18:247)."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father," General Conference October 1995
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

For many of us, it's not easy to submit. We are proud of our knowledge and understanding, of our personal abilities and experiences. We have to learn to submit to God, to seek His will first. Elder Maxwell testified that as we learn that lesson and become more and more submissive, we will feel a growth of "inspiration and revelation" to help us deal with the trials of life. Trials will surely come; but will we have the humble submission to trust God when we don't fully understand the reasons behind our circumstances?

When we truly trust in God and have faith in His wisdom for our path in mortality, we will not worry about asking "Why?" in the midst of our trials. Instead, we will confidently move forward with the declaration of "Nevertheless." What a beautiful spirit.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Elder Neil L. Andersen on finding help during trials of faith

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.
"When faced with a trial of faith—whatever you do, you don’t step away from the Church! Distancing yourself from the kingdom of God during a trial of faith is like leaving the safety of a secure storm cellar just as the tornado comes into view.
"The Apostle Paul said, 'Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.' (Ephesians 2:19.) It is within the sanctuary of the Church that we protect our faith. Meeting together with others who believe, we pray and find answers to our prayers; we worship through music, share testimony of the Savior, serve one another, and feel the Spirit of the Lord. We partake of the sacrament, receive the blessings of the priesthood, and attend the temple. The Lord declared, 'In the ordinances..., the power of godliness is manifest.' (D&C 84:20.) When you are faced with a test of faith, stay within the safety and security of the household of God. There is always a place for you here. No trial is so large we can’t overcome it together. (See Mosiah 18:8-10)"
- Neil L. Andersen, "Trial of Your Faith," General Conference, October 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Too often, when we struggle with challenges or trials, and especially with a "trial of faith" that makes us question or doubt our foundational principles, our tendency is to retreat from the safety. It's not unusual to question or doubt; but how we respond to those times becomes very critical. There will always be opposition, including in the presentation of doctrine, history, interpretation, and application. But when we stop listening to one side of the debate and only focus on the side that would have us question or criticize, we will be in far greater danger.

This is critical: "It is within the sanctuary of the Church that we protect our faith." We are blessed when we stay close to home.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)
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