Tuesday, January 16, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on divine calls and apostolic doctrine

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 have implicit faith in the Lord and in His prophets. I have learned not to put question marks but to use exclamation points when calls are issued through inspired channels of priesthood government....
"While nominally I come to you from the science of surgery and its mother of medicine, in a truer sense, I have been forged from the stern discipline of law—not the laws of men, as mastered by our brethren of the legal profession, but the eternal and unchanging laws of our Divine Creator. The surgeon soon learns the incontrovertibility of divine law. He knows that hopes and wishes are sometimes simply powerless sham. Desired blessings come only by obedience to divine law, and in no other way. My lifetime thus far has been focused on learning those laws. Only as the laws are known, and then obeyed, can the blessings we desire be earned. To this extent, there will be little difference for me in the activities of the past and those of the future. The endless laws of the Lord are the doctrines taught by His Apostles."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Call to the Holy Apostleship," General Conference, April 1984
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It seems appropriate today to review the first remarks offered by a then 59-year-old Elder Russell M. Nelson as he was sustained by the Church to the office of the apostleship. He expressed natural feelings of inadequacy, but shared this remarkable statement of his faith in prophetic leadership and calls that come through Priesthood channels:


Throughout his life, President Nelson has expressed this same faith and confidence not just in callings but in any teaching or instruction from inspired channels: he has responded with exclamation points!

The second paragraph of the excerpt quoted above demonstrates the solid foundation on which President Nelson built his life and service, and his confidence in "the eternal and unchanging laws of our Divine Creator." He sees eternal law and truth expressed in all kinds of settings, and knew innately that "Only as the laws are known, and then obeyed, can the blessings we desire be earned." His life has been dedicated to learning, and to obeying. What a marvelous example!

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on finding joy in life

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.
"I experienced the joy of coming closer to the Savior and of His coming closer to me most often through simple acts of obedience to the commandments....
"We are under covenant both to lift up those in need and to be witnesses of the Savior as long as we live.
"We will be able to do it without fail only as we feel love for the Savior and His love for us. As we are faithful to the promises we have made, we will feel our love for Him. It will increase because we will feel His power and His drawing near to us in His service....
"By His words and His example, Christ has shown us how to draw closer to Him. Every child of Heavenly Father who has chosen to enter through the gate of baptism into His Church will have the opportunity in this life to be taught His gospel and to hear from His called servants His invitation, 'Come unto me' (Matthew 11:28).
"Every covenant servant of His within His kingdom on earth and in the spirit world will receive His guidance by the Spirit as they bless and serve others for Him. And they will feel His love and find joy in being drawn closer to Him."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Come unto Me," General Conference, April 2013
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

There are lots of paths in life that we might choose in pursuit of joy; most of them may find temporary happiness but not the pure, lasting joy that truly matters. President Eyring points out the "secret" to establishing a closeness with the Savior, through "simple acts of obedience to the commandments":


The Savior's invitation "Come unto me" still provides the greatest source of peace and joy available to us. President Eyring testifies of this truth through his own experiences; and he challenges us to have the same opportunities to learn for ourselves.

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

Sunday, January 14, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on making the Sabbath a delight

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 was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015. With the death of President Monson, at age 93 he currently presides over the Church as senior apostle.
"When Isaiah described the Sabbath as 'a delight,' he also taught us how to make it delightful. He said:
"'If thou turn away... from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, ... and shalt honour [the Lord], not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
"'Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.' (Isaiah 58:13–14; emphasis added.)
"Not pursuing your 'own pleasure' on the Sabbath requires self-discipline. You may have to deny yourself of something you might like. If you choose to delight yourself in the Lord, you will not permit yourself to treat it as any other day. Routine and recreational activities can be done some other time.
"Think of this: In paying tithing, we return one-tenth of our increase to the Lord. In keeping the Sabbath holy, we reserve one day in seven as His. So it is our privilege to consecrate both money and time to Him who lends us life each day. (See Mosiah 2:21.)
"Faith in God engenders a love for the Sabbath; faith in the Sabbath engenders a love for God. A sacred Sabbath truly is a delight.
"Now, as this conference comes to a close, we know that wherever we live we are to be examples of the believers among our families, neighbors, and friends. (See 1 Timothy 4:12.) True believers keep the Sabbath day holy."
- Russell M. Nelson, "The Sabbath Is a Delight," General Conference April 2015
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

As we strive to "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Genesis 20:8) President Nelson's counsel from this wonderful address is helpful. Not only can we remember it, but we can make it "a delight" as we follow the counsel to focus on the things of the Lord. It's one of the small things we can do to express our gratitude to God for the many blessings we receive from Him:


I like the association President Nelson makes between love for God and for the Sabbath. They build and reinforce each other. As "true believers" in Him, we should desire to continue to grow in that association and in those blessings.

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on what it means to be a saint

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 was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015. With the death of President Monson, at age 93 he currently presides over the Church as senior apostle.
"Despite its use in ninety-eight verses of the Bible, the term saint is still not well understood. Some mistakenly think that it implies beatification or perfection. Not so! A saint is a believer in Christ and knows of His perfect love. The giving saint shares in a true spirit of that love, and the receiving saint accepts in a true spirit of gratitude. A saint serves others, knowing that the more one serves, the greater the opportunity for the Spirit to sanctify and purify.
"A saint is tolerant, and is attentive to the pleadings of other human beings, not only to spoken messages but to unspoken messages as well. A saint is different from an individual whose response to a concern might be a selfish 'What do I care' attitude. A real saint responds, 'What? I do care!' Do is an action verb, and it becomes the driving force in the reply of one who will care for another in need. (See 1 Cor. 12:25-27; 2 Cor. 7:12.)
"A saint 'refrain[s] from idleness' (Alma 38:12) and seeks learning by study, and also by faith....
"A saint resolves any differences with others honorably and peacefully and is constant in courtesy—even in traffic at the rush hour.
"A saint shuns that which is unclean or degrading and avoids excess even of that which is good.
"Perhaps above all, a saint is reverent. Reverence for the Lord, for the earth He created, for leaders, for the dignity of others, for the law, for the sanctity of life, for chapels and other buildings, are all evidences of saintly attitudes. (See Lev. 19:30; Alma 47:22; D&C 107:4; D&C 134:7.)
"A reverent saint loves the Lord and gives highest priority to keeping His commandments. Daily prayer, periodic fasting, payment of tithes and offerings are privileges important to a faithful saint.
"Finally, a saint is one who receives the gifts of the Spirit that God has promised to all His faithful sons and daughters. (See Joel 2:28–29; Acts 2:17–18.)"
- Russell M. Nelson, "Thus Shall my Church be Called," General Conference April 1990
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The use of the term "saint" among Latter-day Saints is somewhat different from most of the rest of the world, as President Nelson points out. He begins his overview of the characteristics of saints with this summary:


So a saint not only believes in Christ, but knows of Christ's love for him. That implies a level of relationship beyond the casual, one that requires an intellectual understanding as well as spiritual experience. A saint can thus express love and feel gratitude.

But then those feelings and understandings are translated into action in the life of a true saint: service, tolerance, unselfishness; being active, peaceful, pure, reverent, and obedient. For those who profess to be latter-day saints, it's good to consider President Nelson's analysis and see how well it describes us, or perhaps to identify areas where improvement is needed!

Finally, this is a wonderful summary: "A saint is one who receives the gifts of the Spirit that God has promised to all His faithful sons and daughters." We should be feeling and experiencing those gifts in our lives!

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

Friday, January 12, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on serving others

President Thomas S. Monson (August 21, 1927–January 2, 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 until becoming Church president in 2008. He led the Church for almost a decade.
"Many years ago I heard a poem which has stayed with me, by which I have tried to guide my life. It's one of my favorites:
"I have wept in the night
For the shortness of sight
That to somebody's need made me blind;
But I never have yet
Felt a tinge of regret
For being a little too kind.
(Anonymous)
"My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord's hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us....
"Just over a year ago, I was interviewed by the Church News prior to my birthday. At the conclusion of the interview, the reporter asked what I would consider the ideal gift that members worldwide could give to me. I replied, 'Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely, and do something for him or her.'"
- Thomas S. Monson, "What Have I Done for Someone Today?", General Conference October 2009
Click here to read and listen to the full talk

Today (January 12, 2018) is the day President Monson's mortal remains will be laid to rest. It seems appropriate that we remember what was probably the primary theme of not just his ministry, but his entire life.

In this excerpt, he shares the poem that included one of the guiding philosophies of his life: noticing the needs of those around him and acting on them with kindness. He reminds us that we are surrounded by family and friends who need attention, encouragement, support, comfort, and kindness.


As we remember President Monson, today when he is buried and in the days and years to come, perhaps we could remember this invitation and challenge. "Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely, and do something for him or her." I am certain President Monson would appreciate that not only as a birthday gift, but as an ongoing legacy.

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

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on understanding prayer and revelation

Elder 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.
"What about those times when we seek revelation and do not receive it? We do not always receive inspiration or revelation when we request it. Sometimes we are delayed in the receipt of revelation, and sometimes we are left to our own judgment. We cannot force spiritual things. It must be so. Our life’s purpose to obtain experience and to develop faith would be frustrated if our Heavenly Father directed us in every act, even in every important act. We must make decisions and experience the consequences in order to develop self-reliance and faith.
"Even in decisions we think very important, we sometimes receive no answers to our prayers. This does not mean that our prayers have not been heard. It only means that we have prayed about a decision which, for one reason or another, we should make without guidance by revelation. Perhaps we have asked for guidance in choosing between alternatives that are equally acceptable or equally unacceptable. I suggest that there is not a right and wrong to every question....
"Similarly, the Spirit of the Lord is not likely to give us revelations on matters that are trivial. I once heard a young woman in testimony meeting praise the spirituality of her husband, indicating that he submitted every question to the Lord. She told how he accompanied her shopping and would not even choose between different brands of canned vegetables without making his selection a matter of prayer. That strikes me as improper. I believe the Lord expects us to use the intelligence and experience he has given us to make these kinds of choices. When a member asked the Prophet Joseph Smith for advice on a particular matter, the Prophet stated:
"'It is a great thing to inquire at the hands of God, or to come into His presence: and we feel fearful to approach Him on subjects that are of little or no consequence.' [Teachings, p. 22]
"Of course we are not always able to judge what is trivial. If a matter appears of little or no consequence, we can proceed on the basis of our own judgment. If the choice is important for reasons unknown to us, such as the speaking invitation I mentioned earlier or even a choice between two cans of vegetables when one contains a hidden poison, the Lord will intervene and give us guidance. When a choice will make a real difference in our lives—obvious or not—and when we are living in tune with the Spirit and seeking his guidance, we can be sure we will receive the guidance we need to attain our goal. The Lord will not leave us unassisted when a choice is important to our eternal welfare."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Revelation," BYU Devotional, September 29, 1981
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was an important and insightful talk by Elder Oaks. The first part of the message included descriptions of eight different ways in which revelation comes from God to us; he did this "to persuade each of you to search your own experience and to conclude that you have already received revelations and that you can receive more revelations because communication from God to men and women is a reality."

But the concluding section of the talk, excerpted here, is just as important: what about when revelation doesn't come, and it seems our prayers go unanswered? What are we to learn or conclude from this?


In other words, God will not show us everything we are to do in this life. Sometimes the timing of answers is not up to us; and sometimes He wants us to choose and learn on our own, without divine guidance. We learn valuable lessons from our choices, even the wrong ones; and the self-reliance that results is an important part of our mortal schooling.

Elder Oaks goes on to further explain that sometimes we pray about a decision where it really doesn't matter; either direction or decision could provide learning and lessons; We just need to choose and move ahead. Or sometimes, we pray about things that are trivial and relatively unimportant, and need to learn how to prioritize what we take to the Lord.

Regardless, we have this important conditional assurance: "When we are living in tune with the Spirit and seeking his guidance, we can be sure we will receive the guidance we need to attain our goal. The Lord will not leave us unassisted when a choice is important to our eternal welfare."

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on being an answer to prayers

President 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 has served as second counselor in the First Presidency since 2008.
"In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance. Let us open our eyes and see the heavy hearts, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Happiness, Your Heritage," General Conference, October 2008
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is a beautiful thought from President Uchtdorf. It's critical for us to pray, and we are blessed as we do so; but often the greatest blessings will come to us as a result of reaching out to others and serving them in their times of need—in effect becoming the answer to their prayers:


President Uchtdorf suggests that we should strive to be more observant, watching for the needs around us that may include sadness, grief, and loneliness. Perhaps in addition to watching for those situations, we can actively seek inspiration from heaven for situations where our help might be such a blessing. Then we can be prepared to intercede as we are prompted.

I love this similar thought from President Spencer W. Kimball:
"God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom. The people of the Church need each other’s strength, support, and leadership in a community of believers as an enclave of disciples. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read about how important it is to '… succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees' (D&C 81:5)."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Small Acts of Service," Ensign, December 1974
It's a beautiful, sacred invitation for each of us, to reach out in care and concern, fulfilling our covenants to "bear one another's burdens" and to "comfort those who stand in need of comfort."

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