Saturday, February 24, 2018

Elder Robert D. Hales on the importance of knowing God

Elder Robert D. Hales (August 24, 1932-October 1, 2017) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"As prophesied, we live in a time when the darkness of secularism is deepening around us. Belief in God is widely questioned and even attacked in the name of political, social, and even religious causes. Atheism, or the doctrine that there is no God, is fast spreading across the world.
"Even so, as members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, we declare that 'we believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.' (Articles of Faith 1:1)
"Some wonder, why is belief in God so important? Why did the Savior say, 'And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent'? (John 17:3; emphasis added.)
"Without God, life would end at the grave and our mortal experiences would have no purpose. Growth and progress would be temporary, accomplishment without value, challenges without meaning. There would be no ultimate right and wrong and no moral responsibility to care for one another as fellow children of God. Indeed, without God, there would be no mortal or eternal life."
- Robert D. Hales, "Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ," General Conference October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Do you believe in God? Does it matter in today's world? Elder Hales warns that we live in a world that is increasingly dark and secular, where belief in God is widely questioned. So why does it matter? He testifies:

To understand why belief in God matters, Elder Hales suggests we consider the implications of not believing in Him, or of God not existing. We may live a life of blissful ignorance; but in reality, that life exists only because God exists, and the chance for true happiness depends on accepting and trusting Him.

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

Friday, February 23, 2018

President James E. Faust on working to achieve our potential

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.
"Be industrious. To be industrious involves energetically managing our circumstances to our advantage. It also means to be enterprising and to take advantage of opportunities. Industry requires resourcefulness. A good idea can be worth years of struggle.
"A friend who owned some fertile fields complained to his sister about his lack of means. 'What about your crops?' asked the sister. The impoverished man replied, 'There was so little snow in the mountains, I thought there would be a drought, so I did not plant.' As it turned out, unforeseen spring rains made the crops bountiful for those industrious enough to plant. It is a denial of the divinity within us to doubt our potential and our possibilities.
"The great poet Virgil said, 'They conquer who believe they can.' Alma testified, speaking of a just God, 'I know that he granteth unto men according to their desire.' (Alma 29:4.)
"To be industrious involves work. It involves creativity. It also involves rest. It includes both aspects of Sabbath day observance. On the one hand, we are to labor six days. On the other hand, we are to rest one day. This rest will leave us with more energy and resources to make the rest of the week more productive and fruitful."
- James E. Faust, "The Responsibility for Welfare Rests with Me and My Family," General Conference, April 1986
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This conference address by President Faust reviewed some of the foundational principles of the welfare program, and described early thinking of what has now become the self-reliance services program of the Church. He gives details on five primary suggestions:
  • Practice thrift and frugality
  • Seek to be independent
  • Be industrious
  • Become self-reliant
  • Strive to have a year's supply of food and clothing

It's interesting to review these thoughts and see how they compare to our programs today, more than 30 years later.

The excerpt above comes from the third section of his recommendations, on being industrious. I appreciated the reminders of working hard and being creative, but also trusting in God in the process. I thought this was a profound statement:

The co-dependent values of work, creativity, and rest come together to make for greater productivity and achievement. Wise counsel for us all to reconsider!

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

Thursday, February 22, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on being prayerful

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.
"Be prayerful. Don’t be ashamed to get on your knees, morning and night, and thank the Lord for His blessings. Pray for His inspiration and direction and help in all that you undertake to do in righteousness."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Cape Town, South Africa, 20 Feb. 1998; see "Latter-day Counsel: Excerpts from Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley," Ensign, October 2000, p. 73
Click here to see the source of this quote

This reminder from President Hinckley is simple and straightforward, but very powerful:

I have always loved these words of Tennyson, that speak of the power of our petitions on behalf of one another:
 If thou shouldst never see my face again,
 Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
 Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
 Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
 For what are men better than sheep or goats
 That nourish a blind life within the brain,
 If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer
 Both for themselves and those who call them friend?
If we are sincere in our prayers, God will surely guide is with "inspiration and direction and help" in our righteous needs and desires.

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

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Elder Neil L. Andersen on the timing of miracles

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.
"Miracles are not always so immediate. At times we thoughtfully wonder why the miracle we have so earnestly prayed for does not happen here and now. But as we trust in the Savior, promised miracles will occur. Whether in this life or the next, all will be made right. The Savior declares: 'Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid' (John 14:27). 'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world' (John 13:33).
"I testify that as you love Him, trust Him, believe Him, and follow Him, you will feel His love and approval. As you ask, 'What thinks Christ of me?' you will know that you are His disciple; you are His friend. By His grace He will do for you what you cannot do for yourself."
- Neil L. Andersen, "What Thinks Christ of Me?," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Sometimes we see miracles happen that seem truly astonishing; at times they seem the most natural and expected thing we could envision. But sometimes miracles don't occur when we expect them, when we think we have faith to have them happen. Elder Andersen assures us that the promised miracles will occur as we have faith:

The key, according to Elder Andersen, is to "love Him, trust Him, believe Him, and follow Him"—then we "will feel His love and approval" and be blessed by His grace. The sweet assurance of a faithful disciple, knowing of the Lord's love for him, is a blessing that cannot be matched.

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

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on finding our lives in faithful discipleship

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.
"Finding our life by losing it for His sake and the gospel’s entails a willingness to make our discipleship open and public: 'Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.' (Mark 8:38.)
"Elsewhere in Matthew, we find a companion statement:
"'Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
"'But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.' (Matthew 10:34–38.)
"One obvious and rather sobering meaning of losing your life by confessing Christ is to lose it literally, physically, in sustaining and defending your belief in Him....
"The more common (and sometimes more difficult) application of the Savior’s teaching, however, has to do with how we live day by day. It concerns the words we speak, the example we set. Our lives should be a confession of Christ, and together with our words testify of our faith in and devotion to Him. And this testimony must be stoutly defended in the face of ridicule, discrimination, or defamation on the part of those who oppose Him 'in this adulterous and sinful generation.'"
D. Todd Christofferson, "Saving Your Life,"  CES Devotional, September 14, 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

On occasion, people in this world have been given the choice to deny their faith and belief in God or to lose their life if they won't. Many have become martyrs for their Christian faith. Elder Christofferson discusses that interpretation; then goes a step further, to discuss how we can "lose our life" in the way we live it from day to day:

This is a high standard: "Our lives should be a confession of Christ, and together with our words testify of our faith in and devotion to Him." Our example and our testimony need to shine brightly, regardless of what is happening around us. In effect we are losing the worldliness and selfishness, and finding something far better. In that process we discover a richness and fulfillment of joy on the path of discipleship. Elder Christofferson goes on to explain that when we "lose one’s life in Christ and His gospel [we] thereby find authentic (and eventually eternal) life."

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on thriving and blooming in a world in commotion

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.
"In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the Savior declared to His disciples that those who offend and do iniquity shall be gathered out of His kingdom. (See Matthew 13:41.) But speaking of the faithful, He said, 'Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.' (Matthew 13:43.) As individuals, disciples of Christ, living in a hostile world that is literally in commotion, we can thrive and bloom if we are rooted in our love of the Savior and humbly follow His teachings.
"Our ability to stand firm and true and follow the Savior despite the vicissitudes of life is greatly strengthened by righteous families and Christ-centered unity in our wards and branches. (See Doctrine and Covenants 115:5–6.)"
- Quentin L. Cook, "The Lord is My Light," General Conference, April 2015
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We live in a "hostile world" that effectively tries to destroy the light and beauty we believe is available to us through the life of discipleship. Elder Cook testifies that we don't have to succumb to the hostility; instead, we need to find the way to be properly "rooted" in the Savior and His teachings:

I appreciated the testimony that the best way to find solid rooting in the Savior and gospel is through our "righteous families and Christ-centered unity in our wards and branches." That makes it clear where we should devote our efforts and priorities! We might have expected the emphasis on home and family; but the importance of our connections with fellow Church members is also critical, since that is one of the key places were we both learn Gospel principles, and have a chance to implement and practice them.

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

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Elder David A. Bednar on living so that our actions match our beliefs

Elder David A. Bednar (born June 15, 1952) was serving as the president of BYU–Idaho when he was called and sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2004.
"The commandment 'Thou shalt not bear false witness' (Exodus 20:16) applies most pointedly to the hypocrite in each of us. We need to be and become more consistent. 'But be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity' (1 Timothy 4:12).
"As we seek the Lord’s help and in His strength, we can gradually reduce the disparity between what we say and what we do, between expressing love and consistently showing it, and between bearing testimony and steadfastly living it. We can become more diligent and concerned at home as we are more faithful in learning, living, and loving the restored gospel of Jesus Christ."
- David A. Bednar, "More Diligent and Concerned at Home," General Conference, October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This concept of hypocrisy and bearing false witness against oneself is an interesting one. Elder Bednar discusses a number of ways it applies in this talk, as we strive to live the gospel-directed life. It is sometimes a hard lesson to learn, to make our true inner lives correspond to the outer perception we are presenting:

So the key warning is to "reduce the disparity between what we say and what we do." As we mature in the gospel, we know what we should be doing; we understand the guidelines and recommendations for our personal worship, our private behavior, etc. But Elder Bednar's warning is that we all too often fall short of the ideal.

Brigham Young said it this way: "The sin that will cleave to all the posterity of Adam and Eve is, that they have not done as well as they knew how" (JD 2:129-130). Our challenge is to have our behavior measure up to our beliefs, completely and sincerely. Elder Bednar's recommendation is to focus on being "more diligent and concerned at home" to establish those patterns of faithful living in our lives.

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