Sunday, April 23, 2017

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on the sacred gift of the Holy Ghost

Elder Ronald A. Rasband (b. February 6, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 2000.  He was the senior president of the Seventy when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"Our Father in Heaven knew that in mortality we would face challenges, tribulation, and turmoil; He knew we would wrestle with questions, disappointments, temptations, and weaknesses. To give us mortal strength and divine guidance, He provided the Holy Spirit, another name for the Holy Ghost.
"The Holy Ghost binds us to the Lord. By divine assignment, He inspires, testifies, teaches, and prompts us to walk in the light of the Lord. We have the sacred responsibility to learn to recognize His influence in our lives and respond.
"Remember the Lord’s promise: 'I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy.' (D&C 11:13) I love that assurance. Joy that fills our souls brings with it an eternal perspective in contrast to day-to-day living. That joy comes as peace amidst hardship or heartache. It provides comfort and courage, unfolds the truths of the gospel, and expands our love for the Lord and all God’s children. Although the need for such blessings is so great, in many ways the world has forgotten and forsaken them."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "Let the Holy Spirit Guide," General Conference, April 2017
Click here to watch or read the full talk

The role of Comforter as one of the assignments of the Holy Ghost is a precious one to me. As Elder Rasband explains, we are all confronted with "challenges, tribulation, and turmoil" in this life and we often fact "questions, disappointments, temptations, and weaknesses." Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are able to find "mortal strength and divine guidance" to help confront and endure.

The simple statement that the Holy Ghost "binds us to the Lord" implies so much about our covenant life and the blessings that accompany discipleship. When we consider the sacred role of the Holy Ghost, how blessed we are to have the understanding of His role!

The rest of Elder Rasband's address keys on the phrase from the sacramental prayers, that we "may always have His spirit to be with [us]." He suggests ways we can help facilitate that goal: living worthy of the Spirit, being willing to receive the Spirit when it comes to us, recognizing its promptings, and acting on the first promptings.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Elder Neil L. Andersen on the blessings of overcoming the world

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.
"The blessings that the Lord has promised to those who overcome the world are breathtaking. They will be 'clothed in white... and [named in] the book of life.' The Lord 'will confess [their names] before [the] Father, and before his angels' (Revelation 3:5). Each shall have 'part in the first resurrection' (D&C 76:64), receive eternal life (see Revelation 2, chapter heading), and 'go no more out' (Revelation 3:12) from the presence of God.
"Is it possible to overcome the world and receive these blessings? Yes, it is....
"Those who overcome the world develop an all-encompassing love for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ....
"Overcoming the world is not one defining moment in a lifetime, but a lifetime of moments that define an eternity....
"Overcoming the world is not a global invasion but a private, personal battle, requiring hand-to-hand combat with our own internal foes....
"Overcoming the world is keeping our promises to God—our baptismal and temple covenants and our oath of faithfulness to our eternal companion....
"Overcoming the world does not mean we live a cloistered life, protected from the unfairness and difficulties of mortality. Rather, it opens the more expansive view of faith, drawing us to the Savior and His promises.
"While perfection is not complete in this life, overcoming the world keeps our hope aflame that one day we 'shall stand before [our Redeemer]; [and] see his face with pleasure' (Enos 1:27), and hear His voice: 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.' (Matthew 25:34)"
- Neil L. Andersen, "Overcoming the World," General Conference, April 2017
Click here to watch or read the full talk

Elder Andersen's message was based on a phrase from a visionary experience of President David O. McKay, describing heavenly beings as those who have "overcome the world." In analyzing that phrase, he described aspects of what it would mean for a person in this life to achieve that state. While emphasizing that it's a lifelong process, "a lifetime of moments" leading to the point where "perfection is... complete" only after this life, he also describes many of the aspects of discipleship and obedience that demonstrate progress towards the goal.

I think one of the blessings of the process is that our efforts to overcome the world help to "keep our hope aflame" that the process can eventually be completed, and the joy and blessings that accompany that eventual state will be profound.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the invitation to warn based on love

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.
"Far from being anxious to condemn, our Heavenly Father and our Savior seek our happiness and plead with us to repent, knowing full well that 'wickedness never was [and never will be] happiness' (Alma 41:10). So Ezekiel and every prophet before and since, speaking the word of God out of a full heart, have warned all who will to turn away from Satan, the enemy of their souls, and 'choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men' (2 Nephi 2:27).
"While the duty to warn is felt especially keenly by prophets, it is a duty shared by others as well. In fact, 'it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor' (D&C 88:81). We who have received a knowledge of the great plan of happiness—and its implementing commandments—should feel a desire to share that knowledge since it makes all the difference here and in eternity....
"The motivation for raising the warning voice is love—love of God and love of fellowman. To warn is to care. The Lord instructs that it is to be done 'in mildness and in meekness' (D&C 38:41) and 'by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness..., and by love unfeigned' (D&C 121:41). It can be urgent, as when we warn a child not to put his or her hand in a fire. It must be clear and sometimes firm. On occasion, warning may take the form of reproof 'when moved upon by the Holy Ghost' (D&C 121:43), but always it is rooted in love."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Voice of Warning," General Conference, April 2017
Click here to watch or read the full talk

Elder Christofferson offers an invitation to all that we raise a "warning voice" to those around us. But he clarifies what that means; it focuses on invitations based on love and concern for others, including those close to us. At times the warning voice needs to be urgent and even reproving, but usually it is kind and gentle, showing a desire to share knowledge that is precious and valuable. When we feel the motivation of caring and concern for our neighbors, the warning voice is a natural result.

"To warn is to care." That's a beautiful summary of Elder Christofferson's message.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Elder Quentin L. Cook on the importance of consistent efforts in spiritual growth

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.
"Personal foundations, like many worthwhile pursuits, are usually built slowly—one layer, one experience, one challenge, one setback, and one success at a time....
"Unfortunately, in an increasingly secular world, less emphasis is placed on the amount of spiritual growth necessary to become more Christlike and establish the foundations that lead to enduring faith. We tend to emphasize moments of sublime spiritual understanding. These are precious instances when we know the Holy Ghost has witnessed special spiritual insights to our hearts and minds. We rejoice in these events; they should not be diminished in any way. But for enduring faith and to have the constant companionship of the Spirit, there is no substitute for the individual religious observance that is comparable to physical and mental development. We should build on these experiences, which sometimes resemble initial baby steps. We do this by consecrated commitment to sacred sacrament meetings, scripture study, prayer, and serving as called....
"Just as repetition and consistent effort are required to gain physical or mental capacity, the same is true in spiritual matters. Remember that the Prophet Joseph received the same visitor, Moroni, with exactly the same message four times in preparation for receiving the plates. I believe that weekly participation in sacred sacrament meetings has spiritual implications we do not fully understand. Pondering the scriptures regularly—rather than reading them occasionally—can substitute a superficial understanding for a sublime, life-changing enhancement of our faith."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Foundations of Faith," General Conference, April 2017
Click here to watch or read the full talk

Many things that matter in our lives take significant time to develop. This applies to intellectual learning, physical abilities, proficiency in a talent, etc. Elder Cook's point is that the same persistent effort is required in spiritual development. We grow "line upon line, precept on precept" and need to recognize the power there is in consistent, persistent efforts over a long period.

I thought this point was particularly important: the "moments of sublime spiritual understanding" are critical to us—those spiritual high-points when we have revelatory experiences or profound spiritual experiences. But they are not the things that build "enduring faith" and "constant companionship of the Spirit" in our lives. Those things come from our steady, repeated, personal "individual religious observance."

This message should encourage in each of us an examination of our "steadiness" to ensure that we are continuing to do the things that will bring that ongoing strength.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Elder David A. Bednar on growth and preparation of young men

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.
"Three interrelated words define a pattern of preparation and progression for sons of God: priesthood, temple, mission. Sometimes as parents, friends, and Church members, we focus so extensively upon missionary preparation for young men that we may neglect to a degree the other vital steps along the covenant pathway that must be fulfilled before beginning full-time missionary service. Working as a missionary certainly is one but not the only important building block in the process of creating a strong foundation for a lifetime of spiritual growth and service. Priesthood and temple blessings, both of which precede arriving in an assigned field of labor, also are necessary to fortify and strengthen us spiritually throughout our entire lives....
"As priesthood, temple, and mission blessings are gathered 'together in one... in Christ' (Ephesians 1:10) and synergistically interact in the heart, mind, and soul of a young missionary, he can qualify for the work (see D&C 4:5). His capacity is increased to fulfill the responsibility to represent authoritatively the Lord Jesus Christ. The spiritually potent combination of honoring priesthood and temple covenants, receiving 'the power of godliness' (D&C 84:20) through priesthood ordinances (D&C 84:19–21), serving selflessly, and proclaiming the everlasting gospel to God’s children enables a young man to become 'firm and steadfast in the faith' (Helaman 15:8) and 'rooted and built up in [Christ]' (Colossians 2:7).
"In our homes and at church, we should give balanced emphasis to all three elements of the Lord’s pattern of preparation and progression for faithful sons of God: priesthood, temple, mission. All three require us to love being and remaining worthy. Be worthy. Stay worthy."
- David A. Bednar, "Called to the Work," General Conference, April 2017
Click here to watch or read the full talk

Elder Bednar spoke during the Priesthood Session of the recent general conference. He was primarily addressing the young men in issues relating to their preparation for future service and growth; but many of the principles apply to young women as well. Elder Bednar discussed the efforts we make to help youth prepare, which are often focused on mission preparation; but he encouraged additional focus on the other important aspects of the young man's development:  priesthood, temple, mission.

When all three of those areas receive attention in a young man's preparation, or in an adult life, then it becomes a "spiritually potent combination" of growth and development.

Elder Bednar also had a subtheme, repeated three times in the talk: "Please learn to love being and remaining worthy. Be worthy. Stay worthy." How critical that is for our happiness in life!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on an invitation for all to participate in the blessings of the Gospel

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (born December 3, 1940) served as Church Commissioner of Education from 1976-1980, as the president of BYU from 1980-1989, as a Seventy from 1989-1994, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1994.
"Brothers and sisters, we live in a mortal world with many songs we cannot or do not yet sing. But I plead with each one of us to stay permanently and faithfully in the choir, where we will be able to savor forever that most precious anthem of all—'the song of redeeming love' (Alma 5:26; see also Alma 26:13).
"Fortunately, the seats for this particular number are limitless. There is room for those who speak different languages, celebrate diverse cultures, and live in a host of locations. There is room for the single, for the married, for large families, and for the childless. There is room for those who once had questions regarding their faith and room for those who still do. There is room for those with differing sexual attractions. In short, there is a place for everyone who loves God and honors His commandments as the inviolable measuring rod for personal behavior, for if love of God is the melody of our shared song, surely our common quest to obey Him is the indispensable harmony in it.
"With divine imperatives of love and faith, repentance and compassion, honesty and forgiveness, there is room in this choir for all who wish to be there. (See 2 Nephi 26:33.) 'Come as you are,' a loving Father says to each of us, but He adds, 'Don’t plan to stay as you are.' We smile and remember that God is determined to make of us more than we thought we could be.
"In this great oratorio that is His plan for our exaltation, may we humbly follow His baton and keep working on the songs we cannot sing, until we can offer those 'carol[s] to [our] King.' (Hymns, no. 227.)"
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Songs Sung and Unsung," General Conference, April 2017
Click here to watch or read the full talk

In this sermon, Elder Holland spoke beautifully based on the lyrics of the hymn "There is Sunshine in my Soul Today" (Hymns, no. 227). He drew a number of comparisons and analogies that were helpful in thinking about how we confront the challenges of this life.

I thought this section, near the end of his talk, was particularly interesting. He points out the importance for "each one of us to stay permanently and faithfully in the choir" (the symbolic description of faithful discipleship) as we deal with our various situations. And he points out that diversity of needs and backgrounds, of personal situations, is not only acceptable in that "choir," but also very desirable in the formation of the choir. "There is a place for everyone who loves God and honors His commandments as the inviolable measuring rod for personal behavior."

So all who love God and desire to follow Him are invited and welcome:

I hope all members of the Church can feel the power of this message, knowing that not only are we personally needed and wanted in that choir, but also we should be open, welcoming, and loving to all those who likewise come to receive the blessings and benefits of singing together with us.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Elder Robert D. Hales on being true disciples of Christ

Elder Robert D. Hales (b. August 24, 1932) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"What does it mean to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ? A disciple is one who has been baptized and is willing to take upon him or her the name of the Savior and follow Him. A disciple strives to become as He is by keeping His commandments in mortality, much the same as an apprentice seeks to become like his or her master.
"Many people hear the word disciple and think it means only 'follower.' But genuine discipleship is a state of being. This suggests more than studying and applying a list of individual attributes. Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry....
"The attributes of the Savior, as we perceive them, are not a script to be followed or list to be checked off. They are interwoven characteristics, added one to another, which develop in us in interactive ways. In other words, we cannot obtain one Christlike characteristic without also obtaining and influencing others. As one characteristic becomes strong, so do many more....
"Brothers and sisters, now more than ever, we cannot be a 'part-time disciple'! We cannot be a disciple on just one point of doctrine or another. The constellation of characteristics that result from faith in Christ—including the ones we have talked about today—are all necessary to our standing strong in these last days.
"As we earnestly strive to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, these characteristics will be interwoven, added upon, and interactively strengthened in us. There will be no disparity between the kindness we show our enemies and the kindness we bestow on our friends. We will be as honest when no one is looking as when others are watching. We will be as devoted to God in the public square as we are in our private closet."
- Robert D. Hales, "Becoming a Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ," General Conference, April 2017
Click here to watch or read the full talk

Becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ requires more than just a superficial acceptance of a code of beliefs, or joining an organization. Elder Hales teaches that "genuine discipleship is a state of being"—it means that there has been a change of nature in the individual as he or she adopts the way of life in deep and profound ways. The invitation for us, as prospective disciples of Jesus Christ, is to learn about his attributes in order that they can be "woven into the fiber of [our] beings."

And Elder Hales emphasizes that you can't just pick some of the attributes that look most desirable, or choose occasions in which to demonstrate the characteristics. We need to be full-time disciples; we need to adopt all of the characteristics of the Savior, all of the time:

I am grateful for Elder Hales' description of the growing, iterative process of this transition: "As we earnestly strive to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, these characteristics will be interwoven, added upon, and interactively strengthened in us." A miraculous transition can and will occur when the heart is willing and the commitment is sincere and deep.
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