Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pres. Henry B. Eyring on obeying spiritual direction

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.
"When the Spirit is invited into a meeting by those in it, truth is communicated beyond what is said aloud. Write down impressions or thoughts that you feel came from God. And, remembering what we have said about building a foundation, think carefully about whether the truth you received requires action. It is by obedience to commandments that we qualify for further revelation of truth and light.
"In this hour you may have committed to act on something you felt was true. Then more truth came to you. That process may slow or stop, if as you go out into daily life you fail to keep the silent commitments you made with God. God not only loves the obedient, He enlightens them. I fear that more people make promises to God than keep them, so you will please Him when you are the exception and you keep your promise to obey. You should test those impressions of what you should do against a simple standard: Is it what the Master has commanded in the accepted revelations? Is it clearly within my calling in His kingdom?
"Keeping some commandments gives you greater power to build your foundation on truth and light. You could think of those as enabling commandments, because they build your power to keep other commandments. Whatever invites the Holy Ghost as your companion will bring you the greater wisdom and the greater ability to obey God."
- Henry B. Eyring, "A Life Founded in Light and Truth," BYU Education Week devotional, 15 August 2000; see also Ensign, July 2001, 13
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Speaking to a gathering at BYU for an Education Week devotional, President Eyring addressed ways to increase the spiritual influences in our lives. One of the key ways is learning to invite and recognize spiritual promptings as we are instructed; then responding to the promptings that come, enabling us to receive further promptings.

Some key steps:
  • Invite inspiration by prayer and a willing heart as we are in settings where we might be taught
  • Record thoughts and impressions that come to us in those settings
  • Ponder whether the impression just received "requires action"
  • Commit to follow through, and then act promptly on the impression
By following that process, we invite more frequent inspiration from God:

I love the concept of "enabling commandments"—those things we do that open the door to further opportunity and blessing. Each time we choose to obey and act, we are opening the door to greater inspiration and help from God. "Whatever invites the Holy Ghost as your companion will bring you the greater wisdom and the greater ability to obey God."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on enduring in faithfulness to the end

President Thomas S. Monson (b. August 21, 1927) 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 before becoming Church president in 2008.
"How blessed we are to have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It provides answers to questions concerning where we came from, why we are here, and where we will go when we pass from this life. It provides meaning and purpose and hope to our lives.
"We live in a troubled world, a world of many challenges. We are here on this earth to deal with our individual challenges to the best of our ability, to learn from them, and to overcome them. Endure to the end we must, for our goal is eternal life in the presence of our Father in Heaven. He loves us and wants nothing more than for us to succeed in this goal. He will help us and bless us as we call upon Him in our prayers, as we study His words, and as we obey His commandments. Therein is found safety; therein is found peace."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Till We Meet Again," General Conference, October 2010
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Monson has always been gracious in acknowledging God's blessings, as he does here; and in acknowledging the blessings and power in a righteous, faithful life. The gospel provides hope, it gives us answers to critical life questions, and it establishes the meaning and purpose of our very existence.

In spite of the challenges and confusion of the world, President Monson encourages us to hold on in faithfulness and to "endure to the end" as committed disciples:

What a marvelous example President Monson himself has shared as he faithfully has endured in service to God and to the Church for decades. Surely he has been blessed and sustained, and has found the safety and peace he promises each of us.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Elder Marvin J. Ashton on serving and growing in spite of obstacles

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915-1994) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1971 until his death in 1994 at age 78.
"We are all God’s children. If we love Him, we will feed His sheep wherever they may be found, without regard as to our own personal plight or situation. Often we can best feed others when we are hungry ourselves or not completely comfortable in the fold that we presently occupy. Very often those who are hungry, helpless, and cold can best be rescued by those who have been through the same exposures. Marking time or stalling should not be indulged in by the weak, weary, uncertain, and unrecognized. Instead, there is a healing power as we use our energy in action, in service, and in lifting others.
"It was Booker T. Washington who wisely stated, 'Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.' (The International Dictionary of Thoughts, comp. by John P. Bradley and others, Chicago: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, 1969, p. 698.) Victories in life come through our ability to work around and over the obstacles that cross our path. We grow stronger as we climb our own mountains....
"Let me share four basic contributing factors which might prevent our personal progress and church activity: (1) the constant nursing of personal hurts, (2) yielding to the sorrow of tragedy and grief, (3) being fettered with the habits and mistakes of misconduct, (4) letting fears inhibit progress."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "Roadblocks to Progress," General Conference, April 1979
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Ashton shared thoughts in this talk about some of the challenges we create for ourselves in life that prevent us both from progressing personally, and from serving others along the path. Often our own challenges seem to provide such obstacles that we feel unable or incapable of reaching out to others. But he points out that those times might actually be the best and most important for us to be serving!

It's clear that overcoming obstacles provides one of the best chances for us to grow:

Elder Ashton goes on to consider four of the reasons we find ourselves stalled and blocked. This was a very interesting discussion, and reviewing the full article is recommended as we consider our individual lives and opportunities to grow and to serve.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Saturday, August 19, 2017

President James E. Faust on strengthening families

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.
"In a sense, a family can foster the teachings of the Savior better than any other institution. In large measure, the Church exists to strengthen families. I wish to define family very broadly. In the Church we have traditional families and single-parent families. Furthermore, each single member is considered to be, in a sense, a Church family....
"The fact that some members do not have functioning traditional families is no reason to move in a direction that would diminish or abandon family activities among those who can and should foster them. With the increased onslaught of forces that cause families to disintegrate, we ought to dig in our heels to preserve all that is great and good in the family. We are reminded that in times of tribulations, the Nephites were not fighting for a political cause, such as monarchy or power; rather, they 'were inspired by a better cause.' For 'they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.' (Alma 43:45.)"
- James E. Faust, "Where Is the Church?," BYU fireside, Sept 24, 1989; see also Ensign, Aug. 1990, p. 64
Click here to read the full talk

The Church exists to strengthen and reinforce families, by fostering the teachings of the Savior. Regardless of whether the family is "traditional" or not, President Faust points out that there is no better chance of success than by carefully following the Church's programs and teachings.

I appreciated the invitation to "dig in our heals" and attempt to do all we can to preserve families against the forces in society that would destroy or oppose them. It's important for us each to consider our personal family situation, as well as areas where we might have influence in society, and determine ways we could more faithfully defend and protect the sanctity of that sacred institution.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on patience and preparation in serving others

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.
"One of the recurring challenges of life for some, both in and out of the Church, is the feeling that they occasionally have that they have more to offer in the way of talent, skill, or insight than they are permitted to give or than is being used by their fellowmen....
"Since patience is one of the traits of a saint (see Mosiah 3:19), it should not surprise us that we must sometimes learn patience not only by physical suffering, but also by sometimes having something to offer which, for one reason or another, we are prevented from offering, at least on the terms we would like to make the contribution. To trust God enough to accept the reality that he knows perfectly both what we have to offer and what we desire is a special form of trust. After all, when we sing in the hymn, 'I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord' (Hymns, no. 75), presumably our pledge includes a willingness to stay right where we are, if that is where the Lord wants us....
"Finally, this should sober us with sweetness: God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability!"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "It's Service, not Status, that Counts," Ensign, July 1975, p. 7
Click here to read the full article

This article presents a fascinating look at service and motivations to serve. One of the things Elder Maxwell considers is our desire to serve more, at times when we seem not to have the opportunity for various reasons. We occasionally feel, "in the hymnal words of Philip Paul Bliss, 'More used would I be.' (Hymns, no. 114)"  At those times when we seem not to have the opportunity to serve as much as we wish we could, we might consider the possible reasons suggested by Elder Maxwell, and also the possible remedies.

This concluding paragraph from the article, though cleverly worded (in Elder Maxwell's unique and wonderful style), points out a great truth. It truly is important for us to "prove our dependability" to God; and when we do, our capability will be enhanced and the opportunities to use those gifts will increase.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on the Savior's promised help in trials and challenges

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1986, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1986 until his passing in 2008 at age 91.
"Many today feel troubled and distressed; many feel that, at any moment, the ships of their lives could capsize or sink. It is to you who are looking for a safe harbor that I wish to speak today, you whose hearts are breaking, you who are worried or afraid, you who bear grief or the burdens of sin, you who feel no one is listening to your cries, you whose hearts are pleading, 'Master, carest thou not that I perish?' To you I offer a few words of comfort and of counsel.
"Be assured that there is a safe harbor. You can find peace amidst the storms that threaten you. Your Heavenly Father—who knows when even a sparrow falls—knows of your heartache and suffering. He loves you and wants the best for you. Never doubt this. While He allows all of us to make choices that may not always be for our own or even others' well-being, and while He does not always intervene in the course of events, He has promised the faithful peace even in their trials and tribulations....
"Jesus comforts us when He said, 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid' (John 14:27).
"Draw close to the Lord Jesus Christ. He bears a special love for those who suffer. He is the Son of God, an eternal king. In His mortal ministry He loved them and blessed them.
"To the meek and discouraged, His every word was one of compassion and encouragement. To the sick, He brought a healing balm. Those who yearned for hope, who yearned for a caring touch, received it from the hand of this King of Kings, this Creator of ocean, earth, and sky.
"Today Jesus the Christ stands at the right hand of our Heavenly Father. Do you suppose that today He is any less inclined to aid those who suffer, who are sick, or who appeal to the Father in prayer for succor?
"Be of good cheer. The Man of Galilee, the Creator, the Son of the Living God will not forget nor forsake those whose hearts are drawn to Him. I testify that the Man who suffered for mankind, who committed His life to healing the sick and comforting the disconsolate, is mindful of your sufferings, doubts, and heartaches."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Finding a Safe Harbor," General Conference, April 2000; see Ensign, May 2000, pp. 59-61
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We are frequently reminded by Church leaders that times of trouble or distress will come in our lives; but that we do not ever have to face them alone. Sometimes we cry out, with the ancient apostles, "Master, carest thou not that I perish?" And the answer is always, YES, He does care—infinitely and perfectly. Elder Wirthlin testifies that while He may not always intervene in our lives, in the way we hope and ask, He will always be available to provide peace and strength.

The critical need is for us to draw near to Him, so that we can be ready and open to feel His love and comforting spirit.

What a profound message of hope and reassurance! We truly can know that the Savior "will not forget nor forsake those whose hearts are drawn to Him." May we continue to be open to that healing and empowering influence!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley offers a call to greater faithfulness

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.
"Now, my brethren and sisters, the time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike.
"We have nothing to fear. God is at the helm. He will overrule for the good of this work. He will shower down blessings upon those who walk in obedience to His commandments. Such has been His promise. Of His ability to keep that promise none of us can doubt."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "This Is the Work of the Master," General Conference, April 1995; see Ensign, May 1995, 71
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"Stand a little taller"—classic President Hinckley. He believed in gradual, consistent, ongoing efforts as a means of growth and improvement. If you stand taller each day than you did the day before, then over time you'll have made significant progress. And he suggested that this is a crucial time for us to be standing tall and true:

Our time needs Christlike examples of faithful discipleship. President Hinckley certainly provided that kind of example throughout his life, and he invites us to do likewise.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

President Spencer W. Kimball on Satan's work of deception and counterfeit

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Satan can perhaps give us examples of efficiency. He really motivates. He has established and stated his overall objective. It is his plan to divert every soul, and to degrade him and enslave him to that end, the arch deceiver has studied every way possible to achieve his ends, using every tool, every device possible. He takes over, distorts, and changes and camouflages everything created for the good of man, to make it desirable to men so he may take over their minds and pervert their bodies and claim them his.
"He never sleeps—he is diligent and persevering. He analyzes carefully his problem and then moves forward diligently, methodically to reach that objective. He uses all five senses and man's natural hunger and thirst to lead him away. He anticipates resistance and fortifies himself against it. He uses time and space and leisure. He is constant and persuasive and skillful. He uses such useful things as radio, television, the printed page, the airplane, and the car to distort and damage. He uses the gregariousness of man, his loneliness, his every need to lead him astray. He does his work at the most propitious time in the most impressive places with the most influential people. He overlooks nothing that will deceive and distort and prostitute. He uses money, power, force. He entices man and attacks at his weakest spot. He takes the good and creates ugliness. He takes beautiful art and gives it sensualness. He takes divine music and changes it to excite passion and lewdness. He uses sacred things to divert. He uses every teaching art to subvert man."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "How to Evaluate Your Performance," Improvement Era, Oct. 1969, pp. 12-16

President Kimball had a wonderful way of organizing thoughts, considering aspects of a subject that were unusual. In this excerpt he pondered Satan's techniques and abilities as he attempts to "degrade and enslave" them: "He takes over, distorts, and changes and camouflages everything created for the good of man." Every powerful took, every development of technology, every positive instrument gets counterfeited by the adversary:

Truly Satan "takes the good and creates ugliness" in his attempts to lead us astray and drag us to destruction. He is practiced and skillful.

In the face of such masterful opposition, we can't ignore Satan's efforts or pretend they don't matter. It becomes critical that we safeguard the tools and gifts we have, and exercise vigilant care to use them only in proper ways. We must seek always for the things that are "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Monday, August 14, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on achieving true greatness in life

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President for only nine months, from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"Many Latter-day Saints are happy and enjoying the opportunities life offers. Yet I am concerned that some among us are unhappy. Some of us feel that we are falling short of our expected ideals. I have particular concern for those who have lived righteously but think—because they haven't achieved in the world or in the Church what others have achieved—that they have failed. Each of us desires to achieve a measure of greatness in this life. And why shouldn't we? As someone once noted, there is within each of us a giant struggling with celestial homesickness. (See Heb. 11:13-16; D&C 45:11-14.) ...
"What is true greatness? What is it that makes a person great? ...
"Giving consistent effort in the little things in day-to-day life leads to true greatness. Specifically, it is the thousands of little deeds and tasks of service and sacrifice that constitute the giving, or losing, of one's life for others and for the Lord. They include gaining a knowledge of our Father in Heaven and the gospel. They also include bringing others into the faith and fellowship of his kingdom. These things do not usually receive the attention or the adulation of the world....
"True greatness is never a result of a chance occurrence or a onetime effort or achievement. Greatness requires the development of character. It requires a multitude of correct decisions in the everyday choices between good and evil that Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke about when he said, 'Over the years these little choices will be bundled together and show clearly what we value.' (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 21.) Those choices will also show clearly what we are."
- Howard W. Hunter, "What is True Greatness?," BYU devotional, February 10, 1987; see Ensign, Sept 1987, pp. 70-72
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Have I achieved anything worthwhile in life? Have I lived up to my potential? Sometimes questions like this are a result of comparing ourselves with those around us who seem to have accomplished more than we have. But sometimes they are honest inquiries about our personal efforts. President Hunter considers what it means to "achieve greatness" in our lives.

The phrase "celestial homesickness" is an interesting one to ponder; perhaps there is something deep inside us longing to return to our heavenly home.

The real message of this excerpt for me lies in how we define greatness. The world's definition often involves recognition and prominence; but in God's sense, it's the development of character, the commitment to principles, the ongoing faithfulness demonstrated by disciples who give "consistent effort in the little things in day-to-day life." That's what we really should aspire to!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

President Harold B. Lee on worship through music

President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1941. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1970-1972, then as Church president from July 1972 until his passing less than 18 months later in December 1973.
"Someone [has] said, 'Music is the language of the soul.' I remembered what the Lord said in a revelation to Emma Smith, the wife of the Prophet, 'For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads' (D&C 25:12).... There is truly no finer companion to true religion than great music.
"At the same time music can be prostituted to Satan’s purposes. Napoleon is quoted as having said, 'Music of all the liberal arts has the greatest influence over the passions and is that which the legislator ought to give the greatest encouragement.' May I paraphrase and say, 'Music in the Church of Jesus Christ is that to which every leader of youth should give his greatest concern to see that the wrong kinds of passions are not aroused by our introduction of sensuous music into our youth programs.'
"Your test of greatness, whether you be youth or whether you be adult, is not to be measured by the question about your wealth, how much you are worth financially speaking, or how much knowledge you have gained in the world, or what great talents you have, but your measure of greatness or just mediocrity, or less than that, may be measured by your answer to one simple question, 'What do you like?' Do you like pornographic pictures rather than pictures of great art? Do you like to go to vulgar shows rather than The Sound of Music? Do you love the sensuous music rather than to hear great symphonies or the work of the masters? You answer to yourselves and then see what your youth like and you will have the answer to their souls, for music indeed is the language of the soul, whether it be uplifting or otherwise. It is the index to where we are today."
- Harold B. Lee, MIA Conference, 25 June 1972; see The Teachings of Harold B Lee [Bookcraft 1996], p. 203

This is a profound statement: "There is truly no finer companion to true religion than great music." It's interesting to ponder the place of music in our public and personal worship. The public role is perhaps more obvious, as we see the use of music to edify and inspire in Sunday meetings and other similar settings. But how do we use music's ability in our personal worship?

President Lee warns that music can not only be used as a very positive influence, but also can be turned negative, and like so many other good things, "prostituted to Satan’s purposes." That is where we are encouraged to be observant and vigilant.

President Lee suggests a simple test of our progress towards refinement and "greatness" in one sense:

The people at the time of King Benjamin commented on a change that took place in their lives by observing that they had "no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually" (Mosiah 5:2). Their hearts had progressed to the point of desiring only righteous things. I think that is what President Lee is suggesting here. Whether the measure be the kind of entertainment we prefer, the music we listen to, the things we read, what we do for leisure and entertainment—so much can be learned about our inner heart by considering what brings us joy! When the things that bring joy also bring us closer to God, we know we are progressing on the path of discipleship.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on being valiant in the testimony of Jesus

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (b. 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.
"In his vision of the spirits of the dead, President Joseph F. Smith described 'the spirits of the just' as those 'who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality.' (D&C 138:12.)
"In contrast, in his vision of the three degrees of glory, the Prophet Joseph Smith described those souls who go to the terrestrial kingdom as the 'honorable men of the earth,' who were 'not valiant in the testimony of Jesus.' (D&C 76:75, 79.)
"What does it mean to be 'valiant in the testimony of Jesus'? Surely this includes keeping his commandments and serving him. But wouldn't it also include bearing witness of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Redeemer, to believers and nonbelievers alike? As the Apostle Peter taught the Saints of his day, we should 'sanctify the Lord God in [our] hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh [us] a reason of the hope that is in [us].' (1 Pet. 3:15.)
"All of us need to be valiant in the testimony of Jesus. As believers in Christ, we affirm the truth of Peter's testimony in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that 'there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.' (Acts 4:12; see also D&C 109:4.) We know from modern revelation that we can come unto the Father only in his name. (See D&C 93:19.) As the Book of Mormon teaches, salvation is 'in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.' (Mosiah 3:18; see also Moses 6:52, 59.)"
"To those who are devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ, I say there has never been a greater need for us to profess our faith, privately and publicly."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Witnesses of Christ," General Conference October 1990; see Ensign, November 1990, pp. 29-32
Click here to read or listen to the full article

To be "faithful in the testimony of Jesus" or "valiant in the testimony of Jesus" means, according to Elder Oaks, being an obedient and faithful follower; but it also means to be an advocate and defender, an eager and willing witness of His name and message:

It is a timely reminder that we should "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh [us] a reason of the hope that is in [us]." (1 Pet. 3:15.)  As conditions in the world around us change and faith in God and in His Son seem to diminish, it will become even more important for us to stand up for what we believe!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on moral agency and moral discipline

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.
"For positive outcomes, moral agency must be accompanied by moral discipline.
"By 'moral discipline,' I mean self-discipline based on moral standards. Moral discipline is the consistent exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard. It rejects the self-absorbed life in favor of developing character worthy of respect and true greatness through Christlike service (see Mark 10:42-45). The root of the word discipline is shared by the word disciple, suggesting to the mind the fact that conformity to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ is the ideal discipline that, coupled with His grace, forms a virtuous and morally excellent person.
"Jesus's own moral discipline was rooted in His discipleship to the Father. To His disciples He explained, 'My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work' (John 4:34). By this same pattern, our moral discipline is rooted in loyalty and devotion to the Father and the Son. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that provides the moral certainty upon which moral discipline rests."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Moral Discipline," general conference, October 2009; see Ensign, November 2009, pp. 105-108
Click here to read or listen to the full article

I loved this association of moral discipline with the concept of moral agency. Sometimes it seems that people assume agency means the freedom to do whatever crazy or inappropriate thing they want. But agency gains power only as it is linked with discipline—"the consistent exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard."

And then Elder Christofferson points out that the discipline that has the most power is the choide to conform "to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ" resulting in "a virtuous and morally excellent person." Even the Savior chose to use his agency to completely subsume His will to that of the Father, following the Father's will in all things. As we learn to follow the Father and Son as true disciples, we will be greatly blessed.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Elder Quentin L. Cook on religious principles in public discourse

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 addition to protecting our own families, we should be a source of light in protecting our communities. The Savior said, 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven' (Matthew 5:16).
"Our day has been described as 'a time of plenty and an age of doubt' (Roger B. Porter). Basic belief in the power and authority of God is not only questioned but also denigrated. How under these circumstances can we promote values in a way that will resonate with the nonbelievers and the apathetic and help abate the spiraling descent into violence and evil?
"This question is of monumental importance....
"My personal experience of living and interacting with people all over the world has caused me to be optimistic. I believe that light and truth will be preserved in our time. In all nations there are large numbers who worship God and feel accountable to Him for their conduct. Some observers believe there is actually a global revival of faith. As Church leaders, we have met with leaders of other faiths and have found that there is a common moral foundation that transcends theological differences and unites us in our aspirations for a better society.
"We also find the majority of people are still respectful of basic moral values. But make no mistake: there are also people who are determined to both destroy faith and reject any religious influence in society. Other evil people exploit, manipulate, and tear down society with drugs, pornography, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, robbery, and dishonest business practices. The power and influence of these people is very large even if they are relatively small in number.
"There has always been an ongoing battle between people of faith and those who would purge religion and God from public life.... Still, the majority of people aspire to be good and honorable. The Light of Christ, which is distinct from the Holy Ghost, informs their conscience.... This is why many will accept moral values even when founded on religious convictions which they do not personally support....
"In our increasingly unrighteous world, it is essential that values based on religious belief be part of the public discourse. Moral positions informed by a religious conscience must be accorded equal access to the public square. Under the constitutions of most countries, a religious conscience may not be given preference, but neither should it be disregarded.
"Religious faith is a store of light, knowledge, and wisdom and benefits society in a dramatic way when adherents engage in moral conduct because they feel accountable to God."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Let There Be Light!," General Conference Oct 2010; see also Ensign, Nov. 2010, p. 27-30
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is a thought-provoking passage from Elder Cook. What is the role of religious principles, or even moral principles, in public discussions and settings? How can we have a positive influence in ways that let our "light so shine"? Elder Cook teaches that many people are able and eager to respond to these suggestions and discussions because of the influence of the Light of Christ that rests with every man. It is our duty to see that the discussions are held—that the principles of truth and eternal values are part of the discourse.

Society will be benefited "in a dramatic way" as individuals, like each of us, are willing to be spokesmen and representatives for the teachings and values contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the religious faith of a few, many will be benefited in profound ways.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Elder Neil L. Andersen on compensatory blessings in a world of evil

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.
"As evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory spiritual power for the righteous. As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling. The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight.
"To understand better, think of these comparisons: If the world were growing more physically dark, He could give us enhanced night vision. If loud noises were constantly in our ears, He could give us a filtering mechanism to block the unwanted sound. If the race we were running was extended, He could give us increased lung and muscle capacity. If the exam we were taking was more difficult, He could quicken our minds—a blessing many here at BYU would like to receive.
"My brothers and sisters, as evil increases in the world, there is a compensatory power, an additional spiritual endowment, a revelatory gift for the righteous.
"This added blessing of spiritual power does not settle upon us just because we are part of this generation. It is willingly offered to us; it is eagerly put before us. But as with all spiritual gifts, it requires our desiring it, pursuing it, and living worthy of receiving it. 'For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?' (D&C 88:33)
"Faith is the muscle of spiritual knowledge and power. Faith is a spiritual gift of God, but it is developed and magnified as we eagerly pursue our journey of embracing and following the Savior."
- Neil L. Andersen, "A Compensatory Spiritual Power for the Righteous," BYU Devotional, Aug. 18, 2015
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The idea of "compensatory spiritual power" is an interesting one. Elder Andersen suggests that as God sees evil is increasing dramatically in the world we live in today, He offers to us greater endowments of spirit and strength to compensate and give us greater endurance and resistance. These added gifts can offer "greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence" in our times of need.

The examples of temporal compensatory blessings given by Elder Andersen (light in darkness, filtering to block noise, physical strength in a race, enhanced memory in a test) help us see the meaning of the spiritual gift he is suggesting. Basically, that "additional spiritual endowment" is "a revelatory gift for the righteous."

But Elder Andersen points out that the gift does not come automatically to us because of living in this time. Like any spiritual gift, we must "seek earnestly" in order to obtain it. We must "eagerly pursue our journey of embracing and following the Savior."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Elder David A. Bednar on our commitment to education and learning

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.
"A hierarchy of importance exists among the things you and I can learn. Indeed, all learning is not equally important. The Apostle Paul taught this truth in his second epistle to Timothy as he warned that in the latter days many people would be 'ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth' (2 Timothy 3:7).
"Some facts are helpful or interesting to know. Some knowledge is useful to learn and apply. But gospel truths are essential for us to understand and live if we are to become what our Heavenly Father yearns for us to become. The type of learning I am attempting to describe is not merely the accumulation of data and facts and frameworks; rather, it is acquiring and applying knowledge for righteousness.
"The revelations teach us that 'the glory of God is intelligence' (D&C 93:36). We typically may think the word intelligence in this scripture denotes innate cognitive ability or a particular gift for academic work. In this verse, however, one of the meanings of intelligence is the application of the knowledge we obtain for righteous purposes. As President David O. McKay taught, the learning 'for which the Church stands... is the application of knowledge to the development of a noble and Godlike character' (David O. McKay, 'True Education,' Improvement Era, March 1957, 141).
"You and I are here upon the earth to prepare for eternity, to learn how to learn, to learn things that are temporally important and eternally essential, and to assist others in learning wisdom and truth (see D&C 97:1). Understanding who we are, where we came from, and why we are upon the earth places upon each of us a great responsibility both to learn how to learn and to learn to love learning."
- David A. Bednar, "Learning to Love Learning," BYU Commencement address, Apr. 24, 2008
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Addressing graduating students at BYU, Elder Bednar gave instruction and encouragement about the importance of an ongoing commitment to learning. He first discussed the role learning plays in the gospel of Jesus Christ; there is a great emphasis on seeking, asking, studying, and growing in intelligence. But it's important to know that all learning is not of equal value or importance:

The key to this type of learning is that it involves "acquiring and applying knowledge for righteousness" or "the application of the knowledge we obtain for righteous purposes." The very purpose of our mortal experience includes the opportunity and responsibility "to learn things that are temporally important and eternally essential." We must catch that vision and become devoted to it!

The rest of Elder Bednar's talk discusses other aspects of learning: how it is vital to our personal and spiritual development, and the critical nature of ongoing learning in the world we live and work in. It is good counsel, worth reviewing.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Monday, August 7, 2017

Elder M. Russell Ballard on the Atonement and the value of each soul

Elder 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.
"Only as we accept the Atonement in our lives and strive to live the gospel can we meet the challenges of life and find peace, joy, and happiness. Coming to understand this great gift is an individual pursuit for each child of God.
"Brothers and sisters, I believe that if we could truly understand the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would realize how precious is one son or daughter of God. I believe our Heavenly Father's everlasting purpose for His children is generally achieved by the small and simple things we do for one another. At the heart of the English word atonement is the word one. If all mankind understood this, there would never be anyone with whom we would not be concerned, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or social or economic standing. We would strive to emulate the Savior and would never be unkind, indifferent, disrespectful, or insensitive to others....
"Our Heavenly Father has reached out to us through the Atonement of our Savior. He invites all to 'come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption' (Omni 1:26). He has taught us that it is through our faithful adherence to gospel principles, through receiving the saving ordinances that have been restored, through continual service, and by enduring to the end that we can return to His sacred presence. What possible thing in the whole world is remotely as important as to know this?"
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Atonement and the Value of One Soul," General Conference, April 2004; see Ensign, May 2004, pp. 84-87
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In this address, Elder Ballard encourages us to individually accept more fully the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives in order to receive the blessings that it will bring. Then he discusses an important aspect of that Atonement: the implications for our interpersonal relationships. It teaches us the value of each individual soul; and that knowledge should motivate us to treat one another with profound respect and kindness:

It's interesting to ponder the statement, "Our Heavenly Father has reached out to us through the Atonement of our Savior." The ways that the Father and the Son relate to us differently, and how each is involved in that act of Atonement, are profound.

And then the final thought, the thing Elder Ballard states is more important to know than anything in the whole world: we can return to the presence of God by:

  • faithful adherence to gospel principles
  • receiving the saving ordinances that have been restored
  • continual service
  • enduring to the end 

All of this is possible to us because of the Atonement of the Savior and the love of the Father. How truly blessed we are by this knowledge!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on Christlike service to others

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.
"One of the covenants we make at baptism is to serve. Loving service and devotion to the needs of others was perhaps the chief characteristic of the Savior's mortal life. It will always be a mark of the Master's disciples. At the Waters of Mormon, that small band of believers clapped for joy when they were invited to covenant through baptism that they would bear each other's burdens and comfort those who needed comfort. (See Mosiah 18:8-11.)
"In our day the Savior Himself has counseled: 'All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and... are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church' (D&C 20:37, emphasis added).
"Service is our duty—but it is more than duty; it is Christlike opportunity. He bore our burdens, and in bearing one another's burdens, we truly become more like Him. Service in the Church can be a burden of sorts, but it is a 'light' (Matthew 11:30; see also vv. 28-29) burden—all because we are in shoulder-to-shoulder association with the Savior of the world."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "What I Wish Every New Member Knew—and Every Longtime Member Remembered," Ensign, October 2006, pp. 10-16
Click here to read or listen to the full article

What is the distinguishing characteristic of a Christian—one who strives to follow the teachings and example of the Savior? Elder Holland suggests that "loving service and devotion to the needs of others" would always be the mark of one of the Master's disciples. Fundamental to our covenants to follow Him are the agreements to "bear one another's burdens" and to "comfort those who stand in need of comfort."

The idea of a "light burden" is intriguing. The Savior said, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:30). Though He carries the heavy yoke, it is easy and light to Him because of his love for us and his devotion to the Father. We can gain that same perspective as we mature in our discipleship and understand the sacred privilege of being linked to Him as we serve one another.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)
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