Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Elder Quentin L. Cook on the role of youth in family history work

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.
"What a great time to be alive. This is the last dispensation, and we can feel the hastening of the work of salvation in every area where a saving ordinance is involved. We now have temples across much of the world to provide these saving ordinances. Attending the temple for spiritual renewal, peace, safety, and direction in our lives is also a great blessing....
"The question is, what do we need to do? The Prophet Joseph's counsel was to present in the temple 'the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation' (D&C 128:24).
"The leadership of the Church has issued a clarion call to the rising generation to lead the way in the use of technology to experience the spirit of Elijah, to search out their ancestors, and to perform temple ordinances for them. Much of the heavy lifting in hastening the work of salvation for both the living and the dead will be done by you young people.
"If the youth in each ward will not only go to the temple and do baptisms for their dead but also work with their families and other ward members to provide the family names for the ordinance work they perform, both they and the Church will be greatly blessed. Don't underestimate the influence of the deceased in assisting your efforts and the joy of ultimately meeting those you serve. The eternally significant blessing of uniting our own families is almost beyond comprehension."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Roots and Branches," Ensign, May 2014, pp. 44-48
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"The hastening of the work of salvation" is a fascinating theme. In general, work can be hastened for a number of reasons: running out of time for completion, increased awareness of the importance of the work, improved tools to perform the work, etc. Perhaps all of those apply to the "work of salvation" that Elder Cook is discussing. Certainly, we are blessed to have increased access to temples as one of the great tools to facilitate that work. And the additional benefit of worshiping in temples "for spiritual renewal, peace, safety, and direction in our lives" is a profound blessing.

But the interesting aspect of this quote is the focus on youth. I love the "clarion call" that has been issued to today's youth to step up and do "much of the heavy lifting" of this work:

I am thrilled as I serve as a temple worker to see the youth coming early in the mornings in great numbers to participate in baptisms. It's inspiring to see their faithfulness and eagerness to serve in that sacred setting. So many are taking the "clarion call" seriously in helping to hasten the work!

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Elder David A. Bednar on mighty conversion through Christ

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 Lord's authorized servants repeatedly teach that one of the principal purposes of our mortal existence is to be spiritually changed and transformed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ....
"We are instructed to 'come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness' (Moroni 10:32), to become 'new creature[s]' in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), to put off 'the natural man' (Mosiah 3:19), and to experience 'a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually' (Mosiah 5:2). Please note that the conversion described in these verses is mighty, not minor—a spiritual rebirth and fundamental change of what we feel and desire, what we think and do, and what we are. Indeed, the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through our reliance upon 'the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah' (2 Nephi 2:8). As we choose to follow the Master, we choose to be changed—to be spiritually reborn....
"The spiritual rebirth... typically does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process—not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience."
- David A. Bednar, "Ye Must be Born Again," Ensign, May 2007, p. 19
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In the process of growth and change that occurs through our lives, the most important changes should be happening in our spiritual nature, as we are "changed and transformed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ." Elder Bednar points out that the scriptures teach this is not a minor change, but a mighty one:

So we are seeking "a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature." This process is not quick and not easy. It's a life-long process, though we should be able to notice ongoing progress towards the ideal. The key is that "our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God." I love that description; step by step, our natures change so that we are more godlike. In Moroni's words, we deny ourselves of anything that is ungodly (Moroni 10:32) so that the only thing that remains are god-like traits. What a beautiful and glorious process!

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Elder Robert D. Hales on personal conversion and service to others

Elder Robert D. Hales (born August 24, 1932) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"Knowing the truth and gaining a testimony strengthen us to stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life. As testimony grows, we become more and more converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we follow Him, we commit ourselves to serve Him by serving others....
"Conversion requires consecrating our lives to caring for and serving others who need our help and to sharing our gifts and talents. The Lord didn't say tend my sheep when it is convenient, watch my sheep when you aren't busy. He said feed my sheep and my lambs; help them survive this world, keep them close to you. Lead them to safety—the safety of righteous choices that will prepare them for eternal life."
- Robert D. Hales, "When Thou Art Converted, Strengthen Thy Brethren," Ensign, May 1997, p. 82
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Gaining a testimony and growing towards conversion are key steps in our spiritual progress in this life. A key part of the discipleship that accompanies conversion, according to Elder Hales, is the commitment to serve God by serving others. Those who are converted "consecrate" their lives to service of others. The word "consecrate" means to make sacred, and truly a life is made sacred through service.

The service of a converted soul is sincere, unselfish, and sacrificing. We don't serve only when it's convenient. We strive always to help one another "survive this world" and prepare for a better one. Ultimately, the only way our own soul can truly progress is to bring others along that path towards eternal life.

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on heavenly help for the challenges of our time

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.
"In the course of life all of us spend time in 'dark and dreary' places, wildernesses, circumstances of sorrow or fear or discouragement. Our present day is filled with global distress over financial crises, energy problems, terrorist attacks, and natural calamities. These translate into individual and family concerns not only about homes in which to live and food available to eat but also about the ultimate safety and well-being of our children and the latter-day prophecies about our planet. More serious than these—and sometimes related to them—are matters of ethical, moral, and spiritual decay seen in populations large and small, at home and abroad. But I testify that angels are still sent to help us, even as they were sent to help Adam and Eve, to help the prophets, and indeed to help the Savior of the world Himself....
"I ask everyone within the sound of my voice to take heart, be filled with faith, and remember the Lord has said He 'would fight [our] battles, [our] children's battles, and [the battles of our] children's children' (D&C 98:37, emphasis added). And what do we do to merit such a defense? We are to 'search diligently, pray always, and be believing[. Then] all things shall work together for [our] good, if [we] walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith [we] have covenanted' (D&C 90:24). The latter days are not a time to fear and tremble. They are a time to be believing and remember our covenants."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Ministry of Angels," Ensign, Nov 2008, 29-31
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Holland spoke of Lehi's experience of being in a "dark and dreary waste" and finding help and comfort as an angel came to lead him "to safety and ultimately to the path of salvation." He likened that to our time and situation; we often seem to be in "dark and dreary" times in our lives as the world's circumstances bring discouragement or fear. Those times are a necessary part of mortality; we should not be surprised when they come. And we should not be overly discouraged. Gratefully, we are not forsaken; angels are still sent to guide and minister.

So we should "take courage" and have faith that we do not need to struggle alone in the world's challenges. To merit the help promised by God, Elder Holland reminds us of the admonition to "search diligently, pray always, and be believing"—and when we have done our part, we can be assured the the promised angels will be at our side to sustain and protect us.

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

President Spencer W. Kimball on working towards personal change and perfection

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"There are those today who say that man is the result of his environment and cannot rise above it. Those who justify mediocrity, failure, and even weakness and criminality are certainly misguided. Surely the environmental conditions found in childhood and youth are an influence of power. But the fact remains that every normal soul has its free agency and the power to row against the current and to lift himself to new planes of activity and thought and development. Man can transform himself. Man must transform himself....
"Self-mastery, then, is the key, and every person should study his own life, his own desires and wants and cravings, and bring them under control.
"Man can transform himself and he must. Man has in himself the seeds of godhood, which can germinate and grow and develop. As the acorn becomes the oak, the mortal man becomes a god. It is within his power to lift himself by his very bootstraps from the plane on which he finds himself to the plane on which he should be. It may be a long, hard lift with many obstacles, but it is a real possibility....
"As we have stated before, the way to perfection seems to be a changing of one's life—to substitute the good for the evil in every case. Changes can come best if we take one item at a time. For instance, it's not difficult to be perfect in tithe paying, for if one pays one-tenth of his income annually, he is perfect in that respect. It is not difficult to become perfect in avoiding a swearing habit, for if one locks his mouth against all words of cursing, he is en route to perfection in that matter. If one studies the scriptures with all reasonable devotion, he has approached the perfection in that matter also."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Be Ye Therefore Perfect," BYU Devotional, September 17, 1974
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"That's how I am, and I can't help it." I've heard those words spoken, and probably have thought them about myself on occasion. We are tempted to "justify mediocrity" and shortcomings by blaming our inherent nature or character, or pointing to patterns developed in our upbringing. And President Kimball acknowledges that "environmental conditions" impact who we are; but he rejects the idea that we can't change or overcome those tendencies. We can, we must, transform ourselves, lifting above the limitations we imagine are there.

So one key suggestion he offers is for each person to "study his own life, his own desires and wants and cravings, and bring them under control." Sincere personal evaluation will identify tendencies or character traits that might not be appropriate; we can then work to change the direction and achieve self-mastery. This is a process that should be ongoing throughout our lives!

Perfection will only come through change—learning to "substitute the good for the evil in every case." President Kimball finds strength in doing those changes one at a time; gradual and continual progress will, over time, bring about the transformation we all seek, and keep us moving along the road to perfection.

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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on facing life with good cheer

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.
"The Lord knows our bearing capacity, both as to coping and to comprehending, and He will not give us more to bear than we can manage at the moment, though to us it may seem otherwise. (See D&C 50:40; D&C 78:18.) Just as no temptations will come to us from which we cannot escape or which we cannot bear, we will not be given more trials than we can sustain. (See 1 Cor. 10:13.)
"Therefore... can we not 'be of good cheer' in spite of stress and circumstance?
"President Brigham Young said of a geographical destination, 'This is the place.' Of God's plan of salvation, with its developmental destination, it can be said, 'This is the process.'
"President Young, who knew something about trial and tribulation but also of man's high destiny, said that the Lord lets us pass through these experiences that we might become true friends of God. By developing our individual capacities, wisely exercising our agency, and trusting God—including when we feel forsaken and alone—then we can, said President Young, learn to be 'righteous in the dark.' (Secretary's Journal, 28 Jan. 1857.) The gospel glow we see radiating from some—amid dark difficulties—comes from illuminated individuals who are 'of good cheer'!"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Be of Good Cheer," Ensign, November 1982, pp. 66-68
Click here to read or watch the full talk

The Savior's admonition to "be of good cheer" appears several times in the New Testament (e.g., John 16:33, Matt. 9:2, Mark 6:50) and was repeated several times in modern scripture as well (e.g., D&C 68:6, D&C 78:18). Clearly it's a message that is timeless and applicable to all. If we truly understand God's plan for us and His love for us, there is no reason we should not be of good cheer.

At times when we feel burdened with challenges and problems, we may struggle to maintain the "good cheer." Elder Maxwell reminds us to keep the perspective that "the Lord knows our bearing capacity." Any trial we encounter is within our ability to endure, and will surely pass in due time.

I love the insights from the Brigham Young quotes. First, adding to Brigham's concept of "This is the place," our awareness of "this is the process" will help us to keep a beneficial perspective. And then this thought is also very insightful:

Two phrases from this reference stick out for me. First, through our "trials and tribulations" we can "become true friends of God." What a powerful designation, one to be earnestly sought and treasured.

Learning to be "righteous in the dark" is also an intriguing concept. The dark could include the times of challenge and trial; but also when, for various reasons, we're less able to feel spiritual help and support. At those times, our righteousness must be deeply ingrained, and not superficial. That kind of faith comes from trusting God even when we feel "forsaken and alone."

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on finding specific answers in the scriptures

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.
"The scriptures can also help us obtain answers to highly specific personal questions. It is obvious, of course, that the scriptures do not contain a comprehensive list of specific answers to every question we could ask about a particular subject. The scriptures are not like a telephone book or an encyclopedia.
"We often hear it said that the scriptures have the answers to all of our questions. Why is this so? It is not that the scriptures contain a specific answer to every question—even to every doctrinal question. We have continuing revelation in our Church because the scriptures do not have a specific answer to every possible question. We say that the scriptures contain the answers to every question because the scriptures can lead us to every answer.
"...The reading of the scriptures will help us obtain a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will also put us in a position where we can obtain inspiration to answer any doctrinal or personal question, whether or not that question directly concerns the subject we are studying in the scriptures. That is a grand truth not understood by many. To state it again, even though the scriptures contain no words to answer our specific personal question, a prayerful study of the scriptures will help us obtain such answers. This is because scripture study will make us susceptible to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, which, as the scriptures say, will 'guide [us] into all truth' (John 16:13), and by whose power we can 'know the truth of all things' (Moroni 10:5).
"We may also find that a specific verse of scripture that was spoken for quite a different purpose in an entirely different age will, under the interpretive influence of the Holy Ghost, give us a very personal message adapted to our personal needs today."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Studying the Scriptures," Unpublished Thanksgiving Devotional, CES Address, November 24, 1985, pp. 19-21; quoted in CES manual "Scripture Study: The Power of the Word" chapter 14.

We often talk about finding answers to our questions in the scriptures. However, as Elder Oaks points out, the scriptures and not a question-and-answer manual or a comprehensive encyclopedia of the various issues we might confront. But yet, he states we can find answers to "highly specific personal questions." The key lies in the statement that "the scriptures can lead us to every answer" by providing the setting and opportunity for inspiration:

So we will find that "scripture study will make us susceptible to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost" in ways that we would not be otherwise. As we immerse ourselves in study, we open our hearts and minds to inspiration in ways that allow the Holy Ghost to speak to us about the concerns we have, often giving us "a very personal message adapted to our personal needs today."

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

President Henry B. Eyring on walking in light through wise choices

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 you were confirmed a member of the Church, you were given the right to have the Holy Ghost as your companion. The Holy Ghost is a powerful source of light to recognize truth, to follow and love the Lord Jesus Christ, and to find your way back to God after this life.
"But the spirit who led the rebellion in the world before still opposes the plan and wants you to be miserable. He wants you never to find your way home again. That enemy of your soul knows you and your goodness. He knows that if he can turn you away from walking in the light, he can both capture you and stop you from helping others along the journey. He knows how good you are and your power to teach and influence hundreds of Heavenly Father’s children in this life—and thousands over the generations that will follow your path. If he can get you to wander away from the light on your journey, he can do harm and bring misery to many.
"The fact that you are listening now is evidence that God recognizes your great importance and that you have chosen to walk in the light He offers you. Such choices are not always easy to see clearly. You make choices every day and almost every hour that keep you walking in the light or moving away toward darkness. Some of the most important choices are about what you set your heart upon.
"There are so many things you may consider desirable. For instance, all of us want, to some degree, the approval of other people. All of us feel a need for friends. All of us are searching for some evidence that we are persons of worth. We make choices based on those desires. Some might lead us away from the light God offers us as a guide. Some may brighten that light by which we can find our way."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Walk in the Light," General Conference, April 2008
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Eyring delivered these remarks as part of the General Young Women Meeting held in connection with the April 2008 General Conference. His remarks were very encouraging to the young women, helping give them perspective of who they are and who they have the potential to be. Though they (and all of us) are in the midst of conflict with an adversary who "wants [us] to be miserable" and knows the impact of turning us from the path of truth, we can be assured there are other forces fighting to keep us on the right path and in the right light.

So it comes down to the choices we make each day, each hour—will we set our hearts upon the things that keep us walking in light?

With the help of the Holy Ghost, with the encouragement of good friends, with the strength that comes from God—we know we can find our way through the challenges of the world.

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

President Russell M. Nelson on having faith in dealing with life's turmoil

President Russell M. Nelson (b. 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.
"We live in a time of turmoil. Earthquakes and tsunamis wreak devastation, governments collapse, economic stresses are severe, the family is under attack, and divorce rates are rising. We have great cause for concern. But we do not need to let our fears displace our faith. We can combat those fears by strengthening our faith.
"Start with your children. You parents bear the primary responsibility to strengthen their faith. Let them feel your faith, even when sore trials come upon you. Let your faith be focused on our loving Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Teach that faith with deep conviction. Teach each precious boy or girl that he or she is a child of God, created in His image, with a sacred purpose and potential. Each is born with challenges to overcome and faith to be developed....
"How you deal with life's trials is part of the development of your faith. Strength comes when you remember that you have a divine nature, an inheritance of infinite worth. The Lord has reminded you, your children, and your grandchildren that you are lawful heirs, that you have been reserved in heaven for your specific time and place to be born, to grow and become His standard bearers and covenant people. As you walk in the Lord's path of righteousness, you will be blessed to continue in His goodness and be a light and a savior unto His people (see D&C 86:8-11).
"Available to each of you brethren and sisters are blessings obtained through the power of the holy Melchizedek Priesthood. These blessings can change the circumstances of your lives, in matters such as health, companionship of the Holy Ghost, personal relationships, and opportunities for the future. The power and authority of this priesthood holds the keys to all spiritual blessings of the Church (D&C 107:18). And most remarkably, the Lord has declared that He will sustain those blessings, according to His will (D&C 132:47, 59)."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Face the Future with Faith," Ensign, May 2011, pp. 34-36
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The world "turmoil" is a vivid and descriptive one. It conveys a sense of great uncertainty, disturbance, trouble, or confusion. President Nelson lists examples of the kinds of situations, both natural and man-made, that can create those feelings of desperation.

Instead of fear and uncertainty, President Nelson teaches us to respond to turmoil with faith. I love the statement, "Strength comes when you remember that you have a divine nature, an inheritance of infinite worth." Regardless what the world throws at us, a person of faith remembers always that he is a child of God bearing those seeds of divinity; and that regardless of what the temporary situation might be, there are promises of an eventual inheritance of unimagined peace and blessings. A disciple who "walk[s] in the  Lord's path of righteousness... will be blessed to continue in His goodness" regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

Those who begin to understand this alternative to fear and uncertainty are asked to teach and inspire others—particularly children. They need examples around them of individuals who confront challenges with faith and conviction. And we also have the responsibility to be a light to the world.

Finally, we should remember that the Priesthood has power to bless and strengthen as we strive to overcome challenges in life. Those blessings can "change the circumstances of your lives" in very real ways!

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

President James E. Faust on the saving forces of righteousness

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.
"There are forces that will save us from the ever-increasing lying, disorder, violence, chaos, destruction, misery, and deceit that are upon the earth. Those saving forces are the everlasting principles, covenants, and ordinances of the eternal gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. These same principles, covenants, and ordinances are coupled with the rights and powers of the priesthood of Almighty God. We of this Church are the possessors and custodians of these commanding powers that can and do roll back much of the power of Satan on the earth. We believe that we hold these mighty forces in trust for all who have died, for all who are now living, and for the yet unborn.
"My prayer is that through the spreading of righteousness, the evil hands of the destroyer can be stayed so that he will not be permitted to curse the whole world. I pray that God will overlook our weaknesses, our frailties, and our many shortcomings and generously forgive us of our misdeeds. May He bring solace to the suffering, comfort to those who grieve, and peace to the brokenhearted."
- James E. Faust, "The Forces That Will Save Us," Ensign, Jan 2007, pp. 4-9
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Faust speaks of a mighty legacy given to members of the Church: the power to control and restrain the influence of Satan in the world. Those "saving forces" rest in the "principles, covenants, and ordinances of the eternal gospel" and in the "powers of the priesthood." It is truly an awesome responsibility to consider that "we hold these mighty forces in trust for all who have died, for all who are now living, and for the yet unborn."

President Faust states that the "evil hands of the destroyer" are stopped as we encourage the spread of righteousness in our lives and our influence in the world. Though we were often weak and error-prone in our behaviors and approaches, God can compensate as we make the efforts to sustain good and promote righteousness.

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

Sunday, May 14, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on the powerful influence of mothers

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 until becoming Church president in 2008.
"'Mother,' more than any other word, is held in universal esteem by all peoples everywhere. It brings forth from the soul the most tender of hidden emotions, prompts more good deeds, kindles memories' fires as they burn low and reminds all to strive to be better.
"'Mother,' or its abbreviated version, 'Mama,' is the first word tiny lips form. What joy fills mother's heart when first she hears this expression from her child. 'Mother' becomes the most frequently spoken word, as well. As little ones grow, they call mother to their side to share each new discovery, each accomplishment, each disappointment, each concern. And mother always obliges.
"Years pass, and children become more independent. They move away from mother's protective care; but they are ever influenced by mother's teachings, mother's example, and mothers love. Some appear by their actions to have forgotten this influence. Wild and wasteful pathways are pursued, evil deeds done, and honor sacrificed for the sham of worldly gain. However far from the home hearth the wanderer travels, the word 'mother' mentally and emotionally brings him homeward once again. And mother, as always, stands ready to forgive."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Honor Thy Mother," Mother's Day Pamphlet, 1981; see Teachings of Thomas S. Monson p. 198

President Monson's tender and sincere appreciation for women and mothers is apparent in this excerpt, as he acknowledges the powerful influence a mother can have on children in many different ways and over many years. Even the simple word "mother" evokes memories and emotions that can bless and support us through challenges and trials, since it represents the person who we know loved and supported us in so many ways.

Even as we grow and mature, becoming "more independent," the influence of mother's teachings, example, and love continue a powerful force. There are times when we long for a conversation, a touch, a reassurance from a mother who is no longer here; but we always know her love will abide, and that knowledge can bless and sustain us more than we would expect. May God bless noble mothers everywhere!

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The First Presidency on the holy calling of motherhood

During the opening session of the October 1942 general conference, a message from the First Presidency (President Heber J. Grant, 1st Counselor J. Reuben Clark Jr., and 2nd Counselor David O. McKay) was read by President Clark.
"Motherhood thus becomes a holy calling, a sacred dedication for carrying out the Lord's plans, a consecration of devotion to the uprearing and fostering, the nurturing in body, mind, and spirit, of those who kept their first estate and who come to this earth for their second estate 'to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them' (Abr. 3:25). To lead them to keep their second estate is the work of motherhood and 'they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever' (Abr. 3:26).
"This divine service of motherhood can be rendered only by mothers. It may not be passed to others. Nurses cannot do it; public nurseries cannot do it; hired help cannot do it—only mother, aided as much as may be by the loving hands of father, brothers, and sisters, can give the full needed measure of watchful care.
"The mother who entrusts her child to the care of others, that she may do non-motherly work, whether for gold, for fame, or for civic service, should remember that 'a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame' (Prov. 29:15). In our day the Lord has said that unless parents teach their children the doctrines of the Church 'the sin be upon the heads of the parents' (D&C 68:25).
"Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind. It places her who honors its holy calling and service next to the angels. To you mothers in Israel we say God bless and protect you, and give you the strength and courage, the faith and knowledge, the holy love and consecration to duty, that shall enable you to fill to the fullest measure the sacred calling which is yours. To you mothers and mothers-to-be we say: Be chaste, keep pure, live righteously, that your posterity to the last generation may call you blessed."
- Message of the First Presidency (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark Jr., David O. McKay), General Conference, October 1942; see Conference Report, October 1942, pp. 12-13; see Clark, Messages of the First Presidency 6:170-185
Click here to read the full talk

This remarkable statement, coming in a sad and troubled time as a World War raged on, gives us an amazing vision and understanding of the sacred role of motherhood in the Lord's plan. These phrases indicate a little of that vision, that seems hardly to be understood in the world of our day:

  • holy calling
  • sacred devotion
  • consecration of devotion
  • nurturing in body, mind, and spirit
  • divine service
  • watchful care
  • near to divinity
  • highest, holiest service

What an amazing, sacred, precious gift this is! What an eternal responsibility and duty! How fortunate we are, in contrast to the world at large, to see so many around us who grasp that concept and magnify the holy calling with faith and personal sacrifice. Surely, God will "bless and protect" those who demonstrate "the strength and courage, the faith and knowledge, the holy love and consecration to duty" of motherhood.

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on mothers, talents, creation, and happiness

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.
"But to what end were we created? We were created with the express purpose and potential of experiencing a fulness of joy (see 2 Nephi 2:25). Our birthright—and the purpose of our great voyage on this earth—is to seek and experience eternal happiness. One of the ways we find this is by creating things.
"If you are a mother, you participate with God in His work of creation—not only by providing physical bodies for your children but also by teaching and nurturing them. If you are not a mother now, the creative talents you develop will prepare you for that day, in this life or the next.
"You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us (see D&C 46:11–12). The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano. Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before—colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.
"What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. So what if the eggs are greasy or the toast is burned? Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you—whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.
"If you still feel incapable of creating, start small. Try to see how many smiles you can create, write a letter of appreciation, learn a new skill, identify a space and beautify it."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Happiness, Your Heritage," General Conference, October 2008
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Uchtdorf has an interesting premise in this excerpt. We were created to find joy; and we find joy through creation.

Motherhood provides a unique opportunity of creation, and therefore of joy. It begins with the shared process of the creation of life, of helping to provide a physical body for one of Heavenly Father's spirit children. But it continues in the nurturing and education of that new life, in the ways only a mother can. We should all be deeply grateful for our own mothers and the part they played, in the hands of God, in our personal creation.

Then Elder Uchtdorf extends his premise to other aspects of creation, encouraging us to seek and magnify talents of creation in many ways:

Our creations will not be perfect. Many times they are far from it! But each effort to create joy, beauty, or goodness will bless us personally and will be an instrument in God's hands in blessing others. There are so many simple ways to participate in our Father's eternal plan of happiness!

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Elder M. Russell Balllard on the gifts and roles of righteous women and mothers

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.
"Mothers and daughters play a critical role in helping each other explore their infinite possibilities, despite the undermining influences of a world in which womanhood and motherhood are being corrupted and manipulated.
"Speaking to the women of the Church nearly a century ago, President Joseph F. Smith said: 'It is not for you to be led by the women of the world; it is for you to lead the ... women of the world, in everything that is praise-worthy, everything that is God-like, everything that is uplifting and ... purifying to the children of men' (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith [1998], 184).
"Sisters, we, your brethren, cannot do what you were divinely designated to do from before the foundation of the world. We may try, but we cannot ever hope to replicate your unique gifts. There is nothing in this world as personal, as nurturing, or as life changing as the influence of a righteous woman."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Mothers and Daughters," General Conference, April 2010
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

How sad to live in a world where, as Elder Ballard states, "womanhood and motherhood are being corrupted and manipulated." Satan is subtle in how he can cause decay and decline in our vision, sometimes in the name of equality and opportunity. I love the thought that righteous mothers and daughters can help reinforce one another as they "explore their infinite possibilities," and not just the temporal ones that Satan would point us towards.

The quote from Joseph F. Smith is profound. Righteous women today must lead out and show the world what it is to be praiseworthy, uplifting, and God-like.

And not only can righteous women make a profound difference in supporting one another, they also participate in works which have no equal; no man can match the loving, nurturing gifts of a daughter of God who understands her divine role and gifts.

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley on being willing and obedient

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.
"Isaiah declared to ancient Israel: 'If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
"'But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.' (Isa. 1:19-20.)
"I recall sitting in this Tabernacle when I was fourteen or fifteen—up in the balcony right behind the clock—and hearing President Heber J. Grant tell of his experience in reading the Book of Mormon when he was a boy. He spoke of Nephi and of the great influence he had upon his life. And then, with a voice ringing with a conviction that I shall never forget, he quoted those great words of Nephi: 'I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.' (1 Ne. 3:7.)
"There came into my young heart on that occasion a resolution to try to do what the Lord has commanded. I would that I might have the power, through the Spirit of the Lord, similarly to touch someone in this congregation today.
"What marvelous things happen when men walk with faith in obedience to that which is required of them!"
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "If Ye Be Willing and Obedient," Ensign, Dec 1971, p. 125
Click here to read the full article

"If ye be willing and obedient"—I love that invitation. It defines two important aspects of our interaction with God: attitude and behavior. We start with willingness: the desire, the heart-felt trust and faith in Him; but it must be followed by obedience: the actions that demonstrate the depth and sincerity of the feelings. When those both are present, we are promised blessings and divine help. But if not—"if ye refuse and rebel"—we have no promise.

President Hinckley learned at a young age, developing a deep desire to be willing and obedient, when a prophetic testimony touched his heart. He longed to do the same for some other youth or adult listening to his words. So should we all; what a precious gift it is when we are an instrument in God's hands to touch the heart of another as spirit reaches out to spirit!

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

President N. Eldon Tanner on the choices that lead to happiness

President Nathan Eldon Tanner (May 9, 1898—November 27, 1982) was ordained an apostle in 1962.  A year later he was called as a counselor in the First Presidency, and continued in that role during the administration of four Church presidents until his death in 1982 at age 84.
"At an early period in the journey through life, man finds himself at a crossroad where he must choose one of two great highways—the right, leading to progress and happiness; and the wrong, leading to retardation and sorrow. There exists this eternal law that each human soul, through the choices he makes, will shape his own destiny. Our success or failure, peace or discontent, happiness or misery, depend on the choices we make each day....
"Self-discipline is essential in helping us make proper choices. It is much easier to drift than to row, to slide downhill than to climb up. Satan is constantly at work to drag us down by placing temptations in our way in the form of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, pornography, deceit, dishonesty, and flattery, always waiting to catch us in our misdeeds.
"How can we combat the evil that surrounds us and which is so prevalent in the world today? Satan is trying harder than ever before to claim souls for his own domain. We must and we can thwart him, but only by choosing to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and making our influence an active and positive force. As leaders, as parents, as teachers, and as neighbors, all good people everywhere who are striving for liberty and freedom, peace, success, happiness, and for eternal life with our Father in heaven must by example and precept be actively engaged in fighting against those forces which are threatening us and endangering our well-being and that of our children....
"To meet the serious issues facing us in our respective communities today, we must be examples of virtue and righteousness ourselves and choose today to take our stand on the moral issues which threaten us. We do not want our civilization to decay and fall because we failed to keep it on a high spiritual plane and allowed it to sink to the level where the animal instincts and passions dominate."
- N. Eldon Tanner, "Thou Mayest Choose for Thyself," General Conference, April 1973
Click here to read or watch the full talk

President Tanner reminds us of a critical point in the gospel plan: the importance of our agency. "There exists this eternal law that each human soul, through the choices he makes, will shape his own destiny." And that includes not just the long-term eventual destination, but also the short-term success, peace, and happiness vs. misery and failure:

As we look back to 1973, when President Tanner spoke these words expressing his deep concern about the state of the evil in the world and the challenges of temptation, it's distressing to see how much things have changed and the far greater issues we face in our time. Perhaps it has never been more true that "Satan is trying harder than ever before to claim souls for his own domain." Our only hope to resist and counteract his effort come "by choosing to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and making our influence an active and positive force." I am grateful for President Tanner's urging that we be active voices in our communities, taking a visible stand where we can in order to defend gospel principles.

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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Elder Richard G. Scott on the supernal blessing of prayer

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928-2015) served as a Seventy from 1977-1988, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He passed away in September 2015 at the age of 86.
"Prayer is a supernal gift of our Father in Heaven to every soul. Think of it: the absolute Supreme Being, the most all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful personage, encourages you and me, as insignificant as we are, to converse with Him as our Father. Actually, because He knows how desperately we need His guidance, He commands, 'Thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as well as in secret, in public as well as in private' (D&C 19:28).
"It matters not our circumstance, be we humble or arrogant, poor or rich, free or enslaved, learned or ignorant, loved or forsaken, we can address Him. We need no appointment. Our supplication can be brief or can occupy all the time needed. It can be an extended expression of love and gratitude or an urgent plea for help. He has created numberless cosmos and populated them with worlds, yet you and I can talk with Him personally, and He will ever answer."
- Richard G. Scott, "Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer," Ensign, May 2007, p. 8
Click here to read or listen to the full article

Elder Scott reminds us that our Heavenly Father doesn't just invite us to pray to Him; He commands us. But yet prayer is a "supernal gift" to us. The word "supernal" is not common in our vocabulary; it refers to something that is of exceptional or unusual quality, or of something that comes from above. As we come to comprehend that our loving Father is eager to encourage us, to guide and bless us as we turn to Him, we will understand how remarkable and unique this supernal gift truly is.

This is such a beautiful, hopeful invitation from our Father through Elder Scott. God is always available to us. He is always listening, and He will always answer. If we only remember this simple truth, how blessed we will be!

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