Friday, October 20, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on the blessings of temple attendance

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.
"Truly, the Lord desires that His people be a temple-motivated people. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be temple worthy. I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it.
"Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. Let us hasten to the temple as frequently as time and means and personal circumstances allow. Let us go not only for our kindred dead, but let us also go for the personal blessing of temple worship, for the sanctity and safety which is provided within those hallowed and consecrated walls. The temple is a place of beauty, it is a place of revelation, it is a place of peace. It is the house of the Lord. It is holy unto the Lord. It should be holy unto us."
- Howard W. Hunter, "The Great Symbol of our Membership," Ensign, October 1994, pp. 2-5
Click here to read the full article

President Hunter felt deeply the blessing and importance of temple worship, and taught about it frequently during his service as an apostle and particularly when he became president of the Church. This article was written as one of the monthly "First Presidency Messages" during his tenure as the President, and the excerpt gives a sense of the importance and urgency President Hunter felt.

It's insightful to ponder the description "a temple-motivated people." In what ways does the temple motivate us? When we understand its blessings and all it has to offer, it surely does influence our decisions and our actions.

Having a temple recommend, and being worthy of it, is a symbol, according to President Hunter, of our understanding and willingness to follow the Lord's plan for us.

I love his brief summary of temple blessings:

Truly, there are many blessings in the Lord's temples. As we learn about worship and service, we will confirm President Hunter's descriptions in our own lives: "a place of beauty, a place of revelation, a place of peace."

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

President James E. Faust on the Savior's message of hope and deliverance

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.
"The Divine Shepherd has a message of hope, strength, and deliverance for all. If there were no night, we would not appreciate the day, nor could we see the stars and the vastness of the heavens. We must partake of the bitter with the sweet. There is a divine purpose in the adversities we encounter every day. They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless.
"When we pluck the roses, we find we often cannot avoid the thorns which spring from the same stem.
"Out of the refiner’s fire can come a glorious deliverance. It can be a noble and lasting rebirth. The price to become acquainted with God will have been paid. There can come a sacred peace. There will be a reawakening of dormant, inner resources. A comfortable cloak of righteousness will be drawn around us to protect us and to keep us warm spiritually. Self-pity will vanish as our blessings are counted."
- James E. Faust, "The Refiner's Fire," General Conference, April 1979
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The gospel of Jesus Christ truly does provide "a message of hope, strength, and deliverance for all." There is hope for the eventual resolution of all concerns and trials; strength to endure while we prepare, and deliverance from evil and from suffering.

But yet, the challenges are part of the plan, as President Faust points out. They enable us to appreciate the blessings of God more fully. Our adversities are often part of His hand in our lives as well, as "They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless." It takes faith to comprehend that great truth.

And this is the great promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ: there is "a glorious deliverance" that will surely come. What a sacred blessing to have this hope within!

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley on service as an antidote for worry and despair

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.
"Said the Lord, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' (Matt. 25:40.)
"I am not suggesting that you become a Florence Nightingale or a Clara Barton. But you can help. There are so many out there whose burdens you can lift. There are the homeless, there are the hungry, there are the destitute all around us. There are the aged who are alone in rest homes. There are handicapped children, and youth on drugs, and the sick and the homebound who cry out for a kind word. If you do not do it, who will?
"The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best medicine for despair is service. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "To Single Adults," talk given 26 February 1989 at a Single Adults fireside satellite broadcast; see Ensign June 1989, p. 72
Click here to read the full article

So often, our leaders remind us of the blessing of "getting outside ourselves"—being aware of the needs around us and doing something to help with the many opportunities that exist. President Hinckley even provides a list of the kinds of needs that we often overlook. This is truly the essence of the Christian life: doing good to others, as a symbol of our love for God.

President Hinckley helps us see the blessings that come to us as we love and serve. It can help us overcome worry, despair, and weariness. When we learn to care about others, we worry less about ourselves.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on trials, challenges, and growth

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.
"Trying to comprehend the trials and meaning of this life without understanding Heavenly Father’s marvelously encompassing plan of salvation is like trying to understand a three-act play while seeing only the second act. Fortunately, our knowledge of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Atonement helps us to endure our trials and to see purpose in suffering and to trust God for what we cannot comprehend....
"So often in life a deserved blessing is quickly followed by a needed stretching. Spiritual exhilaration may be quickly followed by a vexation or temptation. Were it otherwise, extended spiritual reveries or immunities from adversity might induce in us a regrettable forgetfulness of others in deep need. The sharp, side-by-side contrast of the sweet and the bitter is essential until the very end of this brief, mortal experience. Meanwhile, even routine, daily life provides sufficient sandpaper to smooth our crustiness and polish our rough edges, if we are meek....
"Part of enduring well consists of being meek enough, amid our suffering, to learn from our relevant experiences. Rather than simply passing through these things, they must pass through us and do so in ways which sanctify these experiences for our good (see D&C 122:7). 
"Life is carefully designed to produce for us, if we are willing, a harvest of relevant and portable experience. But there is such a short growing season! The fields must be worked intensively amid droughts, late springs, and early frosts. For the disobedient and despairing who refuse to plant, plow, or harvest, theirs is not simply a 'winter of discontent' but a despair for all seasons. The indifferent and lackluster who work only on the surface of life will harvest little. Only for the perspiring and 'anxiously engaged' faithful will the harvest be manyfold (see Matt. 19:29)."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Enduring Well," Ensign, April 1997, p. 7
Click here to read the full article

It's always thrilling to me to read Elder Maxwell's beautiful and thought-provoking writing. These four related segments from one of his talks speak of trials and suffering, and of the ways we can respond so those things are a blessing to us.

First of all, it's critical to view our mortal challenges in the broad expanse of eternity. This is only the short middle segment of a much broader and grander eternal existence. We are here to learn to "trust God for what we cannot comprehend" in our restricted vision.

The relationships between times of blessing or comfort, and times of trial and struggle, is good to contemplate. It's important to recognize the interplay of those events in our lives and understand the purpose for each. That will allow us to not just pass through trials, but have the trials pass through us to cleanse and purify in the process.

What a beautiful and profound analogy. A harvest is only reaped when great effort is invested. We must do our part to earn the bountiful harvest or "relevant and portable experience." I'm especially impressed by the portability of experience and knowledge; the ability to apply lessons from one challenge or trial to other situations is a great blessing.

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Elder Dale G. Renlund on the Priesthood and the Atonement of Jesus Christ

Elder Dale G. Renlund (born November 13, 1952) served in the First Quorum of Seventy starting in 2009, until his call to the Quorum of Twelve in October 2015.
"Because of His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ has the power and authority to redeem all mankind. To make His atoning power accessible, He has delegated a portion of His power and authority to men on earth. This delegated power and authority is called priesthood. It permits priesthood holders to help Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in Their work—to bring about the salvation and exaltation of God’s children. It does so because it provides His children the opportunity to receive the blessings of the Savior’s atoning power.
"The atoning power of Jesus Christ is essential because none of us can return to our heavenly home without help. In mortality, we invariably make mistakes and violate God’s laws. We become stained by sin and cannot be allowed back to live in God’s presence. We need the Savior’s atoning power so that we can be reconciled to Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ broke the bands of physical death, allowing resurrection for all. He offers forgiveness of sins, conditioned on obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel. Through Him, exaltation is offered. The opportunity to benefit from the Savior’s atoning power is creation’s most important payload.
"For Heavenly Father’s purposes to be accomplished, Christ’s atoning power needs to be made available to God’s children. The priesthood delivers these opportunities. It is the rocket. Priesthood is essential because necessary ordinances and covenants on earth are administered only by its authority. If the priesthood fails to deliver the opportunity to benefit from the Savior’s atoning power, what would be its purpose? Would it just be a complex, attention-grabbing firecracker? God intends priesthood to be used for more than just a class on Sunday or as a service opportunity. He intends for it to deliver the payload."
- Dale G. Renlund, "The Priesthood and the Savior’s Atoning Power," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Renlund used the analogy of a rocket delivering a satellite payload into space; the satellite is completely useless on earth, and only becomes a powerful influence when it has been delivered to its appropriate destination. In his analogy, the atonement of Jesus Christ becomes useful and powerful in our lives only when "delivered" by priesthood actions including ordinances and sacred covenants.

We should all be grateful for this divine blessing and seek continually to receive blessings and power from God through the priesthood on earth. Those who are called and ordained to administer those blessings, to "deliver the payload," must never forget what a sacred trust they have that must be exercised in faithfulness.

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on preventing spiritual eclipses in life

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (b. August 5, 1955) was called as a Seventy in 2008, then as Presiding Bishop in 2012. He was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"In the same manner that the very small moon can block the magnificent sun, extinguishing its light and warmth, a spiritual eclipse can occur when we allow minor and troublesome obstructions—those we face in our daily lives—to get so close that they block out the magnitude, brightness, and warmth of the light of Jesus Christ and His gospel....
"Clearly, none of us wants to purposefully obscure our vision of heaven or allow a spiritual eclipse to occur in our lives....
"Looking at a spiritual eclipse through the protecting and softening lens of the Spirit provides a gospel perspective, thus protecting us from spiritual blindness....
"When you put on gospel glasses, you find enhanced perspective, focus, and vision in the way you think about your priorities, your problems, your temptations, and even your mistakes. You will see brighter light that you could not see without them."
- Gary E. Stevenson, "Spiritual Eclipse," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I had the privilege of being in the area of totality for the recent solar eclipse described by Elder Stevenson in his article. So I understand the "sense of awe, astonishment, and even anxiety" that such an occurrence creates. We pondered on the phenomenon of nature that makes this possible, and on the overwhelming power of the sun: if even a tiny portion of the sun is not eclipsed (just outside the area of totality), it's still not possible to look directly at it, and the related phenomena of temperature drop and darkness are not nearly as pronounced.

Elder Stevenson's analogy of things that might block the source of our spiritual light is a good one. We need to be very careful not to ever allow obstructions of any kind to come between us and God's light:

The use of "gospel glasses" that enable us to see more clearly as we strive to avoid obstructions becomes critical. We need the "enhanced perspective, focus, and vision" that gospel living provides in order to stay safe. Our acts of obedience and faithful discipleship will keep us safe and on the right path..

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

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on seeing the Lord's hand in our lives

Elder Ronald A. Rasband (b. February 6, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 2000.  He was the senior president of the Seventy when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"Our lives are like a chessboard, and the Lord moves us from one place to another—if we are responsive to spiritual promptings. Looking back, we can see His hand in our lives....
"Significant events unfold in the gospel and in the Church that further the kingdom of God on earth. They are not by accident but by God’s plan. He who fashioned this world can calm the seas with His word and can steer both Alma and Amulek and Nephi and Laban to be at the right place at precisely the right time.
"Likewise, events and associations unfold in each of our lives that further God’s work on earth....
"What should you be looking for in your own life? What are God’s miracles that remind you that He is close, saying, 'I am right here'? Think of those times, some daily, when the Lord has acted in your life—and then acted again. Treasure them as moments the Lord has shown confidence in you and in your choices. But allow Him to make more of you than you can make of yourself on your own. Treasure His involvement. Sometimes we consider changes in our plans as missteps on our journey. Think of them more as first steps to being 'on the Lord’s errand' (D&C 64:29)."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "By Divine Design," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I suspect in the two years since Elder Rasband was called to the Quorum of Twelve, his experiences with God's hand working in his life have increased significantly; and he has had the opportunity to witness that blessing in the lives of so many members around the world. When I had the chance to serve in a stake leadership calling, I was often overwhelmed to witness that occurring as I had contact with many stake members. It was a blessing to my faith and testimony.

But the key is to recognize and respond to those influences in our personal lives. As we are obedient in the path of discipleship and as we are humble and prayerful, we will start to notice more and more that "events and associations unfold in each of our lives that further God’s work on earth."

It truly is important to seek for the evidence of God's hand, to notice and identify it. That enables us not only to express gratitude for the blessing, but as we "treasure His involvement" in our hearts, we will be strengthened and lifted up in our faith, knowing that He is aware of us and will continue to guide and bless.

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Elder Neil L. Andersen on claiming the blessings of general conference

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.
"We should not be alarmed when the words of the Lord’s servants run counter to the thinking of the world and, at times, our own thinking. It has always been this way. I am on my knees in the temple with my Brethren. I attest to the goodness of their souls. Their greatest desire is to please the Lord and help God’s children return to His presence.
"The Seventy; the Bishopric; the General Presidencies of the Relief Society, the Young Women, and the Primary; and other auxiliary leaders have added tremendous inspiration to this conference, as have the beautiful music and the thoughtful prayers.
"There is a treasure chest of heavenly direction awaiting your discovery in the messages of general conference. The test for each of us is how we respond to what we hear, what we read, and what we feel....
"I promise that as you hear the voice of the Lord to you in the teachings of this general conference, and then act on those promptings, you will feel heaven’s hand upon you, and your life and the lives of those around you will be blessed."
- Neil L. Andersen, "The Voice of the Lord," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Andersen was the final speaker in the last session of conference, and he used that setting to discuss the sacred blessing of general conference, and to challenge listeners to take advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow from the messages.

It's interesting to consider ways in which the teachings of Church leaders might "run counter to the thinking of the world." When that happens, it's often a test of our faith and commitment, our testimony of the calling of leaders. Along those lines, I've always loved this counsel from President Harold B. Lee:
"You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that 'the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory.' (D&C 21:6.)
"...Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow the ones whom the Lord has placed to preside over his church. He knows whom he wants to preside over this church, and he will make no mistake....
"Let's keep our eye on the President of the Church."
- Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152-53; see Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, p. 126

So the real question for Church members is how well we listen and heed, how we act upon the counsel given during the conference:

We have a "treasure chest" awaiting us, if only we choose to access it! And continue to draw from it in the weeks and months to come.

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

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the sacred symbolism of the sacrament

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.
"To eat His flesh and drink His blood is a striking way of expressing how completely we must bring the Savior into our life—into our very being—that we may be one. How does this happen?
"First, we understand that in sacrificing His flesh and blood, Jesus atoned for our sins and overcame death, both physical and spiritual. Clearly, then, we partake of His flesh and drink His blood when we receive from Him the power and blessings of His Atonement....
"I have spoken of receiving the Savior’s atoning grace to take away our sins and the stain of those sins in us. But figuratively eating His flesh and drinking His blood has a further meaning, and that is to internalize the qualities and character of Christ, putting off the natural man and becoming Saints 'through the atonement of Christ the Lord' (Mosiah 3:19). As we partake of the sacramental bread and water each week, we would do well to consider how fully and completely we must incorporate His character and the pattern of His sinless life into our life and being....
"This suggests the need for a mighty striving on our part. We cannot be content to remain as we are but must be moving constantly toward 'the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ' (Ephesians 4:13). Like King Lamoni’s father in the Book of Mormon, we must be willing to give away all our sins (see Alma 22:18) and focus on what the Lord expects of us, individually and together."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Living Bread Which Came Down from Heaven," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The sacramental language of eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ is symbolic only, but as Elder Christofferson points out, teaches a powerful lesson. First, it links us powerfully to His stoning sacrifice on our behalf; but second, it teaches how profoundly our commitment to Him must be as we attempt to fully "internalize" His message and teachings.

It's the "mighty striving" that we must focus on, in which we "internalize the qualities and character of Christ, putting off the natural man and becoming Saints." That is the great quest of this life!

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Elder Quentin L. Cook on growing in Christlike humility

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.
"Anyone who claims superiority under the Father’s plan because of characteristics like race, sex, nationality, language, or economic circumstances is morally wrong and does not understand the Lord’s true purpose for all of our Father’s children.
"Unfortunately, in our day in almost every segment of society, we see self-importance and arrogance flaunted while humility and accountability to God are denigrated. Much of society has lost its moorings and does not understand why we are on this earth. True humility, which is essential to achieve the Lord’s purpose for us, is seldom evident.
"It is important to understand the magnitude of Christ’s humility, righteousness, character, and intelligence, as exemplified in the scriptures. It is foolish to underestimate the necessity of continuously striving for these Christlike qualities and attributes on a day-by-day basis, particularly humility....
"Humility also includes being grateful for our numerous blessings and divine assistance. Humility isn’t some grand identifiable achievement or even overcoming some major challenge. It is a sign of spiritual strength. It is having the quiet confidence that day by day and hour by hour we can rely on the Lord, serve Him, and achieve His purposes. It is my prayer that in this contentious world we will continuously strive for true humility every day."
- Quentin L. Cook, "The Eternal Everyday," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Cook's talk was wonderfully instructive and pertinent. He analyzed many of the trends and challenges we face in today's world and gave suggestions on keeping proper perspective as we strive to move forward.

"True humility" is a quality that seems to be fading from society in our time, he suggests. The arrogance of superiority leads us away from the characteristics of a Christlike life. By looking to the Savior and seeking to follow His example, we can regain that purity of humility that will bless us as true disciples:

The "quiet confidence" of humility is desperately needed in this "contentious world" to allow us to live with grace and dignity. As we truly strive to follow the Savior and adopt Christlike characteristics, humility will be a natural result.

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

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Elder David A. Bednar on choosing the best things in our busy lives

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.
"One of the great challenges each of us faces every day is to not allow the concerns of this world to so dominate our time and energy that we neglect the eternal things that matter most. (See D&C 25:10.) We can be too easily diverted from remembering and focusing upon essential spiritual priorities because of our many responsibilities and busy schedules. Sometimes we try to run so fast that we may forget where we are going and why we are running.
"The Apostle Peter reminds us that for disciples of Jesus Christ, 'his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
"'Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust' (2 Peter 1:3-4, emphasis added)."
- David A. Bednar, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Bednar often shares thoughtful talks that analyze our motivations and the impacts of our actions and choices. In this talk he addresses some of the most fundamental choices and motivations that influence our behavior. The very first insight has to do with our busy lives in today's world, and the priorities we have that influence our choices. The "concerns of the world" too often "dominate our time and energy" causing us to focus on the wrong things. And trying to do too much is also a significant risk.

The excerpt from Peter's epistle contains some beautiful phrases, as highlighted by Elder Bednar:

  • "things that pertain unto life and godliness"
  • "exceeding great and precious promises"
  • "partakers of the divine nature"

Remembering the promises of God and the path He has established for us to obtain them will bless us in our efforts to choose wisely in our daily lives.

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

Monday, October 9, 2017

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on realistic expectations for growth and progress

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.
"I believe in His perfection, and I know we are His spiritual sons and daughters with divine potential to become as He is. I also know that, as children of God, we should not demean or vilify ourselves, as if beating up on ourselves is somehow going to make us the person God wants us to become. No! With a willingness to repent and a desire for increased righteousness always in our hearts, I would hope we could pursue personal improvement in a way that doesn’t include getting ulcers or anorexia, feeling depressed or demolishing our self-esteem. That is not what the Lord wants for Primary children or anyone else who honestly sings, 'I’m trying to be like Jesus.' (Children’s Songbook 78–79) ...
"How grateful I am that at least God can bless those who despitefully use Him because, without wanting or intending to do so, we all despitefully use Him sometimes. I am grateful that God is merciful and a peacemaker because I need mercy and the world needs peace. Of course, all we say of the Father’s virtues we also say of His Only Begotten Son, who lived and died unto the same perfection....
"Brothers and sisters, every one of us aspires to a more Christlike life than we often succeed in living. If we admit that honestly and are trying to improve, we are not hypocrites; we are human. May we refuse to let our own mortal follies, and the inevitable shortcomings of even the best men and women around us, make us cynical about the truths of the gospel, the truthfulness of the Church, our hope for our future, or the possibility of godliness. If we persevere, then somewhere in eternity our refinement will be finished and complete—which is the New Testament meaning of perfection."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Holland gave an address of hope and encouragement in the recent conference, reminding us that perfection takes time. He obviously has noted the challenge of Church members who are too critical of themselves, and struggle with the guilt of not living up to what they think they should be doing. Elder Holland's reminder of a divine perspective of the process of learning and improvement is one that will bless us all. It also emphasized our dependence on the Redeemer as the source of hope and growth.

I believe the key is to maintain "a willingness to repent and a desire for increased righteousness" in all we do. That will help ensure that we are moving in the right direction, towards the eventual perfection we all seek.

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Elder M. Russell Ballard on continuing the trek to our heavenly home

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.
"As we walk the road of life, we are tested to see if we will 'observe to do all things whatsoever [the Lord has] commanded' (D&C 97:25
"Many of us are on amazing journeys of discovery—leading to personal fulfillment and spiritual enlightenment. Some of us, however, are on a trek that leads to sorrow, sin, anguish, and despair.
"In this context, please ask yourself: What is your final destination? Where are your footsteps taking you? And is your journey leading you to that 'multiplicity of blessings' (D&C 97:28) the Savior has promised?
"A trek back to our Heavenly Father is the most important trek of our lives, and it continues each day, each week, each month, and each year as we increase our faith in Him and in His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ....
"Stay on the gospel path by having 'faith in every footstep' so you can return safely back to the presence of Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord is our precious Savior. He is the Redeemer of the world. We must honor His sacred name and not misuse it in any way, always striving to keep His commandments. If we do so, He will bless us and lead us safely home."
- Elder M. Russell Ballard, "The Trek Continues," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Ballard has spoken on several occasions about the early pioneers and the example their faith and endurance represents for us today. In this talk, he applied the example of the pioneer trek to our modern experience of mortality. We are on a trek to a heavenly home, and understanding our destination is critical. We should be aware and careful about the challenges along the way, and be faithful to the counsel that will get us "safely home,"

The key to Elder Ballard's message is that our Father and our Savior are eager to have us return to Them. As we life faithfully, they will "bless us and lead us safely home."

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

Friday, October 6, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on the sacred and inspired family proclamation

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 gospel plan each family should follow to prepare for eternal life and exaltation is outlined in the Church’s 1995 proclamation, 'The Family: A Proclamation to the World.' Its declarations are, of course, visibly different from some current laws, practices, and advocacy of the world in which we live. In our day, the differences most evident are cohabitation without marriage, same-sex marriage, and the raising of children in such relationships. Those who do not believe in or aspire to exaltation and are most persuaded by the ways of the world consider this family proclamation as just a statement of policy that should be changed. In contrast, Latter-day Saints affirm that the family proclamation defines the kind of family relationships where the most important part of our eternal development can occur....
"Converted Latter-day Saints believe that the family proclamation, issued nearly a quarter century ago and now translated into scores of languages, is the Lord’s reemphasis of the gospel truths we need to sustain us through current challenges to the family."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "The Plan and the Proclamation," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Oaks' discussion of the history of the "Family Proclamation" was fascinating. It was interesting to hear that even some of the Quorum of Twelve responded to the First Presidency's suggestion that a formal document be created with some skepticism, wondering if there were really a need for such a document. But in the 22 years that have followed since its issuance to the Church and to the world, it's become clear that we desperately needed the clear, prophetic call as the moral values of the world have fallen away. So much has changed in those 22 years, in ways none of us anticipated in 1995. The role of prophets, seers, and revelators is to anticipate the needs of God's people, and this is a profound example of them having filled that role.

How grateful we are to be prophet-led! How careful we should be to listen to, and follow, their inspired counsel!

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

Thursday, October 5, 2017

President Russell M. Nelson on enhancing our study of the Book of Mormon

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.
"My brothers and sisters, how precious is the Book of Mormon to you? If you were offered diamonds or rubies or the Book of Mormon, which would you choose? Honestly, which is of greater worth to you? ...
"Something powerful happens when a child of God seeks to know more about Him and His Beloved Son. Nowhere are those truths taught more clearly and powerfully than in the Book of Mormon.
"Since President Monson’s challenge six months ago, I have tried to follow his counsel. Among other things, I’ve made lists of what the Book of Mormon is, what it affirms, what it refutes, what it fulfills, what it clarifies, and what it reveals. Looking at the Book of Mormon through these lenses has been an insightful and inspiring exercise! I recommend it to each of you....
"When I think of the Book of Mormon, I think of the word power. The truths of the Book of Mormon have the power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console, and cheer our souls."
- Russell M. Nelson, "The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I find it inspiring and instructive to know that the leaders of the Church not only listen to, but act upon, the counsel they hear from each other in general conference. Last April, President Monson gave a relatively simple challenge to the Church (in what may prove to be his final spoken address to the Church), that every member begin "to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day." Now, six months later, President Nelson demonstrated to us how seriously he took that challenge by sharing his insights and witnesses in this wonderful talk. He shared how he expanded his personal study in a very insightful way:

By adding his invitation that we each consider a course of study similar to his, President Nelson has expanded the challenge given by President Monson with some specific and insightful suggestions that will bless our personal study. And he shares his witness of the Book of Mormon's "power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console, and cheer our souls." What a great promise!

Incidentally, attached at the end of the printed copy of President Nelson's talk (see link above) are at least some of his personal insights in researching the questions he suggests about the Book of Mormon. That material might be helpful for those who plan to undertake their own similar studies.

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

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on hearing God's call to us

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.
"The sublime message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that God is our Father, that He cares about us, and that there is a way to return to Him.
"God calls to you.
"God knows your every thought, your sorrows, and your greatest hopes. God knows the many times you have sought Him. The many times you have felt limitless joy. The many times you have wept in loneliness. The many times you have felt helpless, confused, or angry.
"Yet, no matter your history—if you have faltered, failed, feel broken, bitter, betrayed, or beaten—know that you are not alone. God still calls to you.
"The Savior extends His hand to you. And, as He did to those fishermen who stood long ago on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, with infinite love He speaks to you: 'Come, follow me' (See Matthew 4:19; Luke 18:22),
"If you will hear Him, He will speak to you this very day."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "A Yearning for Home," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Uchtdorf talked about the natural yearning all of us feel to want to return home. He shared examples from animal instincts, but then applied the principle more directly to our innate feelings about our Heavenly Father and our heavenly home. In spite of the struggles of this life, and often even because of those struggles, that urge is very strong if we allow our spirits to feel the love of God manifested to us:

President Uchtdorf testified that "there is a way to return to Him" and that way lies in heeding the Savior's call to "Come, follow me." If we listen and heed, we will be eternally blessed by that simple call.

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

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

President Henry B. Eyring on having strength and faith for latter-day challenges

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.
"We cannot foresee the details, but we know the larger picture. We know that in the last days, the world will be in commotion. We know that in the midst of whatever trouble comes, the Lord will lead faithful Latter-day Saints to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. And we know that the Lord’s true disciples will be worthy and prepared to receive Him when He comes again. We need not fear.
"So, as much as we have already built faith and courage in our hearts, the Lord expects more from us—and from the generations after us. They will need to be stronger and braver because they will do even greater and harder things than we have done. And they will face increasing opposition from the enemy of our souls.
"The way to optimism as we go forward was given by the Lord: 'Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not' (D&C 6:36). President Monson told us how to do that. We are to ponder and apply the Book of Mormon and the words of prophets. Pray always. Be believing. Serve the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. We are to pray with all the energy of our hearts for the gift of charity, the pure love of Christ (see Moroni 7:47–48). And above all, we are to be consistent and persistent in following prophetic counsel.
"When the way is difficult, we can rely on the Lord’s promise—the promise President Monson has reminded us of when he has often quoted these words of the Savior: 'Whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up' (D&C 84:88).
"I testify that the Lord goes before your face whenever you are on His errand. Sometimes you will be the angel the Lord sends to bear others up. Sometimes you will be the one surrounded by angels who bear you up. But always you will have His Spirit to be in your heart, as you have been promised in every sacrament service. You have only to keep His commandments.
"The best days are ahead for the kingdom of God on the earth. Opposition will strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ, as it has since the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Faith always defeats fear. Standing together produces unity. And your prayers for those in need are heard and answered by a loving God. He neither slumbers nor does He sleep."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Fear Not to Do Good," General Conference, October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a beautiful, hopeful message from President Eyring. He recalled President Monson's counsel from the last general conference to study the Book of Mormon daily, and testified of the power in his own life of following that counsel. Then he bore witness to the power and blessing of being faithful and obedient in the last days, in the midst of the challenges that will come.

I have always loved the promise of the Lord to those in His service, of angels surrounding to bear them up. It's a wonderful reassurance, and as President Eyring testifies, we "have only to keep His commandments."

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