Saturday, July 22, 2017

Elder L. Tom Perry on life lessons from the faithful pioneers

Elder L. Tom Perry (1922-2015) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1972, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1974. At the time of his passing at age 92, he was the oldest living general authority and the third in seniority among the leading quorum.
"Former United States president Ronald Reagan has been quoted as saying, 'I do not want to go back to the past; I want to go back to the past way of facing the future.' (Quoted in George F. Will, 'One Man's America,' Cato Policy Report, Sept.-Oct. 2008, 11.) His counsel still resonates within me. There is something about reviewing the lessons of the past to prepare us to face the challenges of the future. What a glorious legacy of faith, courage, and ingenuity those noble early Mormon pioneers have left for us to build upon. My admiration for them deepens the longer I live.
"Embracing the gospel resulted in a complete change of life for them. They left everything behind—their homes, their businesses, their farms, and even their beloved family members—to journey into a wilderness. It must have been a real shock when Brigham Young announced, 'This is' (Quoted in Wilford Woodruff, 'Celebration of Pioneers' Day,' The Utah Pioneers (1880), 23.) Before them was a vast desert wasteland, barren of green hills, trees, and beautiful meadows which most of those early pioneers had known. With firm faith in God and their leaders, the early pioneers went to work to create beautiful communities in the shadows of the mountains."
- L. Tom Perry, "The Past Way of Facing the Future," General Conference, October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We can learn much about our lives today by looking at the past. Even though circumstances are very different in our world than they were when the Mormon Pioneers first entered the Salt Lake valley 170 years ago, Elder Perry suggests that their "legacy of faith, courage, and ingenuity" will teach us much about confronting the challenges we face today.

As we focus on the pioneer journey to the west, we sometimes forget the sacrifices that preceded that undertaking. So many of the early Church members left behind their whole life, including employment, family members, and possessions, to answer the call to "come to Zion." Most were not "trained" in pioneering skills. But they moved on with faith, learning as they went, and feeling the blessings of divine providence in their efforts—"with firm faith in God and their leaders." Those are lessons we should remember today!

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley on confronting life's challenges with temple peace

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.
"Take advantage of the blessings of the house of the Lord. What a privilege. Every man or woman who goes to the temple comes out of that building a better man or woman than he or she was when entering into it. That’s something that’s remarkable that happens with all of us.
"Is life filled with cares for you? Do you have problems and concerns and worries? Do you want for peace in your heart and an opportunity to commune with the Lord and meditate upon His way? Go to the house of the Lord and there feel of His spirit and commune with Him and you will know a peace that you will find nowhere else. Take advantage of it. What a great and wonderful blessing it is."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Wandsworth, England stake conference, 27 Aug. 1995; see Ensign, Apr. 1996, p. 72

President Hinckley describes several blessings of temple worship in this excerpt. The first is self-improvement: we come out from the temple "a better man or woman" for the experience.
The second benefit is perhaps far more valuable. As we deal with the cares and challenges of our lives, we are promised a peace through temple attendance that we won't find in any other way:

More specifically, President Hinckley identifies blessings of the temple that include the chance to commune with God, to meditate on His plan for us, to feel His spirit, and to know deep peace. It's no wonder he encourages us to take advantage of the great and wonderful blessing of temples!

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on Christ's constant support for us

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.
"Christ walked the path every mortal is called to walk so that he would know how to succor and strengthen us in our most difficult times. He knows the deepest and most personal burdens we carry. He knows the most public and poignant pains we bear. He descended below all such grief in order that he might lift us above it. There is no anguish or sorrow or sadness in life that he has not suffered in our behalf and borne away upon his own valiant and compassionate shoulders (see Luke 15:5)....
"That aspect of the Atonement brings an additional kind of rebirth, something of immediate renewal, help, and hope that allow us to rise above sorrows and sickness, misfortunes and mistakes of every kind. With his mighty arm around us and lifting us, we face life more joyfully even as we face death more triumphantly.
"Only on the strong shoulders of the Master can we 'fear not.' Only in his embrace is there safety. Only in covenant with him is there freedom from death and 'every sin, which easily doth beset you' (Alma 7:15; Matt 11:28-29). Only in him is there peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant [1997], pp. 223-224

Elder Holland's book Christ and the New Covenant is packed with insights and testimonies of the Savior, His love for us, and His mission for us. This example testifies of that sweet love and the power of His atonement. When we truly come to know and believe that "He knows the deepest and most personal burdens we carry" as well as "the most public and poignant pains we bear," our ability to draw on the power of His love becomes magnified. Coming to that appreciation constitutes a rebirth in itself, according to Elder Holland, as we feel the immediate help and hope of His powerful love.

Truly, "With his mighty arm around us and lifting us, we face life more joyfully even as we face death more triumphantly." What a sweet and powerful testimony from Elder Holland, and what a treasured blessing for each of us who comes to understand and appreciate the sacred gift of love offered to us.

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

President Joseph Fielding Smith on finding peace through life's trials

Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) was the son of Joseph F. Smith, 6th president of the Church, and grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph. He was called as an apostle in 1910, and served as the 10th president of the Church from 1970 until his death in 1972 at age 95.
"If we shall search diligently, pray always, be believing, and walk uprightly, we have the Lord’s promise that all things shall work together for our good [see D&C 90:24]. This is not a promise that we shall be free from the trials and problems of life, for this probationary state is designed to give us experience and difficult and conflicting situations.
"Life never was intended to be easy, but the Lord has promised that he will cause all trials and difficulties to result in our good. He will give us strength and ability to overcome the world and to stand firm in the faith despite all opposition. It is a promise that we shall have peace in our hearts despite the tumults and troubles of the world. And above all, it is a promise that when this life is over, we shall qualify for eternal peace in the presence of Him whose face we have sought, whose laws we have kept, and whom we have chosen to serve."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, “President Joseph Fielding Smith Speaks on the New MIA Theme,” New Era, Sept. 1971, 40
Click here to read the full article

Sometimes, we have difficulty seeing that "all things" are "work[ing] together for our good" in the midst of trials and challenges. We strive to do the things the Lord asked, but still the difficulties continue. Often, the problem is that we try to set our own timetable for trials to end; but the Lord may have things for us to learn. President Smith reminds us that trials are needed as a part of life, and that ultimately they will result in our good if we are willing to trust God and His timing:

We can "have peace in our hearts" even in the midst of difficulties, knowing that God is in charge and that ultimately all will be made right. Truly, that is the peace "which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). How important it is to learn to trust in Him and His timing for our learning experiences! That has to be one of the greatest purposes of this mortal experience.

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Elder Robert D. Hales on the roles of parents

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.
"The calling of father or mother is sacred and carries with it great significance. One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities given to us is that of being a parent—helping to bring to earth a child of God and having the sacred responsibility to love, care, and guide children back to our Heavenly Father. In many ways earthly parents represent their Heavenly Father in the process of nurturing, loving, caring, and teaching children. Children naturally look to their parents to learn of the characteristics of their Heavenly Father. After they come to love, respect, and have confidence in their earthly parents, they often unknowingly develop the same feelings towards their Heavenly Father.
"No parent on earth is perfect. In fact, children are very understanding when they sense and feel that parents truly care and are attempting to be the best they can be.
"It helps children to see that good parents can have differing opinions, and that these differences can be worked out without striking, yelling, or throwing things. They need to see and feel calm communication with respect for each other's viewpoints so they themselves will know how to work through differences in their own lives.
"Parents are counseled to teach their children by precept and example."
- Robert D. Hales, "How Will Our Children Remember Us?", Ensign, November 1993, pp. 8-10
Click here to read or listen to the full article

Most parents realize that the opportunity to act in that role is, as Elder Hales teaches, "One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities given to us" because it involves "the sacred responsibility to love, care, and guide children back to our Heavenly Father." Providing appropriate teaching and setting the right example is critical:

Just to raise children in today's world is very challenging; but that added need to do all possible to guide them back to Heavenly Father makes the task seem almost overwhelming, if we consider only our personal knowledge and ability. It is comforting to be reminded that no parent is perfect—we all fall short in our efforts to be ideal parents. But miracles happen when we attempt to do the best we know how.

I like Elder Hales' suggestion that among the example parents set for children is how to work through disagreements and differences in appropriate ways. When children observe "calm communication with respect for each other's viewpoints" they are taught a critical life lesson that will help in many settings, not just in their own future family.

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Elder M. Russell Ballard on feeling and sharing peace

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.
"On more than one occasion, the Lord urged His followers to be 'peacemakers,' promising that such would 'be called the children of God' (Matt. 5:9). That concept is woven throughout the scriptures, creating a patchwork of peace through parable and proclamation:
"• 'Agree with thine adversary' (Matt. 5:25).
"• 'Love your enemies' (Matt. 5:44).
"• 'Judge not' (Matt. 7:1).
"• 'Love thy neighbour as thyself' (Matt. 22:39).
"• 'Condemn not' (Luke 6:37).
"• 'Forgive' (Luke 6:37).
"• 'Love one another' (John 13:34).
"Those are but a few of the scriptural instructions clearly indicating that God's peace is not to be hoarded. Rather, it is to be shared liberally with our families, our friends, and our communities. It is to be shared with the Church as well as those who are not members of our Church. While those around us may not choose to taste the sweetness and peace of the fulness of the restored gospel for themselves, surely they will be blessed by seeing it in our lives and feeling the peace of the gospel in our presence. The message of peace will grow and expand through our example.
"'Live in peace,' said the Apostle Paul, 'and the God of love and peace shall be with you' (2 Cor. 13:11)."
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom," Ensign, May 2002, pp. 87-89
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

How can we follow the Savior's injunction to be a peacemaker? Elder Ballard offers suggestions on things we can do in our lives to bring more peace to ourselves and to share it more effectively with others. It begins as we find peace for ourselves, and then share it with others:

So a peacemaker is one who can share peace by words and actions in all associations with others; but also, be an example of peace even when others may not be ready to receive or follow. We we are filled with peace, others will feel that peace in our presence. What a gift, to be that kind of person in a world filled with conflict and confusion!

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on deepening our personal discipleship

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.
"These comments are for the essentially 'honorable' members who are skimming over the surface instead of deepening their discipleship and who are casually engaged rather than 'anxiously engaged.' (D&C 76:75; D&C 58:27.) Though nominal in their participation, their reservations and hesitations inevitably show through. They may even pass through our holy temples, but, alas, they do not let the holy temples pass through them.
"Such members accept callings but not all of the accompanying responsibilities; hence, their Church chores must often be done by those already 'anxiously engaged.' Some regard themselves as merely 'resting' in between Church callings. But we are never in between as to this soaring call from Jesus: 'What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.' (3 Ne. 27:27; see Matt. 5:48; 3 Ne. 12:48.) It is never safe to rest regarding that calling! In fact, being 'valiant' in one’s testimony of Jesus includes striving to become more like Him in mind, heart, and attributes. (D&C 76:79.) Becoming this manner of men and women is the ultimate expression of orthodoxy!
"All are free to choose, of course, and we would not have it otherwise. Unfortunately, however, when some choose slackness, they are choosing not only for themselves, but for the next generation and the next. Small equivocations in parents can produce large deviations in their children! Earlier generations in a family may have reflected dedication, while some in the current generation evidence equivocation. Sadly, in the next, some may choose dissension as erosion takes its toll."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Settle This in Your Hearts,” General Conference October 1992
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It's interesting to ponder the difference between being anxiously engaged and casually engaged. There is probably a continuum of options between two extremes, but we might each consider if there are areas in our life where our commitment is not as deep as it might be. The example Elder Maxwell gives of "passing through" the temple without having the temple really pass through us is particularly illustrative.

The Church needs members who are thoroughly converted and willing to serve with faithful devotion. As we strive to be more valiant in our testimony, our lives will show the difference:

It's also important to note that these choices never impact just the person making the choice. They also reach across generations and circles of influence. President John Taylor's classic statement comes to mind: "If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty." (Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 6 Aug. 1878, 1.) How important it is that we make those ongoing efforts to be valiant in our testimony of Jesus, "striving to become more like Him in mind, heart, and attributes."

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on priesthood authority for men and women

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.
"While addressing a women's conference, Relief Society general president Linda K. Burton said, 'We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood' (BYU Women’s Conference, May 3, 2013). That need applies to all of us...
"President Joseph F. Smith described the priesthood as 'the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family' (Gospel Doctrine p. 139). Other leaders have taught us that the priesthood 'is the consummate power on this earth. It is the power by which the earth was created' (Boyd K. Packer, “Priesthood Power in the Home,” worldwide leadership training meeting, Feb. 2012)....
"We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.
"Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities. That is a principle needed in society at large. The famous Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is quoted as saying, 'It is time... to defend not so much human rights as human obligations' (“A World Split Apart,” commencement address, Harvard University, June 8, 1978). Latter-day Saints surely recognize that qualifying for exaltation is not a matter of asserting rights but a matter of fulfilling responsibilities."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood," Ensign, May 2014, pp. 49-52
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a very interesting talk by Elder Oaks, as he considered the authority and keys of the priesthood as they relate to all members of the Church. We should all have that "greater desire to better understand the priesthood" described by Sister Burton, and this excerpt gives some excellent material to ponder.

While we often discuss the priesthood as being the power delegated to man to act for the salvation of others, we don't understand the ways in which that "man" is perhaps used in a generic sense and not in a gender-specific way. Elder Oaks helps us understand what it means to act with priesthood authority:

This is a wonderful description of how priesthood authority blesses us all as we function in that authority in our Church service.

The additional key point Elder Oaks shares is the distinction between rights and responsibilities. Sometimes we get so caught up in wanting to clarify and claim our rights, that we forget the obligation and blessing of just focusing on our responsibilities.

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

President Russell M. Nelson on finding true joy in our lives

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.
"As we diligently focus on the Savior and then follow His pattern of focusing on joy, we need to avoid those things that can interrupt our joy. Remember Korihor, the anti-Christ? Spewing falsehoods about the Savior, Korihor went from place to place until he was brought before a high priest who asked him: 'Why do ye go about perverting the ways of the Lord? Why do ye teach this people that there shall be no Christ, to interrupt their rejoicings?' (Alma 30:22.)
"Anything that opposes Christ or His doctrine will interrupt our joy. That includes the philosophies of men, so abundant online and in the blogosphere, which do exactly what Korihor did.
"If we look to the world and follow its formulas for happiness, we will never know joy. The unrighteous may experience any number of emotions and sensations, but they will never experience joy! Joy is a gift for the faithful. It is the gift that comes from intentionally trying to live a righteous life, as taught by Jesus Christ.
"He taught us how to have joy. When we choose Heavenly Father to be our God and when we can feel the Savior’s Atonement working in our lives, we will be filled with joy. Every time we nurture our spouse and guide our children, every time we forgive someone or ask for forgiveness, we can feel joy.
"Every day that you and I choose to live celestial laws, every day that we keep our covenants and help others to do the same, joy will be ours."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Joy and Spiritual Survival," General Conference, October 2016
Click here to read or hear the complete talk

As we seek to increase the amount of joy in our life, it seems to be a great key to know what things can "interrupt our joy." President Nelson suggests some areas we should be cautious about, particularly involving the world and its philosophies that can be critical, demeaning, and destructive to faith in Jesus Christ. The explosion of online discussions gives such a forum for people to share thoughts in ways that can demean and distract.

The key, then, is to remember that we don't find real joy through the "formulas for happiness" so often suggested by the world, because  "joy is a gift for the faithful" given by God to those who are "intentionally trying to live a righteous life" by following the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We don't stumble upon joy; we find it by seeking it in that one and true path. So then, every time we make a choice to follow a commandment, nurture or bless those around us, keep a covenant, forgive another, or live celestial laws—every time, we can be assured that our joy will increase. What a marvelous witness to an eternal principle.

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on facing the storms and challenges in life

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.
"We can’t always control the storms that life puts in our path. Sometimes things simply don’t go our way. We may feel shaken and blown about by the turbulence of disappointment, doubt, fear, sadness, or stress.
"During those times, it is easy to get caught up in everything that is going wrong and to make our troubles the center of our thoughts. The temptation is to focus on the trials we are facing instead of on the Savior and our testimony of truth.
"But that is not the best way to navigate through our challenges in life.
"Just as an experienced pilot keeps his focus not on the storm but on the center of the runway and the correct touchdown point, so too should we keep our focus on the center of our faith—our Savior, His gospel, and the plan of our Heavenly Father—and on our ultimate goal—to return safely to our heavenly destination. We should trust God and make staying on the track of discipleship the focus of our efforts. We should keep our eyes, heart, and mind focused on living the way we know we should.
"Showing our faith and trust in Heavenly Father by joyfully keeping His commandments will bring us happiness and glory. And if we stay on the path, we will get through any turbulence—no matter how strong it may appear—and return safely to our heavenly home."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Landing Safely in Turbulence," Ensign, February 2016, pp. 4-5
Click here to read the full article

President Uchtdorf suggests that we "can't always control the storms that life puts in our path." We rarely, if ever, choose to have those storms (unless the choice is born from ignorance of the results of our actions). But storms are a part of life, and though we may pray to always have clear weather and sunshine-filled days, that won't happen. Sometimes the storms will come, and sometimes they come when it is least convenient or most disruptive.

The challenge is to control how we react to the storms when we feel "blown about by the turbulence of disappointment, doubt, fear, sadness, or stress." It's easy and natural to focus on the storm and its impact. But the better choice is to focus "on the Savior and our testimony of the truth."

By learning to keep our focus on "the center of our faith" even in times of adverse conditions and challenges, we are doing the only thing that will make a difference—not avoiding the storm or even hanging on desperately until it passes, but making ourselves strong to get through the storm in all the best ways, learning and growing not in spite of the storms but because of them.

A great key is to be found "joyfully keeping His commandments" regardless of the surrounding challenges; that is what ultimately will bring happiness and peace, and a safe return to our heavenly home.

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

President Henry B. Eyring on helping those we love find happiness

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.
"All of us want happiness for those we love, and we want as little pain for them as possible. As we read the accounts of happiness—and of pain—in the Book of Mormon, our hearts are stirred as we think of our loved ones. Here is a true account of a time of happiness:
"'And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
"'And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.'
"Then we read:
"'And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land' (4 Nephi 1:15–16, 18).
"Loving disciples of Christ pray and work for such a blessing for others and for themselves....
"With the companionship of the Holy Ghost, our hearts can change so that we want and welcome the love of our Heavenly Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ. The way to get the love of God into our hearts is simple, as is the way to lose the feeling of that love in our hearts. For instance, someone may choose to pray less often to Heavenly Father or not to pay a full tithing or to stop feasting on the word of God or to ignore the poor and the needy.
"Any choice not to keep the Lord’s commandments can cause the Spirit to withdraw from our hearts. With that loss, happiness diminishes.
"The happiness we want for our loved ones depends on their choices. As much as we love a child, an investigator, or our friends, we cannot force them to keep the commandments so that they qualify for the Holy Ghost to touch and change their hearts.
"So the best help we can give is whatever leads those we love to watch over their own choices."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Happiness for Those We Love," Ensign, January 2016, p. 4
Click here to read the full article

When we truly love another person, we are deeply motivated to help them; their happiness becomes more important than our own. We long for them to be at peace, to know God's love, to feel true joy in life. President Eyring discusses the challenges of that situation, particularly when the other isn't perhaps doing all they should to find such happiness. We can't force another to be happy, or to make the choices that lead to happiness. We can only invite and encourage, hoping and praying they will make the right choices.

Understanding the source of happiness, and how it can be lost, is critical. As we feel God's love, we find more and more happiness; but our choices can prevent us from feeling that love:

Learning to recognize and treasure those expressions of God's love in our life is so important in our spiritual progress. By faithful obedience and wise choices, we increase our joy and feel His love.

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on serving one another in the Church

President Thomas S. Monson (b. August 21, 1927) was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1963. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency with Presidents Benson, Hunter, and Hinckley before becoming Church president in 2008.
"Though exaltation is a personal matter, and while individuals are saved not as a group but indeed as individuals, yet one cannot live in a vacuum. Membership in the Church calls forth a determination to serve. A position of responsibility may not be of recognized importance, nor may the reward be broadly known. Service, to be acceptable to the Savior, must come from willing minds, ready hands, and pledged hearts.
"Occasionally discouragement may darken our pathway; frustration may be a constant companion. In our ears there may sound the sophistry of Satan as he whispers, 'You cannot save the world; your small efforts are meaningless. You haven’t time to be concerned for others.' Trusting in the Lord, let us turn our heads from such falsehoods and make certain our feet are firmly planted in the path of service and our hearts and souls dedicated to follow the example of the Lord. In moments when the light of resolution dims and when the heart grows faint, we can take comfort from His promise: 'Be not weary in well-doing. … Out of small things proceedeth that which is great.'
"'Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.' (D&C 64:33–34.)"
- Thomas S. Monson, "The Path to Peace," General Conference, April 1994
Click here to read or listen to the complete talk

President Monson comments in this excerpt on the essential nature of service for members of the Church. Not only is there an expectation of participation in callings and assignments, but he believes that our membership "calls forth a determination to serve"—even when positions are less visible or recognized. That supposed prominence or importance is not meaningful to God; He cares only that our service comes "from willing minds, ready hands, and pledged hearts."

However, sometimes we feel discouraged in our efforts to serve, wondering if we are accomplishing what is expected or what we would like to achieve. We may not feel we are making much of a difference. President Monson helps us understand the correct way to handle those concerns:

We should always be grateful for the reminder that even small things can lead to great results in the hands of the Lord. We need not change the world all at once; we just need to continue making a small difference anywhere we can.

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

President Spencer W. Kimball on effective personal prayer

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Do you want guidance? Have you prayed to the Lord for inspiration? Do you want to do right or do you want to do what you want to do whether or not it is right? Do you want to do what is best for you in the long run or what seems more desirable for the moment?
"Have you prayed? How much have you prayed? How did you pray? Have you prayed as did the Savior of the world in Gethsemane or did you ask for what you want regardless of its being proper? Do you say in your prayers: 'Thy will be done'? Did you say, 'Heavenly Father, if you will inspire and impress me with the right, I will do that right'? Or, did you pray, 'Give me what I want or I will take it anyway'?
"Did you say: 'Father in Heaven, I love you, I believe in you, I know you are omniscient. I am honest. I am sincerely desirous of doing right. I know you can see the end from the beginning. You can see the future. You can discern if under this situation I present, I will have peace or turmoil, happiness or sorrow, success or failure. Tell me, please, loved Heavenly Father, and I promise to do what you tell me to do.' Have you prayed that way? Don't you think it might be wise? Are you courageous enough to pray that prayer?
"Or, are you afraid that he might not see eye to eye with you? Are you willing to take your own judgment and throw his to the winds? Well, what about it? Are you omniscient? Can you see the future? Are you more clever than God? Can you guess what tomorrow has for you? Do you love yourself? Do you worship yourself, your mind, your judgment? Do you want to be happy forever or for life, or do you want to satisfy only the demands of today?"
- Spencer W. Kimball, personal correspondence, date unknown; see TSWK 123-124

This excerpt, taken from a compilation of President Kimball's teachings, came originally from some personal correspondence written by President Kimball, instead of the usual formal discourses. It appears President Kimball was responding to some inquiries about effective personal prayer. He asks a series of thought-provoking questions about prayer, helping us each explore our own prayers as we strive to find ways to improve the quality and effectiveness of our communication with God.

So much depends on our attitude and motivation as we pray. President Kimball helps us explore the options, suggesting the kinds of approaches that will make a difference. The third paragraph of the excerpt, in particular, suggests the kinds of attitude of faith and trust in God that would make prayer effective, as contrasted with the fourth paragraph describing some of our more common mistakes in our attitudes of prayer.

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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on the principle of compensation

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1986, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1986 until his passing in 2008 at age 91.
"Understand the principle of compensation. The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude....
"Because Heavenly Father is merciful, a principle of compensation prevails. I have seen this in my own life."
 - Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Come What May, and Love It," Ensign, Nov. 2008, p. 26
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is a beautiful message of faith and hope. While we may have disappointments, struggles, and suffering in life, the true disciple has the assurance that all will be well. Times of shortage are always followed by times of abundance when, according to the promises of the Lord, all will be made right. The doctrine of hope is the eternal certainty of that which is to come, regardless of what may be taking place now.

Elder Wirthlin gave some personal examples of this kind of faith and hope as part of his message. He bears witness that it must be so, because of the mercy of Heavenly Father, whose love for us must make Him eager to reward our faithfulness in suffering and enduring.

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

Saturday, July 8, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on the power of quiet service

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.
"I think we should be aware that there can be a spiritual danger to those who misunderstand the singularity of always being in the spotlight. They may come to covet the notoriety and thus forget the significance of the service being rendered. As students, you are at a crucial juncture in your lives when life-shaping judgments are made and future courses set. You must not allow yourselves to focus on the fleeting light of popularity or substitute that attractive glow for the substance of true, but often anonymous labor that brings the attention of God even if it does not get coverage on the six o'clock news. In fact, applause and attention can become the spiritual Achilles' heel of even the most gifted among us....
"At times of attention and visibility it might also be profitable for us to answer the question Why do we serve? When we understand why, we won't be concerned about where we serve....
"If you feel that much of what you do this year or in the years to come does not make you very famous, take heart. Most of the best people who ever lived weren't very famous either. Serve and grow, faithfully and quietly. Be on guard regarding the praise of men."
- Howard W. Hunter, "No Less Serviceable," BYU fireside address, September 2, 1990; see also Ensign April 1992, pp. 64-67
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"Always being in the spotlight" may not happen to many of us. But sometimes even a brief time in that position, due to an assignment or calling, can have impact or present challenge as President Hunter describes. In this address to college-age students, President Hunter shared cautions about their motivations for life decisions. How important for us to remember that "true, but often anonymous labor that brings the attention of God even if it does not get coverage on the six o'clock news." It's vitally important to remember which of those two options is more important!

On the other hand, perhaps most of us fall in the category of having passed many years in quiet service without having become "very famous" through that time. I love the gentle reminder that "most of the best people who ever lived weren't very famous either." So we just go on serving and growing in faithfulness; the attention that really matters is being noted in heaven as we bless lives on earth.

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

President Harold B. Lee on the refining process of suffering

President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1941. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1970-1972, then as Church president from July 1972 until his passing less than 18 months later in December 1973.
"There is a refining process that comes through suffering, I think, that we can’t experience any other way than by suffering.... We draw closer to Him who gave His life that man might be. We feel a kinship that we have never felt before.... He suffered more than we can ever imagine. But to the extent that we have suffered, somehow it seems to have the effect of drawing us closer to the divine, helps to purify our souls, and helps to purge out the things that are not pleasing in the sight of the Lord."
- Harold B. Lee, address at funeral services for Alfred W. Wesemann, 8 December 1969; see THBL pp. 187-8

We all experience some degree of suffering in life; President Lee is counseling us on how to interpret or react to that suffering. It's important to understand that there is a benefit to the challenges that occur; there is a refining available if we choose to allow it.

This is an interesting approach. As we suffer, we begin to understand a portion of the Savior's suffering, and can draw closer to Him through that process. Our suffering can "purify our souls" as it helps remove the things that are not appropriate or pleasing to God. We become more like Him in small but real ways. So in reality, we should be grateful for those challenges and difficulties as long as we recognize the power they can represent in our lives.

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

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on blessings for obedience

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.
"In modern revelation we are told very frankly, brothers and sisters, that 'when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated' (D&C 130:21). I don’t know how it is for you, but I have felt so often in my life so greatly blessed for what little obedience I have given. My conclusion with regard to that verse is that the Lord’s ratio of blessings to our obedience is a very generous ratio indeed. He is so quick to reward us, so quick to reassure us, and so anxious to take delight when we serve Him. So if you puzzle over that verse, as I have in life, including in recent times, the only bottom line I can give you is that the ratio of blessings to our minuscule obedience is a very, very generous ratio indeed."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Sharing Insights from My Life," BYU Devotional, Jan. 12, 1999
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Maxwell struggled with cancer in his later years before having a "reprieve" and being able to teach and serve for some additional years. This address to a BYU student assembly includes many wonderful "life lessons" as he reflected on his insights gained through life's struggles. One of the important insights relates to the blessings promised for obedience. Elder Maxwell considered himself to have been blessed perhaps more than he deserved:

This illustrates an aspect of the power and benefit of "counting our blessings" in life. As we carefully identify the many ways in which God blesses us, we recognize that the "ratio of blessings to our minuscule obedience" described by Elder Maxwell is "very, very generous indeed." I love the description given by King Benjamin:
And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? (Mosiah 2:24)

Those who obey willingly and consistently, and who then count the blessings that follow, will know, as did Elder Maxwell, of the "generous ratio" of God's love expressed in our lives.

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