Thursday, August 3, 2017

President Russell M. Nelson on the meaning of godliness

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.
"Godliness is an attribute that seems as difficult to define as it is to attain. Scriptures refer to 'the mystery of godliness' (1 Tim. 3:16; D&C 19:10)....
"Simon Peter counseled us 'to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God' (2 Pet. 3:11-12).
"'The power of godliness is manifest' in the ordinances of the priesthood (D&C 84:20). Godliness is not a product of perfection; it comes of concentration and consecration.
"Godliness characterizes each of you who truly loves the Lord. You are constantly mindful of the Savior's atonement and rejoice in His unconditional love. Meanwhile you vanquish personal pride and vain ambition. You consider your accomplishments important only if they help establish His kingdom on earth."
- Russell M. Nelson, "These... Were Our Examples," General Conference, October 1991; see Ensign, Nov 1991, p. 59
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

If godliness is, in simple terms, the condition of being god-like, then it is certainly part of the quest of mortality: to strive to emulate His characteristics and attributes. I have particularly appreciated the counsel of Peter quoted by President Nelson, as recorded in the New Testament (2 Pet. 3:11-12); we should be attempting to mold our behavior and lives towards His example, as we look forward to and "haste unto" the coming of God's day. There's a sense of urgency implied in those words that we should feel; time is short, and we can't delay in our efforts to make the needed progress.

The ordinances of the Priesthood, according to the Doctrine and Covenants, manifest the "power of godliness" in our lives. But President Nelson points out that we don't achieve godliness only when we become perfect. It comes to us through "concentration and consecration."

There are aspects of godliness manifest in the lives of all saints and disciples, as they strive to follow and server the Master, to receive the blessings of the Savior's atonement, and to feel His unconditional love. Truly, it is through His grace and power that we receive this gift. Moroni's words at the very end of the Book of Mormon are a good summary:
"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God." (Moroni 10:32)

To deny all ungodliness is a perfect description of the process of eliminating evil from our lives; when we turn our back on anything that does not reflect God's character, and through His grace and power are cleansed and purified, then we are filled with His love and are able to serve, bless, and progress in wonderful ways.

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

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