Friday, November 17, 2017

Elder Quentin L. Cook on learning civility and love at home

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.
"How we treat those closest to us is of fundamental importance. Violence, abuse, lack of civility, and disrespect in the home are not acceptable—not acceptable for adults and not acceptable for the rising generation. My father was not active in the Church but was a remarkably good example, especially in his treatment of my mother. He used to say, 'God will hold men responsible for every tear they cause their wives to shed.' This same concept is emphasized in 'The Family: A Proclamation to the World.' It reads, '[Those] who abuse spouse or offspring … will one day stand accountable before God.' Regardless of the culture in which we are raised, and whether our parents did or did not abuse us, we must not physically, emotionally, or verbally abuse anyone else.
"The need for civility in society has never been more important. The foundation of kindness and civility begins in our homes. It is not surprising that our public discourse has declined in equal measure with the breakdown of the family. The family is the foundation for love and for maintaining spirituality. The family promotes an atmosphere where religious observance can flourish. There is indeed 'beauty all around when there’s love at home' (“Love at Home,” Hymns, no. 294)."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Can Ye Feel So Now?," General Conference October 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We live in a time when basic civility in society seems to be disappearing; when the "public discourse" is greatly facilitated by technology, but is dramatically declining in decency. Elder Cook maintains that the foundation of these interactions is set in the home and family, and that we have never had a greater need to focus on strengthening that setting:

The prophetic foresight in the Family Proclamation, issued in 1995, is astonishing as we see the moral decline that has occurred since then. It is so critical for us to know those principles and cling to them!

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Elder David A. Bednar on the continuing process of being born again

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.
"And after we come out of the waters of baptism, our souls need to be continuously immersed in and saturated with the truth and the light of the Savior’s gospel. Sporadic and shallow dipping in the doctrine of Christ and partial participation in His restored Church cannot produce the spiritual transformation that enables us to walk in a newness of life. Rather, fidelity to covenants, constancy of commitment, and offering our whole soul unto God are required if we are to receive the blessings of eternity.
"'I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved' (Omni 1:26).
"Total immersion in and saturation with the Savior’s gospel are essential steps in the process of being born again."
- David A. Bednar, "Ye Must Be Born Again," General Conference, April 2007
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I love this concept of the continuous process of discipleship. Just being baptized is not nearly enough; Elder Bednar teaches that from that point on, "our souls need to be continuously immersed in and saturated with the truth and the light of the Savior’s gospel." Nephi said it this way:
"And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save." (2 Nephi 31:19)
So having started on the Gospel path, we then must be fully committed and fully immersed in the spiritual life that follows:

I've always appreciated Omni's description too, that we must offer our whole souls to God; a partial offering or a partial commitment just won't bring the redemption and salvation that we seek.

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

President Joseph F. Smith on shining with original light instead of borrowed light

President Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) was the son of Joseph's brother Hyrum. He was ordained an apostle in 1866 at age 28, and served as a counselor to Brigham Young and the three presidents who followed.  He became the 6th president of the Church in 1901, and served until his death in 1918 at age 80.
“One fault to be avoided by the Saints, young and old, is the tendency to live on borrowed light, with their own hidden under a bushel; to permit the savor of their salt of knowledge to be lost; and the light within them to be reflected, rather than original.
"Every Saint should not only have the light within himself, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but his light should so shine that it may be clearly perceived by others.
“Men and women should become settled in the truth, and founded in the knowledge of the gospel, depending upon no person for borrowed or reflected light, but trusting only upon the Holy Spirit, who is ever the same, shining forever and testifying to the individual and the priesthood, who live in harmony with the laws of the gospel, of the glory and the will of the Father. They will then have light everlasting which cannot be obscured. By its shining in their lives, they shall cause others to glorify God; and by their well-doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light."
- Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era 8:60-62, 1904-05; see Gospel Doctrine, pp. 87–88

President Smith warns us of the tendency to "hide our light under a bushel," and then to reflect the light of others instead of having our light be original within us:

When our own light is burning clearly, it comes "through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." Having that companionship fills us with light. I'm reminded of the beautiful counsel and invitation given by the Lord through Joseph Smith:

"And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things." (D&C 88:67)

A body that is full of light will shine directly and powerfully, not needing to reflect the light of others. As President Smith notes, one of the great blessings of this shining light is that others will see it and glorify God. It will also help to overcome criticism and foolish ignorance, and will ultimately bring glory to God who is the source of the light.

As far as I know, the concept of "borrowed light" originated with Heber C. Kimball who spoke of it several times. Click here to read an example of his teachings, with an added insight from Robert J. Matthews about our occasional tendency to borrow from our own light.

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on developing character and continuing to learn

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.
"At the end of your lives you will not be judged by academic successes, the degrees or diplomas earned, the positions held, the material wealth acquired, or power and prestige, but rather on the basis of what you have become as persons and what you are in conduct and character. Yours is the power individually to transform yourselves into the persons you want to be....
"Leave school with your books and your minds still open, and make your lives a quest for knowledge. Plato thought knowledge the highest human good, and Matthew Arnold thought the primary purpose of education was to help students to see things as they really are, to see the world about them as it really is. Only as we see the world as it really is can we hope to solve its problems. Only by knowledge can we banish ignorance, superstition, prejudice, fear, and hatred, the evils from which spring most of our world's problems. Therefore it is imperative that you continue to seek knowledge."
- Howard W. Hunter, "A Time for Wise Decisions." Commencement Address, BYU—Hawaii Campus, 23 June 1979; see THWH p. 177

It's important to remember what really matters "in the long run" in our lives. As he addressed a graduating class at BYU-Hawaii, who would naturally have their future careers and vocational aspirations in the forefront of their thoughts, President Hunter reminded them that recognition of men or accumulation of possessions are not the critical things in life; rather, the kind of character that is developed:

Part of the development of character occurs as we continue to gain knowledge throughout life. President Hunter gives the classic advice, "Leave school with your books and your minds still open." We need to continue to learn new things throughout our lives; and we need to have our minds open to new ideas, different approaches, changed opinions. This is a great key to ongoing success and happiness, individually and collectively: "Only by knowledge can we banish ignorance, superstition, prejudice, fear, and hatred, the evils from which spring most of our world's problems." That is a bold statement, one that we should all put to the test!

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Elder Dale G. Renlund on God's eternal fairness to His children

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.
"Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are the ultimate Givers. The more we distance ourselves from Them, the more entitled we feel. We begin to think that we deserve grace and are owed blessings. We are more prone to look around, identify inequities, and feel aggrieved—even offended—by the unfairness we perceive. While the unfairness can range from trivial to gut-wrenching, when we are distant from God, even small inequities loom large. We feel that God has an obligation to fix things—and fix them right now! ...
"The sacrament truly helps us know our Savior. It also reminds us of His innocent suffering. If life were truly fair, you and I would never be resurrected; you and I would never be able to stand clean before God. In this respect, I am grateful that life is not fair.
"At the same time, I can emphatically state that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, ultimately, in the eternal scheme of things, there will be no unfairness. 'All that is unfair about life can be made right' (Preach My Gospel, 52). Our present circumstances may not change, but through God’s compassion, kindness, and love, we will all receive more than we deserve, more than we can ever earn, and more than we can ever hope for. We are promised that 'God shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away' (Revelation 21:4)."
- Dale G. Renlund, "That I Might Draw All Men unto Me," General Conference, April 2016, Saturday morning session
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Life is unfair. Neither blessings nor challenges are distributed equally. From our perspective, at least, it often doesn't "make sense" when we face inequity or unfairness. Elder Renlund points out the irony that those who are furthest from God are often the ones who seem to expect blessings and protection from God and are offended or caused to doubt further when He doesn't respond as they expect.

But through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we are assured that ultimately, all unfairness will be erased:

As the "former things pass away," we have that beautiful assurance that through "God's compassion, kindness, and love," we will be blessed not only beyond what we deserve but also beyond all that we could hope for. Truly, as Paul testified, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Cor 2:9).

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on remembering God in every season

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.
"If there is a spiritual lesson to be learned from our experience of that fateful day, it may be that we owe to God the same faithfulness that He gives to us. We should strive for steadiness, and for a commitment to God that does not ebb and flow with the years or the crises of our lives. It should not require tragedy for us to remember him, and we should not be compelled to humility before giving him our faith and trust. We too should be with him in every season.
"The way to be with God in every season is to strive to be near him every week and each day. We truly 'need him every hour,' not just in hours of devastation. We must speak to him, listen to him, and serve him. If we wish to serve him, we should serve our fellow men. We will mourn the lives we lose, but we should also fix the lives that can be mended and heal the hearts that may yet be healed."
- Thomas S. Monson, Thoughts on Sept. 11, The Washington Post 9/11/11; see "Remembering 9/11: Mormon leaders share messages of comfort," Deseret News, September 11, 2013
Click here to read the full article

These words were prepared by President Monson for a compilation of the thoughts of religious leaders on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11/01 attacks in the eastern United States. I was impressed by his efforts to find a "spiritual lesson" from the tragic events of that day. He reminds us all that it is not just in times of tragedy or profound sorrow that we should turn to God:

We should strive to "be with him in every season" of our lives, challenging or peaceful. It's that "steadiness" at all times that will provide the rock of faith to help us through the times of storm and challenge.

And President Monson reminds us how that is done: one day at a time, as we turn to God "every hour, and not just in hours of devastation." The keys are:

  • Speak to him
  • Listen to him
  • Serve him.
And we serve God by serving those around us: comforting, mending, healing. As we follow His example, we draw near to Him and feel His power in our lives, that will bless us when the times of need come.

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

President Henry B. Eyring on recognizing God's blessings in our life

President Henry B. Eyring (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.
"You could try the same thing as you write an entry in your book of remembrance. The Holy Ghost has helped with that since the beginning of time. You remember in the record of Moses it says: 'And a book of remembrance was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam, for it was given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration.' (Moses 6:5.)
"President Spencer W. Kimball described that process of inspired writing: 'Those who keep a book of remembrance are more likely to keep the Lord in remembrance in their daily lives. Journals are a way of counting our blessings and of leaving an inventory of these blessings for our posterity.' (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, p. 349.)
"As you start to write, you could ask yourself, 'How did God bless me today?' If you do that long enough and with faith, you will find yourself remembering blessings. And sometimes, you will have gifts brought to your mind which you failed to notice during the day, but which you will then know were a touch of God’s hand in your life.
"You can choose to remember the greatest gift of all. Next week, you can go to a meeting where the sacrament is administered. You will hear the words, 'Always remember him.' You can pledge to do that, and the Holy Ghost will help you."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Remembrance and Gratitude," General Conference, October 1989
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Eyring's suggestion that we write in our personal "book of remembrance" promises powerful results.

When I was young, commercial LDS channels heavily marketed something called a "book of remembrance" that was a binder for genealogical research, usually printed on legal-sized pages. We became used to using that title only for that kind of collection. While that is a valid application (remembering our ancestors), I think it served to somewhat limit our scope. As President Eyring describes the concept in this excerpt, a book of remembrance can also be any form of personal writing, whether in a hard-printed journal, or in an electronic format such as a document or even a blog.

One important key, he suggests, is that like Adam we learn to "write by the spirit of inspiration." As we allow the Spirit to direct our personal reflections and then record the impressions that follow, great blessings will result.

President Spencer W. Kimball was a big proponent of writing in journals, and he described the blessings of the "book of remembrance" concept in this way:

I love those points and promises! As we reflect and record impressions, counting our blessings, we will be more likely to remember the Lord in our daily living. And we will be leaving an "inventory of those blessings" for our descendants. How I would love to have more of that kind of record from my ancestors.

President Eyring's very practical suggestion on how to "count our blessings" is perhaps the greatest message of the excerpt for me. Examining our daily life and seeking to identify how God blessed us in the day that just passed not only helps document His hand in our life, but also opens the door to inspiration that will help us learn more about how He blesses us. That brings greater humility and gratitude to us, and is a powerful way to help us always remember Him. I know from my own experience that this is a true principle!

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

Friday, November 10, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on service in the kingdom of God

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.
"I know the celestial criteria measure service, not status; the use of our talents, not the relative size of our talent inventories. I know that Church membership is not passive security but continuing opportunity.
"Finally I testify that what a wise man wrote is true: 'If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.' Having so chosen, may God bless us all to move the kingdom along."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Response to a Call," General Conference, April 1974
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The April 1974 general conference included a "solemn assembly" for the sustaining of President Spencer W. Kimball. It was also when Neal A. Maxwell was called as a general authority, sustained as an Assistant to the Twelve (a position that was discontinued two years later as the First Quorum of Seventy was organized). He had previously served as a Regional Representative.

In this talk, he expressed appreciation for many of the blessings of his life and Church service. Some memorable phrases, trademarks of his eloquent speaking style, were introduced in the talk:
"Endless appreciation to Jesus Christ for his atonement, realizing that included in the awful arithmetic of that atonement are my sins..."
"When one sees life and people through the lens of His gospel, then one can see forever."
"Endless appreciation to my Father in heaven whose blessings depend upon our obedience, but whose ratio of blessings to obedience makes him a generous God!"
This was his concluding testimony:

The "wise man" quoted by Elder Maxwell on this occasion and several others during his ministry is William Law, 18th-century English clergyman. Elder Maxwell seemed to understand his message and endorse it; our priorities in what we choose first will make all the difference. And having made the choice of placing the kingdom of God first in our lives, we move forward in faith and strive to move God's kingdom forward as we do.

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

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on bearing one another's burdens

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.
"To be called His people and to stand in His Church, we must be 'willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and [be] willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things' (Mosiah 18:8–9).
"For me, bearing another’s burden is a simple but powerful definition of the Atonement of Christ. When we seek to lift the burden of another, we are 'saviors on mount Zion.' We are symbolically aligning ourselves with the Redeemer of the world and His Atonement. We are 'bind[ing] up the brokenhearted, … proclaim[ing] liberty to the captives, and … opening … the prison to them that are bound' (Isaiah 61:1). ...
"We learn very quickly that our best and most selfless services are often not adequate to comfort or encourage in the way people need. Or if we succeed once, we often can’t seem to repeat it. Nor are we superheroes at avoiding regression in those we care about. All this is why we must ultimately turn to Christ and rely on Him. (See 2 Nephi 9:21.)
"Often enough we can’t help—or at least can’t always help, or can’t sustain help, or can’t repeat it when we do sometimes succeed. But Christ can help. God the Father can help. The Holy Ghost can help, and we need to keep trying to be Their agents, helping when and where we can."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Bearing One Another’s Burdens," from Speaking Today on the website
Click here to read the full article

This is a wonderful article by Elder Holland that was posted on the Church website. No source for the article is mentioned, implying that it may have been written independent of any speaking assignment. A link was posted to the article from Elder Holland's Facebook page in June of this year, so perhaps it was written just for that purpose.  It deserves a wider distribution and a careful reading by all disciples of Christ.

The covenant usually associated with baptism (Mosiah 18:8-9) is all about how we treat one another and interact to support and bless those around us. Elder Holland considers that sacred mandate to "bear one another's burdens" and encourages us to be more sensitive and more serving. There are many around us bearing burdens that we can't comprehend. But as we strive to help in a spirit of true charity, we link ourselves to the Savior in a sacred way:

Elder Holland goes on to point out that our efforts will always be insufficient unless they are linked to the eternal and unending power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We are only agents of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as we strive to share in their work. One of the most important things we do in that work is to bring others to Them for ultimate support and blessing.

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Elder Mark E. Petersen on remembering the weightier matters of the law

Elder Mark E. Petersen (1900-1984) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve from 1944 until his death in 1984.
"Anciently Jesus asked the Pharisees this question: 'What think ye of Christ?' (Matt. 22:42.) ...
"What think ye of Christ? To bring it down to our own day, let us ask ourselves, What do we, personally, think of him?
"Latter-day Saints are able to identify him very quickly. Christ is Jesus of Nazareth, who was born of Mary in Bethlehem. He also is our Redeemer and our Creator, the divine Son of God.
"But knowing who he is, what shall we do about him? Shall we fully accept him, or brush him aside, or take some middle-of-the-road attitude and compromise our beliefs according to existing pressures?
"The misdirected Pharisees with whom he spoke took pride in rites and rituals, but were nevertheless condemned by the Lord because they neglected the weightier matters of the law: fair judgment, mercy, and the exercise of true faith which produces righteous works.
"When the Savior spoke of those weightier matters he referred to personal relationships between people.... It is significant that he made those relationships a vital part of his gospel. It is indeed remarkable that the nature of our dealings with our fellowmen will determine, in large measure, our status in the kingdom of heaven.
"In other words, we ourselves may be like the ancient Pharisees. We may attend to rites and rituals and yet overlook the weightier matters such as brotherly kindness, honesty, mercy, virtue, and integrity. Let us never forget that if we omit them from our lives we may be found unworthy to come into His presence."
- Mark E. Petersen, "Do Unto Others," General Conference, April 1977
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is such a profound and important question: "What think ye of Christ?" Sometimes we get so busy we don't think of Him at all; sometimes our thoughts are superficial and casual. But the Lord's later rebuke to the scribes and Pharisees truly weighs heavily on all our souls: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Matthew 23:23)

Elder Petersen applies that rebuke and caution to us, in modern times:

Are we going through the motions of discipleship? Are we performing outward actions, "rites and rituals," but neglecting the values and emotions of kindness, virtue, mercy, and integrity? Elder Petersen wisely points out: "The nature of our dealings with our fellowmen will determine, in large measure, our status in the kingdom of heaven."

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Elder Richard G. Scott on changing our life with God's help

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928-2015) served as a Seventy from 1977-1988, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He passed away in September 2015 at the age of 86.
"Your exercise of faith permits you to call upon the strength of the Lord when you need it. Obedience to His commandments allows that help to be given. The power of God will come into your life because of your faithful obedience to His commandments.
"Don’t live your life in despair, feeling sorry for yourself because of the mistakes you have made. Let the sunshine in by doing the right things—now. (See 1 Ne. 22:26.)
"It may be difficult to begin, but pick up the scriptures and immerse yourself in them. Look for favorite passages. Lean on the Master’s teachings, on His servants’ testimonies. Refresh your parched soul with the word of God. (See 2 Ne. 4:15–16.) The scriptures will give you comfort and the strength to overcome. (See Hel. 3:29–30.)...
"To reach a goal you have never before attained, you must do things you have never before done.
"Don’t confront your problem armed with only your own experience, understanding, and strength. Count on the infinite power of the Lord by deciding now to be obedient to His teachings. (See 2 Ne. 31:19–21.)"
- Richard G. Scott, "Finding the Way Back," General Conference, April 1990
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Scott was often sensitive to those confronting challenges or frustrations in life. This talk focused on inviting those with such challenges, particularly the ones resulting from the bad choices made by the individual, to return to a path of peace and obedience.

Obedience is a critical step in finding peace, because as a person faithfully obeys, "the power of God will come into your life." Choosing to obey is allowing the sunshine to return to a dark and dreary place.

Another key is to "immerse" ourselves in reading the scriptures and the testimonies of inspired leaders. That act will bring refreshment to the "parched soul."

But it is important to recognize that change requires effort, commitment, and sacrifice—and divine help:

We should be very grateful to know that God will always help us as we turn to Him in faithfulness and willingness. His "infinite power" can help overcome any obstacle.

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on loving God and our fellowman

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.
"There is one virtue—one quality—that could solve all the world’s ills, cure all the hatred, and mend every wound.
"If we only learned to love God as our Father in Heaven, this would give us purpose in life.
"If we only learned to love our fellowman as our brothers and sisters, this would give us compassion.
"After all, these are God’s great commandments—to love God and to love our fellowman (see Matthew 22:36–40). If we distill religion down to its essence, we nearly always recognize that love is not merely the goal of religion, it is also the path of true discipleship. It is both the journey and the destination.
"If we love as Christ loved, if we truly follow the path He practiced and preached, there is a chance for us to avoid the echoing tragedies of history and the seemingly unavoidable fatal flaws of man.
"Will compassion for others bring light into the darkness? Will it allow us to part the clouds and see clearly?
"Yes. For though we are all born blind, through the Light of Christ we can see past darkness and illusion and understand things as they really are."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Fellow Travelers, Brothers and Sisters, Children of God," John A. Widtsoe Symposium at USC, April 24, 2015
Click here to read the full address

The context of this address makes it interesting and different from many of the talks we have from our leaders. The message was shared at a university symposium with a group that was predominantly not LDS, and President Uchtdorf helps to give them an understanding of our faith's history and foundation. Then he builds on the common ground that exists between all Christians in describing the essence of the message of the Savior—love God, and love one another:

President Uchtdorf teaches that this is truly the essence of religion: "love is not merely the goal of religion, it is also the path of true discipleship. It is both the journey and the destination." And learning to truly express these virtues in our lives would change the world. The challenge is for us to change our world, the world immediately around us; and then the broader world will be changed gradually but inevitably.

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

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Elder M. Russell Ballard on the sacred sanctuary of chapels

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.
"Sacrament meeting is a wonderful and glorious time. When we step into the chapel and prepare to receive the sacrament, we should think of ourselves as being in a sanctuary, a sacred and special place where we can contemplate Christ and His great and glorious mission. We put aside the things of the world and think instead of what is eternal. We need to put aside our cell phones and ponder about Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
"We have just 70 minutes each week to focus on our love for the Savior. If we can start thinking of the chapel as a sanctuary of faith and devotion for sacrament meeting, we all will be blessed.
"As we build the Kingdom of God, I can’t think of anything more important than having a well-prepared sacrament meeting where speakers speak of Christ, testify of Christ, and share testimonies from the apostles and prophets in the scriptures and other sources."
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Chapel: Our Sabbath Sanctuary," from "Speaking Today" posted on the website
Click here to read the full article

In this brief message, Elder Ballard reminds us that the Church has been giving renewed emphasis to the Sabbath Day for three years now, but he believes there is more progress to be made as we come to understand the potential and power of our worship on that day.

The idea of a sanctuary is not quite as pertinent in our culture as in the past. The word originally referred to a sacred or holy place. It came to be applied to a location of haven, such as a physical place of refuge or safety from attack and persecution. In our day, we see it more commonly applied to safe places for animals, such as a bird sanctuary.

Elder Ballard suggests that we consider our chapels as sanctuaries. We should treat them as holy places, where we can obtain refuge from the attacks of the world and of the adversary. Then the chapel becomes "a sacred and special place where we can contemplate Christ" and His mission on our behalf. That would certainly impact our feelings of reverence and worship as we enter the chapel, and in particular as we spend the "70 minutes" each week that include the sacred renewal of our covenants with God.

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

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Elder Neil L. Andersen on the challenges and opportunities of our time

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.
"Every person who has ever been born into mortality and is able to live his or her life into adulthood will experience both happiness and sadness; peace and challenges; good and evil. Whatever the generation, life has its highs and lows....
"Advances in science, medicine, manufacturing, transportation, and communication will continue throughout your lifetime. There will be variety in entertainment and innovation never imagined. These are your days, and it’s a beautiful time to be alive.
"However, in this time of prosperity and advancement, there are also real challenges. You live in a world that is sometimes divisive and contentious. Information is everywhere, and with it, a host of enticing voices attempts to pull you one way and then another. There is confusion and commotion, with many moving away from God and His commandments and away from the Savior....
"Your days are a time of sifting in the Church. It will be very important for your eternal welfare that, as the Apostle Paul said, you are grounded, rooted, established, and settled in spiritual things.
"There are great privileges, possibilities, and opportunities in this wonderful time of life."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Complete Honesty, Unselfish Humility," BYU-Idaho devotional, February 14, 2017
Click here to read the full talk

When the brethren address the youth of the Church, they give counsel that almost always applies to readers of all ages. This is certainly true for this address. Many of us who have been around a little longer can witness to the truthfulness of Elder Andersen's description of the experience of mortality. It will have sadness, challenges, and disappointments; but it will also have much happiness, peace, and joy. Keeping that long-range perspective is so important.

Elder Andersen shares the perspective of opportunity and adventure of our time. The advances in so many fields of science and technology will change aspects of our lives, in ways that are wonderful and also challenging. It becomes more and more crucial that we not allow the "confusion and commotion" that will result from this time, to draw us away from the foundation of truth and light.

That association of descriptive adjectives—"grounded, rooted, established, and settled"—was originally described by Elder Neal A. Maxwell in a 1981 BYU devotional, based on several admonitions of the Apostle Paul. I love its imagery of firmness and stability. In the midst of the "great privileges, possibilities, and opportunities in this wonderful time of life" we must not neglect the kind of firm and solid faith that we are being encouraged to develop by our leaders.

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

Friday, November 3, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on the importance of lifelong learning

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.
"I have been speaking about pushing back against worldly values and practices that are contrary to gospel teachings and covenants. I now conclude by urging you to practice one worldly value that is consistent with the gospel culture. It is the importance of lifelong learning, which for us is promoted and directed by eternal priorities. Beyond increasing our occupational qualifications, we should desire to learn how to become more emotionally fulfilled, more skilled in our personal relationships, and better parents and citizens. There are few things more fulfilling and fun than learning something new. Greater happiness, satisfaction, and even temporal rewards come from this.
"Our education should not be limited to formal study. Lifelong learning can increase our ability to appreciate and relish the workings and beauty of the world around us. This kind of learning goes well beyond books and a selective use of new technology, such as the internet. It includes artistic endeavors. It also includes experiences with people and places: conversations with friends; travel; visits to museums, plays, and concerts; and opportunities for service.
"Graduates, expand yourselves and enjoy the journey."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Push Back Against the World," Commencement Address at BYU-Hawaii, February 25, 2017
Click here to read the entire talk

Speaking to a graduating class at BYU-Hawaii earlier this year, Elder Oaks gave a reminder that applies not just to new graduates, but to all. Education doesn't end with graduation, and isn't limited to formal classroom settings. We believe in the importance of "lifelong learning," in particular learning that is "promoted and directed by eternal priorities" (an important distinction). I agree with his claim that there aren't many things more fun and fulfilling than learning new things!

Elder Oaks points out that there are many ways to continue learning:

This is such an important reminder. We learn in ways beyond reading books, sitting in classes, or researching on the Internet. Our experiences with other people are great sources; travel is invaluable; and taking advantage of local resources including artistic and cultural presentations can expand our horizons. The final suggestion that serving others is a part of our education is one that might not have been anticipated.

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

Thursday, November 2, 2017

President Russell M. Nelson on the certainty of knowledge and faith

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.
"While the world is filled with uncertainty, there need not be uncertainty in your heart and mind about what is true and what is not. Uncertainty is born of imperfect or unknown information. As an Apostle, I plead with you to learn God’s irrevocable laws. Learn them by study and by faith. That means, among other things, '[living] by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God' (D&C 84:44).
"Pray to discern between God’s laws and the philosophies of men, including those cunning counterfeits of the adversary. Through eons of time, Lucifer has honed his craft. He is skilled at distraction, distortion, deception, and misdirection. I plead with you to avoid his cunning snares as you would avoid a plague!
"Entrapments designed by Satan can only bring to you misery, spiritual captivity, and death. (See 2 Nephi 2:27.) This is true every time. The sad consequences of yielding to Lucifer’s lures are predictable, dependable, repeatable, and regrettable.
"Conversely, I promise that as you keep God’s commandments, as you live by His laws, you will become increasingly free. This freedom will unveil to you your divine nature and allow you to prosper personally. You will be free from the bondage of sin. You will be free to be you—an effective, righteous leader. You will be prepared to lead by precept and by example wherever you are needed. Happily, the blessings of keeping God’s commandments are also predictable, dependable, and repeatable."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Prophets, Leadership, and Divine Law," Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, BYU, January 8, 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Using the example of medical situations from his professional expertise, President Nelson established earlier in this talk that some things are "predictable, dependable, and repeatable." The certainty of those things provides a firm direction and help for our lives. Knowing the good things that are predictable helps us choose them as priorities in our lives; knowing the bad things helps us avoid them.

We sometimes need divine help to know the difference between God’s laws Satan's counterfeits. I was intrigued by the idea that "Through eons of time, Lucifer has honed his craft. He is skilled at distraction, distortion, deception, and misdirection." We must rely on both knowledge and inspiration to make wise choices in avoiding his traps!

Prophetic promises are so valuable to notice and then to cling to. President Nelson urges us to keep God's commandments, and explains the promised consequences of freedom that follow such choices. Those blessings are always "predictable, dependable, and repeatable."

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