Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Elder Dale G. Renlund on the blessings of choosing to obey

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.
"God’s plan includes directions for us, referred to in the scriptures as commandments. These commandments are neither a whimsical set nor an arbitrary collection of imposed rules meant only to train us to be obedient. They are linked to our developing the attributes of godliness, returning to our Heavenly Father, and receiving enduring joy. Obedience to His commandments is not blind; we knowingly choose God and His pathway home. The pattern for us is the same as it was for Adam and Eve, wherein 'God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption' (Alma 12:32). Though God wants us to be on the covenant path, He gives us the dignity of choosing.
"Indeed, God desires, expects, and directs that each of His children choose for himself or herself. He will not force us. Through the gift of agency, God permits His children 'to act for themselves and not to be acted upon' (2 Nephi 2:26; see also 2 Nephi 2:16). Agency allows us to choose to get on the path, or not. It allows us to get off, or not. Just as we cannot be forced to obey, we cannot be forced to disobey. No one can, without our cooperation, take us off the path."
- Dale G. Renlund, "Choose You This Day," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Renlund addressed a question that many have asked: why does God give us commandments? They are not "whimsical" or "arbitrary"—not randomly imposed to "train us to be obedient." Our loving, caring Father in Heaven has a purpose for our mortal experience, and that purpose is to help us develop "the attributes of godliness" that will bring us ultimate joy:

Furthermore, God does not ask "blind obedience" but wants us to willingly choose the "covenant path" of happiness. We have the agency to choose to follow that path; and we have the agency to choose to stop following the path. But true joy can only be found in one way.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Monday, November 12, 2018

President Joseph Smith on the process of personal revelation

Joseph Smith (December 23, 1805-June 27, 1844) was given the apostolic authority when the Church of Jesus Christ was organized on April 6, 1830 and he was designated the first president of the church at age 24. He was martyred in 1844 at age 38.
"A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus."
- Joseph Smith, discourse on June 27, 1839, in Commerce, Illinois; see HC 3:381 or TPJS 151

Among the doctrinal foundations established by Joseph Smith as part of the restoration is the very fundamental concept of man's communication with God. This principle doesn't apply just to prophets and leaders, but to every person who will do what is necessary to open the lines of communication.

I love this quote; we can discover the beginnings of the "spirit of revelation" when we notice "pure intelligence flowing" to us from God.

The real key is to act upon the intelligence when it comes, and to then notice the fulfillment of the promptings; that strengthens our confidence and faith in God and in the process of revelation, and opens the door to more and greater communication in the future. Until, as Joseph noted, we may ultimately "grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Sunday, November 11, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on making the Sabbath a delight

President Russell M. Nelson (born 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 became president of that quorum on July 15, 2015. Following the death of President Monson, he was set apart as president of the Church on January 14, 2018.
"I am intrigued by the words of Isaiah, who called the Sabbath 'a delight' (Isaiah 58:13). Yet I wonder, is the Sabbath really a delight for you and for me?
"I first found delight in the Sabbath many years ago when, as a busy surgeon, I knew that the Sabbath became a day for personal healing. By the end of each week, my hands were sore from repeatedly scrubbing them with soap, water, and a bristle brush. I also needed a breather from the burden of a demanding profession. Sunday provided much-needed relief.
"What did the Savior mean when He said that 'the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath' (Mark 2:27)? I believe He wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal. God gave us this special day, not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest from duty, with physical and spiritual relief."
- Russell M. Nelson, "The Sabbath Is a Delight," General Conference, April 2015, Sunday afternoon session
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a landmark talk by President Nelson, in which he gave us many insights into the doctrine of the Sabbath Day. I always appreciate the personal touch he often uses, describing his own experiences that led to insights, such as the life of a busy surgeon benefiting from a day of rest; the Sabbath, for him, "became a day for personal healing." And he learned that the healing was not only physical, but also spiritual:

The Sabbath was made for us. It is a gift from God to help us find that physical and spiritual rejuvenation from the labors of the week. It's not some pre-existing mandate into which man is forced to comply. We should show our gratitude for the gift by learning to truly make the Sabbath a delight in our homes and personal lives.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Saturday, November 10, 2018

President Boyd K. Packer on family life and eternal compensation

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death on July 3, 2015 at age 90.
"When we speak of marriage and family life, there inevitably comes to mind, 'What about the exceptions?' Some are born with limitations and cannot beget children. Some innocents have their marriage wrecked because of the infidelity of their spouse. Others do not marry and live in single worthiness.
"For now I offer this comfort: God is our Father! All the love and generosity manifest in the ideal earthly father is magnified in Him who is our Father and our God beyond the capacity of the mortal mind to comprehend. His judgments are just; His mercy without limit; His power to compensate beyond any earthly comparison. 'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable' (1 Corinthians 15:19)."
- Boyd K. Packer, "The Plan of Happiness," General Conference April 2015
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We didn't know it at the time, of course, but President Packer's talk in the April 2015 conference would be his final public address; he passed away three months later. This segment represents part of the testimony that was his message throughout his lifetime of teachings: God is our Father, and He will love and sustain us through mortality.

Having spoken about marriage and families, President Packer acknowledged that one of the challenges of mortality is that not every individual has the ideal opportunities in this area. Not all will have happy marriages; not all will have the opportunity to raise children. But yet, when we know and trust God, we must also know and trust that "His power to compensate [is] beyond any earthly comparison."

If we can think of the most ideal example of fatherhood we know of in the earthly setting, President Packer's message is that God's role as our loving Heavenly Father is magnified beyond our comprehension.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Elder Robert D. Hales on learning to exercise agency wisely

Elder Robert D. Hales (August 24, 1932-October 1, 2017) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"Though He 'was in all points tempted like as we are' (Hebrews 4:15), with every choice and every action He exercised the agency to be our Savior—to break the chains of sin and death for us. And by His perfect life, He taught us that when we choose to do the will of our Heavenly Father, our agency is preserved, our opportunities increase, and we progress.

"Evidence of this truth is found throughout the scriptures. Job lost everything he had yet chose to remain faithful, and he gained the eternal blessings of God. Mary and Joseph chose to follow the warning of an angel to flee into Egypt, and the life of the Savior was preserved. Joseph Smith chose to follow the instructions of Moroni, and the Restoration unfolded as prophesied.Whenever we choose to come unto Christ, take His name upon us, and follow His servants, we progress along the path to eternal life.
"In our mortal journey, it is helpful to remember that the opposite is also true: when we don’t keep the commandments or follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, our opportunities are reduced; our abilities to act and progress are diminished. When Cain took his brother’s life because he loved Satan more than God, his spiritual progress was stopped."
- Robert D. Hales, "Agency: Essential to the Plan of Life," General Conference October 2010
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In this excerpt, Elder Hales discussed one of the grand, eternal principles related to agency. As we choose to exercise our agency in beneficial ways, following God's will for us, we preserve that agency and grow in opportunities and in our personal progress. However, if we exercise our agency in a negative way, choosing to disobey commandments or ignore spiritual promptings, we gradually lose the ability to choose and to progress.

Learning to use our agency wisely is truly one of the crucial lessons of mortality.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on the discipline of the gospel way

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.
"The Lord himself declared that 'strait is the gate and narrow is the way.' Any system dealing with the eternal consequences of human behavior must set guidelines and adhere to them, and no system can long command the loyalties of men that does not expect of them certain measures of discipline, and particularly of self-discipline. The cost in comfort may be great. The sacrifice may be real. But this very demanding reality is the substance of which come character and strength and nobility.
"Permissiveness never produced greatness. Integrity, loyalty, strength are virtues whose sinews are developed through the struggles that go on within a man as he practices self-discipline under the demands of divinely spoken truth.
"But there is another side of the coin, without which this self-discipline is little more than an exercise. Discipline imposed for the sake of discipline is repressive. It is not in the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is usually enforced by fear, and its results are negative.
"But that which is positive, which comes of personal conviction, builds and lifts and strengthens in a marvelous manner. In matters of religion, when a man is motivated by great and powerful convictions of truth, then he disciplines himself, not because of demands made upon him by the Church but because of the knowledge within his heart that God lives; that he is a child of God with an eternal and limitless potential; that there is joy in service and satisfaction in laboring in a great cause."
- Gordon B. Hickley, "The True Strength of the Church," General Conference April 1973
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Hinckley reminds us that we should expect to be challenged by our beliefs; there should be sacrifice and self-discipline involved.  It brings to mind the statement attributed to Joseph Smith: "A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation." (Lectures on Faith, p. 58.) We should expect that "the cost in comfort may be great." But we should also see the rewards, expressed in character, strength, integrity, loyalty, and nobility.

President Hinckley also teaches that the reason for discipline is crucial. "Discipline imposed for the sake of discipline is repressive" and is usually enforced by fear; that is not the Gospel way. Our discipline should be motivated by our knowledge of God's existence and our relationship to Him. Joy comes as we accept the path of obedience for the right reasons.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Elder Mark E. Petersen on living the gospel with enthusiasm

Elder Mark E. Petersen (1900-1984) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve from 1944 until his death in 1984.
"Do you see why the Lord said we should be in the world but not of the world? How do we know he expects enthusiasm from us? Did he not say that we were to love him with all our heart, might, mind, and soul? Is that not enthusiasm? And when he talked about love of God, he talked in terms of service to God: 'O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind, and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day' (D&C 4:2).
"He expects us to put our priorities in order, too. What is to come first in our lives? Pleasure? Even work here at this university? You remember what the Savior said in the Sermon on the Mount. He was talking about shelter and food and raiment, what I call the bread-and-butter blessings, but he did not put them first. He said, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you' (Matt. 6:33).
"Do we have the faith and the courage to be Latter-day Saints first, last, and always, and to put the gospel of Jesus Christ first in our lives, knowing that if we do God will bless us and prosper us in all of our righteous activities? He gives many illustrations, but I mention only one. What did Malachi say would happen if we pay our tithes and offerings? The windows of heaven would be opened to such an extent that we could hardly receive the blessings (see Mal. 3:8-10). Do we believe Almighty God? Do we really accept Jesus as the Christ? He said, 'If ye love me, keep my commandments.... He that hath my commandments and keepth them, he it is that loveth me' (John 14:15, 21).
"I pray earnestly that we will love him and serve him and honor him by our righteous lives."
- Mark E. Petersen, "The Covenant People of God," BYU Fireside, September 28, 1980
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I was a student at BYU when Elder Petersen gave this address. I remember the first part of the talk, when he described the meetings and setting for the weekly gatherings of the Quorum of Twelve in the Salt Lake Temple. That was impressive to me. But I had forgotten these later words, where he offers great counsel about how we should live the gospel in our lives.

The concept of living the gospel with enthusiasm underscores both the joy that we should feel in the process, and the deep commitment we should have to be obedient and to serve others. As we make wise choices in our beliefs and actions, we will feel this spirit:

Elder Petersen asks if we have enough courage and faith "to be Latter-day Saints first, last, and always." There should be no other priority that eclipses this one, in any setting or situation of our lives!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the joy of the path of discipleship

Elder 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 served as second counselor in the First Presidency from 2008 to 2018.
"May I suggest that discipleship begins with three simple words:
"Believe, love, and do.
"Believing God leads to faith in Him and developing trust in His word. Faith causes our hearts to grow in our love for God and others. As that love grows, we are inspired to emulate the Savior as we continue our own great journey on the path of discipleship.
"'But,' you say, 'that seems a bit simplistic. Life’s problems, certainly my problems, are far too complex for such a simple prescription. You can’t cure Weltschmerz with three simple words: Believe, love, do.'
"It is not the aphorism that cures. It is the love of God that rescues, restores, and revives.
"God knows you. You are His child. He loves you.
"Even when you think that you are not lovable, He reaches out to you.
"This very day—every day—He reaches out to you, desiring to heal you, to lift you up, and to replace the emptiness in your heart with an abiding joy. He desires to sweep away any darkness that clouds your life and fill it with the sacred and brilliant light of His unending glory.
"I have experienced this for myself.
"And it is my witness as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ that all who come unto God—all who truly believe, love, and do—can experience the same."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Believe, Love, Do," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was the central theme of Elder Uchtdorf's message in the most recent General Conference. His three steps summarize the process of becoming disciples of Jesus Christ, as we first believe in His message, then develop the love that He feels for His children, and finally do the things He would do.

The second half of the excerpt above is equally timely, describing what can happen as we embark on that path of discipleship. In the midst of our challenges and discouragements, we sometimes forget the crucial, eternal truth that God loves us, and continues always to reach out to us with the desire to heal and strengthen. Through Him, the dark clouds of life can be swept away and our lives filled "with the sacred and brilliant light of His unending glory." What a marvelous promise that is!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Elder Richard G. Scott on seeking personal revelation

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.
"Humility is a fertile soil where spirituality grows and produces the fruit of inspiration to know what to do. It gives access to divine power to accomplish what must be done. An individual motivated by a desire for praise or recognition will not qualify to be taught by the Spirit. An individual who is arrogant or who lets his or her emotions influence decisions will not be powerfully led by the Spirit.
"When we are acting as instruments in behalf of others, we are more easily inspired than when we think only of ourselves. In the process of helping others, the Lord can piggyback directions for our own benefit.
"Our Heavenly Father did not put us on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously. It may seem paradoxical, but that is why recognizing answers to prayer can sometimes be very difficult. Sometimes we unwisely try to face life by depending on our own experience and capacity. It is much wiser for us to seek through prayer and divine inspiration to know what to do. Our obedience assures that when required, we can qualify for divine power to accomplish an inspired objective."
- Richard G. Scott, "How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration for Your Personal Life," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Every sincere disciple of Christ desires and seeks inspiration from God for his or her personal life. We want to be led and guided in the right paths, to know we are doing His will. Elder Scott spoke beautifully about the process of receiving personal revelation to guide our life. One great key to that process is humility, which "gives access to divine power" and qualifies us to receive spiritual teaching. Nephi warned about those who "wear stiff necks and high heads" and live in "pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms" as contrasted with "the humble followers of Christ" (2 Ne 28:14).

Elder Scott teaches that we will often receive inspiration when we are focused on serving and blessing others; with the interesting concept that God will "piggyback directions for our own benefit" as He guides us in serving others.

The wise and humble follower of Christ, then, will turn to God in humble prayer for the guidance and help in life that will bless through choices and challenges. One of God's greatest desires is to help us "succeed gloriously" in this mortal experience.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

President Howard W. Hunter on the sacredness of the sacrament

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"To make a covenant with the Lord to always keep His commandments is a serious obligation, and to renew that covenant by partaking of the sacrament is equally serious. The solemn moments of thought while the sacrament is being served have great significance. They are moments of self-examination, introspection, self-discernment—a time to reflect and to resolve....
"What a wonderful thing it would be if all persons had an understanding of the purpose of baptism and the willingness to accept of it; the desire to keep the covenants made in that ordinance to serve the Lord and live His commandments; and, in addition, the desire to partake of the sacrament on the Sabbath day to renew those covenants to serve Him and be faithful to the end."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Thoughts on the Sacrament," General Conference April 1977
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is a beautiful, thoughtful talk by President Hunter. He reviews the personal experience of coming home from a Church assignment in time to participate in the sacrament service of his home ward, and shares the thoughts and reflections he had during that sacred time.

"Perhaps we don't think often enough about the serious and sacred nature of our covenants with God. President Hunter teaches about the nature of making and renewing our most sacred promises:

Those sacred minutes of quiet reflection during the administration of the sacrament are so important. They are "moments of self-examination, introspection, self-discernment—a time to reflect and to resolve." Most of us can try harder to stay focused and receive greater benefit from those times.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on understanding adversity in life

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.  This excerpt is from one of his most memorable talks.
"I know why there must be opposition in all things. Adversity, if handled correctly, can be a blessing in our lives. We can learn to love it.
"As we look for humor, seek for the eternal perspective, understand the principle of compensation, and draw near to our Heavenly Father, we can endure hardship and trial. We can say, as did my mother, 'Come what may, and love it.'"
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Come What May, and Love It," General Conference October 2008
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is a summary of Elder Wirthlin's classic talk, "Come What May, and Love It." I was touched by his faith and perspective; it takes a deep faith to believe that adversity "can be a blessing in our lives" as we respond to it properly. But we have to "learn to love it."

As he shared in his talk, Elder Wirthlin summarizes some of the keys to understanding the role of adversity in life:

  • find humor even in challenges
  • know that there is compensation for suffering
  • stay close to our Father in Heaven
With those attitudes, we will truly understand the role of adversity and be able to say with Elder Wirthlin, "Come what may, and love it."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Friday, November 2, 2018

President James E. Faust on enriching marriage

President James E. Faust (1920-2007) was called as a Seventy in 1976, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve in 1978. He served as a counselor to President Hinckley from 1995 until his death in 2007 at age 87.
"There is no great or majestic music which constantly produces the harmony of a great love. The most perfect music is a welding of two voices into one spiritual solo. Marriage is the way provided by God for the fulfillment of the greatest of human needs, based upon mutual respect, maturity, selflessness, decency, commitment, and honesty. Happiness in marriage and parenthood can exceed a thousand times any other happiness....
"Our homes should be among the most hallowed of all earthly sanctuaries.
"In the enriching of marriage the big things are the little things. It is a constant appreciation for each other and a thoughtful demonstration of gratitude. It is the encouraging and the helping of each other to grow. Marriage is a joint quest for the good, the beautiful, and the divine."
- James E. Faust, "The Enriching of Marriage," General Conference October 1977
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

No external music or other influence can produce "the harmony of a great love." That comes when two souls are joined through marriage into, not a duet, but a "spiritual solo." Through the commitment and sacrifices of a loyal marriage, profound happiness can be found—enough to "exceed a thousand times any other happiness." What a marvelous promise!

Close relationships are built on sacrifice and commitment. But it is little things that enrich a relationship: expressions and demonstrations of gratitude, encouragement in opportunities to grow, seeking the beautiful and the divine.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Thursday, November 1, 2018

President John Taylor on God's help as we endure in faithfulness

President John Taylor (1808–1887) was born in England and immigrated to Canada where he and his wife were converted after hearing Parley P. Pratt preach.  He was ordained an apostle in 1838, and became the third president of the Church in 1880, serving until his death in 1887 at age 78.
"In all these events which are now taking place we recognize and acknowledge the hand of God. There is a wise purpose in it all, which He will yet more fully make plain to us. One thing is clear, the Saints are being tried in a manner never before known among us. The faithful rejoice and are steadfast; the unfaithful fear and tremble. Those who have oil in their lamps and have kept them trimmed and burning now have a light for their feet and they do not stumble or fall; those who have neither light nor oil are in perplexity and doubt; they know not what to do. Is not this the fulfillment of the word of God and the teachings of His servants? Have not the Latter-day Saints been taught all the day long that, if they would remain faithful and endure to the end, they must live their religion by keeping every commandment of God? Have they not been continually warned of the fate which awaited them if they committed sin? Can adulterers, fornicators, liars, thieves, drunkards, Sabbath breakers, blasphemers, or sinners of any kind endure the trials, which Saints must pass through and expect to stand? ...
"If all who call themselves Latter-day Saints were true and faithful to their God, to His holy covenants and laws, and were living as Saints should, persecution would roll off from us without disturbing us in the least. But it is painful to know that this is not their condition.... The Lord has commanded that the inhabitants of Zion must purge themselves from iniquity, folly, covetousness, and vanity, and listen to and obey His laws, or they cannot have His protection. He has also said that if His people will obey His laws and keep His commandments, to do them, not in name only, but in reality, He will be their shield and protector and strong tower, and no man will be able to hurt them, for He will be their defense.
"These trials of our faith and constancy which we are now passing through will be overruled for our good and future prosperity. In days to come we shall be able to look back and perceive with clearness how visibly God’s providence is in all that we now witness. Let us do all in our power to so live before the Lord that if we are persecuted, it shall not be for wrong-doing, but for righteousness."
- John Taylor, from "An Epistle to the Church," October 6, 1885; see Clark, Messages of the First Presidency 3:36–37

Many of the leaders of the Church were in hiding in 1885 because of persecution related to the practice of polygamy. As they were not able to safely attend General Conference in October, President Taylor and his counselor George Q. Cannon wrote an extensive letter to the Church containing much interesting instruction.

In this excerpt, President Taylor addresses the persecution the Church had been experiencing, as well as the general principles of faith and trust in God in the midst of trials. A great summary lies in the statement, "The faithful rejoice and are steadfast; the unfaithful fear and tremble."

Trials and challenges will come in life. But faithful saints, who strive to keep God's commandments, remaining faithful and enduring patiently, can move forward with confidence in God's protection and blessings; God "will be their shield and protector and strong tower." That's a beautiful promise.

President Taylor also urged the patience that will eventually lead to understanding and perspective: "In days to come we shall be able to look back and perceive with clearness how visibly God’s providence is in all that we now witness."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

President Spencer W. Kimball on serving one another

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom. The people of the Church need each other’s strength, support, and leadership in a community of believers as an enclave of disciples. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read about how important it is to '… succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees' (D&C 81:5). So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or of giving mundane help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow from mundane acts and from small but deliberate deeds!
"As the contrasts between the ways of the world and the ways of God become sharpened by circumstance, the faith of the members of the Church will be tried even more severely. One of the most vital things we can do is to express our testimonies through service, which will, in turn, produce spiritual growth, greater commitment, and a greater capacity to keep the commandments."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Small Acts of Service," Ensign, December 1974
Click here to read the full message

This is a classic quote from President Kimball's writings. It has been frequently quoted by other leaders. It's helpful to ponder the quote both as a receiver and a giver. There are times when we are all in need of help, and we may pray to God for divine intervention; but so often, God's help comes in the form of one of His children who is sensitive to spiritual promptings and will come to our aid. We need to be willing to receive that assistance, knowing that it represents God's watching over us in a very real way.

And as individuals who have the capacity to give and help, we should always be open to those opportunities to provide the help that others are seeking; we then become instruments in God's hands in doing good, even in answering prayers.

I also loved the reminder that most of our acts of service are not grand and glorious sacrifices or complicated extended efforts, but "consist of simple encouragement or of giving mundane help with mundane tasks." Sometimes those small, simple things can make a remarkable difference in the life of another!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on the blessings of temple service and worship

President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) 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 and then became Church president in 2008. He led the Church for almost a decade until his passing in January 2018.
President Thomas S. Monson on the blessings of temples
"Now, my young friends who are in your teenage years, always have the temple in your sights. Do nothing which will keep you from entering its doors and partaking of the sacred and eternal blessings there. I commend those of you who already go to the temple regularly to perform baptisms for the dead, arising in the very early hours of the morning so you can participate in such baptisms before school begins. I can think of no better way to start a day.
"To you parents of young children, may I share with you some sage advice from President Spencer W. Kimball. Said he: 'It would be a fine thing if … parents would have in every bedroom in their house a picture of the temple so [their children] from the time [they are] infant[s] could look at the picture every day [until] it becomes a part of [their lives]. When [they reach] the age that [they need] to make [the] very important decision [concerning going to the temple], it will have already been made.' (TSWK 301)
"Our children sing in Primary:
I love to see the temple.
I’ll go inside someday.
I’ll cov’nant with my Father;
I’ll promise to obey.
(Children’s Songbook, 95.)
"I plead with you to teach your children of the temple’s importance.
"The world can be a challenging and difficult place in which to live. We are often surrounded by that which would drag us down. As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace; we will be renewed and fortified."
- Thomas S. Monson, "The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World," General Conference April 2011
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Children and youth can begin to appreciate temple blessings as they anticipate, and then participate in, their own temple service and worship. President Monson commends good efforts that have been made and encourages us to continue to share that blessing with the rising generation. And then he offers this counsel to adults:

Temple attendance truly can bless our lives by helping us remember our covenants, giving perspective in dealing with challenges, and helping us become "renewed and fortified" with the peace that we find there. It's no surprise that all of our recent prophets have been encouraging more frequent temple attendance as we deal with the challenges of our modern world.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Monday, October 29, 2018

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on leadership and followership

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.
"But there are disadvantages to directive leadership: it can create very dependent followers who rely too much of the time for too many things in too many circumstances on the leader. No doubt Brigham Young spoke from this kind of concern when he lamented:
"'I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they will settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way.' (JD 9:150)
"President Young was striking at an essential principle of followership and leadership in this particular instance. It is not only important for the growth of the members involved to exercise their own claims on God for assurance about the direction of the kingdom, but it is also important for followers to prepare themselves to follow in such a way that their influence could be much more helpful to the leaders in reaching shared goals. Not only do followers who proceed, as Brigham Young said, 'with a reckless confidence' fail to develop themselves in their own power and resources, but also they deprive the leaders of the kind of support they deserve and need at times from followers who are themselves developing the skills required. The 58th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants indicates that the Lord expects members of the Church to accomplish much on their own without incessant institutional insistence or prodding. It is neither realistic nor wise to expect leaders to provide all of the answers all of the time, to provide solutions to all of the problems that will arise. This would require leaders to be omniscient; further, it would require of them the kind of sustained energy and time which is simply not humanly possible to give over protracted periods of time.
"The counsel by Brigham Young is just as appropriate for today as it was when he gave it. It is particularly needed in a Church that is growing in its size, scope, and strategic situation in the world today."
- Neal A. Maxwell, A More Excellent Way [Deseret 1967], pp. 20-21

This excerpt comes from a collection of Elder Maxwell's essays, published when he was serving as a Regional Representative, before his call as a general authority. He wrote an insightful chapter on leadership in the Church that includes these comments about the relationship between leaders and followers. There is a great danger when leadership is too "directive" that we can become "very dependent followers who rely too much of the time for too many things in too many circumstances on the leader." Elder Maxwell argues for a more involved, active role that followers should take, based on this wonderful quote from Brigham Young:

It's not wise to blindly trust every aspect of leadership; that only weakens the whole organization. Instead, we should always seek to know, through personal revelation, that revelations are from God and that we are being "led in the right way." Elder Maxwell argues that when we become that kind of careful follower, we are more developing "influence could be much more helpful to the leaders in reaching shared goals." We become more useful to God because we are developing skills that will enhance and bless His work. The Lord clearly wants us to "accomplish much on their own without incessant institutional insistence or prodding."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on taking the Savior's name upon us

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.
"As I have pondered the covenant words and corresponding blessings promised, I have wondered what it means to be willing to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ....
"The statement that we are 'willing to take upon [us]' His name tells us that while we first took the Savior’s name when we were baptized, taking His name is not finished at baptism. We must work continually to take His name throughout our lives, including when we renew covenants at the sacrament table and make covenants in the Lord’s holy temples.
"So two crucial questions for each of us become 'What must I be doing to take His name upon me?' and 'How will I know when I am making progress?'
"The statement of President Nelson suggests one helpful answer. He said that we could take the name of the Savior upon us and that we could speak for Him. When we speak for Him, we serve Him. 'For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?' (Mosiah 5:13.)
"Speaking for Him requires a prayer of faith. It takes a fervent prayer to Heavenly Father to learn what words we could speak to help the Savior in His work. We must qualify for the promise: 'Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.' (D&C 1:38)
"Yet it takes more than speaking for Him to take His name upon us. There are feelings in our hearts we must have to qualify as His servants.
"The prophet Mormon described the feelings that qualify us and enable us to take His name upon us. These feelings include faith, hope, and charity, which is the pure love of Christ. (Moroni 7:39-44, 47-48) ...
"My testimony is that the Savior is putting His name in your hearts. For many of you, your faith in Him is increasing. You are feeling more hope and optimism. And you are feeling the pure love of Christ for others and for yourself."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Try, Try, Try," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

One of the greatest invitations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to take the Savior's name upon ourselves, individually, one by one. And it is our willingness to do that, that is so crucial in our covenants and in our daily efforts. One who has a willing heart will be continually striving to do better, to understand the process, and to more faithfully comply with the guidelines that will lead to that blessing. President Eyring teaches that the sacrament and the temple are crucial parts of our efforts:

As we strive to live up to those covenants, we will strive to serve as He served, to live the kind of unselfish and giving life that He lived. Our hearts, and our lives, will be filled with charity, and our actions will demonstrate that.

I loved President Eyring's testimony that "the Savior is putting His name in your hearts." The Savior does all that He can to bless us, as we are willing to allow Him to and as we whole-heartedly participate in the process.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)
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