Sunday, January 21, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on developing Christlike attributes

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 January 2018.
"Recall with me how Jesus Christ instructed His Apostles, clearly and directly, at the beginning of His mortal ministry, '[Come,] follow me, and I will make you fishers of men' (Matt. 4:19).... May I suggest that the Savior Himself teaches us here a lesson about core doctrine and priorities in life. Individually, we need to first 'follow Him,' and as we do this, the Savior will bless us beyond our own capacity to become what He wants us to be.
"To follow Christ is to become more like Him. It is to learn from His character. As spirit children of our Heavenly Father, we do have the potential to incorporate Christlike attributes into our life and character. The Savior invites us to learn His gospel by living His teachings. To follow Him is to apply correct principles and then witness for ourselves the blessings that follow. This process is very complex and very simple at the same time. Ancient and modern prophets described it with three words: 'Keep the commandments'—nothing more, nothing less.
"Developing Christlike attributes in our lives is not an easy task, especially when we move away from generalities and abstractions and begin to deal with real life. The test comes in practicing what we proclaim. The reality check comes when Christlike attributes need to become visible in our lives—as husband or wife, as father or mother, as son or daughter, in our friendships, in our employment, in our business, and in our recreation. We can recognize our growth, as can those around us, as we gradually increase our capacity to 'act in all holiness before [Him]' (D&C 43:9)."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Christlike Attributes—the Wind beneath Our Wings," General Conference, October 2005
Click here to read or listen to the full article

What does it mean to follow the Savior? The initial call to His disciples to follow, as recorded in the New Testament, invited them to leave behind their ways of life and join him in His ministry. Today, we don't literally, physically walk where He walked or walks; but we can follow in a more symbolic or representative way aw we follow His examples or teachings, and strive to emulate His character. And then the promise that Elder Uchtdorf emphasis is that we will be blessed beyond our own ability "to become what He wants us to be."

So the great invitation is "to incorporate Christlike attributes into our life and character." As we study His life and identify the qualities He expressed in daily interactions, we will discover those attributes and learn of the challenge and opportunity to become more like Him:


It's one thing to learn of those attributes, and quite another to put them into practice. This is what Elder Uchtdorf calls the "reality check" as we realize those "Christlike attributes need to become visible in our lives," in our interactions with those around us, especially those closest to us. But it's a process, a life's work to gradually become better disciples. The key is to make continual progress; to repent when we fall short; and to know that we truly are promised His help in the process.

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

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on living with kindness and gratitude instead of envy

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.
"Brothers and sisters, there are going to be times in our lives when someone else gets an unexpected blessing or receives some special recognition. May I plead with us not to be hurt—and certainly not to feel envious—when good fortune comes to another person? We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. We are not in a race against each other to see who is the wealthiest or the most talented or the most beautiful or even the most blessed. The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.
"Furthermore, envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment! To say nothing of the chagrin in the end, when we find that God really is both just and merciful, giving to all who stand with Him 'all that he hath' (Luke 12:44), as the scripture says. So lesson number one from the Lord’s vineyard: coveting, pouting, or tearing others down does not elevate your standing, nor does demeaning someone else improve your self-image. So be kind, and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Laborers in the Vineyard," General Conference, April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

How do we think about those around us? How to we treat them? How to we feel, deep inside, when others are successful or have an opportunity we wish to have? Those are challenging situations. Sometimes we feel unjustly treated, by man or by God; and we wonder why we are denied the blessings that seem to come to others.

Elder Holland warns us of the temptation towards envy; certainly it comes from the adversary. We can't do ourselves any good when we allow those emotions to control our thoughts and behavior.


Learning to truly feel joy when others are blessed or successful is a great key to happiness. And the ultimate truth Elder Holland reminds us of is that ultimately, we will realize that "God really is both just and merciful, giving to all who stand with Him 'all that he hath.'" Having that faith and that hope makes all the difference as we struggle through this life.

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

Friday, January 19, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on the spiritual divide growing in the world

President 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. He became acting president of the Twelve in January 2018.
"The spiritual divide gets even wider as evil becomes ever more deceptive and subtle and pulls people toward it like a dark magnet—even as the gospel of truth and light attracts the honest in heart and the honorable of the earth, who seek what is moral and good.
"We may be relatively small in number, but as members of this Church we can reach across these widening gaps. We know the power of Christ-centered service that brings together God’s children regardless of their spiritual or their economic status....
"The Church is a mooring in this tempestuous sea, an anchor in the churning waters of change and division, and a beacon to those who value and seek righteousness. The Lord uses this Church as a tool in pulling His children throughout the world toward the protection of His gospel."
- M. Russell Ballard, "That the Lost May Be Found," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

There is a great "spiritual divide" in the world, and President Ballard discusses aspects of that separation in his talk. Evil grows stronger in our time, but so does righteousness. I thought the description of evil as a "dark magnet" was appropriate; it can pull men and women towards the darkness especially as it becomes "more deceptive and subtle." But that is not the only force that pulls at our hearts; those who are honest and seeking will feel the pull of "the gospel of truth and light." Our calling and opportunity is to help spread the light and draw people towards that which is good.


In the midst of the storms of our time, we can always be grateful for the anchor and the beacon provided for us by the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is protection and safety in the Lord's way!

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on staying close to God

President Henry B. Eyring (born May 31, 1933) served in the Presiding Bishopric from 1985-1992, as a Seventy from 1992-1995, then was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. He has served in the First Presidency since 2007.
"We need to feel now that God knows us and loves us as individuals. There are times you have felt the closeness of God, your Father, and that you are his child. Those times can come more often. There is a simple way to think about it.
"If you want to stay close to someone who has been dear to you, but from whom you are separated, you know how to do it. You would find a way to speak to them, you would listen to them, and you would discover ways to do things for each other. The more often that happened, the longer it went on, the deeper would be the bond of affection. If much time passed without the speaking, the listening, and the doing, the bond would weaken.
"God is perfect and omnipotent, and you and I are mortal. But he is our Father, he loves us, and he offers the same opportunity to draw closer to him as would a loving friend. And you will do it in much the same way: speaking, listening, and doing."
- Henry B. Eyring, "To Draw Closer to God," General Conference April 1991
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The opening statement of this excerpt is important: we must know of God's love for us and feel its influence. And the way to feel that more strongly and more frequently is clear. President Eyring shares an analogy that is profound, but simple and obvious: just as we must follow steps to stay close to those we love in this life, we must follow similar steps to create and retain a nurturing relationship with our Heavenly Father.


So we must learn to speak, to listen, and to do as we nurture our relationship with God. President Eyring describes aspects of those activities in the article, and it's a worthwhile review of fundamental counsel. It's always impressive how great the promises and the blessings are when we perform the basic actions of a disciple!

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on sustaining leaders and dealing with differences

President Dallin H. Oaks (born 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. He became President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and also 1st Counselor in the First Presidency in January 2018.
"Our Father in Heaven has not compelled us to think the same way on every subject or procedure. As we seek to accomplish our life’s purposes, we will inevitably have differences with those around us—including some of those we sustain as our leaders. The question is not whether we have such differences, but how we manage them. What the Lord has said on another subject is also true of the management of differences with his leaders: 'It must needs be done in mine own way.' (D&C 104:16.) We should conduct ourselves in such a way that our thoughts and actions do not cause us to lose the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord.
"The first principle in the gospel procedure for managing differences is to keep our personal differences private....
"Why aren’t these differences discussed in public? Public debate—the means of resolving differences in a democratic government—is not appropriate in our Church government. We are all subject to the authority of the called and sustained servants of the Lord. They and we are all governed by the direction of the Spirit of the Lord, and that Spirit only functions in an atmosphere of unity. That is why personal differences about Church doctrine or procedure need to be worked out privately. There is nothing inappropriate about private communications concerning such differences, provided they are carried on in a spirit of love."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Criticism," talk to an LDSSA fireside on 4 May 1986; see Ensign, February 1987, p. 68-70
Click here to read the full talk

This interesting talk was shared with a group of youth early in President Oaks' service as an apostle. In his various assignments over the years, he had likely been exposed to his fair share of criticism and disagreement, and the advice he offers is very valuable. He provides a very thorough analysis of situations when we might disagree with another, either a peer or a leader, and describes the inappropriate and appropriate ways to do that. He describes principles that apply not just to our response to Church leaders, but also to public figures and government leaders as well.

This acknowledgement of differences that will occur, as natural and expected events in life, is a good foundation:


Our modern tools of communication make it possible at times to be very public in our criticisms. But Preisdent Oaks suggests how inappropriate that is, and the kind of damage it can do. Instead, he gives five suggestions in his article about the ways we might react when we disagree with a leader or a Church position:

  • Overlook the difference, recognizing that God is in charge and men are not always perfect
  • Delay acting, reserving our judgement, since we may not have all the facts or the individual may be able to clarify or correct
  • Confront the difference privately and directly with the individual
  • Communicate with the individual's presiding authority to discuss the situation
  • Pray for resolution, leaving things in God's hands
President Oaks discusses these points in detail, along with other important aspects of the topic. I think it's a wonderful and valuable talk to review and learn from as we strive to support and sustain one another in our various roles, both in the Church and in society.


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

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on divine calls and apostolic doctrine

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 have implicit faith in the Lord and in His prophets. I have learned not to put question marks but to use exclamation points when calls are issued through inspired channels of priesthood government....
"While nominally I come to you from the science of surgery and its mother of medicine, in a truer sense, I have been forged from the stern discipline of law—not the laws of men, as mastered by our brethren of the legal profession, but the eternal and unchanging laws of our Divine Creator. The surgeon soon learns the incontrovertibility of divine law. He knows that hopes and wishes are sometimes simply powerless sham. Desired blessings come only by obedience to divine law, and in no other way. My lifetime thus far has been focused on learning those laws. Only as the laws are known, and then obeyed, can the blessings we desire be earned. To this extent, there will be little difference for me in the activities of the past and those of the future. The endless laws of the Lord are the doctrines taught by His Apostles."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Call to the Holy Apostleship," General Conference, April 1984
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It seems appropriate today to review the first remarks offered by a then 59-year-old Elder Russell M. Nelson as he was sustained by the Church to the office of the apostleship. He expressed natural feelings of inadequacy, but shared this remarkable statement of his faith in prophetic leadership and calls that come through Priesthood channels:


Throughout his life, President Nelson has expressed this same faith and confidence not just in callings but in any teaching or instruction from inspired channels: he has responded with exclamation points!

The second paragraph of the excerpt quoted above demonstrates the solid foundation on which President Nelson built his life and service, and his confidence in "the eternal and unchanging laws of our Divine Creator." He sees eternal law and truth expressed in all kinds of settings, and knew innately that "Only as the laws are known, and then obeyed, can the blessings we desire be earned." His life has been dedicated to learning, and to obeying. What a marvelous example!

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

Monday, January 15, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on finding joy in life

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.
"I experienced the joy of coming closer to the Savior and of His coming closer to me most often through simple acts of obedience to the commandments....
"We are under covenant both to lift up those in need and to be witnesses of the Savior as long as we live.
"We will be able to do it without fail only as we feel love for the Savior and His love for us. As we are faithful to the promises we have made, we will feel our love for Him. It will increase because we will feel His power and His drawing near to us in His service....
"By His words and His example, Christ has shown us how to draw closer to Him. Every child of Heavenly Father who has chosen to enter through the gate of baptism into His Church will have the opportunity in this life to be taught His gospel and to hear from His called servants His invitation, 'Come unto me' (Matthew 11:28).
"Every covenant servant of His within His kingdom on earth and in the spirit world will receive His guidance by the Spirit as they bless and serve others for Him. And they will feel His love and find joy in being drawn closer to Him."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Come unto Me," General Conference, April 2013
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

There are lots of paths in life that we might choose in pursuit of joy; most of them may find temporary happiness but not the pure, lasting joy that truly matters. President Eyring points out the "secret" to establishing a closeness with the Savior, through "simple acts of obedience to the commandments":


The Savior's invitation "Come unto me" still provides the greatest source of peace and joy available to us. President Eyring testifies of this truth through his own experiences; and he challenges us to have the same opportunities to learn for ourselves.

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

Sunday, January 14, 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 was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015. With the death of President Monson, at age 93 he currently presides over the Church as senior apostle.
"When Isaiah described the Sabbath as 'a delight,' he also taught us how to make it delightful. He said:
"'If thou turn away... from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, ... and shalt honour [the Lord], not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
"'Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.' (Isaiah 58:13–14; emphasis added.)
"Not pursuing your 'own pleasure' on the Sabbath requires self-discipline. You may have to deny yourself of something you might like. If you choose to delight yourself in the Lord, you will not permit yourself to treat it as any other day. Routine and recreational activities can be done some other time.
"Think of this: In paying tithing, we return one-tenth of our increase to the Lord. In keeping the Sabbath holy, we reserve one day in seven as His. So it is our privilege to consecrate both money and time to Him who lends us life each day. (See Mosiah 2:21.)
"Faith in God engenders a love for the Sabbath; faith in the Sabbath engenders a love for God. A sacred Sabbath truly is a delight.
"Now, as this conference comes to a close, we know that wherever we live we are to be examples of the believers among our families, neighbors, and friends. (See 1 Timothy 4:12.) True believers keep the Sabbath day holy."
- Russell M. Nelson, "The Sabbath Is a Delight," General Conference April 2015
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

As we strive to "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Genesis 20:8) President Nelson's counsel from this wonderful address is helpful. Not only can we remember it, but we can make it "a delight" as we follow the counsel to focus on the things of the Lord. It's one of the small things we can do to express our gratitude to God for the many blessings we receive from Him:


I like the association President Nelson makes between love for God and for the Sabbath. They build and reinforce each other. As "true believers" in Him, we should desire to continue to grow in that association and in those blessings.

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

Saturday, January 13, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on what it means to be a saint

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 was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015. With the death of President Monson, at age 93 he currently presides over the Church as senior apostle.
"Despite its use in ninety-eight verses of the Bible, the term saint is still not well understood. Some mistakenly think that it implies beatification or perfection. Not so! A saint is a believer in Christ and knows of His perfect love. The giving saint shares in a true spirit of that love, and the receiving saint accepts in a true spirit of gratitude. A saint serves others, knowing that the more one serves, the greater the opportunity for the Spirit to sanctify and purify.
"A saint is tolerant, and is attentive to the pleadings of other human beings, not only to spoken messages but to unspoken messages as well. A saint is different from an individual whose response to a concern might be a selfish 'What do I care' attitude. A real saint responds, 'What? I do care!' Do is an action verb, and it becomes the driving force in the reply of one who will care for another in need. (See 1 Cor. 12:25-27; 2 Cor. 7:12.)
"A saint 'refrain[s] from idleness' (Alma 38:12) and seeks learning by study, and also by faith....
"A saint resolves any differences with others honorably and peacefully and is constant in courtesy—even in traffic at the rush hour.
"A saint shuns that which is unclean or degrading and avoids excess even of that which is good.
"Perhaps above all, a saint is reverent. Reverence for the Lord, for the earth He created, for leaders, for the dignity of others, for the law, for the sanctity of life, for chapels and other buildings, are all evidences of saintly attitudes. (See Lev. 19:30; Alma 47:22; D&C 107:4; D&C 134:7.)
"A reverent saint loves the Lord and gives highest priority to keeping His commandments. Daily prayer, periodic fasting, payment of tithes and offerings are privileges important to a faithful saint.
"Finally, a saint is one who receives the gifts of the Spirit that God has promised to all His faithful sons and daughters. (See Joel 2:28–29; Acts 2:17–18.)"
- Russell M. Nelson, "Thus Shall my Church be Called," General Conference April 1990
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The use of the term "saint" among Latter-day Saints is somewhat different from most of the rest of the world, as President Nelson points out. He begins his overview of the characteristics of saints with this summary:


So a saint not only believes in Christ, but knows of Christ's love for him. That implies a level of relationship beyond the casual, one that requires an intellectual understanding as well as spiritual experience. A saint can thus express love and feel gratitude.

But then those feelings and understandings are translated into action in the life of a true saint: service, tolerance, unselfishness; being active, peaceful, pure, reverent, and obedient. For those who profess to be latter-day saints, it's good to consider President Nelson's analysis and see how well it describes us, or perhaps to identify areas where improvement is needed!

Finally, this is a wonderful summary: "A saint is one who receives the gifts of the Spirit that God has promised to all His faithful sons and daughters." We should be feeling and experiencing those gifts in our lives!

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

Friday, January 12, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on serving others

President Thomas S. Monson (August 21, 1927–January 2, 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 until becoming Church president in 2008. He led the Church for almost a decade.
"Many years ago I heard a poem which has stayed with me, by which I have tried to guide my life. It's one of my favorites:
"I have wept in the night
For the shortness of sight
That to somebody's need made me blind;
But I never have yet
Felt a tinge of regret
For being a little too kind.
(Anonymous)
"My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord's hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us....
"Just over a year ago, I was interviewed by the Church News prior to my birthday. At the conclusion of the interview, the reporter asked what I would consider the ideal gift that members worldwide could give to me. I replied, 'Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely, and do something for him or her.'"
- Thomas S. Monson, "What Have I Done for Someone Today?", General Conference October 2009
Click here to read and listen to the full talk

Today (January 12, 2018) is the day President Monson's mortal remains will be laid to rest. It seems appropriate that we remember what was probably the primary theme of not just his ministry, but his entire life.

In this excerpt, he shares the poem that included one of the guiding philosophies of his life: noticing the needs of those around him and acting on them with kindness. He reminds us that we are surrounded by family and friends who need attention, encouragement, support, comfort, and kindness.


As we remember President Monson, today when he is buried and in the days and years to come, perhaps we could remember this invitation and challenge. "Find someone who is having a hard time or is ill or lonely, and do something for him or her." I am certain President Monson would appreciate that not only as a birthday gift, but as an ongoing legacy.

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

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on understanding prayer and revelation

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (born 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.
"What about those times when we seek revelation and do not receive it? We do not always receive inspiration or revelation when we request it. Sometimes we are delayed in the receipt of revelation, and sometimes we are left to our own judgment. We cannot force spiritual things. It must be so. Our life’s purpose to obtain experience and to develop faith would be frustrated if our Heavenly Father directed us in every act, even in every important act. We must make decisions and experience the consequences in order to develop self-reliance and faith.
"Even in decisions we think very important, we sometimes receive no answers to our prayers. This does not mean that our prayers have not been heard. It only means that we have prayed about a decision which, for one reason or another, we should make without guidance by revelation. Perhaps we have asked for guidance in choosing between alternatives that are equally acceptable or equally unacceptable. I suggest that there is not a right and wrong to every question....
"Similarly, the Spirit of the Lord is not likely to give us revelations on matters that are trivial. I once heard a young woman in testimony meeting praise the spirituality of her husband, indicating that he submitted every question to the Lord. She told how he accompanied her shopping and would not even choose between different brands of canned vegetables without making his selection a matter of prayer. That strikes me as improper. I believe the Lord expects us to use the intelligence and experience he has given us to make these kinds of choices. When a member asked the Prophet Joseph Smith for advice on a particular matter, the Prophet stated:
"'It is a great thing to inquire at the hands of God, or to come into His presence: and we feel fearful to approach Him on subjects that are of little or no consequence.' [Teachings, p. 22]
"Of course we are not always able to judge what is trivial. If a matter appears of little or no consequence, we can proceed on the basis of our own judgment. If the choice is important for reasons unknown to us, such as the speaking invitation I mentioned earlier or even a choice between two cans of vegetables when one contains a hidden poison, the Lord will intervene and give us guidance. When a choice will make a real difference in our lives—obvious or not—and when we are living in tune with the Spirit and seeking his guidance, we can be sure we will receive the guidance we need to attain our goal. The Lord will not leave us unassisted when a choice is important to our eternal welfare."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Revelation," BYU Devotional, September 29, 1981
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was an important and insightful talk by Elder Oaks. The first part of the message included descriptions of eight different ways in which revelation comes from God to us; he did this "to persuade each of you to search your own experience and to conclude that you have already received revelations and that you can receive more revelations because communication from God to men and women is a reality."

But the concluding section of the talk, excerpted here, is just as important: what about when revelation doesn't come, and it seems our prayers go unanswered? What are we to learn or conclude from this?


In other words, God will not show us everything we are to do in this life. Sometimes the timing of answers is not up to us; and sometimes He wants us to choose and learn on our own, without divine guidance. We learn valuable lessons from our choices, even the wrong ones; and the self-reliance that results is an important part of our mortal schooling.

Elder Oaks goes on to further explain that sometimes we pray about a decision where it really doesn't matter; either direction or decision could provide learning and lessons; We just need to choose and move ahead. Or sometimes, we pray about things that are trivial and relatively unimportant, and need to learn how to prioritize what we take to the Lord.

Regardless, we have this important conditional assurance: "When we are living in tune with the Spirit and seeking his guidance, we can be sure we will receive the guidance we need to attain our goal. The Lord will not leave us unassisted when a choice is important to our eternal welfare."

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on being an answer to prayers

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.
"In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance. Let us open our eyes and see the heavy hearts, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Happiness, Your Heritage," General Conference, October 2008
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is a beautiful thought from President Uchtdorf. It's critical for us to pray, and we are blessed as we do so; but often the greatest blessings will come to us as a result of reaching out to others and serving them in their times of need—in effect becoming the answer to their prayers:


President Uchtdorf suggests that we should strive to be more observant, watching for the needs around us that may include sadness, grief, and loneliness. Perhaps in addition to watching for those situations, we can actively seek inspiration from heaven for situations where our help might be such a blessing. Then we can be prepared to intercede as we are prompted.

I love this similar thought from President Spencer W. Kimball:
"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)."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Small Acts of Service," Ensign, December 1974
It's a beautiful, sacred invitation for each of us, to reach out in care and concern, fulfilling our covenants to "bear one another's burdens" and to "comfort those who stand in need of comfort."

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

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on the balance between learning and trusting in God

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 was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015. With the death of President Monson, at age 93 he currently presides over the Church as senior apostle.
"'Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding' (Proverbs 3:5). We experienced it firsthand. This doctrine, taught repeatedly in the scriptures (see, for example, Proverbs 11:28; Jeremiah 17:5; Romans 8:1; 2 Nephi 4:34-35; 2 Nephi 28:31; D&C 1:19-23), had now become our sure knowledge.
"Please do not misunderstand me, brothers and sisters. Of course we need to prepare for worthy work to do. Yes, we do need to do our work well, whatever we choose to do in life. We need to be able to render significant service. And before we can achieve that competence, we need an education. With us, education is a religious responsibility. The glory of God really is intelligence (see D&C 93:36).
"But the learning of man has its limitations. And sometimes... the combined learning of many experts cannot be applied when we need it most. We have to place our trust in the Lord....
"Those who cherish their faith in God—those who trust in Him—have been given this scriptural promise: 'Let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God.... These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever' (D&C 76:61-62). May that be the ultimate destiny for each of us."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Neither Trust in the Arm of Flesh," BYU commencement address, April 23, 2009; see also Ensign, March 2010, p. 24
Click here to read or listen to the full speech

Speaking to a graduating class at BYU, President Nelson discussed the interplay between our personal efforts at learning and education, and the dependence we have on Divine help. In essence, we need to do all in our power to prepare for life and "significant service" to our fellowmen. But even with all of the learning we are able to do, we must acknowledge that the very best efforts fall short:


By truly learning to trust in God in our lives, our best efforts can be supplemented and magnified in wonderful ways. And in the process, we can "glory in God" and receive the fullness of His blessings.

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

Monday, January 8, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on loving God and our fellowmen

President Thomas S. Monson (August 21, 1927–January 2, 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 until becoming Church president in 2008. He led the Church for almost a decade.
"We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot fully love our fellowmen if we do not love God, the Father of us all. The Apostle John tells us, 'This commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also' (1 John 4:21). We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters. As we keep this truth in mind, loving all of God's children will become easier.
"Actually, love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar. His life was a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved. At the end the angry mob took His life. And yet there rings from Golgotha's hill the words: 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34)—a crowning expression in mortality of compassion and love.
"There are many attributes which are manifestations of love, such as kindness, patience, selflessness, understanding, and forgiveness. In all our associations, these and other such attributes will help make evident the love in our hearts.
"Usually our love will be shown in our day-to-day interactions one with another. All important will be our ability to recognize someone's need and then to respond."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Love—the Essence of the Gospel," General Conference May 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Monson teaches a significant truth: love of God and love of fellowmen are inseparably linked. When our understanding is complete, you can't truly have one without the other; increasing either one adds to the strength of the other.


The life of the Savior provides a model for us; He demonstrated love by his constant commitment to others. President Monson teaches the great truth (that his own life so well exemplified): love is not just a theory or emotion, but is "shown in our day-to-day interactions one with another." Learning to observe the needs of those around us, often with inspired insight and prompting, and then to respond to them, is the great key.

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

Sunday, January 7, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on fasting and bearing testimony

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.
"In every ward and branch in the Church, once a month we hold a fast and testimony meeting. We fast for two meals. With the money saved, and adding more to it whenever we can, we pay a generous fast offering. The bishop and the branch president use those offerings, under inspiration, to care for the poor and the needy. Thus, by paying a fast offering we give comfort to those in need of comfort as we promised that we would.
"The fast also helps us to feel humble and meek so that the Holy Ghost may more easily be our companion. By our fast, we both keep our covenant to care for others and we prepare to keep our covenant to bear testimony.
"Those who have prepared carefully for the fast and testimony meeting won't need to be reminded how to bear testimony should they feel impressed to do it in the meeting. They won't give sermons or exhortations or travel reports or try to entertain as they bear witness. Because they will have already expressed appreciation to people privately, they will have less need to do it publicly. Neither will they feel a need to use eloquent language nor to go on at length.
"A testimony is a simple expression of what we feel. The member who has fasted both for the blessing of the poor and for the companionship of the Spirit will be feeling gratitude for the love of God and the certainty of eternal truth. Even a child can feel such things, which may be why sometimes the testimony of a child so moves us and why our preparation of fasting and prayer produces in us childlike feelings.
"That preparation for the fast and testimony meeting is a covenant obligation for members of the Church....
"The fruit of keeping covenants is the companionship of the Holy Ghost and an increase in the power to love. That happens because of the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change our very natures."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Witnesses for God," General Conference, October 1996
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

To "comfort those that stand in need of comfort" and to "bear one another's burdens" are part of the covenants we make at baptism (see Mosiah 18:8-10). President Eyring sees our fasting and fast offerings as responding to those promises.

But even more significant, I love the thought that we are better prepared to receive the Holy Ghost as a companion when we feel the humility and meekness that come from fasting; and that leads to a greater desire to share our testimony with others.


So President Eyring suggests that proper preparation naturally leads to proper testimony, as we are inspired to share our knowledge and understanding of eternal truth. And preparing in the right way is another of our "covenant obligations" as Church members. We are blessed as we ponder our covenants and strive more fully to fulfill them; covenant keeping opens the door for "the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to change our very natures" which then enables us to love more and feel more of the Holy Spirit's companionship. Those are glorious promises, and should increase our eagerness to fulfill the fundamental obligations of fasting, sharing, and testifying.

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

Saturday, January 6, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on being yoked to Christ in challenging times

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 was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015. With the death of President Monson, at age 93 he currently presides over the Church as senior apostle.
"Difficult days are ahead. Sin is on the increase. Paul foresaw that members of the Church would endure persecution (see 2 Timothy 3:1-13; D&C 112:24-26). Peter counseled, 'If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf' (1 Peter 4:16). As Jesus descended below all things in order to rise above all things, He expects us to follow His example. Yoked with Him, each of us can rise above all of our challenges, no matter how difficult they may be (see Matthew 11:29-30).
"Considering all that the Savior has done—and still does—for us, what can we do for Him? The greatest gift we could give to the Lord... is to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, worthy to attend His holy temple. And His gift to us will be the peace of knowing that we are prepared to meet Him, whenever that time comes."
- Russell M. Nelson, "The Peace and Joy of Knowing the Savior Lives," BYU devotional, Dec 10, 2002; see Ensign, Dec. 2011, p. 17
Click here to read the full article

We've heard the message for some time: "difficult days are ahead." In fact, President Nelson indicates that the message has been prominent since New Testament times. He points out to us how we can be able to confront the challenges: be "yoked" to the Savior, who has "descended below all things;" that may be the only thing that will enable us to "rise above all our challenges."


What an important message of appreciation! If we truly comprehend what the Savior has done for us, and continues to do for us, we will feel a debt of gratitude that we will long to repay. And the best way to pay that debt, according to President Nelson, is through our actions, our choices, our faith and obedience—staying "unspotted from the world" in order to be worthy of the holy temple and the other blessings that will come. And one of the greatest blessings will be the peace of anticipation, knowing that we are worthy to be in His presence when the day comes!

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

Friday, January 5, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on enduring life's challenges in faith

President Thomas S. Monson (August 21, 1927–January 2, 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 until becoming Church president in 2008. He led the Church for almost a decade.
"What does it mean to endure? I love this definition: to withstand with courage. Courage may be necessary for you to believe; it will at times be necessary as you obey. It will most certainly be required as you endure until that day when you will leave this mortal existence.
"I have spoken over the years with many individuals who have told me, 'I have so many problems, such real concerns. I'm overwhelmed with the challenges of life. What can I do?' I have offered to them, and I now offer to you, this specific suggestion: seek heavenly guidance one day at a time. Life by the yard is hard; by the inch it's a cinch. Each of us can be true for just one dayand then one more and then one more after thatuntil we've lived a lifetime guided by the Spirit, a lifetime close to the Lord, a lifetime of good deeds and righteousness. The Savior promised, 'Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life' (3 Nephi 15:9).
"For this purpose have you come into mortality, my young friends. There is nothing more important than the goal you strive to attain—even eternal life in the kingdom of your Father."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Believe, Obey, Endure," General Conference Young Women's Meeting, April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We all have to learn to "withstand with courage" the challenges of our life. Sometimes those challenges are against our beliefs, or our attempts to be obedient. And sometimes it's just "enduring to the end" that is our challenge.


Given our current perspective, with the passing this week of President Monson, these words take on a particular significance. It's clear to us that he exemplified the quality of enduring to the end, serving faithfully for such a long and devoted life.

But he also acknowledged in these remarks the overwhelming challenges that so many face; he knows that life is not easy. His suggestion on how to endure faithfully is to focus on immediate concerns, seeking always for divine assistance as we face our problems day by day.


Eternal life is the reward promised to those who learn to live each day with heaven's help, patiently persevering day by day and year by year as long as required.

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