Thursday, March 22, 2018

President Ezra Taft Benson on the power of the Book of Mormon

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1943, and served as the 13th President of the Church from 1985 until his death in 1994 at age 94.
"Is there not something deep in our hearts that longs to draw nearer to God, to be more like Him in our daily walk, to feel His presence with us constantly? If so, then the Book of Mormon will help us do so more than any other book.
"It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more.
"There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path.
"The scriptures are called 'the words of life' (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion," General Conference October 1986
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Benson had a deep love and appreciation for the Book of Mormon. This was one of the key sermons, early in his presidency, when he shared the challenge to the Church to take better advantage of the gift that book represents. His witness builds upon Joseph Smith's statement that "a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461). President Benson's testimony is that through the Book of Mormon, we can begin "to draw nearer to God, to be more like Him in our daily walk, to feel His presence with us constantly." What a blessing that is, and all we have to do is begin to "feast on the word"!

The act of "serious study" will bring such strength and power to us. It will result in finding "life in greater and greater abundance." Why would we not claim those blessings? It's been over 30 years since that invitation was given, and the truth of it still rings loudly. We have only to act in order to claim the reward.

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Elder L. Tom Perry on achieving our best through understanding our potential

Elder L. Tom Perry (1922-2015) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1972, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1974. At the time of his passing at age 92, he was the oldest living general authority and the third in seniority among the leading quorum.
"One of the greatest weaknesses in most of us is our lack of faith in ourselves. One of our common failings is to depreciate our tremendous worth.
"A firm I was associated with sometime ago embarked on a great executive development program at considerable expense to itself. The program was open to all who expressed an interest. All they had to do was sign up. The firm paid the costs and even allowed the employees one hour off from their normal daily work for classroom time—a free opportunity for an education in the art of management. During the two years the program was offered, only 3 percent of the employees signed for the course.
"I have observed another situation where this 3 percent statistic seems to be somewhat reliable as the number of the divine children of our Father in heaven who have enough faith in themselves to make the effort to do something important with their lives. Now, we are a special group assembled here because of the light and knowledge that have been given to us about our potential. Surely, we could never be numbered among the 97 percent who are not taking advantage of opportunities....
"President Romney has said: 'We mortals are in very deed the literal off-spring of God. If man understood, believed and accepted this truth and lived by it, our sick and dying society would be reformed and redeemed and men would have peace and eternal joy.' With this divine knowledge burning within our souls, surely much will be expected of us. As a child of God, be the best of whatever you are."
- L. Tom Perry, "Be the Best of Whatever You Are," BYU Devotional, March 12, 1974
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"Faith in ourselves"—do we understand and appreciate our true potential, and does it help drive our decisions and actions? Or do we fall into traps of self-doubt and questioning, the uncertainty that can paralyze and hold us back? Elder Perry suggests that "most of us" face this challenge and gives wise counsel:

In the passage Elder Perry quoted from President Marion G. Romney, we are again reminded of what our heritage is and how great is the potential we each possess; our "sick and dying society" would be transformed if we only came to fully accept the truth of our divine heritage! While society as a whole may never come to this realization, we can do so individually, and thus transform our personal worlds and those around us. The simple truth we teach our children to sing, "I am a child of God," is more powerful than we acknowledge.

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

President Boyd K. Packer on faith and personal revelation

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.
"The flow of revelation depends on your faith. You exercise faith by causing, or by making, your mind accept or believe as truth that which you cannot, by reason alone, prove for certainty. (See Alma 32:27–28, 38.)
"The first exercising of your faith should be your acceptance of Christ and His atonement.
"As you test gospel principles by believing without knowing, the Spirit will begin to teach you. Gradually your faith will be replaced with knowledge.
"You will be able to discern, or to see, with spiritual eyes.
"Be believing and your faith will be constantly replenished, your knowledge of the truth increased, and your testimony of the Redeemer, of the Resurrection, of the Restoration will be as 'a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.' (D&C 63:23; see also John 4:14; Jer. 2:13.) You may then receive guidance on practical decisions in everyday life."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise," General Conference, October 1994
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The concept of a "flow of revelation" is a fascinating one. Revelation can, and will, flow from God to man—when conditions permit it. And we control the conditions, based primarily on our faith, according to President Packer:

The exercise of faith begins as we consciously choose to "accept or believe as truth that which you cannot, by reason alone, prove for certainty." It requires that initial "leap" of belief and trust, focused on the atonement of Jesus Christ; we then are able to see the response to our actions and feel the Spirit confirming their truth. And in the life of the disciple, faith is then "constantly replenished" as the actions and blessings confirm each succeeding step. It's a wonderful life to live!

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

Monday, March 19, 2018

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on God's help in overcoming challenges

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.
"You are stronger than you think. Your Heavenly Father, the Lord and Master of the universe, is your Creator. When I think of it, it makes my heart leap for joy. Our spirits are eternal, and eternal spirits have immeasurable capacity!
"Our Father in Heaven does not wish us to cower. He does not want us to wallow in our misery. He expects us to square our shoulders, roll up our sleeves, and overcome our challenges.
"That kind of spirit—that blend of faith and hard work—is the spirit we should emulate as we seek to reach a safe harbor in our own lives."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Finding a Safe Harbor," General Conference April 2000
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Wirthlin's message is one of encouragement, reminding us that we have divine heritage and incredible potential—"immeasurable capacity."

Elder Wirthlin's address focused on the concept of a "safe harbor"—a place where a ship can find security and protection to weather the storms what will come and will go. We will have challenges in our lives, but he encourages us to do more than passively wait for them to pass, or worse, to "wallow in our misery." We should actively confront the challenges and work to learn from them as we overcome them!

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

Sunday, March 18, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on the blessings of inspired service

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.
"Brethren, it is in doing—not just dreaming—that lives are blessed, others are guided, and souls are saved. 'Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves,' added James. (James 1:22.)
"May all of us... make a renewed effort to qualify for the Lord’s guidance in our lives. There are many out there who plead and pray for help. There are those who are discouraged, those who are beset by poor health and challenges of life which leave them in despair.
"I’ve always believed in the truth of the words, 'God’s sweetest blessings always go by hands that serve him here below.'  (Whitney Montgomery, 'Revelation,' in Best-Loved Poems of the LDS People, 283.) Let us have ready hands, clean hands, and willing hands, that we may participate in providing what our Heavenly Father would have others receive from Him."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Priesthood Power," General Conference October 1999
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Ah, the curse of good intentions! President Monson urges us to make sure they turn into good actions, that we find the best ways to serve and bless those around us. President Monson repeated the first phrase of this quotation several times as he gave counsel over the years:

One of the keys to be better in doing, better in serving, is "to qualify for the Lord’s guidance in our lives." President Monson suggests that as we learn to listen to the promptings that will come to the worthy, we'll be in better position to recognize and bless those in need. So we must have "ready hands, clean hands, and willing hands." President Monson was a grand example of this principle in his own life of dedicated personal service.

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

Saturday, March 17, 2018

President James E. Faust on remembering the seeds of divinity within us

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.
"If we are constantly aware of the seeds of divinity in us, it will help us rise above earthly challenges and difficulties. Brigham Young said: 'When I look upon the faces of intelligent beings I look upon the image of the God I serve. There are none but what have a certain portion of divinity within them; and though we are clothed with bodies which are in the image of our God, yet this mortality shrinks before that portion of divinity which we inherit from our Father.' (Discourses of Brigham Young p. 168) Being aware of our divine heritage will help men [and women] young and old to grow and magnify the divinity which is within them and within all of us.
"All of us who wish to be honored by the Lord and receive of His goodness, mercy, and eternal blessings must, I repeat, be obedient to these four great principles.
"1. Have a reverence for Deity.
"2. Have respect for and honor family relationships.
"3. Have a profound reverence for and obedience to the ordinances and covenants of the holy priesthood.
"4. Have respect for yourself as a son [or daughter] of God."
- James E. Faust, "Them That Honour Me I Will Honour," General Conference, April 2001
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

These remarks by President Faust were shared with a Priesthood session of general conference, and he was especially encouraging young men to be aware of their divine potential and the goodness within them. But clearly the message applies to all. Being "constantly aware" is similar to the injunction to "always remember" the Savior and His gifts to us:

The main portion of Elder Faust's talk had been to elaborate on those four principles that will lead to divine understanding and increased influence in our lives. It was excellent counsel, worth reviewing. The title of the talk is taken from a passage in 1 Samuel 2:30,  “For them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” This caution was given because Eli the priest was not being faithful in his duties. Clearly the Lord invites us all to look to Him, to remember Him, to be obedient and to serve Him. And then His honor and blessings will be returned to us.

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

Friday, March 16, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on striving for excellence

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.
"There is a sign on the gate of this campus that reads: 'Enter to learn; go forth to serve.'
"I invite you, every one of you, to make that your motto. Mediocrity will never do. You are capable of something better. Give it your very best. You will never again have such an opportunity. Pray about it. Work at it. Make it happen. Drink in the great knowledge here to be obtained from this dedicated faculty. Qualify yourselves for the work of the world that lies ahead. It will largely compensate you in terms of what it thinks you are worth. Walk the high road of charity, respect, and love for others and particularly those who are less fortunate. Be happy. Look for the sunlight in life. Reach for the stars."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Remarks at the Inauguration of President Cecil O. Samuelson," BYU, Sep. 9, 2003
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

These remarks were addressed to a gathering of mostly students at BYU when Cecil O. Samuelson was inaugurated as the new BYU president in 2003. However, the principles apply broadly to all of us, young or old, formal student or informal learner. President Hinckley was always very optimistic, but also very inviting and challenging for all to do their very best, to try harder, to be more committed to the things they knew were true and right. He doesn't want mediocre efforts; he encouraged us to do our very best:

Success in learning, like success in most areas, doesn't come free. As President Hinckley notes, we must work hard, we must pray, and be very diligent to take advantages of the opportunities that are presented to us.

His final encouragement regarding our attitudes towards others is more general—to be kind and charitable to those around us. And then, never forget that optimistic outlook for which President Hinckley is well remembered: "Be happy. Look for the sunlight in life. Reach for the stars." Great counsel.

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on feasting upon the words of Christ

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.
"We need to feast upon the words of Christ in the scriptures and as these words come to us from living prophets. Just nibbling occasionally will not do. (See 2 Nephi 31:20 and 32:3.) Feasting means partaking with relish and delight and savoring—not gorging episodically in heedless hunger, but partaking gratefully, dining with delight, at a sumptuous spread carefully and lovingly prepared by prophet-chefs over the centuries. These words plus the gift of the Holy Ghost will tell us all things we should do. The scriptures, ancient and continuing, are the key of knowledge....
"Appreciation for and the acceptance of the scriptures and the words of the living prophets are much more important steps than many realize. The Lord has said, '...he that will not believe my words will not believe me—that I am.' (Ether 4:12.) To turn aside His teachings is to turn away from Him, and disdain for His doctrines is disdain for Him."
- Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward [1977], pp. 28-29

With his remarkable gift of expression, Elder Maxwell teaches us the power of feasting on the words of Christ, as opposed to nibbling occasionally. Considering the difference in those two types of consuming physical food gives good insight into the spiritual application employed in the scriptures:

The additional insight Elder Maxwell offers is that to some extent, the attention we give to the scriptures reflects how we really feel about our Father in Heaven and our Savior. Disregard for the word of God is a sign of disregard for God Himself. We should be very careful what our behavior demonstrates! Our efforts to feast—"with relish and delight and savoring"—will be rewarded more than we anticipate.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Elder Marvin J. Ashton on enduring challenges and disappointments

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915-1994) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1971 until his death in 1994 at age 78.
"Sometimes the most challenging form of endurance is found in trying to stay with our priorities, commitments, and assignments. How easy it is for some of us to lose our way when the unexpected, and seemingly undeserved, surface in our lives. Greatness is best measured by how well an individual responds to the happenings in life that appear to be totally unfair, unreasonable, and undeserved. Sometimes we are inclined to put up with a situation rather than endure. To endure is to bear up under, to stand firm against, to suffer without yielding, to continue to be, or to exhibit the state or power of lasting.
"Day by day we can make the effort to gain the power to last and to suffer without yielding. Inspiration and motivation are found in many places—from the cases I have cited and from many other examples to be seen on every hand. We can also receive strength from studying the scriptures and praying constantly.
"Friends and loved ones often offer strength and support when our own resolve is weak. In turn, our own strength and capacity will be doubled when we help others endure.
"I pray that God will help us to endure well, with purpose and power. When we so do, the meaningful declaration in 2 Tim. 4:7 will take on a new dimension:
"'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.'
"When heartaches, tragedies, disappointments, injury, unusual attention, fame, or excessive prosperity become part of our lives, our challenges and responsibilities will be to endure them well. God will assist us in our quest to conquer, triumph, and continue if we humbly rededicate ourselves to the meaningful declaration 'We have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.' (A of F 1:13.)"
- Marvin J. Ashton, "If Thou Endure It Well," General Conference, October 1984
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What does it mean to "endure"? Elder Ashton points out that it's easy to maintain our course in life when things are going as planned or expected; but when something happens that seems "undeserved" and we face unexpected challenges, a new form of distraction arises. And that is the interesting context Elder Ashton sets for his definition of greatness:

So the challenge is to continue steady and faithful, come what may in our life. Elder Ashton lists some of the difficulties we might encounter:
  • heartaches
  • tragedies
  • disappointments
  • injury
  • unusual attention
  • fame
  • excessive prosperity

It's interesting to note the difference between the early items in his list, and the later ones. Challenges are not always the sad, painful, overwhelming things that happen; they can also be the unexpected successes and blessings that try us in different ways. Through all of those unexpected things, the disciple's challenge is to "[fight] the good fight" and endure faithfully. Strength to do that comes from building on our spiritual foundation and drawing from the good people we are blessed to find in our path.

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Elder Neil L. Andersen on the relationship between inner desires and choices

Elder Neil L. Andersen (born August 9, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"A desire is a conscious, private longing for which each person is responsible. It is a powerful hope, a quiet, soul-felt anticipation originating from that sovereign territory we each possess. We are all influenced by our families [and] our culture, and yet I believe there is a place inside of us that we uniquely and individually control and create. These desires are being constructed or developed, fortified or weakened constantly, whether they are righteous or unrighteous....
“I have come to understand that before choices, come our desires. Our desires influence our choices. Because many of our thoughts are private, protected, and hidden from view, our actions for a time may not always reflect our inner desires. However, eventually, our inner desires are given life and they are seen in our choices and in our actions.”
- Neil L. Andersen, "Educate your Desires," BYU Investment Professionals Conference,September 2011
Click here to read a more complete report of the talk

How important are our desires, the quiet inner thoughts and yearnings of our hearts? Elder Andersen suggests that they are critically important. Though we may not always acknowledge it, they influence our choices and actions. We each have a quiet inner place, known only to us and God, where those desires live and where they grow and develop.

While we may temporarily, "for a time," have choices and actions that externally differ from the true nature and desires of our hearts, eventually the the real inner nature will also be expressed externally. It is so critical to be truly honest in our actions and deeds; and to cultivate the most pure and wholesome inner desires.

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on knowledge of God's existence

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (b. January 24, 1945) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"Misunderstanding God’s justice and mercy is one thing; denying God’s existence or supremacy is another, but either will result in our achieving less—sometimes far less—than our full, divine potential. A God who makes no demands is the functional equivalent of a God who does not exist. A world without God, the living God who establishes moral laws to govern and perfect His children, is also a world without ultimate truth or justice. It is a world where moral relativism reigns supreme."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Free Forever, to Act for Themselves," General Conference, October 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a classic talk by Elder Christofferson on the nature and importance of agency in God's eternal plan for us. In this section, he is commenting on the trend in the world today of denying God's existence or involvement in man's affairs; there is danger in failing to acknowledge "God's existence or supremacy." Furthermore, we must recognize that God gives instructions and commandments for a reason:

Not only do we need the idea of God's existence in our world to function well, we need a correct understanding of His role and involvement in our lives. He is eager to give instructions and guidance to help us live happily and successfully!

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

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on not comparing ourselves with others

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. September 8, 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"A third area of distraction that can destroy joy is comparing our talents and blessings with others. The growth in our own talents is the best measure of personal progress. In recent years the concept of 'personal best' has become widely accepted. This has great merit. Remember we usually judge others at their best and ourselves at our worst. In the parable of the talents, the servants who received five talents and two talents were praised by the Lord for increasing their talents and told to 'enter thou into the joy of thy lord.' The servant who was rebuked was the servant who buried the talent given him. (See Matt. 25:14–30.) Comparing blessings is almost certain to drive out joy. We cannot be grateful and envious at the same time. If we truly want to have the Spirit of the Lord and experience joy and happiness, we should rejoice in our blessings and be grateful."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Rejoice!," General Conference October 1996
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It's such a natural tendency to compare ourselves with others. Elder Cook warns us that we can quickly "destroy joy" by doing that; the usual concern is that we end up seeing the best in others (not their struggles or shortcomings) but compare that with the worst in ourselves. Instead of that comparison, we need to learn to observe our own personal progress and the growth and development we are making. We should be achieving our own "personal best" repeatedly in those important areas as we grow and improve.

If we remember to be grateful for what we have, the proper perspective will prevail, since "we cannot be grateful and envious at the same time." We just need to focus on the gifts and talents that are ours, seeking earnestly to magnify and add to them, and God will bless us for those endeavors.

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

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Elder David A. Bednar on hearing the voice of God through scriptures

Elder David A. Bednar (born June 15, 1952) was serving as the president of BYU–Idaho when he was called and sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2004.
"The scriptures, in essence, are a written 'recording' of the voice of the Lord—a voice we feel in our hearts more than we hear with our ears. And as we study the content and feel the spirit of the written word of God, we learn to hear His voice in the words we read and to understand the means whereby the words are given to us by the Holy Ghost....
"Understanding and applying five basic principles can help our personal scripture study become more edifying and effective.
"Principle 1: Pray for understanding, and invite the help of the Holy Ghost. The things of the Spirit can be learned only by and through the influence of the Spirit....
"Principle 2: Work. Gospel knowledge and understanding come through diligent study of the scriptures and tutoring by the Holy Ghost....
"Principle 3: Be consistent. Given the hectic pace of our lives, good intentions and simply 'hoping' to find the time for meaningful scripture study are not sufficient....
"Principle 4: Ponder. The word ponder means to consider, contemplate, reflect upon, or think about. Pondering the scriptures, then, is reverent reflecting on the truths, experiences, and lessons contained in the standard works. The process of pondering takes time and cannot be forced, hurried, or rushed....
"Principle 5: Write down impressions, thoughts, and feelings."
- David A. Bednar, "Because We Have Them before Our Eyes," New Era, April 2006, pp. 2-7
Click here to read the full article

Elder Bednar helps us recognize the value of the scriptural record as a source of instruction from God—in truth, the voice of God speaking to us through the written word. And as we learn to listen to that record, we learn to hear His voice speaking to us:

What a great insight! It echoes the words of the Lord to Joseph Smith:
And I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it.
These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man;
For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them;
Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.

D&C 18:33-36
How carefully we should learn to "listen" as we study the word of God! Elder Bednar proceeds to give suggestions on how to do that more effectively. I included the highlights of his five suggestions, but the entire article is worth reviewing.

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

Friday, March 9, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on staying on course in life

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.
"Our willingness to repent shows our gratitude for God’s gift and for the Savior’s love and sacrifice on our behalf. Commandments and priesthood covenants provide a test of faith, obedience, and love for God and Jesus Christ, but even more importantly, they offer an opportunity to experience love from God and to receive a full measure of joy both in this life and in the life to come.
"These commandments and covenants of God are like navigational instructions from celestial heights and will lead us safely to our eternal destination. It is one of beauty and glory beyond understanding. It is worth the effort. It is worth making decisive corrections now and then staying on course.
"Remember: the heavens will not be filled with those who never made mistakes but with those who recognized that they were off course and who corrected their ways to get back in the light of gospel truth.
"The more we treasure the words of the prophets and apply them, the better we will recognize when we are drifting off course—even if only by a matter of a few degrees."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "A Matter of a Few Degrees," General Conference, April 2008
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This talk, delivered shortly after Elder Uchtdorf was called to serve as a member of the First Presidency, was one of his classic "airplane analogies." He talked about how a very slight error in navigation, only two degrees, had once caused a tragic airplane crash; and applied that to our life situations—when we start with a mistake or a wrong choice, even a very small one, over time the impact can be compounded into tragic results.

President Uchtdorf described the commandments of God, and the covenants we make, as tests of our faith in, and love for, God; but the powerful truth he emphasizes is that obedience and faithfulness open the way for us to experience love from God in deep and profound ways.

After testifying of the importance and value of our choices and commitments, he offered this helpful insight:

We all occasionally make those "navigational errors" in our life. But the key is to correct them quickly and get back on course. And the way to do that, according to President Uchtdorf, is to keep our attention fixed on the words of modern-day prophets so that we can recognize when we begin to drift away from the planned course that will lead to joy and safety.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the power of being of good cheer

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.
"We should honor the Savior’s declaration to 'be of good cheer.' (Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 16:33.) (Indeed, it seems to me we may be more guilty of breaking that commandment than almost any other!) Speak hopefully. Speak encouragingly, including about yourself. Try not to complain and moan incessantly. As someone once said, 'Even in the golden age of civilization someone undoubtedly grumbled that everything looked too yellow.'
"I have often thought that Nephi’s being bound with cords and beaten by rods must have been more tolerable to him than listening to Laman and Lemuel’s constant murmuring. (See 1 Nephi 3:28–31; 18:11–15.) Surely he must have said at least once, 'Hit me one more time. I can still hear you.' Yes, life has its problems, and yes, there are negative things to face, but please accept one of Elder Holland’s maxims for living—no misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse....
"So, brothers and sisters, in this long eternal quest to be more like our Savior, may we try to be 'perfect' men and women in at least this one way now—by offending not in word, or more positively put, by speaking with a new tongue, the tongue of angels. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Tongue of Angels," General Conference April 2007
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Holland seems to be a determined optimist. He echoes the invitation of the Savior as he encourages us all to "be of good cheer"—and to express that cheerfulness in our language and attitudes as well as actions.

Elder Holland is realistic in acknowledging that there are challenges in life; but he warns that we can make them worse through the way we respond to them:

I love that frankness. Our complaining and "whining" only make dealing with challenges more difficult; if we approach life with realism but also faith and hope, we'll do much better in confronting and overcoming obstacles. And one of the most important things to help us in that endeavor is to make sure our words are "filled with faith and hope and charity."

The profound and powerful impact of positive language means more than we might expect. When we can "speak with the tongue of angels" in speaking to others with hope and love, our ability to bless and support those around us is enhanced and magnified.

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on the power of small and simple things

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.
"Great things are wrought through simple and small things. Like the small flecks of gold that accumulate over time into a large treasure, our small and simple acts of kindness and service will accumulate into a life filled with love for Heavenly Father, devotion to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a sense of peace and joy each time we reach out to one another.
"As we approach the Easter season, may we show our love and appreciation for the Savior’s atoning sacrifice through our simple, compassionate acts of service to our brothers and sisters at home, at church, and in our communities."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Finding Joy through Loving Service," General Conference April 2011
Click here to read or listen to the full story

Small things can accumulate into great things, when consistent and repeated effort is manifest. This applies to collecting flecks of gold in a prospecting effort; it also applies to "simple acts of kindness and service" that can turn a normal life into one that is glorious and Christlike, filled with "a sense of peace and joy":

Elder Ballard gave a particular challenge "as we approach the Easter season" in his remarks. We are within a few weeks of that time right now, this year, as well. He encouraged us to find ways in our life to give "simple, compassionate acts of service" to those around us as ways to "show our love and appreciation for the Savior's atoning sacrifice." That would be a wonderful gift for us to share, and a wonderful blessing to feel the power and peace it brings to our lives.

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

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on safety in following the Lord

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.
"The Lord is anxious to lead us to the safety of higher ground, away from the path of physical and spiritual danger. His upward path will require us to climb. My mother used to say to me when I complained that things were hard, 'If you are on the right path, it will always be uphill.' And as the world becomes darker and more dangerous, we must keep climbing. It will be our choice whether or not to move up or to stay where we are. But the Lord will invite and guide us upward by the direction of the Holy Ghost, which He sends to His leaders and to His people who will receive it.
"The mists of spiritual darkness will become more dense as we climb. They are described in the Book of Mormon this way: 'And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost' (1 Nephi 12:17).
"But the word of God will guide those who develop the capacity to receive it through the ministrations of the Holy Ghost. A clear light piercing the darkness will show the way to those who have taken the Holy Ghost as a trusted and constant traveling companion."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Raise the Bar," BYU–Idaho Devotional, January 25, 2005
Click here to read the full talk

President Eyring's analogy of reaching "higher ground" to find safety is a good one. It requires effort and exertion to get away from the "physical and spiritual danger" that surrounds us, as if we were climbing a steep mountain trail:

President Eyring goes on to emphasize some important factors:

  1. It is up to us to choose whether we will climb those uphill paths to find safety—no one is forced to climb, and our agency is a key element of our experience
  2. God will always continue to "invite and guide us upward" through the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, if we are willing to listen
  3. It doesn't necessarily get easier, the more we climb; those "mists of darkness" are the adversary's attempt to discourage us in the climb and dissuade us from our efforts
  4. We can overcome darkness and all other obstacles through the companionship of the Holy Ghost, who acts as a "clear light piercing the darkness" to show us the way

We truly are blessed to understand these options and to know that we can find safety and peace in a world of turmoil.

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