Saturday, August 18, 2018

President Boyd K. Packer on the choice to be obedient

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.
"It may seem unusual at first to foster self-control by centering on freedom of choice, but it is a very sound doctrinal approach.
"While either subject may be taught separately, and though they may appear at first to be opposites, they are in fact parts of the same subject.
"Some who do not understand the doctrinal part do not readily see the relationship between obedience and agency. And they miss one vital connection and see obedience only as restraint. They then resist the very thing that will give them true freedom. There is no true freedom without responsibility, and there is no enduring freedom without a knowledge of the truth. The Lord said, 'If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' (John 8:31–32.)
"...Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God.
"We are the sons and daughters of God, willing followers, disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and 'under this head are [we] made free.' (Mosiah 5:8.)
"Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. There is an obedience that comes from a knowledge of the truth that transcends any external form of control. We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see. The best control, I repeat, is self-control."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Agency and Control," General Conference April 1983
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Packer considered in this talk the goal of obtaining the obedience of others. If we want to make sure someone obeys directions or guidelines, how is that best accomplished? One option is expressed in the military setting: the dominance and intimidation that are often portrayed as the officers and leaders "control" the enlisted men. But another very different option is shown in the Gospel's approach. A loving Father invites us to follow and exercise our own self-control. As we choose to be obedient, we find joy and blessings that follow—and so we are motivated to continue in that path.

President Packer discusses the charge that those in such a setting are obeying the requests or instructions of their leaders "blindly":


The sweetest form of discipleship is choosing to willingly follow the teachings of the Master, knowing that there is wisdom and joy in that path. As we begin to see more clearly, we will know that we are choosing wisely and will continue to choose to follow that path.

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

Friday, August 17, 2018

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on finding peace in the storms and challenges of 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.
"Living the gospel does not mean the storms of life will pass us by, but we will be better prepared to face them with serenity and peace. 'Search diligently, pray always, and be believing,' the Lord admonished, 'and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly.' (D&C 90:24)
"Draw close to the Lord Jesus Christ. Be of good cheer. Keep the faith. Doubt not. The storms will one day be stilled. Our beloved prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, has said: 'We have nothing to fear. God is at the helm... [and] He will shower down blessings upon those who walk in obedience to His commandments.' ('This Is the Work of the Master,' Ensign, May 1995, 71.)
"In our own storms in life the Savior is our solace and our sanctuary. If we seek peace, we must come unto Him. He Himself spoke this eternal truth when He said, 'My yoke is easy, and my burden is light' (Matt. 11:30). When our souls are anchored in the safe harbor of the Savior, we can proclaim as did Paul: 'We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed' (2 Cor. 4:8–9)."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Finding a Safe Harbor," General Conference April 2000
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is one of my favorite talks by Elder Wirthlin; it's worthwhile to review the whole message. Elder Wirthlin teaches that faithful living does not guarantee freedom from challenges in life; but it does ensure that we don't have to face the challenges alone or unprepared. Instead, we can confront difficulties "with serenity and peace" knowing that all will be well in the Savior's care. Even more, we are promised that "all things shall work together for [our] good" when we live according to the four conditions outlined in the revelation: search diligently, pray always, be believing, walk uprightly.


If we seek peace, we must come to Him. Ultimately, there is no other way. With Him, there is nothing to fear, regardless of the challenges that surround us. This is a powerful message!

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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

President Howard W. Hunter the sacred blessing of holy temples

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.
"We should strive to 'be partakers of the divine nature' (2 Peter 3:1-4). Only then may we truly hope for 'peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come' (D&C 59:23).
"In that spirit I invite the Latter-day Saints to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership. It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple. It would please the Lord if every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families.
"Let us be a temple-attending people. Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing.
"If proximity to a temple does not allow frequent attendance, gather in the history of your family and prepare the names for the sacred ordinances performed only in the temple. This family research is essential to the work of the temples, and blessings surely will come to those who do that work."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises," General Conference October 1994
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I love the invitation from Peter to "be partakers of the divine nature." As we learn more about God, we are moved to follow and emulate, and we begin not only to act like them but to gradually become like them, taking their very nature upon us.

President Hunter suggests that a very real way to do that is through worshiping and serving in the temples. In the preparation to be worthy for those blessings, and in the action of attending, we truly become more and more like Him.


The temple recommend is a wonderful symbol of Church membership. In our continuing search for peace and happiness, President Hunter assures us that "the things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families." That's a great promise and a wonderful indicator of our efforts to take upon us His nature!

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on facing life's challenges with optimism

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.
"I am suggesting that we look for the great good among those with whom we associate and live, that we speak of one another's virtues and positive qualities more than we speak of one another's faults, that optimism replace pessimism, and that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and tended to be critical of others, my wise father would often say, 'Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve.' Who wants to be around someone who is always forecasting doom? Who wants to be fed a steady diet of the negative? Optimism, on the other hand, and looking on the bright side, refreshes everyone.
"In my ninety-plus years, I have learned a secret. I have learned that when good men and good women face challenges with optimism, things will always work out! Truly, things always work out! Despite how difficult circumstances may look at the moment, those who have faith and move forward with a happy spirit will find that things always work out."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Way to Be! [2002], p. 84

President Hinckley was a quintessential optimist. He regularly counseled Church members to seek the positive, to look on the bright side, and to focus on the good. This is a good example of that attitude in his writings. These attitudes apply to how we treat and interact with one another, as well as how we think and approach our personal life situations and challenges.


"Things always work out"—he says it three times, bringing greater emphasis to the point. Facing our challenges with optimism and faith, with a happy spirit in spite of the difficulties, gives us power beyond expectation in finding good solutions and overcoming the problems.

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on pursuing the highest ideals of manhood

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.
"Good men sometimes make mistakes. A man of integrity will honestly face and correct his mistakes, and that is an example we can respect. Sometimes men try but fail. Not all worthy objectives are realized despite one’s honest and best efforts. True manhood is not always measured by the fruits of one’s labors but by the labors themselves—by one’s striving.
"Though he will make some sacrifices and deny himself some pleasures in the course of honoring his commitments, the true man leads a rewarding life. He gives much, but he receives more, and he lives content in the approval of his Heavenly Father. The life of true manhood is the good life.
"Most importantly, when we consider the admonition to be men, we must think of Jesus Christ. When Pilate brought Jesus forth wearing a crown of thorns, he declared, 'Behold the man!' (see John 19:4–5). Pilate may not have fully understood the significance of his own words, but the Lord indeed stood before the people then as He stands today—the highest ideal of manhood. Behold the man!"
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Let Us Be Men," General Conference October 2006
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The sign of a good person is not whether he or she makes mistakes; but what the reaction or response to those mistakes is. People of integrity "will honorably face and correct [their] mistakes" in appropriate and mature ways.


These remarks were addressed to a Priesthood session of conference, during which Elder Christofferson challenged his listeners to "be men"—to be spiritually mature and willing to resolve mistakes in the proper way.

The greatest ideal of manhood is in the life and example of the Savior, and in the rest of the talk Elder Christofferson uses examples and teachings from the New Testament to illustrate that ideal to which we can aspire. The life of a "true man" is a wonderful life, he points out; "He gives much, but he receives more, and he lives content in the approval of his Heavenly Father." What more could anyone, man or woman, seek?

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

Monday, August 13, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on priorities for family stewardships

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"With respect to our stewardship for our families, some have taught that when we report to the Savior and He asks us to give an account of our earthly responsibilities, two important inquiries will relate to our families. The first will be our relationship with our spouse, and the second will be about each of our children. (See Robert D. Hales quoting David O. McKay, 'Wisdom: Understanding of the Heart,' BYU Devotional, March 15, 1988; see also 2 Nephi 9:41.)
"It is easy to confuse our priorities. We have a duty to secure the physical safety and well-being of our children. However, some parents place undue priority on temporal and material possessions. Some are far less diligent in their efforts to immerse their children in the gospel of Jesus Christ. (See Joseph Fielding Smith, Take Heed to Yourselves! p. 221.) Remember that having religious observance in the home is as important as providing food, clothing, and shelter.
"Parents can also help children discover and develop their talents. We are responsible for the talents we have received. Children who are not taught that they are accountable for their time and talents are increasingly subject to the foolishness and unrighteousness that are so pervasive in the world. (See Mark 7:20–23.) The family proclamation warns that individuals 'who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.' ('The Family: A Proclamation to the World,' Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102)"
- Quentin L. Cook, "Stewardship—a Sacred Trust," General Conference October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This statement rings very true to me: "It is easy to confuse our priorities." Perhaps one of the more difficult choices we make in life is that of deciding what matters most to us, and what can be delayed or left behind. We don't always know all the implications of our choices in advance, making the choosing of priorities even more challenging.

But applied to the family situation, Elder Cook helps identify a particularly timely challenge. It's important for parents to be concerned about "the physical safety and well-being" of children. But we sometimes confuse that requirement, placing "undue priority on temporal and material possessions" and neglecting far more important needs of spiritual training and protection.


That's an interesting concept, "immersing" our children in the Savior's gospel. They should be surrounded and encompassed by its teachings and principles in order to be properly protected in the world!

Elder Cook goes on to discuss a further priority, that of helping children explore and expand talents and make proper use of time. Setting children on a good path in these areas will bless their lives and protect them from "the foolishness and unrighteousness that are so pervasive in the world" in using time and talents inappropriately.

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

Sunday, August 12, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on the personal effort that precedes revelation

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.
"Fundamental to any effort to receive revelation is a commitment to do all we can with our own efforts and judgment. This means we need to serve and to work.
"Going forward with our service and work is an important way to qualify for revelation. In my study of the scriptures I have noted that most revelation to the children of God comes when they are on the move, not when they are sitting back in their habitations waiting for the Lord to tell them the first step to take....
"We will get promptings of the Spirit when we have done everything we can, when we are out in the sun working rather than sitting back in the shade praying for direction on the first step to take. Revelation comes when the children of God are on the move.
"So we do all we can. Then we wait upon the Lord for His revelation. He has his own timetable."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "In His Own Time, in His Own Way," address delivered to new mission presidents on June 27, 2001; reprinted in Ensign August 2013, pp. 22-24
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In the learning environment of our mortal life, so much depends on what happens "after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23). President Oaks suggests that this principle applies to inspiration and revelation from God; He expects us to be alive and active, working and serving, learning and growing. And then we will find that His inspiration will come. It's also shown in the principle of "you must study it out in your mind" first in order to then find answers (D&C 9:7-9).


Revelation comes to those who are "on the move" and are "anxiously engaged" (D&C 58:27). We should be seeking regularly to increase our efforts to be found doing good.

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

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Elder David A. Bednar on choosing how we respond to challenging situations

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.
"During a perilous period of war, an exchange of letters occurred between Moroni, the captain of the Nephite armies, and Pahoran, the chief judge and governor of the land. Moroni, whose army was suffering because of inadequate support from the government, wrote to Pahoran 'by the way of condemnation' (Alma 60:2) and harshly accused him of thoughtlessness, slothfulness, and neglect. Pahoran might easily have resented Moroni and his message, but he chose not to take offense. Pahoran responded compassionately and described a rebellion against the government about which Moroni was not aware. And then he responded, 'Behold, I say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. … And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart' (Alma 61:2, 9).
"One of the greatest indicators of our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others. A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended—and to say with Pahoran, 'it mattereth not.'"
- David A. Bednar, "And Nothing Shall Offend Them," General Conference October 2006
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The story of the interchange between Captain Moroni and Pahoran from Alma 60 and 61 is one of the remarkable gifts of the Book of Mormon. It is honest and sincere, not trying to minimize or cover up the mistake in judgement made by an otherwise great leader. Moroni is touted as one of the most powerful and inspired leaders:
Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. (Alma 48:17)
But in this case, Moroni made a simple but potentially very hurtful mistake as he misjudged the motivations of a co-worker and accused him falsely. The great soul shows up instead in Pahoran; he could have been offended and hurt by the improper criticism, in a time of great need; but instead, he chose to be loving and forgiving:


Pahoran teaches us to love, to forgive, to accept that others also may be dealing with burdens and challenges that lead them to act in ways they normally might not. In this case in particular, Pahoran is apparently quite familiar with Moroni's pattern of faithful and diligent service to the Lord's cause, which likely made it easier for him to accept that there must be a temporary misunderstanding causing the criticism. But perhaps the greatest key lies in Pahoran's own confidence that he is doing what he should, with God's approval and according to his own covenants. That is true "spiritual maturity." If any man criticizes you when God has given approval, truly "it mattereth not."

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

Friday, August 10, 2018

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on being devoted disciples

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.
"The Apostle Paul wrote, 'Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light' (Ephesians 5:14).
"My dear friends, know that you are sons of light.
"Don’t allow selfishness! Don’t allow habits that could lead to addiction! Don’t allow competing priorities to lull you into indifference or detachment from blessed discipleship and ennobling priesthood service!
"There is too much at stake for us as individuals, as families, and as Christ’s Church to give only a halfhearted effort to this sacred work.
"Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not an effort of once a week or once a day. It is an effort of once and for all....
"I testify that the cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the transformative power of the Holy Ghost can heal and rescue mankind. It is our privilege, our sacred duty, and our joy to heed the Savior’s call to follow Him with a willing mind and full purpose of heart. Let us 'shake off the chains with which [we] are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust' (2 Nephi 1:23).
"Let us be awake and not be weary of well-doing, for we 'are laying the foundation of a great work' (D&C 64:33), even preparing for the return of the Savior. Brethren, when we add the light of our example as a witness to the beauty and power of restored truth, we will not sleep through the Restoration."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Are You Sleeping through the Restoration?", General Conference April 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

As a member of the First Presidency, President Uchtdorf shared these remarks in a Priesthood session of General Conference. He encouraged his listeners to be alert and active as they watched, and participated in, the great events of these last days—and not to "sleep through the Restoration." As we strive to participate actively in the "blessed discipleship" that we believe in, we all have countless opportunities to serve and to grow. But we need to be fully committed and engaged in the Lord's work:


President Uchtdorf bore a powerful witness about "the cleansing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the transformative power of the Holy Ghost" that are available to each of us, to bring healing and rescue. What a precious gift for us!

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

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Elder Neil L. Andersen on doing the things that bless and strengthen families

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.
"On February 11 of [1999], the First Presidency, with the support of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, sent to every member of the Church a letter of counsel concerning our families. Let me read you just two sentences from this letter:
"'We counsel parents and children to give highest priority to family prayer, family home evening, gospel study and instruction, and wholesome family activities. However worthy and appropriate other demands or activities may be, they must not be permitted to displace the divinely appointed duties that only parents and families can adequately perform' ('Policies, Announcements, and Appointments,' Ensign, June 1999, 80).
"What is our reaction to this prophetic counsel? What has been my response and your response to this First Presidency letter?
"As a parent of teenagers in a busy world, I can confirm that it takes giving these issues our highest priority to see them effectively work in our family.... With the influences of evil that surround our children, can we even imagine sending them out in the morning without kneeling and humbly asking together for the Lord’s protection? Or closing the day without kneeling together and acknowledging our accountability before Him and our thankfulness for His blessings? Brothers and sisters, we need to have family prayer.
"Certainly there are times when getting the family together to read the scriptures does not stack up as a spiritual experience worthy of a journal entry. But we must not be deterred. There are special times when the spirit of a son or daughter is just right and the power of these great scriptures goes down into their heart like fire. As we honor our Heavenly Father in our homes, He will honor our efforts."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Prophets and Spiritual Mole Crickets," General Conference October 1999
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I remember that 1999 letter—after it was read in Sacrament meetings throughout the Church, we used it a lot in leadership meetings and other training sessions, in stake conference meetings, etc. It was a wise and prophetic invitation to all of us to do our best in the things that matter most.

So now that almost 20 years have passed, has the message lost its timeliness? Not a bit. It's needed more than ever, as our attempts to hold families together matter are more needed and more challenging than they have ever been.


The good that can be accomplished by simple acts like family prayer and family scripture study is difficult to measure, but there is no question in my mind that those things not only set a foundation for future spiritual sensitivity and patterns of righteousness in children, but they also have immediate blessings, as Elder Andersen suggests, of providing the protection and perspective needed in daily life. "As we honor our Heavenly Father in our homes, He will honor our efforts."

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on doubt, belief, and knowledge

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.
"When problems come and questions arise, do not start your quest for faith by saying how much you do not have, leading as it were with your 'unbelief.' That is like trying to stuff a turkey through the beak! Let me be clear on this point: I am not asking you to pretend to faith you do not have. I am asking you to be true to the faith you do have. Sometimes we act as if an honest declaration of doubt is a higher manifestation of moral courage than is an honest declaration of faith. It is not! So let us all remember the clear message of this scriptural account (Mark 9:14-27): Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But if you and your family want to be healed, don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle....
"A 14-year-old boy recently said to me a little hesitantly, 'Brother Holland, I can’t say yet that I know the Church is true, but I believe it is.' I hugged that boy until his eyes bulged out. I told him with all the fervor of my soul that belief is a precious word, an even more precious act, and he need never apologize for 'only believing.' I told him that Christ Himself said, 'Be not afraid, only believe' (Mark 5:36), a phrase which, by the way, carried young Gordon B. Hinckley into the mission field (see Gordon B. Hinckley, in Conference Report, Oct. 1969, 114). I told this boy that belief was always the first step toward conviction and that the definitive articles of our collective faith forcefully reiterate the phrase 'We believe' (see Articles of Faith 1:1–13). And I told him how very proud I was of him for the honesty of his quest."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Lord, I Believe," General Conference April 2013
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This beautiful and important talk by Elder Holland addressed some of the most vital concerns of our time, when so many are struggling to understand their faith and belief in the gospel, the Church, even the Savior. Elder Holland shared and analyzed the Biblical story of the man who came to the Savior with a son who was struggling with an overwhelming affliction since his birth, begging for help. Jesus responded by asking about the man's belief, and received the profound and deeply honest response, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief" (Mark 9:24). Elder Holland shared wonderful insights about the interplay of doubt, belief, faith, and knowledge.


I was touched to review Elder Holland's personal story of the young boy who came to him expressing the modern equivalent of the Biblical father's situation: belief that falls short of knowledge. Elder Holland's tender and precious response to that boy should give all of us hope as we work towards the same goals of stronger belief, greater faith, and confirmed knowledge!

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

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on promises of help from the Savior

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.
"We are the inheritors of a tremendous heritage. Now it is our privilege and responsibility to be part of the Restoration’s continuing drama, and there are great and heroic stories of faith to be written in our day. It will require every bit of our strength, wisdom, and energy to overcome the obstacles that will confront us. But even that will not be enough. We will learn, as did our pioneer ancestors, that it is only in faith—real faith, whole-souled, tested and tried—that we will find safety and confidence as we walk our own perilous pathways through life....
"Let us remember that the Savior is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and there can be no greater promise than to know that if we are faithful and true, we will one day be safely encircled in the arms of His love (see D&C 6:20). He is always there to give encouragement, to forgive, and to rescue. Therefore, as we exercise faith and are diligent in keeping the commandments, we have nothing to fear from the journey."
- M. Russell Ballard, "You Have Nothing to Fear from the Journey," General Conference April 1997
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was one of Elder Ballard's addresses during the 1997 sesquicentennial commemoration (150 years) of the pioneer legacy. He discussed our modern challenges in light of those of earlier times, and offered suggestions and encouragement in our current journey. Sometimes our journey seems frightening and overwhelming; but with His promised help, we need not fear:


The critical thing for us to learn is that "it is only in faith—real faith, whole-souled, tested and tried—that we will find safety and confidence as we walk our own perilous pathways through life." We must develop that kind of faith through obedience and faithfulness.

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on keeping the gift of the Holy Ghost in our lives

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (b. August 5, 1955) was called as a Seventy in 2008, then as Presiding Bishop in 2012. He was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"It is vital to our physical and spiritual safety that we keep the gift of the Holy Ghost. We begin to do so by striving to keep the commandments, having individual and family prayer, reading the scriptures, and seeking loving and forgiving relationships with family and loved ones. We should keep our thoughts, actions, and language virtuous. We should worship our Heavenly Father in our homes, at church, and, whenever possible, in the holy temple. Stay close to the Spirit, and the Spirit will stay close to you."
- Gary E. Stevenson, "How Does the Holy Ghost Help You?", General Conference April 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The Holy Ghost is a unique gift in our lives. We can choose to keep the gift and profit from it, or we can choose to give the gift up and not receive the benefits it offers to us. Elder Stevenson strongly encourages us to keep this gift as something "vital to our physical and spiritual safety" in the world.


To retain the girt of the Holy Ghost is to have that Spirit close to us. As we do the things Elder Stevenson described, we stay close to the Spirit and will receive great help and blessings. Such simple requirements, really:
  • strive to keep the commandments
  • have individual and family prayer
  • read the scriptures
  • seek loving and forgiving relationships with family and loved ones
  • keep our thoughts, actions, and language virtuous
  • worship our Heavenly Father in our homes, at church, and, whenever possible, in the holy temple
A good list to review—where can I personally try harder or be more careful?


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

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Elder L. Tom Perry on keeping promises to the Lord

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.
"My business career was as a retail executive. As such, I was required to attend trade association meetings, business clubs, chamber of commerce meetings, etc. They always started with a cocktail hour. I was always uncomfortable in the setting. Nearly everyone would be holding an alcoholic beverage in their hands as they mingled together. I asked myself, 'What could I hold in my hand to represent my standards and the standards of the Church?' I realized that if I didn’t hold a glass in my hand someone would always be wanting to buy me a drink.
"At first I tried holding 7-Up, but it looked the same as other bubbly, alcoholic drinks. Finally, I decided to walk over to the bartender and request a glass of milk. I thought he might be hard of hearing because he made me repeat my order three times.  The final time was loud enough that everyone in the room could hear.
"After fumbling around for a few minutes the bartender finally handed me a glass of milk. You can imagine the ribbing I received as I mingled the rest of that evening, but I knew my standards, and I was undeterred. The next month, at the same meeting, I ordered my milk. From then on, the bartender always had a glass of milk for me.
"Then a funny thing started to happen. At future meetings more people started ordering milk and drinking it with me. They confided in me that their wives did not like them drinking because it might impair them as they drove home. Instead of feeling awkward during cocktail hour, I soon became the center of conversation. It helped me meet more people and fulfill the purposes for which I attended those gatherings.
"I learned an important lesson from this experience. If I kept my promises to the Lord, He would always keep His promises to me. He would always fulfill his end of the bargain—and much, much more—if I fulfilled mine."
- L. Tom Perry, "The Church: Scaffolding for Our Lives," BYU-Idaho devotional, January 24, 2012
Click here to read the full talk

Personal anecdotes are often so instructive, as in this case from Elder Perry. It's interesting to think what each of us may have done in the situation he describes. The choice he made not only followed his standards and covenants, but was perhaps the most obvious in proclaiming them to other people. No one could mistake the fact that he was drinking a glass of milk among the rest of the alcoholic drinkers! And it's interesting to note that over time, others joined in his example.


When we make covenants with God, He promises to bless us. Elder Perry witnessed the blessings that come from covenant-keeping. It would be well for each of us to consider areas in which we might be more diligent, as well as opportunities to proclaim our standards boldly to those around us.

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

Saturday, August 4, 2018

President Ezra Taft Benson on the importance of controlling thoughts

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.
"Thoughts lead to acts, acts lead to habits, habits lead to character—and our character will determine our eternal destiny.
"King Benjamin understood this. In the next to last verse of his great discourse recorded in the Book of Mormon, he states: 'And finally, I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.' (Mosiah 4:29.)
"Then in the last verse he counsels that we must watch ourselves and our thoughts. (See Mosiah 4:30.)"
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Think on Christ," General Conference April 1984
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Benson described a simple but logical progression in our lives:
   thoughts —> acts —> habits —> character —> destiny
With this sequence in mind, it becomes clear how critical it is for us to learn to control our thoughts and thus be able to shape our destiny.


I've always been impressed by those final "words of warning" given by King Benjamin, thousands of years ago—but certainly still to applicable to us today:
But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not. (Mosiah 4:30.)
Profound advice! Watch yourself, and your thoughts, words, and deeds, in order to find peace and happiness.

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

Friday, August 3, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on faith and God and confidence in yourself

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.
"It is by faith that you can lay hold upon every good thing. I pray with all my heart that your faith will be increased that you are a [child] of a loving God. I testify to you that you have been one of the valiant ones to reach the point where you now are in this journey of life. Just as you are marked as a target by the enemy of righteousness, you have been protected and watched over by your Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. They know you. They know all of the forces and individuals around you. They know what is ahead of you. And so They know which of the choices you make, which of the desires you decide to satisfy, and which of the circumstances around you will make the most difference in keeping you walking in the light.
"I testify that by the Spirit of Christ and by the Holy Ghost, you may walk confidently in whatever difficulties will come. Because you are so valuable, some of your trials may be severe. You need never be discouraged or afraid. The way through difficulties has always been prepared for you, and you will find it if you exercise faith.
"You must have faith to pray. You must have faith to ponder the word of God. You must have faith to do those things and go to those places which invite the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Ghost."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Walk in the Light," General Conference April 2008
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

These remarks were shared by President Eyring at a General Young Women Meeting, but they surely apply to all members of the Church, and to all children of God. It's so valuable to have the knowledge that we are children of a loving God, who is aware of us and watching over us. He desires to help and guide us as we deal with the challenges of life; we need to learn to trust and accept His will.


One of the greatest keys to happiness and peace in life is certainly that faith in God brings help, and it brings hope. As we have faith in Him, we will be willing and eager to pray, to ponder His words, to "do those things and go to those places which invite the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Ghost." Our faith will lead to the greatest help and to real blessings.

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

Thursday, August 2, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on choices of good, better, and best in life

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.
"Most of us have more things expected of us than we can possibly do. As breadwinners, as parents, as Church workers and members, we face many choices on what we will do with our time and other resources.
"We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives....
"As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.
"Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best....
"Some uses of individual and family time are better, and others are best. We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Good, Better, Best," General Conference, October 2007
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was an important and memorable talk by Elder Oaks, who explained the importance of considering our choices and priorities in life. In order to achieve the most important things and be able to make the greatest progress, we must constantly be evaluating our activities, focuses, reading materials, entertainment, and so on. We often do that without consciously focusing on it; but the choices are made regardless, and it's wise to step back now and then and make sure we are choosing wisely.


This statement summarizes the situation very well: "We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families." It's so true—we must never let "the things that matter most" be overcome by lesser things!

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