Friday, September 21, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on the power and blessing of unified service

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 beehive symbol is found in both the interiors and exteriors of many of our temples. This podium where I stand is made from the wood of a walnut tree grown in President Gordon B. Hinckley’s backyard and is adorned with carved beehive images.
"All of this symbolism attests to one fact: great things are brought about and burdens are lightened through the efforts of many hands 'anxiously engaged in a good cause' (D&C 58:27). Imagine what the millions of Latter-day Saints could accomplish in the world if we functioned like a beehive in our focused, concentrated commitment to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"The Savior taught that the first and great commandment is:
"'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. …
"'And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
"'On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.' (Matthew 22:37, 39–40).
"The Savior’s words are simple, yet their meaning is profound and deeply significant. We are to love God and to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. Imagine what good we can do in the world if we all join together, united as followers of Christ, anxiously and busily responding to the needs of others and serving those around us—our families, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Be Anxiously Engaged," General Conference October 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The Savior's teachings invite us to love God and our fellowman. His example showed that we demonstrate love for one another through unselfish service. President Ballard built upon that thought to encourage greater efforts to serve those around us. Indeed, as our efforts to serve build upon one another, the combined blessing to humanity can become a marvelous thing:


The work of a single bee may seem relatively insignificant; but combined with hundreds and thousands of others who share a beehive, that work becomes profound and meaningful. If we maintain that vision, great things will come to pass through our efforts to serve and bless!

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

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Elder Orson Pratt on God's eternal role as King

Elder Orson Pratt (1811-1881) was one of the members of the original Quorum of Twelve ordained in 1835.
"God is the King. In him exists all legal authority. He alone has the right of originating a system of government on the earth. He claims this right by virtue of his having made man and the earth he inhabits. Man, therefore, is indebted to God for his own formation and for the formation of the planet on which he dwells. He also claims the right of establishing his government among men, by virtue of his superior wisdom and power.
"If God had sufficient wisdom and power to construct such a beautiful world as this, with all the infinite varieties of vegetables and animals appended to it; if he could form such an intricate and complicated piece of machinery as the human tabernacle as a dwelling place for the human spirit, then we must admit that his wisdom and power are immeasurably greater than that of man, and hence he is qualified to reign as king.
"An order of government, established by such an all-wise, powerful being, must be good and perfect, and must be calculated to promote the permanent peace, happiness, and well-being of all his subjects.
"The great King is a very amiable being, full of benevolence and goodness, and never turns any person away empty, that comes requesting a favor which he sees would be for his benefit."
- Orson Pratt, "The Kingdom of God. Part I" (Liverpool: R. James, Printer, 1848); see "The Essential Orson Pratt" pp. 49-50
Click here to read the full article

Orson Pratt wrote many philosophical and intellectual investigations of the Gospel in the early part of this dispensation. Much of the understanding of the doctrines of the Restoration was still in its infancy, and these kinds of writings helped to expand the understanding of the early Saints as they built upon the foundation established by the revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith. This particular excerpt, which I believe comes from a pamphlet written while Pratt was serving as a missionary in England, explores the theocracy of God's kingdom and what it means for God to be King.


The concluding paragraph is also very insightful: because of God's friendly and benevolent nature (a true Good King), He "never turns any person away empty, that comes requesting a favor which he sees would be for his benefit." Many can testify of the truth of that statement!

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

President Marion G. Romney on pondering the scriptures

President Marion G. Romney (1897-1988) was born in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. He was ordained an apostle in 1951 and served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1972 to 1985. After the death of President Spencer W. Kimball, President Romney was released and returned to serve in the Quorum of Twelve until his death in 1988.
"As I have read the scriptures, I have been challenged by the word ponder, so frequently used in the Book of Mormon. The dictionary says that ponder means 'to weigh mentally, think deeply about, deliberate, meditate.' Moroni thus used the term as he closed his record:
"'Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things … that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men … and ponder it in your hearts.' (Moro. 10:3. Italics added.)
"Jesus said to the Nephites:
"'I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words. …
"'Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand. …' (3 Ne. 17:2–3. Italics added.)
"Pondering is, in my feeling, a form of prayer. It has, at least, been an approach to the Spirit of the Lord on many occasions."
- Marion G. Romney, "Magnifying One’s Calling in the Priesthood," General Conference April 1973
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Romney served as a member of the First Presidency through much of my youth. I remember being impressed at his use of the scriptures in his messages; he was clearly a devoted student of the Lord's written word. In this excerpt, we learn part of the reason why. He understood the meaning of pondering.


Most of us need to spend more time weighing mentally, thinking deeply about, and meditating on the things we read in the scriptures and the words of modern prophets. It will truly bring us closer to the Spirit of the Lord, as President Romney testifies.

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on having gratitude for our current blessings

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.
"For men and women, obsessed as they should be with the eternal results that take so long, it helps to see the blessings already in hand. The prettiest flowers I’ve ever seen were among rocks near the tops of mountains. That must have been partly because I worked so hard to get there, for something else. And then, suddenly, there they were. By forcing yourself to look at them, at the blessings around you, it will be easy to do what King Benjamin suggested: 'O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!' (Mosiah 2:19).
"Among the reasons we ought to be thankful is that it will improve our vision. And with an eye on today’s blessings you’ll have more staying power for the distant goal."
- Henry B. Eyring, "A Law of Increasing Returns," BYU Devotional, March 28, 1982
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Eternity seems a long ways away, and the supposed "rewards" of our mortal efforts can appear very elusive in that distance. President Eyring points out that there are many blessings near at hand that confirm we are on the right path and bring joy along the way. By noticing the current blessings, we  can maintain the long-term vision of our purpose.


Being thankful, then, can "improve our vision" and help provide "more staying power for the distant goal." As we walk the path of discipleship, we find blessings that are frequent and often unearned (Mosiah 2:24); as we learn to notice them more readily, our lives are truly blessed.

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

Monday, September 17, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on making scripture study more powerful

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.
"There’s one thing that I’ve learned about scripture study that I wish I’d been taught when I was of an age to be attending seminary or institute, and that is that it is a great mistake to try to read the scriptures like you read a magazine or a newspaper. What I refer to is the fact that I pick up a newspaper and I just read it, or I pick up a magazine or a textbook and I just read it. But when I pick up the scriptures, I’m picking up the word of God, written by prophets under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord. Those should never be read without praying over them first.
"When I go to the table to eat, I don’t take physical nourishment without asking the Lord to bless that food to nourish and strengthen my body. Similarly, I think when we study the scriptures, we should bow our head and pray—often it would be silently because of the surroundings—but we would pray that the Lord would bless us that we’d be able to understand what we’re reading and that the act of reading the scriptures would summon the Spirit of the Lord to guide us on things other than simply the meaning of what we’re reading. In this way the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to help us receive revelation. But it begins with prayer; it doesn’t begin with reading, like a newspaper or a magazine."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "A Panel Discussion with Elder Dallin H. Oaks," August 7, 2012
Click here to read the full discussion

These remarks were offered in a somewhat less formal setting than a typical conference talk. Elder Oaks was participating in a broadcast to teachers from the seminary and institute programs, and in this section offered some guidance about personal scripture study that is very helpful.


By first contrasting scripture reading with other types of reading, and then comparing it to taking nourishment into our bodies, he makes the same point in two different ways: we are blessed to include prayer as a precursor to our study of God's words. And the promise he offers should inspire us: "In this way the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to help us receive revelation."

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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on becoming linked to the Savior

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 nearly lost my life learning a lesson that I now give to you. As we go through life, even through very rough waters, a father’s instinctive impulse to cling tightly to his wife or to his children may not be the best way to accomplish his objective. Instead, if he will lovingly cling to the Savior and the iron rod of the gospel, his family will want to cling to him and to the Savior.
"This lesson is surely not limited to fathers. Regardless of gender, marital status, or age, individuals can choose to link themselves directly to the Savior, hold fast to the rod of His truth, and lead by the light of that truth. By so doing, they become examples of righteousness to whom others will want to cling."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Set in Order Thy House," General Conference October 2001
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In this memorable talk, President Nelson described an experience of rafting through the Grand Canyon with several of his daughters. At one point he was thrown from the raft and nearly drowned; he learned of the importance of holding on to the raft, and not just holding on to his family members. At that point, he drew the comparison in this excerpt; we must cling to the Savior and the gospel in order to find safety in life's perilous journey:


So the key is that process of linking ourselves to Him, and finding the ways to cling to Him. As we learn to access Divine assistance in our lives, we recognize what a treasure it is, and what a necessity in our world. We learn to depend on that assistance for safety, and to turn to it at every opportunity. We must certainly have the proper priority for the focus of daily efforts, and with the Savior's help, we are assured of ultimate safety and success!

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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

President Harold B. Lee on honoring our royal heritage

President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1941. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1970-1972, then as Church president from July 1972 until his passing less than 18 months later in December 1973.
"One of our Latter-day Saint men during World War II was over in England. He had gone to an officer’s club where they were holding a riotous kind of celebration. He noticed off to the side a young British officer who didn’t seem to be enjoying himself at all. So he walked over to him and said, 'You don’t seem to be enjoying this kind of a party.' And this young British officer straightened himself a few inches taller than he was before and replied, 'No, sir, I can’t engage in this kind of a party, because, you see, I belong to the royal household of England.'
"As our Latter-day Saint boy walked away he said to himself, 'Neither can I, because I belong to the royal household of the kingdom of God.' Do you realize that, you young people? There are things that you cannot and must not do if you remember your heritage.
"I am reminded of the old court jester who was supposed to entertain his king with interesting stories and antics. He looked at the king who was lolling on his throne, a drunken, filthy rascal, doffed his cap and bells, and said with a mock gesture of obeisance, 'O king, be loyal to the royal within you.' And so I say to you young people today, remember your heritage, and be loyal to that royal lineage that you have as members of the church and kingdom of God on the earth."
- Harold B. Lee, "Be Loyal to the Royal Within You," BYU Devotional, September 11, 1973
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Lee shared this wonderful message with students at a BYU devotional. Understanding our roots and heritage can make such a difference in the choices we make and how we act in our daily lives! He encouraged students to recognize their divine origins and eternal potential.


Years ago, in a Jewish philosophy class at BYU, I remember reading a phrase that stuck deeply with me (I have not been able to find the source). It was, in effect, that the greatest sin or depravity into which a man can fall is to forget that he is the son of a King. Truly when we forget our heritage, we lose the vision and motivation of our choices and actions. We should always be loyal to the seeds of divinity within us, as members of "the royal household of the kingdom of God."

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

Friday, September 14, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on the blessing of prayer

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.
"From the very beginning to the present time, a fundamental question remains to be answered by each who runs the race of life. Shall I falter or shall I finish? On the answer await the blessings of joy and happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come....
"Long years ago the psalmist wrote: 'It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.' (Ps. 118:8-9.) Recognize that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other....
"When the burdens of life become heavy, when trials test one's faith, when pain, sorrow, and despair cause the light of hope to flicker and burn low, communication with our Heavenly Father provides peace.
"These, the marks of a true finisher, will be as a lamp to our feet in the journey through life. Ever beckoning us onward and lifting us upward is he who pleaded, '...come, follow me.' (Luke 18:22.)"
- Thomas S. Monson, "Finishers Wanted," General Conference April 1972
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What does it mean to trust in the Lord? How is our faith in Him demonstrated in practical life? If we live in confidence of His help and assistance, we'll learn to seek and obtain the inspiration and the spiritual support that will bless our lives. The great key to this process appears to be our willingness to turn to Him in prayer:


We sometimes forget, and sometimes underestimate, the profound blessing that prayer is to us. Peace is truly available as we turn to our Father in those times when we face trials, pain, sorrow, and despair.

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

Thursday, September 13, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on the eternal purpose of each day

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.
"We are not chance creations in a universe of disorder. We lived before we were born. We were God’s sons and daughters who shouted for joy. (See Job 38:7.) We knew our Father; He planned our future. We graduated from that life and matriculated in this. The statement is simple; the implications are profound. Life is a mission, not just the sputtering of a candle between a chance lighting and a gust of wind that blows it out forever....
"While here, we have learning to gain, work to do, service to give. We are here with a marvelous inheritance, a divine endowment. How different this world would be if every person realized that all of his actions have eternal consequences. How much more satisfying our years may be if in our accumulation of knowledge, in our relationships with others, in our business affairs, in our courtship and marriage, and in our family rearing, we recognize that we form each day the stuff of which eternity is made. Brothers and sisters, life is forever. Live each day as if you were going to live eternally, for you surely shall."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Pillars of Truth," First Presidency Message, Ensign, January 1994, pp. 2-5
Click here to read the full article

I love President Hinckley's powerful and ringing testimony: "Life is a mission, not just the sputtering of a candle between a chance lighting and a gust of wind that blows it out forever." He believed with all his heart that there is meaning and purpose to our mortal existence, directed by a divine power, a loving Father. So we need to fill our life with learning, work, and service.


Each day of our mortal life points us towards eternity. The actions and decisions we make have profound significance. "Live each day as if you were going to live eternally, for you surely shall."

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on the sacred importance of each day

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.
"There is a danger in the word someday when what it means is 'not this day.' 'Someday I will repent.' 'Someday I will forgive him.' 'Someday I will speak to my friend about the Church.' 'Someday I will start to pay tithing.' 'Someday I will return to the temple.' 'Someday...'
"The scriptures make the danger of delay clear. It is that we may discover that we have run out of time. The God who gives us each day as a treasure will require an accounting. We will weep, and He will weep, if we have intended to repent and to serve Him in tomorrows which never came or have dreamt of yesterdays where the opportunity to act was past. This day is a precious gift of God. The thought 'Someday I will' can be a thief of the opportunities of time and the blessings of eternity."
- Henry B. Eyring, "This Day," General Conference April 2007
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Eyring points out the risks we take when we postpone important matters; waiting for "someday" can truly mean "never" if we wait too long. For many things, that probably doesn't matter so much, as our focus and priorities in life can change. But for some things, that is so very crucial. It's been said that the things that matter most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter less, and we too often allow that to happen.


So how do we avoid that trap? By being clear about priorities, and taking time regularly to reconsider our lives and establish what it is that truly matters. And by continuing to make those things happen, starting now, with a clear and helpful course of action! And in all things, but inviting the Spirit to help choose the priorities and commit to the paths of action.

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on having a proper perspective on adversities

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.
"I recall a memorable lesson I learned from Chicago Daily News columnist Sydney J. Harris. He wrote:
"I walked with my friend, a Quaker, to the newsstand the other night, and he bought a paper, thanking the newsie politely. The newsie didn’t even acknowledge it.
"'A sullen fellow, isn’t he?' I commented.
"'Oh, he’s that way every night,' shrugged my friend.
"'Then why do you continue to be so polite to him?' I asked.
"'Why not?' inquired my friend. 'Why should I let him decide how I’m going to act?'
"As I thought about this incident later, it occurred to me that the important word was act. My friend acts toward people; most of us react toward them. He has a sense of inner balance that is lacking in most of us; he knows who he is, what he stands for, how he should behave. He refuses to return incivility for incivility, because then he would no longer be in command of his conduct. ['Do You Act—Or React?' condensed from the Chicago Daily News]
"I like that example because it challenges each of us to focus our attention on the individual responses each of us must make to the individual personal adversities that are sure to hound us throughout our lives. Our responses will inevitably shape our souls and ultimately determine our status in eternity.
"We can take comfort in the fact that because opposition is divinely decreed for the purpose of helping man to grow, we have the assurance of God that in the long view of eternity, opposition will not be allowed to overcome us. We will prevail. Like the mortal life of which they are a part, adversities are temporary. What is permanent is what we become by the way we react to them."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Adversity," BYU Devotional January 17, 1995
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The story President Oaks quotes from Sydney Harris is one that has been quoted a number of times by speakers in our various meetings. It presents a great message, summarized in the title of the article from which it was taken: do we act, or react? Do we use our agency to pursue the course we think is right, including how we behave, how we treat others, how our moods and attitudes are determined? Or do we allow outside influences to unduly modify or manipulate our responses and choices? It's a great message to ponder.

And more specifically, President Oaks applies that concept to the adversities that will come to us in life. We can allow them to manipulate and demoralize us, or we can keep them in perspective and rise above them:


What a great and important thought: adversities are temporary, but what we become through how we respond to them is permanent.

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

Monday, September 10, 2018

President Boyd K. Packer on remembering our spiritual pedigree

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.
"You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven. Fix that truth in your mind and hold to it. However many generations in your mortal ancestry, no matter what race or people you represent, the pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line. You are a child of God!"
- Boyd K. Packer, "To Young Women and Men," General Conference April 1989
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is a simple but profound message from President Packer. "The pedigree of your spirit can be written on a single line."


It is a greater blessing than we recognize to "fix that truth in your mind and hold to it." With that foundational knowledge, the changing circumstances of our lives are put in perspective and the choices we need to make have an eternal context. Our entire nature is changed as we remember, and live up to, our simple spiritual pedigree!

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

Sunday, September 9, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on living well as we prepare to meet 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 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.
"Meanwhile, we who tarry here have a few precious moments remaining 'to prepare to meet God.' (Alma 34:32.) Unfinished business is our worst business. Perpetual procrastination must yield to perceptive preparation. Today we have a little more time to bless others—time to be kinder, more compassionate, quicker to thank and slower to scold, more generous in sharing, more gracious in caring.
"Then when our turn comes to pass through the doors of death, we can say as did Paul: 'The time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.' (2 Tim. 4:6–7.)
"We need not look upon death as an enemy. With full understanding and preparation, faith supplants fear. Hope displaces despair. The Lord said, 'Fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full.' (D&C 101:36.) He bestowed this gift: 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27.)'"
- Russell M. Nelson, "Doors of Death," General Conference, April 1992
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a masterful discourse by then-Elder Nelson, in which he discussed the doctrine and understanding we have about the process of death and how it relates to our eternal life. His talk included this beautiful and tender observation: "Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life." But peace does come with understanding and perspective.

In this final part of his remarks, President Nelson spoke of the insights a death can bring to "we who tarry here." We are granted additional time, and we should recognize what a treasure and sacred gift each day is. We should use our "few precious moments" wisely:


It must be a singularly remarkable feeling to come to the end of mortality, which can happen at any moment, and be prepared, ready to say with Paul, "I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." President Nelson encourages each of us to ponder our own preparation, end our procrastination, and live each day in a more loving, compassionate, forgiving way—a more Christlike way. That is certainly how he has lived his life!

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

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on seeking safety in a troubled world

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.
"As we met with the families in Samoa [following a devastating tsunami that occurred there in September 2009], the significance of spiritually going to the higher ground, living a better life, and clinging to saving ordinances was abundantly clear. The Savior’s example and life teach us to spiritually avoid the low pathway, where the things of this world dominate. As I shook hands with the members after our meeting, one sister told me her family had not been to the temple and they had lost a daughter. She tearfully said their goal now was to prepare themselves for the sacred ordinances of the temple so they can be together eternally.
"As I have pondered what this sister said and the current condition of the world, I have felt an urgency to counsel each of us to seek the higher ground—the refuge and eternal protection of the temple."
- Quentin L. Cook, "We Follow Jesus Christ," General Conference April 2010
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In times of trial and difficulty, particularly when we lose those who are close to us in the midst of a disaster, accident, or even the normal course of life—those are times when the vision of eternity and the understanding of Gospel promises can have a powerful impact in our lives. Elder Cook experienced that as he interacted with many of the Saints who had gone through profound challenges. He summarized the perspective of what he learned in these words:


With that urgent counsel from an apostle of the Lord, we should be seeking "the refuge and eternal protection of the temple" in every opportunity we can. Our lives will certainly be blessed as we spend time in quiet contemplation, away from the world's cares, and especially as we ponder the perspective provided through sacred ordinances and through the teachings of the Lord's House.

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

Friday, September 7, 2018

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on the gift of the Holy Ghost

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.
"The overall gift of the Holy Ghost truly is one of the greatest blessings available to members of the Church. We all need to stress—for ourselves and for those whom we teach—the vital connection with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. These gifts are vital at every stage of an individual's life and in every situation of life. Members of the Church have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, but in many it lies dormant—somewhat like the ancients who had received the gift but knew it not (see 3 Ne. 9:20).
"Consider the statement of Elder Parley P. Pratt (1807-57) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
"'The Holy Ghost ... quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands, and purifies all the natural passions and affections, and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates, and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings, and affections of our nature' (Key to the Science of Theology [1978], 61).
"What a promise! No wonder we are instructed to 'seek ye ... the best gifts' and their attendant joys (D&C 46:8). We are not limited to just one gift, though that is the minimum each is given. Since the realization of so many blessings does lie latent, the Apostle Paul urged us to 'stir up the gift of God, which is in thee' (2 Tim. 1:6)."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "The Holy Ghost: Glorifying Christ," CES broadcast to religious educators, 2 February 2001; see Ensign, July 2002, pp. 56-61
Click here to read the full article
Elder Maxwell reminds us of the difference between "the overall gift of the Holy Ghost" and the diverse and varied "gifts of the Holy Ghost" that are available to those who seek them. Both play very important roles in our lives, and we should "stress... the vital importance" of obtaining and being blessed by those gifts!


I've always loved Parley P. Pratt's beautiful, poetic description of the ways we can be influenced and blessed by the Holy Ghost in our lives. What a rich and profound gift it truly is! But it is up to us to "seek... the best gifts" that are offered through that endowment. We are counseled to seek earnestly, not casually... it requires effort, attention, and focus. But who can question the value of the result!

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

Thursday, September 6, 2018

President Spencer W. Kimball on spiritual education and training

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Our training must not only teach us how to build dams and store water to dampen parched earth to make the desert blossom as the rose and feed starving humanity, but it must prepare us to dam our carnal inclinations and desires with self-denial, creating reservoirs to be filled with spirituality.
"We must study not only to cultivate fertile acres, plant seeds therein, and nurture them on to harvests, but we must plant in the hearts of men seeds of cleanliness and righteous living and faith and hope and peace.
"We must not only know how to kill weeds and noxious plants which befoul our crops, but learn to eradicate from the souls of men the noxious theories and manmade sophistries which would cloud issues and bring heartache and distress to men.
"We must not only be trained to inoculate and vaccinate and immunize against disease, set broken limbs, and cure illnesses, but we must be trained to clarify minds, heal broken hearts and create homes where sunshine will make an environment in which mental and spiritual health may be nurtured....
"Our schooling must not only teach us how to bridge the Niagara River gorge, or the Golden Gate, but must teach us how to bridge the deep gaps of misunderstanding and hate and discord in the world."
- Spencer W. Kimball, Safford Arizona High School Commencement, 5/16/46; see TSWK 391

It's interesting to consider the setting for this quote. A young Spencer W. Kimball (48 at the time) had been serving as stake president in Safford, Arizona where he was raising his family and was co-owner of an insurance business. Shortly after being called as an apostle and moving to Salt Lake City, he's asked to return to his hometown to speak at high school graduation. This poetic excerpt is from that address. I love how he compares the training offered in our worldly pursuits with the spiritual training and skills that are even more important to our success and happiness.


Note how appropriate the examples are for a small rural community such as Safford was: storing water for irrigation, cultivating lands and raising crops, controlling weeks and invasive crops, dealing with diseases and injuries, and solving basic engineering tasks. For each of these he offers a spiritual corollary that he invites his listeners to seek as part of their life-training. Wonderful counsel for all of us, not just for high school graduates!

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

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

President James E. Faust on the blessings of fundamentals

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.
"The work of the Church depends upon basics such as paying tithes; taking care of family and priesthood duties; caring for the poor and the needy; having daily prayer, scripture study, and family home evening; home teaching; participation in quorum activity; and attending the temple. If called upon by the President of the Church, we would be ready, able, and willing to do 'some great thing,' such as working on the Nauvoo temple, but many are not quite so anxious to do some of these basics. 
"We are all familiar with the Old Testament story of Naaman, the captain of the Syrian hosts, who was a leper. A little Israelite servant told Naaman’s wife that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal him. Naaman came with his chariot and horses to the house of Elisha, who sent a messenger to instruct Naaman, 'Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.' (2 Kings 5:10.)

"You younger boys know how it is when you show your hands to your mother: she’ll tell you to go and wash! But Naaman was not a young boy. He was the captain of the Syrian hosts, and he was offended by Elisha’s instruction to wash in the Jordan. So he 'went away in a rage.' (2 Kings 5:12.) One of Naaman’s servants with a wise head remonstrated with him and said: 'If the prophet had bid thee [to] do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?' (2 Kings 5:13.) Naaman then repented and followed the counsel of the prophet. The leprosy disappeared, and 'his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.' (2 Kings 5:14.) 'Some great thing' in this instance was extraordinarily simple and easy to do....
"In the parable of talents, the one who had increased his talents was told, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.' (Matt. 25:23.) May we all be faithful in doing the day-to-day, ordinary things that prove our worthiness, for they will lead us to and qualify us for great things."
- James E. Faust, "Some Great Thing," General Conference October 2001
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The Old Testament story of Captain Naaman shares such a great and timeless message. We get a little caught up in our pride and self-importance at times, expecting for the chance to be involved in "some great thing" to demonstrate our abilities or prove our faithfulness. But much more frequently, it's the basic tasks of life that bring both growth and happiness.


The basic things in life really are, usually, "extraordinarily simple and easy to do" if we commit to doing them faithfully and regularly. But President Faust testifies that those are exactly the things that will "lead us to and qualify us for great things." How important it is that we each regularly evaluate our performance in the fundamental, essential tasks of life and of the Gospel!

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