Monday, October 22, 2018

Elder Dale G. Renlund on God's goals in parenting

Elder Dale G. Renlund (born November 13, 1952) served in the First Quorum of Seventy starting in 2009, until his call to the Quorum of Twelve in October 2015.
"Our Heavenly Father’s goal in parenting is not to have His children do what is right; it is to have His children choose to do what is right and ultimately become like Him. If He simply wanted us to be obedient, He would use immediate rewards and punishments to influence our behaviors.
"But God is not interested in His children just becoming trained and obedient 'pets' who will not chew on His slippers in the celestial living room. No, God wants His children to grow up spiritually and join Him in the family business.
"God established a plan whereby we can become heirs in His kingdom, a covenant path that leads us to become like Him, have the kind of life He has, and live forever as families in His presence. Personal choice was—and is—vital to this plan, which we learned about in our premortal existence. We accepted the plan and chose to come to earth."
- Dale G. Renlund, "Choose You This Day," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

There is an important distinction between just doing what is right, and willingly choosing to do what is right. Elder Renlund taught in his talk that our Heavenly Father is most interested in having us become wise and willing agents, recognizing the meaning behind our actions so that we can use our agency appropriately to choose to follow Him.


It's interesting to consider how that principle applies to our actions as parents, or as teachers and leaders of youth in particular. Sometimes we become so concerned with behavior, to the point that we forget there is something more than the external performance. We should be more concerned with what motivates the behavior. And focusing on rewards and punishments is generally not going to lead to the right results.

The real goal of our Father in Heaven is having His children "become heirs in His kingdom, a covenant path that leads us to become like Him, have the kind of life He has, and live forever as families in His presence." That requires a change of heart more than a change of behavior; but the change of heart leads to the change in behavior.

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

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on the sacred privilege of being a shepherd

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.
"As children of a loving Heavenly Father and as sheep in His flock, we enjoy the blessing of being individually ministered to by Jesus Christ. Simultaneously, we have a responsibility to provide ministering assistance to others around us as shepherds ourselves. We heed the words of the Lord to 'serve me and go forth in my name, and … gather together my sheep' (Mosiah 26:20).
"Who is a shepherd? Every man, woman, and child in the kingdom of God is a shepherd. No calling is required. From the moment we emerge from the waters of baptism, we are commissioned to this work. We reach out in love to others because it is what our Savior commanded us to do. Alma emphasized: 'For what shepherd … having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock? … Doth he not drive him out?' (Alma 5:59.) Whenever our neighbors are in distress temporally or spiritually, we run to their aid. We bear one another’s burdens that they may be light. We mourn with those who mourn. We comfort those who stand in need of comfort. (See Mosiah 18:8–9.) The Lord lovingly expects this of us. And the day will come when we will be held accountable for the care we take in ministering to His flock. (See Matthew 25:31–46.)"
- Gary E. Stevenson, "Shepherding Souls," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It's a wonderful thing to feel the power and blessing of being "individually ministered to by Jesus Christ" as one of His sheep. Our spiritual life and our temporal life are both so enriched as we are strengthened and sustained by His loving care. It's a sacred obligation to then pass on that loving kindness to those around us, as we also serve and minister as shepherds to those placed in our path:


I've always loved the way President Spencer W. Kimball taught this important point:
"God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom. The people of the Church need each other’s strength, support, and leadership in a community of believers as an enclave of disciples. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read about how important it is to '… succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees' (D&C 81:5)."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Small Acts of Service," Ensign, December 1974
There is so much good we can do as we "run to [the] aid" of our neighbors. If we are willing and available, and if we are sensitive to promptings that will guide us, we will find countless opportunities to carry out this sacred duty.

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

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on standing in holy places to overcome fear

Elder Ronald A. Rasband (b. February 6, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 2000.  He was the senior president of the Seventy when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"When we stand in holy places—our righteous homes, our dedicated chapels, the consecrated temples—we feel the Spirit of the Lord with us. We find answers to questions that trouble us or the peace to simply set them aside. That is the Spirit in action. These sacred places in the kingdom of God on earth call for our reverence, our respect for others, our best selves in living the gospel, and our hopes to lay aside our fears and seek the healing power of Jesus Christ through His Atonement.
"There is no room for fear in these holy places of God or in the hearts of His children. Why? Because of love. God loves us—always—and we love Him. Our love of God counters all fears, and His love abounds in holy places. Think about it. When we are tentative in our commitments to the Lord, when we stray from His path leading to life eternal, when we question or doubt our significance in His divine design, when we allow fear to open the door to all its companions—discouragement, anger, frustration, disappointment—the Spirit leaves us, and we are without the Lord. If you know what that is like, you know it is not a good place to be. In contrast, when we stand in holy places, we can feel God’s love, and 'perfect love casteth out all fear' (Moroni 8:16)."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "Be Not Troubled," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Rasband's message responded to the challenges and uncertainties we sometimes face in our lives that cause fear. We all have them from time to time, in different degrees and for varied reasons; but there are ways to compensate and overcome as we strive to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. His first suggestion was to learn to find comfort and hope as we recognize and "stand" in the places in our lives that are holy—temples, chapels, homes.


Perhaps we would do well to evaluate whether our homes, in particular, provide the kind of sacred environment Elder Rasband is describing, where reverence, respect, and gospel living are the normal condition.

Holy places are filled with God's love, Elder Rasband teaches; and that love drives fears away. "Our love of God counters all fears, and His love abounds in holy places." But Elder Rasband warns of things that might cause the Lord's spirit to depart, leaving us with the fears of the world:

  • when we are tentative in our commitments to the Lord
  • when we stray from His path leading to life eternal
  • when we question or doubt our significance in His divine design
  • when we allow fear to open the door to all its companions—discouragement, anger, frustration, disappointment

A good warning for us all, to do the things that will enable us all to "stand in holy places and be not moved."

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

Friday, October 19, 2018

Elder Neil L. Andersen on the Savior's power to heal our wounds

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.
"We each understand that difficulties are part of life, but when they come to us personally, they can take our breath away. Without being alarmed, we need to be ready.... Along with the bright colors of happiness and joy, the darker-colored threads of trial and tragedy are woven deeply into the fabric of our Father’s plan. These struggles, although difficult, often become our greatest teachers....
"Never give up—however deep the wounds of your soul, whatever their source, wherever or whenever they happen, and however short or long they persist, you are not meant to perish spiritually. You are meant to survive spiritually and blossom in your faith and trust in God.
"God did not create our spirits to be independent of Him. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through the incalculable gift of His Atonement, not only saves us from death and offers us, through repentance, forgiveness for our sins, but He also stands ready to save us from the sorrows and pains of our wounded souls.
"The Savior is our Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30–35), sent 'to heal the brokenhearted' (Luke 4:18; see also Isaiah 61:1). He comes to us when others pass us by. With compassion, He places His healing balm on our wounds and binds them up. He carries us. He cares for us. He bids us, 'Come unto me ... and I shall heal [you]' (3 Nephi 18:32)."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Wounded," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Andersen joined with others in the recent conference who discussed the challenges that come to us in life. Using the example of the missionaries who were critically injured in the airport bombing in Belgium, he emphasized that these trials and tests come to the righteous who are doing all they can to be faithful and obedient. But yet, when the trials come, "they can take our breath away" with their suddenness and severity.

But with the proper understanding of God's plan for our mortal experience, we can retain the perspective and hope that will allow us to endure through such challenges with faith and with Divine help. Elder Andersen teaches that we are "not meant to perish spiritually" and will not only survive but "blossom in your faith and trust in God" as we move forward, trusting in Him and drawing on the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.


That's a beautiful reminder; the Savior will come to bind our wounds and carry us to safety as we trust in Him.

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

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on having the gospel as our defining focus

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (born January 24, 1945) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"To persevere firm and steadfast in the faith of Christ requires that the gospel of Jesus Christ penetrate one’s heart and soul, meaning that the gospel becomes not just one of many influences in a person’s life but the defining focus of his or her life and character....
"Most of us find ourselves at this moment on a continuum between a socially motivated participation in gospel rituals on the one hand and a fully developed, Christlike commitment to the will of God on the other. Somewhere along that continuum, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ enters into our heart and takes possession of our soul. It may not happen in an instant, but we should all be moving toward that blessed state.
"It is challenging but vital to remain firm and steadfast when we find ourselves being refined 'in the furnace of affliction' (1 Nephi 20:10; see also Isaiah 48:10), something that comes soon or late to all of us in mortality. Without God, these dark experiences tend to despondency, despair, and even bitterness. With God, comfort replaces pain, peace replaces turmoil, and hope replaces sorrow. Remaining firm in the faith of Christ will bring His sustaining grace and support. He will convert trial into blessing and, in Isaiah’s words, 'give … beauty for ashes' (Isaiah 61:3)."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Firm and Steadfast in the Faith of Christ," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was one of several talks from the recent conference that taught about the importance of focusing our efforts and attention on Jesus Christ, our Savior. Elder Christofferson explained powerfully the difference between having the gospel as one of many influences in our life, versus having it be the "defining focus" of all we do as it penetrates our very heart and soul. I felt the truth of his warning about the "continuum" of conversion that we are on:


Clearly, many of us are on that "socially motivated participation" end of the spectrum. It's interesting for each of us to honestly and seriously consider where we might be along that path towards a "fully developed, Christlike commitment to the will of God." That's what Elder Quentin L. Cook referred to as a "deep and lasting conversion"; it happens when the gospel "takes possession of our soul."

The blessings from this whole-souled conversion become apparent to us when we take our turn "in the furnace of affliction." The one who is truly converted will find comfort, peace, and hope, and feel God's "sustaining grace and support." Those are the critical times in life when our previous preparation is so crucial to our survival. How important for us to be moving steadily towards that state of whole-hearted conversion!

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

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on nurturing deep and lasting conversion at home

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.
"The Church’s traditional curriculum has emphasized the Sunday Church experience. We know that when we have better teaching and more spiritually prepared class members, we have a better Sunday Church experience. We are blessed that often the Spirit increases and strengthens conversion in the Church setting.
"The new home-centered and Church-supported curriculum needs to influence more powerfully family religious observance and behavior and personal religious observance and behavior. We know the spiritual impact and the deep and lasting conversion that can be achieved in the home setting. Years ago, a study established that for young men and women the influence of the Holy Ghost most often accompanies individual scripture study and prayer in the home. Our purpose is to balance the Church and the home experiences in a way that will greatly increase faith and spirituality and deepen conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
"In the home-centered, Church-supported portion of this adjustment, there is flexibility for each individual and family to determine prayerfully how and when it will be implemented."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Deep and Lasting Conversion to Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Nelson spoke briefly at the beginning of general conference, introducing what would become an important theme and focus:
"For many years, Church leaders have been working on an integrated curriculum to strengthen families and individuals through a home-centered and Church-supported plan to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Opening Remarks," General Conference October 2018, emphasis added
Elder Cook had the assignment to then expand and explain the new focus. After introducing the concept of the adjusted Sunday meeting block and the various manuals and resources that will be provided to support it both in meetings and at home, he expanded on the vision of what these changes are intended to accomplish:


While resources including manuals and guidelines are provided for individuals and families, so much will depend on our individual willingness to seek inspiration as we begin to implement these programs in a few months. Elder Cook explained that "there is flexibility for each individual and family to determine prayerfully how and when it will be implemented." But the vision of the changes is to enable each of us to find "a deep and lasting conversion" as disciples of Jesus Christ.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Elder David A. Bednar on gathering together all things in Christ

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.
"Sometimes as members of the Church we segment, separate, and apply the gospel in our lives by creating lengthy checklists of individual topics to study and tasks to accomplish. But such an approach potentially can constrain our understanding and vision. We must be careful because pharisaical focus upon checklists can divert us from drawing closer to the Lord.
"The purpose and purification, the happiness and joy, and the continuing conversion and protection that come from 'yielding [our] hearts unto God' (Helaman 3:35) and '[receiving] his image in [our] countenances' (Alma 5:14) cannot be obtained merely by performing and checking off all the spiritual things we are supposed to do. Rather, the power of the Savior’s gospel to transform and bless us flows from discerning and applying the interrelatedness of its doctrine, principles, and practices. Only as we gather together in one all things in Christ, with firm focus upon Him, can gospel truths synergistically enable us to become what God desires us to become (see Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48) and endure valiantly to the end. (see D&C 121:29.)"
- David A. Bednar, "Gather Together in One All Things in Christ," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Bednar's theme in his message was to help us understand the critical importance of focusing on the Savior, based on Paul's letter to the Ephesians in which he prophesied of our day:
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:10)

While Paul was speaking of the Lord doing the gathering, Elder Bednar extended the principle as an admonition for us to participate in those gathering efforts by understanding how critical it is for us to have Him as the center of our focus, permeating all things we do and experience.

I appreciated the discussion of "spiritual checklists." We don't become the kind of person He wants us to be "merely by performing and checking off all the spiritual things we are supposed to do." Beyond that, we must comprehend the power of the gospel and the Atonement of Jesus Christ to transform us as we focus on Christ:


This whole-life approach to discipleship is necessary to eventually achieve "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13) and be perfected in Him.

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

Monday, October 15, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on overcoming the sadness and misery of the world

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.
"There is a word in German, Weltschmerz. Loosely defined, it means a sadness that comes from brooding about how the world is inferior to how we think it ought to be.
"Perhaps there is a little Weltschmerz in all of us.
"When silent sorrows creep into the corners of our lives. When sadness saturates our days and casts deep shadows over our nights. When tragedy and injustice enter the world around us, including in the lives of those we love. When we journey through our own personal and lonely path of misfortune, and pain darkens our stillness and breaches our tranquility—we might be tempted to agree with Solomon that life is vain and devoid of meaning.
"The good news is, there is hope. There is a solution to the emptiness, vanity, and Weltschmerz of life. There is a solution to even the deepest hopelessness and discouragement you might feel.
"This hope is found in the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and in the Savior’s redemptive power to heal us of our soul-sickness.
"'I am come,' Jesus declared, 'that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.' (John 10:10.)
"We achieve that abundant life not by focusing on our own needs or on our own achievements but by becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ—by following in His ways and engaging in His work. We find the abundant life by forgetting ourselves and engaging in the great cause of Christ.
"And what is the cause of Christ? It is to believe in Him, love as He loved, and do as He did."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Believe, Love, Do," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Uchtdorf is the Great Optimist; his messages always present visions of hope and encouragement in spite of the challenges and troubles we frequently confront in mortality. His introduction of the German word Weltschmerz in this message helps to present the contrast between the gloomy, discouraged view of the world, and the hopeful view offered to the faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.


Another apt and descriptive word Elder Uchtdorf uses to describe the challenges we face is soul-sickness. When we become too much influenced with the world's negativity, our soul can feel the burden of misery and we can be weighed down by the grief it brings.

But how blessed we are to know of "the transformative power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and ... the Savior’s redemptive power to heal us." Truly, we will find the "abundant life" through following the gospel plan for happiness and becoming "true disciples of Jesus Christ."

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

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on overcoming pains and hurts in life

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.
"I testify that forgiving and forsaking offenses, old or new, is central to the grandeur of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I testify that ultimately such spiritual repair can come only from our divine Redeemer, He who rushes to our aid 'with healing in his wings' (Malachi 4:2; see also 2 Nephi 25:13; 3 Nephi 25:2). We thank Him, and our Heavenly Father who sent Him, that renewal and rebirth, a future free from old sorrows and past mistakes, are not only possible, but they have already been purchased, paid for, at an excruciating cost symbolized by the blood of the Lamb who shed it.
"With the apostolic authority granted me by the Savior of the world, I testify of the tranquility to the soul that reconciliation with God and each other will bring if we are meek and courageous enough to pursue it. 'Cease to contend one with another,' the Savior pled. (D&C 136:23.) If you know of an old injury, repair it. Care for one another in love.
"My beloved friends, in our shared ministry of reconciliation, I ask us to be peacemakers—to love peace, to seek peace, to create peace, to cherish peace. I make that appeal in the name of the Prince of Peace, who knows everything about being 'wounded in the house of [His] friends' (Zechariah 13:6; see also D&C 45:52.) but who still found the strength to forgive and forget—and to heal—and be happy."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Ministry of Reconciliation," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a beautiful and tender message from Elder Holland, a call to greater love and peace among ourselves as we learn to "forgive and forget" the occasional challenges in our interactions with others. With personal examples and inspired teachings, he invited us all to heed the example and call of the Savior as we learn to overcome grievances and disagreements. We can thereby participate in "the grandeur of the Atonement of Jesus Christ":


Elder Holland's testimony of the tranquility (what a beautiful word!) that comes to the soul in the midst of "reconciliation with God and each other" should urge us all to pursue this path in every way possible. But it requires that we be "meek and courageous enough to pursue it." It is often not an easy thing to overcome our pride as we repair the wounds of the past. But in learning to be true peacemakers, we truly can find the happiness promised by the Savior.

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

Saturday, October 13, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on God's eternal plan of redemption

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 revelation he [President Joseph F. Smith] received on October 3 [1918] comforted his heart and provided answers to many of his questions. We too can be comforted and learn more about our own future when we and our loved ones die and go to the spirit world by studying this revelation and pondering its significance in the way we live our lives each day....
"On this special 100th anniversary, I invite you to thoroughly and thoughtfully read this revelation. As you do so, may the Lord bless you to more fully understand and appreciate God’s love and His plan of salvation and happiness for His children.
"I testify that the vision President Joseph F. Smith received is true. I bear witness that every person can read it and come to know it is true. Those who do not receive this knowledge in this life will surely come to know its truthfulness when everyone will arrive in the spirit world. There, all will love and praise God and the Lord Jesus Christ for the great plan of salvation and the blessing of the promised Resurrection when body and spirit will once again be reunited, never to be separated again."
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Ballard began his talk by noting that his remarks had been prepared before the passing of his wife Barbara, who died earlier in the week preceding conference. It was extremely appropriate and timely that he discussed a topic so relevant to his own situation and emotions. President Ballard then discussed the history and importance of the "Vision of the Redemption of the Dead" received 100 years ago by President Joseph F. Smith, now found in Doctrine and Covenants 138. The history of this revelation is very interesting to consider, including the personal tragedies and losses in President Smith's life that led to his pondering and searching.

President Ballard encourages us to learn from the revelation in ways that will enhance our personal understanding of eternity, and bless our daily lives:


I like to pay attention to invitations and challenges that are given in General Conference. President Ballard invited us all "to thoroughly and thoughtfully read this revelation" and promised blessings that would come from the reminder of its teachings and the personal application.

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

Friday, October 12, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on the Savior's help in our trials and tests

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.
"Today I wish to encourage you in the troubles you face.
"Our mortal life is designed by a loving God to be a test and source of growth for each of us. You remember God’s words regarding His children at the Creation of the world: 'And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.' (Abraham 3:25.)
"Since the beginning, the tests have not been easy. We face trials that come from having mortal bodies. All of us live in a world where Satan’s war against truth and against our personal happiness is becoming more intense. The world and your life can seem to you to be in increasing commotion.
"My reassurance is this: the loving God who allowed these tests for you also designed a sure way to pass through them. Heavenly Father so loved the world that He sent His Beloved Son to help us. (See John 3:16–17.) His Son, Jesus Christ, gave His life for us. Jesus Christ bore in Gethsemane and on the cross the weight of all our sins. He experienced all the sorrows, the pains, and the effects of our sins so that He could comfort and strengthen us through every test in life. (See Alma 7:11–12)"
- Henry B. Eyring, "Try, Try, Try," General Conference, October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We should not be surprised when there are challenges and difficulties in our lives; as President Eyring notes, that is part of God's design for our mortal experience, to test our willingness to obey Him. And so we face challenges that are a result simply of being in a mortal condition; we also are confronted with the actions that result from Satan's efforts to destroy our happiness. We may feel there is "increasing commotion" in the world, including our personal world of circumstances.

But the great key to happiness and success in life lies in knowing that when the test come, there is help available:


We have the divine promise that our Savior will "comfort and strengthen us through every test in life." We need never fear or become discouraged; with Him to help bear the burden and with our faith and understanding of eternity, truly our burdens, like His, can be light.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on God's loving kindness to His children

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 am sure you are familiar with our great hymn 'Dearest Children, God Is Near You.' Here is the first verse we all have sung and believed:
"Dearest children, God is near you,
Watching o’er you day and night,
And delights to own and bless you,
If you strive to do what’s right.
(Hymns, no. 96.)
"There are two teachings in that verse: First, our Heavenly Father is near us and watches over us day and night. Think of it! God loves us, He is near to us, and He watches over us. Second, He delights to bless us as we 'strive to do what’s right.' What comfort in the midst of our anxieties and difficulties!
"Yes, young women, you are blessed and you are wonderful, but you are like all of Heavenly Father’s children in your need to 'strive to do what’s right.'"
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Parents and Children," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Oaks addressed a good portion of his talk in the women's session of general conference to the young girls in the audience. In this excerpt he encouraged them to be faithful and trust in a loving Heavenly Father, who would in return care for them:


I have always loved the tender message of that hymn "Dearest Children, God Is Near You." It expresses a level of faith and belief that often is more common in the dear children than in the more "seasoned" adults. There is certainly much to ponder in the Savior's admonition that we must "become as little children" (Matthew 18:3) in order to receive His blessings.

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on the messages and invitations from conference

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.
"This has been an inspirational and historic conference. We look to the future with enthusiasm. We have been motivated to do better and to be better. The marvelous messages delivered from this pulpit by our General Authorities and General Officers and the music have been sublime! I urge you to study these messages, commencing this week. They express the mind and the will of the Lord for His people, today.
"The new home-centered, Church-supported integrated curriculum has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith. I promise that as you diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings, and the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining.
"During this conference we have strengthened our resolve to execute the essential effort to honor the Lord Jesus Christ every time we refer to His Church. I promise you that our rigorous attention to use the correct name of the Savior’s Church and its members will lead to increased faith and access to greater spiritual power for members of His Church."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints," General Conference October 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What a blessing our modern technology can be, when it is used for God's purposes! Within a matter of a few days after the conclusion of General Conference, we are now able to study the transcripts of the messages online and listen to audio recordings of the talks. President Nelson's concluding message from the recent conference included this invitation for us, to begin to study the messages this week:


In addition to the blessings that will result from studying and following the counsel of Church leaders, President Nelson expressed some additional promises:
  1. During the conference, we were introduced to coming changes that will put emphasis on home study of the gospel, including a shortened Sunday meeting time and materials to facilitate our individual and family study. President Nelson promised us that as we begin to implement those changes and "remodel" our homes into "a center of gospel learning," we will see blessings:
    1. "Over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight".
    2. "Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings"
    3. "The influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease."
    4. "Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining."
    Those are remarkable promises!

  2. As we remember the counsel to use with "rigorous attention" the proper name of the Lord's Church in every opportunity, we will see blessings:
    1. "Increased faith"
    2. "Access to greater spiritual power for members of His Church."
We are truly blessed to be led by inspired leaders. Now it is up to us to claim the blessings that are promised to us!

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

President Ezra Taft Benson on the importance of General Conference talks

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.
"My dear brethren and sisters, this has been a wonderful general conference of the Church. We have felt a marvelous spirit in all of our meetings.
"I commend my Brethren of the General Authorities for the excellent addresses they have given. My humble prayer is that all of us will follow the counsel and instruction we have received.
"As we have felt the Spirit and made new and sacred resolves, may we now have the courage and fortitude to carry out those resolves.
"For the next six months, your conference edition of the Ensign should stand next to your standard works and be referred to frequently. As my dear friend and brother Harold B. Lee said, we should let these conference addresses 'be the guide to [our] walk and talk during the next six months. These are the important matters the Lord sees fit to reveal to this people in this day' (in Conference Report, Apr. 1946, p. 68)."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Come unto Christ, and Be Perfected in Him," General Conference April 1988
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is a classic reminder from President Benson, echoing remarks from President Lee much earlier—and a challenge that has been repeated a number of times since. The general conference messages should have significant and lasting impact with us, as we have a chance to review and study them in the coming months:


President Benson spoke in a day before the Internet, when we would eagerly wait a month for the printed talks to be available in the Church magazines. In our day, the audio tracks of the talks are available almost immediately following the conference for listening on our personal devices; and then within days, we can read the transcripts of the talks online. We are very blessed by that technology to be able to review the material while the spirit of conference weekend is still fresh and strong in our minds and hearts!

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

Monday, October 8, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on the blessing of eternal families

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.
"Crisis or transition of any kind reminds us of what matters most. In the routine of life, we often take our families—our parents and children and siblings—for granted. But in times of danger and need and change, there is no question that what we care about most is our families! It will be even more so when we leave this life and enter into the spirit world. Surely the first people we will seek to find there will be father, mother, spouse, children, and siblings.
"I believe the mission statement for mortality might be 'to build an eternal family.' Here on this earth we strive to become part of extended families with the ability to create and form our own part of those families. That is one of the reasons our Heavenly Father sent us here. Not everyone will find a companion and have a family in mortality, but everyone, regardless of individual circumstances, is a precious member of God’s family."
- M. Russell Ballard, "What Matters Most Is What Lasts Longest," General Conference October 2005
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Ballard's wife of 67 years, Barbara Bowen Ballard, passed away last Monday at age 86. Her funeral will be held today, which is also President Ballard's 90th birthday. President Ballard has often spoken about the sacred nature of families and the doctrine of eternal relationships; this excerpt is especially poignant given the timing of Sister Ballard's passing.

As he spoke in general conference this past weekend, President Ballard taught about Joseph F. Smith's vision of the redemption of the dead (D&C 138) and said, "We too can be comforted and learn more about our own future when we or our loved ones die and go to the spirit world by studying this revelation and pondering its significance in the way we live our lives each day."

We would be wise to not wait for a "crisis or transition" in order to learn the message President Ballard is teaching:


Part of our mission in mortality is "to build an eternal family." We should never forget the sacred and precious blessing and opportunity that is ours; in the midst of the distractions of our time, we must be committed and focused on "the things that matter most."

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

Sunday, October 7, 2018

President Joseph Fielding Smith on the power and importance of prophetic teachings

Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) was the son of Joseph F. Smith, 6th president of the Church, and grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph. He was called as an apostle in 1910, and served as the 10th president of the Church from 1970 until his death in 1972 at age 95.
“When one of the brethren stands before a congregation of the people today, and the inspiration of the Lord is upon him, he speaks that which the Lord would have him speak. It is just as much scripture as anything you will find written in any of these records, and yet we call these the standard works of the Church. We depend, of course, upon the guidance of the brethren who are entitled to inspiration.
“There is only one man in the Church at a time who has the right to give revelation for the Church, and that is the President of the Church. But that does not bar any other member in this Church from speaking the word of the Lord, as indicated here in this revelation, section 68 [see D&C 68:2–6], but a revelation that is to be given as these revelations are given in this book, to the Church, will come through the presiding officer of the Church; yet, the word of the Lord, as spoken by other servants at the general conferences and stake conferences, or wherever they may be when they speak that which the Lord has put into their mouths, is just as much the word of the Lord as the writings and the words of other prophets in other dispensations.”
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:186

A truly inspired leader always "speaks that which the Lord would have him speak." And likewise, and inspired listener will then hear what the Lord would have him hear, and learn what the Lord would have him learn. It's a powerful process, one that can bless our lives so richly as we properly follow it:


President Smith emphasized that there is only one head or spokesman, responsible for receiving and sharing revelation for the entire Church. But the inspired word of the Lord can come in many ways and many settings, and through many voices, as we are receptive to it. How eager we should be to seek that counsel, and to follow it!

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

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on hearing the Lord's voice in general conference

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.
"On long-range flights, the shortwave radio frequencies are often crowded and static distorts the messages. The same is true for our lives. Everybody wants to get their message across. We have to train and condition ourselves to hear the still, small voice, never to be distracted or stop listening because of too much static on that sacred frequency. This can best be done by internalizing and acting according to the moral and ethical standards we receive from the scriptures and the living prophets.
"From the Prophet Joseph Smith to President Howard W. Hunter [and today to President Russell M. Nelson], we are receiving updated sacred guidance according to our needs and readiness. The general conference messages by our prophets, seers, and revelators are given to us by the Lord in his own time, in his own way, and for a very special purpose."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Only True And Valid Basis," General Conference, October 1994
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This address, the first conference talk given by Elder Uchtdorf when was a newly-called Seventy in the church leadership, underscores his testimony and loyalty to the Lord's chosen prophets. It was our first chance to hear him give a lesson based on an aviation analogy. His counsel was to learn to "filter" the many messages that are jamming our "listening frequencies" so that we can identify the ones that truly matter most. We can learn to distinguish and choose appropriately as we follow the previous counsel given to us in scriptures and prophetic teachings.


General Conference is a time to fine-tune our listening abilities in order to receive instruction from the Lord that will bless our lives each day. What a sacred opportunity to listen to those "prophets, seers, and revelators"!

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