Monday, December 6, 2021

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on love for God as a motivation for righteousness

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (1945- ) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"There are many places in the scriptures that counsel mankind to fear God. In our day we generally interpret the word fear as 'respect' or 'reverence' or 'love'; that is, the fear of God means the love of God or respect for Him and His law. That may often be a correct reading, but I wonder if sometimes fear doesn't really mean fear, as when the prophets speak of fearing to offend God by breaking His commandments....
"I submit that fear of the Lord, or what Paul calls 'godly fear' (Hebrews 12:28), should be part of our reverence for Him. We should so love and reverence Him that we fear doing anything wrong in His sight, whatever may be the opinions of or pressure from others. Moroni urges us, 'Begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him' (Mormon 9:27).
"Because the world around us generally ignores God, it is easy for us at times to forget that our responsibility to know and do His will is constant. Most do not realize, or do not believe, that in a future day each of us must account to the Lord for his or her life: thoughts, words, and actions. Working out our own salvation with fear and trembling means striving in the decisions and activities of life day by day to prepare what will be a good accounting.
"Having been blessed to receive what we have received, we can advance spiritually as no other people, but we are also at greater risk than any others. We cannot commit the sins they do without coming under a greater condemnation, for if we sin, we sin against a greater light. We cannot trifle with the sacred things committed to our care and be considered innocent as those who know not God.
"God is feeling after us to see if we will prove faithful, and if we have the integrity and sensitivity to honor sacred things, we will receive even more. But if not, our blessings will turn to our condemnation."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "A Sense of the Sacred," CES Fireside, 7 November 2004
Click here to read the full article

Coming to understand our relationship to God is a crucial task for this life. Elder Christofferson mentions feelings we might have for Him, including respect, reverence, and love. But he also discusses the concept of fear — particularly the idea of "fearing to offend God by breaking His commandments." This kind of "godly fear" is really expanded reverence, and is very different from the concept of "fear" that is most common in the world.

All we do should truly, ultimately be motivated by love for God and love for one another. What a powerful concept!

And to those who have greater light and understanding, there is greater responsibility and accountability. Elder Christofferson reminds us that "our responsibility to know and do His will is constant." I appreciate the challenge he offers: "God is feeling after us to see if we will prove faithful, and if we have the integrity and sensitivity to honor sacred things, we will receive even more."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 2, 2015

Sunday, December 5, 2021

President Howard W. Hunter on following Christ better

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.
"The great standard! The only sure way! The light and the life of the world! How grateful we should be that God sent his Only Begotten Son to earth....
"Let us follow the Son of God in all ways and in all walks of life. Let us make him our exemplar and our guide. We should at every opportunity ask ourselves, 'What would Jesus do?' and then be more courageous to act upon the answer. We must follow Christ, in the best sense of that word. We must be about his work as he was about his Father's. We should try to be like him....
"We must know Christ better than we know him; we must remember him more often than we remember him; we must serve him more valiantly than we serve him. Then we will drink water springing up unto eternal life and will eat the bread of life.
"What manner of men and women ought we to be? Even as he is."
- Howard W. Hunter, "What Manner Of Men Ought Ye To Be?", General Conference April 1994
Click here to read the full talk

President Hunter had such a gentle, kind way of inviting us to "Come Unto Christ" — as in this excerpt. His loving tone reflects his own gratitude for the gift of the Savior, and his testimony that following him brings the greatest joy in this life. President Hunter exemplified the quiet, steady discipleship that I think must please the Savior.

Though presented in a gentle manner, this is a strong challenge and invitation. We must know Christ better! We must remember and serve Him more valiantly in order to receive His greatest blessings.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
August 6, 2015

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Elder Quentin L. Cook on overcoming doubts and concerns through the Atonement

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.
"We recognize that some members have questions and concerns as they seek to strengthen their faith and testimonies. We should be careful not to be critical or judgmental of those with concerns—great or small. At the same time, those with concerns should do everything they can to build their own faith and testimony. Patiently and humbly studying, pondering, praying, living gospel principles, and counseling with appropriate leaders are the best ways to resolve questions or concerns.
"Some have asserted that more members are leaving the Church today and that there is more doubt and unbelief than in the past. This is simply not true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never been stronger. The number of members removing their names from the records of the Church has always been very small and is significantly less in recent years than in the past. The increase in demonstrably measurable areas, such as endowed members with a current temple recommend, adult full-tithe payers, and those serving missions, has been dramatic. Let me say again, the Church has never been stronger. But, 'remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God' (D&C 18:10). We reach out to everyone.
"If the grim realities you are facing at this time seem dark and heavy and almost unbearable, remember that in the soul-wrenching darkness of Gethsemane and the incomprehensible torture and pain of Calvary, the Savior accomplished the Atonement, which resolves the most terrible burdens that can occur in this life. He did it for you, and He did it for me. He did it because He loves us and because He obeys and loves His Father."
- Quentin L. Cook, "The Lord Is My Light," General Conference April 2015, pp. 62-66
Click here to read the full article

I appreciated Elder Cook's timely address. He speaks to those who might have questions or concerns as they learn about the Church and develop their testimonies. He encouraged proper inquiry and open honesty in resolving the concerns, while reassuring his listeners that the Church is strong and growing, not suffering from massive departures as some have claimed.

As he spoke of the "grim realities" being faced by members that might feel "dark and heavy," it was interesting to note that he was talking in the context of those "questions and concerns" and not the myriad other challenges we might face in mortality. Some who struggle with their testimonies feel more of the weight of that doubt than many of us realize. Yet Elder Cook presents the Atonement of Christ as the source of strength and hope in this situation too:

"He did it for you, and He did it for me. He did it because He loves us and because He obeys and loves His Father." How beautiful, how true, how glorious!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
January 22, 2016

Friday, December 3, 2021

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on God's love for each of us

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.
"Jesus did not come to improve God's view of man nearly so much as He came to improve man's view of God and to plead with them to love their Heavenly Father as He has always and will always love them. The plan of God, the power of God, the holiness of God, yes, even the anger and the judgment of God they had occasion to understand. But the love of God, the profound depth of His devotion to His children, they still did not fully know—until Christ came.
"So feeding the hungry, healing the sick, rebuking hypocrisy, pleading for faith—this was Christ showing us the way of the Father, He who is 'merciful and gracious, slow to anger, long-suffering and full of goodness' (Lectures on Faith, 42). In His life and especially in His death, Christ was declaring, 'This is God's compassion I am showing you, as well as that of my own.' In the perfect Son's manifestation of the perfect Father's care, in Their mutual suffering and shared sorrow for the sins and heartaches of the rest of us, we see ultimate meaning in the declaration: 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved' (John 3:16-17).
"I bear personal witness this day of a personal, living God, who knows our names, hears and answers prayers, and cherishes us eternally as children of His spirit. I testify that amidst the wondrously complex tasks inherent in the universe, He seeks our individual happiness and safety above all other godly concerns. We are created in His very image and likeness (see Gen. 1:26-27; Moses 2:26-27), and Jesus of Nazareth, His Only Begotten Son in the flesh, came to earth as the perfect mortal manifestation of His grandeur."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Grandeur of God," General Conference October 2003
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Holland is a master of hope and encouragement. In this message, he helps us understand our relationship with God, and His enduring love for us.

The key is understanding how the Jesus' mortal experience demonstrated the "profound depth" of God's devotion to His children. Every aspect of the Savior's life showed us "the way of the Father"—"In His life and especially in His death, Christ was declaring, 'This is God's compassion I am showing you, as well as that of my own.'" What a beautiful witness.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 3, 2015

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Elder David A. Bednar on becoming chosen by choosing God in our lives

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.
"To be or to become chosen is not an exclusive status conferred upon us. Rather, you and I ultimately determine if we are chosen. Please now note the use of the word chosen in the following verses from the Doctrine and Covenants:
"'Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
"'Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men' (D&C 121:34-35; emphasis added).
"I believe the implication of these verses is quite straightforward. God does not have a list of favorites to which we must hope our names will someday be added. He does not limit 'the chosen' to a restricted few. Rather, it is our hearts and our aspirations and our obedience which definitively determine whether we are counted as one of God's chosen....
"The fundamental purposes for the gift of agency were to love one another and to choose God. Thus we become God's chosen and invite His tender mercies as we use our agency to choose God."
- David A. Bednar, "The Tender Mercies of the Lord," General Conference April 2005
Click here to read the full talk

What does it mean to be "chosen"—to be one of "the chosen people" or to be "chosen of God"? Elder Bednar teaches that it has nothing to do with honor or special preparation, or some obscure selection process. Rather, it relates to our own actions in deciding to follow God, accept the love He offers us, and be obedient to his commandments.

In short, we choose to be chosen. When we exercise our agency appropriately and become devoted and faithful disciples through our choices and actions, we then are counted among the chosen ones. Interesting concept!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
June 15, 2016

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the treasured blessing of obedience

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.
"As we increase in faith, we also must increase in faithfulness....
"You and I may speak most eloquently of spiritual things. We may impress people with our keen intellectual interpretation of religious topics. We may rhapsodize about religion and 'dream of [our] mansion above' (Hymns, no. 223). But if our faith does not change the way we live—if our beliefs do not influence our daily decisions—our religion is vain, and our faith, if not dead, is certainly not well and is in danger of eventually flatlining. (See James 2:26.)
"Obedience is the lifeblood of faith. It is by obedience that we gather light into our souls.
"But sometimes I think we misunderstand obedience. We may see obedience as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. Or we may pound the metaphorical hammer of obedience against the iron anvil of the commandments in an effort to shape those we love, through constant heating and repeated battering, into holier, heavenly matter.
"No doubt about it, there are times when we need a stern call to repentance. Certainly, there are some who may be reached only in this manner.
"But perhaps there is a different metaphor that can explain why we obey the commandments of God. Maybe obedience is not so much the process of bending, twisting, and pounding our souls into something we are not. Instead, it is the process by which we discover what we truly are made of....
"The fundamental divinity of our nature remains. And the moment we choose to incline our hearts to our beloved Savior and set foot upon the path of discipleship, something miraculous happens. The love of God fills our hearts, the light of truth fills our minds, we start to lose the desire to sin, and we do not want to walk any longer in darkness. (See John 8:12.)
"We come to see obedience not as a punishment but as a liberating path to our divine destiny. And gradually, the corruption, dust, and limitations of this earth begin to fall away. Eventually, the priceless, eternal spirit of the heavenly being within us is revealed, and a radiance of goodness becomes our nature."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "He Will Place You on His Shoulders and Carry You Home," General Conference, April 2016, Sunday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

There is a profound difference between "faith" and "faithfulness." But to me, it's hard to understand that one could truly possess faith in Jesus Christ but not have a deep commitment to faithfulness in following the principles He taught. President Uchtdorf warns about outward signs of faith, including eloquence and articulateness in religious topics, in a life that has not shown evidence in how its conducted, and in the way daily decisions are made. If faith is alive and vibrant, there will be correlation in the principle of obedience.

This is a beautiful and profound statement: "Obedience is the lifeblood of faith. It is by obedience that we gather light into our souls." So it is in obedience that faith finds its "lifeblood" or the force of existence and thriving; and it is obedience that brings greater light and power to a soul.

President Uchtdorf clarifies that how we think about obedience can make a great difference. We can't just view it as an imposed burden, as constricting burdens to oppress our journey, as a tedious process of forcing us into the proper form. Rather, it's a wonderful process of self-discovery as we learn about our true natures and uncover the blessedness of a life aligned with God.

I love the thought that "the moment we choose to incline our hearts to our beloved Savior" and choose the path of discipleship, "something miraculous happens." It doesn't require a long and arduous process to see things change; it happens in the moment that we truly commit to Him. Then we feel the change and the blessing as His love and His light come into our lives in wonderful ways. Soon "a radiance of goodness becomes our nature." What a beautiful promise!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
April 10, 2016

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Elder M. Russell Ballard on spiritual safety in turbulent times

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.
"Admittedly we have ample reason to be deeply concerned because we see no immediate answers to the seemingly unsolvable problems confronting the human family. But regardless of this dark picture, which will ultimately get worse, we must never allow ourselves to give up hope! Moroni, having seen our day, counseled, 'Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith there must also be hope.' (Moro. 10:20.)
"To all who have harbored feelings of despair and an absence of hope, I offer the words of the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith:
"'Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.…
"'Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not' (D&C 6:34, 36), 'even so am I in the midst of you' (D&C 6:32).
"My message to you today, my brothers and sisters, is simply this: the Lord is in control. He knows the end from the beginning. He has given us adequate instruction that, if followed, will see us safely through any crisis. His purposes will be fulfilled, and someday we will understand the eternal reasons for all of these events. Therefore, today we must be careful to not overreact, nor should we be caught up in extreme preparations; but what we must do is keep the commandments of God and never lose hope!
"But where do we find hope in the midst of such turmoil and catastrophe? Quite simply, our one hope for spiritual safety during these turbulent times is to turn our minds and our hearts to Jesus Christ."
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Joy of Hope Fulfilled," General Conference October 1992
Click here to read the full talk

Every day we see a new barrage of distressing news and information about the "seemingly unsolvable problems confronting the human family" in moral, social, political, and economic aspects. And as Elder Ballard notes, there is reason to be "deeply concerned" about the state of things in our surroundings and the trends they express. However, the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ always offers hope and assurance to those who have faith in Jesus Christ. Even if "earth and hell combine against [us]", we still have the Rock of the Savior as a foundation and protection.

The key lies in understanding and following the message of the Savior. Elder Ballard's testimony is challenging but reassuring: "He has given us adequate instruction that, if followed, will see us safely through any crisis." Do we know that instruction? Are we following it carefully?

Elder Ballard cautions us not to overreact or be "caught up in extreme preparations." The sure, quiet, steady life of the disciple is the only way to peace.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
June 24, 2016
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