Thursday, October 28, 2021

President James E. Faust on making choices in life

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.
"In this life we have to make many choices. Some are very important choices. Some are not. Many of our choices are between good and evil. The choices we make, however, determine to a large extent our happiness or our unhappiness, because we have to live with the consequences of our choices. Making perfect choices all of the time is not possible. It just doesn't happen. But it is possible to make good choices we can live with and grow from. When God's children live worthy of divine guidance they can become 'free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon' (2 Ne. 2:26)....
"Some of our important choices have a time line. If we delay a decision, the opportunity is gone forever. Sometimes our doubts keep us from making a choice that involves change. Thus an opportunity may be missed. As someone once said, 'When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that in itself is a choice' (William James)....
"How do we make correct choices? A choice involves making a conscious decision. To make an intelligent decision we need to evaluate all available facts on both sides of an issue. But that isn't enough. Making correct decisions involves prayer and inspiration....
"As we look into the future, we are going to need to be stronger and more responsible for our choices in a world where people 'call evil good, and good evil' (2 Ne. 15:20). We do not choose wisely if we use our agency in opposition to God's will or to priesthood counsel. Tomorrow's blessings and opportunities depend on the choices we make today."
- James E. Faust, "Choices," General Conference April 2004
Click here to read the full talk

It's a good reminder to note that not one of us always makes only perfect choices. We do the best we can; and we always do better when we're worthy of "divine guidance" in those choices.

I liked this thought, of the importance of timely choices:


So then, learning to make correct choices, and make them in a prompt and timely way, is the challenge. "To make an intelligent decision we need to evaluate all available facts on both sides of an issue." That's hard to do; it's rare that we have the discipline to investigate so thoroughly. We are prone to rush to a decision. President Faust encourages more careful and deliberate consideration, followed by "prayer and inspiration."


King Benjamin taught that when we obey God, "he doth immediately bless you" (Mosi 2:24). Our blessings depend on our choices!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
August 25, 2015

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Elder Marvin J. Ashton on serving one another

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915-1994) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1971 until his death in 1994 at age 78.
"Be one who nurtures and who builds. Be one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.... Lend a hand to those who are frightened, lonely, or burdened.
"If we could look into each other's hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care....
"When we truly become converted to Jesus Christ, committed to Him, an interesting thing happens: our attention turns to the welfare of our fellowman, and the way we treat others becomes increasingly filled with patience, kindness, a gentle acceptance, and a desire to play a positive role in their lives. This is the beginning of true conversion.
"Let us open our arms to each other, accept each other for who we are, assume everyone is doing the best he or she can, and look for ways to help leave quiet messages of love and encouragement instead of being destructive with bashing."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword", Ensign, May 1992, p. 18-20
Click here to read the full talk

In this excerpt, Elder Ashton describes the kind of person we all wish we could be... we all should be. The image below shows an incident when Joseph Smith found two children stuck in a muddy street, and not only helped them get clear of the bog, but consoled them and wiped away tears.


I love this insight: "If we could look into each other's hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care." I have come to believe that; everyone carries burdens at times that are often hidden from others, and can influence behavior and relationships in so many ways. True disciples learn to care for one another, to "open our arms to each other" and express true love and understanding. What a wonderful goal to aspire to, as we work diligently to become more Christlike.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
August 27, 2015

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

President Ezra Taft Benson on the timing of rewards and consequences

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.
"Daily, constantly, we choose by our desires, our thoughts, and our actions whether we want to be blessed or cursed, happy or miserable. One of the trials of life is that we do not usually receive immediately the full blessing for righteousness or the full cursing for wickedness. That it will come is certain, but ofttimes there is a waiting period that occurs, as was the case with Job and Joseph. 
"In the meantime the wicked think they are getting away with something. The Book of Mormon teaches that the wicked 'have joy in their works for a season, [but] by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return' (3 Ne. 27:11). 
"During this testing time the righteous must continue to love God, trust in His promises, be patient, and be assured... 
"I testify to you that God's pay is the best pay that this world or any other world knows anything about. And it comes in full abundance only to those who love the Lord and put Him first. 
"The great test of life is obedience to God. 
"The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it. 
"The great commandment of life is, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength' (Mark 12:30). 
"May God bless us to put the first commandment first and, as a result, reap peace in this life and eternal life with a fulness of joy in the life to come." 
- Ezra Taft Benson, "The Great Commandment — Love the Lord," General Conference April 1988
Click here to read or watch the full talk

In my experience, both personally and in counseling with others, it's so easy and so common to blame our troubles or challenges on other people, on fate, on circumstances.  And occasionally, that is valid; but so often, our state in life is a result of our own choices and actions. President Benson makes this point very forcefully, also reminding us that though God is deeply aware of us, he often postpones the consequences so that we can learn and grow in faith.


Knowing that the "waiting period" is there for a purpose, but is truly temporary, can make all the difference in how we endure. And doesn't this final statement from President Benson encapsulate so much in a few beautiful words?


The great test, great task, and great commandment of our mortal life are all closely related: will we follow God, with willing hearts, with all our hearts? That is the way to find peace in life, and eternal life in the worlds to come.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
February 24, 2015

Monday, October 25, 2021

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on the sacrifices we offer on God's altar

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.
"Jesus' perfect character is thus not only holy, but wholly complete and finished. Without Jesus' supernal character, He could not have accomplished the astonishing atonement! And He has asked us to become much more like Him (see Matt. 5:48; 3 Ne. 12:48; 3 Ne. 27:27). Though heavy, discipleship's burden can be made light (see Matt. 11:30). The Lord can 'ease the burdens,' and/or our shoulders can be made strong enough that we 'may be able to bear it' (Mosiah 24:14; 1 Cor. 10:13).
"So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the 'sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,' (D&C 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving 'away all [our] sins' in order to 'know God' (Alma 22:18) for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness," General Conference April 1995
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Maxwell's unique writing and speaking style was so inspiring to me. His use of language not only conveyed wonderful doctrine, but always did it in a way that invited more pondering. His use of the homonyms "holy" and "wholly" in the opening sentence is a good example. Jesus' charter was both holy, and wholly complete. It reminds us of our incomplete attempts to become holy; we tend to be occasionally holy. We have much work yet to do as we strive to be like Him. But surely, He will bless us in that quest.

The main point of this excerpt is the blessings that come as we accept the gift of the Atonement and strive, as faithful and dedicated disciples, to truly follow the Lord. This summary is classic Elder Maxwell:


And the final statement is the challenge to each of us: we can't fully accept Him until we deny our selfish desires and personal weaknesses. What an invitation for deep introspection and greater resolve!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
June 12, 2015

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Elder Hugh B. Brown on true gratitude

Elder Hugh B. Brown (October 24, 1883–December 2, 1975) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1953, then as an apostle in 1958.  He served as a counselor to President David O. McKay from 1961 until President McKay's death in 1970, then for five more years as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until he passed away.
"How rich and radiant is the soul of a man who has a thankful heart. His gratitude increases with his unfolding awareness of himself, the universe and his Creator. Appreciation, like love, enriches both giver and receiver, and, when spontaneously expressed in word or deed, reveals a depth and delicacy of fine-grain character. True gratitude is motivated by a recognition of favors received. Its counterfeit is fawning anticipation of favors to come.
"Serious consideration of the mystery of life, its vastness and incalculability, gives depth to appreciation for blessings gratuitously bestowed. They who have eyes to see, ears to hear, understanding hearts, will see the bounteous love of God everywhere manifest and will be inclined to reverently remove their shoes and exclaim:
"For the rock and for the river,
The valley's fertile sod,
For the strength of the hills we bless thee,
Our God, our fathers' God.

['For the Strength of the Hills,' Hymns:35]"

- Hugh B. Brown, "Gratitude Is a Spiritual Attribute," Instructor, Nov. 1957, p. 332


I love this description of what it means to have a thankful heart, and the impact that gratitude has both on the man himself and all who he interacts with.


The difference between "true gratitude" and a counterfeit is motivation for the emotion: either a true appreciation for favors received, or the expectation of favors to be granted. True gratitude radiates from our heart, from within our soul, in a perfectly unselfish way.

It's the "serious consideration of the mystery of life," according to Elder Brown, that leads to a greater appreciation of blessings. When we slow down to observe and ponder our lives, we begin to notice and acknowledge the "bounteous love of God everywhere manifest." What a good reminder for us all!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
November 23, 2015

Saturday, October 23, 2021

President Gordon B. Hinckley on a love affair with the scriptures

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) was born on June 23, 1910 — 105 years ago today.  He was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1961, served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1981-1995, then as Church President until his death in 2008 at age 97.
"I love our scriptures. I love these wonderful volumes, which set forth the word of the Lord—given personally or through prophets—for the guidance of our Father's sons and daughters. I love to read the scriptures, and I try to do so consistently and repeatedly. I like to quote from them, for they give the voice of authority to that which I say. I do not claim distinction as a scholar of the scriptures. For me, the reading of the scriptures is not the pursuit of scholarship. Rather, it is a love affair with the word of the Lord and that of his prophets. They contain so much for each of us....
"I urge our people everywhere to read the scriptures more—to study all of them together with the help of these tremendous aids for a harmony of understanding in order to bring their precepts into our lives.
"May the Lord bless each of us to feast upon his holy word and to draw from it that strength, that peace, that knowledge 'which passeth all understanding' (Philip. 4:7), as he has promised."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Feasting upon the Scriptures," talk given during the “Using the Scriptures” Churchwide satellite fireside, March 10, 1985; see Ensign, Dec. 1985, pp. 42-45
Click here to read the full talk

In 1985, the Church held a special worldwide broadcast to share encouragement about scripture study. New editions of the Bible and the Triple Combination had been released in the years leading up to this, and the broadcast was an opportunity to encourage church members to understand and take advantage of those new resources. President Hinckley was a counselor in the First Presidency, and spoke along with other leaders. I appreciated these comments:
  • "I love to read the scriptures, and I try to do so consistently and repeatedly." He shares his own commitment to the principle of scripture study.
  • "I like to quote from them, for they give the voice of authority to that which I say." Scriptural authority adds power to any teaching setting.
He then shared this important perspective; he never claimed to be a "scholar" of the scriptures, but still found great blessing and power in his personal study:


In the years that have followed, many others have given similar urgings to "read the scriptures more... in order to bring their precepts into our lives." That invitation and challenge is just as valid today as it was 36 years ago!

Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021
June 23, 2015

Friday, October 22, 2021

Thomas S. Monson on living life each day

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.
"How fragile life, how certain death. We do not know when we will be required to leave this mortal existence. And so I ask, 'What are we doing with today?' If we live only for tomorrow, we'll have a lot of empty yesterdays today. Have we been guilty of declaring, 'I've been thinking about making some course corrections in my life. I plan to take the first step — tomorrow'? With such thinking, tomorrow is forever. Such tomorrows rarely come unless we do something about them today....
"Because life is fragile and death inevitable, we must make the most of each day....
"My brothers and sisters, may we resolve from this day forward to fill our hearts with love. May we go the extra mile to include in our lives any who are lonely or downhearted or who are suffering in any way. May we '[cheer] up the sad and [make] someone feel glad' (Hymns, no. 223). May we live so that when that final summons is heard, we may have no serious regrets, no unfinished business, but will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith' (2 Tim. 4:7)."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Now Is the Time," Ensign, Nov. 2001, pp. 59-61
Click here to read the full talk

Most of us, if not all, have dealt with the uncertainty of this life, and can appreciate President Monson's warning, "We do not know when we will be required to leave this mortal existence." We have seen loved ones or acquaintances "called home" suddenly or unexpectedly, in what seems to us to be untimely and too early. Given the stark reality of that uncertainty, President Monson reminds us that we should never procrastinate needed changes or our commitments to make the most of each day we are allotted.

This is very practical advice of some of the things we should be considering about how to live life, now, today:


There is much we can do, to share and enrich the lives of others, to support and help those in need. That will add to the richness of our own lives, and prepare us to answer "the final summons" when our time is completed.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
July 20, 2015
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