Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Elder Ulisses Soares on the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ

Elder Ulisses Soares (born October 2, 1958 in Brazil) has served as a Seventy since April 2005, and as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy since January 2013. He was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles on April 1, 2018.

"In addition to providing the majestic gift of salvation, the Savior offers us relief and comfort as we face our afflictions, temptations, and weaknesses of mortal life, including the circumstances we have experienced recently in the current pandemic. I can assure you that Christ is ever aware of the adversities we experience in mortality. He understands all of the bitterness, agony, and physical pain as well as the emotional and spiritual challenges we face. The Savior’s bowels are filled with mercy, and He is always ready to succor us. This is possible because He personally experienced and took upon Himself in the flesh the pain of our weakness and infirmities.

"With meekness and humility of heart, He descended below all things and accepted being despised, rejected, and humiliated by men, having been wounded for our transgressions and iniquities. He suffered these things for all, taking upon Himself the sins of the world, thus becoming our ultimate spiritual caregiver.

"As we draw nearer to Him, surrendering ourselves spiritually to His care, we will be able to take upon ourselves His yoke, which is easy, and His burden, which is light, thus finding that promised comfort and rest. Furthermore, we will receive the strength we all need to overcome the hardships, weaknesses, and sorrows of life, which are exceedingly difficult to endure without His help and healing power."

- Ulisses Soares, "Jesus Christ: The Caregiver of Our Soul," General Conference April 2021, Sunday morning

Elder Soares was privileged to speak on Easter morning, and he bore a powerful testimony of the Atonement of the Savior: both the miracle of Resurrection, and the peace that can come as we accept the blessing of repentance. But there is more - the peace and succor that come as we allow His Atonement to bless us in our daily challenges and difficulties.

Even through the frustrations of the pandemic, and all the greatest frustrations and challenges we have in life, we have the offer and promise of divine help. Elder Soares testifies of the Savior's awareness of our situations, and His willingness to help. That aid is only possible because He experienced our challenges during His mortal experience. How blessed we are to have that great gift available!

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Elder Gerrit W. Gong on welcoming and supporting each other

Elder Gerrit W. Gong (born December 23, 1953) was called as a Seventy in April 2010, then to the Presidency of the Seventy in October 2015. He was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in April 2018.
"Jesus Christ invites us to become, like Him, a good Samaritan, to make His Inn (His Church) a refuge for all from life’s bruises and storms. We prepare for His promised Second Coming as each day we do unto 'the least of these' (Matt 25:40) as we would unto Him. 'The least of these' is each of us....

"Our Good Samaritan promises to return. Miracles occur when we care for each other as He would. When we come with broken hearts and contrite spirits, we can find voice in Jesus Christ and be encircled in His understanding arms of safety. Sacred ordinances offer covenant belonging and 'the power of godliness' (D&C 84:20) to sanctify inner intent and outward action. With His loving-kindness and long-suffering, His Church becomes our Inn.

"As we create room in His Inn, welcoming all, our Good Samaritan can heal us on our dusty mortal roads. With perfect love, our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, promise 'peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come' (D&C 59:23)—'that where I am ye shall be also' (D&C 132:23)."

- Gerrit W. Gong, "Room in the Inn," General Conference April 2021, Saturday morning

When the "Good Samaritan" was caring for the stranger on the road, he provided the initial care that he could, but then took his new acquaintance to an inn where he could get additional care and attention. He promised to return and pay for any expenses incurred. That's an important part of the story, emphasized by Elder Gong in this address. The inn is a symbolic place where care can be obtained and healing can occur. In Elder Gong's interpretation, the inn is likened to the Church, and we should be aware of opportunities to care for the wounded and promost healing.

When we treat one another with true Christ-like love and concern, "miracles occur." That is the real beauty of the Church. We can be instruments in the Savior's plan to help facilitate His Atonement's blessings in the lives of those who need it most! 

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

Monday, April 19, 2021

Elder Dale G. Renlund on dealing with unfairness by reaching out

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.
"How we deal with advantages and disadvantages is part of life’s test. We will be judged not so much by what we say but by how we treat the vulnerable and disadvantaged. As Latter-day Saints, we seek to follow the Savior’s example, to go about doing good. We demonstrate our love for our neighbor by working to ensure the dignity of all Heavenly Father’s children.

"With our own advantages and disadvantages in mind, reflection is healthy.... To try to see things with an eternal perspective can be clarifying. As we become more like the Savior, we develop more empathy, understanding, and charity.

"...all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and that by His authority families can be joined together forever.

"When faced with unfairness, we can push ourselves away from God or we can be drawn toward Him for help and support."

- Dale G. Renlund, "Infuriating Unfairness," General Conference April 2021, Saturday afternoon

This talk for me was one of the highlights of the April 2021 conference. I was grateful to see Elder Renlund confronting real, challenging issues. There truly is so much unfairness in life, as we perceive it. As we ponder it, we truly can become infuriated. Perhaps we should become infuriated, at least at the portion of that unfairness that is created by man's choices and actions.

Elder Renlund provided some important thoughts to ponder on the issues of the unfairness of life. He presented possible explanations, recommendations for how we respond, and encouragement to maintain perspective.

For those of us who generally fall into the "advantaged" camp, Elder Renlund gave this advice:

This is very wise counsel. In most cases, there is not much we can do about how the "unfairness" impacts us. But therre is much we can do about how we respond, and in particular, how we help those who are suffering greater disadvantages than we are. We need to "go about doing good" and succoring our neighbor. As we follow Christ's example, we become more like Him, and feel His joy.

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

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on treating others with kindness

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (born 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 we look through a gospel lens, we recognize that we too are under the watchcare of a compassionate caregiver, who extends Himself in kindness and a nurturing spirit. The Good Shepherd knows each one of us by name and has a personal interest in us. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said: 'I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep. … And I [will] lay down my life for the sheep' (John 10:14-15).

"On this holy Easter weekend, I find abiding peace in knowing that 'the Lord is my shepherd'(Psalm 23:1) and that each of us is known by Him and under His kind watchcare. When we confront life’s wind and rainstorms, sickness and injuries, the Lord—our Shepherd, our Caregiver—will nourish us with love and kindness. He will heal our hearts and restore our souls."

- Gary E. Stevenson, "Hearts Knit Together," General Conference April 2021 Saturday morning

Elder Stevenson began his address with the story of a lab researcher who expressed affection and warmth to the rabbits in the study, and noticed significant health changes. That study has had lasting impacts in the medical community. He used that example to talk about the importance of us treating others with kindness and understanding. As adults in particular, we have the responsibility to "set a tone and be role models of kindness, inclusion, and civility—to teach Christlike behavior to the rising generation in what we say and how we act."

As we live our lives with a spirit of kindness and love towards others, we feel more of the spirit of the Savior and His blessings.

Sometimes we have to be kind even to those who disappoint or hurt us. The Savior does that for us; He is the ultimate "compassionate caregiver." I love the phrase from Isaiah: "In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." (Isa 54:8, emphasis added.) 

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

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on understanding miracles from God

Elder Ronald A. Rasband (born 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.

"Miracles, signs, and wonders abound among followers of Jesus Christ today, in your lives and in mine. Miracles are divine acts, manifestations and expressions of God’s limitless power, and an affirmation that He is 'the same yesterday, today, and forever' (Moroni 10:19). Jesus Christ, who created the seas, can calm them; He who gave sight to the blind can lift our sights to heaven; He who cleansed the lepers can mend our infirmities; He who healed the impotent man can call for us to rise up with 'Come, follow me' (Luke 18:22).

"Many of you have witnessed miracles, more than you realize. They may seem small in comparison to Jesus raising the dead. But the magnitude does not distinguish a miracle, only that it came from God. Some suggest that miracles are simply coincidences or sheer luck. But the prophet Nephi condemned those who would 'put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain' (2 Ne 26:20).

"Miracles are wrought by divine power by Him who is 'mighty to save' (D&C 133:47). Miracles are extensions of God’s eternal plan; miracles are a lifeline from heaven to earth."

- Ronald A. Rasband, "Behold! I Am a God of Miracles," General Conference April 2021 Sunday afternoon

It's good to be reminded that we live in a time of "miracles, signs, and wonders" that always accompany true followers of Jesus Christ. Understanding the nature of miracles will help us see them more frequently in our lives. Elder Rasband offered a wonderful review and reminder.

It is quite easy to "dismiss" miracles or overlook them entirely if we are not spiritually attentive. We can "explain away" the influence of God, and many in the world strive to do this. We can also overlook His hand in our lives; Elder Rasband warns that most of us "have witnessed miracles, more than you realize." I think God is displeased when we fail to acknowledge His influence! Truly, we should learn to recognize it, and to amplify its presence in our daily lives.
(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Friday, April 16, 2021

Elder Neil L. Andersen on finding faith in the passing of loved ones

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.
"Each of us has been affected by the worldwide pandemic, as family and friends have unexpectedly moved beyond mortality....

"The Lord has said, 'Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.' (D&C 42:45)

"While we weep, we also rejoice in the glorious Resurrection of our Savior. Because of Him, our loved ones and friends continue their eternal journey. As President Joseph F. Smith explained: 'We can not forget them; we do not cease to love them. … They have advanced; we are advancing; we are growing as they have grown.' President Russell M. Nelson said, 'Our tears of sorrow … turn to tears of anticipation.'"

- Neil L. Andersen, "The Personal Journey of a Child of God," General Conference April 2021 Saturday morning

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have lost people who are close to us, or at least with whom we're acquainted. Elder Andersen helps us ponder how our knowledge and understanding of God's eternal plan for us enables us to deal with losses.

Weeping is a part of loss. President Nelson said, "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." ("Doors of Death," Conference April 1992.)  But hope and confidence can accompany the sorrow of loss. Having an  understanding of the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Savior, and a testimony of its power, will bless us as we learn to move forward.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the blessings of the covenant path

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.
"What is the covenant path? It is the one path that leads to the celestial kingdom of God. We embark upon the path at the gate of baptism and then 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men [the two great commandments] … to the end.' (2 Ne 31:20.) In the course of the covenant path (which, by the way, extends beyond mortality), we receive all the ordinances and covenants pertaining to salvation and exaltation.

"Our overarching covenant commitment is to do God’s will 'and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us.' (Mosiah 5:5.) Following the principles and commandments of the gospel of Jesus Christ day by day is the happiest and most satisfying course in life. For one thing, a person avoids a great many problems and regrets. Let me use a sports analogy. In tennis, there is something called unforced errors. These are things such as hitting a playable ball into the net or double-faulting when serving. Unforced errors are considered the result of a player’s blunder rather than being caused by the opponent’s skill.

"Too often our problems or challenges are self-inflicted, the result of poor choices, or, we could say, the result of 'unforced errors.' When we are diligently pursuing the covenant path, we quite naturally avoid many 'unforced errors.' We sidestep the various forms of addiction. We do not fall into the ditch of dishonest conduct. We cross over the abyss of immorality and infidelity. We bypass the people and things that, even if popular, would jeopardize our physical and spiritual well-being. We avoid the choices that harm or disadvantage others and instead acquire the habits of self-discipline and service.

"Elder J. Golden Kimball is purported to have said, 'I may not have [always] walked the straight and narrow, but I [try] to cross it as often as I [can].' In a more serious moment, I am sure Brother Kimball would agree that staying on, not just crossing, the covenant path is our greatest hope for avoiding avoidable misery on the one hand and successfully dealing with the unavoidable woes of life on the other."

- D. Todd Christofferson, "Why the Covenant Path," General Conference April 2021, Sunday afternoon session
Elder Christofferson's message reviewed the concept of the "covenant path" and discussed the opportunities and blessings that come along the way.

The application of the tennis concept of an "unforced error" is one I had not considered before. Most of our errors are indeed "unforced" - it's our own choice that brings about the stumble, the mistake. But we also have the choice to correct the error and move forward in better ways. And we can avoid many of those errors as we more carefully "follow the covenant path" in our lives.

We used to hear more about "the strait and narrow path" in our Gospel discussions. I think this emphasis of "covenant path" helps us to remember the importance of sacred covenants that are the keys to getting on that path and remaining firmly on it, so we're not just "crossing" the path now and then but carefully and diligently pressing forward.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)
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