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

Monday, November 29, 2021

President Ezra Taft Benson on finding happiness in the Savior

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.
"The Lord wants us to be happy. He will do His part if we will do our part. The Christlike life is the life that brings true happiness. There is no true happiness without God. Sin brings sorrow, disappointment, and heartaches. Only the good life brings a happy new year. It pays to live the gospel of Jesus Christ. It pays to accept the teachings of the Master, to apply them in our lives, to be true to the standards of the Church, to be true to our covenants—to live the gospel. And if we do this we will be bigger and can be bigger than anything that can possibly happen to us. I am sure that is the desire of all of us because those who have this faith, and have a testimony of the divinity of this work, can endure anything and keep their spirits sweet."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "New Year 1961," Washington D.C. Ward, 31 December 1960; see Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 339

That eternal "search for happiness"! President Benson's testimony is simple: Happiness comes from righteousness. It comes from "the Christlike life." It follows obedience and striving to live Gospel principles. It will be the result of keeping covenants.

The person who is truly striving to live that kind of Christlike life "can endure anything and keep their spirits sweet"—what a beautiful phrase! It's not just a positive outward attitude; it's an inner conviction to the goodness and knowledge that "all is well" and God is in charge. While some allow their spirits to turn bitter, angry, or resentful in the midst of the challenges of life, the true disciple's spirit stays sweet.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
May 3, 2016

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on maintaining spiritual clarity and sharpness

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1986, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1986 until his passing in 2008 at age 91.
"Windows must be washed regularly to clean away dust and dirt. If left to accumulate without regular cleaning, thickening grime can block out light and darken the window. Just as earthly windows need consistent, thorough cleaning, so do the windows of our spirituality.
"Weekly sacrament meeting attendance helps us strengthen our resolve to keep our personal windows of heaven free from the obscuring haze of earthly distractions and temptations. By partaking of the sacrament worthily to renew our baptismal covenants, we clarify our view of life's eternal purpose and divine priorities. The sacrament prayers invite personal introspection, repentance, and rededication as we pledge our willingness to remember our Savior, Jesus the Christ. This commitment to become like Christ, repeated weekly, defines the supreme aspiration of Latter-day Saint life.
"Frequent temple attendance, as our circumstances allow, is another way to keep our spiritual windows clean. Worship in the house of the Lord will keep our view of what matters most clear and sharp, focused crisply, and free from the dust of the world."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Windows of Light and Truth," Ensign, November 1995, pp. 75-78
Click here to read the full talk

"Keeping things clean" seems to take work in this life! Elder Wirthlin applies this principle to both temporal and spiritual aspects:

Elder Wirthlin gives specific suggestions on how to "keep our personal windows of heaven free from the obscuring haze of earthly distractions and temptations." This suggestions include:
  • partaking of the sacrament worthily
  • attending the temple frequently
These kinds of activities help keep our attention focused on the things that matter most, clarifying our eternal views, increasing commitment to proper choices and actions, and avoiding the "dust" and distractions of the world. Excellent advice!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
March 18, 2016

Saturday, November 27, 2021

President Gordon B. Hinckley on recognizing our magnificent blessings

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1961. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1981-1995, then as Church President until his death in 2008.
"Our society is afflicted by a spirit of thoughtless arrogance unbecoming those who have been so magnificently blessed. How grateful we should be for the bounties we enjoy. Absence of gratitude is the mark of the narrow, uneducated mind. It bespeaks a lack of knowledge and the ignorance of self-sufficiency. It expresses itself in ugly egotism and frequently in wanton mischief....
"Where there is appreciation, there is courtesy, there is concern for the rights and property of others. Without appreciation, there is arrogance and evil.
"Where there is gratitude, there is humility, as opposed to pride.
"How magnificently we are blessed! How thankful we ought to be! ...
"Cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving for the blessing of life and for the marvelous gifts and privileges each of us enjoy. The Lord has said that the meek shall inherit the earth. (See Matt. 5:5.) I cannot escape the interpretation that meekness implies a spirit of gratitude as opposed to an attitude of self-sufficiency, an acknowledgment of a greater power beyond oneself, a recognition of God, and an acceptance of his commandments. This is the beginning of wisdom. Walk with gratitude before him who is the giver of life and every good gift."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "With All Thy Getting Get Understanding," Ensign, Aug. 1988, 2
Click here to read the full talk

There is so often a contrast between society at large, and those who strive to follow the Lord's way. President Hinckley identifies one important root case of that contrast: the "spirit of thoughtless arrogance" that comes when we fail to acknowledge the source of our blessings in life. When we fail to recognize how "magnificently" we are blessed by God, thinking that we are self-sufficient and not dependent on God, we develop instead arrogance, ugly egotism, and pride.

President Hinckley's warning and counsel is to "walk with gratitude" before God in all we do! His advice echoes Amulek's beautiful counsel to "live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which [God] doth bestow upon you." (Alma 34:38)

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
November 23, 2016

Friday, November 26, 2021

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on feeling and expressing gratitude to God

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.
"'Where are the nine?' inquired Jesus concerning the healed lepers who did not return with thanksgiving. (Luke 17:17) How often are we like the nine? To receive God's blessings without acknowledging their Source is to be unrealistic as well as ungrateful.
"We offend God not only by our ingratitude, brothers and sisters, but also by not confessing His competent hand in bringing to pass His transcending purposes on the earth. (See D&C 59:21.) Too many actually doubt God's plans will finally prevail. Not only in the years ahead, but even now, mortal self-sufficiency will be confounded. Profound fear will eventually pervade this perplexed planet. (See D&C 63:33; D&C 88:91.) Would that mankind could live in faith, not fear—and with gratitude, not forgetfulness.
"Besides, we are all beggars anyway (see Mosiah 4:19), beggars rescued by the Creator of the universe who lived humbly as a person 'of no reputation.' (Philip. 2:7.) In contrast, we are sometimes so anxious about our personal images, when it is His image we should have in our countenances. (See Alma 5:14.)"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Answer Me," Ensign, November 1988, p. 32
Click here to read the full talk

One of the great dangers of mortality is to forget to acknowledge the source of so much in our lives that comes as gifts from God. Like the nine lepers of Jesus' parable, we are so joyful in a blessing that we move on blithely, sometimes with a perfunctory prayer or expression of thanks. And sometimes we don't even do that—never acknowledging the source. We may even think we've "earned" the blessings that come.

I appreciated Elder Maxwell's reminder that remembering to thank God for direct blessings to us is just the beginning. We also should recognize the great blessing of His plan for the happiness of all His children. Faith and gratitude are as linked as are fear and forgetfulness.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
November 21, 2015
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