Sunday, July 25, 2021

President Russell M. Nelson on the religious life

President Russell M. Nelson (b. 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, and was serving in that quorum when he shared this message. He was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015, and then as president of the Church on January 14, 2018.

This excerpt is from an address given at the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago, Illinois, 2 September 1993.
"As we repent and live in accordance with the commandments of God, the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes a force for permanent change in our lives. We become more pure in heart and true disciples of the Master. Personal prayer, contributions of tithes and offerings, honoring the Sabbath day, and partaking of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper are all regular practices that protect us from the bondage of sin and bring us true freedom and joy.
"The daily practice of our faith is not confined solely to religious rites. We reach out to aid the communities in which we live. For example, parent-teacher associations, public schools, and similar worthy civic activities receive our support."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Combatting Spiritual Drift—Our Global Pandemic," address given at the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago, Illinois, 2 September 1993; see Ensign, Nov 1993, pp. 102-108
Click here to read the full talk

A "Parliament of the World's Religions" was held in Chicago in 1993, the first gathering of its kind in a century. Several thousand religious leaders from around the world, from both Christian and non-Christian groups, were invited to participate in discussions about how the different sects and traditions could collaborate in addressing the world's critical issues. Elder Nelson represented the LDS Church at the event, and delivered an insightful address in which he identified elements of "spiritual drift" in the world and then explained ways the Church is attempting to confront those challenges, both in doctrine and practice.  He commented, "The dismal dusk of today’s spiritual drift provides a rare opportunity for the radiance of religion to light the way to a new tomorrow."

After providing an institutional history and doctrinal foundation of the Church, Elder Nelson shared the thoughts excerpted above in a section on "individual application." In other words, here's how the Church and Gospel can impact MY life.

The key lies in allowing the Atonement to impact one's life. True freedom and joy, and protection from "the bondage of sin," come when we remember:
  • Personal prayer
  • Contributions of tithes and offerings
  • Honoring the Sabbath day
  • Partaking of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper
I appreciated Elder Nelson's wonderful summary of the essence of the Church and the Gospel. It might be a fruitful exercise for each of us to consider what we might have said, given the opportunity that he had in that great council of religious leaders!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
April 8, 2015

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on following the examples of pioneers

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.
"It is not enough to study or reenact the accomplishments of our pioneers. We need to identify the great, eternal principles they applied to achieve all they achieved for our benefit and then apply those principles to the challenges of our day. In that way we honor their pioneering efforts, and we also reaffirm our heritage and strengthen its capacity to bless our own posterity and 'those millions of our Heavenly Father's children who have yet to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ' (Our Heritage 145). We are all pioneers in doing so.
"Many of our challenges are different from those faced by former pioneers but perhaps just as dangerous and surely as significant to our own salvation and the salvation of those who follow us. For example, as for life-threatening obstacles, the wolves that prowled around pioneer settlements were no more dangerous to their children than the drug dealers or pornographers who threaten our children. Similarly, the early pioneers' physical hunger posed no greater threat to their well-being than the spiritual hunger experienced by many in our day. The children of earlier pioneers were required to do incredibly hard physical work to survive their environment. That was no greater challenge than many of our young people now face from the absence of hard work, which results in spiritually corrosive challenges to discipline, responsibility, and self-worth. Jesus taught: 'And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell' (Matt. 10:28)."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Following the Pioneers," General Conference October 1997
Click here to read the full talk

Today, July 24, is the traditional "Pioneer Day" commemoration. It's now been 174 years since the first of the Mormon advance company entered the Salt Lake valley. Each year, members of the Church in Utah and around the world remember that event with celebrations, family gatherings, parades, and pioneer reenactments. But is that enough?

Elder Oaks counsels us to do more than just study the history of the pioneers, or participate in reenactments of their challenges and accomplishments. He provides the great challenge to find "eternal principles" that helped them achieve what they did, and then "apply those principles to the challenges of our day." In doing so, we link ourselves to them and to the truths they held dear.

He then proceeds to give several examples, comparing some of the pioneer challenges to our modern circumstances. I appreciate this insight; it's a model of how we should always ponder as we read the scriptures or any historic account. We should not just be learning about the past; we should be learning lessons that can help us today!

Pioneer image, Glen Hopkinson, courtesy of

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

Friday, July 23, 2021

Elder Robert D. Hales on claiming the blessings of the spirit

Elder Robert D. Hales (August 24, 1932-October 1, 2017) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"Throughout our lives, whether in times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin, we may feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we may hunger for the sacred blessings that only He can provide. At these times we should strive to come to ourselves and come back into the light of our Savior's love.
"These blessings rightfully belong to all of Heavenly Father's children. Desiring these blessings, including a life of joy and happiness, is an essential part of Heavenly Father's plan for each one of us. The prophet Alma taught, 'Even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you' (Alma 32:27).
"As our spiritual desires increase, we become spiritually self-reliant.... We become converted and spiritually self-reliant as we prayerfully live our covenants--through worthily partaking of the sacrament, being worthy of a temple recommend, and sacrificing to serve others."
- Robert D. Hales, "Coming to Ourselves: The Sacrament, the Temple, and Sacrifice in Service," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Hales describes a process that is typical for our mortal experience:
  1. We encounter "times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin"
  2. We "feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father, who loves us"
  3. We "hunger for the sacred blessings that only He can provide"
Those are the moments when, if we are wise, we will "strive to come to ourselves" — an interesting phrase, borrowed from the story of the "prodigal son" in Luke 15:17 — and "come back into the light of our Savior's love." This implies that we have left the light of the Savior's love; but fortunately, not so far that the Holy Ghost can't still reach out to us.  What a blessing that is.

And what is the process to return?  It lies in simple, basic, ongoing faithfulness:

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

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Elder Richard G. Scott on finding joy in life

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928-2015) served as a Seventy from 1977-1988, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He passed away in September 2015 at the age of 86.
"You are one of the noblest of God's creations. His intent is that your life be gloriously beautiful regardless of your circumstances. As you are grateful and obedient, you can become all that God intends you to be.
"Sadness, disappointment, and severe challenge are events in life, not life itself. I do not minimize how hard some of these events are. They can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining center of everything you do. The Lord inspired Lehi to declare the fundamental truth, 'Men are, that they might have joy' (2 Ne. 2:25). That is a conditional statement: 'they might have joy.' It is not conditional for the Lord. His intent is that each of us finds joy. It will not be conditional for you as you obey the commandments, have faith in the Master, and do the things that are necessary to have joy here on earth.
"Your joy in life depends upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His holy Son, your conviction that their plan of happiness truly can bring you joy. Pondering their doctrine will let you enjoy the beauties of this earth and enrich your relationships with others. It will lead you to the comforting, strengthening experiences that flow from prayer to Father in Heaven and the answers He gives in return."
- Richard G. Scott, "Finding Joy in Life," General Conference April 1996
Click here to read the full talk

This is an inspiring and beautiful testimony from Elder Scott:

One who truly believes these words, will find his life is profoundly effected.

Many feel their life is not "gloriously beautiful." Perhaps all of us feel that on one occasion or another; there are times when the struggles of mortality feel overwhelming. But with the vision of God's love for his children, knowing that He is aware of us and willing to sustain and assist, we know that any setback is temporary. There WILL be a happy ending!
(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
April 11, 2015

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Elder M. Russell Ballard on choosing happiness

Elder M. Russell Ballard (1928- ) was called as a Seventy in 1976, and has served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1985.
"Our Heavenly Father loves all of His children, and He wants them all to have the blessings of the gospel in their lives. Spiritual light is not lost because God turns His back on His children. Rather, spiritual darkness results when His children turn their collective backs on Him. It is a natural consequence of bad choices made by individuals, communities, countries, and entire civilizations. This has been proven again and again throughout the course of time. One of the great lessons of this historical pattern is that our choices, both individually and collectively, do result in spiritual consequences for ourselves and for our posterity....
"The voice of the Lord is clear and unmistakable. He knows you. He loves you. He wants you to be eternally happy. But according to your God-given agency, the choice is yours. Each one of you has to decide for yourself if you are going to ignore the past and suffer the painful mistakes and tragic pitfalls that have befallen previous generations, experiencing for yourself the devastating consequences of bad choices. How much better your life will be if you will follow the noble example of the faithful followers of Christ such as the sons of Helaman, Moroni, Joseph Smith, and the stalwart pioneers—and choose, as they did, to remain faithful to your Heavenly Father's commandments."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Learning the Lessons of the Past," General Conference April 2009
Click here to read the full talk

President Monson likes the phrase, "Decisions determine destiny." Elder Ballard is echoing that sentiment, with the specific application of the choice to obey or disobey God's commandments. That single choice to not follow results in "spiritual darkness" as individuals and as society.

But Elder Ballard testifies of God's deep and abiding love for his children, and the eternal desire of His heart for our happiness — if we will but choose "to remain faithful" to His commandments:

Always and forever, our agency is paramount. We must choose to receive the greatest blessings offered to us, in time and eternity!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
April 10, 2015

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on spiritual preparedness

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.
"What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear?
"If we would do those things then, why not now? Why not seek peace while peace can be obtained? If our lamps of preparation are drawn down, let us start immediately to replenish them.
"We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult—the spiritual. A 72-hour kit of temporal supplies may prove valuable for earthly challenges, but, as the foolish virgins learned to their sorrow, a 24-hour kit of spiritual preparation is of greater and more enduring value."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Preparation for the Second Coming", General Conference April 2004
Click here to read the full talk

One way to focus attention on "the things that matter most" is to undertake the exercise Elder Oaks mentions: if I knew my mortal life would be over tomorrow, what would I do today? Would there be things I would want to change, to repair, to focus on, even for a single day? People to forgive, testimonies to bear? And of course, the obvious next question is, "Why not now?" We should be making earnest efforts to focus our energies in the best possible ways, regardless of how much time we have remaining.

The additional warning is that our spiritual preparation needs as much focus as our temporal preparation often receives:

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
April 9, 2015

Monday, July 19, 2021

Elder Boyd K. Packer on reverence and revelation

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death in 2015 at age 90.
"Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings. Such words as quiet, still, peaceable, Comforter abound in the scriptures...
"The world grows increasingly noisy. Clothing and grooming and conduct are looser and sloppier and more disheveled. Raucous music, with obscene lyrics blasted through amplifiers while lights flash psychedelic colors, characterizes the drug culture. Variations of these things are gaining wide acceptance and influence over our youth....
"This trend to more noise, more excitement, more contention, less restraint, less dignity, less formality is not coincidental nor innocent nor harmless.
"The first order issued by a commander mounting a military invasion is the jamming of the channels of communication of those he intends to conquer.
"Irreverence suits the purposes of the adversary by obstructing the delicate channels of revelation in both mind and spirit....
"No one of us can survive in the world of today, much less in what it soon will become, without personal inspiration. The spirit of reverence can and should be evident in every organization in the Church and in the lives of every member....
"While we may not see an immediate, miraculous transformation, as surely as the Lord lives, a quiet one will take place. The spiritual power in the lives of each member and in the Church will increase. The Lord will pour out his Spirit upon us more abundantly. We will be less troubled, less confused. We will find revealed answers to personal and family problems."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Reverence Invites Revelation," General Conference October 1991
Click here to read the full talk

It's been almost 30 years since then Elder Boyd K. Packer shared this talk with the wonderful title, "Reverence Invites Revelation." He observed then, "The world grows increasingly noisy." That has certainly been confirmed in the three decades since. There are constant distractions and diversions all around us. And so to seek the inspiration that "comes more easily in peaceful settings" is increasingly difficult. In order to "survive in the world of today," we need to actively seek personal inspiration in settings of reverence. Those settings don't appear naturally; we have to seek them out and create them for ourselves.

Again, the promises are real and wonderful:
  • Spiritual power will increase
  • The Lord's Spirit will be poured out more abundantly
  • We will be less troubled and confused
  • We will find answers to personal and family problems
I always love to note apostolic witnesses and promises. It is wise to follow the conditions and claim the blessings!

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