Friday, November 20, 2020

Elder Neil L. Andersen on the fruit of the gospel

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.
"As we have all learned, even after savoring the precious fruit of the restored gospel, staying true and faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ is still not easily done. As has been said many times in this conference, we continue to face distractions and deceptions, confusion and commotion, enticements and temptations that attempt to pull our hearts away from the Savior and the joys and beauties we have experienced in following Him....

"In our world today, the adversary’s construction crews are working overtime, hastily inflating the large and spacious building. The expansion has spread across the river, hoping to envelop our homes, while the pointers and the scoffers wail day and night on their internet megaphones.

"President Nelson explained, 'The adversary is quadrupling his efforts to disrupt testimonies and impede the work of the Lord.' (Ensign May 2019, 68.) Let us remember Lehi’s words: 'We heeded them not' (1 Ne 8:33).

"Although we need not fear, we are to be on guard. At times, little things can upend our spiritual balance. Please don’t allow your questions, the insults of others, faithless friends, or unfortunate mistakes and disappointments to turn you away from the sweet, pure, and soul-satisfying blessings that come from the precious fruit of the tree. Keep your eyes and your hearts centered on the Savior Jesus Christ and the eternal joy that comes only through Him."

- Neil L. Andersen, "Fruit," General Conference October 2019, Sunday afternoon

Lehi's dream provides some of the richest imagery we have to help understand our mortal experience, including the challenges and the blessings that are a part of it. Elder Andersen warned about the
  • distractions and deceptions
  • confusion and commotion
  • enticements and temptations
in our day that try to "pull our hearts away from the Savior and the joys and beauties we have experienced in following Him." It is so critical for us to keep the Gospel light burning bright. When our love for the Savior is strong, and our understanding of His love for us is clear, then those outside influences will have far less impact.

I appreciated this faithful and encouraging message. We need not fear! But we do need to be on guard. We must never forget or lose sight of those "sweet, pure, and soul-satisfying blessings" that we receive as we partake of the shining fruit of the tree.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on finding joy even in trials

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.
"Even when we are found faithfully keeping the commandments, there are trials and tragedies that could interrupt our joy. But as we strive to overcome these challenges with the Savior’s help, it preserves both the joy we feel now and the joy we anticipate. Christ reassured His disciples, 'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world' (John 16:33). It is in turning to Him, obeying Him, binding ourselves to Him that trial and sorrow are turned to joy....

"In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were 'in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery' (2 Ne 2:23). Now, as accountable beings, we find joy in overcoming misery in whatever form, whether it be sin, trial, weakness, or any other obstacle to happiness. This is the joy of sensing progress in the path of discipleship; the joy of 'having received a remission of … sins, and having peace of conscience' (Mosi 4:3); the joy of feeling one’s soul expand and grow through the grace of Christ."

- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Joy of the Saints," General Conference October 2019, Saturday morning

Many things in this life can, and do, interrupt our joy—including, Elder Christofferson observes, "trials and tragedies" that can befall even the most righteous and undeserving. Challenges are oversome "with the Savior's help" as we turn to Him.

Elder Christofferson mentions two kinds of joy—"the joy we feel now and the joy we anticipate." Both are important. At times we get caught up only in the "now" part of the picutre, and we want that immediate peace and happiness at any cost. Other times, we console ourselves in the hope for the eventual joy, the one that will come in the distant eternities. But both are important, and both are attainable. 
Elder Christofferson invites us to turn to Him, obey Him, and to bind ourselves to Him. And he reminds us that we will "find joy in overcoming misery in whatever form, whether it be sin, trial, weakness, or any other obstacle." Pure and lasting joy comes only in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Elder David A. Bednar on restored Gospel light

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.
"Spiritually dangerous ideas and actions frequently can appear to be attractive, desirable, or pleasurable. Thus, in our contemporary world, each of us needs to be aware of beguiling bad that pretends to be good. As Isaiah warned, 'Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!' (Isa 5:20.)

"In a paradoxical period when violating the sanctity of human life is heralded as a right and chaos is described as liberty, how blessed we are to live in this latter-day dispensation when restored gospel light can shine brightly in our lives and help us to discern the adversary’s dark deceptions and distractions.

"'For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day' (D&C 45:57, emphasis added)."

- David A. Bednar, "Watchful unto Prayer Continually," General Conference October 2019, Saturday afternoon

Elder Bednar remembered Elder Boyd K. Packer's classic talk Spiritual Crocodiles. He expanded it with his own experiences in watching cheetahs hunting in Africa. Their techniques and behaviors can provide lessons about the forces that seek to destroy us in these latter days. Elder Bednar warns us to be cautious and wary, in order to survive the attacks that surely will come.

Our modern era of chaos and confict is only escalating; the situation today is much worse than it was a year ago when Elder Bednar shared this message. We can only assume it will continue to worsen. So it becomes that much more important to cling to "restored gospel light" and allow it to "shine brightly in our lives."

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the path of discipleship

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.
"If you hesitate in this adventure because you doubt your ability, remember that discipleship is not about doing things perfectly; it’s about doing things intentionally. It is your choices that show what you truly are, far more than your abilities.

"Even when you fail, you can choose not to give up, but rather discover your courage, press forward, and rise up. That is the great test of the journey.

"God knows that you are not perfect, that you will fail at times. God loves you no less when you struggle than when you triumph.

"Like a loving parent, He merely wants you to keep intentionally trying. Discipleship is like learning to play the piano. Perhaps all you can do at first is play a barely recognizable rendition of 'Chopsticks.' But if you continue practicing, the simple tunes will one day give way to wondrous sonatas, rhapsodies, and concertos.

"Now, that day may not come during this life, but it will come. All God asks is that you consciously keep striving."

- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Your Great Adventure," General Conference October 2019, Sunday morning

Elder Uchtdorf related highlights of the story of Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit in introducing the idea of a "great adventure." Our mortal journey is the adventure he speaks of, and the challenges and opportunities in this journey are regular and real. As we undertake this journey, Elder Uchtdorf reminded us that we must begin by inclining our heart to God, loving Him more deeply and fllowing His teachings and commandments. We don't have to be perfect in that endeavor; we just need to be determined and committed.

Discipleship, then, is that process of progressing gradually and steadily along our great adventure, learning to be more like the Master. Our emulation and adoration of Him naturally lead to lives devoted to serving as He did. A heart filled with the love of Christ naturally overflows in giving and blessing as it becomes more pure.

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

Monday, November 16, 2020

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on having Christ at the center of our lives

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.
"We must point past the hustle and bustle and concentrate them on the meaning of it all, on the beating heart of the eternal gospel—the love of Heavenly Parents, the atoning gift of a divine Son, the comforting guidance of the Holy Ghost, the latter-day restoration of all these truths and so much more....

"If Jesus—His name, His doctrine, His example, His divinity—can be at the center of our worship, we will be reinforcing the great truth Alma once taught: 'There be many things to come; [but] behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all— … the Redeemer [who] liveth and cometh among his people.' (Alma 7:7.)

"I testify... that surely the most thrilling sight and sound in life is that of Jesus not only passing by (see Luke 18:37) but His coming to us, stopping beside us, and making His abode with us. (See John 14:23.)

"Sisters and brothers, through the incessant din and drumbeat of our day, may we strive to see Christ at the center of our lives, of our faith, and of our service. That is where true meaning lies. And if some days our vision is limited or our confidence has waned or our belief is being tested and refined—as surely it will be—may we then cry out the louder, 'Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me' (Mark 10:47). I promise with apostolic fervor and prophetic conviction that He will hear you and will say, soon or late, 'Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee' (Luke 18:42)."

- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Message, the Meaning, and the Multitude," General Conference October 2019, Saturday morning

Elder Holland gave the introductory talk in the October 2019 conference, and spoke warmly on the role and place of the Savior as the focus of all we do, using as the prime example the healing of the blind man by the Savior as recorded in Luke 18. The faith of the man, according to the account, brought about the miracle.

In our modern world, with all its noise and confusion, we must get past the "hustle and bustle" to concentrate on "the meaning of it all." That is no small task. It requires prolonged and devoted focus on the things that truly matter. And certainly, the primary focus must be on the Savior, who is the ultimate source of healing and hope.

Like the blind man of the parable, we must continue to seek, to cry out, to plead for His help and involvement in our life. We must do whatever is needed to draw near to Him. Only then can He lay His hands on us to heal and bless.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2020

President Russell M. Nelson on giving and serving like the Savior

President Russell M. Nelson (born 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. He became president of that quorum on July 15, 2015. Following the death of President Monson, he was set apart as president of the Church on January 14, 2018.
"Latter-day Saint Charities has provided more than two billion dollars in aid to assist those in need throughout the world. This assistance is offered to recipients regardless of their church affiliation, nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender, or political persuasion....

"Last year alone, the Church carried out more than 100 disaster-relief projects around the world, helping victims of hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes, and other calamities. Whenever possible, our Church members in yellow Helping Hands vests mobilize in great numbers to help those afflicted by the disaster. This kind of service, rendered by so many of you, is the very essence of ministering....

"Regardless of where we call home, members of the Church feel passionately about the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Thus, our greatest joy comes as we help our brothers and sisters, no matter where we live in this wonderful world.

"Giving help to others—making a conscientious effort to care about others as much as or more than we care about ourselves—is our joy. Especially, I might add, when it is not convenient and when it takes us out of our comfort zone. Living that second great commandment is the key to becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ."

- Russell M. Nelson, "The Second Great Commandment," General Conference October 2019, Sunday afternoon

My wife and I had been set apart as humanitarian service missionaries just two weeks before this conference talk was given. We had completed our training in the MTC and would leave for Argentina right after general conference. What a thrill it was to hear President Nelson address the very work we would be doing, in collaboration with Latter-day Saint Charities and the humanitarian services organization of the Church! And particularly to hear him mention Argentina as an example of the efforts being done in the wheelchair program. We would later meet the directors of CILSA (an NGO who partners with the Church in the wheelchair program in Argentina) shown in the background of the photograph below as we helped carry the program forward.
It is so very inspiring to see "the second great commandment" blessing thousands of lives through the Church's marvelous worldwide efforts. Members of the Church can continue to contribute to that program by donating to the "Humanitarian Fund" in the normal contrubution process. But equally important, we should each seek ways we can personally love our neighbors in greater measure, through acts of love and service, following the example of the Savior.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2020

President Henry B. Eyring on finding happiness through holiness

President Henry B. Eyring (born May 31, 1933) served in the Presiding Bishopric from 1985-1992, as a Seventy from 1992-1995, then was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. He has served in the First Presidency since 2007.
"[Lasting happiness] is what Heavenly Father; His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost have offered every spirit child of Heavenly Father who now lives, will live, or ever has lived in this world. That offer is sometimes called the plan of happiness. It was so called by the prophet Alma as he taught his son, who was mired in the misery of sin. Alma knew that wickedness could never be happiness for his son—or for any child of Heavenly Father.

"He taught his son that increasing in holiness was the only path to happiness. He made it plain that greater holiness is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ cleansing and perfecting us. Only by faith in Jesus Christ, continuing repentance, and keeping covenants are we able to claim the lasting happiness we all yearn to experience and retain.

"My prayer for today is that I may help you understand that greater happiness comes from greater personal holiness so that you will act upon that belief. I will then share what I know for myself about what we can do to qualify for that gift of becoming ever more holy.

"The scriptures teach us that among other things, we can be sanctified or become more holy when we exercise faith in Christ, demonstrate our obedience, repent, sacrifice for Him, receive sacred ordinances, and keep our covenants with Him. Qualifying for the gift of holiness requires humility, meekness, and patience."

- Henry B. Eyring, "Holiness and the Plan of Happiness," General Conference October 2019, Sunday afternoon

In this life, perhaps the greatest quest we have is the search for happiness. The thought of lasting happiness is a beautiful one, certainly a goal every thoughtful child of our Father in Heaven would aspire to. President Eyring teaches that the "plan of happiness" described in the Book of Mormon is the way to obtain that divine gift. Holiness and happiness are inextricably linked. The plan of happiness, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, is the way we individually and collectively can increase in holiness.

We must each commit to take the steps that bring more holiness to our personal life. The process of sanctification is how we draw on the grace of God to draw near to Him and become more holy. The promises are real, and lasting happiness truly is available to each one who follows the path that leads to it.

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