Monday, September 27, 2021

Elder L. Tom Perry on fighting a latter-day war

Elder L. Tom Perry (1922-2015) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1972, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1974. At the time of his passing at age 92, he was the oldest living general authority and the third in seniority among the leading quorum.
"Today we find ourselves in another war. This is not a war of armaments. It is a war of thoughts, words, and deeds. It is a war with sin, and more than ever we need to be reminded of the commandments. Secularism is becoming the norm, and many of its beliefs and practices are in direct conflict with those that were instituted by the Lord Himself for the benefit of His children....
"In a world where the moral compass of society is faltering, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ never wavers, nor should its stakes and wards, its families, or its individual members. We must not pick and choose which commandments we think are important to keep but acknowledge all of God's commandments. We must stand firm and steadfast, having perfect confidence in the Lord's consistency and perfect trust in His promises.
"May we ever be a light on the hill, an example in keeping the commandments, which have never changed and will never change.... May we, in this latter-day war, be a beacon to all the earth and particularly to God's children who are seeking the Lord's blessings."
- L. Tom Perry, "Obedience to Law Is Liberty," General Conference, April 2013
Click here to read the full talk
It doesn't take much effort to see evidence of the conflict Elder Perry describes in the world in which we live.

In recent years, there have been abundant examples of the conflict he refers to with "secularism" in our time. We must heed the warning, though, and be alert to this growing dichotomy. As "the moral compass of society is faltering," it's the responsibility of each individual and family to find direction in "the restored gospel of Jesus Christ" that "never wavers." The way to do this is through complete devotion to the gospel:

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
May 26, 2015

Friday, September 24, 2021

President David O. McKay on finding happiness in life

President David O. McKay (1873-1970) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1906.  He served as a counselor in the First Presidency to Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith beginning in 1945, then then as the president of the Church from 1951 to his death in 1970 at age 96.
"All mankind desire happiness. Many also strive sincerely to make the most and best of themselves. Surprisingly few, however, realize that a sure guide to such achievement may be found in the following declaration by Jesus of Nazareth: 'Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: And whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.' [Matthew 16:25.] This significant passage contains a secret more worthy of possession than fame or dominion, something more valuable than all the wealth of the world.
"It is a principle the application of which promises to supplant discouragement and gloom with hope and gladness; to fill life with contentment and peace everlasting. This being true its acceptance would indeed be a boon today to this distracted, depression-ridden world. Why, then, do men and nations ignore a thing so precious? ...
"Specifically stated, this law is, 'We live our lives most completely when we strive to make the world better and happier.' The law of pure nature, survival of the fittest, is self-preservation at the sacrifice of all else; but in contrast to this the law of true spiritual life is, deny self for the good of others."
- David O. McKay, Conference Report, Apr. 1936, 45-46

The "search for happiness" has been one of the continual quests of mankind. President McKay finds a simple solution to the search in the invitation of the Savior to commit to Him and His work — to "lose his life for my sake." And he sees a stark contrast between the world's frequent priority and the "law of true spiritual life":

Given the promise that this course of action "promises to supplant discouragement and gloom with hope and gladness; to fill life with contentment and peace everlasting" — the searching question is, "Why, then, do men and nations ignore a thing so precious?"

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
May 22, 2015

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

President James E. Faust on standing in holy places

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 until his death in 2007 at age 87.
"We are bombarded on all sides by a vast number of messages we don't want or need. More information is generated in a single day than we can absorb in a lifetime. To fully enjoy life, all of us must find our own breathing space and peace of mind. How can we do this? There is only one answer. We must rise above the evil that encroaches upon us. We must follow the counsel of the Lord, who said, 'It is my will, that all they who call on my name, and worship me according to mine everlasting gospel, should gather together, and stand in holy places' (D&C 101:22).
"We unavoidably stand in so many unholy places and are subjected to so much that is vulgar, profane, and destructive of the Spirit of the Lord that I encourage our Saints all over the world, wherever possible, to strive to stand more often in holy places. Our most holy places are our sacred temples. Within them is a feeling of sacred comfort....
"In addition to temples, surely another holy place on earth ought to be our homes. The feelings of holiness in my home prepared me for feelings of holiness in the temple....
"Our chapels are dedicated to the Lord as holy places. We are told we should go to the house of prayer and offer up our sacraments upon His holy day. (See D&C 59:9) ...
"We must try harder to be a holy people.... As children of the Lord we should strive every day to rise to a higher level of personal righteousness in all of our actions. We need to guard constantly against all of Satan's influences.
"As President Brigham Young taught, 'Every moment of [our lives] must be holiness to the Lord, ... which is the only course by which [we] can preserve the Spirit of the Almighty to [ourselves].' May the Lord bless each and all of us in our special responsibility to find holiness to the Lord by standing in holy places. That is where we will find the spiritual protection we need for ourselves and our families. That is the source of help to carry forth the word of the Lord in our time. Standing in holy places will help us rise above the evil influences of our time and draw us closer to our Savior."
- James E. Faust, "Standing in Holy Places," Ensign, May 2005, pp. 62-68
Click here to read the full talk
President Faust shares an interesting interpretation of one of the key challenges of our time. The word "bombarded" is particularly descriptive of the way we can be overwhelmed by information, much of which is not beneficial, and even "destructive of the Spirit of the Lord." The key invitation of his message is the powerful invitation that tells us how to counteract the negative influence:

President Faust specifies the most important "holy places" we can find, establish, and visit:
  • sacred temples
  • our homes
  • chapels
But the next level of growth is not just to be in holy places, but to become holy ourselves by overcoming temptation and growing in righteousness.

I love the passage from Brigham Young that Pres. Faust excerpts:

It's not just the places, but the time of our lives that can become holy! This is a powerful concept, that will bring great blessings to us, and provide the "spiritual protection" for our families in these trying times.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
May 19, 2015

Monday, September 20, 2021

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on recognizing God's plan for our lives

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.
"I have been mercifully granted what might be called a 'delay en route.' Whether short or long, it is a wonderful blessing from the Lord! I have thereby learned, however, that there is another side to the 'Why me?' question, since some are not granted any 'delay en route' at all. Whichever side of that question, what is needed is mortal submission, even when there is no immediate divine explanation. Thus we are to press forward, whatever the length of the near horizon, while rejoicing in what awaits us on the far horizon....
"Mortality presents us with numerous opportunities to become more Christlike: first, by coping successfully with those of life's challenges which are 'common to man[kind]' (1 Cor. 10:13). In addition, there are also our customized trials such as experiencing illness, aloneness, persecution, betrayal, irony, poverty, false witness, unreciprocated love, et cetera. If endured well now, 'all these things' can be for our good and can 'greatly enlarge the soul,' including an enlarged capacity for joy (D&C 122:7; D&C 121:42). Meek suffering often does the excavating necessary for that enlarging! My admiration goes to my many spiritual superiors who so exemplify for us all. In the world to come, to these, the most faithful, our generous Father will give 'all that [He] hath' (D&C 84:38). Brothers and sisters, there isn't any more!"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ," Ensign, November 1997, p. 22
Click here to read the full article

Elder Maxwell was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996. Against the odds, he was in remission by the time he spoke in the October 1997 general conference. As he discussed his "delay on route" he must have had particularly poignant feelings. I'm fascinated by his insight into the "why me?" question. We usually think of that when we're struggling or suffering; but we rarely do when we feel blessed or spared. I acknowledge a number of both types of "why me?" instances in my own life—but actually, quite a few more of the blessing kind!

And then this beautiful comment about faith and perspective:

The second part of this process is Elder Maxwell's description of "numerous opportunities to become more Christlike" that includes the variety of challenges we encounter. Things that "greatly enlarge the soul" also enlarge its capacity to experience joy. "Meek suffering often does the excavating necessary for that enlarging!" Elder Maxwell knew whereof he spoke, based on his recent experiences when he gave this address. But in conclusion, and perhaps in another of those "why me?" type of scenarios, there is this ultimate promise:

The perspective of eternity will surely illuminate, clarify, and even justify what we view as the trials of mortality.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
May 18, 2015

Sunday, September 19, 2021

President Spencer W. Kimball on Sabbath Day worship

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important, but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it. To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, writing letters to missionaries, taking a nap, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day at which he is expected.
"One good but mistaken man I know claimed he could get more out of a good book on Sunday than he could get in attending church services, saying that the sermons were hardly up to his standards. But we do not go to Sabbath meetings to be entertained or even solely to be instructed. We go to worship the Lord. It is an individual responsibility, and regardless of what is said from the pulpit, if one wishes to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, he may do so by attending his meetings, partaking of the sacrament, and contemplating the beauties of the gospel. If the service is a failure to you, you have failed. No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "The Sabbath—A Delight", Ensign, Jan 1978, pp. 2-7
Click here to read the full article

I think that a sign of a true disciple of Christ is that he or she appreciates the significance of the Sabbath Day and is naturally eager to "do worthy and holy things" including "constructive thoughts and acts."

Many are pleased to note that President Kimball's list of appropriate activities includes "taking a nap." We would do well to consider the other items he lists, and to add our own insights.

But the second paragraph is even more significant to me. It relates to our personal worship experience, and how we draw closer to God through Church meetings. President Kimball instructs that worship is a personal responsibility, but that it occurs best within the constraints the Lord has defined.

I love that last statement - "No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord." How important it is for us to do that worshiping!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
May 17, 2015

Saturday, September 18, 2021

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on being genuine and trusting God's power to bless our lives

President Uchtdorf (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 until 2018.
"Whether your testimony is thriving and healthy or your activity in the Church more closely resembles a Potemkin village, the good news is that you can build on whatever strength you have. Here in the Church of Jesus Christ you can mature spiritually and draw closer to the Savior by applying gospel principles day by day.
"With patience and persistence, even the smallest act of discipleship or the tiniest ember of belief can become a blazing bonfire of a consecrated life. In fact, that's how most bonfires begin--as a simple spark.
"So if you feel small and weak, please simply come unto Christ, who makes weak things strong (see Ether 12:27). The weakest among us, through God's grace, can become spiritually strong, because God 'is no respecter of persons' (Acts 10:34)....
"My beloved brothers in Christ, the God of Creation, who breathed life into the universe, surely has the power to breathe life into you. Surely He can make of you the genuine, spiritual being of light and truth you desire to be."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "On Being Genuine," General Conference April 2015; see Ensign, May 2015, pp. 80-83
Click here to read the full talk

President Uchtdorf began his discourse in the Priesthood session of the recent conference by telling the story of a historical incident from 18th-century Russia, during which a regional governor named Potemkin is said to have pulled off a deception by making villages appear prosperous during a tour by Catherine the Great.  The term "Potemkin village" has come to symbolize "any attempt to make others believe we are better than we really are."  President Uchtdorf warned about putting on fa├žades or hiding our challenges and shortcomings, encouraging us to be "genuine" as we allow the Atonement and the Gospel to help us overcome the imperfections.

President Uchtdorf's message is one of hope and encouragement. The image of a tiny ember growing to a blazing bonfire is a beautiful one. President Uchtdorf wants us to believe that God has the power and desire to help us become what we sometimes pretend to be... or what we long to be. We don't do it ourselves; we rely on Him to breathe the divine power and light into us.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
May 16, 2015

Friday, September 17, 2021

President Henry B. Eyring on the companionship and inspiration of the Holy Ghost

President Henry B. Eyring (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.

This excerpt is from his address in the Priesthood session of the most recent general conference:
"As a priesthood holder, you are to be part of the warning voice of the Lord. But you need to heed the warning yourself. You will not survive spiritually without the protection of the companionship of the Holy Ghost in your daily life.
"You must pray for it and work to have it. Only with that guide will you be able to find your way along the strait and narrow path through the mists of evil. The Holy Ghost will be your guide as He reveals truth when you study the words of prophets.
"Getting that guidance will take more than casual listening and reading. You will need to pray and work in faith to put the words of truth down into your heart. You must pray that God will bless you with His Spirit, that He will lead you into all truth and show you the right way. That is how He will warn and guide you into the right path in your life."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Priesthood and Personal Prayer," General Conference, April 2015; see Ensign, May 2015, pp. 84-87
Click here to read the full talk
Many of the recent messages of Church leaders include encouragement to greater devotion and faithfulness. President Eyring spoke to Priesthood holders about that topic, linking their ability to serve effectively in the Priesthood with their personal prayers and other acts of devotion. The principles apply all members as we strive to draw on the powers of heaven for strength, guidance, and protection:

This final reminder that there is effort required to claim the blessing and reward should get our attention and lead us to evaluate our personal lives:

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
May 15, 2015
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