Thursday, October 29, 2020

President Russell M. Nelson on surviving trials and growing in faith

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.
"Though today’s restrictions relate to a virulent virus, life’s personal trials stretch far beyond this pandemic. Future trials could result from an accident, a natural disaster, or an unexpected personal heartache.

"How can we endure such trials? The Lord has told us that 'if ye are prepared ye shall not fear' (D&C 38:30). Of course, we can store our own reserves of food, water, and savings. But equally crucial is our need to fill our personal spiritual storehouses with faith, truth, and testimony.

"Our ultimate quest in life is to prepare to meet our Maker. We do this by striving daily to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. (See 3 Ne 27:27.) And we do that as we repent daily and receive His cleansing, healing, and strengthening power. Then we can feel enduring peace and joy, even during turbulent times. This is exactly why the Lord has implored us to stand in holy places and 'be not moved' (D&C 87:8)."

- Russell M. Nelson, "Opening Message," General Conference April 2020, Saturday morning

President Nelson opened the April 2020 General Conference, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, by recalling that he had informed Church members six months earlier that the conference would be unique and different. But no one anticipated that part of the difference would be because of the COVID-19 pandemic that was gripping the world! There would be many challenges ahead in dealing with that situation, but President Nelson reminded Church members that those who are prepared, temporally but also spiritually, will not need to fear. The great invitation continues to be to "fill our personal spiritual storehouses with faith, truth, and testimony."
Are we truly preparing for the future in the most important way, preparing to "meet our Maker" as we strive to follow the teachings and example of His Son? That would be the ongoing invitation of this conference as well, as we strive to "Hear Him" in our personal lives.

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

President Henry B. Eyring on women, charity, and Zion

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.
"Sisters, you were given the blessing of being daughters of God with special gifts. You brought with you into mortal life a spiritual capacity to nurture others and to lift them higher toward the love and purity that will qualify them to live together in a Zion society. It is not by accident that the Relief Society, the first Church organization specifically for Heavenly Father’s daughters, has as its motto 'Charity Never Faileth.'

"Charity is the pure love of Christ. And it is faith in Him and the full effects of His infinite Atonement that will qualify you, and those you love and serve, for the supernal gift to live in that sociality of a long-looked-for and promised Zion. There you will be sisters in Zion, loved in person by the Lord and those you have blessed.

"I testify that you are citizens of the Lord’s kingdom on the earth. You are daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, who sent you into the world with unique gifts that you promised to use to bless others. I promise you that the Lord will lead you by the hand, through the Holy Ghost. He will go before your face as you help Him prepare His people to become His promised Zion."

- Henry B. Eyring, "Sisters in Zion," General Conference October 2020, Women's Session

President Eyring has spoken about the powerful influence of women in his life, including his mother and wife. In these remarks, he spoke to the sisters of the Church about the innate gifts they each have and the power it will bring in future years. As followers of the Savior we aspire to the Zion society described in the scriptures, and prophesied for the last days. President Eyring described the powerful role he foresees for sisters in that transition, in developing unity and oneness.

It's a powerful key for all of us to develop greater "faith in Him and the full effects of His infinite Atonement." How blessed we are for the innate gifts of the sisters of Zion who will lead the way in that wonderful path of hope and faith.

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

President Dallin H. Oaks on being of good cheer

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.
"Tribulation and challenges are the common experiences of mortality. Opposition is an essential part of the divine plan for helping us grow, and in the midst of that process, we have God’s assurance that, in the long view of eternity, opposition will not be allowed to overcome us. With His help and our faithfulness and endurance, we will prevail. Like the mortal life of which they are a part, all tribulations are temporary....

"On a personal basis, each of us struggles individually with some of the many adversities of mortality, such as poverty, racism, ill health, job losses or disappointments, wayward children, bad marriages or no marriages, and the effects of sin—our own or others’.

"Yet, in the midst of all of this, we have that heavenly counsel to be of good cheer and to find joy in the principles and promises of the gospel and the fruits of our labors. (See D&C 6:31.) That counsel has always been so, for prophets and for all of us. We know this from the experiences of our predecessors and what the Lord said to them....

"There is boundless power in the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Our unshakable faith in that doctrine guides our steps and gives us joy. It enlightens our minds and gives strength and confidence to our actions. This guidance and enlightenment and power are promised gifts we have received from our Heavenly Father. By understanding and conforming our lives to that doctrine, including the divine gift of repentance, we can be of good cheer as we keep ourselves on the path toward our eternal destiny—reunion and exaltation with our loving heavenly parents."

- Dallin H. Oaks, "Be of Good Cheer," General Conference October 2020, Women's Session

In the midst of tribulation—disappointments, challenges, loneliness, concerns—one of the hardest things we are asked to do certainly must be to "be of good cheer." Keeping the perspective of our place in eternity can make all the difference. The Savior's invitation to be cheerful in a world of hardship because "I have overcome the world" is a great key.

Maintaining a focus on the Savior and His doctrine brings power to our lives:
As we develop the "unshakable faith" in the Savior and His doctrine, power and blessings come to our lives as promised gifts. His guidance and help are the great key to bringing peace and good cheer.

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

Monday, October 26, 2020

President Russell M. Nelson on being yoked to God

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.
"The Lord taught us how to increase our faith by seeking 'learning, even by study and also by faith' (D&C 88:118, emphasis added). We strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ as we strive to keep His commandments and 'always remember him' (Moroni 4:3). Further, our faith increases every time we exercise our faith in Him. That is what learning by faith means.

"For example, each time we have the faith to be obedient to God’s laws—even when popular opinions belittle us—or each time we resist entertainment or ideologies that celebrate covenant-breaking, we are exercising our faith, which in turn increases our faith....

"Of course, our ultimate security comes as we yoke ourselves to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ! Life without God is a life filled with fear. Life with God is a life filled with peace. This is because spiritual blessings come to the faithful. Receiving personal revelation is one of the greatest of those blessings.

"The Lord has promised that if we will ask, we may receive 'revelation upon revelation' (D&C 42:61). I promise that as you increase your capacity to receive revelation, the Lord will bless you with increased direction for your life and with boundless gifts of the Spirit."

- Russell M. Nelson, "Embrace the Future with Faith," General Conference October 2020, Women's Session

President Nelson addressed the women of the Church in this message, praising their efforts (particularly in the time of unusual worldwide challenges) and encouraging them in looking to the future. He taught principles, and encouraged his listeners to create places of sceurity, prepare minds to be faithful to God, and to never stop preparing for future needs and challenges.

I love the thought that "our faith increases every time we exercise our faith in Him." Of course it does! Exercising a muscle, practicing a skill, developing our abilities—using something develops and enhances it. We grow in faith by exercising faith. The invitation and opportunity for all of us is to do that.

But we don't have to do it alone. We have Divine Help available to us if we avail ourselves of it.
We choose fear, or we choose faith. Aligning our lives with Him allows us to live with confidence and peace, and with divine direction.

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

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Elder Ulisses Soares on turning our thoughts to the Savior

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.
"Being aware of all that is necessary for us in this life, the Savior invites us to seek Him in every thought and to follow Him with all our heart. This gives us the promise that we can walk in His light and that His guidance prevents the influence of darkness in our life.

"Seeking Christ in every thought and following Him with all our heart requires that we align our mind and desires with His. The scriptures refer to this alignment as 'stand[ing] fast in the Lord' (Philippians 4:1). This course of action implies that we continually conduct our lives in harmony with the gospel of Christ and focus daily on everything that is good. Only then may we achieve 'the peace of God, which passeth all understanding' and which will 'keep [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus' (Philippians 4:7)."

- Ulisses Soares, "Seek Christ in Every Thought," General Conference October 2020, Sunday morning

The concept of "alignment" is fascinating to me. The word align derives from old French and means to set or place into a straight line, a proper order or arrangement. You have to know what the proper or correct arrangement is in order to align. If we are clear about that correct positioning, we attempt to achieve it through adjustments. Or sometimes, when we know one thing is correct and true, and are not sure about a second thing, we can try to "align" the second to the first.

Elder Soares suggests that we align our mind and desires to the Savior. We know and believe that He is just and true; he is the perfect model. Our goal is to emulate Him. So we devote our hearts to Him and seek to follow with all our hearts.
Once something is in alignment, there may be things that can remove it from the proper positioning; it can be "knocked out" from the alignment. So it requires ongoing caution, periodic checking and evaluation, and occasional adjustments to preserve alignment. All of those things apply to our spiritual alignment to the Savior.

The real blessing of alignment with Him comes in the peace and joy that follow. Those are divine promises, and we constantly feel them reinforced as we follow that path.

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

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Elder Gerrit W. Gong on receiving God's help as we learn to trust Him

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.

"Truly, for those with faithful hearts and eyes to see, the Lord’s tender mercies are manifest amidst life’s challenges. Faithfully met challenges and sacrifice do bring the blessings of heaven. In this mortality, we may lose or wait for some things for a time, but in the end we will find what matters most. That is His promise....

"Heavenly Father invites us everywhere to feel His love, to learn and grow through education, honorable work, self-reliant service, and patterns of goodness and happiness we find in His restored Church.

"As we come to trust God, sometimes through pleading in our darkest, loneliest, most uncertain moments, we learn He knows us better and loves us more than we know or love ourselves.

"This is why we need God’s help to create lasting justice, equality, fairness, and peace in our homes and communities. Our truest, deepest, most authentic narrative, place, and belonging come when we feel God’s redeeming love, seek grace and miracles through His Son’s Atonement, and establish lasting relationships by sacred covenants.

"Religious goodness and wisdom are needed in today’s cluttered, noisy, polluted world. How else can we refresh, inspire, and edify the human spirit?"

- Gerrit W. Gong, "All Nations, Kindreds, and Tongues," General Conference October 2020, Saturday afternoon

Elder Gong's address in this conference session was unique in that he did not actually attend the meeting though it appeared he was at the same pulpit as the other speakers. His remarks were apparently recorded in advance as a precautionary measure, because he and his wife had been exposed to an active COVID patient. (Shortly after the conference it was announced that he had indeed tested postive.)

Elder Gong spoke about some of the miracles of our time, and the fact that we not only witness the fulfillment of prophecy, but can participate in it. But admid the blessings and joys of our time, we also witness challenges and difficulties. Through it all, there are wonderful promises of help and hope available to us.
Truly we need God's help in our lives as we deal with the hardest challenges. As we feel his "redeeming love" we will find peace and hope.

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

Friday, October 23, 2020

Elder Dale G. Renlund on learning to be more Christlike

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.

"Jesus Christ exemplified what it means to do justly and to love mercy. He freely associated with sinners, treating them honorably and with respect. He taught the joy of keeping God’s commandments and sought to lift rather than condemn those who struggled. He did denounce those who faulted Him for ministering to people they deemed unworthy. Such self-righteousness offended Him and still does. (See Luke 15:1-2)

"To be Christlike, a person does justly, behaving honorably with both God and other people. A just person is civil in words and action and recognizes that differences in outlook or belief do not preclude genuine kindness and friendship. Individuals who do justly 'will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably' (Mosiah 4:13) one with another.

"To be Christlike, a person loves mercy. People who love mercy are not judgmental; they manifest compassion for others, especially for those who are less fortunate; they are gracious, kind, and honorable. These individuals treat everyone with love and understanding, regardless of characteristics such as race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and tribal, clan, or national differences. These are superseded by Christlike love.

"To be Christlike, a person chooses God (see Moses 7:33), walks humbly with Him, seeks to please Him, and keeps covenants with Him. Individuals who walk humbly with God remember what Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have done for them."

- Dale G. Renlund, "Do Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with God," General Conference October 2020, Sunday afternoon

Perhaps one of the most critical aspects of the Christian message related to how we interact with those around us. Elder Renlund takes his theme from the Old Testament prophet Micah's injunction about the importance of "doing justly" to those around us and "loving mercy" in our interactions. The great exemplar of these attributes is the Savior himself, and so we look to his life and message for the standard that we strive to follow.

We should never be judgmental of those around us. We need to learn to overcome any preconceptions about "race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and tribal, clan, or national differences." What a comprehensive list!

As we strive to be more Christlike, we find wonderful teachings and examples to guide us:
What a great thought: "differences in outlook or belief do not preclude genuine kindness and friendship." We can have a difference of opinion with someone but still love and accept them! If we are truly disciples of the Savior, we must learn to do better.

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