Saturday, February 28, 2015

David A. Bednar on consistency and obstacles in temple worship

Elder David A. Bednar (1952- ) was sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2004.
"For many years Sister Bednar and I hosted faithful men and women as devotional speakers at Brigham Young University-Idaho. Many of these speakers were emeritus or released members of the Seventy who had served as temple presidents following their service as General Authorities. As we talked with these stalwart leaders, I always asked this question: 'What have you learned as a temple president that you wish you had better understood when you were a General Authority?'
"As I listened to their answers, I discovered a consistent theme that I would summarize as follows: 'I have come to understand better the protection available through our temple covenants and what it means to make an acceptable offering of temple worship. There is a difference between church-attending, tithe-paying members who occasionally rush into the temple to go through a session and those members who faithfully and consistently worship in the temple.'
"The similarity of their answers impressed me greatly. Each response to my question focused upon the protecting power of the ordinances and covenants available in the house of the Lord....
"We should not be surprised by Satan's efforts to thwart or discredit temple worship and work. The devil despises the purity in and the power of the Lord's house. And the protection available to each of us in and through temple ordinances and covenants stands as a great obstacle to the evil designs of Lucifer."
- David A. Bednar, "Honorably Hold a Name and Standing", Ensign, May 2009, pp. 97-100
Click here to read the full article

The reason for our actions is often more important than the action itself. Why do we do the things we do? Out of a sense of obligation, concern for appearances, or simple habit? Or because of love of God, love of neighbor, purity of heart, sincere desire to serve or grow?

Elder Bednar teaches us about "an acceptable offering of temple worship" by implying that the frequency of temple attendance (occasional vs. consistent) and the attitude in attending (rushed vs. worshipful) are evidences of the motivation, and certainly correlate to the benefits derived from attending:

Given the promised blessings and the benefits that come from properly-motivated temple worship and service, it's not surprising there is opposition from the adversary:

We should strive for the protection and blessings that are promised to those who "faithfully and consistently worship in the temple."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Robert D. Hales on the blessings of temple covenants and service

Elder Robert D. Hales (1932- ) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"We have been taught in the scriptures that the personal worthiness required of us by the Lord to enter the temple and to take upon us the sacred covenants therein is one of the greatest blessings available to us in mortality. Then, after taking upon us the covenants in the temple, our obedience in living the covenants daily is a demonstration of our faith, love, devotion, and spiritual commitment to honor our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ and prepares us to live with Them in the eternities. The temple's saving ordinances are essential to—and even the central focus of—the eternal plan of happiness....
"We need to acquire a testimony and a reverent feeling of the temple being the house of the Lord. The temple is truly a place where you are 'in the world and not of the world.' When you are troubled and when you have crucial decisions that weigh heavily on your mind and soul, you can take your cares to the temple and receive spiritual guidance....
"The temple is a sacred edifice, a holy place where essential saving ceremonies and ordinances are performed to prepare us for exaltation. It is important that we gain a sure knowledge that our preparation to enter the holy house and our participation in these ceremonies and covenants are some of the most significant events we will experience in our mortal lives."
- Robert D. Hales, "Temple Blessings," BYU devotional, November 15, 2005
Click here to read the full talk
In anticipation of an upcoming stake conference, my stake presidency encouraged all stake members to prepare by "pondering, discussing, and praying about the many blessings of temple covenants"; anticipating that the conference will "bring about a renewed energy and commitment toward temple service in the stake." That's a wonderful challenge and wonderful goal.

My response to their invitation led me to this talk by Elder Hales, where I found much to ponder, First, the concept that just the standard of worthiness related to temple activity "is one of the greatest blessings available to us in mortality." In other words, simply ensuring that we become worthy and remain worthy will result in great blessings.

Second, the covenants of the temple bless us profoundly. Our demonstration of devotion to the Father and Savior prepare us for greater things to come.

And third, regular attendance in the temple gives the opportunity for spiritual guidance that is crucial in our lives today.

I have truly experienced aspects of these blessings in my life, and look forward to renewing and increasing my commitment to receive more. We are fortunate indeed to have this privilege!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Joseph B. Wirthlin on progress and growth

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.
"The Church is not a place where perfect people gather to say perfect things, or have perfect thoughts, or have perfect feelings. The Church is a place where imperfect people gather to provide encouragement, support, and service to each other as we press on in our journey to return to our Heavenly Father.
"Each one of us will travel a different road during this life. Each progresses at a different rate. Temptations that trouble your brother may not challenge you at all. Strengths that you possess may seem impossible to another.
"Never look down on those who are less perfect than you. Don't be upset because someone can't sew as well as you, can't throw as well as you, can't row or hoe as well as you.
"We are all children of our Heavenly Father. And we are here with the same purpose: to learn to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Mark 12:30-31.)"
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Virtue of Kindness", Ensign, May 2005, pp. 26-28
Click here to read the full talk

This is such an important principle, one that is occasionally forgotten, perhaps sub-consciously, by Church members. We're all falling short, striving to improve and grow.

I love Elder Wirthlin's description of how we each progress differently in life, and develop different abilities and skills. How critically important it is for each of us to seek our own personal strengths and gifts, to acknowledge our abilities and advances, and allow others their different strengths!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

James E. Faust on finding and sharing happiness

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.
"The most fundamental of all human searches is for happiness. We each choose our own happiness. As President Harold B. Lee once said: 'Happiness does not depend on what happens outside of you but on what happens inside of you. It is measured by the spirit with which you meet the problems of life' ("A Sure Trumpet Sound: Quotations from President Lee," Ensign, Feb. 1974, 78). It will often be necessary for all of us to choose between having a good time and leading a good life.
"Each of us is born with natural 'happiness' hormones. When stimulated, they secrete powerful chemical substances into our bodies. There are many kinds. Some are called endorphins. Generally when we are in pain or distress, endorphins give us a sense of well-being. Medical science has long known that our mental outlook and well-being affect our physical health. A sign in a large hospital says, 'Laughter is the best medicine.' Smiling is good for the soul.
"Smiling brings a glow to our countenances that radiates to others. Being friendly to our neighbors, to people at school, at church, or at work is a great way to show the Lord that we want to keep the covenant we made at baptism 'to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light' (Mosiah 18:8). I recommend friendliness because so many people are shy or lonely and need a kind word or smile. Lifting others expands our inner selves. It is also the way of the Master. (See Luke 6:31.)"
- James E. Faust, "Who Do You Think You Are?", Ensign, Mar. 2001, pp. 2-7
Click here to read the full talk

One of the lines from this quote jumped out at me: "It will often be necessary for all of us to choose between having a good time and leading a good life." That's an interesting statement to find in the middle of a talk about happiness. Pres. Faust didn't discuss it or clarify in any way. Some view "having a good time" as a definition of happiness, and in the world's view it may conflict with "leading a good life" — hence the need to choose between the two. But in a very real sense, the only true and lasting way to have a good time is to lead a good life. That's the path to happiness.

Happiness is magnified as we share it with others.We never know whom we bless just with a smile or encouraging word. And the promise is that our own souls expand as we do so; what a great thing to work on more diligently!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ezra Taft Benson on the timing of rewards and consequences

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.
"Daily, constantly, we choose by our desires, our thoughts, and our actions whether we want to be blessed or cursed, happy or miserable. One of the trials of life is that we do not usually receive immediately the full blessing for righteousness or the full cursing for wickedness. That it will come is certain, but ofttimes there is a waiting period that occurs, as was the case with Job and Joseph.
"In the meantime the wicked think they are getting away with something. The Book of Mormon teaches that the wicked 'have joy in their works for a season, [but] by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return' (3 Ne. 27:11).
"During this testing time the righteous must continue to love God, trust in His promises, be patient, and be assured...
"I testify to you that God's pay is the best pay that this world or any other world knows anything about. And it comes in full abundance only to those who love the Lord and put Him first.
"The great test of life is obedience to God.
"The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it.
"The great commandment of life is, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength' (Mark 12:30).
"May God bless us to put the first commandment first and, as a result, reap peace in this life and eternal life with a fulness of joy in the life to come."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "The Great Commandment — Love the Lord," Ensign, May 1988, p. 4
Click here to read the full talk

In my experience, both personally and in counseling with others, it's so easy and so common to blame our troubles or challenges on other people, on fate, on circumstances.  And occasionally, that is valid; but so often, our state in life is a result of our own choices and actions. President Benson makes this point very forcefully, also reminding us that though God is deeply aware of us, he often postpones the consequences so that we can learn and grow in faith.

Knowing that the "waiting period" is there for a purpose, but is truly temporary, can make all the difference in how we endure. And doesn't this final statement from President Benson encapsulate so much in a few beautiful words?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Neal A. Maxwell on the road to consecration

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.
"Each of us might well ask, 'In what ways am I shrinking or holding back?' Meek introspection may yield some bold insights! For example, we can tell much by what we have already willingly discarded along the pathway of discipleship. It is the only pathway where littering is permissible, even encouraged. In the early stages, the debris left behind includes the grosser sins of commission. Later debris differs; things begin to be discarded which have caused the misuse or underuse of our time and talent.
"Along this pathway leading to consecration, stern and unsought challenges sometimes hasten this jettisoning, which is needed to achieve increased consecration (see Hel. 12:3). If we have grown soft, hard times may be necessary. If we are too contented, a dose of divine discontent may come. A relevant insight may be contained in reproof. A new calling beckons us away from comfortable routines wherein the needed competencies have already been developed. One may be stripped of accustomed luxury so that the malignant mole of materialism may be removed. One may be scorched by humiliation so pride can be melted away. Whatever we lack will get attention, one way or another....
"Consecration is thus both a principle and a process, and it is not tied to a single moment. Instead, it is freely given, drop by drop, until the cup of consecration brims and finally runs over."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father," Ensign, Nov. 1995, pp. 22-24
Click here to read the full talk

One of Elder Maxwell's favorite topics was discipleship; he gave some wonderful counsel about what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. In this excerpt, he notes that sometimes what we perceive to be challenges and frustrations in life may be the things needed to lead us to deeper discipleship. Our "meek introspection" can bring "bold insights" into our personal situation.

But I especially love the analogy about the process of becoming a true disciple — following the path, "jettisoning" the parts of our life that don't belong as we move ahead. In Moroni's memorable language, it means that we "deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness" (Moroni 10:32), gradually and steadily removing those things from our lives and discarding them, like litter along the pathway.

It's interesting to ponder the progression of that process that Elder Maxwell mentions, starting with "the grosser sins of commission" but then, as we mature spiritually, moving forward to eliminate things like "the misuse or underuse of our time and talent." And that's where the "meek introspection" should help me find what is the next thing that needs to be left behind in my life.

Thank you, Elder Maxwell, for always stretching us by your deep thoughts and beautiful expressions.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

D. Todd Christofferson on the consecrated life and work

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (1945- ) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"To consecrate is to set apart or dedicate something as sacred, devoted to holy purposes. True success in this life comes in consecrating our lives—that is, our time and choices—to God's purposes (see John 17:1, 4; D&C 19:19). In so doing, we permit Him to raise us to our highest destiny....
"A consecrated life is a life of labor. Beginning early in His life, Jesus was about His Father's business (see Luke 2:48-49). God Himself is glorified by His work of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39). We naturally desire to participate with Him in His work, and in so doing, we ought to recognize that all honest work is the work of God. In the words of Thomas Carlyle: 'All true Work is sacred; in all true Work, were it but true hand-labour, there is something of divineness. Labour, wide as the Earth, has its summit in Heaven.' (Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present (1843), 251)
"God has designed this mortal existence to require nearly constant exertion. I recall the Prophet Joseph Smith's simple statement: 'By continuous labor [we] were enabled to get a comfortable maintenance' (JS-H 1:55). By work we sustain and enrich life. It enables us to survive the disappointments and tragedies of the mortal experience. Hard-earned achievement brings a sense of self-worth. Work builds and refines character, creates beauty, and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God. A consecrated life is filled with work, sometimes repetitive, sometimes menial, sometimes unappreciated but always work that improves, orders, sustains, lifts, ministers, aspires."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Reflections on a Consecrated Life", Ensign, November 2010, p. 16-19; click here to read the full talk

I love the phrase "a consecrated life." It denotes a quality of living that is no longer self-centered or self-serving, no longer distracted by worldliness; but is "set apart" or dedicated "as sacred, devoted to holy purposes." Elder Christofferson notes that in that kind of a mindset, we recognize that we are a part of God's work—and can be in any type of labor. With the consecrated mindset, "all honest work is the work of God."

I remember in my youth hearing a Seminary teacher whom I greatly respected quote 2 Nephi 26:31, "But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish." He used the passage to explain why he was a professional Seminary teacher. I was impressed by that, and wondered if I should follow in his professional shoes. But that misses the whole point. It's not about the vocation; it's about the motivation. Are we laboring for money, for personal gain and prosperity? Or are we laboring "for Zion," as a consecrated life, desiring to aid and build up the kingdom of God and do His work, regardless of the vocation?

And further, Elder Christofferson explains, it's the work itself that helps to ennoble and purify us in the process. The labor of a consecrated individual "enables us to survive the disappointments and tragedies of the mortal experience." What a great promise!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Neil L. Andersen on the spiritual haven of the temple

Elder Neil L. Andersen (1951- ) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009 (the most recent member called).
"The Lord has given you another way to stand firm, a spiritual gift more powerful than the whirlwinds of the adversary! He said, 'Stand... in holy places, and be not moved' (D&C 87:8).
"When I was a teenager, there were only 13 temples in the Church. Now there are 142. Eighty-five percent of Church members live within 200 miles (320 km) of a temple. The Lord has given your generation greater access to His holy temples than any other generation in the history of the world.
"Have you ever stood in the temple, dressed in white, waiting to do baptisms? How did you feel? There is a tangible feeling of holiness in the temple. The peace of the Savior subdues the swirling whirlwinds of the world.
"The way you feel in the temple is a pattern for how you want to feel in your life."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Spiritual Whirlwinds," Ensign, May 2014, pp. 18-21; click to read the full article

I always appreciate the reminders and suggestions offered by leaders about the temples. The remarkable expansion of their availability in our generation should be a clear message to us of their importance to our lives. I remember as a youth thinking that I would love to visit all the temples some day — a goal that was attainable when there were so few. But now I recognize that a more practical and beneficial goal is just to make frequent visits to the ones that are close by.

Elder Andersen points out one of the important reasons we should go to the temple. The patterns we discover there truly can make a difference in our daily lives.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Quentin L. Cook on finding time for inspiration

Elder Quentin L. Cook (1940- ) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"We live in a noisy, contentious world, where it is possible to be viewing or listening to information, music, or even pure nonsense virtually every waking hour. If we want to have the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, we must find time to slow down, ponder, pray, and live so we are worthy to receive and act upon His promptings. We will avoid major mistakes if we heed His warnings. It is our privilege as members to receive light and knowledge from Him even to the perfect day. (See D&C 50:24.)"
- Quentin L. Cook, "We Follow Jesus Christ," Ensign, May 2010, p. 83; click here to read the full article

Life in our day becomes increasingly complicated, as new distractions appear constantly. I suspect the adjectives "noisy" and "contentious" were carefully chosen to describe our world. And the distractions vary from "information" to "music" to "pure nonsense" — most of us can see examples of each of those in our own lives or those close to us!  What wise counsel this is: "slow down, ponder, pray." Turn off the distractions, at least part of the time. Look for opportunities to find blessed silence, to contemplate our blessings, to commune with God. It's hard to conceive that we would "receive light and knowledge from Him" while we're immersed in the distractions!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

David A. Bednar on prayer on behalf of others

Elder David A. Bednar (1952- ) was sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2004.
"Petitioning Heavenly Father for the blessings we desire in our personal lives is good and proper. However, praying earnestly for others, both those whom we love and those who despitefully use us, is also an important element of meaningful prayer. Just as expressing gratitude more often in our prayers enlarges the conduit for revelation, so praying for others with all of the energy of our souls increases our capacity to hear and to heed the voice of the Lord....
"Do our spouses, children, and other family members likewise feel the power of our prayers offered unto the Father for their specific needs and desires? Do those we serve hear us pray for them with faith and sincerity? If those we love and serve have not heard and felt the influence of our earnest prayers in their behalf, then the time to repent is now. As we emulate the example of the Savior, our prayers truly will become more meaningful."
- David A. Bednar, "Pray Always", Ensign, Nov. 2008, pp. 41-44; click here to read the full talk

Elder Bednar describes what is somewhat of a progression of the maturity of our communication with Heavenly Father. We ask for blessings and help in our own lives — and that is "good and proper." Learning to express more gratitude can aid in the effectiveness of our communication. But the importance of awareness of those around us is the great insight. When we pray "earnestly" for others, our prayers can take on a greater power and effectiveness.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dieter F. Uchtdorf on being grateful during any circumstances

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (1940- ) served as a Seventy from 1994-2004, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve.  He has served as second counselor in the First Presidency since 2008.
"We can choose to be grateful, no matter what.
"This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer.
"When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ's Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven's embrace.
"We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?
"Being grateful in times of distress does not mean that we are pleased with our circumstances. It does mean that through the eyes of faith we look beyond our present-day challenges.
"This is not a gratitude of the lips but of the soul. It is a gratitude that heals the heart and expands the mind."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Grateful in Any Circumstances," Ensign, May 2014, pp. 70-77
Click here to read the full address

I think the trait President Uchtdorf describes is one of the hardest things for many people to do. It's the "no matter what" that is so challenging. How do you truly transcend anything that is happening, surpassing "disappointment, discouragement, and despair" in order to find "gentle peace" amid tribulation?

But here is the key: learning to see, "through the eyes of faith", what lies "beyond" the current difficulty. This kind of deep, faith-filled gratitude is what will sustain us, even heal us, through all those difficulties of life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Henry B. Eyring on inviting the Spirit through study

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.
"The Holy Ghost will guide what we say if we study and ponder the scriptures every day. The words of the scriptures invite the Holy Spirit. The Lord said it this way: 'Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men' (D&C 11:21). With daily study of the scriptures, we can count on this blessing even in casual conversations or in a class when we may be asked by a teacher to respond to a question. We will experience the power the Lord promised: 'Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man' (D&C 84:85).
"We treasure the word of God not only by reading the words of the scriptures but by studying them. We may be nourished more by pondering a few words, allowing the Holy Ghost to make them treasures to us, than to pass quickly and superficially over whole chapters of scripture."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Feed My Lambs," Ensign, November 1997, pp. 82-84; click here to read the full address
There is a power that comes with consistent, daily, ongoing study. I think it's like adding a little water each day so that a plant can grow, bloom, and blossom. Irregular and inconsistent spurts of watering just won't accomplish the same thing. As we study each day, we are gradually treasuring up the words of life. We set the mood and tone for the day; we allow the truths of the scriptures to sink into our hearts and minds where they can dwell and develop.

And how we study also helps plant those truths deeply where they can grow and bless us. I think that's the benefit of pondering carefully, of focusing on smaller sections; we're not just "glossing over" the words, but allowing them to sink deeply.  What a valuable reminder!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Jeffrey R. Holland on help and hope from the Savior

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (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.
"On those days when we have special need of heaven's help, we would do well to remember one of the titles given to the Savior in the epistle to the Hebrews. Speaking of Jesus' 'more excellent ministry' and why He is 'the mediator of a better covenant' filled with 'better promises,' this author—presumably the Apostle Paul—tells us that through His mediation and Atonement, Christ became 'an high priest of good things to come' (Hebrews 8:6, 9:11).
"Every one of us has times when we need to know things will get better. Moroni spoke of it in the Book of Mormon as 'hope for a better world' (Ether 12:4). For emotional health and spiritual stamina, everyone needs to be able to look forward to some respite, to something pleasant and renewing and hopeful, whether that blessing be near at hand or still some distance ahead. It is enough just to know we can get there, that however measured or far away, there is the promise of 'good things to come.'
"My declaration is that this is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, especially in times of need. There is help. There is happiness. There really is light at the end of the tunnel. It is the Light of the World, the Bright and Morning Star, the 'light that is endless, that can never be darkened' (see John 8:12; Rev. 22:16; Mosiah 16:9). It is the very Son of God Himself. In loving praise far beyond Romeo's reach, we say, 'What light through yonder window breaks?' It is the return of hope, and Jesus is the Sun. (See William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, act 2, scene 2, lines 2-3.) To any who may be struggling to see that light and find that hope, I say: Hold on. Keep trying. God loves you. Things will improve. Christ comes to you in His 'more excellent ministry' with a future of 'better promises.' He is your 'high priest of good things to come.'"
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "An High Priest of Good Things to Come", Ensign, Nov 1999, p. 36; click here to read the full talk

This was one of Elder Holland's most heartfelt and tender talks. He has such a sensitivity to those who struggle — which we all do from time to time. This message is a crucial one; "through His mediation and Atonement, Christ became 'an high priest of good things to come.'" That is the core of Christianity, the essence of the help and hope that is available to one and all.

Knowing that those times of need come to all, when out stamina runs out in the midst of a challenging part of our journey, Elder Holland wisely counsels on the strength that can come by anticipating the time of relief ahead. There is always a promise of relief ahead.

But it's not always easy to cling to that promise. We forget; we doubt. The darkness can almost overwhelm the light, and we forget that there is a promised dawn. This apostolic reassurance is powerful.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Robert D. Hales on waiting upon the Lord

Elder Robert D. Hales (1932- ) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"The purpose of our life on earth is to grow, develop, and be strengthened through our own experiences. How do we do this? The scriptures give us an answer in one simple phrase: we 'wait upon the Lord' (Psalm 37:9; 123:2; Isaiah 8:17; 40:31; 2 Nephi 18:17). Tests and trials are given to all of us. These mortal challenges allow us and our Heavenly Father to see whether we will exercise our agency to follow His Son. He already knows, and we have the opportunity to learn, that no matter how difficult our circumstances, 'all these things shall [be for our] experience, and... [our] good' (D&C 122:7).
"Does this mean we will always understand our challenges? Won't all of us, sometime, have reason to ask, 'O God, where art thou?' (D&C 121:1). Yes! When a spouse dies, a companion will wonder. When financial hardship befalls a family, a father will ask. When children wander from the path, a mother and father will cry out in sorrow. Yes, 'weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning' (Psalm 30:5). Then, in the dawn of our increased faith and understanding, we arise and choose to wait upon the Lord, saying, 'Thy will be done' (Matthew 6:10; 3 Nephi 13:10; see also Matthew 26:39).
"What, then, does it mean to wait upon the Lord? In the scriptures, the word wait means to hope, to anticipate, and to trust. To hope and trust in the Lord requires faith, patience, humility, meekness, long-suffering, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end."
- Robert D. Hales, "Waiting upon the Lord: Thy Will Be Done," Ensign, November 2011, pp. 71-74; click here to read the full talk

I've always been intrigued by the phrase "wait upon the Lord." Sometimes we view it as the long, seemingly unending, sometimes agonizing period that we endure as we struggle through a challenge or difficulty, until finally relief comes.

Elder Hales helps give a perspective that will bless those who understand it. There will be periods of waiting and enduring in all of our lives, as "mortal challenges allow us and our Heavenly Father to see whether we will exercise our agency to follow His Son." That test could never occur if there were immediate relief, instant blessings, constant deliverance.

But it's the nature of the waiting that is the key.  Waiting isn't an activity of passive endurance. It's an active process we engage in, during which some of our greatest development and growth can occur. It's the time when the greatest spiritual gifts and virtues often come into play. If we remember this, we will be doing much more than enduring passively. Waiting "upon the Lord" becomes waiting "with the Lord."

Saturday, February 14, 2015

David O. McKay on love and respect at home

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.
"One of our most precious possessions is our families. The domestic relations precede, and, in our present existence, are worth more than all other social ties. They give the first throb to the heart and unseal the deep fountains of its love. Home is the chief school of human virtues. Its responsibilities, joys, sorrows, smiles, tears, hopes, and solicitudes form the chief interests of human life....
"When one puts business or pleasure above his home, he that moment starts on the downgrade to soul-weakness. When the club becomes more attractive to any man than his home, it is time for him to confess in bitter shame that he has failed to measure up to the supreme opportunity of his life and flunked in the final test of true manhood. No other success can compensate for failure in the home. The poorest shack in which love prevails over a united family is of greater value to God and future humanity than any other riches. In such a home God can work miracles and will work miracles.
"Pure hearts in a pure home are always in whispering distance of heaven....
"It is Christ's ideal that home and marriage should be perpetual--eternal.
"Marriage is a sacred relationship entered into for purposes that are well recognized--primarily for the rearing of a family.
"I know of no other place where happiness abides more securely than in the home. It is possible to make home a bit of heaven. Indeed, I picture heaven as a continuation of the ideal home. Some man has said: 'Home filled with contentment is one of the highest hopes of this life.'"
- David O. McKay, "Blessed Are They That Do His Commandments," Conference Report, April 1964, pp. 3-7; click here to read the full talk
President McKay gave many wonderful discourses on the importance of families and relationships. This excerpt contains some of his landmark thoughts about the "precious" nature the family should hold in our lives. Now more than ever, there are distractions that draw us away from that focus; President McKay's remarks are so timely.

I have heard expressions of dismay at the assumed message of the first line, one of the iconic quotes from Pres. McKay, from some who feel they have failed in some aspect of relationships or parenting. But I think it needs to be remembered in context. He was warning us, especially fathers, about distractions including "business and pleasure" that take us away from the priority of the home and draw our energy or focus in inappropriate ways. But when "love prevails" the home is never completely a failure, even when there are challenges or disappointments. Our goal and responsibility should always be to do all we can to create the environment in which "God can work miracles."

So the "ideal home" is what we can all aspire to. It would be well to ask what we can do in our personal relationships in families, to help create that kind of environment. It starts with "pure hearts in a pure home" — we each should examine our own worthiness and devotion, do what we can to make the environment as wholesome as possible, and then work to aid and assist those closest to us.
// Customization to close archive widget on first view - DK 3/15