Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Howard W. Hunter on thoughts of Jesus

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"I have chosen for my brief text this morning the words of an ancient and sacred hymn, which are attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux and estimated to be nearly nine hundred years old. With the rest of the Christian world, the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sing reverently:
   Jesus, the very thought of thee
   With sweetness fills my breast;
   But sweeter far thy face to see
   And in thy presence rest.
   (Hymns, 1985, no. 141.) 
"...we wonder if thoughts of Jesus, which 'with sweetness [fill our] breast,' ought not to be far more frequent and much more constant in all times and seasons of our lives. How often do we think of the Savior? How deeply and how gratefully and how adoringly do we reflect on his life? How central to our lives do we know him to be? 
"For example, how much of a normal day, a working week, or a fleeting month is devoted to 'Jesus, the very thought of thee'? Perhaps for some of us, not enough. 
"Surely life would be more peaceful, surely marriages and families would be stronger, certainly neighborhoods and nations would be safer and kinder and more constructive if more of the gospel of Jesus Christ 'with sweetness' could fill our breasts. 
"Unless we pay more attention to the thoughts of our hearts, I wonder what hope we have to claim that greater joy, that sweeter prize: someday his loving 'face to see / And in [his] presence rest.'" 
- Howard W. Hunter, "Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee," Ensign, May 1993, pp. 63-65
Click here to read the full talk

President Hunter had such a gentle approach to the Gospel and its application. Feeling the inviting message in the opening phrase of a beautiful hymn, he wonders if our thoughts of Jesus should be more frequent, even constant. That's a kind way of saying we are usually too distracted by the things of the world and not focused on what matters most. He challenges us to evaluate ourselves to see if our minds are centered where they should be as disciples of Jesus Christ. The promises are sure for those who understand what it means to allow Him to fill our thoughts and lives:

Certainly we do need to "pay more attention to the thoughts of our hearts." And by the way, the full text of that tender hymn bears pondering.

A portrait of the Savior by Jon McNaughton
Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see
And in thy presence rest.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the mem'ry find
A sweeter sound than thy blest name,
O Savior of mankind!

O hope of ev'ry contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!

Jesus, our only joy be thou,
As thou our prize wilt be;
Jesus, be thou our glory now,
And thru eternity.

("Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee," original Latin text attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux, ca. 1091-1153; translated by Edward Caswall, 1814-1878.)

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