Thursday, April 30, 2015

Neil L. Andersen on seeing God's hand and help in our lives

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).
"Although the Lord reassures us again and again that we 'need not fear' (D&C 10:55), keeping a clear perspective and seeing beyond this world is not always easy when we are in the midst of trials....
"Seeing and believing the Lord's miracles in establishing His kingdom on earth can help us see and believe that the Lord's hand is at work in our own lives as well....
"Sometimes we can see the hand of the Lord in the lives of others but wonder, 'How can I more clearly see His hand in my own life?' ...
"Remember the young man who cried out to the prophet Elisha as they were surrounded by enemies: 'Alas, [what] shall we do?' (2 Kings 6:15)
"Elisha answered:
"'Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
"'[Then] Elisha prayed, ... Lord, ... open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord [did open] the eyes of the young man; and he [did see that] the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire.' (2 Kings 6:16–17)
"As you keep the commandments and pray in faith to see the Lord's hand in your life, I promise you that He will open your spiritual eyes even wider, and you will see more clearly that you are not alone."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Thy Kingdom Come," General Conference, April 2015
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Andersen's assertion is that seeing and recognizing God's hand in the lives of others, or in the events of the Restoration and other world situations, leads us to see and recognize His hand in our own lives. I believe that is true! One of the blessings and privileges of serving in the Church is that you are often exposed to that kind of divine intervention. I have often been blessed as I've seen the hand of God at work around me.

The brief story about Elijah and the "young man" is one if my favorites from the Old Testament. I have enjoyed pondering the imagery of the prophet mentoring the youth in word; but then praying for him that he might see and understand. The teacher knew he had a responsibility greater than just "preaching" — he wanted to make sure the message was received and understood, and so he devoted spiritual efforts in addition to his physical ones.  God then was the one who intervened, and opened the eyes of the boy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

D. Todd Christofferson on the purpose of life and the blessing of agency

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (1945- ) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"Thanks to our Heavenly Father, we had already become spirit beings. Now He was offering us a path to complete or perfect that being. The addition of the physical element is essential to the fulness of being and glory that God Himself enjoys. If, while with God in the premortal spirit world, we would agree to participate in His plan—or in other words 'keep [our] first estate'—we would 'be added upon' with a physical body as we came to dwell on the earth that He created for us.
"If, then in the course of our mortal experience, we chose to 'do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God [should] command [us],' we would have kept our 'second estate.' This means that by our choices we would demonstrate to God (and to ourselves) our commitment and capacity to live His celestial law while outside His presence and in a physical body with all its powers, appetites, and passions. Could we bridle the flesh so that it became the instrument rather than the master of the spirit? Could we be trusted both in time and eternity with godly powers, including power to create life? Would we individually overcome evil? Those who did would 'have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever'—a very significant aspect of that glory being a resurrected, immortal, and glorified physical body. No wonder we 'shouted for joy' (Job 38:7) at these magnificent possibilities and promises....
"Knowing why we left the presence of our Heavenly Father and what it takes to return and be exalted with Him, it becomes very clear that nothing relative to our time on earth can be more important than physical birth and spiritual rebirth, the two prerequisites of eternal life."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Why Marriage, Why Family," General Conference, April 2015
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Christofferson reviewed the doctrines of "the plan of happiness" in order to set context for his discussion of families and marriage. :"Keeping our first estate" refers to the description from Abraham 3 of those who chose to follow the Savior's plan in the pre-mortal life, and were blessed by the opportunity to live in this world and obtain a physical body.

And that leads to the "second estate"—our current existence—where we now have the opportunity to grow and learn, as well as to demonstrate our love and desire to voluntarily follow God's plan. This was a wonderful summary of what we are about in this life:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Quentin L. Cook on sunflowers and following the Son

Elder Quentin L. Cook (1940- ) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"One of the remarkable characteristics of young wild sunflowers, in addition to growing in soil that is not hospitable, is how the young flower bud follows the sun across the sky. In doing so, it receives life-sustaining energy before bursting forth in its glorious yellow color.
"Like the young sunflower, when we follow the Savior of the world, the Son of God, we flourish and become glorious despite the many terrible circumstances that surround us. He truly is our light and life....
"Our protections in this life and for eternity will be in individual and family righteousness, Church ordinances, and following the Savior. This is our refuge from the storm. For those who feel they are alone, you can stand resolutely in righteousness knowing that the Atonement will protect and bless you beyond your ability to fully understand.
"We should remember the Savior, keep our covenants, and follow the Son of God as the young sunflower follows the sunshine. Following His light and example will bring us joy, happiness, and peace."
- Quentin L. Cook, "The Lord is my Light," General Conference, April 2015
Click here to read the full talk
This is not a new analogy, but it's a useful one. We need to make sure we are focused on the Son. And the more we keep turned toward Him, facing Him fully, the more light and strength we receive.

Following the sun brings growth and nourishment to the plant.  Following the Son will bring man "joy, happiness, and peace."

Monday, April 27, 2015

David A. Bednar on worldly fear and Godly fear

Elder David A. Bednar (1952- ) was sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2004.
"Unlike worldly fear that creates alarm and anxiety, godly fear is a source of peace, assurance, and confidence.
"But how can anything associated with fear be edifying or spiritually helpful?
"The righteous fear I am attempting to describe encompasses a deep feeling of reverence, respect, and awe for the Lord Jesus Christ (see Psalm 33:8; 96:4), obedience to His commandments (see Deuteronomy 5:29; 8:6; 10:12; 13:4; Psalm 112:1), and anticipation of the Final Judgment and justice at His hand....
"[G]odly fear dispels mortal fears. It even subdues the haunting concern that we never can be good enough spiritually and never will measure up to the Lord’s requirements and expectations....
"Godly fear is loving and trusting in Him. As we fear God more completely, we love Him more perfectly. And 'perfect love casteth out all fear' (Moroni 8:16). I promise the bright light of godly fear will chase away the dark shadows of mortal fears (see D&C 50:25) as we look to the Savior, build upon Him as our foundation, and press forward on His covenant path with consecrated commitment."
- David A. Bednar, "Therefore They Hushed Their Fears," General Conference, April 2015
Click here to read the full talk

The world can be a pretty scary place. Elder Bednar identified things that often bring fear: health challenges, family members in danger or difficulty, problems in the world around us ("criminal violence, famine, wars, corruption, terrorism, declining values, disease, and the destructive forces of nature"). I've always appreciated the Lord's warning to Joseph Smith: “And in that day... the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’s hearts shall fail them” (D&C 45:26). That description is more and more accurate in our time.

But it's the difference between "mortal fear" and "godly fear" that is the key to Elder Bednar's remarks. We learn to control and conquer the fears of the world as we understand what it means to fear God, since "godly fear is a source of peace, assurance, and confidence." It's a beautiful concept, and Elder Bednar counsels wisely about how to let the true and valuable fear of the Lord dominate and replace the worldly fears.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Russell M. Nelson on the sign of the Sabbath

Elder Russell M. Nelson (1924- ) was an internationally-renowned heart surgeon when he was called to serve as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984.
"The Savior identified Himself as Lord of the Sabbath (9). It is His day! Repeatedly, He has asked us to keep the Sabbath (10) or to hallow the Sabbath day (11). We are under covenant to do so.
"How do we hallow the Sabbath day? In my much younger years, I studied the work of others who had compiled lists of things to do and things not to do on the Sabbath. It wasn't until later that I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between me and my Heavenly Father (12). With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don'ts. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, 'What sign do I want to give to God?' That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear."
- Russell M. Nelson, "The Sabbath Is a Delight," General Conference, April 2015, Sunday afternoon session
Click here to read the full talk
9. See Matthew 12:8Mark 2:28Luke 6:5
10. See Exodus 31:13Leviticus 19:3, 3026:2Doctrine and Covenants 68:29
11. See Ezekiel 20:2044:24
12. See Exodus 31:13Ezekiel 20:12, 20

Elder Nelson was the final speaker at the recent General Conference, a change from the normal practice that the president of the Church gives concluding remarks. His talk on the Sabbath Day provided a number of concepts to ponder as we each consider the blessings and opportunities that day affords to "true believers."

I especially appreciated this insight about how we look at Sabbath activities. We often make those lists of "do's and don'ts" to try to clarify. But Elder Nelson focused on these Old Testament guidelines: "Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you" (Exodus 31:13). To me, it's a way to be less "Pharisaical" about the actions, while considering more of the motivations and implications. And the promise of sanctification from God as a result is a wonderful one!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Jeffrey R. Holland on the Savior's love and gifts for us

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.
"So today [Easter Sunday] we celebrate the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced—to say nothing of our resurrection from death and forgiveness for our sins. That victory is available to us because of events that transpired on a weekend precisely like this nearly two millennia ago in Jerusalem....
"That first Easter sequence of Atonement and Resurrection constitutes the most consequential moment, the most generous gift, the most excruciating pain, and the most majestic manifestation of pure love ever to be demonstrated in the history of this world. Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, suffered, died, and rose from death in order that He could, like lightning in a summer storm, grasp us as we fall, hold us with His might, and through our obedience to His commandments, lift us to eternal life.
"This Easter I thank Him and the Father, who gave Him to us, that Jesus still stands triumphant over death, although He stands on wounded feet. This Easter I thank Him and the Father, who gave Him to us, that He still extends unending grace, although He extends it with pierced palms and scarred wrists. This Easter I thank Him and the Father, who gave Him to us, that we can sing before a sweat-stained garden, a nail-driven cross, and a gloriously empty tomb:
"How great, how glorious, how complete
Redemption's grand design,
Where justice, love, and mercy meet
In harmony divine! (Hymns, no. 195.)"
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet," General Conference, April 2015, Sunday Morning session
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Holland's remarks were shared during the Easter Morning session of the recent general conference, and provided a tender and practical look at the Savior's Atonement and its meaning in our lives. This is a wonderful summary of the blessings of that "most generous gift" to us:

It truly is "the most majestic manifestation of pure love ever to be demonstrated in the history of this world." Of course, that gift is offered to us, but with the exception of the resurrection (that comes to all men), the gift must be received by us. We have to choose to accept His love!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Robert D. Hales on preserving religious liberty

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.
"Brothers and sisters, we are responsible to safeguard these sacred freedoms and rights for ourselves and our posterity. What can you and I do?
"First, we can become informed. Be aware of issues in your community that could have an impact on religious liberty.
"Second, in your individual capacity, join with others who share our commitment to religious freedom. Work side by side to protect religious freedom.
"Third, live your life to be a good example of what you believe—in word and deed. How we live our religion is far more important than what we may say about our religion.
"Our Savior's Second Coming is drawing nearer. Let us not delay in this great cause. Remember Captain Moroni, who hoisted the title of liberty inscribed with the words 'In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children' (Alma 46:12). Let us remember the people's response: exercising their agency, they 'came running together' with a covenant to act. (Alma 46:21.)
"My beloved brothers and sisters, don't walk! Run! Run to receive the blessings of agency by following the Holy Ghost and exercising the freedoms God has given us to do His will."
- Robert D. Hales, "Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom," General Conference, April 2015
Click here to read the full article

I always appreciate messages from leaders that include specific assignments or charges. Elder Hales provided such a message in the most recent conference. He first discussed the concept of religious freedom, suggesting "four cornerstones of religious freedom that we as Latter-day Saints must rely upon and protect." They include the freedom to believe, to share belief with others, to worship in religious organizations, and to live the tenets of our faith.

Religious liberty is threatened in our time. The challenge form Elder Hales was to be actively involved in working to preserve it. That is where the "charge" to us comes, in the three areas mentioned:

  • Be informed; understand the issues
  • Join with others in the community eager to help
  • Live as a good example of our religious principles
So that's the invitation, and this is the specific call to action with a promise:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

M. Russell Ballard offers a challenge to today's young adults

Elder M. Russell Ballard (1928- ) was called as a Seventy in 1976, and has served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1985. This address was offered in the Priesthood session of the recent conference; Elder Ballard recalled the challenge he made in 2002 to "raise the bar" of missionary standards, and reflected on today's needs and challenges.
"What we need now is the greatest generation of young adults in the history of the Church. We need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate young adults who know how to listen and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit as you make your way through the daily trials and temptations of being a young, contemporary Latter-day Saint.
"In other words, it's time to raise the bar not only for missionaries but also for returned missionaries and for your entire generation. To that end, please ponder in your heart your answers to these questions:
"1. Do you search the scriptures regularly?
"2. Do you kneel in prayer to talk with your Heavenly Father each morning and each night?
"3. Do you fast and donate a fast offering each month—even if you are a poor, struggling student who can't afford to donate much?
"4. Do you think deeply about the Savior and His atoning sacrifice for you when you are asked to prepare, bless, pass, or partake of the sacrament?
"5. Do you attend your meetings and strive to keep the Sabbath day holy?
"6. Are you honest at home, school, church, and work?
"7. Are you mentally and spiritually clean? Do you avoid viewing pornography or looking at websites, magazines, movies, or apps, including Tinder and Snapchat photos, that would embarrass you if your parents, Church leaders, or the Savior Himself saw you?
"8. Are you careful with your time—avoiding inappropriate technology and social media, including video games, which can dull your spiritual sensitivity?
"9. Is there anything in your life you need to change and fix, beginning tonight?"
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Greatest Generation of Young Adults," General Conference, April 2015
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Ballard addressed his remarks to the young adults of the Church, focusing on the opportunity and need they have collectively and individually to "raise the bar" and continue faithful in the light of the challenges of today's world. He shares a wonderful vision of what that generation can become:

Elder Ballard then offers a thoughtful "virtual interview" that he hopes each youth will consider to help indicate the state of their current spiritual progress. Each of us, regardless of age, would benefit from carefully considering and pondering that list of standards!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dallin H. Oaks on preparing to receive the seed of the Gospel

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (1932- ) was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984.
"The parable of the sower ends with the Savior's description of the seed that 'fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit' in various measures (Matthew 13:8). How can we prepare ourselves to be that good ground and to have that good harvest?
"Jesus explained that 'the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience' (Luke 8:15). We have the seed of the gospel word. It is up to each of us to set the priorities and to do the things that make our soil good and our harvest plentiful. We must seek to be firmly rooted and converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Colossians 2:6–7). We achieve this conversion by praying, by scripture reading, by serving, and by regularly partaking of the sacrament to always have His Spirit to be with us. We must also seek that mighty change of heart (see Alma 5:12–14) that replaces evil desires and selfish concerns with the love of God and the desire to serve Him and His children."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "The Parable of the Sower," General Conference, April 2015, Saturday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

In his most recent Conference address, Elder Oaks reviewed the Parable of the Sower. He gave modern interpretation and application to some of the challenges that were described anciently, in two broad categories:
  • Stony ground, no root: those who are superficial in their testimony or devotion, confused by the teachings of the world, or narrow in their view of the Gospel
  • Choked by thorns: caught up in a desire for riches or the cares of the world
His cautions about the dangers of our time are very worth reviewing, in consideration of our personal progress and status.

Having warned about the dangers, Elder Oaks also talked about the blessing of those who are nourishing the seeds of the Gospel in good soil, giving careful attention to the things that will protect from danger and encourage growth. This is wonderful positive advice:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

L. Tom Perry on the eternal importance of families

Elder L. Tom Perry (1922- ) has served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1974.
"The restored gospel centers on marriage and family. It is also on marriage and family where we can unite most with other faiths. It is around marriage and family where we will find our greatest commonality with the rest of the world. It is around marriage and family that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the greatest opportunity to be a light on the hill.
"Let me close by bearing witness (and my nine decades on this earth fully qualify me to say this) that the older I get, the more I realize that family is the center of life and is the key to eternal happiness."
- L. Tom Perry, "Why Marriage and Family Matter—Everywhere in the World," General Conference, April 2015, Saturday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Perry spoke of a "colloquium on marriage and family" he attended last fall in Rome, Italy. The gathering brought together representatives of 14 different faiths from around the world. He was impressed how leaders from such different backgrounds and beliefs could find such general agreement on the "sanctity of the institution of marriage and the importance of families as the basic unit of society." It was interesting to hear him share impressions from the gatherings, including both things the participants had in common, as well as differences.

Elder Perry will reach his 93rd birthday in August.  He is the oldest living general authority, though still seems among the more energetic and vibrant of the leading brethren. From his life of experience and devotion, he bears a powerful witness of the Gospel and its principles. His closing testimony was particularly well expressed.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Boyd K. Packer on repentance, forgiveness, and Atonement

President Boyd K. Packer (1924- ) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He currently serves as the president of that Quorum.
"Our physical bodies, when harmed, are able to repair themselves, sometimes with the help of a physician. If the damage is extensive, however, often a scar will remain as a reminder of the injury.
"With our spiritual bodies it is another matter. Our spirits are damaged when we make mistakes and commit sins. But unlike the case of our mortal bodies, when the repentance process is complete, no scars remain because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The promise is: 'Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more' (D&C 58:42)....
"The Atonement, which can reclaim each one of us, bears no scars. That means that no matter what we have done or where we have been or how something happened, if we truly repent, He has promised that He would atone. And when He atoned, that settled that. There are so many of us who are thrashing around, as it were, with feelings of guilt, not knowing quite how to escape. You escape by accepting the Atonement of Christ, and all that was heartache can turn to beauty and love and eternity."
- Boyd K. Packer, "The Plan of Happiness," General Conference, April 2015, Saturday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

President Packer is not the oldest of the current apostles chronologically, but he seems to be the one who is the most advanced physically. Each conference, I wonder if we might have heard his last public address. That was the case again this time. He spoke of a theme that has been very important to him: the happiness that comes in following God's plan for marriage and families.  He mentioned his love and appreciation for his companion of nearly 70 years, Donna Smith Packer, now that they were "toward the end of our mortal days together."

But he also talked about a secondary theme that has been vital through his ministry: the power of the Lord to forgive through the glorious Atonement, which has the power to heal the wounds and scars of mortality:

And this glorious promise follows:

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the grace of the Savior

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.
"The Savior's Atonement cannot become commonplace in our teaching, in our conversation, or in our hearts. It is sacred and holy, for it was through this 'great and last sacrifice' that Jesus the Christ brought 'salvation to all those who shall believe on his name' (Alma 34:10, 15).
"I marvel to think that the Son of God would condescend to save us, as imperfect, impure, mistake-prone, and ungrateful as we often are. I have tried to understand the Savior's Atonement with my finite mind, and the only explanation I can come up with is this: God loves us deeply, perfectly, and everlastingly. I cannot even begin to estimate 'the breadth, and length, and depth, and height... [of] the love of Christ' (Ephesians 3:18–19).
"A powerful expression of that love is what the scriptures often call the grace of God--the divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow from the flawed and limited beings we are now into exalted beings of 'truth and light, until [we are] glorified in truth and [know] all things' (D&C 93:28)."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Gift of Grace," General Conference, May 2015, Sunday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

President Uchtdorf's talk on the Atonement and the Grace of the Savior was one of his finest ever. I appreciated his analogies and the clarity of his teachings. It is one we should all review regularly, in order to ensure that the Atonement truly does not become "commonplace" or neglected in our thoughts and our lives.

When we even begin to comprehend that love, we're never the same again.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Henry B. Eyring on the power of the Comforter in our lives

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.
"Many are praying to Heavenly Father for relief, for help in carrying their burdens of grief, loneliness, and fear. Heavenly Father hears those prayers and understands their needs. He and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Jesus Christ, have promised help....
"The burdens His faithful servants must carry in life are made lighter by His Atonement. The burden of sin can be taken away, but the trials of mortal life for good people can still be heavy burdens....
"We lighten the loads of others best by helping the Lord strengthen them. That is why the Lord included in our charge to comfort others the command to be His witnesses at all times and in all places....
"That is part of the great plan of happiness the Father gave us. He allowed His Son to provide, by His atoning sacrifice, the hope that comforts us no matter how hard the way home to Him may be.
"The Father and the Son send the Holy Ghost to comfort and strengthen disciples of the Master in their journey....
"I can know only partially how much He feels joy each time you, as His disciple, help Him bring a moment of peace and joy to a child of our Heavenly Father.
"I bear my witness that the Lord has asked each of us, His disciples, to help bear one another’s burdens. We have promised to do it. I bear my testimony that the Lord, through His Atonement and Resurrection, has broken the power of death. I give my witness that the living Christ sends the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, to those we are pledged to help Him comfort."
- Henry B. Eyring, "The Comforter," April 2015 General Conference, Women's Session
Click here to read the full talk

One of the beautiful phrases from the instructions Alma gave to those who in his day were desirous to follow the Gospel plan was that they should "comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places" (see Mosiah 18:9). In this tender address given to the women of the Church during the recent General Conference, President Eyring expounds upon that charge, encouraging us all to understand and act upon the invitation.

Often the best way to provide help and comfort in a time of need is to help bring awareness or remembrance of the reality and power of the Atonement to the one who needs it, truly standing as a witness of Him.

The remarkable part of President Eyring's talk to me is the suggestion that the promise of the help of the Comforter applies not just to the one who is struggling or challenged, but also to the faithful disciple who is their to help bear the burden. As we act as His agents, divine assistance will surely be there.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Thomas S. Monson on the blessings of the temple

President Thomas S. Monson (1927- ) was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1963.  He served as a counselor in the First Presidency with Presidents Benson, Hunter, and Hinckley until becoming Church president in 2008.
"As I think of temples, my thoughts turn to the many blessings we receive therein. As we enter through the doors of the temple, we leave behind us the distractions and confusion of the world. Inside this sacred sanctuary, we find beauty and order. There is rest for our souls and a respite from the cares of our lives.
"As we attend the temple, there can come to us a dimension of spirituality and a feeling of peace which will transcend any other feeling which could come into the human heart....
"Such peace can permeate any heart—hearts that are troubled, hearts that are burdened down with grief, hearts that feel confusion, hearts that plead for help....
"In our lives we will have temptations; we will have trials and challenges. As we go to the temple, as we remember the covenants we make there, we will be better able to overcome those temptations and to bear our trials. In the temple we can find peace."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Blessings of the Temple," General Conference, April 2015, Sunday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

President Monson is continuing the great work of building temples and teaching about their importance, established by his predecessor, President Gordon B. Hinckley. In the most recent general conference, he shared these beautiful thoughts as part of a talk about the blessings that come from service and worship in the temples.

Among the promised blessings of temple service and worship is the peace that comes to our hearts. President Monson described his own peace after the passing of his lifelong companion Frances. And he invites us to feel that strength and help in our own lives:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

David A. Bednar on prayers of gratitude

Elder David A. Bednar (1952- ) was sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2004.
"The most meaningful and spiritual prayers I have experienced contained many expressions of thanks and few, if any, requests. As I am blessed now to pray with apostles and prophets, I find among these modern-day leaders of the Savior's Church the same characteristic that describes Captain Moroni in the Book of Mormon: these are men whose hearts swell with thanksgiving to God for the many privileges and blessings which He bestows upon His people (see Alma 48:12). Also, they do not multiply many words, for it is given unto them what they should pray, and they are filled with desire (see 3 Nephi 19:24). The prayers of prophets are childlike in their simplicity and powerful because of their sincerity.
"As we strive to make our prayers more meaningful, we should remember that 'in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments' (D&C 59:21). Let me recommend that periodically you and I offer a prayer in which we only give thanks and express gratitude. Ask for nothing; simply let our souls rejoice and strive to communicate appreciation with all the energy of our hearts."
- David A. Bednar, "Pray Always", Ensign, Nov. 2008, p. 41
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Bednar refers to the beautiful description of Captain Moroni as "a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people" (Alma 48:12). Moroni had more than his share of difficulties and frustrations in his life; but he was humble enough and wise enough to see beyond that and acknowledge the goodness of God in all things. The expression his "heart did swell with thanksgiving" is beautiful! What a marvelous quality to emulate.

And then in describing the prayers of contemporary leaders, Elder Bednar notes that they are "childlike in their simplicity and powerful because of their sincerity." That is equally insightful.

It's a wonderful reminder that we truly do have much to be thankful for, regardless of the situation or challenges of our life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the hope of a new spring

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.
"I have seen enough ups and downs throughout my life to know that winter will surely give way to the warmth and hope of a new spring. I am optimistic about the future.... for our part, we must remain steadfast in hope, work with all our strength, and trust in God....
"I know this for a certainty: it is often in the trial of adversity that we learn those most critical lessons that form our character and shape our destiny.
"I pray that during the coming months and years we can fill our hours and days with righteous work. I pray that we will seek to learn and improve our minds and hearts by drinking deeply from the pure fountains of truth."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Two Principles for Any Economy", Ensign, Nov. 2009, pp. 55-58
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One of the most glorious messages of the Lord's Gospel is that "winter will surely give way to the warmth and hope of a new spring." We call that principle hope — the assurance that there are better things to come, that the trials and adversities are temporary, and that it will all be "all right" in the end.

Our responsibility is to "remain steadfast in home, work with all our strength, and trust in God." I like the word steadfast; its origins imply standing firm or being stable and immovable. To be steadfast in hope is to never lose sight of the fact that spring is not far away in the midst of winter, that peace and comfort will follow adversity. That gives us the courage to "work with all our strength" in obeying and serving God, as we trust in His immutable promises. We "fill our hours and days with righteous work" and we "drink deeply from the pure fountains of truth" in order to keep that hope resolute and unwavering.

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