Friday, July 31, 2015

James E. Faust on the growing evidence of Satan's power

President James E. Faust (July 31, 1920 - August 10, 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 from 1995 until his death in 2007 at age 87.
"I think we will witness increasing evidence of Satan's power as the kingdom of God grows stronger. I believe Satan's ever-expanding efforts are some proof of the truthfulness of this work. In the future the opposition will be both more subtle and more open. It will be masked in greater sophistication and cunning, but it will also be more blatant. We will need greater spirituality to perceive all of the forms of evil and greater strength to resist it. But the disappointments and setbacks to the work of God will be temporary, for the work will go forward (see D&C 65:2)....
"Who has not heard and felt the enticings of the devil? His voice often sounds so reasonable and his message so easy to justify. It is an enticing, intriguing voice with dulcet tones. It is neither hard nor discordant. No one would listen to Satan's voice if it sounded harsh or mean. If the devil's voice were unpleasant, it would not entice people to listen to it....
"As the great deceiver, Lucifer has marvelous powers of deception. As Paul said to the Corinthians, 'And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light' (2 Cor. 11:14; see also 2 Ne. 9:9).
"Some of Satan's most appealing lines are 'Everyone does it'; 'If it doesn't hurt anybody else, it's all right'; 'If you feel all right about it, it's OK'; or 'It's the "in" thing to do.' These subtle entreaties make Satan the great imitator, the master deceiver, the arch counterfeiter, and the great forger."
- James E. Faust, "The Great Imitator", Ensign, Nov. 1987, p. 33
Click here to read the full talk

It's been almost 30 years since President Faust shared this counsel, warning of "increasing evidence of Satan's power." He foresaw a time when Satan's work would be "both more subtle and more open." That's interesting to ponder. We certainly see evil and temptation being expressed more openly in ways that didn't exist three decades ago (e.g., pornography on the Internet). But we also see the more subtle aspects being manifest, as morality in society gradually erodes, intellectual priorities are changing, and so on — in "greater sophistication and cunning." This was a key warning: "We will need greater spirituality to perceive all of the forms of evil and greater strength to resist it."

It's wise to listen to prophetic warnings, and carefully consider how they apply to our lives. I appreciate President Faust's counsel as he points out the areas of danger.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

David A. Bednar on gradual personal revelation

Elder David A. Bednar (1952- ) was sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2004.
"The gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God 'line upon line, precept upon precept' (2 Nephi 28:30). Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation. Such communications from Heavenly Father gradually and gently 'distil upon [our souls] as the dews from heaven' (D&C 121:45). This pattern of revelation tends to be more common than rare...
"Both the history of the Church and our personal lives are replete with examples of the Lord's pattern for receiving revelation 'line upon line, precept upon precept.' For example, the fundamental truths of the restored gospel were not delivered to the Prophet Joseph Smith all at once in the Sacred Grove. These priceless treasures were revealed as circumstances warranted and as the timing was right....
"We as members of the Church tend to emphasize marvelous and dramatic spiritual manifestations so much that we may fail to appreciate and may even overlook the customary pattern by which the Holy Ghost accomplishes His work. The very 'simpleness of the way' (1 Nephi 17:41) of receiving small and incremental spiritual impressions that over time and in totality constitute a desired answer or the direction we need may cause us to look 'beyond the mark' (Jacob 4:14).
 "I have talked with many individuals who question the strength of their personal testimony and underestimate their spiritual capacity because they do not receive frequent, miraculous, or strong impressions. Perhaps as we consider the experiences of Joseph in the Sacred Grove, of Saul on the road to Damascus, and of Alma the Younger, we come to believe something is wrong with or lacking in us if we fall short in our lives of these well-known and spiritually striking examples. If you have had similar thoughts or doubts, please know that you are quite normal. Just keep pressing forward obediently and with faith in the Savior. As you do so, you 'cannot go amiss' (D&C 80:3)."
- David A. Bednar, "The Spirit of Revelation," Ensign, May 2011, pp. 87-90
Click here to read the full talk

Most of us appreciate quick solutions to problems, neat and complete answers, concerns relieved soon after they are identified. But Elder Bednar points out that more often, our communications with God or our spiritual learning happen more gradually and incrementally.

We have to learn to be patient! We have to trust that the sun will indeed rise. We know from experience in seeing the first early glow of morning light that full daylight is not far away; and just so, we should know from experience in feeling the first spiritual promptings that more complete understanding will eventually follow. It's not often that the dramatic, soul-wrenching, life-changing manifestations occur; more often, it's just a gradual, continual building over time. Remembering that should encourage us to look for the small steps as eagerly as we would the big jumps, and be grateful as we note their accumulation.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bruce R. McConkie on the importance of gospel scholarship

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (July 29, 1915 - April 19, 1985) served as a Seventy from 1946-1972 when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve.  He served in that assignment until his death from cancer at age 69.
"Our revelation says, 'The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth' (D&C 93:36). Joseph Smith taught that 'a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge' of God and his saving truths (Teachings, p. 217) and that 'it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance' of Jesus Christ and the laws of his gospel (D&C 131:6).
"We believe in gospel scholarship. We think that devout men everywhere, in and out of the Church, should seek spiritual truth, should come to know God, should learn his laws, and should strive to live in harmony with them. There are no truths as important as those that pertain to God and his gospel, to the pure religion that he has revealed, to the terms and conditions whereby we may gain an inheritance with him in his kingdom....
"Christ is the great exemplar, the prototype of perfection and salvation: 'He said unto the children of men: Follow thou me' (2 Ne. 31:10). Also: 'What manner of men ought yet to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.' (3 Ne. 27:27.) I know of no better way to respond to Jesus' invitation, 'Learn of me' (Matt. 10:28), than to study the scriptures with a prayerful heart."
- Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrines of the Restoration (Bookcraft 1989), pp. 221-222

Elder McConkie was known for his bold, authoritarian presentation and his exposition of the scriptures and Church doctrine. This quote summarizes his personal standard, as well as presenting an exhortation to Church members and "devout men everywhere" — we need to be scholars of the Lord's gospel.

And in the final paragraph, Elder McConkie explains the main reason gospel scholarship is important. It enables us to become more like the Lord when we understand more about Him. We learn in order to live.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Jeffrey R. Holland on the burdens and blessings of life

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 this upward and sometimes hazardous journey, each of us meets our share of daily challenges. If we are not careful, as we peer through the narrow lens of self-interest, we may feel that life is bringing us more than our fair share of trials—that somehow others seem to be getting off more lightly.
"But the tests of life are tailored for our own best interests, and all will face the burdens best suited to their own mortal experience. In the end we will realize that God is merciful as well as just and that all the rules are fair. We can be reassured that our challenges will be the ones we needed, and conquering them will bring blessings we could have received in no other way.
"If we constantly focus only on the stones in our mortal path, we will almost surely miss the beautiful flower or cool stream provided by the loving Father who outlined our journey. Each day can bring more joy than sorrow when our mortal and spiritual eyes are open to God's goodness. Joy in the gospel is not something that begins only in the next life. It is our privilege now, this very day. We must never allow our burdens to obscure our blessings. There will always be more blessings than burdens—even if some days it doesn't seem so. Jesus said, 'I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly' (John 10:10). Enjoy those blessings right now. They are yours and always will be."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "What I Wish Every New Member Knew—and Every Longtime Member Remembered," Ensign, October 2006, pp. 10-16
Click here to read the full talk

This is an important warning. It's so easy, so natural for us to constantly compare our situation with what we perceive of the situations of others around us. We know quite a bit about our own "daily challenges," and at times it can seem that we are getting more than we deserve of those problems than our friends or associates. We "peer through the narrow lens of self-interest" and compare burdens; but we often misinterpret the burdens carried by others, not realizing the weight or severity of the challenges they face.

More importantly, we forget that God is in charge, and He molds the experience of life to "our own best interests." It's so important that we learn to trust in His wisdom, His personal knowledge of each of us, and His deep and unending love.

Once we begin to open our eyes and see not just the stones in the path but the beautiful vistas that accompany it, then we begin to experience the abundant life that the Savior promised.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Robert D. Hales on trusting in the Lord's answers

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 may not know when or how the Lord's answers will be given, but in His time and His way, I testify, His answers will come. For some answers we may have to wait until the hereafter. This may be true for some promises in our patriarchal blessings and for some blessings for family members. Let us not give up on the Lord. His blessings are eternal, not temporary.
"Waiting upon the Lord gives us a priceless opportunity to discover that there are many who wait upon us. Our children wait upon us to show patience, love, and understanding toward them. Our parents wait upon us to show gratitude and compassion. Our brothers and sisters wait upon us to be tolerant, merciful, and forgiving. Our spouses wait upon us to love them as the Savior has loved each one of us....
"Every one of us is more beloved to the Lord than we can possibly understand or imagine. Let us therefore be kinder to one another and kinder toward ourselves. Let us remember that as we wait upon the Lord, we are becoming 'saint[s] through [His] atonement, ... submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father' (Mosiah 3:19)."
- Robert D. Hales, "Waiting upon the Lord: Thy Will Be Done", Ensign, November 2011, pp. 71-74
Click here to read the full talk

God's timing and man's timing are interesting concepts. We tend to be impatient creatures, needing to understand, wanting things to make sense and "flow" smoothly in our lives. Based on our limited understanding of circumstances and relationships, we get things "figured out" in our minds and then assume that God should respond to our petitions appropriately. It's too easy for us to forget that we often just don't have the same eternal perspective that God does. Our plans and judgments are based on very limited understanding of "the big picture." So "faith in God" is all about remembering that He sees and knows so much more than we do, and remembering to trust His wisdom and perspective.

The parallel thought about how we often leave others to wait upon us provides food for thought. We don't wait upon the Lord because he is slow, thoughtless, or neglectful; but often we leave others waiting on us for those reasons. We need to learn to be more prompt in responding, and in offering the Godly virtues in our interactions with those around us.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Richard G. Scott on finding beauty in life

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928- ) served as a Seventy from 1977-1988, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"Do you take time to discover each day how beautiful your life can be? How long has it been since you watched the sun set? The departing rays kissing the clouds, trees, hills, and lowlands good night, sometimes tranquilly, sometimes with exuberant bursts of color and form. What of the wonder of a cloudless night when the Lord unveils the marvels of His heavens—the twinkling stars, the moonlight rays—to ignite our imagination with His greatness and glory? How captivating to watch a seed planted in fertile soil germinate, gather strength, and send forth a tiny, seemingly insignificant sprout. Patiently it begins to grow and develop its own character led by the genetic code the Lord has provided to guide its development. With care it surely will become what it is destined to be: a lily, crowned with grace and beauty; a fragrant spearmint plant; a peach; an avocado; or a beautiful blossom with unique delicacy, hue, and fragrance. When last did you observe a tiny rosebud form? Each day it develops new and impressive character, more promise of beauty until it becomes a majestic rose.
"You are one of the noblest of God's creations. His intent is that your life be gloriously beautiful regardless of your circumstances. As you are grateful and obedient, you can become all that God intends you to be."
- Richard G. Scott, "Finding Joy in Life," Ensign, May 1996, pp. 24-26
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Scott has reminded us several times in recent years to appreciate the beauty of the world around us, noticing God's creations (a testimony of His glory) in spite of the often busy and complicated pace of our lives. He provides a good list of suggestions in the first paragraph of this excerpt, including sunsets, stars in the heavens, sprouting seeds, glorious blossoms and fruit.

But the real key to his message then is the application to us. After enumerating some of the most beautiful and fascinating of God's creations, this is the main point:

Saturday, July 25, 2015

M. Russell Ballard on pioneers and the challenges of today

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 is God's work, and God's work will not be frustrated. But there is still much to be done before the Great Jehovah can announce that the work is done. While we praise and honor those faithful Saints who have brought us to this point of public prominence, we cannot afford, my brothers and sisters, to be comfortable or content.
"We are all needed to finish the work that was begun by those pioneering Saints over 175 years ago and carried out through the subsequent decades by faithful Saints of every generation. We need to believe as they believed. We need to work as they worked. We need to serve as they served. And we need to overcome as they overcame.
"Of course, our challenges are different today, but they are no less demanding. Instead of angry mobs, we face those who constantly try to defame. Instead of extreme exposure and hardship, we face alcohol and drug abuse, pornography, all kinds of filth, sleaze, greed, dishonesty, and spiritual apathy. Instead of families being uprooted and torn from their homes, we see the institution of the family, including the divine institution of marriage, under attack as groups and individuals seek to define away the prominent and divine role of the family in society.
"This is not to suggest that our challenges today are more severe than the challenges faced by those who have gone before us. They are just different. The Lord isn't asking us to load up a handcart; He's asking us to fortify our faith. He isn't asking us to walk across a continent; He's asking us to walk across the street to visit our neighbor. He isn't asking us to give all of our worldly possessions to build a temple; He's asking us to give of our means and our time despite the pressures of modern living to continue to build temples and then to attend regularly the temples already built. He isn't asking us to die a martyr's death; He's asking us to live a disciple's life.
"This is a great time to live, brothers and sisters, and it is up to us to carry on the rich tradition of devoted commitment that has been the hallmark of previous generations of Latter-day Saints. This is not a time for the spiritually faint of heart. We cannot afford to be superficially righteous. Our testimonies must run deep, with spiritual roots firmly embedded in the rock of revelation. And we must continue to move the work forward as a covenanted, consecrated people, with faith in every footstep, 'till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.'"
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Truth of God Shall Go Forth," Ensign, Nov. 2008, 83
Click here to read the full talk

We sometimes need to be reminded that "there is still much to be done" and encouraged to be active and faithful in our part. Elder Ballard uses the context of the early pioneers for that message. While acknowledging their amazing contributions in overcoming challenges including persecution from angry mobs, being forced from homes, exposure, and hardship, he points out that we face equally great challenges in preserving the sanctity of homes and families, and dealing with exposure to the harmful elements of our society.

This application to our modern situation was particularly helpful:

This final challenge rings clear and unequivocal:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dallin H. Oaks on following the examples of pioneers

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (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.
"It is not enough to study or reenact the accomplishments of our pioneers. We need to identify the great, eternal principles they applied to achieve all they achieved for our benefit and then apply those principles to the challenges of our day. In that way we honor their pioneering efforts, and we also reaffirm our heritage and strengthen its capacity to bless our own posterity and 'those millions of our Heavenly Father's children who have yet to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ' (Our Heritage 145). We are all pioneers in doing so.
"Many of our challenges are different from those faced by former pioneers but perhaps just as dangerous and surely as significant to our own salvation and the salvation of those who follow us. For example, as for life-threatening obstacles, the wolves that prowled around pioneer settlements were no more dangerous to their children than the drug dealers or pornographers who threaten our children. Similarly, the early pioneers' physical hunger posed no greater threat to their well-being than the spiritual hunger experienced by many in our day. The children of earlier pioneers were required to do incredibly hard physical work to survive their environment. That was no greater challenge than many of our young people now face from the absence of hard work, which results in spiritually corrosive challenges to discipline, responsibility, and self-worth. Jesus taught: 'And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell' (Matt. 10:28)."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Following the Pioneers," Ensign, Nov. 1997, p. 72
Click here to read the full talk

Today, July 24, is the traditional "Pioneer Day" commemoration. It's now been 168 years since the first of the Mormon advance company entered the Salt Lake valley. Elder Oaks counsels us to do more than just study their history, or participate in reenactments of their challenges and accomplishments. He provides the great challenge to find "eternal principles" that helped them achieve what they did, and then "apply those principles to the challenges of our day." In doing so, we link ourselves to them and to the truths they held dear.

He then proceeds to give several examples, comparing some of the pioneer challenges to our modern circumstances. I appreciate this insight; it's a model of how we should always ponder as we read the scriptures or any historic account. We should not just be learning about the past; we should be learning lessons that can help us today!

Pioneer image, Glen Hopkinson, courtesy of

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Russell M. Nelson on becoming the right person

President 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. He was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015.
"The end for which each of you should strive is to be the person that you can become—the person who God wants you to be. The day will come when your professional career will end. The career that you will have labored so hard to achieve—the work that will have supported you and your family—will one day be behind you.
"Then you will have learned this great lesson: much more important than what you do for a living is what kind of person you become. When you leave this frail existence, what you have become will matter most. Attributes such as 'faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, [and] diligence' (D&C 4:6) will all be weighed in the Lord's balance.
"From time to time, ask yourself these questions: 'Am I ready to meet my Maker?' 'Am I worthy of all the blessings He has in store for His faithful children?' 'Have I received my endowment and sealing ordinances of the temple?' 'Have I remained faithful to my covenants?' 'Have I qualified for the greatest of all God's blessings—the blessing of eternal life?' (see D&C 14:7)."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Neither Trust in the Arm of Flesh," BYU commencement address, April 23, 2009; see Ensign, March 2010, pp. 24-25
Click here to read the full talk

We spend a lot of time and energy "striving" for various things in our lives each day. Careers and professional activities consume significant portions as we work to sustain ourselves. Sometimes we lose the perspective on what matters most, and President Nelson reminds us that it's far more important to worry about the kind of person we become than what we do for a living. "The end for which each of you should strive is to be the person that you can become—the person who God wants you to be."

He provides this practical suggestion to help evaluate our progress in the things that matter most—a short personal interview of sorts:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dieter F. Uchtdorf on adding beauty to the world

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.

These remarks are from an address to a General Relief Society meeting soon after he was called to the First Presidency:
"Nearly a century and a half ago, President Brigham Young spoke to the Saints of his day. 'There is a great work for the Saints to do,' he said. 'Progress, and improve upon and make beautiful everything around you. Cultivate the earth, and cultivate your minds. Build cities, adorn your habitations, make gardens, orchards, and vineyards, and render the earth so pleasant that when you look upon your labors you may do so with pleasure, and that angels may delight to come and visit your beautiful locations. In the mean time continually seek to adorn your minds with all the graces of the Spirit of Christ.' (Brigham Young, Deseret News, Aug. 8, 1860, 177.)
"The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come. Sisters, trust and rely on the Spirit. As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Happiness, Your Heritage," Ensign, Nov. 2008, pp. 117-18
Click here to read the full talk

In past years, I remember President Spencer W. Kimball regularly encouraging members to clean up their yards and beautify their surroundings. I don't recall him ever using this quote from Brigham Young, but he certainly carried on the spirit of the message. I love President Uchtdorf's application of it.

The dual reference to cultivating the earth and cultivating the mind is significant; are they linked in some way? Is the mind more capable of beautiful work when in a beautiful environment? President Uchtdorf seemed to suggest this relationship exists, as he encouraged creativity in his listeners: "As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you." And in the beautiful symmetry that often exists, "The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create."

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Henry B. Eyring on serving the Lord this day

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.
"For those who are discouraged by their circumstances and are therefore tempted to feel they cannot serve the Lord this day, I make you two promises. Hard as things seem today, they will be better in the next day if you choose to serve the Lord this day with your whole heart. Your circumstances may not be improved in all the ways which you desire. But you will have been given new strength to carry your burdens and new confidence that when your burdens become too heavy, the Lord, whom you have served, will carry what you cannot. He knows how. He prepared long ago. He suffered your infirmities and your sorrows when He was in the flesh so that He would know how to succor you.
"The other promise I make to you is that by choosing to serve Him this day, you will feel His love and grow to love Him more.... By serving Him this day, you will come to know Him better. You will feel His love and appreciation. You would not want to delay receiving that blessing. And feeling His love will draw you back to His service, wiping away both complacency and discouragement."
- Henry B. Eyring, "This Day," Ensign, May 2007, pp. 89-91
Click here to read the full talk

President Eyring believes a simple principle: we can "choose to serve the Lord" regardless of any challenges or circumstances in our lives. In the midst of our more trying times, that isn't always easy. But that is perhaps the time when it makes the most difference.

Our willingness to serve God at all costs demonstrates a faith that is rewarded with greater strength and capacity to "carry on." And it results in a deepened relationship with Him as we feel His love, and feel more love for Him. Why would anyone want to delay that blessing, if we truly believe it is real?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Thomas S. Monson on living life each day

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.
"How fragile life, how certain death. We do not know when we will be required to leave this mortal existence. And so I ask, 'What are we doing with today?' If we live only for tomorrow, we'll have a lot of empty yesterdays today. Have we been guilty of declaring, 'I've been thinking about making some course corrections in my life. I plan to take the first step — tomorrow'? With such thinking, tomorrow is forever. Such tomorrows rarely come unless we do something about them today....
"Because life is fragile and death inevitable, we must make the most of each day....
"My brothers and sisters, may we resolve from this day forward to fill our hearts with love. May we go the extra mile to include in our lives any who are lonely or downhearted or who are suffering in any way. May we '[cheer] up the sad and [make] someone feel glad' (Hymns, no. 223). May we live so that when that final summons is heard, we may have no serious regrets, no unfinished business, but will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith' (2 Tim. 4:7)."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Now Is the Time," Ensign, Nov. 2001, pp. 59-61
Click here to read the full talk

Most of us, if not all, have dealt with the uncertainty of this life, and can appreciate President Monson's warning, "We do not know when we will be required to leave this mortal existence." We have seen loved ones or acquaintances "called home" suddenly or unexpectedly, in what seems to us to be untimely and too early. Given the stark reality of that uncertainty, President Monson reminds us that we should never procrastinate needed changes or our commitments to make the most of each day we are allotted.

This is very practical advice of some of the things we should be considering about how to live life, now, today:

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Joseph Fielding Smith on perfection and the process of salvation

Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) was the son of Joseph F. Smith, 6th president of the Church, and grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph. He was called as an apostle in 1910, and served as the 10th president of the Church from 1970 until his death in 1972 at age 95.
"Salvation does not come all at once; we are commanded to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. It will take us ages to accomplish this end, for there will be greater progress beyond the grave, and it will be there that the faithful will overcome all things, and receive all things, even the fulness of the Father's glory.
"I believe the Lord meant just what he said: that we should be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. That will not come all at once, but line upon line, and precept upon precept, example upon example, and even then not as long as we live in this mortal life, for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God.
"But here we lay the foundation.  Here is where we are taught these simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this probationary state, to prepare us for that perfection.  It is our duty to be better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today.  Why?  Because we are on that road, if we are keeping the commandments of the Lord, we are on that road to perfection, and that can only come through obedience and the desire in our hearts to overcome the world."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 2:18–19

President Smith was a prolific writer during his long lifetime of service to the Church, and along with his father, one of the great doctrinal authorities of the modern era. In this excerpt, he reassures us that the requirement to seek perfection is very real; but he gives perspective, helping us understand that the process of getting to that point is one that extends beyond our mortal existence; and that there will actually be "greater progress beyond the grave."

However, lest we use that as an excuse to postpone our efforts, he also explains the importance of laying the foundation now in order to progress later. Now is the time to learn the gospel and implement its principles, so that we'll be prepared to make that progress in the life to come.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Gordon B. Hinckley on happiness in marriage

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1961, served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1981-1995, then as Church President until his death in 2008 at age 97.
"I have long felt that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one's companion. That involves a willingness to overlook weaknesses and mistakes.
"One man has said, 'Love is not blind—it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less' (Julius Gordon).
"Many of us need to stop looking for faults and begin to look for virtues. Booth Tarkington once remarked that 'an ideal wife is any woman who has an ideal husband.' Unfortunately, some women want to remake their husbands after their own design. Some husbands regard it as their prerogative to compel their wives to fit their standards of what they think to be the ideal. It never works. It only leads to contention, misunderstanding, and sorrow.
"There must be respect for the interests of one another. There must be opportunities and encouragement for the development and expression of individual talent....
"Husbands, wives, respect one another. Live worthy of the respect of one another. Cultivate that kind of respect which expresses itself in kindness, forbearance, patience, forgiveness, true affection, without officiousness and without show of authority."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Cornerstones of a Happy Home," satellite broadcast for husbands and wives, January 29, 1984
Click here to read the full talk

I love this counsel from dear President Hinckley. Every married person should be actively and eagerly seeking for ways to increase "happiness in marriage" and he gives very practical advice on how to do it. This is a great key: it comes from eagerness to seek the "comfort and well-being of one's companion" first and foremost:

Those who have fallen into traps of being critical or negative "need to stop looking for faults and begin to look for virtues." That is a hard transition to make, but is perhaps the only way to effectively change directions once started down the path of negativity. And this is a pointed warning, especially for husbands, though occasionally for wives as well:

Instead, President Hinckley counsels us to learn to respect differences, to honor and encourage one another's interests and talents.  And finally, this very profound counsel to not only respect one another but to be worthy of respect in all ways, thus working together to cultivate the highest and best in a relationship. What profound counsel!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Richard L. Evans on the importance of patience and perspective

Elder Richard L. Evans (1906-1971) served as a Seventy from 1938-1953, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He died in 1971 at age 65.  He was known as "the voice of the Tabernacle Choir" from the beginning of its broadcasts in 1929 until his passing.
"There seems to be little evidence that the Creator of the universe was ever in a hurry. Everywhere on this bounteous and beautiful earth, and out into the farthest reaches of the firmament, there is evidence of patient purpose and planning and working and waiting.
"This is a point to remember when we become too impatient with our own problems or with the many unanswered questions that are in the minds of most of us.  And when our troubles trouble us too much, when our lives become too tense, it might be will to take time for a long look—out into the infinite and awesome vastness of the universe—across 'worlds' that can't be counted—in sight of 'suns' that can't be numbered—into space that can't be contemplated by the mortal mind of man....
"Everywhere there is evidence of a long, unhurried plan and pattern and purpose, of intelligence and continuous creation, and of the Creator....
"And a long look at the endless, orderly plan and purpose of the Father of us all may make some of the petty and passing things appear not so important as they sometimes seem. And when we find ourselves in conflict and confusion, we can well learn to wait a while for all the evidence and all the answers that now evade us.
"Thank God for a glorious and interesting world, for truth, for 'infinity,' and for 'eternity' in which to find it—and for faith and assurance of the limitless and everlasting future."
- Richard L. Evans, "The Long Look," The Spoken Word, August 28, 1955; see Improvement Era, November 1955, p. 842; see also Conference Report, Oct. 1952, p. 95
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Evans was such a poetic writer and speaker. His "Music and the Spoken Word" comments were always sensitive and insightful. This is a great example of that; he describes what he understands of God's role as a creator, and how the creation is a manifestation of God's love.

The implication is that we should hurry less, and be more patient and deliberate in our planning and execution. And that we should take time to notice the evidence of God's infinite and awe-inspiring work throughout the vast universe:

During the past week, the world has been in awe as the "New Horizons" spacecraft that was launched almost a decade ago flew near to Pluto, billions of miles away from earth. We've had a small glimpse of the immensity of our own solar system, which is a fraction of the known galaxy, which is a dot within the known universe. But I wonder how many people have taken the time to consider, as Elder Evans suggests, what this says about the Creator and His "intelligence and continuous creation" that surrounds us??
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