Monday, August 31, 2015

Harold B. Lee on almost doing our best

President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1941. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1970-1972, then as Church president from July 1972 until his passing less than 18 months later in December 1973.
"A good bishop made an interesting comment about what he called the saddest words that he knows of a man in high station. He read from the words in the days of the Apostle Paul when Paul before King Agrippa had borne his powerful testimony of his conversion. King Agrippa's reply was, 'Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.' (Acts 26:28.) Then the bishop said, 'The king knew the truth but he lacked the courage to do that which would be required; and he could only say then, "Almost thou persuadest," almost persuaded under certain circumstances to do the thing the Lord would want him to do.'
"And then he characterized some things that he discovered in his own ward in a short but powerful sermon. 'In response to the Master, "Come, ... follow me" (Mark 10:21), some members almost,' he said, 'but not quite, say, "thou persuadest me almost to be honest but I need extra help to pass a test"'....
"Almost thou persuadest me to keep the Sabbath day holy, but it's fun to play ball on Sunday.
"Almost thou persuadest me to love my neighbor, but he is a rascal; to be tolerant of others' views, but they are dead wrong; to be kind to sister, but she hit me first; to go home teaching but it's so cold and damp outside tonight; to pay tithes and offerings, but we do need a new color TV set; to find the owner of a lost watch, but no one returned the watch I lost; to pass the Sacrament, but I've graduated from the deacons now, almost thou persuadest me to be reverent, but I had to tell my pal about my date last night; almost thou persuadest me to attend stake leadership meeting, but I know more than the leader on that subject, so why should I go? Thou persuadest me almost to go to sacrament meeting but there is going to be such an uninteresting speaker tonight. Almost! Almost! Almost! but not quite, not able quite to reach."
- Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, April 1964, pp. 23-24; see THBL 147

President Lee's application of the classic apology from King Agrippa is thought-provoking. There are times when we almost make the right choice, almost live up to our potential. But the lack of full and total commitment holds us back. Each of us can probably find something in President Lee's list that reminds us of an area where we could be more committed, more devoted to God and His work.

I love the phrase that appears a number of times in the Book of Mormon to describe the level of devotion God asks of us: "whole soul." He doesn't want a token portion of our commitment. He wants everything.
"And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out."
- 2 Nephi 25:29, emphasis added
Or this:
"And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved."
- Omni 1:26, emphasis added
It's clear that "almost" is not what the Savior asks when he invites us to follow Him!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Howard W. Hunter on loving our neighbor

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.
"The Lord has prepared a touchstone for you and me, an outward measurement of inward discipleship that marks our faithfulness and will survive the fires yet to come....
"Eternal life, God's life, the life we are seeking, is rooted in two commandments. The scriptures say that 'on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets' (Matt. 22:40). Love God and love your neighbor. The two work together; they are inseparable. In the highest sense they may be considered as synonymous. And they are commandments that each of us can live....
"An old axiom states that a man 'all wrapped up in himself makes a small bundle.' Love has a certain way of making a small bundle large. The key is to love our neighbor, including the neighbor that is difficult to love. We need to remember that though we make our friends, God has made our neighbors—everywhere. Love should have no boundary; we should have no narrow loyalties. Christ said, 'For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?' (Matt. 5:46)....
"These two virtues, love and service, are required of us if we are to be good neighbors and find peace in our lives."
- Howard W. Hunter, "The Lord's Touchstone," Ensign, November 1986, pp. 34-35
Click here to read the full talk

The concept of a touchstone is mostly lost to modern culture. In times past, a piece of smooth fine-grained stone such as slate, jasper, or schist was used to test alloys of gold. When the metals were rubbed on the stone, they would leave marks; a skilled observer could tell the type of metal based on the color of the mark, compared to known samples. So in more general terms, the term "touchstone" came to represent any specific standard or criterion by which something is recognized or judged.

President Hunter says there is a spiritual touchstone to help identify our true inward discipleship. It is defined in the first and second of the Lord's great commandments—loving God and our neighbor. In particular, how we treat those around us, our neighbors, is a great identifier of how truly we are converted.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ezra Taft Benson on the spiritually alert life

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.
"Usually the Lord gives us the overall objectives to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but He expects us to work out most of the details and methods. The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things. Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and His prophets, and then prayerfully act—without having to be commanded 'in all things' (D&C 58:26). This attitude prepares men for godhood....
"Sometimes, the Lord hopefully waits for His children to act on their own, and when they do not, they lose the greater prize, and the Lord will either drop the entire matter and let them suffer the consequences, or else he will have to spell it out in greater detail. Usually, I fear, the more he has to spell it out, the smaller is our reward."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Not Commanded in All Things," Conference Report, April 5, 1965, pp. 121-122; see Ensign Sept 1977
Click here to read the full talk

This is an interesting analysis of the process of mortality. God doesn't tell us everything to do; he doesn't answer every question and give guidance in every minute instance. Instead, he wants us to learn and grow through our own experience. We need to learn to make decisions. And we need to learn to recover from bad decisions. That's all part of the process of growth.

I love the simple description of being "spiritually alert" — what a great attribute!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Neal A. Maxwell on the experiences of life

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.
"Since this is a gospel of growth and life is a school of experience, God, as a loving Father, will stretch our souls at times. The soul is like a violin string: it makes music only when it is stretched. (Eric Hoffer.) God will tutor us by trying us because He loves us, not because of indifference! ...
"Because our lives are foreseen by God, He is never surprised by developments within our lives. The sudden loss of health, wealth, self-esteem, status, or a loved one—developments that may stun us—are foreseen by God, though not necessarily caused by Him. It is clear, however, that this second estate is to be a learning and a testing experience. Once again, it is relevant to remind ourselves that when the Gods discussed us and our earth experience, their declaration was, 'And we will prove them herewith.' (D&C 98:12; Abraham 3:25.)
"Clearly, we had to be moved on from the first estate—where the truth that 'all these things shall give thee experience' no doubt seemed so very logical to us—moved on to this earth, where all these experiences are sometimes so inexplicable and even nearly intolerable.
"C. S. Lewis put it well when he gave us the analogy of remodeling the human soul and a living house: 'Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.' (Mere Christianity [New York: Macmillan, 1960], p. 174.)"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience," pp. 28-29

Elder Maxwell often spoke of the challenges of life; he knew from personal experience in dealing with his own, including the cancer that eventually claimed his life. He often encouraged his listeners to look for the growth that comes through trials, as a natural part of mortality.

The focus of this message is God's awareness of our challenges, and his participation in our mortal experience. The beautiful quote from C. S. Lewis was one Elder Maxwell returned to a number of times in his teaching to help illustrate this message.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Marvin J. Ashton on serving one another

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915-1994) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1971 until his death in 1994 at age 78.
"Be one who nurtures and who builds. Be one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.... Lend a hand to those who are frightened, lonely, or burdened.
"If we could look into each other's hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care....
"When we truly become converted to Jesus Christ, committed to Him, an interesting thing happens: our attention turns to the welfare of our fellowman, and the way we treat others becomes increasingly filled with patience, kindness, a gentle acceptance, and a desire to play a positive role in their lives. This is the beginning of true conversion.
"Let us open our arms to each other, accept each other for who we are, assume everyone is doing the best he or she can, and look for ways to help leave quiet messages of love and encouragement instead of being destructive with bashing."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword", Ensign, May 1992, p. 18-20
Click here to read the full talk

In this excerpt, Elder Ashton describes the kind of person we all wish we could be... we all should be.

I love this comment: "If we could look into each other's hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care." I have come to believe that; everyone carries burdens at times that are often hidden from others, and can influence behavior and relationships in so many ways. True converts learn to care for one another, to "open our arms to each other" and express true love and understanding. What a wonderful goal to aspire to, as we work diligently to become more Christlike.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Joseph B. Wirthlin on finding true happiness in life

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.
"I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with many wonderful people from many walks of life. I have known rich and poor, famous and modest, wise and otherwise.
"Some were burdened with heavy sorrows; others radiated a confident inner peace. Some smoldered with unquenchable bitterness, while others glowed with irrepressible joy. Some appeared defeated, while others—in spite of adversity—overcame discouragement and despair.
"I have heard some claim, perhaps only partly in jest, that the only happy people are those who simply don't have a firm grasp of what is happening around them.
"But I believe otherwise.
"I have known many who walk in joy and radiate happiness.
"I have known many who live lives of abundance.
"And I believe I know why.
"Today, I want to list a few of the characteristics that the happiest people I know have in common. They are qualities that can transform ordinary existence into a life of excitement and abundance.
"First, they drink deeply of living waters....
"The second quality of those who live abundant lives is that they fill their hearts with love....
"The third quality of those who live abundant lives is that they, with the help of their Heavenly Father, create a masterpiece of their lives....
"The abundant life isn't something we arrive at. Rather, it is a magnificent journey that began long, long ages ago and will never, never end."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Abundant Life," Ensign, May 2006, pp. 99-102
Click here to read the full talk
The Savior once taught, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). Many have pondered and spoken about that "abundant life" and how we obtain it. Elder Wirthlin counsels us on discovering how to "walk in joy and radiate happiness" as hallmarks of that abundant life.

What a wonderful goal for each of us, to seek to have more abundant lives through the gifts of the Savior!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

James E. Faust on making choices in life

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 from 1995 until his death in 2007 at age 87.
"In this life we have to make many choices. Some are very important choices. Some are not. Many of our choices are between good and evil. The choices we make, however, determine to a large extent our happiness or our unhappiness, because we have to live with the consequences of our choices. Making perfect choices all of the time is not possible. It just doesn't happen. But it is possible to make good choices we can live with and grow from. When God's children live worthy of divine guidance they can become 'free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon' (2 Ne. 2:26)....
"Some of our important choices have a time line. If we delay a decision, the opportunity is gone forever. Sometimes our doubts keep us from making a choice that involves change. Thus an opportunity may be missed. As someone once said, 'When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that in itself is a choice' (William James)....
"How do we make correct choices? A choice involves making a conscious decision. To make an intelligent decision we need to evaluate all available facts on both sides of an issue. But that isn't enough. Making correct decisions involves prayer and inspiration....
"As we look into the future, we are going to need to be stronger and more responsible for our choices in a world where people 'call evil good, and good evil' (2 Ne. 15:20). We do not choose wisely if we use our agency in opposition to God's will or to priesthood counsel. Tomorrow's blessings and opportunities depend on the choices we make today."
- James E. Faust, "Choices," Ensign, May 2004, pp. 51-54
Click here to read the full talk

It's a good reminder to note that not one of us always makes only perfect choices. We do the best we can; and we always do better when we're worthy of "divine guidance" in those choices.

I liked this thought, of the importance of timely choices:

So then, learning to make correct choices is the challenge. "To make an intelligent decision we need to evaluate all available facts on both sides of an issue." That's hard to do; it's rare that we have the discipline to investigate so thoroughly. We are prone to rush to a decision. President Faust encourages more careful and deliberate consideration, followed by "prayer and inspiration."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Robert D. Hales on Seeking personal revelation

Elder Robert D. Hales (b. August 24, 1932) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"Each of us has been sent to earth by our Heavenly Father to merit eternal life: 'And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent' (John 17:3). How do we know the Father and the Son for ourselves? By personal revelation. Personal revelation is the way Heavenly Father helps us know Him and His Son, learn and live the gospel, endure to the end in righteousness, and qualify for eternal life—to return back into Their presence.
"You may ask, 'How do we seek personal revelation?' Paul counseled the Saints to rely on the Spirit rather than the wisdom of the world (see 1 Corinthians 2:11-16.). To obtain that Spirit, we begin with prayer...
"As faithful children, youth, parents, teachers, and leaders, we may receive personal revelation more frequently than we realize. The more we receive and acknowledge personal revelation, the more our testimonies grow."
- Robert D. Hales, "Personal Revelation: The Teachings and Examples of the Prophets", Ensign, Nov 2007, pp. 86-89
Click here to read the full article

If one of the great purposes or goals of mortal life is to come to know God and Jesus, then we should be sure to focus appropriate effort on that goal! Elder Hales suggests that we accomplish the most important goals through "personal revelation."

Personal revelation, Elder Hales says, begins with prayer. And he promises that there are more opportunities for that blessing to come than we sometimes realize.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Jeffrey R. Holland on God's help in the trials 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.
"In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters, it is crucial to remember that we are living—and chose to live—in a fallen world where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again. Of greatest assurance in God's plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive....
"So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend. As President Monson said to the Relief Society sisters so movingly last Saturday evening: 'That love never changes.... It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God's love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there.' Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior's own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Like a Broken Vessel," Ensign, Nov 2013, pp. 40-42
Click here to read the full talk

There are hard times in most lives. In some lives, the hard times seem never to end. Elder Holland attempts to put that into perspective. There is always hope for the soul who remembers this precious, eternal truth:

And though the actual action is one of the most difficult things we do in this life, this is the simple answer Elder Holland provides to some of life's hardest challenges:

Furthermore, the key is to "Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life" as we:

  • Seek counsel from those who hold keys to guide and bless
  • Receive and remember priesthood blessings
  • Participate in the sacrament weekly, feeling the power of its "perfecting promises"
  • Believe in miracles
And then Elder Holland provides this challenging, but reassuring, conclusion:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

David A. Bednar on inviting the Holy Ghost into our lives

Elder David A. Bednar (1952- ) was sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2004.
"We more readily receive and recognize the Spirit of the Lord as we appropriately invite Him into our lives. We cannot compel, coerce, or command the Holy Ghost. Rather, we should invite Him into our lives with the same gentleness and tenderness by which He entreats us (see D&C 42:14).
"Our invitations for the companionship of the Holy Ghost occur in many ways: through the making and keeping of covenants; by praying sincerely as individuals and families; by searching the scriptures diligently; through strengthening appropriate relationships with family members and friends; by seeking after virtuous thoughts, actions, and language; and by worshipping in our homes, in the holy temple, and at church. Conversely, casualness about or the breaking of covenants and commitments, failing to pray and study the scriptures, and inappropriate thoughts, actions, and language cause the Spirit to withdraw from or to avoid us altogether."
- David A. Bednar, "Receive the Holy Ghost", Ensign, November 2010, pp. 94-97
Click here to read the full talk
The words "Receive the Holy Ghost" are spoken to each newly-baptized member of the Church in the ordinance on confirmation, of conferring the Holy Ghost. But we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost at that time; actually receiving the Holy Ghost is a life-long process, as Elder Bednar points out. We need to receive Him daily, continually. And we do that by inviting Him into our lives.

Not only must we invite by the appropriate actions and activities, but we must also avoid the things that might prevent companionship: "casualness about or the breaking of covenants and commitments, failing to pray and study the scriptures, and inappropriate thoughts, actions, and language." This is a wise message to invite introspection in each of us.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Thomas S. Monson on the race of life

President Thomas S. Monson (b. August 21, 1927 - 88 years old today!) 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.
"Each of us is a runner in the race of life. Comforting is the fact that there are many runners. Reassuring is the knowledge that our eternal Scorekeeper is understanding. Challenging is the truth that each must run. But you and I do not run alone. That vast audience of family, friends, and leaders will cheer our courage, will applaud our determination as we rise from our stumblings and pursue our goal. The race of life is not for sprinters running on a level track. The course is marked by pitfalls and checkered with obstacles. We take confidence from the hymn:
"'Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
 'For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
 'I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
 'Upheld by my righteous, ... omnipotent hand. ...
"'The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
 'I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
 'That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
 'I'll never, no never, ... no never forsake!'
(Hymns, 1985, no. 85).
"Let us shed any thought of failure. Let us discard any habit that may hinder. Let us seek; let us obtain the prize prepared for all, even exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God."
- Thomas S. Monson, "The Will Within," Ensign, May 1987, p. 67
Click here to read the full talk

President Monson is the consummate cheerleader. He is always encouraging, always offering vision and aid in his messages. This is a great example. He reminds us that while we all have to run the race of life, we don't have to run alone. We have friends, family, leaders, and the Savior to aid and sustain us in the journey.

The final statement is a prime example of President Monson's personal enthusiasm for life:
"Let us shed any thought of failure. Let us discard any habit that may hinder. Let us seek; let us obtain the prize prepared for all, even exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God."

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Robert D. Hales on developing the gift of agency

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.
"May I suggest a few basic choices that you can begin to make now—this very day.
"Choose to accept—truly accept—that you are a child of God, that He loves you, and that He has the power to help you.
"Choose to put everything—literally everything—on the altar before Him. Believing that you are His child, decide that your life belongs to Him and that you will use your agency to do His will. You may do this multiple times in your life, but never, never give up.
"Choose to put yourself in a position to have experiences with the Spirit of God through prayer, in scripture study, at Church meetings, in your home, and through wholesome interactions with others. When you feel the influence of the Spirit, you are beginning to be cleansed and strengthened. The light is being turned on, and where that light shines, the darkness of evil cannot remain.
"Choose to obey and keep your covenants, beginning with your baptismal covenant. Renew these covenants weekly by worthily partaking of the sacrament.
"Choose to prepare to worthily attend the temple, make and renew sacred covenants, and receive all of the saving ordinances and blessings of the gospel.
"Finally, and most importantly, choose to believe in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Accept the Savior's forgiveness, and then forgive yourself. Because of His sacrifice for you, He has the power to 'remember [your sins] no more' (D&C 58:42). You must do likewise."
- Robert D. Hales, "To Act for Ourselves: The Gift and Blessings of Agency," Ensign, May 2006, pp. 4-8
Click here to read the full talk

This is a thought-provoking talk from Elder Hales, investigating not only what agency is, but also how we can develop the gift and make better use of it.

The second point is especially interesting to me — the thought that we have to put everything on God's altar.  Each person must "decide that your life belongs to Him and that you will use your agency to do His will. You may do this multiple times in your life, but never, never give up." It is not giving up agency to decide that you will always choose to use it in a certain way. It is glorifying agency to do this.

And then this insight on HOW to increase spirituality and expand agency:

Wise choices in our behavior and lifestyle lead to an expanded ability to choose what is sacred and holy. That's a beautiful concept.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Richard G. Scott on God's timetable for us

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928- ) served as a Seventy from 1977-1988, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"God knows what is best for us. Although we may not understand why we experience some things now, in His timetable we will know and be grateful.
"He has promised to help us with our burdens: 'I will... ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, ... that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions' (Mosiah 24:14).
"We are counseled, 'Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee' (Ps. 55:22). I have been greatly helped by laying a vexing matter at His feet for a while. When I picked it up again, it was lighter and more manageable....
"I testify that within your own personal sphere of activity and framework of responsibilities, the Lord will provide that same help. When needed and earned, you can enjoy divine inspiration to know what to do and, when necessary, power or capacity to accomplish it."
- Richard G. Scott, "He Lives," Ensign, Nov. 1999, pp. 87-89
Click here to read the full talk

Learning to trust that "God knows what is best for us" regardless of perceived delays is one of the great lessons of life.

But He not only knows best; He also promises help.  Elder Scott gives his personal witness of how that can come, having cast one of his own burdens at the Lord's feet and found relief. And this witness and promise is a great one: "When needed and earned, you can enjoy divine inspiration to know what to do and, when necessary, power or capacity to accomplish it." I, too, have been blessed to feel that help and relief, and know of its reality!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

M. Russell Ballard on spiritual nourishment

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.
"Far too many people in the world are starving spiritually. Sadly, most of them have no idea where to find real spiritual nourishment. They wander to and fro—another form of pathetic refugees. Those who yearn for true spiritual light and knowledge can only find it through the power of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit enlightens and gives understanding of the eternal purposes of life. By the Spirit, Church members know the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true. We should, therefore, feel compelled to share our spiritual knowledge with all of our Father's children by inviting them to pull a chair up to the Lord's table and feast on the words of Christ.
"'Come unto the Holy One of Israel,' wrote the great Book of Mormon prophet Jacob, 'and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness' (2 Ne. 9:51). Later Nephi urged his followers to 'feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do' (2 Ne. 32:3)."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Feasting at the Lord's Table," Ensign, May 1996, p. 80
Click here to read the full talk

People in our world are "starving spiritually" because "most of them have no idea where to find real spiritual nourishment." When we think what it really means to starve, in the physical sense — the literal suffering and misery that comes from a lack of nourishment — it's a pretty graphic image of what a spiritual counterpart might represent. But those suffering from the spiritual version are often blissfully unaware of their plight.

Elder Ballard encourages us to be sensitive to those around us, "inviting them to pull a chair up to the Lord's table and feast on the words of Christ." We should do all in our power to help those around us who are spiritually starving. And of course, we must make sure we're well-nourished in order to be strong to help others!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Dieter F. Uchtdorf on Satan's discouragements

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 Lord said to Abraham, 'My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee' (Abr. 2:8). My young friends, today I say to you that if you trust the Lord and obey Him, His hand shall be over you, He will help you achieve the great potential He sees in you, and He will help you to see the end from the beginning....
"We don't always know the details of our future. We do not know what lies ahead. We live in a time of uncertainty. We are surrounded by challenges on all sides. Occasionally discouragement may sneak into our day; frustration may invite itself into our thinking; doubt might enter about the value of our work. In these dark moments Satan whispers in our ears that we will never be able to succeed, that the price isn't worth the effort, and that our small part will never make a difference. He, the father of all lies, will try to prevent us from seeing the end from the beginning....
"We know that God keeps His promises. We need to fulfill our part to receive His blessings."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "See the End from the Beginning," Ensign, May 2006, pp. 42-45
Click here to read the full talk

President Uchtdorf seems always to have encouragement and hope to offer in his messages! The passage quoted from Abraham is intriguing; there are two very interesting phrases in it. I used to think "knowing the end from the beginning" referred to the ability to distinguish between the two; sometimes our concern over the beginning, or the current troubles, makes us forget there is a promised result down the road that might be obscured.

But I think it's maybe even simpler. The ability to see the end from the beginning could mean the capability to perceive where a path will lead when you embark on it. You are standing at the beginning, and with God's promised help, can perceive and comprehend the destination. That seems like a powerful gift; it would make the journey so much easier, when the vision of the end is clear and vivid! President Uchtdorf promises that God will help us to have that ability.

And in addition, the divine promise is "my hand shall be over thee." That implies protection, shelter, blessing, guidance — many positive and comforting images.

President Uchtdorf points out how difficult it often is for us to see the end, in the midst of the uncertainty of our daily challenges or of Satan's discouragements and distractions. But we know God will see it always; we need to trust His promises, and do all we can to be worthy of them.  "We need to fulfill our part to receive His blessings."

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Henry B. Eyring on finding hope through the atonement

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.
"Both Mormon and Moroni were facing days of difficulty that make my challenges pale. Mormon knew his son might be overcome with gloom and foreboding, so he told him the perfect antidote. He told him that he could choose, by what he put in his mind, to become an example of hope. Here is what he wrote:
"'My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever' (Moro. 9:25).
"What we can do to help—teaching, and doing it with the spirit of righteousness, with love, with tenderness, with example—centers on the Savior and his atonement. That is what we would teach. The Atonement working in our lives will produce in us the love and tenderness we need. And by remembering Him and His gift, which we promise to do as we take the sacrament each week, we can put a light of hope in our faces which those we love need so much to see."
- Henry B. Eyring, "The Spark of Faith," Ensign, November 1986, p. 74
Click here to read the full talk

In times of "gloom and foreboding," which seem to afflict every age and people, there is a "perfect antidote," according to President Eyring, in the message of Mormon to his son Moroni: "He told him that he could choose, by what he put in his mind, to become an example of hope." So not just coping with our struggles and challenges, not just controlling feelings of gloom; but exemplifying the faith and confidence that are hallmarks of one filled with hope—"the hope of his glory and of eternal life."

The crucial key is for each of us to come to feel the power and blessing of the Atonement, very personally and individually, "working in our lives." Then not only do we have peace and confidence in our own challenges, but we can become the light of hope for others.

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