Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Neil L. Andersen on learning to love and follow our leaders

Elder Neil L. Andersen (1951- ) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"For most of us, our contact with [the prophets, seers, and revelators] comes through general conference twice each year.... it is when children are young that parents must be innovative in helping them develop good habits regarding conference participation. As our children are given opportunities to observe and learn the role of these special witnesses, they will receive a spiritual confirmation of the sacred calling of their Church leaders, and they will feel a deeper love for and interest in these leaders and their message.
"Viewing the general conference sessions with our family is not sufficient to bring a love for the prophets. On one occasion some years before my call as a General Authority, I conducted a meeting presided over by one of the Apostles. After the meeting, I asked him about his stake conference talks. 'Do you prepare something specific for each stake conference?' I asked. He replied that he generally did not, but relied upon the promptings received just prior to and during the conference. But then he added, 'But my general conference talk is very different. I will normally go through twelve to fifteen drafts to be certain that it is what the Lord would have me say.' Many times since then I have asked myself, 'If an Apostle will go through twelve to fifteen drafts, is it pleasing to the Lord if I listen to or read his message one or two times? I don't think so.'"
- Neil L. Andersen, "Teaching Our Children to Love the Prophets," Ensign, April 1996, pp. 44-47
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Andersen gives every parent of young children something to ponder. They "must be innovative in helping them develop good habits regarding conference participation." A love for Church leaders and interest in their message can be set in childhood.

Elder Andersen then instructs that it's not sufficient to just sit together and watch conference. Our effort to draw inspiration from the talks should match the spiritual efforts put into preparing the talks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Boyd K. Packer on following inspired leaders and preparing for conference

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) 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 served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death on July 3, 2015 at age 90.
"In closing, I say again, FOLLOW THE BRETHREN. In a few days there opens another general conference of the Church. The servants of the Lord will counsel us. You may listen with anxious ears and hearts, or you may turn that counsel aside. As in these devotionals, what you shall gain will depend not so much upon their preparation of the messages as upon your preparation for them....
"On one occasion [Karl G. Maesar] was leading a party of young missionaries across the Alps. As they slowly ascended the steep slope, he looked back and saw a row of sticks thrust into the glacial snow to mark the one safe path across the otherwise treacherous mountains.
"Something about those sticks impressed him, and halting the company of missionaries he gestured toward them and said, 'Brethren, there stands the priesthood. They are just common sticks like the rest of us—some of them may even seem to be a little crooked, but the position they hold makes them what they are. If we step aside from the path they mark, we are lost.'
"I bear witness, my brethren and sisters, fellow students, that in this Church men are as they indeed must be—called of God by prophecy. May we learn in our youth this lesson; it will see us faithful through all of the challenges of our lives. May we learn to follow the brethren."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Follow the Brethren," BYU Devotional, March 23, 1965
Click here to listen to the full talk

This is one of the classic messages offered by President Packer, then a young apostle, to a BYU devotional. He points out how critical our personal attitude is, as we prepare for and listen to general conference addresses — either "with anxious ears and hearts" or casually ignoring the counsel.

The example from Karl G. Maesar's story is another classic analogy President Packer used. Priesthood leaders may be "common sticks" but their position makes them a critical guide for our lives if we are willing to watch and heed. It's vital to learn that the Church leaders will help to "see us faithful through all the challenges of our lives."

Monday, September 28, 2015

Dieter F. Uchtdorf on personal revelation during conference

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.
"Members of the Church are entitled to personal revelation as they listen to and study the inspired words spoken at general conference.
"As you prepare for general conference, I invite you to ponder questions you need to have answered. For example, you might yearn for direction and guidance by the Lord regarding challenges you are facing.
"Answers to your specific prayers may come directly from a particular talk or from a specific phrase. At other times answers may come in a seemingly unrelated word, phrase, or song. A heart filled with gratitude for the blessings of life and an earnest desire to hear and follow the words of counsel will prepare the way for personal revelation."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "General Conference—No Ordinary Blessing," Ensign, September 2011, p. 2
Click here to read the full talk

I love the spirit that accompanies General Conference. It's wonderful to anticipate the coming weekend of instruction. President Uchtdorf provides an encouraging perspective on the meetings, and our preparation for them.

So we prepare by pondering and anticipating. Answers to our questions may come directly in the words of the speakers, or indirectly as a prompting arises from the setting. But so much depends on our preparation! If we are "filled with gratitude for the blessings of life" and with "an earnest desire to hear and follow" the counsel we receive, then personal revelation is sure to come.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dallin H. Oaks on finding happiness in life

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (b. August 12, 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.
"Much of the misery encouraged by Satan comes from losses. Satan experienced that kind of misery when he lost his first estate. Now he tries to inflict similar losses on those who have proceeded to mortality, the second estate. Satan encourages a loss of virtue, a loss of integrity, a loss of reputation, a loss of ideals, a loss of wholesome associations, and even a loss of life.
"In contrast, our Heavenly Father created us to resist and to overcome such losses, to be whole, to have joy. He wants us to return to him, and he has provided a way for that reunion to be achieved. No wonder we say that his gospel is 'a voice of mercy from heaven; ... a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy.' (D&C 128:19.)
"Our Creator wants us to be happy in this life. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that 'happiness is the object and design of our existence.' (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 255.) The things of the earth were created for our happiness. Modern revelation tells us that 'all things which come of the earth... are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart.' (D&C 59:18.) Even on the Sabbath, a day of worship, the Lord expects us to have 'a glad heart and a cheerful countenance.' (D&C 59:15.) A prophet has called the gospel plan 'the great plan of happiness.' (Alma 42:8.)"
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Joy and Mercy," Ensign, Nov. 1991, p. 73
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Oaks teaches that one of Satan's greatest efforts is to take things away from us — virtue, integrity, reputation, ideals, relationships, even our very lives. But Heavenly Father's greatest desire is to add: to complete us, to make us whole, to bring joy. His Gospel is good news, "a voice of gladness" for us as we strive to counter Satan's efforts to bring us down.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Gordon B. Hinckley on the power of believing in yourself

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.
"Believe in yourself. Believe in your capacity to do great and good things. Believe that no mountain is too high that you cannot climb it. Believe that no storm is too great that you cannot weather it. You are not destined to be a scrub. You are a child of God, of infinite capacity.
"Believe that you can do it, whatever it is that you set your heart on. Opportunities will unfold and open before you. The skies will clear when they have been dark with portent."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Be Not Afraid, Only Believe," Commencement Address at BYU-Hawaii, December 11, 2004
Click here to read the full talk

President Hinckley always spoke with unstoppable optimism and confidence — born out of his deep and abiding faith in God and the potential of each individual. This example of encouragement is very typical of his belief that self-confidence and success stem from a correct understanding of who we really are.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Spencer W. Kimball on adding substance to our souls through service

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"First, service to others deepens and sweetens this life while we are preparing to live in a better world. It is by serving that we learn how to serve. When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves! In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves!
"Not only do we 'find' ourselves in terms of acknowledging divine guidance in our lives, but the more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to 'find' ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!"
- Spencer W. Kimball, "The Abundant Life," address Weber State College, Ogden, UT on Nov 4, 1977; see Ensign, July 1978 pp. 2-7
Click here to read the full talk

What a marvelous perspective President Kimball shares! As one who spent his entire life in service to others, he knew of the benefits it can bring. And those benefits aren't just to the recipients of the service; they come readily to the person offering as well, as our own concerns are lifted or put into "fresher perspective":

The second paragraph is fascinating. Service brings "more substance" to our souls! What a wonderful thought.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Neil L. Andersen on the spiritual journey of life

Elder Neil L. Andersen (1951- ) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"Our spiritual journey is the process of a lifetime. We do not know everything in the beginning or even along the way. Our conversion comes step-by-step, line upon line. We first build a foundation of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We treasure the principles and ordinances of repentance, baptism, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We include a continuing commitment to prayer, a willingness to be obedient, and an ongoing witness of the Book of Mormon. (The Book of Mormon is powerful spiritual nourishment.)
"We then remain steady and patient as we progress through mortality. At times, the Lord's answer will be, 'You don't know everything, but you know enough'—enough to keep the commandments and to do what is right. Remember Nephi's words: 'I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things' (1 Nephi 11:17)."
- Neil L. Andersen, "You Know Enough," Ensign, Nov 2008, pp. 13-14
Click here to read the full talk

It's important to learn, and then to remember, this principle. Life is a journey, and one where we sometimes don't clearly see the end or all the steps that lead us there. That process comes "step-by-step, line upon line." But we have to be moving forward to have those steps occur! And it depends on the proper foundation of "faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."

But the insight Elder Andersen gives is particularly important: we don't know everything along that path of mortal progress; but we know enough. We must learn to trust in the knowledge we have and move forward with faith and hope. That is the only way to complete the journey!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Richard G. Scott on compensatory blessings

Elder Richard G. Scott ((November 7, 1928 – September 22, 2015) served as a Seventy from 1977-1988, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. That progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether initially it be to your individual liking or not. When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience. If you question everything you are asked to do, or dig in your heels at every unpleasant challenge, you make it harder for the Lord to bless you....
"Find the compensatory blessings in your life when, in the wisdom of the Lord, He deprives you of something you very much want. To the sightless or hearing impaired, He sharpens the other senses. To the ill, He gives patience, understanding, and increased appreciation for others' kindness. With the loss of a dear one, He deepens the bonds of love, enriches memories, and kindles hope in a future reunion. You will discover compensatory blessings when you willingly accept the will of the Lord and exercise faith in Him."
- Richard G. Scott, "Finding Joy in Life," Ensign, May 1996, pp. 24-26
Click here to read the full talk

For me, this is one of Elder Scott's most memorable messages. He spoke from his heart and personal experience; among his challenges were the loss of his beloved wife more than 20 years before his own passing. He taught that what we perceive as a challenge can bring happiness and blessings if our hearts are right. I love the contrast he presents; too often we symbolically "dig in [our] heels at every unpleasant challenge" as we struggle and complain. Instead, he encourages us to

  • trust more in God
  • be centered in God's will
  • ask to be led by God's spirit
Then, we can be assured that we will find the greatest possible happiness throughout this mortal journey. This statement is a foundation of Elder Scott's philosophy:
The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. That progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether initially it be to your individual liking or not.

If we truly believe that, it changes everything. And then this promise is clear and reassuring:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

D. Todd Christofferson on seeking daily help from God

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (1945- ) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"Asking God for our daily bread, rather than our weekly, monthly, or yearly bread, is also a way to focus us on the smaller, more manageable bits of a problem. To deal with something very big, we may need to work at it in small, daily bites. Sometimes all we can handle is one day (or even just part of one day) at a time....
"The Spirit can guide us when to look ahead and when we should just deal with this one day, with this one moment. If we ask, the Lord will let us know through the Holy Ghost when it may be appropriate for us to apply in our lives the commandment He gave His ancient Apostles: 'Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient is the day unto the evil thereof' (3 Nephi 13:34; see also Matthew 6:34).
"I have suggested that asking for and receiving daily bread at God's hand plays a vital part in learning to trust God and in enduring life's challenges. We also need a daily portion of divine bread to become what we must become. To repent, improve, and eventually reach 'the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ' (Ephesians 4:13), as Paul expressed it, is a step-by-step process. Incorporating new and wholesome habits into our character or overcoming bad habits or addictions most often means an effort today followed by another tomorrow, and then another, perhaps for many days, even months and years, until victory is achieved. But we can do it because we can appeal to God for our daily bread, for the help we need each day."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread," CES Fireside, BYU, 9 January 2011
Click here to read the full talk

This talk by Elder Christofferson included some interesting reflections on dealing with the challenges that sometimes befall our mortal experiences. He encourages us to consider a narrow, limited focus at times, just confronting the immediate needs and challenges:

There are, of course, appropriate times for long-term planning and seeing things in greater perspective; but Elder Christofferson reminds us, "The Spirit can guide us when to look ahead and when we should just deal with this one day, with this one moment." This is all part of our growth experience, line upon line, gradually and steadily moving forward in life, "learning to trust God" in the process.

Monday, September 21, 2015

James E. Talmage on a comparison of happiness and pleasure

Elder James E. Talmage was born in England on September 21, 1862 – 153 years ago today. He was a brilliant scholar, trained as a geologist and mathematician. But he's perhaps best known today among Church members for his classic writings, including "Jesus the Christ," "The Articles of Faith," and "The Holy Temple." He was called as an apostle in 1911 and served until his death in 1933 at age 70.
"Happiness is genuine gold, pleasure but gilded brass, which corrodes in the hand, and is soon converted into poisonous verdigris. Happiness is as the genuine diamond, which, rough or polished, shines with its own inimitable luster; pleasure is as the paste imitation that glows only when artificially embellished. Happiness is as the ruby, red as the heart's blood, hard and enduring; pleasure, as stained glass, soft, brittle, and of but transitory beauty.
"Happiness is true food, wholesome, nutritious and sweet; it builds up the body and generates energy for action, physical, mental and spiritual; pleasure is but a deceiving stimulant which, like spirituous drink, makes one think he is strong when in reality enfeebled; makes him fancy he is well when in fact stricken with deadly malady.
"Happiness leaves no bad after-taste, it is followed by no depressing reaction; it calls for no repentance, brings no regret, entails no remorse; pleasure too often makes necessary repentance, contrition, and suffering; and, if indulged to the extreme, it brings degradation and destruction.
"True happiness is lived over and over again in memory, always with a renewal of the original good; a moment of unholy pleasure may leave a barbed sting, which, like a thorn in the flesh, is an ever-present source of anguish.
"Happiness is not akin with levity, nor is it one with light-minded mirth. It springs from the deeper fountains of the soul, and is not infrequently accompanied by tears. Have you never been so happy that you have to weep? I have."
- James E. Talmage, "A Greeting to the Missionaries," Improvement Era, December 1913, pp. 172-174
Click here to read the full article

Terms like "happiness" and "pleasure" can have various definitions and applications, and often depend on context. But Elder Talmage makes a clear and definite distinction between the concept of a deep, true, lasting happiness and the superficial, fleeting pleasure. I love his analogies and comparisons, each of which teaches an aspect of true happiness. He was a gifted author, and this is an example of his ability to express a concept clearly and powerfully.

Genuine, lasting goldGilded brass, easily corroded
Diamond shining with lusterPaste imitation with no inherent beauty
Red ruby, hard and enduringStained glass, soft and brittle
Wholesome nutritious foodDeceiving stimulant
No bad aftertasteRegret, remorse, anguish
Springs from deep in the soul    Shallow and superficial

The final point about expressing emotion also rang true to me. Many times in life we are driven to shed tears of sadness, frustration, disappointment, or anguish; but tears of joy are also very real and are perhaps an outward expression of the deepest happiness:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

David A. Bednar on sustained progress in life

Elder David A. Bednar (1952- ) was sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2004.
"We will not attain a state of perfection in this life, but we can and should press forward with faith in Christ along the strait and narrow path and make steady progress toward our eternal destiny. The Lord's pattern for spiritual development is 'line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little' (2 Nephi 28:30). Small, steady, incremental spiritual improvements are the steps the Lord would have us take. Preparing to walk guiltless before God is one of the primary purposes of mortality and the pursuit of a lifetime; it does not result from sporadic spurts of intense spiritual activity.
"I witness that the Savior will strengthen and assist us to make sustained, paced progress."
- David A. Bednar, "Clean Hands and a Pure Heart," Ensign, November 2007, pp. 80-83
Click here to read the full talk

This is such a valuable perspective! There are times when we feel our progress is not fast enough. We want to rush towards our goals, especially the very important ones. We think if we just give a bigger effort that we can dramatically transition quickly to where we want to be.

But Elder Bednar reminds us that in most cases, we make "small, steady, incremental spiritual improvements" towards those eventual goals. We have to be seasoned in experience, developing along the way. And we do that through constant and steady efforts, and not through "sporadic spurts of intense spiritual activity."

I've always loved the word that the Lord used to describe the Nephi in the Book of Mormon — "unwearyingness" (see Helaman 10:4-5). It conveys to me that kind of patient, steady, faithful commitment to the Lord's work that Elder Bednar is encouraging in all of us.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Orson Pratt on God's wondrous universe

Elder Orson Pratt (1811-1881) was one of the members of the original Quorum of Twelve ordained in 1835.  His scientific and mathematical training often gave him a unique perspective as he applied Gospel principles. This insight was shared at the conclusion of a lecture on astronomy:
"Nothing is calculated to inspire the mind of man with a more profound reverence for the Great Author of nature than the contemplation of his marvelous works. For the exact mathematical adjustments of the various forces of nature—the consummate wisdom and skill exhibited Deuteronomy 29:4in every department of the universe, accessible to finite minds—the omnipotent power and grandeur displayed in the construction of the magnificent machinery of creation—proclaim the majesty and glory of Him who formed and governs the mighty fabric."
- Orson Pratt, a lecture on astronomy given in Salt Lake City on August 11, 1875; in Lundwall, comp., Wonders of the Universe, pp. 36, 75, 193

There are those who have "eyes to see and ears to hear," and a "heart to understand" (see Deuteronomy 29:4) and others who see and experience the same thing but don't perceive the same underlying cause. Elder Pratt both saw and understood.

Centuries earlier, a prophet named Alma saw and understood, while his challenger, Korihor, refused to acknowledge the witnesses all around but instead demanded a more direct sign. In Alma's mind, he was immersed in evidence: "The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator." (Alma 30:44)

The challenge to each of us is to both see, and understand.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dieter F. Uchtdorf on overcoming despair through hope

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 adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward.
"Hope, on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn. It encourages and inspires us to place our trust in the loving care of an eternal Heavenly Father, who has prepared a way for those who seek for eternal truth in a world of relativism, confusion, and of fear."
- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Infinite Power of Hope," Ensign, Nov 2008, pp. 21-24
Click here to read the full talk

"Suffocating darkness" is a very descriptive phrase for the despair used by Satan to "drain" away "all that is vibrant and joyful" as he "bind[s] hearts and minds." The results of a life of despair can include:
  • kills ambition
  • advances sickness
  • pollutes the soul
  • deadens the heart
What a contrast between that imagery, the adversary's path, and the path of hope provided by our Heavenly Father!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Henry B. Eyring on service and spiritual strength

President Henry B. Eyring (1933- ) served in the Presiding Bishopric from 1985-1992, as a Seventy from 1992-1995, then was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. He has served in the First Presidency since 2007.
"The more faithful service you give, the more the Lord asks of you. Your smile is a happy one because you know that He increases our power to carry the heavier load.
"The tough part of that reality, however, is that for Him to give you that increased power you must go in service and faith to your outer limits.
"It is like building muscle strength. You must break down your muscles to build them up. You push muscles to the point of exhaustion. Then they repair themselves, and they develop greater strength. Increased spiritual strength is a gift from God which He can give when we push in His service to our limits. Through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, our natures can be changed. Then our power to carry burdens can be increased more than enough to compensate for the increased service we will be asked to give."
- Henry B. Eyring, "O Ye That Embark," Ensign, Nov. 2008, pp. 57-60
Click here to read the full talk

This is an interesting perspective. We grow in our ability to serve as we spend more time serving; and the Lord is able to ask more from those who are better trained and prepared to give more. But in order to reach the greatest capacity to give, one must push "to your outer limits" in preparation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Jeffrey R. Holland on the help of angels in our lives

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.
"I have spoken here of heavenly help, of angels dispatched to bless us in time of need. But when we speak of those who are instruments in the hand of God, we are reminded that not all angels are from the other side of the veil. Some of them we walk with and talk with—here, now, every day. Some of them reside in our own neighborhoods. Some of them gave birth to us, and in my case, one of them consented to marry me. Indeed heaven never seems closer than when we see the love of God manifested in the kindness and devotion of people so good and so pure that angelic is the only word that comes to mind....
"I testify of angels, both the heavenly and the mortal kind. In doing so I am testifying that God never leaves us alone, never leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face. '[N]or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man [or woman or child] upon the face thereof to be saved' (Moroni 7:36). On occasions, global or personal, we may feel we are distanced from God, shut out from heaven, lost, alone in dark and dreary places. Often enough that distress can be of our own making, but even then the Father of us all is watching and assisting. And always there are those angels who come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Ministry of Angels," Ensign, Nov 2008, pp. 29-31
Click here to read the full talk

There are times in life when we all need help — physical help, temporal assistance, encouragement, moral support. We are blessed at those times to be "surrounded by angels" in very real ways, as Elder Holland points out.

President Spencer W. Kimball put it this way: "God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs" (Spencer W. Kimball, "Small Acts of Service," Ensign, Dec 1974, 2).

How blessed we are to have a loving Father who cares for us in this way.

How blessed we are to feel the love and ministry of those angels in our lives.

How blessed we are to sometimes have the privilege to be that kind of angel.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Robert D. Hales on gaining and growing in testimony

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.
"People often ask me, 'How do you know?' 'How can you know that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ?' While there seems to be no exact formula by which each of us receives a testimony, there does seem to be a discernable pattern. Though prayer is important in gaining a testimony, we cannot merely ask in prayer for a testimony and expect it to be given immediately to us.
"Generally, testimony emerges over time and through life's experiences. We can compare testimony to the process of watching a photograph develop. Powerful impressions of the Spirit come like flashes of light on receptive photographic film. Like the chemicals needed to develop the picture, certain spiritual conditions and experiences are needed in our lives for our personal testimony to develop into a certain truth and knowledge. And like a photograph, a testimony, if not carefully preserved, will fade with time.
"Testimonies often come when there is willingness to serve where we are called. They come when a decision is made to strive to be obedient. Testimonies come during efforts to help, lift, and strengthen others. They come from prayer and from studying the scriptures and applying them in our lives. Whatever our circumstances, there seem to be moments in each of our lives when we can be given the knowledge that God lives and that Jesus is the Christ. There is no greater search in life that we can embark upon than the quest to gain a testimony of the truth."
- Robert D. Hales, "The Importance of Receiving a Personal Testimony," Ensign, November 1994, pp. 20-22
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Hales emphasizes the gradual process of gaining a testimony. Though the imagery of developing a photographic negative and making a print in a darkroom is starting to fade from our societal consciousness (and is likely completely unknown to most youth), perhaps many of us remember it just enough to understand the point he is making:

I appreciated the additional insight about the process of gaining, and "growing," a testimony, which happens more readily when these conditions exist:

  • Willingness to serve.
  • Commitment to obedience.
  • During efforts to serve and bless others.
  • Prayer and scripture study.
It's good to ponder what kinds of conditions we each are presenting in our lives to facilitate this development, and what changes might increase the growth.  The excerpt concludes by providing this important perspective:  "There is no greater search in life that we can embark upon than the quest to gain a testimony of the truth."
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