Saturday, October 31, 2015

Gordon B. Hinckley on loving life and reaching our divine potential

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.
"For you, my dear friends, the sky is the limit. You can be excellent in every way. You can be first class. There is no need for you to be a scrub. Respect yourself. Do not feel sorry for yourself. Do not dwell on unkind things others may say about you.... Polish and refine whatever talents the Lord has given you. Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great and strong purpose in your heart. Love life and look for its opportunities, and forever and always be loyal to the Church.
"Never forget that you came to earth as a child of the divine Father, with something of divinity in your very makeup. The Lord did not send you here to fail. He did not give you life to waste it. He bestowed upon you the gift of mortality that you might gain experience—positive, wonderful, purposeful experience—that will lead to life eternal."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "How Can I Become the Woman of Whom I Dream?", Ensign, May 2001, pp. 93-95
Click here to read the full talk

Scrub Oaks on a Utah hillside
President Hinckley, with his perpetually optimistic and encouraging attitude, used the image "don't be a scrub" on more than one occasion in his speeches. Growing up in Utah, the first exposure I had to that word was in describing trees as "scrub oaks" — the small, stunted trees that cover the foothills of the Wasatch mountains. They are often not much more than 6 or 8 feet high, and grow in groups or clusters, competing for the limited water of the annual rainfall. I assume it's the lack of reliable water that has made them adapt, never growing very large.

When I lived on the east coast after graduating college, I discovered that oak trees can be massive, majestic, stunning specimens — living for hundreds of years and growing to impressive heights, their widespread branches offering shade and protection. This is the contrast, perhaps, that President Hinckley was pointing out. We each have the ability to be "first class" and come to realize that "the sky is the limit" as we learn to "be excellent in every way."

So the invitation from this remarkable man is to "love life" and know that God will sustain and bless us to ultimately succeed in every worthy way.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Marvin J. Ashton on carrying on

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.
"Just before our esteemed, honored Apostle and special friend of Aaronic Priesthood and their leaders worldwide, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, passed away... with his sweetheart and eternal companion, Amelia, at his bedside, some very significant words were shared. As Sister McConkie held his hand during his final earthly minutes, she asked, 'Bruce, do you have a message for me?' Though weak and expiring, he responded in a firm voice his last words, 'Carry on.'
"Here was one of God's choicest servants, who had studied, pondered, and written as extensively on the life and mission of Jesus Christ as anyone else in his time, using these two powerful words for direction and encouragement. Sister McConkie has since shared with me the great importance and strength of 'carry on' as time has passed....
"Enduring, or carrying on, is not just a matter of tolerating circumstances and hanging in there, but of pressing forward. I know that's what most of us find difficult—to endure joyfully....
"Fifty-nine years ago [in 1930], when this beautiful number, 'Carry On,' was first shared with the Church in general, to say that it was timely is an understatement. Today it should be a way of life, our top priority and clarion call for young and old. Young people, boys and girls, and leaders worldwide, I encourage you to carry on. Do not give up, falter, or become weary. Do not yield to the ways of the world that can only bring unhappiness and discouragement....
"Jesus is the Christ. He is our Redeemer, our Lord and Savior and friend. We constantly give thanks through deeds and prayer for his unmatched example of carrying on under circumstances that caused him to bleed from every pore and anguish in the misunderstanding and misconduct of his associates. Joy and happiness come through determination and the practice of carrying on under all conditions."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "Stalwart and Brave We Stand," Ensign, November 1989, pp. 36-37
Click here to read the full talk

The story of Elder McConkie's final words to his wife is not surprising. He was firm and committed to the doctrine and practices of the Church throughout his life, and the idea of enduring faithfully would have been natural to him. The simple expression of that concept in the words "carry on" is a good reminder, "using these two powerful words for direction and encouragement."

It's now been 85 years since the hymn "Carry On" was first shared with the Church, and the message is even more timely. As Elder Ashton encourages all of us, "Do not give up, falter, or become weary. Do not yield to the ways of the world that can only bring unhappiness and discouragement." As we follow the Savior's example, we'll be blessed in those efforts to endure in faithfulness, and will truly realize that "Joy and happiness come through determination and the practice of carrying on under all conditions."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Neal A. Maxwell on the blessings of the infinite atonement

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.
"Moreover, Jesus not only took upon Him our sins to atone for them, but also our sicknesses and aching griefs (see Alma 7:11-12; Matt. 8:17). Hence, He knows personally all that we pass through and how to extend His perfect mercy—as well as how to succor us. His agony was all the more astonishing in that He trod 'the wine-press alone' (D&C 133:50).
"On occasion, the God of heaven has wept (see Moses 7:28). One ponders, therefore, the agonies of Jesus' infinite Atonement and the feelings of the Father—for His Son and for us....
"If, like the Savior, we do not 'shrink,' then we must go with the demanding flow of discipleship, including where the tutoring doctrines of the Master take us. Otherwise, we may walk with Jesus up to a point, but then walk no more with Him (see John 6:66). Shrinking includes stopping as well as turning back.
"The more we know of Jesus, the more we will love Him. The more we know of Jesus, the more we will trust Him. The more we know of Jesus, the more we will want to be like Him and to be with Him by becoming the manner of men and women that He wishes us to be (see 3 Ne. 27:27), while living now 'after the manner of happiness' (2 Ne. 5:27).
"Therefore, with the help of the Holy Ghost, we can glorify Christ by repenting and thereby accessing the blessings of the astonishing Atonement which He provided for us at such a stunning cost! (see John 16:14). So, brothers and sisters, given what Jesus died for, are we willing to live with the challenges allotted to us? (see Alma 29:4, 6)."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Plow in Hope," Ensign, May 2001, pp. 59-61
Click here to read the full article

Elder Maxwell spent the last several years of his life fighting cancer, eventually losing. I think he felt personally and deeply this message about how the Savior's atonement and love apply to "our sicknesses and aching griefs" and how to feel the "succor" of his "perfect mercy."

In the midst of the trials of mortality, the challenge is not to shrink or turn back. The Savior will walk with us, but we must walk with Him and not turn away.

The "how" of not shrinking is the challenge. Perhaps the answer lies in this next passage. As we draw nearer to the Savior, as we grow to love him more, then He will be nearer to us always and we will be able to draw on His strength.

This is a glorious conclusion and challenge to each of us:  "Therefore, with the help of the Holy Ghost, we can glorify Christ by repenting and thereby accessing the blessings of the astonishing Atonement which He provided for us at such a stunning cost!"

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

L. Tom Perry on effective prayer

Elder L. Tom Perry (August 5, 1922 - May 30, 2015) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1972, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1974. At the time of his passing at age 92, he was the oldest living general authority and the third in seniority among the leading quorum.
"When we pray to the Lord, we should remember who we are addressing and be prepared to give Him our undivided attention as we humbly supplicate before Him. President John Taylor counseled us this way:
"'Do you have prayers in your family? ... And when you do, do you go through the operation like the [grinding] of a piece of machinery, or do you bow in meekness and with... sincere desire to seek the blessing of God upon you and your household? That is the way... we ought to do, and cultivate a spirit of devotion and trust in God, dedicating ourselves to him, and seeking his blessings' (Journal of Discourses 21:118)....
"It is so satisfying to know that God is mindful of us and ready to respond when we place our trust in Him. There is no place for fear among men and women who place their trust in the Almighty, who do not hesitate to humble themselves in seeking divine guidance through prayer. Though difficulties may arise and reverses may come, in our prayers we can find reassurance as the Lord speaks peace to our souls."
- L. Tom Perry, "Back to Gospel Basics", Ensign, May 1993, pp. 90-92
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Perry encouraged us to focus on improving our prayers. The quote from Pres. Taylor about the sincerity of prayers was interesting—he worried that we too often "grind" through the motions of prayer like a piece of machinery:

Elder Perry believed our sincerity and consistency in prayer would lead us to "find reassurance" amid the difficulties and reverses of our lives, "as the Lord speaks peace to our souls." What a blessing that is!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

James E. Faust on the value of temple attendance

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.
"I owe my text to Elder Marion G. Romney, who, at a Brigham Young University devotional in 1955, stated: 'Now there are those among us who are trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil.' This is a contradiction of terms....
"Today many of us are trying to serve two masters—the Lord and our own selfish interests—without offending the devil. The influence of God, our Eternal Father, urges us, pleads us, and inspires us to follow him. In contrast the power of Satan urges us to disbelieve and disregard God's commandments....
"I now come to some even milder forms of trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil. Having a temple recommend and not using it seems mild enough. However, if we live close to a temple, perhaps having a temple recommend but not using it may not offend the devil. Satan is offended when we use that recommend, going to the temple to partake of the spiritual protection it affords. How often do we plan to go to the temple, only to have all kinds of hindrances arise to stop us from going? The devil always has been offended by our temple worship. As President Brigham Young once said about the building of temples, there are Saints who say, '"I do not like to do it, for we never began to build a temple without the bells of hell beginning to ring."' His answer was, 'I want to hear them ring again. All the tribes of hell will be on the move, if we uncover the walls of this temple' (DBY 410)."
- James E Faust, "Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil," Ensign, September 1995, p. 5
Click here to read the full article

The premise of President Faust's message was that you can't serve God without offending the adversary. Their plans and programs are in direct opposition, and there's no way to straddle the border and be a little on both sides!

One of the key areas President Faust chose to illustrate this point related to temple service and attendance. He believed that having a temple recommend, and using it, would always be offending Satan; but he would be pleased if we weren't using the recommend we possess. And if we're not actively offending the devil, we're probably not doing things right! And even more, we're denying ourselves "the spiritual protection it affords" when we do attend.

Monday, October 26, 2015

David O. McKay on spiritual radiation

President David O. McKay (1873-1970) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1906.  He served as a counselor in the First Presidency to Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith beginning in 1945, then then as the president of the Church from 1951 to his death in 1970 at age 96.
"The Savior set us the example, always calm, always controlled, radiating something that the people could feel as they passed—the woman who touched his garment is an example. He felt something go from him, that radiation which is divine.
"Every man and every person who lives in this world wields an influence, whether for good or for evil. It is not alone what he says, it is not alone what he does—it is what he is. Every man, every person radiates what he or she is.
"Every person is a recipient of radiation. The Savior was conscious of that. Whenever he came into the presence of an individual, he sensed that radiation—whether it was the woman of Samaria with her past life; whether it was the woman who was to be stoned, or the men who were to stone her; whether it was the statesman Nicodemus, or one of the lepers. He was conscious of the radiation from the individual. And to a degree so are you, and so am I. It is what we are and what we radiate that affects the people around us."
- David O. McKay, Improvement Era 69 (1966):270-271

My memories of President McKay are that he exemplified this message. He too radiated calmness, peace, and faith. He radiated what he was.

And we are the recipients of the "radiation" of those around us. How important to surround ourselves with those who can give us strength and help in the most important ways!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Spencer W. Kimball on prayer and works

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"We pray for enlightenment, then go to with all our might and our books and our thoughts and righteousness to get the inspiration. We ask for judgment, then use all our powers to act wisely and develop wisdom. We pray for success in our work and then study hard and strive with all our might to help answer our prayers. When we pray for health we must live the laws of health and do all in our power to keep our bodies well and vigorous. We pray for protection and then take reasonable precaution to avoid danger. There must be works with faith. How foolish it would be to ask the Lord to give us knowledge, but how wise to ask the Lord's help to acquire knowledge, to study constructively, to think clearly, and to retain tings that we have learned. How stupid to ask the Lord to protect us if we unnecessarily drive at excessive speeds, or if we eat or drink destructive elements or try foolhardy stunts."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Faith Precedes the Miracle," p. 205

President Kimball often gave very practical advice. I always loved his down-to-earth counsel. This is a good example. He reminds us that praying isn't enough; we must DO something about it! God expects us to do our part, and then His blessings supplement, compensate, and enrich our efforts.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hugh B. Brown on the value of time

Elder Hugh B. Brown (October 24, 1883–December 2, 1975) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1953, then as an apostle in 1958.  He served as a counselor to President David O. McKay from 1961 until President McKay's death in 1970, then for five more years as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until he passed away.
"Learn the true value of time. Seize, snatch, and enjoy every minute of it, for it is limited unto each individual. Live today! Jesus pointed the way when he said, 'Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.' (Matt. 6:34.) We must resolve to live one day at a time, and live that one day to the full. Resolve also that we will extract from every experience of this day something that will make us wiser, happier, more efficient.
"Whatever the individual measure of goodness may be, few men or women wish to be regarded as negligible ciphers in life. What they want is not wealth or pleasure, as such, but the opportunity for rich activity. It is possible to create happiness out of today's work with all its demands, antagonisms, obstacles, disappointments. This requires a resolute heart, a fixed purpose, a mind in control of itself.
"No man wants life to be flat and tasteless. If one's life is to be abundant rather than barren, he must be eternally becoming. Life's dividends are determined by the nature of man's daily investments. A full and rich life is where there is 'a sound mind in a sound body, controlled by a God-filled soul.'"
- Hugh B. Brown, "What Do You Want out of Life?", New Era, November 1972, p. 5
Click here to read the full article

Wise counsel: "Seize, snatch, and enjoy every minute" of our limited time in life! I love this approach to energized, motivated life: "We must resolve to live one day at a time, and live that one day to the full. Resolve also that we will extract from every experience of this day something that will make us wiser, happier, more efficient."

"If one's life is to be abundant rather than barren, he must be eternally becoming."  Beautiful and profound.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Dale G. Renlund on seeing others through a parent's eyes

Elder Dale G. Renlund (b. 1952) served in the First Quorum of Seventy starting in 2009, until his call to the Quorum of Twelve in October 2015.
"In the Church, to effectively serve others we must see them through a parent's eyes, through Heavenly Father's eyes. Only then can we begin to comprehend the true worth of a soul. Only then can we sense the love that Heavenly Father has for all of His children. Only then can we sense the Savior's caring concern for them. We cannot completely fulfill our covenant obligation to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort unless we see them through God's eyes (see Mosiah 18:8–10). This expanded perspective will open our hearts to the disappointments, fears, and heartaches of others. But Heavenly Father will aid and comfort us, just as Chad's parents comforted me years ago. We need to have eyes that see, ears that hear, and hearts that know and feel if we are to accomplish the rescue so frequently encouraged by President Thomas S. Monson.
"Only when we see through Heavenly Father's eyes can we be filled with 'the pure love of Christ' (Moroni 7:47). Every day we should plead with God for this love."
- Dale G. Renlund, "Through God's Eyes," General Conference, October 2015, Sunday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

In his first general conference address after being sustained as the newest apostle in the Church, Elder Renlund spoke of some insights from his occupation as a heart surgeon. He would try to keep a professional perspective when a patient did not survive, but then when he recognized the overwhelming emotions of the parents of a young boy, it gave him insight into eternal perspective.

As Elder Renlund notes, seeing others through an expanded, eternal perspective will show us their potential and gifts. But it also shows the reality of their challenges and shortcomings. The blessing is that through that perspective, we can be enabled to "rescue" in ways that we never would otherwise.

The final statement is profound: "Every day we should plead with God for this love," the "pure love of Christ" spoken of in the scriptures.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Gary E. Stevenson on our individual participation in God's work

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (b. 1955) was called as a Seventy in 2008, then as Presiding Bishop in 2012. He was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"Our loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jehovah, with a knowledge of the end from the beginning (see Abraham 2:8), opened the heavens and a new dispensation to offset the calamities that They knew would come. The Apostle Paul described the forthcoming calamities as 'perilous times' (2 Timothy 3:1). For me, this suggests that Heavenly Father's generous compensation for living in perilous times is that we also live in the fulness of times.
"As I agonized over my inadequacies this week, I received a distinct impression which both chastened and comforted me: to focus not on what I can't do but rather on what I can do. I can testify of the plain and precious truths of the gospel.
"These are the words which I have shared hundreds of times with both those who belong to the Church and many who are not members: 'God is our [loving] Heavenly Father. We are His children.... He weeps with us when we suffer and rejoices when we do what is right. He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer....
"'Heavenly Father has provided us, His children, with a way to... return to live in His presence.... Central to our [Heavenly] Father's plan is Jesus Christ's Atonement.' (Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2004), 31–32.)"
- Gary E. Stevenson, "Plain and Precious Truths," General Conference, October 2015, Sunday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Stevenson was the second of three newly-called apostles to offer his initial testimony in that calling during the October 2015 conference. His observation that " Heavenly Father's generous compensation for living in perilous times is that we also live in the fulness of times" was interesting to me; we do have challenges in our day, but we have SO many blessings and opportunities to compensate!

At the times when we seem overwhelmed and underqualified, this was a good reminder. There is always something we can contribute, and that's where our focus should be:

Elder Stevenson's testimony of the Savior, using language from Preach My Gospel, was very sincere and moving.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Ronald A. Rasband on the Lord's love for us

Elder Ronald A. Rasband (b. 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 2000.  He was the senior president of the Seventy when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"The Lord has said, 'Love one another; as I have loved you' (John 13:34). I'm confident that there is no choice, sin, or mistake that you or anyone else can make that will change His love for you or for them. That does not mean He excuses or condones sinful conduct—I'm sure He does not—but it does mean we are to reach out to our fellowman in love to invite, persuade, serve, and rescue. Jesus Christ looked past people's ethnicity, rank, and circumstances in order to teach them this profound truth.
"I have been asked many times when I received my testimony.
"I can't remember not believing in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I have loved Them since I learned of Them at the knees of my angel mother, reading scripture and gospel stories. That early belief has now grown into a knowledge and a witness of a loving Heavenly Father, who hears and answers our prayers. My testimony of Jesus Christ has been built from many special experiences in which I have come to know His great love for each one of us."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "I Stand All Amazed," General Conference, October 2015, Sunday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

In his first general conference address after being sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve, Elder Rasband spoke of his feelings about this sacred calling, and then shared this personal and pointed testimony of the Savior whom he now represents in a special way:

We are blessed by having leaders whose faith and testimony are firm and solidly-grounded. Ours will grow to the same standard if we follow their counsel.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Neil L. Andersen on choosing to nurture and grow in faith

Elder Neil L. Andersen (1951- ) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not something ethereal, floating loosely in the air. Faith does not fall upon us by chance or stay with us by birthright. It is, as the scriptures say, 'substance..., the evidence of things not seen' (Hebrews 11:1). Faith emits a spiritual light, and that light is discernible (see Alma 32:35). Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe and as we seek it and hold on to it. Your faith is either growing stronger or becoming weaker. Faith is a principle of power, important not only in this life but also in our progression beyond the veil (LoF 3). By the grace of Christ, we will one day be saved through faith on His name (Ephesians 2:8). The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice....
"How we live our lives increases or diminishes our faith. Prayer, obedience, honesty, purity of thought and deed, and unselfishness increase faith. Without these, faith diminishes. Why did the Savior say to Peter, 'I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not' (Luke 22:32)? Because there is an adversary who delights in destroying our faith! Be relentless in protecting your faith....
"Although your beginning fire of faith may be small, righteous choices bring greater confidence in God, and your faith grows. The difficulties of mortality blow against you, and evil forces lurk in the darkness, hoping to extinguish your faith. But as you continue to make good choices, trust in God, and follow His Son, the Lord sends increased light and knowledge, and your faith becomes settled and unwavering."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice," General Conference, October 2015, Priesthood session
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Andersen's instructions on what faith is, and how to nurture and grow in faith, gave good reminders of this all-encompassing principle. He reminds us that "faith does not fall upon us by chance or stay with us by birthright" — each of us must choose to do the things that bring faith into our lives and then the things that help us retain it.

Obtaining and retaining the gift of faith depends on eternal principles: "Prayer, obedience, honesty, purity of thought and deed, and unselfishness increase faith." But we have to be on guard from an adversary who "delights in destroying our faith"; we must "be relentless in protecting [our] faith." The goal is to have faith that is "settled and unwavering."

Monday, October 19, 2015

D. Todd Christofferson on the blessings of the Lord's Church

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (1945- ) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"How does His Church accomplish the Lord's purposes? It is important to recognize that God's ultimate purpose is our progress. His desire is that we continue 'from grace to grace, until [we receive] a fulness' (D&C 93:13) of all He can give. That requires more than simply being nice or feeling spiritual. It requires faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism of water and of the Spirit, and enduring in faith to the end (see 2 Nephi 31:17–20). One cannot fully achieve this in isolation, so a major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another in the 'strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life' (2 Nephi 31:18) ....
"In the Church we not only learn divine doctrine; we also experience its application. As the body of Christ, the members of the Church minister to one another in the reality of day-to-day life. All of us are imperfect; we may offend and be offended. We often test one another with our personal idiosyncrasies. In the body of Christ, we have to go beyond concepts and exalted words and have a real 'hands-on' experience as we learn to 'live together in love' (D&C 42:45).
"This religion is not concerned only with self; rather, we are all called to serve. We are the eyes, hands, head, feet, and other members of the body of Christ, and even 'those members... which seem to be more feeble, are necessary' (1 Corinthians 12:22). We need these callings, and we need to serve."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Why the Church," General Conference, October 2015, Sunday afternoon session
Click here to read the full talk
Elder Christofferson's message responds to many in our time who question the necessity of a formal, organized church. They claim they can follow Christ's teachings (or other moral or ethical values) and live good and worthwhile lives without the structure of a formal organization. While that is true to some extent, it neglects an important aspect of religion: the application of the teachings, some of which are facilitated and enabled in the formalized setting of the church organization.

It's not just about "self" — it's about "serve." And that kind of service, Elder Christofferson teaches, is facilitated by the Church in ways that don't exist outside of it. What a blessing to be able to take advantage of that privilege!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Quentin L. Cook on happiness now and eternally

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. September 8, 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"The adversary has been successful in planting a great myth in the minds of many people. He and his emissaries declare that the real choice we have is between happiness and pleasure now in this life and happiness in a life to come (which the adversary asserts may not exist). This myth is a false choice, but it is very seductive. (See 2 Nephi 28.)
"The ultimate noble purpose of God's plan of happiness is for righteous disciples and covenant families to be united in love, harmony, and peace in this life (see 4 Nephi 1:15–17) and attain celestial glory in the eternities with God the Father, our Creator; and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. (See D&C 59:23.)...
"At the commencement of the Savior’s earthly ministry in Israel and later among the Nephites, the Savior addressed the issue of happiness both in this life and in eternity. He stressed ordinances, but He also placed great emphasis on moral behavior. For example, disciples would be blessed if they would hunger and thirst after righteousness, be merciful, be pure in heart, be peacemakers, and follow other basic moral principles. Clearly, our Lord Jesus Christ emphasized, as a foundational doctrinal message, both righteous attitudes and conduct in day-to-day living....
"I recognize that, despite the overwhelming happiness embodied in God’s divine plan, sometimes it can feel far away and disconnected from our current circumstances. It may feel beyond our reach as struggling disciples. From our limited perspective, current temptations and distractions can seem attractive. The rewards for resisting those temptations, on the other hand, can feel distant and unattainable. But a true understanding of the Father’s plan reveals that the rewards of righteousness are available right now. Wickedness, such as immoral conduct, is never part of the answer."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Shipshape and Bristol Fashion: Be Temple Worthy--in Good Times and Bad Times," General Conference, October 2015, Saturday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

I've often heard the complaint described in the first paragraph of this excerpt. Religion may promise a great reward, but it takes away all the happiness of life now. Elder Cook's message argues against this idea, proposing that true religion is the only source of true happiness in this life as well as the worlds to come. It truly is a "plan of happiness."

When the struggles of mortality make that happiness seem "far away and disconnected from our current circumstances," we need to re-focus our sights on the immediate blessings the Gospel plan offers and make sure we are doing all we can to claim their promises in our current lives.  Elder Cook goes on to focus on some ways we can do that:
  1. Righteous self-control and conduct
  2. Honoring the Sabbath
  3. Remembering that divine protection follows righteousness
There truly is happiness available, now and eternally, for those who are willing to follow the Savior's plan!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

David A. Bednar on the blessing of seasoned leadership

Elder David A. Bednar (1952- ) was sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2004.
"My purpose is to explain why indeed it is wonderful to have older men of great spiritual maturity and judgment serving in the senior leadership positions of the restored Church of Jesus Christ—and why we should 'hear' and 'hearken' (Mosiah 2:9) to the teachings of these men whom the Lord has 'chosen to bear testimony of [His] name... among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people' (D&C 112:1)....
"The limitations that are the natural consequence of advancing age can in fact become remarkable sources of spiritual learning and insight. The very factors many may believe limit the effectiveness of these servants can become some of their greatest strengths. Physical restrictions can expand vision. Limited stamina can clarify priorities. Inability to do many things can direct focus to a few things of greatest importance.
"Some people have suggested younger, more vigorous leaders are needed in the Church to address effectively the serious challenges of our modern world. But the Lord does not use contemporary philosophies and practices of leadership to accomplish His purposes (see Isaiah 55:8–9). We can expect the President and other senior leaders of the Church will be older and spiritually seasoned men....
"These men have had a sustained season of tutoring by the Lord, whom they represent, serve, and love. They have learned to understand the divine language of the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s patterns for receiving revelation. These ordinary men have undergone a most extraordinary developmental process that has sharpened their vision, informed their insight, engendered love for people from all nations and circumstances, and affirmed the reality of the Restoration."
- David A. Bednar, "Chosen to Bear Testimony of My Name," General Conference, October 2015, Sunday afternoon session
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Bednar paid tribute to the "senior leaders" of the Church in his message during the recent conference, which turned out to the the concluding talk of the whole weekend. He mentioned particular examples from the six leaders who have passed away since he was called as an apostle — President Faust, President Hinckley, Elder Wirthlin, Elder Perry, President Packer, and Elder Scott.

The concept of "a sustained season of tutoring by the Lord" is an interesting one.  By the time these men have given a few decades of their lives in full-time leadership, they have seen and heard, and experienced, so many things that enable them to serve in a way that is insightful and powerful. We should be grateful for the wisdom that comes with advancing years!

Elder Bednar concluded with his personal witness, one that I share:
"With all the energy of my soul, I witness the resurrected and living Christ directs the affairs of His restored and living Church through His servants who have been chosen to bear testimony of His name."

Friday, October 16, 2015

Jeffrey R. Holland offers a tribute to mothers

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (b. 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.
"No love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child....
"You see, it is not only that they bear us, but they continue bearing with us. It is not only the prenatal carrying but the lifelong carrying that makes mothering such a staggering feat. Of course, there are heartbreaking exceptions, but most mothers know intuitively, instinctively that this is a sacred trust of the highest order....
"A wonderful young mother recently wrote to me: '...Maternal love has to be divine. There is no other explanation for it. What mothers do is an essential element of Christ’s work. Knowing that should be enough to tell us the impact of such love will range between unbearable and transcendent, over and over again, until with the safety and salvation of the very last child on earth, we can [then] say with Jesus, "[Father!] I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do." (John 17:4)' ...
"To all of our mothers everywhere, past, present, or future, I say, 'Thank you. Thank you for giving birth, for shaping souls, for forming character, and for demonstrating the pure love of Christ.' ... To all mothers in every circumstance, including those who struggle—and all will—I say, 'Be peaceful. Believe in God and yourself. You are doing better than you think you are. In fact, you are saviors on Mount Zion (see Obadiah 1:21), and like the Master you follow, your love "never faileth" (Moroni 7:46; see also 1 Corinthians 13:8).' I can pay no higher tribute to anyone."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Behold Thy Mother," General Conference, October 2015, Saturday afternoon session
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Holland shared a tender tribute to mothers in his October 2015 conference talk. This is not the first time he's addressed this topic, one that is dear to his heart. He gave some poignant examples of the depth of love and devotion usually expressed in this responsibility. This thought rings true to me—it is not just the bearing of children in which a mother shows her devotion that is pure and lasting:

In acknowledging that motherhood is often very challenging and difficult, Elder Holland reassured those who might be struggling through some aspect of their lives to have peace and patience.  "You are doing better than you think you are."
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