Monday, November 30, 2015

M. Russell Ballard on living the new law of sacrifice

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.
"After His mortal ministry, Christ elevated the law of sacrifice to a new level. In describing how the law would continue, Jesus told his Nephite Apostles that He would no longer accept burnt offerings but that His disciples should offer 'a broken heart and a contrite spirit' (3 Ne. 9:19-20; see also D&C 59:8, 12). Instead of the Lord requiring our animals or grain, now He wants us to give up all that is ungodly. This higher practice of the law of sacrifice reaches into the inner soul of a person. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: 'Real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed!' ("'Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness,'" Ensign, May 1995, 68).
"How is it we show the Lord that we have symbolically put ourselves upon today's sacrificial altar? We show Him by living the first great commandment: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind' (Matt. 22:37). When we overcome our own selfish desires and put God first in our lives and covenant to serve Him regardless of the cost, we are then living the law of sacrifice.
"One of the best ways to be sure we are keeping the first great commandment is to keep the second great commandment. The Master Himself taught that 'inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me' (Matt. 25:40) and that 'when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God' (Mosiah 2:17). The degree of our love for the Lord and for our fellowman can be measured by what we are willing to sacrifice for them. Sacrifice is a demonstration of pure love."
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Law of Sacrifice," CES symposium at BYU, August 13, 1996; see Ensign Oct 1998, pp. 6-13
Click here to read the full talk

I like the description Elder Ballard uses—the old law of sacrifice wasn't replaced, but "Christ elevated the law of sacrifice to a new level." That emphasizes the link between the old requirements and the new.  Elder Maxwell's statement brings that out beautifully:

Then Elder Ballard goes into the "how" of the process. We can best show God our obedience to the "new" law of sacrifice, and show our real and complete love for Him, by truly loving those around us. We demonstrate the depth of our love, for God and for our neighbors, by our willingness to sacrifice.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Russell M. Nelson on finding God by looking to heaven

President Russell M. Nelson (b. Sept 9, 1924) was an internationally-renowned heart surgeon when he was called to serve as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984. He was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015.
"Sadly, many individuals don't know where to find God, and exclude Him from their lives. When spiritual needs arise, they may look to the left, the right, or round about. But looking to other people on the same level cannot satisfy spiritual shortages. When the immortal spirit is starved, hunger persists for something more filling. Even when material success comes, there is a hollow ache if living well falls short of living worthily. Inner peace cannot be found in affluence accompanied by spiritual privation.
"Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints invite all to come unto Christ and enjoy the spiritual feast that His gospel provides. The Saints savor a sweet spiritual nourishment that sustains them through life. This sustenance comes because they have made covenants to take upon themselves the name of the Lord and strive to obey His precepts. Strength comes in recognizing and in being grateful for the Lord's gifts of immortality and the opportunity for eternal life....
"Trees reach up for the light and grow in the process. So do we as sons and daughters of heavenly parents. Facing upward provides a loftier perspective than facing right or facing left. Looking up in search of holiness builds strength and dignity as disciples of Deity. The importance of looking up to the Lord is also emphasized in a vision to the Prophet Joseph Smith, dated January 21, 1836: 'I saw the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, who are now upon the earth, who hold the keys of this last ministry, in foreign lands, standing together in a circle, much fatigued, with their clothes tattered and feet swollen, with their eyes cast downward, and Jesus standing in their midst, and they did not behold Him. The Savior looked upon them and wept' (TPJS 107).
"That the Twelve were subsequently vindicated is apparent as we read further in the Prophet's record: 'And I finally saw the Twelve in the celestial kingdom of God. I also beheld the redemption of Zion, and many things which the tongue of men cannot describe in full' (TPJS, 108)."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Which Way Are You Facing?", New Era, March 2002, p. 4
Click here to read the full talk

President Nelson's remarks about the many who don't know where to "find God" are reminiscent of the Lord's statement to Joseph Smith, about the many throughout the earth "who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it" (D&C 123:12). One of the keys in our search for God is that we won't find Him among "other people on the same level"; it comes when seekers "have made covenants to take upon themselves the name of the Lord and strive to obey His precepts."

President Nelson shares a beautiful invitation to come to the Gospel plan, where all can "savor a sweet spiritual nourishment that sustains them through life." This source of nourishment is constantly available, to those who are searching and reaching in the right direction:

The story of Joseph Smith's vision is a wonderful illustration of the difference between looking down and around to see the difficulties and challenges of the mortal experience, as compared to looking up at the source of eternal hope and help.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Heber J. Grant on being a faithful, unselfish servant

President Heber J. Grant (1856-1945) was ordained an apostle in 1862, and served as president of the Church from 1918 until his death in 1945 at age 88.  He served as president for over 26 years; only Brigham Young had a longer term (over 29 years).
"I heard a story of a brother (I have forgotten his name now) who attended a meeting in the early days. President Brigham Young made an appeal for donations to send to the Missouri River to help the Saints gather to Zion. He wanted everybody who could afford it, to give an ox or a cow or any other donation. One good brother jumped up and said, 'I will give a cow.' Another brother got up and said, 'I will give a cow.' The first brother had two cows and a large family; the other brother had a half-dozen cows and a small family.
"And, so the spirit [of the devil] came over the first man, [saying,] 'Now, look here, you cannot get along with your large family; you cannot possibly get along with one cow. Now, that other man has got a small family and six cows; he could just as well give two or three and still get along all right.' As he started home, he walked four or five blocks, all the time getting weaker and weaker. Finally he thought, 'I guess I won't,' and then he realized the difference in the spirit that was tempting him and the one that had prompted his promise to the President of the Church that he would give a cow. Here was a spirit telling him to fail to fulfill his obligation, to fail to be honest, to fail to live up to his promise.
"He stopped short and turned around and said, 'Mr. Devil, shut up or just as sure as I live, I will walk up to Brother Brigham's office and give him the other cow.' He was not tempted any more.
"Now, every Latter-day Saint ought to be a lifter and not a leaner."
- Heber J. Grant, "Settlement," Improvement Era, Jan. 1941, 56; see Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, pp. 141-142

This is a wonderful little glimpse into Church history, and into the personality of President Grant. There have been times when members of the Church were asked to sacrifice for one another, to a degree we are not familiar with today. For someone to give up one of two cows for the good of the Church was a significant hardship. But that sacrifice was given, so many times.

President Grant also believed strongly in the conflict between faith and the Adversary. This story helps illustrate the battle between those opposing forces, and the role that agency plays in choosing the direction to follow.

I love the simple closing statement. We can either contribute our strength to the good of the kingdom, or be a drain on it!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Spencer W. Kimball on the happy, abundant life

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"The happy and abundant life begins from within and then moves outward to other individuals and to our communities. If there is richness and righteousness in us, then we can make a difference in the lives of others and in our towns, just as key individuals have influenced the lives of each of us for good and made us richer than we otherwise would have been.
"What is our greatest potential? Is it not to be Christlike ourselves? And what are the qualities we must develop to achieve such greatness? We might consider intelligence, light, knowledge, and leadership. But perhaps the most essential godlike quality is that of compassion and love—compassion shown forth in service to others, unselfishness, that ultimate expression of concern for others we call love. Wherever our Father's children magnify their opportunities for loving service, they are learning to become more like Him."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "President Kimball Speaks Out on Service to Others," New Era, March 1981, pp. 58-59
Click here to read the full talk here

"If there is richness and righteousness in us, then we can make a difference in the lives of others and in our towns." As we examine our lives, do we see ourselves finding ways to "make a difference"? We should, according to President Kimball. One of the greatest messages of the Gospel is that the source of happiness and abundance in our lives is in the giving to others.

There is always wisdom and insight as we examine the life of the Savior and try to pattern our own actions and deeds after Him.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Gordon B. Hinckley on gratitude for life

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.
"Be grateful. How thankful we ought to be. How comfortably we live. How very easy is life compared to what it once was.... We have it so easy, so pleasant, so delightful. We ride in cars that are warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
"What a great season in the history of the world this is in which to be alive and in which to be young. Sometimes I wish that I were as young as you are—and then when I think of what I have been through I am glad I am not. But what a wonderful season to be alive....
"[We have] the miracles of medicine, the miracles of science, the miracles of communication, transportation, education—what a wonderful time in which to live. Of all of these wondrous, challenging things with which we live, I hope you regard it a blessing to be alive in this great age of the world.... I hope you walk with gratitude in your hearts, really. Grateful people are respectful people. Grateful people are courteous people. Grateful people are kindly people. Be grateful."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Smithfield/Logan Utah Regional Conference, April 21, 1996; see TGBH p. 250

President Hinckley always seemed to maintain a wonderfully optimistic perspective on life. In this quote he reminds us how blessed we are in our modern lives. We have so much for which to be grateful, in our relatively pleasant and comfortable circumstances.

President Hinckley encourages us to remember the comfort and ease of our lives, along with the many miracles of our time—in medicine, science, communication, transportation, and education. Those miracles he described in 1996 are even further surpassed in the 20 years since then, in the explosion of the technology of our modern information age. Indeed, in so many ways, "what a wonderful time in which to live."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Marvin J. Ashton on giving thanks even in challenging times

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.
"Today I hope my message will bring new consideration and meaning to those two important words thank you. Frankly, over the years I have been troubled by the admonition contained in D&C 98:1: 'Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks' (emphasis added).
"My inability to give thanks in all things, particularly those events or occasions that have caused disappointment, delay, and misunderstanding, has given me concern. My capacity to express thanks in everything has been quite inadequate. Without 'the passing of time factor' I would have failed miserably.
"Appreciation for all people and events that come into our lives is most important because it is God’s way of helping us to grow. The ultimate maturity is being able to feel and express appreciation promptly, being fully aware of the value and importance, and showing gratitude for it."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "And in Everything Give Thanks," BYU Devotional, September 1, 1991
Click here to read the full talk

I always appreciate the glimpses of the "human side" of someone I respect as much as I do Elder Ashton. In every exposure I had to him, he was a devoted, sensitive, thoughtful, and kind man. But in this excerpt he expresses a very normal characteristic—the struggle we often have to keep a broad perspective in the midst of trials or challenges. It's hard to follow the admonition, "in everything give thanks" when "events or occasions that have caused disappointment, delay, and misunderstanding."

It's not unusual for "the passing of time factor" to provide perspective that allows us to see and understand the subtle blessings of our challenges. But the "ultimate maturity" Elder Ashton describes is to have the faith and trust in the moments of difficulty that enable us to be truly grateful.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

James E. Talmage on gratitude for God's blessings

Elder James E. Talmage (1862-1933) was born in England. 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.
"Gratitude is an ennobling quality in man; and he in whose soul it has no place is defective....
"Gratitude is twin sister to humility; pride is a foe to both. The man who has come into close communion with God cannot fail to be thankful; for he feels, he knows, that for all he has and all he is, he is indebted to the Supreme Giver; and one would think that there is no need of commandment in the matter of thanksgiving. Yet we find that because of man's propensities toward forgetfulness and selfishness the Scriptures abound in admonitions to render thanks unto the Lord....
"God requires thanksgiving, praise and worship, not for His gratification as the recipient of adulation, but for the good of His children who thus recognize and acknowledge Him, and so develop that abiding faith, such as shall lead to repentance, without which none can attain salvation in His kingdom."
- James E. Talmage, "Sunday Night Talks by Radio," 1931, p. 483, 486

This is a beautiful, poetic description of the "ennobling quality" of gratitude:

The essence of gratitude, according to Elder Talmage, lies in our recognition of our relationship to God. For one who has reached a state of "close communion" with Divinity, gratitude comes naturally. We sense the source of our blessings because we are close to that source. Sadly, most of us need to be reminded to acknowledge and thank God; that implies we need to work harder on our personal relationship.

I appreciated Elder Talmage's suggestion too about why God asks for our gratitude. It's not for His sake, but for ours. Through our recognition of Him and expressions of thanks, we develop "abiding faith" in Him that can lead us to repentance and eventual salvation.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Hugh B. Brown on true gratitude

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.
"How rich and radiant is the soul of a man who has a thankful heart. His gratitude increases with his unfolding awareness of himself, the universe and his Creator. Appreciation, like love, enriches both giver and receiver, and, when spontaneously expressed in word or deed, reveals a depth and delicacy of fine-grain character. True gratitude is motivated by a recognition of favors received. Its counterfeit is fawning anticipation of favors to come.
"Serious consideration of the mystery of life, its vastness and incalculability, gives depth to appreciation for blessings gratuitously bestowed. They who have eyes to see, ears to hear, understanding hearts, will see the bounteous love of God everywhere manifest and will be inclined to reverently remove their shoes and exclaim:
"For the rock and for the river,
The valley's fertile sod,
For the strength of the hills we bless thee,
Our God, our fathers' God.

['For the Strength of the Hills,' Hymns:35]"- Hugh B. Brown, "Gratitude Is a Spiritual Attribute," Instructor, Nov. 1957, p. 332

I love this description of what it means to have a thankful heart:

It's the "serious consideration of the mystery of life," according to Elder Brown, that leads to a greater appreciation of blessings. When we slow down to observe and ponder our lives, we begin to notice and acknowledge the "bounteous love of God everywhere manifest." What a good reminder for us all!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thomas S. Monson on feeling and expressing divine gratitude

President Thomas S. Monson (b. August 21, 1927) was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1963. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency with Presidents Benson, Hunter, and Hinckley until becoming Church president in 2008.
"Do material possessions make us happy and grateful? Perhaps momentarily. However, those things which provide deep and lasting happiness and gratitude are the things which money cannot buy: our families, the gospel, good friends, our health, our abilities, the love we receive from those around us. Unfortunately, these are some of the things we allow ourselves to take for granted.
"The English author Aldous Huxley wrote, 'Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.'
"We often take for granted the very people who most deserve our gratitude. Let us not wait until it is too late for us to express that gratitude....
"A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort—at least until we have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude. Often we feel grateful and intend to express our thanks but forget to do so or just don't get around to it. Someone has said that 'feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.' [William Arthur Ward]...
"It is my prayer that in addition to all else for which we are grateful, we may ever reflect our gratitude for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His glorious gospel provides answers to life's greatest questions....
"Let us follow Him. Let us emulate His example. Let us obey His words. By so doing, we give to Him the divine gift of gratitude.
"My sincere, heartfelt prayer is that we may in our individual lives reflect that marvelous virtue of gratitude. May it permeate our very souls, now and evermore."
- Thomas S. Monson, "The Divine Gift of Gratitude," Ensign, Nov 2010, pp. 87-90
Click here to read the full talk

It's relatively easy to remember to thank God for "material possessions" — the conveniences of life or the objects that bring temporary pleasure. But President Monson identifies more profound and significant gifts that should make us deeply grateful, and which we should never take for granted; and for which we should never forget to express thanks.

I also appreciated the insight that a "grateful heart" grows within us as we make greater efforts to express gratitude. Blessings come to those who "have truly learned and cultivated an attitude of gratitude." And of course, the greatest gratitude of all is for the Savior, whose gospel and atoning gift blesses every life eternally.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Neal A. Maxwell on feeling and expressing gratitude to God

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.
"'Where are the nine?' inquired Jesus concerning the healed lepers who did not return with thanksgiving. (Luke 17:17) How often are we like the nine? To receive God's blessings without acknowledging their Source is to be unrealistic as well as ungrateful.
"We offend God not only by our ingratitude, brothers and sisters, but also by not confessing His competent hand in bringing to pass His transcending purposes on the earth. (See D&C 59:21.) Too many actually doubt God's plans will finally prevail. Not only in the years ahead, but even now, mortal self-sufficiency will be confounded. Profound fear will eventually pervade this perplexed planet. (See D&C 63:33; D&C 88:91.) Would that mankind could live in faith, not fear—and with gratitude, not forgetfulness.
"Besides, we are all beggars anyway (see Mosiah 4:19), beggars rescued by the Creator of the universe who lived humbly as a person 'of no reputation.' (Philip. 2:7.) In contrast, we are sometimes so anxious about our personal images, when it is His image we should have in our countenances. (See Alma 5:14.)"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Answer Me," Ensign, November 1988, p. 32
Click here to read the full talk

One of the great dangers of mortality is to forget to acknowledge the source of so much in our lives that comes as gifts from God. Like the nine lepers of Jesus' parable, we are so joyful in a blessing that we move on blithely, sometimes with a perfunctory prayer of thanks. And sometimes we don't even do that—never acknowledging the source.

I appreciated Elder Maxwell's reminder that remembering to thank God for direct blessings to us is just the beginning. We also should recognize the great blessing of His plan for the happiness of all His children. Faith and gratitude are as linked as are fear and forgetfulness.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Henry B. Eyring on the blessings of "returning thanks to God"

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 scriptures, what I see around me, and my own experience tell me that this scripture has a key in it. Listen carefully to this scripture. It is one Alma teaches us:
"'And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive...' (see Alma 7:23-25).
"Being submissive, gentle, easy to be entreated, and patient are all attributes. But the actions Alma commends to us are to ask for what we need and to return thanks. Please don't think of that as a routine command to say your prayers. Oh, it is much more than that. If you pray, if you talk to God, and if you plead for the help you need, and if you thank him not only for help but for the patience and gentleness that come from not receiving all you desire right away or perhaps ever, then I promise you that you will draw closer to him. And then you will become diligent and longsuffering."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Waiting Upon the Lord," BYU Fireside, Sept 30, 1990
Click here to read the full talk

President Eyring has an ability I love: to analyze and explain scriptures, focusing attention on critical words or phrases in ways that brings out understanding and power. I love how he testifies that he has discovered special meaning in this case through at least three sources: other scriptures, his observations of the world, and his personal experience. How often am I that careful to ponder and apply what I am learning?

In analyzing Alma's wonderful counsel, President Eyring distinguishes between attributes and actions that are encouraged in the passage. The attributes include being submissive, gentle, easy to be entreated, and patient—all characteristics that merit pondering and self-evaluation. But it's the action part of the verse that President Eyring draws attention to: "to ask for what we need and to return thanks." He explains this is much more than "saying your prayers"; it's sincere conversation, pleading for help; along with the acknowledgement of, and appreciation for, blessings and tutoring experiences of life. Then further blessings flow, including the sought-after attributes mentioned earlier in the verse. What a marvelous promise!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Joseph B. Wirthlin on living in gratitude

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.
"Gratitude is a mark of a noble soul and a refined character. We like to be around those who are grateful. They tend to brighten all around them. They make others feel better about themselves. They tend to be more humble, more joyful, more likable.
"You might be surprised to know that gratitude is a commandment of the Father. 'Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things' (D&C 59:7), the Lord has commanded in these latter days. Even further, He has admonished that 'in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments' (D&C 59:21).
"In the Book of Mormon we learn that we should 'live in thanksgiving daily' (Alma 34:38). Isn't that a wonderful thought to live in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if you lived in thanksgiving daily? Can you imagine how your life would improve if others did the same? Do you think the world would be a happier place? less stressful? less angry? more spiritual?"
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Live in Thanksgiving Daily," BYU Devotional, 31 October 2000; see Ensign, Sept 2001, pp. 6-13
Click here to read the full talk

I have experienced what Elder Wirthlin describes — the positive feelings that come when I'm around someone who expresses gratitude easily and sincerely. That kind of person really does "brighten all around them." They are happy, likable people.

The scriptural encouragement to "live in thanksgiving daily" is a wonderful reminder, and it's easy to see the positive benefits as we make efforts in that direction.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Dallin H. Oaks on thanking God always, even in adversity

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.
"In one of the times of spiritual and temporal adversity recorded in the Book of Mormon, when the people of God were 'suffering all manner of afflictions,' the Lord commanded them to 'give thanks in all things' (Mosiah 26:38-39). I wish to apply that teaching to our time....
"We have so much for which to give thanks. First and foremost, we are thankful for our Savior Jesus Christ. Under the plan of the Father, He created the world. Through His prophets, He revealed the plan of salvation with its accompanying commandments and ordinances. He came into mortality to teach and show us the way. He suffered and paid the price for our sins if we would repent. He gave up His life, and He conquered death and rose from the grave that we all will live again. He is the Light and Life of the World. As King Benjamin taught, if we 'should render all the thanks and praise which [our] whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created [us], and has kept and preserved [us], and... should serve him with all [our] whole souls yet [we] would be unprofitable servants' (Mosiah 2:20-21)....
"When we give thanks in all things, we see hardships and adversities in the context of the purpose of life. We are sent here to be tested. There must be opposition in all things. We are meant to learn and grow through that opposition, through meeting our challenges, and through teaching others to do the same....
"When we understand this principle, that God offers us opportunities for blessings and blesses us through our own adversities and the adversities of others, we can understand why He has commanded us again and again to 'thank the Lord thy God in all things' (D&C 59:7)."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Give Thanks in All Things," Ensign, May 2003, pp. 95-98
Click here to read the full talk

"We have so much for which to give thanks." That message applies to every person, at ever time, in every situation. The primary and most important of all, is for the Savior and His acts of service and love on our behalf, that can never be earned or repaid.

If we truly understand that one thing, we can never stop being grateful, regardless of any circumstances of life. Any "hardships and adversities" that befall us, seen in the context of that eternal gift, fall into place in the eternal plan.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Quentin L. Cook on gratitude for blessings

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.
"Regardless of our trials, with the abundance we have today, we would be ungrateful if we did not appreciate our blessings. Despite the obvious nature of the hardships the pioneers were experiencing, President Brigham Young talked about the significance of gratitude. He stated, 'I do not know of any, excepting the unpardonable sin, that is greater than the sin of ingratitude.' (Teachings: Brigham Young, 177)
"Our foremost gratitude should be for the Savior and His Atonement."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Hope Ya Know, We Had a Hard Time," Ensign, Nov. 2008, p. 102
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Cook's talk focused on some of the hard trials we all encounter. In spite of disappointments and challenges, he reminds us to acknowledge the source of all that's good in our lives. This warning from Brigham Young is very pointed:

Elder Cook helps us remember an eternal principle. There is always something to be grateful for! There is always so much to be grateful for!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Robert D. Hales on appreciation for the service of others

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.
"Gratitude is a state of appreciation, an act of thanksgiving, which causes us to be humble because we recognize an act of kindness, service, or caring from someone else which lifts us and strengthens us.
"Ingratitude is the attitude of being unaware or not recognizing when someone has assisted us or helped us or, even worse, when we know we have been helped and have not given thanks privately or publicly.
"In some quiet way, the expression and feelings of gratitude have a wonderful cleansing or healing nature. Gratitude brings warmth to the giver and the receiver alike."
- Robert D. Hales, "Gratitude for the Goodness of God," Ensign, May 1992, p. 63
Click here to read the full talk

I like Elder Hales' insight about the link between gratitude and humility. When we are truly grateful, we become humble in acknowledging the gifts of service, kindness, or caring from others. Ingratitude is not acknowledging help from others, because of being unaware or deliberately choosing not to acknowledge—signs of lack of humility.

And the blessing is the benefit that comes from both feeling and expressing gratitude—the "cleansing or healing" that can result.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ezra Taft Benson on finding peace and serenity through trusting God

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.
"I wish it were possible for all of us to place our trusts completely in God and to keep his commandments fully. I wish we had the courage, the faith, and the strength of character so that we would in very deed place our trust in our heavenly Father and keep all of his commandments and do that which is right....
"It is a great blessing, my brethren and sisters, to have an inner peace, to have an assurance, to have a spirit of serenity, an inward calm during times of strife and struggle, during times of sorrow and reverses. It is soul-satisfying to know that God is at the helm, that he is mindful of his children, and that we can with full confidence place our trust in him. I believe that all the truly great men of the earth have been men who trusted in God and who have striven to do that which is right as they understood the right."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Trust in God and Do the Right," Conference Report, April 1954, pp. 56-59
Click here to read the full talk

Church leaders have a perspective of seeing trends and common issues as they interact with members of the Church throughout the world. This, along with inspiration from heaven, blesses them as they provide counsel on concerns that confront the people.

In this address, a "young" Elder Benson responded to what he perceived as a challenge of his time—the lack of trust and faith in God, the insufficient obedience and confidence in Him that would lead to greater blessings.

The ability to truly trust in God, to know that he "is at the helm" and directs both the Church and individual lives, is a wonderful, priceless gift. It truly does lead to the calmness and serenity in any situation that blesses the lives of faithful disciples.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Howard W. Hunter on faith in God during adversity and disappointment

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President for only nine months, from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"At various times in our lives, probably at repeated times in our lives, we do have to acknowledge that God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see. 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord' (Isa. 55:8).
"If you have troubles at home with children who stray, if you suffer financial reverses and emotional strain that threaten your homes and your happiness, if you must face the loss of life or health, may peace be unto your soul. We will not be tempted beyond our ability to withstand. Our detours and disappointments are the straight and narrow path to Him, as we sing in one of our favorite hymns:
"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
 My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
 The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
 Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

 ('How Firm a Foundation,' Hymns, 1985, no. 85)
"May God bless us in the ups and downs of life, in the opening and closing of doors."
- Howard W. Hunter, "The Opening and Closing of Doors," Ensign, Nov. 1987, 54
Click here to read the full talk

"God knows what we do not know." Why is that so hard for us sometimes to remember? When we are confronted by trials or challenges, we too often forget that God is still in charge and has not forgotten us. President Hunter reminds us that we don't have to deal with any of these situations in a spiritual vacuum

  • Children who stray
  • Personal financial reverses and the resulting emotional strain
  • Loss of life or of health

We could add many more of life's challenges to that list, and the answer would be the same: "Our detours and disappointments are the straight and narrow path to Him." That seems a bit ironic, that a detour could be part of the straight path. But we must always trust that God is in charge and will ultimately bring all things to good on our behalf, if we trust in him and his all-sufficient grace.

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