Sunday, January 31, 2016

John A. Widtsoe on the sacred blessings of the temple

Elder John A. Widtsoe (January 31, 1872-November 29, 1952) was born in Norway. He was raised by his widowed mother who immigrated to Utah when John was 11. He was educated at Harvard and in Europe, and had formative roles in programs in several Utah universities including BYU. He served as an apostle from 1921 to his death in 1952.
"The temple is a place of instruction. Here the principles of the gospel are reviewed, and profound truths of the kingdom of God are unfolded. If we enter the temple in the right spirit and are attentive, we go out enriched in gospel knowledge and wisdom.
"The temple is a place of peace. Here we may lay aside the cares and worries of the outside, turbulent world. Here our minds should be centered upon spiritual realities, since here we are concerned only with things of the spirit.
"The temple is a place of covenants, which will help us live righteously. Here we declare that we will obey the laws of God and promise to use the precious knowledge of the gospel for our own blessing and the good of man. The simple ceremonies help us to go out from the temple with the high resolve to lead lives worthy of the gifts of the gospel.
"The temple is a place of blessing. Promises are made to us, conditioned only upon our faithfulness, which extend from time to eternity. They will help us to understand the nearness of our heavenly parents. The power of the priesthood is thus given us in new and large measures....
"The temple is a place of revelation. The Lord may here give revelation, and every person may receive revelation to assist him in life. All knowledge, all help come from the Lord, directly or indirectly. Though He may not be there in person, He is there by His Holy Spirit and by earthly men holding the priesthood. By that Spirit they direct the Lord's work here on earth. Every person who enters this sacred place in faith and prayer will find help in the solution of life's problems.
"It is good to be in the temple, the house of the Lord, a place of priesthood instruction, of peace, of covenants, of blessings, and of revelation. Gratitude for this privilege and an eager desire to possess the spirit of the occasion should overflow in our hearts."
- John A. Widtsoe, "Looking toward the Temple," Improvement Era, October 1962; see Ensign, Feb. 2010, pp. 36-38
Click here to read the full article

Elder Widtsoe loved the temples and understood their potential to bless; he wrote several profound articles about their significance and power in the lives of saints. I love the purposes and blessings of the temples he lays out in this excerpt; he truly had personal insight into the benefits that come from devoted temple worship.

It's good to note the stated and implied conditions to receiving all the blessings of the temple:

  • we must go in the right spirit and be attentive
  • we should focus our minds on "spiritual realities" and leave the world behind
  • we are invited to live lives in accordance with covenants made
  • we receive blessings "conditioned only upon our faithfulness"
  • revelation will come to those who are open and worthy
That's a good list for self-evaluation in our personal temple experiences.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Gordon B. Hinckley on finding happiness in 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.
"Never forget who you are, as you have sung tonight. You are in very deed a child of God.... He is your Eternal Father. He loves you. You can go to Him in prayer. He has invited you to do so. Every one of you knows this, and what a wonderful thing this is. He is the Greatest of All. He is the Creator and Governor of the universe. And yet He will listen to your prayer!
"He wants His sons and daughters to be happy. Sin never was happiness. Transgression never was happiness. Disobedience never was happiness. The way of happiness is found in the plan of our Father in Heaven and in obedience to the commandments of His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ....
"Be true to our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son. When all else fails, our Lord is there to help us. He has said, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' (Matt. 11:28). Each of you has burdens. Let the Lord help you in carrying those burdens. Again He has said, 'Take my yoke upon you, ... for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light' (Matt. 11:29–30). He stands ready to help—to help each of us—with every burden....
"And finally, in all of living have much of fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Stand True and Faithful," General Young Women Meeting, April 1996; see Ensign, May 1996, pp. 91-95
Click here to read the full talk

This wonderful address by President Hinckley was presented at a General Young Women meeting. He encouraged wise choices and faithful living, and promised happiness that would follow. The principles apply to all of us. Happiness, true happiness, comes from obedience, repentence, prayer, devotion, and reaching out to the Savior.

But I think this final insight might be the most helpful of all.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Harold B. Lee on the inner change of conversion

President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1941. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1970-1972, then as Church president from July 1972 until his passing less than 18 months later in December 1973.
"To settle an apparent controversy among his disciples as to who would be the greatest in the kingdom of God, he said: '...except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of [God].' (Matt. 18:3.)
"To become converted, according to the scriptures, meant having a change of heart and the moral character of a person turned from the controlled power of sin into a righteous life. It meant to 'wait patiently on the Lord' until one’s prayers can be answered and until his heart, as Cyprian, a defender of the faith in the Apostolic Period, testified, and I quote, 'Into my heart, purified of all sin, there entered a light which came from on high, and then suddenly and in a marvelous manner, I saw certainty succeed doubt.'
"Conversion must mean more than just being a 'card carrying' member of the Church with a tithing receipt, a membership card, a temple recommend, etc. It means to overcome the tendencies to criticize and to strive continually to improve inward weaknesses and not merely the outward appearances."
- Harold B. Lee, "The Iron Rod," Ensign, June 1971, pp. 5-10
Click here to read the full talk

This is a question that seems to come up regularly: what does it really mean to be converted?  What does it mean to be really converted? President Lee defines these characteristics:

  • having a change of heart
  • the moral character turned from the controlled power of sin into a righteous life
  • knowing that prayers are answered
  • having a heart purified of sin, filled with divine light
  • doubt erased by certainty
  • overcoming the tendencies to criticize
  • striving continually to improve inward weaknesses and not just outward appearances
That's a wonderful list to ponder. It reminds me of this beautiful question posed by Alma regarding the spiritual life of his followers:
And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now? (Alma 5:26)
The life of one who is truly converted is a joyful, blessed one.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Dale G. Renlund on the spiritual stability of obedience

Elder Dale G. Renlund (b. November 13, 1952) served in the First Quorum of Seventy starting in 2009, until his call to the Quorum of Twelve in October 2015.
"Obedience to God’s laws preserves our freedom, flexibility, and ability to achieve our potential. The commandments are not intended to restrict us. Rather, obedience leads to increased spiritual stability and long-term happiness.
"Imagine fighting life’s crosscurrents and crosswinds without spiritual stability. There is a reason obedience is the first law of heaven. Obedience is our choice. The Savior made this clear. As stated in the Joseph Smith Translation of Luke 14:28, Jesus directed, 'Wherefore, settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you.'
"It is that simple. Settle it. Decide now to be exactly obedient. As we do so, our spiritual stability will be greatly enhanced. We will avoid squandering God-given resources and making unproductive and destructive detours in our lives....
"We can look at each commandment separately and decide whether to obey or not, rationalize disobedience or not, or we can simply settle it in our hearts that we will do the things that the Lord teaches and commands. Nothing will increase spiritual stability more. Nothing will give us greater freedom to accomplish our life’s mission. 'Faithfulness and obedience' are not only 'the marks of true discipleship'; they are 'the requisites of true freedom.' (Frederic W. Farrar, The Life of Christ, 416; see also John 8:31–32.)"
- Dale G. Renlund, "Constructing Spiritual Stability," BYU Devotional, September 16, 2014
Click here to read the full talk

I'm not sure who first said, "Obedience is the first law of heaven." But it's a statement that rings true and feels right. It agrees with such other foundational statements as "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).

And the concept of deciding, choosing, resolving to obey early so you don't have to remake that choice over and over has also been taught by others, including Spencer W. Kimball.

I appreciated the opening statement of this excerpt: "Obedience to God’s laws preserves our freedom, flexibility, and ability to achieve our potential." Rather than be restrictive and limiting, obedience is grandly enabling by providing "spiritual stability and long-term happiness." I have found that to be true as I've viewed many examples and counter-examples.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Gary E. Stevenson on gaining knowledge and understanding

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. This address was given while he was serving as Presiding Bishop.
"Now consider again: 'And with all thy getting get understanding' (Prov 4:7). Understanding in this context follows intelligence, knowledge, experience, wisdom, and promptings from the Holy Ghost—all of which lead us to understanding or to know and do what is right.
"Most of you seated here today are approaching or have entered a critical intersection or crossroads in your life. You are becoming more independent with each year of your life that passes, and you are moving deeper into the 'and with all thy getting' phase of your life. What is it that you are going to be getting? It may be getting a husband or a wife, your own family, a car, a job, a salary, a house, and a mortgage, to name a few. In order to manage these very important things that we 'get,' one must also obtain 'understanding,' as the scripture teaches. This understanding comes through an interdependence of study and prayer. Said another way, one must have trust or reliance upon the Lord. Alma described this when he likened the word unto a seed. As he stated, 'It beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me' (Alma 32:28, emphasis added).
"President Monson often quotes a scripture from Proverbs that adds another dimension about this understanding: 'Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding' (Proverbs 3:5).
"As we trust and rely on the Lord, a greater measure of understanding comes from Him into our heart—rather than our own understanding, which comes to our head."
- Gary E. Stevenson, "Lean Not unto Thine Own Understanding," BYU Devotional, January 14, 2014
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Stevenson offered counsel to BYU students that applies to all of us. We are encouraged to learn, but must be careful that in all our getting of knowledge and information, we also get understanding. He discussed his own evolving understanding of that concept in this talk. One of the essential points is this—understanding comes as we learn not just with our minds but also with our spirits:

I've always loved Alma's description of the process of gaining spiritual knowledge, when it begins to "enlighten my understanding" and then "beginneth to be delicious to me." True learning, in the best way, is very delicious and soul-satisfying!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ronald A. Rasband on discipleship of Christ through service to others

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. This talk was given when he served in the presidency of the Seventy.
"Jesus Christ continues to extend the call 'Come and follow me' (Matthew 19:21). He walked His homeland with His followers in a selfless manner. He continues to walk with us, stand by us, and lead us. To follow His perfect example is to recognize and honor the Savior, who has borne all of our burdens through His sacred and saving Atonement, the ultimate act of service. What He asks of each one of us is to be able and willing to take up the joyful 'burden' of discipleship....
"Reaching out to rescue one another, under any condition, is an eternal measure of love....
"Often we are given the opportunity to help others in their time of need. As members of the Church, we each have the sacred responsibility 'to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light' (Mosiah 18:8), 'to mourn with those that mourn' (Mosiah 18:9), and to 'lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees' (D&C 81:5)....
"Focusing on serving our brothers and sisters can guide us to make divine decisions in our daily lives and prepares us to value and love what the Lord loves. In so doing, we witness by our very lives that we are His disciples. When we are engaged in His work, we feel His Spirit with us. We grow in testimony, faith, trust, and love."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "The Joyful Burden of Discipleship," Ensign, May 2014, pp. 9-11
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Rasband invited us all to heed Jesus' call, "Come and follow me." He then taught about one important interpretation of that invitation. Jesus spent His earthly life in unselfish service to his followers and others. If we are going to follow as His disciples, we will do the same. Serving, rescuing, helping, blessing—all are ways we can show that discipleship.

I appreciated the additional encouragement of the blessings that come when we truly follow that divine example. We will receive help as we "make divine decisions" from day to day, "feel His Spirit with us," and "grow in testimony, faith, trust, and love."  Wonderful blessings!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Neil L. Andersen on growing strong to survive the storms 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.
"In nature, trees that grow up in a windy environment become stronger. As winds whip around a young sapling, forces inside the tree do two things. First, they stimulate the roots to grow faster and spread farther. Second, the forces in the tree start creating cell structures that actually make the trunk and branches thicker and more flexible to the pressure of the wind. These stronger roots and branches protect the tree from winds that are sure to return.
"You are infinitely more precious to God than a tree. You are His son or His daughter. He made your spirit strong and capable of being resilient to the whirlwinds of life. The whirlwinds in your youth, like the wind against a young tree, can increase your spiritual strength, preparing you for the years ahead.
"How do you prepare for your whirlwinds? 'Remember... it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, ... his shafts in the whirlwind, ... when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power... to drag you down... because of the rock upon which ye are built.' (Helaman 5:12.) This is your safety in the whirlwind."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Spiritual Whirlwinds," Ensign, May 2014, pp. 18-21
Click here to view the full article

I've seen many trees like the ones Elder Andersen describes—exposed to strong and frequent winds, and grown resilient and stronger in the process. In addressing youth, he explains how much more precious they are to God than any of His other creations; and so He provides opportunities for them to grow and strengthen as well.

The key in this analogy is how to best respond to the "whirlwinds" that will come into our lives, in order to be strengthened instead of swept away. The key lies in the admonition given in Helaman: be firmly planted on the rock of the Redeemer.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

D. Todd Christofferson on God's eternal justice and mercy

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (b. January 24, 1945) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"The gospel of Jesus Christ opens the path to what we may become. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His grace, our failures to live the celestial law perfectly and consistently in mortality can be erased and we are enabled to develop a Christlike character. Justice demands, however, that none of this happen without our willing agreement and participation. It has ever been so. Our very presence on earth as physical beings is the consequence of a choice each of us made to participate in our Father’s plan. Thus, salvation is certainly not the result of divine whim, but neither does it happen by divine will alone. (See D&C 93:29-31.)
"Justice is an essential attribute of God. We can have faith in God because He is perfectly trustworthy. The scriptures teach us that 'God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round' (D&C 3:2) and that 'God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). We rely on the divine quality of justice for faith, confidence, and hope....
"It is compelling evidence of His justice that God has forged the companion principle of mercy. It is because He is just that He devised the means for mercy to play its indispensable role in our eternal destiny. So now, 'justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own' (Alma 42:24)."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Free Forever To Act For Themselves," Ensign, November 2014, pp. 16-19
Click here to read the full article

If the "gospel of Jesus Christ opens the path to what we may become," then the Atonement and the grace it provides enable us to move along that path toward the eventual glorious destiny. In the interplay of justice and mercy, that progress occurs beautifully.

It's interesting to ponder the fact that justice really is required for this plan. As Elder Christofferson points out, we are blessed to know that we can trust God's word because justice is one of His "essential attributes" — and we rely on that knowledge of His eternal justice in order to have faith in Him, confidence in His promises, and hope for eternity.

But then Elder Christofferson teaches that it is because He is just and true, that God would ensure the "companion principle of mercy" is also available to us.

But the bottom line is that "none of this [can] happen without our willing agreement and participation." It is eternally up to us to choose to participate fully in God's eternal plan of happiness for us.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Harold B. Lee on hearing the voice of the Lord

President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1941. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1970-1972, then as Church president from July 1972 until his passing less than 18 months later in December 1973.
"The Lord is standing outside of the doors of the souls of every one of us, even as He said to John: 'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me' (Revelation 3:20). It isn't the Lord who keeps Himself away from us. We are the ones that keep ourselves away from the Lord and the Holy Ghost. When we learn to love completely His gospel, then we will be prepared to live in His presence....
"Wouldn't you like to so live that when God spoke you would be able to hear it, or to be able to be worthy to have a visitation from an angelic visitor, or perhaps to be ready to go into the presence of the Lord? The Lord told us how we could be ready. Here He said in a great revelation these words: 'Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am' (D&C 93:1).
"When the voice came from the heavens to the people in the land Bountiful they heard it not. It was just to them a confusion of noises, and when they tuned their hearts they could hear words but they couldn't understand; but when with all their hearts and minds they concentrated upon it, then the voice could be understood. (See 3 Nephi 11:3-5.)"
- Harold B. Lee, concluding address at the organization of the Andes Mission, Lima Peru, 1 Nov 1959; see THBL p. 429

President Lee presents a beautiful application of the familiar verse from Revelation: the Lord is standing outside the door of our souls, waiting for us to open to Him. Too often, we are the ones who fail to open the door.

The next question President Lee asks is challenging and thrilling: "Wouldn't you like to so live that when God spoke you would be able to hear it?" I've always loved the description of the people in Bountiful who heard a voice from heaven but were not able to comprehend its words until they focused their attention on it; when surrounded by distractions, we must put forth the effort to drown out the distractions and narrow in on what matters most. The guidance of the Lord in D&C 93:1 is profound; we must

  • forsake sin
  • come unto Him
  • call on His name
  • obey His voice
  • keep His commandments
Only then do we fully receive the divine blessings waiting for us!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Quentin L. Cook on overcoming doubts and concerns through the Atonement

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"We recognize that some members have questions and concerns as they seek to strengthen their faith and testimonies. We should be careful not to be critical or judgmental of those with concerns—great or small. At the same time, those with concerns should do everything they can to build their own faith and testimony. Patiently and humbly studying, pondering, praying, living gospel principles, and counseling with appropriate leaders are the best ways to resolve questions or concerns.
"Some have asserted that more members are leaving the Church today and that there is more doubt and unbelief than in the past. This is simply not true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never been stronger. The number of members removing their names from the records of the Church has always been very small and is significantly less in recent years than in the past. The increase in demonstrably measurable areas, such as endowed members with a current temple recommend, adult full-tithe payers, and those serving missions, has been dramatic. Let me say again, the Church has never been stronger. But, 'remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God' (D&C 18:10). We reach out to everyone.
"If the grim realities you are facing at this time seem dark and heavy and almost unbearable, remember that in the soul-wrenching darkness of Gethsemane and the incomprehensible torture and pain of Calvary, the Savior accomplished the Atonement, which resolves the most terrible burdens that can occur in this life. He did it for you, and He did it for me. He did it because He loves us and because He obeys and loves His Father."
- Quentin L. Cook, "The Lord Is My Light," Ensign, May 2015, pp. 62-66
Click here to read the full article

I appreciated Elder Cook's timely address. He speaks to those who might have questions or concerns as they learn about the Church and develop their testimonies. He encouraged proper inquiry and open honesty in resolving the concerns, while reassuring his listeners that the Church is strong and growing, not suffering from massive departures as some have claimed.

As he spoke of the "grim realities" being faced by members that might feel "dark and heavy," it was interesting to note that he was talking in the context of those "questions and concerns" and not the myriad other challenges we might face in mortality. Some who struggle with their testimonies feel more of the weight of that doubt than many of us realize. Yet Elder Cook presents the Atonement as the source of strength and hope in this situation too:

"He did it for you, and He did it for me. He did it because He loves us and because He obeys and loves His Father." How beautiful, how true, how glorious!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

David A. Bednar on overcoming fear through Christ's peace

Elder David A. Bednar (b. 1952) was sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2004.
"Correct knowledge of and faith in the Lord empower us to hush our fears because Jesus Christ is the only source of enduring peace. He declared, 'Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me' (D&C 19:23).
"The Master also explained, 'He who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come' (D&C 59:23).
"Trust and confidence in Christ and a ready reliance on His merits, mercy, and grace lead to hope, through His Atonement, in the Resurrection and eternal life (see Moroni 7:41). Such faith and hope invite into our lives the sweet peace of conscience for which we all yearn. The power of the Atonement makes repentance possible and quells the despair caused by sin; it also strengthens us to see, do, and become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. Truly, one of the great blessings of devoted discipleship is 'the peace of God, which passeth all understanding' (Philippians 4:7).
"The peace Christ gives allows us to view mortality through the precious perspective of eternity and supplies a spiritual settledness (see Colossians 1:23) that helps us maintain a consistent focus on our heavenly destination. Thus, we can be blessed to hush our fears because His doctrine provides purpose and direction in all aspects of our lives. His ordinances and covenants fortify and comfort in times both good and bad. And His priesthood authority gives assurance that the things that matter most can endure both in time and in eternity."
- David A. Bednar, "Therefore They Hushed Their Fears," Ensign, May 2015, pp. 46-49
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Bednar's talk is based on an incident recorded in Mosiah 23:27–28 during which a group of Nephites were greatly frightened by an enemy army threatening them. But with reassurance and encouragement from their prophet-leader Alma, they "hushed their fears" and were able to confront the situation. It's a beautiful, clear message about the power of faith in the midst of opposition. We all seek for that "enduring peace" that is possible only when "correct knowledge" joins with "faith in the Lord."

Through the strength that comes through Christ, we find "spiritual settledness" because "His doctrine provides purpose and direction in all aspects of our lives." How critical is the Savior's invitation to us:  "Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me" (D&C 19:23). I love the powerful, active verbs: learn, listen walk. Once we do our part, then we find peace in Him.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Howard W. Hunter on the Lord's promise of "heavenly help"

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.
"All of us face times in our lives when we need heavenly help in a special and urgent way. We all have moments when we are overwhelmed by circumstances or confused by the counsel we get from others, and we feel a great need to receive spiritual guidance, a great need to find the right path and do the right thing. In the scriptural preface to this latter-day dispensation, the Lord promised that if we would be humble in such times of need and turn to him for aid, we would 'be made strong, and [be] blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.' (D&C 1:28.) That help is ours if we will but seek it, trust in it, and follow what King Benjamin, in the Book of Mormon, called 'the enticings of the Holy Spirit.' (Mosiah 3:19.)
"Perhaps no promise in life is more reassuring than that promise of divine assistance and spiritual guidance in times of need. It is a gift freely given from heaven, a gift that we need from our earliest youth through the very latest days of our lives."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Blessed From On High," Ensign, Nov. 1988, p. 59
Click here to read the full talk

I certainly know about those times in life "when we need heavenly help in a special and urgent way." President Hunter is right that such times come to us all, eventually, to some degree. It helps immensely if we are comfortable and familiar with the process of how to "receive spiritual guidance" already. Then we need only to "be humble" and "turn to him" in our sincerity.

I know that the promised help, what President Hunter calls the most reassuring promise of all, is real and is truly a gift from God.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Jeffrey R. Holland on the power and blessing of the Savior's Atonement

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.
"Prophesying of the Savior’s Atonement, Isaiah wrote, 'He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows' (Isaiah 53:4). A majestic latter-day vision emphasized that '[Jesus] came into the world ... to bear the sins of the world' (D&C 76:41). Both ancient and modern scripture testify that 'he redeemed them, and bore them, and carried them all the days of old' (D&C 133:53; see also Isaiah 63:9). A favorite hymn pleads with us to 'hear your great Deliv’rer’s voice!' (“Israel, Israel, God Is Calling,” Hymns, no. 7.)
"Bear, borne, carry, deliver. These are powerful, heartening messianic words. They convey help and hope for safe movement from where we are to where we need to be—but cannot get without assistance. These words also connote burden, struggle, and fatigue—words most appropriate in describing the mission of Him who, at unspeakable cost, lifts us up when we have fallen, carries us forward when strength is gone, delivers us safely home when safety seems far beyond our reach. 'My Father sent me,' He said, 'that I might be lifted up upon the cross; ... that as I have been lifted up ... even so should men be lifted up ... to ... me.' (3 Nephi 27:14.)"
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Behold Thy Mother," Ensign, November 2015, pp. 47-50
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Holland identifies some "Messianic words"— "Bear, borne, carry, deliver" — strong verbs that convey a tender meaning. I've never considered the thought of a Messianic word; a very interesting concept. And the power in those words lies in their ability to bless us; to bring hope, help, and progress, for all things we are unable to do for ourselves, but cannot do without assistance.

What a powerful testimony of a loving Redeemer!

The beauty of this excerpt is that Elder Holland then goes on to talk, in a most tender tribute, about how mothers act in the same spirit to bless lives.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Robert D. Hales on the Lord's help in our trials and temptations

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.
"One of the purposes of the scriptures is to show us how righteous people respond to temptation and evil. In short, they avoid it! Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife (see Genesis 39). Lehi took his family and left Jerusalem (see 1 Nephi 2). Mary and Joseph fled into Egypt to escape Herod’s wicked plot (see Matthew 2). In every instance, Heavenly Father warned these believers.
"Similarly, He will help us know whether to fight, flee, or go with the flow of our unfolding circumstances. He will speak to us through prayer, and when we pray, we will have the Holy Ghost, who will guide us. We have the scriptures, the teachings of living prophets, patriarchal blessings, the counsel of inspired parents, priesthood and auxiliary leaders, and, above all, the still, small voice of the Spirit.
"The Lord will always keep His promise: 'I will lead you along' (D&C 78:18). The only question is, will we let ourselves be led? Will we hear His voice and the voice of His servants?
"I testify that if you are there for the Lord, He will be there for you (see D&C 88:63). If you love Him and keep His commandments, you will have His Spirit to be with you and guide you. 'Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good.... By this shall you know, all things... pertaining unto things of righteousness' (D&C 11:12, 14)."
- Robert D. Hales, "Meeting the Challenges of Today's World," Ensign, November 2015, pp. 44-47
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Hales teaches us to ponder how we respond to temptation and evil. Often, the most appropriate response is to "flee" — do all we can to avoid the problem. But there are times when we might be inspired to "fight" instead, confronting a circumstance. Only through proper channels of guidance and inspiration can such a decision be properly made.

But the eternally reassuring thing is that we never have to deal with challenges alone. God has promised His help and support, if we are willing to receive it.

"If you are there for the Lord, He will be there for you." That's a wonderful promise!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

M. Russell Ballard on the joyful Sabbath Day

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.
"The recent emphasis of making the Sabbath a delight is a direct result of inspiration from the Lord through the leaders of the Church....
"All of us are blessed when the Sabbath is filled with love for the Lord at home and at church. When our children are taught in the ways of the Lord, they learn to feel and to respond to His Spirit. We will all desire to attend each Sunday to partake of the sacrament when we feel the Spirit of the Lord. And all, young and old, who are carrying heavy burdens will feel the spiritual uplift and comfort that comes from a Sabbath day of devoted contemplation of our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Thankfully, Christ is always near, waiting and willing to help us when we pray for help and are willing to repent and come unto Him."
- M. Russell Ballard, "God is at the Helm," Ensign, November 2015, pp. 24-27
Click here to read the full talk

What a blessing the Sabbath day is — truly a gift from God to man! And like all gifts, it can be received or ignored. Elder Ballard mentions several ways we actively receive that gift. When "the Sabbath is filled with love for the Lord" then we are richly blessed.

I particularly like the statement, "And all, young and old, who are carrying heavy burdens will feel the spiritual uplift and comfort that comes from a Sabbath day of devoted contemplation of our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." I have truly felt that, and am grateful for the blessings that come when the gift of the Sabbath is received. How blessed we are that "Christ is always near" when we are willing to invite Him into our lives!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Dallin H. Oaks on strength from Christ to heal or to endure

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.
"At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus explained that He was sent 'to heal the brokenhearted' (Luke 4:18). The Bible often tells us of His healing people 'of their infirmities' (Luke 5:15; 7:21). The Book of Mormon records His healing those 'that were afflicted in any manner' (3 Nephi 17:9). The Gospel of Matthew explains that Jesus healed the people 'that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses' (Matthew 8:17).
"Isaiah taught that the Messiah would bear our 'griefs' and our 'sorrows' (Isaiah 53:4). Isaiah also taught of His strengthening us: 'Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee' (Isaiah 41:10).
"Thus, we sing:
   Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
   For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
   I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, …
   Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

   ('How Firm a Foundation,' Hymns, no. 85.)
"Speaking of some of his own mortal challenges, the Apostle Paul wrote, 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me' (Philippians 4:13).
"And so we see that because of His Atonement, the Savior has the power to succor—to help—every mortal pain and affliction. Sometimes His power heals an infirmity, but the scriptures and our experiences teach that sometimes He succors or helps by giving us the strength or patience to endure our infirmities."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Strengthened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ," Ensign, November 2015, pp. 61-64
Click here to read the full talk

The message of the Savior's gospel is one of healing: of "infirmities" as well as the heart, our sorrows and our mourning. I love that reassuring, hope-filled, faith-filled verse from "How Firm a Foundation" that is drawn almost word-for-word from Isaiah's declaration. And what can match Paul's ringing witness of his confidence in help:

So the divine help is offered to all of us, to heal and to help. This second perspective of succoring through trials is also faith-affirming:

We don't get to choose whether we are healed, or whether we are strengthened to endure for a season. But the eventual outcome will be the same!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Russell M. Nelson on the need for faithful, converted, courageous women

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.
"Attacks against the Church, its doctrine, and our way of life are going to increase. Because of this, we need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation. We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity. We need women who have the courage and vision of our Mother Eve.
"My dear sisters, nothing is more crucial to your eternal life than your own conversion. It is converted, covenant-keeping women—women like my dear wife Wendy—whose righteous lives will increasingly stand out in a deteriorating world and who will thus be seen as different and distinct in the happiest of ways.
"So today I plead with my sisters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to step forward! Take your rightful and needful place in your home, in your community, and in the kingdom of God—more than you ever have before.... And I promise you in the name of Jesus Christ that as you do so, the Holy Ghost will magnify your influence in an unprecedented way!"
- Russell M. Nelson, "A Plea to My Sisters," Ensign, November 2015, pp. 95-97
Click here to read the full talk

President Nelson gave a wonderful talk addressed to the women of the Church in the recent conference, sharing some expectations and challenges with them. In this segment, he foresaw increasing opposition to the Church and its doctrines as the difference between the approaches of world and the Church becomes more clear. His was a call for women to rise up with intelligence and spirit as defenders of the truth, as teachers of youth, and as examples of righteousness. I am blessed to know many women who are living examples of the actions and spirit President Nelson hopes all will exemplify.

So much depends on personal conversion and the subsequent actions of discipleship. "It is converted, covenant-keeping women... whose righteous  lives will increasingly stand out in a deteriorating world and who will thus be seen as different and distinct in the happiest of ways."

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