Monday, February 29, 2016

David A. Bednar on improving the quality of personal prayer

Elder David A. Bednar (b. 1952) was serving as the president of BYU–Idaho when he was called and sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2004.
"Discerning and accepting the will of God in our lives are fundamental elements of asking in faith in meaningful prayer. However, simply saying the words 'Thy will be done' is not enough. Each of us needs God's help in surrendering our will to Him.
"'Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other' (Bible Dictionary, 'Prayer,' 752-53). Humble, earnest, and persistent prayer enables us to recognize and align ourselves with the will of our Heavenly Father. And in this the Savior provided the perfect example as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, 'saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. ... And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly' (Luke 22:42, 44).
"The object of our prayers should not be to present a wish list or a series of requests but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is eager to bestow, according to His will and timing. Every sincere prayer is heard and answered by our Heavenly Father, but the answers we receive may not be what we expect or come to us when we want or in the way we anticipate....
"Prayer is a privilege and the soul's sincere desire. We can move beyond routine and 'checklist' prayers and engage in meaningful prayer as we appropriately ask in faith and act, as we patiently persevere through the trial of our faith, and as we humbly acknowledge and accept 'not my will, but Thine, be done.'"
- David A. Bednar, "Ask in Faith," Ensign, May 2008, pp. 94-97
Click here to read the full talk

This is a very thought-provoking excerpt for me. I was blessed by Elder Bednar's exploration of motivation and purpose for our prayers. I've always appreciated the descriptions in the Bible Dictionary about prayer being "a form of work"; Elder Bednar quotes a portion of this paragraph:
"Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them. Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them. Prayer is a form of work and is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings." (Bible Dictionary, s.v. 'Prayer')
This is a great key: our real goal in prayer is not to change God's will, or "talk Him into" our way of thinking how things should turn out; but instead to help us discover God's will for us, so that we can mold our thoughts and actions to that purpose.

There may be no better lesson of the true value and blessing of prayer in time of need, than that simple phrase Luke includes in his description of the Garden Prayer: "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly." And again, the increase of intensity of prayer was not to change the direction of events, but to secure the Father's blessings and strength to enable the One praying to comply with the Father's will and purpose. What a perfect example to strive to follow!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Robert D. Hales on choosing to be in God's kingdom

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.
"By choosing to be in His kingdom, we separate—not isolate—ourselves from the world. Our dress will be modest, our thoughts pure, our language clean. The movies and television we watch, the music we listen to, the books, magazines, and newspapers we read will be uplifting. We will choose friends who encourage our eternal goals, and we will treat others with kindness. We will shun the vices of immorality, gambling, tobacco, liquor, and illicit drugs. Our Sunday activities will reflect the commandment of God to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. We will follow the example of Jesus Christ in the way we treat others. We will live to be worthy to enter the house of the Lord.
"We will be examples 'of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity' (1 Tim. 4:12).
"We will receive 'a mighty change... in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.' We will keep our 'covenant with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things... all the remainder of our days' (Mosiah 5:2, 5).
"We will demonstrate that we 'are desirous to... be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light;
"'Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort' (Mosiah 18:8-9)."
- Robert D. Hales, "The Covenant of Baptism: To Be in the Kingdom and of the Kingdom," Ensign, Nov. 2000, pp. 6-9
Click here to read the full talk

This is an interesting analysis of some of the characteristics that should follow "believers in Christ" as they become distinguished from the world. Elder Hales is clear to point out that those who choose to be in His kingdom are separated from the world, but not isolated; it's important that these differences be allowed to "shine" amid the darkness. They include:

  • Modest dress
  • Pure thoughts
  • Clean language
  • Uplifting choices in entertainment
  • Friends who share eternal goals
  • Treating all with kindness
  • Shunning worldly vices
  • Keeping the Sabbath Day holy
  • Be Christlike in our relationships with others
  • Be worthy of temple worship and service
  • Demonstrate the "mighty change" of heart that results in doing good continually
  • Bear the burdens of others eagerly
  • Mourn together with those who mourn
It's an impressive list, and a good invitation to self-examination!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

M. Russell Ballard on evaluating our commitment to the Savior

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.
"As I read and ponder the scriptures and carefully consider the Lord's counsel to His followers in every dispensation of time, it appears to me that the most important thing every one of us can do is to examine our own commitment and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. We must carefully guard against spiritual apathy and work to maintain the full measure of our loving loyalty to the Lord....
"Each one of us needs to follow Nephi's counsel to 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. [For] if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life' (2 Ne. 31:20). The power of the Holy Ghost will fill our hearts and minds as we look to the Savior for answers to the many challenges of life.
"Therefore, my brothers and sisters, it is important that we each know for ourselves that Jesus is the Christ and that He has restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith the fulness of His everlasting gospel. As we press forward in His service, spiritual experiences will increase our faith, and we will find great joy. Our understanding of the essential doctrines and eternal truths that have been restored will become a firm foundation of our faith."
- M. Russell Ballard, "How Is It With Us?", Ensign, May 2000, pp. 31-33
Click here to read the full talk

What is "the most important thing every one of us can do"? That question certainly could be answered a number of ways in different contexts. Elder Ballard pondered the scriptures and the Lord's counsel and concluded that the answer relates to our devotion to the Savior and His teachings, "our loving loyalty to the Lord," as described here:

Elder Ballard promises that when we face challenges in life, "as we look to the Savior for answers" then "the power of the Holy Ghost will fill our hearts and minds." That promise is very real, and that gift should be earnestly sought by all. We must seek diligently and "press forward" faithfully in spite of any difficulty or apparent obstacle. In the seeking for knowledge and understanding, we not only find "great joy" in this life, but we establish a foundation for faith on which we can build solidly.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Dallin H. Oaks on surviving in times of commotion

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.
"We are living in the prophesied time 'when peace shall be taken from the earth' (D&C 1:35), when 'all things shall be in commotion' and 'men's hearts shall fail them' (D&C 88:91). There are many temporal causes of commotion, including wars and natural disasters, but an even greater cause of current 'commotion' is spiritual.
"Viewing our surroundings through the lens of faith and with an eternal perspective, we see all around us a fulfillment of the prophecy that 'the devil shall have power over his own dominion' (D&C 1:35). Our hymn describes 'the foe in countless numbers, / Marshaled in the ranks of sin' ('Hope of Israel,' Hymns, no. 259), and so it is....
"We are surrounded by challenges on all sides (see 2 Cor. 4:8-9). But with faith in God, we trust the blessings He has promised those who keep His commandments. We have faith in the future, and we are preparing for that future. To borrow a metaphor from the familiar world of athletic competitions, we do not know when this game will end, and we do not know the final score, but we do know that when the game finally ends, our team wins. We will continue to go forward 'till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done' (History of the Church, 4:540)."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Preparation for the Second Coming," Ensign, May 2004, pp. 7-9
Click here to read the full talk

"Temporal commotion" is a bad enough problem, when we see so much confusion in the world around us. But "spiritual commotion" is a much more serious concern, since the consequences are more severe.

Elder Oaks advises us to deal with those challenges by "viewing our surroundings through the lens of faith and with an eternal perspective." What seems to be so confusing and threatening, often becomes rather trivial in that context. Ultimately, we know what the outcome will be, if we choose wisely:

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Russell M. Nelson on living with joy in the Gospel

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.
"The gospel of Jesus Christ offers hope... It declares joy to be part of our divine destiny. And to experience joy in the morning becomes our special challenge. The true test... is to be able to look in the mirror, first thing in the morning, and feel real joy.
"In order to experience true joy in the morning, or at any time, at least three factors are needed. You need to feel good about the people with whom you live and work—your companions in life. You must feel good about yourself—not in any sense of conceit, but simply a proper esteem for yourself, well deserved. And possibly most important, you must feel good about your relation to God and sincerely love him."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Joy Cometh in the Morning," Ensign, November 1986, pp. 67-69
Click here to read the full talk

"Hope" and "joy" are so often linked together. President Nelson talks about the concept of “Joy cometh in the morning" (Ps. 30:5) — often symbolically following a difficult night of challenges. It's sometimes a hard time to find hope; but through the Gospel, that hope can come, along with the promised joy. As we "look in the mirror" or consider our own personal progress and status, do we find joy? Are we proud of what we see, who we are?

So then President Nelson offers counsel on how to find "true joy" — in the morning, or at any other time. He identifies three area where we need to feel good, or feel at peace, in order to find hope and joy. Good things to consider; is there something I need to work on?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Dieter F. Uchtdorf on rejoicing in a simplified life

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (b. 1940) served as a Seventy from 1994-2004, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve.  He has served as second counselor in the First Presidency since 2008.
"Brothers and sisters, indeed we have great reason to rejoice. If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most.
"Strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most.
"Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Of Things That Matter Most," Ensign November 2010, pp. 19-22
Click here to read the full talk

President Uchtdorf addresses some of the real-life challenges we often face—confronting "life and its rushed pace and many stresses" that can make things "difficult for you to feel like rejoicing." The key is to learn to "refocus on what matters most," and our ability to rejoice will return.

The encouragement to "simplify our lives a little" is especially valuable. As we learn to limit our priority and attention to those "things that matter most" we will find that the ability to discover and maintain joy in our lives increases. Wise counsel!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Henry B. Eyring on meaningful scripture study and sincere personal prayer

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.
"Joseph Smith's mission was unique, yet his humble prayer can be a helpful model for us. He began, as we must, with faith in a loving God who can and wants to communicate with us and help us. That faith was rooted in impressions which came to him as he pondered the words of God's servants in the scriptures. We can and must go often and carefully to the word of God. If we become casual in our study of the scriptures, we will become casual in our prayers.
"We may not cease to pray, but our prayers will become more repetitive, more mechanical, lacking real intent. Our hearts cannot be drawn out to a God we do not know, and the scriptures and the words of living prophets help us know Him. As we know Him better, we love Him more....
"If you ponder the scriptures and begin to do what you covenanted with God to do, I can promise you that you will feel more love for God and more of His love for you. And with that, your prayers will come from the heart, full of thanks and of pleading. You will feel a greater dependence on God. You will find the courage and the determination to act in His service, without fear and with peace in your heart. You will pray always. And you will not forget Him, no matter what the future brings."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Prayer," Ensign, Nov. 2001, pp. 15-17
Click here to read the full talk

President Eyring urged us to learn from the example of Joseph Smith, whose humble prayer was inspired by reading and pondering the scriptures, linked with "faith in a loving God who can and wants to communicate with us and help us." With that premise, study of the scriptures becomes an important catalyst to improve our prayers:

President Eyring promises that sincere, heartfelt study of the scriptures will lead to greater love of God, and to feeling more of His love for us. Then our prayers become more meaningful, "full of thanks and of pleading" as we understand our dependence on God and His willingness to bless and help. There are so many benefits that come; why would we hesitate?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Thomas S. Monson on overcoming the challenges of life

President Monson (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.
"Life is full of difficulties, some minor and others of a more serious nature. There seems to be an unending supply of challenges for one and all. Our problem is that we often expect instantaneous solutions to such challenges, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required....
"Today in our hurried and hectic lives, we could well go back to an earlier time for the lesson taught us regarding crossing dangerous streets. 'Stop, look, and listen' were the watchwords. Could we not apply them now? Stop from a reckless road to ruin. Look upward for heavenly help. Listen for His invitation: 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' (Matt. 11:28)."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Patience, a Heavenly Virtue," Ensign, Sept. 2002, pp. 2-7
Click here to read the full talk

"Life is full of difficulties" — most of us can testify to that proposition. They do vary in severity, as President Monson comments, but that "unending supply of challenges" does continue to present itself to us, inviting us to learn patience as we strive to endure and resolve the problems presented in our specific and individual situation.

The lesson is always in considering how we respond to the challenges. Do we let them drive us to despair and alienation, or do we let them lead us to faith and confidence? President Monson, in his inimitable style, gives guidance on how to channel our responses to the best possible outcome. It involves stopping ourselves from following the path of natural reaction that could lead to greater problems; then learning to invoke divine help as we turn to God and allow him to strengthen us in the time of need. It is only in Him that we find rest and peace.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Jeffrey R. Holland on what it means to "abide" in the Savior

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (1940- ) served as Church Commissioner of Education from 1976-1980, as the president of BYU from 1980-1989, as a Seventy from 1989-1994, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1994.
"Christ said, 'I am the true vine, and … ye are the branches' (John 15:1, 5). 'Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me' (John 15:4).
"'Abide in me' is an understandable and beautiful enough concept in the elegant English of the King James Bible, but 'abide' is not a word we use much anymore. So I gained even more appreciation for this admonition from the Lord when I was introduced to the translation of this passage in another language. In Spanish that familiar phrase is rendered 'permaneced en mi.' Like the English verb 'abide,' 'permanecer' means 'to remain, to stay,' but even gringos like me can hear the root cognate there of 'permanence.' The sense of this then is 'stay—but stay forever.' That is the call of the gospel message to Chileans and everyone else in the world. Come, but come to remain. Come with conviction and endurance. Come permanently, for your sake and the sake of all the generations who must follow you, and we will help each other be strong to the very end."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Abide in Me," Ensign, May 2004, pp. 30-32
Click here to read the full talk

I love the hymn "Abide With Me." Its message and melody are sweet, simple, and moving. It's a plea for the Savior to abide with us in in our trials and challenges.
Abide with me! fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens. Lord, with me abide!
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!
Hymns #166
But abiding is a two-way street, as Elder Holland explains. The Savior invited us to abide in Him. Perhaps as we learn to do that, then He is more able to abide with us. Elder Holland's beautiful explanation of our role in doing that is that we need to establish a permanent relationship as we come unto Him.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

L. Tom Perry on dealing with challenges in life

Elder L. Tom Perry (1922-2015) 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.
"The Lord is very kind. Even though some experiences are hard, he floods your mind with memories and gives you other opportunities. Life doesn’t end just because you have a tragedy—there’s a new mountain to climb. Don’t spend a lot of time sulking over what you’ve lost. Get on with climbing the next mountain."
- L. Tom Perry, remarks in his online biography responding to challenges in his own life
Click here to read the full article
This is a wonderful short quote, full of faith and hope, along with the beautiful imagery of mountains (especially meaningful to me personally!).  Elder Perry shared this in the context of having his first wife pass away from cancer and losing other close family members. All of us have experiences from time to time that are hard to deal with. But if we truly trust in God, He will "flood [our] mind with memories" and bless us with new opportunities. Sometimes it's that new opportunity, following the trial, that is the greatest blessing. We just have to keep climbing the mountains that appear before us!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Parley P. Pratt on the purifying gift of the Holy Ghost

Elder Parley P. Pratt (1807-1857) was converted by the Book of Mormon and joined the Church in 1830, a few months after it was organized. He was one of first twelve men ordained apostles in 1835, and served in that assignment until his death in 1857 at age 50. He was known as a dynamic and powerful missionary, and his writings helped establish the philosophical and doctrinal foundation of Mormon doctrine.
"An intelligent being, in the image of God, possesses every organ, attribute, sense, sympathy, affection, of will, wisdom, love, power and gift, which is possessed by God himself.
"But these are possessed by man in his rudimental state in a subordinate sense of the word. Or, in other words, these attributes are in embryo, and are to be gradually developed. They resemble a bud, a germ, which gradually develops into bloom, and then, by progress, produces the mature fruit after its own kind.
"The gift of the Holy Ghost adapts itself to all these organs or attributes. It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passions and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being."
- Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology [Deseret 1978], p. 61

What does it mean to be a child of God, created in the image of God? Elder Pratt considers that question and shares these insights. A child of God possesses all the attributes and qualities of God "in embryo" — to be "gradually developed" until they are fully expressed. The implication is that our goal and purpose in life are to "by progress" work towards the full realization of those attributes as we become like Him.  I love this testimony of Mormon:
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen. (Moroni 7:48; see also 1 John 3:2)
And then, in beautiful language, Elder Pratt describes the role of the Holy Ghost in the development and enhancement of those attributes. It "adapts" to our bodies and spirits to become a catalyst of sorts, enabling and quickening the development of the attributes of God in our lives.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Heber C. Kimball on the need for personal spiritual experiences

President Heber C. Kimball (1801-1868) was a member of the first Quorum of Twelve Apostles ordained in this dispensation in 1835. He served as first counselor to Brigham Young from 1847 until his death in 1868 at age 67. He was the grandfather of Spencer W. Kimball, who became an apostle in 1943 and served as president of the Church from 1973-1985. His great-great-grandson, Quentin L. Cook, currently serves as an apostle.
"Let me say to you, that many of you will see the time when you will have all the trouble, trial and persecution that you can stand, and plenty of opportunities to show that you are true to God and his work. This Church has before it many close places through which it will have to pass before the work of God is crowned with victory. To meet the difficulties that are coming, it will be necessary for you to have a knowledge of the truth of this work for yourselves. The difficulties will be of such a character that the man or woman who does not possess this personal knowledge or witness will fall. If you have not got the testimony, live right and call upon the Lord and cease not till you obtain it. If you do not you will not stand.
"Remember these sayings, for many of you will live to see them fulfilled. The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand? ... You will be left to the light within yourselves.  If you don't have it you will not stand; therefore seek for the testimony of Jesus and cleave to it, that when the trying time comes you may not stumble and fall."
- Heber C. Kimball, remarks given in the Old Tabernacle in 1867; see Life of Heber C. Kimball, pp. 449-451

Many of his contemporaries commented on Heber C. Kimball's gift of prophecy and his understanding of the Gospel plan. Brigham Young himself said on more than one occasion, "Heber is my prophet, and I love to hear him prophesy." Heber knew about the Gospel's promises and blessings; but he also warned and cautioned on many occasions about the tests and challenges that the people would have to face in the future.

I've always been impressed by this particular insight; in order to "meet the difficulties that are coming," it becomes crucial to have a personal knowledge of the truth of God's work on earth. We can't borrow spiritual light from others; we must have our own.

The critical invitation is to strengthen our own light, to make sure it's burning bright within our hearts and minds so that we are ready for whatever challenges come.

At a regional Priesthood meeting some years ago, I learned a further insight regarding this principle from Robert J. Matthews, who taught religion for many years at BYU and then served as the president of the Mount Timpanogos Temple. Referring to President Kimball's caution about borrowing light from others, he cautioned about borrowing light from ourselves. He said when we are living in the light of previous spiritual experiences and not having ongoing, current experiences, we're effectively borrowing light from our past, and may have only the "memory of a testimony" instead of a living, dynamic one. So that's an even more urgent reminder of the need to be continually strengthening the light that burns in our hearts!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Marion G. Romney on keeping hope strong amid challenges

President Marion G. Romney (1897-1988) was born in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. He was ordained an apostle in 1951 and served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1972 to 1985. After the death of President Spencer W. Kimball, President Romney was released and returned to serve in the Quorum of Twelve until his death in 1988.
"The theme I have chosen for these remarks I have taken from a jingle we used to sing in the army back in 1918 when things looked gloomy. It began:
"'There's a silver lining / Through the dark clouds shining.' (Lena Guilbert Ford.)
"This I have done because although there is presently a widespread foreboding of difficult times ahead, I am persuaded that there is 'a silver lining' to our predicament and that 'behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.' ('The Present Crisis,' James Russell Lowell.) ...
"As the Lord has repeatedly warned that breaking His commandments would bring on calamity, so has He promised that observance of His commandments would avert calamity and bring blessings....
"That we shall in full faith, relying upon these assurances, so keep the commandments that we shall be sustained by the knowledge that 'behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own' would be my fervent hope."
- Marion G. Romney, "A Silver Lining," Ensign, May 1977, p. 53
Click here to read the full article

Prophets tend to be optimists, and always encourage hope and confidence in their followers. In spite of "widespread foreboding of difficult times ahead" that President Romney sensed almost 40 years ago, he knew that God was in charge, and that things would work out. And while we may sense the same "foreboding" today, we can benefit from his encouragement and by remembering that obedience and faith will bring the blessings of God to our lives.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Marvin J. Ashton on charity

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.
"Charity is, perhaps, in many ways a misunderstood word. We often equate charity with visiting the sick, taking in casseroles to those in need, or sharing our excess with those who are less fortunate. But really, true charity is much, much more.
"Real charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and make a part of yourself. And when the virtue of charity becomes implanted in your heart, you are never the same again. It makes the thought of being a basher repulsive.
"Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don't judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone's differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn't handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another's weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other."
- Marvin J Ashton, "The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword," Ensign, May 1992, pp. 18-19
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Ashton was a kind and sensitive man in many ways. This advice, about how we treat one another, is a great example. I appreciated the introduction about what "real charity" is; not just the acts of public service, but the virtue that gets planted deep in our hearts and helps us understand our relationships to each other.

Even when we are wronged, charity helps us treat another person with love and forgiveness. What a wonderful gift! Since charity is the "pure love of Christ," we can see how He exemplified this quality in His life.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Spencer W. Kimball on the blessings of lengthening our stride

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"So much depends upon our willingness to make up our minds, collectively and individually, that present levels of performance are not acceptable, either to ourselves or to the Lord. In saying that, I am not calling for flashy, temporary differences in our performance levels, but a quiet resolve... to do a better job, to lengthen our stride." (Regional Representative's Seminar, 3 Oct. 1974.)
"When I think of the concept of 'lengthening our stride,' I, of course, apply it to myself as well as urging it upon the Church. The 'lengthening of our stride' suggests urgency instead of hesitancy, 'now,' instead of tomorrow; it suggests not only an acceleration, but efficiency. It suggests, too, that the whole body of the Church move forward in unison with a quickened pace and pulse, doing our duty with all our heart, instead of halfheartedly. It means, therefore, mobilizing and stretching all our muscles and drawing on all our resources. It suggests also that we stride with pride and with a sense of anticipation as we meet the challenges facing the kingdom. Out of all this will come a momentum that will be sobering and exhilarating at the same time." (MIA June Conference, 29 June 1975.)
- Spencer W. Kimball, "The Words of a Prophet," Ensign, December 1985, p. 26
Click here to read the full article

President Kimball was not a physically large man. But there are few who could match his "stride" in moving forward the Lord's kingdom. He started to talk about lengthening our stride soon after he became the president of the Church in 1973. These two excerpts are a great sampling of his vision and enthusiasm.

This is a challenge that displays remarkable vision and foresight. The opening words "So much depends" convey an understanding of the implications that would have to be divinely inspired. And now that over 40 years have passed since these words were first shared, we should all be asking ourselves, "Did I improve my personal level of performance, and see the blessings that followed?" President Kimball promised "a momentum that will be sobering and exhilarating at the same time."

An even better question: Could I "lengthen my stride" now, today? Do we still sense that "quiet resolve" to be more faithful, more diligent, more obedient—"doing our duty with all our heart, instead of halfheartedly"? It's never too late to begin to do better!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Ezra Taft Benson on building a strong and happy marriage

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.
"Marriage itself must be regarded as a sacred covenant before God. A married couple have an obligation not only to each other, but to God. He has promised blessings to those who honor that covenant....
"Prayer in the home and prayer with each other will strengthen [a couple's] union. Gradually thoughts, aspirations, and ideas will merge into a oneness until you are seeking the same purposes and goals.
"Rely on the Lord, the teachings of the prophets, and the scriptures for guidance and help, particularly when there may be disagreements and problems.
"Spiritual growth comes by solving problems together—not by running from them. Today's inordinate emphasis on individualism brings egotism and separation. Two individuals becoming 'one flesh' is still the Lord's standard. (See Gen. 2:24.)
"The secret of a happy marriage is to serve God and each other. The goal of marriage is unity and oneness, as well as self-development. Paradoxically, the more we serve one another, the greater is our spiritual and emotional growth."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Fundamentals of Enduring Family Relationships,"  Ensign, Nov. 1982, pp. 59, 60
Click here to read the full article

For those who are privileged and blessed to be linked with another in an eternal covenant of marriage, President Benson gave much wise counsel in this address on strengthening marriages and families. He taught first about the sacredness of the marriage covenant, in which two people are bound to each other and to God. Blessings follow faithfulness to that sacred covenant.

He then gives wise counsel on how to succeed in faithful observance of the covenant. I appreciated the thoughts about praying together. It's not just the act of praying that becomes significant; but the outcome, the effects of that act are that a couple grows in unity and oneness towards common goals and purposes.

And learning to work through problems, disagreements, and challenges is so key to successful relationships. Marriages grow strong as two people learn to set aside their own priorities and needs aside while they seek the best for their companion.

What a beautiful goal we truly have in this "sacred covenant" of a celestial marriage!
// Customization to close archive widget on first view - DK 3/15