Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wilford Woodruff on the need and blessing of living oracles

Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898) was called as an apostle in 1839 by Joseph Smith, and sustained as the 4th president of the Church in 1889.  He served until his death in 1898 at age 91.
"We have had a great deal of good counsel and instruction in this Conference; the truth has been simplified, doctrine elucidated and made plain to our understandings through the revelations of Jesus Christ, and I really feel that we have great cause to rejoice. There is one truth that becomes still more evident to my mind, and I think to the minds of this people generally, and that is the importance and necessity of our being governed and controlled day by day by the revelations of God.
"Now, we may take the Bible, the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, and we may read them through, and every other revelation that has been given to us, and they would scarcely be sufficient to guide us twenty-four hours.  We have only an outline of our duties written; we are to be guided by the living oracles....
"We have got to be governed by the mind and will of God, and this must be apparent to this people; it shows itself more and more. President Young tells us that the living oracles should be our guide, that, in fact, we should have the living oracles within us always. Every man and woman has the privilege of being baptized, but it is not the privilege of every man to lead the Church. It is my privilege to have revelation to know truth from error....
"It is the privilege of every man and woman in this kingdom to enjoy the spirit of prophecy, which is the Spirit of God; and to the faithful it reveals such things as are necessary for their comfort and consolation, and to guide them in their daily duties."
- Wilford Woodruff, "Necessity of the Living Oracles Among the Saints," remarks in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, April 8, 1862; see JD 9:324
Click here to read the full talk

As we anticipate in upcoming General Conference of the Church, this thought was helpful to me. President Woodruff appreciated the instruction that had been given during an 1862 conference. But he was impressed by this principle: the critical need for current, ongoing revelation. As valuable as the scriptures are, they don't provide the current instruction that the "living oracles" can provide:

Note the interesting distinction that comes out in his further remarks. The "living oracles" that President Woodruff is describing actually refers to two things: the inspired words of leaders, and the personal inspiration that comes to every worthy member as he "enjoy[s] the spirit of prophecy." That is the way to receive "comfort and consolation" as well as guidance in our daily activities.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Dallin H. Oaks on desires, priorities, choices, and actions

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.
"Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming...
"Readjusting our desires to give highest priority to the things of eternity is not easy. We are all tempted to desire that worldly quartet of property, prominence, pride, and power. We might desire these, but we should not fix them as our highest priorities....
"All of us face potential traps that will prevent progress toward our eternal destiny. If our righteous desires are sufficiently intense, they will motivate us to cut and carve ourselves free from addictions and other sinful pressures and priorities that prevent our eternal progress.
"We should remember that righteous desires cannot be superficial, impulsive, or temporary. They must be heartfelt, unwavering, and permanent....
"As important as it is to lose every desire for sin, eternal life requires more. To achieve our eternal destiny, we will desire and work for the qualities required to become an eternal being. For example, eternal beings forgive all who have wronged them. They put the welfare of others ahead of themselves. And they love all of God's children. If this seems too difficult—and surely it is not easy for any of us—then we should begin with a desire for such qualities and call upon our loving Heavenly Father for help with our feelings. The Book of Mormon teaches us that we should 'pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ' (Moroni 7:48)."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Desire," Ensign, May 2011, pp. 42-45
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Oaks describes this sequence of how things happen in our lives:
Desires -> Priorities ->  Choices -> Actions -> Changes, Achievements
When we control our desires, we ultimately control our actions and life's direction. But Elder Oaks acknowledges that it's difficult to change our priorities in the midst of the world's temptations:

I thought his acknowledgement was interesting—we might desire some of those "worldly" things, but we must be careful to keep them prioritized among our priorities. Our righteous desires must be intense enough to provide the motivation to righteousness and change in our lives. We have to do more than just lose the desire for sin; we have to build and promote those desires for higher things, for holy things. That will lead to the kind of "becoming" that will show we are "true followers" of the Savior.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Russell M. Nelson on finding inner peace by living with integrity

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.
"Many years ago a medical colleague chastised me for failing to separate my professional knowledge from my religious convictions. That startled me because I did not feel that truth should be fractionalized. Truth is indivisible.
"Danger lurks when we divide ourselves with expressions such as 'my private life,' 'my professional life,' or even 'my best behavior.' Living life in separate compartments can lead to internal conflict and exhausting tension. To escape that tension, many people unwisely resort to addicting substances, pleasure seeking, or self-indulgence, which in turn produce more tension, thus creating a vicious cycle.
"Inner peace comes only as we maintain the integrity of truth in all aspects of our lives. When we covenant to follow the Lord and obey His commandments, we accept His standards in every thought, action, and deed."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Living by Scriptural Guidance," Ensign, Nov. 2000, pp. 16-18
Click here to read the full talk

This concept has come up frequently in my personal study recently. There seems to be a tendency to separate our spiritual pursuits from temporal ones, as if we had different standards of behavior or morality in the separate pursuits. Elder Oaks calls this "fractionalizing" or "compartmentalizing" and warns of its impact.

A true disciple is always a disciple. Loving, obeying, and serving God is not only the highest priority, but it's the foundation of everything that a disciple does in life. You can't be a part-time disciple. You either love God with your whole "heart, mind, might, and strength," or else you fall short and are deprived of the blessings and power you might have. We're all trying to get closer to the ideal, and will be blessed as we follow prophetic counsel like this from Elder Nelson. "Inner peace comes only as we maintain the integrity of truth in all aspects of our lives."

Monday, March 28, 2016

Henry B. Eyring on help in today's challenges

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.
"As the challenges around us increase, we must commit to do more to qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Casual prayer won't be enough. Reading a few verses of the scripture won't be enough. Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks of us won't be enough. Hoping that we will have the Atonement work in our lives and that we will perhaps sometimes feel the influence of the Holy Ghost won't be enough. And one great burst of effort won't be enough. Only a steady, ever-increasing effort will allow the Lord to take us to higher ground....
"More is possible spiritually for you and for me. And more is necessary. Set the bar a little higher for yourself. And then set it a little higher. In spiritual things you have a heavenly power lifting you beyond where you are now....
"You can set the bar higher for yourself to get more power of faith to pray for the gift of the Holy Ghost. You can set it higher for yourself to have the scriptures opened so that you will come to know the Savior's voice. You can set it higher for yourself to be obedient in the things He asks of you. And you can set the bar higher in your expectation for peace in this life and your hope, even your assurance of eternal life in the world to come. You can set your expectations for yourself a little higher and then a little higher, with confidence that a loving Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son will send you the Holy Ghost and lift you higher and higher, toward Them."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Raise the Bar," Devotional, Brigham Young University-Idaho, January 25, 2005
Click here to read the full talk

I think this is one of President Eyring's more challenging, yet inspiring, messages. He points out that the world is becoming more complicated in ways that require us to make greater efforts to compensate. President Eyring emphasizes the need for us to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost in confronting those growing challenges. But he points out that the efforts we often make to try to obtain and retain that companionship will not be enough as the challenges of our time increase:

President Eyring's list of the half-hearted efforts we sometimes make in our spiritual progress is telling and thought-provoking:

  • Casual prayer
  • Minimal scripture study
  • Doing the minimum of what the Lord asks
  • Hoping that the Atonement is working for us
  • Perhaps sometimes feeling the help of the Holy Ghost
  • Sporadic bursts of effort

The summary in the last sentence says it all: we need a "steady, ever-increasing effort" in order to claim the Lord's help and blessings.

And so President Eyring challenges us to "set the bar a little higher" in our personal lives, challenging ourselves to improve our performance and faithfulness. And then set it higher again. That's what is involved in "steady, ever-increasing effort." Such wonderful counsel.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Thomas S. Monson on Easter's message of peace through the Savior

President Thomas S. Monson (b. 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.
"On this beautiful Easter morning, prayers of gratitude for the life and mission of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, fill the Sabbath air while strains of inspiring music comfort our hearts and whisper to our souls the ageless salutation, 'Peace be unto you.'
"In a world where peace is such a universal quest, we sometimes wonder why violence walks our streets, accounts of murder and senseless killings fill the columns of our newspapers, and family quarrels and disputes mar the sanctity of the home and smother the tranquility of so many lives.
"Perhaps we stray from the path which leads to peace and find it necessary to pause, to ponder, and to reflect on the teachings of the Prince of Peace and determine to incorporate them in our thoughts and actions and to live a higher law, walk a more elevated road, and be a better disciple of Christ....
"The darkness of death can ever be dispelled by the light of revealed truth. 'I am the resurrection, and the life,' spoke the Master. 'He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die' (John 11:25-26).
"Added to His own words are those of the angels, spoken to the weeping Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as they approached the tomb to care for the body of their Lord: 'Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen' (Luke 24:5-6).
"Such is the message of Easter morn. He lives! And because He lives all shall indeed live again. This knowledge provides the peace for loved ones of those whose graves are marked by the crosses of Normandy, those hallowed resting places in Flanders fields where the poppies blow in springtime, and for those who rest in countless other locations, including the depths of the sea. 'Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives: "I know that my Redeemer lives!"' (Hymns no. 136)"
- Thomas S. Monson, "The Path to Peace," Ensign, May 1994, pp. 60-62
Click here to read the full talk

Any who comprehend and begin to understand the message of Easter, even in part, recognize they have so much to be grateful for, as President Monson reminds us. We live in very troubling times; we are constantly reminded that "violence walks our streets" as we see continual accounts of tragedy and wickedness described in our media. There is really only one source of true peace to which we must turn in our day:

The most glorious message of that first Easter: because He lives, we too will live again! That is the ultimate source of peace for all of God's children.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Neal A. Maxwell on the blessing of the Atonement and Resurrection

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.
"Oh, how we adore Jesus for his atonement! For his free gift of immortality to all! Consider for a moment, how would we regard Christ without the reality of his atonement and resurrection? How would we regard the Sermon on the Mount without the resurrection of the sermon giver and eventually all of us? Without the reality of God's plan of salvation and Jesus' atonement, how could the meek truly inherit the earth? How could the pure in heart really see God? (See Matthew 5.)
"No wonder Paul wrote of Christ, 'in him all things hold together' (Revised Standard Version, Colossians 1:17). When, collectively or individually, brothers and sisters, things seem to fly apart for us at times, what fitting imagery: 'In him all things hold together'! Given the centrality of the doctrine of resurrection, the Restoration has as one of its main purposes to witness not only of Jesus' resurrection, but that of all mankind."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "In Him All Things Hold Together," BYU fireside address, March 31, 1991
Click here to read the full talk

I love the word "adore." We sing it at Christmastime—"O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord." (I wish we had as many joyful and jubilant Easter hymns as we do Christmas anthems.) But Elder Maxwell, in his inimitable style, reminds us of the proper emotion for this season. "Oh, how we adore Jesus for his atonement!" He then asks us to consider whether the Savior's message and ministry would have had the same meaning and power without the culminating sacrifice and accompanying resurrection; a very interesting thing to ponder.

It's interesting to me that Elder Maxwell found particular insight in this case by consulting a different translation of the Bible than we are accustomed to.  In the King James translation, Colossians 1:17 reads, "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." That statement is powerful in a different way; all things hold their existence because of Him, who existed before them and was the cause of them coming into being. But I love the ongoing power in the RSV's translation. It's not just for our initial existence that we are indebted; but we "hold together" or continue to survive only in Him. Truly, the Savior is the source of life, the fount of joy, and the very essence of our being. "Oh, how we adore Jesus"!!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Gordon B. Hinckley on the Savior's atonement and death

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.
"The magnificent expression of His love came in His death when He gave His life as a sacrifice for all men. That Atonement, wrought in unspeakable pain, became the greatest event of history, an act of grace for which men gave nothing but which brought the assurance of the Resurrection to all who have or would walk the earth.
"No other act in all of human history compares with it. Nothing that has ever happened can match it. Totally unselfish and with unbounded love for all mankind, it became an unparalleled act of mercy for the whole human race.
"Then with the Resurrection that first Easter morn came the triumphal declaration of immortality. Well was Paul able to declare, 'For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive' (1 Cor. 15:22). He not only granted the blessing of the Resurrection to all, but opened the way to eternal life to those who observe His teachings and commandments.
"He was and is the great central figure of human history, the zenith of the times and seasons of all men....
"God be thanked for His generous bestowal upon us. We thank Him for this wondrous gospel, whose power and authority reach even beyond the veil of death.
"Given what we have and what we know, we ought to be a better people than we are. We ought to be more Christlike, more forgiving, more helpful and considerate to all around us."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "At the Summit of the Ages," Ensign, November 1999, pp. 72-74
Click here to read the full talk

Today is "Good Friday," the day we traditionally associate with the events of the crucifixion and death of the Savior. President Hinckley points to that "magnificent expression of His love" as "the greatest event of history" and then teaches us of its incomparable blessings.

And then comes the further blessing of the Resurrection, "the triumphal declaration of immortality" that not only helps overcome physical death but opens the way to eternal life. Those who truly begin to understand the magnitude of these events and their implication in our lives will feel a depth of gratitude as President Hinckley did, accompanied by a resolve that it must mean something in our lives:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jeffrey R. Holland on the Savior's sacrifice and gift to us

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.

This excerpt is from an article published by Elder Holland in 1980 in the Friend magazine for children, when he was serving as Church Commissioner of Education.
"Easter is always a special time for us (to me it is the very best day of the whole year), and we should all try to remember that we once faced a most difficult problem and needed someone to help us. It was a problem much worse than a lost pet or a broken toy or a fall into a cactus plant. Through a long history of experience, beginning with Adam and Eve and stretching down to our own lives, it was a problem that if unsolved, would have left us in the presence of Satan and his hateful followers. We could then never be united again with our family, with our friends, and with our Heavenly Father who loves us. We would have been in a prison forever.
"But Jesus, our elder Brother, did not allow himself to be captured by Satan. He was still safely outside the prison gates. In a way that we may not fully understand, even when we are very old, Jesus set us free. It was as though He had the only key to the prison door and that only He had the strength to swing it open. In doing so, He saved our lives so our families can be kept together and so we can someday return to our heavenly home. But He paid a terrible price to do this for us, a price for which we must give Him honor and reverence by keeping His commandments. He suffered a horrible death on a cross. In that anguish of physical and spiritual pain Jesus, too, momentarily thought He was all alone and without help, and yet He did not turn away from helping us.
"Jesus died for us, and only the mountains that trembled and the sun that darkened seemed to understand the gift that was being given. Then something wonderful happened! One who had died and was buried came to life again in a special way called resurrection.
"In the peaceful setting of a spring garden, Jesus arose from His burial tomb to live again with our Heavenly Father. And in some wonderful, miraculous way, He gave us the same power and privilege. I do not know exactly how this will happen, but I know that we have, through Jesus, been given the opportunity to conquer all doubt and despair and death. That is what Easter means to me.
"Each year at Eastertime... I would especially like you to remember our Brother Jesus Christ to whom we owe everything, for He came to heal our wounds, calm our fears, and bring us safely home when we really, really needed Him."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Friend to Friend: The Cactus, the Cross, and Easter," Friend, April 1980, 6
Click here to read the full article

This is a wonderful article, written by Elder Holland some 36 years ago and addressed to young children. He tells a personal story from his childhood of falling into a large cactus plant while hiking and being rescued by his older brother. The analogy of desperate need and timely rescue is a perfect one, and gives tender insights into the role of the Savior in our struggles and challenges.

Elder Holland teaches that we would have been "in a prison forever" because of our mortal mistakes, if not for the rescue of the Savior and his atonement.

When our Savior made His sacrifice on our behalf, "only the mountains that trembled and the sun that darkened seemed to understand the gift that was being given." That was true then, and is largely true now in our world. It is up to each one of us to make sure that His gift is not forgotten in our personal world, but is recognized and appreciated to the extent we can.

The most poignant testimony Elder Holland offers for me is this: "I know that we have, through Jesus, been given the opportunity to conquer all doubt and despair and death. That is what Easter means to me." What a perfect, complete hope that is!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spencer W. Kimball on the reality of the Resurrection

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Sometimes our celebrations of notable occurrences seem to take on earthly color, and we do not fully realize the significance of the reason for the celebration. This is true of Easter, when too often we celebrate the holiday rather than the deep significance of the Resurrection of the Lord. They must be unhappy indeed who ignore the godship of Christ, the sonship of the Master.  We feel sorry indeed for those who call the supreme miracle of the Resurrection 'but a subjective experience of the disciples, rather than an actual historical event.' ...
"And as the living, verdant spring follows the dismal, deathlike winter, all nature proclaims the divinity of the risen Lord, that He was Creator, that He is the Savior of the world, that He is the very Son of God."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "The Certainty of the Resurrection," general conference, April 4, 1969; reprinted in Ensign, April 2010, pp. 54-57
Click here to read the full article

It's easy to let the excitement of the season obscure its meaning and significance. President Kimball warns about the "earthly color" that sometimes dominates Easter celebrations. We can easily celebrate the holiday but forget the "deep significance" of what it represents: the Lord's Resurrection. And he warns that we will be "unhappy indeed" if we overlook the profound meaning behind Easter, in "the godship of Christ, the sonship of the Master."

The real message of Easter is one of hope, corresponding to the symbolic hope of spring overcoming winter:

I love to watch for the signs of spring as that new life emerges from dormancy. In every case, it's a glorious reminder of the eternal love of the Father and the Son.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

D. Todd Christofferson on the Savior's gifts to us

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.
"By His Atonement and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has overcome all aspects of the Fall. Physical death will be temporary, and even spiritual death has an end, in that all come back into the presence of God, at least temporarily, to be judged. We can have ultimate trust and confidence in His power to overcome all else and grant us everlasting life....
"In the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell: 'Christ's victory over death ended the human predicament. Now there are only personal predicaments, and from these too we may be rescued by following the teachings of him who rescued us from general extinction.' (The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book p. 287)
"Having satisfied the demands of justice, Christ now steps into the place of justice; or we might say He is justice, just as He is love (See 1 John 4:8). Likewise, besides being a 'perfect, just God,' He is a perfect, merciful God (Alma 42:15). Thus, the Savior makes all things right. No injustice in mortality is permanent, even death, for He restores life again. No injury, disability, betrayal, or abuse goes uncompensated in the end because of His ultimate justice and mercy.
"By the same token, we are all accountable to Him for our lives, our choices, and our actions, even our thoughts. Because He redeemed us from the Fall, our lives are in reality His."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Ensign, May 2014, pp. 111-114
Click here to read the full talk

It's always beneficial to ponder the blessings that come to us from the Atonement and the Resurrection, as Elder Christofferson does in this excerpt. They include overcoming both physical and spiritual death for all of God's children. The reassurance that "We can have ultimate trust and confidence in His power to overcome all else" is a powerful one.

Elder Maxwell's words, quoted in this excerpt, help to see the perspective. We create many personal predicaments from which we need rescue; and He is always willing to assist, as we follow His teachings:

In the grand, eternal balance of justice and mercy, "the Savior makes all things right." Specifically, every injustice that we perceive in our current challenges will be made right in His eternal hands: "No injury, disability, betrayal, or abuse goes uncompensated in the end because of His ultimate justice and mercy." What a beautiful promise!

Monday, March 21, 2016

M. Russell Ballard on appreciating the beauties of nature

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.
"This is a beautiful time of year with spring beginning to burst forth in many parts of the world, bringing all of its colors, scents, and cheerful sounds. The miracle of the changing seasons, with the reawakening and rebirth in nature, inspires feelings of love and reverence within us for God's marvelous, creative handiwork....
"Men and women in all parts of the world have a desperate need to take time from their demanding routines of everyday life and to quietly observe God's miracles taking place all around them. Think of what would happen if all of us took time to look carefully at the wonders of nature that surround us and devoted ourselves to learning more about this world that God created for us! ...
"To truly reverence the Creator, we must appreciate his creations. We need to plan to take time to observe the marvels of nature. Today, we can easily become surrounded by brick buildings and asphalt surfaces that shelter us from real life around us. Plan to share with your family the miracle of buds changing to fragrant blossoms. Take time to sit on a hillside and feel the tranquility of the evening when the sun casts its last golden glow over the horizon. Take time to smell the roses.
"All the marvels of nature are glimpses of his divine power and expressions of his love."
- M. Russell Ballard, "God's Love for His Children," Ensign, May 1988, pp. 57-59
Click here to read the full talk

As we officially transition into the spring season in the northern hemisphere, this quote is a wonderful reminder of the many blessings God has given to us in this beautiful world. Elder Ballard mentions "colors, scents, and cheerful sounds"—I've recently experienced each of these three senses in the blossom of a spring daffodil, the sweet aroma of a new flower, and some particularly beautiful birdsong. These things truly can inspire "feelings of love and reverence within us for God's marvelous, creative handiwork" if we allow them to!

The challenge, Elder Ballard says, is that we need to learn to "take time" from the busy and demanding lives we lead in order to "quietly observe God's miracles taking place all around." It's so easy to walk right by, to never notice the beauty of the little things. But it's one of the most important ways we worship:

Along with the marvels and glories of creation, Elder Ballard notes in this talk that the greatest miracle of all is symbolized by these outward signs; he refers to the resurrection of the Savior, the rebirth in spring that gives meaning and power to everything else. We have so much to be grateful for.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Boyd K. Packer on the sacredness of the holy temple

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death on July 3, 2015 at age 90.
"May we each dedicate ourselves anew to the service of the Lord.
"Say the word temple. Say it quietly and reverently. Say it over and over again. Temple. Temple. Temple. Add the word holy. Holy Temple. Say it as though it were capitalized, no matter where it appears in the sentence.
"Temple. One other word is equal in importance to a Latter-day Saint. Home. Put the words holy temple and home together, and you have described the house of the Lord!
"May God grant that we may be worthy to enter there and receive the fulness of the blessings of His priesthood."
- Boyd K. Packer, "The Temple, the Priesthood," Ensign, May 1993, pp. 18-21
Click here to read the full talk

President Packer shared these thoughts in a conference talk in 1993, as he commemorated the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the Salt Lake temple. He reviewed the general history of temples in our dispensation, and then particularly the details of the construction of the Salt Lake temple and its dedication service. It is a very interesting talk, worth a review.

Towards the end of his remarks, President Packer shared these tender words about the sacredness of the holy temple. It was a theme he felt strongly about, having taught and written extensively about temples throughout his ministry. Even the word "temple" should convey a spirit of reverence and gratitude to us, and evoke a feeling of the sacred.

On the day I share this thought (Sunday March 20, 2016) another temple dedication will occur, of the refurbished Provo Tabernacle—the 150th temple functioning today. It will be a good opportunity for members who are able to participate to follow President Packer's advice, and "dedicate ourselves anew to the service of the Lord." This brings to mind another classic comment about temple dedications:
"May I remind you that when we dedicate a house to the Lord, what we really do is dedicate ourselves to the Lord's service, with a covenant that we shall use the house in the way he intends that it shall be used."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, comments before dedicating the Ogden temple; see "Ogden Temple Dedicatory Prayer," Ensign, Mar. 1972, 6

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dieter F. Uchtdorf on learning to live in patience

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.
"Waiting can be hard. Children know it, and so do adults. We live in a world offering fast food, instant messaging, on-demand movies, and immediate answers to the most trivial or profound questions. We don't like to wait. Some even feel their blood pressure rise when their line at the grocery store moves slower than those around them.
"Patience—the ability to put our desires on hold for a time—is a precious and rare virtue. We want what we want, and we want it now. Therefore, the very idea of patience may seem unpleasant and, at times, bitter.
"Nevertheless, without patience, we cannot please God; we cannot become perfect. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace....
"I learned that patience was far more than simply waiting for something to happen—patience required actively working toward worthwhile goals and not getting discouraged when results didn't appear instantly or without effort.
"There is an important concept here: patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!"
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Continue in Patience," Ensign, May 2010, pp. 55-59
Click here to read the full talk

Messages like this are important reminders for all of us, as we strive to preserve proper perspective in our lives.

We all have things we want, things we desire, things we hope for, things we wish would change. In our sometimes selfish approaches, we want to control the timing as well as the outcome. But President Uchtdorf reminds us that ultimately, God is in charge of the timing. One of the most important lessons we learn is "to put our desires on hold for a time" while we "actively [work] toward worthwhile goals" and keep the positive, faith-filled attitude of a trusting disciple.

And the promise that accompanies this principle is perhaps the most important message of all: "Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace."

Friday, March 18, 2016

Joseph B. Wirthlin on maintaining spiritual clarity and sharpness

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.
"Windows must be washed regularly to clean away dust and dirt. If left to accumulate without regular cleaning, thickening grime can block out light and darken the window. Just as earthly windows need consistent, thorough cleaning, so do the windows of our spirituality.
"Weekly sacrament meeting attendance helps us strengthen our resolve to keep our personal windows of heaven free from the obscuring haze of earthly distractions and temptations. By partaking of the sacrament worthily to renew our baptismal covenants, we clarify our view of life's eternal purpose and divine priorities. The sacrament prayers invite personal introspection, repentance, and rededication as we pledge our willingness to remember our Savior, Jesus the Christ. This commitment to become like Christ, repeated weekly, defines the supreme aspiration of Latter-day Saint life.
"Frequent temple attendance, as our circumstances allow, is another way to keep our spiritual windows clean. Worship in the house of the Lord will keep our view of what matters most clear and sharp, focused crisply, and free from the dust of the world."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Windows of Light and Truth," Ensign, November 1995, pp. 75-78
Click here to read the full talk

"Keeping things clean" seems to take work in this life! Elder Wirthlin applies this principle to both temporal and spiritual aspects:

Elder Wirthlin gives specific suggestions on how to "keep our personal windows of heaven free from the obscuring haze of earthly distractions and temptations." This suggestions include:

  • partaking of the sacrament worthily
  • attending the temple frequently
These kinds of activities help keep our attention focused on the things that matter most, clarifying our eternal views, increasing commitment to proper choices and actions, and avoiding the "dust" and distractions of the world. Excellent advice!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Richard G. Scott on the blessings of the atonement

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928-2015) served as a Seventy from 1977-1988, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He passed away in September 2015 at the age of 86.
"Our Father in Heaven wants each of us to enjoy peace and happiness in mortal life. Our Master, Jesus Christ, and His prophets have taught how to have that peace and happiness, even in a world that is ever more challenging, with increasing conflict and an intense concentration of alluring temptations....
"True, enduring happiness, with the accompanying strength, courage, and capacity to overcome the greatest difficulties, will come as you center your life in Jesus Christ. Obedience to His teachings provides a secure ascent in the journey of life. That takes effort. While there is no guarantee of overnight results, there is the assurance that, in the Lord's time, solutions will come, peace will prevail, and happiness will be yours....
"The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. Your progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether you welcome the experience or not. Trust in the Lord. Ask to be led by the Spirit to know His will. Be willing to accept it. You will then qualify for the greatest happiness and the heights of attainment from this mortal experience.
"Peace and happiness are the precious fruits of a righteous life. They are only possible because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ."
- Richard G. Scott, "The Atonement Can Secure Your Peace and Happiness," Ensign, Nov. 2006, pp. 40-42
Click here to read the full talk

"Peace and happiness"—the great quest of life. Elder Scott teaches that they are available, "even in a world that is ever more challenging, with increasing conflict and an intense concentration of alluring temptations." And they "will come as you center your life in Jesus Christ." Obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings happiness, in the Lord's time, if we trust and follow Him in faith.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is a remarkable thing, a most precious gift; its influence and power are beyond our understanding.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

John Taylor on caring for one another

President John Taylor (1808–1887) was born in England and immigrated to Canada where he and his wife were converted after hearing Parley P. Pratt preach.  He was ordained an apostle in 1838, and became the third president of the Church in 1880, serving until his death in 1887 at age 78.
"I have seen some people who would get down upon their knees and pray most heartily for God to feed the poor and clothe the naked. Now, I would never ask the Lord to do a thing that I would not do. If we have them among us, suppose we go at it and relieve them. I do not think we have much of that to do here; but, enough, perhaps, to draw forth your good feelings and sympathies. And if people sustain misfortune of any kind, look after them and bestow upon them those things necessary for their welfare and happiness. And God will bless us in so doing.
"I would a great deal rather that you would take, say a sack of flour, some beef, a hundred of sugar, some butter and cheese, and clothing and fuel, and such comforts and conveniences of life, and thus try to make people feel happy than all the prayers you could offer up to the Lord about it; and he would rather see it too; that is the proper way to do things. In receiving blessings ourselves, try to distribute them, and God will bless and guide us in the ways of peace."
- John Taylor, discourse at Kaysville, Sunday Afternoon, March 1, 1880; see JD 21:217, or Deseret News Semi-Weekly, 10 Aug 1880, p. 1
Click here to read the full article

I love to hear messages about the practical application of religion. In the end, it's not about learning or even understanding; it's really about doing, applying, serving, blessing, making a difference. President Taylor reminds us that praying for the poor and needy is good, but should always be accompanied by our own best efforts to help and to relieve suffering.

I felt the blessing of a Good Samaritan recently. I was stranded late on a Sunday evening in a remote city with an empty gas tank; the power throughout the city was off, and gas pumps don't work without electricity.  Expectations were that many hours would be required to restore power and allow us to continue our journey. An unknown resident, seeing the plight of a number of travelers like me, drove an hour to a nearby city, purchased as many 5-gallon gas cans as he could find, filled them with gas, and returned—selling the cans at his cost. We were able to use the gas to get back on the road, saving ourselves what would have been a very unpleasant overnight. That's the spirit of kindness and service that I think President Taylor is talking about—we don't just pray for those having challenges or difficulties; we seek for ways to assist and relieve.

"Pure religion," after all, is not just to pray for widows, but to visit them in their affliction (see James 1:27).

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Joseph Fielding Smith on the reasons and benefits for prayer

Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) was the son of Joseph F. Smith, 6th president of the Church, and grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph. He was called as an apostle in 1910, and served as the 10th president of the Church from 1970 until his death in 1972 at age 95.
"I wonder if we ever stop to think why the Lord has asked us to pray. Did he ask us to pray because he wants us to how down and worship him? Is that the main reason? I don't think it is. He is our Heavenly Father, and we have been commanded to worship him and pray to him in the name of his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. But the Lord can get along without our prayers. His work will go on just the same, whether we pray or whether we do not....
"Prayer is something that we need, not that the Lord needs. He knows just how to conduct his affairs and how to take care of them without any help from us. Our prayers are not for the purpose of telling him how to run his business. If we have any such idea as that, then of course we have the wrong idea. Our prayers are uttered more for our sakes, to build us up and give us strength and courage, and to increase our faith in him.
"Prayer is something that humbles the soul. It broadens our comprehension; it quickens the mind. It draws us nearer to our Father in heaven. We need his help; there is no question about that. We need the guidance of his Holy Spirit. We need to know what principles have been given to us by which we may come back into his presence. We need to have our minds quickened by the inspiration that comes from him; and for these reasons we pray to him, that he may help us to live so that we will know his truth and be able to walk in its light, that we may, through our faithfulness and our obedience, come back again into his presence."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, "Be True and Faithful to Every Covenant," CR April 1968 pp. 10-12
Click here to read the full talk

Why do we pray? President Smith suggests that God doesn't need our prayers; we don't do it for His sake. His work will go on just fine without our prayers.

Clearly, we are counseled to pray because we need the benefits that come from praying; "to build us up and give us strength and courage, and to increase our faith in him."

The list of results and benefits he provides should be motivating to anyone who is unsure of the merits of regular, sincere prayer:

I found it interesting to consider the various points of that description and ask myself, "Have I felt that?" And especially, "Have I felt that recently?"

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