Saturday, April 30, 2016

James E. Faust on sustaining faith in today's challenging world

President James E. Faust (1920 - 2007) was called as a Seventy in 1976, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve in 1978. He served as a counselor to President Hinckley from 1995 until his death in 2007 at age 87.
"Never before in the history of the world has the need for faith in God been greater. Although science and technology open up boundless opportunities, they also present great perils because Satan employs these marvelous discoveries to his great advantage. The communication highway that spans the globe is overloaded with information for which no one bears responsibility for its truth or its source. Crime has become much more sophisticated and life more perilous. In war, killing has become far more efficient. Great challenges lie ahead unless the power of faith, judgment, honesty, decency, self-control, and character increases proportionately to compensate for this expansion of secular knowledge. Without moral progress, stimulated by faith in God, immorality in all its forms will proliferate and strangle goodness and human decency. Mankind will not be able to fully express the potential nobility of the human soul unless faith in God is strengthened....
"To sustain faith, each of us must be humble and compassionate, kind and generous to the poor and the needy. Faith is further sustained by daily doses of spirituality that come to us as we kneel in prayer. It begins with us as individuals and extends to our families, who need to be solidified in righteousness. Honesty, decency, integrity, and morality are all necessary ingredients of our faith and will provide sanctuary for our souls."
- James E. Faust, "The Shield of Faith," Ensign, May 2000, pp. 17-19
Click here to read the full talk

The need for "faith in God" continues to grow in our world. President Faust said it was one of the great needs of the world, and now 16 more years have passed. We are challenged by our technology and the modern developments that bring new challenges and decisions to our lives. President Faust pleads for "the power of faith, judgment, honesty, decency, self-control, and character" to grow in proportion to the immorality and wickedness around us.

That has to begin as an individual effort.  Each one of us fights that battle alone, in our personal life and in our home, family, and environment. We find strength in good brothers and sisters who fight alongside us. And we find strength in God who desires for us to win each battle and come out triumphant.

President Faust described some of the steps we should be taking to strengthen our faith and be better equipped to deal with our challenges:

That's a good summary for a personal evaluation. Am I doing all I can to sustain and enhance my personal faith and strength?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Richard G. Scott on righteous character and righteous actions

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.
"We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day. Righteous character is a precious manifestation of what you are becoming. Righteous character is more valuable than any material object you own, any knowledge you have gained through study, or any goals you have attained no matter how well lauded by mankind. In the next life your righteous character will be evaluated to assess how well you used the privilege of mortality.
"Neither Satan nor any other power can destroy or undermine your growing character. Only you could do that through disobedience. A sterling character is converted into worthless ashes when eroded by deceit or transgression.
"Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices in the trials and testing of life. Such choices are made with trust in things that are believed and when acted upon are confirmed."
- Richard G. Scott, "The Transforming Power of Faith and Character," Ensign November 2010, pp. 43-46
Click here to read the full talk

This is another good investigation of the relationship of what we are and what we do. What really matters is our "righteous character"—the essence of what we are deep inside. The outward actions are a manifestation of the inner change. But they also lead to that change; doing the right things helps to develop the purity of character as we experience both the fruits of our actions and the purification that comes from obedience.

Elder Scott points out that no one, not even Satan, can destroy or undermine our character. We do that ourselves as we fail to be obedient to the higher law that would lead us to Christ. Hence the critical need to "trust in things that are believed" as we move forward actively in pursuing the path of discipleship.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

David O. McKay on following correct spiritual priorities

President David O. McKay (1873-1970) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1906.  He served as a counselor in the First Presidency to Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith beginning in 1945, then then as the president of the Church from 1951 to his death in 1970 at age 96.
"On one occasion the Savior said: 'For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?' (Matt. 16:26.) In this text, Jesus refers to the dominant incentives prompting man's actions in daily life. If a man seek wealth, fame, pleasures, physical indulgences, and other things which riches and worldly honors can bestow, but neglects and leaves undeveloped the eternal riches of the soul, what is he profited? ....
"In those words the Lord emphasizes in a simple though majestic comparison the relative value of material things and spiritual possessions. It is gratifying to note how leading thinkers today, sincere philosophers and scientists are pleading for more spirituality. They may reason differently from us about the origin of man, but they all agree that now is the time that the spiritual part of man must be developed. Seeking to establish the kingdom of God and his righteousness is designated the paramount purpose of life."
- David O. McKay, Treasures of Life, p. 129-130

What are the "dominant incentives" or primary motivators that drive our actions? President McKay reiterates the Savior's warning about being motivated by "wealth, fame, pleasures, physical indulgences." This is a foundational principle of the Gospel. It is the motivation of the heart that truly matters, more than the outward actions we perform. But when our heart is in the right place, we are motivated to the proper kinds of Christlike actions.

We must always be cautions and remember "the relative value of material things and spiritual possessions."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Howard W. Hunter on meekness and following Christ's way

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.
"And what of the meek? In a world too preoccupied with winning through intimidation and seeking to be number one, no large crowd of folk is standing in line to buy books that call for mere meekness. But the meek shall inherit the earth—a pretty impressive corporate takeover, and done without intimidation! Sooner or later—and we pray sooner rather than later—everyone will acknowledge that Christ's way is not only the right way, but ultimately the only way to hope and joy. Every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that gentleness is better than brutality, that kindness is greater than coercion, that the soft voice turneth away wrath. In the end, and sooner than that whenever possible, we must be more like him."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee," Ensign, May 1993, pp. 63-65
Click here to read the full talk

Sometimes we speak and write about things we are trying to learn or emulate; sometimes we share the things we have learned personally. In this case, I think President Hunter was speaking from the heart of one who exemplified the virtues he was discussing. I have always thought of him as one of the truly meek and gentle spirits of our time. For him to encourage greater meekness, and more Christlike behavior, seems to be a call to "come, try what I have tried and found to be joyful."

This is interesting reasoning. The day will come when all will acknowledge the validity of "Christ's way" as the only way—the only way to peace, joy, and hope. So why should we not try to follow that way more closely now?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Robert D. Hales on the blessings of temples

Elder Robert D. Hales (1932- ) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"Despite many tribulations in the Prophet Joseph's life, great things were brought to pass for the Restoration of the gospel in these latter days. Joseph came to understand and has taught us that when he was struggling with a challenge, the Lord did not let him perish. Similarly, tests of our faith are priceless opportunities to discover how deeply the Master cares about the welfare of our souls to help us endure to the end.
"In our day, the steadying arm of the Lord reaches us through the ordinances of His holy temples. Said the Prophet Joseph to the early Saints in Nauvoo, 'You need an endowment, brethren, in order that you may be prepared and able to overcome all things' (History of the Church, 2:309). How right he was! Being blessed with the temple covenants and endowed with power made it possible for the Latter-day Saints to endure tribulation with faith. At the end of her own pioneer journey, Sarah Rich recorded, 'If it had not been for the faith and knowledge that was bestowed upon us in that temple... our journey would have been like... taking a leap in the dark' (Sarah DeArmon Pea Rich, Autobiography, 1885-1893, p. 66)."
- Robert D. Hales, "Faith through Tribulation Brings Peace and Joy," Ensign, May 2003, pp. 15-18
Click here to read the full talk
It's always wonderful to ponder what is accomplished despite tribulations. Elder Hales suggests the example of Joseph Smith, who (in spite of great trials) was an instrument in the restoration of many gifts in these latter days.  Elder Hales points out that these times can help us "to discover how deeply the Master cares about the welfare of our souls" as we confront, and survive, the challenges.

I happen to be in Nauvoo as I am preparing this thought. I can look out my hotel window at the marvelous reconstructed temple, that so profoundly represents the faith and sacrifice of a previous generation of Saints. I loved this final thought about the role of the temple and the endowment, and the power that can come to those whose hearts are ready. The testimony of Sarah Rich was especially touching; it is the temple, its ordinances and teachings, that gives power to endure whatever may come.

Monday, April 25, 2016

L. Tom Perry on finding spiritual fuel

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 has given us a beautiful plan about how we can return to Him, but the completion of our mortal journey requires spiritual fuel. We want to emulate the five wise virgins, who had stored sufficient fuel to accompany the bridegroom when he came (see Matthew 25:6-10). What is required to maintain a sufficient store of spiritual fuel? We must acquire knowledge of God's eternal plan and our role in it, and then by living righteously, surrendering our will to the will of the Lord, we receive the promised blessings....
"Just before Thoreau died, he was asked if he had made peace with God. He replied, 'I was not aware we had ever quarreled' (in Mardy Grothe, comp., Viva la Repartee [2005], 181).
"In our search to obtain relief from the stresses of life, may we earnestly seek ways to simplify our lives. May we comply with the inspired counsel and direction the Lord has given us in the great plan of happiness. May we be worthy to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost and follow the guidance of the Spirit as we navigate this mortal journey. May we prepare ourselves to accomplish the ultimate purpose of this mortal test--to return and live with our Heavenly Father."
- L. Tom Perry, "Let Him Do It with Simplicity," Ensign, Nov. 2008, pp. 7-10
Click here to read the full talk
There are several points that interested me in this excerpt. Elder Perry encourages us to have an adequate reserve of "spiritual fuel" for times that require it. We can obtain that fuel, and maintain our store of it, by:

  • acquiring knowledge of God's eternal plan and our role in it
  • living righteously, surrendering our will to the will of the Lord
In simpler words, learn and do.

The final paragraph gives a series of good advice:

  • We can find relief from the stress of life by simplifying our lives
  • Peace comes as we comply with the counsel given to follow the plan of salvation
  • We can best navigate the journey of mortality with the aid of the Holy Ghost
  • The real and final purpose of all we to is to prepare to return to live with God

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Marvin J. Ashton on showing real love to God and one another

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.
"We must at regular and appropriate intervals speak and reassure others of our love and the long time it takes to prove it by our actions. Real love does take time. The Great Shepherd had the same thoughts in mind when he taught, 'If ye love me, keep my commandments' (John 14:15; italics added) and 'If ye love me feed my sheep' (John 21:16; italics added). Love demands action if it is to be continuing. Love is a process. Love is not a declaration. Love is not an announcement. Love is not a passing fancy. Love is not an expediency. Love is not a convenience. 'If ye love me, keep my commandments' and 'If ye love me feed my sheep' are God-given proclamations that should remind us we can often best show our love through the processes of feeding and keeping....
"Certainly the best way for us to show our love in keeping and feeding is by taking the time to prove it hour by hour and day by day. Our expressions of love and comfort are empty if our actions don't match. God loves us to continue. Our neighbors and families love us if we will but follow through with sustaining support and self-sharing. True love is as eternal as life itself. Who is to say the joys of eternity are not wrapped up in continuous feeding, keeping, and caring? We need not weary in well-doing when we understand God's purposes and his children.
"Undoubtedly our Heavenly Father tires of expressions of love in words only. He has made it clear through his prophets and his word that his ways are ways of commitment, and not conversation. He prefers performance over lip service. We show our true love for him in proportion to our keeping his words and the processes of feeding."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "Love Takes Time," Ensign, Nov. 1975, pp. 108-110
Click here to read the full talk

This is a beautiful summary of an eternally-important principle and doctrine: love, both as we interact with one another and as we interact with God, is not a passive declaration; it is a constant outward demonstration of an inward commitment. While it is important that we "at regular and appropriate intervals speak and reassure others of our love," it is much more important that we demonstrate that love through our actions. As Elder Ashton pointedly says, "Our expressions of love and comfort are empty if our actions don't match."

And while this principle is important as we consider our interactions with one another, it is even more crucial as we think about our relationship to our Father in Heaven. He asked for "commitment, not conversation" and "performance over lip service." The true demonstration of our love for Him is in how we obey His commandments and how we feed His sheep.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Joseph B. Wirthlin on the Lord's help in life's journey

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.
"We all are going through different life experiences. While some are filled with joy today, others feel as though their hearts could burst with sorrow. Some feel as though the world is their oyster; others feel as though they were the oyster itself, plucked from the ocean, cracked open, and robbed of all that is precious to them....
"Our Heavenly Father loves each one of us and understands that this process of climbing higher takes preparation, time, and commitment. He understands that we will make mistakes at times, that we will stumble, that we will become discouraged and perhaps even wish to give up and say to ourselves it is not worth the struggle.
"We know it is worth the effort, for the prize, which is eternal life, is 'the greatest of all the gifts of God' (D&C 14:7). And to qualify, we must take one step after another and keep going to gain the spiritual heights we aspire to reach....
"My brothers and sisters, our time here is so precious and so short. How well I understand the prophet Jacob when he said, 'Our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream' (Jacob 7:26).
"All too soon, our time is finished. While we can—while we have the time to complete our work—let us walk in the right direction, taking one step after another.
"That is easy enough. We don't have to be perfect today. We don't have to be better than someone else. All we have to do is to be the very best we can.
"Though you may feel weary, though you sometimes may not be able to see the way, know that your Father in Heaven will never forsake His righteous followers. He will not leave you comfortless. He will be at your side, yes, guiding you every step of the way."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "One Step after Another," Ensign, November 2001, pp. 25-27
Click here to read the full talk

I can personally confirm the truth of the thoughts of this excerpt:

  • We have varied experiences in this life, including both soul-bursting joy and soul-wrenching sorrow (agony, frustration, annoyance, etc.)
  • Climbing out of our challenges and upward to the heights does indeed take "preparation, time, and commitment"
  • In spite of signs of growth and progress, we often to have frustrations and discouragements along the climb that invite us to give up and fall back
  • Understanding the goal and purpose of the climb makes a tremendous difference on both our ability to continue eagerly upward and our strength to resist discouragement and back-sliding
  • Time is precious and short, and we should eagerly take advantage of each hour of the journey
  • It matters not a whit how we compare to others; only that we ourselves are making our own best effort
  • We do not have to make the climb alone; there is One willing to be by our side as a guide and counselor

Friday, April 22, 2016

Dale G. Renlund on blessings that come as we draw closer to God

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.
"The closer we are to Jesus Christ in the thoughts and intents of our hearts, the more we appreciate His innocent suffering, the more grateful we are for grace and forgiveness, and the more we want to repent and become like Him. Our absolute distance from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is important, but the direction we are heading is even more crucial. God is more pleased with repentant sinners who are trying to draw closer to Him than with self-righteous, faultfinding individuals who, like the Pharisees and scribes of old, do not realize how badly they need to repent (see Luke 15:2; see also Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:260–62)....
"Whatever our current direction or distance to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, we can choose to turn toward Them and draw closer to Them....
"To draw closer to the Savior, we must increase our faith in Him, make and keep covenants, and have the Holy Ghost with us. We must also act in faith, responding to the spiritual direction we receive. All of these elements come together in the sacrament. Indeed, the best way I know of to draw closer to God is to prepare conscientiously and partake worthily of the sacrament each week....
"No matter where you stand in your relationship to God, I invite you to draw nearer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, the Ultimate Benefactors and Givers of all that is good. I invite you to attend sacrament meeting each week and partake of the holy emblems of the Savior’s body and blood. I invite you to feel God’s nearness as He is made known to you, as He was to the disciples of old, in the 'breaking of [the] bread.'
"As you do, I promise that you will feel nearer to God. Natural tendencies to childish whining, disgruntled entitlement, and derisive skepticism will dissipate. Those sentiments will be replaced by feelings of greater love and gratitude for Heavenly Father’s gift of His Son. As we draw closer to God, the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ will come into our lives. And, as with the disciples on the way to Emmaus, we will find that the Savior has been nearby all along."
- Dale G. Renlund, "That I Might Draw All Men unto Me," General Conference, April 2016, Saturday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

I thought Elder Renlund's talk was masterful. He introduced his thoughts with the classic insight once shared by an associate: "The greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement." That was applied first to the giving of charity, and a review of Church welfare principles. But then it was applied to our relationship with Deity, and the insights were wonderfully beneficial.

This was an invitation to all to "draw near unto" the Savior and our Father in Heaven, and a promise of the blessings that would follow. Some of the specific things Elder Renlund suggested we might do include:
  • increase our faith in Him
  • make and keep covenants
  • have the Holy Ghost with us
  • act in faith, responding to the spiritual direction we receive
He suggested that these items share a focal point in the sacrament, which provides a tool to draw us closer to God as we "prepare conscientiously and partake worthily of the sacrament each week."

I love a challenge with a promise—an invitation to be blessed as we accept inspired counsel. The promises listed here are some I very much desire.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Gary E. Stevenson on the importance of priesthood keys

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..
"My heart is filled with overwhelming gratitude for the restoration of priesthood authority and priesthood keys. Without this restoration, we would be locked out from the vehicle necessary to transport us on our journey home to loving heavenly parents. The performance of every ordinance of salvation comprising our covenant pathway back to the presence of our Father in Heaven requires appropriate governance through priesthood keys....
"The priesthood, or priesthood authority, has been defined as 'the power and authority of God' (Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010), page 8.) and “the consummate power on this earth' (Boyd K. Packer, 'Priesthood Power in the Home.' worldwide leadership training meeting, Feb. 2012; see also James E. Faust, 'Power of the Priesthood,' Ensign, May 1997, 41–43). Priesthood keys are defined for our understanding as well: 'Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood leaders to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth' (Handbook 2, 2.1.1). Priesthood keys control the exercise of priesthood authority. Ordinances that create a record in the Church require keys and cannot be done without authorization. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that 'ultimately, all keys of the priesthood are held by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose priesthood it is. He is the one who determines what keys are delegated to mortals and how those keys will be used' (Dallin H. Oaks, 'The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,' Ensign, May 2014, 50)."
- Gary E. Stevenson, "Where Are the Keys and Authority of the Priesthood?," General Conference, April 2016, Saturday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

This talk, given in the first general session of conference, was a good review of basic priesthood concepts. It might have been a talk shared in a priesthood session, but I think it was wonderful to have it shared with the general membership. I think the concept of priesthood keys continues to not be well understood in the Church; discussions like this one will be helpful.

This is a key concept: "Every ordinance of salvation" is governed and directed by priesthood keys. In other words, no priesthood holder can perform such ordinances on his own, unless authorized and directed by one who holds appropriate keys to direct the performance of those ordinances. This helps maintain order, ensures that proper records are kept, and demonstrates that authority is delegated and not "owned." Great principles!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ronald A. Rasband on the blessing of sustaining and following leaders

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 shortly after his call as a Seventy.
"We have sustained leaders today who, by divine inspiration, have been called to teach and guide us and who are calling out to us to beware of the dangers we face each day—from casual Sabbath-day observance, to threats to the family, to assaults on religious freedom, and even to disputing latter-day revelation. Brothers and sisters, are we listening to their counsel?...
"As we press forward, choosing to follow the counsel and the warnings of our leaders, we choose to follow the Lord while the world is going in another direction. We choose to hold fast to the iron rod, to be Latter-day Saints, to be on the Lord’s errand, and to be filled 'with exceedingly great joy' (1 Nephi 8:12).
"The growing question of today is clear: are you standing with the leaders of the Church in a darkening world so that you might spread the Light of Christ? ...
"I have needed the Savior and the rescue of His hand so many times. I need Him now as never before, as does each of you. I have felt confident at times leaping over the side of the boat, figuratively speaking, into unfamiliar places, only to realize that I could not do it alone.
"As we discussed during Face to Face, the Lord often reaches out to us through our families and leaders, inviting us to come unto Him—just like He reached out to save Peter.
"You too will have your many moments to respond to frequent invitations to 'come unto Christ' (Moroni 10:32). Isn’t that what this mortal life is all about? The call may be to come rescue a family member; come serve a mission; come back to church; come to the holy temple....
"I pray that we will reach out—reach out and take the Savior’s hand that He is extending to us, often through His divinely called leaders and our family members—and listen for His call to come."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "Standing with the Leaders of the Church," General Conference, April 2016, Saturday afternoon session
Click here to read the full talk

To sustain is a gift offered to us as Church members. It's the privilege of acknowledging the authority of those in the Church given certain callings, and publicly manifesting our trust in both the process that led to their call and the premise that they will provide inspired guidance and leadership. Once we make that commitment, the important question is, "are we listening to their counsel?"

It's truly a distinguishing characteristic of the Church of Jesus Christ to claim that there are leaders divinely commissioned to represent the Lord in providing inspired teaching and counsel. If we truly believe the claim that they are inspired to share what He would have us know, why would we not be eager to hear and follow??

Well might we each ask ourselves, "What do I do in my life that demonstrates that I am listening to, and heeding, that inspired counsel?"

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Neil L. Andersen on the challenges of modern families

Elder Neil L. Andersen (b. 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"God loves children. He loves all children. The Savior said, 'Suffer [the] little children… to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven' (Matthew 19:14).
"Children today find themselves in many different and complex family configurations.
"For example, today, twice as many children in the United States are living with only one parent than were 50 years ago. And there are many families that are less unified in their love of God and willingness to keep His commandments.
"In this increasing spiritual commotion, the restored gospel will continue to carry the standard, the ideal, the pattern of the Lord....
"My plea today is for the hundreds of thousands of children, youth, and young adults who do not come from these, for lack of a better term, 'picture-perfect' families. I speak not only of the youth who have experienced the death, divorce, or diminishing faith of their parents but also of the tens of thousands of young men and young women from all around the world who embrace the gospel without a mother or father to come into the Church with them....
"We will continue to teach the Lord’s pattern for families, but now with millions of members and the diversity we have in the children of the Church, we need to be even more thoughtful and sensitive....
"While a child’s earthly situation may not be ideal, a child’s spiritual DNA is perfect because one’s true identity is as a son or daughter of God."
- Neil L. Andersen, “Whoso Receiveth Them, Receiveth Me,” General Conference, April 2016, Saturday afternoon session
Click here to read the full talk

I appreciate the sensitivity in talks such as this one from Elder Andersen to the reality of the challenges of our time. The reality is that far too many find themselves in situations that are less than "picture-perfect." The traditional family is not ubiquitous as it once was. There are countless children being raised by single parents, or, as Elder Andersen notes, children trying to follow the Gospel's plans and programs without the support of parents.

So the call is for Church members to be "more thoughtful and sensitive" than we have in the past to families in a variety of situations. We all need to learn to reflect the love and understanding that God has for His beloved children.

Monday, April 18, 2016

D. Todd Christofferson on the crucial role of fathers

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.
"As a Church, we believe in fathers. We believe in 'the ideal of the man who puts his family first' (Blankenhorn, Fatherless America, 5). We believe that 'by divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families' ('The Family: A Proclamation to the World,' Ensign, Nov. 2010, 129). We believe that in their complementary family duties, 'fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners' (ibid.). We believe that far from being superfluous, fathers are unique and irreplaceable....
"The perfect, divine expression of fatherhood is our Heavenly Father. His character and attributes include abundant goodness and perfect love. His work and glory are the development, happiness, and eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39), Fathers in this fallen world can claim nothing comparable to the Majesty on High, but at their best, they are striving to emulate Him, and they indeed labor in His work. They are honored with a remarkable and sobering trust.
"For men, fatherhood exposes us to our own weaknesses and our need to improve. Fatherhood requires sacrifice, but it is a source of incomparable satisfaction, even joy. Again, the ultimate model is our Heavenly Father, who so loved us, His spirit children, that He gave us His Only Begotten Son for our salvation and exaltation (see John 3:16). ...
"Perhaps the most essential of a father’s work is to turn the hearts of his children to their Heavenly Father. If by his example as well as his words a father can demonstrate what fidelity to God looks like in day-to-day living, that father will have given his children the key to peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come. (See D&C 59:23; Moses 6:59.) A father who reads scripture to and with his children acquaints them with the voice of the Lord. (See D&C 18:34–36.)"
- D. Todd Christofferson, “Fathers,” General Conference, April 2016, Sunday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Christofferson's message to fathers declared the Church's doctrine and position on fathers clearly, in the midst of a time when too many man are forgetting their God-given duty or neglecting to be the kind of leader and role model in the home that the Lord invites them to be. That fathers are considered "superfluous" in homes and families is a tragic and dangerous path; instead, they should be considered "unique and irreplaceable."

I love the encouragement to look to Heavenly Father for the example of perfect fatherhood. There is much we men could learn from that kind of reflection. As they attempt to follow and emulate the divine example, fathers on this earth truly are "honored with a remarkable and sobering trust."

I especially appreciated this encouragement to provide the kind of spiritual leadership in the home that would make a powerful difference in ways we can only begin to glimpse:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Quentin L. Cook on the blessings and duties of temple service

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.
"Despite the lack of righteousness in the world today, we live in a sacred, holy time. Prophets, with loving and longing hearts, have described our day for centuries. (See Isaiah 2:2.)
"The Prophet Joseph Smith, citing both Obadiah (see Obadiah 1:21) in the Old Testament and 1 Peter (see 1 Peter 4:6) in the New Testament, acknowledged the great purpose of God in providing baptism for the dead and allowing us to be saviors on Mount Zion. (See Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 409.)
"The Lord has prospered our people and provided the resources and prophetic guidance so we can be valiant in attending to our temple responsibilities for both the living and the dead.
"Because of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we understand the purpose of life, the Father’s plan of salvation for His children, the Savior’s redemptive sacrifice, and the central role of families in the organization of heaven. (See Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff (2004), 177, 192–93.)
"The combination of increased numbers of temples and advanced technology to fulfill our sacred family history responsibilities for our ancestors makes this the most blessed time in all history. I rejoice in the extraordinary faithfulness of our youth in indexing and finding their ancestors and then doing the baptism and confirmation work in the temple. You are literally among the prophesied saviors on Mount Zion."
- Quentin L. Cook, "See Yourself in the Temple," General Conference, April 2016, Sunday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

I love the opening sentence of this excerpt.  "Despite the lack of righteousness in the world today, we live in a sacred, holy time." What a wonderful concept! The world is complicated, and evil abounds in so many ways; but yet, it's a time and era of earth's history that is truly sacred—filled with blessings, opportunities, miracles, and righteousness. Elder Cook teaches that part of the holiness of our time focuses on the ability and privilege we have to be "saviors on Mount Zion" through the work of holy temples.

If this is truly "the most blessed time in all history" because of the proximity of temples and the advanced technology to help prepare the work to be done in the temples, then how great is our duty to take advantage of those temples and that technology in order to do our part in the work! It's up to us to choose to claim the blessings offered to "saviors on Mount Zion."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

David A. Bednar on the power of ordinances to retain our greatest blessings

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.
"The ordinances of baptism by immersion, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the sacrament are not isolated and discrete events; rather, they are elements in an interrelated and additive pattern of redemptive progress. Each successive ordinance elevates and enlarges our spiritual purpose, desire, and performance. The Father’s plan, the Savior’s Atonement, and the ordinances of the gospel provide the grace we need to press forward and progress line upon line and precept upon precept toward our eternal destiny.
"We are imperfect human beings striving to live in mortality according to Heavenly Father’s perfect plan of eternal progression. The requirements of His plan are glorious, merciful, and rigorous. We may at times be filled with determination and at other times feel totally inadequate. We may wonder if we spiritually can ever fulfill the commandment to stand spotless before Him at the last day.
"With the help of the Lord and through the power of His Spirit to 'teach [us] all things' (John 14:26), indeed we can be blessed to realize our spiritual possibilities. Ordinances invite spiritual purpose and power into our lives as we strive to be born again and become men and women of Christ. (See Helaman 3:28-30.) Our weaknesses can be strengthened, and our limitations can be overcome.
"Although none of us can achieve perfection in this life, we can become increasingly worthy and spotless as we are 'cleansed by the blood of the Lamb' (Mormon 9:6). I promise and testify we will be blessed with increased faith in the Savior and greater spiritual assurance as we seek to always retain a remission of our sins and, ultimately, to stand spotless before the Lord at the last day."
- David A. Bednar, "Always Retain a Remission of Your Sins," General Conference, April 2016, Saturday afternoon session
Click here to read the full talk

Like Elder Bednar, I've often pondered the Book of Mormon language that speaks not just of obtaining, but also retaining a remission of sins (See Mosiah 4:11-12, Mosiah 4:26, Alma 4:14). This talk included some excellent insights about the connection between sacred ordinances and retaining the blessing of forgiveness. As he explores the meaning and inter-relationship of the ordinances of baptism, giving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the sacrament, Elder Bednar teaches how each of these ordinances "elevates and enlarges our spiritual purpose, desire, and performance," leading us to obtaining the grace offered in the Savior's Atonement. This gives us real power to confront the challenges of our lives:

Elder Bednar concludes with the reminder of the process of growth and development we are engaged in,  helping us become "increasingly worthy and spotless" before God.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Jeffrey R. Holland on blessings and strength from God's love

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.
"My brothers and sisters, the first great commandment of all eternity is to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength—that’s the first great commandment. But the first great truth of all eternity is that God loves us with all of His heart, might, mind, and strength. That love is the foundation stone of eternity, and it should be the foundation stone of our daily life. Indeed it is only with that reassurance burning in our soul that we can have the confidence to keep trying to improve, keep seeking forgiveness for our sins, and keep extending that grace to our neighbor.
"President George Q. Cannon once taught: 'No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character [to do so]. … He will [always] stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them.' (George Q. Cannon, 'Remarks,' Deseret Evening News, Mar. 7, 1891, 4.)
"Now, with that majestic devotion ringing from heaven as the great constant in our lives, manifested most purely and perfectly in the life, death, and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can escape the consequences of both sin and stupidity—our own or that of others—in whatever form they may come to us in the course of daily living. If we give our heart to God, if we love the Lord Jesus Christ, if we do the best we can to live the gospel, then tomorrow—and every other day—is ultimately going to be magnificent, even if we don’t always recognize it as such. Why? Because our Heavenly Father wants it to be! He wants to bless us. A rewarding, abundant, and eternal life is the very object of His merciful plan for His children! It is a plan predicated on the truth 'that all things work together for good to them that love God' (Romans 8:28). So keep loving. Keep trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You," General Conference, April 2016, Sunday afternoon session
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Holland often speaks from a tender heart, as he did in this wonderful message. I was deeply touched as he shared this insight, showing how the "first great commandment of all eternity" relates to the "first great truth of all eternity." Our love of God is, in fact, a response to His eternal and unending love of us. And that love is fundamental to our success and happiness in this life.

I have also appreciated the quote from President George Q. Cannon about God's unwillingness and even inability to "desert us" in the midst of our trials; I shared a previous entry in this blog based on that excerpt.

In the final measure, there are always plenty of challenges in our daily living. But Elder Holland puts all that in eternal perspective by reminding us that if we do the best we can, each day truly will be magnificent and the blessings and growth will flow. We just have to "press forward with a perfect brightness of hope" knowing that "Heaven is cheering [us] on" and God will never forsake us.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Robert D. Hales on the precious gift of the Holy Ghost

Elder Robert D. Hales (1932- ) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"As members of the Church, we may experience the companionship of the Holy Ghost continually. Through the restored priesthood of God, we are baptized by immersion for the remission of our sins and then confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In this ordinance, we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands of the holders of the priesthood. Thereafter, we can receive and retain the companionship of the Holy Ghost by always remembering the Savior, keeping His commandments, repenting of our sins, and worthily partaking of the sacrament on the Sabbath day.
"The Holy Ghost provides personal revelation to help us make major life decisions about such things as education, missions, careers, marriage, children, where we will live with our families, and so on. In these matters, Heavenly Father expects us to use our agency, study the situation out in our minds according to gospel principles, and bring a decision to Him in prayer.
"Personal revelation is essential, but it is only one part of the work of the Holy Ghost. As the scriptures attest, the Holy Ghost also testifies of the Savior and God the Father (see John 15:26; Romans 8:16). He teaches us 'the peaceable things of the kingdom' (D&C 39:6) and causes us to 'abound in hope' (Romans 15:13). He 'leadeth [us] to do good... [and] to judge righteously' (D&C 11:12). He gives 'to every man [and woman]... a [spiritual] gift... that all may be profited thereby' (D&C 46:11-12; see also Moroni 10:8–17; D&C 13–16). He 'giveth [us] knowledge' (Alma 18:35) and 'bring[s] all things to [our] remembrance' (John 14:26). Through the Holy Ghost, we 'may be sanctified' (3 Nephi 27:20) and receive 'a remission of [our] sins' (2 Nephi 31;17). He is the 'Comforter,' the same who was 'promised unto [the Savior’s] disciples' (D&C 88:3).
"I remind all of us that the Holy Ghost is not given to control us. Some of us unwisely seek the Holy Ghost’s direction on every minor decision in our lives. This trivializes His sacred role. The Holy Ghost honors the principle of agency. He speaks to our minds and our hearts gently about many matters of consequence (see D&C 8:2-3)."
- Robert D. Hales, "The Holy Ghost," General Conference, April 2016, Sunday afternoon session
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Hales is the 5th oldest among the current apostles at 83 years old, but he seems to be aging rapidly and his messages bear the mark of one focusing on "things that matter most." This talk was one he specifically shared not just with the Church, but with his own posterity. His counsel about receiving and retaining the gift of the Holy Ghost was very personal and powerful—a wonderful reminder of the blessings available to all who have been given that wonderful gift.

We've been reminded many times of the process to receive the Holy Ghost's influence, reviewed by Elder Hales as:

  • always remembering the Savior
  • keeping His commandments
  • repenting of our sins
  • worthily partaking of the sacrament on the Sabbath day
Having that gift gives us the right to personal revelation in the important decisions of our lives. Elder Hales went on to enumerate other blessings from the Holy Ghost, as documented in the scriptures:

However, he also reminded us of the eternal gift of agency; the role of the Holy Ghost is not to dictate or force every decision, but to guide and sustain us in our own choices.

I appreciated this message as a timely reminder of fundamental truths and blessings available to me personally—a gift that I should seek and treasure.
// Customization to close archive widget on first view - DK 3/15