Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Henry B. Eyring on the divine perspective of adversity

President Henry B. Eyring (born May 31, 1933 - 83 years ago today!) 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.
"With all the differences in our lives, we have at least one challenge in common. We all must deal with adversity. There may be periods, sometimes long ones, when our lives seem to flow with little difficulty. But it is in the nature of our being human that comfort gives way to distress, periods of good health come to an end, and misfortunes arrive. Particularly when the comfortable times have gone on for a while, the arrival of suffering or the loss of material security can bring fear and sometimes even anger....
"My purpose today is to assure you that our Heavenly Father and the Savior live and that They love all humanity. The very opportunity for us to face adversity and affliction is part of the evidence of Their infinite love. God gave us the gift of living in mortality so that we could be prepared to receive the greatest of all the gifts of God, which is eternal life. Then our spirits will be changed. We will become able to want what God wants, to think as He thinks, and thus be prepared for the trust of an endless posterity to teach and to lead through tests to be raised up to qualify to live forever in eternal life.
"It is clear that for us to have that gift and to be given that trust, we must be transformed through making righteous choices where that is hard to do. We are prepared for so great a trust by passing through trying and testing experiences in mortality. That education can come only as we are subject to trials while serving God and others for Him."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Adversity," Ensign, May 2009, p. 23
Click here to read the full talk

In some ways, this is a "hard doctrine"—life isn't supposed to be easy. There will be periods of simplicity and comfort, when everything seems to go along perfectly; but eventually, challenges will come to each and all. That's part of the divine plan, because the greatest growth and the choicest blessings can come as we learn to pass through those challenging times.

If we react to difficult times only with "fear and anger" we will fail to gain the growth and strength that might come. There's a sweetness of spirit that recognizes that in an eternal scheme, "thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment" (D&C 121:7) and that truly, "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" (D&C 122:7). Joseph Smith learned that, and we should each pray for that kind of faith and trust in a loving God; and, as President Eyring notes, spend our efforts "serving God and others for Him."

Monday, May 30, 2016

Boyd K. Packer on appreciating the innocent casualties of war

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.
"In armed conflicts there are casualties. Sometimes clean, worthy men, innocent of any desire to kill, devoid of any aggressive will to own that which belongs to someone else, fall victims of the confused, wicked ugliness of war.
"'For,' the prophet Moroni said, 'the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore, ye need not suppose that the righteous will be lost because they are slain; but behold they do enter into the rest of their God.' (Alma 60:13) There are homes among us now where this heartbreak is known.
"I read somewhere some simple lines of verse about a mother—and a telegram. Deep within lies a seed of strength and consolation—understood, perhaps, only by those who have faith. I can read but a few lines.
"'Killed in action—in the line of duty.'
Blind went her eyes with pain.
A moan of mortal agony,
Then all became still again.
"'Oh God! My God! Where were you
When my son was being slain?'
And the scalding tears of bitterness
Drenched her cheeks like the summer rain.
"But a soft voice seemed to whisper
In the twilight's afterglow,
'I had a son—at Calvary
Two thousand years ago.'"
- Boyd K. Packer, "The Member and the Military," Conference Report, April 1968, pp. 33-36; or Improvement Era June 1968, 71:58-61
Click here to read the full talk

President Packer gave this talk in general conference when he was a young general authority serving as an Assistant to the Twelve. It was during the time of US involvement in the Vietnam conflict. He discusses the appropriateness of involvement in the military as we strive to uphold principles of liberty and justice. But he also addresses the sobering reality of the sacrifices that result when casualties occur. This anonymous poem puts that sacrifice into an interesting perspective:

On Memorial Day in the US, we traditionally remember with appreciation the sacrifices of those who served in the military and "gave the last full measure of devotion." How we should appreciate those individuals, and the families they left behind in sadness and sorrow.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

M. Russell Ballard on our responsibility to preserve freedom through righteousness

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.
"Samuel Adams, who is sometimes called the father of the American Revolution, wrote: 'I thank God that I have lived to see my country independent and free. She may long enjoy her independence and freedom if she will. It depends upon her virtue.' (Wells, The Life of Samuel Adams, 3:175.)
"That means it depends on us. If we would maintain the independence and freedom the Founding Fathers intended, we must work to preserve and protect the moral foundation upon which they built the U. S. government. We must stand boldly for righteousness and truth, and must defend the cause of honor, decency, and personal freedom espoused by Washington, Madison, Adams, Lincoln, and other leaders who acknowledged and loved God. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in the same predicament President Lincoln observed in 1863.
"Said Lincoln: 'We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of their own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!' (A Proclamation 'to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation.')
"Let us resolve to make our own families truly free by teaching them that God holds us all accountable. His laws are absolutes; breaking them brings misery and unhappiness; keeping them brings joy, happiness, and the blessings of heaven. Let us teach our families and others the importance of moral responsibility based on the laws of God.
"The freedom we give thanks for is at stake—for ourselves and for our posterity. No nation or people that rejects God or His commandments can prosper or find happiness. History and the scriptures are filled with examples of nations that rejected God. Let us be wise and remember the source of our blessings and not be timid or apologetic in sharing this knowledge with others."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Religion in a Free Society," Provo Freedom Festival, July 5, 1992; see Ensign, October 1992, pp. 64-65
Click here to read the full talk

This is a wonderful thought from Elder Ballard, appropriate for the Memorial Day weekend. He reminds us that "independence and freedom" are a gift from our Founding Fathers, but are also an obligation given to us to preserve through righteousness. His premise, based on the quote from Samuel Adams, is that freedom depends on the virtue and righteousness of the citizens. We have the duty to "stand boldly for righteousness and truth" in our time. That struggle has been a difficult one for at least 150 years, as witnessed by these thought-provoking words of President Lincoln:

I thought it was significant that Elder Ballard emphasized that perhaps the most important thing we can individually do, today, is to focus on our own families; "make our own families truly free" as we teach accountability and righteousness, and "moral responsibility based on the laws of God." As we strengthen and bless individual families, we strengthen and bless the whole nation.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Joseph B. Wirthlin on demonstrating love for the Lord

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.
"Do you love the Lord?
"Spend time with Him. Meditate on His words. Take His yoke upon you. Seek to understand and obey, because 'this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments' (1 John 5:3). When we love the Lord, obedience ceases to be a burden. Obedience becomes a delight. When we love the Lord, we seek less for things that benefit us and turn our hearts toward things that will bless and uplift others.
"As our love for the Lord deepens, our minds and hearts become purified. We experience a 'mighty change in ... our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually' (Mosiah 5:2).
"Brethren and sisters, as you prayerfully consider what you can do to increase harmony, spirituality, and build up the kingdom of God, consider your sacred duty to teach others to love the Lord and their fellowman. This is the central object of our existence. Without charity—or the pure love of Christ—whatever else we accomplish matters little. With it, all else becomes vibrant and alive."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Great Commandment," Ensign, Nov. 2007, pp. 28-31
Click here to read the full talk

What does it really mean to love the Lord? How is that kind of emotion expressed or manifest in our lives? Elder Wirthlin gives some thought-provoking suggestions.
  • "Spend time with Him." If we love someone, we naturally want to do this, We should spend time conversing, listening, feeling.
  • "Meditate on His words." Studying and pondering the scriptures and modern inspired teachings should be a natural and pleasant activity.
  • "Take His yoke upon you." Try to live, act, and serve as He did and does.
  • "Seek to understand and obey." The natural outgrowth of study is the change of behavior as we attempt to conform in our lives to the things He teaches.

Elder Wirthlin's promise is inviting: "As our love for the Lord deepens, our minds and hearts become purified." We become changed people; our hearts and desires are purified. And this second promise is even more glorious: "Without charity—or the pure love of Christ—whatever else we accomplish matters little. With it, all else becomes vibrant and alive."

Friday, May 27, 2016

David O. McKay on finding the peace of Christ in the world

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.
"The peace of Christ does not come by seeking the superficial things of life, neither does it come except as it springs from the individual's heart. Jesus said to His disciples: 'Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you.' [John 14:27] Thus the Son of Man as the executor of his own will and testament gave to his disciples and to mankind the 'first of all human blessings.' It was a bequest conditioned upon obedience to the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is thus bequeathed to each individual. No man is at peace with himself or his God who is untrue to his better self, who transgresses the law of right either in dealing with himself by indulging in passion, in appetite, yielding to temptations against his accusing conscience, or in dealing with his fellowmen, being untrue to their trust. Peace does not come to the transgressor of law; peace comes by obedience to law, and it is that message which Jesus would have us proclaim among men.
"If we would have peace as individuals, we must supplant enmity with forbearance, which means to refrain or abstain from finding fault or from condemning others. 'It is a noble thing to be charitable with the failings and weaknesses of a friend; to bury his weaknesses in silence, but to proclaim his virtues from the house tops.' We shall have power to do this if we really cherish in our hearts the ideals of Christ, who said:
"'If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.' [Matt. 5:23]
"Note the Savior did not say if you have ought against him, but if you find that another has ought against you. How many of us are ready to come up to that standard? If we are, we shall find peace. Many of us, however, instead of following this admonition, nurse our ill-will until it grows to hatred, then this hatred expresses itself in fault-finding and even slander, 'whose whisper over the world's diameter as level as a cannon to its mouth, transports its poison shot.' Back-biting, fault-finding, are weeds of society that should be constantly eradicated."
- David O. McKay, Conference Report October 1938
Click here to read the full article

"The peace of Christ" is a beautiful concept. Those words alone distinguish President McKay's concept from what we sometimes consider in searching for peace. His encouragement is that peace will come only through Christ, and only through faith and obedience to Christ's teachings. If we lack peace, we should consider where we might need to repent or increase faithfulness.

President McKay teaches the concept of "forbearance"—avoiding criticism or fault-finding of others. And then he discusses the interesting challenge of the Savior from Matthew 5:23, in which we are reminded that it's not just our feelings about others, but their feelings about us that we must consider in this search for peace. True disciples of Christ must rise to a high standard to merit His greatest blessings!

Interestingly, a little later in this article, President McKay makes this application of his principles, one which we might consider in this election year:
"During the approaching political campaign let us refrain from making personal attacks and from hurling slanderous abuse, and thus avoid injuring one another’s feelings, and after election have fewer regrets and heartaches."

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Howard W. Hunter on having hope and excitement in troubled times

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.
"It is incumbent upon us to rejoice a little more and despair a little less, to give thanks for what we have and for the magnitude of God's blessings to us, and to talk a little less about what we may not have or what anxiety may accompany difficult times in this or any generation.
"For Latter-day Saints this is a time of great hope and excitement—one of the greatest eras of the Restoration and therefore one of the greatest eras in any dispensation, inasmuch as ours is the greatest of all dispensations. We need to have faith and hope, two of the greatest fundamental virtues of any discipleship of Christ. We must continue to exercise confidence in God, inasmuch as that is the first principle in our code of belief. We must believe that God has all power, that he loves us, and that his work will not be stopped or frustrated in our individual lives or in the world generally. He will bless us as a people because he always has blessed us as a people. He will bless us as individuals because he always has blessed us as individuals....
"I promise you tonight in the name of the Lord whose servant I am that God will always protect and care for his people.... With the gospel of Jesus Christ you have every hope and promise and reassurance. The Lord has power over his Saints and will always prepare places of peace, defense, and safety for his people. When we have faith in God we can hope for a better world—for us personally and for all mankind....
"Disciples of Christ in every generation are invited, indeed commanded, to be filled with a perfect brightness of hope."
- Howard W. Hunter, "An Anchor to the Souls of Men," Ensign, Oct. 1993, pp. 70-73
Click here to read the full talk

In the midst of the challenges and trials of daily life, it's very easy to fall into the trap of despair as we lost hope and perspective. These wise words from President Hunter encourage us to keep the vision of our time and our opportunities by "giv[ing] thanks for what we have and for the magnitude of God's blessings to us."

And then to remember. I love his description of the sense of our place in God's plan; we live in a precious and blessed period of history, when there is so much to be grateful for. As true disciples of Christ, we should be filled with faith in Him and His plan, and have great hope for the future based on His promises and desire to bring us happiness.

Apostolic promises, given "in the name of the Lord," should always draw our keen attention. President Hunter assures us that all will be well; God will care for his people and provide places of peace and safety, collectively and individually.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ronald A. Rasband on having a positive influence on youth

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 in a General Priesthood session of conference when he was serving as a Seventy.
"In these perilous times, as our youth are faced with this increased adversity, we can learn from others. In the armed forces, particularly in all the navies throughout the world, every seaman understands one phrase that is a clarion call for immediate help, no matter what he is doing or where he is on the ship. The call is 'All hands on deck.' Many a battle at sea has been won or lost by the response to this call.
"We—as members of the Church, leaders of youth, anxious fathers, and concerned grandfathers—all need to respond to the call for 'all hands on deck' as it pertains to our youth and young single adults. We must all look for opportunities to bless the youth whether or not we are currently closely associated with them. We must continue to teach and fortify fathers and mothers in their divinely declared roles with their children in the home. We must ask ourselves constantly if that extra sporting event, that extra activity or errand outside of the home is more important than families being together at home.
"Now is the time, brethren [and sisters], when in every action we take, in every place we go, with every Latter-day Saint young person we meet, we need to have an increased awareness of the need for strengthening, nurturing, and being an influence for good in their lives."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "Our Rising Generation," Ensign, May 2006, pp. 46-47
Click here to read the full talk
This was an interesting "call to action" from Elder Rasband. Knowing the "perilous times" in which we live and the challenges faced by youth and young single adults, he invited his listeners in a Priesthood session of conference to focus more attention on the needs of the young people—whether or not a formal calling is involved. He invites all members (brothers and sisters alike) to seek out opportunities to bless youth in positive ways in any interaction.

It's interesting that he doesn't want to hear the excuse, "But I don't have a calling to work with youth right now." He's inviting all members to seek for ways to have a positive influence in the lives of our young people. This won't happen just by coincidence (although at times that may be one of the ways!); but we should each ponder things we might do to share testimony, encourage, teach, show good examples, or influence in any good way.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Neil L. Andersen on the blessings of reading the Book of Mormon

Elder Neil L. Andersen (b. 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"In the commotion, busyness, and uncertainty of our lives, our families yearn for peace. We need our homes to be places of refuge, places of calm, places of truth.
"President Gordon B. Hinckley has given a beautiful promise as we read the Book of Mormon: 'Without reservation I promise you... there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God' (Ensign, Aug. 2005, 6). Surely these are promises of great peace that we need in our families.
"The Book of Mormon is a remarkable spiritual history. The words of prophets were passed down through the centuries from father to son, guarded and preserved through difficulty and war, brought together and summarized, and then laid to rest for centuries, finally to come forth in this dispensation of the fulness of times. Is it any wonder that the Spirit of the Lord, transcending all languages and cultures, is found in such abundance in this holy book?
"The promise of comfort and peace is nestled in every chapter and verse of the Book of Mormon. We need only approach this book prayerfully and with faith, and the Savior's peace will permeate our searching."
- Neil L. Andersen, "The Book of Mormon: The Great Purveyor of the Savior's Peace," Ensign, January 2008, p. 34
Click here to read the full talk

In offering encouragement to help us have our homes be "places of refuge, places of calm, places of truth," Elder Andersen draws on a promise given by President Hinckley in August 2005 when he challenged all members of the Church to re-read the Book of Mormon before the end of that year. I remember it being a remarkable time, seeing people carrying their Books and reading in public settings in order to complete the challenge. It created a unique sense of unity in the Church, joining individuals together in a great purpose. And so many realized the promises President Hinckley offered:

Of course, that promise applies not just to a Church-wide reading program but to our individual, ongoing programs of scripture study. The promises are real. As Elder Andersen says, "Surely these are promises of great peace that we need in our families."

And Elder Andersen offers his own promise:

Monday, May 23, 2016

D. Todd Christofferson on our individual efforts to build Zion

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.
"Much of the work to be done in establishing Zion consists in our individual efforts to become 'the pure in heart' (D&C 97:21). 'Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom,' said the Lord; 'otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself' (D&C 105:5). The law of the celestial kingdom is, of course, the gospel law and covenants, which include our constant remembrance of the Savior and our pledge of obedience, sacrifice, consecration, and fidelity.
"The Savior was critical of some of the early Saints for their 'lustful... desires' (D&C 101:6; see also D&C 88:121). These were people who lived in a non-television, non-film, non-Internet, non-iPod world. In a world now awash in sexualized images and music, are we free from lustful desires and their attendant evils? Far from pushing the limits of modest dress or indulging in the vicarious immorality of pornography, we are to hunger and thirst after righteousness. To come to Zion, it is not enough for you or me to be somewhat less wicked than others. We are to become not only good but holy men and women. Recalling Elder Neal A. Maxwell's phrase, let us once and for all establish our residence in Zion and give up the summer cottage in Babylon (see Neal A. Maxwell, 'A Wonderful Flood of Light' [1990], 47)."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Come to Zion," Ensign, Nov. 2008, pp. 37-38
Click here to read the full talk

While there are many important organizational aspects to God's work, including the direction of sacred ordinances and the coordination of efforts to teach and serve, so much of the critical aspects of the Gospel are very personal and individual. As Elder Christofferson notes, building Zion depends on "individual efforts" as we each strive to purify our hearts, thoughts, and deeds. We must remember and magnify "our constant remembrance of the Savior and our pledge of obedience, sacrifice, consecration, and fidelity."

This process of personal growth and purification is really the essence of the Gospel. As we individually become more like Him, then Zion can be built collectively.

Elder Christofferson quotes Elder Maxwell's classic and memorable comment as a great reminder of the challenge many of us face in this individual process.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Jeffrey R. Holland on the covenant path in life

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 way we each have chosen, the way along which our Savior assists us, is the way of the covenant. Beginning with our baptism, we make covenants as we follow this path to eternal life, and we stay on the path by keeping them. His light is one of the rewards of keeping covenants. 'I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life' (John 8:12), Jesus assured.
"In His light we live spiritually and become more able day by day to discern that light and receive more of it. Furthermore, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost at the time of our confirmation, the first of many gifts reserved for members of the true Church. The promptings of the Holy Ghost will always be sufficient for our needs if we keep to the covenant path. Our path is uphill most days, but the help we receive for the climb is literally divine. We have three members of the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—helping us because of the covenants we have made.
"To remind us of those covenants, we partake of the sacrament each week. In the prayer offered on the bread, we 'witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that [we] are willing to take upon [us] the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given [us]; that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us]' (D&C 20:77)."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "What I Wish Every New Member Knew—and Every Longtime Member Remembered," Ensign, October 2006, pp. 10-16
Click here to read the full talk

This is a message of hope and encouragement. While there are many uphill struggles along the way of our mortal journey, Elder Holland assures us that one who is traveling along "the way of the covenant" has many aids to stay on the path and to walk in light; and most importantly, to be guided, strengthened, and encouraged by divine influence.

What a sacred blessing the sacrament is as part of "the way of the covenant!" It reminds us of those sacred covenants, strengthens our resolve to be true to them, and enhances our ability to have them bless our lives!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

David A. Bednar on consistency in living gospel principles

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.
"In my office is a beautiful painting of a wheat field. The painting is a vast collection of individual brushstrokes--none of which in isolation is very interesting or impressive. In fact, if you stand close to the canvas, all you can see is a mass of seemingly unrelated and unattractive streaks of yellow and gold and brown paint. However, as you gradually move away from the canvas, all of the individual brushstrokes combine together and produce a magnificent landscape of a wheat field. Many ordinary, individual brushstrokes work together to create a captivating and beautiful painting.
"Each family prayer, each episode of family scripture study, and each family home evening is a brushstroke on the canvas of our souls. No one event may appear to be very impressive or memorable. But just as the yellow and gold and brown strokes of paint complement each other and produce an impressive masterpiece, so our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. 'Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great' (D&C 64:33). Consistency is a key principle as we lay the foundation of a great work in our individual lives and as we become more diligent and concerned in our own homes."
- David A. Bednar, "More Diligent and Concerned at Home," Ensign, Nov. 2009, pp. 17-20
Click here to read the full talk

I love Impressionistic art, where small points or smudges of color come together to form a beautiful picture when seen in its entirety. There are lots of applications of that concept; for example, sometimes we get caught up in small challenges or disappointments in life, forgetting that as part of a broader view they might provide a part of a beautiful bigger picture.

Elder Bednar's application relates to the importance of each of those small brushstrokes; together they form a composite that only the master artist could have conceived in the production. And the analogy is to our lives: each small act of goodness, under the guidance of an overall plan, while not necessarily memorable or impressive, can result in "significant spiritual results" when combined together over time.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Quentin L. Cook on finding happiness and peace in life

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.
"People all over the world are seeking permanent happiness. The prominent magazine The Economist, in its holiday double issue, featured 'happiness' on its cover and as its lead story. In one article it noted that increased national economic success had not increased happiness. 'Happiness... has hardly changed over 50 years.... Rich countries do not get happier as they get richer.' ('Economics Discovers Its Feelings,' The Economist, 23 December 2006, p. 34.)
"Happiness has little to do with material wealth. Nor does permanent happiness come from entertainment or fun and games. Instead of being diversions from an otherwise productive life, these pursuits have become all-consuming to many people.
"The lead article on happiness in The Economist quoted Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, as questioning: 'How many people ruin themselves by laying out money on trinkets of frivolous utility?' ('Happiness (and How to Measure It),' The Economist, 13)
"Unfortunately, much of what is available today is not just frivolous but also morally reprehensible.
"Contrast this with those who [confront life] with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
"We all face problems and challenges. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, but those who accept the gospel and live righteously have a wonderful promise in D&C 59:23: 'But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.'
"Peace in this life does not come from merely pursuing worldly objectives. Eternal life, especially exaltation, does not come from pursuing merely worldly objectives."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Be a Missionary All Your Life," BYU Devotional, March 13, 2007
Click here to read the full talk

The eternal search for happiness!  Elder Cook reminds us, supported by evidence published recently in a national magazine, that "permanent happiness" is not really linked to financial prosperity, nor to pleasure-seeking in entertainment and games. He warns us that so much of what our society seeks in the quest for happiness is "not just frivolous but also morally reprehensible."

Instead, the Gospel's plan is to confront life with humility and a sense of dependence on God. That's where happiness will truly originate, and not from the pursuit of "worldly" success:

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Robert D. Hales on enduring life's challenges with faith in God

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.
"There is more to endurance than just surviving and waiting for the end to overtake us. To endure to the end takes great faith. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus 'fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt' (Matt. 26:39).
"It takes great faith and courage to pray to our Heavenly Father, 'Not as I will, but as thou wilt.' The faith to believe in the Lord and endure brings great strength. Some may say if we have enough faith, we can sometimes change the circumstances that are causing our trials and tribulations. Is our faith to change circumstances, or is it to endure them? Faithful prayers may be offered to change or moderate events in our life, but we must always remember that when concluding each prayer, there is an understanding: 'Thy will be done' (Matt. 26:42). Faith in the Lord includes trust in the Lord. The faith to endure well is faith based upon accepting the Lord's will and the lessons learned in the events that transpire....
"There is nothing that we are enduring that Jesus does not understand, and He waits for us to go to our Heavenly Father in prayer. I testify that if we will be obedient and if we are diligent, our prayers will be answered, our problems will diminish, our fears will dissipate, light will come upon us, the darkness of despair will be dispersed, and we will be close to the Lord and feel of His love and of the comfort of the Holy Ghost."
- Robert D. Hales, "Behold, We Count Them Happy Which Endure," Ensign, May 1998, pp. 75-77
Click here to read the full talk

It is sometimes a difficult challenge to maintain our perspective when we are enduring a burden in life. But Elder Hales points out that we must do more than just hang on, waiting for it to be over. Like the Savior, we should pray; sometimes that can result in burdens being lifted, and sometimes it can result in us being strengthened to bear the burden.

Sometimes the hardest thing is to remember that God may have a purpose; "not as I will, but as thou wilt" can be a hard prayer to offer with true sincerity. But always, "faith in the Lord includes trust in the Lord."

But always and forever, we must remember that we do not ever need to endure alone. This is a beautiful promise:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

M. Russell Ballard on the blessings of improving scripture study

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.
"Here are some practical suggestions that I hope will help you derive greater power from your study of the scriptures:
"*If possible, set a consistent time and place to study when you can be alone and undisturbed. Knowing the lifestyle of many young adults, I think it is safe to say that early morning in your apartments is one time you can be both alone and have it quiet.
"*Always have a marking pencil ready as you study. Make notations in the margins. Write cross-references. Make the scriptures yours by marking them.
"*Commit yourself to study for a set amount of time, rather than to just read a chapter or a certain number of pages. Sometimes a single verse or short passage will take the entire time as you think about it and consider what it means for you.
"*Study topically as well as chronologically. Both approaches have merit, but we need to go to the Topical Guide or the index from time to time and read all that the Lord has said on repentance or faith or some other principle.
"*Take time to ponder, reflect, meditate, and pray about what you read. Ask yourselves questions such as 'What can I learn from this passage that will help me come unto Christ and be more like Him?'
"One thing I have learned in life is how frequently the Lord answers our questions and gives us counsel through the scriptures. It is not unusual for one of us in the Quorum of the Twelve to say, 'I saw this teaching more clearly than ever before in this verse of scripture.' Let us then go to the Lord in prayer, pleading for help or answers; and those answers will come as we open the scriptures and begin to study them. Sometimes it is as though a passage hundreds or thousands of years old was dictated specifically to answer our question."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Be Strong in the Lord, and in the Power of His Might," CES fireside, March 3, 2002
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Ballard's suggestions for improving scripture study are valuable and worth pondering for all of us, regardless of how consistent or effective we feel our personal study currently is.
  • Have a consistent time and place to study
  • Mark key passages and make notes
  • Study for a fixed period of time
  • Study both topically and chronologically
  • Take time to ponder and pray about the reading
Each of us can find in that list something that we can try or improve to enhance our experience.

The personal encouragement that we can find answers to questions and challenges in our scripture reading was especially valuable to me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dallin H. Oaks on the timing of spiritual promptings

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.
"Revelations from God—the teachings and directions of the Spirit—are not constant. We believe in continuing revelation, not continuous revelation. We are often left to work out problems without the dictation or specific direction of the Spirit. That is part of the experience we must have in mortality. Fortunately, we are never out of our Savior's sight, and if our judgment leads us to actions beyond the limits of what is permissible and if we are listening to the still, small voice, the Lord will restrain us by the promptings of his Spirit....
"The Lord will speak to us in his own time and in his own way. This is usually by what the scriptures call the 'still small voice' of enlightenment. We are often obliged to act upon our best judgment, subject to the Spirit's restraining impressions if we have strayed beyond permissible limits. Revelation is a reality. It comes in the Lord's way and according to the Lord's timetable."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Teaching and Learning by the Spirit," Ensign, March 1997, p. 14
Click here to read the full talk

The difference between "continuing" (or "continual") and "continuous" is a subtle but significant one. The words are often not used correctly. Something that is "continuous" does not stop and start; it is always ongoing, uninterrupted, never ceasing (the river flows continuously to the sea). But things that are "continuing" occur frequently or regularly, in an ongoing manner, but are sometimes interrupted (the continuing rainstorms in the springtime).

Elder Oaks describes revelation as being continuing, not continuous. This is an important distinction. Though direction from the Spirit and other forms of personal revelation do come at important times, we are not given constant direction on what to do. As a part of the mortal experience, the Lord often wants us to learn "to work out problems" on our own, without the "specific direction of the Spirit."

Elder Oaks also states that for a person who is prayerful and humble, even if no specific direction is given, the Spirit will warn if we are taking a wrong direction. Those "restraining impressions" are as valuable as the positive ones that give specific direction, and should never be neglected.

One of the great tasks of mortality is becoming familiar with the language of the Spirit. With humility and persistence, this becomes a joyful gift that we claim from the Lord.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Russell M. Nelson on the power to learn, and spiritual application

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.
"Consider the power to learn. How essential it is for progress, whether one's career is professional or that of a salesman, a farmer, or a homemaker.
"But learning can be misused! A sharp mind, misdirected, can cut into that line of spiritual power. Some 'learned' souls delight in leading others astray, all in the so-called name of learning. Years later their victims may realize that they have climbed their ladder of learning, only to find it leaning against the wrong wall. A prophet of the Lord has counseled us on this point:
"'O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
"'But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.' (2 Ne. 9:28-29; italics added.)
"What happens without spiritual learning? What happens to the pilot of a glider when he is cut loose from the power of his tow plane? There may be banks and turns, but ultimately there is only one direction he can go, and that is down!
"We must gain learning, but we must apply it wisely. Otherwise, we have politics without principle, industry without morality, knowledge without wisdom, science without humanity!"
- Russell M. Nelson, "Protect the Spiritual Power Line," Ensign, November 1984, pp. 30-32
Click here to read the full talk

"The power to learn"—what a profound gift, one that is very much taken for granted! As President Nelson describes, it is "essential for progress" professionally.

But it also applies in other areas, and often those areas provide challenges. "Sharp minds" have the potential for doing much good, but also present the risk of being "misdirecting" in ways that can erode spiritual power. Hence the very large and important "if" in the quoted counsel: learning is good IF we continue to hearken to God's counsel:

I really enjoyed President Nelson's summary of some of the risks of learning without proper spiritual application:
  • politics without principle
  • industry without morality
  • knowledge without wisdom
  • science without humanity
We could easily point to examples of each of those in our day!
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