Sunday, July 31, 2016

James E. Faust on the precious lifeline of prayer

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.
"Access to our Creator through our Savior is surely one of the great privileges and blessings of our lives. I have learned from countless personal experiences that great is the power of prayer. No earthly authority can separate us from direct access to our Creator. There can never be a mechanical or electronic failure when we pray. There is no limit on the number of times or how long we can pray each day. There is no quota of how many needs we wish to pray for in each prayer. We do not need to go through secretaries or make an appointment to reach the throne of grace. He is reachable at any time and any place.
"When God placed man on the earth, prayer became the lifeline between mankind and God. Thus, in Adam’s generation, men began 'to call upon the name of the Lord' (Gen. 4:26). Through all generations since that time, prayer has filled a very important human need. Each of us has problems that we cannot solve and weaknesses that we cannot conquer without reaching out through prayer to a higher source of strength. That source is the God of heaven to whom we pray in the name of Jesus Christ. (See 2 Ne. 32:9; 3 Ne. 20:31.)"
- James E. Faust, "The Lifeline of Prayer," Ensign, May 2002, pp. 59-62
Click here to read the full talk

We each have the privilege of learning through our personal experiences, as did President Faust, that "great is the power of prayer." This witness of that blessing should help inspire us to seek greater understanding and appreciation. President Faust contrasts prayer with some of the means of earthly communication that are sometimes difficult or interrupted; with prayer, we can be assured that God is listening and available at any time!

One of the key points President Faust makes is the essential nature of prayer to our success in life. "Each of us has problems that we cannot solve and weaknesses that we cannot conquer without reaching out through prayer to a higher source of strength." There really is no other way to succeed without taking full advantage of this marvelous gift!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Joseph B. Wirthlin on enduring life's challenges in faith

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.
"Learning to endure times of disappointment, suffering, and sorrow is part of our on-the-job training. These experiences, while often difficult to bear at the time, are precisely the kinds of experiences that stretch our understanding, build our character, and increase our compassion for others.
"Because Jesus Christ suffered greatly, He understands our suffering. He understands our grief. We experience hard things so that we too may have increased compassion and understanding for others.
"Remember the sublime words of the Savior to the Prophet Joseph Smith when he suffered with his companions in the smothering darkness of Liberty Jail:
"'My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
"'And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.' (D&C 121:7-8)
"With that eternal perspective, Joseph took comfort from these words, and so can we. Sometimes the very moments that seem to overcome us with suffering are those that will ultimately suffer us to overcome."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Come What May, and Love It," Ensign, Nov. 2008, pp. 26-28
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Wirthlin's insights on this topic are part of one of the most beloved of the talks he shared with Church members, as the last conference talk he gave less than two months before his passing. Having done some suffering and enduring of his own, he was very qualified to share these insights. He knew that going through the "disappointment, suffering, and sorrow" that life has to offer can help to:

  • stretch our understanding
  • build our character
  • increase our compassion for others
He also knew that because of the love of the Savior, we never have to endure alone; we can always know that He understands the suffering and grief of our challenges.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Bruce R. McConkie on the blessing of studying the scriptures

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (July 29, 1915 - April 19, 1985) served as a Seventy from 1946-1972 when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve.  He served in that assignment until his death from cancer at age 69.
"It is far better for us to gain our answers from the scriptures than from something someone else says about them. It is true that we oftentimes need an inspired interpreter to help us understand what apostles and prophets have written for us in the Standard Works. But it is also true that many explanations given by many people as to the meaning of scriptural passages are somewhat less than true and edifying.
"We are in a far better position if we are able to drink directly from the scriptural fountain without having the water muddied by others whose insights are not as great as were those of the prophetic writers who first penned the passages found in the accepted canon of holy writ. I am not rejecting proper scriptural commentaries; I know and appreciate their value and have written volumes of them myself; I am simply saying that people with the ability to do it would be far better off to create their own commentaries. There is something sacred and solemn and saving about studying the scriptures themselves. We should train ourselves in this direction."
- Bruce R. McConkie, "Letter to Honest Truth Seekers," 1 July 1980; see Horne, Bruce R. McConkie, pp. 143-4
Click here to read the complete talk

This is interesting counsel from one who was considered one of the great scriptorians of our dispensation, and one who produced as much scriptural commentary as any other Church leader in recent years. While an "inspired interpreter" has a place now and then, the challenge is knowing that the interpreter is reliable, since many are "less than true and edifying."

So then Elder McConkie offers the challenge: we should each write our own scriptural commentary! Our study of the scriptures should lead to insights and applications that we can document to our benefit, helping increase our knowledge and retain insights. A "scripture study journal" can become such a personal commentary. It's a challenge worthy of consideration.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ronald A. Rasband on the responsibility to assist one another in life's challenges

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.
"Many of you have in your youth recreated that trek experience out on a trail just to feel a small measure of what they felt as they followed the Lord's call to come to Zion. I doubt yours was in snow up to your knees and yet that push and pull up the hill was still a staggering feat. How did you make it? How did they make it? 'By travelling over the hill three times—twice forward and once back.' (John Chislett) The experience was truly an example of the second great commandment, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' (Mark 12:31)
"Think about it. You have careers, families and adventures ahead of you, however, no one of them can be counted a success if you do not see that your fellow travelers get to the top of the hill.
"That is a different perspective than the world would espouse. In our Father's kingdom—here on earth—we operate by different rules. The Lord laid out His expectations for us during His ministry. Remember the account of the man who asked the Savior, 'what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?' (Matthew 19:16) The Lord listed commandments to him ending with 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' (Mark 12:31) And the young man said, 'All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?' (Matthew 19:20)
"'Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
"'But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions' (Matthew 19:21-22)."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "To the Summit," commencement address at BYU-Idaho, 4/8/16
Click here to read the full talk

In this address to graduates at BYU-Idaho, Elder Rasband uses powerful examples from the pioneers to remind us of a key concept of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There were no solo treks across the plains, no pioneer companies of one person—they depended on each other to get through the challenging times. In John Chislett's memorable phrasing, we travel the hill three times; once as we climb ourselves, a second time as we return down to help another, and then a third as we climb again, sharing burdens of others.

Likewise, the Gospel message is that we only succeed when we "see that your fellow travelers get to the top of the hill." The essence of the Savior's message (and of the covenants we make) is that we "bear one another's burdens" as we move up the hills and through the challenges of life.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Neil L. Andersen on learning about and remembering Jesus in our lives

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 our world today, each child, each young man and young woman needs his or her own conversion to the truth. Each needs his or her own light, his or her own 'steadfast and immovable' (Alma 1:25) faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, independent of parents, youth leaders, and supportive friends.
"The stories of Jesus can be like a rushing wind across the embers of faith in the hearts of our children. Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life' (John 14:6). The stories of Jesus shared over and over bring faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strength to the foundation of testimony. Can you think of a more valuable gift for our children?
"Are the life and teachings of Jesus Christ embedded in the minds and souls of our children? Do they think about the Savior's life when they wonder what to do in their own lives? This will be more and more important in the years ahead....
"To fathers and mothers, to grandfathers and grandmothers, and to those without children of their own who lovingly nurture children and youth, my counsel is to speak more frequently about Jesus Christ. In His holy name is great spiritual power. 'There [is] no other name given nor any other way... whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ' (Mosiah 3:17)."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus," Ensign, May 2010, pp. 108-112
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Andersen chose for the theme of this talk the message of the tender Primary song, "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus." He encourages us to teach our children, and to learn more ourselves, about the life and message of the Savior. The strength that comes to our faith and testimony is a great promise, "like a rushing wind across the embers of faith in the hearts of our children" and of adults as well. Those stories and teachings should be "embedded in the minds and souls" of our little ones, in ways that will bless them as they mature and deal with the problems of the world.

It's not hard to imagine the difference there would be in our world if more people were remembering and pondering the life of the Savior in our daily activities, struggles, concerns, and interactions. So Elder Andersen suggests the start of change would be to "speak more frequently about Jesus Christ." Very wise counsel!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

D. Todd Christofferson on our personal 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.
"Zion is Zion because of the character, attributes, and faithfulness of her citizens. Remember, 'the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them' (Moses 7:18). If we would establish Zion in our homes, branches, wards, and stakes, we must rise to this standard. It will be necessary (1) to become unified in one heart and one mind; (2) to become, individually and collectively, a holy people; and (3) to care for the poor and needy with such effectiveness that we eliminate poverty among us. We cannot wait until Zion comes for these things to happen—Zion will come only as they happen....
"The Prophet Joseph Smith said, 'We ought to have the building up of Zion as our greatest object' (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 186). In our families and in our stakes and districts, let us seek to build up Zion through unity, godliness, and charity, preparing for that great day when Zion, the New Jerusalem, will arise."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Come to Zion," Ensign, Nov. 2008, pp. 37-38
Click here to read the whole talk

Building Zion in our homes and communities is a great quest. Elder Christofferson invites us to become "of one heart and one mind" and learn to care deeply for one another, temporally and spiritually. We can hasten the development of Zion as we:

  • become unified
  • become more righteous, individually and collectively
  • learn to care sincerely for all among us

Only as we consciously and actively pursue these efforts will the blessing of Zion begin to be ours.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Quentin L. Cook on life's choices and our accountability to God

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"We live in perilous times when many believe we are not accountable to God and that we do not have personal responsibility or stewardship for ourselves or others. Many in the world are focused on self-gratification, put themselves first, and love pleasure more than they love righteousness. They do not believe they are their brother's keeper. In the Church, however, we believe that these stewardships are a sacred trust....
"This feeling of accountability, which is encompassed by the first great commandment to love God, has been described by some as 'obedience to the unenforceable' (John Fletcher Moulton). We try to do what is right because we love and want to please our Father in Heaven, not because someone is forcing us to obey....
"In all of our stewardship efforts, we follow Jesus Christ. We try to emulate what He has asked us to do, both by His teachings and His example."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Stewardship—A Sacred Trust," Ensign, November 2009, p. 91
Click here to read the whole talk

Do the choices and actions of my life matter? Does God care about what I do? Will I be held accountable? Elder Cook explores the implications of these thoughts in this discussion of our eternal stewardships. While many today believe all that matters is personal pleasure and self-gratification, he offers a strong testimony that our actions do make a difference, and that one of the great eternal keys to happiness lies in loving God and following the Savior.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Gordon B. Hinckley on honoring our pioneer heritage

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1961. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1981-1995, then as Church President until his death in 2008.
"We stand today as the recipients of their [the pioneers'] great effort. I hope we are thankful. I hope we carry in our hearts a deep sense of gratitude for all that they have done for us.
"It is now 1997, and the future is ahead. As great things were expected of them, so are they of us. We note what they did with what they had. We have so much more, with an overwhelming challenge to go on and build the kingdom of God. There is so much to do. We have a divine mandate to carry the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people....
"We are engaged in a great and consuming crusade for truth and goodness. Fortunately, we live in a season of goodwill. There has come down to us an inheritance of respect and honor to our people. We must grasp the torch and run the race....
"With so great an inheritance, we can do no less than our very best. Those who have gone before expect this of us. We have a mandate from the Lord. We have a vision of our cause and purpose."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "True to the Faith", Ensign, May 1997, p. 66-67
Click here to read the full talk

It's now been 19 years since the Church celebrated the 150th anniversary of the pioneer arrival in the Great Salt Lake valley. As President Hinckley spoke on that occasion, he looked to the past at the example of the pioneers, but looked to the future at the challenges and opportunities that were ahead.

He suggested that our endeavors can be blessed by remembering the examples of the past and carrying a sense of gratitude and with us as we move ahead. We recognize that "we have so much more" than those early saints had; our lives are relatively simple and blessed with prosperity and ease. But our challenges are also great. "There is so much to do" for us in these days as we defend the truth and strive to carry the message of the gospel into the world.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

David A. Bednar on faith in trials and the enabling power of the Atonement

Elder David A. Bednar (born June 15, 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.
"All that I have read thus far is a preparation for the next line from Daniel W. Jones’ journal. It illustrates how those pioneer Saints may have known something about the enabling power of the Atonement that we, in our prosperity and ease, are not as quick to understand: 'We asked the Lord to bless our stomachs and adapt them to this food' (Jones, Forty Years Among the Indians, 81; emphasis added). My dear brothers and sisters, I know what I would have prayed for in those circumstances. I would have prayed for something else to eat. 'Heavenly Father, please send me a quail or a buffalo.' It never would have occurred to me to pray that my stomach would be strengthened and adapted to what we already had.
"What did Daniel W. Jones know? He knew about the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He did not pray that his circumstances would be changed. He prayed that he would be strengthened to deal with his circumstances. Just as Nephi, Amulek, and Alma and his people were strengthened, Daniel W. Jones had the spiritual insight to know what to ask for in that prayer. 'We hadn’t the faith to ask him to bless the raw-hide, for it was "hard stock." On eating now all seemed to relish the feast. We were three days without eating before this second attempt was made. We enjoyed this sumptuous fare for about six weeks' (Jones, Forty Years, 81–82).
"The enabling power of the Atonement of Christ strengthens us to do things we could never do on our own. Sometimes I wonder if in our latter-day world of ease—in our world of microwave ovens and cell phones and air-conditioned cars and comfortable homes—I wonder if we ever learn to acknowledge our daily dependence upon the enabling power of the Atonement."
- David A. Bednar, "In the Strength of the Lord," BYU Devotional, 23 October 2001
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Bednar shared a remarkable story from the life of Daniel Jones, who was part of the rescue efforts for the stranded 1856 handcart companies. During that time, he volunteered with a few others to remain and safeguard the possessions of the pioneer companies while the suffering individuals were taken to Utah for relief. But those who stayed behind soon found their provisions very inadequate to the point that they were forced to subsist on animal hides and other very meager possessions. That's the setting for the stunningly humble and faithful prayer of Daniel Jones.

The profound insight this offers, according to Elder Bednar, is that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we are able to pray not for circumstances to change, but for the strength to survive and learn from the circumstances we're in. That kind of prayer often requires a much deeper faith in God and trust in His eternal plan for our welfare. We learn to draw on the great "enabling power" that the grace of God provides in our lives, helping us to move forward and be blessed by the things we experience and learn.

As Elder Bednar cautions, in our prosperous and comfortable times, it can become easy to forget how dependent we are on that eternal enabling power. We must keep the proper eternal perspective and always acknowledge the blessings that come to us from God in myriad ways. And then, we are able to seek for even more enabling power to help us to grow and become more like Him.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Henry B. Eyring on having faith tried and strengthened in times of challenge

President Henry B. Eyring (born May 31, 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.
"I see a thread of faith, a particular faith, running in the lives of those heroes of the Restoration whose steadfastness and courage leave us in awe. Perhaps if we examine that thread today, we may find it in our own lives and strengthen it.
"Those histories reveal as much about faith from what people did as from what they declared in words. Different as were their challenges and their responses, I thought I saw a recurring pattern. Here it is.
"They shared a faith that the kingdom of God had been established for the last time, that it would triumph over great opposition and would become glorious in preparation for the day when the Savior would come to accept it, that it would stand forever, and that theirs was a rare privilege to have been called out of the world to build it.
"They were sure that they were establishing Zion, a place of refuge. It is not surprising then that they plead for that Zion and that they expected not only to build it but to enjoy living in it. What is surprising is that their faith increased when they pleaded for Zion to be established even as they saw times of safety turn to times of testing....
"It seems to me that was true because their faith was based on an understanding of why God allows us to pass into such close places and how he delivers us. The 'how' springs from the 'why.' The why is that our loving Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, wish for us to be sanctified that we may have eternal life with them. That requires our being cleansed through faith in Jesus Christ, repenting because of that faith, and proving ourselves faithful to the covenants they offer us only through their mortal servants in the kingdom of God. Knowing their loving purpose makes it easier to understand both why they allow trials and how they deliver us.
"They could make all the rough places smooth in building the kingdom and in our lives. They allow trials to come even when we are faithful because they love us....
"But for me, the greatest comfort comes from this one in D&C 95:1:
"'Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you.'
"I have come to understand that to try our faith is not simply to test it but to strengthen it, that the witness which comes after the testing strengthens that faith, and that God’s preparation includes in the plan for deliverance the timing that will best strengthen our faith."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Faith of Our Fathers," BYU Education Week Devotional, Aug 20, 1996
Click here to read the full talk

This was really a profound and moving address by President Eyring. Speaking to an eager audience at the BYU Campus Education week in 1996, he shared a number of experiences of his own pioneer ancestors to illustrate the common principles of faith and devotion that made their contributions and sacrifices so great. It was all based on the foundation of belief in the restoration of the gospel and the vision of the great work of the latter days. They felt that they were participating in that work, and that regardless of where or how they were asked to serve, their part would make a difference in the eventual destiny of God's kingdom on earth.

I think that's a powerful insight. When we understand that God is in charge, and if we truly believe he speaks through His authorized servants to help direct us in the labors of the last days, then we are not only willing, but eager to receive and follow through on that direction.

And moreover, we learn that in the process of acting in faith, we are also growing in faith. Our faith is strengthened as it is tested. Learning to understand, or at least to trust, God's timing is so critical for that process!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Jeffrey R. Holland on developing personal reservoirs of faith

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (b. 1940) served as Church Commissioner of Education from 1976-1980, as the president of BYU from 1980-1989, as a Seventy from 1989-1994, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1994.
"And so I issue a call for the conviction we all must have burning in our hearts that this is the work of God and that it requires the best we can give to the effort. My appeal is that you nurture your own physical and spiritual strength so that you have a deep reservoir of faith to call upon when tasks or challenges or demands of one kind or another come. Pray a little more, study a little more, shut out the noise and shut down the clamor, enjoy nature, call down personal revelation, search your soul, and search the heavens for the testimony that led our pioneer parents. Then, when you need to reach down inside a little deeper and a little farther to face life and do your work, you will be sure there is something down there to call upon.
"When you have your own faith, you are prepared to bless your family. The single strongest indicator of activity and service, of devotion and loyalty in this Church continues to be the presence of strong family ties. I say that, knowing full well that part of the majesty of this Church is in the individual member. Sometimes that member is a new convert; sometimes that member is the only Latter-day Saint in the family. Some individual somewhere had to plant the flag of faith and start a new generation in the gospel. But the fact is that faith is better nurtured and more protected and longer lasting when there is an entire family to reinforce it. So after standing alone if you have to, work diligently to see that others in your family don’t stand alone. Build your family and see that faith is strong there....
"We must have faith in this work—faith in what all believers are called to do, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in our Father in Heaven. We need to conform our will to Theirs and then make that will rock-ribbed and pioneer strong indeed. If we do that, I know we will be safe and secure in the inexorable onward movement of the Church and kingdom of God on earth."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Faith to Answer the Call," regional stake conference broadcast at BYU, September 12, 2010; see Ensign, July 2011, p. 54
Click here to read the full talk

In this beautiful pioneer-themed sermon, Elder Holland shared some of my favorite stories about the challenges faced by early pioneers—not necessarily in crossing the plains, but also in the settlement of the west.  These include the stories of the Hole-In-The-Rock pioneers and the faith of young Elizabethe Claridge McCune. They are marvelous examples of the love, loyalty, and firm dedication these early Saints had for the faith they had embraced.

Elder Holland then turns the challenge to us. We too have wastelands in our lives to be pioneered, including those deep inside our personal souls. The ability to do this starts with our having a deep "reservoir of faith" from which we can draw in times of need:

The list of suggestions in this excerpt is wonderful: pray more, study more, focus more, enjoy nature, seek revelation, cleanse your soul.

With that reservoir established, and our faith is "rock-ribbed and pioneer strong," we are then prepared to bless those around us, starting with our own families. We can truly carry on the faithful mission started by those previous generations and continue to bless the lives of those near to us, and through them, the whole world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Robert D. Hales on the promises of faithful parenting

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 Paul prophesied, we live in 'perilous times' (2 Tim. 3:1). 'Satan [has been going] about, leading away the hearts of the people' (3 Ne. 2:3), and his influence is increasing. But no matter how evil the world becomes, our families can be at peace. If we do what's right, we will be guided and protected.
"The hymn often sung by our pioneer ancestors tells us what to do: 'Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. / Our God will never us forsake' (Hymns No. 30). That courage and faith is what we need as parents and families in these latter days.
"Father Lehi had such courage. He loved his family and rejoiced that some of his children kept the Lord's commandments. But he must have been heartbroken when his sons 'Laman and Lemuel partook not of the fruit' representing the love of God. 'He exceedingly feared for [them]; yea, he feared lest they should be cast off from the presence of the Lord' (1 Ne. 8:35-36).
"Every parent faces moments of such fear. However, when we exercise our faith by teaching our children and doing what we can to help them, our fears will diminish. Lehi girded up his loins, and with faith 'he did exhort [his children] with all the feeling of a tender parent, that they would hearken to his words, that perhaps the Lord would be merciful to them.' And 'he bade them to keep the commandments of the Lord' (1 Ne. 8:37-38).
"We too must have the faith to teach our children and bid them to keep the commandments. We should not let their choices weaken our faith. Our worthiness will not be measured according to their righteousness. Lehi did not lose the blessing of feasting at the tree of life because Laman and Lemuel refused to partake of its fruit. Sometimes as parents we feel we have failed when our children make mistakes or stray. Parents are never failures when they do their best to love, teach, pray, and care for their children. Their faith, prayers, and efforts will be consecrated to the good of their children."
- Robert D. Hales, "With All the Feeling of a Tender Parent: A Message of Hope to Families," Ensign, May 2004, pp. 88-91
Click here to read the full talk

Parenting brings challenges and blessings; sometimes those challenges, particularly in the "perilous times" of today, are overwhelming. It requires faith and courage similar to our "pioneer ancestors" who confronted different kinds of trials in their day. Even so, there are often disappointments and even heartbreaks along the way, as many including "Father Lehi" could witness.

Elder Hales encourages parents to "exercise our faith" in order to overcome fears. We do that by teaching and helping in any way we can, and setting the example of faith and obedience.

This final thought was insightful; a parent's righteous efforts to love and teach a child will eventually be "consecrated for the good of their children." In other words, ultimately and eventually, the child will be blessed by the righteousness of the parent. That's a very reassuring promise.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

M. Russell Ballard on the challenges in life's journey

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.
"Our faith can help us be equally bold and fearless during the course of our respective journeys, whether we are parents working with a troubled child, a single parent trying to raise a worthy family, young people struggling to find a place in a wicked and confusing world, or a single person trying to make the journey through life alone. No matter how difficult the trail, and regardless of how heavy our load, we can take comfort in knowing that others before us have borne life’s most grievous trials and tragedies by looking to heaven for peace, comfort, and hopeful assurance. We can know as they knew that God is our Father, that He cares about us individually and collectively, and that as long as we continue to exercise our faith and trust in Him there is nothing to fear in the journey. Like the pioneers of 1847 who ventured west along a trail that kept them relatively close to life-sustaining fresh water from rivers, particularly the Platte and the Sweetwater, we need to follow and partake of the Living Water of Christ to refresh our faith and sustain our efforts as we travel the road through mortality.
"Life isn't always easy. At some point in our journey we may feel much as the pioneers did as they crossed Iowa—up to our knees in mud, forced to bury some of our dreams along the way. We all face rocky ridges, with the wind in our face and winter coming on too soon. Sometimes it seems as though there is no end to the dust that stings our eyes and clouds our vision. Sharp edges of despair and discouragement jut out of the terrain to slow our passage. Always, there is a Devil's Gate, which will swing wide open to lure us in. Those who are wise and faithful will steer a course as far from such temptation as possible, while others—sometimes those who are nearest and dearest to us—succumb to the attraction of ease, comfort, convenience, and rest. Occasionally we reach the top of one summit in life, as the pioneers did, only to see more mountain peaks ahead, higher and more challenging than the one we have just traversed. Tapping unseen reservoirs of faith and endurance, we, as did our forebears, inch ever forward toward that day when our voices can join with those of all pioneers who have endured in faith, singing: 'All is well! All is well!' (Hymns, no. 30)."
- M. Russell Ballard, "You Have Nothing to Fear from the Journey," Ensign, May 1997, pp. 59-61
Click here to read the full talk

This was one of Elder Ballard's addresses during the 1997 sesquicentennial commemoration (150 years) of the pioneer legacy. He had some great counsel as he compared our challenges to those of that earlier time. We have difficult trails in life too, for a variety of reasons. But he encourages us to remember that we are not the first to have traveled challenging paths; others have survived their own journeys that included "life's more grievous trials and tragedies by looking to heaven for peace, comfort, and hopeful assurance." We have a Father who "cares about us individually and collectively" and will help to make any journey possible.

Much of the pioneer journey carefully followed rivers, such as the Platte and the Sweetwater. One key to the journey is to stay close to the source of Living Water:

Elder Ballard's symbolic comparison between the obstacles faced by the pioneers and the challenges of our lives was interesting:

  • up to our knees in mud
  • forced to bury some of our dreams along the way
  • facing rocky ridges, with the wind in our face and winter coming on too soon
  • no end to the dust that stings our eyes and clouds our vision
  • sharp edges of despair and discouragement jut out of the terrain to slow our passage
  • confronted by a Devil's Gate of sin or temptation
  • seemingly never-ending challenges like mountain peak after mountain peak
But always and forever, we have available the ability to "[tap] unseen reservoirs of faith and endurance" in order to arrive at a blessed destination, and to be able to remember along the way, regardless of the apparent trials and setbacks, "All is well."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Dallin H. Oaks on the burdens carried by modern-day pioneers

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.
"Many modern Saints do their pioneering on the frontiers of their own attitudes and emotions. The proverb says, 'He that ruleth his spirit [is better] than he that taketh a city.' (Prov. 16:32.) Modern Saints know that one who subdues his own spirit is just as much a pioneer as one who conquers a continent.
"The path of modern pioneers is not easy. Burdens carried in the heart can be just as heavy as those pulled in a handcart. And just as some early pioneers struggled for the benefit of others, so some modern pioneers carry burdens imposed by the transgressions or thoughtlessness of others....
"In our day, as in the days of earlier pioneers, those in the lead wagons set the direction and signal onward, but it is the faithful men and women in the wagons which follow that provide the momentum and motive power for this great work.
"As modern pioneers press forward, they suffer hardships and make sacrifices. But they are sustained by an assurance given by the Lord Himself. These words, first spoken to the struggling Saints in Ohio, apply also to the faithful of our day:
"'Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;
"'Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.
"'Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name's glory, saith the Lord.' (D&C 98:1-3.)"
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Modern Pioneers," Ensign, November 1989, pp. 64-67
Click here to read the full talk

As we talk about the pioneers of early Church history, we often hear that each of us today are pioneers in our own way. Elder Oaks explains in this article some of the ways that pioneering spirit can be expressed. This paragraph was insightful to me:

"Subduing" our own attitudes and emotions can be a great challenge at times. As Elder Oaks explains, we sometimes complicate that struggle with added burdens in our hearts and souls. The gospel plan helps us learn to lessen those extra, unnecessary burdens.

The promise of D&C 98 quoted by Elder Oaks I think is one of the most beautiful in the scriptures. The promise is given to us by God "with an immutable covenant" that we'll be blessed through our afflictions; and that God's glory will be magnified in the process.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Russell M. Nelson on conquering the trials of life

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.
"You who may be momentarily disheartened, remember, life is not meant to be easy. Trials must be borne and grief endured along the way. As you remember that 'with God nothing shall be impossible' (Luke 1:37), know that He is your Father. You are a son or daughter created in His image, entitled through your worthiness to receive revelation to help with your righteous endeavors. You may take upon you the holy name of the Lord. You can qualify to speak in the sacred name of God (see D&C 1:20). It matters not that giants of tribulation torment you. Your prayerful access to help is just as real as when David battled his Goliath (see 1 Sam. 17).
"Foster your faith. Fuse your focus with an eye single to the glory of God. 'Be strong and courageous' (2 Chr. 32:7), and you will be given power and protection from on high. 'For I will go before your face,' the Lord declared. 'I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up' (D&C 84:88)."
- Russell M. Nelson, "With God Nothing Shall Be Impossible," Ensign, May 1988, pp. 33-35
Click here to read the full talk

One of the truths of eternity, perhaps, is "life is not meant to be easy." There will be challenges—BIG challenges, comparable to David confronting Goliath. But the corollary truth of eternity would be that we are not left alone to confront such challenges. If we do our part to prepare and be worthy, divine help will always be available in the form of "power and protection from on high."

It requires each individual to "foster your faith"—take the steps necessary to develop that trust and confidence in God and His power, through obedience and faithfulness. Then "fuse your focus" by developing "an eye single to the glory of God," having goals and priorities fixed on the things that matter most.

Those things don't happen overnight. We grow in strength, faith, power, confidence, and hope as we steadily and continually live the life that leads to Him.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the exalting, joyful aspects of enduring in faith

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (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.
"Enduring to the end is not just a matter of passively tolerating life's difficult circumstances or 'hanging in there.' Ours is an active religion, helping God's children along the strait and narrow path to develop their full potential during this life and return to Him one day. Viewed from this perspective, enduring to the end is exalting and glorious, not grim and gloomy. This is a joyful religion, one of hope, strength, and deliverance. 'Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy' (2 Nephi 2:25).
"Enduring to the end is a process filling every minute of our life, every hour, every day, from sunrise to sunrise. It is accomplished through personal discipline following the commandments of God."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Have We Not Reason to Rejoice?", Ensign Nov. 2007, pp. 18-21
Click here to read the full talk

I admit to having had times in my life when I felt I was "enduring" in the most negative sense—gritting my teeth and barely hanging on, "passively tolerating" and desperately hoping for brighter days. President Uchtdorf shares a very different interpretation of the concept, and I love his description. The challenge is making it "come true" in our lives!

Perhaps the keys lie in his description, first, of a what he calls a "joyful religion." As we come to better understand the doctrines and practices of the Lord's gospel and the eternal plan of happiness, we find so many reasons for joy!

President Uchtdorf adds the insight of the necessity of the continuing process of filling our lives every day, every minute. And the process is "personal discipline following the commandments of God." As we fully, whole-heartedly apply the gospel principles in our thoughts and actions, we will discover the Lord's peace and joy.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Henry B. Eyring on God's sure promises

President Henry B. Eyring (born May 31, 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.
"Now for the sure promises. First, if you will let your heart be drawn to the Savior and always remember Him, and if you will draw near to our Heavenly Father in prayer, you will have put on spiritual armor. You will be protected against pride because you will know that any success comes not from your human powers. And you will be protected against the thoughts which come rushing in upon us that we are too weak, too inexperienced, too unworthy to do what we are called of God to do to serve and help save His children. We can have come into our hearts the reassurance recorded in Moroni: 'And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me' (Moro. 10:23).
"There is another sure promise. It is this: Whether or not you choose to keep your covenant to always remember Him, He always remembers you. I testify that Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, was and is the Only Begotten of the Father, the Lamb of God. He chose from before the foundations of the earth to be your Savior, my Savior, and the Savior of all we will ever know or meet. I testify that He was resurrected and that because of His Atonement we may be washed clean through our faith to obey the laws and accept the ordinances of the gospel."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Always," Church Educational System fireside at BYU on 3 January 1999; see Ensign, Oct. 1999, p. 12
Click here to read the full talk

When we think of "sure promises" in this kind of context, we often think of the covenant kinds of arrangements: if we do certain things, then God will do certain things. That is how President Eyring introduces the discussion of promises:
- Let our hearts be drawn to the Savior
- Always remember Him
- Draw near to God in prayer
- Have spiritual armor
- Have protection against pride
- Have protection against feelings of inadequacy
- Have spiritual reassurance of the good to come
But in the second paragraph, President Eyring changes the tone. EVEN IF WE DON'T do our part to always remember Him, we have the assurance that He will always remember us. What a remarkable, comforting, strength-infusing promise!

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