Friday, September 30, 2016

Henry B. Eyring on the importance of following prophetic counsel

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.
"Another fallacy is to believe that the choice to accept or not accept the counsel of prophets is no more than deciding whether to accept good advice and gain its benefits or to stay where we are. But the choice not to take prophetic counsel changes the very ground upon which we stand. That ground becomes more dangerous. The failure to take prophetic counsel lessens our power to take inspired counsel in the future....
"Every time in my life when I have chosen to delay following inspired counsel or decided that I was an exception, I came to know that I had put myself in harm's way. Every time that I have listened to the counsel of prophets, felt it confirmed in prayer, and then followed it, I have found that I moved toward safety. Along the path, I have found that the way had been prepared for me and the rough places made smooth. God led me to safety along a path that was prepared with loving care, sometimes prepared long before."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Safety in Counsel," Ensign, Jun 2008, pp. 4-9
Click here to read the full talk

Every person chooses whether to accept counsel of prophets, once they are aware of their existence. In fact, we each choose how carefully we pay attention to that counsel, how we ponder it, and how we respond to it. President Eyring teaches us how critical our response to prophetic counsel is; it "changes the very ground upon which we stand."

I love President Eyring's personal witness of the principle. There is a profound difference between the times when he has delayed following counsel, or managed to excuse himself as an exception; and the times when he listens, prays for confirmation, and carefully follows. He testifies that he has moved towards safety and seen divine intervention in those instances when he humbly accepts and heeds the counsel. What a wonderful reminder and invitation for us all!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lorenzo Snow on knowledge and happiness in following the prophet

Lorenzo Snow (1814-1901) was an early convert to the Church along with his sister Eliza R. Snow. He was called as an apostle by Brigham Young in 1849. He served as the 5th president of the Church from 1898 until his death in 1901.
"The design of the Lord in regard to ourselves, in regard to His people generally, is to bring them to that state and fulness of knowledge, and to that perfection which their spiritual organizations are susceptible of receiving or arriving at. There are certain laws established from all eternity for the purpose of effecting this object.
"The question is asked, 'Why are we under obligations to follow counsel?' Because that counsel possesses those qualities necessary to make us better here, and to exalt us to honor and glory hereafter. If it were not so, there would be no obligation on our part to follow counsel....
"No man can be more happy than by obeying [the living prophet's] counsel. You may go from east to west, from north to south, and tread this footstool of the Lord all over, and you cannot find a man that can make himself happy in this Church, only by applying the counsel of [the prophet] in this life; it is a matter of impossibility for a man to receive a fulness who is not susceptible of receiving and carrying out [the prophet's] counsel. An individual that applies the counsel of this Church is bound to increase in all that is good, for there is a fountain of counsel which the Lord has established. He has made it, has deposited that counsel, that wisdom and those riches, and it will circumscribe all that pertains unto good, unto salvation; all that pertains unto peace and unto happiness; all things that pertain to glory and to the exaltation of the Saints in this world and in the world to come."
- Lorenzo Snow, discourse in the Tabernacle, January 18, 1857; see JD 4:184
Click here to read the full discourse

President Snow spoke 159 years ago, admonishing the Saints of his day to heed the counsel of Brigham Young. I've taken the liberty of applying the principle to the currently living prophet.

It's interesting to consider the idea of a living prophet. Why would that be important to God, and important to us? President Snow proposes that God's purpose includes helping us attain a "fulness of knowledge" and to improve our current lives, as well as prepare us for eternal blessings. So following prophetic counsel in that spirit becomes a powerful blessing to us, as well as a vital need.

Ultimately, the assurance from President Snow is that our best chance at happiness in this life comes from carefully heeding the counsel of the living prophet. That's a great message to ponder, especially as we approach Conference weekend!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Quentin L. Cook on heeding prophetic counsel

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.
"From time to time, as individuals and as a church, we go through periods of crisis and danger. Some arise quickly like a fire. Others are subtle and go almost undetected before they are upon us. Some require heroic action, but most are less spectacular. The way we respond is crucial. My purpose this evening is to reemphasize... the importance of heeding the words of the prophets. This is one sure way to respond to physical and spiritual dangers of all kinds....
"Throughout history, a loving Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the head of the Church, have blessed us with prophets who counsel and warn about future dangers. (See Amos 3:7) In Doctrine and Covenants, section 21, speaking specifically of the prophet, the Lord declares:
"'Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
"'For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.' (D&C 21:4–5) ...
"Prophets are inspired to provide us with prophetic priorities to protect us from dangers."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Give Heed Unto the Prophets' Words," Ensign, May 2008, pp. 47-50
Click here to read the full talk

"Periods of crisis and danger" appear in many forms. Personal crises occur as we struggle with illness, setbacks, conflicts, relationships, emotional burdens, or many other scenarios. Crisis situations occur in families, in neighborhoods, even in nations. We live in a world that presents constant scenarios of struggle and challenge.

Elder Cook observes that some of those crises can erupt in dramatic and urgent ways; others simmer more gradually for long periods. But the crucial question is, how will we respond to them?  Elder Cook suggests that one of the great keys to appropriate and successful response in these times of challenge is carefully heeding divine guidance that is received through "the words of the prophets."

As we watch, listen, and ponder, we will notice "prophetic priorities" that will help to protect us from danger and crisis. This is a good reminder as we approach another general conference!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Neal A. Maxwell on walking life's trail with faith and hope

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) served as a Seventy from 1976-1981, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until his death from cancer in 2004.
"Remember... that your faith covers all portions of life's trail. You can have clear faith in the ultimate outcomes at the end of the trail but still find vexing uncertainties in the steps immediately ahead. The Lord knows the end from the beginning and everything in between. You, however, function in the muddled, mortal middle. Both the help and comfort of the Holy Ghost are thus much needed for the short run too!
"Hence, you are to proceed with your lives within what is allotted to you, while letting adversity highlight any need for some personal and individual course corrections (see Alma 29:3). Happily, discipleship carries within itself its own witness that it is the true way of living; it is self-reinforcing....
"Pay heed, therefore, to your inborn spiritual reflexes. Use, even more, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, who can fill you with 'hope and perfect love' (Moro. 8:26). He can 'enlighten your mind, ... [and] shall fill your soul with joy' (D&C 11:13). How precious and relevant these gifts of hope, love, and joy are in any age, but certainly in yours, when so many feel unloved, hopeless, and sad!"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "These Are Your Days," Ensign, Oct 2004, pp. 26-31
Click here to read the full article

What does it mean to have faith in God? Elder Maxwell's analogy of a trail is a very instructive one. It's possible to have a good understanding of the "ultimate outcome" or destination of the trail but be uncertain about the many intermediate steps that lead there. The "muddled, mortal middle" of our overall mortal journey is where we are struggling now, and we need the help and comfort of One who knows the trail well!

I love the thought of "self-reinforcing" discipleship. As we strive to be true disciples, we will know when we get off course; adversity quickly highlights our needs for adjustments as we cease to feel the blessings of being on the proper path. Our "spiritual reflexes" will help us follow the proper trail.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ronald A. Rasband on the sacred blessing of temple worship

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.
"What temples bring to families and individuals seeking to draw closer to the Lord Jesus Christ and our Father in Heaven, seeking peace in a fractured world, seeking comfort in times of trouble cannot be calculated....
"Years ago, at the Logan Temple Cornerstone Ceremony in 1877, President George Q. Cannon said this:
"'Every foundation stone that is laid for a temple and every temple completed, lessens the power of Satan on the earth, and increases the power of God and Godliness, moves the heavens in mighty power in our behalf, invokes and calls down upon us the blessings of eternal Gods and those who reside in their presence.' [Millennial Star, November 12, 1877, p. 743]
"Certainly in a day and time like we live in, the importance of every temple built and dedicated to the Lord cannot be overstated.
"Prophets, seers, and revelators have promised us blessings, as we faithfully attend the temple....
"Now I ask each of you, to what end and what purpose is all of this focus and emphasis on temples? ... Let me point you to a passage of scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 52:14:
"'And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—'
"Temple worship is an important pattern for each of us as individuals, and as families. It is critical at every stage of your life."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "Stand in Holy Places," BYU-Idaho Business and Communication Convocation Winter 2016, 8 Apr 2016
Click here to read the full talk

For those of us who are "seeking peace in a fractured world, seeking comfort in times of trouble," Elder Rasband testifies that temple worship can help us draw closer to God and find those things. In fact, that is one of their great purposes, providing us the "holy place" where we can escape from the world and its influence, as George Q. Cannon testified:

It's interesting to consider how temple worship is a "pattern" for us as individuals and families. But I can add my witness to Elder Rasband's remarks; when I attend the temple regularly, I feel the power and strength that result.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Neil L. Andersen on blessings from the Priesthood

Elder Neil L. Andersen (b. August 9, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"We sometimes overly associate the power of the priesthood with men in the Church. The priesthood is the power and authority of God given for the salvation and blessing of all—men, women, and children.
"A man may open the drapes so the warm sunlight comes into the room, but the man does not own the sun or the light or the warmth it brings. The blessings of the priesthood are infinitely greater than the one who is asked to administer the gift.
"To receive the blessings, power, and promises of the priesthood in this life and the next is one of the great opportunities and responsibilities of mortality. As we are worthy, the ordinances of the priesthood enrich our lives on earth and prepare us for the magnificent promises of the world ahead. The Lord said, 'In the ordinances ... the power of godliness is manifest' (D&C 84:20).
"There are special blessings from God for every worthy person who is baptized, receives the Holy Ghost, and regularly partakes of the sacrament. The temple brings added light and strength, along with the promise of eternal life. (See D&C 138:37, 51.)
"All of the ordinances invite us to increase our faith in Jesus Christ and to make and keep covenants with God. As we keep these sacred covenants, we receive priesthood power and blessings."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Power in the Priesthood," Ensign, Nov 2013, pp. 92-95
Click here to read the full talk

This was an interesting exploration by Elder Andersen of how the priesthood blesses lives—both men and women. Men are the instrument by which the priesthood is enabled, but the power of the priesthood is much greater than any individual. This was a great analogy:

It is up to each individual, man or woman, to receive the power and blessings of the priesthood in his or her individual life. We do that through receiving ordinances, keeping covenants, and growing in faith in Jesus Christ.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

D. Todd Christofferson on choices and agency

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.
"God does not save us 'just as we are,' first, because 'just as we are' we are unclean, and 'no unclean thing can dwell... in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man [of Holiness]' (Moses 6:57). And second, God will not act to make us something we do not choose by our actions to become. Truly He loves us, and because He loves us, He neither compels nor abandons us. Rather He helps and guides us. Indeed, the real manifestation of God's love is His commandments.
"We should (and we do) rejoice in the God-ordained plan that permits us to make choices to act for ourselves and experience the consequences, or as the scriptures express it, to 'taste the bitter, that [we] may know to prize the good' (Moses 6:55). We are forever grateful that the Savior's Atonement overcame original sin so that we can be born into this world yet not be punished for Adam's transgression. Having been thus redeemed from the Fall, we begin life innocent before God and 'become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for [ourselves] and not to be acted upon' (2 Ne 2:26; see also D&C 93:38). We can choose to become the kind of person that we will, and with God's help, that can be even as He is."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Free Forever, to Act for Themselves," Ensign, November 2011, pp. 16-19
Click here to read the full talk

God "neither compels nor abandons us. Rather He helps and guides us." There is no forced salvation, no compulsion to make any choice along the way. Only the gentle invitations and promptings that allow us to choose for ourselves.

How often do we consider God's commandments as manifestations of His love for us? But they truly do help mark the path and show the way to peace, joy, and ultimate salvation.

When we have an understanding of the plan and God's love for us, we truly have reason to rejoice!

Friday, September 23, 2016

David A. Bednar on coming to Christ through the scriptures

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.
"How important it is for each of us to return repeatedly to the holy scriptures and thereby gain experience and confidence in hearing and feeling His voice. As we regularly study the holy scriptures, 'Behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do' (2 Ne. 32:3).
"In our process of coming unto Christ, hearing and feeling the voice of the Lord and knowing His words are essential. The Savior taught, 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me' (John 10:27; emphasis added). Thus, hearing His voice precedes properly following Him, 'for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts' (D&C 29:7). Truly, we can receive instruction from Him and follow Him. And the spiritual capacity to hear, to feel, and to follow is available to every member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and that capacity is strengthened through diligent study of the scriptures.
"Why is studying the scriptures so important? Sincere study of the scriptures helps us progress in the process of coming unto Christ and becoming more like Him. Through daily feasting, we can gain a testimony of the gospel truths for ourselves and learn to hear and follow the voice of the Lord."
- David A. Bednar, "Because We Have Them before Our Eyes," New Era, April 2006, pp. 2-7
Click here to read the full article

Why does scripture study matter? Why does daily scripture study matter? Because we "thereby gain experience and confidence in hearing and feeling His voice." It puts us in communication with the divine voice, training us to listen and respond. "The spiritual capacity to hear, to feel, and to follow... is strengthened through diligent study of the scriptures." The more we immerse ourselves in His words, the more we are prepared to receive His words directly to our own hearts and minds.

If we truly believe these promises, why would we not want to feast daily and claim these blessings?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Robert D. Hales on the adversary and challenges of life

Elder Robert D. Hales (b. August 24, 1932- 84 years ago today!) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"Our challenges, including those we create by our own decisions, are part of our test in mortality. Let me assure you that your situation is not beyond the reach of our Savior. Through Him, every struggle can be for our experience and our good (see D&C 122:7). Each temptation we overcome is to strengthen us, not destroy us. The Lord will never allow us to suffer beyond what we can endure (see 1 Corinthians 10:13).
"We must remember that the adversary knows us extremely well. He knows where, when, and how to tempt us. If we are obedient to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we can learn to recognize the adversary's enticements. Before we yield to temptation, we must learn to say with unflinching resolve, 'Get thee behind me, Satan' (Matthew 16:23).
"Our success is never measured by how strongly we are tempted but by how faithfully we respond. We must ask for help from our Heavenly Father and seek strength through the Atonement of His Son, Jesus Christ."
- Robert D. Hales, "Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually," Ensign, May 2009, pp. 7-10
Click here to read the full article

This is a reassuring testimony from Elder Hales. There is no trial of mortality, no difficulty or frustration, no challenge we face that is beyond the reach of the Savior. He stands willing and eager to protect, strengthen, and bless us at all times.

It's an interesting warning when Elder Hales notes that "the adversary knows us extremely well." He is aware of the best ways to present temptations for each one of us. And so our responsibility is to learn to quickly recognize those situations and respond to them confidently and faithfully, asking for the promised help from the Savior.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

James E. Talmage on the power of faith in our lives

Elder James E. Talmage (1862-1933) was born in England. He was a brilliant scholar, trained as a geologist and mathematician. But he's perhaps best known today among Church members for his classic writings, including Jesus the Christ, The Articles of Faith, and The Holy Temple. He was called as an apostle in 1911 and served until his death in 1933 at age 70.
"The predominating sense in which the term faith is used throughout the scriptures is that of full confidence and trust in the being, purposes, and words of God.  Such trust, if implicit, will remove all doubt concerning things accomplished or promised of God, even though such things be not apparent to or explicable by the ordinary senses of mortality....
"Belief, in one of its accepted senses, may consist in a merely intellectual assent, while faith implies such confidence and conviction as will impel to action.... Belief is in a sense passive, an agreement or acceptance only; faith is active and positive, embracing such reliance and confidence as will lead to works. Faith in Christ comprises belief in Him, combined with trust in Him. One cannot have faith without belief; yet he may believe and still lack faith. Faith is vivified, vitalized, living belief....
"Faith thus becomes to us the foundation of hope, from which spring our aspirations, ambitions, and confidences for the future.  Remove man's faith in the possibility of any desired success, and you rob him of the incentive to strive.  He would not stretch forth his hand to seize did he not believe in the possibility of securing that for which he reaches.  This principle becomes therefore the impelling force by which men struggle for excellence, ofttimes enduring vicissitudes and suffering that they may achieve their purposes. Faith is the secret of ambition, the soul of heroism, the motive power of effort."
- James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, pp. 96–97, 103
Click here to read the full chapter

Elder Talmage's analysis of the difference between belief and faith is not just a semantic exploration. It's a very instructive consideration of what faith really is, and how it can bless our lives. While belief often describes a mostly intellectual acceptance of something, faith goes beyond to the point where the attitude of faith results in action. And even more specifically, faith in Christ comes when belief is accompanied by trust.

There are some beautiful phrases here, deserving of careful pondering:
  • "Faith is vivified, vitalized, living belief."
  • "Faith thus becomes to us the foundation of hope, from which spring our aspirations, ambitions, and confidences for the future."
  • "Faith is the secret of ambition, the soul of heroism, the motive power of effort."

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

M. Russell Ballard on developing spiritual self-reliance

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.
"Every person must know that he or she is a child of God and is loved by Him. People need to realize that regardless of their circumstances, as desperate as those may be, they are entitled to the Light of Christ in their lives. From Moroni we learn, 'The Spirit of Christ is given to every man' (Moroni 7:16). The promise is that every son and daughter of God can find, through the Spirit, answers to the challenges in their lives, including how to become more self-reliant. We must, therefore, ever keep in our minds how precious each child of God is and how important our service is to each one of them.
"We become more self-reliant in some ways as we recognize our dependence on Him from whom all good things come. This is the spirit noted in Alma 34:27, in which we are counseled to cry unto the Lord over our homes, our families, and our work. 'Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be... drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.'
"At the root of self-reliance are the dignity and importance of seeing ourselves as children of God regardless of circumstance, culture, or location."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Becoming Self-Reliant—Spiritually and Physically," Ensign, March 2009, pp. 50-55
Click here to read the full article

Elder Ballard describes a bit of a paradox. You become more self-reliant as you learn to rely more on the Savior and on guidance through the Holy Ghost. Truly, "the root of self-reliance" lies in the proper understanding of our relationship to God.

We must know that we are a child of God and that He loves us, and will bless us in our needs and challenges. And beyond that, all of God's children are precious to Him, and our service to one another truly matters.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Marion G. Romney on becoming converted

President Marion G. Romney (1897-1988) was born in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. He was ordained an apostle in 1951 and served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1972 to 1985. After the death of President Spencer W. Kimball, President Romney was released and returned to serve in the Quorum of Twelve until his death in 1988.
"Webster says the verb convert means 'to turn from one belief or course to another,' that conversion is 'a spiritual and moral change attending a change of belief with conviction.' As used in the scriptures, converted generally implies not merely mental acceptance of Jesus and his teachings, but also a motivating faith in him and in his gospel, a faith which works a transformation, an actual change in one's understanding of life's meaning and in one's allegiance to God—in interest, in thought, and in conduct. While conversion may be accomplished in stages, one is not really converted in the full sense of the term unless and until he is at heart a new person. Born again is the scriptural term.
"In one who is wholly converted, desire for things inimical to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died, and substituted therefor is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments. Paul told the Romans that such a one would walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3-4.)"
- Marion G. Romney, "According to the Covenants," Ensign, Nov 1975, pp. 71-73
Click here to read the full talk

President Romney was a great student of the scriptures, and often supported his messages with abundant analysis and examples. In this case, he helps explain the concept of conversion based on his study and understanding. He helps us see that conversion involves more than a superficial acknowledgement or acceptance; it means a deep-rooted change. It means a rebirth, a changed heart.

I thought the final paragraph helped my understanding as well.  True conversion means that we completely lose any desire for things in conflict with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, those desires are replaced with a greater love of God and a desire to obey His commandments. It's a "newness of life."

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on living the gospel daily and continuously

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.
"If we do right and talk right and reach out generously with our words and our deeds, then when the Savior cuts short His work in righteousness, says time is no more in this last, great dispensation and then comes in His glory, He will find us—you and me and all of us—doing our best, trying to live the gospel, trying to improve our lives and our Church and our society the best way we can. When He comes, I so want to be caught living the gospel. I want to be surprised right in the act of spreading the faith and doing something good. I want the Savior to say to me: 'Jeffrey'—because He knows all of our names—'I recognize you not by your title but by your life, the way you are trying to live and the standards you are trying to defend. I see the integrity of your heart. I know you have tried to make things better first and foremost by being better yourself, and then by declaring my word and defending my gospel to others in the most compassionate way you could.'
"'I know you weren't always successful,' He will certainly say, 'with your own sins or the circumstances of others, but I believe you honestly tried. I believe in your heart you truly loved me.'
 "I want to have something like that encounter someday as I want nothing else in this mortal life. And I want it for you. I want it for us all. Israel, Israel, God is calling—calling us to live the gospel of Jesus Christ personally in small ways as well as large, and then to reach out to those who may not look or dress or behave quite like we do, and then (where you can) go beyond that to serve in the widest community you can address."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Israel, Israel, God Is Calling," CES devotional delivered at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, on September 9, 2012. See also Ensign, June 2014, pp. 30-37
Click here to read the full talk

This is a bit of fascinating speculation by Elder Holland. At some point in the near future, the Savior will "cut short His work in righteousness" as the final scenes of this world are played out. When that moment arrives, what will you and I be found doing? Will it be something less than appropriate? Will we be engaged in idleness or selfish purposes?

Elder Holland wants to be found, and hopes we all are found, "living the Gospel" in the best sense, in "the best way we can."

I loved Elder Holland's speculations on what the personal interview at that moment might be like. It's very sincere, personal, honest, and pointed. And the message is clear: we must be ready for the event that might occur at any time!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dallin H. Oaks on strength through a changed heart

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (b. August 12, 1932) served as president of BYU from 1971-1980.  He was then appointed as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and resigned when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984.
"We tend to think of the results of repentance as simply cleansing us from sin. But that is an incomplete view of the matter. A person who sins is like a tree that bends easily in the wind. On a windy and rainy day, the tree bends so deeply against the ground that the leaves become soiled with mud, like sin. If we focus only on cleaning the leaves, the weakness in the tree that allowed it to bend and soil its leaves may remain. Similarly, a person who is merely sorry to be soiled by sin will sin again in the next high wind. The susceptibility to repetition continues until the tree has been strengthened.
"When a person has gone through the process that results in what the scriptures call a broken heart and a contrite spirit, the Savior does more than cleanse that person from sin. He also gives him or her new strength. That strengthening is essential for us to realize the purpose of the cleansing, which is to return to our Heavenly Father. To be admitted to his presence, we must be more than clean. We must also be changed from a morally weak person who has sinned into a strong person with the spiritual stature to dwell in the presence of God. We must, as the scripture says, '[become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord.' (Mosiah 3:19.) This is what the scripture means in its explanation that a person who has repented of his sins will 'forsake them.' (D&C 58:43.) Forsaking sins is more than resolving not to repeat them. Forsaking involves a fundamental change in the individual."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Sin and Suffering," Ensign, July 1992, pp. 70-73
Click here to read the full article

I thought the analogy Elder Oaks offered of the tree bending in the wind was an interesting one. When the trunk is not strong, it bends until the leaves become dirty in mud. You can wash the leaves, but when the next wind comes, they just get dirty again. You need not only to wash the leaves but also to strengthen the trunk if you want to truly solve the problem.

And so it is with us and our attempts to repent and progress. We must not simply stop a sin; we must grow in strength so that it doesn't recur. We don't just stop a bad habit or behavior; we replace it with a good one. We must not superficially change; we must change deeply, change "to a state of righteousness" until we become a "new creature" (Mosiah 27:25-26); and that happens only through the grace and blessing of the atonement of Christ.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Dieter F. Uchtdorf on promised assistance from God

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.
"It seems to be a trait of humanity to assume that we are right even when we are wrong. And if that is the case, what hope is there for any of us? Are we destined to drift aimlessly on an ocean of conflicting information, stranded on a raft we have poorly pieced together from our own biases?
"Is it possible to find truth?
"The purpose of my remarks is to proclaim the joyful message that God Himself—the Lord of Hosts who knows all truth—has given His children the promise that they can know truth for themselves.
"Please consider the magnitude of this promise:
"The Everlasting and Almighty God, the Creator of this vast universe, will speak to those who approach Him with a sincere heart and real intent.
"He will speak to them in dreams, visions, thoughts, and feelings.
"He will speak in a way that is unmistakable and that transcends human experience. He will give them divine direction and answers for their personal lives.
"Of course, there will be those who scoff and say such a thing is impossible, that if there were a God, He would have better things to do than hear and answer a single person's prayer.
"But I tell you this: God cares about you. He will listen, and He will answer your personal questions. The answers to your prayers will come in His own way and in His own time, and therefore, you need to learn to listen to His voice. God wants you to find your way back to Him, and the Savior is the way (see John 14:6). God wants you to learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, and experience the profound peace and joy that come from following the path of divine discipleship."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth," Ensign, November 2014, pp. 20-23
Click here to read the full talk

The first paragraph offers an implied challenge. It seems to be our nature to always assume we are right, but this is probably not the case. So we should more often question the certainty of our path or belief, to make sure it is the best one, the true one, the appropriate one.

And the explicit promise President Uchtdorf offers is that God is ready and willing to help us in the quest for truth. He will speak to as directly and personally as we ask in righteousness!

And in that communication with God lies not just comforting answers or reassuring confirmations, but "the profound peace and joy that come from following the path of divine discipleship."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Henry B. Eyring on the key to receiving personal revelation

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.
"We all know that human judgment and logical thinking will not be enough to get answers to the questions that matter most in life. We need revelation from God. And we will need not just one revelation in a time of stress, but we need a constantly renewed stream. We need not just one flash of light and comfort, but we need the continuing blessing of communication with God....
"That personal revelation of acceptance, for which we all long, does not come easily, nor does it come simply for the asking. The Lord gave this standard for the capacity to receive such witnesses from God. It is a guide for anyone seeking personal revelation, as we all must.
"'Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
"'The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion.' (D&C 121:45-46)"
- Henry B. Eyring, "Continuing Revelation," Ensign, November 2014, pp. 70-73
Click here to read the full talk

When we talk about "the questions that matter most in life" it's a very different story than the day-to-day decisions we all deal with, and sometimes even the things we think are crises in our lives. The things that really matter are certainly the things of eternity, of spirituality, of "judgment, mercy, and faith" (Matt. 23:23), of obedience and righteousness.

But so many of the other decisions and dilemmas of our lives seem very important to us, and they are in their time and way. I believe that a loving Father understands our feelings and needs, and is eager to respond as we turn to Him for assistance.

President Eyring reminds us that the great gift of ongoing revelation does not come "simply for the asking." There are some prerequisites that include charity, faith, and unceasing virtue. Those we must never forget.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thomas S. Monson on the responsibility and blessing of service to others

President Thomas S. Monson (born August 21 1927) was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1963.  He served as a counselor in the First Presidency with Presidents Benson, Hunter, and Hinckley until becoming Church president in 2008.
"As we look heavenward, we inevitably learn of our responsibility to reach outward. To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy.
"We do not live alone—in our city, our nation, or our world. There is no dividing line between our prosperity and our neighbor's wretchedness. 'Love thy neighbor' is more than a divine truth. It is a pattern for perfection. This truth inspires the familiar charge, 'Go forth to serve.' Try as some of us may, we cannot escape the influence our lives have upon the lives of others. Ours is the opportunity to build, to lift, to inspire, and indeed to lead.
"The New Testament teaches that it is impossible to take a right attitude toward Christ without taking an unselfish attitude toward men:
"'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me' (Matthew 25:40)."
- Thomas S. Monson, "The Joy of Service," New Era, October 2009, pp. 2-6
Click here to read the full article

How do we find happiness? President Monson believes it is by looking around us to see where our help is needed. He is well-known for having exemplified this principle in his own life.

"There is no dividing line between our prosperity and our neighbor's wretchedness." At least not in God's eyes. We must learn to be more aware of needs, and more generous with the blessings we have received. The gifts we are called on to give are not just temporal; they also include "the opportunity to build, to lift, to inspire, and indeed to lead."
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