Wednesday, May 31, 2017

President Henry B. Eyring on reading, studying, and pondering the scriptures

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.
"As the humble servants of the Savior, we should pray for the manifestations of the Holy Ghost to come to us in our service and to those we serve. Humble prayer to our Heavenly Father, in deep faith in Jesus Christ, is essential to qualify us for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
"Our humility and our faith that invite spiritual gifts are increased by our reading, studying, and pondering the scriptures. We have all heard those words. Yet we may read a few lines or pages of scripture every day and hope that will be enough.
"But reading, studying, and pondering are not the same. We read words and we may get ideas. We study and we may discover patterns and connections in scripture. But when we ponder, we invite revelation by the Spirit. Pondering, to me, is the thinking and the praying I do after reading and studying in the scriptures carefully."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Serve with the Spirit," General Conference, October 2010
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Eyring's address to the Priesthood session in the October 2010 conference instructed on the importance of serving with the Holy Spirit. He encouraged the brethren to "do whatever is required to qualify for the Holy Ghost as our companion" in order to serve the Lord most effectively. Praying, with humility and "deep faith in Jesus Christ," is the first step to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives.

The spiritual gifts that come from prayer are "increased" as we not only read, but also study and ponder the scriptures. President Eyring helps us understand and differentiate those concepts:

Reading has limited value unless it is enhanced by the activities of studying and pondering. In the studying, we begin to "discover patterns and connections" as we read. And then pondering what we have studied, thinking and praying about the things we have read, "invite[s] revelation by the Spirit."

This is a valuable reminder. It is very easy to fall into the trap of casual reading with minimal pondering, and much reduced benefit!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on finding divine light and hope in our trials

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf (born November 6, 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.
"There may be some among you who feel darkness encroaching upon you. You may feel burdened by worry, fear, or doubt. To you and to all of us, I repeat a wonderful and certain truth: God’s light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things. (See D&C 88:11–13.) It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn....
"Nevertheless, spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in darkness waiting for someone to flip a switch. It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the Light of Christ....
"So how do we open our eyes to the hope of God’s light? ...
"Lift up your soul in prayer and explain to your Heavenly Father what you are feeling. … Pour out your heart and express your gratitude. Let Him know of the trials you are facing. Plead with Him in Christ’s name for strength and support. Ask that your ears may be opened, that you may hear His voice."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Hope of God’s Light," Ensign, May 2013, p. 75
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In the midst of a world that sometimes feels like the darkness is "encroaching" or even overwhelming, and the burdens we carry are oppressive, this testimony is needed and powerful: "God’s light is real. It is available to all!" President Uchtdorf reminds us of the power of that light to strengthen and heal, offering eternal hope:

I love the thought that the light rarely comes to us when we're just sitting in our personal darkness waiting for a switch to be turned on, on our behalf. Instead, "It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the Light of Christ." President Uchtdorf discusses in this talk how we can access that light. His suggestions include the power of sincere and consistent prayer. As we truly ask for God's help, we will find the "strength and support" we desperately need in those times of encroaching darkness.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Monday, May 29, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on gratitude for sacrifices of the military

President Thomas S. Monson (b. 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.
"Wherever I travel I try to pay a visit to the town cemetery. It is a time of contemplation, of reflection on the meaning of life and the inevitability of death....
"The largest cemeteries, and in many respects those which evoke the most tender emotions, are honored as the resting places of men who died in the caldron of conflict known as war while wearing the uniform of their country. One reflects on shattered dreams, unfulfilled hopes, grief-filled hearts, and lives cut short by the sharp scythe of war.
"Acres of neat, white crosses in the cities of France and Belgium accentuate the terrible toll of World War I. Verdun, France, is—in reality—a gigantic cemetery. Each spring, as farmers till the earth, they uncover a helmet here, a gun barrel there—grim reminders of the millions of men who literally soaked the soil with the blood of their lives.
"A tour of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and other battlefields of the American Civil War marks that conflict, where brother fought against brother. Some families lost farms, others possessions....
"One sentence only, spoken by one person only, provides a fitting epitaph: 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' (John 15:13.)"
- Thomas S. Monson, "He Is Risen," General Conference, October 1981
Click here to read or watch the full talk

In his many discourses over the years, President Monson several times expressed a particular sensitivity for the victims of war. In this example, he reflected on the visual impact of a military cemetery and all it represents of the lives of those whose mortal remains rest there. How tender and fitting to contemplate "shattered dreams, unfulfilled hopes, grief-filled hearts, and lives cut short by the sharp scythe of war."

President Monson identified the greatest tribute that would be offered to those who so unselfishly gave their lives in defense of country and freedom: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." And he goes on in the talk to replace the darkness of despair with the hope of eternal life offered by the death and resurrection of the Savior. How blessed we are to have that eternal hope!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on what it means to follow Jesus Christ

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.
"If, then, Jesus is indeed the Christ, as we so testify, what must we do?
"Christ's supreme sacrifice can find full fruition in our lives only as we accept the invitation to follow him. This call is not irrelevant, unrealistic, or impossible. To follow an individual means to watch him or listen to him closely; to accept his authority, to take him as a leader, and to obey him; to support and advocate his ideas; and to take him as a model. Each of us can accept this challenge. Peter said, 'Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.' (1 Pet. 2:21.) Just as teachings that do not conform to Christ's doctrine are false, so a life that does not conform to Christ's example is misdirected, and may not achieve its high potential destiny."
- Howard W. Hunter, "An Apostle's Witness of Christ," fireside satellite broadcast, 30 October 1983; see Ensign. January 1984, p. 71
Click here to read the full talk

How do we accept the invitation to follow Jesus Christ? What does it mean to follow Him? These are critical, eternal questions; President Hunter has some wonderful suggestions for us to consider.

This is an interesting list to ponder: what does it mean to follow someone? According to President Hunter:

  • to watch him or listen to him closely
  • to accept his authority, to take him as a leader, and to obey him
  • to support and advocate his ideas
  • to take him as a model

Those steps are worth considering carefully; am I doing all I can to truly follow Him? Where can I improve? President Hunter teaches that a life that does not conform to the doctrines of the Savior is "misdirected, and may not achieve its high potential destiny."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

President Ezra Taft Benson on gratitude for blessings

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1943, and served as the 13th President of the Church from 1985 until his death in 1994 at age 94.
"We need to be more grateful. I think there's no true character without gratitude. It's one of the marks of a real strong character, to have a feeling of thanksgiving and gratitude for blessings that are ours. We need more of that spirit in our homes, in our daily associations, in church, everywhere. It doesn't cost anything. It's so easy to cultivate the spirit of appreciation and gratitude. And it's so easy, also, to be dissatisfied and to be envious of other people....
"I hope we can be happy where we are, be grateful for our blessings—now—here, accept the challenge that is ours and make the most of it, and don't be envious of others.
"God help us to be grateful. Someone has said that an ungrateful man is like a hog under a tree eating apples and never looking up to see where they come from. Do we look up to see where our blessings are coming from?"
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Receive All Things with Thankfulness," New Era, Nov. 1976, p. 4
Click here to read the full talk

President Benson suggests that there are two tendencies that are both relatively easy to follow in our lives: choosing to be "dissatisfied and envious of other people" or learning to "cultivate the spirit of appreciation and gratitude." He invites us to choose the path of gratitude and thanksgiving for our blessings.

With our very limited mortal vision, it's very easy to forget the source of our blessings. I've always been impressed by King Benjamin's teachings about how eager God is to "immediately bless" us as we follow him, leaving us "indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever" (Mosiah 2:24). Truly, we should be continually and eternally grateful.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Elder Neil L. Andersen on our dependence on God

Elder Neil L. Andersen (born August 9, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.

This excerpt is from the talk he gave shortly after being sustained to the Quorum of Twelve.
"I know that I am not what I must become. I pray that I might be willing and moldable to the Lord's tutoring and correction. I take comfort from the words of President Monson last night in the priesthood session that the Lord will shape the back to fit the burden placed upon it.
"Just after my call as a General Authority 16 years ago, in a stake conference where I accompanied President Boyd K. Packer, he said something I have not forgotten. As he addressed the congregation, he said, 'I know who I am.' Then after a pause, he added, 'I am a nobody.' He then turned to me, sitting on the stand behind him, and said, 'And, Brother Andersen, you are a nobody too.' Then he added these words: 'If you ever forget it, the Lord will remind you of it instantly, and it won't be pleasant.' ...
"Above all, we proclaim our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. All that we are—all that we will ever be—we owe to Him. While we gaze in awe at His majesty, He does not ask us to stay our distance but bids us to come unto Him. 'I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him' (Revelation 3:20)."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Come Unto Him," Ensign, May 2009, pp. 78-80
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

As a newly-sustained apostle, Elder Andersen was justifiably overwhelmed at this setting, knowing how the rest of his life would be impacted by what was taking place. But recognizing his own inadequacy, he prayed to be "willing and moldable to the Lord's tutoring and correction." That's a marvelous attitude. The word "moldable" is very descriptive; we should be willing to be changed and transformed into the image that God would see fit for us. A beautiful scriptural phrase for this attitude is "easy to be entreated" (Alma 7:23).

The personal anecdote Elder Andersen shares of his exchange with President Packer is a good reminder of the need for humility and perspective. Truly, each of us is a "nobody" in the sense that we are only a servant in God's great work. If we get caught up in our own supposed strength and achievements, we have forgotten where the power really comes from.

And this is a great key. The Lord never wants us to feel alone or deserted. He is always willing and eager to bless and sustain us, to work through us to accomplish His work. We need only be willing to come to Him, to open the door to Him and allow that miracle to happen.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on seeking daily help and sustenance from God

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.
"Included in the Lord's Prayer is the petition 'Give us this day our daily bread' (Matthew 6:11) or 'Give us day by day our daily bread' (Luke 11:3). I believe that we would all readily acknowledge that we have needs each day that we want our Heavenly Father's help in dealing with. For some, on some days, it is quite literally bread—that is, the food needed to sustain life that day. It could also be spiritual and physical strength to deal with one more day of chronic illness or a painfully slow rehabilitation. In other cases it may be less tangible needs, such as things related to one's obligations or activities in that day—teaching a lesson or taking a test, for example.
"Jesus is teaching us, His disciples, that we should look to God each day for the bread—the help and sustenance—we require in that particular day....
"The Lord's invitation to seek our daily bread at our Heavenly Father's hand speaks of a loving God, aware of even the small, daily needs of His children and anxious to assist them, one by one. He is saying that we can ask in faith of that Being 'that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given' (James 1:5). That is, of course, tremendously reassuring, but there is something at work here that is more significant than just help in getting by day to day. As we seek and receive divine bread daily, our faith and trust in God and His Son grow."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread," BYU Fireside, January 9, 2011; see also Ensign, January 2012, p. 21
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I've always appreciated the subtle difference between the Lord's prayer as shared by Matthew and Luke. While Matthew recorded "Give us this day our daily bread" (the more familiar rendition), the Luke account seems to expand and emphasize the ongoing blessing implied in the petition by saying, "Give us day by day our daily bread." Not only are we asking for God's help each day, one at a time, but also with the awareness that His help is available to us each and every day as we continue to petition in faith.

Elder Christofferson points out the help we ask for sometimes is "quite literally bread" as we may struggle to survive physically in the world. But at other times, it is "physical and spiritual strength" as we confront the challenges of life, or other more immediate and personal needs. But the key is that we can, we must, ask today for the needs of today.

I am grateful for this reminder. The blessing and power of asking for "daily bread" is not just in getting the bread to help survive each day. It's also in developing and strengthening personal trust and faith in Jesus Christ and in the Father. As we learn to turn to Them in confidence, we will be blessed with ever-growing faith and hope.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Elder Quentin L. Cook on the role of youth in family history work

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. September 8, 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"What a great time to be alive. This is the last dispensation, and we can feel the hastening of the work of salvation in every area where a saving ordinance is involved. We now have temples across much of the world to provide these saving ordinances. Attending the temple for spiritual renewal, peace, safety, and direction in our lives is also a great blessing....
"The question is, what do we need to do? The Prophet Joseph's counsel was to present in the temple 'the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation' (D&C 128:24).
"The leadership of the Church has issued a clarion call to the rising generation to lead the way in the use of technology to experience the spirit of Elijah, to search out their ancestors, and to perform temple ordinances for them. Much of the heavy lifting in hastening the work of salvation for both the living and the dead will be done by you young people.
"If the youth in each ward will not only go to the temple and do baptisms for their dead but also work with their families and other ward members to provide the family names for the ordinance work they perform, both they and the Church will be greatly blessed. Don't underestimate the influence of the deceased in assisting your efforts and the joy of ultimately meeting those you serve. The eternally significant blessing of uniting our own families is almost beyond comprehension."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Roots and Branches," Ensign, May 2014, pp. 44-48
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"The hastening of the work of salvation" is a fascinating theme. In general, work can be hastened for a number of reasons: running out of time for completion, increased awareness of the importance of the work, improved tools to perform the work, etc. Perhaps all of those apply to the "work of salvation" that Elder Cook is discussing. Certainly, we are blessed to have increased access to temples as one of the great tools to facilitate that work. And the additional benefit of worshiping in temples "for spiritual renewal, peace, safety, and direction in our lives" is a profound blessing.

But the interesting aspect of this quote is the focus on youth. I love the "clarion call" that has been issued to today's youth to step up and do "much of the heavy lifting" of this work:

I am thrilled as I serve as a temple worker to see the youth coming early in the mornings in great numbers to participate in baptisms. It's inspiring to see their faithfulness and eagerness to serve in that sacred setting. So many are taking the "clarion call" seriously in helping to hasten the work!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Elder David A. Bednar on mighty conversion through Christ

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.
"The Lord's authorized servants repeatedly teach that one of the principal purposes of our mortal existence is to be spiritually changed and transformed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ....
"We are instructed to 'come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness' (Moroni 10:32), to become 'new creature[s]' in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), to put off 'the natural man' (Mosiah 3:19), and to experience 'a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually' (Mosiah 5:2). Please note that the conversion described in these verses is mighty, not minor—a spiritual rebirth and fundamental change of what we feel and desire, what we think and do, and what we are. Indeed, the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through our reliance upon 'the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah' (2 Nephi 2:8). As we choose to follow the Master, we choose to be changed—to be spiritually reborn....
"The spiritual rebirth... typically does not occur quickly or all at once; it is an ongoing process—not a single event. Line upon line and precept upon precept, gradually and almost imperceptibly, our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God. This phase of the transformation process requires time, persistence, and patience."
- David A. Bednar, "Ye Must be Born Again," Ensign, May 2007, p. 19
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In the process of growth and change that occurs through our lives, the most important changes should be happening in our spiritual nature, as we are "changed and transformed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ." Elder Bednar points out that the scriptures teach this is not a minor change, but a mighty one:

So we are seeking "a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature." This process is not quick and not easy. It's a life-long process, though we should be able to notice ongoing progress towards the ideal. The key is that "our motives, our thoughts, our words, and our deeds become aligned with the will of God." I love that description; step by step, our natures change so that we are more godlike. In Moroni's words, we deny ourselves of anything that is ungodly (Moroni 10:32) so that the only thing that remains are god-like traits. What a beautiful and glorious process!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Elder Robert D. Hales on personal conversion and service to others

Elder Robert D. Hales (born August 24, 1932) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"Knowing the truth and gaining a testimony strengthen us to stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life. As testimony grows, we become more and more converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we follow Him, we commit ourselves to serve Him by serving others....
"Conversion requires consecrating our lives to caring for and serving others who need our help and to sharing our gifts and talents. The Lord didn't say tend my sheep when it is convenient, watch my sheep when you aren't busy. He said feed my sheep and my lambs; help them survive this world, keep them close to you. Lead them to safety—the safety of righteous choices that will prepare them for eternal life."
- Robert D. Hales, "When Thou Art Converted, Strengthen Thy Brethren," Ensign, May 1997, p. 82
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Gaining a testimony and growing towards conversion are key steps in our spiritual progress in this life. A key part of the discipleship that accompanies conversion, according to Elder Hales, is the commitment to serve God by serving others. Those who are converted "consecrate" their lives to service of others. The word "consecrate" means to make sacred, and truly a life is made sacred through service.

The service of a converted soul is sincere, unselfish, and sacrificing. We don't serve only when it's convenient. We strive always to help one another "survive this world" and prepare for a better one. Ultimately, the only way our own soul can truly progress is to bring others along that path towards eternal life.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on heavenly help for the challenges of our time

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (born December 3, 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.
"In the course of life all of us spend time in 'dark and dreary' places, wildernesses, circumstances of sorrow or fear or discouragement. Our present day is filled with global distress over financial crises, energy problems, terrorist attacks, and natural calamities. These translate into individual and family concerns not only about homes in which to live and food available to eat but also about the ultimate safety and well-being of our children and the latter-day prophecies about our planet. More serious than these—and sometimes related to them—are matters of ethical, moral, and spiritual decay seen in populations large and small, at home and abroad. But I testify that angels are still sent to help us, even as they were sent to help Adam and Eve, to help the prophets, and indeed to help the Savior of the world Himself....
"I ask everyone within the sound of my voice to take heart, be filled with faith, and remember the Lord has said He 'would fight [our] battles, [our] children's battles, and [the battles of our] children's children' (D&C 98:37, emphasis added). And what do we do to merit such a defense? We are to 'search diligently, pray always, and be believing[. Then] all things shall work together for [our] good, if [we] walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith [we] have covenanted' (D&C 90:24). The latter days are not a time to fear and tremble. They are a time to be believing and remember our covenants."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Ministry of Angels," Ensign, Nov 2008, 29-31
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Holland spoke of Lehi's experience of being in a "dark and dreary waste" and finding help and comfort as an angel came to lead him "to safety and ultimately to the path of salvation." He likened that to our time and situation; we often seem to be in "dark and dreary" times in our lives as the world's circumstances bring discouragement or fear. Those times are a necessary part of mortality; we should not be surprised when they come. And we should not be overly discouraged. Gratefully, we are not forsaken; angels are still sent to guide and minister.

So we should "take courage" and have faith that we do not need to struggle alone in the world's challenges. To merit the help promised by God, Elder Holland reminds us of the admonition to "search diligently, pray always, and be believing"—and when we have done our part, we can be assured the the promised angels will be at our side to sustain and protect us.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

President Spencer W. Kimball on working towards personal change and perfection

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"There are those today who say that man is the result of his environment and cannot rise above it. Those who justify mediocrity, failure, and even weakness and criminality are certainly misguided. Surely the environmental conditions found in childhood and youth are an influence of power. But the fact remains that every normal soul has its free agency and the power to row against the current and to lift himself to new planes of activity and thought and development. Man can transform himself. Man must transform himself....
"Self-mastery, then, is the key, and every person should study his own life, his own desires and wants and cravings, and bring them under control.
"Man can transform himself and he must. Man has in himself the seeds of godhood, which can germinate and grow and develop. As the acorn becomes the oak, the mortal man becomes a god. It is within his power to lift himself by his very bootstraps from the plane on which he finds himself to the plane on which he should be. It may be a long, hard lift with many obstacles, but it is a real possibility....
"As we have stated before, the way to perfection seems to be a changing of one's life—to substitute the good for the evil in every case. Changes can come best if we take one item at a time. For instance, it's not difficult to be perfect in tithe paying, for if one pays one-tenth of his income annually, he is perfect in that respect. It is not difficult to become perfect in avoiding a swearing habit, for if one locks his mouth against all words of cursing, he is en route to perfection in that matter. If one studies the scriptures with all reasonable devotion, he has approached the perfection in that matter also."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Be Ye Therefore Perfect," BYU Devotional, September 17, 1974
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"That's how I am, and I can't help it." I've heard those words spoken, and probably have thought them about myself on occasion. We are tempted to "justify mediocrity" and shortcomings by blaming our inherent nature or character, or pointing to patterns developed in our upbringing. And President Kimball acknowledges that "environmental conditions" impact who we are; but he rejects the idea that we can't change or overcome those tendencies. We can, we must, transform ourselves, lifting above the limitations we imagine are there.

So one key suggestion he offers is for each person to "study his own life, his own desires and wants and cravings, and bring them under control." Sincere personal evaluation will identify tendencies or character traits that might not be appropriate; we can then work to change the direction and achieve self-mastery. This is a process that should be ongoing throughout our lives!

Perfection will only come through change—learning to "substitute the good for the evil in every case." President Kimball finds strength in doing those changes one at a time; gradual and continual progress will, over time, bring about the transformation we all seek, and keep us moving along the road to perfection.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Friday, May 19, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on facing life with good cheer

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.
"The Lord knows our bearing capacity, both as to coping and to comprehending, and He will not give us more to bear than we can manage at the moment, though to us it may seem otherwise. (See D&C 50:40; D&C 78:18.) Just as no temptations will come to us from which we cannot escape or which we cannot bear, we will not be given more trials than we can sustain. (See 1 Cor. 10:13.)
"Therefore... can we not 'be of good cheer' in spite of stress and circumstance?
"President Brigham Young said of a geographical destination, 'This is the place.' Of God's plan of salvation, with its developmental destination, it can be said, 'This is the process.'
"President Young, who knew something about trial and tribulation but also of man's high destiny, said that the Lord lets us pass through these experiences that we might become true friends of God. By developing our individual capacities, wisely exercising our agency, and trusting God—including when we feel forsaken and alone—then we can, said President Young, learn to be 'righteous in the dark.' (Secretary's Journal, 28 Jan. 1857.) The gospel glow we see radiating from some—amid dark difficulties—comes from illuminated individuals who are 'of good cheer'!"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Be of Good Cheer," Ensign, November 1982, pp. 66-68
Click here to read or watch the full talk

The Savior's admonition to "be of good cheer" appears several times in the New Testament (e.g., John 16:33, Matt. 9:2, Mark 6:50) and was repeated several times in modern scripture as well (e.g., D&C 68:6, D&C 78:18). Clearly it's a message that is timeless and applicable to all. If we truly understand God's plan for us and His love for us, there is no reason we should not be of good cheer.

At times when we feel burdened with challenges and problems, we may struggle to maintain the "good cheer." Elder Maxwell reminds us to keep the perspective that "the Lord knows our bearing capacity." Any trial we encounter is within our ability to endure, and will surely pass in due time.

I love the insights from the Brigham Young quotes. First, adding to Brigham's concept of "This is the place," our awareness of "this is the process" will help us to keep a beneficial perspective. And then this thought is also very insightful:

Two phrases from this reference stick out for me. First, through our "trials and tribulations" we can "become true friends of God." What a powerful designation, one to be earnestly sought and treasured.

Learning to be "righteous in the dark" is also an intriguing concept. The dark could include the times of challenge and trial; but also when, for various reasons, we're less able to feel spiritual help and support. At those times, our righteousness must be deeply ingrained, and not superficial. That kind of faith comes from trusting God even when we feel "forsaken and alone."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on finding specific answers in the scriptures

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.
"The scriptures can also help us obtain answers to highly specific personal questions. It is obvious, of course, that the scriptures do not contain a comprehensive list of specific answers to every question we could ask about a particular subject. The scriptures are not like a telephone book or an encyclopedia.
"We often hear it said that the scriptures have the answers to all of our questions. Why is this so? It is not that the scriptures contain a specific answer to every question—even to every doctrinal question. We have continuing revelation in our Church because the scriptures do not have a specific answer to every possible question. We say that the scriptures contain the answers to every question because the scriptures can lead us to every answer.
"...The reading of the scriptures will help us obtain a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will also put us in a position where we can obtain inspiration to answer any doctrinal or personal question, whether or not that question directly concerns the subject we are studying in the scriptures. That is a grand truth not understood by many. To state it again, even though the scriptures contain no words to answer our specific personal question, a prayerful study of the scriptures will help us obtain such answers. This is because scripture study will make us susceptible to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, which, as the scriptures say, will 'guide [us] into all truth' (John 16:13), and by whose power we can 'know the truth of all things' (Moroni 10:5).
"We may also find that a specific verse of scripture that was spoken for quite a different purpose in an entirely different age will, under the interpretive influence of the Holy Ghost, give us a very personal message adapted to our personal needs today."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Studying the Scriptures," Unpublished Thanksgiving Devotional, CES Address, November 24, 1985, pp. 19-21; quoted in CES manual "Scripture Study: The Power of the Word" chapter 14.

We often talk about finding answers to our questions in the scriptures. However, as Elder Oaks points out, the scriptures and not a question-and-answer manual or a comprehensive encyclopedia of the various issues we might confront. But yet, he states we can find answers to "highly specific personal questions." The key lies in the statement that "the scriptures can lead us to every answer" by providing the setting and opportunity for inspiration:

So we will find that "scripture study will make us susceptible to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost" in ways that we would not be otherwise. As we immerse ourselves in study, we open our hearts and minds to inspiration in ways that allow the Holy Ghost to speak to us about the concerns we have, often giving us "a very personal message adapted to our personal needs today."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

President Henry B. Eyring on walking in light through wise choices

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.
"When you were confirmed a member of the Church, you were given the right to have the Holy Ghost as your companion. The Holy Ghost is a powerful source of light to recognize truth, to follow and love the Lord Jesus Christ, and to find your way back to God after this life.
"But the spirit who led the rebellion in the world before still opposes the plan and wants you to be miserable. He wants you never to find your way home again. That enemy of your soul knows you and your goodness. He knows that if he can turn you away from walking in the light, he can both capture you and stop you from helping others along the journey. He knows how good you are and your power to teach and influence hundreds of Heavenly Father’s children in this life—and thousands over the generations that will follow your path. If he can get you to wander away from the light on your journey, he can do harm and bring misery to many.
"The fact that you are listening now is evidence that God recognizes your great importance and that you have chosen to walk in the light He offers you. Such choices are not always easy to see clearly. You make choices every day and almost every hour that keep you walking in the light or moving away toward darkness. Some of the most important choices are about what you set your heart upon.
"There are so many things you may consider desirable. For instance, all of us want, to some degree, the approval of other people. All of us feel a need for friends. All of us are searching for some evidence that we are persons of worth. We make choices based on those desires. Some might lead us away from the light God offers us as a guide. Some may brighten that light by which we can find our way."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Walk in the Light," General Conference, April 2008
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Eyring delivered these remarks as part of the General Young Women Meeting held in connection with the April 2008 General Conference. His remarks were very encouraging to the young women, helping give them perspective of who they are and who they have the potential to be. Though they (and all of us) are in the midst of conflict with an adversary who "wants [us] to be miserable" and knows the impact of turning us from the path of truth, we can be assured there are other forces fighting to keep us on the right path and in the right light.

So it comes down to the choices we make each day, each hour—will we set our hearts upon the things that keep us walking in light?

With the help of the Holy Ghost, with the encouragement of good friends, with the strength that comes from God—we know we can find our way through the challenges of the world.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

President Russell M. Nelson on having faith in dealing with life's turmoil

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.
"We live in a time of turmoil. Earthquakes and tsunamis wreak devastation, governments collapse, economic stresses are severe, the family is under attack, and divorce rates are rising. We have great cause for concern. But we do not need to let our fears displace our faith. We can combat those fears by strengthening our faith.
"Start with your children. You parents bear the primary responsibility to strengthen their faith. Let them feel your faith, even when sore trials come upon you. Let your faith be focused on our loving Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Teach that faith with deep conviction. Teach each precious boy or girl that he or she is a child of God, created in His image, with a sacred purpose and potential. Each is born with challenges to overcome and faith to be developed....
"How you deal with life's trials is part of the development of your faith. Strength comes when you remember that you have a divine nature, an inheritance of infinite worth. The Lord has reminded you, your children, and your grandchildren that you are lawful heirs, that you have been reserved in heaven for your specific time and place to be born, to grow and become His standard bearers and covenant people. As you walk in the Lord's path of righteousness, you will be blessed to continue in His goodness and be a light and a savior unto His people (see D&C 86:8-11).
"Available to each of you brethren and sisters are blessings obtained through the power of the holy Melchizedek Priesthood. These blessings can change the circumstances of your lives, in matters such as health, companionship of the Holy Ghost, personal relationships, and opportunities for the future. The power and authority of this priesthood holds the keys to all spiritual blessings of the Church (D&C 107:18). And most remarkably, the Lord has declared that He will sustain those blessings, according to His will (D&C 132:47, 59)."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Face the Future with Faith," Ensign, May 2011, pp. 34-36
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The world "turmoil" is a vivid and descriptive one. It conveys a sense of great uncertainty, disturbance, trouble, or confusion. President Nelson lists examples of the kinds of situations, both natural and man-made, that can create those feelings of desperation.

Instead of fear and uncertainty, President Nelson teaches us to respond to turmoil with faith. I love the statement, "Strength comes when you remember that you have a divine nature, an inheritance of infinite worth." Regardless what the world throws at us, a person of faith remembers always that he is a child of God bearing those seeds of divinity; and that regardless of what the temporary situation might be, there are promises of an eventual inheritance of unimagined peace and blessings. A disciple who "walk[s] in the  Lord's path of righteousness... will be blessed to continue in His goodness" regardless of the surrounding circumstances.

Those who begin to understand this alternative to fear and uncertainty are asked to teach and inspire others—particularly children. They need examples around them of individuals who confront challenges with faith and conviction. And we also have the responsibility to be a light to the world.

Finally, we should remember that the Priesthood has power to bless and strengthen as we strive to overcome challenges in life. Those blessings can "change the circumstances of your lives" in very real ways!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

Monday, May 15, 2017

President James E. Faust on the saving forces of righteousness

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.
"There are forces that will save us from the ever-increasing lying, disorder, violence, chaos, destruction, misery, and deceit that are upon the earth. Those saving forces are the everlasting principles, covenants, and ordinances of the eternal gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. These same principles, covenants, and ordinances are coupled with the rights and powers of the priesthood of Almighty God. We of this Church are the possessors and custodians of these commanding powers that can and do roll back much of the power of Satan on the earth. We believe that we hold these mighty forces in trust for all who have died, for all who are now living, and for the yet unborn.
"My prayer is that through the spreading of righteousness, the evil hands of the destroyer can be stayed so that he will not be permitted to curse the whole world. I pray that God will overlook our weaknesses, our frailties, and our many shortcomings and generously forgive us of our misdeeds. May He bring solace to the suffering, comfort to those who grieve, and peace to the brokenhearted."
- James E. Faust, "The Forces That Will Save Us," Ensign, Jan 2007, pp. 4-9
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Faust speaks of a mighty legacy given to members of the Church: the power to control and restrain the influence of Satan in the world. Those "saving forces" rest in the "principles, covenants, and ordinances of the eternal gospel" and in the "powers of the priesthood." It is truly an awesome responsibility to consider that "we hold these mighty forces in trust for all who have died, for all who are now living, and for the yet unborn."

President Faust states that the "evil hands of the destroyer" are stopped as we encourage the spread of righteousness in our lives and our influence in the world. Though we were often weak and error-prone in our behaviors and approaches, God can compensate as we make the efforts to sustain good and promote righteousness.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)
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