Friday, June 30, 2017

President Joseph F. Smith on cultivating gratitude as the memory of the heart

President Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) was the son of Joseph's brother Hyrum. He was ordained an apostle in 1866 at age 28, and served as a counselor to Brigham Young and the three presidents who followed.  He became the 6th president of the Church in 1901, and served until his death in 1918 at age 80.
"We are almost daily put under obligations to one another, especially to friends and acquaintances, and the sense of obligation creates within us feelings of thankfulness and appreciation which we call gratitude.  The spirit of gratitude is always pleasant and satisfying because it carries with it a sense of helpfulness to others; it begets love and friendship, and engenders divine influence.  Gratitude is said to be the memory of the heart....
"The grateful man sees so much in the world to be thankful for, and with him the good outweighs the evil. Love overpowers jealousy, and light drives darkness out of his life. Pride destroys our gratitude and sets up selfishness in its place. How much happier we are in the presence of a grateful and loving soul, and how careful we should be to cultivate, through the medium of a prayerful life, a thankful attitude toward God and man!"
- Joseph F. Smith, Juvenile Instructor, April 1903, 38:242-243; see also Gospel Doctrine 262-3

It's interesting to observe the relationship between service and gratitude. As we give to others, especially when sacrifice or unusual effort are involved, it creates a bond of gratitude between us. "Love and friendship" are the result of helpfulness as we strive to bless one another. And those feelings can be long-lasting, since "gratitude is... the memory of the heart."

I love the two additional points President Smith made. We love being in the presence of truly grateful souls; their attitude rubs off and inspires all around them. And so, why would we not want to become that kind of soul? We can cultivate a greater spirit of gratitude by starting with our expressions to God in prayer. As we emphasize all we have to be grateful for in our interactions with Heavenly Father, it will bless all the rest of our life.

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

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Elder John A. Widtsoe on our sacred partnership with the Lord

Elder John A. Widtsoe (1872-1952) was born in Norway. He was raised by his widowed mother who immigrated to Utah when John was 11. He was educated at Harvard and in Europe, and had formative roles in programs in several Utah universities including BYU. He served as an apostle from 1921 to his death in 1952.
"In our preexistent state, in the day of the great council, we made a certain agreement with the Almighty. The Lord proposed a plan, conceived by him. We accepted it. Since the plan is intended for all men, we become parties to the salvation of every person under that plan. We agreed, right then and there, to be not only saviors for ourselves, but measurably, saviors for the whole human family. We went into a partnership with the Lord. The working out of the plan became then not merely the Father’s work, and the Savior’s work, but also our work. The least of us, the humblest, is in partnership with the Almighty in achieving the purpose of the eternal plan of salvation.
"That places us in a very responsible attitude towards the human race. By that doctrine, with the Lord at the head, we become saviors on Mount Zion, all committed to the great plan of offering salvation to the untold numbers of spirits. To do this is the Lord’s self-imposed duty, this great labor his highest glory. Likewise, it is man’s duty, self-imposed, his pleasure and joy, his labor, and ultimately his glory."
- John A. Widtsoe, “The Worth of Souls,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Oct. 1934, 189; or Millennial Star, March 1, 1934, 9:96:181
Click here to read the full article

Elder Widtsoe spoke and wrote insightfully about temple worship (see "John A. Widtsoe on the sacred blessings of the temple"). The current excerpt gives further insight to the work of the temples and the efforts we can make to provide saving ordinances for those who have passed on. Elder Widtsoe teaches us that we have a sacred obligation to work, in "partnership with the Lord," on behalf of our kindred dead:

I love the thought that we have a role as saviors for ourselves, but also "saviors for the whole human family." Through that great plan of salvation, the Father's work, the Savior's work, became our work. As we research our ancestors and then perform vicarious ordinances on their behalf, we truly do become saviors on Mount Zion on their behalf. And when a man or woman grasps the eternal significance of that work, it becomes, not just a duty, but "his pleasure and joy, his labor, and ultimately his glory."

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

President Lorenzo Snow on gradual and steady progress in life

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.
"Do not expect to become perfect at once. If you do, you will be disappointed. Be better today than you were yesterday, and be better tomorrow than you are today. The temptations that perhaps partially overcome us today, let them not overcome us so far tomorrow. Thus continue to be a little better day by day; and do not let your life wear away without accomplishing good to others as well as to ourselves."
- Lorenzo Snow, Improvement Era, July 1901, 714.

We are often in a hurry to become perfect—to overcome our challenges and limitations and feel like we are making rapid progress. President Snow reminds us that growth and change often occur more slowly and gradually.

The key is to make our growth and progress "slow and steady" by ongoing small increments. If we are doing just a little better each day, by and by we will achieve the significant growth we seek. That includes dealing with our "temptations" or shortcomings; it is far better to be making small, incremental gains than to just be wishing for dramatic changes that continue to fail and fall short. This is a wise and measured perspective that will bless us as we grow in our discipleship. "Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great" (D&C 64:33).

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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

President Wilford Woodruff on the urgency of latter-day work

Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898) was called as an apostle in 1839 by Joseph Smith, and sustained as the 4th president of the Church in 1889.  He served until his death in 1898 at age 91.
"Joseph Smith visited me a great deal after his death, and taught me many important principles. The last time he visited me was while I was... going on my last mission to preside in England....
"Joseph Smith continued visiting myself and others up to a certain time, and then it stopped. The last time I saw him was in heaven. In the night vision I saw him at the door of the temple in heaven. He came and spoke to me. He said he could not stop to talk with me because he was in a hurry. The next man I met was Father Smith; he could not talk with me because he was in a hurry. I met half a dozen brethren who had held high positions on earth, and none of them could stop to talk with me because they were in a hurry. I was much astonished.
'By and by I saw the Prophet again, and I got the privilege to ask him a question. 'Now,' said I, 'I want to know why you are in a hurry. I have been in a hurry all through my life; but I expected my hurry would be over when I got into the kingdom of heaven, if I ever did.' Joseph said: 'I will tell you, Brother Woodruff. Every dispensation that has had the priesthood on the earth and has gone into the celestial kingdom, has had a certain amount of work to do to prepare to go to the earth with the Savior when He goes to reign on the earth. Each dispensation has had ample time to do this work. We have not. We are the last dispensation, and so much work has to be done, and we need to be in a hurry in order to accomplish it.' Of course, that was satisfactory to me, but it was new doctrine to me."
- Wilford Woodruff, discourse delivered October 19, 1896, recorded in Stuy, Collected Discourses, 5:237–38; see also Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 3:578–79, October 20, 1850

President Woodruff had a remarkable gift for spiritual experiences, and this excerpt discusses some of the manifestations he had in his life. He had quite a few visions and encounters with heavenly messengers. He talks quite matter-of-factly about his visits with Joseph Smith. With the post-mortal perspective, the Prophet conveyed the urgency of the latter-day work, given all that remains to be done in this dispensation:

Each of us might ask ourselves about our own sense of urgency. As we age and recognize how quickly time passes in our personal life, we start to understand how little time we probably have to accomplish our personal goals and desires—not to mention contribute to the work of salvation on behalf of our Father's plan for His children!

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

President John Taylor on the difference between suffering and experience

President John Taylor (1808–1887) was born in England and immigrated to Canada where he and his wife were converted after hearing Parley P. Pratt preach.  He was ordained an apostle in 1838, and became the third president of the Church in 1880, serving until his death in 1887 at age 78.
"We have learned many things through suffering, we call it suffering; I call it a school of experience, I never did bother my head much about these things; I do not today. What are these things for? Why is it that good men should be tried?
"Why is it, in fact, that we should have a devil? Why did not the Lord kill him long ago? Because he could not do without him. He needed the devil and a great many of those who do his bidding just to keep men straight, that we may learn to place our dependence upon God, and trust in Him, and to observe his laws and keep his commandments....
"I have never looked at these things in any other light than trials for the purpose of purifying the Saints of God, that they may be, as the Scriptures say, as gold that has been seven times purified by the fire."
- John Taylor, discourse at Grantsville, Oct. 29, 1882; see JD 23:336
Click here to read the full talk

Sometimes a change of perspective or interpretation can alter the whole nature of an experience. President Taylor suggests that what we consider suffering, might more properly be considered an episode in the school of experience. With that perspective, when things are hard, we can be looking for the lessons to be learned or the blessings to be gained from the experience.

President Taylor also recognizes the necessity of an adversary in the plan. Having opposition and temptation help us "learn to place our dependence upon God, and trust in Him, and to observe his laws and keep his commandments." If there were no opposition, we might not have opportunity to learn those same lessons.

I am not familiar with a scriptural passage that talks of gold seven times purified; there is one that refers to silver in that sense (see Psalm 12:6). But the message is clear and the application is memorable. Trials will purify the Saints of God in that school of experience—if we allow them to. Joseph Smith was once told, after the Lord listed many of his trials: "know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" (D&C 122:7), The same applies to us.

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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

President Brigham Young on the power of a simple, honest heart

President Brigham Young (1801-1877) was part of the first Quorum of Twelve Apostles of this dispensation, called and ordained in 1835. He served as the second Church president, succeeding Joseph Smith, from 1847 until his death in 1877.
"I care but little as to the outward appearance, if I can know that there is at heart a true feeling to do the will of God—to be honest before God and with one another. And in addressing a congregation, though the speaker be unable to say more than half-a-dozen sentences, and those awkwardly constructed, if his heart is pure before God, those few broken sentences are of more value than the greatest eloquence without the Spirit of the Lord, and of more real worth in the sight of God, angels, and all good men. In praying, though a person's words be few and awkwardly expressed, if the heart is pure before God, that prayer will avail more than the eloquence of a Cicero. What does the Lord, the Father of us all, care about our mode of expression? Mankind have fallen into the deep vortex of darkness. They know not from whence they came. They have sprung from their Father, God, and Savior, and have all gone out of the way. The simple, honest heart is of more avail with the Lord than all the pomp, pride, splendor, and eloquence produced by man. When He looks upon a heart full of sincerity, integrity, and childlike simplicity, he sees a principle that will endure forever—'That is the spirit of my own kingdom—the spirit I have given to my children.'"
- Brigham Young, "Knowledge—Object of Man's Existence on the Earth," remarks at Box Elder, June 7, 1860; see JD 8:283-4
Click here to read the full talk

It's so natural and easy for us to evaluate and judge others based on outward appearances, including not just things like dress and grooming but also manner of speech and apparent level of education. President Young teaches an important truth about these judgments, though, in this excerpt. When a person has a heart that is "pure before God," though he be far from eloquent and persuasive in his communication, his words have the power to convey spiritual truths that is altogether lacking in the most polished orator who speaks without the spirit. And a prayer spoken from a pure heart in true humility and sincerity has the power to reach the heavens and invoke miracles far beyond one that is superficial and uncommitted.

It is the childlike simplicity and sincerity that will both allow man to communicate with God, and to share powerfully with each other. That purity of heart should be cultivated much more earnestly than eloquence and formality of speech.

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

Saturday, June 24, 2017

President Spencer W. Kimball on accepting personal responsibility for progress

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"One of the most serious human defects in all ages is procrastination, an unwillingness to accept personal responsibilities now. Men came to earth consciously to obtain their schooling, their training and development, and to perfect themselves, but many have allowed themselves to be diverted and have become merely 'hewers of wood and drawers of water,' addicts to mental and spiritual indolence and to the pursuit of worldly pleasure.
"There are even many members of the Church who are lax and careless and who continually procrastinate. They live the gospel casually but not devoutly. They have complied with some requirements but are not valiant. They do no major crime but merely fail to do the things required—things like paying tithing, living the Word of Wisdom, having family prayers, fasting, attending meetings, serving. Perhaps they do not consider such omissions to be sins, yet these were the kinds of things of which the five foolish virgins of Jesus' parable were probably guilty. The ten virgins belonged to the kingdom and had every right to the blessings—except that five were not valiant and were not ready when the great day came. They were unprepared through not living all the commandments. They were bitterly disappointed at being shut out from the marriage—as likewise their modern counterparts will be.
"One Church member of my acquaintance said, as she drank her coffee: 'The Lord knows my heart is right and that I have good intentions, and that I will someday get the strength to quit.' But will one receive eternal life on the basis of his good intentions? Can one enter a country, receive a scholastic degree, and so on, on the strength of good intent unsupported by appropriate action? Samuel Johnson remarked that 'hell is paved with good intentions.' The Lord will not translate one's good hopes and desires and intentions into works. Each of us must do that for himself."
- Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 7-8

I always loved President Kimball's counsel; he could instruct and reprimand in a way that was frank and blunt but yet gentle and inviting. This is a good example. He points out the common defect of procrastination and laziness that is far too common in many of our lives. We are "addicts to mental and spiritual indolence" who are caught up instead in "the pursuit of worldly pleasure."

As a result, we often live the gospel "casually but not devoutly." That's an interesting statement. What is the difference between the two approaches? Do I see evidence of that in my life? Am I perhaps omitting some of the "weightier matters" of the law?

Yes, our "good intentions" are far too common. We know we'll get around to things eventually. We just never seem to quite do it, though... and so our lives fall short of what they could be. We would be wise to consider President Kimball's counsel carefully as we do an honest and thorough evaluation of our lives, progress, priorities, and level of commitment!

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley on living with happiness and optimism

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.
"The Lord said: 'Wherefore, lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto the covenants which thou hast made.' (D&C 25:13.)
"I believe he is saying to each of us, be happy. The gospel is a thing of joy. It provides us with a reason for gladness. Of course there are times of sorrow. Of course there are hours of concern and anxiety. We all worry. But the Lord has told us to lift our hearts and rejoice. I see so many people, including many women, who seem never to see the sunshine, but who constantly walk with storms under cloudy skies. Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism. Walk with faith, rejoicing in the beauties of nature, in the goodness of those you love, in the testimony which you carry in your heart concerning things divine."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "If Though Art Faithful," Ensign, November 1984, p. 92
Click here to read or listen to the full article

This expression is classic President Hinckley. He always encouraged optimism and hope, reminding us of the reasons for joy even in the midst of trails and struggles. He certainly felt that joy in his life, and always radiated the spirit of optimism and confidence.

President Hinckley acknowledges that there will be times of sorrow, concern, anxiety, and worry. But with the perspective of the Gospel, those things never should overshadow our optimism and faith. We need to remember to "see the sunshine" around us. I like the specific suggestions he gives here to accomplish that:
  • Rejoice in the beauties of natuer
  • Rejoice in the goodness of loved ones
  • Rejoice in the testimony of divine things

Those are wonderful reminders, not just for times of sorrow but for all times. We will be blessed with more confidence and peace as we cultivate the spirit President Hinckley is inviting us to have.

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

President Russell M. Nelson on strength through emulating the Savior

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.
"Jesus, our Savior, was born in the lowliest of circumstances. For his baptism he was immersed in the lowest body of fresh water upon the planet. In service and suffering, he also 'descended below' all things (D&C 122:8), that he could rise above all things. Near the end of his life, he triumphantly declared, 'I have overcome the world.' (John 16:33.) 'Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.' (3 Ne. 15:9.) Scriptures tutor us at least twenty-six times to endure to the end to attain eternal life. Then we will obtain a resurrected body—one that is incorruptible, glorified, and prepared to live in the presence of God.
"To reach your highest destiny, emulate the Savior. He proclaimed, 'What manner of men ought ye to be? ... Even as I am.' (3 Ne. 27:27.) Our loftiest hope is to grow in spirit and attain 'the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children.' (Eph. 4:13-14.) ...
"When deepening trials come your way, remember this glorious promise of the Savior: 'To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.' (Rev. 3:21.)"
- Russell M. Nelson, "Self-Mastery," Ensign, Nov. 1985, 30
Click here to read or listen to the full article

"To reach your highest destiny, emulate the Savior." That's the disciple's creed in life; the core message of Christianity is in the simple words, "Come, follow me." As we strive with true sincerity and deep commitment to do that, not only does our life change, but our joy increases dramatically.

In spite of, or particularly because of, the "deepening trials" that occasionally beset us in life, we must never forget the promise of divine help and sustaining grace, and the ultimate hope of overcoming all trials with God's help. Truly, all will be well for him who truly strives to follow the Savior.

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the eternal perspective of life

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.
"Yes, there will be moments of beginnings and moments of endings throughout our lives, but these are only markers along the way of the great middle of our eternal lives. Whether we are at the beginning or the end, whether we are young or old, the Lord can use us for His purposes if we simply set aside whatever thoughts limit our ability to serve and allow His will to shape our lives....
"Being always in the middle means that the game is never over, hope is never lost, defeat is never final. For no matter where we are or what our circumstances, an eternity of beginnings and an eternity of endings stretch out before us."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Always in the Middle," Ensign, July 2012, p. 4
Click here to read or listen to the full article

This was an insightful message from President Uchtdorf. In our narrow, limited perspective of time, we view beginnings and endings of events or circumstances as much more dramatic than they are in a broader, eternal view. In the true sense, we are "always in the middle" of eternity, with much that preceded and so much more to follow.

Seeing the broad perspective of eternity can help us understand that our challenges and difficulties are truly temporary and fleeting. With that knowledge sure in our hearts, we can persevere and endure in faithfulness. The hope of eternity helps us see things as they really are!

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

President Henry B. Eyring on faithfulness in times of tests and trials

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.
"There is another even more important preparation we must make for tests that are certain to come to each of us. That preparation must be started far in advance because it takes time. What we will need then can't be bought. It can't be borrowed. It doesn't store well. And it has to have been used regularly and recently.
"What we will need in our day of testing is a spiritual preparation. It is to have developed faith in Jesus Christ so powerful that we can pass the test of life upon which everything for us in eternity depends. That test is part of the purpose God had for us in the Creation.
"The Prophet Joseph Smith gave us the Lord's description of the test we face. Our Heavenly Father created the world with His Son, Jesus Christ. We have these words to tell us about the purpose of the Creation: 'We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them' (Abr. 3:24-25).
"So, the great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God's commands in the midst of the storms of life. It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage. And the tragedy of life is to fail in that test and so fail to qualify to return in glory to our heavenly home."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady," Ensign, May 2005, pp. 37-40
Click here to read or listen to the full article

I love the title of President Eyring's talk: "Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady." How blessed we are when we have that early start, with appropriate uplift and inspiration coming from the home of a child and other experiences that build on it. Then the steadiness of faithful discipleship can carry on those traditions.

In this excerpt, President Eyring talks of the spiritual preparation that must be accumulated in order to confront the trials and challenges of life.

I think this is a remarkable insight. The great test of life for us is not about surviving storms and enduring difficulties. It is about how faithful and obedient we will be when the storms and challenges are raging. God really cares much more about our faithful obedience more than whether we can just "hang on" when times are tough or "get through" the hard periods.

So much depends on our spiritual preparation in the times leading up to trials and difficulties. When the need comes, the preparation is past and too late. It's the regular and recent preparation that will make all the difference in our ability to pass the tests of life.

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on seeking to serve one another

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.
"This afternoon my thoughts have returned to a road made famous by a parable Jesus told. I speak of the road to Jericho....
"Each of us, in the journey through mortality, will travel his own Jericho Road. What will be your experience? What will be mine? Will I fail to notice him who has fallen among thieves and requires my help? Will you?
"Will I be one who sees the injured and hears his plea, yet crosses to the other side? Will you?
"Or will I be one who sees, who hears, who pauses, and who helps? Will you?
"Jesus provided our watchword, 'Go, and do thou likewise.' When we obey that declaration, there opens to our eternal view a vista of joy seldom equaled and never surpassed....
"My brothers and sisters, today there are hearts to gladden, there are deeds to be done—even precious souls to save. The sick, the weary, the hungry, the cold, the injured, the lonely, the aged, the wanderer—all cry out for our help.
"The road signs of life enticingly invite every traveler: This way to fame; this way to affluence; this way to popularity; this way to luxury. Pause at the crossroads before you continue your journey. Listen for that still, small voice which ever so gently beckons, 'Come, follow me. This way to Jericho.'
"May each of us follow Him along that Jericho Road."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Your Jericho Road," Ensign, May 1977, pp. 71-73
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Monson has lived his life serving along the road to Jericho. This talk, given 40 years ago, echoes counsel from his heart and his example. His gentle invitation to us, to be more loving and serving to our neighbor, is a wonderful reminder.

We would all do well to consider how we are doing in our individual daily journeys along the Jericho road. Like President Monson, we should be always praying and listening for the promptings that will guide us to those whom we could help and assist along the way. Instead of heeding the many calls that would lure us to fame, affluence, popularity, and luxury, we might find another path that includes joy and blessing.

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

Sunday, June 18, 2017

President Harold B. Lee on worshipful Sabbath Day activities

President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1941. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1970-1972, then as Church president from July 1972 until his passing less than 18 months later in December 1973.
"May we not hope that in addition to our worshipful activities on the Lord's Day we might also on that day reduce the drudgery of the home to a minimum, and that outside the home only essential chores will be performed. Make this a day of prayerful, thoughtful study of the scriptures and other good books. While filled with the joy of the Sabbath, write a letter to your sweetheart or an absent loved one or a friend who may need your spiritual strength. Make your homes the places for the singing and playing of beautiful music in harmony with the spirit of the day. At evening's close as you gather at your fireside with the family alone or with friends, discuss the precious truths of the gospel and close with the benediction of family prayer. My experience has taught me that the prompting of the conscience to a faithful Church member is the safest indicator as to that which is contrary to the spirit of worship on the Sabbath Day....
"And so I beg of you not to rob your spiritual bodies of that essential strength by breaking the Sabbath Day, but sincerely urge you to live each day so that you might receive from the fountain of light, nourishment and strength sufficient to every day's need."
- Harold B. Lee, "Take Time to be Holy," Radio address delivered April 15, 1945; see Decisions for Successful Living [Deseret 1973] pp. 146-50

I think President Lee's suggestions are helpful. The word "drudgery" is an interesting choice; I guess it refers to menial work, chores, routine tasks, etc. To reduce those things allows us to focus on activities and tasks that are not routine or menial, but are worshipful, prayerful, and spiritual.

President Lee shares the vision of a day filled with worshipful activities: uplifting music, study and reading, appropriate service to others, sharing gospel insights with family members or friends.

I think this is a great summary, "My experience has taught me that the prompting of the conscience to a faithful Church member is the safest indicator as to that which is contrary to the spirit of worship on the Sabbath Day." If we listen to the promptings that will come, we will be guided to the best kinds of activities.

I've always been intrigued by the phrase "breaking the Sabbath Day." That use of the word "break" conveys to me the idea of shattering or destroying something that is precious, useful, or beautiful. That's what we want the Sabbath Day to be to us!

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley on having a spiritual retreat from a busy world

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 need to build ourselves spiritually. We live in a world of rush and go, of running here and there and in every direction. We are very busy people. We have so much to do. We need to get off by ourselves once in a while and think of the spiritual things and build ourselves spiritually. If you have a study at home, lock yourself in it. If you have a place in the basement where you can be by yourself, go there. Get by yourself and think of things of the Lord, of things of the Spirit. Think of all the Lord has done for you. How blessed you are, how very blessed you are. Think of your duty and your responsibility. Think of your testimony. Think of the things of God. Just meditate and reflect for an hour about yourself and your relationship to your Heavenly Father and your Redeemer. It will do something for you."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Brigham City Utah Regional Conference, Feb. 22, 1997; see TGBH 608-609

In the intense, busy, rushing world of today, President Hinckley cautions us about the need for time to relax and rebuild. Being able to "think of the spiritual things" is an essential component in the disciple's life:

One of President Hinckley's key suggestions is to have a place where we can "get away" from the interruptions and pressures and be alone. The temptation in our day is to take our communication devices (phones, computers) with us to those places, rationalizing that since no other people are physically present, we are alone. But that is not the intent of President Hinckley's advice.

The key is to have time to focus on the Lord and on the "things of the Spirit." It's a time to ponder blessings, to review responsibilities, to consider testimony. How often do we truly "meditate and reflect for an hour about yourself and your relationship to your Heavenly Father and your Redeemer"?? In doing so, we truly will be blessed.

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Elder Richard G. Scott on keys to happiness and blessing in life

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928-2015) served as a Seventy from 1977-1988, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He passed away in September 2015 at the age of 86.
"How can you receive the greatest happiness and blessings from this earth experience?
" Learn the doctrinal foundation of the great plan of happiness by studying the scriptures, pondering their content, and praying to understand them. Carefully study and use the proclamation of the First Presidency and the Twelve on the family (see "Proclamation," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102). It was inspired of the Lord.
" Listen to the voice of current and past prophets. Their declarations are inspired. You may verify that counsel in your own mind and heart by praying about it as it applies to your special circumstances. Ask the Lord to confirm your choices and accept accountability for them.
" Obey the inner feelings that come as promptings from the Holy Ghost. Those feelings are engendered by your righteous thoughts and acts and your determination to seek the will of the Lord and to live it.
" When needed, seek counsel and guidance from parents and your priesthood leaders."
- Richard G. Scott, "The Joy of Living the Great Plan of Happiness," Ensign, Nov 1996, pp. 73-75
Click here to read or listen to the full talk
Who wouldn't appreciate advice on how to "receive the greatest happiness and blessings from this earth experience?" That should be something we all seek eagerly. We expend considerable effort, doing all we can to find happiness in life; but perhaps we don't always keep the perspective that the Savior would have us remember in that process. This counsel becomes crucial for us:

Those are relatively simple and familiar points. We should learn from the scriptures, heed prophetic counsel, learn to hear and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and seek counsel when appropriate from those we trust to help us find inspiration.Yet by falling short in these areas, we deny ourselves blessings and happiness.

It's always good to have reminders of the things that matter most in life, so that we can adjust our course and priorities to remain firmly on course!

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Elder David A. Bednar on making our prayers more meaningful

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.
"As we speak of prayer, I emphasize the word meaningful. Simply saying prayers is quite a different thing from engaging in meaningful prayer. I expect that all of us already know that prayer is essential for our spiritual development and protection. But what we know is not always reflected in what we do. And even though we recognize the importance of prayer, all of us can improve the consistency and efficacy of our personal and family prayers....
"I long have been impressed with the truth that meaningful prayer requires both holy communication and consecrated work. Blessings require some effort on our part before we can obtain them, and prayer, as 'a form of work, ... is an appointed means for obtaining the highest of all blessings' (Bible Dictionary, 'Prayer,' 753). We press forward and persevere in the consecrated work of prayer, after we say 'amen,' by acting upon the things we have expressed to Heavenly Father.
"Asking in faith requires honesty, effort, commitment, and persistence."
- David A. Bednar, "Ask in Faith," Ensign, May 2008, pp. 94-97
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In this message, Elder Bednar helps us understand how to improve the sincerity and effectiveness of our prayers by considering the word meaningful. We sometimes fall into the practice of praying without much thought or sincerity, somewhat superficially. Our prayers become more meaningful as they are truly honest, soul-searching, and consistent:

The additional aspect of meaningful prayer is reflected in what takes place after the prayer. The fact that we act on things we pray about indicates the prayer is more than superficial. Meaningful prayer involves our deeds as well as our thoughts and words!

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Elder Bruce R. McConkie on writing our own book of life

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.
"In a real though figurative sense, the book of life is the record of the acts of men as such record is written in their own bodies. It is the record engraven on the very bones, sinews, and flesh of the mortal body. That is, every thought, word and deed has an effect on the human body; all these leave their marks, marks which can be read by Him who is Eternal as easily as the words in a book can be read.
"By obedience to telestial law men obtain telestial bodies; terrestrial law leads to terrestrial bodies; and conformity to celestial law—because this law includes the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost—results in the creation of a body which is clean, pure, and spotless, a celestial body. (D&C 88:16-32.) When the book of life is opened in the day of judgment (Rev. 20:12-15), men's bodies will show what law they have lived. The Great Judge will then read the record of the book of their lives; the account of their obedience or disobedience will be written in their bodies."
- Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, s.v. "Book of Life," p. 97
The classic scripture that mentions "the book of life" is from the Revelation at the end of the New Testament:
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:12)
These are normally interpreted as physical books, containing a record of good deeds and misdeeds. But I like Elder McConkie's suggestion; our very bodies could be considered a "book of life" in recording the impact of our decisions and actions—"every thought, word and deed." Our countenance often reflects more than we realize about those decisions and priorities; and certainly, with the profound and divine insight of "The Great Judge" reading the book, there are many more evidences than we mortals can recognize.

Elder McConkie suggests that the very nature of our body changes based on the kind of law we choose to live. Those who follow celestial laws develop and inherit celestial bodies. It's not just a reward at the end of mortality; it's developed throughout mortality. So then in a very real sense, "the account of their obedience or disobedience will be written in their bodies." Interesting to ponder! There is so much more to caring for and developing this body than just the traditional prescriptions and proscriptions of our code of health.

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