Monday, July 31, 2017

President James E. Faust on the lasting joy of the Gospel

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.
"One might ask, then what are the fruits of the Spirit? Paul answered this by saying they are 'love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance' (Gal. 5:22-23). The joy we seek is not a temporary emotional high, but a habitual inner joy learned from long experience and trust in God. Lehi's teaching to his son Jacob declares, 'Men are, that they might have joy' (2 Ne 2:25). To achieve this great objective, we must 'give ear to the voice of the living God.'
"I wish to testify as a living witness that joy does come through listening to the Spirit, for I have experienced it. Those who live the gospel learn to live 'after the manner of happiness' (2 Ne. 5:27) as did the Nephites.... Abundant evidence verifies the promise of peace, hope, love, and joy as gifts of the Spirit. Our voices join in a united petition for all of God's children to partake of these gifts also."
- James E. Faust, "Voice of the Spirit," Ensign, June 2006, pp. 2-6
Click here to read or listen to the full article

The quest for joy in life needs to be understood in the proper terms. President Faust explains that there is a difference between "temporary emotional high" and "habitual inner joy." That's a distinction that is too often forgotten in the world. True joy, President Faust clarifies, is "learned from long experience and trust in God."

A loving Heavenly Father wants His children to find joy in this life. President Faust bears witness that it is possible for us; his experience in life demonstrated to him that joy comes when we listen to God's Spirit prompting and guiding us. The spiritual gifts of "peace, hope, love, and joy" come from God as we are ready to receive them!

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

Sunday, July 30, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on making prayer more effective

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 before becoming Church president in 2008.
"Fortify your foundation through prayer. 'Prayer is the soul's sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed' (Hymns, no. 145).
"As we pray, let us really communicate with our Father in Heaven. It is easy to let our prayers become repetitious, expressing words with little or no thought behind them. When we remember that each of us is literally a spirit son or daughter of God, we will not find it difficult to approach Him in prayer. He knows us; He loves us; He wants what is best for us. Let us pray with sincerity and meaning, offering our thanks and asking for those things we feel we need.
"Let us listen for His answers, that we may recognize them when they come. As we do, we will be strengthened and blessed. We will come to know Him and His desires for our lives. By knowing Him, by trusting His will, our foundations of faith will be strengthened. If any one of us has been slow to hearken to the counsel to pray always, there is no finer hour to begin than now. William Cowper declared, 'Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.'
"Let us not neglect our family prayers. Such is an effective deterrent to sin, and thence a most beneficent provider of joy and happiness. That old saying is yet true: 'The family that prays together stays together.' By providing an example of prayer to our children, we will also be helping them to begin their own deep foundations of faith and testimonies which they will need throughout their lives."
- Thomas S. Monson, "How Firm a Foundation," General Conference, October 2006; see Ensign, Nov. 2006, pp. 62-68
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The sacred opportunity to communicate with our Father in Heaven is a blessing that we must not neglect or forget. Allowing prayer to become mundane or routine is a trap that we sometimes fall in to; we can avoid the mistake of "expressing words with little or no thought behind them" by making sure we ponder and prepare for prayer, considering our blessings and our divine heritage:

The second key President Monson suggests to make our prayers more effective is to listen for answers. That helps to create a sense of communication and interaction; we are not just reciting those routine words in our message to God, but are expecting a response to our thoughts and needs.

It's also wonderful to consider the blessing of praying with those we love most in our homes and family settings. Being faithful in family prayer creates "an effective deterrent to sin" and helps increase the joy and unity a family experiences, as well as setting patterns and establishing foundations of faith in family members. Those are blessings we would not want to miss in our lives!

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

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Elder Bruce R. McConkie on how scripture study prepares us for revelation

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.
"As we all know, revelation comes from the Revelator; he is the Holy Ghost, and he will not dwell in an unclean tabernacle. Hence we strive eternally to keep the commandments so we may be in tune with the Lord and always have his Spirit to be with us. But I sometimes think that one of the best-kept secrets of the kingdom is that the scriptures open the door to the receipt of revelation....
"Some are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators to the Church. Others will be in due course. But all of us are entitled to the spirit of prophecy and of revelation in our lives, both for our personal affairs and in our ministry. The prayerful study and pondering of the holy scriptures will do as much, or more than any other single thing, to bring that spirit, the spirit of prophecy and the spirit of revelation, into our lives."
- Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrines of the Restoration (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989), p. 243-4

We are promised the opportunity to receive revelation in our life. But revelation can come only to those who are clean and worthy. So we strive to be obedient and faithful in every way, in order to unlock that door and be blessed with divine inspiration. But we can do more; Elder McConkie's comment about the relationship between scripture study and personal revelation struck me as profound:

While only a few have the calling and assignment to function as prophets and revelators to the Church, we all are "entitled to the spirit of prophecy and of revelation in our lives" to help with our ministry and our personal needs. In order to prepare to receive that blessing of revelation, Elder McConkie's message is that prayerfully studying and pondering the scriptures likely does more than any other act we can perform to bring that spirit and blessing to our lives. That should make us eager to "feast on the word" in order to merit the spiritual feast that will follow!

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

Friday, July 28, 2017

Elder Richard G. Scott on confronting life's challenges with faith and hope

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.
"Mortal life is a proving ground. God said, '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.' (see Abr. 3:24–26.)
"Our proving grounds vary. Some of us are born with physical limitations; others are lonely or do not enjoy good health. Some are challenged by economic conditions, the lack of good parental example, or a myriad of other things that test our mettle. While much of the pain and sorrow we endure is the result of our own stubborn acts of disobedience, many of the things that appear to be obstacles in our path are used by a loving Creator for our own personal growth.
"Life never was intended to be easy. Rather, it is a period of proving and growth. It is interwoven with difficulties, challenges, and burdens. We are immersed in a sea of persistent, worldly pressures that could destroy our happiness. Yet these very forces, if squarely faced, provide opportunity for tremendous personal growth and development. The conquering of adversity produces strength of character, forges self-confidence, engenders self-respect, and assures success in righteous endeavor.
"One who exercises free agency by faith grows from challenges, is purified by sorrow, and lives at peace. In contrast, one who frantically seeks to satisfy appetite and worldly desire is driven in a downward spiral to tragic depths. Temptation is the motivating influence in his exercise of free agency."
- Richard G. Scott, "The Plan for Happiness and Exaltation," General Conference, October 1981; see Ensign, November 1981, p. 10
Click here to read or listen to the full article

Elder Scott's message centers on the idea that we should not expect life to be easy. Mortality is a "proving ground" where we are tested by the challenges and experiences of life. Our tests are individual and personalized, and may include many aspects of physical and emotional situations. Elder Scott points out that we often complicate our lives by adding the pain and sorrow that follow disobedience; however, we often face obstacles that were placed in the path "by a loving Creator for our own personal growth."

But the message of hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that we can confront and survive the challenges, and in God's hands, learn the needed lessons from them and experience the "tremendous growth" they offer:

Elder Scott concludes by contrasting how we choose to use our agency. If we are motivated by temptation and the desire to "satisfy appetite and worldly desire" we can sink to "tragic depths." But we we make our choices motivated by faith, we can be "purified by sorrow" and truly find peace.

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

President Boyd K. Packer on peace through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death on July 3, 2015 at age 90.
"The mercy and grace of Jesus Christ are not limited to those who commit sins either of commission or omission, but they encompass the promise of everlasting peace to all who will accept and follow Him and His teachings. His mercy is the mighty healer, even to the wounded innocent....
"If we are not aware of what the Savior’s sacrifice can do for us, we may go through life carrying regrets that we have done something that was not right or offended someone. The guilt that accompanies mistakes can be washed away. If we seek to understand His Atonement, we will come to a deep reverence for the Lord Jesus Christ, His earthly ministry, and His divine mission as our Savior."
- Boyd K. Packer, "The Reason for Our Hope," General Conference, October 2014; see also Ensign, November 2014, pp. 6-8
Click here to read or listen to the full article

President Packer taught many times during his ministry about the meaning and power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It was a doctrine he had pondered deeply and one he clearly loved. In this excerpt, re reminds us that there is much more to the Atonement of the Savior than just the forgiveness of sins, as important as that aspect is. But the Atonement is also "a mighty healer" for all kinds of wounds, even when the wounded person is innocent of wrong-doing:

The Atonement of the Savior can help us overcome regrets we carry in life and bring us peace. It can wash away the guilt from our mistakes. It will truly bring us a deep and profound reverence and love for the ministry and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. Without doubt, it is a doctrine that we should study and ponder regularly, and strive to apply daily!

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Elder Quentin L. Cook on avoiding moral bondage

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.
"God intended that men and women would be free to make choices between good and evil. When evil choices become the dominant characteristic of a culture or nation, there are serious consequences both in this life and the life to come. People can become enslaved or put themselves in bondage not only to harmful, addictive substances but also to harmful, addictive philosophies that detract from righteous living.
"Turning from the worship of the true and living God and worshipping false gods like wealth and fame and engaging in immoral and unrighteous conduct result in bondage in all its insidious manifestations. These include spiritual, physical, and intellectual bondage and sometimes bring destruction....
"Our challenge is to avoid bondage of any kind, help the Lord gather His elect, and sacrifice for the rising generation. We must always remember that we do not save ourselves. We are liberated by the love, grace, and atoning sacrifice of the Savior. When Lehi's family fled, they were led by the Lord's light. If we are true to His light, follow His commandments, and rely on His merits, we will avoid spiritual, physical, and intellectual bondage as well as the lamentation of wandering in our own wilderness, for He is mighty to save.
"Let us avoid the despair and sorrow of those who fall into captivity and can no longer bear to sing the songs of Zion."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Lamentations of Jeremiah: Beware of Bondage," General Conference, October 2013
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The freedom to choose between good and evil is one of the foundational principles of our mortal experience. Elder Cook suggests that if an individual or a group make too many choices of evil, so that it becomes the dominant path, there is a loss of freedom, an enslavement to the evil that robs man of the freedom of choice. We fall into "spiritual, physical, and intellectual bondage" that prevent us from acting for ourselves. It's a dangerous situation, and it's good to be reminded and warned so we can do all we can to avoid the problem and help those around us be aware and wary.

If we continue to make righteous choices, we retain the ability to choose our course in life:

It is only through righteous choices that we are able to continue to "sing the songs of Zion" in our lives. Joy comes through the proper exercise of agency; bondage is the result of misuse. We must guard against Satan's efforts to persuade us with "harmful, addictive philosophies" or the "false gods like wealth and fame" as well as "engaging in immoral and unrighteous conduct."

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Elder David A. Bednar on the need for true conversion in today's world

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.
"Testimony is the beginning of and a prerequisite to continuing conversion. Testimony is a point of departure; it is not an ultimate destination. Strong testimony is the foundation upon which conversion is established.
"Testimony alone is not and will not be enough to protect us in the latter-day storm of darkness and evil in which we are living. Testimony is important and necessary but not sufficient to provide the spiritual strength and protection we need. Some members of the Church with testimonies have wavered and fallen away. Their spiritual knowledge and commitment did not measure up to the challenges they faced....
"A testimony is spiritual knowledge of truth obtained by the power of the Holy Ghost. Continuing conversion is constant devotion to the revealed truth we have received--with a heart that is willing and for righteous reasons. Knowing that the gospel is true is the essence of a testimony. Consistently being true to the gospel is the essence of conversion. We should know the gospel is true and be true to the gospel."
- David A. Bednar, "Converted Unto the Lord," Ensign, Nov 2012, pp. 106-109
Click here to read or listen to the full article

Elder Bednar's remarks in the October 2012 general conference explored the relationship between testimony and conversion, giving insights into each and particularly into the ways they relate and interact. The first important point to understand is that testimony is not the ultimate goal; it is a foundational step, a necessary and required one, on the way to conversion. But alone it is not sufficient to provide the "spiritual strength and protection" that are needed against the "storm of darkness and evil" in today's world. It is crucial that our testimonies grow into true conversion:

I love this summary of the principle. It's so critical that we know the gospel is true. But it's far more crucial to be true to the gospel. It's in the implementation of the principles, and not just in understanding them, that we gain power!

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on the challenges of modern pioneers

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 before becoming Church president in 2008.
"The passage of time dims our memories and diminishes our appreciation for those who walked the path of pain, leaving behind a tear-marked trail of nameless graves. But what of today’s challenges? Are there no rocky roads to travel, no rugged mountains to climb, no chasms to cross, no trails to blaze, no rivers to ford? Or is there a very present need for that pioneer spirit to guide us away from the dangers that threaten to engulf us and to lead us to a Zion of safety?
"In the decades since the end of World War II, standards of morality have lowered again and again. Crime spirals upward; decency careens downward. Many are on a giant roller coaster of disaster, seeking the thrills of the moment while sacrificing the joys of eternity. Thus we forfeit peace....
"Must we learn such costly lessons over and over again? Times change, but truth persists. When we fail to profit from the experiences of the past, we are doomed to repeat them with all their heartache, suffering, and anguish. Haven’t we the wisdom to obey Him who knows the beginning from the end—our Lord, who designed the plan of salvation—rather than that serpent, who despised its beauty?
"A dictionary defines a pioneer as 'one who goes before to prepare or open up the way for others to follow.' Can we somehow muster the courage and steadfastness of purpose that characterized the pioneers of a former generation? Can you and I, in actual fact, be pioneers?
"I know we can be. Oh, how the world needs pioneers today!"
- Thomas S. Monson, "The World Needs Pioneers Today," Ensign, July 2013, p. 5
Click here to read the full article

It is easy for us to forget the specific elements of pioneer sacrifices; stories merge and blend as details fade in our memories. President Monson worries about that happening. But retaining the "pioneer spirit" is critical as we attempt to avoid the dangers of our time and find our way to the "Zion of safety."

President Monson is now over 90 years old; he was 18 at the end of World War II. He comments on the decline of morality and decency in society, and the increase of crime, during those years since the war. His hope is that we are learning from the lessons of history and moving ahead with the pioneer spirit to resist the influences of the world. We are all pioneers in our own way.

President Monson's invitation is to recognize that we have the opportunities to be pioneers. According to him, we deeply need to be pioneers in the world we live in. We should learn from those lessons of the past and reflect their spirit and examples in all we do.

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell compares pioneer challenges with modern times

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.
“If you are faithful, the day will come when those deserving pioneers, whom you rightly praise for having overcome the adversities in their wilderness trek, will instead praise you, for having made your way successfully through a desert of despair, for having passed through a cultural wilderness, and having kept the faith, for having been true to the faith. And yes, you will rightly go on praising them for what they did in their days, but one day, [they,] including some of your ancestors, will praise you for having come safely home, through that cultural wilderness and that desert of despair.
"God bless you, in these your days! As those of us who love you and view you with a sense of anticipation are settled in our hearts and minds: You really are the Vanguard of those whom God promised to send in these the last days, of which I testify, as I encourage you to make of these days, 'days never to be forgotten' in the history of the Church. And I do so in love, and as your brother, but most importantly for the purposes of this evening, I do so as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has some sense of your future, and what you have the capacity to do. God Bless you.”
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Days Never To Be Forgotten," CES fireside for young adults, June 4, 1995

We often look back at the pioneer era with wonder and admiration for the difficulties they faced, and the courage and faith of their lives. Elder Maxwell suggests that the people of that era, considering our time, would have equal praise for our faithfulness in dealing with our present challenges.

Some of the descriptions Elder Maxwell uses to describe our time are very interesting, including "a desert of despair" and "a cultural wilderness." While we don't experience the hardship of a literal "wilderness trek" in our time, we deal with deserts and wildernesses in symbolic ways that present different challenges than the early Saints faced. If we survive the test and manage to "come safely home" to our heavenly origin, we will be greeted by those who preceded us with much joy and praise.

A pioneer glimpse I love was told about the first few years of settlement in Salt Lake valley. George Laub, who crossed the plains in 1852, tells that in the years that followed, as a new pioneer train would arrive in Salt Lake, the residents would come out to greet them with joy and singing, and would provide food and clothing from their meager stores to those arriving who were frequently hungry and exhausted. One of Laub's daughters later recorded that her father would bow his head and offer a soft prayer as each wagon would pull in to the city, "Oh God, we thank thee for these dear ones who have withstood the test." I think that conveys the spirit Elder Maxwell is describing; those who have survived the journey of mortality previously will truly understand the sacrifice and accomplishment of those who complete the journey later. Each journey has its particular challenges; but in the end, we will sing together, "All is well."

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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Elder L. Tom Perry on life lessons from the faithful pioneers

Elder L. Tom Perry (1922-2015) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1972, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1974. At the time of his passing at age 92, he was the oldest living general authority and the third in seniority among the leading quorum.
"Former United States president Ronald Reagan has been quoted as saying, 'I do not want to go back to the past; I want to go back to the past way of facing the future.' (Quoted in George F. Will, 'One Man's America,' Cato Policy Report, Sept.-Oct. 2008, 11.) His counsel still resonates within me. There is something about reviewing the lessons of the past to prepare us to face the challenges of the future. What a glorious legacy of faith, courage, and ingenuity those noble early Mormon pioneers have left for us to build upon. My admiration for them deepens the longer I live.
"Embracing the gospel resulted in a complete change of life for them. They left everything behind—their homes, their businesses, their farms, and even their beloved family members—to journey into a wilderness. It must have been a real shock when Brigham Young announced, 'This is' (Quoted in Wilford Woodruff, 'Celebration of Pioneers' Day,' The Utah Pioneers (1880), 23.) Before them was a vast desert wasteland, barren of green hills, trees, and beautiful meadows which most of those early pioneers had known. With firm faith in God and their leaders, the early pioneers went to work to create beautiful communities in the shadows of the mountains."
- L. Tom Perry, "The Past Way of Facing the Future," General Conference, October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We can learn much about our lives today by looking at the past. Even though circumstances are very different in our world than they were when the Mormon Pioneers first entered the Salt Lake valley 170 years ago, Elder Perry suggests that their "legacy of faith, courage, and ingenuity" will teach us much about confronting the challenges we face today.

As we focus on the pioneer journey to the west, we sometimes forget the sacrifices that preceded that undertaking. So many of the early Church members left behind their whole life, including employment, family members, and possessions, to answer the call to "come to Zion." Most were not "trained" in pioneering skills. But they moved on with faith, learning as they went, and feeling the blessings of divine providence in their efforts—"with firm faith in God and their leaders." Those are lessons we should remember today!

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley on confronting life's challenges with temple peace

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.
"Take advantage of the blessings of the house of the Lord. What a privilege. Every man or woman who goes to the temple comes out of that building a better man or woman than he or she was when entering into it. That’s something that’s remarkable that happens with all of us.
"Is life filled with cares for you? Do you have problems and concerns and worries? Do you want for peace in your heart and an opportunity to commune with the Lord and meditate upon His way? Go to the house of the Lord and there feel of His spirit and commune with Him and you will know a peace that you will find nowhere else. Take advantage of it. What a great and wonderful blessing it is."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Wandsworth, England stake conference, 27 Aug. 1995; see Ensign, Apr. 1996, p. 72

President Hinckley describes several blessings of temple worship in this excerpt. The first is self-improvement: we come out from the temple "a better man or woman" for the experience.
The second benefit is perhaps far more valuable. As we deal with the cares and challenges of our lives, we are promised a peace through temple attendance that we won't find in any other way:

More specifically, President Hinckley identifies blessings of the temple that include the chance to commune with God, to meditate on His plan for us, to feel His spirit, and to know deep peace. It's no wonder he encourages us to take advantage of the great and wonderful blessing of temples!

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on Christ's constant support for us

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.
"Christ walked the path every mortal is called to walk so that he would know how to succor and strengthen us in our most difficult times. He knows the deepest and most personal burdens we carry. He knows the most public and poignant pains we bear. He descended below all such grief in order that he might lift us above it. There is no anguish or sorrow or sadness in life that he has not suffered in our behalf and borne away upon his own valiant and compassionate shoulders (see Luke 15:5)....
"That aspect of the Atonement brings an additional kind of rebirth, something of immediate renewal, help, and hope that allow us to rise above sorrows and sickness, misfortunes and mistakes of every kind. With his mighty arm around us and lifting us, we face life more joyfully even as we face death more triumphantly.
"Only on the strong shoulders of the Master can we 'fear not.' Only in his embrace is there safety. Only in covenant with him is there freedom from death and 'every sin, which easily doth beset you' (Alma 7:15; Matt 11:28-29). Only in him is there peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, Christ and the New Covenant [1997], pp. 223-224

Elder Holland's book Christ and the New Covenant is packed with insights and testimonies of the Savior, His love for us, and His mission for us. This example testifies of that sweet love and the power of His atonement. When we truly come to know and believe that "He knows the deepest and most personal burdens we carry" as well as "the most public and poignant pains we bear," our ability to draw on the power of His love becomes magnified. Coming to that appreciation constitutes a rebirth in itself, according to Elder Holland, as we feel the immediate help and hope of His powerful love.

Truly, "With his mighty arm around us and lifting us, we face life more joyfully even as we face death more triumphantly." What a sweet and powerful testimony from Elder Holland, and what a treasured blessing for each of us who comes to understand and appreciate the sacred gift of love offered to us.

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

President Joseph Fielding Smith on finding peace through life's trials

Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) was the son of Joseph F. Smith, 6th president of the Church, and grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph. He was called as an apostle in 1910, and served as the 10th president of the Church from 1970 until his death in 1972 at age 95.
"If we shall search diligently, pray always, be believing, and walk uprightly, we have the Lord’s promise that all things shall work together for our good [see D&C 90:24]. This is not a promise that we shall be free from the trials and problems of life, for this probationary state is designed to give us experience and difficult and conflicting situations.
"Life never was intended to be easy, but the Lord has promised that he will cause all trials and difficulties to result in our good. He will give us strength and ability to overcome the world and to stand firm in the faith despite all opposition. It is a promise that we shall have peace in our hearts despite the tumults and troubles of the world. And above all, it is a promise that when this life is over, we shall qualify for eternal peace in the presence of Him whose face we have sought, whose laws we have kept, and whom we have chosen to serve."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, “President Joseph Fielding Smith Speaks on the New MIA Theme,” New Era, Sept. 1971, 40
Click here to read the full article

Sometimes, we have difficulty seeing that "all things" are "work[ing] together for our good" in the midst of trials and challenges. We strive to do the things the Lord asked, but still the difficulties continue. Often, the problem is that we try to set our own timetable for trials to end; but the Lord may have things for us to learn. President Smith reminds us that trials are needed as a part of life, and that ultimately they will result in our good if we are willing to trust God and His timing:

We can "have peace in our hearts" even in the midst of difficulties, knowing that God is in charge and that ultimately all will be made right. Truly, that is the peace "which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). How important it is to learn to trust in Him and His timing for our learning experiences! That has to be one of the greatest purposes of this mortal experience.

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Elder Robert D. Hales on the roles of parents

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.
"The calling of father or mother is sacred and carries with it great significance. One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities given to us is that of being a parent—helping to bring to earth a child of God and having the sacred responsibility to love, care, and guide children back to our Heavenly Father. In many ways earthly parents represent their Heavenly Father in the process of nurturing, loving, caring, and teaching children. Children naturally look to their parents to learn of the characteristics of their Heavenly Father. After they come to love, respect, and have confidence in their earthly parents, they often unknowingly develop the same feelings towards their Heavenly Father.
"No parent on earth is perfect. In fact, children are very understanding when they sense and feel that parents truly care and are attempting to be the best they can be.
"It helps children to see that good parents can have differing opinions, and that these differences can be worked out without striking, yelling, or throwing things. They need to see and feel calm communication with respect for each other's viewpoints so they themselves will know how to work through differences in their own lives.
"Parents are counseled to teach their children by precept and example."
- Robert D. Hales, "How Will Our Children Remember Us?", Ensign, November 1993, pp. 8-10
Click here to read or listen to the full article

Most parents realize that the opportunity to act in that role is, as Elder Hales teaches, "One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities given to us" because it involves "the sacred responsibility to love, care, and guide children back to our Heavenly Father." Providing appropriate teaching and setting the right example is critical:

Just to raise children in today's world is very challenging; but that added need to do all possible to guide them back to Heavenly Father makes the task seem almost overwhelming, if we consider only our personal knowledge and ability. It is comforting to be reminded that no parent is perfect—we all fall short in our efforts to be ideal parents. But miracles happen when we attempt to do the best we know how.

I like Elder Hales' suggestion that among the example parents set for children is how to work through disagreements and differences in appropriate ways. When children observe "calm communication with respect for each other's viewpoints" they are taught a critical life lesson that will help in many settings, not just in their own future family.

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Elder M. Russell Ballard on feeling and sharing peace

Elder M. Russell Ballard (born October 8, 1928) was called as a Seventy in 1976, and has served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1985.
"On more than one occasion, the Lord urged His followers to be 'peacemakers,' promising that such would 'be called the children of God' (Matt. 5:9). That concept is woven throughout the scriptures, creating a patchwork of peace through parable and proclamation:
"• 'Agree with thine adversary' (Matt. 5:25).
"• 'Love your enemies' (Matt. 5:44).
"• 'Judge not' (Matt. 7:1).
"• 'Love thy neighbour as thyself' (Matt. 22:39).
"• 'Condemn not' (Luke 6:37).
"• 'Forgive' (Luke 6:37).
"• 'Love one another' (John 13:34).
"Those are but a few of the scriptural instructions clearly indicating that God's peace is not to be hoarded. Rather, it is to be shared liberally with our families, our friends, and our communities. It is to be shared with the Church as well as those who are not members of our Church. While those around us may not choose to taste the sweetness and peace of the fulness of the restored gospel for themselves, surely they will be blessed by seeing it in our lives and feeling the peace of the gospel in our presence. The message of peace will grow and expand through our example.
"'Live in peace,' said the Apostle Paul, 'and the God of love and peace shall be with you' (2 Cor. 13:11)."
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom," Ensign, May 2002, pp. 87-89
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

How can we follow the Savior's injunction to be a peacemaker? Elder Ballard offers suggestions on things we can do in our lives to bring more peace to ourselves and to share it more effectively with others. It begins as we find peace for ourselves, and then share it with others:

So a peacemaker is one who can share peace by words and actions in all associations with others; but also, be an example of peace even when others may not be ready to receive or follow. We we are filled with peace, others will feel that peace in our presence. What a gift, to be that kind of person in a world filled with conflict and confusion!

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on deepening our personal discipleship

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.
"These comments are for the essentially 'honorable' members who are skimming over the surface instead of deepening their discipleship and who are casually engaged rather than 'anxiously engaged.' (D&C 76:75; D&C 58:27.) Though nominal in their participation, their reservations and hesitations inevitably show through. They may even pass through our holy temples, but, alas, they do not let the holy temples pass through them.
"Such members accept callings but not all of the accompanying responsibilities; hence, their Church chores must often be done by those already 'anxiously engaged.' Some regard themselves as merely 'resting' in between Church callings. But we are never in between as to this soaring call from Jesus: 'What manner of men [and women] ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.' (3 Ne. 27:27; see Matt. 5:48; 3 Ne. 12:48.) It is never safe to rest regarding that calling! In fact, being 'valiant' in one’s testimony of Jesus includes striving to become more like Him in mind, heart, and attributes. (D&C 76:79.) Becoming this manner of men and women is the ultimate expression of orthodoxy!
"All are free to choose, of course, and we would not have it otherwise. Unfortunately, however, when some choose slackness, they are choosing not only for themselves, but for the next generation and the next. Small equivocations in parents can produce large deviations in their children! Earlier generations in a family may have reflected dedication, while some in the current generation evidence equivocation. Sadly, in the next, some may choose dissension as erosion takes its toll."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Settle This in Your Hearts,” General Conference October 1992
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It's interesting to ponder the difference between being anxiously engaged and casually engaged. There is probably a continuum of options between two extremes, but we might each consider if there are areas in our life where our commitment is not as deep as it might be. The example Elder Maxwell gives of "passing through" the temple without having the temple really pass through us is particularly illustrative.

The Church needs members who are thoroughly converted and willing to serve with faithful devotion. As we strive to be more valiant in our testimony, our lives will show the difference:

It's also important to note that these choices never impact just the person making the choice. They also reach across generations and circles of influence. President John Taylor's classic statement comes to mind: "If you do not magnify your callings, God will hold you responsible for those whom you might have saved had you done your duty." (Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 6 Aug. 1878, 1.) How important it is that we make those ongoing efforts to be valiant in our testimony of Jesus, "striving to become more like Him in mind, heart, and attributes."

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on priesthood authority for men and women

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.
"While addressing a women's conference, Relief Society general president Linda K. Burton said, 'We hope to instill within each of us a greater desire to better understand the priesthood' (BYU Women’s Conference, May 3, 2013). That need applies to all of us...
"President Joseph F. Smith described the priesthood as 'the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family' (Gospel Doctrine p. 139). Other leaders have taught us that the priesthood 'is the consummate power on this earth. It is the power by which the earth was created' (Boyd K. Packer, “Priesthood Power in the Home,” worldwide leadership training meeting, Feb. 2012)....
"We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman—young or old—is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties.
"Whoever exercises priesthood authority should forget about their rights and concentrate on their responsibilities. That is a principle needed in society at large. The famous Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is quoted as saying, 'It is time... to defend not so much human rights as human obligations' (“A World Split Apart,” commencement address, Harvard University, June 8, 1978). Latter-day Saints surely recognize that qualifying for exaltation is not a matter of asserting rights but a matter of fulfilling responsibilities."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood," Ensign, May 2014, pp. 49-52
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a very interesting talk by Elder Oaks, as he considered the authority and keys of the priesthood as they relate to all members of the Church. We should all have that "greater desire to better understand the priesthood" described by Sister Burton, and this excerpt gives some excellent material to ponder.

While we often discuss the priesthood as being the power delegated to man to act for the salvation of others, we don't understand the ways in which that "man" is perhaps used in a generic sense and not in a gender-specific way. Elder Oaks helps us understand what it means to act with priesthood authority:

This is a wonderful description of how priesthood authority blesses us all as we function in that authority in our Church service.

The additional key point Elder Oaks shares is the distinction between rights and responsibilities. Sometimes we get so caught up in wanting to clarify and claim our rights, that we forget the obligation and blessing of just focusing on our responsibilities.

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