Thursday, August 31, 2017

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on rising to our full potential

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.
"It is God’s will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually, that we be free from the humiliating limitations of poverty and the bondage of sin, that we enjoy self-respect and independence, that we be prepared in all things to join Him in His celestial kingdom.
"I am under no illusion that this can be achieved by our own efforts alone without His very substantial and constant help. 'We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do' (2 Nephi 25:23). And we do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help—divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience. But I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency. My plea is simply to take responsibility and go to work so that there is something for God to help us with."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Free Forever, to Act for Themselves," General Conference, October 2014; see also Ensign, November 2014, pp. 16-19
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This landmark address by Elder Christofferson examined agency and our initiative to make choices. In this excerpt, he reminded us of God's love for all His children, and His desire for us to "rise to our full potential" as we make good choices and preserve our "self-respect and independence" in life. But those abilities require more than our personal efforts; God's constant and ongoing assistance makes our growth and progress possible.

Our part, then, is to "take responsibility" and begin to act for ourselves in the proper way, to that God can help us.  It all starts with our efforts and choices! Then His blessings and power are manifest on our behalf.

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Elder Quentin L. Cook on resisting the calls of the world

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.
"We are so much a part of this world. The material aspects of day-to-day living are a specific challenge. Society tends to look at everything through the lens of worldly rewards.
"The preface to the Doctrine and Covenants highlights this very problem to warn us of dangers, give us guidance to prepare and protect ourselves now and in the future, and provide significant insight on this subject: 'They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol' (see D&C 1:16).
"President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) taught that idols can include credentials, degrees, property, homes, furnishings, and other material objects. He said that when we elevate these otherwise worthy objectives in a way that diminishes our worship of the Lord and weakens our efforts to establish His righteousness and perform the work of salvation among Father in Heaven’s children, we have created idols. (See Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, June 1976, 2–6.)
"Sometimes the lens of the world causes us to focus on issues not quite as dramatic as aspiring to great wealth but that nonetheless take us away from deep spiritual commitment."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Reaping the Rewards of Righteousness," from an address delivered at BYU Women’s Conference on May 2, 2014. See Ensign, July 2015, p. 37
Click here to read the full talk

What are the "lenses" we look through as we view the world around us? That imagery is used to describe the mindset or the principles that influence our interpretation of our environment, circumstances, and situations of our lives. Elder Cook cautions us about the worldly lenses that can impact our actions. When we are motivated by "worldly rewards" we often focus on the wrong priorities:

Anything that detract us from "deep spiritual commitment" is dangerous to our personal progress and spirituality. It's wise to be aware of the temptation of worldly rewards, and be always cautious that we are avoiding that lure from the adversary.

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Elder David A. Bednar on constant replenishing our living water

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 scriptures contain the words of Christ and are a reservoir of living water to which we have ready access and from which we can drink deeply and long. You and I must look to and come unto Christ, who is 'the fountain of living waters' (1 Nephi 11:25; compare Ether 8:26, 12:28), by reading (see Mosiah 1:5), studying (see D&C 26:1), searching (see John 5:39; Alma 17:2), and feasting (see 2 Nephi 32:3) upon the words of Christ as contained in the holy scriptures. By so doing, we can receive both spiritual direction and protection during our mortal journey....
"Through normal activity each day, you and I lose a substantial amount of the water that constitutes so much of our physical bodies. Thirst is a demand by the cells of the body for water, and the water in our bodies must be replenished daily. It frankly does not make sense to occasionally 'fill up' with water, with long periods of dehydration in between. The same thing is true spiritually. Spiritual thirst is a need for living water. A constant flow of living water is far superior to sporadic sipping.
"Are you and I daily reading, studying, and searching the scriptures in a way that enables us to hold fast to the rod of iron—or are you and I merely clinging? Are you and I pressing forward toward the fountain of living waters—relying upon the word of God? These are important questions for each of us to ponder prayerfully."
- David A. Bednar, "A Reservoir of Living Water," BYU devotional, Feb. 4, 2007
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The concept of "living water" is a beautiful one. As much as we depend on physical water for our existence and sustenance, we equally require the spiritual water from the Lord to stay strong in another sense. Elder Bednar points out that the scriptures speak of a reservoir and a fountain to which we have "ready access" if we are willing to seek them out and then "drink deeply and long." It requires our agency, our initiative, to choose to receive the living water God offers to us.

Elder Bednar suggests there are different approaches to replenishing water, but some are more effective than others:

The key for us, in order to have a steady supply of the living water in our lives, is in "daily reading, studying, and searching the scriptures." By doing that, we will be continually "pressing forward toward the fountain of living waters—relying upon the word of God." Truly we should cultivate that habit in our lives!

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on blessings for faithfulness

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.
"I testify that God lives, that He is our Eternal Father, that He loves each of us with a love divine. I testify that Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh and, having triumphed in this world, is an heir of eternity, a joint-heir with God, and now stands on the right hand of His Father. I testify that this is Their true Church and that They sustain us in our hour of need—and always will, even if we cannot recognize that intervention. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. Of that I personally attest. I thank my Father in Heaven for His goodness past, present, and future."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "An High Priest of Good Things to Come," General Conference October 1999; see Ensign, Nov 1999, p. 36
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This October 1999 conference address by Elder Holland is a very memorable one, during which he discussed challenges faced by many people in different situations of life—challenges that can bring discouragement, loneliness, and hopelessness. In the midst of those realities of our mortality, Elder Holland testifies, borrowing a phrase from the writings of Paul, of the influence of the "high priest of good things to come" (Heb. 8:6) who can help restore our faith and hope as we open our hearts to Him.

The excerpt included comes at the conclusion of the talk, as Elder Holland testifies of the reality of the Savior's promises to us. It includes this wonderful testimony:

Perhaps one of the great challenges of life is to learn to have the faith and trust to wait until the time is right for the blessings to come—even if that time is after this life. A true disciple doesn't depend on the blessings for his faith.

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

President Russell M. Nelson on the blessings of heartfelt prayer

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.
"Unfailing faith is fortified through prayer. Your heartfelt pleadings are important to Him. Think of the intense and impassioned prayers of the Prophet Joseph Smith during his dreadful days of incarceration in Liberty Jail. The Lord responded by changing the Prophet’s perspective. He said, 'Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.' (D&C 122:7)
"If we pray with an eternal perspective, we need not wonder if our most tearful and heartfelt pleadings are heard. This promise from the Lord is recorded in section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants:
"'Your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord … and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.
"'Therefore, he giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled; and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good, and to my name’s glory, saith the Lord.' (D&C 98:2-3)
"The Lord chose His strongest words to reassure us! Seal! Testament! Sworn! Decreed! Immutable covenant! Brothers and sisters, believe Him! God will heed your sincere and heartfelt prayers, and your faith will be strengthened."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Face the Future with Faith," General Conference, April 2011
Click here to read or listen to the full story

President Nelson uses some important words to describe the kind of prayer we should be seeking: "tearful and heartfelt pleadings," "intense and impassioned," and "sincere and heartfelt." It's that word "heartfelt," which he uses three times, that intrigues me. The best prayers come from deep within the heart, and are more than superficial expressions of feelings or needs. When we are able to open up about the things that concern us deep inside, and truly converse with God about them, then the blessings will follow.

The other key is to "pray with an eternal perspective," knowing both that our challenges and problems are temporary, and that the promises and hope He offers are eternal:

President Nelson's ringing testimony is that a sincere, heartfelt prayer will not go unheeded or unanswered. What a blessing that is to us!

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on finding true happiness

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.
"Do not seek happiness in the glittering but shallow things of the world. We cannot achieve lasting happiness by pursuing the wrong things. Someone once said, 'You can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need won’t satisfy you.'
"Young and old, turn your eyes and your hearts away from the deceptive messages of the media. There is no happiness in alcohol or drugs, only enslavement. There is no happiness in violence, only pain and sorrow. There is no happiness in sexual relations and physical familiarities outside the bonds of marriage, only degradation and increased momentum along the way to spiritual death.
"There is no lasting happiness in what we possess. Happiness and joy come from what a person is, not from what he or she possesses or appears to be. Youth, hold fast to your standards. Study and use that saving pamphlet, For the Strength of Youth.
"Righteousness fosters righteousness. The effects of righteous examples are felt for generations to come. Good parenting produces youth who make good parents. Just as many of us have been strengthened by the noble examples of our pioneering ancestors in many lands, so the righteous choices and sacrifices of our day can bless our families and our friends and our nations for all the years to come."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Joy and Mercy," General Conference, October 1991; see also Ensign, Nov. 1991, p. 73
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The quest for happiness is one of the great challenges of the world. There are many places that claim to offer that result for us; but as Elder Oaks warns, often the sources of happiness in the world offer false promises of providing it for us.

In addition to warning us about the temptations of the world to stray from the path of truth and obedience, Elder Oaks warns about the desire for physical possessions that can also distract from the proper focus. Happiness comes not from what we possess, but from who we are and who we are becoming. The world would have us believe that possessions are far more important than the Lord teaches.

I think we often forget how "the righteous choices and sacrifices of our day can bless our families and our friends and our nations for all the years to come." The impact of one person on his family and neighbors as he strives to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ is much more profound than we realize.

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

Elder M. Russell Ballard on resisting the world's attacks on families

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.
"Brothers and sisters, the most important cause of our lifetime is our families. If we will devote ourselves to this cause, we will improve every other aspect of our lives and will become, as a people and as a church, an example and a beacon for all peoples of the earth.
"But this is not easy in a world where hearts are turning in many directions and where the whole planet seems to be constantly moving and changing at a pace never before imagined. Nothing stays the same for long. Styles, trends, fads, political correctness, and even perceptions of right and wrong shift and move. As the prophet Isaiah predicted, wrong is portrayed as right and right as wrong (see Isaiah 5:20).
"The spiritual divide gets even wider as evil becomes ever more deceptive and subtle and pulls people toward it like a dark magnet—even as the gospel of truth and light attracts the honest in heart and the honorable of the earth, who seek what is moral and good....
"The Church is a mooring in this tempestuous sea, an anchor in the churning waters of change and division, and a beacon to those who value and seek righteousness. The Lord uses this Church as a tool in pulling His children throughout the world toward the protection of His gospel."
- M. Russell Ballard, "That the Lost May Be Found," General Conference, April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It would be an interesting survey to ask people what they consider "the most important cause of our lifetime." In recent years, the emphasis of the Church has been strong in defense of the family and traditional values related to it. As the family continues to come under attack, that emphasis will continue. As Elder Ballard states, "If we will devote ourselves to this cause, we will improve every other aspect of our lives."

So as the world and the influence of the adversary in it continue to shift and detract from what is of eternal value and importance, we must recognize the danger and seek for safety and calm amidst the storms:

Through the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and particularly His Atonement on our behalf, we can be given that mooring or anchor to help us ride out the storms and come home to the safe harbor of His peace.

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Elder Robert D. Hales on the Lord as the ultimate caregiver

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.
"When we are experiencing pain, the caregiver is a very important part of the recovery process. Attentive doctors, nurses, therapists, a loving spouse, parents, children, and friends comfort us when we are ill and speed our recovery process. There are times when, no matter how independent we may be, we must entrust others with our care. We must surrender ourselves to them. Our caregivers are those who assist in the healing process.
"The Lord is the ultimate caregiver. We must surrender ourselves to the Lord. In doing so, we give up whatever is causing our pain and turn everything over to Him. 'Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee' (Ps. 55:22). 'And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son' (Alma 33:23). Through faith and trust in the Lord and obedience to His counsel, we make ourselves eligible to be partakers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ so that one day we may return to live with Him.
"As we put our faith and trust in the Lord, we must battle our pain day by day and sometimes hour by hour, even moment by moment; but in the end, we understand that marvelous counsel given to the Prophet Joseph Smith as he struggled with his pain of feeling forgotten and isolated in Liberty Jail:
"'My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
"'And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes' (D&C 121:7-8).
"My dear brothers and sisters, when pain, tests, and trials come in life, draw near to the Savior. 'Wait upon the Lord, ... look for him' (Isa. 8:17; 2 Ne. 18:17). 'They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint' (Isa. 40:31). Healing comes in the Lord's time and the Lord's way; be patient.
"Our Savior waits for us to come to Him through our scripture study, pondering, and prayer to our Heavenly Father. Great blessings and lessons come from overcoming adversity. As we are strengthened and healed, we can then lift and strengthen others with our faith. May we be instruments in the Lord's hands in blessing the lives of those in pain."
- Robert D. Hales, "Healing Soul and Body," General Conference, October 1998; see Ensign, Nov. 1998, 14
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The role of caregiver is an important and almost sacred one. When someone faces serious struggles with physical health or handicaps, they often require assistance in basic needs that we normally take for granted in life. Sometimes the need for help is temporary and short-lived; sometimes it is chronic and extended. A caregiver can be a trained medical professional, or it can be a loving family member or friend who lends assistance in the time of need. They truly "assist in the healing process" when possible, or just help to bear the burdens that can't be relieved.

Acknowledging that we each have needs in our spiritual and emotional lives, we recognize that the Lord can function as that kind of caregiver who provides succor and sustaining when we have no where else to turn. Learning to accept and access His assistance is critical in our times of pain and sorrow.

The critical task for us is to learn to draw near to Him in times of need. Elder Hales explains that through our acts of worship and devotion, we gain strength and assistance from the Savior. As we survive and overcome those times, we are then prepared to become the caregiver that can bless others in the future. It's a beautiful process of receiving and giving.

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the pursuit of holiness and happiness

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.
"Declaring our testimony of the gospel is good, but being a living example of the restored gospel is better. Wishing to be more faithful to our covenants is good; actually being faithful to sacred covenants—including living a virtuous life, paying our tithes and offerings, keeping the Word of Wisdom, and serving those in need—is much better. Announcing that we will dedicate more time for family prayer, scripture study, and wholesome family activities is good; but actually doing all these things steadily will bring heavenly blessings to our lives.
"Discipleship is the pursuit of holiness and happiness. It is the path to our best and happiest self.
"Let us resolve to follow the Savior and work with diligence to become the person we were designed to become. Let us listen to and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit. As we do so, Heavenly Father will reveal to us things we never knew about ourselves. He will illuminate the path ahead and open our eyes to see our unknown and perhaps unimagined talents.
"The more we devote ourselves to the pursuit of holiness and happiness, the less likely we will be on a path to regrets. The more we rely on the Savior’s grace, the more we will feel that we are on the track our Father in Heaven has intended for us."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Of Regrets and Resolutions," General Conference October 2012; see Ensign, November 2012, pp. 21-24
Click here to read the full talk

I was fascinated by President Uchtdorf's explanation in the first paragraph about things that are good, and things that are better.  Having goals and intentions, or declaring our willingness or belief, is one thing; but to truly follow through and act on them, demonstrate them in our lives is so much more important and powerful!

Being a disciple, then, is not just accepting a set of beliefs. It is acting on them—the real "pursuit of holiness" in our lives. And that is truly the path to happiness in life as well. As we follow the Savior in action and lifestyle, we receive more spiritual assistance, and find greater peace and happiness in our life, and will eliminate regrets.

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pres. Henry B. Eyring on obeying spiritual direction

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 the Spirit is invited into a meeting by those in it, truth is communicated beyond what is said aloud. Write down impressions or thoughts that you feel came from God. And, remembering what we have said about building a foundation, think carefully about whether the truth you received requires action. It is by obedience to commandments that we qualify for further revelation of truth and light.
"In this hour you may have committed to act on something you felt was true. Then more truth came to you. That process may slow or stop, if as you go out into daily life you fail to keep the silent commitments you made with God. God not only loves the obedient, He enlightens them. I fear that more people make promises to God than keep them, so you will please Him when you are the exception and you keep your promise to obey. You should test those impressions of what you should do against a simple standard: Is it what the Master has commanded in the accepted revelations? Is it clearly within my calling in His kingdom?
"Keeping some commandments gives you greater power to build your foundation on truth and light. You could think of those as enabling commandments, because they build your power to keep other commandments. Whatever invites the Holy Ghost as your companion will bring you the greater wisdom and the greater ability to obey God."
- Henry B. Eyring, "A Life Founded in Light and Truth," BYU Education Week devotional, 15 August 2000; see also Ensign, July 2001, 13
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Speaking to a gathering at BYU for an Education Week devotional, President Eyring addressed ways to increase the spiritual influences in our lives. One of the key ways is learning to invite and recognize spiritual promptings as we are instructed; then responding to the promptings that come, enabling us to receive further promptings.

Some key steps:
  • Invite inspiration by prayer and a willing heart as we are in settings where we might be taught
  • Record thoughts and impressions that come to us in those settings
  • Ponder whether the impression just received "requires action"
  • Commit to follow through, and then act promptly on the impression
By following that process, we invite more frequent inspiration from God:

I love the concept of "enabling commandments"—those things we do that open the door to further opportunity and blessing. Each time we choose to obey and act, we are opening the door to greater inspiration and help from God. "Whatever invites the Holy Ghost as your companion will bring you the greater wisdom and the greater ability to obey God."

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on enduring in faithfulness to the end

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.
"How blessed we are to have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It provides answers to questions concerning where we came from, why we are here, and where we will go when we pass from this life. It provides meaning and purpose and hope to our lives.
"We live in a troubled world, a world of many challenges. We are here on this earth to deal with our individual challenges to the best of our ability, to learn from them, and to overcome them. Endure to the end we must, for our goal is eternal life in the presence of our Father in Heaven. He loves us and wants nothing more than for us to succeed in this goal. He will help us and bless us as we call upon Him in our prayers, as we study His words, and as we obey His commandments. Therein is found safety; therein is found peace."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Till We Meet Again," General Conference, October 2010
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Monson has always been gracious in acknowledging God's blessings, as he does here; and in acknowledging the blessings and power in a righteous, faithful life. The gospel provides hope, it gives us answers to critical life questions, and it establishes the meaning and purpose of our very existence.

In spite of the challenges and confusion of the world, President Monson encourages us to hold on in faithfulness and to "endure to the end" as committed disciples:

What a marvelous example President Monson himself has shared as he faithfully has endured in service to God and to the Church for decades. Surely he has been blessed and sustained, and has found the safety and peace he promises each of us.

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

Elder Marvin J. Ashton on serving and growing in spite of obstacles

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915-1994) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1971 until his death in 1994 at age 78.
"We are all God’s children. If we love Him, we will feed His sheep wherever they may be found, without regard as to our own personal plight or situation. Often we can best feed others when we are hungry ourselves or not completely comfortable in the fold that we presently occupy. Very often those who are hungry, helpless, and cold can best be rescued by those who have been through the same exposures. Marking time or stalling should not be indulged in by the weak, weary, uncertain, and unrecognized. Instead, there is a healing power as we use our energy in action, in service, and in lifting others.
"It was Booker T. Washington who wisely stated, 'Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.' (The International Dictionary of Thoughts, comp. by John P. Bradley and others, Chicago: J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, 1969, p. 698.) Victories in life come through our ability to work around and over the obstacles that cross our path. We grow stronger as we climb our own mountains....
"Let me share four basic contributing factors which might prevent our personal progress and church activity: (1) the constant nursing of personal hurts, (2) yielding to the sorrow of tragedy and grief, (3) being fettered with the habits and mistakes of misconduct, (4) letting fears inhibit progress."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "Roadblocks to Progress," General Conference, April 1979
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Ashton shared thoughts in this talk about some of the challenges we create for ourselves in life that prevent us both from progressing personally, and from serving others along the path. Often our own challenges seem to provide such obstacles that we feel unable or incapable of reaching out to others. But he points out that those times might actually be the best and most important for us to be serving!

It's clear that overcoming obstacles provides one of the best chances for us to grow:

Elder Ashton goes on to consider four of the reasons we find ourselves stalled and blocked. This was a very interesting discussion, and reviewing the full article is recommended as we consider our individual lives and opportunities to grow and to serve.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

President James E. Faust on strengthening families

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.
"In a sense, a family can foster the teachings of the Savior better than any other institution. In large measure, the Church exists to strengthen families. I wish to define family very broadly. In the Church we have traditional families and single-parent families. Furthermore, each single member is considered to be, in a sense, a Church family....
"The fact that some members do not have functioning traditional families is no reason to move in a direction that would diminish or abandon family activities among those who can and should foster them. With the increased onslaught of forces that cause families to disintegrate, we ought to dig in our heels to preserve all that is great and good in the family. We are reminded that in times of tribulations, the Nephites were not fighting for a political cause, such as monarchy or power; rather, they 'were inspired by a better cause.' For 'they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.' (Alma 43:45.)"
- James E. Faust, "Where Is the Church?," BYU fireside, Sept 24, 1989; see also Ensign, Aug. 1990, p. 64
Click here to read the full talk

The Church exists to strengthen and reinforce families, by fostering the teachings of the Savior. Regardless of whether the family is "traditional" or not, President Faust points out that there is no better chance of success than by carefully following the Church's programs and teachings.

I appreciated the invitation to "dig in our heals" and attempt to do all we can to preserve families against the forces in society that would destroy or oppose them. It's important for us each to consider our personal family situation, as well as areas where we might have influence in society, and determine ways we could more faithfully defend and protect the sanctity of that sacred institution.

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on patience and preparation in serving others

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.
"One of the recurring challenges of life for some, both in and out of the Church, is the feeling that they occasionally have that they have more to offer in the way of talent, skill, or insight than they are permitted to give or than is being used by their fellowmen....
"Since patience is one of the traits of a saint (see Mosiah 3:19), it should not surprise us that we must sometimes learn patience not only by physical suffering, but also by sometimes having something to offer which, for one reason or another, we are prevented from offering, at least on the terms we would like to make the contribution. To trust God enough to accept the reality that he knows perfectly both what we have to offer and what we desire is a special form of trust. After all, when we sing in the hymn, 'I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord' (Hymns, no. 75), presumably our pledge includes a willingness to stay right where we are, if that is where the Lord wants us....
"Finally, this should sober us with sweetness: God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability!"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "It's Service, not Status, that Counts," Ensign, July 1975, p. 7
Click here to read the full article

This article presents a fascinating look at service and motivations to serve. One of the things Elder Maxwell considers is our desire to serve more, at times when we seem not to have the opportunity for various reasons. We occasionally feel, "in the hymnal words of Philip Paul Bliss, 'More used would I be.' (Hymns, no. 114)"  At those times when we seem not to have the opportunity to serve as much as we wish we could, we might consider the possible reasons suggested by Elder Maxwell, and also the possible remedies.

This concluding paragraph from the article, though cleverly worded (in Elder Maxwell's unique and wonderful style), points out a great truth. It truly is important for us to "prove our dependability" to God; and when we do, our capability will be enhanced and the opportunities to use those gifts will increase.

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on the Savior's promised help in trials and challenges

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1986, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1986 until his passing in 2008 at age 91.
"Many today feel troubled and distressed; many feel that, at any moment, the ships of their lives could capsize or sink. It is to you who are looking for a safe harbor that I wish to speak today, you whose hearts are breaking, you who are worried or afraid, you who bear grief or the burdens of sin, you who feel no one is listening to your cries, you whose hearts are pleading, 'Master, carest thou not that I perish?' To you I offer a few words of comfort and of counsel.
"Be assured that there is a safe harbor. You can find peace amidst the storms that threaten you. Your Heavenly Father—who knows when even a sparrow falls—knows of your heartache and suffering. He loves you and wants the best for you. Never doubt this. While He allows all of us to make choices that may not always be for our own or even others' well-being, and while He does not always intervene in the course of events, He has promised the faithful peace even in their trials and tribulations....
"Jesus comforts us when He said, 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid' (John 14:27).
"Draw close to the Lord Jesus Christ. He bears a special love for those who suffer. He is the Son of God, an eternal king. In His mortal ministry He loved them and blessed them.
"To the meek and discouraged, His every word was one of compassion and encouragement. To the sick, He brought a healing balm. Those who yearned for hope, who yearned for a caring touch, received it from the hand of this King of Kings, this Creator of ocean, earth, and sky.
"Today Jesus the Christ stands at the right hand of our Heavenly Father. Do you suppose that today He is any less inclined to aid those who suffer, who are sick, or who appeal to the Father in prayer for succor?
"Be of good cheer. The Man of Galilee, the Creator, the Son of the Living God will not forget nor forsake those whose hearts are drawn to Him. I testify that the Man who suffered for mankind, who committed His life to healing the sick and comforting the disconsolate, is mindful of your sufferings, doubts, and heartaches."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Finding a Safe Harbor," General Conference, April 2000; see Ensign, May 2000, pp. 59-61
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We are frequently reminded by Church leaders that times of trouble or distress will come in our lives; but that we do not ever have to face them alone. Sometimes we cry out, with the ancient apostles, "Master, carest thou not that I perish?" And the answer is always, YES, He does care—infinitely and perfectly. Elder Wirthlin testifies that while He may not always intervene in our lives, in the way we hope and ask, He will always be available to provide peace and strength.

The critical need is for us to draw near to Him, so that we can be ready and open to feel His love and comforting spirit.

What a profound message of hope and reassurance! We truly can know that the Savior "will not forget nor forsake those whose hearts are drawn to Him." May we continue to be open to that healing and empowering influence!

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley offers a call to greater faithfulness

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.
"Now, my brethren and sisters, the time has come for us to stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds to a greater comprehension and understanding of the grand millennial mission of this The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a season to be strong. It is a time to move forward without hesitation, knowing well the meaning, the breadth, and the importance of our mission. It is a time to do what is right regardless of the consequences that might follow. It is a time to be found keeping the commandments. It is a season to reach out with kindness and love to those in distress and to those who are wandering in darkness and pain. It is a time to be considerate and good, decent and courteous toward one another in all of our relationships. In other words, to become more Christlike.
"We have nothing to fear. God is at the helm. He will overrule for the good of this work. He will shower down blessings upon those who walk in obedience to His commandments. Such has been His promise. Of His ability to keep that promise none of us can doubt."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "This Is the Work of the Master," General Conference, April 1995; see Ensign, May 1995, 71
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"Stand a little taller"—classic President Hinckley. He believed in gradual, consistent, ongoing efforts as a means of growth and improvement. If you stand taller each day than you did the day before, then over time you'll have made significant progress. And he suggested that this is a crucial time for us to be standing tall and true:

Our time needs Christlike examples of faithful discipleship. President Hinckley certainly provided that kind of example throughout his life, and he invites us to do likewise.

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

President Spencer W. Kimball on Satan's work of deception and counterfeit

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Satan can perhaps give us examples of efficiency. He really motivates. He has established and stated his overall objective. It is his plan to divert every soul, and to degrade him and enslave him to that end, the arch deceiver has studied every way possible to achieve his ends, using every tool, every device possible. He takes over, distorts, and changes and camouflages everything created for the good of man, to make it desirable to men so he may take over their minds and pervert their bodies and claim them his.
"He never sleeps—he is diligent and persevering. He analyzes carefully his problem and then moves forward diligently, methodically to reach that objective. He uses all five senses and man's natural hunger and thirst to lead him away. He anticipates resistance and fortifies himself against it. He uses time and space and leisure. He is constant and persuasive and skillful. He uses such useful things as radio, television, the printed page, the airplane, and the car to distort and damage. He uses the gregariousness of man, his loneliness, his every need to lead him astray. He does his work at the most propitious time in the most impressive places with the most influential people. He overlooks nothing that will deceive and distort and prostitute. He uses money, power, force. He entices man and attacks at his weakest spot. He takes the good and creates ugliness. He takes beautiful art and gives it sensualness. He takes divine music and changes it to excite passion and lewdness. He uses sacred things to divert. He uses every teaching art to subvert man."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "How to Evaluate Your Performance," Improvement Era, Oct. 1969, pp. 12-16

President Kimball had a wonderful way of organizing thoughts, considering aspects of a subject that were unusual. In this excerpt he pondered Satan's techniques and abilities as he attempts to "degrade and enslave" them: "He takes over, distorts, and changes and camouflages everything created for the good of man." Every powerful took, every development of technology, every positive instrument gets counterfeited by the adversary:

Truly Satan "takes the good and creates ugliness" in his attempts to lead us astray and drag us to destruction. He is practiced and skillful.

In the face of such masterful opposition, we can't ignore Satan's efforts or pretend they don't matter. It becomes critical that we safeguard the tools and gifts we have, and exercise vigilant care to use them only in proper ways. We must seek always for the things that are "virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)
// Customization to close archive widget on first view - DK 3/15