Friday, September 29, 2017

President Lorenzo Snow on blessings from general conference

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.
"Pray for the Brethren at conference time. When the Brethren arise to speak you should ask the Lord to let them say something that you want to know, that they may suggest something to you that will be of some advantage. If you have any desire to know certain matters that you do not understand, pray that these brethren in their talks may say something that shall enlighten your mind in reference to that which troubles you, and we will have a grand and glorious conference, a better one than we have ever had before. Strange as it may appear, our last conference always seems the best, and may this be the case; and you brethren and sisters, let your hearts rise up to the Lord and exercise faith while our brethren are talking to you. We will not be disappointed, and you will not go home, you will not retire from this conference, without feeling you have been greatly and abundantly blessed."
- Lorenzo Snow, Conference Report, 5 October 1900, p. 5

General conference offers many blessings to willing listeners. President Snow points out the shared responsibility of speaker and listener; we are invited to bring our problems and questions to the setting, and allow the Lord to inspire us with answers and direction. As we humbly seek for help, the Spirit "will enlighten your mind" with help and guidance, "and we will have a grand and glorious conference."

I have often felt that sentiment, that this was the best conference ever! And we each have the opportunity to feel it again. If we contribute our part of the efforts, it will be the best conference for each of us personally.

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

President J. Reuben Clark Jr. on feeling the inspiration of instructions from leaders

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. (September 1, 1871 – October 6, 1961) was a prominent attorney who served as Under Secretary of State during the presidency of Calvin Coolidge, and later as the US Ambassador to Mexico. He was called as a counselor in the First Presidency to Heber J. Grant starting in April 1933, and was ordained an apostle a year and a half later. He went on to serve as counselor to Presidents George Albert Smith and David O. McKay before he passed away in 1961 at age 90.
"The very words of the revelation (D&C 68:2-4) recognize that the Brethren may speak when they are not 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost,' yet only when they do so speak, as so 'moved upon,' is what they say Scripture. No exceptions are given to this rule or principle. It is universal in its application.
"The question is, how shall we know when the things they have spoken were said as they were 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost'?
"I have given some thought to this question, and the answer thereto so far as I can determine, is: We can tell when the speakers are 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost' only when we, ourselves, are 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost.'
"In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak."
- J. Reuben Clark, "When Are the Writings and Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Being Scripture?", address at BYU on July 7, 1954; see Church News, July 31, 1954
Click here to read the full article

The description of this event indicates that President Clark was asked to respond directly to the question about how we recognize "modern scripture" as delivered by Church leaders. His response is instructive and beneficial to us today.

One of the intriguing insights of modern scripture is the instruction given to early members of the Church through Joseph Smith, as recorded in 1831, where they were told that not only must the person delivering a message "preach it by the Spirit of truth" and by no other way, but also the one receiving must receive in the same manner, in order that the two may be "edified and rejoice together" (D&C 50:17-22). There is a power of communication that occurs when spirit speaks to spirit in this manner.

President Clark applied this same principle to the question of our interaction with Church leaders. They sometimes speak formally and authoritatively, based on inspiration from God; at other times, they may speak only personal opinion or commentary. Those who are in tune and practiced with the Spirit's role in communication will know the difference, and be edified as the Spirit teaches and confirms.

The article by President Clark goes on to consider other aspects of the question and is very worthwhile to review.

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Elder Joseph F. Merrill on the blessings of following the Presidency of the Church

Elder Joseph F. Merrill (1968-1952) served as the Commissioner of Church Education from 1928 to 1933, during which time he pioneered the creation of the Seminary and Institute programs. He was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1931 and served until his death in 1952.
"Do the people of the Church want a safe guide to what is well for them to do? It is this: Keep in harmony with the Presidency of this Church. Accept and follow the teachings and advice of the President. At every Conference we raise our hands to sustain the President as prophet, seer and revelator. Is it consistent to do this and then go contrary to his advice? Is anyone so simple as to believe he is serving the Lord when he opposes the President? Of course, the President is not infallible. He makes no claims to infallibility. But when in his official capacity he teaches and advises the members of the Church relative to their duties, let no man who wants to please the Lord say aught against the counsels of the President.
"In the spirit of helpfulness let me give you a key. When in doubt go on your knees in humility with an open mind and a pure heart with a real desire to do the Lord's will, and pray earnestly and sincerely for divine guidance. Persist in praying in this way until you get an answer that fills your bosom with joy and satisfaction. It will be God's answer. If obedient to this answer you will always act as the President indicates. You will then be safe."
- Joseph F. Merrill, Conference Report, April 1941, p. 51
Click here to read the full talk

The Book of Mormon identifies several groups as being "humble followers of Christ" (2 Nephi 28:14) or "humble followers of God" (Alma 4:15, Helaman 6:5,39). When we accept and acknowledge a prophet as God's agent on earth, it's a small step to desire to be "humble followers of the prophet." Elder Merrill encourages us to stay in harmony with the counsel and teachings of the Church Presidency and in particular to sustain and follow the President of the Church:

He then offers what he calls a "key" to this effort. If we ever have any doubt about following the counsel of a leader, we should turn to humble prayer, "with an open mind and a pure heart with a real desire to do the Lord's will." That kind of petition will result in "an answer that fills your bosom with joy and satisfaction" and result in a greater desire to follow counsel.

I don't think it's necessary to wait for times of doubt. Praying in humble sincerity for a greater ability to listen, understand, and follow will result in the Lord's blessings every time—it's wonderful to be filled with "joy and satisfaction." And as Elder Merrill promises, "You will then be safe."

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on having simple joy in life

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.
"When I think of happiness or joy in this life, I begin with some experiences that are simple and basic. I see the expression on the face of a one-year-old taking those first steps. I remember a two-year-old immersed in a soft ice cream cone. I think of a child loving a puppy or a kitten.
"If the more mature have not dulled their physical or spiritual sensitivities by excess or disuse, they can also experience joy in what is simple and basic—in flowers and other growing things, in a sunrise or sunset or other beauties of nature, in wholesome companionship.
"Another source of happiness and mortal joy is the accomplishment of worthy goals, simple things like physical exercise or more complex goals like the completion of an arduous task.
"Other goals have eternal significance. Their completion produces joy in this life and the promise of eternal joy in the world to come....
"But despite all we can do, we cannot have a fulness of joy in this world or through our own efforts. (See D&C 101:36.) Only in Christ can our joy be full."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Joy and Mercy," General Conference, October 1991
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Simple joy! What a beautiful concept. We see it in the faces of children. But sometimes the "more mature" have "dulled their physical or spiritual sensitivities by excess or disuse" to the point that they no longer experience those kinds of simple joy.

So how do we retain, or regain, the joy of simple things? Both physical and spiritual sensitivity can be recovered as it is cared for, as we focus on understanding the miracles that lie behind things that may appear to be simple on the surface, including nature and other aspects of God's creation.

Elder Oaks also teaches that we can find joy in more abstract concepts and situations including wholesome companionship, achieving goals, physical exercise, or completion of difficult tasks. But the true key lies in his final statement: fulness of joy comes only in and through the Savior Jesus Christ. As we learn of Him and accept the blessings He promises us, we will begin to taste that joy in this life, and have promises of its fulness in eternity.

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

President Russell M. Nelson on seeking personal revelation

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.
"Revelation need not all come at once. It may be incremental. 'Saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more' (2 Ne 28:30). Patience and perseverance are part of our eternal progression....
"Every Latter-day Saint may merit personal revelation. The invitation to ask, seek, and knock for divine direction exists because God lives and Jesus is the living Christ. It exists because this is His living Church. (See D&C 1:30.)"
- Russell M. Nelson, "Ask, Seek, Knock," General Conference October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full article

The concept of "line upon line" is an important one. Sometimes, when we are seeking inspiration or spiritual insight, we are impatient to see the full picture or understand all the details of an issue. But instead we have to be patient as our knowledge grows through "incremental" revelation.

The key is that we must continue to seek and ask, to knock on the door of heaven while we await the divine direction. There are lessons learned in the process of asking that may be as important as the answer that comes!

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

Monday, September 25, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on finding joy in the journey 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.
"Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey. I don’t go cycling with my wife because I’m excited about finishing. I go because the experience of being with her is sweet and enjoyable.
"Doesn’t it seem foolish to spoil sweet and joyful experiences because we are constantly anticipating the moment when they will end?
"Do we listen to beautiful music waiting for the final note to fade before we allow ourselves to truly enjoy it? No. We listen and connect to the variations of melody, rhythm, and harmony throughout the composition.
"Do we say our prayers with only the 'amen' or the end in mind? Of course not. We pray to be close to our Heavenly Father, to receive His Spirit and feel His love.
"We shouldn’t wait to be happy until we reach some future point, only to discover that happiness was already available—all the time! Life is not meant to be appreciated only in retrospect. 'This is the day which the Lord hath made...,' the Psalmist wrote. 'Rejoice and be glad in it.' (Psalm 118:24.)
"Brothers and sisters, no matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Of Regrets and Resolutions," General Conference October 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Finding "joy in the journey" seems to be one of the great struggles so many face. President Uchtdorf implies that the challenge doesn't just apply to the times of challenge and difficulty, but also to the more positive times. If we are so focused on obtaining goals or reaching milestones that we forget about the joy of now, we're missing the point!

So the answer is finding "something in each day to embrace and cherish." One of the keys is gratitude for blessings given. As we focus on the good and positive, the learning and growth, the blessings—we will find there is, indeed, much joy in the journey.

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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

President Henry B. Eyring on understanding the true test of life

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.
"The restored gospel not only teaches us why we must be tested, but it makes clear to us what the test is. The Prophet Joseph Smith gave us an explanation. By revelation, he was able to record words spoken at the Creation of the world. They are about us, those of the spirit children of our Heavenly Father who would come into mortality. Here are the words:
"'And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them' (Abr. 3:25).
"That explanation helps us understand why we face trials in life. They give us the opportunity to prove ourselves faithful to God. So many things beat upon us in a lifetime that simply enduring may seem almost beyond us. That’s what the words in the scripture 'Ye must... endure to the end' (2 Ne. 31:20) seemed to mean to me when I first read them. It sounded grim, like sitting still and holding on to the arms of the chair while someone pulled out my tooth.
"It can surely seem that way to a family depending on crops when there is no rain. They may wonder, 'How long can we hold on?' It can seem that way to a youth faced with resisting the rising flood of filth and temptation. It can seem that way to a young man struggling to get the training he needs for a job to support a wife and family. It can seem that way to a person who can’t find a job or who has lost job after job as businesses close their doors. It can seem that way to a person faced with the erosion of health and physical strength which may come early or late in life for them or for those they love.
"But the test a loving God has set before us is not to see if we can endure difficulty. It is to see if we can endure it well. We pass the test by showing that we remembered Him and the commandments He gave us. And to endure well is to keep those commandments whatever the opposition, whatever the temptation, and whatever the tumult around us. We have that clear understanding because the restored gospel makes the plan of happiness so plain."
- Henry B. Eyring, "In the Strength of the Lord," General Conference, April 2004
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We must be tested in life. That, according to President Eyring, is a fundamental premise of the gospel. But we sometimes forget what the test comprises; it was laid out by our Heavenly Father at the very creation of the world. We must be "proved" by the conditions and experiences of mortality, to verify whether we are willing to do whatever God tells us to do. That is the whole test—our willingness to obey. The hardships or challenges we suffer only modify the conditions of the test, not its purpose.

If everything in our mortal experience were straightforward and peaceful, with no difficulties or problems, it would perhaps be easier to show obedience. It seems harder to demonstrate our true commitment when we are deep in the midst of "enduring." But through our varied challenges, which seem perhaps customized according to what we individually need, we have the opportunity to pass the ultimate test again and again: will I obey in faith, regardless of circumstances or challenges?

The phrase "endure it well" was notably spoken to Joseph Smith (D&C 121:8) who was struggling through his own set of challenges; he was invited by God to continue faithful in the midst of the test. We are each asked to do the same in our personal difficulties.

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

Saturday, September 23, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on showing our love for God and Jesus

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.
"Today, the challenge which we face and must meet is not that we should go forth on the battlefield of war and lay down our lives. Rather, it is that we, on the battlefield of life, so live and serve that our lives and actions reflect a true love of God, of His Son, Jesus Christ, and of our fellowmen....
"Jesus teaches us: 'If ye love me, keep my commandments. …
"'He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.' (John 14:15, 21.)
"Years ago we danced to a popular song, the words of which were, 'It’s easy to say I love you, easy to say I’ll be true, easy to say these simple things, but prove it by the things you do.' ...
"The Apostle Paul taught the Corinthians, 'If any man love God, the same is known of him.' (1 Cor. 8:3.) The love which these faithful members have for God, for His Son, Jesus Christ, and for His everlasting gospel is confirmed by their very lives. It is reminiscent of the love demonstrated by the brother of Jared as described in the Book of Mormon. The blessings of a loving, caring, and just Heavenly Father simply could not be withheld. Faith preceded the miracle."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Those Who Love Jesus," General Conference, October 1985
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In our modern era of conflict, uncertainty, and turmoil, we might ask what our great challenges are. President Monson suggests that the external, societal challenges are not as significant to us as the choice to follow Jesus Christ in our lives and actions, expressing a true love for God and the Savior:

Truly showing that love, and not just professing it, becomes the great challenge for our lives. Do our actions demonstrate our love? Once they do, we will truly feel His love and blessings in return.

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

President David O. McKay on the glorious blessing of a clear conscience

President David O. McKay (1873-1970) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1906.  He served as a counselor in the First Presidency to Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith beginning in 1945, then then as the president of the Church from 1951 to his death in 1970 at age 96.
"It is glorious when you can lie down at night with a clear conscience that you have done your best not to offend anyone and have injured no one. You have tried to cleanse your heart of all unrighteousness, and if you put forth precious effort you can sense as you pray to God to keep you that night that He accepts your effort. You have a sense that you are God's child, a person whose soul God wants to save. You have the strength to resist evil. You also have the realization that you have made the world better for having been in it. These and countless other virtues and conditions are all wrapped up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
- David O. McKay, Man May Know for Himself, p. 458

What a blessing a truly clear conscience is! President McKay calls it "glorious" to get to the end of a day and know that you have done your best in every way, and to have the sense that God accepts the effort of that day:

Joseph Smith once described three things we must have in order to properly exercise faith in God. First, we must start with the belief in His existence. Then we must correctly understand His "character, perfections, and attributes." Finally, we can have faith only when we possess "an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to His will." (Lectures on Faith 3:2-5). That confidence that we are doing what is right, that we are striving to do the very best we can given our current understanding—what a precious gift it is!

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Elder James E. Talmage on being purified to feel the powers of God

Elder James E. Talmage (1862-1933) was born in England. He was a brilliant scholar, trained as a geologist and mathematician. But he's perhaps best known today among Church members for his classic writings, including "Jesus the Christ," "The Articles of Faith," and "The Holy Temple." He was called as an apostle in 1911 and served until his death in 1933 at age 70.
"Subtler, mightier, and more mysterious than any or all of the physical forces of nature are the powers that operate upon conscious organisms, the means by which the mind, the heart, the soul of man may be energized by spiritual forces. In our ignorance of the true nature of electricity we may speak of it as a fluid; and so by analogy the forces through which the mind is governed have been called spiritual fluids. The true nature of these manifestations of energy is unknown to us, for the elements of comparison and analogy, so necessary to our human reasoning, are wanting; nevertheless the effects are experienced by all.
"As the conducting medium in an electric circuit is capable of conveying but a limited current, the maximum capacity depending upon the resistance offered by the conductor, and, as separate circuits of different degrees of conductivity may carry currents of widely varying intensity, so human souls are of varied capacity with respect to the higher powers. But as the medium is purified, as obstructions are removed, so resistance to the energy decreases, and the forces manifest themselves with greater intensity. By analogous processes of purification our spirits may be made more susceptible to the forces of life, which are emanations from the Holy Spirit. Therefore are we taught to pray by word and action for a constantly increasing portion of the Spirit, that is, the power of the Spirit, which is a measure of this gift of God unto us."
- James E. Talmage, "Personality and Powers of the Holy Ghost," Articles of Faith, pp. 142-154
Click here to read the full chapter

Elder Talmage's scientific training and background are evident in this excerpt. In discussing the flower of electric current through a conductor, he recognizes that the "purity" of the conducting material can enhance the electrical flow. When there are impurities or filled with "obstructions" the resistance increases and the flow of current declines. But for maximum efficiency and optimized current flow, the more pure the conveying substance, the better; and the analogy of the flow of the Spirit through a purified human being makes sense:

An how do we make the "conducting substance" of our beings more pure? I like Moroni's description:  "Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness..." (Moroni 10:32). The process of purifying ourselves to maximize our ability to be conductors of the spirit, so that the spiritual forces might "manifest themselves with greater intensity," involves removing all the "ungodly" impurities from our lives. This is the process of repentance.

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Elder Bruce R. McConkie on the celestial laws of sacrifice and consecration

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.
"It is written: 'He who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.' (D&C 88:22.) The law of sacrifice is a celestial law; so also is the law of consecration. Thus to gain that celestial reward which we so devoutly desire, we must be able to live these two laws.
"Sacrifice and consecration are inseparably intertwined. The law of consecration is that we consecrate our time, our talents, and our money and property to the cause of the Church: such are to be available to the extent they are needed to further the Lord’s interests on earth.
"The law of sacrifice is that we are willing to sacrifice all that we have for the truth’s sake—our character and reputation; our honor and applause; our good name among men; our houses, lands, and families: all things, even our very lives if need be.
"Joseph Smith said, 'A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation.' (Lectures on Faith, p. 58.)
"We are not always called upon to live the whole law of consecration and give all of our time, talents, and means to the building up of the Lord’s earthly kingdom. Few of us are called upon to sacrifice much of what we possess, and at the moment there is only an occasional martyr in the cause of revealed religion.
"But what the scriptural account means is that to gain celestial salvation we must be able to live these laws to the full if we are called upon to do so. Implicit in this is the reality that we must in fact live them to the extent we are called upon so to do.
"How, for instance, can we establish our ability to live the full law of consecration if we do not in fact pay an honest tithing? Or how can we prove our willingness to sacrifice all things, if need be, if we do not make the small sacrifices of time and toil, or of money and means, that we are now asked to make?"
- Bruce R. McConkie, "Obedience, Consecration, and Sacrifice," General Conference, April 1975
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder McConkie describes what he calls "celestial laws" as including the principles of sacrifice and consecration. His implication is that we do not fully live those laws in our current state; but that we must be willing to do so, and demonstrate our ability to live those laws by the ways in which we demonstrate obedience to partial aspects of the law.

And so, our current financial contributions to the Lord's Kingdom demonstrate an ability and willingness to eventually live a celestial law of consecration. Our current contributions of time and efforts in participating in building the kingdom are evidence of our willingness to sacrifice whatever the Lord requires.

The great key to our obedience is the heart. When we are willing and eager to do all we can in our current state, it is evidence that we have the proper attitude that will enable us to eventually comply with a full celestial law.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

President Marion G. Romney on celestial service and self-reliance

President Marion G. Romney (1897-1988) was born in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. He was ordained an apostle in 1951 and served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1972 to 1985. After the death of President Spencer W. Kimball, President Romney was released and returned to serve in the Quorum of Twelve until his death in 1988.
"We lose our life by serving and lifting others. By so doing we experience the only true and lasting happiness. Service is not something we endure on this earth so we can earn the right to live in the celestial kingdom. Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made.
"Knowing that service is what gives our Father in Heaven fulfillment, and knowing that we want to be where He is and as He is, why must we be commanded to serve one another? Oh, for the glorious day when these things all come naturally because of the purity of our hearts. In that day there will be no need for a commandment because we will have experienced for ourselves that we are truly happy only when we are engaged in unselfish service. Let us use the freedom which comes from self-reliance in giving and serving."
- Marion G. Romney, "The Celestial Nature of Self-reliance," General Conference, October 1982
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In past general conferences, a "welfare session" was sometimes held in addition to the regular conference sessions, during which instruction and encouragement were given related to principles of the welfare system. These remarks from President Romney were the keynote from one such session. He was one of the great teachers of these principles, and gave many addresses during his ministry on topics related to welfare.

But this one stands out in my mind. I think it's a masterful discourse, examining some of the underlying principles and doctrines of the welfare program, as they relate to our personal spiritual development. After teaching about self-reliance and its eternal significance, President Romney expanded the principle to the concept of service to others. When we become self-reliant, we are capable of blessing those around us.

This is a remarkable phrase: "Service is the very fiber of which an exalted life in the celestial kingdom is made." It's not just a program, guideline, or recommendation. The Savior's admonition to love one another, and the baptismal covenant obligation of bearing one another's burdens, give keys to President Romney's insight. Some day, he suggests, we will discover that the only source of true happiness comes from pure, Christlike, unselfish service.

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

President Harold B. Lee on light shining in darkness

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.
"I was at Manti, Utah, some years ago. As we came out of the Saturday night leadership meeting, there was a heavy snowstorm. As we drove to the home of the stake president, he stopped his car and turned back to the temple hill. There the lighted temple was standing majestically. We sat there in silence for a few moments, inspired by the sight of that beautiful, sacred place. He said, 'You know, Brother Lee, that temple is never more beautiful than in times of a dense fog or in times of a heavy, severe storm.'
"Just so, never is the gospel of Jesus Christ more beautiful than in times of intense need, or in times of a severe storm within us as individuals, or in times of confusion and turmoil."
- Harold B. Lee, "A Blessing for the Saints," General Conference, October 1972
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I love lessons taught with powerful analogies and imagery. President Lee's story of seeing the Manti temple shining through a snowstorm is a great example. The temple is the perfect focus for this analogy, since it's the source of so much that we find meaningful and important. Storms that would attempt to obscure it or hide its beauty only emphasize the inherent power of the structure, and all that it represents.

The extension of the analogy to the rest of the gospel provides food for thought. When we feel those times of need or challenge, especially the "intense" ones, and are surrounded by "confusion and turmoil" by the circumstances of mortality, we know we have somewhere to turn that will give us light and hope. Having a solid foundation of understanding before the "severe storm" comes makes all the difference in how we are able to draw on the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

President James E. Faust on being disciples of Jesus Christ

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.
"The word for disciple and the word for discipline both come from the same Latin root—discipulus, which means pupil. It emphasizes practice or exercise. Self-discipline and self-control are consistent and permanent characteristics of the followers of Jesus, as exemplified by Peter, James, and John, who indeed 'forsook all, and followed him' (Luke 5:1–11).
"What is discipleship? It is primarily obedience to the Savior. Discipleship includes many things. It is chastity. It is tithing. It is family home evening. It is keeping all the commandments. It is forsaking anything that is not good for us. Everything in life has a price. Considering the Savior’s great promise for peace in this life and eternal life in the life to come, discipleship is a price worth paying. It is a price we cannot afford not to pay. By measure, the requirements of discipleship are much, much less than the promised blessings....
"Discipleship does not come from positions of prominence, wealth, or advanced learning. The disciples of Jesus came from all walks of life. However, discipleship does require us to forsake evil transgression and enjoy what President Spencer W. Kimball has called 'the miracle of forgiveness.' This can come only through repentance, which means that we forsake sin and resolve each day to be followers of truth and righteousness. As Jesus taught, 'What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am' (3 Nephi 27:27).
"Many think that the price of discipleship is too costly and too burdensome. For some, it involves giving up too much. But the cross is not as heavy as it appears to be. Through obedience we acquire much greater strength to carry it....
"Our true claim as disciples comes when we can say with certainty that His ways have become our ways.
"The blessings of discipleship are readily available to all who are willing to pay the price. Discipleship brings purpose to our lives so that rather than wandering aimlessly, we walk steadily on that strait and narrow way that leads us back to our Heavenly Father. Discipleship brings us comfort in times of sorrow, peace of conscience, and joy in service—all of which help us to be more like Jesus."
- James E. Faust, "Discipleship," General Conference, October 2006
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a wonderful address by President Faust, whose life exemplified the principles he is describing. Discipleship, he teaches, is a form of discipline; it is self-control, obedience, the wise use of agency, and choosing to follow the precepts taught by the Savior. It is forsaking much that is in the world. but gaining much more that the Savior has promised to his faithful followers:

Is the cost of discipleship too great? Is the burden too much to bear? President Faust reminds us that among the blessings of discipleship, those who choose to "bear the cross" are given divine strength to enable them on that journey. But perhaps even greater blessings come as we continue in the path:
  • purpose to our lives
  • comfort in times of sorrow
  • peace of conscience
  • joy in service
  • becoming more like Jesus.

Perhaps only one who has begun to taste these blessings can fully understand that the price is truly a small one to pay!

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

Saturday, September 16, 2017

President Spencer W. Kimball on God's plan for our destiny

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"God controls our lives, guides and blesses us, but gives us our agency. We may live our lives in accordance with his plan for us or we may foolishly shorten or terminate them.
"I am positive in my mind that the Lord has planned our destiny. Sometime we’ll understand fully, and when we see back from the vantage point of the future, we shall be satisfied with many of the happenings of this life that are so difficult for us to comprehend.
"We sometimes think we would like to know what lies ahead, but sober thought brings us back to accepting life a day at a time and magnifying and glorifying that day....
"We knew before we were born that we were coming to the earth for bodies and experience and that we would have joys and sorrows, ease and pain, comforts and hardships, health and sickness, successes and disappointments, and we knew also that after a period of life we would die. We accepted all these eventualities with a glad heart, eager to accept both the favorable and unfavorable. We eagerly accepted the chance to come earthward even though it might be for only a day or a year. Perhaps we were not so much concerned whether we should die of disease, of accident, or of senility. We were willing to take life as it came and as we might organize and control it, and this without murmur, complaint, or unreasonable demands.
"In the face of apparent tragedy we must put our trust in God, knowing that despite our limited view his purposes will not fail. With all its troubles life offers us the tremendous privilege to grow in knowledge and wisdom, faith and works, preparing to return and share God’s glory."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Tragedy or Destiny," in Faith Precedes the Miracle, 102–3, 105–6. Adapted from a BYU devotional address, December 6, 1955
Click here to read the full article
Click here to listen to an audio recording of the original BYU devotional talk
In this wonderful, memorable address, President Kimball considered the classic problem of evil in the world. Why does a loving God allow so much suffering and sorrow to exist? The deeply thoughtful answers President Kimball offers give a powerful perspective on our mortal experience that can bless us as we struggle through times of challenge, disappointment, or pain.

While we do have the ability to exercise our own agency in dealing with the challenges and difficulties of this life, President Kimball urges us to remember that it is in the context of God's eternal plan for our benefit and welfare, the "destiny" that He has in mind for each of us individually. We must be ever willing and eager for His efforts to guide and bless us in the journey, knowing that He has a vision of our potential and what is needed to reach it. We may not fully grasp the details of His plan, with our temporal and limited understanding; but with faith and trust in Him, we can know that we will understand eventually:

The key to President Kimball's message is our need to have faith in God's plan, even when we don't see and understand its details. Once we develop the trust in Him and the hope of His eternal promises for us, we are equipped to confront whatever challenges life presents. Faith rings loudly in President Kimball's declaration "With all its troubles life offers us the tremendous privilege to grow in knowledge and wisdom, faith and works, preparing to return and share God’s glory."

Incidentally, it's wonderful to listen to the recording linked above (at the end of the quote), and hear President Kimball's beautiful, strong voice share the remarks. Within 2 years of giving this address, cancer of the throat would require the removal of most of President Kimball's vocal cords, leaving him with the harsh, gravelly, whispered voice that the Saints would come to love as a sign of his own patient endurance of trials and suffering.

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

Friday, September 15, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on following the Savior

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President for only nine months, from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"The world in which we live, whether close to home or far away, needs the gospel of Jesus Christ. It provides the only way the world will ever know peace. We need to be kinder with one another, more gentle and forgiving. We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another with the pure love of Christ, with genuine charity and compassion and, if necessary, shared suffering, for that is the way God loves us.
"In our worship services, we often sing a lovely hymn with text written by Susan Evans McCloud. May I recall a few lines of that hymn for you?
'Savior, may I learn to love thee,
Walk the path that thou hast shown,
Pause to help and lift another,
Finding strength beyond my own....

'Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can’t see....

'I would be my brother’s keeper;
I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper—
Lord, I would follow thee.'
(Hymns, 1985, no. 220.)
"We need to walk more resolutely and more charitably the path that Jesus has shown. We need to 'pause to help and lift another' and surely we will find 'strength beyond [our] own.' If we would do more to learn 'the healer’s art,' there would be untold chances to use it, to touch the 'wounded and the weary' and show to all 'a gentle[r] heart.' Yes, Lord, we should follow thee."
- Howard W. Hunter, "A More Excellent Way," General Conference April 1992
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

When we truly follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we find the peace that President Hunter refers to. This path of discipleship brings us His peace as we follow His example:

The words of the hymn President Hunter quotes, "Savior, May I Learn to Love Thee," describe that path of discipleship. As we learn to love Him, we will walk His path and find the promised joy and peace.

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

Thursday, September 14, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley on contributing good to the 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.
"You are good. But it is not enough just to be good. You must be good for something. You must contribute good to the world. The world must be a better place for your presence. And the good that is in you must be spread to others.
"I do not suppose that any of us here this day will be remembered a thousand years from now. I do not suppose that we will be remembered a century from now.
"But in this world so filled with problems, so constantly threatened by dark and evil challenges, you can and must rise above mediocrity, above indifference. You can become involved and speak with a strong voice for that which is right."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Stand Up for Truth," BYU devotional, Sep. 17, 1996
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Hinckley challenges us to ponder the difference between being good and being good for something. The reason, the motivation, the purpose and results of our goodness are the key. Are we good "in isolation" or are we attempting to have our goodness make a difference in the world? Are we reaching out to bless others?

In a world "so filled with problems, so constantly threatened by dark and evil challenges" what difference do I make? What difference do you make? President Hinckley encourages us to "become involved and speak with a strong voice for that which is right." One of the most important differences we can make in the world, then, is to stand up for true principles and defend what we know to be truth. In that way, we truly can establish a legacy that will outlive us, even long after our names are forgotten in the march of time.

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