Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Elder Bruce R. McConkie on the great caravan of the latter-day church

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.
"Now,  I have what every true disciple has. It is called the testimony of Jesus. In our day it includes the revealed knowledge that the earthly kingdom—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—will triumph. In this connection may I set before you this illustration:
The Church is like a great caravan—organized, prepared, following an appointed course, with its captains of tens and captains of hundreds all in place.
"What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary travellers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way? The caravan moves on.
"Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise. The caravan moves on.
"Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, and rivers to ford? Such is life in this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.
"Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest. Thank God that the caravan moves on!"
- Bruce R. McConkie, "The Caravan Moves On," General Conference October 1984
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is classic Elder McConkie. In my mind I can still hear his bold, clear voice declaring this testimony of the Church and its strength and power in our lives. He was certain of the promises that God's kingdom on earth would eventually triumph over all its foes, and this imagery helped to put our responsibility in perspective:

The grand key is the statement, "all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest." While it's easy to abandon the caravan under threats of "predators" or to fall by the wayside in discouragement when the way is difficult, this reassurance is clear: there is only one way to reach the eventual promised land. "Thank God that the caravan moves on!"

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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Elder M. Russell Ballard on the essential habits of conversion

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.
"The Lord outlined simple, personal habits that keep us rooted, grounded, and connected to Him. Such habits, when done with full purpose of heart, real intent, and without hypocrisy and deception, allow us to be unwavering disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"These essential habits include the things that seem to easily slip away in the rush of our very busy lives, even when we are engaged in good things like pursuing an education, working to support a family, and involving ourselves in community and Church service.
"They include sincere daily prayer, faithful fasting, regular study and pondering of the scriptures and the words of the living prophets, making the Sabbath day a delight, partaking of the sacrament with humility and always remembering the Savior, worshipping in the temple as often as possible, and, finally, reaching out to the needy, poor, and lonely—both those close by and across the world.
"When someone stops doing these simple but essential things, they cut themselves from the well of living water and allow Satan to muddle their thinking. Sin and guilt cloud the mind—leading them to deny past inspiration and revelation and causing a 'de-conversion' from the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
- M. Russell Ballard, "To the Saints in the Utah South Area," broadcast to the 235 stakes in the Utah South Area on September 13, 2015
Click here to read the full talk

While these remarks were shared with a subset of the Church (members living in the Utah South Area), the principles Elder Ballard shares are insightful and generally applicable. It's good to review and ponder the simple, basic, personal habits that will "keep us rooted, grounded, and connected" to God in our time.

Elder Ballard mentions seven specific things:
  • sincere daily prayer
  • faithful fasting
  • regular study and pondering of the scriptures and the words of the living prophets
  • making the Sabbath day a delight
  • partaking of the sacrament with humility and always remembering the Savior
  • worshiping in the temple as often as possible
  • reaching out to the needy, poor, and lonely—both those close by and across the world
These seven simple practices truly can transform us as we make them "habits of conversion."

I think the idea of "de-conversion" is important to ponder. Just as we can be converted to the gospel, Elder Ballard warns that we can be de-converted from it. As we fail to do the simple things that keep us focused and growing, we:

  • are cut off from the well of living water
  • allow Satan to muddle our thinking
  • begin to see sin and guilt cloud our mind
  • are led to deny past inspiration and revelation

I'm grateful for the reminder of how much impact the simple "essential habits" can have in my life!

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

President Boyd K. Packer shares a witness of the Savior

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.
"Each member serves as a testimony of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. We are at war with the forces of the adversary, and we need each and every one of us if we are going to succeed in the work the Savior has for us to do....
"As one of the Twelve Apostles, I bear witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. He lives. He is our Redeemer and our Savior. 'Through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved' (Articles of Faith 1:3). He presides over this Church. He is no stranger to His servants. As we move into the future with quiet confidence, His Spirit will be with us. There is no end to His power to bless and direct the lives of those who seek truth and righteousness."
- Boyd K. Packer, "The Reason for Our Hope," General Conference, October 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full article

President Packer didn't say "each member shares a testimony" or "each member bares a testimony"—he said "each member serves as a testimony." We don't have to say or write anything; our lives, our personages, our every mannerism should bear witness to the course we are choosing to follow.

I always love to notice the testimonies of the Special Witnesses of Jesus Christ. This was one of the final conferences President Packer would participate in during this life. His witness, after a lifetime of study and service, is powerful:

A true disciple has no need to fear; he can "move into the future with quiet confidence" knowing that God's help is ever present for those "who seek truth and righteousness."

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Elder Richard G. Scott on learning to exercise faith in Jesus Christ

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.
"When faith is properly understood and used, it has dramatically far-reaching effects. Such faith can transform an individual’s life from maudlin, common everyday activities to a symphony of joy and happiness. The exercise of faith is vital to Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness. But true faith, faith unto salvation, is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ, faith in His doctrines and teachings, faith in the prophetic guidance of the Lord’s anointed, faith in the capacity to discover hidden characteristics and traits that can transform life. Truly, faith in the Savior is a principle of action and power....
"Faith and character are intimately related. Faith in the power of obedience to the commandments of God will forge strength of character available to you in times of urgent need. Such character is not developed in moments of great challenge or temptation. That is when it is intended to be used. Your exercise of faith in true principles builds character; fortified character expands your capacity to exercise more faith. As a result, your capacity and confidence to conquer the trials of life is enhanced. The more your character is fortified, the more enabled you are to benefit from exercising the power of faith. You will discover how faith and character interact to strengthen one another. Character is woven patiently from threads of applied principle, doctrine, and obedience....
"We exercise faith by doing. Joseph Smith said that 'faith [is] the principle of action and of power' (Lectures on Faith [1985], 72)."
- Richard G. Scott, "The Transforming Power of Faith and Character," General Conference October 2010
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Scott teaches, echoing Joseph Smith, that "faith in the Savior is a principle of action and power." It is not possible to have faith without feeling the call to action; and further action generates greater faith. Power comes as faith and righteousness access divine strength.

It was interesting to see how Elder Scott linked faith and character. Faith leads to character, and is something that we must develop in order to cope with the challenges that arise in our lives:

So one of the quests of life is to be weaving our strength of character, gradually and patiently, "from threads of applied principle, doctrine, and obedience." As we follow the path of discipleship in humble obedience, we grow in faith, and our character is strengthened and prepared for times of need. It's a beautiful process!

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on living with kindness

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.
"Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known. Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes.
"Kind words not only lift our spirits in the moment they are given, but they can linger with us over the years....
"Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Virtue of Kindness," General Conference April 2005
Click here to read or listen to the full article

Kindness is perhaps not only the "essence of greatness" but the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which teaches the fundamental priority of loving one another, serving one another, bearing one another's burdens, etc.

I like the description "Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends." Just as "A soft answer turneth away wrath" (Prov. 15:1) a proper attitude of kindness can work wonders in many interpersonal situations.

When Elder Wirthlin suggests that "lift our spirits in the moment they are given, but they can linger with us over the years"—I believe that impact applies not only to the receiver but to the giver of the words. Being kind influences those around us but also blesses our very natures.

And this is a wonderful summary.  Kindess is simply being Christlike, and is a quality we should all strive to increase in our lives and interactions.

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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on finding healing in the Light of Christ

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.
"Just as we face physical and emotional trials in this mortality, we also face spiritual challenges. Most of us have experienced times in our lives when our testimony burns brightly. We also may have experienced times when our Heavenly Father seems distant. There are times when we treasure the things of the Spirit with all our hearts. There may also be times when they appear less precious or of diminished significance....
"Whatever causes our spiritual ailments, they all have one thing in common: the absence of divine light.
"Darkness reduces our ability to see clearly. It dims our vision of that which was at one time plain and clear. When we are in darkness, we are more likely to make poor choices because we cannot see dangers in our path. When we are in darkness, we are more likely to lose hope because we cannot see the peace and joy that await us if we just keep pressing forward.
"Light, on the other hand, allows us to see things as they really are. It allows us to discern between truth and error, between the vital and the trivial. When we are in the light, we can make righteous choices based on true principles. When we are in the light, we have 'a perfect brightness of hope' (2 Nephi 31:20) because we can see our mortal trials from an eternal perspective.
"We will find spiritual healing as we step away from the shadows of the world and into the everlasting Light of Christ."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Bearers of Heavenly Light," General Conference, October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Uchtdorf discusses the reality of our lives; we're not always in the kind of spiritual condition that we aspire to be. There are times when "Heavenly Father seems distant." Even a prophet described his personal challenge with this condition:
"I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "What I Hope You Will Teach My Grandchildren and All Others of the Youth of Zion," address to Seminary and Institute personnel, Brigham Young University, 11 July 1966, p. 6; see TSWK p. 135

President Uchtdorf talks about the blessing of "divine light" that helps us overcome those periods of spiritual challenge:

The promise is that we will always "find spiritual healing as we step away from the shadows of the world and into the everlasting Light of Christ." That's a simple enough prescription to cure the problems of our spiritual challenges. President Kimball's method of doing that was to "immerse" himself in the scriptures. Others find temple attendance to be a great blessing, or acts of loving service, or reverent music. There are many other ways to readjust our focus, step out of the shadows, and feel the fulness of the light. We should not hesitate to take action quickly when we sense those symptoms coming on!

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

President Henry B. Eyring on sustaining one another in service

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.
"For a leader to succeed in the Lord’s work, the people’s trust that he is called of God must override their view of his infirmities and mortal weaknesses...
"Your leader in the Lord’s Church may seem to you weak and human or may appear to you strong and inspired. The fact is that every leader is a mixture of those traits and more. What helps servants of the Lord who are called to lead us is when we can see them as the Lord did when He called them.
"The Lord sees His servants perfectly. He sees their potential and their future. And He knows how their very nature can be changed. He also knows how they can be changed by their experiences with the people they will lead....
"There is a thread that binds us to the Lord in our service. It runs from wherever we are called to serve in the kingdom, up through those called to preside over us in the priesthood, and to the prophet, who is bound to the Lord. It takes faith and humility to serve in the place to which we are called, to trust that the Lord called us and those who preside over us, and to sustain them with full faith."
- Henry B. Eyring, "The Lord Leads His Church," General Conference, October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We've all had the experience in the Church at being surprised when a certain person was called to a certain assignment, wondering if they would be able to fulfill the responsibilities. Or, perhaps we've been the one called, and we've felt overwhelmed and inadequate to the task. President Eyring points out that we often see each other, or ourselves, and focus on the shortcomings; but the Lord sees us and focuses on the potential to grow and to do good. And He sees the growth that is needed to help us progress, that could come through that very calling.

The conclusion is that we must learn to trust in the process of callings, and know that regardless of the situation, there is much good that can come as we allow the Lord's hand to work through the established lines of authority.

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

President Hugh B. Brown on knowing and understanding the gospel

President Hugh B. Brown (October 24, 1883–December 2, 1975) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1953, then as an apostle in 1958.  He served as a counselor to President David O. McKay from 1961 until President McKay's death in 1970, then for almost six more years as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until he passed away at age 92.
"I am impressed with the testimony of a man who can stand and say he knows the gospel is true. What I would like to ask is, 'But, sir, do you know the gospel?' I say it is one thing to know the gospel is true, and it is another thing to know what the gospel is. Mere testimony can be gained with but perfunctory knowledge of the Church and its teachings, as evidenced by the hundreds who are now coming into the Church with but bare acquaintanceship. But to retain a testimony, to be of service in building the Lord's kingdom, requires a serious study of the gospel and knowing what it is."
- Hugh B. Brown, personal correspondence with Robert J. Matthews, dated 28 January 1969; see Matthews, "Using the Scriptures," BYU devotional, July 14, 1981

How much do you have to know, to know it's true? What knowledge is required to have a testimony? President Brown suggests that "perfunctory knowledge of the Church and its teachings" are sufficient to bring initial conversion. Perfunctory means something that results from a minimal level of effort or reflection. So a witness of truth can come relatively easily.

But that is not enough to sustain us. Beyond knowing the gospel is true, we have to come to know the gospel:

While it may be easy to obtain a testimony, President Brown warns that to retain a testimony and to be of service in the Lord's kingdom requires that we develop our gospel knowledge. That's the challenge for all of us: to be studying, pondering, learning, applying—growing in understanding and wisdom!

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

President Ezra Taft Benson on how Christ changes men

President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1943, and served as the 13th President of the Church from 1985 until his death in 1994 at age 94.
"The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature....
"Yes, Christ changes men, and changed men can change the world. Men changed for Christ will be captained by Christ. Like Paul they will be asking, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' (Acts 9:6.) Peter stated they will 'follow his steps.' (1 Pet. 2:21.) John said they will 'walk, even as he walked.' (1 Jn. 2:6.)
"Finally, men captained by Christ will be consumed in Christ. To paraphrase President Harold B. Lee, they set fire in others because they are on fire. (See Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 192.)
"Their will is swallowed up in his will. (See John 5:30.) They do always those things that please the Lord. (See John 8:29.) Not only would they die for the Lord, but, more important, they want to live for Him."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Born of God," Ensign, July 1989, 2
Click here to read the full article

This is a classic excerpt from President Benson, frequently quoted because of the importance of the insight it offers:

It truly is insightful to compare the approaches the world takes, compared to how the Jesus Christ works in our lives to cause change and growth. The fundamental difference between attempts to change behavior and to change basic nature are the essence of this difference.

A true disciple is eager to be "captained by Christ" and to have their will "swallowed up in his will." This is not mindless following; it is a conscious choice to follow One who is believed to provide ultimate happiness. It is true discipleship.

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on the importance and blessing of prayer

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.
"Perhaps there has never been a time when we had greater need to pray and to teach our family members to pray. Prayer is a defense against temptation. It is through earnest and heartfelt prayer that we can receive the needed blessings and the support required to make our way in this sometimes difficult and challenging journey we call mortality....
"Do not pray for tasks equal to your abilities, but pray for abilities equal to your tasks. Then the performance of your tasks will be no miracle, but you will be the miracle."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Three Goals to Guide You," General Conference, General Relief Society Meeting, October 2007
Click here to read or listen to the full message

Throughout his ministry, President Monson has often counseled about the power and importance of prayer. In this address to the sisters of the Church, he provided counsel on three goals: study diligently, pray earnestly, and serve willingly.

As he shared experiences and counsel about the principle of prayer, President Monson expressed his awareness of the challenges of our time, and the blessing established habits of prayer can provide as "a defense against temptation" and a source of "needed blessings and the support" that God will provide to assist us in our quest.

He then concludes his counsel on prayer with this concise summary:

This is a great reminder that God is willing to bless and strengthen us as we turn to Him in humility.

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

President Spencer W. Kimball on Jesus' example of principled and loving leadership

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Jesus operated from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as he went along. Thus, his leadership style was not only correct, but also constant. So many secular leaders today are like chameleons; they change their hues and views to fit the situation—which only tends to confuse associates and followers who cannot be certain what course is being pursued. Those who cling to power at the expense of principle often end up doing almost anything to perpetuate their power.
"Jesus said several times, 'Come, follow me.' His was a program of 'do what I do,' rather than 'do what I say.' His innate brilliance would have permitted him to put on a dazzling display, but that would have left his followers far behind. He walked and worked with those he was to serve. His was not a long-distance leadership. He was not afraid of close friendships; he was not afraid that proximity to him would disappoint his followers. The leaven of true leadership cannot lift others unless we are with and serve those to be led."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Jesus: The Perfect Leader," address to the Young Presidents organization, Sun Valley, Idaho, 15 January 1977; see Ensign, August 1979, p. 6
Click here to read the full talk

It's important to be correct, but it's also important to be constant. In an interesting analysis, President Kimball explains how Jesus manifested both of those characteristics in His leadership. We have seen many recent examples of the statement, "Those who cling to power at the expense of principle often end up doing almost anything to perpetuate their power." It's very sad when the desire for fame or wealth eclipses moral foundations and even common decency.

How blessed we are to have the pure example of leaders like the Savior, who invited us to follow His example:

This is an important message for any of us, since we are periodically given opportunities or assignments to function in leadership roles. The best leaders are those who care the most about the people they lead and desire only to serve and bless. Another way to look at it is that the people who care the most about those around them often become the leaders!

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

Friday, October 20, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on the blessings of temple attendance

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.
"Truly, the Lord desires that His people be a temple-motivated people. It would be the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church be temple worthy. I would hope that every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend, even if proximity to a temple does not allow immediate or frequent use of it.
"Let us be a temple-attending and a temple-loving people. Let us hasten to the temple as frequently as time and means and personal circumstances allow. Let us go not only for our kindred dead, but let us also go for the personal blessing of temple worship, for the sanctity and safety which is provided within those hallowed and consecrated walls. The temple is a place of beauty, it is a place of revelation, it is a place of peace. It is the house of the Lord. It is holy unto the Lord. It should be holy unto us."
- Howard W. Hunter, "The Great Symbol of our Membership," Ensign, October 1994, pp. 2-5
Click here to read the full article

President Hunter felt deeply the blessing and importance of temple worship, and taught about it frequently during his service as an apostle and particularly when he became president of the Church. This article was written as one of the monthly "First Presidency Messages" during his tenure as the President, and the excerpt gives a sense of the importance and urgency President Hunter felt.

It's insightful to ponder the description "a temple-motivated people." In what ways does the temple motivate us? When we understand its blessings and all it has to offer, it surely does influence our decisions and our actions.

Having a temple recommend, and being worthy of it, is a symbol, according to President Hunter, of our understanding and willingness to follow the Lord's plan for us.

I love his brief summary of temple blessings:

Truly, there are many blessings in the Lord's temples. As we learn about worship and service, we will confirm President Hunter's descriptions in our own lives: "a place of beauty, a place of revelation, a place of peace."

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

President James E. Faust on the Savior's message of hope and deliverance

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 Divine Shepherd has a message of hope, strength, and deliverance for all. If there were no night, we would not appreciate the day, nor could we see the stars and the vastness of the heavens. We must partake of the bitter with the sweet. There is a divine purpose in the adversities we encounter every day. They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless.
"When we pluck the roses, we find we often cannot avoid the thorns which spring from the same stem.
"Out of the refiner’s fire can come a glorious deliverance. It can be a noble and lasting rebirth. The price to become acquainted with God will have been paid. There can come a sacred peace. There will be a reawakening of dormant, inner resources. A comfortable cloak of righteousness will be drawn around us to protect us and to keep us warm spiritually. Self-pity will vanish as our blessings are counted."
- James E. Faust, "The Refiner's Fire," General Conference, April 1979
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The gospel of Jesus Christ truly does provide "a message of hope, strength, and deliverance for all." There is hope for the eventual resolution of all concerns and trials; strength to endure while we prepare, and deliverance from evil and from suffering.

But yet, the challenges are part of the plan, as President Faust points out. They enable us to appreciate the blessings of God more fully. Our adversities are often part of His hand in our lives as well, as "They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless." It takes faith to comprehend that great truth.

And this is the great promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ: there is "a glorious deliverance" that will surely come. What a sacred blessing to have this hope within!

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley on service as an antidote for worry and despair

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.
"Said the Lord, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' (Matt. 25:40.)
"I am not suggesting that you become a Florence Nightingale or a Clara Barton. But you can help. There are so many out there whose burdens you can lift. There are the homeless, there are the hungry, there are the destitute all around us. There are the aged who are alone in rest homes. There are handicapped children, and youth on drugs, and the sick and the homebound who cry out for a kind word. If you do not do it, who will?
"The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best medicine for despair is service. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "To Single Adults," talk given 26 February 1989 at a Single Adults fireside satellite broadcast; see Ensign June 1989, p. 72
Click here to read the full article

So often, our leaders remind us of the blessing of "getting outside ourselves"—being aware of the needs around us and doing something to help with the many opportunities that exist. President Hinckley even provides a list of the kinds of needs that we often overlook. This is truly the essence of the Christian life: doing good to others, as a symbol of our love for God.

President Hinckley helps us see the blessings that come to us as we love and serve. It can help us overcome worry, despair, and weariness. When we learn to care about others, we worry less about ourselves.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on trials, challenges, and growth

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.
"Trying to comprehend the trials and meaning of this life without understanding Heavenly Father’s marvelously encompassing plan of salvation is like trying to understand a three-act play while seeing only the second act. Fortunately, our knowledge of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Atonement helps us to endure our trials and to see purpose in suffering and to trust God for what we cannot comprehend....
"So often in life a deserved blessing is quickly followed by a needed stretching. Spiritual exhilaration may be quickly followed by a vexation or temptation. Were it otherwise, extended spiritual reveries or immunities from adversity might induce in us a regrettable forgetfulness of others in deep need. The sharp, side-by-side contrast of the sweet and the bitter is essential until the very end of this brief, mortal experience. Meanwhile, even routine, daily life provides sufficient sandpaper to smooth our crustiness and polish our rough edges, if we are meek....
"Part of enduring well consists of being meek enough, amid our suffering, to learn from our relevant experiences. Rather than simply passing through these things, they must pass through us and do so in ways which sanctify these experiences for our good (see D&C 122:7). 
"Life is carefully designed to produce for us, if we are willing, a harvest of relevant and portable experience. But there is such a short growing season! The fields must be worked intensively amid droughts, late springs, and early frosts. For the disobedient and despairing who refuse to plant, plow, or harvest, theirs is not simply a 'winter of discontent' but a despair for all seasons. The indifferent and lackluster who work only on the surface of life will harvest little. Only for the perspiring and 'anxiously engaged' faithful will the harvest be manyfold (see Matt. 19:29)."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Enduring Well," Ensign, April 1997, p. 7
Click here to read the full article

It's always thrilling to me to read Elder Maxwell's beautiful and thought-provoking writing. These four related segments from one of his talks speak of trials and suffering, and of the ways we can respond so those things are a blessing to us.

First of all, it's critical to view our mortal challenges in the broad expanse of eternity. This is only the short middle segment of a much broader and grander eternal existence. We are here to learn to "trust God for what we cannot comprehend" in our restricted vision.

The relationships between times of blessing or comfort, and times of trial and struggle, is good to contemplate. It's important to recognize the interplay of those events in our lives and understand the purpose for each. That will allow us to not just pass through trials, but have the trials pass through us to cleanse and purify in the process.

What a beautiful and profound analogy. A harvest is only reaped when great effort is invested. We must do our part to earn the bountiful harvest or "relevant and portable experience." I'm especially impressed by the portability of experience and knowledge; the ability to apply lessons from one challenge or trial to other situations is a great blessing.

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

Elder Dale G. Renlund on the Priesthood and the Atonement of Jesus Christ

Elder Dale G. Renlund (born November 13, 1952) served in the First Quorum of Seventy starting in 2009, until his call to the Quorum of Twelve in October 2015.
"Because of His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ has the power and authority to redeem all mankind. To make His atoning power accessible, He has delegated a portion of His power and authority to men on earth. This delegated power and authority is called priesthood. It permits priesthood holders to help Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in Their work—to bring about the salvation and exaltation of God’s children. It does so because it provides His children the opportunity to receive the blessings of the Savior’s atoning power.
"The atoning power of Jesus Christ is essential because none of us can return to our heavenly home without help. In mortality, we invariably make mistakes and violate God’s laws. We become stained by sin and cannot be allowed back to live in God’s presence. We need the Savior’s atoning power so that we can be reconciled to Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ broke the bands of physical death, allowing resurrection for all. He offers forgiveness of sins, conditioned on obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel. Through Him, exaltation is offered. The opportunity to benefit from the Savior’s atoning power is creation’s most important payload.
"For Heavenly Father’s purposes to be accomplished, Christ’s atoning power needs to be made available to God’s children. The priesthood delivers these opportunities. It is the rocket. Priesthood is essential because necessary ordinances and covenants on earth are administered only by its authority. If the priesthood fails to deliver the opportunity to benefit from the Savior’s atoning power, what would be its purpose? Would it just be a complex, attention-grabbing firecracker? God intends priesthood to be used for more than just a class on Sunday or as a service opportunity. He intends for it to deliver the payload."
- Dale G. Renlund, "The Priesthood and the Savior’s Atoning Power," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Renlund used the analogy of a rocket delivering a satellite payload into space; the satellite is completely useless on earth, and only becomes a powerful influence when it has been delivered to its appropriate destination. In his analogy, the atonement of Jesus Christ becomes useful and powerful in our lives only when "delivered" by priesthood actions including ordinances and sacred covenants.

We should all be grateful for this divine blessing and seek continually to receive blessings and power from God through the priesthood on earth. Those who are called and ordained to administer those blessings, to "deliver the payload," must never forget what a sacred trust they have that must be exercised in faithfulness.

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on preventing spiritual eclipses in life

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (b. August 5, 1955) was called as a Seventy in 2008, then as Presiding Bishop in 2012. He was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"In the same manner that the very small moon can block the magnificent sun, extinguishing its light and warmth, a spiritual eclipse can occur when we allow minor and troublesome obstructions—those we face in our daily lives—to get so close that they block out the magnitude, brightness, and warmth of the light of Jesus Christ and His gospel....
"Clearly, none of us wants to purposefully obscure our vision of heaven or allow a spiritual eclipse to occur in our lives....
"Looking at a spiritual eclipse through the protecting and softening lens of the Spirit provides a gospel perspective, thus protecting us from spiritual blindness....
"When you put on gospel glasses, you find enhanced perspective, focus, and vision in the way you think about your priorities, your problems, your temptations, and even your mistakes. You will see brighter light that you could not see without them."
- Gary E. Stevenson, "Spiritual Eclipse," General Conference October 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I had the privilege of being in the area of totality for the recent solar eclipse described by Elder Stevenson in his article. So I understand the "sense of awe, astonishment, and even anxiety" that such an occurrence creates. We pondered on the phenomenon of nature that makes this possible, and on the overwhelming power of the sun: if even a tiny portion of the sun is not eclipsed (just outside the area of totality), it's still not possible to look directly at it, and the related phenomena of temperature drop and darkness are not nearly as pronounced.

Elder Stevenson's analogy of things that might block the source of our spiritual light is a good one. We need to be very careful not to ever allow obstructions of any kind to come between us and God's light:

The use of "gospel glasses" that enable us to see more clearly as we strive to avoid obstructions becomes critical. We need the "enhanced perspective, focus, and vision" that gospel living provides in order to stay safe. Our acts of obedience and faithful discipleship will keep us safe and on the right path..

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