Thursday, November 30, 2017

President Spencer W. Kimball on our precious mortal probation

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Oliver Wendall Holmes said: 'Many people die with  their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.' Tagore expressed a similar thought in these words: 'I have spent my days stringing and unstringing my instrument while the song I came to sing remains unsung.'
"My plea therefore is this: Let us get our instruments tightly strung and our melodies sweetly sung. Let us not die with our music still in us. Let us rather use this precious mortal probation to move confidently and gloriously upward toward the eternal life which God our Father gives to those who keep his commandments."
- Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 16-17

President Kimball wrote his landmark book The Miracle of Forgiveness to help invite and encourage all to receive the blessings of repentance in their lives. This excerpt comes at the end of the introduction to the book, as he sets the stage for the joy and blessing that come as we accept the invitation to repent and be forgiven. It's in the spirit of Amulek's urgent plea to both his listeners and future readers to "not procrastinate the day of your repentance" (Alma 34:33).

The two quotes that introduce the thought emphasize the frustration of too many of us, failing to accomplish what we could and should in life. We let circumstances or misunderstanding, or even transgression, hold us back from truly living with joy and fullness. So President Kimball offers this sincere and heartfelt plea:

What a sweet and hopeful expression! We all have beautiful melodies inside us, that we need to allow to flow out freely and bring joy both to us and those around us. We should not let anything hold us back from living life to the fullest! We need to move "confidently and gloriously upward" with God's help; as we obey and allow His blessings into our life, we will find that wonderful opportunity to live in joy, with the sweet melodies of life flowing freely.

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on the importance of each individual in the Church

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.
"True disciples of Jesus Christ have always been concerned for the one. Jesus Christ is our greatest example. He was surrounded by multitudes and spoke to thousands, yet He always had concern for the one....
"This instruction applies to all who follow Him. We are commanded to seek out those who are lost. We are to be our brother’s keeper. We cannot neglect this commission given by our Savior. We must be concerned for the one.
"Today I would like to talk about those who are lost—some because they are different, some because they are weary, and some because they have strayed.
"Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong. Perhaps because they are different, they find themselves slipping away from the flock. They may look, act, think, and speak differently than those around them and that sometimes causes them to assume they don’t fit in. They conclude that they are not needed.
"Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.
"This variety of creation itself is a testament of how the Lord values all His children. He does not esteem one flesh above another, but He 'inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … all are alike unto God' (2 Nephi 26:33)."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Concern for the One," General Conference, April 2008
Click here to read or listen to the full article

I loved this talk by Elder Wirthlin. It expressed such caring and sympathy for each individual. He recognized the Savior's example in giving personal attention to "the one," and our responsibility as His disciples to do likewise. Then he identified specific examples of individuals who sometimes need particular love and care.

The one who is different from the normal Church member in some way was foremost on his list. We are each different from others, but sometimes those differences are more pronounced and noticeable; those are the cases where we need to show an increase of love and acceptance.

We often feel more comfortable surrounding ourselves with those who are most like us. But truly, as we discover the blessing of difference, we recognize both the opportunity to serve those in need, but also the personal growth that comes as we are blessed by the things we learn from those who are different.

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Elder Robert D. Hales on being grateful even in trials

Elder Robert D. Hales (August 24, 1932-October 1, 2017) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"Gratitude is a divine principle:
"'Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.' (D&C 59:7.)
"This scripture means that we express thankfulness for what happens, not only for the good things in life but also for the opposition and challenges of life that add to our experience and faith. We put our lives in His hands, realizing that all that transpires will be for our experience.
"When in prayer we say, 'Thy will be done,' we are really expressing faith and gratitude and acknowledging that we will accept whatever happens in our lives.
"That we may feel true gratitude for the goodness of God for all the blessings that have been given to us and express those feelings of thankfulness in prayer to our Heavenly Father is my prayer."
- Robert D. Hales, "Gratitude for the Goodness of God," General Conference, April 1992
Click here to read or listen to the full article

What do we really mean when we thank God "in all things"? Elder Hales suggests that it means we thank Him for the trials and difficulties as well as the blessings, knowing and trusting that He is providing those things in our lives for our good:

That's a remarkable attitude to develop, the depth of faith and confidence that allows us to truly trust in Him in all things. Our tendency, through our limited, short-sighted understanding, is to forget that God's hand is in all things.
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
"In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
Proverbs 3:5-6
That's a powerful lesson to remember!

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on the power of faith in Jesus Christ

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (born 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 we try to develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ rather than merely cultivating faith as an abstract principle of power, we understand the meaning of the Savior’s words: 'If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me' (Moro. 7:33).
"Similarly, the Savior taught the Nephites that they must always pray to the Father in his name, adding: 'And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you' (3 Ne. 18:20).
"Here the Savior reminds us that faith, no matter how strong it is, cannot produce a result contrary to the will of him whose power it is. The exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is always subject to the order of heaven, to the goodness and will and wisdom and timing of the Lord. That is why we cannot have true faith in the Lord without also having complete trust in the Lord’s will and in the Lord’s timing. When we have that kind of faith and trust in the Lord, we have true security in our lives. President Spencer W. Kimball said, 'Security is not born of inexhaustible wealth but of unquenchable faith' (TSWK 72–73)."
- Dallin H. Oaks, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," General Conference, April 1994
Click here to read or listen to the full article

Elder Oaks teaches that there is a difference between "cultivating faith as an abstract principle" and working to "develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." The specific target and focus of our faith makes all the difference! But then once we begin to develop the seed of that faith in Christ, we have to know how it functions in order to exercise it. This is crucial:

Having faith also requires having trust—in the Lord's timing, and in His "goodness and will and wisdom" that He will always do what is right and best for us. No faith can bend His will. Having true faith in Him brings ultimate confidence and security, so that come what may, we will be prepared to confront and carry on. What a priceless gift!

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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

President Henry B. Eyring on finding strengths instead of faults in others

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.
"It has always been hard to recognize in fallible human beings the authorized servants of God. Paul must have seemed an ordinary man to many. Joseph Smith’s cheerful disposition was seen by some as not fitting their expectations for a prophet of God.
"Satan will always work on the Saints of God to undermine their faith in priesthood keys. One way he does it is to point out the humanity of those who hold them. He can in that way weaken our testimony and so cut us loose from the line of keys by which the Lord ties us to Him and can take us and our families home to Him and to our Heavenly Father....
"The warning for us is plain. If we look for human frailty in humans, we will always find it. When we focus on finding the frailties of those who hold priesthood keys, we run risks for ourselves. When we speak or write to others of such frailties, we put them at risk.
"We live in a world where finding fault in others seems to be the favorite blood sport. It has long been the basis of political campaign strategy. It is the theme of much television programming across the world. It sells newspapers. Whenever we meet anyone, our first, almost unconscious reaction may be to look for imperfections.
"To keep ourselves grounded in the Lord’s Church, we can and must train our eyes to recognize the power of the Lord in the service of those He has called. We must be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost. And we need to pray for the Holy Ghost to help us know that men who lead us hold this power. For me, such prayers are most often answered when I am fully engaged in the Lord’s service myself."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Faith and Keys," General Conference, October 2004
Click here to read or listen to the full article

Can imperfect people still be instruments in the hands of God? Do "fallible human beings" have callings to serve, even in significant leadership roles? The answer is most certainly yes. But as President Eyring points out, the Adversary uses this fact to undermine our faith in the Lord's Church and its leadership as we sometimes see "the humanity" of those who hold priesthood keys.

The critical skill we must develop is the ability to distinguish between the person and the position. God has only imperfect men and women to work with and through in this life; we all fall short in some way. But in spite of that, He is able to use whatever efforts we offer Him to bring to pass much good. In spite of the mud-slinging tendency of the world, we must never forget that a perfect God may still work His perfect plan using imperfect people.

So it's critical for us to learn to look for the signs of God's power being manifest, regardless of who currently and temporarily holds the keys to direct the work. It is our responsibility to be worthy of the Holy Ghost, who will help us to see God's hand in the actions of others.

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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

President Russell M. Nelson on death in God's eternal plan

President Russell M. Nelson (born 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.
"Life does not begin with birth, nor does it end with death. Prior to our birth, we dwelled as spirit children with our Father in Heaven. There we eagerly anticipated the possibility of coming to earth and obtaining a physical body. Knowingly we wanted the risks of mortality, which would allow the exercise of agency and accountability. 'This life [was to become] a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God.' (Alma 12:24.) But we regarded the returning home as the best part of that long-awaited trip, just as we do now. Before embarking on any journey, we like to have some assurance of a round-trip ticket. Returning from earth to life in our heavenly home requires passage through—and not around—the doors of death. We were born to die, and we die to live. (See 2 Cor. 6:9.) As seedlings of God, we barely blossom on earth; we fully flower in heaven."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Doors of Death," General Conference, April 1992
Click here to read or listen to the full article

Everything changes in our interpretation of events and circumstances when we maintain a greater perspective, one that includes both the pre-mortal and post-mortal phases. Neglecting to maintain that view of the entire scope can make many of the challenging events of life overwhelming. In this discussion of death as a part of the eternal plan of our Heavenly Father, President Nelson helps us remember that greater perspective.

In the distant past, when we were still anticipating our mortal experience, President Nelson notes that we would have maintained that complete, eternal view of the experience, and would have known that "returning home [was] the best part of that long-awaited trip." When we view death in that way, it changes everything!

Adding this perspective of the continuing progress (the "blossoming") to come in the next life helps us treat death with gratitude and anticipation.

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

Friday, November 24, 2017

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the blessings of loving God first

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.
"God the Eternal Father did not give that first great commandment because He needs us to love Him. His power and glory are not diminished should we disregard, deny, or even defile His name. His influence and dominion extend through time and space independent of our acceptance, approval, or admiration.
"No, God does not need us to love Him. But oh, how we need to love God!
"For what we love determines what we seek.
"What we seek determines what we think and do.
"What we think and do determines who we are—and who we will become.
"We are created in the image of our heavenly parents; we are God’s spirit children. Therefore, we have a vast capacity for love—it is part of our spiritual heritage. What and how we love not only defines us as individuals; it also defines us as a church. Love is the defining characteristic of a disciple of Christ.
"Since the beginning of time, love has been the source of both the highest bliss and the heaviest burdens. At the heart of misery from the days of Adam until today, you will find the love of wrong things. And at the heart of joy, you will find the love of good things.
"And the greatest of all good things is God."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Love of God," General Conference October 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This talk by President Uchtdorf was a memorable message in many ways. He shared some very helpful insights about God's love for us, and our love for Him. In this section, he considers why God commanded us to love Him as the "first and greatest commandment." It's not for His benefit, but for ours:

The things we love have a significant impact on our lives; they help determine priorities, thoughts, and actions. When we love God above all else, it impacts our lives in profound ways.

President Uchtdorf then summarizes in defining love as the heart of joy and the source of bliss in our lives. Truly, "Love is the defining characteristic of a disciple of Christ" and should be one of our great quests in this life.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

President Thomas S. Monson on living with an attitude of gratitude

President Thomas S. Monson (b. August 21, 1927) was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1963. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency with Presidents Benson, Hunter, and Hinckley until becoming Church president in 2008.
"This is a wonderful time to be living here on earth. Our opportunities are limitless. While there are some things wrong in the world today, there are many things right, such as teachers who teach, ministers who minister, marriages that make it, parents who sacrifice, and friends who help.
"We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues."
- Thomas S. Monson, "An Attitude of Gratitude," General Conference April 1992
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Monson has always been the consummate optimist. This is one of the keys to his attitude: "While there are some things wrong in the world today, there are many things right...." He seems always able to identify the blessings, the positive things that happen around us. It's a great characteristic to develop.

Learning to have that "attitude of gratitude" makes all the difference. In this talk, President Monson mentions specific aspects where our gratitude has focus:

  1. Mothers
  2. Fathers
  3. Teachers
  4. Friends
  5. Country
  6. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
This is a good list to start with; we might each consider our level of gratitude in those areas, and then look for additional areas that might be personally applicable.

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

President Harold B. Lee on recognizing our blessings from God

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.
"Oh, that we might have the faith of a little child.  I listened the other night to a little five-and-a-half-year-old son into whose home there has recently come a brand new baby.  Through the period of preparation the mother had undergone stern difficulty.  At one time it was thought that the baby was lost, and its life was not there, and even after the baby, there were difficulties involved.  This little one in the family circle had heard constantly the pleadings with God that the baby might be saved and that the mother might be protected.  All this seemed to have an impression, and I heard this little boy say, 'Dear God, I am glad we can talk to you in these wonderful words, and dear God, I wish there was something that I could do for you for all the wonderful things that you have done for us.'
"I wish that we could all capture the sweetness and the beauty of that childish request.  If we could only understand all the things that the Comforter has done for us, we would pray like that little child. 'Dear God, I wish there was something I could do for you for all the wonderful things that you have done for us.'"
- Harold B. Lee, "Be Secure in the Gospel of Jesus Christ," BYU devotional, 11 February 1958; see THBL 194

Often children amaze us with the simplicity and purity of their faith. President Lee shares one such example. The young boy he describes must have learned from the language of his parents, that in spite of trials and challenges, there is much to be grateful for.

Of course, the only thing God asks us to do for Him in return for the blessings we receive is to love Him in return, to live faithfully by His word, and to spread His light to those around us.

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Elder Marvin J. Ashton on expressing appreciation

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.
"Appreciation for people and events that come into our lives is most important because it is God’s way of helping us to grow. May I say to all of you ... within the sound of my voice, that the ultimate in maturity is being able to feel and express appreciation, being fully aware of value and importance, and showing gratitude for it....
"How does God feel about appreciation? From the Doctrine and Covenants I share this: 'And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments' (D&C 59:21).
"This morning, as indicated, I would like to speak to the first part of that scripture. Would you like to have God’s wrath raised against you? Would you like to have God mad at you? It can come and it will happen if we fail to show appreciation and gratitude. Why does the lack of appreciation offend God and kindle his wrath? Not because he needs to see and hear our appreciation and gratitude, but because he knows an absence of appreciation on the part of anyone causes personal stagnation. Our growth and our progress are delayed when we fail to feel and express appreciation. May we think for a few moments about occasions and situations where we actually say, 'Thank thee, God, for people and events that have come into our lives that have made it possible for us to develop and grow and mature, for all people, for all conditions, and for all circumstances when we are allowed to appreciate human beings and situations for what they can do and will mean to us.'...
"How do we show appreciation for God’s great gifts? How do we show appreciation for the gifts of parents, companions, roommates, those that we are with constantly? How do we do it? By our lives, by our works, and by our words, and through a willingness to confess his hand in this and in all other great gifts....
"May I conclude by saying, 'When thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God' (Alma 37:37). This is a choice, all-inclusive quotation from Alma."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "Appreciation—Sign of Maturity," BYU devotional, April 13, 1976
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"Appreciation... is God’s way of helping us to grow." That's a great statement! We more commonly think that we grow through trials, or through learning, or through service. Elder Ashton claims that the truly grateful heart is one that is progressing and developing. And that "the ultimate in maturity" is the ability to "feel and express appreciation."

The Doctrine and Covenants passage that tells how ingratitude offends and angers God puzzled me for a long time. It seemed to say, as Elder Ashton suggests, that God needs our praise and recognition for His own personal reasons. But instead, I think that He knows how much we need to express those feelings for our benefit, not His. "Our growth and our progress are delayed when we fail to feel and express appreciation."

So it's the process of showing appreciation, along with expressing it, that is key. We do, indeed, want to have our hearts "full of thanks unto God" at all times; we will demonstrate that gratitude "By our lives, by our works, and by our words, and through a willingness to confess his hand in this and in all other great gifts."

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

President James E. Faust on finding hope in our mortal life

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.
"Everybody in this life has their challenges and difficulties. That is part of our mortal test. The reason for some of these trials cannot be readily understood except on the basis of faith and hope because there is often a larger purpose which we do not always understand. Peace comes through hope....
"Hope is trust in God’s promises, faith that if we act now, the desired blessings will be fulfilled in the future....
"Peace in this life is based upon faith and testimony. We can all find hope from our personal prayers and gain comfort from the scriptures. Priesthood blessings lift us and sustain us. Hope also comes from direct personal revelation, to which we are entitled if we are worthy. We also have the security of living in a time when a prophet who holds and exercises all of the keys of God’s kingdom is on the earth."
- James E. Faust, "Hope, an Anchor of the Soul," General Conference October 1999
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The world's definition of "hope" is generally as a vague and ungrounded emotion, a wistful desire. But the gospel's definition is based on firm understanding and well-grounded expectation for future blessings—a "trust in God's promises" and confidence that all will be well in His hands. President Faust describes the "challenges and difficulties" of our mortal life, and reassures us that through faith and hope, we can find peace even when we don't fully understand the reasons.

Finding hope in times of challenge and trial is a critical skill to develop. President Faust reminds us of some of the sources: prayer, scriptures, priesthood blessings, personal revelation, and prophetic counsel. In "times of plenty" we should be taking advantage of those sources in order to fortify our faith and hope for the times of need.

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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

President Gordon B. Hinckley on avoiding the pull of 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.
"All of us live in the world. Of course we do. We cannot live a cloistered existence. But we can live in the world without partaking of the unseemly ways of the world.
"The pull gets ever stronger. The adversary is clever and subtle. He speaks in a seductive voice of fascinating and attractive things. We cannot afford to let down our guard. We cannot afford to drop the ball. We need not run the wrong way. The right way is simple. It means following the program of the Church, bringing into our lives the principles of the gospel, and never losing sight of what is expected of us as sons [and daughters] of God with a great inheritance and a marvelous and eternal potential.
"Simple and tremendously challenging are the words of the Scout Oath: 'On my honor I will do my best.' If every one of us would make that effort, the world would be much better, and we would be much happier. It is so often the very small and singularly inconsequential acts of our lives that eventually make so great a difference."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Don't Drop the Ball," General Conference October 1994
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The challenge of "living in the world" without being overwhelmed by it, and particularly by its "unseemly ways," is only getting greater. But President Hinckley finds a simple answer to the challenge: follow Church programs, allow gospel principles to influence our lives, and remember our eternal inheritance and potential:

President Hinckley finds wisdom in the simple words that begin the Scout Oath: "On my honor, I will do my best." In today's society we need more people whose honor means something, whose promises and oaths can be trusted, and who are willing to always strive to simply do their best at all times. That would truly make the world, and each of us individually, a much happier place. As President Hinckley notes, the small and seemingly "inconsequential acts" can have powerful results.

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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on suggestions for study and learning

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.
"I would offer you this advice in your own study: Be patient, don’t be superficial, and don’t ignore the Spirit.
"In counseling patience, I simply mean that while some answers come quickly or with little effort, others are simply not available for the moment because information or evidence is lacking. Don’t suppose, however, that a lack of evidence about something today means that evidence doesn’t exist or that it will not be forthcoming in the future. The absence of evidence is not proof....
"When I say don’t be superficial, I mean don’t form conclusions based on unexamined assertions or incomplete research, and don’t be influenced by insincere seekers. I would offer you the advice of our Assistant Church Historian, Rick Turley, an intellectually gifted researcher and author whose recent works include the definitive history of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. He says simply, 'Don’t study Church history too little.' ...
"Finally, don’t neglect the Spirit. As regards Joseph Smith, we seek learning both by study and by faith. (See D&C 88:118.) Both are fruitful paths of inquiry. A complete understanding can never be attained by scholarly research alone, especially since much of what is needed is either lost or never existed. There is no benefit in imposing artificial limits on ourselves that cut off the light of Christ and the revelations of the Holy Spirit. Remember, 'By the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.' (Moroni 10:5.)"
- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Prophet Joseph Smith," Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, September 24, 2013
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Christofferson offered these suggestions to students in the context of learning about Joseph Smith and aspects of Church history, where critics and opponents are eager to create doubt and dissension. But I think the principles apply to all areas of study and learning. We so easily jump to conclusions based on the first evidence or explanation we hear, and we don't always think carefully about the other possibilities that might also explain the circumstances we observe. Learning to withhold judgement in patience is an important skill:

Perhaps the most important skill is learning to be guided by the Holy Spirit as we strive to learn and understand. According to Nephi, the Holy Ghost "will show unto you all things what ye should do" (2 Nephi 32:5). What a precious promise!

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Elder Quentin L. Cook on learning civility and love at home

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.
"How we treat those closest to us is of fundamental importance. Violence, abuse, lack of civility, and disrespect in the home are not acceptable—not acceptable for adults and not acceptable for the rising generation. My father was not active in the Church but was a remarkably good example, especially in his treatment of my mother. He used to say, 'God will hold men responsible for every tear they cause their wives to shed.' This same concept is emphasized in 'The Family: A Proclamation to the World.' It reads, '[Those] who abuse spouse or offspring … will one day stand accountable before God.' Regardless of the culture in which we are raised, and whether our parents did or did not abuse us, we must not physically, emotionally, or verbally abuse anyone else.
"The need for civility in society has never been more important. The foundation of kindness and civility begins in our homes. It is not surprising that our public discourse has declined in equal measure with the breakdown of the family. The family is the foundation for love and for maintaining spirituality. The family promotes an atmosphere where religious observance can flourish. There is indeed 'beauty all around when there’s love at home' (“Love at Home,” Hymns, no. 294)."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Can Ye Feel So Now?," General Conference October 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We live in a time when basic civility in society seems to be disappearing; when the "public discourse" is greatly facilitated by technology, but is dramatically declining in decency. Elder Cook maintains that the foundation of these interactions is set in the home and family, and that we have never had a greater need to focus on strengthening that setting:

The prophetic foresight in the Family Proclamation, issued in 1995, is astonishing as we see the moral decline that has occurred since then. It is so critical for us to know those principles and cling to them!

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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Elder David A. Bednar on the continuing process of being born again

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.
"And after we come out of the waters of baptism, our souls need to be continuously immersed in and saturated with the truth and the light of the Savior’s gospel. Sporadic and shallow dipping in the doctrine of Christ and partial participation in His restored Church cannot produce the spiritual transformation that enables us to walk in a newness of life. Rather, fidelity to covenants, constancy of commitment, and offering our whole soul unto God are required if we are to receive the blessings of eternity.
"'I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved' (Omni 1:26).
"Total immersion in and saturation with the Savior’s gospel are essential steps in the process of being born again."
- David A. Bednar, "Ye Must Be Born Again," General Conference, April 2007
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I love this concept of the continuous process of discipleship. Just being baptized is not nearly enough; Elder Bednar teaches that from that point on, "our souls need to be continuously immersed in and saturated with the truth and the light of the Savior’s gospel." Nephi said it this way:
"And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save." (2 Nephi 31:19)
So having started on the Gospel path, we then must be fully committed and fully immersed in the spiritual life that follows:

I've always appreciated Omni's description too, that we must offer our whole souls to God; a partial offering or a partial commitment just won't bring the redemption and salvation that we seek.

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

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

President Joseph F. Smith on shining with original light instead of borrowed light

President Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) was the son of Joseph's brother Hyrum. He was ordained an apostle in 1866 at age 28, and served as a counselor to Brigham Young and the three presidents who followed.  He became the 6th president of the Church in 1901, and served until his death in 1918 at age 80.
“One fault to be avoided by the Saints, young and old, is the tendency to live on borrowed light, with their own hidden under a bushel; to permit the savor of their salt of knowledge to be lost; and the light within them to be reflected, rather than original.
"Every Saint should not only have the light within himself, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but his light should so shine that it may be clearly perceived by others.
“Men and women should become settled in the truth, and founded in the knowledge of the gospel, depending upon no person for borrowed or reflected light, but trusting only upon the Holy Spirit, who is ever the same, shining forever and testifying to the individual and the priesthood, who live in harmony with the laws of the gospel, of the glory and the will of the Father. They will then have light everlasting which cannot be obscured. By its shining in their lives, they shall cause others to glorify God; and by their well-doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and show forth the praises of him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light."
- Joseph F. Smith, Improvement Era 8:60-62, 1904-05; see Gospel Doctrine, pp. 87–88

President Smith warns us of the tendency to "hide our light under a bushel," and then to reflect the light of others instead of having our light be original within us:

When our own light is burning clearly, it comes "through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." Having that companionship fills us with light. I'm reminded of the beautiful counsel and invitation given by the Lord through Joseph Smith:

"And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things." (D&C 88:67)

A body that is full of light will shine directly and powerfully, not needing to reflect the light of others. As President Smith notes, one of the great blessings of this shining light is that others will see it and glorify God. It will also help to overcome criticism and foolish ignorance, and will ultimately bring glory to God who is the source of the light.

As far as I know, the concept of "borrowed light" originated with Heber C. Kimball who spoke of it several times. Click here to read an example of his teachings, with an added insight from Robert J. Matthews about our occasional tendency to borrow from our own light.

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

President Howard W. Hunter on developing character and continuing to learn

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.
"At the end of your lives you will not be judged by academic successes, the degrees or diplomas earned, the positions held, the material wealth acquired, or power and prestige, but rather on the basis of what you have become as persons and what you are in conduct and character. Yours is the power individually to transform yourselves into the persons you want to be....
"Leave school with your books and your minds still open, and make your lives a quest for knowledge. Plato thought knowledge the highest human good, and Matthew Arnold thought the primary purpose of education was to help students to see things as they really are, to see the world about them as it really is. Only as we see the world as it really is can we hope to solve its problems. Only by knowledge can we banish ignorance, superstition, prejudice, fear, and hatred, the evils from which spring most of our world's problems. Therefore it is imperative that you continue to seek knowledge."
- Howard W. Hunter, "A Time for Wise Decisions." Commencement Address, BYU—Hawaii Campus, 23 June 1979; see THWH p. 177

It's important to remember what really matters "in the long run" in our lives. As he addressed a graduating class at BYU-Hawaii, who would naturally have their future careers and vocational aspirations in the forefront of their thoughts, President Hunter reminded them that recognition of men or accumulation of possessions are not the critical things in life; rather, the kind of character that is developed:

Part of the development of character occurs as we continue to gain knowledge throughout life. President Hunter gives the classic advice, "Leave school with your books and your minds still open." We need to continue to learn new things throughout our lives; and we need to have our minds open to new ideas, different approaches, changed opinions. This is a great key to ongoing success and happiness, individually and collectively: "Only by knowledge can we banish ignorance, superstition, prejudice, fear, and hatred, the evils from which spring most of our world's problems." That is a bold statement, one that we should all put to the test!

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