Saturday, March 31, 2018

Elder David A. Bednar on the personal blessings of the Atonement of Christ

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.
"Thus, the Savior has suffered not just for our sins and iniquities—but also for our physical pains and anguish, our weaknesses and shortcomings, our fears and frustrations, our disappointments and discouragement, our regrets and remorse, our despair and desperation, the injustices and inequities we experience, and the emotional distresses that beset us.
"There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, 'No one knows what it is like. No one understands.' But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power. Indeed, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
"I invite you to study, pray, ponder, and strive to learn more about the Savior’s Atonement as you assess your individual load. Many things about the Atonement we simply cannot comprehend with our mortal minds. But many aspects of the Atonement we can and need to understand....
"The unique burdens in each of our lives help us to rely upon the merits, mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah (see 2 Nephi 2:8). I testify and promise the Savior will help us to bear up our burdens with ease (see Mosiah 24:15). As we are yoked with Him through sacred covenants and receive the enabling power of His Atonement in our lives, we increasingly will seek to understand and live according to His will. We also will pray for the strength to learn from, change, or accept our circumstances rather than praying relentlessly for God to change our circumstances according to our will. We will become agents who act rather than objects that are acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:14)."
- David A. Bednar, "Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease," General Conference, April 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full article

What took place in the Garden of Gethsemane? The Savior suffered for our "sins and iniquities," but that was just the start. Elder Bednar reminds us that the His Atonement also includes help and relief for so many of the temporal—physical and emotional—struggles and challenges we encounter in mortality. Because of Him, we have a source of understanding and support that will bless us in every way that we allow it to!

Because of what the Savior experienced, we believe "He has perfect empathy" that enables Him not only to understand but then to help: to "reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us" in all of our needs. What a profound and eternal gift!

In order to receive those blessings, we "take His yoke upon us" by linking ourselves to Him through sacred ordinances and covenants, and learning to "live according to His will." Then we can begin to receive strength and power from Him through our prayers, not to change the circumstances of life, but to be blessed to endure them well. That's a profound and critical difference. How grateful we should be for all that He offers to us!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Friday, March 30, 2018

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the blessings of Easter Sunday

Elder 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 served as second counselor in the First Presidency from 2008 to 2018.
"On Easter Sunday we celebrate the most long-awaited and glorious event in the history of the world.
"It is the day that changed everything.
"On that day, my life changed.
"Your life changed.
"The destiny of all God’s children changed.
"On that blessed day, the Savior of mankind, who had taken upon Himself the chains of sin and death that held us captive, burst those chains and set us free.
"Because of the sacrifice of our beloved Redeemer, death has no sting, the grave has no victory (see 1 Corinthians 15:55; Mosiah 16:8), Satan has no lasting power, and we are 'begotten... again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:3; emphasis added).
"Truly, the Apostle Paul was correct when he said we can 'comfort one another with these words' (1 Thessalonians 4:18; see also verses 13–17)."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "The Gift of Grace," General Conference April 2015
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

 The impact and meaning of the events of "Easter Sunday" are profound, and President Uchtdorf reminded us of all that meant to us, and how our lives changed because of it:

The expression "lively hope" used by Paul is particularly moving to me. The concept of "hope" is glorious as it is, but a "lively hope" is even more expressive: one that is vibrant, motivating, and real. We should feel that hope strengthened and renewed as we ponder and commemorate the events of Easter weekend!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

President Spencer W. Kimball on the miracle of the resurrection

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Only a God could bring about this miracle of resurrection. As a teacher of righteousness, Jesus could inspire souls to goodness; as a prophet, he could foreshadow the future; as an intelligent leader of men, he could organize a church; and as a possessor and magnifier of the priesthood, he could heal the sick, give sight to the blind, even raise other dead; but only as a God could he raise himself from the tomb, overcome death permanently, and bring incorruption in place of corruption, and replace mortality with immortality....
"Ever since mortality came upon Adam, men had feared death, the one enemy which could never be conquered. Herbs and medicines, prayers and surgery, medicine-men and priests, sorcery and magic, all had been used for milleniums in an attempt to overcome, or at least to postpone death but, in spite of all the machinations and efforts of men in all the earth, up to this time they had failed; and the rich and poor, ignorant and educated, black, brown, red, or white, priest and people, all had gone down in death and gone back to mother earth.
"But now came the miracle— the revolution, the unbelievable marvel which none could explain and which none could deny. For the body which these hosts had seen persecuted, tortured, and drained of its life's blood, and left dead upon the cross; the body from which all life had ebbed; the body which lay entombed those long hours in a small, closed and sealed, oxygenless room into the third day; the person who had suffered the fate of death like hundreds of millions before him was calmly walking in the garden, animated, fresh, alive!
"No human hands had been at work to remove the sealed door nor to resuscitate nor restore. No magician nor sorcerer had invaded the precincts to work his cures; not even the priesthood, exercised by another, had been brought in use to heal, but the God who had purposefully and intentionally laid down his life had, by the power of his godhead, taken up his life again.... The spirit which had been by him commended to his Father in Heaven from the cross, and which, according to his later reports, had been to the spirit world, had returned and, ignoring the impenetrable walls of the sepulcher, had entered the place, re-entered the body, had caused the stone door to be rolled away, and walked in life again, with his body changed to immortality, incorruptible—his every faculty keen and alert.
"Unexplainable? Yes! And not understandable—but incontestable. More than 500 unimpeachable witnesses had contact with him. They walked with him, talked with him, ate with him, felt the flesh of his body and saw the wounds in his side and feet and hands; discussed with him the program which had been common to them, and him; and, by many infallible proofs knew and testified that he was risen, and that that last and most dreaded enemy, death, had been overcome....
"And so we bear testimony that the being who created the earth and its contents, who made numerous appearances upon the earth prior to his birth in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is resurrected and immortal, and that this great boon of resurrection and immortality becomes now, through our Redeemer, the heritage of mankind."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "The Greatest Miracle," RS Magazine April 1947, p. 219
Click here to read the full talk (search for "The Greatest Miracle"):

See excerpts in The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 17–18; also "Gospel Classics: From the Garden to the Empty Tomb," Ensign, April 2006

This profound message from President Kimball was shared over 70 years ago, but in my mind it's still one of the most beautiful descriptions of the miracle of the resurrection of the Savior. This opening summary of the Savior's unique role and personality provides a fitting summary of the message:

The fear of death that had gripped all humankind from the beginning was overcome by the hope and anticipation of the resurrection. No longer did mankind have to fear that death was the end of existence. And while we still cling to life in every way we can, we also know the "most dreaded enemy, death, had been overcome" by the Savior's act on our behalf.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

President Harold B. Lee on the promise of the resurrection

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.
"Resurrection will one day be as common as birth. The only reason we don't have the same assurance about the resurrection as we have about birth is because we are not seeing that happen daily before our eyes as we see birth. Nobody questions the reality of birth, which is just as much a mystery to our understanding as the resurrection of a body that is dead; but if we live in the morning of the resurrection, when the graves shall again be opened and when resurrection shall be almost a daily occurrence, those whose time it is to come forth will walk unto the city of their friends and will be seen of them. We will speculate then, just as we do now about the coming of a baby when there is evidence that a new one is in prospect, and we will confidently look forward to continued resurrection of friends and loved ones."
- Harold B. Lee, funeral service for Carol Anniett Clayton, SLC, February 1963; see The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 62

Which is the greater miracle: to be born into mortality, having our spirit united with a body; or to be resurrected, having the spirit again reunited with a body? President Lee suggests they are equally miraculous, and someday we will view them as similar and comparable processes as we come to understand them better:

What a fascinating thing to ponder. Those will be amazing times, to be experiencing the resurrection as directly and commonly as we experience birth—if not moreso!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on the miracle of the atonement of Jesus Christ

President 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. He became President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and also 1st Counselor in the First Presidency in January 2018.
"Man unquestionably has impressive powers and can bring to pass great things by tireless efforts and indomitable will. But after all our obedience and good works, we cannot be saved from the effect of our sins without the grace extended by the atonement of Jesus Christ....
"Why is Christ the only way? How was it possible for him to take upon himself the sins of all mankind? Why was it necessary for his blood to be shed? And how can our soiled and sinful selves be cleansed by his blood?
"These are mysteries I do not understand. To me, as to President John Taylor, the miracle of the atonement of Jesus Christ is 'incomprehensible and inexplicable.' (See The Mediation and Atonement of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, pp. 148–49.) But the Holy Ghost has given me a witness of its truthfulness, and I rejoice that I can spend my life in proclaiming it.
"I testify with the ancient and modern prophets that there is no other name and no other way under heaven by which man can be saved except by Jesus Christ. (See Acts 4:10, 12; 2 Ne. 25:20; Alma 38:9; D&C 18:23.)"
- Dallin H. Oaks, "What Think Ye of Christ?", General Conference October 1988
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a beautiful talk by then Elder Oaks, in which he outlined the doctrine of the atonement of Jesus Christ and the way to salvation. In this excerpt, he addresses aspects of the "faith vs. works" debate as he explains how impossible it is for us to "earn" our own salvation. That result comes only through accepting the grace of the Savior:

I love the frank honesty of this admission: even an apostle, a highly educated man who has spent his life studying, doesn't fully understand the mysteries of how this grand miracle is accomplished; at its essence, the atonement of Jesus Christ truly is "incomprehensible and inexplicable." But that doesn't detract from his testimony of the truthfulness of the concept. A testimony does not require full understanding; it requires recognition of the witness of the Holy Ghost. And President Oaks has that sure witness, which he continues to share through his ministry with all who are willing to listen.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Monday, March 26, 2018

Elder Richard G. Scott on choosing priorities in challenging seasons of life

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.
"We need not worry if we can’t simultaneously do all of the things that the Lord has counseled us to do. He has spoken of a time and a season for all things. In response to our sincere prayers for guidance, He will direct us in what should be emphasized at each phase of our life. We can learn, grow, and become like Him one consistent step at a time.
"I bear testimony that living an obedient life, firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ, provides the greatest assurance for peace and refuge in our homes. There will still be plenty of challenges or heartaches, but even in the midst of turmoil, we can enjoy inner peace and profound happiness. I testify that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the source of that abundant peace."
- Richard G. Scott, "For Peace at Home," General Conference April 2013
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Life can be overwhelming—and that's just trying to keep up with all the good things that we are counseled to do! However, Elder Scott reminds us of a critical principle: there are different times and seasons in life when we should focus on some of those priorities but allow others to wait. The related principle is that we can receive guidance on the proper priorities for our current season of life:

The "one consistent step at a time" aspect is also very important. We don't transform all at once into Christlike perfection. But if we make steady progress, season by season, the desired results will be obtained. As we live obedient lives, "firmly rooted" on gospel principles, we find refuge from the world's challenges, and peace and happiness through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on the power of faith in Jesus Christ

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 became president of that quorum on July 15, 2015. Following the death of President Monson, he was set apart as president of the Church on January 14, 2018.
"As we invest time in learning about the Savior and His atoning sacrifice, we are drawn to participate in another key element to accessing His power: we choose to have faith in Him and follow Him.
"True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world. They are undaunted, devoted, and courageous. I learned of such disciples during a recent assignment in Mexico, where I met with government officials as well as leaders of other religious denominations. Each thanked me for our members’ heroic and successful efforts to protect and preserve strong marriages and families in their country.
"There is nothing easy or automatic about becoming such powerful disciples. Our focus must be riveted on the Savior and His gospel. It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought (see Helaman 8:15). But when we do, our doubts and fears flee (see D&C 6:36)....
"Faith in Jesus Christ propels us to do things we otherwise would not do. Faith that motivates us to action gives us more access to His power."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives," General Conference, April 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Nelson suggests that once we learn about the Savior, we are drawn to have faith in Him, and to follow Him. Those are wonderful consequences that begin with our personal study and pondering; we must "invest time" in order to see them happen. And then we become "true disciples" and see the changes in our lives:

Such beautiful promises! But it's not "easy or automatic"—we certainly must choose to have that happen in our lives as our focus is "riveted on the Savior and His gospel." A true disciple finds himself able "to do things we otherwise would not do" as we find power in Jesus Christ. That should be the quest of every humble seeker for truth!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Elder Robert D. Hales on the joy and blessing of serving others

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.
"Whittier best described life and our dependence on each other when he wrote:
"Thee lift me, and I’ll lift thee
And we’ll both ascend together.
"Yes, we started with our Heavenly Father. We came to this life. We take whatever the adversary gives us, and then ideally we return to our Heavenly Father 'with honor.'
"I have a very simple testimony. I know that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that we came to this life with a purpose and that the greatest joy we will receive will be those acts of love and service that we do for others. Through this love and service we ourselves grow in strength and testimony and have the blessings of our Heavenly Father poured out upon ourselves and our families. I have also found in life that there is none too great to need the help of others. There is none so great that he can 'do it alone.'"
- Robert D. Hales, "We Can't Do It Alone," General Conference October 1975
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

There's a great, eternal interconnection between all children of God. We survive, and thrive, best when we unite together in bearing one another's burdens and providing encouragement and support to each other. Elder Hales emphasizes this principle as he testifies of the joy and blessings that come from "acts of love and service":

The testimony Elder Hales offers is not just that it's harder in this life when we try to "do it alone," but that it's not even possible; we require the assistance of one another. We learn lessons as we serve others that are critical to our own process of surviving the challenges of mortality, and coming out victorious. How diligent we should be in seeking that joy that comes in blessing others!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Friday, March 23, 2018

Elder Richard L. Evans on dealing with overwhelming burdens

Elder Richard L. Evans (1906-1971) served as a Seventy from 1938-1953, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He died in 1971 at age 65.  He was known as "the voice of the Tabernacle Choir" from the beginning of its broadcasts in 1929 until his passing.
"There are times when all of us feel overburdened, with debts, with obligations, so many things undone, so many undone things to do—worries, problems, and sometimes our share, it seems, of sorrows. And we wonder how we can be everywhere we ought to be, do all we ought to do, meet the obligations, and carry the weight of our worries, as we seem to divide ourselves in too many different directions, too many ways at once—not feeling that we are completing or disposing of or quite in control of anything—just a reshuffling of papers, a reshuffling of problems.
"To all of this, some gentle advice from an unnamed source proposes the 'one-at-a-time' approach: 'Mountains viewed from a distance,' it says, 'seem to be unscalable, but they can be climbed, and the way to begin is to take the first upward step. From that moment the mountains are less high. The slopes that seem so steep from a distance seem to level off as we near them.'
"Any task in life is easier if we approach it with the one-at-a-time attitude. One step—a beginning—doing something about something, beginning to see something get going—gives assurance that we are on our way and that the solving of problems is possible. To cite a whimsical saying: 'If you chase two rabbits, both of them will escape.' No one is adequate to everything all at once. We have to select what is important, what is possible, and begin where we are, with what we have. And if we begin—and if we keep going—the weight, the worry, the doubt, the depression will begin to lift, will begin to lighten.
"We can't do everything always, but we can do something now, and doing something will help to lift the weight and lessen the worry. 'The beginning,' said Plato, 'is the most important part.'"
- Richard L. Evans, "The Spoken Word," January 26, 1969; see Improvement Era April 1969 p. 68, or Thoughts for One Hundred Days, 4:88-90

Elder Evans reflects on the challenge we often face of being overwhelmed by life and its challenges; those times when "we wonder how we can be everywhere we ought to be, do all we ought to do, meet the obligations, and carry the weight of our worries." He advocates a simple response to those situations: just deal with things one at a time:

The great key to life is, "We can't do everything always, but we can do something now, and doing something will help to lift the weight and lessen the worry." Just finding something to do, something to accomplish, somewhere to begin on the first task—those simple first steps provide the momentum to continue and conquer.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

President Ezra Taft Benson on the power of the Book of Mormon

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.
"Is there not something deep in our hearts that longs to draw nearer to God, to be more like Him in our daily walk, to feel His presence with us constantly? If so, then the Book of Mormon will help us do so more than any other book.
"It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more.
"There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path.
"The scriptures are called 'the words of life' (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion," General Conference October 1986
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Benson had a deep love and appreciation for the Book of Mormon. This was one of the key sermons, early in his presidency, when he shared the challenge to the Church to take better advantage of the gift that book represents. His witness builds upon Joseph Smith's statement that "a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (History of the Church, 4:461). President Benson's testimony is that through the Book of Mormon, we can begin "to draw nearer to God, to be more like Him in our daily walk, to feel His presence with us constantly." What a blessing that is, and all we have to do is begin to "feast on the word"!

The act of "serious study" will bring such strength and power to us. It will result in finding "life in greater and greater abundance." Why would we not claim those blessings? It's been over 30 years since that invitation was given, and the truth of it still rings loudly. We have only to act in order to claim the reward.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Elder L. Tom Perry on achieving our best through understanding our potential

Elder L. Tom Perry (1922-2015) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1972, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1974. At the time of his passing at age 92, he was the oldest living general authority and the third in seniority among the leading quorum.
"One of the greatest weaknesses in most of us is our lack of faith in ourselves. One of our common failings is to depreciate our tremendous worth.
"A firm I was associated with sometime ago embarked on a great executive development program at considerable expense to itself. The program was open to all who expressed an interest. All they had to do was sign up. The firm paid the costs and even allowed the employees one hour off from their normal daily work for classroom time—a free opportunity for an education in the art of management. During the two years the program was offered, only 3 percent of the employees signed for the course.
"I have observed another situation where this 3 percent statistic seems to be somewhat reliable as the number of the divine children of our Father in heaven who have enough faith in themselves to make the effort to do something important with their lives. Now, we are a special group assembled here because of the light and knowledge that have been given to us about our potential. Surely, we could never be numbered among the 97 percent who are not taking advantage of opportunities....
"President Romney has said: 'We mortals are in very deed the literal off-spring of God. If man understood, believed and accepted this truth and lived by it, our sick and dying society would be reformed and redeemed and men would have peace and eternal joy.' With this divine knowledge burning within our souls, surely much will be expected of us. As a child of God, be the best of whatever you are."
- L. Tom Perry, "Be the Best of Whatever You Are," BYU Devotional, March 12, 1974
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"Faith in ourselves"—do we understand and appreciate our true potential, and does it help drive our decisions and actions? Or do we fall into traps of self-doubt and questioning, the uncertainty that can paralyze and hold us back? Elder Perry suggests that "most of us" face this challenge and gives wise counsel:

In the passage Elder Perry quoted from President Marion G. Romney, we are again reminded of what our heritage is and how great is the potential we each possess; our "sick and dying society" would be transformed if we only came to fully accept the truth of our divine heritage! While society as a whole may never come to this realization, we can do so individually, and thus transform our personal worlds and those around us. The simple truth we teach our children to sing, "I am a child of God," is more powerful than we acknowledge.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

President Boyd K. Packer on faith and personal revelation

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death on July 3, 2015 at age 90.
"The flow of revelation depends on your faith. You exercise faith by causing, or by making, your mind accept or believe as truth that which you cannot, by reason alone, prove for certainty. (See Alma 32:27–28, 38.)
"The first exercising of your faith should be your acceptance of Christ and His atonement.
"As you test gospel principles by believing without knowing, the Spirit will begin to teach you. Gradually your faith will be replaced with knowledge.
"You will be able to discern, or to see, with spiritual eyes.
"Be believing and your faith will be constantly replenished, your knowledge of the truth increased, and your testimony of the Redeemer, of the Resurrection, of the Restoration will be as 'a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.' (D&C 63:23; see also John 4:14; Jer. 2:13.) You may then receive guidance on practical decisions in everyday life."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise," General Conference, October 1994
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The concept of a "flow of revelation" is a fascinating one. Revelation can, and will, flow from God to man—when conditions permit it. And we control the conditions, based primarily on our faith, according to President Packer:

The exercise of faith begins as we consciously choose to "accept or believe as truth that which you cannot, by reason alone, prove for certainty." It requires that initial "leap" of belief and trust, focused on the atonement of Jesus Christ; we then are able to see the response to our actions and feel the Spirit confirming their truth. And in the life of the disciple, faith is then "constantly replenished" as the actions and blessings confirm each succeeding step. It's a wonderful life to live!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on God's help in overcoming challenges

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1986, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1986 until his passing in 2008 at age 91.
"You are stronger than you think. Your Heavenly Father, the Lord and Master of the universe, is your Creator. When I think of it, it makes my heart leap for joy. Our spirits are eternal, and eternal spirits have immeasurable capacity!
"Our Father in Heaven does not wish us to cower. He does not want us to wallow in our misery. He expects us to square our shoulders, roll up our sleeves, and overcome our challenges.
"That kind of spirit—that blend of faith and hard work—is the spirit we should emulate as we seek to reach a safe harbor in our own lives."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Finding a Safe Harbor," General Conference April 2000
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Wirthlin's message is one of encouragement, reminding us that we have divine heritage and incredible potential—"immeasurable capacity."

Elder Wirthlin's address focused on the concept of a "safe harbor"—a place where a ship can find security and protection to weather the storms what will come and will go. We will have challenges in our lives, but he encourages us to do more than passively wait for them to pass, or worse, to "wallow in our misery." We should actively confront the challenges and work to learn from them as we overcome them!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on the blessings of inspired service

President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018) 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 and then became Church president in 2008. He led the Church for almost a decade until his passing in January 2018.
"Brethren, it is in doing—not just dreaming—that lives are blessed, others are guided, and souls are saved. 'Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves,' added James. (James 1:22.)
"May all of us... make a renewed effort to qualify for the Lord’s guidance in our lives. There are many out there who plead and pray for help. There are those who are discouraged, those who are beset by poor health and challenges of life which leave them in despair.
"I’ve always believed in the truth of the words, 'God’s sweetest blessings always go by hands that serve him here below.'  (Whitney Montgomery, 'Revelation,' in Best-Loved Poems of the LDS People, 283.) Let us have ready hands, clean hands, and willing hands, that we may participate in providing what our Heavenly Father would have others receive from Him."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Priesthood Power," General Conference October 1999
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Ah, the curse of good intentions! President Monson urges us to make sure they turn into good actions, that we find the best ways to serve and bless those around us. President Monson repeated the first phrase of this quotation several times as he gave counsel over the years:

One of the keys to be better in doing, better in serving, is "to qualify for the Lord’s guidance in our lives." President Monson suggests that as we learn to listen to the promptings that will come to the worthy, we'll be in better position to recognize and bless those in need. So we must have "ready hands, clean hands, and willing hands." President Monson was a grand example of this principle in his own life of dedicated personal service.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

President James E. Faust on remembering the seeds of divinity within us

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.
"If we are constantly aware of the seeds of divinity in us, it will help us rise above earthly challenges and difficulties. Brigham Young said: 'When I look upon the faces of intelligent beings I look upon the image of the God I serve. There are none but what have a certain portion of divinity within them; and though we are clothed with bodies which are in the image of our God, yet this mortality shrinks before that portion of divinity which we inherit from our Father.' (Discourses of Brigham Young p. 168) Being aware of our divine heritage will help men [and women] young and old to grow and magnify the divinity which is within them and within all of us.
"All of us who wish to be honored by the Lord and receive of His goodness, mercy, and eternal blessings must, I repeat, be obedient to these four great principles.
"1. Have a reverence for Deity.
"2. Have respect for and honor family relationships.
"3. Have a profound reverence for and obedience to the ordinances and covenants of the holy priesthood.
"4. Have respect for yourself as a son [or daughter] of God."
- James E. Faust, "Them That Honour Me I Will Honour," General Conference, April 2001
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

These remarks by President Faust were shared with a Priesthood session of general conference, and he was especially encouraging young men to be aware of their divine potential and the goodness within them. But clearly the message applies to all. Being "constantly aware" is similar to the injunction to "always remember" the Savior and His gifts to us:

The main portion of Elder Faust's talk had been to elaborate on those four principles that will lead to divine understanding and increased influence in our lives. It was excellent counsel, worth reviewing. The title of the talk is taken from a passage in 1 Samuel 2:30,  “For them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” This caution was given because Eli the priest was not being faithful in his duties. Clearly the Lord invites us all to look to Him, to remember Him, to be obedient and to serve Him. And then His honor and blessings will be returned to us.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Friday, March 16, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on striving for excellence

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.
"There is a sign on the gate of this campus that reads: 'Enter to learn; go forth to serve.'
"I invite you, every one of you, to make that your motto. Mediocrity will never do. You are capable of something better. Give it your very best. You will never again have such an opportunity. Pray about it. Work at it. Make it happen. Drink in the great knowledge here to be obtained from this dedicated faculty. Qualify yourselves for the work of the world that lies ahead. It will largely compensate you in terms of what it thinks you are worth. Walk the high road of charity, respect, and love for others and particularly those who are less fortunate. Be happy. Look for the sunlight in life. Reach for the stars."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Remarks at the Inauguration of President Cecil O. Samuelson," BYU, Sep. 9, 2003
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

These remarks were addressed to a gathering of mostly students at BYU when Cecil O. Samuelson was inaugurated as the new BYU president in 2003. However, the principles apply broadly to all of us, young or old, formal student or informal learner. President Hinckley was always very optimistic, but also very inviting and challenging for all to do their very best, to try harder, to be more committed to the things they knew were true and right. He doesn't want mediocre efforts; he encouraged us to do our very best:

Success in learning, like success in most areas, doesn't come free. As President Hinckley notes, we must work hard, we must pray, and be very diligent to take advantages of the opportunities that are presented to us.

His final encouragement regarding our attitudes towards others is more general—to be kind and charitable to those around us. And then, never forget that optimistic outlook for which President Hinckley is well remembered: "Be happy. Look for the sunlight in life. Reach for the stars." Great counsel.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on feasting upon the words of Christ

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.
"We need to feast upon the words of Christ in the scriptures and as these words come to us from living prophets. Just nibbling occasionally will not do. (See 2 Nephi 31:20 and 32:3.) Feasting means partaking with relish and delight and savoring—not gorging episodically in heedless hunger, but partaking gratefully, dining with delight, at a sumptuous spread carefully and lovingly prepared by prophet-chefs over the centuries. These words plus the gift of the Holy Ghost will tell us all things we should do. The scriptures, ancient and continuing, are the key of knowledge....
"Appreciation for and the acceptance of the scriptures and the words of the living prophets are much more important steps than many realize. The Lord has said, '...he that will not believe my words will not believe me—that I am.' (Ether 4:12.) To turn aside His teachings is to turn away from Him, and disdain for His doctrines is disdain for Him."
- Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward [1977], pp. 28-29

With his remarkable gift of expression, Elder Maxwell teaches us the power of feasting on the words of Christ, as opposed to nibbling occasionally. Considering the difference in those two types of consuming physical food gives good insight into the spiritual application employed in the scriptures:

The additional insight Elder Maxwell offers is that to some extent, the attention we give to the scriptures reflects how we really feel about our Father in Heaven and our Savior. Disregard for the word of God is a sign of disregard for God Himself. We should be very careful what our behavior demonstrates! Our efforts to feast—"with relish and delight and savoring"—will be rewarded more than we anticipate.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)
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