Thursday, May 31, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on sharing the legacy of testimony

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.
"We would, if we could, leave our families a legacy of testimony that it might reach through the generations.
"What we can do to create and transmit that legacy comes from an understanding of how testimony is instilled in our hearts. Since it is the Holy Ghost who testifies of sacred truth, we can do at least three things to make that experience more likely for our families. First, we can teach some sacred truth. Then we can testify that we know what we have taught is true. And then we must act so that those who hear our testimony see that our actions conform with what we said was true. The Holy Ghost will then confirm to them the truth of what we said and that we knew it to be true.
"That is how a legacy of testimony is created, preserved, and transmitted in a family. It isn’t easy, but ordinary people have done it....
"Some of the greatest opportunities to create and transmit a legacy of testimony cannot be planned. Tragedy, loss, and hurt often arrive unanticipated. How we react when we are surprised will tell our families whether what we have taught and testified lies deep in our hearts. Most of us will have taught our children of the power of the Savior to carry us through whatever befalls us....
"When tragedy strikes or even when it looms, our families will have the opportunity to look into our hearts to see whether we know what we said we knew. Our children will watch, feel the Spirit confirm that we lived as we preached, remember that confirmation, and pass the story across the generations."
- Henry B. Eyring, "A Legacy of Testimony," General Conference April 1996
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

When you have something precious and dear to you, the greatest desire is to share it with those you love most. Lehi displayed this principle; in the midst of his heavenly vision, as he discovered and partook of the fruit that was sweet and white and filled his soul with "exceedingly great joy," his first reaction was, "I began to be desirous that my family should partake of it also" (see 1 Nephi 8:10-12). He wanted to share the precious gift with those who mattered most to him.

President Eyring suggests ways to share the precious gift of testimony with those we love most. It's a simple process of teaching, testifying, and demonstrating:

Though the first two steps set the stage and allow the Holy Ghost to accompany teaching, it might be the third step that is the most important in helping to confirm our words. That's where we demonstrate that it's more than a learned concept or a passing idea we are describing; it's a fundamental part of our being in which we live and follow the principles and see their true fruit. Then our family can realize that the principle really matters to us, and feel confirmed in their hearts the truthfulness of our words.

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on seeking learning through study and faith

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.
"In modern revelation the Lord has told us to 'seek learning … by study and also by faith.' (D&C 109:7.)
"We seek learning by studying the accumulated wisdom of various disciplines and by using the powers of reasoning placed in us by our Creator.
"We should also seek learning by faith in God, the giver of revelation. I believe that many of the great discoveries and achievements in science and the arts have resulted from a God-given revelation. Seekers who have paid the price in perspiration have been magnified by inspiration.
"The acquisition of knowledge by revelation is an extra bonus to seekers in the sciences and the arts, but it is the fundamental method for those who seek to know God and the doctrines of his gospel. In this area of knowledge, scholarship and reason are insufficient.
"A seeker of truth about God must rely on revelation. I believe this is what the Book of Mormon prophet meant when he said, 'To be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.' (2 Ne. 9:29.) It is surely what the Savior taught when he said, 'Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.' (Matt. 16:17.)
"The way to revelation is righteousness."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Alternate Voices," General Conference April 1989
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The admonition from the Lord to "seek learning … by study and also by faith" is an important one to remember. We apply ourselves to the first half of the process, though perhaps not enough—there is much we could study and learn if we made greater efforts to focus our personal study efforts. But we also often neglect the second part of the guideline, that of using faith to gain knowledge.

President Oaks points out that even our "secular" learning can benefit from spiritual assistance, as we find that those "who have paid the price in perspiration have been magnified by inspiration." But then, in the realm of matters of the spirit, we must apply both our study and our faith in order to truly benefit:

President Oaks gives wise counsel in this address about the process of learning through faith. We are blessed as we make those efforts to grow and expand in our learning, both temporally and spiritually!

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

President Howard W. Hunter on the divine plan of faith in God and the Savior

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"There is no tangible, concrete evidence of the existence of God or the divinity of the Master in the legal sense, but not all inquiry for truth results in proof by real or demonstrative evidence. It is fallacious to argue that because there is no demonstrative evidence of the existence of God he does not in fact exist. In the absence of evidence often thought necessary by the scientific world for positive proof, our search may take is into the realm of circumstantial evidence. We could spend hours describing the wonders of the universe, of the earth, of nature, of the human body the exactness of the laws of physics, and a thousand things, all of which dictate to the conscience of a truth seeker that there is a creator and one who rules over the universe.
"What would be the situation if the existence of God could be proven by demonstrative evidence? What would happen to the element of faith as the first step or principle of the gospel? One of the burdens of the teachings of the Master was to emphasize the importance of faith. Faith is the element that builds the bridge in the absence of concrete evidence. This is exactly what the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews was talking about when he referred to faith as 'the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.' (Heb. 11:1.) In other words, faith is the assurance of the existence of a truth even though it is not evident or cannot be proved by positive evidence.
"Suppose that all things could be proven by demonstrative evidence. What then would become of the element of faith? There would be no need for faith and it would be eliminated, giving rise then to this query: If faith is the first step or principle of the gospel and is eliminated, what happens to the gospel plan? The very foundation will crumble. I submit that there is a divine reason why all things cannot be proven by concrete evidence."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Faith—The First Step," General Conference April 1975
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Can we truly prove the existence of God, using traditional scientific means? President Hunter suggests that there is abundant circumstantial evidence for that understanding, including "the wonders of the universe, of the earth, of nature, of the human body the exactness of the laws of physics." but no concrete physical proof. And that aspect of faith in God is necessary for His plan for us in this life!

Faith builds the bridge for us in this life. The divine plan for our mortal experience requires that we learn to live by faith, and receive the blessings that follow. President Hunter's talk gives excellent suggestions for that most important process of mortality!

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

Monday, May 28, 2018

President Ezra Taft Benson on the lives of those who follow Christ

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.
"Enter their homes [the followers of Christ], and the pictures on their walls, the books on their shelves, the music in the air, their words and acts reveal them as Christians. They stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places. (See Mosiah 18:9.) They have Christ on their minds, as they look unto Him in every thought. (See D&C 6:36.) They have Christ in their hearts as their affections are placed on Him forever. (See Alma 37:36.)
"Almost every week they partake of the sacrament and witness anew to their Eternal Father that they are willing to take upon them the name of His Son, always remember Him, and keep His commandments. (See Moro. 4:3.)
"In Book of Mormon language, they 'feast upon the words of Christ' (2 Ne. 32:3), 'talk of Christ' (2 Ne. 25:26), 'rejoice in Christ' (2 Ne. 25:26), 'are made alive in Christ' (2 Ne. 25:25), and 'glory in [their] Jesus' (see 2 Ne. 33:6). In short, they lose themselves in the Lord and find eternal life. (See Luke 17:33.)"
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Born of God,' Ensign, July 1989, p. 2
Click here to read the full article

In this classic article, published as a First Presidency message in the Ensign, President Benson describes some of the evidences that should be present in the life of one who follows Christ. It's interesting to consider his description as we evaluate our own environment:

I like the separate description of those who "have Christ on their minds" and "have Christ in their hearts." Those two aspects are closely linked; as we think more about Him, remembering all He has done for us, our hearts are drawn to Him in gratitude and love.

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

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Elder Dale G. Renlund on the sacredness of the sacrament

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.
"I would like to share what we learned about the sacrament from members of the Church in Kigali, Rwanda. The background to the story is that in 1994 there was a horrific genocide in Rwanda. Between 600,000 and 900,000 people were killed in a matter of 60 to 90 days.
"Eventually, the Church established a branch in the capital city of Kigali. The branch was doing well, without full-time missionaries. In 2011, Ruth and I were serving in that Africa Southeast Area when we learned, sadly, that our registration as a church with the country of Rwanda was invalid, which meant that we were functioning illegally as a church. We also learned that our meetinghouse, a converted two-story home, was not appropriately zoned to hold church meetings. For these reasons, the Area Presidency, in consultation with our first contact in the Quorum of the Twelve, made the agonizing decision to close the branch. Our members were no longer able to meet for church meetings.
"Lawyers in Kigali, Johannesburg, and Salt Lake City began working fervently and feverishly and hopefully to resolve the problems. Nothing seemed to work. Brick walls were hit at every turn. All the while, the Saints kept asking when they could meet together again. Months went by without resolution or progress.
"After 9 to 10 months, Ruth and I decided to fly to Kigali to visit those Saints and try to buoy up their spirits. Before we did, I asked that the matter be placed on the temple prayer roll of the weekly meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve.
"The Tuesday before our scheduled trip from Johannesburg to Kigali, we were notified that, in a surprising move, the government had granted the Church provisional registration in the city of Kigali. Then, on Thursday of the same week, in another surprising move, the Zoning Commission granted an exemption from the zoning ordinance. The Kigali Saints could once again meet in our building without violating the law.
"This was miraculous! Members were quickly notified that the branch would be meeting on Sunday. Ruth and I arrived on Friday and invited members to come to church. The members cleaned and prepared the building enthusiastically. When Sunday came, all the members—all of them—and many of their friends came to church. They arrived early, eager to be together again. As the sacrament was blessed and passed, we all experienced an extraordinary renewing, refreshing, and cleansing spirit.
"I remember, in the meeting, wondering why I did not feel this same spirit every week as I partook of the sacrament. I looked around at the Saints, and I realized that they had come hungering and thirsting for the sacrament. Their faith, diligence, and patience brought all of us blessings. I pledged to myself that whenever I again partook of the sacrament, I would remember this experience with the Kigali Saints. I committed that I too would hunger for the blessings of partaking of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper."
- Dale G. Renlund, "Come Unto Christ," BYU-Idaho Devotional, 26 Sep 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Frequency and repetition can lead to taking something for granted or approaching it with casualness. Elder Renlund suggests that we may be susceptible to this challenge with one of the more sacred things we participate in, the sacrament service. The wonderful, touching story of Church members in Rwanda who were denied that privilege should give us all pause to consider.

So what does it take to bring back "an extraordinary renewing, refreshing, and cleansing spirit" to the weekly action of partaking of the sacrament? Elder Renlund identifies the crucial difference: we must "come hungering and thirsting for the sacrament." When we truly understand the significance it represents for us, and when "faith, diligence, and patience" are present in our lives, then we will hunger for the blessings that the action can bring.

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

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on having righteous hearts

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.
"One of the major messages of our Lord and Savior was to be righteous within our hearts. Jesus, who knows with complete clarity and compassion all the diverse ways of sin, spoke with special intensity and passion about the soul-destroying effects of hypocrisy. He despised hypocrites—those who feign righteousness and make a public display of it but are in reality shams and frauds. Jesus intoned, 'Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity' (see Matthew 23:27–28).
"The antithesis of hypocrisy is integrity, with its connotation of wholeness of spirit and completeness of personality. How glorious is integrity! Those who have it display a constancy of character. Their behavior is the same in private as in public. Their goodness is not dependent on whether someone is watching. Their actions are based on principle, not expediency. Perhaps that is what Jesus had in mind when he said, 'He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me' (John 14:21; emphasis added).
"A true measure of whether one has integrity, therefore, is provided by an honest answer to the following question: Am I righteous when no one is watching? Your answer to that simple query tells much about your true character....
"Our behavior, both public and private, does not happen by accident. It is the product of conviction, resolution, and habitual practice. We become what we believe; we practice the principles that are etched upon our souls. When the moment of decision is upon us, we act according to the principles that have become internalized in our hearts and minds."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Being Righteous in Our Hearts," BYU devotional, January 21, 1997
Click here to read the full talk

Some of the Savior's strictest warnings and condemnations in the New Testament record were against individuals Elder Wirthlin describes as "those who feign righteousness and make a public display of it but are in reality shams and frauds." This is a stern warning, since we all face the temptation or tendency now and then to put on a fa├žade of outward commitment or obedience when we are struggling with something in our personal life.

The contrast between hypocrisy and integrity is a dramatic one. Elder Wirthlin goes on to describe the "glorious" nature of a soul with true integrity:

Elder Wirthlin suggests that the private moments, when we think no one is aware of us, are a sign of our true state of heart. Do we live with integrity when no one is watching? Does that make any difference to us in our decisions and actions? There is always One who watches and knows, and that should be all that matters to us.

Elder Wirthlin suggests that we develop integrity through efforts of "conviction, resolution, and habitual practice." It's a gradual process; a pure heart is the result of pure actions, which follow sincere desires.

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

Friday, May 25, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on the miracles of healing and of aging

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.
"The Fall of Adam (and Eve) constituted the mortal creation and brought about the required changes in their bodies, including the circulation of blood and other modifications as well. They were now able to have children. They and their posterity also became subject to injury, disease, and death. And a loving Creator blessed them with healing power by which the life and function of precious physical bodies could be preserved. For example, bones, if broken, could become solid again. Lacerations of the flesh could heal themselves. And miraculously, leaks in the circulation could be sealed off by components activated from the very blood being lost.
"Think of the wonder of that power to heal! If you could create anything that could repair itself, you would have created life in perpetuity. For example, if you could create a chair that could fix its own broken leg, there would be no limit to the life of that chair. Many of you walk on legs that were once broken and do so because of your remarkable gift of healing.
"Even though our Creator endowed us with this incredible power, He consigned a counterbalancing gift to our bodies. It is the blessing of aging, with visible reminders that we are mortal beings destined one day to leave this 'frail existence' (Eliza R. Snow, 'O My Father,' Hymns, no. 292). Our bodies change every day. As we grow older, our broad chests and narrow waists have a tendency to trade places. We get wrinkles, lose color in our hair—even the hair itself—to remind us that we are mortal children of God, with a 'manufacturer’s guarantee' that we shall not be stranded upon the earth forever. Were it not for the Fall, our physicians, beauticians, and morticians would all be unemployed."
- Russell M. Nelson, "The Atonement," General Conference October 1996
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Given President Nelson's scientific and medical training, these thoughts are particularly interesting. He has seen first-hand the miraculous ability of the human body to heal, repair, and strengthen itself. Sometimes we take those abilities for granted; but we experience that miracle constantly, continuously in our lives—far, far beyond the ability of any man-made creation to care for itself.

And yet, there is a counterbalancing miracle that also takes place:

What a profound perspective, to realize that aging and eventual death are just as much a part of God's miracle as are the wondrous gifts of growth and healing! We have that beautiful promise not to be "strranded upon the earth forever" but to know we will move on to a next phase of our eternal existence.

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

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Elder Ulisses Soares on the power of faith and trust in God

Elder Ulisses Soares (born October 2, 1958) has served as a Seventy since April 2005, and as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy since January 2013. He was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles on April 1, 2018.
"If we are not rooted by steadfast trust in God and the desire to serve Him, the painful experiences of mortality can lead us to feel as though we are burdened by a heavy yoke; and we can lose the motivation to live the gospel fully. Without faith, we will end up losing the capacity to appreciate those designs of our God regarding the things that will happen later in our life. (See D&C 58:3.)
"In these moments of trial, the adversary—who is always on the lookout—tries to use our logic and reasoning against us. He tries to convince us that it is useless to live the principles of the gospel.... We must not allow him to deceive us; for when we do, we falter in our faith and lose the power to obtain God’s blessings.
"If we are steadfast and do not waver in our faith, the Lord will increase our capacity to raise ourselves above the challenges of life. We will be enabled to subdue negative impulses, and we will develop the capacity to overcome even what appear to be overwhelming obstacles....
"Brothers and sisters, I invite you to place all of your trust in God and in the teachings of His prophets. I invite you to renew your covenants with God, to serve Him with all your heart, regardless of the complex situations of life. I testify that by the power of your unwavering faith in Christ, you will become free of the captivity of sin, of doubt, of unbelief, of unhappiness, of suffering; and you will receive all of the promised blessings from our loving Heavenly Father."
- Ulisses Soares, "Confide in God Unwaveringly," General Conference April 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Soares shared these remarks as a member of the Seventy a year before his call as an apostle. He talked about the challenges of mortality and the difficulties that enter each life, often bringing feelings of burden and discouragement. One of the Adversary's tactics is to attack us in those times of challenge and steal our motivation to live the Gospel and continue in obedience. Elder Soares reminds us that through faithfulness and trust in God, we grow in our capacity to "raise ourselves above the challenges of life."

These are wonderful promises of help and inspiration. Elder Soares invites us to recommit, to renew covenants, and to continue in faithfulness in order to receive God's help now and attain the promises of eternity.

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on the companionship of the Holy Ghost

Elder Ronald A. Rasband (b. February 6, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 2000.  He was the senior president of the Seventy when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.
"Through confirmation and by the laying on of hands, you have already been given the gift of the Holy Ghost. As it states in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 39:23, 'And again, it shall come to pass that on as many as ye shall baptize with water, ye shall lay your hands, and they shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost…'
"This will be a great privilege for you throughout your lives to have this special gift from the Lord.
"Enjoying the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is quite a different matter—and a goal for all of us to try and achieve.
"Anger, disunity, contention, lying, and impurity of thoughts and deeds to name a few vices, chase away the holy presence of this Third Member of the Godhead. Such unaltered and unrepentant behavior causes Latter-day Saints to lose the Spirit, and lose confidence....
"I would offer you a little formula today that you can remember easily, that through my experience as a father, student-ward bishop, mission president, and General Authority, almost certainly will enable you to have the Spirit as your constant companion....
"I invite you today to consider your passions and where necessary, bridle them in your life.
"I invite you today to take greater control of your thoughts, garnish them with virtue, such as of the beloved Word of God.
"I invite you to humbly and prayerfully plead with the Lord to bless you with the Holy Ghost.
"I invite you to go before the Lord and ask him to bless you with strength, to be the greatest generation of young people, going into the world with power and authority and the Holy Ghost, inviting people of all lands to come unto Christ.
"I promise you as a servant of the Lord, that he will bless you with the presence and companionship of the Holy Ghost. Bridle your passions, garnish your thoughts, and by the prayer of faith you will be led by the Spirit and join in this magnificent miracle."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "Having the Constant Companionship of the Holy Ghost," BYU-Idaho devotional, February 28, 2006
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Addressing students at BYU-Idaho when he was serving as a Seventy, Elder Rasband taught and encouraged them on ways to increase the influence and companionship of the Holy Ghost in their lives. Three steps make all the difference in enabling us to have that influence in greater ways:

  • Bridling passions - controlling appetites and choosing to obey
  • Garnishing thoughts - filling heart and mind with wholesome, uplifting things
  • Praying in faith for an increase of spiritual influence

Elder Rasband gives examples and details in these areas in the full transcript of the talk.

When we are promised by one of the Lord's servants that blessings will follow certain actions, we should be eager to choose those actions and claim the blessings! In this case, the blessing of increased companionship with the Holy Ghost is worth any effort we give.

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on home as a temple

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.
"Recently, in a stake conference, all present were invited by the visiting authority, Elder Glen Jenson, an Area Seventy, to take a virtual tour of their homes using their spiritual eyes. I would like to invite each of you to do this also. Wherever your home may be and whatever its configuration, the application of eternal gospel principles within its walls is universal.
"Let’s begin. Imagine that you are opening your front door and walking inside your home. What do you see, and how do you feel? Is it a place of love, peace, and refuge from the world, as is the temple? Is it clean and orderly? As you walk through the rooms of your home, do you see uplifting images which include appropriate pictures of the temple and the Savior? Is your bedroom or sleeping area a place for personal prayer? Is your gathering area or kitchen a place where food is prepared and enjoyed together, allowing uplifting conversation and family time? Are scriptures found in a room where the family can study, pray, and learn together? Can you find your personal gospel study space? Does the music you hear or the entertainment you see, online or otherwise, offend the Spirit? Is the conversation uplifting and without contention?
"That concludes our tour. Perhaps you, as I, found a few spots that need some 'home improvement'—hopefully not an 'extreme home makeover.'
"Whether our living space is large or small, humble or extravagant, there is a place for each of these gospel priorities in each of our homes."
- Gary E. Stevenson, "Sacred Homes, Sacred Temples," General Conference April 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It's an interesting exercise, to compare our home to a temple. Elder Stevenson suggests aspects of the temple that could apply to our home setting and help to create the "refuge from the world" that would bless our families in current challenging times. Even the outward appearance of the rooms and arrangements can have a significant impact on how we feel and how we act when we are there!

Most of us definitely can find areas needing "home improvement" in this exercise. I hope we feel the blessings of actually following this advice and striving to create a more holy place in our home.

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

Elder Gerrit W. Gong on remembering the Savior

Elder Gerrit W. Gong (born December 23, 1953) was called as a Seventy in April 2010, then to the Presidency of the Seventy in October 2015. He was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in April 2018.
"Each week, in partaking of the sacrament, we covenant to always remember Him. Drawing on the nearly 400 scripture references to the word remember, here are six ways we can always remember Him.
"First, we can always remember Him by having confidence in His covenants, promises, and assurances....
"Second, we can always remember Him by gratefully acknowledging His hand throughout our lives....
"Third, we can always remember Him by trusting when the Lord assures us, 'He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.' (D&C 58:42) ...
"Fourth, He invites us to remember that He is always welcoming us home....
"Fifth, we can always remember Him on the Sabbath through the sacrament....
"Finally, sixth, our Savior invites us to always remember Him as He always remembers us."
- Gerrit W. Gong, "Always Remember Him," General Conference April 2016
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

When Sunday is done and we return to our "normal" daily lives, how much are we impacted? How do we keep the spirit of the Sabbath alive? Specifically, how do we maintain awareness of the covenants and promises of the sacrament through the coming days?

Elder Gong offered these suggestions when he was serving as a member of the Seventy, before his call as an apostle. Only a brief summary is presented here; it's very worthwhile to review the entire talk by clicking on the link above, and read the further details he offers for each of the six suggestions.

The challenge to "always remember Him" is perhaps one of the most important ones we are given. Elder Gong's suggestions are very valuable in providing ideas on how we can do that more effectively.

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

Sunday, May 20, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on dealing with challenges and handicaps

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.
"In our lives, sickness comes to loved ones, accidents leave their cruel marks of remembrance, and tiny legs that once ran are imprisoned in a wheelchair.
"Mothers and fathers who anxiously await the arrival of a precious child sometimes learn that all is not well with this tiny infant. A missing limb, sightless eyes, a damaged brain, or the term 'Down’s syndrome' greets the parents, leaving them baffled, filled with sorrow, and reaching out for hope.
"There follows the inevitable blaming of oneself, the condemnation of a careless action, and the perennial questions: 'Why such a tragedy in our family?' 'Why didn’t I keep her home?' 'If only he hadn’t gone to that party.' 'How did this happen?' 'Where was God?' 'Where was a protecting angel?' If, why, where, how—those recurring words—do not bring back the lost son, the perfect body, the plans of parents, or the dreams of youth. Self-pity, personal withdrawal, or deep despair will not bring the peace, the assurance, or help which are needed. Rather, we must go forward, look upward, move onward, and rise heavenward....
"To all who have suffered silently from sickness, to you who have cared for those with physical or mental impairment, who have borne a heavy burden day by day, year by year, and to you noble mothers and dedicated fathers—I salute you and pray God’s blessings to ever attend you. To the children, particularly they who cannot run and play and frolic, come the reassuring words: 'Dearest children, God is near you, Watching o’er you day and night.' (Hymns, 1985, no. 96.)"
- Thomas S. Monson, "Miracles—Then and Now," General Conference October 1992
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Monson was a young counselor in the First Presidency when he shared these remarks in general conference. Throughout his ministry he displayed a sensitivity and awareness of those who face special challenges and difficulties in life. This excerpt is a great example of that. Note that he speaks not just to those who are suffering from handicaps or injuries, but also to those who care for them, and to those who might have had some involvement in accidents or incidents that led to the injuries. All of those people carry weights and struggle with challenges due to the handicaps.

We can't "second-guess" the decisions and actions of the past. We can't un-do the consequences of anything that occurred previously. President Monson warns about dwelling too much on those unanswerable questions. He instead invites us, in language that was so typical of his expressions of hope and love, to "go forward, look upward, move onward, and rise heavenward.."

President Monson doesn't minimize the challenges and difficulties of those who deal with these challenges. He "salutes" them in recognition of their sacrifices and faith, and adds his prayers of faith for God's continued blessings of support and hope for a glorious future.

Truly, sometimes the miracle we are blessed with is not the correction of what we perceive as a great sorrow or challenge; but instead the strength to endure, the faith to trust in God, and the hope for a better time.

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

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Elder Neil L. Andersen on honesty and spirituality

Elder Neil L. Andersen (born August 9, 1951) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"The Savior constantly rebuked those who professed one thing publicly but lived differently in their hearts. (See Matthew 23:27.) He praised those who lived without deception. (See D&C 124:15.) Can you see the contrasting difference? On the one hand there is truth and light and honesty and integrity. On the other hand there is lying, deceiving, hypocrisy, and darkness. The Lord draws a sharp distinction....
"The world would tell us that truth and honesty are difficult to define. The world finds humor in casual lying and quickly excuses so-called 'innocent' deception. The contrast between right and wrong is dulled, and the consequences of dishonesty are minimized....
"To constantly receive the Spirit of Truth, our lives must be filled with truth and honesty. As we become completely honest, our spiritual eyes are opened to increased enlightenment.
"You can easily understand how this spiritual strength lifts our learning in the classroom. But can you also see how this principle applies to your critical decisions of how you spend your time, with whom you spend your time, and how you shape the life that will follow BYU?
"You cannot separate the spiritual endowment of truth you need and want to receive here at BYU from your being a person of honesty and truth. The truth you seek is tied to the person you are. Light, spiritual answers, and heavenly direction are unalterably linked to your own honesty and truth. Many of your lasting satisfactions here at BYU will come as you continually elevate your commitment to personal honesty."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Honesty–The Heart of Spirituality," BYU devotional, September 13, 2011
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What is the value of integrity? The Savior warned of "whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness." That description seems extreme to us, but in ways that are perhaps smaller and more subtle it's a great challenge in our time. The contrast between truth and light, vs. darkness and deception, is everywhere; how important to heed the Savior's warning:

Elder Andersen was speaking to an assembly of students in these remarks, but the principles apply to all of us. The "spiritual endowment of truth" offered to us comes only to those who are firmly committed to principles of integrity. "To constantly receive the Spirit of Truth, our lives must be filled with truth and honesty. As we become completely honest, our spiritual eyes are opened to increased enlightenment." That's a divine gift we all desperately need.

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

Friday, May 18, 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on always remembering the Savior

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.
"The sacramental prayers confirm that one of the central purposes of that ordinance as instituted by the Lord Jesus Christ is that we might 'always remember him.' Remembering the Savior obviously includes remembering His Atonement which is symbolically represented by the bread and water as emblems of His suffering and death. We must never forget what He did for us, for without His Atonement and Resurrection life would have no meaning, whereas, given the reality of both the Atonement and the Resurrection, our lives have eternal, divine possibilities.
"I would like today to elaborate with you what it means to 'always remember him' (D&C 20:77, 79). I will mention three aspects of remembering Him:  first, seeking to know and follow His will; second, recognizing and accepting our obligation to answer to Christ for every thought, word, and action; and third, living with faith and without fear in the realization that we can always look to the Savior for the help we need.
"First, remembering the Lord certainly means doing His will. The sacramental blessing on the bread commits us to be willing to take upon us the name of the Son, 'and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given [us]' (D&C 20:77)....
"You and I can put Christ at the center of our lives and become one with Him as He is one with the Father (see John 17:20-23). We could begin by stripping everything out of our lives and then putting it back together in priority order with the Savior at the center. We would first put in place the things that make it possible always to remember Him—frequent prayer, studying and pondering the scriptures, thoughtful study of apostolic teachings, weekly preparation to partake of the sacrament worthily, Sunday worship, recording and remembering what the Spirit and experience teach us about discipleship. There may be other things that will come to your mind particularly suited to you at this point in your life. Once adequate time and means for these matters, for centering our lives in Christ, have been put in place, we can begin to add other responsibilities and things of value insofar as time and resources will permit, such as education and family responsibilities. In this way the essential will not be crowded out of our lives by the merely good, and things of lesser value will take a lower priority or fall away altogether."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Always Remember Him," BYU-Idaho devotional, January 27, 2009
Click here to read the full talk

In this address to BYU-Idaho students, Elder Christofferson considers possible meanings of the phrase "always remember Him" and how they might bless our lives. We often think we know what that sacramental instruction is asking us to do, but I was grateful for the three additional suggestions that were offered here. Review the complete talk for details!

To "always remember Him" certainly does begin with holding in our thoughts the unmatched and eternal blessings of His sacrifice and Atonement on our behalf. But it's the additional implications of that remembering that Elder Christofferson expands upon. What will that mean in our lives, what will it lead us to do, how will it change us?

The first important implication is that we will be filled with the desire to be obedient, to "know and follow His will" in all things. Elder Christofferson suggests an interesting application of how we might be led to do that:

What a wonderful, challenging exercise, to mentally "deconstruct" our life and put it back together in order of the things that matter most! If we first make sure the things that focus our lives on Christ are in their proper place and priority in life, then we can "begin to add other responsibilities and things of value" including family duties, work, education, etc. This would ensure that the most important things of life truly do take precedence. But it will likely mean minimizing or eliminating other things that may be taking more time than they deserve.

What a profound challenge, as we strive to "always remember Him"!

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

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on finding peace amid the commotion of the world

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. September 8, 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"The world literally seems to be in commotion. (See D&C 45:26; 88:91.) There is a level of contention that is unprecedented. Peace of mind and feelings of security can seem elusive and even unobtainable. My message to you this evening is that we should not have fear even in a dangerous and troubled world. The scriptures assure us that we can have complete joy because of the Savior. (See D&C 101:35–38.)
"There are certain wonderful events that many of you have etched in your hearts and minds in a very positive way. You can remember every detail of the event. Examples might include opening the envelope that contains a mission call, a sealing to a spouse in the temple, the recognition that the Holy Ghost has witnessed to your soul the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. These are the kinds of cherished events that bring not only a rewarding but a lasting joy. It is interesting that individual events that in any way relate to the Savior are usually the ones that bring the greatest joy....
"You need not be afraid, despite the dangers and challenges you will face. You will be blessed and protected when you seek righteous, worthwhile goals. Plan and work with grit and determination, avoid inappropriate use of social media and the Internet, and rely and focus on faith, repentance, saving ordinances, and the Savior’s atoning sacrifice as you endure to the end. Focusing on the temple will help you achieve these goals."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Fear Not... in Me Your Joy Is Full," Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, September 11, 2016, Washington D.C. Stake Center
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Are there reasons to be afraid in our world today? With all the contention, commotion, and uncertainty we see around us, should we be worried or fear for our future our opportunities, or our safety? In this address to the young adults of the Church, Elder Cook reassures them that they can replace their fear with joy, "even in a dangerous and troubled world," if they are grounded in the Savior.

One good suggestion is to focus on the positive, strengthening events in life—to remember and to dwell on those. When those memories are vivid and alive, they can help bring "not only a rewarding but a lasting joy" to us in times when we need strength. And the greatest joy comes from events most closely connected to the Savior.

Throughout this message, Elder Cook reassures us that we don't need to fear, regardless of "the dangers and challenges" that we encounter in life, as long as we're seeking righteous goals and focusing on "faith, repentance, saving ordinances, and the Savior’s atoning sacrifice." And he adds that a focus on the temple will help us keep all the other things in their proper places!

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Elder David A. Bednar on being offended by others

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.
"When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.
"In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation....
"The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations.
"'And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men' (1 Nephi 19:9).
"Through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense. 'Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them' (Psalm 119:165)."
- David A. Bednar, "And Nothing Shall Offend Them," General Conference October 2006
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Bednar teaches us that sometimes, the verb tense makes all the difference in understanding our mortal experience. In reality, though people often do things that are offensive, the issue is not that they offend us, but that we choose to be offended by them.

Understanding the eternal role of agency becomes critical. God has created us as agents, endowed with our own personal and moral agency, to choose how we act. No one can "make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter" without us exercising our agency to allow those feelings to appear. We are not passive objects being acted upon; we are the ones who "choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation."

Elder Bednar's example of the Savior responding to offensive actions is a great one. He chose to suffer those things inflicted by others "because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering" for His persecutors. When we feel Christlike love for others, we are less likely to allow their offensive actions to impact us. It truly is in and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we can learn to "avoid and triumph over offense" and live our lives in peace and love.

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on trusting God

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.
"God sends messages and authorized messengers to His children. I am to build trust in God and His servants enough that we will go out and obey His counsel. He wants that because He loves us and wants our happiness. And He knows how a lack of trust in Him brings sadness.
"That lack of trust has brought sorrow to Heavenly Father’s children from before the world was created. We know through the revelations of God to the Prophet Joseph Smith that many of our brothers and sisters in the premortal world rejected the plan for our mortal life presented by our Heavenly Father and His eldest Son, Jehovah. (See D&C 29:36–37; Abraham 3:27–28.)
"We don’t know all the reasons for Lucifer’s terrible success in inciting that rebellion. However, one reason is clear. Those who lost the blessing of coming into mortality lacked sufficient trust in God to avoid eternal misery.
"The sad pattern of lack of trust in God has persisted since the Creation....
"The young Nephi in the Book of Mormon stirs in us a desire to develop trust in the Lord to obey His commandments, however hard they appear to us. Nephi faced danger and possible death when he said these words of trust that we can and must feel steadily in our hearts: 'I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.' (1 Nephi 3:7.)
"That trust comes from knowing God. More than any other people on earth, we have, through the glorious events of the Restoration of the gospel, felt the peace that the Lord offered His people with the words 'Be still, and know that I am God.' (Psalm 46:10.) My heart is filled with gratitude for what God has revealed about Himself that we might trust Him."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Trust in God, Then Go and Do," General Conference October 2010
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What does it mean to trust in God? It's easy to be grateful and feel confident when we perceive that blessings are received. But when prayers are unanswered or answered in ways we don't desire; when blessings are delayed; when disappointments occur—those are times when we are tested to see if our trust is real and sincere. President Eyring points out how much a lack of trust in God has impacted mankind, including the beginnings in the pre-existence.

But with the abundance of revealed knowledge and understanding, we have many reasons that we should feel trust for Him:

We can trust God when we know God—and perhaps only then. As we come to know Him better, our experiences will build faith and confidence for him in our lives and trust will come easy.

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