Tuesday, July 31, 2018

President James E. Faust on the sacred blessings of temple attendance

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.
"Each temple building is an inspiration, magnificent and beautiful in every way, but the temple building alone does not bless. The endowed blessings and divine functions—involving much that is not of this world, such as priesthood keys—come through obedience and faithfulness to priesthood authority and covenants made....
"In the temples of the Lord, we learn obedience. We learn sacrifice. We make the vows of chastity and have our lives consecrated to holy purposes. It is possible for us to be purged and purified and to have our sins washed away so that we may come before the Lord as clean, white, and spotless as the newly fallen snow."
- James E. Faust, “Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord?”, Ensign August 2001, pp. 2-5
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

From where do temple blessings flow? Are they the result of only attending the temple? President Faust suggests that "the endowed blessings" of attending the temple will come as we live faithfully, in accordance with the covenants we make in the temples and elsewhere:

Another important part of the blessings of temple attendance and worship is the things we learn and experience there. We learn obedience and sacrifice; we make sacred covenants of chastity and consecration. Is it any surprise that acting upon the things we learn and experience will bless our lives profoundly, including leading us "to be purged and purified" we we prepare to meet the Lord?

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

Monday, July 30, 2018

President Spencer W. Kimball on the importance of personal scripture study

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"I ask us all to honestly evaluate our performance in scripture study. It is a common thing to have a few passages of scripture at our disposal, floating in our minds, as it were, and thus to have the illusion that we know a great deal about the gospel. In this sense, having a little knowledge can be a problem indeed. I am convinced that each of us, at some time in our lives, must discover the scriptures for ourselves—and not just discover them once, but rediscover them again and again....
"I feel strongly that we must all of us return to the scriptures... and let them work mightily within us, impelling us to an unwavering determination to serve the Lord."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "How Rare a Possession—The Scriptures," Ensign September 1976, pp. 2-5
Click here to read the whole article

This was a beautiful message from President Kimball, prepared as a special "First Presidency Message" published in the Ensign magazine. He shared his vision of the precious and sacred nature of the scriptures, and encouraged us to make better use of them in study and application.

President Kimball warns us of the human tendency to consider our scriptural knowledge to be greater than it is, based on a more superficial acquaintance. A true in-depth understanding comes only through dedicated, faithful, ongoing study over a long period of time. Hence the encouragement for us all to "rediscover" the scriptures repeatedly in our lives:

So the prophetic invitation is for each of us to "return to the scriptures" in order that they can "work mightily within us, impelling us to an unwavering determination to serve the Lord." What a great invitation and challenge!

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

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Elder Bruce R. McConkie on the responsibilities of speakers and listeners in meetings

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (July 29, 1915–April 19, 1985) served as a Seventy from 1946-1972 when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve.  He served in that assignment until his death from cancer at age 69.
"We come into these congregations, and sometimes a speaker brings a jug of living water that has in it many gallons. And when he pours it out on the congregation, all the members have brought is a single cup and so that’s all they take away. Or maybe they have their hands over the cups, and they don’t get anything to speak of.
"On other occasions we have meetings where the speaker comes and all he brings is a little cup of eternal truth, and the members of the congregation come with a large jug, and all they get in their jugs is the little dribble that came from a man who should have known better and who should have prepared himself and talked from the revelations and spoken by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are obligated in the Church to speak by the power of the Spirit. We are commanded to treasure up the words of light and truth and then give forth the portion that is appropriate and needful on every occasion."
- Bruce R. McConkie, "The Seven Deadly Heresies," BYU Devotional, June 1, 1980
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This thought from Elder McConkie illustrates the situation that we encounter each time we attend a sacrament meeting, conference session, or class of any kind in Church meetings. How prepared are we to receive the messages that will be shared? Do we come with minds, hearts, and spirits open and eager? Or are we distracted, unprepared, or uninvolved?

So much depends on how we prepare ourselves. Are we eager to learn, acknowledging that we can learn from any speaker or teacher, and are we open to direct personal inspiration that may come as speakers share their messages?

The Lord taught Joseph Smith this critical message too. When the one teaching is prepared and worthy to "preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth," and the listener is equally prepared to "receive it by the Spirit of truth," then the power of spiritual communication occurs, and "he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together." (See D&C 50:17-22)

Of course, Elder McConkie also emphasizes how critical it is that the speaker or teacher comes, having "prepared himself and talked from the revelations and spoken by the power of the Holy Spirit." The burden of preparation rests heavily on his shoulders first!

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

Saturday, July 28, 2018

President Harold B. Lee on the importance of meditation in our busy lives

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.
"Don’t get so busy that you don’t have time to meditate. Take the time. The most important testimony does not come by sight, but by the inner witness. Christ may be nearer than we have knowledge. 'I am in your midst, but you do not see me. The Holy Ghost bears the sure witness. Mine eyes are upon you. The day cometh when ye shall know that I am.' (D&C 38:7–8.)"
- Harold B. Lee, Address to meeting of Provo Temple workers, 9 July 1972; quoted in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, p. 183

Most of us have very busy lives. There are so many things that compete for our time and attention. President Lee's caution is very wise; time we spend meditating is so valuable for our peace of mind, our ability to choose and prioritize, and our spiritual stability.

I like this thought: "Christ may be nearer than we have knowledge." Another way to think of it is that He is always near, but only when we slow down to meditate and reach out are we able to find Him!

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

Friday, July 27, 2018

President Howard W. Hunter on the divine sacred gift of agency

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.
"To fully understand this gift of agency and its inestimable worth, it is imperative that we understand that God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement. He always acts with unfailing respect for the freedom and independence that we possess. He wants to help us and pleads for the chance to assist us, but he will not do so in violation of our agency. He loves us too much to do that, and doing so would run counter to his divine character....
"To countermand and ultimately forbid our choices was Satan’s way, not God’s, and the Father of us all simply never will do that. He will, however, stand by us forever to help us see the right path, find the right choice, respond to the true voice, and feel the influence of his undeniable Spirit. His gentle, peaceful, powerful persuasion to do right and find joy will be with us 'so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved.' (Moro. 7:36.)
"Given the freedom to choose, we may, in fact, make wrong choices, bad choices, hurtful choices. And sometimes we do just that, but that is where the mission and mercy of Jesus Christ comes into full force and glory. He has taken upon himself the burden of all the world’s risk. He has provided a mediating atonement for the wrong choices we make. He is our advocate with the Father and has paid, in advance, for the faults and foolishness we often see in the exercise of our freedom. We must accept his gift, repent of those mistakes, and follow his commandments in order to take full advantage of this redemption. The offer is always there; the way is always open. We can always, even in our darkest hour and most disastrous errors, look to the Son of God and live."
- Howard W. Hunter, "The Golden Thread of Choice," General Conference October 1989
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is a beautiful description by President Hunter of how he envisions the relationship between God and man. This understanding is key to our comprehension of the precious gift of agency:

President Hunter's continuing emphasis on God's love is so beautiful. He loves us completely and will "stand by us forever to help us see the right path, find the right choice, respond to the true voice, and feel the influence of his undeniable Spirit. His gentle, peaceful, powerful persuasion to do right."

But yet, we often falter and make wrong choices. The great plan of agency accounts for our human frailties, offering "a mediating atonement for the wrong choices we make." President Hunter's testimony of that gift is reassuring and inspiring!

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

Thursday, July 26, 2018

President Ezra Taft Benson on the modern challenge of spiritual complacency

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.
"Every generation has its tests and its chance to stand and prove itself. Would you like to know of one of our toughest tests? Hear the warning words of Brigham Young, 'The worst fear I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution and be true. But my greatest fear is that they cannot stand wealth.' ...
"Ours then seems to be the toughest test of all, for the evils are more subtle, more clever. It all seems less menacing and it is harder to detect. While every test of righteousness represents a struggle, this particular test seems like no test at all, no struggle and so could be the most deceiving of all tests.
"Do you know what peace and prosperity can do to a people—It can put them to sleep. The Book of Mormon warned us of how Satan, in the last days, would lead us away carefully down to hell. The Lord has on the earth some potential spiritual giants whom He saved for some six thousand years to help bear off the Kingdom triumphantly, and the devil is trying to put them to sleep. The adversary knows that he probably won’t be too successful in getting them to commit many great and malignant sins of commission. So he puts them into a deep sleep, like Gulliver, while he strands them with little sins of omission. And what good is a sleepy, neutralized, lukewarm giant as a leader?
"We have too many potential spiritual giants who should be more vigorously lifting their homes, the kingdom, and the country. We have many who feel they are good men and women, but they need to be good for something—strong patriarchs, courageous missionaries, valiant family history and temple workers, dedicated patriots, devoted quorum members. In short, we must be shaken and awakened from a spiritual snooze."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Our Obligation and Challenge," regional representatives’ seminar, Sept. 30, 1977
Quoted in David A. Bednar, "On the Lord's Side: Lessons from Zion's Camp," Ensign, July 2017

It's always fascinating to consider the timing of the counsel and warnings given by the prophets. This excerpt from President Benson was shared over 40 years ago. As we think about the kinds of challenges and distractions that were present in that era, compared to now—there is no question that prophetic foresight was anticipating the growing problems that would come to overwhelm so many in our day.

And even earlier than President Monson: Brigham Young's concerns about the risks of wealth and associated complacency have certainly been realized!

And so we live in an era when we face "the most deceiving of all tests" in ways that are clever, subtle, and easily overlooked. We become complacent; we forget who we are and what challenges and obligations are placed upon us, what opportunities to do good are all around:

Are we forgetting the "weightier matters" and being lulled into that complacency by the devilish distractions of our time? The ubiquity of electronic devices is certainly a part of it; they are powerful tools for good when used properly, but can be enormous distractions to lull us into sleep. What other modern distractions or attitudes might fit into that category?

So the challenge of our time is "to be good for something." To be "strong patriarchs, courageous missionaries, valiant family history and temple workers, dedicated patriots, devoted quorum members."

It would be a wonderful exercise for each of us to consider if there are ways in which we need to heed the warning of a prophet and be "shaken and awakened from a spiritual snooze."

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on finding God's help to endure life's trials

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.
"When the pathway of life takes a cruel turn, there is the temptation to ask the question 'Why me?' At times there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, no sunrise to end the night's darkness. We feel encompassed by the disappointment of shattered dreams and the despair of vanished hopes. We join in uttering the biblical plea, 'Is there no balm in Gilead?' (Jeremiah 8:22.) We feel abandoned, heartbroken, alone. We are inclined to view our own personal misfortunes through the distorted prism of pessimism. We become impatient for a solution to our problems, forgetting that frequently the heavenly virtue of patience is required.
"The difficulties which come to us present us with the real test of our ability to endure. A fundamental question remains to be answered by each of us: Shall I falter, or shall I finish? Some do falter as they find themselves unable to rise above their challenges. To finish involves enduring to the very end of life itself....
"From the bed of pain, from the pillow wet with tears, we are lifted heavenward by that divine assurance and precious promise: 'I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee' (Joshua 1:5). Such comfort is priceless....
"Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass. We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before.
"This should be our purpose—to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow. Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life."
- Thomas S. Monson, "I Will Not Fail Thee, nor Forsake Thee," General Conference October 2013
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This excerpt from President Monson is packed with information and reassurance. He identifies many of the difficulties we all encounter in life, at one point or another:

  • Lack of hope in dealing with challenges
  • Disappointment of shattered dreams, vanished hopes
  • Feeling alone and unsupported
  • Impatience for problems to be resolved
  • Ongoing pain or heartbreaking sorrow
As we confront the question, whether consciously or subconsciously, "Shall I falter, or shall I finish?" — it is a struggle to find the courage to endure, since sometimes that means "enduring to the very end of life itself." President Monson's ringing testimony echoes the words of Joshua in reassuring us that God will always support and sustain: "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."

As we survive our trials, President Monson testifies there are benefits that will come:

  • We will be better people
  • We will grow in understanding and empathy
  • Our testimonies will be stronger
  • We will be "spiritually refined"
  • We will experience growth and "progress toward our goal of eternal life." 
In other words, there is purpose in the challenges and trials of life that will bless us if we allow them to, with God's help to sustain us. These are hopeful, faithful words of encouragement!

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the blessing of a pioneer heritage

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.
"As you might know, none of my ancestors made the trek across the plains to these valleys in the Mountain West.
"But then, even though my ancestors were not numbered among those who took part in that great enterprise, I claim the heritage of those noble pioneers as my own. Their example has influenced my life for good. I treasure the foundation they established for the restored gospel. I honor what they did, what they became, and what they gave to us as a result of their sacrifice....
"Whether we descended from the pioneers or not, it is wise to remember that the glory of their sacrifice belongs to them. We can’t place the trophies they earned for their faith and industry on our mantels. We can’t pin the medals they earned for their courage and bravery on our chests. 
"Our generation will need to stand on our own achievements, not on those of previous generations.
"In the life to come, I will be eager to meet with those legendary giants who gave so much to found these cities here in the valleys of the mountains. I think they will be pleased by our interest in them. I think they will be humbled by our admiration. But I also believe that they will be far more concerned not about what they did, but about what we did as a result of their sacrifice.
"I have a feeling they will be pleased far more by our performance than by applause, praise, or parades. They will want to know if we gained anything from the hard-won lessons they learned through tribulation and trial. They will want to know if their sacrifice and endurance made a difference to us and to our children."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "All Is Well," address given July 13, 2014, at the Pioneer Days Celebration in Ogden, Utah
Click here to read the full talk

While serving in the First Presidency, President Uchtdorf shared a "Pioneer Day" message to a gathering in Ogden. I loved his candid admission that he had no pioneer ancestors (as a relatively recent European convert). But yet, he pointed out how he too could claim the pioneer heritage as a member of the Church, as he learned from their example and benefited from what was built on the foundation they established.

We can honor and recognize the sacrifice and contribution of the pioneers, but we must make our own sacrifices and show our own commitment to the principles they were devoted to. President Uchtdorf suggested that our pioneer ancestors will care little for our praise and recognition, but will be more interested to know "if their sacrifice and endurance made a difference to us." What an interesting insight!

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

Monday, July 23, 2018

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on living in the holy present

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.
"One of the most cruel games anyone can play with self is the 'not yet' game—hoping to sin just a bit more before ceasing; to enjoy the praise of the world a little longer before turning away from the applause; to win just once more in the wearying sweepstakes of materialism; to be chaste, but not yet; to be good neighbors, but not now. One can play upon the harpstrings of hesitations and reservations just so long, and then one faces that special moment—a moment when what has been sensed, mutely, suddenly finds voice and cries out with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.' (Mark 9:24.)
"The truth is that 'not yet' usually means 'never.' Trying to run away from the responsibility to decide about Christ is childish. Pilate sought to refuse responsibility for deciding about Christ, but Pilate’s hands were never dirtier than just after he had washed them.
"The past of each of us is now inflexible. We need to concentrate on what has been called 'the holy present,' for now is sacred; we never really live in the future. The holy gift of life always takes the form of now.
"Besides, God asks us now to give up only those things which, if clung to, will destroy us!"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Why Not Now?", General Conference October 1974
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

As I pondered Elder Maxwell's description of "the 'not yet' game," I realized how accurate his description is. I have seen that tendency in my own life, clinging to some things just a little longer than I should, postponing resolving a question or concern. What a great warning and reminder; we just not assume there is a future to resolve the issue, since that future may be denied us. And the longer we postpone, the harder it is to resolve—since "The truth is that 'not yet' usually means 'never.'"

We life in "the holy present" and we should do all we can to make sure not only that we preserve the holiness, but that we take full advantage of it.

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

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Elder Ulisses Soares on the focus of priorities and programs in the Church

Elder Ulisses Soares (born October 2, 1958 in Brazil) 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.
"Jesus showed patience and love to all who came to Him seeking relief for their physical, emotional, or spiritual illnesses and who felt discouraged and downtrodden.
"To follow the Savior’s example, each one of us must look around and reach out to the sheep who are facing the same circumstances and lift them up and encourage them to proceed on the journey towards eternal life.
"This need today is as great as or perhaps even greater than when the Savior walked on this earth. As shepherds we must understand that we should nurture each one of our sheep to bring them to Christ, which is the purpose of all we do in this Church.
"Any activity, meeting, or program should focus on this same objective. As we stay in tune with the needs of the people, we can strengthen them and help them overcome their challenges, so they will remain steadfast in the way which will lead them back to our Heavenly Father’s presence and help them endure to the end.
"The gospel of Jesus Christ is about people, not programs. Sometimes, in the haste of fulfilling our Church responsibilities, we spend too much time concentrating on programs, instead of focusing on people, and end up taking their real needs for granted. When things like that happen, we lose the perspective of our callings, neglect people, and prevent them from reaching their divine potential to gain eternal life."
- Ulisses Soares, “Feed My Sheep," General Conference October 2005
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was the first general conference message shared by Elder Soares after his call as a general authority in 2005. He talked about the sacred responsibility we share as members of the Church to care for one another, truly following the example and teachings of the Savior. As recorded in the scriptures, His ministry focused on those who "felt discouraged and downtrodden" as He offered "relief for their physical, emotional, or spiritual illnesses." We might ask ourselves how well we are doing in following that specific example!

Truly, a primary reason for the organization and existence of the Church is to facilitate our serving one another in this manner. We must never lose that focus and priority! That is the way we help one another reach our "divine potential to gain eternal life."

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

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Elder Gerrit W. Gong on worthiness and peace through Christ

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.
"To be worthy does not mean to be perfect. Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness invites us to be humbly at peace on our life’s journey to someday become perfected in Christ (see Moroni 10:32), not constantly worried, frustrated, or unhappy in our imperfections today. Remember, He knows all the things we don’t want anyone else to know about us—and loves us still.
"Sometimes life tests our trust in Christ’s mercy, justice, and judgment and in His liberating invitation to allow His Atonement to heal us as we forgive others and ourselves....
"When trust is betrayed, dreams shattered, hearts broken and broken again, when we want justice and need mercy, when our fists clench and our tears flow, when we need to know what to hold onto and what to let go of, we can always remember Him. Life is not as cruel as it can sometimes seem. His infinite compassion can help us find our way, truth, and life (see John 14:6)."
- Elder Gerrit W. Gong, "Always Remember Him," General Conference April 2016
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

So much is conveyed in that first simple line: "To be worthy does not mean to be perfect." Sometimes we confuse the two qualities. To be worthy means we are striving for perfection, and we can be "humbly at peace" with that knowledge:

We must be careful to remember that the Atonement of Jesus Christ provides for us the power to "heal us as we forgive others and ourselves." If we truly believe Him and trust in Him, then we should be filled with the hope and understanding of that healing and know that our worthiness in His eyes means we are accepting his offering on our behalf.

In addition, we must remember that life will have challenges that attempt to drag us down to despair. Elder Gong notes that we must occasionally deal with those times "when trust is betrayed, dreams shattered, hearts broken and broken again, when we want justice and need mercy, when our fists clench and our tears flow" and we fact the various disappointments and frustrations of life. Those are the critical times for us to "always remember Him" in order to bring back hope and faith.

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

Friday, July 20, 2018

Elder Dale G. Renlund on treating others with love and respect

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.
"Those who have been persecuted for any reason know what unfairness and bigotry feel like. As a teenager living in Europe in the 1960s, I felt that I was repeatedly picked on and bullied because I was an American and because I was a member of the Church. Some of my schoolmates treated me as though I were personally responsible for unpopular U.S. foreign policies. I was also treated as though my religion were an affront to the nations in which I lived because it differed from state-sponsored religion. Later, in various countries across the world, I have had small glimpses into the ugliness of prejudice and discrimination suffered by those who are targeted because of their race or ethnicity.
"Persecution comes in many forms: ridicule, harassment, bullying, exclusion and isolation, or hatred toward another. We must guard against bigotry that raises its ugly voice toward those who hold different opinions. Bigotry manifests itself, in part, in unwillingness to grant equal freedom of expression. Everyone, including people of religion, has the right to express his or her opinions in the public square. But no one has a license to be hateful toward others as those opinions are expressed.
"Church history gives ample evidence of our members being treated with hatred and bigotry. How ironically sad it would be if we were to treat others as we have been treated. The Savior taught, 'Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them' (Matthew 7:12). For us to ask for respect, we must be respectful. Furthermore, our genuine conversion brings 'meekness, and lowliness of heart,' which invites 'the Holy Ghost [and fills us with] perfect love' (Moroni 8:26), an 'unfeigned love' (1 Peter 1:22) for others."
- Dale G. Renlund, "Our Good Shepherd," General Conference April 2017
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It seems that in recent years, we have been losing some of the civility and manners that used to mark society. Instead, we see increasing "ridicule, harassment, bullying, exclusion and isolation, or hatred" in so many public interactions. Elder Renlund reminds us that "the ugliness of prejudice and discrimination" have no place in our lives and attitudes.

We must never forget that the right to express opinions is a fundamental opportunity that we should never deny others; opinions should be respected and considered. Even if we disagree, that does not give us the right to be "hateful toward others"; not only should we be respectful, but the love of Christ and concern for others should influence all of our actions and attitudes.

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

Thursday, July 19, 2018

President Joseph Fielding Smith on perspective of wealth and life's purpose

Joseph Fielding Smith (1876-1972) was the son of Joseph F. Smith, 6th president of the Church, and grandson of Hyrum Smith, brother of the Prophet Joseph. He was called as an apostle in 1910, and served as the 10th president of the Church from 1970 until his death in 1972 at age 95.
"We are here for a great purpose. That purpose is not to live 100 years, or less, and plant our fields, reap our crops, gather fruit, live in houses, and surround ourselves with the necessities of mortal life. That is not the purpose of life. These things are necessary to our existence here, and that is the reason why we should be industrious. But how many men spend their time thinking that all there is in life is to accumulate the things of this world, to live in comfort, and surround themselves with all the luxuries, and privileges, and pleasures it is possible for mortal life to bestow, and never give a thought to anything beyond?
"Why, all these things are but temporary blessings. We eat to live. We clothe ourselves to keep warm and covered. We have houses to live in for our comfort and convenience, but we ought to look upon all these blessings as temporary blessings needful while we journey through this life. And that is all the good they are to us. We cannot take any of them with us when we depart. Gold, silver, and precious stones, which are called wealth, are of no use to man, only as they enable him to take care of himself and to meet his necessities here."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, "Salvation for the Dead," Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, Apr. 1926, 154-55; see also Doctrines of Salvation, 1:68-69

So much in life really does depend on why we do what we do. Why do we work? Why do we strive to make a good livelihood? Why do we choose the kind of home we live in? Why do we accumulate the things that surround us?

I've always been struck by this teaching from Jacob in the Book of Mormon:
"And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good—to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted." (Jacob 2.19)
There are two important caveats that stand out to me:

  1. The word after gives critical perspective. The priority is to first "obtain a hope in Christ" and only then to seek to obtain riches.
  2. The purpose of seeking the riches, and the reason that God will grant them to the righteous disciple, is "for the intent to do good."
Those important principles should be foundational in our efforts and priorities in this life!

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

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on overcoming impediments to spiritual progress

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.
"Perhaps you’re aware of things in your life that are threatening to slow or stop your spiritual progress. If so, follow this scriptural counsel: 'Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.' (Hebrews 12:1.)
"It is not yet too late to repent. But it soon may be, because no one really knows when your four minutes will be over.
"Now, you may be thinking to yourself, 'I already blew it. My four minutes are already a disaster. I may as well give up.' If so, stop thinking that, and never think it again. The miracle of the Atonement can make up for imperfections in our performance. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught:
"'To those of you … who may still be hanging back, … I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace....
"'...It is never too late so long as the Master... says there is time.... Don’t delay.' (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Laborers in the Vineyard,” Ensign, May 2012, 33.)
"Remember, you are not alone. The Savior has promised that He will not leave you comfortless. (See John 14:18.) You also have family, friends, and leaders who are cheering you on."
- Gary E. Stevenson, "Your Four Minutes," General Conference April 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It's good to examine our life now and then, and as Elder Stevenson suggests, try to identify things that might be "threatening to slow or stop your spiritual progress." We should never allow that to happen! When it does, we should take the steps necessary to remove the weight holding us down.

This talk was given shortly after a Winter Olympics game was held, and Elder Stevenson discussed the reality that sometimes years of preparation and training precede a 4-minute effort in competition. He likened our mortal life, in the broad scheme of eternity, to those four minutes; in reality, our chance to perform and prove ourselves is a tiny portion of our eternal life. We should do whatever is necessary to make sure we are taking the best advantage of the opportunity! And one of the most important of those things is the occasional need for repentance, for removing of burdens and correcting the course we are following.

This encouraging reminder should help to give us all hope. We are never alone. There is always help and support available in our efforts to remove burdens and to move forward in the best way possible!

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

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on feeling the Savior's love and loving others

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.
"Try to view others through a lens of fairness. To do this requires you to first acknowledge that Heavenly Father loves all of His children equally. He has said, 'Love one another; as I have loved you' (John 13:34). There is no choice, sin, or mistake that you or anyone else can make that will change His love for you or for them. That does not mean He excuses or condones sinful conduct; nor do we, in ourselves or in others. But that does mean we reach out in love to persuade, to help, and to rescue.
"When you feel completely and perfectly loved, it is much easier to love others and to see them the way the Savior does. Please turn to our Savior in prayer and ask to receive His pure love both for yourself and for others. He has promised that you will feel His love if you ask in faith."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "Religious Freedom and Fairness for All," BYU Devotional 8/15/15
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Rasband suggests that we can treat each other better, with more fairness, if we understand the important nature of God's love for us. He loves us perfectly and constantly, regardless of our choices and actions, our mistakes or sins. He loves all His children with that same love. As we understand and remember that concept, it should impact how we treat those around us:

Something important happens when we truly feel God's love for us and understand our relationship to Him. Then we can begin to express that same love to others. How critically important it is for us to turn to the Savior in our lives, and to receive that blessing of understanding!

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

Elder Neil L. Andersen on spiritual understanding in Church settings

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.
"Spiritual understanding rarely comes from a lecture. It comes in classrooms where questions are welcome, where doubts and fears can be expressed, and where honest opinions are never dismissed. It comes from obedience, private study, and prayer. Spiritually, the classroom of faith becomes less like a lecture hall and more like a fitness center. Students do not get stronger by watching someone else do the exercises. They learn and then participate. As their spiritual strength increases, they gain confidence and apply themselves all the more.
"The Savior taught by listening and observing. After teaching and healing the multitude, He fed them. (See Matthew 15:32–38.) To the woman caught in adultery, He wrote in the sand. (See John 8:6.) Before He healed the daughter of the leader of the synagogue, He asked those who did not believe to leave the house. (See Mark 5:40.) And to Caiaphas, the high priest, He said nothing. (See Matthew 26:63.)
"Elder Neal A. Maxwell summarized effective teaching in these words: 'Do not be afraid of repetitious teaching. Ask inspired questions. Typically, but not always, two-way dialogue is better than one-way monologue.' (Neal A. Maxwell, in David A. Bednar, Act in Doctrine (2012), 124.)
"Use the scriptures; share simple stories, parables, and real-life examples; ask questions; invite students to teach and to share their feelings; encourage them to act in faith and to report on what they are learning.
"Keep your teaching centered in the doctrine. Alma taught: 'Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption.' (Alma 12:32; italics added.)
"Commandments are best understood in the context of the doctrine of Christ."
- Neil L. Andersen, "A Classroom of Faith, Hope, and Charity," broadcast for instructors and personnel in the Church Educational System on February 28, 2014
Click here to read the full talk

This is an interesting excerpt to consider, both from the perspective of a teacher and from that of a learner. The teacher must do the things in a formal classroom setting that will facilitate the maximum amount of learning, both intellectually and especially spiritually. But the learner also has a great responsibility to participate in the most effective ways:

As we have formal opportunities to be a teacher in Church settings, we should remember what a sacred responsibility and obligation that is. It is not something to be done casually; it requires significant effort, pondering, preparation, and divine guidance.

But I continue to wonder if we are doing all we can as learners in the Church. Do I make efforts to be prepared to be taught? Am I eager to participate and share? Do I make those personal efforts in areas of "obedience, private study, and prayer"?

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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on the need for optimism in a stress-filled world

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1961. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1981-1995, then as Church President until his death in 2008.
"Looking at the dark side of things always leads to a spirit of pessimism which so often leads to defeat....
"I have little doubt that many of us are troubled with fears concerning ourselves. We are in a period of stress across the world. There are occasionally hard days for each of us. Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds. Opportunities will eventually open to you. Do not let the prophets of gloom endanger your possibilities."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "The Continuing Pursuit of Truth,"  BYU—Hawaii commencement 18 June 1983; see Ensign, April 1986, p. 2
Click here to read the full article

President Hinckley's consistent message of hope and optimism rings true today. While we sometimes face storms and challenges that seem to block the sunlight in our lives, we should always remember that storms are temporary and we must never despair. This applies both to a "period of stress across the world" and to the most individual challenges in our own lives.

I think perhaps one of life's great challenges is to "look for the sunlight through the clouds." Our nature is to focus on the clouds, forgetting that the sunlight is still there behind them. Once we develop that gift, we will find our challenges much easier to bear.

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