Friday, August 31, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on developing self-worth based on divine parentage

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"The Bible teaches that man and woman are created in the image of the Father (see Genesis 1:26–27). The science of genetics and personal observation both testify to the principle of offspring taking on the form, appearance, and traits of parents. Some build their sense of personal worth by comparing themselves to others. That approach can lead to feelings of inadequacy or superiority. It is preferable to look directly to our Father for our sense of self-worth.
"Our mortal pedigree charts show many generations winding backward through the ages. Our individual spiritual pedigree chart, however, has only two generations—our Father’s and ours. Our form is His form, without the glory. 'Now are we the sons [and daughters] of God, and ... when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is' (1 John 3:2; see also D&C 130:1). Within each of us lie the latent seeds of godliness that can be given flower and fruition by His blessing and by following the path of strict obedience shown to us by Jesus. There is power in saying or singing the words 'I am a child of God.'"
- Quentin L. Cook, "The Doctrine of the Father," Ensign, February 2012, p. 33
Click here to read the full article

Our personal self-concept develops in a variety of ways as we grow up, and changes frequently through the experiences of our lives. Elder Cook warns us of the tendency to develop that sense of self-worth by comparing ourselves to others around us; that can result in a skewed and inaccurate image, for a variety of reasons:

  • we evaluate others superficially, based on our brief glimpses of their public appearance
  • we don't fully know the challenges and concerns of others that may not be visible to us
  • we can't compare our gifts and abilities with others, since we are all granted such diverse "raw material" to work with
  • we can't alter the differing circumstances into which we are born, and to some extent, the things we face in life

So the caution is to develop our sense of self-worth by understanding our divine parentage and heritage, and the eternal potential within each of us:

Once we understand the nature of our "spiritual heritage" and the divine seeds that are within us, we can focus on developing a divine sense of self-worth in the things that truly matter most.

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

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Elder David A. Bednar on maintaining the companionship of the Spirit

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.
"In our individual study and classroom instruction, we repeatedly emphasize the importance of recognizing the inspiration and promptings we receive from the Spirit of the Lord. And such an approach is correct and useful. We should seek diligently to recognize and respond to promptings as they come to us. However, an important aspect of baptism by the Spirit may frequently be overlooked in our spiritual development.
"We should also endeavor to discern when we 'withdraw [ourselves] from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in [us] to guide [us] in wisdom’s paths that [we] may be blessed, prospered, and preserved' (Mosiah 2:36). Precisely because the promised blessing is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us, we should attend to and learn from the choices and influences that separate us from the Holy Spirit.
"The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us."
- David A. Bednar, "That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us," General Conference April 2006
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Learning to do the things that will bring the Holy Spirit into our lives is a key task of life. But Elder Bednar teaches that we must likewise learn to avoid doing the things that will drive that Spirit away from us. Each of these two aspects of our mortal experience is crucial to us, and he suggests that we sometimes don't give enough attention to the second part:

Joseph Smith taught beautifully about the process of bringing more spiritual influence into our life:
“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.”
- Joseph Smith, discourse on June 27, 1839; see History of the Church, 3:381

The corollary, as Elder Bednar instructs, would be to be alert enough to notice quickly when the spirit of revelation declines or disappears from our minds and lives. As we become more sensitive and more observant to spiritual promptings, we can more easily "fine-tune" our actions to increase the spiritual influence we receive.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on God's unending love for His children

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 a child, when I would look at the little forget-me-nots, I sometimes felt a little like that flower—small and insignificant. I wondered if I would be forgotten by my family or by my Heavenly Father.
"Years later I can look back on that young boy with tenderness and compassion. And I do know now—I was never forgotten.
"And I know something else: as an Apostle of our Master, Jesus Christ, I proclaim with all the certainty and conviction of my heart—neither are you!
"You are not forgotten.
"Sisters, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances may be, you are not forgotten. No matter how dark your days may seem, no matter how insignificant you may feel, no matter how overshadowed you think you may be, your Heavenly Father has not forgotten you. In fact, He loves you with an infinite love.
"Just think of it: You are known and remembered by the most majestic, powerful, and glorious Being in the universe! You are loved by the King of infinite space and everlasting time!
"He who created and knows the stars knows you and your name....
"God loves you because you are His child. He loves you even though at times you may feel lonely or make mistakes.
"The love of God and the power of the restored gospel are redemptive and saving. If you will only allow His divine love into your life, it can dress any wound, heal any hurt, and soften any sorrow."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Forget Me Not," General Conference October 2011
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is one of President Uchtdorf's talks that is worth reviewing regularly. He spoke his words of encouragement and counsel to the sisters of the Church, but the counsel applies equally to brethren; we all need to remember that God has not forgotten nor forsaken us, and never will.

President Uchtdorf testified that God loves us, and will always love us, because we are His creation and His children. Even when we feel lonely or when we know we have made mistakes—perhaps especially at those times—we can be assured that He remembers us, cares for us, and is eager to help and sustain us. We need only allow His divine love into our life!

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on trusting Jesus when we face challenges

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (born December 3, 1940) served as Church Commissioner of Education from 1976-1980, as the president of BYU from 1980-1989, as a Seventy from 1989-1994, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1994.
"Katie Lewis is my neighbor. Her father, Randy, is my bishop; her mother, Melanie, is a saint. And her older brother, Jimmie, is battling leukemia.
"Sister Lewis recently recounted for me the unspeakable fear and grief that came to their family when Jimmie’s illness was diagnosed. She spoke of the tears and the waves of sorrow that any mother would experience with a prognosis as grim as Jimmie’s was. But like the faithful Latter-day Saints they are, the Lewises turned to God with urgency and with faith and with hope. They fasted and prayed, prayed and fasted. And they went again and again to the temple.
"One day Sister Lewis came home from a temple session weary and worried, feeling the impact of so many days—and nights—of fear being held at bay only by monumental faith.
"As she entered her home, four-year-old Katie ran up to her with love in her eyes and a crumpled sheaf of papers in her hand. Holding the papers out to her mother, she said enthusiastically, 'Mommy, do you know what these are?'
"Sister Lewis said frankly her first impulse was to deflect Katie’s zeal and say she didn’t feel like playing just then. But she thought of her children—all her children—and the possible regret of missed opportunities and little lives that pass too swiftly. So she smiled through her sorrow and said, 'No, Katie. I don’t know what they are. Please tell me.'
"'They are the scriptures,' Katie beamed back, 'and do you know what they say?'
"Sister Lewis stopped smiling, gazed deeply at this little child, knelt down to her level, and said, 'Tell me, Katie. What do the scriptures say?'
"'They say, "Trust Jesus."' And then she was gone.
"Sister Lewis said that as she stood back up, holding a fistful of her four-year-old’s scribbling, she felt near-tangible arms of peace encircle her weary soul and a divine stillness calm her troubled heart.
"Katie Lewis, 'angel and minister of grace,' I’m with you. In a world of some discouragement, sorrow, and overmuch sin, in times when fear and despair seem to prevail, when humanity is feverish with no worldly physicians in sight, I too say, 'Trust Jesus.' Let him still the tempest and ride upon the storm. Believe that he can lift mankind from its bed of affliction, in time and in eternity.
"Oh, dearly, dearly has he loved!
And we must love him too,
And trust in his redeeming blood,
And try his works to do.
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Look to God and Live," General Conference October 1993
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Holland is a gifted story-teller, and some of his best messages are his personal insights and experiences. This tender glimpse into a 4-year-old neighbor's thoughts, and her mother's response, is enough to melt any heart. Clearly that young girl had been well taught, and she had learned several important messages already related to the value of the scriptures and the treasure of their teachings. There aren't many messages more important for us all than "Trust Jesus."

To trust means to believe. It means to accept and follow. It means to have faith in promises of help and sustaining power. It means to rely on the merits, and mercy, and grace that are offered to us by Him. What a tender and powerful message!

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

Monday, August 27, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on the influence of our attitudes

President M. Russell Ballard (born October 8, 1928) was called as a Seventy in 1976, and has served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1985. He became acting president of the Twelve in January 2018.
"Attitude is an important part of the foundation upon which we build a productive life. In appraising our present attitude, we might ask: 'Am I working to become my best self? Do I set worthy and attainable goals? Do I look toward the positive in life? Am I alert to ways that I can render more and better service? Am I doing more than is required of me?'
"Remember, a good attitude produces good results, a fair attitude fair results, a poor attitude poor results. We each shape our own life, and the shape of it is determined largely by our attitude. George Bernard Shaw wrote: 'People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.' (Mrs. Warren’s Profession, in Plays by George Bernard Shaw, New York: New American Library, 1960, p. 82.)"
- M. Russell Ballard, "Providing for Our Needs," General Conference April 1981
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Seeking "a productive life" is a worthy and important goal. It doesn't happen by coincidence or chance; it comes, as President Ballard indicates, through our personal efforts, working towards worthy goals, serving faithfully, going the extra mile:

President Ballard believes that we have the ability to shape our lives by the selection of our attitudes. We are not merely the victims of circumstances; on the contrary, we have the ability to shape our circumstances. It is good for us each to consider how well we are doing in setting the goals, choosing the attitudes, and controlling the direction of our life!

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

Sunday, August 26, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on being nourished by the good word of 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.
"Just as pondering the scriptures invites the Holy Ghost, so does daily pleading in prayer. If we do not ask in prayer, He will rarely come, and without our petition He is not likely to linger. 'And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach' (D&C 42:14). Heartfelt, constant pleading for the companionship of the Holy Ghost, with the pure intent to nourish our Father’s children, will surely bring blessings to us and to those we love and serve.
"The good word of God with which we must nourish is the simple doctrine of the gospel. We need not fear either simplicity or repetition....
"It takes a childlike heart to feel the promptings of the Spirit, to surrender to those commands, and to obey. That is what it takes to be nourished by the good word of God."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Feed My Lambs," General Conference October 1997
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This tender talk by President Eyring was addressed to the new converts in the Church, those who are lambs instead of sheep. "The Saints of God have always been under covenant to nourish each other spiritually, especially those tender in the gospel." How do we best care for one another? He suggests that as we sincerely plead for the Lord's spirit, we will be blessed with the Holy Ghost that will aid us in our ministering. And then we can pass that gift on to the tender lambs in our midst:

The phrase "nourished by the good word of God" which President Eyring uses throughout the talk ,was first used by Jacob as he expounded on the parable of the vineyard—see Jacob 6:7. But much later, Moroni used the same words to describe how new believers should be cared for:
"And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith." (Moroni 6:4, emphasis added)

What a beautiful description that is of how we should love and sustain one another! As we learn to focus on "the simple doctrine of the gospel" without concern about repetition or simplicity, we will find continuing blessings for ourselves and for those we strive to serve.

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

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Elder Marvin J. Ashton on choosing "straightway" to follow the Savior

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915-1994) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1971 until his death in 1994 at age 78.
"Avoid procrastination. We can say with great accuracy procrastination is an unwholesome blend of doubt and delay. Oft-used words of the Savior such as ask, seek, knock, go, thrust, are action words. He would have us use action as we teach and live His principles....
"Do not doubt your abilities. Do not delay your worthy impressions. With God’s help, you cannot fail. He will give you the courage to participate in meaningful change and purposeful living. We need to repent, straightway, and trust in His reality and capacity to assist us in knowing the abundant life. He will help us learn to be sensitive to our own needs and to those of others. Those who fear, procrastinate. Those who change for the better show progress straightway and become wiser and stronger. We need to develop the courage to straightway take the first step. We need to remember that children learn to walk only because someone encourages them to take the first step.
"May we launch straightway toward setting goals that are gospel oriented, knowing that if we use the talents that are ours—that if we help others, strive for peace, avoid being overly sensitive or overly critical—strength upon strength will be added unto our own abilities and we will move straightway toward greater growth, happiness, and eternal joys. Our Master and Savior invites us to straightway embrace His truths and enjoy the warmth of His constant companionship."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "Straightway," General Conference April 1983
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In this memorable talk, Elder Ashton referred to the New Testament description of Jesus calling Simon Peter and Andrew to service, and how they "straightway" left their fishing nets to follow (see Matt. 4:18–22). He encourages us to not delay in our choices and righteous works. In this excerpt he focuses on the personal benefit that comes as we choose to take control of the direction of our life in more assertive ways.

Elder Ashton teaches that as we listen to spiritual promptings and act promptly on them, we begin to live "the abundant life" and feel divine help in becoming more "sensitive to our own needs and to those of others." We become "wiser and stronger"—but only as we have the courage to "take the first step" in decisively and straightway following the Master's call. With God's help, we can act and progress, and will receive the blessings of joy that accompany our actions.

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

Friday, August 24, 2018

Elder Robert D. Hales on living a Christian life

Elder Robert D. Hales (August 24, 1932-October 1, 2017) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.
"For many, the call to be a Christian can seem demanding, even overwhelming. But we need not be afraid or feel inadequate. The Savior has promised that He will make us equal to His work. 'Follow me,' He said, 'and I will make you fishers of men' (Matthew 4:19; emphasis added). As we follow Him, He blesses us with gifts, talents, and the strength to do His will, allowing us to go beyond our comfort zones and do things we’ve never before thought possible. This may mean sharing the gospel with neighbors, rescuing those who are spiritually lost, serving a full-time mission, working in the temple, raising a child with special needs, loving the prodigal, serving an ailing companion, enduring misunderstandings, or suffering affliction. It means preparing ourselves to answer His call by saying, 'I’ll go where you want me to go; I’ll say what you want me to say; I’ll do what you want me to do; I’ll be what you want me to be' (Hymns, no. 270).
"To be who Heavenly Father wants us to be, we follow Jesus Christ. I testify that He is continually calling us to follow Him. If you are just learning about the Christian commitment of Latter-day Saints or if you have not been fully participating in the Church and want to follow Him again—fear not! The Lord’s first disciples were all new members of the Church, newly converted to His gospel. Jesus patiently taught each one. He helped them fulfill their responsibilities. He called them His friends and laid down His life for them. And He has already done the same for you and for me."
- Robert D. Hales, "Being a More Christian Christian," General Conference October 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

"The call to be a Christian" is offered to all of us. We are all invited to follow Him. Those who choose to accept the invitation and strive to become disciples, according to Elder Hales, are blessed "with gifts, talents, and the strength to do His will"—thus far exceeding their own capabilities. When we express our willingness, His help comes to us personally and directly.

So while it isn't always east to truly follow Him, it is certainly possible—with His help. What a testimony of a loving Father and a devoted Savior, who do all They can to bless us and help us succeed in the assignments that come to us!

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

Thursday, August 23, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on the blessings of the Holy Spirit

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.
"For faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ, the companionship of the Holy Spirit should be so familiar that we must use care not to take it for granted. For example, that good feeling you have felt during the messages and music of this conference is a confirming witness of the Spirit, available to faithful members on a continuing basis. A member once asked me why he felt so good about the talks and music in a sacrament meeting, while a guest he had invited that day apparently experienced no such feeling. This is but one illustration of the contrast between one who has the gift of the Holy Ghost and is in tune with his promptings and one who has not, or is not.
"If we are practicing our faith and seeking the companionship of the Holy Spirit, His presence can be felt in our hearts and in our homes. A family having daily family prayers and seeking to keep the commandments of God and honor his name and speak lovingly to one another will have a spiritual feeling in their home that will be discernible to all who enter it. I know this, because I have felt the presence or absence of that feeling in many LDS homes."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Always Have His Spirit," General Conferece, October 1996
Click here to read or listen to the full article

Can we begin to take for granted the blessing of the Holy Spirit in our lives? If we truly recognize and treasure the ways that gift influences us, we must never get casual about it but always respond quickly and gratefully to its promptings and blessings. We should actively seek those influences regularly and frequently in our lives!

There are certainly things we do in our personal lives, and in our family settings, that can encourage or discourage the presence of the Holy Spirit. A careful investigation of factors that might fit in those two categories would be very beneficial. President Oaks suggests that a family's efforts to invite the Holy Spirit into the home can have a profound, and noticeable, effect. Prayer, obedience, kindness to one another—simple, but powerful, actions that make all the difference.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on the blessings of obedience

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.
"Whether truth emerges from a scientific laboratory or through revelation, all truth emanates from God. All truth is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ....
"In all professional endeavors, rigorous standards of accuracy are required. Scholars cherish their freedom of expression. But full freedom cannot be experienced if part of one’s knowledge is ruled 'out-of-bounds' by edicts of men.
"Spiritual truth cannot be ignored—especially divine commandments. Keeping divine commandments brings blessings, every time! Breaking divine commandments brings a loss of blessings, every time! (See Mosiah 2:41; D&C 58:30–33; 82:10. This principle is true for everyone, for 'God is no respecter of persons' (Acts 10:34; see also Moroni 8:12).)"
- Russell M. Nelson, "Let Your Faith Show," General Conference April 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full article

President Nelson's message is really quite simple. Truth is truth, eternally—whether it comes from science or revelation. And it is only in following that truth that we can truly find blessings and peace!

One thing that is always fascinating with President Nelson is to study the footnotes. There is always great material there to supplement his talks!

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on living the best we can each day

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.
"Sometimes we let our thoughts of tomorrow take up too much of today. Daydreaming of the past and longing for the future may provide comfort but will not take the place of living in the present. This is the day of our opportunity, and we must grasp it.
"Professor Harold Hill, in Meredith Willson's The Music Man, cautioned: 'You pile up enough tomorrows, and you'll find you've collected a lot of empty yesterdays.'
"There is no tomorrow to remember if we don't do something today, and to live most fully today, we must do that which is of greatest importance. Let us not procrastinate those things which matter most."
- Thomas S. Monson, "In Search of Treasure," General Conference, April 2003
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

How can we live as happily and contented in each day as possible? President Monson suggests that one critical aspect of that challenge is to avoid dwelling too much on the past or anticipating the future. It's critical to learn to "live in the present"!

And so President Monson reminds us that learning to "do that which is of greatest importance" in each day, and to not "procrastinate those things which matter most" as we live our lives, is a crucial task of life.

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

Monday, August 20, 2018

Elder Richard G. Scott on focusing our life on the things of greatest importance

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928-2015) served as a Seventy from 1977-1988, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He passed away in September 2015 at the age of 86.
"God’s purpose is 'to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man' (Moses 1:39). That is fundamental to all we do. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in things that we find fascinating or become so consumed by mundane responsibilities that we lose sight of God’s objectives. As you consistently focus your life on the most basic principles, you will gain an understanding of what you are to do, and you will produce more fruit for the Lord and more happiness for yourself.
"When you focus your life on the basic principles of the plan of salvation, you will better concentrate on sharing what you know because you understand the eternal importance of the ordinances of the gospel. You will share what you know in a way that encourages your friends to want to be strengthened spiritually. You will help your loved ones want to commit to obey all of His commandments and take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ."
- Richard G. Scott, "I Have Given You an Example," General Conference April 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

One of the great challenges of mortality is to develop and then and maintain appropriate focus on the things that truly matter most.  Elder Scott identifies some of the problems we confront, as we "get so wrapped up" in either our "mundane responsibilities" or in the other, less important, "things that we find fascinating."

The challenge then is to focus on "basic principles" in order to preserve appropriate priorities in our lives. It's easy to think that more advanced or sophisticated activities might be more valuable or beneficial; that's a trap that can lead us directly to the dangers Elder Scott is warning of.

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

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on the Savior's invitation to come to Him even amidst trials

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.
"Do we naively expect Christ to come to us—instead of our going to Him? Truly He waits 'all the day long' with open arms to receive the repentant. (2 Ne. 28:32; Morm. 6:17.) There are no restrictive 'office hours.' But it is we who must arise and go to Him! (See Luke 15:18.)
"Blessed are the meek for they shall not be easily offended, which is especially important, since 'My people must be tried in all things, ... and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom.' (D&C 136:31.)
"Genuine faith makes increasing allowance for these individual tutorials. In view of these tutorials, God cannot, brothers and sisters, respond affirmatively to all of our petitions with an unbroken chain of 'yeses.' This would assume that all of our petitions are for that 'which is right' and are spiritually 'expedient.' (3 Ne. 18:20; D&C 18:18; D&C 88:64-65.) No petitioner is so wise! Paul even acknowledged that we sometimes 'know not what we should pray for as we ought.' (Rom. 8:26; see also D&C 46:30.)
"For example, in process of time, our personal inconsistencies may be made inconveniently clear. How else shall we see what we lack? Spiritual refinement is not only to make the gross more pure but to further refine the already fine! Hence, said Peter, we should not think a 'fiery trial' to be 'some strange thing.' (1 Pet. 4:12.)
"Real faith, however, is required to endure this necessary but painful developmental process."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds," General Conference April 1991
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The Savior's invitation was, and always has been, "Come unto me" (Matt. 11:28)—and so it is each of us who must chose to arise and come. He continues to invite, and to wait:

It requires humble, sincere faith to arise and come. Elder Maxwell describes the "genuine faith" that will lead us to Him; and will also bless our lives as we avoid being easily offended, as we understand the nature of our trials and challenges in life, and as we come to comprehend the purpose of petitionary prayer.

Sometimes our prayers for relief or change are denied in order that we have the refining opportunities He would give to us. We learn from every challenge, and are blessed as we trust in God's plan for our growth and tutoring.

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018

President Boyd K. Packer on the choice to be obedient

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death on July 3, 2015 at age 90.
"It may seem unusual at first to foster self-control by centering on freedom of choice, but it is a very sound doctrinal approach.
"While either subject may be taught separately, and though they may appear at first to be opposites, they are in fact parts of the same subject.
"Some who do not understand the doctrinal part do not readily see the relationship between obedience and agency. And they miss one vital connection and see obedience only as restraint. They then resist the very thing that will give them true freedom. There is no true freedom without responsibility, and there is no enduring freedom without a knowledge of the truth. The Lord said, 'If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' (John 8:31–32.)
"...Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God.
"We are the sons and daughters of God, willing followers, disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and 'under this head are [we] made free.' (Mosiah 5:8.)
"Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. There is an obedience that comes from a knowledge of the truth that transcends any external form of control. We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see. The best control, I repeat, is self-control."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Agency and Control," General Conference April 1983
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Packer considered in this talk the goal of obtaining the obedience of others. If we want to make sure someone obeys directions or guidelines, how is that best accomplished? One option is expressed in the military setting: the dominance and intimidation that are often portrayed as the officers and leaders "control" the enlisted men. But another very different option is shown in the Gospel's approach. A loving Father invites us to follow and exercise our own self-control. As we choose to be obedient, we find joy and blessings that follow—and so we are motivated to continue in that path.

President Packer discusses the charge that those in such a setting are obeying the requests or instructions of their leaders "blindly":

The sweetest form of discipleship is choosing to willingly follow the teachings of the Master, knowing that there is wisdom and joy in that path. As we begin to see more clearly, we will know that we are choosing wisely and will continue to choose to follow that path.

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

Friday, August 17, 2018

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on finding peace in the storms and challenges of life

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.
"Living the gospel does not mean the storms of life will pass us by, but we will be better prepared to face them with serenity and peace. 'Search diligently, pray always, and be believing,' the Lord admonished, 'and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly.' (D&C 90:24)
"Draw close to the Lord Jesus Christ. Be of good cheer. Keep the faith. Doubt not. The storms will one day be stilled. Our beloved prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, has said: 'We have nothing to fear. God is at the helm... [and] He will shower down blessings upon those who walk in obedience to His commandments.' ('This Is the Work of the Master,' Ensign, May 1995, 71.)
"In our own storms in life the Savior is our solace and our sanctuary. If we seek peace, we must come unto Him. He Himself spoke this eternal truth when He said, 'My yoke is easy, and my burden is light' (Matt. 11:30). When our souls are anchored in the safe harbor of the Savior, we can proclaim as did Paul: 'We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed' (2 Cor. 4:8–9)."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Finding a Safe Harbor," General Conference April 2000
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is one of my favorite talks by Elder Wirthlin; it's worthwhile to review the whole message. Elder Wirthlin teaches that faithful living does not guarantee freedom from challenges in life; but it does ensure that we don't have to face the challenges alone or unprepared. Instead, we can confront difficulties "with serenity and peace" knowing that all will be well in the Savior's care. Even more, we are promised that "all things shall work together for [our] good" when we live according to the four conditions outlined in the revelation: search diligently, pray always, be believing, walk uprightly.

If we seek peace, we must come to Him. Ultimately, there is no other way. With Him, there is nothing to fear, regardless of the challenges that surround us. This is a powerful message!

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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

President Howard W. Hunter the sacred blessing of holy temples

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.
"We should strive to 'be partakers of the divine nature' (2 Peter 3:1-4). Only then may we truly hope for 'peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come' (D&C 59:23).
"In that spirit I invite the Latter-day Saints to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership. It is the deepest desire of my heart to have every member of the Church worthy to enter the temple. It would please the Lord if every adult member would be worthy of—and carry—a current temple recommend. The things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families.
"Let us be a temple-attending people. Attend the temple as frequently as personal circumstances allow. Keep a picture of a temple in your home that your children may see it. Teach them about the purposes of the house of the Lord. Have them plan from their earliest years to go there and to remain worthy of that blessing.
"If proximity to a temple does not allow frequent attendance, gather in the history of your family and prepare the names for the sacred ordinances performed only in the temple. This family research is essential to the work of the temples, and blessings surely will come to those who do that work."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises," General Conference October 1994
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

I love the invitation from Peter to "be partakers of the divine nature." As we learn more about God, we are moved to follow and emulate, and we begin not only to act like them but to gradually become like them, taking their very nature upon us.

President Hunter suggests that a very real way to do that is through worshiping and serving in the temples. In the preparation to be worthy for those blessings, and in the action of attending, we truly become more and more like Him.

The temple recommend is a wonderful symbol of Church membership. In our continuing search for peace and happiness, President Hunter assures us that "the things that we must do and not do to be worthy of a temple recommend are the very things that ensure we will be happy as individuals and as families." That's a great promise and a wonderful indicator of our efforts to take upon us His nature!

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

President Gordon B. Hinckley on facing life's challenges with optimism

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.
"I am suggesting that we look for the great good among those with whom we associate and live, that we speak of one another's virtues and positive qualities more than we speak of one another's faults, that optimism replace pessimism, and that our faith exceed our fears. When I was a young man and tended to be critical of others, my wise father would often say, 'Cynics do not contribute, skeptics do not create, doubters do not achieve.' Who wants to be around someone who is always forecasting doom? Who wants to be fed a steady diet of the negative? Optimism, on the other hand, and looking on the bright side, refreshes everyone.
"In my ninety-plus years, I have learned a secret. I have learned that when good men and good women face challenges with optimism, things will always work out! Truly, things always work out! Despite how difficult circumstances may look at the moment, those who have faith and move forward with a happy spirit will find that things always work out."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Way to Be! [2002], p. 84

President Hinckley was a quintessential optimist. He regularly counseled Church members to seek the positive, to look on the bright side, and to focus on the good. This is a good example of that attitude in his writings. These attitudes apply to how we treat and interact with one another, as well as how we think and approach our personal life situations and challenges.

"Things always work out"—he says it three times, bringing greater emphasis to the point. Facing our challenges with optimism and faith, with a happy spirit in spite of the difficulties, gives us power beyond expectation in finding good solutions and overcoming the problems.

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