Sunday, September 30, 2018

President Howard W. Hunter on deciding today to serve the Lord

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 good reason to make our decision now to serve the Lord. On this Sunday morning, when the complications and temptations of life are somewhat removed, and when we have the time and more of an inclination to take an eternal perspective, we can more clearly evaluate what will bring us the greatest happiness in life. We should decide now, in the light of the morning, how we will act when the darkness of night and when the storms of temptation arrive.
"I pray that we will have the strength to decide now to do what we ought to do. I pray that we will decide now to serve the Lord."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Commitment to God," General Conference October 1982
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

There's an important concept that will bless us once we discover it: some critical decisions can be resolved in advance in our lives. I remember from my youth hearing President Kimball teach this principle:
"We can push some things away from us once and have done with them! We can make a single decision about certain things that we will incorporate in our lives and then make them ours—without having to brood and redecide a hundred times what it is we will do and what we will not do.
"Indecision and discouragement are climates in which the Adversary lives to function, for he can inflict so many casualties among mankind in those settings. … If you have not done so yet, decide to decide!"
(Spencer W. Kimball, Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 70)
It's a timeless principle. President Hunter gives additional specific suggestions on how to implement it:

I love President Hunter's suggestion to take advantage of a quiet Sunday morning (the time when he was offering this conference talk) to make that kind of commitment. In the peacefulness of our own pondering, with as much of "the complications and temptations of life" pushed away, we can commit to do the things that will "bring us the greatest happiness in life."

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

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on remembering God's love for each of us

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.
"I begin by reminding you that you are a son or daughter of a loving Father in Heaven and that His love remains constant. I know that such reassuring feelings of love are difficult to recall when you are in the midst of personal struggles or trials, disappointments, or broken dreams.
"Jesus Christ knows about fierce struggles and trials. He gave His life for us. His final hours were brutal, beyond anything we can even comprehend, but His sacrifice for each one of us was the ultimate expression of His pure love.
"No mistake, sin, or choice will change God’s love for us. That does not mean sinful conduct is condoned, nor does it remove our obligation to repent when sins are committed. But do not forget, Heavenly Father knows and loves each of you, and He is always ready to help."
- Ronald A. Rasband, "Lest Thou Forget," General Conference October 2016
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It's a wonderful thing in this life to occasionally have a powerful experience in which we feel God's love for us, personally and directly. Elder Rasband reminds us that His love is constant and consistent, but acknowledges how difficult it may be to feel that love when one is "in the midst of personal struggles or trials, disappointments, or broken dreams." Learning to draw upon stored memories and resources of light and love is a critical skill to develop during our mortal journey.

This is a powerful testimony of hope and encouragement. As we remember this counsel and draw upon the unending love of God for each of us, personally, we will be blessed in all times of our lives, but particularly in those more difficult ones.

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

Friday, September 28, 2018

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on choosing now to follow God

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.
"Joshua didn’t say choose you next year whom you will serve; he spoke of 'this day,' while there is still daylight and before the darkness becomes more and more normal. (See Josh. 24:15.)
"When Jesus called his first disciples, the scriptures record that they left their ships and nets 'straightway.' They didn’t ask to join Jesus after the fishing season; they didn’t even delay their response in order to make just one more catch. They left 'straightway'! (See Matt. 4:20.)
"Act, my brothers and sisters, for once the soul is tilted toward belief, and once there is even a desire to believe, then marvelous things begin to happen! Once one leaves the porch and comes inside the Church, then one not only hears the music more clearly—he becomes a part of it.
"Act now, so that a thousand years from now, when you look back at this moment, you can say this was a moment that mattered—this was a day of determination."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Why Not Now?", General Conference October 1974
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We are constantly making choices and setting priorities in our lives. Many of those choices are built on a foundation of the one choice that matters most: whom will we follow? Elder Maxwell encourages us to choose promptly and wisely, like Joshua of old, to "choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Delaying that crucial commitment in any way slows our progress and limits our potential.

It's those "marvelous things" that happen when our soul is committed to God that we should cherish and look forward to! How eager we should be to "straightway" follow Him.

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

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Elder Neil L. Andersen on showing kindness and love to all men

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.
"Everyone, independent of his or her decisions and beliefs, deserves our kindness and consideration.
"The Savior taught us to love not only our friends but also those who disagree with us—and even those who repudiate us. He said: 'For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? … And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?' (Matthew 5:46–47.)
"The Prophet Joseph Smith warned us to 'beware of self-righteousness' and to enlarge our hearts toward all men and women until we feel 'to take them upon our shoulders.' (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 427, 429.) In the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is no place for ridicule, bullying, or bigotry."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Spiritual Whirlwinds," General Conference April 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

How do we treat those around us who have different beliefs, different backgrounds, different cultures, different lifestyles? Even those in our midst, or fellow Church-members or family members who may have other understandings or life choices than those we find preferable or acceptable—do we continue to treat them with "kindness and consideration"? Elder Andersen counsels us on this aspect of true Christianity:

It is often easy to love or to accept those who believe, practice, and behave in ways we find most appropriate or most similar to ourselves. But that does not ever excuse treating others with differing beliefs in ways that are less than kind. A true Christian would never fall into any aspect of "ridicule, bullying, or bigotry." In fact, perhaps one of the greatest marks of true Christian discipleship is how we treat those we disagree with!

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the sacred power of the temple

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (born January 24, 1945) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"The temple and the ordinances of the temple are the ultimate application of the gospel of Christ. I say to people that one of the blessings of the temple and its ordinances is the perspective that it provides. When we go to the temple, we leave all of our cares and problems and issues and concerns at the door. And when we come back out, they’re still there. We have to pick them all up and they haven’t changed, but what has changed is ourselves. And we’ve added spiritual strength, I think, and capacity and a truer perspective on life and what it all means, and maybe the big problems don’t seem so big anymore and the little ones that we thought didn’t matter, we better deal with it before it does become something too big.
"The other thing, though, I think, is there is a divine power associated with those covenants. The Doctrine and Covenants says that in the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and I would think particularly those of the temple, the power of godliness is manifest. And among other things, I believe that means there’s a godly influence, a divine power that flows into us when we make those covenants and keep them.
"So it’s a place of renewal. It’s a place of revelation. Temples can only fulfill their purpose really if we are prepared. People are sometimes critical about our temple worship, claiming it’s unduly secret. But the access is limited not for secrecy, but just to assure preparation. We really need to be prepared and mature spiritually to make those covenants and then to keep them. They’re very sacred."
- D. Todd Christofferson in "The Gospel Answers Life’s Problems and Challenges," in Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting Broadcast, February 11, 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full discussion

Elder Christofferson's insights on the blessings of the temple ring true to me. I've never found that attending the temple just makes problems go away; but as he vividly describes, we can leave our worries and concerns at the door, go inside to be taught and inspired, then come back out to pick our challenges back up with renewed strength and perspective:

In addition to the perspective on life the temple helps provide, we also find a very real endowment of "divine power" that comes to us as we humbly participate in sacred ordinances and focus on our covenants. And we can truly receive revelation to help answer our questions and concerns. As we prepare ourselves for God's most sacred blessings, we find find fountains of wisdom and strength that come to us through our temple worship.

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

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Elder Quentin L. Cook on living by faith instead of fear

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.
"It is our faith in Jesus Christ that sustains us at the crossroads of life’s journey. It is the first principle of the gospel. Without it we will spin our wheels at the intersection, spending our precious time but getting nowhere. It is Christ who offers the invitation to follow Him, to give Him our burden, and to carry His yoke, 'for [His] yoke is easy, and [His] burden is light' (Matthew 11:30).
"There is no other name under heaven whereby man can be saved (see Acts 4:12). We must take upon us His name and receive His image in our countenance so that when He comes we will be more like Him (see 1 John 3:2; Alma 5:14). When we choose to follow Christ in faith rather than choosing another path out of fear, we are blessed with a consequence that is consistent with our choice (see D&C 6:34–36).
"May we all recognize and give thanks for the incomparable gift of life we each enjoy and for the breath that He lends us daily. May we choose to have conviction at the crossroads of life and exercise faith in Jesus Christ. My prayer is that we will live by faith and not by fear."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Live by Faith and Not by Fear," General Conference October 2007
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Do we occasionally "spin our wheels" at the crucial "intersections of life," not making the progress that we could if we had faith that helped us focus on the Savior as our guide and strength? Elder Cook encourages us to look to Him in order to achieve the mist important results in our lives:

We should be truly grateful for "the incomparable gift of life" that we are given, and remember to look to Him in order to "live by faith and not by fear."

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

Monday, September 24, 2018

Elder David A. Bednar on the burdens we bear that can bless our lives

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.
"Each of us also carries a load. Our individual load is comprised of demands and opportunities, obligations and privileges, afflictions and blessings, and options and constraints. Two guiding questions can be helpful as we periodically and prayerfully assess our load: 'Is the load I am carrying producing the spiritual traction that will enable me to press forward with faith in Christ on the strait and narrow path and avoid getting stuck? Is the load I am carrying creating sufficient spiritual traction so I ultimately can return home to Heavenly Father?'
"Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness. Because our individual load needs to generate spiritual traction, we should be careful to not haul around in our lives so many nice but unnecessary things that we are distracted and diverted from the things that truly matter most."
- David A. Bednar, "Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease," General Conference April 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Bednar began this talk with a story of a friend who got his pickup stuck in the snow, and was able to free it once he had filled the back with firewood—giving the truck a heavy load that provided traction to help it get free from its position. He then discussed the loads that we bear in life. Sometimes loads are imposed on us as we assume the roles and responsibilities of our lives, and they can include both positive and negative things; at times we choose consciously to add to the load.

Elder Bednar discusses "spiritual traction" that comes as we bear loads appropriately in our lives. Some loads add to the spiritual traction and some do not. It's important for us to assess and evaluate our loads to make sure that we are able to move forward appropriately on the path that will take us home to our Father.

I think it's pretty common to make this mistake: happiness comes when we have no load to bear. Elder Bednar corrects that thought; we must bear a load in life in order to find true happiness. But understanding our load is so very critical! We must not be "distracted and diverted" by things that matter less, those "nice but unnecessary" aspects of our lives.

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on loving and caring for each other

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.
"It has been my experience that some of the most powerful promptings we receive are not only for our own benefit but also for the benefit of others. If we are thinking only of ourselves, we may miss some of the most powerful spiritual experiences and profound revelations of our lives.
"President Spencer W. Kimball taught this concept when he said: 'God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.' (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball (2006), 82.) Brothers and sisters, we each have a covenant responsibility to be sensitive to the needs of others and serve as the Savior did—to reach out, bless, and uplift those around us.
"Often, the answer to our prayer does not come while we’re on our knees but while we’re on our feet serving the Lord and serving those around us. Selfless acts of service and consecration refine our spirits, remove the scales from our spiritual eyes, and open the windows of heaven. By becoming the answer to someone’s prayer, we often find the answer to our own."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Waiting on the Road to Damascus," General Conference April 2011
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In a gospel that focuses on doing good to others and loving our fellowmen, we would expect that "some of the most powerful promptings we receive" will be to direct and instruct us on how to serve and bless those we have contact with. President Uchtdorf urged us to be seeking those promptings actively as we are involved in the Lord's work of discipleship.

Truly, one of the most fundamental aspects of our belief system is this: "we each have a covenant responsibility to be sensitive to the needs of others and serve as the Savior did—to reach out, bless, and uplift those around us." As we minister in callings and assignments, and as we simply show love and care for others, inspiration and revelation will increase and so will our ability to bless and serve. And in the process, our own needs and questions will be answered and responded to.

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

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the infinite reach of Christ's Atonement

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.
"However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.
"Whether you are not yet of our faith or were with us once and have not remained, there is nothing in either case that you have done that cannot be undone. There is no problem which you cannot overcome. There is no dream that in the unfolding of time and eternity cannot yet be realized. Even if you feel you are the lost and last laborer of the eleventh hour, the Lord of the vineyard still stands beckoning. 'Come boldly [to] the throne of grace,' (Hebrews 4:16) and fall at the feet of the Holy One of Israel. Come and feast 'without money and without price' (Isaiah 55:1) at the table of the Lord."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Laborers in the Vineyard," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

There likely  comes a time in each of our lives when we feel overwhelmed or discouraged by the challenges we face. Sometimes through our own negligence, laziness, or deliberate sinfulness, we postpone change or choice. Elder Holland speaks of past mistakes and missed opportunities that we might regret. And at times we feel that God and even loved ones are far distant. But the apostolic witness is that we can never sink to a spot where the Savior's Atonement can't reach:

I love Elder Holland's testimony and invitation to all, no matter where we stand, to come and allow the blessings of the Savior in our lives as we "feast... at the table of the Lord." Truly there is so much available to us if we only choose to accept, regardless of who we are and where we are in our eternal progress!

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

Friday, September 21, 2018

President M. Russell Ballard on the power and blessing of unified service

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.
"The beehive symbol is found in both the interiors and exteriors of many of our temples. This podium where I stand is made from the wood of a walnut tree grown in President Gordon B. Hinckley’s backyard and is adorned with carved beehive images.
"All of this symbolism attests to one fact: great things are brought about and burdens are lightened through the efforts of many hands 'anxiously engaged in a good cause' (D&C 58:27). Imagine what the millions of Latter-day Saints could accomplish in the world if we functioned like a beehive in our focused, concentrated commitment to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"The Savior taught that the first and great commandment is:
"'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. …
"'And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
"'On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.' (Matthew 22:37, 39–40).
"The Savior’s words are simple, yet their meaning is profound and deeply significant. We are to love God and to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. Imagine what good we can do in the world if we all join together, united as followers of Christ, anxiously and busily responding to the needs of others and serving those around us—our families, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Be Anxiously Engaged," General Conference October 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The Savior's teachings invite us to love God and our fellowman. His example showed that we demonstrate love for one another through unselfish service. President Ballard built upon that thought to encourage greater efforts to serve those around us. Indeed, as our efforts to serve build upon one another, the combined blessing to humanity can become a marvelous thing:

The work of a single bee may seem relatively insignificant; but combined with hundreds and thousands of others who share a beehive, that work becomes profound and meaningful. If we maintain that vision, great things will come to pass through our efforts to serve and bless!

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

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Elder Orson Pratt on God's eternal role as King

Elder Orson Pratt (1811-1881) was one of the members of the original Quorum of Twelve ordained in 1835.
"God is the King. In him exists all legal authority. He alone has the right of originating a system of government on the earth. He claims this right by virtue of his having made man and the earth he inhabits. Man, therefore, is indebted to God for his own formation and for the formation of the planet on which he dwells. He also claims the right of establishing his government among men, by virtue of his superior wisdom and power.
"If God had sufficient wisdom and power to construct such a beautiful world as this, with all the infinite varieties of vegetables and animals appended to it; if he could form such an intricate and complicated piece of machinery as the human tabernacle as a dwelling place for the human spirit, then we must admit that his wisdom and power are immeasurably greater than that of man, and hence he is qualified to reign as king.
"An order of government, established by such an all-wise, powerful being, must be good and perfect, and must be calculated to promote the permanent peace, happiness, and well-being of all his subjects.
"The great King is a very amiable being, full of benevolence and goodness, and never turns any person away empty, that comes requesting a favor which he sees would be for his benefit."
- Orson Pratt, "The Kingdom of God. Part I" (Liverpool: R. James, Printer, 1848); see "The Essential Orson Pratt" pp. 49-50
Click here to read the full article

Orson Pratt wrote many philosophical and intellectual investigations of the Gospel in the early part of this dispensation. Much of the understanding of the doctrines of the Restoration was still in its infancy, and these kinds of writings helped to expand the understanding of the early Saints as they built upon the foundation established by the revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith. This particular excerpt, which I believe comes from a pamphlet written while Pratt was serving as a missionary in England, explores the theocracy of God's kingdom and what it means for God to be King.

The concluding paragraph is also very insightful: because of God's friendly and benevolent nature (a true Good King), He "never turns any person away empty, that comes requesting a favor which he sees would be for his benefit." Many can testify of the truth of that statement!

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

President Marion G. Romney on pondering the scriptures

President Marion G. Romney (1897-1988) was born in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. He was ordained an apostle in 1951 and served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1972 to 1985. After the death of President Spencer W. Kimball, President Romney was released and returned to serve in the Quorum of Twelve until his death in 1988.
"As I have read the scriptures, I have been challenged by the word ponder, so frequently used in the Book of Mormon. The dictionary says that ponder means 'to weigh mentally, think deeply about, deliberate, meditate.' Moroni thus used the term as he closed his record:
"'Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things … that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men … and ponder it in your hearts.' (Moro. 10:3. Italics added.)
"Jesus said to the Nephites:
"'I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words. …
"'Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand. …' (3 Ne. 17:2–3. Italics added.)
"Pondering is, in my feeling, a form of prayer. It has, at least, been an approach to the Spirit of the Lord on many occasions."
- Marion G. Romney, "Magnifying One’s Calling in the Priesthood," General Conference April 1973
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Romney served as a member of the First Presidency through much of my youth. I remember being impressed at his use of the scriptures in his messages; he was clearly a devoted student of the Lord's written word. In this excerpt, we learn part of the reason why. He understood the meaning of pondering.

Most of us need to spend more time weighing mentally, thinking deeply about, and meditating on the things we read in the scriptures and the words of modern prophets. It will truly bring us closer to the Spirit of the Lord, as President Romney testifies.

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

President Henry B. Eyring on having gratitude for our current blessings

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.
"For men and women, obsessed as they should be with the eternal results that take so long, it helps to see the blessings already in hand. The prettiest flowers I’ve ever seen were among rocks near the tops of mountains. That must have been partly because I worked so hard to get there, for something else. And then, suddenly, there they were. By forcing yourself to look at them, at the blessings around you, it will be easy to do what King Benjamin suggested: 'O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!' (Mosiah 2:19).
"Among the reasons we ought to be thankful is that it will improve our vision. And with an eye on today’s blessings you’ll have more staying power for the distant goal."
- Henry B. Eyring, "A Law of Increasing Returns," BYU Devotional, March 28, 1982
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Eternity seems a long ways away, and the supposed "rewards" of our mortal efforts can appear very elusive in that distance. President Eyring points out that there are many blessings near at hand that confirm we are on the right path and bring joy along the way. By noticing the current blessings, we  can maintain the long-term vision of our purpose.

Being thankful, then, can "improve our vision" and help provide "more staying power for the distant goal." As we walk the path of discipleship, we find blessings that are frequent and often unearned (Mosiah 2:24); as we learn to notice them more readily, our lives are truly blessed.

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

Monday, September 17, 2018

President Dallin H. Oaks on making scripture study more powerful

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.
"There’s one thing that I’ve learned about scripture study that I wish I’d been taught when I was of an age to be attending seminary or institute, and that is that it is a great mistake to try to read the scriptures like you read a magazine or a newspaper. What I refer to is the fact that I pick up a newspaper and I just read it, or I pick up a magazine or a textbook and I just read it. But when I pick up the scriptures, I’m picking up the word of God, written by prophets under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord. Those should never be read without praying over them first.
"When I go to the table to eat, I don’t take physical nourishment without asking the Lord to bless that food to nourish and strengthen my body. Similarly, I think when we study the scriptures, we should bow our head and pray—often it would be silently because of the surroundings—but we would pray that the Lord would bless us that we’d be able to understand what we’re reading and that the act of reading the scriptures would summon the Spirit of the Lord to guide us on things other than simply the meaning of what we’re reading. In this way the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to help us receive revelation. But it begins with prayer; it doesn’t begin with reading, like a newspaper or a magazine."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "A Panel Discussion with Elder Dallin H. Oaks," August 7, 2012
Click here to read the full discussion

These remarks were offered in a somewhat less formal setting than a typical conference talk. Elder Oaks was participating in a broadcast to teachers from the seminary and institute programs, and in this section offered some guidance about personal scripture study that is very helpful.

By first contrasting scripture reading with other types of reading, and then comparing it to taking nourishment into our bodies, he makes the same point in two different ways: we are blessed to include prayer as a precursor to our study of God's words. And the promise he offers should inspire us: "In this way the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to help us receive revelation."

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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

President Russell M. Nelson on becoming linked to the Savior

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.
"I nearly lost my life learning a lesson that I now give to you. As we go through life, even through very rough waters, a father’s instinctive impulse to cling tightly to his wife or to his children may not be the best way to accomplish his objective. Instead, if he will lovingly cling to the Savior and the iron rod of the gospel, his family will want to cling to him and to the Savior.
"This lesson is surely not limited to fathers. Regardless of gender, marital status, or age, individuals can choose to link themselves directly to the Savior, hold fast to the rod of His truth, and lead by the light of that truth. By so doing, they become examples of righteousness to whom others will want to cling."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Set in Order Thy House," General Conference October 2001
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In this memorable talk, President Nelson described an experience of rafting through the Grand Canyon with several of his daughters. At one point he was thrown from the raft and nearly drowned; he learned of the importance of holding on to the raft, and not just holding on to his family members. At that point, he drew the comparison in this excerpt; we must cling to the Savior and the gospel in order to find safety in life's perilous journey:

So the key is that process of linking ourselves to Him, and finding the ways to cling to Him. As we learn to access Divine assistance in our lives, we recognize what a treasure it is, and what a necessity in our world. We learn to depend on that assistance for safety, and to turn to it at every opportunity. We must certainly have the proper priority for the focus of daily efforts, and with the Savior's help, we are assured of ultimate safety and success!

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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

President Harold B. Lee on honoring our royal heritage

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.
"One of our Latter-day Saint men during World War II was over in England. He had gone to an officer’s club where they were holding a riotous kind of celebration. He noticed off to the side a young British officer who didn’t seem to be enjoying himself at all. So he walked over to him and said, 'You don’t seem to be enjoying this kind of a party.' And this young British officer straightened himself a few inches taller than he was before and replied, 'No, sir, I can’t engage in this kind of a party, because, you see, I belong to the royal household of England.'
"As our Latter-day Saint boy walked away he said to himself, 'Neither can I, because I belong to the royal household of the kingdom of God.' Do you realize that, you young people? There are things that you cannot and must not do if you remember your heritage.
"I am reminded of the old court jester who was supposed to entertain his king with interesting stories and antics. He looked at the king who was lolling on his throne, a drunken, filthy rascal, doffed his cap and bells, and said with a mock gesture of obeisance, 'O king, be loyal to the royal within you.' And so I say to you young people today, remember your heritage, and be loyal to that royal lineage that you have as members of the church and kingdom of God on the earth."
- Harold B. Lee, "Be Loyal to the Royal Within You," BYU Devotional, September 11, 1973
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Lee shared this wonderful message with students at a BYU devotional. Understanding our roots and heritage can make such a difference in the choices we make and how we act in our daily lives! He encouraged students to recognize their divine origins and eternal potential.

Years ago, in a Jewish philosophy class at BYU, I remember reading a phrase that stuck deeply with me (I have not been able to find the source). It was, in effect, that the greatest sin or depravity into which a man can fall is to forget that he is the son of a King. Truly when we forget our heritage, we lose the vision and motivation of our choices and actions. We should always be loyal to the seeds of divinity within us, as members of "the royal household of the kingdom of God."

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

Friday, September 14, 2018

President Thomas S. Monson on the blessing of prayer

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.
"From the very beginning to the present time, a fundamental question remains to be answered by each who runs the race of life. Shall I falter or shall I finish? On the answer await the blessings of joy and happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come....
"Long years ago the psalmist wrote: 'It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man: It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.' (Ps. 118:8-9.) Recognize that faith and doubt cannot exist in the same mind at the same time, for one will dispel the other....
"When the burdens of life become heavy, when trials test one's faith, when pain, sorrow, and despair cause the light of hope to flicker and burn low, communication with our Heavenly Father provides peace.
"These, the marks of a true finisher, will be as a lamp to our feet in the journey through life. Ever beckoning us onward and lifting us upward is he who pleaded, '...come, follow me.' (Luke 18:22.)"
- Thomas S. Monson, "Finishers Wanted," General Conference April 1972
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What does it mean to trust in the Lord? How is our faith in Him demonstrated in practical life? If we live in confidence of His help and assistance, we'll learn to seek and obtain the inspiration and the spiritual support that will bless our lives. The great key to this process appears to be our willingness to turn to Him in prayer:

We sometimes forget, and sometimes underestimate, the profound blessing that prayer is to us. Peace is truly available as we turn to our Father in those times when we face trials, pain, sorrow, and despair.

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