Thursday, February 28, 2019

President Lorenzo Snow on rewards that follow trials

Lorenzo Snow (1814-1901) was an early convert to the Church along with his sister Eliza R. Snow. He was called as an apostle by Brigham Young in 1849. He served as the 5th president of the Church from 1898 until his death in 1901.
"The sacrifices you have made, the hardships you have endured and the privations you have suffered will … sink into insignificance, and you will rejoice that you have obtained the experience which they have furnished.… Some things we have to learn by that which we suffer, and knowledge secured in that way, though the process may be painful, will be of great value to us in the other life....
"I know that your lives have not been all sunshine; you have doubtless passed through many a trial, and perhaps have come up through much tribulation; but by continued integrity you will soon emerge from the shadows into the glorious sunshine of the celestial world."
- Lorenzo Snow, Deseret Evening News, July 2, 1901, 1

This is a message of hope and testimony. President Snow reassured his listeners that he was aware of the challenges and struggles many of them had faced. But in an eternal perspective, such things "sink into insignificance" in due time after they have provided us with the needed experience for which they are designed. There are, apparently, some things which must be learned in that way, and the benefits of those lessons extend not only through this life but into eternity.

The powerful image of returning to sunlight is always a blessing to us. When we seem to be in shadows and darkness, we must cling to these promises that we "will soon emerge... into the glorious sunshine."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

President Joseph F. Smith on submitting our will to God

President Joseph F. Smith (1838-1918) was the son of Joseph's brother Hyrum. He was ordained an apostle in 1866 at age 28, and served as a counselor to Brigham Young and the three presidents who followed.  He became the 6th president of the Church in 1901, and served until his death in 1918 at age 80.
"The Gospel is calculated to remove from us everything that is not consistent with God and the plan of salvation which he has revealed to men. It is designed to qualify us to live so that we may enjoy a fulness of the light of truth, and understand the purposes of God, and be able to live so near to Him that we may be in harmony with His wishes constantly. The principles of the Gospel are calculated to make us unselfish, to broaden our minds, to give breadth to our desires for good, to remove hatred, animosity, envy and anger from our hearts, and make us peaceful, tractable, teachable, and willing to sacrifice our own desires, and perchance our own interests, for the welfare of our fellow-creatures, and for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. A man who cannot sacrifice his own wishes, who cannot say in his heart, 'Father, Thy will be done, not mine,' is not a truly and thoroughly converted child of God; he is still, to some extent, in the grasp of error and in the shades of darkness that hover around the world, hiding God from the presence of mankind."
- Joseph F. Smith, "Blind Obedience and Tithing," Millennial Star, 20 Jan. 1893, p. 79

I've always been fascinated by the wording of Moroni 10:32, near the end of the Book of Mormon:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. (emphasis added)

Note that Moroni didn't say, fill your life with godly traits. He said, "deny yourselves of all ungodliness." We become perfect in Christ as we eliminate everything from our life that is not Christ-like. President Smith echoes this doctrine as he teaches, "The Gospel is calculated to remove from us everything that is not consistent with God." Part of the process of repentance is that gradual and consistent elimination of ungodly traits as we come unto Him. The Gospel works in our lives by eliminating the bad qualities and characteristics, and teaching and enhancing the good.

True conversion, true discipleship are evident in our lives when we are devoted fully to the counsel and will of God. These thoughts are powerfully expressed in the little-sung 4th verse of the beautiful LDS hymn, "God Loved Us, So He Sent His Son" (Hymns #187).
In word and deed he doth require
My will to his, like son to sire,
Be made to bend, and I, as son,
Learn conduct from the Holy One.
(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

President Heber J. Grant on the benefits of faithful prayer

President Heber J. Grant (1856-1945) was ordained an apostle in 1882 when he was 25 years old.  He served as president of the Church from 1918 until his death in 1945 at age 88.  His tenure as president lasted over 26 years; only Brigham Young had a longer term (over 29 years).
"The minute a man stops supplicating God for his spirit and directions just so soon he starts out to become a stranger to him and his works. When men stop praying for God’s spirit, they place confidence in their own unaided reason, and they gradually lose the spirit of God, just the same as near and dear friends, by never writing to or visiting with each other, will become strangers. We should all pray that God may never leave us alone for a moment without his spirit to aid and assist us in withstanding sin and temptation."
- Heber J. Grant, Conference Report, Oct. 1944, p. 9; see Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, p. 174

Oh, how we need to maintain our connection to our Father in Heaven! In our busy temporal world, it's so easy to lose contact with our friends when we don't make efforts to maintain communication—especially if distance or circumstances separate us. I have found that to be the case, in moving to a new neighborhood; quickly the associations of the past fade away unless there is significant effort to maintain them. Just so, we must make constant efforts to maintain our communication with, and connection to God.

So we must regularly "[supplicate] God for his spirit and directions" and "pray that God may never leave us alone for a moment without his spirit" to help with the challenges of our lives.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Monday, February 25, 2019

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on the Holy Ghost and emulating Christ

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) served as a Seventy from 1976-1981, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until his death from cancer in 2004.
"We desperately need the Holy Ghost to help us choose the right. He will also help by preaching to us necessary sermonettes from the pulpit of memory. He will also testify to us of the truths of the gospel.
"Given where we must go, we need the Holy Ghost as a constant companion, not just as an occasional influence.
"We can also be further fortified after baptism by regularly partaking of the sacrament as we reflect on the Atonement and renew our covenants, including those made at the time of baptism. This process of emancipation and fortification is made possible by applying Jesus' Atonement to ourselves and to those we teach. We should regularly apply the Atonement for self-improvement, while enduring to the end. If we choose the course of steady improvement, which is clearly the course of discipleship, we will become more righteous and can move from what may be initially a mere acknowledgment of Jesus on to admiration of Jesus, then on to adoration of Jesus, and finally to emulation of Jesus. In that process of striving to become more like Him through steady improvement, we must be in the posture of repentance, even if no major transgression is involved."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Testifying of the Great and Glorious Atonement," Church satellite broadcast on conversion and retention, Provo MTC, 29 August 1999; see Ensign, Oct. 2001, pp. 10-12
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Maxwell's remarks are always packed with insight. He explains how the Holy Ghost can preach "sermonettes" to us "from the pulpit of memory" as we are prompted and reminded of important things. That, of course, requires that there be things stored in the pulpit of memory from which to draw. The Holy Ghost can truly "bring all things to [our] remembrance" (John 14:26)—how critical for us to be continually adding good and virtuous things to the store. And then, having the Holy Ghost as a "constant companion" instead of "occasional influence" is one of the key to success and happiness.

And then, the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes the great enabling power in our lives:

What a perfect description of our course of gradual and steady progress and improvement, as we draw close to the Savior: acknowledgement, admiration, adoration, emulation. We may perhaps enter and re-enter that sequence repeatedly as we come to know Him more accurately and intimately. As true disciples, the ultimate goal is complete emulation.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Sunday, February 24, 2019

President Russell M. Nelson on hope in a troubled world

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.
"If there is anything I’ve learned in my 94 years of living, it is that a life with God is far better — more filled with hope — than one without Him. Faith in God is, and has always been, the pre-eminent force for good in this world. It is the most enduring source of peace for minds and hearts.
"What we experienced in Paradise [California, in the aftermath of devastating fires], with men and women whose hearts were open to God, stands in stark contrast to much of what we see in the world today. I fear that many are standing on the edge of a spiritual and emotional precipice. Not long ago, belief in God was a given and expressions of faith the norm.
"But in recent years, we have experienced a shift from a world in which it seemed impossible not to believe in God to one in which faith is simply an option — and far too often subject to ridicule.
"When God is removed from our collective conscience, there are sobering ramifications....
"The most able minds cannot offer redemption from sin or heal our hearts from emotional pain. They cannot generate enduring hope or joy. They cannot promise life after death or the potential of being with our loved ones beyond the grave. They cannot generate peace of mind.
"But God can. Our spiritual DNA is His DNA. If our hearts are open to Him — if we believe in the divinity of the Father and His Son — we can rise from the ashes of our lives and become the men and women we were sent to earth to become."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Why have faith now?," opinion article, Arizona Republic newspaper, February 10, 2019
Click here to read the entire article

In connection with a recent visit to Arizona for a large gathering of members of the Church, President Nelson took the unusual step of writing this op-ed article for the local newspaper, Click on the link above to read the whole article! In it, he mentions a recent visit to meet with Church members in the area of California that was devastated last year by wildfires; many members in the city of Paradise lost their homes, and some lost their lives. But President Nelson reports on the amazing faith and hope he witnessed among them, in start contrast to the despair and loss of faith too often found in the world today. And so he testifies of the blessings of a life filled with hope and faith.

We are truly children of God, and share His "spiritual DNA." With His help, we can overcome the trials and challenges of our lives and life in faith.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

President George Albert Smith on expressing kindness to others

President George Albert Smith (1870-1951) was the son of John Henry Smith (1848-1911) and grandson of George A. Smith (1817-1875), both of whom served as members of the Twelve. He was called as an apostle in 1903, and then served as the 8th president of the Church from 1945 until his death in 1951.
"I stand here tonight to speak of a man who has several years ago gone home. … I refer to Francis M. Lyman [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] and I want to say to you that that great man was as tender as a baby, just as tender as a little child, and his desire to help and encourage was beautiful. I have heard him compliment his brethren many times when they have done something praiseworthy—one had delivered a fine address, another had borne a convincing testimony, another had done something else praiseworthy. I have seen him put his arm around them and say, 'I am proud of you and the fine thing you have done.' Is not that a commendable way to live? That is the way to make ourselves happy. If, instead of being jealous, we see and appreciate and commend the virtues and abilities of our fellows, if we see the power for good in [others], how much better it will be.
"Many of us live in such an atmosphere that we are almost dumb when it comes to praising somebody else. We seem unable to say the things that we might say … to the blessing of others. Let us look for the virtues of our associates and observing them make them happy by commending them."
- George Albert Smith, "To the Relief Society," Relief Society Magazine, Dec. 1932, 707; See "Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith" pp. 226-227

President Smith in this excerpt is encouraging us in a practice that he demonstrates himself by pointing out someone else in whom he recognized the quality. We should say kind things about others, so President Smith said kind things about one of his predecessors. Elder Francis R. Lyman is a fascinating but little-known leader. He was called as an apostle in 1880 at age 40. He became the President of the Twelve in 1903 and served in that role, during the presidency of Joseph F. Smith, until his death in 1916. The tribute given to him by President Smith is a wonderful indication of his character, and a marvelous example for us to emulate.

What a great quality to cultivate in our lives! As we seek to be kind and praising to others, we will find wonderful opportunities to serve and bless some who might need our encouraging words.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Friday, February 22, 2019

President David O. McKay on safeguarding and strengthening house and home

President David O. McKay (1873-1970) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1906.  He served as a counselor in the First Presidency to Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith beginning in 1945, then then as the president of the Church from 1951 to his death in 1970 at age 96.
"If, upon examination, you were to find that termites were undermining the foundation of your house, you would lose no time to have experts make thorough examination and have the destructive insects exterminated. You would have the weakened materials removed and the foundation strengthened and, if necessary, rebuilt.
"More important than the building of your house is the rebuilding and purifying of your home....
"But there are destructive termites of homes, as well as of houses, and some of these are backbiting, evil-speaking, and faultfinding on the part either of parents or of children. Slander is poison to the soul. In the ideal home, there is no slanderous gossip about schoolteachers, about public officials, or about Church officials. I am more grateful now, as years have come and gone, to my father, who with hands lifted said, 'Now, no faultfinding about your teacher or anybody else.'
"Quarreling and swearing also are evils that lower the standards of the ideal home. I cannot imagine a father or mother swearing in the presence of children or even letting it pass their lips....
"With the high ideal of marriage as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, members of the Church should have but one goal, and that is to keep in mind the fact that marriage, the foundation of society, is ordained of God for the building of permanent homes in which children may be properly reared and taught the principles of the gospel....
"We appeal to all members of the Church to set their homes in order and to enjoy the true happiness of harmonious family life."
- David O. McKay, "Our Greatest Obligation," General Conference, April 4, 1953
Click here to read the full talk

The imagery of termites eating away at the foundation and structure of a building is a vivid one. They can do much damage before there is any recognition of their presence, and the longer there is delay in dealing with the issue, the harder it will be to resolve the problem. President McKay suggests the same thing that can happen to a house, can also happen to a home. Destructive forces can eat away at the structure and strength of a home or family; and the longer the problem is allowed to continue, the greater the damage and the more difficult the recovery. It becomes critical for us to identify and eliminate those destructive forces in our homes.

In particular when there are children in the home, parents must be vigilant in teaching gospel principles and creating an environment of wholesomeness and happiness.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

President Joseph Fielding Smith on worshiping God

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.
"Our responsibility in the Church is to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, and this we are seeking to do with all our heart, might, and mind. Jesus said: 'Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.' (Matt. 4:10.)
"We believe that worship is far more than prayer and preaching and gospel performance. The supreme act of worship is to keep the commandments, to follow in the footsteps of the Son of God, to do ever those things that please him. It is one thing to give lip service to the Lord; it is quite another to respect and honor his will by following the example he has set for us.
"Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the great Exemplar. Our mission is to pattern our lives after him and do the things he wants us to do."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth," General Conference October 1971
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What does it mean to worship something or someone? Does it mean to hold it in high regard, to speak of it quietly and reverently, to sing about it and respect it and pray to it? Yes, all of that, but much more, as President Smith points out. Real worship leads to real obedience:

As we come to recognize God as our Father and as our guide and source of help, we will worship through obedience and through discipleship. Our daily actions will demonstrate our feelings of devotion and respect. That is the key to honoring God. As we strive to follow the teachings and example of the Savior, we discover that "Our mission is to pattern our lives after him and do the things he wants us to do."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

President Harold B. Lee on recognizing God's hand

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.
"I read something a while ago that started me thinking along this line. It was that when a man leans to his own understanding and boasts by his own strength... he forgets God and claims he is his own master, [and] the result is untold suffering. Even though one's position is maintained, even though material wealth increases, a success quickly turns to failure when God has been forgotten. There is no peace of mind, no personal satisfaction of inward joy. To 'trust in the Lord with all thine heart' (Proverbs 3:5) is a mark of strength and is the only path to happiness, success, and true fulfillment."
- Harold B. Lee, memorial sermon given February 7, 1957; see Teachings of Harold B. Lee p. 620

The verse President Lee quotes from Proverbs has long been one of my favorite scriptures—simple, yet clear and profound:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)
President Lee warns us of what can happen when we fail to do that:

Learning to "trust in the Lord" is a great key to our happiness in life. It requires that we learn to find His word (in the scriptures and the teachings of inspired leaders) and that we learn to hear and feel His word (though the whisperings of the Spirit directly to our mind and heart). Truly, that is "the only path to happiness, success, and true fulfillment."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

President Spencer W. Kimball on not wasting our time

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Jacob was thinking partly of sins of omission when he uttered the solemn words:
"'But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!' (2 Ne 9:27, italics added.)
"Waste is unjustified, and especially the waste of time—limited as that commodity is in our days of probation. One must live, not only exist; he must do, not merely be; he must grow, not just vegetate. John the Revelator recorded for us significantly:
"'Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the [eternal] city.' (Rev. 22:14, italics added.) ...
"To be passive is deadening; to stop doing is to die. Here then is a close parallel with physical life. If one fails to eat and drink, his body becomes emaciated and dies. Likewise if he fails to nourish his spirit and mind, his spirit shrivels and his mind darkens."
- Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 92-93

Even though President Kimball had a weak and raspy voice in his later years (after dealing with throat cancer), his talks and his writing were so expressive and, at times, almost poetic. I loved how he would choose words that were so descriptive and vivid. This is a great example, as he discusses the importance of using time wisely, taking care not to "[waste] the days of [our] probation":

When we become passive, we lose so much: "to stop doing is to die." Just as our physical body needs nutrients, our spirit and mind must also be nourished in the right ways in order to retain their vitality. And so we must use our precious time carefully and wisely!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Monday, February 18, 2019

President Ezra Taft Benson on characteristics of humility

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.
"Pride is characterized by 'What do I want out of life?' rather than by 'What would God have me do with my life?' It is self-will as opposed to God’s will. It is the fear of man over the fear of God.
"Humility responds to God’s will—to the fear of His judgments and the needs of those around us. To the proud, the applause of the world rings in their ears; to the humble, the applause of heaven warms their hearts.
"Someone has said, 'Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man.' Of one brother, the Lord said, 'I, the Lord, am not well pleased with him, for he seeketh to excel, and he is not sufficiently meek before me.' (D&C 58:41.)
"The two groups in the Book of Mormon that seemed to have the greatest difficulty with pride are the 'learned, and the rich.' (2 Ne. 28:15.) But the word of God can pull down pride. (See Alma 4:19.)
"With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there come many blessings."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Cleansing the Inner Vessel," General Conference, April 1986
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

We often ask ourselves the question President Benson shares here: "What do I want out of life?" But he suggests a more profound question is, "What would God have me do with my life?" It's a good reminder that He is willing to help and guide us in all things, as we are willing to turn to Him in humility. There are some great keys in understanding where we find our motivation, our desire for approbation:

The Book of Mormon warns us about being learned and rich. Both of those are relative terms; the standard of learning, and the standard of wealth, in which most of us today find ourselves far exceeds both those of times past and so many who live in our world today. If I then, am learned and wise, how cautious I should be about the pride that too often accompanies those conditions!

The thoughts in this earlier talk were expanded three years later in the more familiar discourse "Beware of Pride" (General Conference April 1989).

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Sunday, February 17, 2019

President Howard W. Hunter on reverence in society and in church

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 are wide areas of our society from which the spirit of prayer and reverence and worship has vanished. Men and women in many circles are clever, interesting, or brilliant, but they lack one crucial element in a complete life. They do not look up. They do not offer up vows in righteousness, as the requirement is stated in the Doctrine and Covenants, 'on all days and at all times.' (D&C 59:11.) Their conversation sparkles, but it is not sacred. Their talk is witty, but it is not wise. Whether it be in the office, the locker room, or the laboratory, they have come too far down the scale of dignity who display their own limited powers and then find it necessary to blaspheme those unlimited powers that come from above.
"Unfortunately we sometimes find this lack of reverence even within the Church. Occasionally we visit too loudly, enter and leave meetings too disrespectfully in what should be an hour of prayer and purifying worship. Reverence is the atmosphere of heaven. Prayer is the utterance of the soul to God the Father. We do well to become more like our Father by looking up to him, by remembering him always, and by caring greatly about his world and his work."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Hallowed Be Thy Name," General Conference October 1977
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Hunter points out some important differences between worldly attitudes, and the "humble followers of Christ" (2 Ne 28:14). Too often men and women in the world seek only to be "clever, interesting, or brilliant," coming across as witty but forgetting to be wise and humble. There is a desire to impress their peers, to stand out and be influential—but without regard for a divine power and its righteous principles. Certainly as we grow in our spirituality and understanding of the Savior's love for us and His plan for happiness, we will see how little the approbation of the world means compared to God's approval for our lives.

President Hunter warns too about the risk of forgetting sacred things, sacred times, sacred places. When we gather in our meetings, we should remember why we are there and strive to do nothing that would detract from the spirit of worshipful reverence. As we strive to "always remember Him," that will be more natural for us.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

President Gordon B. Hinckley on finding happiness in spite of problems in life

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.
"You have all heard my talk on the Be’s—Be grateful, Be smart, Be clean, Be true, Be humble, Be prayerful. And I add for you, Be happy.
"All of us have problems. We face them every day. How grateful I am that we have difficult things to wrestle with. They keep us young, if that is possible. They keep us alive. They keep us going. They keep us humble. They pull us down to our knees to ask the God of Heaven for help in solving them. Be grateful for your problems, and know that somehow there will come a solution."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "A Challenging Time—a Wonderful Time," Teaching Seminary: Preservice Readings (2004), 15–19
Click here to read the full article

This excerpt comes from a collection of material prepared to help teachers in various levels of the Church's religious education programs, and provides some classic counsel from President Hinckley on teaching youth. The whole article is very worth reviewing. In this excerpt, President Hinckley teaches about confronting challenges and obstacles with optimism and confidence.

Recognizing our problems and challenges as opportunities and blessings is a critical skill to develop. President Hinckley lists many of the ways that those apparent difficulties can turn into positive things in our lives, and ways in which they help us learn and grow. Truly we should "be grateful for [our] problems," knowing that they will not last forever.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Friday, February 15, 2019

President Thomas S. Monson on prayer's help in a challenging world

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.
"Many of the challenges we face exist because we live in this mortal world, populated by all manner of individuals. At times we ask in desperation, 'How can I keep my sights firmly fixed on the celestial as I navigate through this telestial world?'
"There will be times when you will walk a path strewn with thorns and marked by struggle. There may be times when you feel detached—even isolated—from the Giver of every good gift. You worry that you walk alone. Fear replaces faith.
"When you find yourself in such circumstances, I plead with you to remember prayer....
"We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help if we but ask. We have the promise: 'Pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good' (D&C 90:24)....
"Of course, prayer is not just for times of trouble. We are told repeatedly in the scriptures to 'pray always' (Luke 21:36) and to keep a prayer in our hearts (see 3 Nephi 20:1)."
- Thomas S. Monson, "We Never Walk Alone," General Relief Society Meeting 9/28/13, General Conference October 2013
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Monson defines a very real challenge that we face in this life: keeping our "sights firmly fixed on the celestial" while we are struggling with the realities of a telestial world. It's a great key to remember the gift of prayer, and to develop our abilities in using that gift. That becomes especially crucial in those times when we seem "detached" or "isolated" from God. We must develop the ability to remember that we need not face those challenging times alone:

How blessed we are to have the chance to receive help, guidance, and strength from our Divine Father—and, as President Monson reminds us, not just in times of struggle or loneliness, but at all times in our life! We need only turn to Him.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

President Russell M. Nelson on how love for God enhances our love for one another

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.
"Love for family and friends, great as it may be, is much more profound when firmly anchored in the love of Jesus Christ. Parental love for children has more meaning here and hereafter because of Him. All loving relationships are elevated in Him. Love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ provides the illumination, inspiration, and motivation to love others in a loftier way."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Redemption of the Dead and the Errand of the Lord," Salt Lake Temple Devotional, October 11, 1998; see Teachings of Russell M. Nelson p. 189

This is a pretty straightforward message: love is a wonderful thing, but it is "much more profound" when it is built upon a foundation of love of Jesus Christ. Having a love for Him amplifies our ability to feel and share love in every other way:

When we truly love our Father in Heaven, we receive "the illumination, inspiration, and motivation to love others in a loftier way." The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ focuses on love. The Savior taught his disciples: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (John 13:34.) When we begin to comprehend how He loves us, we are able to emulate that love in our relationships with others.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on becoming submissive to God's will

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.
"As one’s will is increasingly submissive to the will of God, he can receive inspiration and revelation so much needed to help meet the trials of life. In the trying and very defining Isaac episode, faithful Abraham 'staggered not ... through unbelief' (Rom. 4:20). Of that episode John Taylor observed that 'nothing but the spirit of revelation could have given him this confidence, and ... sustained him under these peculiar circumstances' (in Journal of Discourses, 14:361). Will we too trust the Lord amid a perplexing trial for which we have no easy explanation? Do we understand—really comprehend—that Jesus knows and understands when we are stressed and perplexed? The complete consecration which effected the Atonement ensured Jesus’ perfect empathy; He felt our very pains and afflictions before we did and knows how to succor us (see Alma 7:11–12; 2 Ne. 9:21). Since the Most Innocent suffered the most, our own cries of 'Why?' cannot match His. But we can utter the same submissive word 'nevertheless ...' (Matt. 26:39).
"Progression toward submission confers another blessing: an enhanced capacity for joy. Counseled President Brigham Young, 'If you want to enjoy exquisitely, become a Latter-day Saint, and then live the doctrine of Jesus Christ' (in Journal of Discourses, 18:247)."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father," General Conference October 1995
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

For many of us, it's not easy to submit. We are proud of our knowledge and understanding, of our personal abilities and experiences. We have to learn to submit to God, to seek His will first. Elder Maxwell testified that as we learn that lesson and become more and more submissive, we will feel a growth of "inspiration and revelation" to help us deal with the trials of life. Trials will surely come; but will we have the humble submission to trust God when we don't fully understand the reasons behind our circumstances?

When we truly trust in God and have faith in His wisdom for our path in mortality, we will not worry about asking "Why?" in the midst of our trials. Instead, we will confidently move forward with the declaration of "Nevertheless." What a beautiful spirit.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Elder Neil L. Andersen on finding help during trials of faith

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.
"When faced with a trial of faith—whatever you do, you don’t step away from the Church! Distancing yourself from the kingdom of God during a trial of faith is like leaving the safety of a secure storm cellar just as the tornado comes into view.
"The Apostle Paul said, 'Ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.' (Ephesians 2:19.) It is within the sanctuary of the Church that we protect our faith. Meeting together with others who believe, we pray and find answers to our prayers; we worship through music, share testimony of the Savior, serve one another, and feel the Spirit of the Lord. We partake of the sacrament, receive the blessings of the priesthood, and attend the temple. The Lord declared, 'In the ordinances..., the power of godliness is manifest.' (D&C 84:20.) When you are faced with a test of faith, stay within the safety and security of the household of God. There is always a place for you here. No trial is so large we can’t overcome it together. (See Mosiah 18:8-10)"
- Neil L. Andersen, "Trial of Your Faith," General Conference, October 2012
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Too often, when we struggle with challenges or trials, and especially with a "trial of faith" that makes us question or doubt our foundational principles, our tendency is to retreat from the safety. It's not unusual to question or doubt; but how we respond to those times becomes very critical. There will always be opposition, including in the presentation of doctrine, history, interpretation, and application. But when we stop listening to one side of the debate and only focus on the side that would have us question or criticize, we will be in far greater danger.

This is critical: "It is within the sanctuary of the Church that we protect our faith." We are blessed when we stay close to home.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2019)
// Customization to close archive widget on first view - DK 3/15