Friday, May 31, 2019

President Henry B. Eyring on persuading others of gospel truths

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.
"You have at your best followed the example of Joseph Smith, as described by Arthur Henry King, in a talk published in his book, _The Abundance of the Heart_. In that book, Professor King recounted his experience in first reading of the First Vision as it appears in the Pearl of Great Price. Arthur Henry King reminds us that he was not a member of the Church at that time and that his education had taught him to be critical. He thus represents the very people to whom you may be most helpful. This is what he said:
"'I wasn't inclined to be impressed. As a stylistician, I have spent my life being disinclined to be impressed. So when I read his story, I thought to myself, this is an extraordinary thing. This is an astonishingly matter-of-fact and cool account. This man is not trying to persuade me of anything. He doesn't feel the need to. He is stating what happened to him, and he is stating it, not enthusiastically, but in quite a matter-of-fact way. He is not trying to make me cry or feel ecstatic. That struck me, and that began to build my testimony, for I could see that this man was telling the truth' (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1986, pp. 200-201).
"A clear declaration of the truth is powerful enough, because truth exists and there is a Spirit of truth to confirm it. Because you believe that, your writing shows a trust in the clear declarative statement, without jargon, that would bless scholars and their readers in every field.
"Your work of highest value is to lead the children of God to discover the true origin of the Book of Mormon and thus let its message of Jesus Christ change their lives. Because of that, my hope would be that you will keep your focus on that scripture and on the aspects of it which are significant to the question: 'Should I pray to know if this book is truly the word of God, written and abridged by prophets on plates delivered by an angel to a boy who could only have translated them by the power of God?'
"Joseph Smith's account of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is miraculous. The only place to go to verify a miracle is to God. I pray that your work and your example will lead many to go to Him in the earnest prayer of faith."
- Henry B. Eyring "The Marketplace of Ideas," annual F.A.R.M.S. banquet, 13 October 1994
Click here to read the full address

President Eyring was speaking in this address to members of the "Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies" (FARMS) organization. He encouraged their use of the Book of Mormon to help bring interest and conversion. He also taught of the power of pure and simple testimony in reaching out to those who are sincere in heart.

I heard Dr. King speak about the matter Elder Eyring references. King was a brilliant British scholar, a renowned Shakespearean expert, who understood language. He compared Oliver Cowdery's flowery, educated description of the translation process, contained in a footnote of the Pearl of Great Price, with Joseph's simple and pure narrative. It was a profound lesson to me of the power of pure and simple testimony.

Leading others to Christ through the Book of Mormon is an important and powerful message, one we need to remember and implement.

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

Thursday, May 30, 2019

President Dallin H. Oaks on trusting the Lord's timing

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.
"The Lord has His own timetable. 'My words are sure and shall not fail,' the Lord taught the early elders of this dispensation. 'But,' He continued, 'all things must come to pass in their time' (D&C 64:31-32).
"The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith means trust—trust in God's will, trust in His way of doing things, and trust in His timetable. We should not try to impose our timetable on His. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell has said:
"'The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best? The same is true with the second coming and with all those matters wherein our faith needs to include faith in the Lord's timing for us personally, not just in His overall plans and purposes.' [Even As I Am (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), 93]
"More recently, during last April conference, Elder Maxwell said: 'Since faith in the timing of the Lord may be tried, let us learn to say not only, "Thy will be done," but patiently also, "Thy timing be done"' (CR, April 2001, 76; or 'Plow in Hope,' Ensign, May 2001, 59).
"Indeed, we cannot have true faith in the Lord without also having complete trust in the Lord's will and in the Lord's timing."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Timing," BYU Devotional, January 29, 2002
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The relationship between faith and timing was a favorite theme of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, as quoted and expanded upon by Elder Oaks. It's tempting for us to claim or proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ, but to demonstrate a lack of faith in the timing with which blessings or responses or even deliverance from trials occurs in our life.

True faith in Jesus Christ necessarily includes absolute trust in His timing and the wisdom of His plan for each of us, and for all of us.

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

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

President Russell M. Nelson on sacred personal prayer

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.
"Have you gone to a quiet, secluded spot to be all alone? Have you found your own 'Sacred Grove' equivalent, where you can pour out the secret longings of your soul in prayer to your Father in Heaven? Have you really conversed with God as one man speaks to another? Have you really declared your allegiance to him and your availability to him, without any reservation? Have you said, 'Here I am Lord! Use me!'? Have you pleaded with him, and as you did, have you put behind any counterfeit clich├ęs that may have been part of your prayers in the past? Have you cleanly and completely declared your commitment to be a saint, an elder, a righteous disciple through good times and bad? Such a resounding resolution would bring joy to your Heavenly Father."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Reflection and Resolution," BYU devotional, January 7, 1990
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is an inspiring invitation from President Nelson. Speaking to BYU students almost two decades ago, he challenged them to a level of prayer that would bring them close to God and result in profound blessings.

The challenge starts with finding a "'Sacred Grove' equivalent" for our personal communication with God. The need for solitude and quiet peace is critical to making the process effective. Once we find that environment, we then are prepared to "pour out the secret longings of your soul in prayer."

The part of President Nelson's challenge that particularly inspired me was the level of commitment he invites us to make as part of our prayers. We not only "cleanly and completely" declare our allegiance to God and desire to follow Him in humble obedience, but also declare our availability—our willingness to participate and contribute in any way that God would ask of us. In effect, we consecrate our lives to Him. That is a level of powerful, profoundly sincere and humble prayer that we all should aspire to.

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

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

President Lorenzo Snow on our gradual growth towards perfection

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.
"Let us be faithful and keep the commandments of God. Let us never allow our prospects to become dimmed; let them be fresh before us by day and by night, and I will assure you that if we will do this our growth from day to day and from year to year will be marvelous.
"We can look back new and we can see that we have advanced. We have not stood still, but we have been moving along and gradually increasing our growth. The child grows from childhood to boyhood, and from boyhood to manhood, with a constant and steady growth; but he cannot tell how or when the growth occurs. He does not realize that he is growing; but by observing the laws of health and being prudent in his course he eventually arrives at manhood.
"So in reference to ourselves as Latter-day Saints. We grow and increase. We are not aware of it at the moment; but after a year or so we discover that we are, so to speak, away up the hill, nearing the mountain top. We feel that we have faith in the Lord; that His providences are always beneficial; that we are connected with Him; that He is actually our Father, and that he leads us along in life."
- Lorenzo Snow, Conference Report, Apr. 1899, 2

President Snow challenged his listeners to keep their "prospects" in the eternal sense bright and "fresh" so that they could continue to grow and prosper. We can do much to influence those prospects in our lives as we strive to follow the Gospel path, obey the commandments, and remain faithful to our covenants. We will see that continual, steady growth is the result:

Our physical growth is very gradual, so as to be imperceptible when viewed from moment to moment or day to day. But as we compare over time, we see that much has changed. President Snow suggests the same is true in the life of a faithful disciple. Our spiritual growth should be always occurring, and over time, we will not profound and significant changes.

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

Monday, May 27, 2019

President Thomas S. Monson on the sacrifices of soldiers

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.
"One summer day I stood alone in the quiet of the American War Memorial Cemetery of the Philippines. A spirit of reverence filled the warm tropical air. Situated among the carefully mowed grass, acre upon acre, were markers identifying men, mostly young, who in battle gave their lives. As I let my eyes pass name by name along the many colonnades of honor, tears came easily and without embarrassment. As my eyes filled with tears, my heart swelled with pride. I contemplated the high price of liberty and the costly sacrifice many had been called upon to bear.
"My thoughts turned from those who bravely served and gallantly died. There came to mind the grief-stricken mother of each fallen man as she held in her hand the news of her precious son’s supreme sacrifice. Who can measure a mother’s grief? Who can probe a mother’s love? Who can comprehend in its entirety the lofty role of a mother? With perfect trust in God, she walks, her hand in his, into the valley of the shadow of death that you and I might come forth unto life."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Behold Thy Mother," General Conference October 1973
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It is well to pause occasionally and consider the contributions and sacrifices of those who have gone before. In the United States, Memorial Day is intended to encourage us to remember the sacrifices of those who served, and died, in the military. President Monson, a veteran himself from his Navy service near the end of World War II, was very sensitive to those sacrifices. I loved this personal experience of his mourning in a military cemetery in the Philippines:

Beyond the sacrifice of the soldiers, President Monson also extends his thoughts to the mothers of those soldiers. We sometimes forget the contribution of those who supported a child, husband, or close friend in these efforts and was left with the burden of loss and sadness at the death of a soldier.

Certainly, we should always remember "the high price of liberty and the costly sacrifice many had been called upon to bear."

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

Saturday, May 25, 2019

President Heber J. Grant on the school of mortality

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 Lord, knowing what is best for you and for me and for every individual, has given to us laws, which, if we obey, will make us more Godlike, will fit and qualify and prepare us to go back and dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father and to receive that plaudit: 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant.'
"That is what we are laboring for.
"We are in a school, fitting, qualifying, and preparing ourselves that we may be worthy and capable of going back and dwelling in the presence of our Heavenly Father, and the man who claims that he knows the gospel is true and then does not live it, does not keep the commandments of God. Such a man will never attain to that strength, to that power, to that eminence, and to that capacity in the Church and Kingdom of God that he would attain if he obeyed the laws of God."
- Heber J. Grant, Era, 42:713; Gospel Standards, p. 40

One of the principles of eternity is that those who choose to obey the commandments of God receive blessings. President Grant lists one of those blessings: obedience to God's laws "will make us more Godlike" and prepare us to return to His presence. Mortality is a great "proving ground" during which we are proved or tested, and during which we prove our willingness to submit and obey.

How grateful we should be for this wonderful school, that qualifies and prepares us for eternity!

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

Friday, May 24, 2019

President George Albert Smith on the sacred importance of scripture

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 sometimes feel that we do not appreciate the Holy Bible, and what it contains, and these other scriptures, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price that have been referred to by our beloved President [Heber J. Grant] as letters from our Heavenly Father. They may be so received, at least they are His advice and His counsel to all the children of men given to them that they may know how to take advantage of their opportunities, that their lives may not be spent in vain. One of the sorrowful things in life is to see men and women laid away in Mother earth with a realization of the fact that they have refused the greater blessings that our Father offered to them and have continued grasping at the bubble that has itself disappeared. When I think of the millions of God's children in the world, and realize how little they are striving for the things that are really worth while, I feel sad; but when I see this body of people here today—representatives of the great Church that bears the name of the Redeemer—and realize that we who have accepted the Gospel have been chosen, as it were, from among the multitude of our Father's children to understand Him and to know why we are here, my heart is filled with gratitude and praise to Him for His blessings unto us."
- George Albert Smith, "Thanksgiving for Latter-day Saints' Blessings," General Conference, October 6, 1923; see Millennial Star 86:9:129
Click here to read the full talk

President Smith suggests we don't always appreciate the gift of the scriptures as we should. They can be considered "letters from our Heavenly Father" to us. If we were to receive a new "letter," wouldn't we be overwhelmed with eagerness to read it? But yet we take the existing ones for granted, even though they have so much to offer us.

How can we make the most of our life on this earth, to ensure that it is not "spent in vain"? By reading, studying, pondering, and following the counsel in the scriptures.

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

Thursday, May 23, 2019

President David O. McKay on the personal nature of prayer

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.
"I have cherished from childhood the truth that God is a personal being, and is, indeed, our Father whom we can approach in prayer and receive answers thereto. I cherish as one of the dearest experiences of life the knowledge that God hears the prayer of faith. It is true that the answers to our prayers may not always come as direct and at the time, nor in the manner, we anticipate; but they do come, and at a time and in a manner best for the interests of him who offers the supplication.
"There have been occasions, however, when I have received direct and immediate assurance that my petition was granted. At one time, particularly, the answer came as distinctly as though my Heavenly Father stood by my side and spoke the words. These experiences are part of my very being and must remain so long as memory and intelligence last. Just as real and just as close to me seems the Savior of the world.
"I feel as I have never felt before that God is my Father. He is not just an intangible power, a moral force in the world, but a personal God with creative power, the governor of the world, the director of our souls. I would have all men, and especially the young people of the Church, feel so close to our Father in heaven that they will approach Him daily—not in public alone, but in private. If our people will have this faith, great blessings will come to them. Their souls will be filled with thanksgiving for what God has done for them; they will find themselves rich in favors bestowed. It is not imagination that we can approach God and receive light and guidance from him, and that our minds will be enlightened and our souls thrilled by his Spirit."
- David O. McKay, Conference Report, Apr. 1969, 152–53

What a wonderful thing it is to have learned and experienced, from early childhood, that God is real and that our communication with Him can bless our lives! President McKay shared his own personal faith in the power and blessing of that communication, and in the need we have to develop the faith and trust in God and in His timing as we wait for, and prepare for, responses to our needs. Those answers always come "at a time and in a manner best" for our interests.

I loved President McKay's testimony of the reality of his experiences, and the sense of divine love that permeated his very being! To truly understand, through personal knowledge, that our God is a "personal God" whom we can approach frequently and with confidence and gratitude, is a powerful aspect of our moral existence.

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

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

President Joseph Fielding Smith on serving with love like the Savior

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 Savior came into the world to teach us love for each other, and as that great lesson was made manifest through his great suffering and death that we might live, should we not express our love for our fellowmen by service rendered in their behalf? Should we not show our appreciation for the infinite service he rendered us, by giving service in his cause?
"The man who does only those things in the Church which concern himself alone will never reach exaltation. For instance, the man who is willing to pray, to pay his tithes and offerings, and to attend to the ordinary duties which concern his own personal life, and nothing more, will never reach the goal of perfection."
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Conference Report, Apr. 1968, 12

Among the greatest messages of the Savior's gospel, as taught during His earthly ministry, is the call to love others. That love is best manifest through service on their behalf. As we reach out to one another, we can demonstrate our appreciation to the Great Giver:

President Smith points out that an inward-focused interpretation of the Gospel has no power to save. If all a man does is comply with commandments and guidelines, attending to the "ordinary duties which concern his own personal life," he will have missed the mark and fallen short.

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on eternal perspective for our 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.
"The cares of the world that, on occasion, can rob us of cheerfulness are certainly real cares, but they are not lasting cares; they pass with the passing of the world. Like the pleasures of the world, the cares of the world are fleeting.
"Someday, when we look back on mortality, we will see that so many of the things that seemed to matter so much at the moment will be seen not to have mattered at all. And the eternal things will be seen to have mattered even more than the most faithful of the Saints imagined."
- Neal A. Maxwell, Even As I Am (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982), p. 104

Elder Maxwell often wrote or spoke about very real-world situation. He dealt with his own share of struggles and trials in life, and I think spoke with sincerity and experience.

This perspective about "the cares of the world" is so important. Though they seem heavy and sometimes unending, Elder Maxwell testifies that they truly are "passing" and "fleeting" when we consider the perspective of eternity.

The blessing of perspective! As we look back on our past experiences, we can realize that some things that seemed to matter very much at the time did not deserve all the care we gave to them. But things of eternal worth matter so much more than we sometimes recognize! This principle can apply to the challenges and trials of our life as well, when we recognize the relative value of our learning experiences in the broader perspective.

The grand key to happiness is to learn to see with that divine perspective in the present, not just in retrospect. We must learn to truly value those "eternal things" that will prove ultimately to be the only things that really matter.

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

Monday, May 20, 2019

President Joseph F. Smith on the dangers of internal enemies

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.
"For my part I do not fear the influence of our enemies from without, as I fear that of those from within. An open and avowed enemy, whom we may see and meet in an open field, is far less to be feared than a lurking, deceitful, treacherous enemy hidden within us, such as are many of the weaknesses of our fallen human nature, which are too often allowed to go unchecked, beclouding our minds, leading away our affections from God and his truth, until they sap the very foundations of our faith, and debase us beyond the possibility or hope of redemption either in this world or that to come. These are the enemies that we all have to battle with, they are the greatest that we have to contend with in the world, and the most difficult to conquer. They are the fruits of ignorance, generally arising out of unrebuked sin and evil in our own hearts. The labor that is upon us, is to subdue our passions, conquer our inward foes, and see that our hearts are right in the sight of the Lord, that there is nothing calculated to grieve his Spirit and lead us away from the path of duty.
"Those only who possess the light of the Spirit of God and the faith of the Gospel, which can only be possessed through faithfulness and obedience to the requirements of heaven, can discern and know the voice of the true Shepherd when they hear it. We need not expect to be able to discern the right from the wrong, the truth from error, and light from darkness, unless our eye is single, and we have declared ourselves for God and his work. If we are divided in our thoughts, affections, and interests, like the rest of the world, we need not expect to comprehend the will of the Lord when made known to us, no matter how powerfully or directly it may come."
- Joseph F. Smith, General Conference Oct. 6, 1875; Journal of Discourses 18:90-91
Click here to read the full talk

President Smith's insights are intriguing to me. We have many external enemies, physical and spiritual. But he warned us about the "lurking, deceitful, treacherous enemy hidden within us" when we fail to deal with our weakness or challenges, or resolving the "unrebuked sin" that we may have committed and not resolved. We must strive to "conquer our inward foes" and make our hearts right before God in order to overcome these inward enemies.

As we set our lives in order and fill our lives with the light of God's spirit, we will more readily recognize the Shepherd's voice and feel His assistance, support, and guidance in our lives.

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

Sunday, May 19, 2019

President Harold B. Lee on the personal gift of revelation

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.
"Any Latter-day Saint who has been baptized and who has had hands laid upon him from those officiating, commanding him to receive the Holy Ghost, and who has not received a revelation of the spirit of the Holy Ghost, has not received the gift of the Holy Ghost to which he is entitled. Therein lies a very important matter....
"On what matters may you receive a revelation? Is it startling to you to hear that you—all members of the Church who have received the Holy Ghost—may receive revelation? Not for the president of the Church, not on how to look after the affairs pertaining to the ward, the stake, or the mission in which you live; but every individual within his own station has the right to receive revelation by the Holy Ghost.…
"Every man has the privilege to exercise these gifts and these privileges in the conduct of his own affairs; in bringing up his children in the way they should go; in the management of his business, or whatever he does. It is his right to enjoy the spirit of revelation and of inspiration to do the right thing, to be wise and prudent, just and good, in everything that he does. I know that is a true principle, and that is the thing that I would like the Latter-day Saints to know. Now then, all of us should try to strive and give heed to the sudden ideas that come to us, and if we’ll give heed to them and cultivate an ear to hear these promptings we too—each of us—can grow in the spirit of revelation....
"I bear you my solemn testimony that the Church today is guided by revelation. Every soul in it who has been blessed to receive the Holy Ghost has the power to receive revelation. God help you and me that we will always so live that the Lord can answer the prayers of the faithful through us."
- Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, 140–42, 145

President Lee's message was a challenge to each member of the Church. When we were confirmed members of the Church, we were invited to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. His reminder is that those who receive that companionship will also receive revelation, as they live worthy of that gift.

Every single person "within his own station," or within the reach of his stewardship and responsibilities, "has the right to receive revelation by the Holy Ghost." We should seek that gift; we should cherish it and use it wisely! One of the keys President Lee offered was that we should learn to "give heed to the sudden ideas that come to us" as we "grow in the spirit of revelation." We will soon discover that God is eager to assist in this grand experience of life.

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

Saturday, May 18, 2019

President Spencer W. Kimball on the privilege of scripture study

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Besides the almost constant encouragement and prompting which we receive from our present-day Church leaders, the prophets of old seem to cry out to us in almost every page of the scriptures, urging us to study the word of the Lord, the holy scriptures, 'which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.' (2 Tim. 3:15.) But we do not always hear, and we might well ask ourselves why.
"Sometimes it seems we take the scriptures too much for granted because we do not fully appreciate how rare a thing it is to possess them, and how blessed we are because we do have them. We seem to have settled so comfortably into our experiences in this world and become so accustomed to hearing the gospel taught among us that it is hard for us to imagine it could ever have been otherwise....
"In addition to our access to these precious works of scripture, we have, to an extent unknown at any other time in the history of the world, the education and the ability to use them, if we will.
"The ancient prophets knew that after the darkness there would come light. We live in that light—but do we fully comprehend it? With the doctrines of salvation easily within our grasp, I fear that some are still overcome with the 'spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear.' (Rom. 11:8.)"
- Spencer W. Kimball, "How Rare a Possession—The Scriptures," Ensign September 1976, pp. 2-5
Click here to read the whole article

This excerpt comes from a "First Presidency Message" prepared by President Kimball, one of his truly classic articles. He shared his vision of the precious and sacred nature of the scriptures, and encouraged us to make better use of them in study and application. With a historical perspective, President Kimball warns us about the tendency to take our scriptural record for granted and thus fail to receive the benefits it offers to us:

In the 43 years since this article was published, it's interesting to note how much more our access to the sacred record has grown and improved. Most of us carry a complete copy in our pocket or purse as part of our digital devices; and we have the ability to search and study in ways that were not even dreamed of in past years. But again—do we take for granted that access and those abilities?? Or are we truly doing all we can to "live in the light"?

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

Friday, May 17, 2019

President Ezra Taft Benson on finding hope in times of challenge

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.
"To press on in noble endeavors, even while surrounded by a cloud of depression, will eventually bring you out on top into the sunshine. Even our master Jesus the Christ, while facing that supreme test of being temporarily left alone by our Father during the crucifixion, continued performing his labors for the children of men, and then shortly thereafter he was glorified and received a fullness of joy. While you are going through your trial, you can recall your past victories and count the blessings that you do have with a sure hope of greater ones to follow if you are faithful. And you can have that certain knowledge that in due time God will wipe away all tears and that 'eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.' (1 Cor. 2:9.)"
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Do Not Despair," General Conference October 1974
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was one of my favorite talks by Elder Benson; well worth reviewing the whole thing. He encourages us to maintain a perspective of hope and gratitude in spite of the challenges and difficulties of life—"even while surrounded by a cloud of depression." Pressing on through the clouds eventually leads to sunshine:

Three important strategies for success, in surviving times of challenge, are:

  • Remembering past achievements
  • Recognizing current blessings
  • Holding to promises for the future, knowing that "in due time God will wipe away all tears"

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

Thursday, May 16, 2019

President Howard W. Hunter on our call to follow the Master

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.
"Let us study the Master’s every teaching and devote ourselves more fully to his example. He has given us 'all things that pertain unto life and godliness.' He has 'called us to glory and virtue' and has 'given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these [we] might be partakers of the divine nature' (2 Pet. 1:3–4).
"I believe in those 'exceeding great and precious promises,' and I invite all within the sound of my voice to claim them. We should strive to 'be partakers of the divine nature.' Only then may we truly hope for 'peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come' (D&C 59:23)."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises," General Conference October 1994
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This excerpt is from President Hunter's first remarks just after he was formally sustained in a solemn assembly as the president of the Church in 1994. It was a beautiful invitation to "study the Master’s every teaching and devote ourselves more fully to his example." It's now been almost 25 years since that invitation was given, and perhaps in this year of renewed emphasis of gospel study in the home, we're responding to that invitation in better ways than before.

The promises from God to those who choose to accept His call are there; but it us up to each of us to claim them, and become "partakers of the divine nature."

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

President Gordon B. Hinckley on finding real beauty in the world

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1961. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1981-1995, then as Church President until his death in 2008.
"There is much of beauty about [the people of the world], but without the root that finds itself in faith and conviction concerning God and the risen Lord, there isn't much of real substance when it comes to a crisis or a showdown of some kind. Seek for the real things, not the artificial. Seek for the everlasting truths, not the passing whim. Seek for the eternal things of God, not for that which is here today and gone tomorrow. 'Look to God and live' [Alma 37:47], as the scripture enjoins us."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Plano Texas Regional Conference, 17 March 1996; see TGBH 494
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Recognizing the beauty that exists in many ways in the world, President Hinckley adds his insight that beauty is enhanced by "faith and conviction concerning God and the risen Lord." That foundation of faith enables us to confront the crises of life that will surely come. And so President Hinckley shares this wise advice:

We would do well to evaluate our priorities:
  • Can I distinguish between real and artificial?
  • Do I make choices based on understanding the differences between things that bring everlasting joy and those that are temporary whims?
  • Am I truly focused on "the eternal things of God"?

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

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

President Thomas S. Monson on responding to calls to serve

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.
"Then and now, servants of God take comfort from the Master's assurance: 'I am with you alway' (Matt. 28:20). This magnificent promise sustains you....
"An abiding faith, a constant trust, a fervent desire have always characterized those who serve the Lord with all their hearts....
"The call to serve has ever characterized the work of the Lord. It rarely comes at a convenient time. It brings humility, it provokes prayer, and it inspires commitment."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Tears, Trials, Trust, Testimony," General Conference, April 1987
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This message was shared in a Priesthood session of conference when President Monson was serving as a counselor to President Benson. He recognized the challenge that comes to all members of the Church when we are given callings to serve, as we have opportunities to help others in need. The "call" to serve can come as a formal invitation from a leader to fill a particular position or role; or it may be a less formal prompting of a need that we could address in our personal ministry. But for disciples of Christ, that urge to bless others should be a part of our souls.

President Monson himself characterized this inherent attitude of a willingness to serve and bless. His lifetime of formal service in callings was, in a way, almost secondary to the way he often willingly and eagerly followed promptings to bless others in need.

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