Saturday, October 31, 2020

President Henry B. Eyring on the work of the last dispensation

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.
"Many of the specifics of what we will do and when we will do it in the unfolding Restoration are not yet revealed. Yet the First Presidency even in those early days knew some of the breadth and depth of the work the Lord has set before us....

"Even an unbelieving world will recognize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and realize the power of God upon it. Faithful and brave disciples will fearlessly, humbly, and openly take upon them the name of Christ in their everyday lives.

"How, then, can each of us participate in this work of such magnitude and grandeur? President Nelson has taught us how to grow in spiritual power. When we take repentance as a joyful opportunity because of our growing faith that Jesus is the Christ, when we understand and believe that Heavenly Father hears our every prayer, when we strive to obey and live the commandments, we grow in our power to receive continuing revelation. The Holy Ghost can be our constant companion. A feeling of light will stay with us even as the world around us becomes darker."

- Henry B. Eyring, "Prayers of Faith," General Conference April 2020, Saturday morning

I'm just one small person in a very large world. Can my preparation, my efforts, really matter that much to God's grand vision of eternity? President Eyring believes that each of us matter far more than we believe, and God depends on us perhaps more than we know. It becomes crucial for each of us to be as earnest and focused as we possibly can in our preparation and participation. As we become "faithful and brave disciples" we will proudly display the name of Christ in our lives.

These then become the great keys to growing in "spiritual power" so that we can more fully participate in the great latter-day work:
I always appreciate how clear and concise President Eyring teachings about the essence of the Gospel, and how personal and sincere his instructions and invitations are. These beautiful reminders help us feel more of God's light in a world that rapidly grows darker.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Friday, October 30, 2020

President Dallin H. Oaks on the growth experiences of mortality

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 divine plan for us to become what we are destined to become requires us to make choices to reject the evil opposition that tempts mortals to act contrary to God’s commandments and His plan. It also requires that we be subject to other mortal opposition, such as from the sins of others or from some defects of birth. Sometimes our needed growth is achieved better by suffering and adversity than by comfort and tranquility. And none of this mortal opposition could achieve its eternal purpose if divine intervention relieved us from all the adverse consequences of mortality....

"God’s plan gives us four great assurances to assist our journey through mortality. All are given to us through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the centerpiece of the plan. The first assures us that through His suffering for the sins of which we repent, we can be cleansed of those sins. Then the merciful final judge will 'remember them no more' (D&C 58:42).

"Second, as part of our Savior’s Atonement, He took upon Him all other mortal infirmities. This allows us to receive divine help and strength to bear the inevitable burdens of mortality, personal and general, such as war and pestilence....

"Third, the Savior, through His infinite Atonement, revokes the finality of death and gives us the joyful assurance that all of us will be resurrected....

"Fourth and finally, modern revelation teaches us that our progress need not conclude with the end of mortality."

- Dallin H. Oaks, "The Great Plan," General Conference April 2020, Sunday afternoon

In discussing the doctrines of mortality and our purpose in this life, President Oaks expressed concern that far too many don't understand the most basic doctrines of the Gospel. He expressed that in the troubling year 2020, our vision of the past might be 20/20, but our vision of the future is not nearly so clear.

One important key is understanding the role and purposes of suffering and adversity in that plan. It is wrong to assume that the righteous will never have problems or challenges in life:
Through the power of the Atonement of Christ, we have these assurances:
  • we can be cleansed of sin when we repent
  • we can receive divine help in bearing the burdens of mortality
  • we will be resurrected
  • progress can continue in the life to come
Those are powerful promises, and understanding them helps to put our mortal experience in proper perspective. We would do well to ponder those principles and their place in our personal life!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Thursday, October 29, 2020

President Russell M. Nelson on surviving trials and growing in faith

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.
"Though today’s restrictions relate to a virulent virus, life’s personal trials stretch far beyond this pandemic. Future trials could result from an accident, a natural disaster, or an unexpected personal heartache.

"How can we endure such trials? The Lord has told us that 'if ye are prepared ye shall not fear' (D&C 38:30). Of course, we can store our own reserves of food, water, and savings. But equally crucial is our need to fill our personal spiritual storehouses with faith, truth, and testimony.

"Our ultimate quest in life is to prepare to meet our Maker. We do this by striving daily to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ. (See 3 Ne 27:27.) And we do that as we repent daily and receive His cleansing, healing, and strengthening power. Then we can feel enduring peace and joy, even during turbulent times. This is exactly why the Lord has implored us to stand in holy places and 'be not moved' (D&C 87:8)."

- Russell M. Nelson, "Opening Message," General Conference April 2020, Saturday morning

President Nelson opened the April 2020 General Conference, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith, by recalling that he had informed Church members six months earlier that the conference would be unique and different. But no one anticipated that part of the difference would be because of the COVID-19 pandemic that was gripping the world! There would be many challenges ahead in dealing with that situation, but President Nelson reminded Church members that those who are prepared, temporally but also spiritually, will not need to fear. The great invitation continues to be to "fill our personal spiritual storehouses with faith, truth, and testimony."
Are we truly preparing for the future in the most important way, preparing to "meet our Maker" as we strive to follow the teachings and example of His Son? That would be the ongoing invitation of this conference as well, as we strive to "Hear Him" in our personal lives.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

President Henry B. Eyring on women, charity, and Zion

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.
"Sisters, you were given the blessing of being daughters of God with special gifts. You brought with you into mortal life a spiritual capacity to nurture others and to lift them higher toward the love and purity that will qualify them to live together in a Zion society. It is not by accident that the Relief Society, the first Church organization specifically for Heavenly Father’s daughters, has as its motto 'Charity Never Faileth.'

"Charity is the pure love of Christ. And it is faith in Him and the full effects of His infinite Atonement that will qualify you, and those you love and serve, for the supernal gift to live in that sociality of a long-looked-for and promised Zion. There you will be sisters in Zion, loved in person by the Lord and those you have blessed.

"I testify that you are citizens of the Lord’s kingdom on the earth. You are daughters of a loving Heavenly Father, who sent you into the world with unique gifts that you promised to use to bless others. I promise you that the Lord will lead you by the hand, through the Holy Ghost. He will go before your face as you help Him prepare His people to become His promised Zion."

- Henry B. Eyring, "Sisters in Zion," General Conference October 2020, Women's Session

President Eyring has spoken about the powerful influence of women in his life, including his mother and wife. In these remarks, he spoke to the sisters of the Church about the innate gifts they each have and the power it will bring in future years. As followers of the Savior we aspire to the Zion society described in the scriptures, and prophesied for the last days. President Eyring described the powerful role he foresees for sisters in that transition, in developing unity and oneness.

It's a powerful key for all of us to develop greater "faith in Him and the full effects of His infinite Atonement." How blessed we are for the innate gifts of the sisters of Zion who will lead the way in that wonderful path of hope and faith.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

President Dallin H. Oaks on being of good cheer

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.
"Tribulation and challenges are the common experiences of mortality. Opposition is an essential part of the divine plan for helping us grow, and in the midst of that process, we have God’s assurance that, in the long view of eternity, opposition will not be allowed to overcome us. With His help and our faithfulness and endurance, we will prevail. Like the mortal life of which they are a part, all tribulations are temporary....

"On a personal basis, each of us struggles individually with some of the many adversities of mortality, such as poverty, racism, ill health, job losses or disappointments, wayward children, bad marriages or no marriages, and the effects of sin—our own or others’.

"Yet, in the midst of all of this, we have that heavenly counsel to be of good cheer and to find joy in the principles and promises of the gospel and the fruits of our labors. (See D&C 6:31.) That counsel has always been so, for prophets and for all of us. We know this from the experiences of our predecessors and what the Lord said to them....

"There is boundless power in the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Our unshakable faith in that doctrine guides our steps and gives us joy. It enlightens our minds and gives strength and confidence to our actions. This guidance and enlightenment and power are promised gifts we have received from our Heavenly Father. By understanding and conforming our lives to that doctrine, including the divine gift of repentance, we can be of good cheer as we keep ourselves on the path toward our eternal destiny—reunion and exaltation with our loving heavenly parents."

- Dallin H. Oaks, "Be of Good Cheer," General Conference October 2020, Women's Session

In the midst of tribulation—disappointments, challenges, loneliness, concerns—one of the hardest things we are asked to do certainly must be to "be of good cheer." Keeping the perspective of our place in eternity can make all the difference. The Savior's invitation to be cheerful in a world of hardship because "I have overcome the world" is a great key.

Maintaining a focus on the Savior and His doctrine brings power to our lives:
As we develop the "unshakable faith" in the Savior and His doctrine, power and blessings come to our lives as promised gifts. His guidance and help are the great key to bringing peace and good cheer.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Monday, October 26, 2020

President Russell M. Nelson on being yoked to God

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.
"The Lord taught us how to increase our faith by seeking 'learning, even by study and also by faith' (D&C 88:118, emphasis added). We strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ as we strive to keep His commandments and 'always remember him' (Moroni 4:3). Further, our faith increases every time we exercise our faith in Him. That is what learning by faith means.

"For example, each time we have the faith to be obedient to God’s laws—even when popular opinions belittle us—or each time we resist entertainment or ideologies that celebrate covenant-breaking, we are exercising our faith, which in turn increases our faith....

"Of course, our ultimate security comes as we yoke ourselves to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ! Life without God is a life filled with fear. Life with God is a life filled with peace. This is because spiritual blessings come to the faithful. Receiving personal revelation is one of the greatest of those blessings.

"The Lord has promised that if we will ask, we may receive 'revelation upon revelation' (D&C 42:61). I promise that as you increase your capacity to receive revelation, the Lord will bless you with increased direction for your life and with boundless gifts of the Spirit."

- Russell M. Nelson, "Embrace the Future with Faith," General Conference October 2020, Women's Session

President Nelson addressed the women of the Church in this message, praising their efforts (particularly in the time of unusual worldwide challenges) and encouraging them in looking to the future. He taught principles, and encouraged his listeners to create places of sceurity, prepare minds to be faithful to God, and to never stop preparing for future needs and challenges.

I love the thought that "our faith increases every time we exercise our faith in Him." Of course it does! Exercising a muscle, practicing a skill, developing our abilities—using something develops and enhances it. We grow in faith by exercising faith. The invitation and opportunity for all of us is to do that.

But we don't have to do it alone. We have Divine Help available to us if we avail ourselves of it.
We choose fear, or we choose faith. Aligning our lives with Him allows us to live with confidence and peace, and with divine direction.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Elder Ulisses Soares on turning our thoughts to the Savior

Elder Ulisses Soares (born October 2, 1958 in Brazil) has served as a Seventy since April 2005, and as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy since January 2013. He was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles on April 1, 2018.
"Being aware of all that is necessary for us in this life, the Savior invites us to seek Him in every thought and to follow Him with all our heart. This gives us the promise that we can walk in His light and that His guidance prevents the influence of darkness in our life.

"Seeking Christ in every thought and following Him with all our heart requires that we align our mind and desires with His. The scriptures refer to this alignment as 'stand[ing] fast in the Lord' (Philippians 4:1). This course of action implies that we continually conduct our lives in harmony with the gospel of Christ and focus daily on everything that is good. Only then may we achieve 'the peace of God, which passeth all understanding' and which will 'keep [our] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus' (Philippians 4:7)."

- Ulisses Soares, "Seek Christ in Every Thought," General Conference October 2020, Sunday morning

The concept of "alignment" is fascinating to me. The word align derives from old French and means to set or place into a straight line, a proper order or arrangement. You have to know what the proper or correct arrangement is in order to align. If we are clear about that correct positioning, we attempt to achieve it through adjustments. Or sometimes, when we know one thing is correct and true, and are not sure about a second thing, we can try to "align" the second to the first.

Elder Soares suggests that we align our mind and desires to the Savior. We know and believe that He is just and true; he is the perfect model. Our goal is to emulate Him. So we devote our hearts to Him and seek to follow with all our hearts.
Once something is in alignment, there may be things that can remove it from the proper positioning; it can be "knocked out" from the alignment. So it requires ongoing caution, periodic checking and evaluation, and occasional adjustments to preserve alignment. All of those things apply to our spiritual alignment to the Savior.

The real blessing of alignment with Him comes in the peace and joy that follow. Those are divine promises, and we constantly feel them reinforced as we follow that path.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Elder Gerrit W. Gong on receiving God's help as we learn to trust Him

Elder Gerrit W. Gong (born December 23, 1953) was called as a Seventy in April 2010, then to the Presidency of the Seventy in October 2015. He was sustained to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in April 2018.

"Truly, for those with faithful hearts and eyes to see, the Lord’s tender mercies are manifest amidst life’s challenges. Faithfully met challenges and sacrifice do bring the blessings of heaven. In this mortality, we may lose or wait for some things for a time, but in the end we will find what matters most. That is His promise....

"Heavenly Father invites us everywhere to feel His love, to learn and grow through education, honorable work, self-reliant service, and patterns of goodness and happiness we find in His restored Church.

"As we come to trust God, sometimes through pleading in our darkest, loneliest, most uncertain moments, we learn He knows us better and loves us more than we know or love ourselves.

"This is why we need God’s help to create lasting justice, equality, fairness, and peace in our homes and communities. Our truest, deepest, most authentic narrative, place, and belonging come when we feel God’s redeeming love, seek grace and miracles through His Son’s Atonement, and establish lasting relationships by sacred covenants.

"Religious goodness and wisdom are needed in today’s cluttered, noisy, polluted world. How else can we refresh, inspire, and edify the human spirit?"

- Gerrit W. Gong, "All Nations, Kindreds, and Tongues," General Conference October 2020, Saturday afternoon

Elder Gong's address in this conference session was unique in that he did not actually attend the meeting though it appeared he was at the same pulpit as the other speakers. His remarks were apparently recorded in advance as a precautionary measure, because he and his wife had been exposed to an active COVID patient. (Shortly after the conference it was announced that he had indeed tested postive.)

Elder Gong spoke about some of the miracles of our time, and the fact that we not only witness the fulfillment of prophecy, but can participate in it. But admid the blessings and joys of our time, we also witness challenges and difficulties. Through it all, there are wonderful promises of help and hope available to us.
Truly we need God's help in our lives as we deal with the hardest challenges. As we feel his "redeeming love" we will find peace and hope.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Friday, October 23, 2020

Elder Dale G. Renlund on learning to be more Christlike

Elder Dale G. Renlund (born November 13, 1952) served in the First Quorum of Seventy starting in 2009, until his call to the Quorum of Twelve in October 2015.

"Jesus Christ exemplified what it means to do justly and to love mercy. He freely associated with sinners, treating them honorably and with respect. He taught the joy of keeping God’s commandments and sought to lift rather than condemn those who struggled. He did denounce those who faulted Him for ministering to people they deemed unworthy. Such self-righteousness offended Him and still does. (See Luke 15:1-2)

"To be Christlike, a person does justly, behaving honorably with both God and other people. A just person is civil in words and action and recognizes that differences in outlook or belief do not preclude genuine kindness and friendship. Individuals who do justly 'will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably' (Mosiah 4:13) one with another.

"To be Christlike, a person loves mercy. People who love mercy are not judgmental; they manifest compassion for others, especially for those who are less fortunate; they are gracious, kind, and honorable. These individuals treat everyone with love and understanding, regardless of characteristics such as race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and tribal, clan, or national differences. These are superseded by Christlike love.

"To be Christlike, a person chooses God (see Moses 7:33), walks humbly with Him, seeks to please Him, and keeps covenants with Him. Individuals who walk humbly with God remember what Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have done for them."

- Dale G. Renlund, "Do Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with God," General Conference October 2020, Sunday afternoon

Perhaps one of the most critical aspects of the Christian message related to how we interact with those around us. Elder Renlund takes his theme from the Old Testament prophet Micah's injunction about the importance of "doing justly" to those around us and "loving mercy" in our interactions. The great exemplar of these attributes is the Savior himself, and so we look to his life and message for the standard that we strive to follow.

We should never be judgmental of those around us. We need to learn to overcome any preconceptions about "race, gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and tribal, clan, or national differences." What a comprehensive list!

As we strive to be more Christlike, we find wonderful teachings and examples to guide us:
What a great thought: "differences in outlook or belief do not preclude genuine kindness and friendship." We can have a difference of opinion with someone but still love and accept them! If we are truly disciples of the Savior, we must learn to do better.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on recognizing blessings amid challenges

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (born August 5, 1955) was called as a Seventy in 2008, then as Presiding Bishop in 2012. He was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2015.

"Many, many of you have dealt with heartbreaking disappointment, sorrow, and discouragement [because of the COVID-19 pandemic]. So how do we heal, endure, and move forward when things seem so broken?

"The prophet Nephi began engraving the small plates when he was a grown man. As he looked back on his life and ministry, he offered an important reflection in the very first verse of the Book of Mormon. This verse frames an important principle for us to consider in our time. Following his familiar words, 'I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents … ,' he writes, 'and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days.' (1 Nephi 1:1)

"As students of the Book of Mormon, we are familiar with the many afflictions to which Nephi refers. Yet following acknowledgment of his afflictions in the course of his days, Nephi gives his gospel perspective of being highly favored of the Lord in all his days. Times of affliction and disappointment do not change the watchful eye of the Lord as He favorably looks upon us, blessing us....

"We too can draw parallels as individual members and as a church in the way in which we have been highly favored of the Lord during the challenging times we have encountered the past several months....

"Brothers and sisters, I believe that one day, each of you will look back at the canceled events, the sadness, the disappointments, and the loneliness attendant to the challenging times we are passing through to see them overshadowed by choice blessings and increased faith and testimonies. I believe that in this life, and in the life to come, your afflictions, your Ammonihah, your Liberty Jail, will be consecrated for your gain (see 2 Ne 2:2). I pray that, along with Nephi, we can acknowledge the afflictions in the course of our days while at the same time recognizing that we are highly favored of the Lord."

- Gary E. Stevenson, "Highly Favored of the Lord," General Conference October 2020, Sunday afternoon

In his conference message, Elder Stevenson reviewed some of the challenges that came as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the blessings that we discovered during the time of difficulty. I love the insight from the opening verse of the Book of Mormon. We can acknowledge the challenges and difficulties that we each encounter in our lives, to varying degrees; but we should never forget the rest of the "big picture"—the profound nevertheless—"nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days." Challenges will certainly come, but so will blessings, and if we focus only on the former, we deny ourselves the hope, peace, and faith that come from acknowledging the latter.
We must never forget the "watchful eye of the Lord" that is always upon us. How greatly we are blessed in all our days!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on being recommended to the Lord

Elder Ronald A. Rasband (born 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.

"Your temple recommend reflects a deep, spiritual intent that you are striving to live the laws of the Lord and love what He loves: humility, meekness, steadfastness, charity, courage, compassion, forgiveness, and obedience. And you commit yourself to those standards when you sign your name to that sacred document.

"Your temple recommend opens the gates of heaven for you and others with rites and ordinances of eternal significance, including baptisms, endowments, marriages, and sealings.

"To be 'recommended to the Lord' is to be reminded of what is expected of a covenant-keeping Latter-day Saint....

"When the Lord calls for us to 'redouble' our efforts, He is asking that we increase in righteousness. For example, we may expand our study of the scriptures, our family history research, and our prayers of faith that we may share our love for the Lord’s house with those preparing to receive a temple recommend, our family members in particular.

"I promise you as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ that as you strive to redouble your righteous efforts, you will feel renewed in your devotion to God the Father and Jesus Christ, you will feel an abundance of the Holy Ghost guiding you, you will be grateful for your sacred covenants, and you will feel peace knowing you are 'recommended to the Lord.'"

- Ronald A. Rasband, "Recommended to the Lord," General Conference October 2020, Saturday morning

I've had experiences similar to the one Elder Rasband described. I once visited a sister in her home who was in the advances stages of ALS. Her body function was lost; her speech was tremendously slurred and almost unintelligible. But her eyes shone brightly, and she wanted to renew her temple recommend even though she knew she would never be able to "use" it in the traditional way. Spirit spoke to spirit as we talked together. I don't think I ever signed a recommend with more gratitude and appreciation, more confidence that it was truly deserved, than I when I signed that one.

Would that we all felt that same profound desire to always be "recommended to the Lord." When we live our lives in a state of trust and humility, wanting to please Him above all else, we will feel His blessings in a more profound way.

May we all feel the call to "redouble" our faithfulness in keeping the commandments and growing spiritually. May we each, individually, identify the specific things we can to to accelerate progress on that path!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Elder Neil L. Andersen on sharing our love for the Savior

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.
"With those around us, let us be more open, more willing to talk of Christ. President Nelson said, 'True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world.' ...

"Be more open on social media in talking about your trust in Christ. Most will respect your faith, but if someone is dismissive when you speak of the Savior, take courage in His promise: 'Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you … for my sake. … For great is your reward in heaven.' (Matt 5:11-12) We care more about being His followers than being 'liked' by our own followers. Peter counseled, 'Be ready always to give an answer [for] the hope that is in you.' (1 Peter 3:15) Let us talk of Christ....

"As the world speaks less of Jesus Christ, let us speak more of Him. As our true colors as His disciples are revealed, many around us will be prepared to listen. As we share the light we have received from Him, His light and His transcendent saving power will shine on those willing to open their hearts. Jesus said, 'I … come [as] a light into the world.' (John 12:46)"

- Neil L. Andersen, "We Talk of Christ," General Conference October 2020, Sunday morning

During my lifetime I've witnessed the appearance of the Internet and the development of the World Wide Web. In more recent years we've seen the dramatic appearance of various forms of social media. It's been a fascinating time, as technology has changed our lives in many positive ways (and a few challenging ones). We have seen these developments simplify and enhance our ability to read and learn, to research and grow, to be aware of the world in significant ways.

But are we using the technology for good, for the best possible uses? Elder Andersen's conference message challenged us to consider if we might be better disciples and messengers of Jesus Christ by making better use of these tools.
I think the highlighted words are profound. The idea of a "follower" is an interesting part of social media, as we choose the people or groups that interest us. But whom do we really want to follow as our highest priority? And are our concerns about those who follow us more important to us than following Him? Great questions to ponder.

But how important it is for us to use this technology for good! And especially, to find opportunities to "talk of Christ" openly and sincerely!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on personal happiness and community well-being

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.
"When people turn from a sense of accountability to God and begin to trust instead in the 'arm of flesh,' disaster lurks. Trusting in the arm of flesh is to ignore the divine Author of human rights and human dignity and to give highest priority to riches, power, and the praise of the world (while often mocking and persecuting those who follow a different standard). Meanwhile, those in sustainable societies are seeking, as King Benjamin said, to 'grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created [them], or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.' (Mosiah 4:12.)

"The institutions of family and religion have been crucial for endowing both individuals and communities with the virtues that sustain an enduring society. These virtues, rooted in scripture, include integrity, responsibility and accountability, compassion, marriage and fidelity in marriage, respect for others and the property of others, service, and the necessity and dignity of work, among others.

"...our joyous message to our children and to all humanity is that 'the truth of God' points a better way, or as Paul said, 'a more excellent way' (1 Corinthians 12:31), a way to personal happiness and community well-being now and to everlasting peace and joy hereafter....

"There is much we can do as neighbors and fellow citizens to contribute to the sustainability and success of the societies we live in, and surely our most fundamental and enduring service will be to teach and live by the truths inherent in God’s great plan of redemption."

- D. Todd Christofferson, "Sustainable Societies," General Conference October 2020, Saturday afternoon

Elder Christofferson's message considered some of the broader concerns of society. What causes them to decline or even collapse? What are the warning signs? How can we resist and counteract the tendencies to move in that direction? I thought it was very thought-provoking.

We are seeing some of the more concerning signs in our own time. The change in values, the lack of a sense of accountability to God, the failure of family structures—these are dangerous trends. There most certainly is a better way, a "more excellent way." We must remember God in order to receive His help.
Each of us can try harder to set good examples and to share the principles of eternity. We need to "teach and live" according to the eternal plan of happiness. Never has it been more important to strive to be a light to the world.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Quentin L. Cook on striving for righteousness and unity

Elder Quentin L. Cook (born September 8, 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"In this dispensation, although we live in a special time, the world has not been blessed with the righteousness and unity described in 4 Nephi. Indeed, we live in a moment of particularly strong divisions. However, the millions who have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ have committed themselves to achieving both righteousness and unity. We are all aware that we can do better, and that is our challenge in this day. We can be a force to lift and bless society as a whole. At this 200-year hinge point in our Church history, let us commit ourselves as members of the Lord’s Church to live righteously and be united as never before. President Russell M. Nelson has asked us 'to demonstrate greater civility, racial and ethnic harmony and mutual respect.' This means loving each other and God and accepting everyone as brothers and sisters and truly being a Zion people.

"With our all-inclusive doctrine, we can be an oasis of unity and celebrate diversity. Unity and diversity are not opposites. We can achieve greater unity as we foster an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for diversity."

- Quentin L. Cook, "Hearts Knit in Righteousness and Unity," General Conference October 2020, Saturday morning

There are examples in the world's history of remarkably unified civilizations, when whole groups of people lived in peace and perfect unity, often in spite of the world's evil or challenging circumstances surrounding them. We do not live in such a time. Elder Cook points out that our day is a time of very strong contention and division. But that does not relieve us of the obligation of trying.

We have the challenge and opportunity to do better. As disciples of Christ, we should e "a force to lift and bless." We should all consider our own efforts to both seek personal righteousness and to foster unity.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Elder David A. Bednar on trusting in Jesus as our Savior

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.
"These scriptures provide a perfect framework for organizing and preparing our lives and homes both temporally and spiritually. Our efforts to prepare for the proving experiences of mortality should follow the example of the Savior, who incrementally 'increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man' (Luke 2:52)—a blended balance of intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social readiness....

"Just as challenging times reveal inadequacies in temporal preparedness, so too the maladies of spiritual casualness and complacency inflict their most detrimental effects during difficult trials....

"Faithfulness is not foolishness or fanaticism. Rather, it is trusting and placing our confidence in Jesus Christ as our Savior, on His name, and in His promises. As we 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men,' (2 Ne 31:20) we are blessed with an eternal perspective and vision that stretches far beyond our limited mortal capacity. We will be enabled to 'gather together, and stand in holy places' (D&C 101:22) and 'be not moved, until the day of the Lord come.' (D&C 87:8)"

- David A. Bednar, "We Will Prove Them Herewith," General Conference October 2020, Saturday afternoon

Elder Bednar spoke of the need for tests in academia as a means of measuring progress; it helps us identify what we know, and what we need to continue to learn. The principle can be applied to our mortal experience, as we hope to have measuring points to help identify what growth is lacking in our lives. Elder Bednar especially hoped that we are gaining the growth from the challenges we currently face. It is so critical to avoid "spiritual casualness and complacency" that rob us of sacred opportunities in life, especially in the midst of trying times.

Two important principles described by Elder Bednar are preparing in advance for trials to come, and enduring as we press forward with steadfastness. But those who "press forward" faithfully are sometimes criticized for their lack of independence, initiative, or self-determinism. That's reflects a misunderstanding of what true faithfulness really is.

Those who are truly faithful will "press forward" because of their deep confidence in the Savior and His plan. They have that powerful eternal perspective that brings hope and wisdom. We should all be working to grow in those attributes!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Friday, October 16, 2020

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on surviving challenging times

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.
"The righteous are not given a free pass that allows them to avoid the valleys of shadow. We all must walk through difficult times, for it is in these times of adversity that we learn principles that fortify our characters and cause us to draw closer to God....

"God will watch over and shepherd you during these times of uncertainty and fear. He knows you. He hears your pleas. He is faithful and dependable. He will fulfill His promises.

"God has something unimaginable in mind for you personally and the Church collectively—a marvelous work and a wonder.

"Our best days are ahead of us, not behind us. This is why God gives us modern revelation! Without it, life might feel like flying in a holding pattern, waiting for the fog to lift so we can land safely. The Lord’s purposes for us are much higher than that. Because this is the Church of the living Christ, and because He directs His prophets, we are moving forward and upward to places we’ve never been, to heights we can hardly imagine!"

- Dieter F: Uchtdorf, "God Will Do Something Unimaginable," General Conference October 2020, Saturday afternoon

Elder Uchtdorf's message was filled with hope and encouragement. He acknowledged the challenges and difficulties of our time, but continually focuses on the reassurance that "God has something unimaginable in mind" for those who love Him. He described our situation as seeds buried by the circumstances around us, shrouded in darkness; but through God's love and the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we will eventually "spring forth" into "something unimaginable."

A key point of the message is that the challenges come to all, including the righteous:

Without the trials and challenges, we would not learn the lessons. The very nature of mortality requires those challenges in our lives. But we are not alone; God's help, His love and grace, are available to sustain and bless us.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ

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.
"My beloved brothers and sisters, Christianity is comforting, but it is often not comfortable. The path to holiness and happiness here and hereafter is a long and sometimes rocky one. It takes time and tenacity to walk it. But, of course, the reward for doing so is monumental. This truth is taught clearly and persuasively in the 32nd chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon. There this great high priest teaches that if the word of God is planted in our hearts as a mere seed, and if we care enough to water, weed, nourish, and encourage it, it will in the future bear fruit 'which is most precious, … sweet above all that is sweet,' the consuming of which leads to a condition of no more thirst and no more hunger. (Alma 32:42)

"Many lessons are taught in this remarkable chapter, but central to them all is the axiom that the seed has to be nourished and we must wait for it to mature; we '[look] forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof.' (Alma 32:40) Our harvest, Alma says, comes 'by and by.' (Alma 32:42) Little wonder that he concludes his remarkable instruction by repeating three times a call for diligence and patience in nurturing the word of God in our hearts, 'waiting,' as he says, with 'long-suffering … for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you.' (Alma 32:43)

"COVID and cancer, doubt and dismay, financial trouble and family trials. When will these burdens be lifted? The answer is 'by and by.' (Alma 32:42) And whether that be a short period or a long one is not always ours to say, but by the grace of God, the blessings will come to those who hold fast to the gospel of Jesus Christ. That issue was settled in a very private garden and on a very public hill in Jerusalem long ago."

- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Waiting on the Lord," General Conference October 2020, Sunday afternoon

Elder Holland has had his own personal challenges recently. During the past few months, he was hospitalized; and as he gave this talk he clearly seemed to be less strong and vigorous than in the past. But his faith, his characteristic warmth, and his heartfelt witness of the Savior were as powerful as ever. He spoke authentically about the many challenges we face in mortality, and the questions often raised about God's ability or willingness to intervene on our behalf.

In these closing paragraphs, he sums up his message. We will face challenges in life, but there is always hope for those who have faith in Jesus Christ.

The faith expressed in "by and by" echoes in the heart of every true Saint. All is well; God is in charge. His grace is available and is sufficient for all our needs.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)
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