Friday, November 20, 2020

Elder Neil L. Andersen on the fruit of the gospel

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.
"As we have all learned, even after savoring the precious fruit of the restored gospel, staying true and faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ is still not easily done. As has been said many times in this conference, we continue to face distractions and deceptions, confusion and commotion, enticements and temptations that attempt to pull our hearts away from the Savior and the joys and beauties we have experienced in following Him....

"In our world today, the adversary’s construction crews are working overtime, hastily inflating the large and spacious building. The expansion has spread across the river, hoping to envelop our homes, while the pointers and the scoffers wail day and night on their internet megaphones.

"President Nelson explained, 'The adversary is quadrupling his efforts to disrupt testimonies and impede the work of the Lord.' (Ensign May 2019, 68.) Let us remember Lehi’s words: 'We heeded them not' (1 Ne 8:33).

"Although we need not fear, we are to be on guard. At times, little things can upend our spiritual balance. Please don’t allow your questions, the insults of others, faithless friends, or unfortunate mistakes and disappointments to turn you away from the sweet, pure, and soul-satisfying blessings that come from the precious fruit of the tree. Keep your eyes and your hearts centered on the Savior Jesus Christ and the eternal joy that comes only through Him."

- Neil L. Andersen, "Fruit," General Conference October 2019, Sunday afternoon

Lehi's dream provides some of the richest imagery we have to help understand our mortal experience, including the challenges and the blessings that are a part of it. Elder Andersen warned about the
  • distractions and deceptions
  • confusion and commotion
  • enticements and temptations
in our day that try to "pull our hearts away from the Savior and the joys and beauties we have experienced in following Him." It is so critical for us to keep the Gospel light burning bright. When our love for the Savior is strong, and our understanding of His love for us is clear, then those outside influences will have far less impact.

I appreciated this faithful and encouraging message. We need not fear! But we do need to be on guard. We must never forget or lose sight of those "sweet, pure, and soul-satisfying blessings" that we receive as we partake of the shining fruit of the tree.

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

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on finding joy even in trials

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.
"Even when we are found faithfully keeping the commandments, there are trials and tragedies that could interrupt our joy. But as we strive to overcome these challenges with the Savior’s help, it preserves both the joy we feel now and the joy we anticipate. Christ reassured His disciples, 'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world' (John 16:33). It is in turning to Him, obeying Him, binding ourselves to Him that trial and sorrow are turned to joy....

"In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were 'in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery' (2 Ne 2:23). Now, as accountable beings, we find joy in overcoming misery in whatever form, whether it be sin, trial, weakness, or any other obstacle to happiness. This is the joy of sensing progress in the path of discipleship; the joy of 'having received a remission of … sins, and having peace of conscience' (Mosi 4:3); the joy of feeling one’s soul expand and grow through the grace of Christ."

- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Joy of the Saints," General Conference October 2019, Saturday morning

Many things in this life can, and do, interrupt our joy—including, Elder Christofferson observes, "trials and tragedies" that can befall even the most righteous and undeserving. Challenges are oversome "with the Savior's help" as we turn to Him.

Elder Christofferson mentions two kinds of joy—"the joy we feel now and the joy we anticipate." Both are important. At times we get caught up only in the "now" part of the picutre, and we want that immediate peace and happiness at any cost. Other times, we console ourselves in the hope for the eventual joy, the one that will come in the distant eternities. But both are important, and both are attainable. 
Elder Christofferson invites us to turn to Him, obey Him, and to bind ourselves to Him. And he reminds us that we will "find joy in overcoming misery in whatever form, whether it be sin, trial, weakness, or any other obstacle." Pure and lasting joy comes only in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Elder David A. Bednar on restored Gospel light

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.
"Spiritually dangerous ideas and actions frequently can appear to be attractive, desirable, or pleasurable. Thus, in our contemporary world, each of us needs to be aware of beguiling bad that pretends to be good. As Isaiah warned, 'Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!' (Isa 5:20.)

"In a paradoxical period when violating the sanctity of human life is heralded as a right and chaos is described as liberty, how blessed we are to live in this latter-day dispensation when restored gospel light can shine brightly in our lives and help us to discern the adversary’s dark deceptions and distractions.

"'For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day' (D&C 45:57, emphasis added)."

- David A. Bednar, "Watchful unto Prayer Continually," General Conference October 2019, Saturday afternoon

Elder Bednar remembered Elder Boyd K. Packer's classic talk Spiritual Crocodiles. He expanded it with his own experiences in watching cheetahs hunting in Africa. Their techniques and behaviors can provide lessons about the forces that seek to destroy us in these latter days. Elder Bednar warns us to be cautious and wary, in order to survive the attacks that surely will come.

Our modern era of chaos and confict is only escalating; the situation today is much worse than it was a year ago when Elder Bednar shared this message. We can only assume it will continue to worsen. So it becomes that much more important to cling to "restored gospel light" and allow it to "shine brightly in our lives."

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the path of discipleship

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.
"If you hesitate in this adventure because you doubt your ability, remember that discipleship is not about doing things perfectly; it’s about doing things intentionally. It is your choices that show what you truly are, far more than your abilities.

"Even when you fail, you can choose not to give up, but rather discover your courage, press forward, and rise up. That is the great test of the journey.

"God knows that you are not perfect, that you will fail at times. God loves you no less when you struggle than when you triumph.

"Like a loving parent, He merely wants you to keep intentionally trying. Discipleship is like learning to play the piano. Perhaps all you can do at first is play a barely recognizable rendition of 'Chopsticks.' But if you continue practicing, the simple tunes will one day give way to wondrous sonatas, rhapsodies, and concertos.

"Now, that day may not come during this life, but it will come. All God asks is that you consciously keep striving."

- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Your Great Adventure," General Conference October 2019, Sunday morning

Elder Uchtdorf related highlights of the story of Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit in introducing the idea of a "great adventure." Our mortal journey is the adventure he speaks of, and the challenges and opportunities in this journey are regular and real. As we undertake this journey, Elder Uchtdorf reminded us that we must begin by inclining our heart to God, loving Him more deeply and fllowing His teachings and commandments. We don't have to be perfect in that endeavor; we just need to be determined and committed.

Discipleship, then, is that process of progressing gradually and steadily along our great adventure, learning to be more like the Master. Our emulation and adoration of Him naturally lead to lives devoted to serving as He did. A heart filled with the love of Christ naturally overflows in giving and blessing as it becomes more pure.

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

Monday, November 16, 2020

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on having Christ at the center of our lives

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.
"We must point past the hustle and bustle and concentrate them on the meaning of it all, on the beating heart of the eternal gospel—the love of Heavenly Parents, the atoning gift of a divine Son, the comforting guidance of the Holy Ghost, the latter-day restoration of all these truths and so much more....

"If Jesus—His name, His doctrine, His example, His divinity—can be at the center of our worship, we will be reinforcing the great truth Alma once taught: 'There be many things to come; [but] behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all— … the Redeemer [who] liveth and cometh among his people.' (Alma 7:7.)

"I testify... that surely the most thrilling sight and sound in life is that of Jesus not only passing by (see Luke 18:37) but His coming to us, stopping beside us, and making His abode with us. (See John 14:23.)

"Sisters and brothers, through the incessant din and drumbeat of our day, may we strive to see Christ at the center of our lives, of our faith, and of our service. That is where true meaning lies. And if some days our vision is limited or our confidence has waned or our belief is being tested and refined—as surely it will be—may we then cry out the louder, 'Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me' (Mark 10:47). I promise with apostolic fervor and prophetic conviction that He will hear you and will say, soon or late, 'Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee' (Luke 18:42)."

- Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Message, the Meaning, and the Multitude," General Conference October 2019, Saturday morning

Elder Holland gave the introductory talk in the October 2019 conference, and spoke warmly on the role and place of the Savior as the focus of all we do, using as the prime example the healing of the blind man by the Savior as recorded in Luke 18. The faith of the man, according to the account, brought about the miracle.

In our modern world, with all its noise and confusion, we must get past the "hustle and bustle" to concentrate on "the meaning of it all." That is no small task. It requires prolonged and devoted focus on the things that truly matter. And certainly, the primary focus must be on the Savior, who is the ultimate source of healing and hope.

Like the blind man of the parable, we must continue to seek, to cry out, to plead for His help and involvement in our life. We must do whatever is needed to draw near to Him. Only then can He lay His hands on us to heal and bless.

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

Sunday, November 15, 2020

President Russell M. Nelson on giving and serving like the Savior

President Russell M. Nelson (born Sept 9, 1924) was an internationally-renowned heart surgeon when he was called to serve as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984. He became president of that quorum on July 15, 2015. Following the death of President Monson, he was set apart as president of the Church on January 14, 2018.
"Latter-day Saint Charities has provided more than two billion dollars in aid to assist those in need throughout the world. This assistance is offered to recipients regardless of their church affiliation, nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender, or political persuasion....

"Last year alone, the Church carried out more than 100 disaster-relief projects around the world, helping victims of hurricanes, fires, floods, earthquakes, and other calamities. Whenever possible, our Church members in yellow Helping Hands vests mobilize in great numbers to help those afflicted by the disaster. This kind of service, rendered by so many of you, is the very essence of ministering....

"Regardless of where we call home, members of the Church feel passionately about the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Thus, our greatest joy comes as we help our brothers and sisters, no matter where we live in this wonderful world.

"Giving help to others—making a conscientious effort to care about others as much as or more than we care about ourselves—is our joy. Especially, I might add, when it is not convenient and when it takes us out of our comfort zone. Living that second great commandment is the key to becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ."

- Russell M. Nelson, "The Second Great Commandment," General Conference October 2019, Sunday afternoon

My wife and I had been set apart as humanitarian service missionaries just two weeks before this conference talk was given. We had completed our training in the MTC and would leave for Argentina right after general conference. What a thrill it was to hear President Nelson address the very work we would be doing, in collaboration with Latter-day Saint Charities and the humanitarian services organization of the Church! And particularly to hear him mention Argentina as an example of the efforts being done in the wheelchair program. We would later meet the directors of CILSA (an NGO who partners with the Church in the wheelchair program in Argentina) shown in the background of the photograph below as we helped carry the program forward.
It is so very inspiring to see "the second great commandment" blessing thousands of lives through the Church's marvelous worldwide efforts. Members of the Church can continue to contribute to that program by donating to the "Humanitarian Fund" in the normal contrubution process. But equally important, we should each seek ways we can personally love our neighbors in greater measure, through acts of love and service, following the example of the Savior.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2020

President Henry B. Eyring on finding happiness through holiness

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.
"[Lasting happiness] is what Heavenly Father; His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost have offered every spirit child of Heavenly Father who now lives, will live, or ever has lived in this world. That offer is sometimes called the plan of happiness. It was so called by the prophet Alma as he taught his son, who was mired in the misery of sin. Alma knew that wickedness could never be happiness for his son—or for any child of Heavenly Father.

"He taught his son that increasing in holiness was the only path to happiness. He made it plain that greater holiness is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ cleansing and perfecting us. Only by faith in Jesus Christ, continuing repentance, and keeping covenants are we able to claim the lasting happiness we all yearn to experience and retain.

"My prayer for today is that I may help you understand that greater happiness comes from greater personal holiness so that you will act upon that belief. I will then share what I know for myself about what we can do to qualify for that gift of becoming ever more holy.

"The scriptures teach us that among other things, we can be sanctified or become more holy when we exercise faith in Christ, demonstrate our obedience, repent, sacrifice for Him, receive sacred ordinances, and keep our covenants with Him. Qualifying for the gift of holiness requires humility, meekness, and patience."

- Henry B. Eyring, "Holiness and the Plan of Happiness," General Conference October 2019, Sunday afternoon

In this life, perhaps the greatest quest we have is the search for happiness. The thought of lasting happiness is a beautiful one, certainly a goal every thoughtful child of our Father in Heaven would aspire to. President Eyring teaches that the "plan of happiness" described in the Book of Mormon is the way to obtain that divine gift. Holiness and happiness are inextricably linked. The plan of happiness, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, is the way we individually and collectively can increase in holiness.

We must each commit to take the steps that bring more holiness to our personal life. The process of sanctification is how we draw on the grace of God to draw near to Him and become more holy. The promises are real, and lasting happiness truly is available to each one who follows the path that leads to it.

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

Friday, November 13, 2020

President M. Russell Ballard on our eternal spiritual nature

President M. Russell Ballard (born October 8, 1928) was called as a Seventy in 1976, and has served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1985. He became acting president of the Twelve in January 2018.
"It seems clear to me that one of the most important things we can learn in this life is how to emphasize our eternal spiritual nature and control our evil desires. This should not be that difficult. After all, our spirit, which has been around a lot longer than our physical body, has already been successful in choosing righteousness over evil in the premortal realm. Before this earth was formed, we lived in the spirit world as sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents, who loved us and continue to love us now.

"And yes, we did have to make life-changing decisions and choices in that premortal realm. Every person who has ever lived or ever will live on this planet made an essential decision to choose to accept Heavenly Father’s plan for our salvation. So we all came to earth with a proven track record of a successful spiritual nature and eternal destiny.

"Think about that for a moment. This is who you and I really are and who you have always been: a son or daughter of God, with spiritual roots in eternity and a future overflowing with infinite possibilities. You are—first, foremost, and always—a spiritual being. And so when we choose to put our carnal nature ahead of our spiritual nature, we are choosing something that is contrary to our real, true, authentic spiritual selves.

"Still, there’s no question that flesh and earthly impulses complicate the decision-making. With a veil of forgetfulness drawn between the premortal spirit world and this mortal world, we can lose sight of our relationship to God and our spiritual nature, and our carnal nature can give priority to what we want right now. Learning to choose the things of the Spirit over the things of the flesh is one of the primary reasons why this earthly experience is part of Heavenly Father’s plan. It’s also why the plan is built upon the solid, sure foundation of the Atonement of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so that our sins, including the errors we make when we yield to the flesh, can be overcome through constant repentance and we can live spiritually focused. Now is the time to control our bodily appetites to comply with the spiritual doctrine of Christ."

- M. Russell Ballard, "Giving Our Spirits Control over Our Bodies," General Conference October 2019, Sunday afternoon

President Ballard's wife Barbara passed away shortly before the October 2018 conference, a year before this talk was given. In that intervening time, as he learned to deal with grief and loneliness, he pondered the Lord's plan of salvation and happiness for man. President Ballard's main premise is that man is by eternal nature basically an eternal, spiritual being. We had experiences of growing and learning in our premortal existence, and proved that we were willing to choose the right. But with a veil of forgetfulness, we are left to learn many lessons again in this life, and to try to recall our eternal nature.
"Learning to choose the things of the Spirit over the things of the flesh" is something that becomes easier as we persist. We are blessed by the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the foundation of that eternal plan, and the means by which we are enabled to follow the plan and find ultimate peace and joy.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Elder Ulisses Soares on taking up our cross

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.
"We all face adverse circumstances in our lives that make us feel sad, helpless, hopeless, and sometimes even weakened. Some of these feelings may lead us to question the Lord: 'Why am I experiencing these situations?' or 'Why are my expectations not met? After all, I am doing everything in my power to carry my cross and follow the Savior!'

"My dear friends, we must remember that taking our cross upon ourselves includes being humble and trusting in God and in His infinite wisdom. We must acknowledge that He is aware of each of us and of our needs. It is also necessary to accept the fact that the Lord’s timing is different than ours. Sometimes we seek for a blessing and set a time limit for the Lord to fulfill it. We cannot condition our faithfulness to Him by imposing upon Him a deadline for the answers to our desires. When we do this, we resemble the skeptical Nephites from ancient times, who mocked their brothers and sisters by saying that the time was past for the fulfillment of the words spoken by Samuel the Lamanite, creating confusion among those who believed. (See 3 Ne 1:4-7) We need to trust the Lord enough to be still and know that He is God, that He knows all things, and that He is aware of each of us. (See D&C 101:16.) ...

"Brothers and sisters, I want to testify to you that taking upon us our cross and following the Savior requires us to follow His example and strive to become like Him, patiently facing the circumstances of life, denying and despising the appetites of the natural man, and waiting on the Lord. The Psalmist wrote:

"'Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord' (Psalm 27:14).

"'He is our help and our shield' (Psalm 33:20).

"I testify to you that following our Master's footsteps and waiting on Him who is the ultimate healer of our lives will provide rest to our souls and make our burdens easy and light."

- Ulisses Soares, "Take Up Our Cross," General Conference October 2019, Sunday afternoon

To his ancient disciples, the Savior said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt 16:24). Learning to be obedient and submissive is, according to Elder Soares, "the price to be paid for the salvation of a soul." Many face great challenges in this life, and all of us will face some. But each of us must learn that critical lesson of taking up the cross that is given to us, and trusting in the wisdom of Him who knows intimately what cross we bear. Learning to fully trust in His wisdom and His timing is perhaps one of the most important things we must accomplish in our mortal experience.
Truly "He is aware of each of us and of our needs." But we can't set terms and conditions on God, whose knowledge and wisdom are far beyond ours. Our desire must always be to learn His will for us and follow it with obedience and submission.

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

President Russell M. Nelson on living with faith in Jesus Christ

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.
"When we remove the Lord’s name from the name of His Church, we inadvertently remove Him as the central focus of our worship and our lives. When we take the Savior’s name upon us at baptism, we commit to witness, by our words, thoughts, and actions, that Jesus is the Christ.

"Previously, I promised that if we would 'do our best to restore the correct name of the Lord’s Church,' He would 'pour down His power and blessings upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints, the likes of which we have never seen.' I renew that promise today....

"As followers of Jesus Christ, living in a day when the COVID-19 pandemic has put the whole world in commotion, let us not just talk of Christ or preach of Christ or employ a symbol representing Christ.

"Let us put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ into action!"

- Russell M. Nelson, "Opening the Heavens for Help," General Conference April 2020, Saturday evening

In his talk during the Saturday evening "general session" of general conference, President Nelson reminded the members of the Church about the importance of respecting and using the name of the Savior, and trying to use the full name of the Church instead of nicknames and abbreviations. He promised blessings that would follow as we do so.

And he introduced the new "logo" that would be used to represent the Church in media and publications, again focusing on the Savior as portrayed in the familiar Christus statue.
Particularly in this time of commotion and comfusion due the COVID-19 pandemic and other problems in 2020, we must turn to the Savior. But talking of Him, preaching, employing proper symbols—those are only steps leading to the things that matter most, as we strive to put our faith into action. Our actions and deeds, the testimony of our lives—those are the things that will make the most difference.

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Elder Gerrit W. Gong on the power of the Atonement of Christ

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.
"Significantly, the Book of Mormon describes the 'power and resurrection of Christ' (Alma 41:2)—the essence of Easter—in terms of two restorations.

"First, resurrection includes physical restoration of our 'proper and perfect frame'; 'every limb and joint,' 'even a hair of the head shall not be lost.' (Alma 40:23.) This promise gives hope to those who have lost limbs; those who have lost ability to see, hear, or walk; or those thought lost to relentless disease, mental illness, or other diminished capacity. He finds us. He makes us whole.

"A second promise of Easter and our Lord’s Atonement is that, spiritually, 'all things shall be restored to their proper order' (Alma 41:4). This spiritual restoration reflects our works and desires. Like bread upon the water, it restores 'that which is good,' 'righteous,' 'just,' and 'merciful' (Alma 41:13). No wonder the prophet Alma uses the word restore 22 times as he urges us to 'deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually' (Alma 41:14).

"Because 'God himself atoneth for the sins of the world' (Alma 42:15), the Lord’s Atonement can make whole not only what was but also what can be. Because He knows our pains, afflictions, sicknesses, our 'temptations of every kind' (Alma 7:11), He can, with mercy, succor us according to our infirmities. (See Alma 7:12.) Because God is 'a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also,' the plan of mercy can 'appease the demands of justice' (Alma 42:15). We repent and do all we can. He encircles us eternally 'in the arms of his love' (2 Ne 1:15)."

- Gerrit W. Gong, "Hosanna and Hallelujah—The Living Jesus Christ: The Heart of Restoration and Easter," General Conference April 2020, Saturday evening

The general conference of April 2020 was held on the traditional weekend of Palm Sunday, one week before Easter. Elder Gong took advantage of that date to talk about the sacred work of the Savior's last week on earth, beginning with the shouts of "Hosanna!" that accompanied His arrival in Jerusalem, and continuing through the "Hallelujah" that represents the salvation offered by his great atoning sacrifice.j

Elder Gong discusses two important "restorations" that are a part of the Savior's contribution: the physical restoration of the resurrection, and the spiritual restoration available through grace and repentance. That concept of restoration is a special and sacred one to those who love and follow the Savior:

One ofen the most beautiful promises in the Gospel plan is that we can be "encircled about eternally in the arms of his love' (2 Ne 1:15). The true power of the promise is that it is available not just in the distant future, but also now; we are in the midst of eternity. We can feel His love, protection, and acceptance as we allow His grace to change and bless us.

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

Monday, November 9, 2020

Elder Dale G. Renlund on remembering the goodness of God

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.
"The consistency of pleas from prophets to reflect on the goodness of God is striking. Our Heavenly Father wants us to recall His and His Beloved Son’s goodness, not for Their own gratification but for the influence such remembrance has on us. By considering Their kindness, our perspective and understanding are enlarged. By reflecting on Their compassion, we become more humble, prayerful, and steadfast....

"Each of us has received gifts that we could not provide for ourselves, gifts from our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, including redemption through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We have received life in this world; we will receive physical life in the hereafter, and eternal salvation and exaltation—if we choose it—all because of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

"Every time we use, benefit from, or even think of these gifts, we ought to consider the sacrifice, generosity, and compassion of the givers. Reverence for the givers does more than just make us grateful. Reflecting on Their gifts can and should transform us."

- Dale G. Renlund, "Consider the Goodness and Greatness of God," General Conference April 2020, Saturday afternoon

Elder Renlund's talk in the April 2020 conference was beautiful and inspiring. He shared the story of a man with heart disease who desperately needed a transplant; when a heart became available, it was from his own grandson who had died in a car accident. Having received the life-giving donation from one he loved dearly, he became a changed man.

The lesson for us is in coming to recognize the great gifts we have received from God. Elder Renlund describes the changes we will experience as we remember those gifts and allow them to direct our thoughts and lives.

Understanding and gratitude of the divine gifts we have received will truly transform us. As we feel the power of the Savior's atonement in our lives, we will truly become new creeatures in His hands.

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

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on temple foundations and personal foundations

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.
"As I contemplate the next four years of the life of this beautiful, noble, exalted, and awe-inspiring Salt Lake Temple, I envision it more as a time of renewal rather than a time of closure! In a similar way, we might ask ourselves, 'How could this extensive renewal of the Salt Lake Temple inspire us to undergo our own spiritual renewal, reconstruction, rebirth, revitalization, or restoration?'

"An introspective look may reveal that we too and our families could benefit from our doing some needed maintenance and renovation work, even a seismic upgrade! We might start such a process by asking:

"'What does my foundation look like?'

"'What comprises the thick-walled, stable, strong cornerstones that are part of my personal foundation, upon which my testimony rests?'

"'What are the foundational elements of my spiritual and emotional character that will allow me and my family to remain steadfast and immovable, even to withstand the earthshaking and tumultuous seismic events that will surely take place in our lives?'

"These events, similar to an earthquake, are often difficult to predict and come in various levels of intensity—wrestling with questions or doubt, facing affliction or adversity, working through personal offenses with Church leaders, members, doctrine, or policy. The best defense against these lies in our spiritual foundation."

- Gary E. Stevenson, "A Good Foundation against the Time to Come," General Conference April 2020, Saturday afternoon

Elder Stevenson reviewed the history of the construction of the Salt Lake temple, including the importance of the foundation stones. He then described the extensive project underway this year to provide reinforcement to the temple to ensure its stability and endurance. It was fascinating to me a number of years ago to have the chance to frequently watch similar work that was done on the Provo Tabernacle in preparation for its becoming a temple.

That provides the opportunity to present an analogy to consider: are there modifications in our personal and family situations that could provide greater strength, stability, or safety from the challenges of our time?
Elder Stevenson suggests that we will all have "earthshaking and tumultuous seismic events that will surely take place in our lives" in the future. So are there items of "maintenance and renovation work" in our lives that would help provide the strength to endure and thrive, come what may? "The best defense against these lies in our spiritual foundation." In the talk, he goes on to suggest some things that could help strengthen that foundation. We should each consider our personal situation and look for ways to improve.

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

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on temples and the doctrine of Christ

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.
"By assignment from President Russell M. Nelson, in February of this year I dedicated the Durban South Africa Temple. It was a day I will remember all my life. I was with members who have come to the gospel as Jeremiah prophesied long ago—'one of a city, and two of a family' (Jeremiah 3:14). The doctrine of Jesus Christ unites all of us—around the world—as sons and daughters of God, as brothers and sisters in the gospel. Regardless of how we look or dress, we are one people with a Father in Heaven whose plan from the beginning was and is for His family to be reunited by making and keeping sacred temple covenants.

"To a small gathering of priesthood holders in a schoolhouse in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1834, the Prophet Joseph prophesied, 'It is only a little handfull of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world.'"

- Ronald A. Rasband, "Fulfillment of Prophecy," General Conference April 2020, Sunday morning

The "doctrine of Christ" is a powerful aspect of the Gospel that merits much study as we strive to draw nearer to Him. It is also a great "unifying" power to bring us together into His fold, as brothers and sisters, from throughout the world. Through the covenants of the holy temples, we learn and experience important aspects of that sacred doctrine.
Elder Rasband's witness of the latter-day fulfillment of ancient prophecy helps point us to the doctrine of Christ. They have all testified of Him, and as we learn of those testimonies and strive to follow prophetic teachings, making and keeping sacred covenants, we will be blessed.

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

Friday, November 6, 2020

Elder Neil L. Andersen on the ways we Hear Him

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.
"Along with the peaceful direction we receive from the Holy Ghost, from time to time, God powerfully and very personally assures each of us that He knows us and loves us and that He is blessing us specifically and openly. Then, in our moments of difficulty, the Savior brings these experiences back into our mind....

"We have recently heard President Russell M. Nelson say: 'I invite you to think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him? I also invite you to take steps to hear Him better and more often.' He repeated that invitation this morning.

"We hear Him in our prayers, in our homes, in the scriptures, in our hymns, as we worthily partake of the sacrament, as we declare our faith, as we serve others, and as we attend the temple with fellow believers. Spiritually defining moments come as we prayerfully listen to general conference and as we better keep the commandments....

"We can 'hear Him' because of the blessing of the Savior’s incomparable Atonement."

- Neil L. Andersen, "Spiritually Defining Memories," General Conference April 2020, Saturday morning

One of the beautiful promises the Savior gave to his ancient disciples related to the blessing of the Comforter in their lives:
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)
Elder Andersen discussed that sacred blessing of having things brought to our remembrance by the Savior. He also encouraged us to open our minds to hearing and feeling the power of the Lord in our lives:
How do we "hear Him"? As we seek actively to increase those experiences in our lives, we will recognize and experience a greater measure of His love.

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

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on authenticity in living the Gospel

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.
"I introduce the second requirement for successfully sharing the message of the Restoration with this question: what is it that will make your invitation appealing to someone? Isn’t it you, the example of your life? Many who have heard and received the message of the Restoration were initially attracted by what they perceived in a member or members of the Church of Jesus Christ. It may have been the way they treated others, the things they said or didn’t say, the steadiness they displayed in difficult situations, or simply their countenance.9

"Whatever it may be, we cannot escape the fact that we need to understand and live the principles of the restored gospel as best we can for our invitations to be inviting. It is something often referred to today as authenticity. If the love of Christ dwells in us, others will know that our love for them is genuine. If the light of the Holy Spirit burns within us, it will rekindle the Light of Christ within them.10 What you are lends authenticity to your invitation to come experience the joy of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

- D. Todd Christofferson, "Sharing the Message of the Restoration and the Resurrection," General Conference April 2020, Sunday afternoon

Elder Christofferson outlined three important things we can do as we share the message of the Restoration with others:
  • Be sincere in our love for others
  • Be living examples of the principles of the gospel
  • Use the Book of Mormon effectively
The importance of authenticity can't be overstated.

When "the love of Christ dwells in us" and "the light of the Holy Spirit burns within us," the power of our invitations to others will increase dramatically. What a blessing to share with those around us!

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Elder Quentin L. Cook on the impact of the Holy Ghost

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.
"Personal revelation is available to all those who humbly seek guidance from the Lord. It is as important as prophetic revelation....

"Personal revelation is based on spiritual truths received from the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is the revealer and testifier of all truth, especially that of the Savior. Without the Holy Ghost, we could not really know that Jesus is the Christ. His seminal role is to bear witness of the Father and the Son and Their titles and Their glory.

"The Holy Ghost can influence everyone in a powerful way....

"Although its impact can be incredibly powerful, it most often comes quietly as a still, small voice. The scriptures include many examples of how the Spirit influences our minds, including speaking peace to our minds, occupying our minds, enlightening our minds, and even sending a voice to our minds."

- Quentin L. Cook, "The Blessing of Continuing Revelation to Prophets and Personal Revelation to Guide Our Lives," General Conference April 2020, Sunday afternoon

Elder Cook testified in his message of the profound role that revelation has played in shaping the doctrine and practice of the Church since the restoration. In additional to some historical reminders, he offered insights and testimonies to some of the key recent events where more significant revelation was received to affect the direction of the Church.

However, the importance of personal revelation is equally crucial, particularly as we consider our personal spirituality and progress. And the role of the Holy Ghost is critical:
It's always interesting to ponder the various ways the Holy Ghost can teach, guide, or warn. Each of us should become familiar and comfortable with those influences in our personal lives. Those needs will continue to become more crucial in our challenging days.

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