Friday, December 31, 2021

Elder M. Russell Ballard on covenants, goals, and progress

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.
"A periodic review of the covenants we have made with the Lord will help us with our priorities and with balance in our lives. This review will help us see where we need to repent and change our lives to ensure that we are worthy of the promises that accompany our covenants and sacred ordinances. Working out our own salvation requires good planning and a deliberate, valiant effort....
"Set short-term goals that you can reach. Set goals that are well balanced—not too many nor too few, and not too high nor too low. Write down your attainable goals and work on them according to their importance. Pray for divine guidance in your goal setting....
"Not long ago, one of my children said, 'Dad, sometimes I wonder if I will ever make it.' The answer I gave to her is the same as I would give to you if you have had similar feelings. Just do the very best you can each day. Do the basic things and, before you realize it, your life will be full of spiritual understanding that will confirm to you that your Heavenly Father loves you. When a person knows this, then life will be full of purpose and meaning, making balance easier to maintain."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Keeping Life's Demands in Balance," Ensign, May 1987, pp. 13-15
Click here to read the full talk

What a worthwhile consideration: to make a "periodic review" of our covenants and priorities. As we think of "new year resolutions," it would be especially appropriate to consider the things of greatest import in our lives and evaluate our standing and progress. A resolution can be a form of repentance, if done well and properly. In particular, as we "work out our own salvation" we would be wise to engage in such a review frequently—much more than once a year!

Elder Ballard gives encouragement on the process of self-review and progress:

The other valuable counsel Elder Ballard offers in this excerpt is to not be discouraged by the seeming magnitude of the task. One day at a time, doing our best with the tasks at hand—that's all we can do. But the promise is wonderful: as we do those basic things, life soon becomes "full of spiritual understanding" and we feel the depth of our Heavenly Father's love. That gives us "purpose and meaning" and helps us maintain balance and perspective.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 31, 2015

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Elder Quentin L. Cook on goals, self-discipline, and humor

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"I encourage everyone, young and old, to review goals and objectives and strive to exercise greater discipline. Our daily conduct and choices should be consistent with our goals. We need to rise above rationalizations and distractions. It is especially important to make choices consistent with our covenants to serve Jesus Christ in righteousness (see D&C 76:5). We must not take our eyes off or drop that ball for any reason.
"This life is the time to prepare to meet God (see Alma 34:32). We are a happy, joyous people. We appreciate a good sense of humor and treasure unstructured time with friends and family. But we need to recognize that there is a seriousness of purpose that must undergird our approach to life and all our choices. Distractions and rationalizations that limit progress are harmful enough, but when they diminish faith in Jesus Christ and His Church, they are tragic."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Choose Wisely," Ensign, November 2014, pp. 46-49
Click here to read or listen to the full article

It's interesting to consider the relationship between goals and covenants, as suggested by Elder Cook. There is power in having goals to set targets for our long-term achievement, and to make sure we are focusing appropriately on those worthy objectives with the discipline reflected in our daily conduct and choices. But covenants are a type of goal; they also set standards for ongoing behavior and choices that help us stay on an established course.

In consideration of desires for long-term success in spiritual matters, Elder Cook suggests that there should be a balance between good humor and "seriousness of purpose" to define the focus of our lives:

I hope we never forget to be "a happy, joyous people." With the right eternal perspective, that can always be possible.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 29, 2016

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on feelings of inadequacy

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.
"Now may I speak, not to the slackers in the Kingdom, but to those who carry their own load and more; not to those lulled into false security, but to those buffeted by false insecurity, who, though laboring devotedly in the Kingdom, have recurring feelings of falling forever short.
"Earlier disciples who heard Jesus preach some exacting doctrines were also anxious and said, 'Who then can be saved?' (Mark 10:26.)
"The first thing to be said of this feeling of inadequacy is that it is normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance. Following celestial road signs while in telestial traffic jams is not easy, especially when we are not just moving next door—or even across town....
"Thus the feelings of inadequacy are common. So are the feelings of fatigue; hence, the needed warning about our becoming weary of well-doing. (See D&C 64:33.)
"The scriptural advice, 'Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength' (D&C 10:4) suggests paced progress, much as God used seven creative periods in preparing man and this earth. There is a difference, therefore, between being 'anxiously engaged' and being over-anxious and thus underengaged....
"Yes, brothers and sisters, this is a gospel of grand expectations, but God's grace is sufficient for each of us. Discouragement is not the absence of adequacy but the absence of courage, and our personal progress should be yet another way we witness to the wonder of it all!"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Notwithstanding My Weakness," Ensign, Nov. 1976, pp. 12-14
Click here to read the full talk

It's a marvelous gift to understand and share "things as they really are" (Jacob 4:13); it's a gift Elder Maxwell possessed. He speaks of feelings that so many of us experience — "false insecurity", inadequacy, spiritual fatigue, weariness in well-doing. Life is hard, and it sometimes gets harder because of how we react in our discouragement.

Elder Maxwell warns us to keep perspective; to be "anxiously engaged" without becoming overwhelmed. We are able to do that with God's grace, as we stay aware of our own "paced progress."

It's hard to be in the world, but not of the world. We must remember where our ultimate focus should be. When the world makes us feel inadequate, a divine understanding of our nature and possibilities can make all the difference.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
October 5, 2015

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on desires, priorities, choices, and actions

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.
"Desires dictate our priorities, priorities shape our choices, and choices determine our actions. The desires we act on determine our changing, our achieving, and our becoming...
"Readjusting our desires to give highest priority to the things of eternity is not easy. We are all tempted to desire that worldly quartet of property, prominence, pride, and power. We might desire these, but we should not fix them as our highest priorities....
"All of us face potential traps that will prevent progress toward our eternal destiny. If our righteous desires are sufficiently intense, they will motivate us to cut and carve ourselves free from addictions and other sinful pressures and priorities that prevent our eternal progress.
"We should remember that righteous desires cannot be superficial, impulsive, or temporary. They must be heartfelt, unwavering, and permanent....
"As important as it is to lose every desire for sin, eternal life requires more. To achieve our eternal destiny, we will desire and work for the qualities required to become an eternal being. For example, eternal beings forgive all who have wronged them. They put the welfare of others ahead of themselves. And they love all of God's children. If this seems too difficult—and surely it is not easy for any of us—then we should begin with a desire for such qualities and call upon our loving Heavenly Father for help with our feelings. The Book of Mormon teaches us that we should 'pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ' (Moroni 7:48)."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Desire," General Conference April 2011
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Oaks describes this sequence of how things happen in our lives:
Desires -> Priorities ->  Choices -> Actions -> Changes, Achievements
When we control our desires, we ultimately control our actions and life's direction. But Elder Oaks acknowledges that it's difficult to change our priorities in the midst of the world's temptations:

I thought his acknowledgement was interesting—we might desire some of those "worldly" things, but we must be careful to keep them prioritized among all of our priorities. Our righteous desires must be intense enough to provide the motivation to righteousness and change in our lives. We have to do more than just lose the desire for sin; we have to build and promote those desires for higher things, for holy things. That will lead to the kind of "becoming" that will show we are "true followers" of the Savior.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
March 30, 2016

Monday, December 27, 2021

President Henry B. Eyring on the choices of life

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.
"Our choosing the right consistently whenever the choice is placed before us creates the solid ground under our faith. It can begin in childhood since every soul is born with the free gift of the Spirit of Christ. With that Spirit we can know when we have done what is right before God and when we have done wrong in His sight.
"Those choices, hundreds in most days, prepare the solid ground on which our edifice of faith is built. The metal framework around which the substance of our faith is poured is the gospel of Jesus Christ, with all its covenants, ordinances, and principles.
"One of the keys to an enduring faith is to judge correctly the curing time required.... That curing does not come automatically through the passage of time, but it does take time. Getting older does not do it alone. It is serving God and others persistently with full heart and soul that turns testimony of truth into unbreakable spiritual strength."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Mountains to Climb," Ensign, May 2012, pp. 23-26
Click here to read the full talk

It's easy for us to forget how much the seemingly small and inconsequential choices we make ("hundreds in most days") accumulate to create the foundation of all that we are and do in life. President Eyring reminds us of the importance of "choosing the right consistently" through those opportunities in order to "prepare the solid ground" for the "edifice of faith" that we will build upon it. Without the foundation, the edifice can not stand.

The concept of "curing time" is also a very important one. President Eyring makes an analogy in his talk to the curing of cement, from a soft and moldable substance into the hard, rock-like material that sustains a building. "It does take time" for our faith, based on choices and experiences, to cure into the solid strength that will sustain us. And the curing requires more than the passage of time. It requires passing time in the right way, including "serving God and others persistently."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
August 13, 2016

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Elder Robert D. Hales on Christmas and the Covenants of the Sacrament

Elder Robert D. Hales (August 24, 1932-October 1, 2017) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1985, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. He served for 32 years before passing away in 2017.
"Each week as we participate in the ordinance of the sacrament, we renew the promise of the Savior's birth in our own lives. We take His name upon us, and we renew our covenant of obedience and our promise that we will always remember Him.
"The gospel, as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, is this:
"'That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;
"'That through him all might be saved' (D&C 76:41-42).
"May we take time this Christmas season to renew our covenants to follow the Savior and to do His will, just as He did the will of our Heavenly Father. As we do so, the words of King Benjamin's people, recorded 125 years before the Savior's birth, will be fulfilled for us today: 'O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men' (Mosiah 4:2)."
- Robert D. Hales, "The Promise of Christmas," Ensign, Dec 2013, pp. 16-19
Click here to read the full article

I've never thought of the weekly partaking of the sacrament as a renewal of "the promise of the Savior's birth" in my life; that's an interesting perspective. It certainly helps make the holiday symbolism real and full of power in ongoing challenges and opportunities.

Elder Hales suggests that we find a time during the Christmas season to "renew our covenants to follow the Savior and to do His will." What more valid and meaningful gift could we give to Him, than to repent and recommit to be more faithful disciples? Perhaps now, the day after Christmas, most of the commotion and busy-ness of the holiday is relaxed, and we can turn our thoughts to this sacred purpose.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 20, 2015

Saturday, December 25, 2021

President Thomas S. Monson on rededication during the Christmas season

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.
"There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ. It is the time to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart—and our neighbors as ourselves. It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much; he who gives time gives more; but he who gives of himself gives all.
"Let us make Christmas real. It isn't just tinsel and ribbon, unless we have made it so in our lives. Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values. It is peace because we have found peace in the Savior's teachings. It is the time we realize most deeply that the more love is expended, the more there is of it for others....
"As the Christmas season envelops us with all its glory, may we, as did the Wise Men, seek a bright, particular star to guide us to our Christmas opportunity in service to our fellowman. May we all make the journey to Bethlehem in spirit, taking with us a tender, caring heart as our gift to the Savior. And may one and all have a joy-filled Christmas."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Christmas is Love," First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2012
Click here to read the full article

Among the many wonderful reminders of the Christmas season is this invitation to "rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ." What better activity could we engage in on this special day, than to solemnly consider where we might do better as disciples of Jesus Christ, and then commit to do it?

President Monson believes this would "make Christmas real" — much more so than the outward decorations or celebrations. It happens when we forget ourselves, when we discard the things that are "meanlingless" and replace them with "true values." So this is the grand invitation:

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 25, 2015

Friday, December 24, 2021

President Ezra Taft Benson on the blessings of the Christmas season

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.
"Perhaps one of the greatest things about this wonderful Christmas season we celebrate is that it increases our sensitivity to things spiritual, to things of God. It causes us to contemplate our relationship with our Father and the degree of devotion we have for God.
"It prompts us to be more tolerant and giving, more conscious of others, more generous and genuine, more filled with hope and charity and love—all Christlike attributes. No wonder the spirit of Christmas is such that it touches the hearts of people the world over. Because for at least a time, increased attention and devotion is turned toward our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
"This Christmas, as we reflect upon the wonderful memories of the past, let us commit to give a most meaningful gift to the Lord. Let us give Him our lives, our sacrifices. Those who do so will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life.
"Without Christ there would be no Christmas, and without Christ there can be no fulness of joy. It is my testimony that the Babe of Bethlehem, Jesus the Christ, is the one perfect guide, the one perfect example. Only by emulating Him and adhering to His eternal truth can we realize peace on earth and good will toward all. There is no other way. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Light."
- Ezra Taft Benson, Ezra Taft Benson Remembers the Joy of Christmas [Deseret 2009], pp. 1-13
Click here to read the full article

The Christmas season lasts more than a day; the spirit of Christmas should linger for a long time after the holiday is passed. If we've been watching this season, we've felt how the spirit "increases our sensitivity to things spiritual" and are better individuals than we were. The very act of having "increased attention and devotion... turned toward our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" truly does make a difference.  Therefore, what should we do as Christmas moves into the past?

I truly believe, as President Benson testifies, that "without Christ there can be no fulness of joy." May we seek to include him more in our lives as we "give him our lives" and as we strive to emulate Him and adhere to his Gospel truths.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 26, 2015

Thursday, December 23, 2021

President David O. McKay on prolonging the Christmas spirit

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.
"What is the source of the joy of this almost universal holiday? It is found in the fact that everyone has in his or her heart the desire to make somebody else happy. There is a losing of self for the good of another. Selfishness is replaced by a feeling to do good; sordidness is banished by gratuity; enmity by friendliness and doubt and suspicion by confidence and trust. On that day we glimpse the truth that peace can come to earth only through 'good will to men.' It is the spirit of giving that makes us truly happy....
"If the world can be so happy in Winter, when, in northern climes at least, 'From snow-topp'd hills the whirlwinds keenly blow, howl thru the woods, and pierce the vales below,' how simple it should be to have the joys of Christmas mingle with the murmuring life of Springtime, or with the full bloom and sunshine of Summer, or with brilliantly bedecked Autumn. Why not be happy throughout the whole year, and every year?
"To do this let us supplant the spirit of getting from others by the spirit of giving; the spirit of selfishness by the spirit of helpfulness....
"Too often:
We ring the bells and we raise the strain, 
We hang up garlands everywhere 
And bid the tapers twinkle fair, 
And feast and frolic—and then we go 
Back to the same old lives again. (Susan Coolidge)
"What a different world this will be when men and women everywhere will strive to give up mean, petty, selfish, sordid, uncharitable feelings and attitudes and replace them by kindness, friendliness, forbearance and sympathy and mutual helpfulness. When that day comes the angels will again sing—
"'Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"
- David O. McKay, "Extending Christmas Throughout the Year," The Instructor, December 1934, p. 528
Click here to read the full article

President McKay begins by identifying the "source of joy" in the Christmas season: it comes from our efforts to make others happy. As we become focused on sharing joy with others, we find it increases in our own lives—"it is the spirit of giving that makes us truly happy."

President McKay then asks the important question, "Why not be happy throughout the whole year, and every year?" How can we extend the spirit we feel beyond the Christmas season? It seems obvious: we must continue the spirit of unselfishness and service: "kindness, friendliness, forbearance and sympathy and mutual helpfulness." That is truly the path to joy in our lives and peace on earth.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 22, 2016

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the Christmas spirit of sacrifice and service

Elder Gary E. Stevenson (b. 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.
"This Christmas, as the spirit of the season permeates our hearts, let us do something that expresses our feelings in an outward way, showing that we understand that the babe born in Bethlehem is the real Redeemer....
"Without Christ, there would be no Christmas. Without Christ, there can be no fulness of joy. Without His birth and His Atonement, we would have no Intercessor, no Advocate with the Father, and no Mediator who makes it possible for us to return to the presence of our loving Heavenly Father and live together as eternal families.
"I celebrate with you the beautiful and miraculous reality of the birth and mission of the Son of God, and I bear my testimony that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer—the promised Messiah."
- Gary E. Stevenson, "The Reality of Christmas," Ensign, December 2014
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Stevenson encouraged that we actually do something in the Christmas season to show outwardly the feelings of our inward hearts. The Light the World initiative offered by the Church during the Christmas season provides a number of ways to do that, through service, sharing, kindness, and worship.

We must never forget the reason for the Christmas season, as well as the reason for our very existence on earth and the promises that come to us through the Savior:

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 15, 2016

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the Christmas spirit of sacrifice and service

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (b. January 24, 1945) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"At Christmas when we ponder the birth of Jesus and His example of near-constant service, we are prone to draw from our own resources that which would bless and liberate others. The stories of people helping and blessing one another at Christmastime are legion. And that is certainly one of the main reasons we rejoice so much in this holiday....
"And so at Christmas, the stories of sacrifice and ministering multiply across the world. Our gifts and service gladden hearts; the kindness of others pours healing balm into our own wounds. It is living the Savior's way of life. And since, as He, we came down from heaven to do the will of the Father, it must not be only an annual event, but rather the pattern of our lives. In all that serves to deepen our empathy, broaden our understanding, and purify our souls, His declaration reassures us: 'In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world' (John 16:33)."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Condescension of God and of Man," First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2014
Click here to read or watch the full talk

"The spirit of Christmas" does open to us a desire to give and to serve. We want to share gifts with those near to us; be become more sensitive to others who may have needs or challenges in their lives. But this spirit is really the spirit of the Savior, who spent His life in service and sacrifice on behalf of others. It's that "example of near-constant service" that inspires us, more than any time of year.

I love the thought that as we partake of this spirit of giving and service, and as we receive the same from others, we feel "healing balm" poured into our own wounds and are blessed and inspired as we partake of "the Savior's way of life."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 16, 2016

Monday, December 20, 2021

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the Christmas message and families

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.
"At this focal point of all human history, a point illuminated by a new star in the heavens revealed for just such a purpose, probably no other mortal watched—none but a poor young carpenter, a beautiful virgin mother, and silent stabled animals who had not the power to utter the sacredness they had seen.
"Shepherds would soon arrive and later, wise men from the East. Later yet the memory of that night would bring Santa Claus and Frosty and Rudolph—and all would be welcome. But first and forever there was just a little family, without toys or trees or tinsel. With a baby—that’s how Christmas began.
"It is for this baby that we shout in chorus: 'Hark! the herald angels sing Glory to the newborn king! ... Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die: Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.' (Hymns, no. 60.)"
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Maybe Christmas Doesn’t Come from a Store," address given to the Religious Instruction faculty at BYU, December 12, 1976; see Ensign, Dec. 1977, pp. 63–65
Click here to read the full talk

In the midst of the many retellings of the Christmas story, it's easy to forget that based on the New Testament record, the actual event of the birth of the Savior was a very simple and solitary occurrence. Joseph and Mary were apparently alone in the stable as witnesses of one of the most important events of all history.

This is a beautiful summary: "First and forever there was just a little family, without toys or trees or tinsel. With a baby—that’s how Christmas began." And it's with family that we continue to find the greatest joys and blessings of the season as well.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 10, 2015

Sunday, December 19, 2021

President Russell M. Nelson on Christmas meaning - past, present, and future

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.
"Through all of our various Christmas traditions, I hope that we are focused first upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Wise men still adore Him....
"I plead with you to rise above the tasks of the day and the hurdles ahead. You can do more than the deeds scheduled in your daily planners. You can take the name of the Lord upon you and become more like Him. You can rise to your great potential. You can prepare for the future with greater spiritual capacity.
"Remember that the fulness of Christ's ministry lies in the future. The prophecies of His Second Coming have yet to be fulfilled. At Christmas, of course, we focus upon His birth. But, He will come again. At His First Coming Jesus came almost in secret. Only a few mortals knew of His birth. At His Second Coming the whole of humankind will know of His return. Then He will come, not as 'a man traveling on the earth' (D&C 49:22), but His glory 'shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together' (Isaiah 40:5; see also D&C 101:23).
"As a special witness of His holy name, I testify that Jesus is the divine Son of the living God. He will love you, lift you, and manifest Himself unto you if you will love Him and keep His commandments. (See John 14:21.)"
- Russell M. Nelson, "Christ the Savior is Born," BYU Devotional, 10 December 2002
Click here to read the full talk

President Nelson reminds us how easy it is to get caught up in the rush of Christmas traditions, and encourages us to "rise above" the busy-ness and the required activities in order to focus on reaching our greater potential.

Christmas, and the almost secret and solitary first coming of the Savior, should also remind us of the future "second coming" when "the whole of humankind will know of His return." We should be motivated in this season to prepare; to feel His love, and allow that love to move and motivate our souls and our lives to greater service and faithfulness.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 19, 2015

Saturday, December 18, 2021

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on gifts we can offer to the Savior

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 we are only willing to open our hearts and minds to the spirit of Christmas, we will recognize wonderful things happening around us that will direct or redirect our attention to the sublime. It is usually something small—we read a verse of scripture; we hear a sacred carol and really listen, perhaps for the first time, to its words; or we witness a sincere expression of love. In one way or another, the Spirit touches our hearts, and we see that Christmas, in its essence, is much more sturdy and enduring than the many minor things of life we too often use to adorn it.
"In these precious moments we realize what we feel and know in our heart—that Christmas is really about the Christ.
"Christmas and some of the cherished traditions of the season remind us that we, like the Wise Men of old, should seek the Christ and lay before Him the most precious of gifts: a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We should offer Him our love. We should give Him our willingness to take upon ourselves His name and walk in the path of discipleship. We should promise to remember Him always, to emulate His example, and to go about doing good. (See Acts 10:38; Doctrine and Covenants 20:77, 79.)
"We cannot offer Him the gift of perfection in all things because this is a gift beyond our capacity to give—at least for now. The Lord does not expect that we commit to move mountains. But He does require that we bring as gifts our best efforts to move ourselves, one foot in front of the other, walking in the ways He has prepared and taught."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Of Curtains, Contentment, and Christmas," First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 4, 2011
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

How do we find the "true spirit of Christmas"? President Uchtdorf suggests there are many things in the season that will direct our thoughts and hearts in that direction if we allow them to, including music, scriptures, and expressions of love. We must get past the external symbols and learn to focus on the Christ as the essence of Christmas.

And then we are prepared to offer up our gifts to Him, precious gifts of love and service, of true discipleship as we remember Him and follow His example in doing good:

We can't yet offer the ultimate gift of perfect discipleship. But He doesn't expect that yet. He only asks "that we bring as gifts our best efforts to move ourselves, one foot in front of the other, walking in the ways He has prepared and taught." What a beautiful, encouraging thought.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 7, 2017

Friday, December 17, 2021

President Thomas S. Monson on the light of the Christmas star

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.
"Emerson counseled that rings and jewels are not gifts, but substitutes for gifts. The only real gift is a portion of oneself. (See 'Gifts,' by Ralph Waldo Emerson.)
"We remember that during the meridian of time a bright, particular star shone in the heavens. Wise men followed it and found the Christ child. Today wise men still look heavenward and again see a bright, particular star. It will guide you and me to our opportunities. The burden of the downtrodden will be lifted, the cry of the hungry stilled, the lonely heart comforted. And souls will be saved—yours, theirs, and mine.
"If we truly listen, we may hear that voice from far away say to us, as it spoke to another, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant.' (Matt. 25:21.)
"May we see that special star, may we hear that same salutation, is my humble prayer."
- Thomas S. Monson, "The Long Line of the Lonely," General Conference April 1981
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

The quote by Emerson that President Monson mentions is a thought-provoking one. So often we give gifts that are "trinkets"—items that may be useful or attractive or desirable, but in reality have no lasting value. Present Monson suggests that perhaps better gifts are in service that is given to others, time that we might devote to help those in need.

Just as the light of the star of Bethlehem led wise men to the Savior where they were able to share their gifts, President Monson suggests a light from above will lead each of us to the place where we can best serve and bless those who need it most. Our responsibility is to "look heavenward" and then to be willing to follow the promptings that will lead us.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 24, 2018

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Elder David A. Bednar on the light of Christmas

Elder David A. Bednar (b. 1952) was sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2004.
"The account of the first Christmas in the Book of Mormon helps us to learn and more fully understand that Jesus Christ is the 'light which shineth in darkness' (see D&C 10:57–61). In every season of our lives, in all of the circumstances we may encounter, and in each challenge we may face, Jesus Christ is the light that dispels fear, provides assurance and direction, and engenders enduring peace and joy.
"Many of our memorable and enduring Christmas traditions include different kinds of lights—lights on trees, lights in and on our homes, candles on our tables. May the beautiful lights of every holiday season remind us of Him who is the source of all light.
      "Yet in thy dark streets shineth
      The everlasting Light.
      The hopes and fears of all the years
      Are met in thee tonight.
      ('O Little Town of Bethlehem,' Hymns, no. 208).
"I witness that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, triumphantly fulfilled His mortal mission and ministry, and as our resurrected Lord, He lives today."
- David A. Bednar, "The Light and the Life of the World," First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 6, 2015
Click here to read the full article

In the Christmas Devotional a few years ago, Elder Bednar spoke about the symbolism of light and how it was accentuated during the Christmas season. It's always important to remember what the symbol stands for, so that we can be blessed by remembrance each time we experience the symbol! Seeing Christmas lights should inspire us with remembrance of Him.

The lights of Christmas should "remind us of Him who is the source of all light." That "light which shineth in darkness" is the last and only hope we have for true peace and security. Those "hopes and fears of all the years" are not only "met," but vanquished, in Him.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 22, 2015

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

President Gordon B. Hinckley on Christmas symbols and Christmas love

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1961, served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1981-1995, then as Church President until his death in 2008 at age 97.
"Christmas is more than trees and twinkling lights, more than toys and gifts and baubles of a hundred varieties. It is love. It is the love of the Son of God for all mankind. It reaches out beyond our power to comprehend. It is magnificent and beautiful.
"It is peace. It is the peace which comforts, which sustains, which blesses all who accept it.
"It is faith. It is faith in God and His Eternal Son. It is faith in His wondrous ways and message. It is faith in Him as our Redeemer and our Lord.
"We testify of His living reality. We testify of the divinity of His nature. In our times of grateful meditation, we acknowledge His priceless gift to us and pledge our love and faith . This is what Christmas is really about."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "A Season for Gratitude," Ensign, Dec. 1997, pp. 2-5
Click here to read the full talk

In its final, deepest expression, "Christmas is love." It's the manifestation of the Savior's love for each of us. It's the peace created by that love when we accept it; it's the faith engendered as we follow Him.

This is a great key: we need more "times of grateful meditation" when we can "acknowledge His priceless gift to us and pledge our love and faith" to Him. May we each resolve to find those times in this busy season!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
December 18, 2015
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