Friday, April 30, 2021

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on the power of pondering

Elder Wirthlin (1917-2008) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1986, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1986 until his passing in 2008 at age 91.
"Pondering, which means to weigh mentally, to deliberate, to meditate, can achieve the opening of the spiritual eyes of one's understanding. Also, the Spirit of the Lord may rest upon the ponderer.... 
"We are constantly reminded through the scriptures that we should give the things of God much more than usual superficial consideration. We must ponder them and reach into the very essence of what we are and what we may become.... 
"To soundly plant good seeds in your heart requires prolonged, intense, unremitting pondering. It is a deep, ongoing, regenerating process which refines the soul....
"In our quest for pure hearts, may we ponder on righteous acts and thoughts, and may we be faithful and diligent. 
"I bear earnest and sincere testimony to the mighty transforming power of these noble ideals." 
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Pondering Strengthens the Spiritual Life," General Conference April 1982; click here to read the full talk

Elder Wirthlin's messages were often thought-provoking and memorable; it's clear that he practiced the principles he preached in this sermon. For us, in our busy lives, it's easy to forget the principle of pondering. We often feel accomplished if we manage to "check the box" of our daily scripture reading; and if we're not careful, without real pondering, our reading becomes rote and superficial. The power and the blessing truly come in the pondering.

And I love the adjectives Elder Wirthlin chooses to describe how we should ponder: "prolonged, intense, unremitting." Those words imply a depth of commitment that is sincere and lasting.

When I ask myself if my pondering of the scriptures or other important spiritual teachings is truly "prolonged, intense, [and] unremitting," I believe I need to try harder. But the beauty comes in the promises of regeneration, refining of the soul, the opening of spiritual eyes, increased presence of the Spirit, and "mighty transforming power." Is it worth the effort??
(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
Jan 27, 2015

Thursday, April 29, 2021

President James E. Faust on finding and sharing happiness

President James E. Faust (1920-2007) was called as a Seventy in 1976, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve in 1978. He served as a counselor to President Hinckley until his death in 2007 at age 87.
"The most fundamental of all human searches is for happiness. We each choose our own happiness. As President Harold B. Lee once said: 'Happiness does not depend on what happens outside of you but on what happens inside of you. It is measured by the spirit with which you meet the problems of life' ("A Sure Trumpet Sound: Quotations from President Lee," Ensign, Feb. 1974, 78). It will often be necessary for all of us to choose between having a good time and leading a good life.
"Each of us is born with natural 'happiness' hormones. When stimulated, they secrete powerful chemical substances into our bodies. There are many kinds. Some are called endorphins. Generally when we are in pain or distress, endorphins give us a sense of well-being. Medical science has long known that our mental outlook and well-being affect our physical health. A sign in a large hospital says, 'Laughter is the best medicine.' Smiling is good for the soul.
"Smiling brings a glow to our countenances that radiates to others. Being friendly to our neighbors, to people at school, at church, or at work is a great way to show the Lord that we want to keep the covenant we made at baptism 'to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light' (Mosiah 18:8). I recommend friendliness because so many people are shy or lonely and need a kind word or smile. Lifting others expands our inner selves. It is also the way of the Master. (See Luke 6:31.)"
- James E. Faust, "Who Do You Think You Are?", First Presidency Message, Ensign, Mar. 2001, pp. 2-7
Click here to read the full message

One of the lines from this quote jumped out at me: "It will often be necessary for all of us to choose between having a good time and leading a good life." That's an interesting statement to find in the middle of a talk about happiness. Pres. Faust didn't discuss it or clarify in any way. Some view "having a good time" as a definition of happiness, and in the world's view it may conflict with "leading a good life" — hence the need to choose between the two. But in a very real sense, the only true and lasting way to have a good time is to lead a good life. That's the path to happiness.

Happiness is magnified as we share it with others.We never know whom we bless just with a smile or encouraging word. And the promise is that our own souls expand as we do so; what a great thing to work on more diligently!

"Lifting others expands our inner selves." That's a wonderful blessing!

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

President Spencer W. Kimball on using time wisely

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Jesus also taught us how important it is to use our time wisely. This does not mean there can never be any leisure, for there must be time for contemplation and for renewal, but there must be no waste of time. How we manage time matters so very much, and we can be good managers of time without being frantic or officious. Time cannot be recycled. When a moment has gone, it is really gone. The tyranny of trivia consists of its driving out the people and moments that really matter. Minutia holds momentous things hostage, and we let the tyranny continue all too often. Wise time management is really the wise management of ourselves." 
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Jesus: The Perfect Leader," address to the Young Presidents organization, Sun Valley, Idaho, 15 January 1977; see Ensign, Aug 1979, p. 6
Click here to read the full talk.

President Kimball's message is a great one — he often used words so beautifully.  "The tyranny of trivia" threatens to engulf us (today more than ever), and we must choose carefully and wisely how to use our time to ensure that "momentous things" aren't held hostage.  Leisure has its place, but should be carefully considered in the midst of other responsibilities and opportunities.  "Wise time management" is a wonderful topic to ponder.

In his remarks, Pres. Kimball didn't elaborate about which teachings of Jesus he had in mind that offered this counsel. From the New Testament record of the Savior's life and teachings, there are candidates:
"I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." (John 9:4)
We might consider that there are implications of how we choose to use our time in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) or the teachings about helping strangers in need (Matthew 25:31-46).

If Pres. Kimball was assuming the Savior was the teacher in modern revelation, there are some more clear and explicit examples, such as:
"Thou shalt not idle away thy time.” (D&C 60:13)
"Cease to be idle... cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated." (D&C 88:124)
 And perhaps choices and priorities are best summed up in the Savior's reminder:
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)
(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on real discipleship

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.
"Some give of their time yet withhold themselves, being present without giving of their presence and going through the superficial motions of membership instead of the deep emotions of consecrated discipleship.

"Some try to get by with knowing only the headlines of the gospel, not really talking much of Christ or rejoicing in Christ and esteeming lightly His books of scripture which contain and explain His covenants (see 2 Ne. 25:26).

"Some are so proud they never learn of obedience and spiritual submissiveness. They will have very arthritic knees on the day when every knee shall bend. There will be no gallery then to play to; all will be participants!

"Maintaining Church membership on our own terms, therefore, is not true discipleship.

"Real disciples absorb the fiery darts of the adversary by holding aloft the quenching shield of faith with one hand, while holding to the iron rod with the other (see Eph. 6:16; 1 Ne. 15:24; D&C 27:17). There should be no mistaking; it will take both hands!"

- Neal A. Maxwell, "Overcome... Even as I also Overcame," General Conference April 1987; see also Ensign, May 1987, pp. 70-71
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Maxwell was beloved for his masterful expression of Gospel principles. But it wasn't just flowery talk; his perceptive messages often cut to the heart and challenged me to rise up. This is a good example. What does it mean to be a true disciple? There is a whole-heartedness involved that sometimes gets neglected. The phrase "deep emotions of consecrated discipleship" alone is profound. Too often we "go through the motions"—or even neglect the motions, as this challenging quote reminds us:

So "true discipleship" must be on the Lord's terms, and it must be whole-hearted. Elder Maxwell acknowledges that it's not easy, but gives one more great analogy to help us understand the level of commitment:

What a vivid image: a battle, when we have one hand engaged with a defensive shield, and the other clinging to the rod of safety! It takes both faith in Jesus Christ, and the action of of efforts to holding firmly to the Gospel, in order to survive.

I love reading the teachings of this beloved apostle and disciple of the Savior. They always urge me onward and upward!

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

Monday, April 26, 2021

Howard W. Hunter on living with hope and not fear

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"Disciples of Christ in every generation are invited, indeed commanded, to be filled with a perfect brightness of hope. (See 2 Ne. 31:20.)
"This faith and hope of which I speak is not a Pollyanna-like approach to significant personal and public problems. I don't believe we can wake up in the morning and simply by drawing a big 'happy face' on the chalkboard believe that is going to take care of the world's difficulties. But if our faith and hope are anchored in Christ, in his teachings, commandments, and promises, then we are able to count on something truly remarkable, genuinely miraculous, which can part the Red Sea and lead modern Israel to a place 'where none shall come to hurt or make afraid.' (Hymns, 1985, no. 30.)
"Fear, which can come upon people in difficult days, is a principal weapon in the arsenal which Satan uses to make mankind unhappy. He who fears loses strength for the combat of life in the fight against evil. Therefore the power of the evil one always tries to generate fear in human hearts. In every age and in every era, mankind has faced fear.
"As children of God and descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we must seek to dispel fear from among people. A timid, fearing people cannot do their work well, and they cannot do God's work at all. The Latter-day Saints have a divinely assigned mission to fulfill which simply must not be dissipated in fear and anxiety."
- Howard W. Hunter, "An Anchor to the Souls of Men," CES fireside, BYU, 7 February 1993; see Ensign, Oct. 1993, pp. 70-73
Click here to read the full talk

In the classic Book of Mormon passage Pres. Hunter references, Nephi encourages us to be filled, not just with hope, but with "a perfect brightness of hope." What a vivid description! And what a challenge that can be in the midst of the trials and challenges of life.

I love Pres. Hunter's elaboration. We don't achieve that kind of deep-souled calmness and assurance just by superficial means. It comes only when "our faith and hope are anchored in Christ, in his teachings, commandments, and promises."

In our quest for hope, we have to guard against its opposite emotion—fear. This is a great warning and reminder:

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

Sunday, April 25, 2021

President Russell M. Nelson on making home a sacred place

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.
"You may feel that there is still more you need to do to make your home truly a sanctuary of faith. If so, please do it! If you are married, counsel with your wife as your equal partner in this crucial work. There are few pursuits more important than this. Between now and the time the Lord comes again, we all need our homes to be places of serenity and security.

"Attitudes and actions that invite the Spirit will increase the holiness of your home. Equally certain is the fact that holiness will vanish if there is anything in your behavior or environment that offends the Holy Spirit, for then 'the heavens withdraw themselves' (D&C 121:37).

"Have you ever wondered why the Lord wants us to make our homes the center of gospel learning and gospel living? It is not just to prepare us for, and help us through, a pandemic. Present restrictions on gathering will eventually end. However, your commitment to make your home your primary sanctuary of faith should never end. As faith and holiness decrease in this fallen world, your need for holy places will increase. I urge you to continue to make your home a truly holy place 'and be not moved' (D&C 87:8, emphasis added) from that essential goal."

- Russell M. Nelson, "What We Are Learning and Will Never Forget," General Conference April 2021, Priesthood session

Addressing the Priesthood session of the April 2021 conference, President Nelson talked about the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts it has had on people throughout the world. So many of those impacts are negative, but President Nelson pointed out that there have been, or should have been, many positive aspects as well. He pointed out several ways those benefits came, including the blessing of helping us recognize our homes as "the center of faith and worship" in our lives. That is definitely not a new message; but during this time, we've seen and felt the power of sacred ordinances at home and the blessing of personal worship.

So President Nelson encouraged us to continue to do all we can to build that feeling of holiness in our homes:

The growth and spirit won't come on their own; we must invite the Spirit through our "attitudes and actions" and avoid anything that would detract from that sacredness. President Nelson reminded us that even when conditions return to "normal," our efforts to create sacred sanctuaries must never fade; the need will continue to grow as there is a decline in faith in the world.

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

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on personal political involvement

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.

"Our belief in divine inspiration gives Latter-day Saints a unique responsibility to uphold and defend the United States Constitution and principles of constitutionalism wherever we live. We should trust in the Lord and be positive about this nation’s future.

"What else are faithful Latter-day Saints to do? We must pray for the Lord to guide and bless all nations and their leaders. This is part of our article of faith. Being subject to presidents or rulers of course poses no obstacle to our opposing individual laws or policies. It does require that we exercise our influence civilly and peacefully within the framework of our constitutions and applicable laws. On contested issues, we should seek to moderate and unify.

"There are other duties that are part of upholding the inspired Constitution. We should learn and advocate the inspired principles of the Constitution. We should seek out and support wise and good persons who will support those principles in their public actions. We should be knowledgeable citizens who are active in making our influence felt in civic affairs....

"There are many political issues, and no party, platform, or individual candidate can satisfy all personal preferences. Each citizen must therefore decide which issues are most important to him or her at any particular time. Then members should seek inspiration on how to exercise their influence according to their individual priorities. This process will not be easy. It may require changing party support or candidate choices, even from election to election.

"Such independent actions will sometimes require voters to support candidates or political parties or platforms whose other positions they cannot approve. That is one reason we encourage our members to refrain from judging one another in political matters. We should never assert that a faithful Latter-day Saint cannot belong to a particular party or vote for a particular candidate. We teach correct principles and leave our members to choose how to prioritize and apply those principles on the issues presented from time to time."

- Dallin H. Oaks, "Defending Our Divinely Inspired Constitution," General Conference April 2021 Sunday afternoon

President Oaks is uniquely qualified to prepare and deliver this kind of discourse. His background in legal training and experience are remarkable, along with his apostolic calling. He spoke about the United States Constitution as a foundational document for countries throughout the world, and described the inspired moral principles it lays out to help define our associations and interactions.  President Oaks, in these remarks, built upon some of his previous writings (see for example "The Divinely Inspired Constitution," Ensign February 1992)

I thought President Oaks' counsel on our political opportunities and obligations was so appropriate and timely. We must be educated and aware of the Constitution's principles, and use that understanding to guide our selections and participation. It was especially gratifying to hear his counsel about our choices and involvement in politics, based on that understanding. It is impossible to have a party, or even an individual, that will fully agree with all of our priorities. We regulary have to "pick and choose" based on what we personally feel is most important. But we must never judge or criticize others who choose otherwise! We should seek inspiration on how best to use our agency and influence. Very wise counsel.

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

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Elder Ulisses Soares on the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ

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.

"In addition to providing the majestic gift of salvation, the Savior offers us relief and comfort as we face our afflictions, temptations, and weaknesses of mortal life, including the circumstances we have experienced recently in the current pandemic. I can assure you that Christ is ever aware of the adversities we experience in mortality. He understands all of the bitterness, agony, and physical pain as well as the emotional and spiritual challenges we face. The Savior’s bowels are filled with mercy, and He is always ready to succor us. This is possible because He personally experienced and took upon Himself in the flesh the pain of our weakness and infirmities.

"With meekness and humility of heart, He descended below all things and accepted being despised, rejected, and humiliated by men, having been wounded for our transgressions and iniquities. He suffered these things for all, taking upon Himself the sins of the world, thus becoming our ultimate spiritual caregiver.

"As we draw nearer to Him, surrendering ourselves spiritually to His care, we will be able to take upon ourselves His yoke, which is easy, and His burden, which is light, thus finding that promised comfort and rest. Furthermore, we will receive the strength we all need to overcome the hardships, weaknesses, and sorrows of life, which are exceedingly difficult to endure without His help and healing power."

- Ulisses Soares, "Jesus Christ: The Caregiver of Our Soul," General Conference April 2021, Sunday morning

Elder Soares was privileged to speak on Easter morning, and he bore a powerful testimony of the Atonement of the Savior: both the miracle of Resurrection, and the peace that can come as we accept the blessing of repentance. But there is more - the peace and succor that come as we allow His Atonement to bless us in our daily challenges and difficulties.

Even through the frustrations of the pandemic, and all the greatest frustrations and challenges we have in life, we have the offer and promise of divine help. Elder Soares testifies of the Savior's awareness of our situations, and His willingness to help. That aid is only possible because He experienced our challenges during His mortal experience. How blessed we are to have that great gift available!

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Elder Gerrit W. Gong on welcoming and supporting each other

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.
"Jesus Christ invites us to become, like Him, a good Samaritan, to make His Inn (His Church) a refuge for all from life’s bruises and storms. We prepare for His promised Second Coming as each day we do unto 'the least of these' (Matt 25:40) as we would unto Him. 'The least of these' is each of us....

"Our Good Samaritan promises to return. Miracles occur when we care for each other as He would. When we come with broken hearts and contrite spirits, we can find voice in Jesus Christ and be encircled in His understanding arms of safety. Sacred ordinances offer covenant belonging and 'the power of godliness' (D&C 84:20) to sanctify inner intent and outward action. With His loving-kindness and long-suffering, His Church becomes our Inn.

"As we create room in His Inn, welcoming all, our Good Samaritan can heal us on our dusty mortal roads. With perfect love, our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, promise 'peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come' (D&C 59:23)—'that where I am ye shall be also' (D&C 132:23)."

- Gerrit W. Gong, "Room in the Inn," General Conference April 2021, Saturday morning

When the "Good Samaritan" was caring for the stranger on the road, he provided the initial care that he could, but then took his new acquaintance to an inn where he could get additional care and attention. He promised to return and pay for any expenses incurred. That's an important part of the story, emphasized by Elder Gong in this address. The inn is a symbolic place where care can be obtained and healing can occur. In Elder Gong's interpretation, the inn is likened to the Church, and we should be aware of opportunities to care for the wounded and promost healing.

When we treat one another with true Christ-like love and concern, "miracles occur." That is the real beauty of the Church. We can be instruments in the Savior's plan to help facilitate His Atonement's blessings in the lives of those who need it most! 

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

Monday, April 19, 2021

Elder Dale G. Renlund on dealing with unfairness by reaching out

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.
"How we deal with advantages and disadvantages is part of life’s test. We will be judged not so much by what we say but by how we treat the vulnerable and disadvantaged. As Latter-day Saints, we seek to follow the Savior’s example, to go about doing good. We demonstrate our love for our neighbor by working to ensure the dignity of all Heavenly Father’s children.

"With our own advantages and disadvantages in mind, reflection is healthy.... To try to see things with an eternal perspective can be clarifying. As we become more like the Savior, we develop more empathy, understanding, and charity.

"...all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and that by His authority families can be joined together forever.

"When faced with unfairness, we can push ourselves away from God or we can be drawn toward Him for help and support."

- Dale G. Renlund, "Infuriating Unfairness," General Conference April 2021, Saturday afternoon

This talk for me was one of the highlights of the April 2021 conference. I was grateful to see Elder Renlund confronting real, challenging issues. There truly is so much unfairness in life, as we perceive it. As we ponder it, we truly can become infuriated. Perhaps we should become infuriated, at least at the portion of that unfairness that is created by man's choices and actions.

Elder Renlund provided some important thoughts to ponder on the issues of the unfairness of life. He presented possible explanations, recommendations for how we respond, and encouragement to maintain perspective.

For those of us who generally fall into the "advantaged" camp, Elder Renlund gave this advice:

This is very wise counsel. In most cases, there is not much we can do about how the "unfairness" impacts us. But therre is much we can do about how we respond, and in particular, how we help those who are suffering greater disadvantages than we are. We need to "go about doing good" and succoring our neighbor. As we follow Christ's example, we become more like Him, and feel His joy.

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

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on treating others with kindness

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 we look through a gospel lens, we recognize that we too are under the watchcare of a compassionate caregiver, who extends Himself in kindness and a nurturing spirit. The Good Shepherd knows each one of us by name and has a personal interest in us. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said: 'I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep. … And I [will] lay down my life for the sheep' (John 10:14-15).

"On this holy Easter weekend, I find abiding peace in knowing that 'the Lord is my shepherd'(Psalm 23:1) and that each of us is known by Him and under His kind watchcare. When we confront life’s wind and rainstorms, sickness and injuries, the Lord—our Shepherd, our Caregiver—will nourish us with love and kindness. He will heal our hearts and restore our souls."

- Gary E. Stevenson, "Hearts Knit Together," General Conference April 2021 Saturday morning

Elder Stevenson began his address with the story of a lab researcher who expressed affection and warmth to the rabbits in the study, and noticed significant health changes. That study has had lasting impacts in the medical community. He used that example to talk about the importance of us treating others with kindness and understanding. As adults in particular, we have the responsibility to "set a tone and be role models of kindness, inclusion, and civility—to teach Christlike behavior to the rising generation in what we say and how we act."

As we live our lives with a spirit of kindness and love towards others, we feel more of the spirit of the Savior and His blessings.

Sometimes we have to be kind even to those who disappoint or hurt us. The Savior does that for us; He is the ultimate "compassionate caregiver." I love the phrase from Isaiah: "In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." (Isa 54:8, emphasis added.) 

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

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on understanding miracles from God

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.

"Miracles, signs, and wonders abound among followers of Jesus Christ today, in your lives and in mine. Miracles are divine acts, manifestations and expressions of God’s limitless power, and an affirmation that He is 'the same yesterday, today, and forever' (Moroni 10:19). Jesus Christ, who created the seas, can calm them; He who gave sight to the blind can lift our sights to heaven; He who cleansed the lepers can mend our infirmities; He who healed the impotent man can call for us to rise up with 'Come, follow me' (Luke 18:22).

"Many of you have witnessed miracles, more than you realize. They may seem small in comparison to Jesus raising the dead. But the magnitude does not distinguish a miracle, only that it came from God. Some suggest that miracles are simply coincidences or sheer luck. But the prophet Nephi condemned those who would 'put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain' (2 Ne 26:20).

"Miracles are wrought by divine power by Him who is 'mighty to save' (D&C 133:47). Miracles are extensions of God’s eternal plan; miracles are a lifeline from heaven to earth."

- Ronald A. Rasband, "Behold! I Am a God of Miracles," General Conference April 2021 Sunday afternoon

It's good to be reminded that we live in a time of "miracles, signs, and wonders" that always accompany true followers of Jesus Christ. Understanding the nature of miracles will help us see them more frequently in our lives. Elder Rasband offered a wonderful review and reminder.

It is quite easy to "dismiss" miracles or overlook them entirely if we are not spiritually attentive. We can "explain away" the influence of God, and many in the world strive to do this. We can also overlook His hand in our lives; Elder Rasband warns that most of us "have witnessed miracles, more than you realize." I think God is displeased when we fail to acknowledge His influence! Truly, we should learn to recognize it, and to amplify its presence in our daily lives.
(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Friday, April 16, 2021

Elder Neil L. Andersen on finding faith in the passing of loved ones

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.
"Each of us has been affected by the worldwide pandemic, as family and friends have unexpectedly moved beyond mortality....

"The Lord has said, 'Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.' (D&C 42:45)

"While we weep, we also rejoice in the glorious Resurrection of our Savior. Because of Him, our loved ones and friends continue their eternal journey. As President Joseph F. Smith explained: 'We can not forget them; we do not cease to love them. … They have advanced; we are advancing; we are growing as they have grown.' President Russell M. Nelson said, 'Our tears of sorrow … turn to tears of anticipation.'"

- Neil L. Andersen, "The Personal Journey of a Child of God," General Conference April 2021 Saturday morning

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us have lost people who are close to us, or at least with whom we're acquainted. Elder Andersen helps us ponder how our knowledge and understanding of God's eternal plan for us enables us to deal with losses.

Weeping is a part of loss. President Nelson said, "Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life." ("Doors of Death," Conference April 1992.)  But hope and confidence can accompany the sorrow of loss. Having an  understanding of the doctrine of the Resurrection of the Savior, and a testimony of its power, will bless us as we learn to move forward.

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

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the blessings of the covenant path

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.
"What is the covenant path? It is the one path that leads to the celestial kingdom of God. We embark upon the path at the gate of baptism and then 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men [the two great commandments] … to the end.' (2 Ne 31:20.) In the course of the covenant path (which, by the way, extends beyond mortality), we receive all the ordinances and covenants pertaining to salvation and exaltation.

"Our overarching covenant commitment is to do God’s will 'and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us.' (Mosiah 5:5.) Following the principles and commandments of the gospel of Jesus Christ day by day is the happiest and most satisfying course in life. For one thing, a person avoids a great many problems and regrets. Let me use a sports analogy. In tennis, there is something called unforced errors. These are things such as hitting a playable ball into the net or double-faulting when serving. Unforced errors are considered the result of a player’s blunder rather than being caused by the opponent’s skill.

"Too often our problems or challenges are self-inflicted, the result of poor choices, or, we could say, the result of 'unforced errors.' When we are diligently pursuing the covenant path, we quite naturally avoid many 'unforced errors.' We sidestep the various forms of addiction. We do not fall into the ditch of dishonest conduct. We cross over the abyss of immorality and infidelity. We bypass the people and things that, even if popular, would jeopardize our physical and spiritual well-being. We avoid the choices that harm or disadvantage others and instead acquire the habits of self-discipline and service.

"Elder J. Golden Kimball is purported to have said, 'I may not have [always] walked the straight and narrow, but I [try] to cross it as often as I [can].' In a more serious moment, I am sure Brother Kimball would agree that staying on, not just crossing, the covenant path is our greatest hope for avoiding avoidable misery on the one hand and successfully dealing with the unavoidable woes of life on the other."

- D. Todd Christofferson, "Why the Covenant Path," General Conference April 2021, Sunday afternoon session
Elder Christofferson's message reviewed the concept of the "covenant path" and discussed the opportunities and blessings that come along the way.

The application of the tennis concept of an "unforced error" is one I had not considered before. Most of our errors are indeed "unforced" - it's our own choice that brings about the stumble, the mistake. But we also have the choice to correct the error and move forward in better ways. And we can avoid many of those errors as we more carefully "follow the covenant path" in our lives.

We used to hear more about "the strait and narrow path" in our Gospel discussions. I think this emphasis of "covenant path" helps us to remember the importance of sacred covenants that are the keys to getting on that path and remaining firmly on it, so we're not just "crossing" the path now and then but carefully and diligently pressing forward.

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Elder David A. Bednar on doctrines and principles

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.
"Stated succinctly, a gospel principle is a doctrinally based guideline for the righteous exercise of moral agency. Principles derive from broader gospel truths and provide direction and standards as we press forward on the covenant path....

"Learning, understanding, and living gospel principles strengthen our faith in the Savior, deepen our devotion to Him, and invite a multitude of blessings and spiritual gifts into our lives. Principles of righteousness also help us to look beyond our personal preferences and self-centered desires by providing the precious perspective of eternal truth as we navigate the different circumstances, challenges, decisions, and experiences of mortality....

"Gospel principles are for me and you what a helm is to a ship. Correct principles enable us to find our way and to stand firm, steadfast, and immovable so we do not lose our balance and fall in the raging latter-day storms of darkness and confusion."

- David A. Bednar, "The Principles of My Gospel," General Conference April 2021, Sunday afternoon

In this talk during the April 2021 General Conference, Elder Bednar reviewed one of the crucial aspects of the Gospel: the distinction between doctrines, principles, and guidelines. He described the critical importance of learning, understanding, and living the principles, and benefits that come from doing so:

Using examples from previous leaders, he illustrated his message:
  • Joseph Smith, the fundamental message about how he would "teach... correct principles and let [the church members] govern themselves."
  • Dallin H. Oaks and his illustrative messages about how principles apply to Aaronic Priesthood duties.
  • Russell M. Nelson's recent insights about both the "sign" we give to God as we respect the Sabbath, and the concept from the last conference of letting God prevail in our lives.
It's always very worthwhile to ponder what the guiding principles are in our lives, especially the doctrinally-based ones. The more we understand about the principle itself and the doctrine underlying it, the more power we will find in obeying and following.

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the power of the Savior's infinite Atonement

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 Savior’s infinite Atonement completely changes the way we may view our transgressions and imperfections. Instead of dwelling on them and feeling irredeemable or hopeless, we can learn from them and feel hopeful. The cleansing gift of repentance allows us to leave our sins behind and emerge a new creature.

"Because of Jesus Christ, our failures do not have to define us. They can refine us.

"Like a musician rehearsing scales, we can see our missteps, flaws, and sins as opportunities for greater self-awareness, deeper and more honest love for others, and refinement through repentance.

"If we repent, mistakes do not disqualify us. They are part of our progress.

"We are all infants compared to the beings of glory and grandeur we are designed to become. No mortal being advances from crawling to walking to running without frequent stumbles, bumps, and bruises. That is how we learn.
"If we earnestly keep practicing, always striving to keep God’s commandments, and committing our efforts to repenting, enduring, and applying what we learn, line upon line, we will gather light into our souls. (See D&C 50:24.) And though we may not fully comprehend our full potential now, 'we know that, when [the Savior] shall appear,' we will see His countenance in us and 'shall see him as he is' (1 John 3:2),

- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "God among Us," General Conference April 2021 Saturday morning

Is God real? Can His influence be felt among us? Can He bless and help us in our struggles and trials from day to day? Elder Uchtdorf bears testimony of the reality of His presence, and His willingness to offer us all the blessings of eternity. Through His infinite Atonement, we can receive forgiveness from sin; but we can also feel the power of ongoing growth and progress as we confront our own shortcomings:

Most of us are pretty good at making mistakes, like a beginning student working on fundamental scales. But most of us are not as good at turning those mistakes into progress! We become easily discouraged by our lack of proficiency, our lack of progress; we do not have the ability to turn those "failures" into refining. It is only in and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that such things are possible. His grace is sufficient to enable us to move forward with joy, even when we occasionally stumble. We truly can turn those things into more love for others and greater awareness of our own divine natures.
(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2020)

Monday, April 12, 2021

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the great needs of our time

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.
"Brothers and sisters, we do see too much conflict, anger, and general incivility around us. Fortunately, the current generation has not had a Third World War to fight, nor have we experienced a global economic crash like the one in 1929 leading to a Great Depression. We are, however, facing a kind of Third World War that is not a fight to crush our enemies but a conscription marshaling the children of God to care more about each other and to help heal the wounds we find in a conflicted world. The Great Depression we now face has less to do with the external loss of our savings and more to do with the internal loss of our self-confidence, with real deficits of faith and hope and charity all around us. But the instruments we need to create a brighter day and grow an economy of genuine goodness in society are abundantly provided for in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot afford—and this world cannot afford—our failure to put these gospel concepts and fortifying covenants to full use personally and publicly.

"So, in a world 'tossed with tempest, and not comforted,' as Jehovah said it would be, how do we find what He called 'the covenant of … peace'? We find it by turning to Him who said He would have mercy on us and 'with everlasting kindness' would grant peace to our children. In spite of frightful prophecies and unsettling scriptures declaring that peace will be taken from the earth generally, the prophets, including our own beloved Russell M. Nelson, have taught that it does not have to be taken from us individually!"

- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Not as the World Giveth," General Conference April 2021, Saturday afternoon

Elder Holland's talk was among those in this conference that reflected deeply on the challenges of our times. But it's not just social turmoil and viral outbreaks that present concerns. It's the moral decay and spiritual challenges of our time that are also deeply concerning. The "search for peace" has perhaps never been more difficult, but never more important to our safety and progress.

The "gospel concepts and fortifying covenants" Elder Holland describes are the key to our search. Through them we can find the otherwise elusive confidence and peace. As we "apply the healing balm of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ" in our lives and families, we will find that peace.

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