Sunday, July 25, 2021

President Russell M. Nelson on the religious life

President Russell M. Nelson (b. 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, and was serving in that quorum when he shared this message. He was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015, and then as president of the Church on January 14, 2018.

This excerpt is from an address given at the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago, Illinois, 2 September 1993.
"As we repent and live in accordance with the commandments of God, the Atonement of Jesus Christ becomes a force for permanent change in our lives. We become more pure in heart and true disciples of the Master. Personal prayer, contributions of tithes and offerings, honoring the Sabbath day, and partaking of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper are all regular practices that protect us from the bondage of sin and bring us true freedom and joy.
"The daily practice of our faith is not confined solely to religious rites. We reach out to aid the communities in which we live. For example, parent-teacher associations, public schools, and similar worthy civic activities receive our support."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Combatting Spiritual Drift—Our Global Pandemic," address given at the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions, Chicago, Illinois, 2 September 1993; see Ensign, Nov 1993, pp. 102-108
Click here to read the full talk

A "Parliament of the World's Religions" was held in Chicago in 1993, the first gathering of its kind in a century. Several thousand religious leaders from around the world, from both Christian and non-Christian groups, were invited to participate in discussions about how the different sects and traditions could collaborate in addressing the world's critical issues. Elder Nelson represented the LDS Church at the event, and delivered an insightful address in which he identified elements of "spiritual drift" in the world and then explained ways the Church is attempting to confront those challenges, both in doctrine and practice.  He commented, "The dismal dusk of today’s spiritual drift provides a rare opportunity for the radiance of religion to light the way to a new tomorrow."

After providing an institutional history and doctrinal foundation of the Church, Elder Nelson shared the thoughts excerpted above in a section on "individual application." In other words, here's how the Church and Gospel can impact MY life.

The key lies in allowing the Atonement to impact one's life. True freedom and joy, and protection from "the bondage of sin," come when we remember:
  • Personal prayer
  • Contributions of tithes and offerings
  • Honoring the Sabbath day
  • Partaking of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper
I appreciated Elder Nelson's wonderful summary of the essence of the Church and the Gospel. It might be a fruitful exercise for each of us to consider what we might have said, given the opportunity that he had in that great council of religious leaders!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
April 8, 2015

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on following the examples of pioneers

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.
"It is not enough to study or reenact the accomplishments of our pioneers. We need to identify the great, eternal principles they applied to achieve all they achieved for our benefit and then apply those principles to the challenges of our day. In that way we honor their pioneering efforts, and we also reaffirm our heritage and strengthen its capacity to bless our own posterity and 'those millions of our Heavenly Father's children who have yet to hear and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ' (Our Heritage 145). We are all pioneers in doing so.
"Many of our challenges are different from those faced by former pioneers but perhaps just as dangerous and surely as significant to our own salvation and the salvation of those who follow us. For example, as for life-threatening obstacles, the wolves that prowled around pioneer settlements were no more dangerous to their children than the drug dealers or pornographers who threaten our children. Similarly, the early pioneers' physical hunger posed no greater threat to their well-being than the spiritual hunger experienced by many in our day. The children of earlier pioneers were required to do incredibly hard physical work to survive their environment. That was no greater challenge than many of our young people now face from the absence of hard work, which results in spiritually corrosive challenges to discipline, responsibility, and self-worth. Jesus taught: 'And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell' (Matt. 10:28)."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Following the Pioneers," General Conference October 1997
Click here to read the full talk

Today, July 24, is the traditional "Pioneer Day" commemoration. It's now been 174 years since the first of the Mormon advance company entered the Salt Lake valley. Each year, members of the Church in Utah and around the world remember that event with celebrations, family gatherings, parades, and pioneer reenactments. But is that enough?

Elder Oaks counsels us to do more than just study the history of the pioneers, or participate in reenactments of their challenges and accomplishments. He provides the great challenge to find "eternal principles" that helped them achieve what they did, and then "apply those principles to the challenges of our day." In doing so, we link ourselves to them and to the truths they held dear.

He then proceeds to give several examples, comparing some of the pioneer challenges to our modern circumstances. I appreciate this insight; it's a model of how we should always ponder as we read the scriptures or any historic account. We should not just be learning about the past; we should be learning lessons that can help us today!

Pioneer image, Glen Hopkinson, courtesy of

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
July 24, 2015

Friday, July 23, 2021

Elder Robert D. Hales on claiming the blessings of the spirit

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.
"Throughout our lives, whether in times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin, we may feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we may hunger for the sacred blessings that only He can provide. At these times we should strive to come to ourselves and come back into the light of our Savior's love.
"These blessings rightfully belong to all of Heavenly Father's children. Desiring these blessings, including a life of joy and happiness, is an essential part of Heavenly Father's plan for each one of us. The prophet Alma taught, 'Even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you' (Alma 32:27).
"As our spiritual desires increase, we become spiritually self-reliant.... We become converted and spiritually self-reliant as we prayerfully live our covenants--through worthily partaking of the sacrament, being worthy of a temple recommend, and sacrificing to serve others."
- Robert D. Hales, "Coming to Ourselves: The Sacrament, the Temple, and Sacrifice in Service," General Conference April 2012
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Hales describes a process that is typical for our mortal experience:
  1. We encounter "times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin"
  2. We "feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father, who loves us"
  3. We "hunger for the sacred blessings that only He can provide"
Those are the moments when, if we are wise, we will "strive to come to ourselves" — an interesting phrase, borrowed from the story of the "prodigal son" in Luke 15:17 — and "come back into the light of our Savior's love." This implies that we have left the light of the Savior's love; but fortunately, not so far that the Holy Ghost can't still reach out to us.  What a blessing that is.

And what is the process to return?  It lies in simple, basic, ongoing faithfulness:

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
April 12, 2015

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Elder Richard G. Scott on finding joy in life

Elder Richard G. Scott (1928-2015) served as a Seventy from 1977-1988, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He passed away in September 2015 at the age of 86.
"You are one of the noblest of God's creations. His intent is that your life be gloriously beautiful regardless of your circumstances. As you are grateful and obedient, you can become all that God intends you to be.
"Sadness, disappointment, and severe challenge are events in life, not life itself. I do not minimize how hard some of these events are. They can extend over a long period of time, but they should not be allowed to become the confining center of everything you do. The Lord inspired Lehi to declare the fundamental truth, 'Men are, that they might have joy' (2 Ne. 2:25). That is a conditional statement: 'they might have joy.' It is not conditional for the Lord. His intent is that each of us finds joy. It will not be conditional for you as you obey the commandments, have faith in the Master, and do the things that are necessary to have joy here on earth.
"Your joy in life depends upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His holy Son, your conviction that their plan of happiness truly can bring you joy. Pondering their doctrine will let you enjoy the beauties of this earth and enrich your relationships with others. It will lead you to the comforting, strengthening experiences that flow from prayer to Father in Heaven and the answers He gives in return."
- Richard G. Scott, "Finding Joy in Life," General Conference April 1996
Click here to read the full talk

This is an inspiring and beautiful testimony from Elder Scott:

One who truly believes these words, will find his life is profoundly effected.

Many feel their life is not "gloriously beautiful." Perhaps all of us feel that on one occasion or another; there are times when the struggles of mortality feel overwhelming. But with the vision of God's love for his children, knowing that He is aware of us and willing to sustain and assist, we know that any setback is temporary. There WILL be a happy ending!
(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
April 11, 2015

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Elder M. Russell Ballard on choosing happiness

Elder M. Russell Ballard (1928- ) was called as a Seventy in 1976, and has served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1985.
"Our Heavenly Father loves all of His children, and He wants them all to have the blessings of the gospel in their lives. Spiritual light is not lost because God turns His back on His children. Rather, spiritual darkness results when His children turn their collective backs on Him. It is a natural consequence of bad choices made by individuals, communities, countries, and entire civilizations. This has been proven again and again throughout the course of time. One of the great lessons of this historical pattern is that our choices, both individually and collectively, do result in spiritual consequences for ourselves and for our posterity....
"The voice of the Lord is clear and unmistakable. He knows you. He loves you. He wants you to be eternally happy. But according to your God-given agency, the choice is yours. Each one of you has to decide for yourself if you are going to ignore the past and suffer the painful mistakes and tragic pitfalls that have befallen previous generations, experiencing for yourself the devastating consequences of bad choices. How much better your life will be if you will follow the noble example of the faithful followers of Christ such as the sons of Helaman, Moroni, Joseph Smith, and the stalwart pioneers—and choose, as they did, to remain faithful to your Heavenly Father's commandments."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Learning the Lessons of the Past," General Conference April 2009
Click here to read the full talk

President Monson likes the phrase, "Decisions determine destiny." Elder Ballard is echoing that sentiment, with the specific application of the choice to obey or disobey God's commandments. That single choice to not follow results in "spiritual darkness" as individuals and as society.

But Elder Ballard testifies of God's deep and abiding love for his children, and the eternal desire of His heart for our happiness — if we will but choose "to remain faithful" to His commandments:

Always and forever, our agency is paramount. We must choose to receive the greatest blessings offered to us, in time and eternity!

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

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on spiritual preparedness

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.
"What if the day of His coming were tomorrow? If we knew that we would meet the Lord tomorrow—through our premature death or through His unexpected coming—what would we do today? What confessions would we make? What practices would we discontinue? What accounts would we settle? What forgivenesses would we extend? What testimonies would we bear?
"If we would do those things then, why not now? Why not seek peace while peace can be obtained? If our lamps of preparation are drawn down, let us start immediately to replenish them.
"We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming. And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult—the spiritual. A 72-hour kit of temporal supplies may prove valuable for earthly challenges, but, as the foolish virgins learned to their sorrow, a 24-hour kit of spiritual preparation is of greater and more enduring value."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Preparation for the Second Coming", General Conference April 2004
Click here to read the full talk

One way to focus attention on "the things that matter most" is to undertake the exercise Elder Oaks mentions: if I knew my mortal life would be over tomorrow, what would I do today? Would there be things I would want to change, to repair, to focus on, even for a single day? People to forgive, testimonies to bear? And of course, the obvious next question is, "Why not now?" We should be making earnest efforts to focus our energies in the best possible ways, regardless of how much time we have remaining.

The additional warning is that our spiritual preparation needs as much focus as our temporal preparation often receives:

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
April 9, 2015

Monday, July 19, 2021

Elder Boyd K. Packer on reverence and revelation

President Boyd K. Packer (1924-2015) served as an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve (a position that no longer exists) from 1961 to 1970, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He served as president of that Quorum from 1994 until his death in 2015 at age 90.
"Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings. Such words as quiet, still, peaceable, Comforter abound in the scriptures...
"The world grows increasingly noisy. Clothing and grooming and conduct are looser and sloppier and more disheveled. Raucous music, with obscene lyrics blasted through amplifiers while lights flash psychedelic colors, characterizes the drug culture. Variations of these things are gaining wide acceptance and influence over our youth....
"This trend to more noise, more excitement, more contention, less restraint, less dignity, less formality is not coincidental nor innocent nor harmless.
"The first order issued by a commander mounting a military invasion is the jamming of the channels of communication of those he intends to conquer.
"Irreverence suits the purposes of the adversary by obstructing the delicate channels of revelation in both mind and spirit....
"No one of us can survive in the world of today, much less in what it soon will become, without personal inspiration. The spirit of reverence can and should be evident in every organization in the Church and in the lives of every member....
"While we may not see an immediate, miraculous transformation, as surely as the Lord lives, a quiet one will take place. The spiritual power in the lives of each member and in the Church will increase. The Lord will pour out his Spirit upon us more abundantly. We will be less troubled, less confused. We will find revealed answers to personal and family problems."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Reverence Invites Revelation," General Conference October 1991
Click here to read the full talk

It's been almost 30 years since then Elder Boyd K. Packer shared this talk with the wonderful title, "Reverence Invites Revelation." He observed then, "The world grows increasingly noisy." That has certainly been confirmed in the three decades since. There are constant distractions and diversions all around us. And so to seek the inspiration that "comes more easily in peaceful settings" is increasingly difficult. In order to "survive in the world of today," we need to actively seek personal inspiration in settings of reverence. Those settings don't appear naturally; we have to seek them out and create them for ourselves.

Again, the promises are real and wonderful:
  • Spiritual power will increase
  • The Lord's Spirit will be poured out more abundantly
  • We will be less troubled and confused
  • We will find answers to personal and family problems
I always love to note apostolic witnesses and promises. It is wise to follow the conditions and claim the blessings!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
April 6, 2015

Sunday, July 18, 2021

President James E. Faust on Jesus and the Resurrection

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.
"How do we accept Jesus of Nazareth?
"We joyfully accept him without reservation as the greatest personage who ever lived on the face of the earth.
"We believe him to be the Messiah, the Redeemer.
"We glory in his mission and his doctrine.
"We delight in him as the firstfruits of them that slept.
"We worship him as the second member of the Godhead of three.
"We humbly come to the Father through him, believing his words. 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.' (John 14:6.)
"A hallmark of a disciple is described in the words of the Master: 'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.' (John 13:35.) ...
"With the abundance of testimony, both ancient and modern, sealed by the witness of the Holy Spirit of God, we stand firm and unequivocating in our knowledge that Jesus of Nazareth is the resurrected Savior. His arms are stretched forth to all men... who, by accepting Him in His appointed way, may become not just believers but true disciples and with Paul hope to 'obtain a better resurrection.' (Heb. 11:35.)
"To all we say, 'May Christ lift thee up, and may... the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.' (Moro. 9:25.)"
- James E. Faust, "The Resurrection," Ensign, May 1985, pp. 30-32
Click here to read the full talk

This beautiful invitation and testimony from a life-long disciple of the Savior encapsulates the spirit of the Easter season, as well as the spirit that we should feel every day of the year. Much is embodied in that question, "How do we accept Jesus of Nazareth?" We much accept him with joy, with delight, with worship. But especially with our whole hearts, and our whole lives.

I loved the testimony of President Faust. The importance of the Savior in our belief system, and in our lives, is so critical to all that matters most!

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

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Elder L. Tom Perry on choosing activities of value in life

Elder L. Tom Perry (1922-2015) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1972, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1974. At the time of his passing at age 92, he was the oldest living general authority and the third in seniority among the leading quorum.
"We are in the midst of an information revolution, the so-called information age, with all of its new challenges and opportunities. Now we are being flooded with information. For many, television is robbing them of valuable family time. The Internet is a new source of information that offers tremendous opportunities as well as another potential—becoming addicted. Unfortunately, with the blessings of the new information age also come challenges, as evil influences have a new medium of transmission and new ways of infiltrating our minds. Worldly influences enter our homes in new shapes and forms to challenge our resolve to use our time wisely and for the Lord's purposes.
"Perhaps we could take a page out of the law of ancient Israel and call 'time-out.' Let us make a list of those basic activities that add value to eternal man and woman and determine... that we will discontinue those activities that are of little value and worth that might even jeopardize our eternal welfare. Let us place higher priority on family prayer, family scripture study, and family home evenings and eliminate those activities that fill our lives with worldliness and evil."
- L. Tom Perry, "A Year of Jubilee," General Conference October 1999
Click here to read the full article

Welcome to "The Information Age" — did you know you were part of a world-wide revolution? Elder Perry recognizes the many blessings these new technologies and the accessibility of information can bring, but also warns of the challenges.

Elder Perry's suggestion to take time to consider our activities is a very wise one. Which of the things we devote our time to are those that "add value to eternal man and woman" and which "are of little value and worth that might even jeopardize our eternal welfare." It's clear that there are some activities that we MUST NOT allow to be pushed aside by those of lesser value! This kind of self-evaluation would be a wise exercise for each individual and family to undertake periodically.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
April 7, 2015

Friday, July 16, 2021

President Harold B. Lee on holding on to testimony

President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1941. He served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1970-1972, then as Church president from July 1972 until his passing less than 18 months later in December 1973.
"Testimony is as elusive as a moonbeam; it's as fragile as an orchid; you have to recapture it every morning of your life. You have to hold on by study, and by faith, and by prayer. If you allow yourself to be angry, if you allow yourself to get into the wrong kind of company, you listen to the wrong kind of stories, you are studying the wrong kind of subjects, you are engaging in sinful practices, there is nothing that will be more deadening as to take away the Spirit of the Lord from you until it will be as though you had walked from a lighted room when you go out of this building, as though you had gone out into a darkness."
- Harold B. Lee, address to LDS Student Association and Young Adults, 4 November 1972; see The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p. 139

This is another truly classic excerpt from the teachings of President Lee. The imagery he chooses to describe how fragile testimonies are is memorable and compelling:

It takes all three activities to "hold on" to testimony: study, faith, and prayer. If we neglect either of those things, our testimony will struggle. The word "recapture" is very descriptive; the testimony will flee and fade if we don't take the action to recapture and retain it—"every morning of your life."

Then President Lee warns of "deadening" activities that will actively diminish the light of testimony:
  • If you allow yourself to be angry
  • If you allow yourself to get into the wrong kind of company
  • You listen to the wrong kind of stories
  • You are studying the wrong kind of subjects
  • You are engaging in sinful practices
We might consider things in our own day, almost 50 years after President Lee spoke, that would fall into the same category.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
March 29, 2015

Thursday, July 15, 2021

President Spencer W. Kimball on women becoming "sister scriptorians"

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985. The following excerpt is from a marvelous address given to a women's fireside held September 15, 1979—a precursor to the General Women's Meeting held today.
"I stress again the deep need each woman has to study the scriptures. We want our homes to be blessed with sister scriptorians—whether you are single or married, young or old, widowed or living in a family.
"Regardless of your particular circumstances, as you become more and more familiar with the truths of the scriptures, you will be more and more effective in keeping the second great commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself. Become scholars of the scriptures—not to put others down, but to lift them up! After all, who has any greater need to 'treasure up' the truths of the gospel (on which they may call in their moments of need) than do women and mothers who do so much nurturing and teaching?
"Seek excellence in all your righteous endeavors, and in all aspects of your lives.
"Bear in mind, dear sisters, that the eternal blessings which are yours through membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are far, far greater than any other blessings you could possibly receive. No greater recognition can come to you in this world than to be known as a woman of God. No greater status can be conferred upon you than being a daughter of God who experiences true sisterhood, wifehood, and motherhood, or other tasks which influence lives for good."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "The Role of Righteous Women," Ensign, Nov 1979, 102
Click here to read the rest of the address

This classic address by President Kimball teaches much about the Gospel's view of the potential of women in the Lord's kingdom. His challenge about "sister scriptorians" has been often quoted:

It's an interesting promise to ponder, that one who is more familiar with the scriptures is better able to love her neighbor. And this reminder is a good one, to keep the motivation in the proper place:

And finally, this reminder should ring true in the hearts of the "women of God":

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
March 28, 2015

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on the daughters of Zion

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) served as a Seventy from 1976-1981, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until his death from cancer in 2004.
"The daughters of the world may grow more shrill, more hard, more selfish, and less motherly—but the faithful daughters of Zion will be ladies of light; they will be elect because they have elected to follow in the footsteps of the faithful women of God who have existed in all dispensations of time. That we know less than we would like of these marvelous women of God should fill us with anticipation for the day when there will be a fulness of their record before us, a part of all that God will yet reveal.
"Service less reported is service still. Contributions are never really measured in column inches of coverage in newspapers or even in the scriptures. Indeed, their deferred recognition only mirrors faintly the quiet queenliness of One we shall meet and greet when we leave 'this frail existence.'"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward", pp. 80-81

Elder Maxwell often contrasted the world's approach or philosophy with the Gospel version. In this case, he looks at the "daughters of the world" compared to the "daughters of Zion." The divergence he predicts (as have other Church leaders) is often apparent today. This is a wonderful vision for the faithful daughters:

Even though the contributions of the "marvelous women of God" are often less visible and less noted, they are profoundly significant in the eternal sense, where "deferred recognition" will truly make them known. This principle applies not just to women, but to all who serve quietly and faithfully in less prominent ways.

We should be grateful that the worldly records of contributions and worldly recognition for them are relatively insignificant in eternity!
(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
March 27, 2015

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Elder Richard L. Evans on the role of our loving Father

Elder Richard L. Evans (1906-1971) served as a Seventy from 1938-1953, when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.  He died in 1971 at age 65.  He was known as "the voice of the Tabernacle Choir" from the beginning of its broadcasts in 1929 until his passing.
"Our Father in heaven is not an umpire who is trying to count us out. He is not a competitor who is trying to outsmart us. He is not a prosecutor who is trying to convict us. He is a Loving Father who wants our happiness and eternal progress and everlasting opportunity and glorious accomplishment, and who will help us all he can if we will but give him, in our lives, the opportunity to do so with obedience and humility and faith and patience.
"God help us to live to have his help, that these things which he has in store for his children, all of whom we are, may be ours."
- Richard L. Evans, General Conference, October 1956; CR pp. 99-101

This is a classic testimony from Elder Evans, given near the conclusion of one of his talks. I love the analogies he provides, first about what Heavenly Father is NOT — a judge, adversary, competitor. We might sometimes view him in that kind of role. But the real power of the quote comes in the description of what our Father truly IS — "He is a Loving Father who wants our happiness and eternal progress and everlasting opportunity and glorious accomplishment." What a beautiful contrast to the worldly view of God!

And then the sweet conditional: God "will help us all he can if we will but give him, in our lives, the opportunity to do so with obedience and humility and faith and patience." In other words, WE have to set the stage through our actions and attitudes; then God, as an eternal, perfectly-loving Father, will step in to bless, sustain, and protect.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
March 23, 2015

Monday, July 12, 2021

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on covenants and Christians

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (1945- ) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"We need strong Christians who can persevere against hardship, who can sustain hope through tragedy, who can lift others by their example and their compassion, and who can consistently overcome temptations. We need strong Christians who can make important things happen by their faith and who can defend the truth of Jesus Christ against moral relativism and militant atheism. 
"What is the source of such moral and spiritual power, and how do we obtain it? The source is God. Our access to that power is through our covenants with Him. A covenant is an agreement between God and man, an accord whose terms are set by God (see Bible Dictionary, 'Covenant,' 651). In these divine agreements, God binds Himself to sustain, sanctify, and exalt us in return for our commitment to serve Him and keep His commandments.... 
"Divine covenants make strong Christians. I urge each one to qualify for and receive all the priesthood ordinances you can and then faithfully keep the promises you have made by covenant. In times of distress, let your covenants be paramount and let your obedience be exact. Then you can ask in faith, nothing wavering, according to your need, and God will answer. He will sustain you as you work and watch. In His own time and way He will stretch forth his hand to you, saying, 'Here am I.'" 
- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Power of Covenants," General Conference April 2009
Click here to read the full talk

It's one thing to be a Christian, and another to be a "strong Christian." According to Elder Christofferson, characteristics of the latter include:
  • Persevere against hardship
  • Sustain hope through tragedy
  • Lift others by their example and their compassion
  • Consistently overcome temptation
  • Make important things happen by their faith
  • Defend the truth of Jesus Christ against moral relativism and militant atheism
That's a great list to ponder in self-introspection. How am I doing? What areas should I work on strengthening?

But the real power in growth comes through making and keeping sacred covenants. "Divine covenants make strong Christians" as God "binds Himself to sustain, sanctify, and exalt us in return for our commitment to serve Him and keep His commandments." And as always, the promises are sure:

That awareness of God's presence, of His willingness to help and His current involvement in one's life, is truly a treasure to seek and retain.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
March 21, 2015

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Elder Neil L. Andersen on the encircling arms of the Lord

Elder Neil L. Andersen (1951- ) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009 (the most recent member called).
"I have thought of the Lord's invitation to come unto Him and to spiritually be wrapped in His arms. He said, 'Behold, [my arms] of mercy [are] extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me' (3 Nephi 9:14).
"The scriptures speak of His arms being open (Mormon 6:17), extended (Alma 19:36), stretched out (2 Kings 17:36; Psalm 136:12), and encircling (2 Nephi 1:15). They are described as mighty (D&C 123:6) and holy (3 Nephi 20:35), arms of mercy (Alma 5:33), arms of safety (Alma 34:16), arms of love (D&C 6:20), 'lengthened out all the day long' (2 Nephi 28:32).
"We have each felt to some extent these spiritual arms around us. We have felt His forgiveness, His love and comfort. The Lord has said, 'I am he [who] comforteth you' (2 Nephi 8:12).
"The Lord's desire that we come unto Him and be wrapped in His arms is often an invitation to repent. 'Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you' (Alma 5:33)."
- Neil L. Andersen, "Repent... That I May Heal You," General Conference October 2009
Click here to read the full talk
"Arms" are often used in scriptural imagery, frequently to denote power or strength, such as making the arm bare in order to fight or defend (see for example Isaiah 52:10). Another important aspect is the warning not to trust in our own abilities, in the arm of flesh (2 Ne 4:34) — instead, learning to trust in God to defend us.

Elder Andersen provides a wonderful summary of the scriptural descriptions of God's love for His children, as manifest in the examples of how His arms express the more tender emotions. How beautiful is the imagery of open, inviting arms, waiting to envelope in a protective embrace!

Elder Andersen believes that each of us has felt aspects of that divine spiritual love and comfort. It's good to remember those feelings! And to seek to experience them more constantly in our lives, through repentance, obedience, and faithfulness.

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