Sunday, October 31, 2021

President Russell M. Nelson on the need to follow Jesus Christ

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.
"The General Authorities and General Officers of the Church who speak will focus their messages on our Savior, Jesus Christ, His mercy, and His infinite redeeming power. There has never been a time in the history of the world when knowledge of our Savior is more personally vital and relevant to every human soul. Imagine how quickly the devastating conflicts throughout the world—and those in our individual lives—would be resolved if we all chose to follow Jesus Christ and heed His teachings.

"In that spirit, I invite you to listen for three things during this conference: pure truth, the pure doctrine of Christ, and pure revelation....

"Please make this conference a time of feasting on messages from the Lord through His servants. Learn how to apply them in your life."

- Russell M. Nelson, "Pure Truth, Pure Doctrine, and Pure Revelation," General Conference, October 2021, Saturday morning
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This was a powerful opening message for the recent conference. President Nelson acknowledged some of the challenges of our day, but focused on the opportunity to be fed and inspired through the messages to be offered in the conference sessions. In times of great need, the "knowledge of our Savior" is the most vital and critical message needed by God's children:

President Nelson's invitation set the tone for the conference, and is a great focus for our lives: seek for pure truth, the pure doctrine of Christ, and pure revelation.

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

Saturday, October 30, 2021

President Harold B. Lee on success in life through service

President 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.
"That man who is ambitious for personal gain and personal advantage is never a happy man, for before him always are the receding horizons of life that will ever mock his attempts at acquisition and conquest. That man who serves unselfishly is the man who is the happy man. 
"In the military service there were awarded ofttimes for outstanding accomplishment, national decorations and certificates of merit, and always with the citation were these suggestive words: 'For meritorious service beyond the call of duty.' 
"Therein lies the way by which we, too, can reach the highest goals and win the merited plaudits of our Heavenly Father. That which we do beyond the call of duty, beyond that for which we are compensated by material wealth is that which gives us the greatest joy in life." 
- Harold B. Lee, "On Earning Salvation," Conference Report, Apr. 1947, pp. 45-51
President Lee's thought illustrates the great dichotomy between the world's approach to life, and the Christian disciple's approach. It can be summarized as "man's search for happiness." In the worldly view, it's all about "personal gain and personal advantage." But the Gospel view is all about unselfish service.

The Savior's injunction, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11) may seem contradictory to some; but it's the essence of the Savior's message, and the true key to happiness.

A true Christian is one who is consistently giving "meritorious service beyond the call of duty." What a wonderful standard to aspire to.

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

Friday, October 29, 2021

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on dealing with adversity

Elder Joseph B. 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.  This excerpt is from one of his most memorable talks.
"Every life has peaks and shadows and times when it seems that the birds don't sing and bells don't ring. Yet in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result.
"There may be some who think that General Authorities rarely experience pain, suffering, or distress. If only that were true. While every man and woman on this stand today has experienced an abundant measure of joy, each also has drunk deeply from the cup of disappointment, sorrow, and loss. The Lord in His wisdom does not shield anyone from grief or sadness.
"For me, the Lord has opened the windows of heaven and showered blessings upon my family beyond my ability to express. Yet like everyone else, I have had times in my life when it seemed that the heaviness of my heart might be greater than I could bear. During those times I think back to those tender days of my youth when great sorrows came at the losing end of a football game.
"How little I knew then of what awaited me in later years. But whenever my steps led through seasons of sadness and sorrow, my mother's words often came back to me: 'Come what may, and love it.'
"How can we love days that are filled with sorrow? We can't—at least not in the moment. I don't think my mother was suggesting that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain. I don't think she was suggesting that we smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness. But I do believe that the way we react to adversity can be a major factor in how happy and successful we can be in life.
"If we approach adversities wisely, our hardest times can be times of greatest growth, which in turn can lead toward times of greatest happiness."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Come What May, and Love It," Ensign, Nov. 2008, pp. 26-28
Click here to read the full talk

I always appreciate wise, personal counsel more than abstract encouragement. Elder Wirthlin speaks from the heart of his own times when "the heaviness of my heart might be greater than I could bear." Like so many others, he passed through times of challenge in his life; and so did the other Church leaders whom we often think are immune to the normal problems of life.

And then he addresses how we confront those "shadows" amid the journeys of our lives, the times when "the birds don't sing and bells don't ring." Having had my share of those as well, I'm grateful for this reminder about approaching adversity wisely, and "learning from difficult times" in order to become "stronger, wiser, and happier."

The talk is a modern classic; the phrase "come what may, and love it" is such a memorable one. We will be happiest when we learn to appreciate any situation and make the best of it.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
June 11, 2015

Thursday, October 28, 2021

President James E. Faust on making choices in life

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 from 1995 until his death in 2007 at age 87.
"In this life we have to make many choices. Some are very important choices. Some are not. Many of our choices are between good and evil. The choices we make, however, determine to a large extent our happiness or our unhappiness, because we have to live with the consequences of our choices. Making perfect choices all of the time is not possible. It just doesn't happen. But it is possible to make good choices we can live with and grow from. When God's children live worthy of divine guidance they can become 'free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon' (2 Ne. 2:26)....
"Some of our important choices have a time line. If we delay a decision, the opportunity is gone forever. Sometimes our doubts keep us from making a choice that involves change. Thus an opportunity may be missed. As someone once said, 'When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that in itself is a choice' (William James)....
"How do we make correct choices? A choice involves making a conscious decision. To make an intelligent decision we need to evaluate all available facts on both sides of an issue. But that isn't enough. Making correct decisions involves prayer and inspiration....
"As we look into the future, we are going to need to be stronger and more responsible for our choices in a world where people 'call evil good, and good evil' (2 Ne. 15:20). We do not choose wisely if we use our agency in opposition to God's will or to priesthood counsel. Tomorrow's blessings and opportunities depend on the choices we make today."
- James E. Faust, "Choices," General Conference April 2004
Click here to read the full talk

It's a good reminder to note that not one of us always makes only perfect choices. We do the best we can; and we always do better when we're worthy of "divine guidance" in those choices.

I liked this thought, of the importance of timely choices:

So then, learning to make correct choices, and make them in a prompt and timely way, is the challenge. "To make an intelligent decision we need to evaluate all available facts on both sides of an issue." That's hard to do; it's rare that we have the discipline to investigate so thoroughly. We are prone to rush to a decision. President Faust encourages more careful and deliberate consideration, followed by "prayer and inspiration."

King Benjamin taught that when we obey God, "he doth immediately bless you" (Mosi 2:24). Our blessings depend on our choices!

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Elder Marvin J. Ashton on serving one another

Elder Marvin J. Ashton (1915-1994) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1971 until his death in 1994 at age 78.
"Be one who nurtures and who builds. Be one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them.... Lend a hand to those who are frightened, lonely, or burdened.
"If we could look into each other's hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care....
"When we truly become converted to Jesus Christ, committed to Him, an interesting thing happens: our attention turns to the welfare of our fellowman, and the way we treat others becomes increasingly filled with patience, kindness, a gentle acceptance, and a desire to play a positive role in their lives. This is the beginning of true conversion.
"Let us open our arms to each other, accept each other for who we are, assume everyone is doing the best he or she can, and look for ways to help leave quiet messages of love and encouragement instead of being destructive with bashing."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword", Ensign, May 1992, p. 18-20
Click here to read the full talk

In this excerpt, Elder Ashton describes the kind of person we all wish we could be... we all should be. The image below shows an incident when Joseph Smith found two children stuck in a muddy street, and not only helped them get clear of the bog, but consoled them and wiped away tears.

I love this insight: "If we could look into each other's hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care." I have come to believe that; everyone carries burdens at times that are often hidden from others, and can influence behavior and relationships in so many ways. True disciples learn to care for one another, to "open our arms to each other" and express true love and understanding. What a wonderful goal to aspire to, as we work diligently to become more Christlike.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021)
August 27, 2015

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

President Ezra Taft Benson on the timing of rewards and consequences

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.
"Daily, constantly, we choose by our desires, our thoughts, and our actions whether we want to be blessed or cursed, happy or miserable. One of the trials of life is that we do not usually receive immediately the full blessing for righteousness or the full cursing for wickedness. That it will come is certain, but ofttimes there is a waiting period that occurs, as was the case with Job and Joseph. 
"In the meantime the wicked think they are getting away with something. The Book of Mormon teaches that the wicked 'have joy in their works for a season, [but] by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return' (3 Ne. 27:11). 
"During this testing time the righteous must continue to love God, trust in His promises, be patient, and be assured... 
"I testify to you that God's pay is the best pay that this world or any other world knows anything about. And it comes in full abundance only to those who love the Lord and put Him first. 
"The great test of life is obedience to God. 
"The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it. 
"The great commandment of life is, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength' (Mark 12:30). 
"May God bless us to put the first commandment first and, as a result, reap peace in this life and eternal life with a fulness of joy in the life to come." 
- Ezra Taft Benson, "The Great Commandment — Love the Lord," General Conference April 1988
Click here to read or watch the full talk

In my experience, both personally and in counseling with others, it's so easy and so common to blame our troubles or challenges on other people, on fate, on circumstances.  And occasionally, that is valid; but so often, our state in life is a result of our own choices and actions. President Benson makes this point very forcefully, also reminding us that though God is deeply aware of us, he often postpones the consequences so that we can learn and grow in faith.

Knowing that the "waiting period" is there for a purpose, but is truly temporary, can make all the difference in how we endure. And doesn't this final statement from President Benson encapsulate so much in a few beautiful words?

The great test, great task, and great commandment of our mortal life are all closely related: will we follow God, with willing hearts, with all our hearts? That is the way to find peace in life, and eternal life in the worlds to come.

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

Monday, October 25, 2021

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on the sacrifices we offer on God's altar

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.
"Jesus' perfect character is thus not only holy, but wholly complete and finished. Without Jesus' supernal character, He could not have accomplished the astonishing atonement! And He has asked us to become much more like Him (see Matt. 5:48; 3 Ne. 12:48; 3 Ne. 27:27). Though heavy, discipleship's burden can be made light (see Matt. 11:30). The Lord can 'ease the burdens,' and/or our shoulders can be made strong enough that we 'may be able to bear it' (Mosiah 24:14; 1 Cor. 10:13).
"So it is that real, personal sacrifice never was placing an animal on the altar. Instead, it is a willingness to put the animal in us upon the altar and letting it be consumed! Such is the 'sacrifice unto the Lord … of a broken heart and a contrite spirit,' (D&C 59:8), a prerequisite to taking up the cross, while giving 'away all [our] sins' in order to 'know God' (Alma 22:18) for the denial of self precedes the full acceptance of Him."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness," General Conference April 1995
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Maxwell's unique writing and speaking style was so inspiring to me. His use of language not only conveyed wonderful doctrine, but always did it in a way that invited more pondering. His use of the homonyms "holy" and "wholly" in the opening sentence is a good example. Jesus' charter was both holy, and wholly complete. It reminds us of our incomplete attempts to become holy; we tend to be occasionally holy. We have much work yet to do as we strive to be like Him. But surely, He will bless us in that quest.

The main point of this excerpt is the blessings that come as we accept the gift of the Atonement and strive, as faithful and dedicated disciples, to truly follow the Lord. This summary is classic Elder Maxwell:

And the final statement is the challenge to each of us: we can't fully accept Him until we deny our selfish desires and personal weaknesses. What an invitation for deep introspection and greater resolve!

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

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Elder Hugh B. Brown on true gratitude

Elder Hugh B. Brown (October 24, 1883–December 2, 1975) was called as an Assistant to the Twelve in 1953, then as an apostle in 1958.  He served as a counselor to President David O. McKay from 1961 until President McKay's death in 1970, then for five more years as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until he passed away.
"How rich and radiant is the soul of a man who has a thankful heart. His gratitude increases with his unfolding awareness of himself, the universe and his Creator. Appreciation, like love, enriches both giver and receiver, and, when spontaneously expressed in word or deed, reveals a depth and delicacy of fine-grain character. True gratitude is motivated by a recognition of favors received. Its counterfeit is fawning anticipation of favors to come.
"Serious consideration of the mystery of life, its vastness and incalculability, gives depth to appreciation for blessings gratuitously bestowed. They who have eyes to see, ears to hear, understanding hearts, will see the bounteous love of God everywhere manifest and will be inclined to reverently remove their shoes and exclaim:
"For the rock and for the river,
The valley's fertile sod,
For the strength of the hills we bless thee,
Our God, our fathers' God.

['For the Strength of the Hills,' Hymns:35]"

- Hugh B. Brown, "Gratitude Is a Spiritual Attribute," Instructor, Nov. 1957, p. 332

I love this description of what it means to have a thankful heart, and the impact that gratitude has both on the man himself and all who he interacts with.

The difference between "true gratitude" and a counterfeit is motivation for the emotion: either a true appreciation for favors received, or the expectation of favors to be granted. True gratitude radiates from our heart, from within our soul, in a perfectly unselfish way.

It's the "serious consideration of the mystery of life," according to Elder Brown, that leads to a greater appreciation of blessings. When we slow down to observe and ponder our lives, we begin to notice and acknowledge the "bounteous love of God everywhere manifest." What a good reminder for us all!

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

Saturday, October 23, 2021

President Gordon B. Hinckley on a love affair with the scriptures

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) was born on June 23, 1910 — 105 years ago today.  He 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.
"I love our scriptures. I love these wonderful volumes, which set forth the word of the Lord—given personally or through prophets—for the guidance of our Father's sons and daughters. I love to read the scriptures, and I try to do so consistently and repeatedly. I like to quote from them, for they give the voice of authority to that which I say. I do not claim distinction as a scholar of the scriptures. For me, the reading of the scriptures is not the pursuit of scholarship. Rather, it is a love affair with the word of the Lord and that of his prophets. They contain so much for each of us....
"I urge our people everywhere to read the scriptures more—to study all of them together with the help of these tremendous aids for a harmony of understanding in order to bring their precepts into our lives.
"May the Lord bless each of us to feast upon his holy word and to draw from it that strength, that peace, that knowledge 'which passeth all understanding' (Philip. 4:7), as he has promised."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Feasting upon the Scriptures," talk given during the “Using the Scriptures” Churchwide satellite fireside, March 10, 1985; see Ensign, Dec. 1985, pp. 42-45
Click here to read the full talk

In 1985, the Church held a special worldwide broadcast to share encouragement about scripture study. New editions of the Bible and the Triple Combination had been released in the years leading up to this, and the broadcast was an opportunity to encourage church members to understand and take advantage of those new resources. President Hinckley was a counselor in the First Presidency, and spoke along with other leaders. I appreciated these comments:
  • "I love to read the scriptures, and I try to do so consistently and repeatedly." He shares his own commitment to the principle of scripture study.
  • "I like to quote from them, for they give the voice of authority to that which I say." Scriptural authority adds power to any teaching setting.
He then shared this important perspective; he never claimed to be a "scholar" of the scriptures, but still found great blessing and power in his personal study:

In the years that have followed, many others have given similar urgings to "read the scriptures more... in order to bring their precepts into our lives." That invitation and challenge is just as valid today as it was 36 years ago!

Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2021
June 23, 2015

Friday, October 22, 2021

Thomas S. Monson on living life each day

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.
"How fragile life, how certain death. We do not know when we will be required to leave this mortal existence. And so I ask, 'What are we doing with today?' If we live only for tomorrow, we'll have a lot of empty yesterdays today. Have we been guilty of declaring, 'I've been thinking about making some course corrections in my life. I plan to take the first step — tomorrow'? With such thinking, tomorrow is forever. Such tomorrows rarely come unless we do something about them today....
"Because life is fragile and death inevitable, we must make the most of each day....
"My brothers and sisters, may we resolve from this day forward to fill our hearts with love. May we go the extra mile to include in our lives any who are lonely or downhearted or who are suffering in any way. May we '[cheer] up the sad and [make] someone feel glad' (Hymns, no. 223). May we live so that when that final summons is heard, we may have no serious regrets, no unfinished business, but will be able to say with the Apostle Paul, 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith' (2 Tim. 4:7)."
- Thomas S. Monson, "Now Is the Time," Ensign, Nov. 2001, pp. 59-61
Click here to read the full talk

Most of us, if not all, have dealt with the uncertainty of this life, and can appreciate President Monson's warning, "We do not know when we will be required to leave this mortal existence." We have seen loved ones or acquaintances "called home" suddenly or unexpectedly, in what seems to us to be untimely and too early. Given the stark reality of that uncertainty, President Monson reminds us that we should never procrastinate needed changes or our commitments to make the most of each day we are allotted.

This is very practical advice of some of the things we should be considering about how to live life, now, today:

There is much we can do, to share and enrich the lives of others, to support and help those in need. That will add to the richness of our own lives, and prepare us to answer "the final summons" when our time is completed.

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

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Elder Ulisses Soares on serving with compassion

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.
"My dear friends, as we intentionally strive to incorporate a compassionate attitude into our way of life, as exemplified by the Savior, we will become more sensitive to people’s needs. With that increased sensitivity, feelings of genuine interest and love will permeate our every action. The Lord will recognize our efforts, and we will surely be blessed with opportunities to be instruments in His hands in softening hearts and in bringing relief to those whose 'hands … hang down' (D&C 81:5).

"Jesus’s admonition to Simon the Pharisee also made it clear that we should never make harsh and cruel judgment of our neighbor, because we are all in need of understanding and mercy for our imperfections from our loving Heavenly Father. Wasn’t this exactly what the Savior taught on another occasion when He said, 'And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?' (Matt 7:3.)

"We need to consider that it is not easy to understand all the circumstances that contribute to someone’s attitude or reaction. Appearances can be deceptive and oftentimes do not represent an accurate measurement of someone’s behavior. Unlike you and me, Christ is capable of clearly seeing all facets of a given situation. Even knowing all our weaknesses as He does, the Savior does not rashly condemn us but continues to work with us compassionately over time, helping us to remove the beam from our eye. Jesus always looks on the heart and not on the appearance. He Himself declared, 'Judge not according to the appearance' (John 7:24)."

- Ulisses Soares, "The Savior’s Abiding Compassion," General Conference October 2021, Saturday morning
Click here to read or watch the full talk

Elder Soares addressed a principle that is one of the most significant and important aspects of Christian discipleship—compassion and service. As we grow in our desire to help others, we'll be more sensitive to their needs, and our actions will reflect what is in our hearts.

I was grateful for this reminder—opportunities to serve will come to those who are prepared and seeking them.

As we seek for those in need of help and love, we must never judge unrighteously. People can be in need for many reasons, often not their own fault; only the Savior can truly evaluate what is in the heart and spirit. Our responsibility is to give, unselfishly and lovingly, whenever we see a need.

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Elder Gerrit W. Gong on forgiveness and the Holy Ghost

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.
"Trust God and His miracles. We and our relationships can change. Through the Atonement of Christ the Lord, we can put off our selfish natural self and become a child of God, meek, humble, full of faith and appropriate trust. When we repent, when we confess and forsake our sins, the Lord says He remembers them no more. (See D&C 58:42-43.) It is not that He forgets; rather, in a remarkable way, it seems He chooses not to remember them, nor need we.

"Trust God’s inspiration to discern wisely. We can forgive others in the right time and way, as the Lord says we must, while being 'wise as serpents, and harmless as doves' (Matt 10:16).

"Sometimes when our hearts are most broken and contrite, we are most open to the comfort and guidance of the Holy Ghost. Condemnation and forgiveness both begin by recognizing a wrong. Often condemnation focuses on the past. Forgiveness looks liberatingly to the future. 'For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved' (John 3:17).

"The Apostle Paul asks, 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?' He answers, 'Neither death, nor life, … nor height, nor depth … shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Rom 8:35, 38-39.) Yet, there is someone who can separate us from God and Jesus Christ—and that someone is us, ourselves. As Isaiah says, 'Your sins have hid his face from you' (Isa 59:2)."

- Gerrit W. Gong, "Trust Again," General Conference October 2021, Sunday afternoon
Click here to read or watch the full talk

Knowing when and how to forgive is not always easy. Elder Gong encouraged us to open our hearts and mind to the Spirit; the Holy Ghost can often speak to us and touch us more powerfully when we are in the greatest need. But we must remember the blessing that forgiveness can bring:

We only hold on to the past when we are caught in condemnation of another. Power comes as we look to the future with forgiveness. I've seen people struggle under the burden of inability to forgive; it can be soul-destroying. Liberation comes as we trust in God to be the ultimate judge.

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Elder Dale G. Renlund on overcoming contention with the love of Christ

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.
"After the Savior’s visit to the Americas, the people were unified; 'there was no contention in all the land' (4 Ne 1:18).  Do you think that the people were unified because they were all the same, or because they had no differences of opinion? I doubt it. Instead, contention and enmity disappeared because they placed their discipleship of the Savior above all else. Their differences paled in comparison to their shared love of the Savior, and they were united as 'heirs to the kingdom of God' (4 Ne 1:17). The result was that 'there could not be a happier people … who had been created by the hand of God' (4 Ne 1:16).

"Unity requires effort. It develops when we cultivate the love of God in our hearts and we focus on our eternal destiny. We are united by our common, primary identity as children of God and our commitment to the truths of the restored gospel. In turn, our love of God and our discipleship of Jesus Christ generate genuine concern for others. We value the kaleidoscope of others’ characteristics, perspectives, and talents. If we are unable to place our discipleship to Jesus Christ above personal interests and viewpoints, we should reexamine our priorities and change.

"We might be inclined to say,'Of course we can have unity—if only you would agree with me!' A better approach is to ask, 'What can I do to foster unity? How can I respond to help this person draw closer to Christ? What can I do to lessen contention and to build a compassionate and caring Church community?'

"When love of Christ envelops our lives, we approach disagreements with meekness, patience, and kindness. We worry less about our own sensitivities and more about our neighbor’s. We 'seek to moderate and unify.' We do not engage in 'doubtful disputations,' judge those with whom we disagree, or try to cause them to stumble. Instead, we assume that those with whom we disagree are doing the best they can with the life experiences they have."

- Dale G. Renlund, "The Peace of Christ Abolishes Enmity," General Conference October 2021, Sunday morning
Click here to read or watch the full talk

Sadly, we live in a very contentious time. We see anger and bitterness, strong language and violence, all resulting from differences of race, politics, nationalities, sexuality, or any of a large number of beliefs and life approaches. The spirit of contention drives away the spirit of the Lord. We need to learn to control that emotion, to overcome it, to replace it with something better.

That somthing is the love of Christ. Elder Renlund taught that when we focus more diligently on the Savior, the blessings of understanding and unity will follow.

This is a great prophetic call to examine our priorities and ensure we are focused on the things that matter most.

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

Monday, October 18, 2021

Elder Gary E. Stevenson on keeping the Gospel simple

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.
"It has been said that the gospel of Jesus Christ is 'simply beautiful and beautifully simple' (Elder Matthew Cowley). The world is not. It is complicated, complex, and filled with turmoil and strife. We are blessed as we exercise care not to allow complexity, so common in the world, to enter into the way we receive and practice the gospel.

"President Dallin H. Oaks observed: 'We are taught many small and simple things in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be reminded that in total and over a significant period of time, those seemingly small things bring to pass great things.' (General Conference April 2018.) Jesus Christ Himself describes that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt 11:30). We should all strive to keep the gospel simple—in our lives, in our families, in our classes and quorums, and in our wards and stakes."

- Gary E. Stevenson, "Simply Beautiful—Beautifully Simple," General Conference October 2021, Saturday afternoon
Click here to read or watch the full talk

Elder Stevenson's remarks focused on two overarching principles: we all have "divinely appointed responsibilities" in being a part of Heavenly Father's work of salvation and exaltation; and in achieving or fulfilling those responsibilities, we must remember to keep the Gospel, and our lives, simple and focused on the things that matter most.

They key is discovering HOW to keep things simple! I think it follows when we prioritize carefully, choosing the things that matter most, and remembering not to complicate and elaborate on the fundamental principles. Elder Stevenson gave some wonderful examples in his message on how members have been able to do that.

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

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Elder Ronald A. Rasband on identifying the things of our soul

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.
"My thoughts today are centered on the words of the prophet Nephi, who kept the record of his people following Father Lehi’s death. Nephi wrote, 'And upon these I write the things of my soul.' (2 Ne 4:15) ...

"Nephi’s words raise the questions 'What things do you ponder?' 'What things really matter to you?' 'What are the things of your soul?' ...

"May I share with you some of the things of my soul? These things apply to all who seek to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. Ten would be a good, round number. Today I am giving you seven with the hope that you will complete eight, nine, and ten from your own experiences.

"First, love God the Father and Jesus Christ, our Savior....
"Second, 'Love thy neighbour.' (Matt 22:39.) ...
"Third, love yourself....
"Fourth, keep the commandments....
"Fifth, always be worthy to attend the temple....
"Sixth, be joyful and cheerful....
"Seventh, follow God’s living prophet."

- Ronald A. Rasband, "The Things of My Soul," General Conference October 2021, Saturday afternoon
Click here to read or watch the full talk

There are many phrases in the scriptures that we have heard frequently and pass over casually. Elder Rasband noticed one of them: Nephi's use of "the things of my soul." It's a beautiful phrase, referring to words, experiences, thoughts, or beliefs that are special and sacred to us. We can learn a lot about ourselves if we consider what kinds of things would fit into our personal list!

Elder Rasband suggested seven things that would be on his own list, and encouraged us to add more. That would be a wonderful exercise.

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

Friday, October 15, 2021

Elder Neil L. Andersen on following counsel willingly

Elder Neil L. Andersen (1951- ) served as a Seventy beginning in 1993, and was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2009.
"The doctrine of Christ is unchanging and everlasting. Yet specific and important steps of the Savior’s work are revealed at their appropriate time. This morning President Nelson said, 'The Restoration is a process, not an event.' And the Lord has said, 'All things must come to pass in their time.' (D&C 64:32.) Now is our time, and we are reestablishing the revealed name of the Church.

"The identity and destiny of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints require that we be called by His name....

"'The name of the Church is not negotiable.' Let us go forward in faith. When we willingly follow the counsel of the Lord as revealed through His living prophet, especially if it runs counter to our initial thinking, requiring humility and sacrifice, the Lord blesses us with additional spiritual power and sends His angels to support us and stand by us. (See D&C 84:88.) We receive the Lord’s affirmation and His approval."

- Neil L. Andersen, "The Name of the Church Is Not Negotiable," General Conference October 2021, Sunday afternoon
Click here to read or watch the full talk

Elder Andersen used his talk to re-emphasize counsel given by President Nelson three years ago, about the use of the proper name of the Church. That is sometimes challenging, especially in conversation, since the name is long; but there is doctrinal importance in the name that we must not forget, and that will bless us as we use it properly. After giving several examples of the blessings of doing that, Elder Andersen summarized the principle of following counsels in this way:

The key is to learn to willingly follow the counsel of prophets. When that is hard to do, we are even more blessed by our actions because God will recognize and acknowledge the sacrifice of our efforts.

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

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on our love for the Father and Son

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (1945- ) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"Our Heavenly Father loves us profoundly and perfectly. In His love, He created a plan, a plan of redemption and happiness to open to us all the opportunities and joys we are willing to receive, up to and including all that He has and is. To achieve this, He was even willing to offer His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as our Redeemer. 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' (John 3:16.) His is a Father’s pure love—universal to all yet personal to each.

"Jesus Christ shares with the Father this same perfect love. When the Father first elaborated His great plan of happiness, He called for one to act as a Savior to redeem us—an essential part of that plan. Jesus volunteered, 'Here am I, send me.' (Abr 3:27.) ...

"The love of the Father and the Son is freely given but also includes hopes and expectations. Again, quoting President Nelson, 'God’s laws are motivated entirely by His infinite love for us and His desire for us to become all we can become.' ("The Love and Laws of God," 3.)

"Because They love you, They do not want to leave you 'just as you are.' Because They love you, They want you to have joy and success. Because They love you, They want you to repent because that is the path to happiness. But it is your choice—They honor your agency. You must choose to love Them, to serve Them, to keep Their commandments. Then They can more abundantly bless you as well as love you.

"Their principal expectation of us is that we also love. 'He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.' (1 John 4:8.) As John wrote, 'Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.' (1 John 4:11.)"

- D. Todd Christofferson, "The Love of God," General Conference October 2021, Sunday morning
Click here to read or watch the full talk

What an important thing to recognize and remember: we are deeply and profoundly loved by our Heavenly Father and His Son! They love with a "perfect love" because their love is pure, infinite, and complete, and will bless us as much as we allow it to. They love us so much, that the greatest motivation is to help us be better, to grow and progress, to become more like Them.

The wishes for us include joy and success, repentance and happiess. Receiving those gifts is a choice we make; we must exercise our agency by choosing to love in return, then to serve and obey with a pure heart. Then we will experience even greater influence of Their love, and feel abundant blessings. What a beautiful and wonderful plan of happiness!

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