Monday, January 31, 2022

Elder John A. Widtsoe on finding peace in a troubled world

Elder John A. Widtsoe (1872-1952) was born in Norway. He was raised by his widowed mother who immigrated to Utah when John was 11. He was educated at Harvard and in Europe, and had formative roles in programs in several Utah universities including BYU. He served as an apostle from 1921 to his death in 1952.
"Peace upon earth is not to be established by Congress or Parliament, or by a group of international representatives. Peace is not a thing that can be taken on, then taken off again, as we do a piece of clothing. Peace is quite different from that. Peace cannot be legislated into existence. It is not the way to lasting peace upon earth. That, every man here understands.
"Remember, the Savior Himself tried to point that out to us, for when he spoke to his disciples and said, 'Peace I give unto you, peace I leave with you,' He added, 'Not as the world giveth, give I unto you' (John 14:27).
"Peace comes from within; peace is myself, if I am a truly peaceful man. The very essence of me must be the spirit of peace. Individuals make up the community, and the nation—an old enough doctrine, which we often overlook—and the only way to build a peaceful community is to build men and women who are lovers and makers of peace. Each individual, by that doctrine of Christ and His Church, holds in his own hands the peace of the world.
"That makes me responsible for the peace of the world, and makes you individually responsible for the peace of the world. The responsibility cannot be shifted to someone else. It cannot be placed upon the shoulders of Congress or Parliament, or any other organization of men with governing authority.
"I wonder if the Lord did not have that in mind when he said: '...the kingdom of God is within you' (Luke 17:21), or perhaps we should re-emphasize it and say: 'The kingdom of God is within you.' ...
"If a man but conform to, if he be in harmony with, eternal law, peace will be his. That is a simple formula which refers to body, mind, and spirit, and to our neighbors. If I obey the physical laws of the body, physical peace will be mine. If I obey the laws of mental health, I shall be mentally at peace. If I obey the spiritual laws which God has given, I shall likewise find peace, the highest peace. If I love my neighbors, even as I love myself and my God, and all men do the same, there will be complete social peace. Such obedience can be yielded; such harmony can be won. It has been done by men; it can be done again. Such harmony with law lies at the foundation of the problem of our searching and reaching out for peace in our troubled world."
- John A. Widtsoe, "The Nature of Peace," Conference Report, October 1943, pp. 112-116
Click here to read the full talk

What is peace? Where does it come from? Elder Widtsoe gave this address in 1943, as the world was in the midst of World War II. He spoke of the hope for resolution of the conflict, and how it might be obtained through diplomacy or negotiations. But he believed such a peace would never last; you can't legislate lasting peace. True peace comes as men turn to the doctrine of Christ, and can only come about as we individually create peace in our own life:

I appreciated Elder Widtsoe's further analysis of the process, describing actions that lead to desired results:
  • Obedience of the body's physical laws ­čí▓ physical peace
  • Obedience to laws of mental health ­čí▓ mental peace
  • Obedience to God's spiritual laws ­čí▓ the highest peace
  • Loving neighbors as self and God ­čí▓ social peace
Different aspects of peace come to us in different ways, but they come when we choose to invite them into our life through our actions and agency.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
January 31, 2017

Sunday, January 30, 2022

President Spencer W. Kimball on the happy, abundant life

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"The happy and abundant life begins from within and then moves outward to other individuals and to our communities. If there is richness and righteousness in us, then we can make a difference in the lives of others and in our towns, just as key individuals have influenced the lives of each of us for good and made us richer than we otherwise would have been.
"What is our greatest potential? Is it not to be Christlike ourselves? And what are the qualities we must develop to achieve such greatness? We might consider intelligence, light, knowledge, and leadership. But perhaps the most essential godlike quality is that of compassion and love—compassion shown forth in service to others, unselfishness, that ultimate expression of concern for others we call love. Wherever our Father's children magnify their opportunities for loving service, they are learning to become more like Him."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "President Kimball Speaks Out on Service to Others," New Era, March 1981, pp. 58-59
Click here to read the full talk here

"If there is richness and righteousness in us, then we can make a difference in the lives of others and in our towns." As we examine our lives, do we see ourselves finding ways to "make a difference"? We should, according to President Kimball. One of the greatest messages of the Gospel is that the source of happiness and abundance in our lives is in the giving to others.

There is always wisdom and insight as we examine the life of the Savior and try to pattern our own actions and deeds after Him.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
November 27, 2015

Saturday, January 29, 2022

President David O. McKay on the blessing of friendship

President David O. McKay (1873-1970) was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1906.  He served as a counselor in the First Presidency to Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith beginning in 1945, then then as the president of the Church from 1951 to his death in 1970 at age 96.
"Among life's sweetest blessings is fellowship with men and women whose ideals and aspirations are high and noble. Next to a sense of kinship with God comes the helpfulness, encouragement, and inspiration of friends. Friendship is a sacred possession. As air, water and sunshine to flowers, trees, and verdure, so smiles, sympathy and love of friends to the daily life of man. 'To live, laugh, love one's friends, and be loved by them is to bask in the sunshine of life.'
"One of the principal reasons which the Lord had for establishing His Church is to give all persons high and low, rich and poor, strong and feeble an opportunity to associate with their fellow men in an atmosphere of uplifting, religious fellowship. This may be found in Priesthood quorums, Auxiliaries, Sacrament meetings. He who neglects these opportunities, who fails to take advantage of them, to that extent starves his own soul."
- David O. McKay, Conference Report, Apr. 1940, p. 116; see also Gospel Ideals p. 253

Time often helps us recognize how rare a gift and treasure true friendship is. Sometimes what we thought was a close friendship turns out not to be as enduring as we expected. On the other hand, occasionally we discover a deeper friendship than anticipated in a relationship.

But at whatever level of contact we interact with others, we're particularly blessed "to associate with [our] fellow men in an atmosphere of uplifting, religious fellowship" — one of the true blessings of Church membership. We should treasure those opportunities to interact with others who share our "ideals and aspirations."

President McKay challenges us: "He who neglects these opportunities, who fails to take advantage of them, to that extent starves his own soul." We should never make that choice!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
August 8, 2015

Friday, January 28, 2022

President Boyd K. Packer on worthiness for personal inspiration

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 on July 3, 2015 at age 90.
"That sweet, quiet voice of inspiration comes more as a feeling than it does as a sound. Pure intelligence can be spoken into the mind. The Holy Ghost communicates with our spirits through the mind more than through the physical senses. This guidance comes as thoughts, as feelings through promptings and impressions. We may feel the words of spiritual communication more than hear them and see with spiritual rather than with mortal eyes....
"The Lord has many ways of pouring knowledge into our minds to prompt us, to guide us, to teach us, to correct us, to warn us. The Lord said, 'I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart' (D&C 8:2).
"And Enos recorded, 'While I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again' (Enos 1:10).
"You can know the things you need to know. Pray that you will learn to receive that inspiration and remain worthy to receive it. Keep that channel—your mind—clean and free from the clutter of the world."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Prayer and Promptings," Ensign, Nov. 2009, pp. 43-46
Click here to read the full talk

So much of our mortal communication with one another depends on our physical senses—hearing speech, decoding nuances and inflections, trying to interpret meaning. Often visual cues become a part of that. But President Packer is teaching us about a different kind of communication, one that comes through our spirits. We experience "pure intelligence" entering our minds. We feel words more than hear them.

The imagery of God "pouring knowledge into our minds" is a powerful one, much to be desired! Our part in this process of divine communication is clear. We must prepare the receptacle to receive that which is to be "poured." Our minds must be clean, worthy, open, and ready!
(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
March 12, 2016

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Elder L. Tom Perry on developing talents through consistency

Elder L. Tom Perry (born August 5, 1922- 96 years ago yesterday; died 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.
"Develop a consistency in your lives of always trying to do the best with the talents you have. One of my favorite scriptures is found in the eighth chapter of Psalms.
"'O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who has set thy glory above the heavens....
"'When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
"'What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
"'For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. [Psalms 8:1, 3-5]'
"I guess this scripture appeals to me because I like to think of myself as a junior angel with the power and opportunity of an eternal being....
"It is the same with each of us as creations of our Father in Heaven. We have been given an abundance of talent, beauty, and ability. Lack of progress can never be blamed on the lack of raw material....
"What is needed, then, is for us to make this mortal experience one that is rewarding and fulfilling by developing a consistency in doing our best with whatever talents the Lord has blessed us with."
- L. Tom Perry, "On Staying Power," BYU Devotional, 17 March 1987
Click here to read the full talk

You can just feel the joy and enthusiasm that characterized Elder Perry when he shares, "I like to think of myself as a junior angel" possessing potential to become an eternal being of power and glory. Elder Perry saw that potential in the consistency of developing our talents and using our gifts. We all have abundant "raw material" given to us; we just need to make the most of it!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
August 6, 2016

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Elder Richard L. Evans on clinging to eternal truths

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.
"I would say today to those who are in the classroom, to farmers in the field, to the laborers in factories, to men pursuing professions, to young men in military service, to all of us in life, whatever the discouragements, whatever the seeming areas of conflict and confusion, whatever the infinite area of things we don't understand, cling to these eternal verities always: that God lives, that men were made in his image, that life is purposeful, that men are immortal. Cling to the commandments and give observance to them and to the knowledge that it is our Father's plan and purpose to bring immortality and eternal life to man (Moses 1:39). If we will cling to these eternal verities in simplicity and truth and keep our lives well balanced in all our pursuits, we shall reach a glorious end....
"Now as to this discouragement and confusion: I think the enemy of men's souls wouldn't care too much what means he used to render our lives ineffective, just so long as he did render them ineffective. I don't think he would care too much whether it was by indolence or indifference or by withholding willing work, or by doubt, or by discouragement, or by uncertainty—so long as he could render us ineffective, it would please him. And it must be our purpose to see that we pursue our purposes regardless of the things we don't know which we hope sometime to know. It must be our purpose to pursue with all earnestness every righteous purpose.
"No matter how much we may be discouraged or how often we are set back, we must begin again and again, if necessary, and earnestly pursue the purposes of life, full of faith for the future. Enduring to the end is exceedingly important. Pursuing the opportunities and the duties of every day is exceedingly important, and repenting while there is still time to repent is also exceedingly important."
- Richard L. Evans, "With Faith for the Future," Conference Report, October 1950, pp. 138-142
Click here to read the full talk

It was 65 years ago when Elder Evans noted the complexities of life, the challenges and discouragements, the confusions, the conflicts. How those problems have intensified since then, both in society and in our individual lives! But he reminds us of the perspective of eternity that enables us to survive, if we "cling" to the "eternal verities" that are revealed in the gospel. The real challenge is to keep those things alive in our minds and hearts. The word "cling" is very descriptive.

The second point he makes is to explain how "the enemy of men's souls" makes every effort to "render our lives ineffective" through a variety of methods. We must be aware and vigilant, even in the midst of "things we don't know which we hope sometime to know."

And this final encouragement is inspiring:

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
September 15, 2015

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Elder Bruce R. McConkie on the importance of gospel scholarship

Elder Bruce R. McConkie (July 29, 1915 - April 19, 1985) served as a Seventy from 1946-1972 when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve.  He served in that assignment until his death from cancer at age 69.
"Our revelation says, 'The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth' (D&C 93:36). Joseph Smith taught that 'a man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge' of God and his saving truths (Teachings, p. 217) and that 'it is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance' of Jesus Christ and the laws of his gospel (D&C 131:6).
"We believe in gospel scholarship. We think that devout men everywhere, in and out of the Church, should seek spiritual truth, should come to know God, should learn his laws, and should strive to live in harmony with them. There are no truths as important as those that pertain to God and his gospel, to the pure religion that he has revealed, to the terms and conditions whereby we may gain an inheritance with him in his kingdom....
"Christ is the great exemplar, the prototype of perfection and salvation: 'He said unto the children of men: Follow thou me' (2 Ne. 31:10). Also: 'What manner of men ought yet to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am.' (3 Ne. 27:27.) I know of no better way to respond to Jesus' invitation, 'Learn of me' (Matt. 10:28), than to study the scriptures with a prayerful heart."
- Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrines of the Restoration (Bookcraft 1989), pp. 221-222

Elder McConkie was known for his bold, authoritarian presentation and his exposition of the scriptures and Church doctrine. This quote summarizes his personal standard, as well as presenting an exhortation to Church members and "devout men everywhere" — we need to be scholars of the Lord's gospel.

And in the final paragraph, Elder McConkie explains the main reason gospel scholarship is important. It enables us to become more like the Lord when we understand more about Him. We learn in order to live.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)

Monday, January 24, 2022

Elder Quentin L. Cook on help for the difficult journey of life

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"This mortal life can constitute a difficult journey, but the destination is truly glorious. Christ expressed this to His disciples: 'These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world' (John 16:33, emphasis added)....
"A loving Father has provided a comprehensive and compassionate plan for His children 'that saves the living, redeems the dead, rescues the damned, and glorifies all who repent' (Orson F. Whitney, Saturday Night Thoughts, 323). Even though our journey may be fraught with tribulation, the destination is truly glorious.
"I rejoice in the great plan of salvation that is big enough for all of our Father in Heaven's children. I express gratitude beyond my ability to articulate for the Atonement of Jesus Christ."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Our Father's Plan—Big Enough for All His Children," Ensign, May 2009, pp. 34-38
Click here to read the full talk

There are times in each of our lives when we see that life becomes "a difficult journey." But we are blessed to remember that there is a glorious destination at the end of the path; God has reassured us of that fact many times, as Elder Cook notes. But He has also provided directions for negotiating the journey:

Elder Cook emphasizes that the plan of salvation is "big enough" for every one of God's children. No matter what our situation is, what challenges we face, what burdens we carry—there is direction, hope, and reassurance in God's eternal plan!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
June 27, 2016

Sunday, January 23, 2022

President Russell M. Nelson on finding joy in any circumstance

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.
"Life is filled with detours and dead ends, trials and challenges of every kind. Each of us has likely had times when distress, anguish, and despair almost consumed us. Yet we are here to have joy?
"Yes! The answer is a resounding yes! But how is that possible? And what must we do to claim the joy that Heavenly Father has in store for us? ...
"The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.
"When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation... and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives. Joy comes from and because of Him. He is the source of all joy. We feel it at Christmastime when we sing, 'Joy to the world, the Lord is come.' And we can feel it all year round. For Latter-day Saints, Jesus Christ is joy! ...
"Just as the Savior offers peace that 'passeth all understanding' (Philippians 4:7), He also offers an intensity, depth, and breadth of joy that defy human logic or mortal comprehension. For example, it doesn’t seem possible to feel joy when your child suffers with an incurable illness or when you lose your job or when your spouse betrays you. Yet that is precisely the joy the Savior offers. His joy is constant, assuring us that our 'afflictions shall be but a small moment' (D&C 121:7) and be consecrated to our gain (see 2 Ne 2:2)."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Joy and Spiritual Survival," General Conference, October 2016
Click here to read or hear the complete talk

President Nelson has a joyful countenance. For a man who is 97 years old, he always looks and acts remarkably optimistic and upbeat. In this wonderful talk, he shared thoughts about living with joy regardless of the circumstances that surround us. I love his testimony that we can truly find joy, even in times of "distress, anguish, and despair" as those challenges come to each of us in life.

The grand key to finding joy lies in this beautiful statement: "The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives." When the focus is on the Savior and on His love for us, we truly can find and feel His joy in any circumstance.

And what the Savior offers to us has "an intensity, depth, and breadth of joy that defy human logic or mortal comprehension." Why would we not make every effort to claim that profound promise?

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
October 12, 2016

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on living with faith in God

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (born December 3, 1940 - 76 years ago today!) 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.
"I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives. So a more theological way to talk about Lot's wife is to say that she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord's ability to give her something better than she already had. Apparently she thought—fatally, as it turned out—that nothing that lay ahead could possibly be as good as those moments she was leaving behind....
"To yearn to go back to a world that cannot be lived in now; to be perennially dissatisfied with present circumstances and have only dismal views of the future; to miss the here-and-now-and-tomorrow because we are so trapped in the there-and-then-and-yesterday—these are some of the sins, if we may call them that, of ... Lot's wife."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Remember Lot's Wife," BYU Devotional, 13 January 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

This is, for me, one of the most memorable of Elder Holland's many remarkable speeches. In addressing an assembly of BYU students, he spoke about what he identified as the second shortest verse in all the scriptures: "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32). He explained that in the original story in Genesis 19, when Lot's family is fleeing God's destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, his wife disobeyed the Lord's instruction to "look not behind thee;" but her greater problem was that in her heart, she wanted to be back in Sodom enjoying the pleasures of the city. At least one aspect of the sin she committed was to doubt that God could give her something better than what she had already experienced. A parallel danger is to focus too much on the trials and hardships, forgetting the promises of "good things to come."

Faith in God reminds us to look forward, not backward. It is anticipation and expectation of the good to come, trusting in God's promises and the ultimate deliverance He will provide. We must remember, as Elder Holland emphasized on another occasion, that He truly is the “high priest of good things to come” (Hebrews 9:11).

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
December 3, 2016

Friday, January 21, 2022

President Ezra Taft Benson on thinking Christlike thoughts

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.
"If our thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, then we must think Christlike thoughts.
"Paul, en route to Damascus to persecute the Saints, saw a light from heaven and heard the voice of the Lord. Then Paul asked a simple question—and the persistent asking of the same question changed his life. 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' (Acts 9:6.) The persistent asking of that same question can also change your life. There is no greater question that you can ask in this world. 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?' I challenge you to make that the uppermost question of your life.
"We are accountable for our thoughts and what we think about. Our thoughts should be on the Lord. We should think on Christ."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Think on Christ," Ensign, March 1989, p. 2
Click here to read the full talk

This is a simple axiom: "If our thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, then we must think Christlike thoughts." We might effectively reverse the conditional and say, "If we think Christlike thoughts, we will become like Christ because our thoughts make us what we are."

That is certainly the beginning of the process. The next insight comes as we ponder Paul's profound and faith-filled question as experienced his soul-changing conversion: "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"

President Benson challenges us to make Paul's question "the uppermost question of [our] life." We should, in a spirit of constant humility and discipleship, be asking Him what He would have us do in life. The results of that kind of life will be astonishing. That certainly accelerates the process, helping us think most Christlike thoughts, and therefore progress much more rapidly on the path towards becoming Christlike ourselves.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
March 13, 2016

Thursday, January 20, 2022

President Howard W. Hunter on the Lord's promise of "heavenly help"

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President for only nine months, from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"All of us face times in our lives when we need heavenly help in a special and urgent way. We all have moments when we are overwhelmed by circumstances or confused by the counsel we get from others, and we feel a great need to receive spiritual guidance, a great need to find the right path and do the right thing. In the scriptural preface to this latter-day dispensation, the Lord promised that if we would be humble in such times of need and turn to him for aid, we would 'be made strong, and [be] blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.' (D&C 1:28.) That help is ours if we will but seek it, trust in it, and follow what King Benjamin, in the Book of Mormon, called 'the enticings of the Holy Spirit.' (Mosiah 3:19.)
"Perhaps no promise in life is more reassuring than that promise of divine assistance and spiritual guidance in times of need. It is a gift freely given from heaven, a gift that we need from our earliest youth through the very latest days of our lives."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Blessed From On High," General Conference October 1988
Click here to read the full talk

Most of us have had a personal experience with those times in life "when we need heavenly help in a special and urgent way." President Hunter is right that such times come to us all, eventually, to some degree. It helps immensely if we are comfortable and familiar with the process of how to "receive spiritual guidance" already. Then we need only to "be humble" and "turn to him" in our sincerity. Being familiar with the process in advance will make all the difference when the time of need arrives without warning.

I know that the promised help, what President Hunter calls the most reassuring promise of all, is real and is truly a gift from God.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
January 20,  2016

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on patient growth and progress in life as we trust God

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.
"In life, the sandpaper of circumstances often smooths our crustiness and patiently polishes our rough edges. There is nothing pleasant about it, however. And the Lord will go to great lengths in order to teach us a particular lesson and to help us to overcome a particular weakness, especially if there is no other way.
"In such circumstances, it is quite useless for us mortals to try to do our own sums when it comes to suffering. We can't make it all add up because clearly we do not have all the numbers. Furthermore, none of us knows much about the algebra of affliction.
"The challenges that come are shaped to our needs and circumstances, sometimes in order to help our weaknesses become strengths. Job noted how tailored his challenges were, saying, 'For the thing which I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.' (Job 3:25.) Yet he prevailed—so much so that he was held up as a model to the great latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith. (D&C 121.) ...
"Thus, when we are patiently growing and keeping the commandments of God and doing our duties, we are to that extent succeeding, a fact from which we should derive some quiet, inner reassurance.  Knowing that we are in the process of succeeding, even though we have much to do and much to improve upon, can help us to move forward while, at the same time, being 'of good cheer.'"
- Neal A. Maxwell, Notwithstanding My Weakness [Deseret 19981], pp. 67-68

Elder Maxwell's poetic prose and vivid analogies never fail to inspire me. This suggestion of a "divine sandpaper" being used to help smooth our rough edges is a great one. There is someone who identifies the need, and is willing to employ the remedy, even though it may not be gentle.

Are we willing recipients of that "sanding" that occasionally comes in our lives? Do we learn to recognize it for what it is, to rejoice when it comes, and to know that once the process is over we will be "more fit for the kingdom"?

I also appreciated the next analogy.  As mortals, we often "try to do our own sums when it comes to suffering." We want everything to add up, to make sense. But we can't always "do the math" because we don't understand God's perspective. We don't have all the information needed to make sense of the circumstances. We have to learn to trust Him. As we do, "patiently growing" in the process, we can find not only inner peace but much "good cheer" in knowing that God is in charge.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
December 9, 2015

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

President Henry B. Eyring on God's sure promises

President Henry B. Eyring (born May 31, 1933) served in the Presiding Bishopric from 1985-1992, as a Seventy from 1992-1995, then was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. He has served in the First Presidency since 2007.
"Now for the sure promises. First, if you will let your heart be drawn to the Savior and always remember Him, and if you will draw near to our Heavenly Father in prayer, you will have put on spiritual armor. You will be protected against pride because you will know that any success comes not from your human powers. And you will be protected against the thoughts which come rushing in upon us that we are too weak, too inexperienced, too unworthy to do what we are called of God to do to serve and help save His children. We can have come into our hearts the reassurance recorded in Moroni: 'And Christ truly said unto our fathers: If ye have faith ye can do all things which are expedient unto me' (Moro. 10:23).
"There is another sure promise. It is this: Whether or not you choose to keep your covenant to always remember Him, He always remembers you. I testify that Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, was and is the Only Begotten of the Father, the Lamb of God. He chose from before the foundations of the earth to be your Savior, my Savior, and the Savior of all we will ever know or meet. I testify that He was resurrected and that because of His Atonement we may be washed clean through our faith to obey the laws and accept the ordinances of the gospel."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Always," Church Educational System fireside at BYU on 3 January 1999; see Ensign, Oct. 1999, p. 12
Click here to read the full talk

When we think of "sure promises" in this kind of context, we often think of the covenant kinds of arrangements: if we do certain things, then God will do certain things. That is how President Eyring introduces the discussion of promises:
- Let our hearts be drawn to the Savior
- Always remember Him
- Draw near to God in prayer
- Have spiritual armor
- Have protection against pride
- Have protection against feelings of inadequacy
- Have spiritual reassurance of the good to come
But in the second paragraph, President Eyring changes the tone.

EVEN IF WE DON'T do our part to always remember Him, we have the assurance that He will always remember us. What a remarkable, comforting, strength-infusing promise!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
July 15, 2016

Monday, January 17, 2022

President M. Russell Ballard on the doctrine of inclusion

President M. Russell Ballard (born October 8, 1928) was called as a Seventy in 1976, and has served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1985. He became acting president of the Twelve in January 2018.
"If we are truly disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will reach out with love and understanding to all of our neighbors at all times, particularly in times of need....
"I have never taught—nor have I ever heard taught—a doctrine of exclusion. I have never heard the members of this Church urged to be anything but loving, kind, tolerant, and benevolent to our friends and neighbors of other faiths.
"The Lord expects a great deal from us. Parents, please teach your children and practice yourselves the principle of inclusion of others and not exclusion because of religious, political, or cultural differences....
"That is our doctrine—a doctrine of inclusion. That is what we believe. That is what we have been taught. Of all people on this earth, we should be the most loving, the kindest, and the most tolerant because of that doctrine."
- M. Russell Ballard, "Doctrine of Inclusion," General Conference October 2001
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

President Ballard discussed a challenge in this 2001 Conference address that is probably even more timely now. There is increasing diversity in our society and cultures and ethnic groups intermingle. We see increased mobility and more moving between nations, especially as many flee challenging situations. And in many countries around the world there is a long history of racial tension and struggle for understanding.

True disciples, as President Ballard notes, will see beyond these differences and will "reach out with love and understanding to all of our neighbors at all times":

President Ballard discussed particularly the issues among youth and encouraged parents them to be more tolerant and understanding. He also noted that often the youth are the best examples of doing the right thing, and we all all learn from them. In any case, we should never forget that we are all children of God and we should treat each other as brothers and sisters, regardless of differences in background and traditions! We should especially reach out to those who are different and come to appreciate and understand them, and love them.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
November 18, 2018

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on always remembering the Savior

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.
"When we partake of the sacrament, we witness unto God the Eternal Father that we 'do always remember' his Son (see D&C 20:77, 79; 3 Ne. 18:7, 11). Each Sabbath day millions of Latter-day Saints make this promise. What does it mean to 'always remember' our Savior?
"To remember means to keep in memory. In the scriptures, it often means to keep a person in memory, together with associated emotions like love, loyalty, or gratitude. The stronger the emotion, the more vivid and influential the memory....
"He whom we should always remember is He who gave us mortal life, He who showed us the way to a happy life, and He who redeems us so we can have immortality and eternal life.
"If we keep our covenant that we will always remember him, we can always have his Spirit to be with us (see D&C 20:77, 79). That Spirit will testify of him, and it will guide us into truth.
"His teachings and his example will guide and strengthen us in the way we should live. The effect was described in the words of the once popular song, 'Try to remember, and if you remember, then follow' ('Try to Remember,' words by Tom Jones)."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Always Remember Him," General Conference April 1988
Click here to read the full talk

The power and importance of remembering is that it influences our decisions and actions. When we remember someone or something that is very important to us, we make future choices in that context; we evaluate the options and consequences of new situations based on what we recall and know about the important previous person or principle.

It is a sacred privilege to recommit each week in our sacramental covenants to "always remember Him." As Elder Oaks teaches, our memories of the Savior are associated with emotions including love, loyalty, and gratitude. When those emotions are strong, then remembering Him becomes "vivid and influential" in our lives. As we learn about the Savior and understand both his Gospel message and his mission on our behalf, we are constantly influenced in all other events during the encounters and circumstances of our lives.

And always, the promised blessings of "always remember" are there.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
June 28, 2015
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