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

Saturday, January 15, 2022

President Ezra Taft Benson on the spiritually alert life

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.
"Usually the Lord gives us the overall objectives to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but He expects us to work out most of the details and methods. The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things. Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and His prophets, and then prayerfully act—without having to be commanded 'in all things' (D&C 58:26). This attitude prepares men for godhood....
"Sometimes, the Lord hopefully waits for His children to act on their own, and when they do not, they lose the greater prize, and the Lord will either drop the entire matter and let them suffer the consequences, or else he will have to spell it out in greater detail. Usually, I fear, the more he has to spell it out, the smaller is our reward."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Not Commanded in All Things," Conference Report, April 5, 1965, pp. 121-122; see Ensign Sept 1977
Click here to read the full talk

This is an interesting analysis of the process of mortality. God doesn't tell us everything to do; he doesn't answer every question and give guidance in every minute instance. Instead, he wants us to learn and grow through our own experience. We need to learn to make decisions. And we need to learn to recover from bad decisions. That's all part of the process of growth.

I love the simple description of being "spiritually alert" — what a great attribute!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
August 29, 2015

Friday, January 14, 2022

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the blessings of the Lord's Church

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (1945- ) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"How does His Church accomplish the Lord's purposes? It is important to recognize that God's ultimate purpose is our progress. His desire is that we continue 'from grace to grace, until [we receive] a fulness' (D&C 93:13) of all He can give. That requires more than simply being nice or feeling spiritual. It requires faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism of water and of the Spirit, and enduring in faith to the end (see 2 Nephi 31:17–20). One cannot fully achieve this in isolation, so a major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another in the 'strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life' (2 Nephi 31:18) ....
"In the Church we not only learn divine doctrine; we also experience its application. As the body of Christ, the members of the Church minister to one another in the reality of day-to-day life. All of us are imperfect; we may offend and be offended. We often test one another with our personal idiosyncrasies. In the body of Christ, we have to go beyond concepts and exalted words and have a real 'hands-on' experience as we learn to 'live together in love' (D&C 42:45).
"This religion is not concerned only with self; rather, we are all called to serve. We are the eyes, hands, head, feet, and other members of the body of Christ, and even 'those members... which seem to be more feeble, are necessary' (1 Corinthians 12:22). We need these callings, and we need to serve."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "Why the Church," General Conference, October 2015, Sunday afternoon session
Click here to read the full talk
Elder Christofferson's message responds to many in our time who question the necessity of a formal, organized church. They claim they can follow Christ's teachings (or other moral or ethical values) and live good and worthwhile lives without the structure of a formal organization. While that is true to some extent, it neglects an important aspect of religion: the application of the teachings, some of which are facilitated and enabled in the formalized setting of the church organization.

It's not just about "self" — it's about "serve." And that kind of service, Elder Christofferson teaches, is facilitated by the Church in ways that don't exist outside of it. What a blessing to be able to take advantage of that privilege!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
October 19, 2015

Thursday, January 13, 2022

President Russell M. Nelson on communication with heaven

President Russell M. Nelson (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 was set apart as president of the Quorum of Twelve on July 15, 2015.
"Today's technology also allows us to use wireless telephones to exchange information rapidly.... Even more amazing than modern technology is our opportunity to access information directly from heaven, without hardware, software, or monthly service fees. It is one of the most marvelous gifts the Lord has offered to mortals. It is His generous invitation to 'ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you' (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9; emphasis added).
"This timeless offer to provide personal revelation is extended to all of His children. It almost sounds too good to be true. But it is true!"
- Russell M. Nelson, "Ask, Seek, Knock," Ensign, Nov. 2009, pp. 81-84
Click here to read the full talk

Our modern world has amazing enhanced technology to facilitate communication and information retrieval. But President Nelson points out that processes have always existed that are far superior, to communicate and exchange information "direction from heaven." But it requires that we initiate the contact by asking, seeking, knocking.

Many of us spend considerable time each day with our electronic devices, much of it in various forms of communication with friends and family. Perhaps we should consider if we spend enough time in communication with our Father in Heaven!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
July 16, 2015

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

President Thomas S. Monson on exploration, discovery, and creation

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.
"The spirit of exploration, whether it be of the surface of the earth, the vastness of space, or the principles of living greatly, includes developing the capacity to face trouble with courage; disappointment with cheerfulness; and triumph with humility.
"God left the world unfinished for man to work his skill upon. He left the electricity in the cloud, the oil in the earth. He left the rivers unbridged and the forests unfelled and the cities unbuilt. God gives to man the challenge of raw materials, not the ease of finished things. He leaves the pictures unpainted and the music unsung and the problems unsolved, that man might know the joys and glories of creation."
- Thomas S. Monson, "In Quest of the Abundant Life," Ensign, March 1988, pp. 2-4
Click here to read the full talk

This is a fascinating insight from President Monson into the nature of our mortal experience. We are here to "explore" — to learn to confront problems and opportunities, to make our way through situations of trouble, disappointment, and the triumph, all of which present their own challenges.

I really loved this passage about the reasons for the "incompleteness" of our world, and the opportunities it presents for us to "know the joys and glories of creation."

How well are we doing, collectively and individually, in "finishing" the world? How are we doing in our individual, personal worlds? We each have wonderful raw materials, and the invitation to make something of them.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
September 11, 2015

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on Satan's discouragements

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf (born November 6, 1940) served as a Seventy from 1994-2004, when he was called as a member of the Quorum of Twelve.  He served as second counselor in the First Presidency from 2008 to 2018.
"The Lord said to Abraham, 'My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee' (Abr. 2:8). My young friends, today I say to you that if you trust the Lord and obey Him, His hand shall be over you, He will help you achieve the great potential He sees in you, and He will help you to see the end from the beginning....
"We don't always know the details of our future. We do not know what lies ahead. We live in a time of uncertainty. We are surrounded by challenges on all sides. Occasionally discouragement may sneak into our day; frustration may invite itself into our thinking; doubt might enter about the value of our work. In these dark moments Satan whispers in our ears that we will never be able to succeed, that the price isn't worth the effort, and that our small part will never make a difference. He, the father of all lies, will try to prevent us from seeing the end from the beginning....
"We know that God keeps His promises. We need to fulfill our part to receive His blessings."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "See the End from the Beginning," General Conference April 2006
Click here to read the full talk

This address was given when Elder Uchtdorf was serving in the First Presidency. He seems always to have encouragement and hope to offer in his messages! The passage quoted from Abraham is intriguing; there are two very interesting phrases in it. I used to think "knowing the end from the beginning" referred to the ability to distinguish between the two; sometimes our concern over the beginning, or the current troubles, makes us forget there is a promised result down the road that might be obscured.

But I think it's maybe even simpler. The ability to see the end from the beginning could mean the capability to perceive where a path will lead when you embark on it. You are standing at the beginning, and with God's promised help, can perceive and comprehend the destination. That seems like a powerful gift; it would make the journey so much easier, when the vision of the end is clear and vivid! President Uchtdorf promises that God will help us to have that ability.

And in addition, the divine promise is "my hand shall be over thee." That implies protection, shelter, blessing, guidance — many positive and comforting images.

President Uchtdorf points out how difficult it often is for us to see the end, in the midst of the uncertainty of our daily challenges or of Satan's discouragements and distractions. But we know God will see it always; we need to trust His promises, and do all we can to be worthy of them.  "We need to fulfill our part to receive His blessings."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
August 17, 2015

Monday, January 10, 2022

Elder David A. Bednar on receiving guidance from the Holy Ghost

Elder David A. Bednar (b. 1952) was serving as the president of BYU–Idaho when he was called and sustained as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in October 2004.
"As we each press forward along the pathway of life, we receive direction from the Holy Ghost just as Lehi was directed through the Liahona. 'For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do' (2 Ne. 32:5).
"The Holy Ghost operates in our lives precisely as the Liahona did for Lehi and his family, according to our faith and diligence and heed....
"The Spirit of the Lord can be our guide and will bless us with direction, instruction, and spiritual protection during our mortal journey. We invite the Holy Ghost into our lives through meaningful personal and family prayer, feasting upon the words of Christ, diligent and exacting obedience, faithfulness and honoring of covenants, and through virtue, humility, and service. And we steadfastly should avoid things that are immodest, coarse, crude, sinful, or evil that cause us to withdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost."
- David A. Bednar, "That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us," Ensign, May 2006, pp. 28-31
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Bednar discusses what is, to me, one of the most hopeful promises of the Book of Mormon. Lehi received life-saving guidance from the marvelous gift of the Liahona; the parallel for us is the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will "show unto you all things what ye should do."

I appreciated Elder Bednar's list of suggestions about how to "invite the Holy Ghost into our lives":
  • meaningful personal and family prayer
  • feasting upon the words of Christ
  • diligent and exacting obedience
  • faithfulness and honoring of covenants
  • virtue, humility, and service
That's a great list of things to focus on in our lives, along with the caution to avoid the "things that are immodest, coarse, crude, sinful, or evil that cause us to withdraw ourselves from the Holy Ghost."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
April 5, 2016

Sunday, January 9, 2022

President Gordon B. Hinckley on overcoming gloom in life

President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1961, served as a counselor in the First Presidency from 1981-1995, then as Church President until his death in 2008 at age 97.
"Let us go forward in this glorious work. How exciting and wonderful it is. I do not know how anybody can feel gloomy for very long who is a member of this Church. Do you feel gloomy? Lift your eyes. Stand on your feet. Say a few words of appreciation and love to the Lord. Be positive. Think of what great things are occurring as the Lord brings to pass His eternal purposes. This is a day of prophecy fulfilled, my brothers and sisters, this great day in the history of this Church. This is the day of which has been spoken of by those who have gone before us. Let us live worthy of our birthright. Keep the faith. Nurture your testimonies. Walk in righteousness and the Lord will bless you and prosper you and you will be a happy and wonderful people."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, Sandy Utah Cottonwood Creek Stake Conference, Dec. 3, 1995; see Ensign August 1996 p. 61

President Hinckley was an "incurable optimist." He had great confidence in life because he had great faith in God and trusted that God would take care of the problems of life. This excerpt is typical of the counsel that he gave on many occasions; there's no reason to be "gloomy" if you understand the miraculous blessings of the gospel and the Lord's ongoing work on earth. And if you do feel "gloomy" then here are the things to do about it:

With the proper perspective, there is no reason we shouldn't be "a happy and wonderful people."

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

Saturday, January 8, 2022

President Spencer W. Kimball on the blessings of lengthening our stride

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"So much depends upon our willingness to make up our minds, collectively and individually, that present levels of performance are not acceptable, either to ourselves or to the Lord. In saying that, I am not calling for flashy, temporary differences in our performance levels, but a quiet resolve... to do a better job, to lengthen our stride." (Regional Representative's Seminar, 3 Oct. 1974.)
"When I think of the concept of 'lengthening our stride,' I, of course, apply it to myself as well as urging it upon the Church. The 'lengthening of our stride' suggests urgency instead of hesitancy, 'now,' instead of tomorrow; it suggests not only an acceleration, but efficiency. It suggests, too, that the whole body of the Church move forward in unison with a quickened pace and pulse, doing our duty with all our heart, instead of halfheartedly. It means, therefore, mobilizing and stretching all our muscles and drawing on all our resources. It suggests also that we stride with pride and with a sense of anticipation as we meet the challenges facing the kingdom. Out of all this will come a momentum that will be sobering and exhilarating at the same time." (MIA June Conference, 29 June 1975.)
- Spencer W. Kimball, "The Words of a Prophet," Ensign, December 1985, p. 26
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President Kimball was not a physically large man. But there are few who could match his "stride" in moving forward the Lord's kingdom. He started to talk about lengthening our stride soon after he became the president of the Church in 1973. These two excerpts are a great sampling of his vision and enthusiasm.

This is a challenge that displays remarkable vision and foresight. The opening words "So much depends" convey an understanding of the implications that would have to be divinely inspired. And now that almost half a century has passed since these words were first shared, we should all be asking ourselves, "Did I improve my personal level of performance, and see the blessings that followed?" President Kimball promised "a momentum that will be sobering and exhilarating at the same time."

An even better question: Could I "lengthen my stride" now, today? Do we still sense that "quiet resolve" to be more faithful, more diligent, more obedient—"doing our duty with all our heart, instead of halfheartedly"? It's never too late to begin to do better!

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

Friday, January 7, 2022

President James E. Faust on living life with an eternal perspective

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.
"Mortality is a precious drop in the bucket of eternity. Why not make each minute pleasant and fulfilling? We must make our own happiness. As President Spencer W. Kimball once said, 'Happiness does not depend upon what happens outside of you, but on what happens inside of you. It is measured by the spirit with which you meet the problems of life.'
"Problems, challenges, and heartaches come to all of us regardless of gender, whether we are married or single, or whether or not we are limited physically or mentally.... The key to happiness does not lie alone in gender or marital status or parenthood or being free of physical challenges. Happiness comes from living the teachings of the Savior and having the vision to see what He would have us become. Remember what he said: 'He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it' (Matt. 10:39). Because we have been given the challenges of mortality, this life is a proving ground for the eternities."
- James E. Faust, "A Vision of What We Can Be," Ensign, Mar. 1996, p. 10
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"Mortality is a precious drop in the bucket of eternity"—that's a beautiful image to convey the very brief nature of our time here. But yet, how crucial that short time is! And how important to make the best of every minute—to "make each minute pleasant and fulfilling." I continue to be thrilled and impressed at the prophetic understanding and vision of eternity, and how that vision can influence our mortality.

So with that perspective, President Faust teaches how to keep mortal challenges in the divine perspective:

In spite of all the challenges life may present, true happiness comes only in "living the teachings of the Savior."

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