Monday, February 28, 2022

President Ezra Taft Benson on the eternal blessings of turning our lives over to God

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.
"Christ's great gift to us was his life and sacrifice—should that not then be our small gift to him—our lives and sacrifices, not only now, but in the future? ...
"Yes, men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life....
"God loves us, he's watching us, he wants us to succeed, and we'll know someday that he has not left one thing undone for the eternal welfare of each of us. If we only knew that there are heavenly hosts pulling for us—friends in heaven, whom we can't remember now, who yearn for our victory. This is our day to show what we can do—what life and sacrifice we can daily, hourly, instantly bring to God. If we give our all, we will get his all from the greatest of all."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations," BYU devotional, 10 December 1974; see also Ensign, December 1988, pp. 2-6
Click here to read the full talk at the BYU siteClick here to read the full talk from the Ensign

I think this was one of President Benson's most remarkable and insightful addresses, given originally at a BYU devotional. As Christmas approached in 1974, he spoke tenderly of his love for the Savior and of the gifts He gave us (and continues to give us), as well as gifts we might give in return and the blessings that would follow. One of the most significant gifts we can give is to "turn [our] lives over to God," and then discover what He can give in return:

That's quite an impressive list of blessings and benefits to come to us!

I love the witness of this final testimony; we will some day realize "He has not left one thing undone for the eternal welfare of each of us." He truly will do everything He can to help us succeed eternally, if we will allow Him into our lives.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
July 9, 2016

Sunday, February 27, 2022

President Spencer W. Kimball on the blessing of reading good books

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"Numerous leisure hours have been made available to men. It is noticeable that many use these extra hours for fun and pleasure. Certainly an increased part of it could profitably be used for gaining knowledge and culture through the reading of good books.
"Numerous people fail to take advantage of these opportunities. Many people spend hours in planes with only cursory glancing at magazines, and in the train or bus, time is spent 'sitting and thinking,' and in many cases, 'just sitting,' when there could be such a constructive program of reading. People in beauty parlors, professional offices, waiting rooms, and elsewhere waste precious hours thumbing through outdated magazines when much valuable reading could be done in these islands of time.... Even in the beginning there was the written word, for Adam and Eve were conscious of the need for the development of the mind, 'And by them their children were taught to read and write, having a language which was pure and undefiled.' (Moses 6:6.)"
- Spencer W. Kimball, "The Power of Books", R.S. Magazine October 1963, p. 724; see TSWK p. 383

I always loved President Kimball's straight-forward approach to offering counsel on practical matters. In this example, he notes the blessing we enjoy in our modern society of "numerous leisure hours" compared to the lifestyle of times past. But the worry about using that time appropriately is a real one, and President Kimball encourages more active reading as one of the best uses in lieu of too much "fun and pleasure."

President Kimball and his wife Camilla were both wonderful examples of this principle. They both were well-read and clearly knew how to take advantage of their leisure time in productive ways. What a great example of life-long learning! In the years since he shared these thoughts in 1963, so many more things have arisen that compete for those precious leisure hours. It's even more critical that we be cautious about their use.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
July 14, 2015

Saturday, February 26, 2022

President Howard W. Hunter on faith in God during adversity and disappointment

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.
"At various times in our lives, probably at repeated times in our lives, we do have to acknowledge that God knows what we do not know and sees what we do not see. 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord' (Isa. 55:8).
"If you have troubles at home with children who stray, if you suffer financial reverses and emotional strain that threaten your homes and your happiness, if you must face the loss of life or health, may peace be unto your soul. We will not be tempted beyond our ability to withstand. Our detours and disappointments are the straight and narrow path to Him, as we sing in one of our favorite hymns:
"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
 My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
 The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
 Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

 ('How Firm a Foundation,' Hymns, 1985, no. 85)
"May God bless us in the ups and downs of life, in the opening and closing of doors."
- Howard W. Hunter, "The Opening and Closing of Doors," Ensign, Nov. 1987, 54
Click here to read the full talk

"God knows what we do not know." Why is that so hard for us sometimes to remember? When we are confronted by trials or challenges, we too often forget that God is still in charge and has not forgotten us. President Hunter reminds us that we don't have to deal with any of these situations in a spiritual vacuum:
  • Children who stray
  • Personal financial reverses and the resulting emotional strain
  • Loss of life or of health
We could add many more of life's challenges to that list, and the answer would be the same: "Our detours and disappointments are the straight and narrow path to Him." That seems a bit ironic, that a detour could be part of the straight path. But we must always trust that God is in charge and will ultimately bring all things to good on our behalf, if we trust in him and his all-sufficient grace.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
November 14, 2015

Friday, February 25, 2022

Elder Quentin L. Cook on finding happiness and peace in 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.
"People all over the world are seeking permanent happiness. The prominent magazine The Economist, in its holiday double issue, featured 'happiness' on its cover and as its lead story. In one article it noted that increased national economic success had not increased happiness. 'Happiness... has hardly changed over 50 years.... Rich countries do not get happier as they get richer.' ('Economics Discovers Its Feelings,' The Economist, 23 December 2006, p. 34.)
"Happiness has little to do with material wealth. Nor does permanent happiness come from entertainment or fun and games. Instead of being diversions from an otherwise productive life, these pursuits have become all-consuming to many people.
"The lead article on happiness in The Economist quoted Adam Smith, the father of capitalism, as questioning: 'How many people ruin themselves by laying out money on trinkets of frivolous utility?' ('Happiness (and How to Measure It),' The Economist, 13)
"Unfortunately, much of what is available today is not just frivolous but also morally reprehensible.
"Contrast this with those who [confront life] with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
"We all face problems and challenges. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, but those who accept the gospel and live righteously have a wonderful promise in D&C 59:23: 'But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.'
"Peace in this life does not come from merely pursuing worldly objectives. Eternal life, especially exaltation, does not come from pursuing merely worldly objectives."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Be a Missionary All Your Life," BYU Devotional, March 13, 2007
Click here to read the full talk

The eternal search for happiness!  Elder Cook reminds us, supported by evidence published in a national magazine, that "permanent happiness" is not really linked to financial prosperity, nor to pleasure-seeking in entertainment and games. He warns us that so much of what our society seeks in the quest for happiness is "not just frivolous but also morally reprehensible."

Instead, the Gospel's plan is to confront life with humility and a sense of dependence on God. That's where happiness will truly originate, and not from the pursuit of "worldly" success:

Rain falls on all of us; there will be challenges and difficulties. But there are wonderful promises for those who do "the works of righteousness" in this life!

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

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the power and blessing of the Savior's Atonement

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (b. 1940) served as Church Commissioner of Education from 1976-1980, as the president of BYU from 1980-1989, as a Seventy from 1989-1994, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1994.
"Prophesying of the Savior’s Atonement, Isaiah wrote, 'He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows' (Isaiah 53:4). A majestic latter-day vision emphasized that '[Jesus] came into the world ... to bear the sins of the world' (D&C 76:41). Both ancient and modern scripture testify that 'he redeemed them, and bore them, and carried them all the days of old' (D&C 133:53; see also Isaiah 63:9). A favorite hymn pleads with us to 'hear your great Deliv’rer’s voice!' (“Israel, Israel, God Is Calling,” Hymns, no. 7.)
"Bear, borne, carry, deliver. These are powerful, heartening messianic words. They convey help and hope for safe movement from where we are to where we need to be—but cannot get without assistance. These words also connote burden, struggle, and fatigue—words most appropriate in describing the mission of Him who, at unspeakable cost, lifts us up when we have fallen, carries us forward when strength is gone, delivers us safely home when safety seems far beyond our reach. 'My Father sent me,' He said, 'that I might be lifted up upon the cross; ... that as I have been lifted up ... even so should men be lifted up ... to ... me.' (3 Nephi 27:14.)"
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Behold Thy Mother," Ensign, November 2015, pp. 47-50
Click here to read the full talk

Elder Holland identifies some "Messianic words"— "Bear, borne, carry, deliver" — strong verbs that convey a tender meaning. I've never considered the thought of a Messianic word; a very interesting concept. And the power in those words lies in their ability to bless us; to bring hope, help, and progress, for all things we are unable to do for ourselves, but cannot do without assistance.

What a powerful testimony of a loving Redeemer!

The beauty of this excerpt is that Elder Holland then goes on to talk, in a most tender tribute, about how mothers act in the same spirit to bless lives.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
January 19, 2016

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

President M. Russell Ballard on living the new law of sacrifice

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.
"After His mortal ministry, Christ elevated the law of sacrifice to a new level. In describing how the law would continue, Jesus told his Nephite Apostles that He would no longer accept burnt offerings but that His disciples should offer 'a broken heart and a contrite spirit' (3 Ne. 9:19-20; see also D&C 59:8, 12). Instead of the Lord requiring our animals or grain, now He wants us to give up all that is ungodly. This higher practice of the law of sacrifice reaches into the inner soul of a person. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: '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!' ("'Deny Yourselves of All Ungodliness,'" Ensign, May 1995, 68).
"How is it we show the Lord that we have symbolically put ourselves upon today's sacrificial altar? We show Him by living the first great commandment: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind' (Matt. 22:37). When we overcome our own selfish desires and put God first in our lives and covenant to serve Him regardless of the cost, we are then living the law of sacrifice.
"One of the best ways to be sure we are keeping the first great commandment is to keep the second great commandment. The Master Himself taught that 'inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me' (Matt. 25:40) and that 'when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God' (Mosiah 2:17). The degree of our love for the Lord and for our fellowman can be measured by what we are willing to sacrifice for them. Sacrifice is a demonstration of pure love."
- M. Russell Ballard, "The Law of Sacrifice," CES symposium at BYU, August 13, 1996; see Ensign Oct 1998, pp. 6-13
Click here to read the full talk

I like the description Elder Ballard uses—the old law of sacrifice wasn't replaced, but "Christ elevated the law of sacrifice to a new level." That emphasizes the link between the old requirements and the new.  Elder Maxwell's statement brings that out beautifully:

Then Elder Ballard goes into the "how" of the process. We can best show God our obedience to the "new" law of sacrifice, and show our real and complete love for Him, by truly loving those around us. We demonstrate the depth of our love, for God and for our neighbors, by our willingness to sacrifice.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
November 30, 2015

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

President David O. McKay on the power of little things

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.
"Little things are but parts of the great. The grass does not spring up full grown by eruption. It rises up and increases as noiselessly and gently as not to disturb an angel's ear, perhaps is invisible to an angel's eye. The rain does not fall in masses but in drops; the planets do not leap in their orbits, but inch by inch and line by line they circle the orbits. Intellect, feeling, habit, character, all become what they are through the influence of little things, and in morals and religion, it is by little things, by little actions, that every one of us is going—not by leaps, yet surely by inches—either to life or death eternal.
"The great lesson to be learned in the world today is to apply in the little acts and duties of life the glorious principles of the Gospel. Let us not think that, because some of the things may seem small and trivial, they are unimportant. Life, after all, is made up of little things. Our life, our being, physically, is made up of little heart beats. Let that little heart stop beating, and life in this world ceases. The great sun is a mighty force in the universe, but we receive the blessings of his rays because they come to us as little beams, which, taken in the aggregate, fill the whole world with sunlight. The dark night is made pleasant by the glimmer of what seem to be little stars; and so the true Christian life is made up of little Christ-like acts performed this hour, this minute—in the home, in the quorum, in the organization, in the town, wherever our life and acts may be cast."
- David O. McKay, "True to the Faith," p. 153

This is a beautiful thought from President McKay. We sometimes expect grand and glorious events, dramatic progress, spectacular achievements, leaps in understanding. But in almost every case, it's the "little things" that really indicate progress, now and eternally.

All of life is "made up of little things," from the physical beats of each individual's heart, to the rays of sunlight that provide life sustenance, to the Christ-like acts that make life meaningful. What a valuable reminder!
Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise. (Alma 37:6)

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
September 7, 2015

Monday, February 21, 2022

Elder Bruce R. McConkie on the power and blessings from prayer

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.
"It is pleasing to that God whose we are when we fast and pray and seek his blessings; when we plead with all the energy of our souls for those things we so much desire; when, as Paul says, we 'come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.' (Heb. 4:16.)
"Prayer is the way and means, given us by our Creator, whereby we can counsel and communicate with him. It is one of the chief cornerstones of pure and perfect worship.
"In prayer we speak to the Lord, and he speaks to us. It is our privilege to have our voices heard in the courts above and to hear the answering voice of the Lord conveyed by the power of his Spirit.
"Prayer changes our lives. Through it we draw near to the Lord, and he reaches out his finger and touches us, so we never again are the same.
"Prayer is a great tower of strength, a pillar of unending righteousness, a mighty force that moves mountains and saves souls. Through it the sick are healed, the dead are raised, and the Holy Spirit is poured out without measure upon the faithful.
"In prayer we bind ourselves by solemn covenants to love and serve the Lord all our days. In it we pay our devotions and offer our sacraments to the Most High."
- Bruce R. McConkie, "Patterns of Prayer," Ensign, May 1984, pp. 32-34
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

In my youth, I loved listening to Elder McConkie. His words were always so sure, his voice so bold and clear in expounding doctrine and testifying of truth.

This explanation of the power of prayer and the role it can play in our lives is insightful and inspiring. Once we begin to grasp the blessings available through this heavenly gift, we truly will be willing to "come boldly unto the throne of grace."

Two more thoughts from Elder McConkie's quote impressed me. First, prayer provides the means through which "the Holy Spirit is poured out without measure upon the faithful." That is a gift to be sought after and prized as we deal with the challenges of mortality. The price to pay for the gift is small in comparison to that which is returned.

And then, "In prayer we bind ourselves by solemn covenants to love and serve the Lord all our days." What a beautiful expression of the sacred relationship we develop with our Father through sincere and regular communication. How deeply fortunate is the man or woman who establishes this habit and begins to receive the blessings that follow!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
March 26, 2017

Sunday, February 20, 2022

President Russell M. Nelson on becoming the right person

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.
"The end for which each of you should strive is to be the person that you can become—the person who God wants you to be. The day will come when your professional career will end. The career that you will have labored so hard to achieve—the work that will have supported you and your family—will one day be behind you.
"Then you will have learned this great lesson: much more important than what you do for a living is what kind of person you become. When you leave this frail existence, what you have become will matter most. Attributes such as 'faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, [and] diligence' (D&C 4:6) will all be weighed in the Lord's balance.
"From time to time, ask yourself these questions: 'Am I ready to meet my Maker?' 'Am I worthy of all the blessings He has in store for His faithful children?' 'Have I received my endowment and sealing ordinances of the temple?' 'Have I remained faithful to my covenants?' 'Have I qualified for the greatest of all God's blessings—the blessing of eternal life?' (see D&C 14:7)."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Neither Trust in the Arm of Flesh," BYU commencement address, April 23, 2009; see Ensign, March 2010, pp. 24-25
Click here to read the full talk

We spend a lot of time and energy "striving" for various things in our lives each day. Careers and professional activities consume significant portions as we work to sustain ourselves. Sometimes we lose the perspective on what matters most, and President Nelson reminds us that it's far more important to worry about the kind of person we become than what we do for a living. "The end for which each of you should strive is to be the person that you can become—the person who God wants you to be."

He provides this practical suggestion to help evaluate our progress in the things that matter most—a short personal interview of sorts:

Those questions truly help to identify "the things that matter most." We would be wise to ponder them carefully!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
July 23, 2015

Saturday, February 19, 2022

President Henry B. Eyring on the blessings of gratitude during trials

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.
"I have felt that transformation of growing gratitude for blessings and a love of God increasing across the Church. It seems to accelerate among members of the Church in times and places where there are trials of their faith, where they have to plead to God for help to even carry on.
"The times we will pass through will have in them hard trials, as they did for the people of Alma under the cruel Amulon, who put burdens on their backs too heavy for them to bear:
"'And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
"'And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.
"'And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.' (Mosiah 24:13–15.)
"You and I are witnesses that whenever we have kept our covenants with God, especially when it was hard, He has heard our prayers of thanks for what He has already done for us and has answered our prayer for strength to endure faithfully. And more than once He has made us cheerful as well as strong."
- Henry B. Eyring, "Gratitude on the Sabbath Day," General Conference, October 2016
Click here to read or hear the complete talk

President Eyring made an interesting observation. Gratitude increases during times when faith is tried. In the times when we "have to plead to God for help to even carry on" then we start to understand why we should be more grateful.

The example of the people of Alma under Amulon's oppression is always instructive. They didn't plead for burdens to be lifted or for the ability to overcome their oppressors. Instead, they received strength to carry burdens and to endure in faithfulness. God told them, as he will tell us, "for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage."

I especially love that closing line.  God can not only help to make us strong; He can also make us cheerful.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
October 11, 2016

Friday, February 18, 2022

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on revelation and personal decisions

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.
"A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don't receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances in which the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable.
"We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it. If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgment. Persons who persist in seeking revelatory guidance on subjects on which the Lord has not chosen to direct us may concoct an answer out of their own fantasy or bias, or they may even receive an answer through the medium of false revelation. Revelation from God is a sacred reality, but like other sacred things, it must be cherished and used properly so that a great strength does not become a disabling weakness."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall," BYU 18-Stake Fireside, June 7, 1992; quoted in Ensign, Oct. 1994, pp. 13-14
Click here to read the full talk

Sometimes we struggle in our mortal experience to find the right "balance" in a variety of ways. Elder Oaks explains one of them: how does personal agency and the need to choose and learn, balance with promises of inspiration and spiritual direction? He gives wise counsel on the tendency of some to require or expect revelation on every decision of life, warning that it is not going to come, particularly in cases where "the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable":

Note that Elder Oaks didn't warn (in this excerpt) about the other extreme (not asking God at all for help) since his talk focused on a general theme of how something appears to be a good thing, a "strength," can become a challenge or weakness.

The second paragraph gives his counsel on how we should expect to see revelation in our personal lives. The process he describes is:
  1. When faced with a decision, "study things out in our minds." Use our God-given faculties to consider the problem and alternatives
  2. Pray for guidance
  3. If we receive a spiritual prompting, act on it
  4. If we do not receive a prompting, act on our best judgement
I especially appreciated the warning about not expecting revelation in every case, and the potential traps that can lead to.  Wise counsel!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
June 22, 2016

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Elder Ulisses Soares on the blessing of latter-day prophets

Elder Ulisses Soares (born October 2, 1958) 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.
"Isn’t it a blessing to have prophets, seers, and revelators on earth in these days in which we live, who seek to know the will of the Lord and follow it? It is comforting to know that we are not alone in the world, despite the challenges we face in life. Having prophets is a sign of God’s love for His children. They make known the promises and the true nature of God and of Jesus Christ to Their people. I have learned that through my personal experiences....
"I testify that the prophets speak by the power of the Holy Spirit. They testify of Christ and His divine mission on earth. They represent the mind and heart of the Lord and are called to represent Him and teach us what we must do to return to live in the presence of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. We are blessed as we exercise our faith and follow their teachings. By following them, our lives are happier and less complicated, our difficulties and problems are easier to bear, and we create a spiritual armor around us that will protect us from the attacks of the enemy in our day."
- Ulisses Soares, "Prophets Speak by the Power of the Holy Spirit," General Conference April 2018
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Soares bore a brief testimony as his first message since being sustained as the newest member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, testifying of the blessing and power that come as we heed the counsel of inspired leaders. Particularly important is the thought, "Having prophets is a sign of God's love for His children." Through them, He sends guidance, warnings, and encouragement for us to confront "the challenges we face in life." But prophets, seers, and revelators are a blessing to us, only to the degree that we follow their teachings:

Elder Soares has now assumed the weighty burden of being one of those messengers from God. We continue to look forward eagerly to his counsel as he serves and teaches.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
April 17, 2018

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Elder Dale G. Renlund on blessings that come as we draw closer to God

Elder Dale G. Renlund (b. November 13, 1952) served in the First Quorum of Seventy starting in 2009, until his call to the Quorum of Twelve in October 2015.
"The closer we are to Jesus Christ in the thoughts and intents of our hearts, the more we appreciate His innocent suffering, the more grateful we are for grace and forgiveness, and the more we want to repent and become like Him. Our absolute distance from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is important, but the direction we are heading is even more crucial. God is more pleased with repentant sinners who are trying to draw closer to Him than with self-righteous, faultfinding individuals who, like the Pharisees and scribes of old, do not realize how badly they need to repent (see Luke 15:2; see also Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 5:260–62)....
"Whatever our current direction or distance to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, we can choose to turn toward Them and draw closer to Them....
"To draw closer to the Savior, we must increase our faith in Him, make and keep covenants, and have the Holy Ghost with us. We must also act in faith, responding to the spiritual direction we receive. All of these elements come together in the sacrament. Indeed, the best way I know of to draw closer to God is to prepare conscientiously and partake worthily of the sacrament each week....
"No matter where you stand in your relationship to God, I invite you to draw nearer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, the Ultimate Benefactors and Givers of all that is good. I invite you to attend sacrament meeting each week and partake of the holy emblems of the Savior’s body and blood. I invite you to feel God’s nearness as He is made known to you, as He was to the disciples of old, in the 'breaking of [the] bread.'
"As you do, I promise that you will feel nearer to God. Natural tendencies to childish whining, disgruntled entitlement, and derisive skepticism will dissipate. Those sentiments will be replaced by feelings of greater love and gratitude for Heavenly Father’s gift of His Son. As we draw closer to God, the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ will come into our lives. And, as with the disciples on the way to Emmaus, we will find that the Savior has been nearby all along."
- Dale G. Renlund, "That I Might Draw All Men unto Me," General Conference, April 2016, Saturday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

I thought this talk by Elder Renlund was masterful. He introduced his thoughts with the classic insight once shared by an associate: "The greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement." That was applied first to the giving of charity, and a review of Church welfare principles. But then it was applied to our relationship with Deity, and the insights were wonderfully beneficial.

This was an invitation to all to "draw near unto" the Savior and our Father in Heaven, and a promise of the blessings that would follow. Some of the specific things Elder Renlund suggested we might do include:
  • increase our faith in Him
  • make and keep covenants
  • have the Holy Ghost with us
  • act in faith, responding to the spiritual direction we receive
He suggested that these items share a focal point in the sacrament, which provides a tool to draw us closer to God as we "prepare conscientiously and partake worthily of the sacrament each week."

I love a challenge with a promise—an invitation to be blessed as we accept inspired counsel. The promises listed here are some I very much desire.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
April 22, 2016

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Elder Gerrit W. Gong on remembering the Savior

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.
"Each week, in partaking of the sacrament, we covenant to always remember Him. Drawing on the nearly 400 scripture references to the word remember, here are six ways we can always remember Him.
"First, we can always remember Him by having confidence in His covenants, promises, and assurances....
"Second, we can always remember Him by gratefully acknowledging His hand throughout our lives....
"Third, we can always remember Him by trusting when the Lord assures us, 'He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.' (D&C 58:42) ...
"Fourth, He invites us to remember that He is always welcoming us home....
"Fifth, we can always remember Him on the Sabbath through the sacrament....
"Finally, sixth, our Savior invites us to always remember Him as He always remembers us."
- Gerrit W. Gong, "Always Remember Him," General Conference April 2016
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

When Sunday is done and we return to our "normal" daily lives, how much are we impacted? How do we keep the spirit of the Sabbath alive? Specifically, how do we maintain awareness of the covenants and promises of the sacrament through the coming days?

Elder Gong offered these suggestions when he was serving as a member of the Seventy, before his call as an apostle. Only a brief summary is presented here; it's very worthwhile to review the entire talk by clicking on the link above, and read the further details he offers for each of the six suggestions.

The challenge to "always remember Him" is perhaps one of the most important ones we are given. Elder Gong's suggestions are very valuable in providing ideas on how we can do that more effectively.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
May 21, 2018

Monday, February 14, 2022

President Gordon B. Hinckley on happiness in marriage

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.
"I have long felt that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one's companion. That involves a willingness to overlook weaknesses and mistakes.
"One man has said, 'Love is not blind—it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less' (Julius Gordon).
"Many of us need to stop looking for faults and begin to look for virtues. Booth Tarkington once remarked that 'an ideal wife is any woman who has an ideal husband.' Unfortunately, some women want to remake their husbands after their own design. Some husbands regard it as their prerogative to compel their wives to fit their standards of what they think to be the ideal. It never works. It only leads to contention, misunderstanding, and sorrow.
"There must be respect for the interests of one another. There must be opportunities and encouragement for the development and expression of individual talent....
"Husbands, wives, respect one another. Live worthy of the respect of one another. Cultivate that kind of respect which expresses itself in kindness, forbearance, patience, forgiveness, true affection, without officiousness and without show of authority."
- Gordon B. Hinckley, "Cornerstones of a Happy Home," satellite broadcast for husbands and wives, January 29, 1984
Click here to read the full talk

I love this counsel from dear President Hinckley. Every married person should be actively and eagerly seeking for ways to increase "happiness in marriage" and he gives very practical advice on how to do it. This is a great key: it comes from eagerness to seek the "comfort and well-being of one's companion" first and foremost:

Those who have fallen into traps of being critical or negative "need to stop looking for faults and begin to look for virtues." That is a hard transition to make, but is perhaps the only way to effectively change directions once started down the path of negativity. And this is a pointed warning, especially for husbands, though occasionally for wives as well:

Instead, President Hinckley counsels us to learn to respect differences, to honor and encourage one another's interests and talents.  And finally, this very profound counsel to not only respect one another but to be worthy of respect in all ways, thus working together to cultivate the highest and best in a relationship. What profound counsel!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
July 18, 2015

Sunday, February 13, 2022

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the simplicity of the Gospel

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.
"Are we making our discipleship too complicated?
"This beautiful gospel is so simple a child can grasp it, yet so profound and complex that it will take a lifetime—even an eternity—of study and discovery to fully understand it.
"But sometimes we take the beautiful lily of God’s truth and gild it with layer upon layer of man-made good ideas, programs, and expectations. Each one, by itself, might be helpful and appropriate for a certain time and circumstance, but when they are laid on top of each other, they can create a mountain of sediment that becomes so thick and heavy that we risk losing sight of that precious flower we once loved so dearly.
"Therefore, as leaders we must strictly protect the Church and the gospel in its purity and plainness and avoid putting unnecessary burdens on our members.
"And all of us, as members of the Church, we need to make a conscientious effort to devote our energy and time to the things that truly matter, while uplifting our fellowmen and building the kingdom of God."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "It Works Wonderfully!", General Conference, October 2015, Saturday morning session
Click here to read the full talk

This is a message that we need to hear over and over. The gospel is beautiful and simple. When life gets frustrating or overwhelming, it's always valuable to go "back to the basics" and remember what the things are that really matter.

While programs and activities can be helpful, they must not distract us from the purity and simplicity of the true Gospel message: "uplifting our fellowmen and building the kingdom of God."

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