Thursday, March 31, 2022

President Lorenzo Snow on blessings from general conference

Lorenzo Snow (1814-1901) was an early convert to the Church along with his sister Eliza R. Snow. He was called as an apostle by Brigham Young in 1849. He served as the 5th president of the Church from 1898 until his death in 1901.
"Pray for the Brethren at conference time. When the Brethren arise to speak you should ask the Lord to let them say something that you want to know, that they may suggest something to you that will be of some advantage. If you have any desire to know certain matters that you do not understand, pray that these brethren in their talks may say something that shall enlighten your mind in reference to that which troubles you, and we will have a grand and glorious conference, a better one than we have ever had before. Strange as it may appear, our last conference always seems the best, and may this be the case; and you brethren and sisters, let your hearts rise up to the Lord and exercise faith while our brethren are talking to you. We will not be disappointed, and you will not go home, you will not retire from this conference, without feeling you have been greatly and abundantly blessed."
- Lorenzo Snow, Conference Report, 5 October 1900, p. 5

General conference offers many blessings to willing listeners. President Snow points out the shared responsibility of speaker and listener; we are invited to bring our problems and questions to the setting, and allow the Lord to inspire us with answers and direction. As we humbly seek for help, the Spirit "will enlighten your mind" with help and guidance, "and we will have a grand and glorious conference."

I have often felt that sentiment, that this was the best conference ever! And we each have the opportunity to feel it again. If we contribute our part of the efforts, it will be the best conference for each of us personally.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
September 29, 2017

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

President J. Reuben Clark Jr. on feeling the inspiration of instructions from leaders

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. (September 1, 1871 – October 6, 1961) was a prominent attorney who served as Under Secretary of State during the presidency of Calvin Coolidge, and later as the US Ambassador to Mexico. He was called as a counselor in the First Presidency to Heber J. Grant starting in April 1933, and was ordained an apostle a year and a half later. He went on to serve as counselor to Presidents George Albert Smith and David O. McKay before he passed away in 1961 at age 90.
"The very words of the revelation (D&C 68:2-4) recognize that the Brethren may speak when they are not 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost,' yet only when they do so speak, as so 'moved upon,' is what they say Scripture. No exceptions are given to this rule or principle. It is universal in its application.
"The question is, how shall we know when the things they have spoken were said as they were 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost'?
"I have given some thought to this question, and the answer thereto so far as I can determine, is: We can tell when the speakers are 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost' only when we, ourselves, are 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost.'
"In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak."
- J. Reuben Clark, "When Are the Writings and Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Being Scripture?", address at BYU on July 7, 1954; see Church News, July 31, 1954
Click here to read the full article

The description of this event indicates that President Clark was asked to respond directly to the question about how we recognize "modern scripture" as delivered by Church leaders. His response is instructive and beneficial to us today.

One of the intriguing insights of modern scripture is the instruction given to early members of the Church through Joseph Smith, as recorded in 1831, where they were told that not only must the person delivering a message "preach it by the Spirit of truth" and by no other way, but also the one receiving must receive in the same manner, in order that the two may be "edified and rejoice together" (D&C 50:17-22). There is a power of communication that occurs when spirit speaks to spirit in this manner.

President Clark applied this same principle to the question of our interaction with Church leaders. They sometimes speak formally and authoritatively, based on inspiration from God; at other times, they may speak only personal opinion or commentary. Those who are in tune and practiced with the Spirit's role in communication will know the difference, and be edified as the Spirit teaches and confirms.

The article by President Clark goes on to consider other aspects of the question and is very worthwhile to review.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
September 29, 2017

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

President Howard W. Hunter on the blessings of general conference

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.
"Conference time is a season of spiritual revival when knowledge and testimony are increased and solidified that God lives and blesses those who are faithful. It is a time when an understanding that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is burned into the hearts of those who have the determination to serve him and keep his commandments. Conference is the time when our leaders give us inspired direction in the conduct of our lives—a time when souls are stirred and resolutions are made to be better husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, more obedient sons and daughters, better friends and neighbors.
"As we enter into the spirit of conference, another feeling comes to us—one of deep gratitude that we have been blessed by an understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ as it has been restored to earth in this dispensation of time. We mix with others from around the world who have that same feeling, and we wish that men and women everywhere could understand and find the joy and peace that come from the knowledge that all people are children of God and therefore brothers and sisters—literally, actually, and in fact, regardless of race, color, language, or religious belief."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Conference Time," Ensign, November 1981, p. 12
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Faithful Church members are eagerly anticipating the coming days of "spiritual revival" available to them. The understanding that God will bless us as we are faithful is a critical one, much needed when we struggle with the challenges of our lives. Part of the blessing of conference lies in the resolutions we make to improve as we listen to the counsel that is offered.

The second paragraph of President Hunter's message points out that we should feel deep gratitude for the blessings we experience during conference, of deepened understanding and growing testimony. And that gratitude should motivate us with a with that "men and women everywhere" could experience the same join and peace with us. We should be motivated to share our testimonies, to bless and lift those around us with the knowledge.

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

Monday, March 28, 2022

Elder Boyd K. Packer on following inspired leaders and preparing for conference

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.
"In closing, I say again, FOLLOW THE BRETHREN. In a few days there opens another general conference of the Church. The servants of the Lord will counsel us. You may listen with anxious ears and hearts, or you may turn that counsel aside. As in these devotionals, what you shall gain will depend not so much upon their preparation of the messages as upon your preparation for them....
"On one occasion [Karl G. Maesar] was leading a party of young missionaries across the Alps. As they slowly ascended the steep slope, he looked back and saw a row of sticks thrust into the glacial snow to mark the one safe path across the otherwise treacherous mountains.
"Something about those sticks impressed him, and halting the company of missionaries he gestured toward them and said, 'Brethren, there stands the priesthood. They are just common sticks like the rest of us—some of them may even seem to be a little crooked, but the position they hold makes them what they are. If we step aside from the path they mark, we are lost.'
"I bear witness, my brethren and sisters, fellow students, that in this Church men are as they indeed must be—called of God by prophecy. May we learn in our youth this lesson; it will see us faithful through all of the challenges of our lives. May we learn to follow the brethren."
- Boyd K. Packer, "Follow the Brethren," BYU Devotional, March 23, 1965
Click here to listen to the full talk

This is one of the classic messages offered by President Packer, then a young apostle, during a BYU devotional. He points out how critical our personal attitude is, as we prepare for and listen to general conference addresses — generally we are listening either "with anxious ears and hearts" or casually ignoring the counsel. But how do we obtain the most benefit from the messages?

The example from Karl G. Maesar's story is another classic analogy President Packer used. Priesthood leaders may be "common sticks" but their position makes them a critical guide for our lives if we are willing to watch and heed. It's vital to learn that the Church leaders will help to "see us faithful through all the challenges of our lives."

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

Sunday, March 27, 2022

President Thomas S. Monson on the lighthouse of the Lord

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.
"My brothers and sisters, today, as we look at the world around us, we are faced with problems which are serious and of great concern to us. The world seems to have slipped from the moorings of safety and drifted from the harbor of peace.
"Permissiveness, immorality, pornography, dishonesty, and a host of other ills cause many to be tossed about on a sea of sin and crushed on the jagged reefs of lost opportunities, forfeited blessings, and shattered dreams.
"My counsel for all of us is to look to the lighthouse of the Lord. There is no fog so dense, no night so dark, no gale so strong, no mariner so lost but what its beacon light can rescue. It beckons through the storms of life. The lighthouse of the Lord sends forth signals readily recognized and never failing.
"I love the words found in Psalms: 'The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; ... I will call upon the Lord ... so [I shall] be saved from mine enemies' (Psalm 18:2-3).
"The Lord loves us, my brothers and sisters, and will bless us as we call upon Him.
"How grateful we are for the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and for all the good it brings into our lives. The Lord has poured out His blessings upon us as a people. I bear my testimony to you that this work is true, that our Savior lives, and that He guides and directs His Church here upon the earth."
- Thomas S. Monson, "A Word at Closing", Ensign, May 2010, p. 113
Click here to read the full article

We need not be overwhelmed by the world's problems, even though, according to President Monson, "The world seems to have slipped from the moorings of safety and drifted from the harbor of peace." Amid the growing challenges, there is always one sure beacon to help us find the safe way through any turmoil:

In times of darkness and uncertainty, we should have much gratitude for the steady light available to us through the blessings of the Lord and the restored principles of His gospel!

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

Saturday, March 26, 2022

President Ezra Taft Benson on learning to follow Jesus Christ

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.
"I testify to you that there is no greater and no more thrilling challenge than to try to learn of Christ and walk in His steps. Our model, Jesus Christ, walked this earth as 'the Exemplar.' He is our Advocate with the Father. He worked out the great atoning sacrifice so we could have a fulness of joy and be exalted in accordance with His grace and our repentance and righteousness. He did all things perfectly and commands that we be perfect even as He and His Father are perfect. (See 3 Ne. 12:48.)
"'What would Jesus do?' or 'What would He have me do?' are paramount personal questions of this life. Walking in His way is the greatest achievement of life. That man or woman is most truly successful whose life most closely parallels that of the Master.
"I know the Lord lives. I know that He loves us. I know that apart from Him no one can succeed, but as a partner with Him, no one can fail.
"I know that God can make a lot more out of our lives than we can.
"That we may all have the moral courage from this moment forward to more fully strive each day to think on Christ, learn of Him, walk in His steps, and do what He would have us do is my prayer."
- Ezra Taft Benson, "Think on Christ," Ensign, March 1989, p. 2
Click here to read the full talk

Interesting challenge: "There is no greater and no more thrilling challenge than to try to learn of Christ and walk in His steps." It is both a great challenge, and a thrilling challenge, to learn of Him! President Benson shares some of what he has learned of Christ, His role in mortality, and the blessings He offers to all of us.

On other occasions, President Benson spoke in more detail of these preeminent questions; they will bless our lives as we learn to ask them more regularly and sincerely:
"What would Jesus do?"
"What would He have me do?"
President Benson's testimony of the benefits and blessings of these efforts is the real core of this message. I think he knew of these promises from his own experience; I am grateful to have seen many of them realized in mine.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
June 10, 2016

Friday, March 25, 2022

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on love and discipleship

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (Born June 11, 1917- 99 years ago today! Died December 1, 2008) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1986, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1986 until his passing in 2008 at age 91.
"The measure of our love is the measure of the greatness of our souls.
"The scriptures tell us that 'if any man love God, the same is known of him' (1 Corinthians 8:3). What a wonderful promise—to be known of Him. It makes the spirit soar to think that the Creator of heaven and earth could know us and love us with a pure, eternal love.
"In 1840 the Prophet Joseph sent an epistle to the Twelve wherein he taught that 'love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race' (History of the Church, 4:227).
"As we reach out in love to those around us, we fulfill the other half of the great commandment to 'love thy neighbour as thyself' (Galatians 5:14).
"Both commandments are necessary, for as we bear one another's burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ (see Galatians 6:2).
"Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship. It comforts, counsels, cures, and consoles. It leads us through valleys of darkness and through the veil of death. In the end love leads us to the glory and grandeur of eternal life."
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Great Commandment," Ensign, Nov. 2007, pp. 28-31
Click here to read the full talk

I love Elder Wirthlin's gentle invitation to better discipleship. The first statement of this excerpt is profound: "The measure of our love is the measure of the greatness of our souls." And then he elaborates; we must first love God, deeply and completely. I love the promise from Paul's letter to the Corinthians that teaches how we are "known of God" as we come to love Him.

But the love of God is not passive; it leads us to love one another, to express our love in our interactions with those around us, as Joseph Smith taught beautifully:

Finally,  Elder Wirthlin's summary is beautifully written. This paragraph reminds us of the all-encompassing nature of love, and its power and ability to bless in profound ways.

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

Thursday, March 24, 2022

President James E. Faust on the value of temple attendance

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.
"I owe my text to Elder Marion G. Romney, who, at a Brigham Young University devotional in 1955, stated: 'Now there are those among us who are trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil.' This is a contradiction of terms....
"Today many of us are trying to serve two masters—the Lord and our own selfish interests—without offending the devil. The influence of God, our Eternal Father, urges us, pleads us, and inspires us to follow him. In contrast the power of Satan urges us to disbelieve and disregard God's commandments....
"I now come to some even milder forms of trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil. Having a temple recommend and not using it seems mild enough. However, if we live close to a temple, perhaps having a temple recommend but not using it may not offend the devil. Satan is offended when we use that recommend, going to the temple to partake of the spiritual protection it affords. How often do we plan to go to the temple, only to have all kinds of hindrances arise to stop us from going? The devil always has been offended by our temple worship. As President Brigham Young once said about the building of temples, there are Saints who say, '"I do not like to do it, for we never began to build a temple without the bells of hell beginning to ring."' His answer was, 'I want to hear them ring again. All the tribes of hell will be on the move, if we uncover the walls of this temple' (DBY 410)."
- James E Faust, "Serving the Lord and Resisting the Devil," Ensign, September 1995, p. 5
Click here to read the full article

The premise of President Faust's message was that you can't serve God without offending the adversary. Their plans and programs are in direct opposition, and there's no way to straddle the border and be a little on both sides!

One of the key areas President Faust chose to illustrate this point related to temple service and attendance. He believed that having a temple recommend, and using it, would always be offending Satan; but he would be pleased if we weren't using the recommend we possess. And if we're not actively offending the devil, we're probably not doing things right! And even more, we're denying ourselves "the spiritual protection it affords" when we do attend.

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Elder Richard L. Evans on consistently living our beliefs

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 am reminded of the story of Jacob in the Old Testament, in Genesis, when he was traveling in a strange land. Up to that time he had had limited experience and had been held close to home ties. But in this strange place he awoke one night after a dream and said. 'Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.' (Genesis 28:16) I would like our young men to remember that wherever they are, God is in that place and they must take Him into their confidence and conduct themselves in His ways.
"We cannot departmentalize the eternal record of our lives. It is one continued story. As Latter-day Saints we don't behave one way in the army and one way in business and another in Church. That is, not if we give heed to our principles. We do not behave one way at home and another way away from home. Wherever we are, remember that God is in this place also, and when the final record is written and read, all that we have done and thought, at home and abroad, in all the occupations and in all the pursuits that we may be called upon to undertake, is all a part of the eternal record of all of us, and it stands unalterably for us or against us."
- Richard L. Evans, Conference Report, April 1941, p. 53
Click here to read the full talk

I am impressed by that wonderful Old Testament insight from Jacob's life. We can find God in many places where we may not expect to see Him, and should never assume that He is not near. We just may not have the spiritual sensitivity and maturity to notice Him at times; what a challenge to work on!

The idea of "departmentalizing" our lives also rings true. We are not part-time disciples. We must look to Him in every thought (see D&C 6:36) and every deed.

Elder Jeffrey R, Holland told more recently of an experience when LDS members behaved badly as members of an audience at a sporting event, saying they "check their religion at the door" so they can enjoy the game with vocal abuse and taunting. Elder Holland stated:
"Lesson number one for the establishment of Zion in the 21st century: You never 'check your religion at the door.' Not ever.
"My young friends, that kind of discipleship cannot be—it is not discipleship at all. As the prophet Alma has taught the young women of the Church to declare every week in their Young Women theme, we are 'to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in,' not just some of the time, in a few places, or when our team has a big lead."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Israel, Israel, God Is Calling," CES Devotional broadcast from Dixie State College, St. George Utah, September 9, 2012
Elder Evans reminds us that "we don't behave one way in the army and one way in business and another in Church." God is in every place where we are, and we must behave as one who understands that vital principle.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
March 23, 2017

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on learning to trust God's timetable

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (born July 6, 1926, died July 21, 2004 at age 78) served as a Seventy from 1976-1981, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until his death from cancer in 2004.

This excerpt is from an article that was being prepared for publication when Elder Maxwell passed away.
"God has a timetable for this planet and for each person: 'But all things must come to pass in their time' (D&C 64:32).
"Within all of the drama cited are many individual dramas, making it imperative for you to allow the Lord to tutor you amid your discipleship.
"Enoch rejoiced, and so can you over the grand, consoling reality regarding God: 'And yet thou art there' (Moses 7:30). Privileged Enoch even saw the God of heaven weep! (see Moses 7:29). Yet Enoch was very discouraged by the gross wickedness anciently. He said he would 'refuse to be comforted' (Moses 7:44). The mentoring Lord, however, told Enoch to 'lift up your heart, and be glad; and look' (Moses 7:44). Then revealed to Enoch was Jesus' Atonement in the meridian of time and also the latter-day Restoration. Enoch, who had been so distraught, now rejoiced!
"Do not 'refuse to be comforted.' Let the revelations comfort you. Let the scriptures refresh you!"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "These Are Your Days," Ensign, Oct 2004, pp. 26-31
Click here to read the full article

"God has a timetable"—those words reflect and understanding of eternal purpose and divine control. If we truly believe that, then it truly does become critical to "allow the Lord to tutor you amid your discipleship." With that faith and hope, we can, like Enoch, like Elder Maxwell, learn to lift our hearts in gladness in spite of wickedness around us, or personal trials and challenges.

And a great key to finding comfort amidst those challenges of mortality, according to Elder Maxwell, is to turn to the revelations and the scriptures. That will enable God to speak to us, as He did to Enoch; the reassurance will come.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
August 1, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2022

President Spencer W. Kimball on living the gospel in the home

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) was ordained an apostle in 1943 and served as President of the Church from 1973 to 1985.
"The mission of the Church to its members is to make available the principles, programs, and priesthood by which they can prepare themselves for exaltation. Our success, individually and as a Church, will largely be determined by how faithfully we focus on living the gospel in the home. Only as we see clearly the responsibilities of each individual and the role of families and homes can we properly understand that priesthood quorums and auxiliary organizations, even wards and stakes, exist primarily to help members live the gospel in the home. Then we can understand that people are more important than programs, and that Church programs should always support and never detract from gospel-centered family activities....
"All should work together to make home a place where we love to be, a place of listening and learning, a place where each member can find mutual love, support, appreciation, and encouragement.
"I repeat that our success, individually and as a Church, will largely be determined by how faithfully we focus on living the gospel in the home."
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Living the Gospel in the Home," address to the Regional Representatives Senimar, 3/31/78; see Ensign, May 1978, pp 100-101
Click here to read the full talk

I think this address by President Kimball was a landmark sermon in helping clarify in the minds of many the relative roles of the Church and its organizations, compared to the home and family. At times we still struggle with that. We need to recognize that the whole purpose of the Church, all its organizations and programs, is to support and strengthen the family; they "exist primarily to help members live the gospel in the home."

The simple phrase "people are more important than programs" is a good summary. We do occasionally forget that, getting caught up in the need to over-program our lives.  "Church programs should always support and never detract from gospel-centered family activities."

In more recent years, the emphasis on "home-centered, Church-supported" Gospel learning corresponds to this establishment of priorities.  

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

Sunday, March 20, 2022

President Howard W. Hunter on following Christ in simplicity

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.
"In this world of confusion and rushing, temporal progress, we need to return to the simplicity of Christ. We need to love, honor, and worship him. To acquire spirituality and have its influence in our lives, we cannot become confused and misdirected by the twisted teachings of the modernist. We need to study the simple fundamentals of the truths taught by the Master and eliminate the controversial. Our faith in God needs to be real and not speculative. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ can be a dynamic, moving influence, and true acceptance gives us a meaningful, religious experience. One of the great strengths of the Mormon religion is this translation of belief into daily thinking and conduct. This replaces turmoil and confusion with peace and tranquility."
- Howard W. Hunter, "Where, Then, is Hope?", Conference Report, October 1970, pp. 129-132; see also Improvement Era Dec. 1970, p. 117
Click here to read the full talk

Some of President Hunter's most moving and inspiring messages were simple reminders of the power and blessing of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of discipleship in following Him. This is a wonderful example. While we sometimes are tempted to complicate our lives and our faith, President Hunter invites us "to return to the simplicity of Christ."

The message of the Gospel "can be a dynamic, moving influence"—can be, but only if we are committed in every way to allow it to be, as we fulfill the conditions to make it so. The great key to the process lies in the "translation of belief into daily thinking and conduct." The teachings of the Church are empty and meaningless if they do not result in changes in behavior. True disciples not only believe differently, they behave differently!

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

Friday, March 18, 2022

Elder Quentin L. Cook on being a saint in a world of evil

Elder Quentin L. Cook (b. September 8, 1940) was called as a Seventy in 1996, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2007.
"The word saint in Greek denotes 'set apart, separate, [and] holy' (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 3:1249). If we are to be Saints in our day, we need to separate ourselves from evil conduct and destructive pursuits that are prevalent in the world.
"We are bombarded with visual images of violence and immorality. Inappropriate music and pornography are increasingly tolerated. The use of drugs and alcohol is rampant. There is less emphasis on honesty and character. Individual rights are demanded, but duties, responsibilities, and obligations are neglected. There has been a coarsening of dialogue and increased exposure to that which is base and vulgar. The adversary has been relentless in his efforts to undermine the plan of happiness. If we separate ourselves from this worldly conduct, we will have the Spirit in our lives and experience the joy of being worthy Latter-day Saints.
"As Saints, we also need to avoid the worship of worldly gods. President Hinckley has expressed the desire that 'everyone might have some of the good things of life' but has cautioned, 'It is the obsession with riches that cankers and destroys' (Ensign, Mar. 1990, 4-5)....
"If we are to be worthy Saints, we should minister to others and adhere to the Savior's admonition to love God and our fellowmen.
"Separation from the evils of the world needs to be accompanied by holiness. A Saint loves the Savior and follows Him in holiness and devotion. Evidence of this kind of holiness and devotion is exemplified by consecration and sacrifice....
"Saints who respond to the Savior's message will not be led astray by distracting and destructive pursuits and will be prepared to make appropriate sacrifices."
- Quentin L. Cook, "Are You a Saint?", Ensign, Nov. 2003, pp. 95-96
Click here to read the full talk

Striving to be a "saint" in a world that is full of evil is not an easy task. Elder Cook clarifies the meaning and explains the process.

He goes on to enumerate some of the challenges we face in today's world:
  • Bombardment by visual images of violence and immorality
  • Increasing tolerance for inappropriate music and pornography
  • Rampant use of drugs and alcohol
  • Declining emphasis on honesty and character
  • Sense of entitlement for personal rights, without corresponding attention to responsibilities and duties
  • Coarsening of dialogue, more expression of things base and vulgar
Elder Cook believes that it is only when "we separate ourselves from this worldly conduct" that "we will have the Spirit in our lives and experience the joy of being worthy Latter-day Saints."  That is quite a challenge.

Of course, there is more involved than just avoiding evil.  There are many positive things we must do to accomplish this.
  • We must worship God and not worldly gods.
  • We must minister and serve, showing love for God and our fellowmen.
  • We must develop lives of holiness as we show our love for the Savior by our devotion to His cause.
  • We must demonstrate consecration and sacrifice
Then the promise is sure: "Saints who respond to the Savior's message will not be led astray by distracting and destructive pursuits and will be prepared to make appropriate sacrifices."

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

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Elder D. Todd Christofferson on the blessing of correction

Elder D. Todd Christofferson (b. January 24, 1945) was called to the Seventy in 1993, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 2008.
"If we sincerely desire and strive to measure up to the high expectations of our Heavenly Father, He will ensure that we receive all the help we need, whether it be comforting, strengthening, or chastening. If we are open to it, needed correction will come in many forms and from many sources. It may come in the course of our prayers as God speaks to our mind and heart through the Holy Ghost (see D&C 8:2). It may come in the form of prayers that are answered no or differently than we had expected. Chastening may come as we study the scriptures and are reminded of deficiencies, disobedience, or simply matters neglected.
"Correction can come through others, especially those who are God-inspired to promote our happiness. Apostles, prophets, patriarchs, bishops, and others have been put into the Church today, just as anciently, 'for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ' (Ephesians 4:12)....
"All of us can meet God's high expectations, however great or small our capacity and talent may be. Moroni affirms, 'If ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is [God's] grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ' (Moroni 10:32). It is a diligent, devoted effort on our part that calls forth this empowering and enabling grace, an effort that certainly includes submission to God's chastening hand and sincere, unqualified repentance. Let us pray for His love-inspired correction."
- D. Todd Christofferson, "As Many as I Love, I Rebuke and Chasten," Ensign, May 2011, pp. 97-100
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It's an unusual person in today's world who is eager for correction. But it's perhaps a real sign of spiritual maturity. We believe that "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Heb. 12:6) since that is a step in learning, repentance, and growth. We truly should be eager for those experiences, knowing the good they can bring to us!

The truly humble and sincere disciple will be praying for "His love-inspired correction" and will respond whole-heartedly by making changes and seeking to do better. "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6).

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
April 7, 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the power of coming unto Christ

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.
"Whoever we are, and whatever our problems, his response is always the same—forever. 'Come unto me' (Matt. 11:28). Come see what I do and how I spend my time. Learn of me, follow me, and in the process I will give you answers to your prayers and rest to your souls.
"I know of no other way for you to be able to carry your burdens or find what Jacob called 'that happiness which is prepared for the saints' (2 Ne. 9:43). That is why we make solemn covenants based on Christ's atoning sacrifice, why we take upon us his name.
"In as many ways as possible, both figuratively and literally, we try to take upon us his identity. We seek out his teachings and retell his miracles. We send latter-day witnesses, including prophets, apostles, and missionaries, around the world to declare his message. We call ourselves his children and we testify that he is the only source of eternal life. We plead for him to swing open the gates of heaven in our behalf, and trust everlastingly that he will, based upon our faithfulness.
"My desire for you is to have more straightforward experience with the Savior's life and teachings. Perhaps sometimes we come to Christ too obliquely, focusing on structure or methods or elements of Church administration. Those are important, but not without attention to the weightier matters of the kingdom, first and foremost of which is a personal spiritual relationship with Deity, including the Savior whose kingdom this is."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Come and See," adapted from a Church Education System fireside address delivered March 2, 1997. See New Era, Dec. 1997, pp. 4-8; Ensign, April 1998, pp. 16-23
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Elder Holland has a way of sharing thoughts and invitations that speak right to the heart. In describing the Savior's love for each of us, he does that in a powerful way in this quote. He interprets the Savior's invitation to "Come unto me" as a beckoning call to "Come see what I do and how I spend my time. Learn of me, follow me, and in the process I will give you answers to your prayers and rest to your souls." The goal is to "try to take upon us his identity" and become more and more like Him in every way. We do that through our direct, personal experiences with His life and teachings:

In the establishment of that "personal spiritual relationship with Deity," we unlock the door to His love and blessings in our lives. That is certainly worth every effort to obtain and achieve!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
June 26, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Elder M. Russell Ballard on evaluating our commitment to the Savior

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.
"As I read and ponder the scriptures and carefully consider the Lord's counsel to His followers in every dispensation of time, it appears to me that the most important thing every one of us can do is to examine our own commitment and devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. We must carefully guard against spiritual apathy and work to maintain the full measure of our loving loyalty to the Lord....
"Each one of us needs to follow Nephi's counsel to 'press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. [For] if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life' (2 Ne. 31:20). The power of the Holy Ghost will fill our hearts and minds as we look to the Savior for answers to the many challenges of life.
"Therefore, my brothers and sisters, it is important that we each know for ourselves that Jesus is the Christ and that He has restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith the fulness of His everlasting gospel. As we press forward in His service, spiritual experiences will increase our faith, and we will find great joy. Our understanding of the essential doctrines and eternal truths that have been restored will become a firm foundation of our faith."
- M. Russell Ballard, "How Is It With Us?", Ensign, May 2000, pp. 31-33
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What is "the most important thing every one of us can do"? That question certainly could be answered a number of ways in different contexts. Elder Ballard pondered the scriptures and the Lord's counsel and concluded that the answer relates to our devotion to the Savior and His teachings, "our loving loyalty to the Lord," as described here:

Elder Ballard promises that when we face challenges in life, "as we look to the Savior for answers" then "the power of the Holy Ghost will fill our hearts and minds." That promise is very real, and that gift should be earnestly sought by all. We must seek diligently and "press forward" faithfully in spite of any difficulty or apparent obstacle. In the seeking for knowledge and understanding, we not only find "great joy" in this life, but we establish a foundation for faith on which we can build solidly.

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

Monday, March 14, 2022

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on the timing of spiritual promptings

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.
"Revelations from God—the teachings and directions of the Spirit—are not constant. We believe in continuing revelation, not continuous revelation. We are often left to work out problems without the dictation or specific direction of the Spirit. That is part of the experience we must have in mortality. Fortunately, we are never out of our Savior's sight, and if our judgment leads us to actions beyond the limits of what is permissible and if we are listening to the still, small voice, the Lord will restrain us by the promptings of his Spirit....
"The Lord will speak to us in his own time and in his own way. This is usually by what the scriptures call the 'still small voice' of enlightenment. We are often obliged to act upon our best judgment, subject to the Spirit's restraining impressions if we have strayed beyond permissible limits. Revelation is a reality. It comes in the Lord's way and according to the Lord's timetable."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Teaching and Learning by the Spirit," Ensign, March 1997, p. 14
Click here to read the full talk

The difference between "continuing" (or "continual") and "continuous" is a subtle but significant one. The words are often not used correctly. Something that is "continuous" does not stop and start; it is always ongoing, uninterrupted, never ceasing (the river flows continuously to the sea). But things that are "continuing" occur frequently or regularly, in an ongoing manner, but are sometimes interrupted (the continuing rainstorms in the springtime).

Elder Oaks describes revelation as being continuing, not continuous. This is an important distinction. Though direction from the Spirit and other forms of personal revelation do come at important times, we are not given constant direction on what to do. As a part of the mortal experience, the Lord often wants us to learn "to work out problems" on our own, without the "specific direction of the Spirit."

Elder Oaks also states that for a person who is prayerful and humble, even if no specific direction is given, the Spirit will warn if we are taking a wrong direction. Those "restraining impressions" are as valuable as the positive ones that give specific direction, and should never be neglected.

One of the great tasks of mortality is becoming familiar with the language of the Spirit. With humility and persistence, this becomes a joyful gift that we claim from the Lord.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
May 17, 2016
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