Friday, October 10, 2014

#LDSConf Highlights October 2014: Priesthood Session

QUENTIN L. COOK - "Choose Wisely"

During the ministry of President Thomas S. Monson, he has often taught that decisions determine destiny. In that spirit my counsel tonight is to rise above any rationalizations that prevent us from making righteous decisions, especially with respect to serving Jesus Christ. In Isaiah we are taught we must “refuse the evil, and choose the good.”

I believe it is of particular importance in our day, when Satan is raging in the hearts of men in so many new and subtle ways, that our choices and decisions be made carefully, consistent with the goals and objectives by which we profess to live. We need unequivocal commitment to the commandments and strict adherence to sacred covenants. When we allow rationalizations to prevent us from temple endowments, worthy missions, and temple marriage, they are particularly harmful. It is heartbreaking when we profess belief in these goals yet neglect the everyday conduct required to achieve them.

Some young people profess their goal is to be married in the temple but do not date temple-worthy individuals. To be honest, some don’t even date, period! You single men, the longer you remain single after an appropriate age and maturity, the more comfortable you can become. But the more uncomfortable you ought to become! Please get “anxiously engaged” in spiritual and social activities compatible with your goal of a temple marriage...

Elder David A. Bednar recently cautioned members to be authentic in the use of social media. A prominent thought leader, Arthur C. Brooks, has emphasized this point. He observes that when using social media, we tend to broadcast the smiling details of our lives but not the hard times at school or work. We portray an incomplete life—sometimes in a self-aggrandizing or fake way. We share this life, and then we consume the “almost exclusively … fake lives of [our] social media ‘friends.’” Brooks asserts, “How could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are, and the other part of your time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?”

Sometimes it feels like we are drowning in frivolous foolishness, nonsensical noise, and continuous contention. When we turn down the volume and examine the substance, there is very little that will assist us in our eternal quest toward righteous goals. One father wisely responds to his children with their numerous requests to participate in these distractions. He simply asks them, “Will this make you a better person?”...

This life is the time to prepare to meet God. We are a happy, joyous people. We appreciate a good sense of humor and treasure unstructured time with friends and family. But we need to recognize that there is a seriousness of purpose that must undergird our approach to life and all our choices. Distractions and rationalizations that limit progress are harmful enough, but when they diminish faith in Jesus Christ and His Church, they are tragic.

My prayer is that as a body of priesthood holders, we will make our conduct consistent with the noble purposes required of those who are in the service of the Master. In all things we should remember that being “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” is the great dividing test between the celestial and terrestrial kingdoms. We want to be found on the celestial side of that divide. As one of His Apostles, I bear fervent testimony of the reality of the Atonement and the divinity of Jesus Christ, our Savior. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

CRAIG C. CHRISTENSEN - "I Know These Things of Myself"
Presidency of the Seventy

Learning for ourselves that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true can be one of the greatest and most joyful experiences in life. We may have to begin by relying on the testimonies of others—saying, as the stripling warriors did, “We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” This is a good place to start, but we must build from there. To be strong in living the gospel, there is nothing more important than receiving and strengthening our own testimony. We must be able to declare, as Alma did, “I … know these things of myself.”

“And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety?” Alma continued. “Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true.”...

The Prophet Joseph Smith was also “exceedingly young” when his “mind was called up to serious reflection” about spiritual truths. For Joseph, it was a time of “great uneasiness,” being surrounded by conflicting and confusing messages about religion. He wanted to know which church was right. Inspired by these words in the Bible: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God,” he acted for himself to find an answer. On a beautiful morning in the spring of 1820, he entered a grove of trees and knelt in prayer. Because of his faith and because God had a special work for him to do, Joseph received a glorious vision of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and learned for himself what he was to do.

Do you see in Joseph’s experience a pattern you could apply in gaining or strengthening your own testimony? Joseph allowed the scriptures to penetrate his heart. He pondered them deeply and applied them to his own situation. He then acted on what he had learned. The result was the glorious First Vision—and everything that came after it. This Church quite literally was founded on the principle that anyone—including a 14-year-old farm boy—can “ask of God” and receive an answer to his prayers.

DEAN M. DAVIES - "The Law of the Fast"
Second Counselor, Presiding Bishopric

We live in remarkable times. Miraculous advances in medicine, science, and technology have improved the quality of life for many. Yet there is also evidence of great human suffering and distress. In addition to wars and rumors of wars, an increase in natural disasters—including floods, fires, earthquakes, and disease—is impacting the lives of millions worldwide.

Church leadership is aware of and vigilant regarding the well-being of God’s children everywhere. When and where possible, Church emergency resources are provided to respond to those in need. For example, last November, Typhoon Haiyan hit the island nation of the Philippines.

A Category 5 super typhoon, Haiyan left in its wake extensive destruction and suffering. Complete cities were destroyed; many lives were lost; millions of homes were severely damaged or destroyed; and basic services such as water, sewer, and electricity ceased functioning.

Church resources were made available in the very early hours following this disaster. Church members living in the Philippines rallied to the rescue of their brothers and sisters by providing food, water, clothing, and hygiene kits to members and nonmembers alike...

Caring for the poor and needy is a fundamental gospel doctrine and an essential element in the eternal plan of salvation.

Prior to His mortal ministry, Jehovah declared through His prophet: “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”

In our day, caring for the poor and needy is one of four divinely appointed Church responsibilities that help individuals and families qualify for exaltation...

Central to the Lord’s plan for caring for the poor and needy is the law of the fast. “The Lord has established the law of the fast and fast offerings to bless His people and to provide a way for them to serve those in need.”

As followers of the Savior, we have a personal responsibility to care for the poor and needy. Faithful Church members everywhere assist by fasting each month—abstaining from food and water for 24 hours—and then giving to the Church a financial fast offering equal to at least the value of the food they would have eaten...

The law of the fast applies to all Church members. Even young children can be taught to fast, beginning with one meal and then two, as they are able to understand and physically keep the law of the fast. Husbands and wives, single members, youth, and children should begin the fast with prayer, giving gratitude for blessings in their lives while seeking the Lord’s blessings and strength through the fast period. Complete fulfillment of the law of the fast occurs when the fast offering is made to the Lord’s agent, the bishop.


It was our beloved Savior’s final night in mortality, the evening before He would offer Himself a ransom for all mankind. As He broke bread with His disciples, He said something that must have filled their hearts with great alarm and deep sadness. “One of you shall betray me,” He told them.

The disciples didn’t question the truth of what He said. Nor did they look around, point to someone else, and ask, “Is it him?”

Instead, “they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?

I wonder what each of us would do if we were asked that question by the Savior. Would we look at those around us and say in our hearts, “He’s probably talking about Brother Johnson. I’ve always wondered about him,” or “I’m glad Brother Brown is here. He really needs to hear this message”? Or would we, like those disciples of old, look inward and ask that penetrating question: “Is it I?”...

Such terrible and often unnecessary things happen when members of the Church become disengaged from gospel principles. They may appear on the outside to be disciples of Jesus Christ, but on the inside their hearts have separated from their Savior and His teachings. They have gradually turned away from the things of the Spirit and moved toward the things of the world.

Once-worthy priesthood holders start to tell themselves that the Church is a good thing for women and children but not for them. Or some are convinced that their busy schedules or unique circumstances make them exempt from the daily acts of devotion and service that would keep them close to the Spirit. In this age of self-justification and narcissism, it is easy to become quite creative at coming up with excuses for not regularly approaching God in prayer, procrastinating the study of the scriptures, avoiding Church meetings and family home evenings, or not paying an honest tithe and offerings.

My dear brethren, will you please look inside your hearts and ask the simple question: “Lord, is it I?”...

Is your heart set on the convenient things of this world, or is it focused on the teachings of the diligent Jesus Christ? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Does the Spirit of God dwell in your hearts? Are you “rooted and grounded” in the love of God and of your fellowmen? Do you devote sufficient time and creativity to bringing happiness to your marriage and family? Do you give your energies to the sublime goal of comprehending and living “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ?...

None of us likes to admit when we are drifting off the right course. Often we try to avoid looking deeply into our souls and confronting our weaknesses, limitations, and fears. Consequently, when we do examine our lives, we look through the filter of biases, excuses, and stories we tell ourselves in order to justify unworthy thoughts and actions.

But being able to see ourselves clearly is essential to our spiritual growth and well-being. If our weaknesses and shortcomings remain obscured in the shadows, then the redeeming power of the Savior cannot heal them and make them strengths. Ironically, our blindness toward our human weaknesses will also make us blind to the divine potential that our Father yearns to nurture within each of us....

We must approach our Eternal Father with broken hearts and teachable minds. We must be willing to learn and to change. And, oh, how much we gain by committing to live the life our Heavenly Father intends for us.

Those who do not wish to learn and change probably will not and most likely will begin to wonder whether the Church has anything to offer them.

But those who want to improve and progress, those who learn of the Savior and desire to be like Him, those who humble themselves as a little child and seek to bring their thoughts and actions into harmony with our Father in Heaven—they will experience the miracle of the Savior’s Atonement. They will surely feel God’s resplendent Spirit. They will taste the indescribable joy that is the fruit of a meek and humble heart. They will be blessed with the desire and discipline to become true disciples of Jesus Christ....

Brethren, we must put aside our pride, see beyond our vanity, and in humility ask, “Lord, is it I?”

And if the Lord’s answer happens to be “Yes, my son, there are things you must improve, things I can help you to overcome,” I pray that we will accept this answer, humbly acknowledge our sins and shortcomings, and then change our ways by becoming better husbands, better fathers, better sons. May we from this time forward seek with all our might to walk steadfastly in the Savior’s blessed way—for seeing ourselves clearly is the beginning of wisdom.

As we do so, our bountiful God will lead us by the hand; we will “be made strong, and blessed from on high.”

My beloved friends, a first step on this wondrous and fulfilling path of true discipleship starts with our asking the simple question:

“Lord, is it I?”

Of this I testify and leave you my blessing in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

HENRY B. EYRING - "The Preparatory Priesthood"

My message tonight is about the Aaronic Priesthood. It is also to all of us who help in the realization of the Lord’s promises for those who hold what is described in scripture as the “lesser priesthood.” It is also called the preparatory priesthood. It is that glorious preparation about which I will speak tonight.

The Lord’s plan for His work is filled with preparation. He prepared the earth for us to experience the tests and the opportunities of mortality. While we are here, we are in what the scriptures call a “preparatory state.”...

All of us in the priesthood have an obligation to help the Lord prepare others. There are some things we can do that could matter most. Even more powerful than using words in our teaching the doctrine will be our examples of living the doctrine.

Paramount in our priesthood service is inviting people to come unto Christ by faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost. President Thomas S. Monson, for instance, has given sermons to stir the heart on all those doctrines. But what I know of what he did with people and missionaries and friends of the Church when presiding over the mission in Toronto motivates me to action.

In priesthood preparation, “show me” counts more than “tell me.”

That is why the scriptures are so important to prepare us in the priesthood. They are filled with examples. I feel as if I can see Alma following the angel’s command and then hurrying back to teach the wicked people in Ammonihah who had rejected him.4 I can feel the cold in the jail cell when the Prophet Joseph was told by God to take courage and that he was watched over. With those scripture pictures in mind, we can be prepared to endure in our service when it seems hard...

I testify that all who serve together in the priesthood are preparing a people for the coming of the Lord to His Church. God the Father lives. I know—I know—that Jesus is the Christ and that He loves us. President Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s living prophet. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

THOMAS S. MONSON - "Guided Safely Home"

(This was a talk he originally gave in April 1982.)

Many of you will remember President N. Eldon Tanner, who served as a counselor to four Presidents of the Church. He provided an undeviating example of righteousness throughout his career in industry, during service in the government in Canada, and as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He gave us this inspired counsel: “Nothing will bring greater joy and success than to live according to the teachings of the gospel. Be an example; be an influence for good.”

He continued: “Every one of us has been foreordained for some work as [God’s] chosen servant on whom he has seen fit to confer the priesthood and power to act in his name. Always remember that people are looking to you for leadership and you are influencing the lives of individuals either for good or for bad, which influence will be felt for generations to come.”

We are strengthened by the truth that the greatest force in the world today is the power of God as it works through man. To sail safely the seas of mortality, we need the guidance of that Eternal Mariner—even the great Jehovah. We reach out, we reach up to obtain heavenly help....

As we venture forth on our individual voyages, may we sail safely the seas of life. May we have the courage of a Daniel, that we might remain true and faithful despite the sin and temptation which surround us. May our testimonies be as deep and as strong as that of Jacob, the brother of Nephi, who, when confronted by one who sought in every way possible to destroy his faith, declared, “I could not be shaken.”

With the rudder of faith guiding our passage, brethren, we too will find our way safely home—home to God, to dwell with Him eternally. That such may be so for each of us, I pray in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, amen.

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