Monday, October 12, 2015
#LDSConf October 2015: Sunday Afternoon Session
I realize that there are those who consider themselves religious or spiritual and yet reject participation in a church or even the need for such an institution. Religious practice is for them purely personal. Yet the Church is the creation of Him in whom our spirituality is centered—Jesus Christ. It is worth pausing to consider why He chooses to use a church, His Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to carry out His and His Father’s work “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”
Beginning with Adam, the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached, and the essential ordinances of salvation, such as baptism, were administered through a family-based priesthood order. As societies grew more complex than simply extended families, God also called other prophets, messengers, and teachers. In Moses’s time, we read of a more formal structure, including elders, priests, and judges...
Following the apostasy and disintegration of the Church He had organized while on the earth, the Lord reestablished the Church of Jesus Christ once again through the Prophet Joseph Smith. The ancient purpose remains: that is, to preach the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ and administer the ordinances of salvation—in other words, to bring people to Christ. And now, through the instrumentality of this restored Church, the promise of redemption is placed within reach even of the spirits of the dead who in their mortal lifetime knew little or nothing of the Savior’s grace.
How does His Church accomplish the Lord’s purposes? It is important to recognize that God’s ultimate purpose is our progress. His desire is that we continue “from grace to grace, until [we receive] a fulness” of all He can give. That requires more than simply being nice or feeling spiritual. It requires faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism of water and of the Spirit, and enduring in faith to the end. One cannot fully achieve this in isolation, so a major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another in the “strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.”...
The wards and branches of the Church offer a weekly gathering of respite and renewal, a time and place to leave the world behind—the Sabbath. It is a day to “delight thyself in the Lord,” to experience the spiritual healing that comes with the sacrament, and to receive the renewed promise of His Spirit to be with us.
One of the greatest blessings of being part of the body of Christ, though it may not seem like a blessing in the moment, is being reproved of sin and error. We are prone to excuse and rationalize our faults, and sometimes we simply do not know where we should improve or how to do it. Without those who can reprove us “betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” we might lack the courage to change and more perfectly follow the Master. Repentance is individual, but fellowship on that sometimes painful path is in the Church....
With the keys of the kingdom, the Lord’s servants can identify both truth and falsehood and once again authoritatively state, “Thus saith the Lord.” Regrettably, some resent the Church because they want to define their own truth, but in reality it is a surpassing blessing to receive a “knowledge of things as they [truly] are, and as they were, and as they are to come” insofar as the Lord wills to reveal it. The Church safeguards and publishes God’s revelations—the canon of scripture.
DEVIN G. DURRANT - "My Heart Pondereth Them Continually"
of the Seventy
I invite you to “ponderize” one verse of scripture each week. The word ponderize is not found in the dictionary, but it has found a place in my heart. So what does it mean to ponderize? I like to say it’s a combination of 80 percent extended pondering and 20 percent memorization.
There are two simple steps:
First, choose a verse of scripture each week and place it where you will see it every day.
Second, read or think of the verse several times each day and ponder the meaning of its words and key phrases throughout the week.
Imagine the uplifting results of doing this weekly for six months, a year, 10 years, or more.
As you make this effort, you will feel an increase in spirituality. You will also be able to teach and lift those you love in more meaningful ways.
VON G. KEETCH - "Happy Are Those Who Keep the Commandments"
of the Seventy
As you and I walk the paths of life and pursue our dreams, God’s commands and standards—like the barrier—can sometimes be difficult to understand. They may appear rigid and unyielding, blocking a path that looks fun and exciting and that is being followed by so many others. As the Apostle Paul described, “We see through a glass, darkly,” with such a limited perspective that we often cannot comprehend the great dangers hidden just below the surface.
But He who “comprehend[s] all things” knows exactly where those dangers lie. He gives us divine direction, through His commands and loving guidance, so that we may avoid the dangers—so that we may set a course in our lives that is protected from spiritual predators and the gaping jaws of sin.
We show our love for God—and our faith in Him—by doing our very best every day to follow the course that He has laid out for us and by keeping the commandments that He has given to us. We especially manifest that faith and love in situations where we don’t fully understand the reason for God’s commands or the particular path He is telling us to take.
1st Counselor, Relief Society General Presidency
we can choose to see commandments as limitations. We may feel at times that God’s laws restrict our personal freedom, take from us our agency, and limit our growth. But as we seek for greater understanding, as we allow our Father to teach us, we will begin to see that His laws are a manifestation of His love for us and obedience to His laws is an expression of our love for Him...
First, trust God. Trust in His eternal plan for you. Each of us is “a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.” Their love for us is apparent in commandments. Commandments are vital instructions to teach, guide, and protect us as we “gain earthly experience.”..
Second, trust Jesus. The ultimate expression of obedience and love is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Submitting Himself to the Father’s will, He gave His life for us. He said, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”
Jesus also taught:
“Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”...
Third, trust the whisperings of the Spirit... It is in John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” And these important verses follow:
“I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
Every worthy, confirmed member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the right to the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Fasting, prayer, scripture study, and obedience greatly enhance our ability to hear and feel the promptings of the Spirit...
Fourth, trust the counsel of living prophets. Our Father has provided a way for us to hear His word and know His law through His prophets. The Lord declared, “My word shall … all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”
ALLEN D. HAYNIE - "Remembering in Whom We Have Trusted"
of the Seventy
We should not deceive ourselves about what it takes to return and remain in the presence of our Father in Heaven. We have to be clean.
Before we came to this earth, we participated as spirit sons and daughters of God in a grand council. Each of us was paying attention, and none of us fell asleep. In that council our Father in Heaven presented a plan. Because the plan preserved our agency and required that we learn from our own experience and not just from His, He knew we would commit sin. He also knew that sin would cause us to become unclean and unable to return to His presence, because where He lives is even cleaner than a house cleaned by my grandmother.
Because our Father in Heaven loves us and has as His purpose “to bring to pass [our] immortality and eternal life,”3 His plan included the role of a Savior—someone who could help us become clean no matter how dirty we have become. When our Father in Heaven announced the need for a Savior, I believe all of us turned and looked at Jesus Christ, the Firstborn in the Spirit, the one who had progressed to the point of becoming like the Father. I believe all of us knew it had to be Him, that none of the rest of us could do it, but that He could and that He would.
KIM B. CLARK - "Eyes to See and Ears to Hear"
of the Seventy
The Lord Jesus Christ was there in front of them, but they did not see who He really was. They were blind, and they chose to turn away. Of them, Jesus said:
“I came unto my own, and my own received me not.”
“Their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed.”
However, there were many men and women, including His faithful Apostles, who centered their lives on Him. Though they struggled with worldly distractions, with confusion about what He taught, and even with fear, they believed in Him, loved Him, and followed Him.
Of them, Jesus said, “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.”
Just before His suffering in Gethsemane and on Calvary, Jesus made His disciples this remarkable promise: “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
Jesus fulfilled that promise: beginning with the day of Pentecost, the disciples were blessed with the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. Through their faith in Christ, repentance, and obedience, the Holy Ghost became their companion, changed their hearts, and blessed them with an abiding witness of the truth.
We are warned that disasters, wars, and countless difficulties in the world will occur. When trials such as these suddenly come upon us, we may question, “Why do these things happen to me?” or “Why do I have to suffer?”
For a long period after I converted to the gospel, I didn’t have a clear answer to the question “Why am I given trials?” I understood the part of the plan of salvation that says we will be tested. However, in reality, when it came to this question, I did not have a conviction that was powerful enough to adequately answer it...
In Abraham, the Lord God declared, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.”
The principle is that the God who created the heavens and the earth knows the grand design of this earth, that He has dominion over all things in the heavens and the earth, and that in order to bring to pass the plan of salvation, He provides us with many different experiences—including some trials—while we are on this earth.
And the Lord said the following to Joseph Smith:
“Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. …
“Therefore, hold on thy way … , for God shall be with you forever and ever.”
The trials of this earth—including illness and death—are a part of the plan of salvation and are inevitable experiences. It is necessary for us to “hold on [our] way” and accept our trials with faith.
However, the purpose of our lives is not merely to endure trials. Heavenly Father sent His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior and Redeemer so we could overcome the trials we face on this earth; in other words, He makes our weak things become strong, He atones for our sins and our imperfections, and He makes it possible for us to obtain immortality and eternal life.
My purpose is to explain why indeed it is wonderful to have older men of great spiritual maturity and judgment serving in the senior leadership positions of the restored Church of Jesus Christ—and why we should “hear” and “hearken” (Mosiah 2:9) to the teachings of these men whom the Lord has “chosen to bear testimony of [His] name … among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people” (D&C 112:1).
I pray we may all be instructed by the Holy Ghost as we consider together this significant subject.
I speak about this topic from a decidedly distinctive perspective. For the last 11 years, I have been the youngest member of the Twelve in terms of chronological age. During my years of service, the average age of the men serving in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has been 77 years—the oldest average age of the Apostles over an 11-year interval in this dispensation...
The limitations that are the natural consequence of advancing age can in fact become remarkable sources of spiritual learning and insight. The very factors many may believe limit the effectiveness of these servants can become some of their greatest strengths. Physical restrictions can expand vision. Limited stamina can clarify priorities. Inability to do many things can direct focus to a few things of greatest importance.
Some people have suggested younger, more vigorous leaders are needed in the Church to address effectively the serious challenges of our modern world. But the Lord does not use contemporary philosophies and practices of leadership to accomplish His purposes (see Isaiah 55:8–9). We can expect the President and other senior leaders of the Church will be older and spiritually seasoned men.
The Lord’s revealed pattern of governance by councils in His Church provides for and attenuates the impact of human frailties. Interestingly, the mortal limitations of these men actually affirm the divine source of the revelations that come to and through them...
Serving with these representatives of the Lord, I have come to know their greatest desire is to discern and do the will of our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son. As we counsel together, inspiration has been received and decisions have been made that reflect a degree of light and truth far beyond human intelligence, reasoning, and experience. As we work together in unity on perplexing problems, our collective understanding of an issue has been enlarged in marvelous ways by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I am blessed to observe on a daily basis the individual personalities, capacities, and noble characters of these leaders. Some people find the human shortcomings of the Brethren troubling and faith diminishing. For me those imperfections are encouraging and faith promoting.
I have now witnessed six of my Brethren receive a transfer through physical death to new responsibilities in the spirit world: President James E. Faust, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, Elder L. Tom Perry, President Boyd K. Packer, and Elder Richard G. Scott.
These valiant Brethren devoted their “whole souls” (Omni 1:26) to testifying of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world. The totality of their teachings is priceless...
The Savior declared, “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). May we hear and heed the eternal truths taught by the Lord’s authorized representatives. As we do so, I promise our faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will be fortified, and we will receive spiritual guidance and protection for our specific circumstances and needs.
With all the energy of my soul, I witness the resurrected and living Christ directs the affairs of His restored and living Church through His servants who have been chosen to bear testimony of His name.