Posted in General Conference, Holy Ghost, Inspirational

Sunday Afternoon session April 2017

Elder D Todd Christofferson

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It becometh every man who has been warned to warn his neighbour.

Who is my neighbour that I should warn? [The parable of the Good Samaritan].

The motivation for raising the warning voice is love.

It means teaching children the doctrine of Christ.

Jesus was not hesitant to warn.

He devoted time to sinners.

His warnings and commandments were direct.

[Shame culture]. A culture of over sensitivity, over reaction and moral panics.

As watchmen and disciples we cannot be neutral.

Do not abandon those who would welcome truth to flounder and flail in ignorance.

Psalms 40:10 I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.

Elder Joaquin E Costa

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[Story of conversion]

  1. Once you meet the missionaries please take them seriously.

2. If this is the first time you have attended a Church meeting …do not worry I was clueless too….Remember the feelings you have experienced. They come from God.

3. Reading the Book of Mormon. Moroni 10:4.

4. Repenting. Alma 42:1. [Reading it with his name in it]. We continued reading slowly verse by verse…The book spoke directly to me. ..I had expected to receive revelation without paying the price….Every decision I have made in my life was influenced by that moment…Nothing brings you closer to Jesus Christ than a desire to change.

[A simple but effective and moving talk aimed at investigators}

Elder S Mark Palmer

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[Experience as a Mission President. Missionary who didn’t like people. New Testament story of rich young man. Noticed 6 words.] ‘Then Jesus beholding him loved him”

He felt an overwhelming love and compassion for this young man and because of this love he asked even more of him.

How can I be filled with Christ like love so that the missionary can see that in me and want to change.

I prayed for the gift of charity that I might see each missionary as the Lord sees them.

  1. As we learn to see others as the Lord sees them our love for them will grow. We will never give up.
  2. No teaching or learning will will ever be done in frustration or anger.
  3. Love should never be withdrawn when a child, friend or family member fails to live up to our expectations.
  4. Because He loves us the Lord expects much of us.

Proverbs 3:11-12 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:

For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Elder Gary E Stevenson

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[Story of 9 year old teaching a family home evening] How can the Holy Ghost help you?

[Story of his father telling him not to climb on a rock. Later found rattle snake there. Was warned by the Holy Ghost] see https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/06/elder-gary-e-stevenson-an-understanding-heart?lang=eng

The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead.

The Holy Ghost has a spirit body.

The gift of the Holy Ghost comes by the laying on of hands.

[Story of missionaries kept safe in Japan following tsunami and nuclear accident]

The Holy Ghost will help you by warning you.

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another aComforter, that he may babide with you for ever;

[The role of the Holy Ghost as Comforter]

The Holy Ghost will help you by comforting you.

The Holy Ghost will help you by testifying to you.

It is vital that we keep the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Stay close to the Spirit and the Spirit will stay close to you.

Elder C Scott Grow

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[Addressed to Young Adults]

  1. For aGod so bloved the cworld, that he dgave his eonly begotten fSon, that whosoever gbelieveth in him should not perish, but have heverlasting ilife.
  2. And this is alife beternal, that they might cknow thee the only true dGod, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast esent.

[Final testimony of Bruce R McConkie]

[Scripture study]

Helaman 10:4 aBlessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with bunwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine cown life, but hast sought my dwill, and to keep my commandments.

Through our faith in his atoning sacrifice the Saviour cleanses us.

He can make more of us than we could ever make of ourselves.

[Role model – Elder Neal A Maxwell]

Knowing God is the quest of a lifetime.

God knows you and invites you to know him.

Elder Benjamin De Hoyos

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[Would we have followed Christ if we had lived in His day]

One of the great standards of these latter days is this great General Conference.

What has the Lord revealed to President Monson that we need to be doing?

Line upon line and precept upon precept.

[Ways to shine a light]:

1.Observing the sabbath day

2. Serving those on both sides of the veil

3, Teaching in the Saviour’s way

Elder Quentin L Cook

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Personal foundations are usually laid slowly.

Malcolm Gladwell – the 10000 hour rule.

10000 hours of practice are required to obtain the mastery to be a world call expert on anything.

Spiritual guidance is received when needed in the Lord’s time and according to his will.

Weekly participation in weekly sacrament meetings has spiritual implications that we do not fully understand.

[Story of the woman with the issue of blood]

The foundations of faith should be the great desire of our heart.

The completion of the Kirtland Temple was foundational for the entire church.

[Story of Parley P Pratt’s disaffection from Joseph Smith] Joseph frankly forgave Parley.

Adversity should not be viewed as either disfavour of the Lord or a withdrawal of his blessings.

D&C 122:7 if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to chedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of dhell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee eexperience, and shall be for thy good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in General Conference, Inspirational

Saturday Afternoon Session April 2017

[Why bother to go to Conference if you are opposed to the Brethren?]

[Excited that our friend Roy Tunnicliffe was called as an Area Seventy]

Statistical report

The First Presidency has issued the following statistical report concerning the growth and status of the Church as of December 31, 2016.

CHURCH UNITS

Stakes

3,266

Missions

421

Districts

556

Wards and branches

30,304

CHURCH MEMBERSHIP

Total membership

15,882,417

New children of record

109,246

Converts baptized

240,131

MISSIONARIES

Full-time missionaries

70,946

Church-service missionaries

33,695

TEMPLES

Temples rededicated
(Suva Fiji, Freiburg Germany)

2

Temples dedicated
(Provo City Center, Sapporo Japan, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Fort Collins Colorado, Star Valley Wyoming, Hartford Connecticut)

6

Temples in operation at the end of 2016

155

Elder Robert D Hales

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[Looking gaunt and frail but voice was strong]

Genuine discipleship is a state of being. This suggests more than studying and applying a list of individual attributes. Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry.

Listen to the Apostle Peter’s invitation to become a disciple of the Savior:

“Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

“And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

“And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” [2 Peter 1:5–7].

As you can see, weaving the spiritual tapestry of personal discipleship requires more than a single thread.

In the Saviour’s day there were many…who practised selective obedience.

The attributes of the Savior, as we perceive them, are not a script to be followed or list to be checked off. They are interwoven characteristics, added one to another, which develop in us in interactive ways. In other words, we cannot obtain one Christlike characteristic without also obtaining and influencing others. As one characteristic becomes strong, so do many more.

D&C 4 – faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation.

Faith is the catalyst.

Virtue is more than sexual purity.

Virtue is also a power.

We embody Christ not only in what we say and do but in who we are.

As tempered disciples we live the gospel in a tempered and balanced way.

When faced with the storms of tribulation we ask ‘What wouldst thou have me learn from this experience?’

We delight in the agency of others and the opportunity it gives them to grow.

We bless them that curse us. We do good to them that spitefully abuse us.

Brothers and sisters, now more than ever, we cannot be “part-time disciples”! We cannot be a disciple on just one point of doctrine or another.… The constellation of characteristics that result from faith in Christ—including the ones we have talked about today—are all necessary to our standing strong in these last days

I testify that everyone can be a disciple of the Savior. Discipleship is not constrained by gender, age, ethnic origin or calling. …Now is the time to recommit ourselves to being His disciples with all diligence.

Elder Jeffrey R Holland

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Among the realities we face as children of God living in a fallen world is that some days are difficult, days when our faith and our fortitude are tested. These challenges may come from a lack in us, a lack in others, or just a lack in life, but whatever the reasons, we find they can rob us of songs we so much want to sing and darken the promise of “springtime in [the] soul” that Eliza Hewitt celebrates in one of her verses [“There Is Sunshine in My Soul Today,Hymns, no. 227].

So what do we do in such times?

Hope for that which we see not and in patience wait for it.

We should stand as close as humanly possible to the Saviour and Redeemer of the world who has ‘perfect pitch’.

On those days when we feel a little out of tune…remember that it is by divine design that all the voices in God’s choir are nor the same.

Diversity is not cacophony and choirs do require discipline.

Our Heavenly Father delights to have us sing in out own voice and not in someone else’s.

When I see the staggering economic inequality in the world I feel guilty…

…guns and slurs and vitriol are not the way to settle human conflict.

Brothers and sisters, we live in a mortal world with many songs we cannot or do not yet sing. But I plead with each one of us to stay permanently and faithfully in the choir, where we will be able to savor forever that most precious anthem of all—“the song of redeeming love” [Alma 5:26; see also Alma 26:13]. Fortunately, the seats for this particular number are limitless.

There is room for the single, the married, for those with large families and for the childless.

There is room in this choir for all who wish to be there.

“Come as you are,” a loving Father says to each of us, but He adds, “Don’t plan to stay as you are.” We smile and remember that God is determined to make of us more than we thought we could be.

In this great oratorio that is His plan for our exaltation, may we humbly follow His baton and keep working on the songs we cannot sing, until we can offer those “carol[s] to [our] King” [Hymns, no. 227].

And then one day we will sing and we will shout with the armies of heaven Hosanna Hosanna to God and the Lamb as Jesus descends in his chariot of fire.

[Another masterful address by Elder Holland]

Elder Gary B Sabin

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The Lord requires the heart and a willing mind [see D&C 64:34]. Our whole heart! When we are baptized, we are fully immersed as a symbol of our promise to fully follow the Savior, not half-heartedly. When we are fully committed and “all in,” heaven shakes for our good [see D&C 21:6]. When we are lukewarm or only partially committed, we lose out on some of heaven’s choicest blessings [see Revelation 3:15–16].

[Story of taking scouts camping in the desert – boy freezing all night because he didn’t want to unroll his sleeping bag]

When we are complacent with our covenants, we are complicit with the consequences. The Lord has counseled us “to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life” [D&C 84:43]. And He further declared, “My blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not” [D&C 29:17].

In reality, it is much easier to be “all in” than partially in. When we are partially in or not in at all, there is, in the Star Wars vernacular, “a disturbance in the force.” We are out of sync with God’s will and therefore out of sync with the nature of happiness [see Alma 41:11].

‘My strength is as the strength of 10 because my heart is pure’ – Tennyson

It is time to stand up and defend His plan again.

We may need to let go of the world so that we can hang onto immortality.

It is far better to follow the Creator than the crowd.

Elder Valeri V Cordon

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Language loss may happen when families move to a different land.

I noticed a similarity between preserving a mother tongue and preserving the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives.

  1. Be more diligent in speaking the language at home.

One factor that influences language loss is when parents don’t spend time teaching their children the native language. It is not enough to merely speak the language in the home. If parents desire to preserve their language, it must be taught. Research has found that parents who make a conscious effort to be preserve the native language tend to be successful in doing so.

We can therefore conclude that powerful teaching is extremely important to preserve the gospel in our families, and it requires diligence and effort.

2. Strong modelling in the home.

You need to bring the language alive for the children.

[Story of father’s business going bankrupt. Choosing to pay tithing or buy food for the family.]

Another way language can be altered or lost is when other languages and traditions are mixed with a mother tongue.

As families, we need to avoid any tradition that will prevent us from keeping the Sabbath day holy or having daily scripture study and prayer at home. We need to close the digital doors of our home to pornography and all other evil influences. To combat the worldly traditions of our day, we need to use the scriptures and the voice of our modern prophets to teach our children about their divine identity, their purpose in life, and the divine mission of Jesus Christ.

It is my testimony that Heavenly Father will bless us in our efforts as we strive to embrace His language, even until we become fluent in this higher level of communication, which always was our mother tongue.

Elder Neal L Andersen

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Jesus said, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” [John 16:33].

Later He added, “I will that ye should overcome the world” [D&C 64:2].

Overcoming the world is not one defining moment in a lifetime, but a lifetime of moments that define an eternity.

It can begin as a child learns to pray and reverently sings, “I’m trying to be like Jesus” [Children’s Songbook, 78]. It continues as a person studies the life of the Savior in the New Testament and ponders the power of the Savior’s Atonement in the Book of Mormon.

Praying, repenting, following the Savior, and receiving His grace lead us to better understand why we are here and who we are to become.

Overcoming the world is not a global invasion, but a private, personal battle, requiring hand-to-hand combat with our own internal foes.

Overcoming the world is keeping our promises to God.

Overcoming the world leads us to the sacrament every week.

Overcoming the world means turning ourselves outward.

The happiness of our spouse is more important than our own pleasure.

The world builds its universe around itself.

Overcoming the world will always mean that we will have some beliefs that will be ridiculed by the world.

The Lord gives us safety as we listen to the words of his living Prophet and apostles.

Overcoming the world is remembering the times we have felt the love and light of teh Saviour

Overcoming the world does not mean we live a cloistered life, protected from the unfairness and difficulties of mortality. Rather, it opens the more expansive view of faith, drawing us to the Savior and His promises.

[Tribute to Bruce D Porter]

May we each try a little harder in our efforts to overcome the world, not excusing serious offenses yet being patient with minor slips and falls, eagerly hastening our speed and generously helping others.

Elder M Russell Ballard

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It is my assignment is to speak to you and your assignment is to listen. My goal is to finish my assignment before you finish.

[Difference between a goal and a plan]

Our greatest and most overriding goals should fit into Heavenly Father’s eternal plan. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” [3 Nephi 13:33].

Experts on goal setting tell us that the simpler and more straightforward a goal is, the more power it will have. When we can reduce a goal to one clear image or one or two powerful and symbolic words, that goal can then become part of us and guide virtually everything we think and do. I believe that there are two words that, in this context, symbolize God’s goals for us and our most important goals for ourselves. The words are return and receive.

To return to His presence and to receive the eternal blessings that come from making and keeping covenants are the most important goals we can set.

We return and receive by having “unshaken faith in [the Lord Jesus Christ], relying wholly upon” His merits, pressing “forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men [and women] … , feasting upon the word of Christ, and endur[ing] to the end” [2 Nephi 31:19–20].

Lucifer did not accept our Father’s plan…in fact he rebelled and attempted to completely modify our Father’s plan.

Because of his premortal choices Satan can neither return nor receive.

I have found that to stay focused..I need to regularly take time to ask myself ‘How am I doing?’

I like to read and ponder the introspective words found in the 5th chapter of Alma…Alma’s questions are a reminder of what our goals and plans should include in order to return and receive.

Place a copy of the Living Christ where you can see it.

Without the Living Christ our fondest expectations will be unfulfilled.

Our long term goal and plans should be that when we return to our Heavenly Father we will receive all that he has prepared for us.

 

 

 

 

Posted in General Conference, Inspirational

General Priesthood Session April 2017

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President Thomas S Monson

[President Monson appeared somewhat weak and frail but spoke well. Subtitles for his talk. Haven’t seen that before.]

The prophet Mormon outlined one of the key characteristics of the Savior and which is to be emulated by His disciples. Said he:

“And if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked. …

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—

“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” [Moroni 7:44–47].

Brethren, we do not honor the priesthood of God if we are not kind to others. …

The scriptures teach us that righteous exercise of the priesthood is dependent upon our living the principles of kindness, charity, and love. …

Brethren, let us examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior’s example by being kind, loving, and charitable. As we do so, we will be in a better position to call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families, and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes difficult journey back to our heavenly home.

{As in recent conferences, a very short message from the Prophet]

Elder David A Bednar

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[Subtitles gone]

Mission call letters – You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

A missionary is not called to a place; rather, he or she is called to serve. … “If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” [D&C 4:3].

Each mission call and assignment, or a later reassignment, is the result of revelation through the Lord’s servants. A call to the work comes from God through the President of the Church.

The spiritual gifts of revelation and prophecy extend to all mission calls.

An assignment to labour in a specific place is essential and important but is secondary to a call to serve.

My experience has taught me that these principles are not generally understood by the members of the Church.

I have learned over time about the concern, worry, and even guilt felt by many missionaries who for various reasons were reassigned to a different field of labor during their time of service. Such reassignments sometimes are necessary because of events and circumstances such as physical accidents and injuries, delays and challenges in obtaining visas, political instability, creating and staffing new missions, or the evolving and ever-changing needs around the world.

When a missionary is reassigned to a different field of labor, the process is precisely the same as for the initial assignment. Members of the 12 seek inspiration and guidance in making such reassignments.

For all of the members of the Twelve, nothing affirms the reality of ongoing latter-day revelation more powerfully than seeking to discern the Lord’s will as we fulfill our responsibility to assign missionaries to their respective fields of labor. I witness the Savior knows and is mindful of each of us “one by one” and name by name.

Pattern of preparation – Priesthood, Temple, Mission.

Priesthood and temple blessings..also are necessary to fortify and strengthen us throughout our entire lives.

Please learn to live being and remaining worthy.

Going to the temple and having the spirit of the temple go through you precedes faithful service as a missionary.

Be worthy, stay worthy.

Maintaining your temple recommend demonstrates your worthiness.

Sometimes … we focus so extensively upon missionary preparation for young men that we may neglect to a degree the other vital steps along the covenant pathway. …

In our homes and at church, we should give balanced emphasis to all three elements of the Lord’s pattern of preparation and progression for faithful sons of God: priesthood, temple, mission. All three require us to love being and remaining worthy. Be worthy. Stay worthy.

I promise the spiritual gift of revelation will attend your call and your assignment to specific fields of labour.

As you learn to love being worthy you will become a mighty instrument in teh hands of the Lord.

Bishop Gerald Causse

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[Story of boss offering him a managing director position]I –  know your principles and I know what you have learned in your Church and I need you.

This gathering of generations offers a marvelous vision of the unity and brotherhood that exist between the two priesthoods of God. Even though they are vested with different missions and authority, the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood are inseparable partners in the work of salvation. They go hand in hand and have great need of each other.

The perfect model of the close relationship that exists between the two priesthoods is found in the interaction between Jesus and John the Baptist. Can one possibly imagine John the Baptist without Jesus? What would the Savior’s mission have been like without the preparatory work performed by John?

John the Baptist was given one of the most noble missions that ever existed.

People flocked to John to hear him and to be baptised by him.

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Just think of what would take place in our priesthood quorums if the relationships between the holders of the two priesthoods were inspired by the pattern established by Jesus and John the Baptist.

[Duties and role of the Aaronic Priesthood]

[Story of Alex, a young priest]

Too often we relegate our young men to a spectator role.

Let us put the Aaronic Priesthood in its rightful place.

My dear brethren of the Melchizedek Priesthood, I invite you to strengthen the essential link that unites the two priesthoods of God. Empower your Aaronic Priesthood youth to prepare the way before you. Tell them with confidence, “I need you.” To you young holders of the Aaronic Priesthood, I pray that as you serve with your older brethren, you will hear the voice of the Lord telling you: “Thou art blessed, for thou shalt do great things. Behold thou wast sent forth, even as John, to prepare the way before me” [D&C 35:4].

President Dieter F Uchtdorf

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[Story of not receiving invitation to dedication of Spain Madrid temple when serving as Area President.]

[James and John – Sons of Thunder. Suggested calling down fire on a village in Samaria. Men of action. Grant unto us that we may sit on the left and right hand in they glory.]

You can’t get honour in the kingdom of Heaven by campaigning for it.

In God’s kingdom, greatness and leadership means seeing others as they truly are—as God sees them—and then reaching out and ministering to them. It means rejoicing with those who are happy, weeping with those who grieve, lifting up those in distress, and loving our neighbor as Christ loves us. The Saviour loves all of God’s children….and so should we.

God’s greatest reward goes to those who serve without expectation of reward. It goes to those who serve without fanfare; those who quietly go about seeking ways to help others; those who minister to others simply because they love God and God’s children [see Matthew 6:4].

[Accompanying President Faust to a stake reorganisation. Be grateful for graciousness of church members but ‘never inhale it’.]

Leadership is not so much about directing others as being directed by God.

Opportunities to go about doing good and serving others are limitless.

The Church is designed to help us become true and faithful disciples of Christ.

We accept callings with grace, humility and gratitude. When we are released we accept the release with the same grace, humility and gratitude.

One kind of service is not above another.

Sometimes we desire positions of prominence…There is nothing wrong with wanting to serve the Lord..When we inhale the praise of others, that praise will be our compensation.

What is the most important calling in the Church? It is the one you currently have. No matter how humble or prominent it may seem to be, the calling you have right now is the one that will allow you not only to lift others but also to become the man of God you were created to be.

Lift where you stand.

Seeking honour and celebrity in the Church…is the trade of Esau.

Let us follow the example of our Savior, who was meek and lowly, who sought not the praise of men but to do the will of His Father [see John 5:41; 6:38].

 

Let us serve others humbly—with energy, with gratitude, and with honor. Even though our acts of service may seem lowly, modest, or of little value, those who reach out in kindness and compassion to others will one day know the value of their service by the eternal and blessed grace of Almighty God [see Matthew 25:31–46].

May we meditate upon, understand, and live the paramount lesson of Church leadership and priesthood governance: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”

[Another wonderful talk from President Uchtdorf]

President Henry B Eyring

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My beloved brethren of the priesthood, my purpose today is both to reassure you and to invigorate you in your priesthood service.

[Story of the rich young man in the New Testament]. I trust that you will go on your way rejoicing.

None of us can do the work of the Priesthood and doing it well relying on our own talents.

[The interaction between Jehovah and Enoch. ‘All thy words shall I justify’ ‘Walk with me’.]

Brethren, our ordination to the priesthood is an invitation from the Lord to walk with Him. And what does it mean to walk with the Lord? It means to do what He does, to serve the way He serves. He sacrificed His own comforts to bless those in need, so that’s what we try to do. He seemed to take particular notice of people who were overlooked and even shunned by society, so we try to do that too. He testified boldly yet lovingly of the true doctrine He received from His Father, even if it was unpopular, and so must we. He said to all, “Come unto me” (Matthew 11:28), and we say to all, “Come unto Him.” As priesthood holders, we are His representatives. We act not for ourselves but for Him. We speak not our words but His. The people we serve come to know Him better because of our service.

As soon as we accept the Lord’s invitation “Walk with me,” the nature of our priesthood service changes. It becomes all at once higher and nobler but also more achievable, because we know that we are not alone.

[Story of drunk driver crashing car into bank window – ‘Don’t shoot, I’m a Mormon’. ..’I’m going to let you see him as I see him.]

God notices and will support event the youngest and new deacon.

The Lord’s work is not just to solve problems, it is to build people. If you will listen he will teach you his ways.

Walking with Saviour in priesthood service will change the way you will see others.

If you walk with the Saviour long enough you will learn to see everyone as a child of God.

I testify that when we walk the path of priesthood service, the Savior Jesus Christ goes with us, for it is His path, His way. His light goes before us, and His angels are round about us.

 

[Some great messages on service and leadership in this session]

[I remember when Priesthood sessions were 2 hours long!]

Posted in Inspirational, New Testament, Symbolism

Caravaggio’s ‘The Martyrdom of St Matthew’.

Last year I posted about Caravaggio’s ‘Calling of St Matthew’ which we saw in a chapel in the San Luigi dei Francezi church while in Rome on holiday last year. In the same chapel there are two other Caravaggios – ‘The Inspiration of St Matthew’ and ‘The Martyrdom of St Matthew’. This post is about the ‘Martyrdom’ which was the first of the three to be displayed, having hung in the chapel since July 1600.

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The theme of the painting is triumph over death.

The painting is based on the tradition that Matthew was murdered at the behest of the king of Ethiopia, Hirticus, who wanted to marry his niece Iphigenia, the abbess of a convent. When Saint Matthew forbade the marriage, Hirticus had him killed.

In the painting we see  Matthew about to be stabbed to death. He is lying on the ground at the edge of a sunken baptismal font. Apparently, baptism by immersion was the norm in Milan during Caravaggio’s childhood rather than the baptism by sprinkling performed in Rome. Baptism by immersion symbolises death, burial and resurrection. Paul said:

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:3–5).

Matthew appears to cower at the feet of his executioner who is ready to strike the fatal blow. However, closer examination suggests that Matthew is not cowering in fear but is reaching up to grasp a palm branch thrust towards him by an angel. With its association with Palm Sunday, in Christian iconography the palm branch symbolises the victory of martyrs and the victory of the spirit over the flesh. This is not a moment of terror but a moment of triumph. Matthew’s body may die but his spirit will live on.

Matthew has already been wounded, there is a trickle of blood coming from his side, reminding us of the wound in the Saviour’s side. The juxtaposition of the blood and the baptismal font points towards the saving and cleansing power of Christ’s blood.

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The altar appears to have a Maltese cross painted on it – the Maltese Cross is said to be the symbol of the ‘Christian warrior’. Some commentators have interpreted the single candle burning on the altar as representing the all-seeing eye of God, ever present and aware of His martyr’s sacrifice or, perhaps, the fugitiveness of human life.

Just behind the assailant we glimpse a dark-haired bearded figure in dark clothing over a white loin cloth – this is a self-portrait of Caravaggio. British art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon wrote:

“The self-portrait, in this instance, reads like a mea culpa. If Caravaggio had actually been there, he suggests, he would have had no more courage than anyone else. He would have fled like the others, leaving the martyr to his fate. According to the logic of his own narrative, he remains unbaptized and therefore outside the circle of the blessed. He is a man running away, out of the church and into the street.”

Posted in Inspirational, Jesus Christ

Christ-like attributes – obedience

We are living in difficult times but the Lord desires to bless us as individuals and as families. But what do we know about blessings form the Lord? We know that there is a divine law –

“There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21.)

If we want the Lord to bless us then we have to live the commandments.

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Let’s look at some more scriptural evidence:

“And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.

“And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.

“And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever.” (Mosiah 2:22-24.)

“And moreover, I would desire that ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord hath spoken it.” (Mosiah 2:41.)

For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world” (D&C 132:5).

Yet obedience to the commandments seems to be one of man’s challenges. Sometimes it is not convenient – some of us have got too comfortable in our arm chairs to go and do the work of the Lord. We find it too much hassle to go to the temple. Some of us say to ourselves – I’ve done my share – some one else can do it know. Some of us are reluctant to leave our comfort zones. And then we wonder why we don’t fell the same sense of excitement about the gospel that we used to.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have voluntarily entered into holy covenants, promising to obey the Lord’s commandments. Willing, righteous obedience leads to celestial life; indeed, there is no eternal progress without it.

President Spencer W. Kimball asked: ‘What is the price of happiness?’ One might be surprised at the simplicity of the answer.

The treasure house of happiness is unlocked to those who live the gospel of Jesus Christ in its purity and simplicity. Like a mariner without stars, like a traveler without a compass, is the person who moves along through life without a plan. The assurance of supreme happiness, the certainty of a successful life here and of exaltation and eternal life hereafter, come to those who plan to live their lives in complete harmony with the gospel of Jesus Christ—and then consistently follow the course they have set” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 259).

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that

“in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness … he never has—He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 256-57).

Of course there is a flip side to the Lord’s promises. In the Book of Mormon we read that “despair cometh because of iniquity.” (Moro. 10:22.)

“When I do good I feel good,” said Abraham Lincoln, “and when I do bad I feel bad.”

While a man may take some temporary pleasure in sin, the end result is unhappiness. Eternal laws have both punishments and opportunities for happiness attached to them. When we disobey God’s laws, we suffer the punishments, but when we obey, we reap the happiness

 

Posted in Inspirational, Jesus Christ

Christ-like attributes – diligence

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Diligence is the opposite of laziness. Preach My Gospel tells us that  ‘Diligence is steady, consistent, earnest, and energetic effort in doing the Lord’s work. The Lord expects you to work diligently—persistently and with great effort and care.’

 Jorge F Zeballos at General Conference in October 2009 said:

God will not require more than the best we can give because that would not be just, but neither can He accept less than that because that would not be just either. Therefore, let us always give the best we can in the service of God and our fellowmen. Let us serve in our families and in our callings in the Church in the best manner possible. Let us do the best we can and each day be a little better.

In Mosiah 6:9 we read:

……….let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.

Mosiah 4:27 sets out the balance we all need to find – we must not run faster than we are able; yet at the same time we must be diligent:

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order. (See also D&C 10:4)

Elder M Russell Ballard discussed finding this balance and counselled:

Often that will mean temporarily postponing attention to one priority in order to take care of another. Sometimes family demands will require your full attention. Other times professional responsibilities will come first. And there will be times when Church callings will come first. Good balance comes in doing things in a timely way and in not procrastinating our preparation or waiting to fulfill our responsibilities until the last minute. (General Conference, October 2006).

Elder Neal A Maxwell shared his experience of trying to do more than he had resources to do:

On my office wall is a quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh: “My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds.” For me, it is a needed reminder. A few years ago, already weary, I foolishly went late one afternoon to two different hospitals to give blessings to three individuals who were dying of cancer. Not only was I worn out, but worse, the last person really didn’t get much from me. Things had not been done in “wisdom and order.” I was running faster than my supply of strength and energy on that occasion. Those blessings would have been better given over two or three days, and I would have had more empathy and energy. (“Wisdom and Order,” Ensign, June 1994, 41)

Elder Ballard and Elder Maxwell are not saying that we should not be diligent, that we should not do the best we can: they are saying that we should use wisdom and prioritise.

Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews (Chapter 6), promises us that God will recognise and reward our efforts to be diligent:

10 For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

11 And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end:

12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Posted in Inspirational, Jesus Christ

Christ-like attributes – humility

Preach My Gospel says that ‘Humility is willingness to submit to the will of the Lord and to give the Lord the honour for what is accomplished. It includes gratitude for His blessings and acknowledgment of your constant need for His divine help. Humility is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of spiritual strength.’

Humility is the opposite of pride. President Benson explained: “Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.” (Ensign, Nov. 1993, p.16)

Humility is what is needed to live in peace and harmony with all persons, to dissipate anger and heal old wounds. Humility distinguishes the wise leader from the one who seeks unrighteous dominion. Self-righteousness is one aspect of pride that is hard to avoid because for most of us it is so much easier to see other people’s faults than to see our own. Rather than look for faults in others, we should look for the good in others and try to correct the faults within ourselves. Jesus’ humorous parable of a person with a beam (or plank) in his eye trying to see to remove a speck from another’s eye reminds us that we probably have bigger faults within ourselves than the faults we would criticize in others. Consciousness of our own failings can help to keep us humble.

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The search for humility is a difficult one as humility is a very evasive quality – as soon as you think you have mastered it you are guilty of pride! President Kimball said:

“When one becomes conscious of his great humility, he has already lost it. When one begins boasting of his humility, it has already become pride-the antithesis of humility… Somebody asked me this morning, ‘How do you keep humble? Sometimes I am humble and sometimes I am unhumble.’ I think there is a formula that will never fail. First, you evaluate yourself…I would be nothing without the Lord. My breath, my brains, my hearing, my sight, my locomotion, my everything depends upon the Lord. That is the first step and then we pray, and pray often, and we will not get up from our knees until we have communicated. The line may be down; we may have let it fall to pieces, but I will not get up from my knees until I have established communication-if it is twenty minutes, if it is all night like Enos…If it takes all day long, you stay on your knees until your unhumbleness has dissipated, until you feel the humble spirit and realize, ‘I could die this minute if it were not for the Lord’s good grace. I am dependent upon him-totally dependent upon him,’ and then you read the scriptures.” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball)

As with all virtues, Jesus is our model. He did not come to be served, but to serve and we must we commit ourselves to serving others in humility. Jesus was not ashamed to humble Himself as a servant. In his humility, he was always obedient to the Father and so should we be willing to put aside all selfishness and submit in obedience to God.

Posted in Inspirational, Missionary work, Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley

Teachings of Gordon B Hinckley – Chapter 2: An Ensign to the Nations, a Light to the World

From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley

As a newly returned missionary Elder Hinckley gave a report to the First Presidency at the request of his mission president. This report led to Gordon receiving an assignments as the Executive Secretary of the Church Radio, Publicity, and Missionary Literature Committee. This began a lifetime of full-time Church service and advocacy of the Church in the media.

From the manual:

“I believe and testify that it is the mission of this Church to stand as an ensign to the nations and a light to the world. We have had placed upon us a great, all-encompassing mandate from which we cannot shrink nor turn aside. We accept that mandate and are determined to fulfill it, and with the help of God we shall do it.”

What opportunities do we have to be an ensign to the nations and a light to the world?

Video: Ministry of Gordon B Hinckley – Bringing the Church out of obscurity: https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2012-05-1505-ministry-of-gordon-b-hinckley-bringing-the-church-out-of-obscurity?lang=eng

1 Like the stone in Daniel’s vision, the Church is rolling forth to fill the whole earth.
The growth of the Church from six members to a global faith.
“There is one thing very certain, … and that is, whatever men may think, and however they may plot and contrive, that this Kingdom will never be given into the hands of another people. It will grow and spread and increase, and no man living can stop its progress.” (President John Taylor)
The First Presidency has issued the following statistical report of the Church as of December 31, 2015.
Church Units
Stakes 3,174 Missions 418 Districts 558 Wards and Branches 30,016
Church Membership Total Membership 15,634,199
New Children of Record 114,550
Converts Baptized 257,402
Missionaries Full-Time Missionaries 74,079
Church-Service Missionaries 31,779
Temples in Operation at Year End 149
What are your feelings as you consider the growth of the Church from 1830 to the present day?
2 Early Church leaders had a prophetic view of the destiny of the Lord’s work.
Brigham Young and associates scaled Ensign Peak in July 1847 and surveyed the Salt Lake Valley.
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‘Section 2 of the lesson makes some important points about the fulfillment of the many prophecies of the progress of the Lord’s kingdom in the last days. It points out that many prophets were shown the work that we are currently engaged in. They wrote about it in our scriptures to let us know that the Lord has been preparing for this day for millennia. Brigham Young was shown our day. Isaiah was shown our day. If we look to the Book of Mormon, many of those prophets speak directly to us and tell us of our responsibilities as members of the Church in the last days. Witnesses of the mission and responsibility of the Lord’s Church are all around us.’ (Kelly Merrill, LDSliving.com)
From the manual:
I marvel at the foresight of that little group. It was both audacious and bold. It was almost unbelievable. Here they were, almost a thousand miles [1,600 kilometers] from the nearest settlement to the east and almost eight hundred miles [1,300 kilometers] from the Pacific Coast. They were in an untried climate. The soil was different from that of the black loam of Illinois and Iowa, where they had most recently lived. They had never raised a crop here. They had never experienced a winter. They had not built a structure of any kind. These prophets, dressed in old, travel-worn clothes, standing in boots they had worn for more than a thousand miles from Nauvoo to this valley, spoke of a millennial vision. They spoke out of a prophetic view of the marvelous destiny of this cause. They came down from the peak that day and went to work to bring reality to their dream.
What can we learn from this account? How have we benefited from the prophetic vision of early Church leaders? What do you think it means to be “an ensign to the nations”?
3 We must never lose sight of the divine destiny of God’s work and the part we play in it.
From the manual:
Each of us has a small field to cultivate. While so doing, we must never lose sight of the greater picture, the large composite of the divine destiny of this work. It was given us by God our Eternal Father, and each of us has a part to play in the weaving of its magnificent tapestry. Our individual contribution may be small, but it is not unimportant. …
Why do we need to see this grand picture? Why do we sometimes lose sight of it? In what ways can our small efforts contribute to the growth of God’s kingdom?
Sometimes the things that God wants us to do are not the things that we want to do. Sometimes we we think that we know better than Heavenly Father what would be best for us, including where and how we should serve. Part of faith is having faith in God’s plan for our development. We will have more freedom, liberty and independence if we learn to submit to God’s will.
4 We can become as an ensign to the nations from which the people of the earth may gather strength.
The increasing gulf between the standards of the  Church and the world.
From the manual:
We must stand firm. We must hold back the world. If we do so, the Almighty will be our strength and our protector, our guide and our revelator. We shall have the comfort of knowing that we are doing what He would have us do. Others may not agree with us, but I am confident that they will respect us. We will not be left alone. There are many [who are] not of our faith but who feel as we do. They will support us. They will sustain us in our efforts.

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means. ” Albert Einstein

“You can be a good example or you can be a bad example, but you are always an example.” Hartman Rector, Jr.

“I challenge you to stand up to your peers as an example of righteous living.” Elder L. Tom Perry Ensign, Nov. 1996, 38,  “Run and Not Be Weary”

How can we develop greater vision and courage in moving God’s work forward? How can we live in the world without being of the world? How can we “take on more of the luster of the life of Christ”? Why is it important for us to stand for what is right?
Posted in Inspirational, Jesus Christ

The Story of the Three Trees

Our high councillor shared this story with us on Sunday (thanks Karl):

Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up.

The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!”

The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world!”

The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. “I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.”

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Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.

The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell.

“Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest. I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said.

The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell.

“Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!”

The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven.

But the woodcutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me,” he muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals.

The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, nor with treasure. She was coated with sawdust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.

The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead, the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail on an ocean, or even a river; instead, she was taken to a little lake.

The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard.

“What happened?” the once tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”

Many, many days and night passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams.

But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox.

“I wish I could make a cradle for him,” her husband whispered.

The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and the sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful,” she said.

And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake.

Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain.

The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun.

And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hands to her.

She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth tremble with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything.

It had made the third tree strong.

And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God.

That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

Posted in Faith, Inspirational, Jesus Christ

Christ-like attributes – patience

The word patience or patient appears more than 80 times in the scriptures. It is a Christ-like virtue. If we want to become like Christ we need to develop patience.

What is patience? Preach My Gospel says it ‘is the capacity to endure delay, trouble, opposition, or suffering without becoming angry, frustrated or anxious.’ When you are patient, you hold up under pressure and are able to face adversity calmly and hopefully:

And it came to pass that the Lord did visit them with his Spirit, and said unto them: Be comforted. And they were comforted. And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls. (Alma 17:10 –11)

Patience is being steadfast despite opposition difficulty or adversity: Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, the Lamanites, and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success. (Alma 26:27)

At a time when persecution intensified toward the newly organized Church, the Lord said to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days.” (D&C 24:8.)

Patience in affliction and adversity means to persist firmly and never forsake what we know to be true, standing firm with the hope that in the Lord’s due time we will understand what we don’t understand now. In the words of Joseph Smith, “Stand fast, ye Saints of God, hold on a little while longer, and the storm of life will be past, and you will be rewarded by that God whose servants you are, and who will duly appreciate all your toils and afflictions for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 185.)

It is the ability to do God’s will and accept His timing. We need to trust that the Lord will fulfill his promises in his own due time. Elder Neal A Maxwell taught that patience is being “willing to watch the unfolding process of God with a sense of wonder and awe – rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance.”

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Patience is related to hope and faith – you must wait for the Lord’s blessings to be fulfilled. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Patience is tied very closely to faith in our Heavenly Father. Actually, when we are unduly impatient, we are suggesting that we know what is best—better than does God. Or, at least, we are asserting that our timetable is better than his. Either way we are questioning the reality of God’s omniscience” (Ensign, Oct. 1980, p. 28).

Why is patience important?

A certain amount of impatience may be useful to stimulate and motivate us to action. However, I believe that a lack of patience is a major cause of the difficulties and unhappiness in the world today. Too often, we are impatient with ourselves, with our family members and friends, and even with the Lord. We seem to demand what we want right now, regardless of whether we have earned it, whether it would be good for us, or whether it is right.” (Patience, a Key to Happiness by Joseph B. Wirthlin, April 1987)