Sunday, February 15, 2015

Living Joyfully in Troubled Times

We will all have disappointments and discouragements—that is part of life. But if we will have faith, our setbacks will be but a moment and success will come out of our seeming failures. Our Heavenly Father can accomplish miracles through each of us if we will but place our confidence and trust in Him.

It is a great blessing to have an inner peace, to have an assurance, to have a spirit of serenity and inward calm during times of strife and struggle, during times of sorrow and reverses. It is soul-satisfying to know that God is at the helm, that He is mindful of His children, and that we can with full confidence place our trust in Him.

Prayer—persistent prayer—can put us in touch with God, our greatest source of comfort and counsel. “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror.” (D&C 10:5.) “Exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me” is how the young Joseph Smith describes the method that he used in the Sacred Grove to keep the adversary from destroying him. (JS—H 1:16.)

Without faith in our Heavenly Father, we cannot be successful. Faith gives us vision of what may happen, hope for the future, and optimism in our present tasks. Where faith is, we do not doubt the ultimate success of the work.

Do we realize that happiness here and now consists in freely, lovingly, joyfully acknowledging God’s will for us—and doing it in all ways and all affairs big and small? To live perfectly is to live happily. To live happily is to grow in spiritual strength toward perfection. Every action performed in accord with God’s will is part of that growth. Let us not partition our lives. Let us unify our lives, being contemptuous of fictitious honors and glories that do not come with God’s approval. Let us remember that the real source of our strength and happiness is beyond the reach of men and circumstances.

Be cheerful in all that you do. Live joyfully. Live happily. Live enthusiastically, knowing that God does not dwell in gloom and melancholy, but in light and love.

Excerpts taken from Teachings of Presidents of the Church:  Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 4.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Freedom of Choice, An Eternal Principle

With this experience as a foundation, President Ezra Taft Benson frequently reminded Latter-day Saints and others of the importance of agency—the freedom “to choose the course they should follow.” His teachings about the principle of agency included more than just a reminder to “choose between right and wrong.” He spoke of agency as the ability to “make important decisions that will have bearing on our salvation” and that will “affect our happiness in eternity.” He encouraged Latter-day Saints and others to use their agency to “act on their own,” without waiting to be commanded in all things. The principle of agency, he said, “runs like a golden thread throughout the gospel plan of the Lord for the blessing of his children.”

Freedom of choice is a God-given eternal principle. The great plan of liberty is the plan of the gospel. There is no coercion about it; no force, no intimidation. A man is free to accept the gospel or reject it. He may accept it and then refuse to live it, or he may accept it and live it fully. But God will never force us to live the gospel. He will use persuasion through His servants. He will call us and He will direct us and He will persuade us and encourage us and He will bless us when we respond, but He will never force the human mind. (See Hymns, 1985, no. 240.)

That the Lord is displeased with wickedness is true. That He desires that it not occur is also true. That He will help those who oppose it is true. But that He allows wickedness to occur at all through His children here in mortality is proof of His having given them their freedom to choose, while reserving for Him a basis for their final judgment.

There is no evil that [Jesus Christ] cannot arrest. All things are in His hands. This earth is His rightful dominion. Yet He permits evil so that we can make choices between good and evil.

The purposes of the Lord—the great objectives—continue the same: the salvation and exaltation of his children.

Usually the Lord gives us the overall objectives to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but he expects us to work out most of the details and methods. The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things. Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and his prophets, and then prayerfully act—without having to be commanded “in all things.” This attitude prepares men for godhood. …

Sometimes the Lord hopefully waits on his children to act on their own, and when they do not, they lose the greater prize, and the Lord will either drop the entire matter and let them suffer the consequences or else he will have to spell it out in greater detail. Usually, I fear,the more he has to spell it out, the smaller is our reward.

We should be “anxiously engaged” in good causes and leave the world a better place for having lived in it.

Excerpts taken from Teachings of Presidents of the Church:  Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 3.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Ministering that Matters

The Savior Jesus Christ came to earth to minister to others, spending His days in their service and giving His life for their salvation (see Matthew 20:27–28). As disciples of the Good Shepherd, we look to Him as our example and we follow His command: “The works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Nephi 27:21).

During a visit to England in 2011, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said when members of the Quorum of the Twelve minister, they seek individuals, following the “one by one” principle found in the Book of Mormon (see 3 Nephi 11:1517:21) and helping “to lift, to bless, to do something to help an individual or a family.”
Elder Bednar added: “While I’m in England, the Lord sent me to find a one,and along the way I get to participate in a bunch of meetings, and maybe some good will be done. But the keys of the kingdom were sent here to find a one. You don’t talk to a congregation; you talk to assembledones.3
When we minister, we should seek and heed promptings from the Spirit. As President Monson has said, “If we are observant and aware, and if we act on the promptings which come to us, we can accomplish much good.”
Heavenly Father’s children in our day—both young and old—need nurturing. Latter-day Saints have covenanted to provide that care by bearing one another’s burdens, by mourning and comforting others, and by standing as witnesses of God (see Mosiah 18:8–9). Ministering that matters includes love and compassion, a listening ear, prayers and priesthood blessings, temporal and spiritual support, and teaching by the Spirit.
“We are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness. … We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.” (President Thomas S. Monson)

One of the most effective ways we can minister to Heavenly Father’s children is through the home teaching and visiting teaching program.

As we magnify our ministry as home teachers, we will also prayerfully prepare for our visits and seek guidance and inspiration from our Heavenly Father in assessing and meeting the needs of the families and individuals—including the children—we home teach.
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) called home teaching an inspired program that “is the heart of caring, of loving, of reaching out to the one—both the active and the less active.” He added: “There is no greater Church calling than that of a home teacher. There is no greater Church service rendered to our Father in Heaven’s children than the service rendered by a humble, dedicated, committed home teacher.”

These statements also apply to visiting teaching.  Here is a video with more from Elder Bednar:

Excerpts taken from the March 2014 Ensign, Ministering that Matters.