Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Mine is Thy Good Report": Shakespeare Sonnet #96

sonnetXCVI

Some say thy fault is youth, some wantonness;
Some say thy grace is youth and gentle sport;
Both grace and faults are lov'd of more and less:
Thou mak'st faults graces that to thee resort.
As on the finger of a throned queen
The basest jewel will be well esteem'd,
So are those errors that in thee are seen
To truths translated, and for true things deem'd.
How many lambs might the stern wolf betray,
If like a lamb he could his looks translate!
How many gazers mightst thou lead away,
If thou wouldst use the strength of all thy state!
   But do not so, I love thee in such sort,
   As thou being mine, mine is thy good report

- William Shakespeare

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I'm a Sinner, O Lord, and I Know It

Saints and Sinners - Anonymous

When somebody yields to temptation
    And breaks one of man’s or God’s laws,
We look for no good in his make-up,
    But oh! how we look for the flaws!
No one cares about how he was tempted,
    Nor praises the battles he’s fought;
His name becomes food for the jackals --
    For us who have never been caught.
“He has sinned!” we shout from the house-tops,
    We forget the good deeds he has done,
We focus on that one lost battle,
    And forget all the times he has won.
“Come, gaze at the sinner!” we thunder,
    “And by his example be taught
That his footsteps lead to destruction!”
    Cry we who have never been caught.
I’m a sinner, O Lord, and I know it,
    I’m weak, I blunder, I fail.
I’m tossed on life’s stormy ocean
    Like ships embroiled in a gale.
I’m willing to trust in Thy mercy,
    To keep the commandments Thou’st taught,
But deliver me, Lord, from the judgement
    Of saints who have never been caught!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday, January 6, 2014

Jacquelyn Tebbs Hancock (1930-2014)


My Grandma Hancock passed away today.  She reunited with her beloved husband, my grandpa Ralph Hancock, and with other loved ones who have slipped into eternity.  She was my last living grandparent.  She was always kind and gentle, in addition to being beautiful and talented.  She loved music, and bowling, and she loved her family.  I have many fond memories of my grandmother.  Once when my cousins and I were small, she took us all out on an adventure and bought each of us a pair of shoes and our own order of french fries from McDonald's.  She was a marvelous homemaker.  She made the most delicious breakfasts, with scones, fried eggs, and grits.  Her other meals were delicious too.  I remember that she grew strawberries along the sidewalk to her home in Mercer Island, and she also gave us clementines and orange sherbet ice cream.  She had a passion for singing, and sang the best rendition of Summertime this side of the Mississippi. 

She reared seven beautiful children, who have since raised children and grandchildren themselves.  Her life journey took her from Wyoming to Montana, North Carolina, the Seattle area and other places, and back to North Carolina.  She passed away today in Twin Falls, Idaho at the age of 83.  Fortunately I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with her recently, in North Carolina, at our family reunion in Seattle, and here in Utah as well.  My aunt Shelley, my dad and I were also able to interview her about her life history just before she passed away.  She will be missed, but her legacy lives on.  Thank you grandma.  I love you.

- - - - - - - - -

Obituary:

Jacquelyn Tebbs Hancock Guthrie was born March 21, 1930 to Cal Meeks Tebbs and Reba Marchant in Cowley Wyoming, a small town in the northwest of the state founded by Mormon settlers just a generation earlier. She grew up there a sheep-rancher’s daughter, developing skills and a work ethic for a lifetime of service as she helped her mother care for seven younger siblings (three more were born after she married) and cook for a large crew of ranch hands. A musically talented and vivacious beauty, she shared her gifts as a pianist and clarinetist, but above all as a vocalist, in high school productions as well as in church. She would continue to develop her extraordinary gift as a mezzo soprano throughout her life, moving religious congregations with sublime renditions of “O Divine Redeemer” and “Entreat Me Not to Leave Thee” or thrilling audiences with a powerful interpretation of Gershwin’s “Summertime” or an expert rendering of Mahler’s art songs.

In 1948 Jacque (pronounced like Jackie) moved to Provo, Utah, to attend Brigham Young University, where she soon met Ralph Hancock, who had just come there from the small fishing community of Harkers Island, North Carolina. Jacque and Ralph were married March 24, 1949, in Cowley, Wyoming, a marriage later solemnized in the Idaho Falls, Idaho LDS temple. Their union was soon blessed by children, six born in close succession: Jacquelyn Sue (Richard Brown), Ralph Cornel (Julie), Minta June (Craig Hale), Dennis Dale (Leslie), Michelle (Kenneth Willis), and Michael Noel (Lela Peterson Hinds), and, after a pause of 8 years, a last blessing, Carol Ann (Andrew Snethen). The young family moved frequently to follow improving employment opportunities in the states of Wyoming, North Carolina, Utah, Idaho and California, before settling for longer periods in Portland, Oregon (1960-1968) and finally, after the birth of her last daughter and the marriage of her first, to Mercer Island, Washington. Jacque made a lovely and loving home for her growing family of more than a dozen residences over these years. While cultivating and sharing her musical talents with church and community, she proved her excellent athletic gifts as a competitive bowler and a graceful slalom water-skier. She was always an active member of her local ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where she gave many hours of service in callings such as Visiting Teacher, Chorister, and Relief Society President.

In 1994 Jacque moved with Ralph back to his North Carolina homeland for retirement. Tragically, Ralph died in a boating accident just a year later. In 1997, Jacque married Ike Guthrie, a native of Harkers Island and decorated veteran of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Jacque and Ike were devoted companions until his death in July of 2013.

Jacque is survived by her seven children, 31 grandchildren and 45 great-grandchildren, as well as by eight of her siblings: Mary Alice Moncur (St. George, Utah), Terry (St. George), Loretta Nichols (Phillips Ranch CA), Clark “Chuck” (SLC), Christine Carter (Lewistown, MT), Jeff (Draper, UT), Reba Padilla (SLC), and Caleen Martinez (SLC). She was preceded in death by a brother, Ernest, a sister, Sue Moncur, and by a great-grandson, Daniel Miller.

Jacque spent the last few months of her life in the loving care of her daughter Jacque Sue and son-in-law Richard Brown in their Twin Falls, Idaho home. Shortly before her death her daughter Michelle Willis and her grandson John Hancock spent many sweet hours with her making an audio recording of reminiscences. Jacque also enjoyed a magnificent Christmas performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City shortly before her passing. (written by Ralph C. Hancock)

Sacred Gifts

If you have not yet seen the Sacred Gifts exhibit at the BYU  Museum of Art, and you live anywhere in the vicinity, might I recommend that you do so now.  All of the original paintings and etchings are worth seeing if you can.  The Resurrection of Christ, for example, is an unforgettably majestic painting of the most glorious event of time and eternity.  You won't be disappointed.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Quick Geography Lesson

Quick! It's time for you to learn the names and locations of all the states in the United States, and the names and locations of all the countries in the world! Quick! Learn them! Now! 

Friday, January 3, 2014

General Conference Gems

President Thomas S. Monson: Welcome to Conference

President Monson's opening greeting, "How good it is, my beloved brothers and sisters, to meet together once again," sounds awfully like the Hebrew phrase "Hine(y) ma tov u’ma-nayim / Shevet ach-im gam ya-chad" ("Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" Psalms 133:1).  In fact, I would venture to say that with the music and the welcome from the Prophet of the Lord, participating in General Conference is not unlike entering the temple.  If we read the rest of Psalms 133, we can understand that President Monson's introduction is in the pattern of the prophets inviting us to the Holy Temple, not unlike King Benjamin or any of the prophets of old.

President Monson mentions that it has been just over 183 years since the Church was organized by Joseph Smith under the direction of the Lord.  If we hearken back to the temple, we can understand that even this statement reveals something about the Church and about us.  Without going into too much detail (for the temple ritual is sacred), we can understand that as God created the earth and all things by His Son Jesus Christ, the Lord created His Church and restored it through the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Just as the Lord followed and did the will of His Father, Joseph Smith followed and did the will of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are invited to follow and do the will of the Lord as did Joseph Smith.

In other words, this introduction seems to reach out to all the lost tribes, including Judah (the Jews) and Joseph (Ephraim and Menasseh).  From a small beginning, on April 6, 1830 (the day of the real Christmas), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown just as the Prophet Daniel prophesied long ago.  Watching President Monson's face as he looks over the congregation gives one the sense that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly a miracle worth pondering, with a growing membership of more than 15 million.

Foremost in President Monson's mind and heart is the work of the Lord, namely missionary work, which has increased to 80,333 missionaries.  "Go ye therefore and teach all nations…"  "After all that's been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel."  "Every member a missionary."

President Monson added his own injunction: "To their words I add my own. Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work." Then, he reiterated his invitation to contribute to the missionary fund and to labor as missionaries.  President Monson's eye is single to the glory of God.

President Monson also reminds us that the messages of General Conference are for instruction and edification.  This reminds me of the scripture, that President Packer later shares, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. / All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (2 Tim 3:15-16)

It also reminds me of the verse: "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." (D&C 1:38) and, "Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; / For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. / For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory." (D&C 21:4-6)

President Monson's introduction also reminds me of King Benjamin's introduction to his people: "And these are the words which he spake and caused to be written, saying: My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view." (Mosiah 2:9)

By what President Monson has to say at the conclusion of the Sunday morning session of this particular General Conference, it should be noted that it was a special conference, of the most spiritual nature: "In my journal tonight, I shall write, 'This has been one of the most inspiring sessions of any general conference I’ve attended. Everything has been of the greatest and most spiritual nature.'"  If we hearken back to the temple again, we can understand that creation also has a spiritual nature, and that the Lord created all things spiritually before they were physically upon the earth.  (Moses 3:5-7)  The same is true of the creation of the Church, and the creation of anything good.  In other words, this General Conference hearkens all the way back to the Grand Council in Heaven, and this General Conference is like a convening of the noble and great ones to create and organize the future according to the Lord's will and according to the Lord's plan.  I'm certain that if we listen attentively and reverently that we can be a part of the creation of a great future, by heeding and implementing the counsel and instruction given.


Elder Hales describes President Monson's invitation to increase and improve our missionary efforts as a "charge."  This is not simply an invitation, it is an injunction, an exhortation.  This gathering is not just a general conference of the Church, it is the Lord's General Conference, in which His voice is heard and His will is made known to the Saints and all those who listen attentively.  General Conference is in the pattern that the Lord hath made, from the days of Adam, to the time of Jesus Christ, to the restoration of the Gospel through Joseph Smith, and today.  The speakers put forth much effort, prayer and fasting to obtain the mind and will of the Lord.  They study it out in their minds, and receive the revelation by the Holy Ghost.  The same principle applies, and we all can receive revelation, just as the people in the days of King Benjamin.  Children and youth can receive revelation as well.  Listen to this promise: "To the young members of the Church, I promise that if you will listen, you will feel the Spirit well up within you. The Lord will tell you what He wants you to do with your life."  The revelation is personal and individual, because the Holy Ghost carries the messages unto the heart of the receivers: "This is possible because the Holy Ghost carries the word of the Lord unto our hearts in terms we can understand.7 When I take notes at conference, I do not always write down exactly what the speaker is saying; I note the personalized direction the Spirit is giving me."

Focus on the temple, the family (The Family: A Proclamation to the World), and the Savior Jesus Christ (The Living Christ).  Search, ponder, pray, ask, seek, knock.  Listen to another promise: "In addition to inviting us to hold personal and family scripture study, Heavenly Father wants us to regularly study and apply what we have learned in conference. I testify that those who put their trust in the Lord and heed this counsel in faith will gain great strength to bless themselves and their families for generations to come.  This counsel is for parents to help children as well.  The Lord has provided the ways and means for his messages to be transmitted throughout the entire world, to reach all of His children.  The Lord's way is the way of keeping temple ordinances and covenants.  In addition to preaching the Gospel, we can find our ancestors, thus engaging in the three-fold (now four-fold) mission of the Church: Perfect the Saints, Proclaim the Gospel, Redeem the Dead, and Care for the Poor and the Needy.

Little Jason created his own suit of armor, to represent the full armor of God.  Listen to this promise: "I promise you in His name that if you pray with a sincere desire to hear your Heavenly Father’s voice in the messages of this conference, you will discover that He has spoken to you to help you, to strengthen you, and to lead you home into His presence. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."  These are all promises and blessings that are made known and made available in the Holy temples of God.

It is time to put on the whole armor of God, to be a true knight in shining armor for the Lord and for the girl I will marry.  It is time to be fully converted to the Lord, and to obtain the spiritual strength and protection necessary for the latter-day battles ahead.  Constant and consistent study and application of the conference messages will help one to obtain the full armor of God, and to be a true warrior for the Lord.  It is also the way to teach children, and rear them in light and truth.  These are all things that are taught in the temple, and one can refresh that memory and commitment by attending the temple frequently.

Make your full armor of God, with the family insignia or crest.  Ponder and apply the teachings of the Apostle Paul: "10 Finally, my brethren, be astrong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole aarmour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we awrestle not bagainst cflesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the drulers of the edarknessof this world, against spiritual fwickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins agirt about with btruth, and having on the cbreastplate of drighteousness;15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel ofapeace;16 Above all, taking the shield of afaith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery bdarts of the wicked.17 And take the helmet of asalvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:18 aPraying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all bperseverance and supplication for all saints;" (Ephesians 6:10-18)

The prophets and apostles have so diligently lived and applied these principles and commandments of the Lord, that through their faith in Jesus Christ and His grace assisting them, where ever they go it is a temple.  This is because they are true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Heed them and be blessed.

Elder Ulisses Soares, Be Meek and Lowly of Heart

"None is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly of heart." (Moroni 7:44)  What does it mean to be meek?  To be lowly in heart? "Meekness is the quality of those who are 'Godfearing, righteous, humble, teachable, and patient under suffering.' Those who possess this attribute are willing to follow Jesus Christ, and their temperament is calm, docile, tolerant, and submissive." In order to develop the attribute of Christ-like meekness, we need the Spirit in our lives, and in order to live in the Spirit, we need to be righteous.  In order to be righteous, we need to repent.  In order to repent, we need the help of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Part of what it means to take upon us the name of Christ is to strive to become more like Jesus Christ every day, and meekness is essential to become more like Jesus Christ. "Being meek does not mean weakness, but it does mean behaving with goodness and kindness, showing strength, serenity, healthy self-worth, and self-control."  Jesus was and is the ultimate example of being meek and lowly in heart.  It takes time to develop the attribute of meekness.  The first step to becoming meek is to improve day by day.  The Lord bestows this gift in reward for effort and perseverance, diligence and obedience.  It is not something that we can attain unto by ourselves, but comes through His grace.  Meekness also means controlling our temper.  It is especially important to be gentle and meek at home with our eternal companions.  To be meek we must also be humble.  "I believe, brothers and sisters, that only those who are humble are able to acknowledge and understand the Lord’s answers to their prayers. The humble are teachable, recognizing how dependent they are on God and desiring to be subject to His will. The humble are meek and have the ability to influence others to be the same. God’s promise to the humble is that He will lead them by the hand. I truly believe that we will avoid detours and sadness in our lives as long as we walk hand in hand with the Lord."  Brother Moses Mahlangu of South Africa was a great example of meekness.  Jesus Christ is the Supreme Example of meekness. "Even after the most intense physical suffering, the Lord turned to His Father and spoke from the bottom of His meek and humble heart: 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.' Christ faced extreme physical and spiritual suffering, giving us the opportunity to change our spiritual character and become meek like Him." Repentance and change are possible.  Every day is a new opportunity to turn to the Lord in humility and meekness, to recognize and acknowledge His hand in all things, and to become better than what were were, stronger, more Christ-like.  Jesus Christ forgave all, and he forgave those who crucified Him.  Because of Jesus Christ, we can also turn to God, whether in hours of suffering or of gladness.  We can forgive all, and we must forgive all.  The impression that I had while studying this talk was to turn to the Lord for strength, for healing, for the power to forgive, and continue to turn to the Lord every day.  I am thankful for the Holy Ghost that testifies to me of these truths.  I was impressed by this talk, in part because it came near the beginning of the General Conference, and it is an invitation to consider our own weaknesses, especially those that the Lord shows us through the course of His General Conference, so that we will have the determination to change and become better.  As Elder Hales reminded us in his previous talk, even great souls like President Spencer W. Kimball and President Thomas S. Monson, came to conference with a humble heart and a contrite spirit, with a desire to repent and improve: "'I have made up my mind that when I go home from this [general] conference … there are many, many areas in my life that I can perfect. I have made a mental list of them, and I expect to go to work as soon as we get through.' (Kimball) President Monson recently said: 'I encourage you to read the talks … and to ponder the messages contained therein. I have found in my own life that I gain even more from these inspired sermons when I study them in greater depth.'"  If prophets are repenting, so should we.

Sister Carole M. Stephens, Do We Know What We Have?

We need priesthood ordinances and covenants.  We need repentance, faith in Christ and baptism.  We need the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  With the sacrament, we renew all previous covenants with the Lord.  These ordinances and covenants, including the sealing ordinance, give us access to the fulness of the blessings of the Gospel, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  She shares stories of faithful women in Honduras.

"There exists today a great need for men and women to cultivate respect for each other as sons and daughters of God and reverence for our Father in Heaven and His priesthood—His power and authority. / He has a plan for us, and when we exercise our faith and trust in His plan, our reverence for Him and for His priesthood power and authority will be strengthened."

Sisters need not feel alone.  Be worthy to give priesthood blessings.  Be a true friend.  "We all need each other. Sons of God need daughters of God, and daughters of God need sons of God."  Men and women are complementary.  Sister Stephens asked a series of penetrating questions: "Sons of God, do you know who you are? Do you know what you have? Are you worthy to exercise the priesthood and receive the power and blessings of the priesthood? Do you embrace your roles and responsibilities to strengthen homes as fathers, grandfathers, sons, brothers, and uncles? Do you show respect for women, womanhood, and motherhood?" She posed similar questions to the women. Then to all she asked:  "As covenant sons and daughters, do we have faith in our Heavenly Father and His eternal plan for us? Do we have faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement? Do we believe that we have a divine nature and destiny? And in our efforts to achieve this destiny and receive all that the Father has, do we understand the importance of receiving priesthood ordinances and making, keeping, and renewing our covenants with the Lord?"

God will keep his promises with us as we keep our covenants with Him.  

Elder Edward Dube, Look Ahead and Believe

Look ahead.  Story of the field.  Faith is always pointed toward the future.  Don't look back at all we have done, but look forward to what we still have left to do.  In the service of the Lord it is not where you serve, but how you serve.  Service blesses lives for eternity.   Equally yoked.  Story of the oxen.  We need to be united in the common goal to build up the kingdom of God on the earth and establish Zion.  There is still too much seeking after personal gain and the honors of men.  "In the sight of the Lord, it is not so much what we have done or where we have been but much more where we are willing to go."  There is so much more to do.  We align our wills with the will of God to help "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man".  Jesus Christ did not look back.  He went forward through Gethsemane and Golgotha, and rose from the tomb.  He lives.  Our commitment to follow Christ is a daily commitment and a life long commitment.  The past is behind, learn from it.  The present is here, live in it.  The future is ahead, plan for it.

Elder David A. Bednar, The Windows of Heaven

The phrase "windows of heaven" reminds me of the John Adams Center logo, with light coming through the windows.  There are also references that remind me of things that I have written in my blog, The Good Report.   Remember the widow's mite.  She gave all.  She consecrated all that she had.
The law of tithing blesses individuals, families and the Church.  As I study this talk I am reminded of Elder Bednar's other talks, from the parable of the pickle, to the parable of the ten virgins.  I am also reminded of his books Increase in Learning and Act in Doctrine.  In this particular talk he emphasizes tithing as part of provident living and prudent home management, as well as the blessings that come to us from obedience to this law, including subtle blessings.  The reduced costs of doctor visits was a subtle blessing they received.  It takes greater attentiveness and discernment to recognize the more subtle blessings that come from obedience.  "Windows allow natural light to enter into a building. In like manner, spiritual illumination and perspective are poured out through the windows of heaven and into our lives as we honor the law of tithing."  "For example, a subtle but significant blessing we receive is the spiritual gift of gratitude that enables our appreciation for what we have to constrain desires for what we want. A grateful person is rich in contentment. An ungrateful person suffers in the poverty of endless discontentment "  Gratitude is a spiritual gift.  It is essential.  It allows us to recognize God's hand in our lives and how he answers our prayers in the best way and time.  God's ways and thoughts are higher than our own.  Another promise: "I testify that as we are spiritually attentive and observant, we will be blessed with eyes that see more clearly, ears that hear more consistently, and hearts that understand more fully the significance and subtlety of His ways, His thoughts, and His blessings in our lives."   Of course this brings us all back to the temple and reminds us of how the Lord transforms our lives, converts us, changes us, and prepare us to receive Him and His blessings.  We will be more attuned to the gift of revelation.  Pay attention to this: "I marvel at the clarity and brevity of these two revelations (D&C 119-120) in comparison to the complicated financial guidelines and administrative procedures used in so many organizations and governments around the world. "  The fixed principles that apply to the Church also apply to each of us individually: "In the financial operations of the Church, two basic and fixed principles are observed. First, the Church lives within its means and does not spend more than it receives. Second, a portion of the annual income is set aside as a reserve for contingencies and unanticipated needs. For decades the Church has taught its membership the principle of setting aside additional food, fuel, and money to take care of emergencies that might arise. The Church as an institution simply follows the same principles that are taught repeatedly to the members."  Recognize and remember the parable of the widow's mite.  Tithing is more than a duty, it is a step in the process of sanctification.  Elder Bednar commends those who pay tithing, and calls all others to repent.  It occurs to me that this talk may be very significant, even in years to come, considering the current and future state of government and financial structures.  Of course it ties back to the Old Testament prophecies of Malachi,  in Malachi 3:8-12.  The whole nation had robbed God, and the Lord called upon the people to repent and to be generous in their tithes and offerings.  Be prepared.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Come Join With Us

The Lord requires the consecration of all things.  This reminds me of Joseph Smith's famous statement:
"a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation."  President Uchtdorf notes that many religions are decreasing in numbers, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has 15 million members and continues to grow.  Why is this?  It is the Lord's true Church.  People love the Lord and gain blessings as members of the Church.  There are many reasons to join.  There are opportunities for doing good.  It provides vision and purpose.  But some do leave the Church.  Why?  "Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations."  The Lord and the Church respect the gift of agency.  Some have unanswered questions.  Human beings make mistakes, but God will keep the Church on course to fulfill its mission.  President Uchtdorf invites friends to come back.  There is a place for you here. "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters—my dear friends—please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith.  We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace, and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."  "Brothers and sisters, dear friends, we need your unique talents and perspectives. The diversity of persons and peoples all around the globe is a strength of this Church."  President Uchtdorf answers a variety of questions that people who struggle with Church activity might ask.  Regardless of the imperfections in the people of the Church, the history or any facet of the membership, this Church attracts some of the finest souls.  "If you seek truth, meaning, and a way to transform faith into action; if you are looking for a place of belonging: Come, join with us!"  Like Jesus Christ, President Uchtdorf invites all to come and see.  He invites all to come unto Christ, regardless of doubts, fears, imperfections, etc.  It starts with a desire to seek the truth.

President Boyd K. Packer, The Key to Spiritual Protection

Many wonder how they will live righteously and rear a righteous family in such perilous times.  The Apostle Paul prophesied many things concerning the wickedness of the last days, as did Moroni, but we can be of good cheer and optimistic about the future.  The key to spiritual protection is found in the Holy Scriptures.  President Packer recounts again the story of Joseph F. Smith on his mission in Hawaii.  Again, think of the temple, the ordinances and the covenants.  Think too that President Packer, who could very well be the President of the Church someday, is one of the successors of the people mentioned in this story.  The young missionary, Joseph F. Smith, son of Hyrum Smith, is struggling on his mission in Hawaii.  He dreams that he is on a journey, feeling down and dirty.  But he sees a mansion, and a sign that says "bath," where he quickly washes.  He was also carrying a small bundle that contained clean white clothing, which he promptly put on and approached the door of the mansion to knock.  The Prophet Joseph Smith greeted him somewhat reprovingly, saying, "Joseph, you are late."  But Joseph F. Smith could confidently reply, "Yes, but I'm clean -- I am clean."  "If you are set on a course of faith and activity in the Church, stay on course and keep your covenants. Continue forward until the time when the Lord’s blessings will come to you and the Holy Ghost will be revealed as a moving force in your life."  “Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; / And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  The key is repentance, prayer, and the help of a spiritual physician's assistant if necessary.  "Paul and others warned about the trials of our time and the days yet to come. But peace can be settled in the heart of each who turns to the scriptures and unlocks the promises of protection and redemption that are taught therein. We invite all to turn to the Savior Jesus Christ, to His teachings as found in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price."  The promise isn't just protection, but redemption as well (remember Elder Christofferson's talk).  President Packer's talk remind me that we are all on a journey back to our Savior and our Heavenly Father.  This is a journey fraught with peril, but like Joseph F. Smith we can wash, put on the white clothing, and approach the door of the mansion to knock.  We can remember the Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessings passed down through the Prophet Joseph Smith and the temple ordinances and covenants.  We can become clean.  We can be faithful and true.  Then we can have confidence in the presence of the Lord, and assist many on their journey home as well: "Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven." (D&C 121:45)  Revelation distills upon the soul like the dew.  It is gentle, soft, still, and it is living water to refresh and revitalize the soul each morning.  It not only hydrates, but it amplifies the rays of the sun, the light and truth that shine from Jesus Christ.  Then we can grow in spiritual strength to accomplish all that the Lord would have us to accomplish, to become that which the Lord would have us become.  As conference continues we are brought, so to speak, into the presence of the Lord, to sup at His table, and to learn at His feet.  We approach the Lord reverently, entering, so to speak, the Holy of Holies, and yearn to apply His teachings.  We learn more of the Atonement and of the family organization.  We grow in godliness and charity.  We become more like Christ as we apply the teachings of the living prophets and apostles.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, The Moral Force of Women

The moral force of women is uniquely beneficial to the common good of society, from age immemorial.    Elder Christofferson shows gratitude for women, points out dangerous philosophies that threaten to undermine the moral force of women, then voices a plea for women to cultivate their innate moral power.  He takes notice of the faith of women and young mothers in Mexico, Anna Daines in New Jersey, his grandmother, his wife, his mother.  A mother's influence is profound. "When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?" - Elder Neal A. Maxwell  Women are the guardians of virtue and the well-spring of life, teaching virtue, chastity, sexual purity and fidelity. They play an integral role in the plan of salvation, in bringing to pass "the immortality and eternal life of man".  Elder Christofferson warns of pernicious philosophies that threaten women: "A pernicious philosophy that undermines women’s moral influence is the devaluation of marriage and of motherhood and homemaking as a career." "Attitudes toward human sexuality threaten the moral authority of women on several fronts. Abortion for personal or social convenience strikes at the heart of a woman’s most sacred powers and destroys her moral authority. The same is true of sexual immorality and of revealing dress that not only debases women but reinforces the lie that a woman’s sexuality is what defines her worth." "A third area of concern comes from those who, in the name of equality, want to erase all differences between the masculine and the feminine. Often this takes the form of pushing women to adopt more masculine traits—be more aggressive, tough, and confrontational."  "My plea to women and girls today is to protect and cultivate the moral force that is within you."  Heavenly Father is the source of moral power.  Jesus always strived to please the Father, and He did always those things that pleased Heavenly Father.  This talk is a landmark in addressing the challenges that confront men and women.  I am always struck by the contrast that is often drawn between the good people of Central and South America and those of North America… and more often than not, it is the Southerners, the descendants of Lehi, that are living the Gospel in humility and righteousness.  Elder Scott has made similar comments.  The Brethren know where the attacks on the family are being made.  They know the enemy and his strategies.  We need to pay close attention and quickly heed their warning voice.

Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, Hastening the Lord's Game Plan

What would you do if the prophet actually called you?  He has.  "Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him."  LaVell Edwards had a simple game plan: score touchdowns.  Eder Nielsen was a quarterback for BYU.  "This is the most remarkable era in the history of the Church. This is something that ranks with the great events that have happened in past history, like the First Vision, like the gift of the Book of Mormon, like the Restoration of the gospel, like all of the things that build that foundation for us to go forward and teach in our Father in Heaven’s kingdom" - Elder L. Tom Perry   There are things in this statement that remind me of my patriarchal blessing.  Elder Nielsen issues a missionary challenge: "First, specifically pray to bring someone closer to the Savior and His gospel every day. You could do this by seeing all people as sons and daughters of God helping each other on their journey home. Think of the new friends you would make." "Second, pray for the missionaries serving in your area and their investigators by name every day." "Third, invite a friend to an activity in or out of your home."  Elder Nielsen takes particular notice of scriptures having to do with the gathering of Israel that end with an exclamation point.  He tells a story of speaking with Elder Cook, and noticing the bronzed shoes of a missionary who gave his all in Guatemala to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  How beautiful upon the mountains!  Be a missionary!  Serve with enthusiasm alongside the missionaries!

Elder Arnulfo Valenzuela, Small and Simple Things

Elder Valenzuela also recounts a story about Mexico, this time about missionaries at the MTC in Mexico, as well as stories about visiting inactive and less active members, according to the rescue imperative of President Monson.  By small and simple things, a hug, abrazo, or a hymn, hearts were softened and families returned.  Naaman the leper finally washed 7 times in the River Jordan, according the directive of Elisha the prophet.  Naaman was also a captain in Syria.  "The world is in need of your help. There are feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspire, and souls to save. The blessings of eternity await you." - President Monson  Give simple, sincere expressions of love.  D&C 18:15-16  

Elder Timothy J. Dyches, Wilt Thou Be Made Whole

Yes.  The Pools of Bethesda.  Carl Bloch painting.  Jesus, after assessing the faith of the man who had been afflicted for 38 years, speaks the words: "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk."   10 lepers.   One returned to give God glory, and his faith had made him whole.  Look at the distinction in healing between a surgeon and the Great Physician, Jesus Christ: "In my former practice as a physician and surgeon, I focused on mending and correcting the physical. Jesus Christ heals body, mind, and spirit, and His healing begins with faith."  "Do you remember when your faith and joy were full to the brim? Remember the moment you found your testimony or when God confirmed to you that you were His son or daughter and that He loved you very much—and you felt whole? If that time seems lost, it can be found again."  How?  Matt 11:28-30.  D&C 88:63.  Enos 1:7-8.  Corrie Ten Boom's story of forgiveness.  Jesus gave her strength to forgive her persecutor.  Another important point about healing: "And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself."  "If you feel unclean, unloved, unhappy, unworthy, or unwhole, remember “all that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”  Have faith and patience in the Savior’s timing and purposes for you. “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36)."  In God's own time and in His own way, we can be made whole through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Like a Broken Vessel

Compassion.  Elder Holland addresses those who suffer in any way, shape or form from mental or emotional afflictions, especially despression.  He mentions the various medical terms for such afflictions, and asserts that there should be no shame in acknowledging these forms of illness.  We need to understand that we live, and that we chose to live, in a fallen world, a world of trials and of testing for divine purposes, to which a Savior would come: "Of greatest assurance in God’s plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive."  MDD, depression, is not just something to be shaken off, but a real affliction that has troubled some of the best and most angelic souls.  Elder Holland himself passed through a period that increased his sympathy for those who suffer more chronically and more severely.  "In any case we have all taken courage from those who, in the words of the Prophet Joseph, “search[ed] … and contemplate[d] the darkest abyss” 3and persevered through it—not the least of whom were Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Elder George Albert Smith, the latter being one of the most gentle and Christlike men of our dispensation, who battled recurring depression for some years before later becoming the universally beloved eighth prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."  Elder Holland poses the important question: "So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? "  The answer: with faith in God and love.  "That love never changes. … It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there." - President Monson  Elder Holland's prescription:  "Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead."  Be wise, slow down, replenish, rest up, take care, prayerfully make us of all of God's gifts of healing, and seek out those who can really help.  As care givers, be patient.  Don't destroy your own health.   Remember Stephanie Clark Nielsen who became one of the most beloved "mommy bloggers" after a tragic plane crash.  "Whatever your struggle, my brothers and sisters—mental or emotional or physical or otherwise—do not vote against the preciousness of life by ending it! Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee. Though we may feel we are “like a broken vessel,” as the Psalmist says, 10 we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind."  Look forward to the resurrection and trust in the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  "I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be! I do not know whether we will be happier for ourselves that we have witnessed such a miracle or happier for them that they are fully perfect and finally “free at last."  Be compassionate with one another, kind, forgiving, patient, merciful, nonjudgmental.  One thing that really stood out to me from this landmark talk is that God is the divine potter, the one who shapes and mends and heals, and he does so through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Atonement.  This faith is exercised through doing all in our power to obtain and facilitate that healing for ourselves and others.  The blessings, the counsel, the physicians, the medications, the mercies and tenderness of others are all part of the process, but God, the creator is the Divine Potter who works for His purposes.  It also stood out to me that an understanding and appreciation of Christ, the Plan of Salvation and the Atonement is necessary to persevering through such trials and afflictions, and that this appreciation my be amplified by our own small sufferings that we are called to endure.  At the heart of this sacrifice is the essence of the Gospel, Divine Love, charity, which never faileth.  Charity is at the heart of the Plan of Salvation, the Atonement and the healing of all afflictions, including depression.  God's love is always there, and mortal would do well to emulate that love in every way possible.

Elder M. Russell Ballard, Put Your Trust in the Lord

“Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together … [and] labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him. He has prepared the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways, and He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work  Be a missionary. Do what Jesus Christ has asked us to do. Ask, seek, knock… for missionary opportunities.  Pray personally and in your family for missionary opportunities.  Talk to more people.  Be bold.  "Rather, it is a privilege! There is no greater joy in life than being anxiously engaged in the service of the Lord."  "We are simply asking all members to pray, knowing that if every member, young and old, will reach out to just “one” between now and Christmas, millions will feel the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. And what a wonderful gift to the Savior."  "Every time you take someone figuratively by the hand and introduce him or her to Jesus Christ, you will feel how deeply our Savior loves you and loves the person whose hand is in yours.” - Clayton Christensen  


"Then she said memorizing the Articles of Faith would mean nothing more than a lot of words unless we understood the doctrines and principles contained in them."  "True doctrine comes from God, the source and foundation of all truths."  Satan tries to alter and pervert true doctrine in order to deceive and lead souls astray.  Then this scripture is repeated (pay attention), from President Packer's talk: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16–17)."  "The scriptures are another guide; if we read carefully the word of God, He will reveal our path back to eternal life."  Listen to the prophets, seers and revelators, who receive revelation for the Church.  Elder Perry outlines the basic doctrines and principles that gave rise to the Articles of Faith.  Elder Perry uses cell phones as a parable for the Church and the doctrines.  Memorize the Articles of Faith and understand the doctrines they contain, and you will be prepared to share your testimony with others.  These are the core beliefs.  We can study them on our cell phones as well.  These doctrines give life to the Church, meaning to our faith, and direction for our lives.

Bishop Gérald Caussé, Ye Are No More Strangers

This is a talk about Zion and unity.  We have all felt insecure in new places before, and we all need people to welcome us.  "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God."  The Church is increasing in diversity (because of the gathering of the elect from the four quarters of the earth), but it must increase in unity as well.  "As disciples of Jesus Christ who strive to be in the world but not of the world, we sometimes feel like outsiders. We, better than many, know that certain doors can be closed to those who are considered to be different."  The Children of Israel were strangers in Egypt, so they should have known better to welcome strangers, feed them, clothe them, and care for them.   "During His earthly ministry, Jesus was an example of one who went far beyond the simple obligation of hospitality and tolerance. Those who were excluded from society, those who were rejected and considered to be impure by the self-righteous, were given His compassion and respect. They received an equal part of His teachings and ministry."  Jean Valjean is an example of someone who could have been a "foreigner" were it not for the goodness of the bishop.  "In this Church our wards and our quorums do not belong to us. They belong to Jesus Christ. Whoever enters our meetinghouses should feel at home. The responsibility to welcome everyone has growing importance." We must love those who are different from us, and learn to care for those with diverse backgrounds.  Jesus Christ spent time with the publicans, the sinners, the sick, the afflicted, and the Samaritans.  When I begin to think about why Bishop Causse is giving this talk, I can understand that it is a timely message.  Immigration, conversions in different countries, people feeling like outsiders… for example, people struggling with same-sex attraction… there are innumerable opportunities to reach out and show love to God's children.  It is a blessing that people are different from us, have different backgrounds, different opinions, different strengths and weakness, and just differences.  These differences can be a strength in building unity.  Coming from France, Bishop Causse knows whereof he speaks, and like President Uchtdorf has certainly experienced for himself what it feels like to be an outsider.  

Elder Randy D. Funk, Called of Him to Declare His Word

Missionaries are stunning.  Elder from Nepal.  He felt weak and inadequate, but every time he prayed, the Lord gave him strength.  Because of humble missionaries, the doors of the nations are being open to the Gospel, in India and other places.  Good can come from broken things, particularly a broken heart.  Begin the process of repentance now.  Rise up.  Be whole.   "When we obey the commandments of the Lord and serve His children unselfishly, the natural consequence is power from God—power to do more than we can do by ourselves. Our insights, our talents, our abilities are expanded because we receive strength and power from the Lord."  - Elder Scott  Forgiveness is real.  Live virtuously. "A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God." - Pres. Thomas S. Monson  Be quick to observe.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, You Can Do It Now

Falling.  Skiing.  Elder Uchtdorf's 12 year old grandson helped him up by reaching out to him with his hand, looking him in the eye, and saying "Opa you can do it now."  Toughness is an illusion.  We battle feelings of depression and discouragement.  "No one likes to fail. And we particularly don’t like it when others—especially those we love—see us fail. We all want to be respected and esteemed. We want to be champions. But we mortals do not become champions without effort and discipline or without making mistakes. / Brethren, our destiny is not determined by the number of times we stumble but by the number of times we rise up, dust ourselves off, and move forward."  Godly sorrow worth repentance, leads to conversion and a change of heart.  "It causes us to hate sin and to love goodness."  "True repentance is about transformation, not torture or torment."  "When we make mistakes, when we sin and fall, let us think of what it means to truly repent. It means turning our heart and will to God and giving up sin. True heartfelt repentance brings with it the heavenly assurance that “we can do it now.”"  "One of the adversary’s methods to prevent us from progressing is to confuse us about who we really are and what we really desire."  "Satan’s purpose is to tempt us to exchange the priceless pearls of true happiness and eternal values for a fake plastic trinket that is merely an illusion and counterfeit of happiness and joy."  "Another method the adversary uses to discourage us from rising up is to make us see the commandments as things that have been forced upon us. I suppose it is human nature to resist anything that does not appear to be our own idea in the first place."  Keep sights on higher goals, not daily successes or failures.  "Every person, young and old, has had his own personal experience with falling. Falling is what we mortals do. But as long as we are willing to rise up again and continue on the path toward the spiritual goals God has given us, we can learn something from failure and become better and happier as a result."  "The Lord is mindful of you!"  "We acknowledge that your path will at times be difficult. But I give you this promise in the name of the Lord: rise up and follow in the footsteps of our Redeemer and Savior, and one day you will look back and be filled with eternal gratitude that you chose to trust the Atonement and its power to lift you up and give you strength."   "My dear friends and brethren, no matter how many times you have slipped or fallen, rise up! Your destiny is a glorious one! Stand tall and walk in the light of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ! You are stronger than you realize. You are more capable than you can imagine. You can do it now!"

President Henry B. Eyring, Bind Up Their Wounds

Responsibility for others… priesthood holders are responsible for the eternal lives of His children. A story of an EQP, a young father moving, and a truck.  The story of the good samaritan is the parable of an overloaded, overtaxed priesthood servant.  You are the Samaritan who acted on the compassion that he felt… binding up wounds.  "The story is a perfect fit for the overtaxed priesthood servant. Just remember that you are the Samaritan and not the priest or the Levite who passed by the wounded man."     The Samaritan was hard at work, with his beast of burden and carrying oil with him, and wine.  Ponder this parable… a beast of burden… burdens… take upon you the yoke of Christ, for His yoke is easy, His burden light.  Oil, symbolic in many ways (5 wise virgins, testimony, conversion, healing).  Wine, symbolic in the sacrament.  Develop compassion like the good Samaritan: "And [he] went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. / And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee."  Always remember the specifics of this account.  Inspiration and revelation is needed to know whom to ask and whom not to ask.  Elder Eyring's bishop asked him to help visit a widow when he was a young man. " "Only the Lord can bind up their spiritual wounds as they accept the ordinances that lead to eternal life."  For spiritual power you must do more than simply read the scriptures and pray.  More preparation is needed.  The word of the Lord must be treasured, and treasured up.  We need to feel the truth and the Spirit of God in our hearts as we study.  "Even the best of Heavenly Father’s mortal priesthood holders do not rise to that standard of compassion easily. Our human tendency is to be impatient with the person who cannot see the truth that is so plain to us. We must be careful that our impatience is not interpreted as condemnation or rejection."  We also need the gift of Charity (Moroni 7). Charity will enable us to become purified, which in turn, will enable us to not only see our Savior, but to see Him "as he is".  Being like Him, being filled with charity, is what improves our spiritual vision.

President Thomas S. Monson, True Shepherds

As I study these talks, and as now I study President Monson's priesthood talk, it becomes clearer that the temple ceremony, the ordinances and covenants are like a backdrop to all of general conference.  Not only this, but the Gospel, the Church, the temple, and everything about the General Conference is meant to transform us into better, more Christ-like individuals and families.  The temple does the same thing, transforming us into truly converted members of Christ's church and sealing us into eternal families.  It also transforms us into true shepherds who, like Peter, when they are converted, strengthen their brethren. / "Royal priesthood. Chosen generation." President Monson recounts a story, and a parable of sheep.  In his youth, the Monson family would travel up Provo Canyon during the summertime to stay in a cabin, and on the way up the road, they were often halted by a herd of sheep.  These sheep seem to lack a shepherd, and were rounded up by yapping dogs.  The sheepherder was way in the back, on a horse, without a bridle, only a halter, and the sheepherder was dozing off.  In contrast, in Munich Germany, President Monson noticed a shepherd with a staff in his hand, leading the sheep.  Jesus is the good shepherd.  Home teaching is a privilege and a duty to lead and watch over a flock as shepherds.  "Home teaching is more than a mechanical visit once per month. Ours is the responsibility to teach, to inspire, to motivate, and where we visit those who are not active, to bring to activity and to eventual exaltation the sons and daughters of God."  "If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend." - Abraham Lincoln  "Above all, be a genuine friend to the individuals and families you teach. … A friend makes more than a dutiful visit each month. A friend is more concerned about helping people than getting credit. A friend cares. A friend [shows love]. A friend listens, and a friend reaches out." - President Benson "Home teaching answers many prayers and permits us to see the transformations which can take place in people’s lives."  President Monson provides examples of sheep herding vs. shepherding.  Dick Hammer was a good example, a man who was baptized at the age of 90 because of the persistent efforts of his home teacher.
"If any of you has slipped into complacency concerning your home teaching visits, may I say that there is no time like the present to rededicate yourself to fulfilling your home teaching duties. Decide now to make whatever effort is necessary to reach those for whom you have been given responsibility. There are times when a little extra prodding may be needed, as well, to help your home teaching companion find the time to go with you, but if you are persistent, you will succeed."  Jesus Christ is the good shepherd, and the example for all home teachers: "In closing I turn to one particular example to describe the type of home teachers we should be. There is one Teacher whose life overshadows all others. He taught of life and death, of duty and destiny. He lived not to be served but to serve, not to receive but to give, not to save His life but to sacrifice it for others. He described a love more beautiful than lust, a poverty richer than treasure. It was said of this Teacher that He taught with authority and not as did the scribes.11 His laws were not inscribed upon stone but upon human hearts."  "With Him as our unfailing guide and exemplar, we shall qualify for His divine help in our home teaching.  Lives will be blessed. Hearts will be comforted. Souls will be saved. We will become true shepherds."

President Henry B. Eyring, To My Grandchildren

Family creation and happiness are part of living all of the commandments and fulfilling the plan of God.  
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt 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. / On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." These are the overarching commandments that will bring joy and happiness.  "What choices have led me toward loving the Lord with all my heart and soul and with all my mind?” For me it has been to choose to put myself where I felt the joy of forgiveness through the Lord’s Atonement."  Now, where  can you feel the joy of forgiveness through the Lord's Atonement?  It is probably more a state of mind and heart than a place… a state of forgiving others, all men.  Forgiving yourself and forgiving others is a good place to start, in my mind:  "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. / And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds." (D&C 64:10-11) The places may be on your knees in prayer, in preparation for partaking of the sacrament in sacrament meeting, in preparation for attending the temple, doing service for others, or attending the temple.  Where else do you feel the joy of forgiveness through the Lord's Atonement?  Elder Eyring mentions a baptism of a young man in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.  / By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them." (D&C 58:42-43)  Also, by accepting and magnifying callings we obtain a key to family happiness.  "While serving others, we are most likely to plead for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Success in the Lord’s service always produces miracles beyond our own powers."  "It is only with the companionship of the Holy Ghost that we can hope to be equally yoked in a marriage free from discord. I have seen how that companionship is crucial for felicity in a marriage. The miracle of becoming one requires the help of heaven, and it takes time. Our goal is to live together forever in the presence of Heavenly Father and our Savior."  "We know that Heavenly Father has spirit children in this world who sometimes choose sin and great unhappiness. That is why He sent His Firstborn to be our Redeemer, the greatest act of love in all creation. That is why we must expect that it will take the help of God and time to polish us for eternal life, to live with our Father."  "Life in families will test us. That is one of God’s purposes in giving us the gift of mortality—to strengthen us by passing through tests. That will be especially true in family life, where we will find great joy and great sorrow and challenges which may at times seem beyond our power to endure them."  Pray for others to receive Divine and human help. "God has devised means to save each of His children. For many, that involves being placed with a brother or a sister or a grandparent who loves them no matter what they do."  Be the kind of person who loves others no matter what they do.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, No Other Gods

This was a great talk.  I always love how Elder Oaks gets to the principles, to the roots, and teaches so clearly and plainly that which will lead to happiness and joy in life.  He gave a talk on desire not long ago, and a talk on God's timing… and his books Life's Lessons Learned and Pure in Heart are among my favorites as well.  He teaches by asking great questions.  Elder Oaks begins with a very penetrating question:  "Are we serving priorities or gods ahead of the God we profess to worship?"  If we are honest with ourselves, probably everyone of us could identify something to work on in this area.  Moses gave the ten commandments, which are fundamental to both the Christian and Jewish faiths.  Like President Monson's introduction (and the fact that prophets address the entire world, not just the Church), Elder Oak's talk reaches out to the Jewish community as well… which reminds me of President Benson's talk many years ago A message to Judah from Joseph.  The Old Testament, which we have the opportunity to study this year, provides the background for all subsequent scripture.  The first of the ten commandments "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" is later reiterated by Jesus when he was asked "which is the great commandment in the law.  Jesus answered "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:36–37).  The second of the ten commandments "elaborates the direction to have no other gods and identifies what should be the ultimate priority in our lives as His children."  God is a jealous God, meaning sensitive and having deep feelings, and we offend Him when we serve other gods or have other first priorities.  Elder Oaks provides a list of other priorities that are often being served above God: "Cultural and family traditions, Political correctness, Career aspirations, Material possessions, Recreational pursuits, Power, prominence, and prestige"  "The principle is more important than individual examples. The principle is not whether we have other priorities. The question posed by the second commandment is “What is our ultimate priority?Are we serving priorities or gods ahead of the God we profess to worship? Have we forgotten to follow the Savior who taught that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments? (see John 14:15). If so, our priorities have been turned upside down by the spiritual apathy and undisciplined appetites so common in our day."  Then Elder Oaks places these commandments within the framework of God's Plan of Salvation.  Then he gives this warning: "If we Latter-day Saints, who have been given this knowledge, do not establish our priorities in accord with this plan, we are in danger of serving other gods."  Which leads back to the doctrine of the family: "We know that the marriage of a man and a woman is necessary for the accomplishment of God’s plan. Only this marriage will provide the approved setting for mortal birth and to prepare family members for eternal life."  Children are our greatest treasures.  We grieve at the sharply declining birth rates in western cultures.  Statistics indicate the decline of the traditional family, but we emphasize the doctrine that God loves all of His children, and all are welcome to participate in His plan.  We are respectful to those of differing beliefs, and even to those who profess no belief.  We hope that respect will be reciprocated. "God has established an eternal standard that sexual relations should occur only between a man and a woman who are married."  The procreative power is the most exalted power.  It was given to Adam and Eve, which use was mandated by God's first commandment to them, but other commandments were given to prevent its misuse.  "Outside the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman, all uses of our procreative powers are to one degree or another sinful and contrary to God’s plan for the exaltation of His children."  "The importance we attach to the law of chastity explains our commitment to the pattern of marriage that originated with Adam and Eve and has continued through the ages as God’s pattern for the procreative relationship between His sons and daughters and for the nurturing of His children. Fortunately, many persons affiliated with other denominations or organizations agree with us on the nature and importance of marriage, some on the basis of religious doctrine and others on the basis of what they deem best for society."  Births out of wedlock and cohabitation are increasing at an alarming rate.  "There are many political and social pressures for legal and policy changes to establish behaviors contrary to God’s decrees about sexual morality and contrary to the eternal nature and purposes of marriage and childbearing. These pressures have already authorized same-gender marriages in various states and nations. Other pressures would confuse gender or homogenize those differences between men and women that are essential to accomplish God’s great plan of happiness."  "Our understanding of God’s plan and His doctrine gives us an eternal perspective that does not allow us to condone such behaviors or to find justification in the laws that permit them. And, unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has identified as unchangeable."  "Our twelfth article of faith states our belief in being subject to civil authority and “in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” But man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral. Commitment to our highest priority—to love and serve God—requires that we look to His law for our standard of behavior. For example, we remain under divine command not to commit adultery or fornication even when those acts are no longer crimes under the laws of the states or countries where we reside. Similarly, laws legalizing so-called “same-sex marriage” do not change God’s law of marriage or His commandments and our standards concerning it. We remain under covenant to love God and keep His commandments and to refrain from serving other gods and priorities—even those becoming popular in our particular time and place."  "In this determination we may be misunderstood, and we may incur accusations of bigotry, suffer discrimination, or have to withstand invasions of our free exercise of religion. If so, I think we should remember our first priority—to serve God—and, like our pioneer predecessors, push our personal handcarts forward with the same fortitude they exhibited."  "Let us have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’s approval. Courage becomes a living and an attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as a willingness to die manfully, but as the determination to live decently. A moral coward is one who is afraid to do what he thinks is right because others will disapprove or laugh. Remember that all men have their fears, but those who face their fears with dignity have courage as well." - President Monson  Loving God is our first priority.  We must not set our heart so much upon the things of the world or aspire to the honors of men.  We must never deviate from our paramount desire, namely, to achieve our eternal destiny.  "We must never dilute our first priority—to have no other gods and to serve no other priorities ahead of God the Father and His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ."

Bonnie L. Oscarson, Be Ye Converted

Joshua was a prophet-warrior of the Old Testament, a hero, and one who taught "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." A prophet-warrior… consider that description for a moment.  There have been a lot of references to Old Testament prophets in this conference, including Jeremiah and Moses.  What great preparation for the new curriculum for 2014 to study the Old Testament more thoroughly.  Sister Oscarson shares the conversion story of another one of her heroes, from her own ancestry, Agnes Hoggan, and her daughter Isabelle, whom Agnes prevented from trading gospel living for the riches of the world.  "If you do not yet have a firmly rooted testimony and conviction that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth, now is the time to do what it takes to gain that conviction. To delay making the effort required to earn that kind of conviction can be dangerous to your soul."  True conversion is more that knowledge of gospel principles.  The process of conversion requires acting upon and living those principles consistently.  Conversion is a process, not an event, and it takes time, effort and work.  "I was a young woman in the ’60s and the only LDS girl in my high school. It was a revolutionary period characterized by the rejection of traditional morals, drug use, and an “anything goes” mentality. Many of my peers were good people but found it easy to get caught up in the excitement of this new morality, which actually was just the old immorality."  "In our world where instant gratification is the expectation, we are often guilty of expecting the reward without having to work for it."  Ether 12:6. "True conversion occurs as you continue to act upon the doctrines you know are true and keep the commandments, day after day, month after month."  Each person has the responsibility for their own conversion… no one can be converted for you (remember Elder Bednar's recent talk on the lamps of testimony and the oil of conversion)  "Conversion takes place as we are diligent about saying our prayers, studying our scriptures, attending church, and being worthy to participate in temple ordinances. Conversion comes as we act upon the righteous principles we learn in our homes and in the classroom. Conversion comes as we live pure and virtuous lives and enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost. Conversion comes as we understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, acknowledge Him as our Savior and Redeemer, and allow the Atonement to take effect in our lives."  "A person who has experienced true conversion draws upon the power of the Atonement and receives salvation for his or her own soul, then reaches out to exert a powerful influence upon all those who know him or her."

Elder Richard J. Maynes, Strength to Endure

There are a variety of challenges that each of us face every day.  Some can be overcome, others will have to wait until the next phase of life.  Spiritual strength helps us to endure valiantly, and challenges are part of the curriculum to teach us that which we must learn to become more like Heavenly Father and to qualify for eternal life in His presence.  What was the Lord's response to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail?  How does that response apply to each one of us?  Heavenly Father has organized the journey through life to be a test of our moral character.  Because God knew that we wouldn't always succeed in making correct choices, He sent a Savior, Jesus Christ, who can help us to repent, become clean, change our natures, and successfully endure ("endure it well") our challenges.  The ability to endure in righteousness is an important part of our future happiness and success.  Enduring to the end is part of the doctrine of Christ. "Our ability to endure to the end in righteousness will be in direct proportion to the strength of our testimony and the depth of our conversion. When our testimonies are strong and we are truly converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ, our choices will be inspired by the Holy Ghost, they will be Christ-centered, and they will support our desire to endure in righteousness."  Elder Maynes recounts a story about playing basketball in college, when a coach required the team members to run a difficult course before beginning the season.  Being in good physical shape comes at a price, as does being in good spiritual shape.  Dedication, perseverance, self-discipline.  By living according to our testimonies and the principles of the gospel we can develop spiritual strength and stamina.  We can become spiritually prepared.  "Because we face challenges every day, it is important that we work on our spiritual stamina every day. When we develop spiritual stamina, the false traditions of the world, as well as our personal daily challenges, will have little negative impact on our ability to endure in righteousness."  Elder Maynes recounts a story from his own family history that shows spiritual endurance. "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." - The Apostle Paul  "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:" - Ibid.   How do we develop this spiritual strength… that may be the topic of the next talk…

Elder Richard G. Scott - Personal Strength Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ

One aspect of the Atonement is that through it we can receive personal strength.  The people of Ammon received a complete conversion and personal strength through the Atonement of Christ.  Helaman prevented them from breaking their covenant.  Instead of taking up arms to defend themselves against the attacks of the Lamanites, their pure and virtuous sons could resist the Lamanite armies.  These sons were fortified by the faith of their mothers.  The fathers must have been very sorrowful not to be able to defend their families.  The Atonement can cleanse and heal us, but sometimes poor choices have long and short-term consequences.  "Satan will try to use our memory of any previous guilt to lure us back into his influence. We must be ever vigilant to avoid his enticements. Such was the case of the faithful Ammonite fathers. Even after their years of faithful living, it was imperative for them to protect themselves spiritually from any attraction to the memory of past sins."  Captain Moroni fortified weak cities.  The Ammonites sons were stronger because they were not as vulnerable to the same temptations.  "The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy."  "The Savior’s Atonement not only cleansed them from sin, but because of their obedience to the counsel of their priesthood leader, the Savior was able to protect them from their weaknesses and strengthen them. Their humble, lifelong commitment to forsaking their sins did more to protect their families than anything they could have done on the battlefield. Their submission did not deprive them of blessings. It strengthened them and blessed them and blessed future generations."
"Each of us has had times in our lives when we have made poor choices. We are all in desperate need of the redemptive power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Each of us must repent of any rebellion. “For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” He cannot because He knows what it takes to become like Him."  "Remember, repentance is not punishment. It is the hope-filled path to a more glorious future."  Elder Scott provides a list of ways to be fortified and strengthened through the Atonement of Christ: 1. Temple covenants and ordinances 2. Sharing the Gospel 3. Serving faithfully in Church callings (especially home teaching) 4. serve members of your own family, give of self and time freely.  Theme = service. "As you lose your life in the service of Father in Heaven’s children, Satan’s temptations lose power in your life."

President Thomas S. Monson, I Will Not Fail Thee nor Forsake Thee

This is a great talk.  President Monson is a faithful journal writer, and his comment about what he would write in his journal that night "This has been one of the most inspiring sessions of any general conference I’ve attended. Everything has been of the greatest and most spiritual nature" brings us back to the temple, and the principle of spiritual creation.  Like the council in heaven, General Conference is a time to spiritually recreate our lives after the pattern of Jesus Christ.  The following six months are the time to implement that new spiritual creation, like the six days of creation.  Sister Monson passed away not long before her 65th wedding anniversary.  President Monson's tribute to her is memorable: "She was the love of my life, my trusted confidant, and my closest friend. To say that I miss her does not begin to convey the depth of my feelings...She was an angel, indeed."  President Monson has been in the quorum of the 12 for more than 50 years now.  President Monson gives thanks for all of the kind and heartfelt expressions of love to him after the passing of his wife.  His testimony sustains him, and he knows that he will be reunited again with his wife, because they have been sealed in the temple.  Trials and troubles befall all of us.  We can ask "Why me?" or "Is there no balm in Gilead?"  "Shall I falter or shall I finish?"  Even Job was tested to the utmost, but he kept the faith. "Whenever we are inclined to feel burdened down with the blows of life, let us remember that others have passed the same way, have endured, and then have overcome."  The history of the Church provides examples of those who endured because they made the Gospel of Jesus Christ the center of their lives.  President Monson recounts the story of Brother Brems, one of his boyhood Sunday School teachers.  His attitude of gratitude was inspiring: "“Thank you,” he said. “My Heavenly Father has been so good to me.”  This reminds me of the story that President Monson recounted of Borghild Dahl not long ago.  "Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass. We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before."  Trials can refine us and help us to grow and improve, just like the trees in the poem "Good Timber."  Matt. 11:28-30.  "My brothers and sisters, may we have a commitment to our Heavenly Father that does not ebb and flow with the years or the crises of our lives. We should not need to experience difficulties for us to remember Him, and we should not be driven to humility before giving Him our faith and trust."  We can strive to be close to our Heavenly Father, and to be grateful, in sunshine or rain.  He will not fail us nor forsake us.

Elder Quentin L. Cook, Lamentations of Jeremiah: Beware of Bondage

Giuseppe Verdi wrote Nabucco, with the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves.  He was intrigued by the prophet Jeremiah.  Elder Cook is reviewing the forms of bondage and subjugation that may be compared to those of the days of Jeremiah and Lehi.  The Lord called Jeremiah and Lehi in different ways and to different missions.  Jeremiah prophesied before the destruction of Jerusalem, and he prophesied of calamities to come.  "God intended that men and women would be free to make choices between good and evil. When evil choices become the dominant characteristic of a culture or nation, there are serious consequences both in this life and the life to come. People can become enslaved or put themselves in bondage not only to harmful, addictive substances but also to harmful, addictive philosophies that detract from righteous living."  Turning away from the worship of the True God, people sometimes turn to the worship of wealth and fame, which brings other temptations, then bondage, physical, spiritual, intellectual, which brings destruction.  Jewish captivity, scattering and the gathering are prominent doctrinal features of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The gathering is more a matter of conversion and commitment to Christ than physical location. "We learn valuable lessons from this tragic period. We should do everything within our power to avoid the sin and rebellion that lead to bondage. We also recognize that righteous living is a prerequisite for assisting the Lord in gathering His elect and in the literal gathering of Israel."  Unrighteousness and rebellion led to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Elder Cook warns of four abuses to moral agency that can lead to bondage: 1. addictions such as drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, other financial subjugations 2. excessive use of social media, video and digital games, sports, recreation, and other things that use up our precious allotment of time, time which is meant for family: "We determined that the primary reason we were working was to support our families. We agreed that making more money wasn’t nearly as important as our families, but we recognized that serving our clients to the best of our abilities was essential. The discussion then moved to what we did at work that was not necessary and was inconsistent with leaving time for family. Was there pressure to spend time in the workplace that was not essential? We decided that our goal would be a family-friendly environment for both women and men. Let us be at the forefront in protecting time for family."  3. most consistent and universal subjugation has been to political beliefs or ideologies that are inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ: "For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing."  "This is emblematic of our own day, where gospel truths are often rejected or distorted to make them intellectually more appealing or compatible with current cultural trends and intellectual philosophies. If we are not careful, we can be captured by these trends and place ourselves in intellectual bondage. There are many voices now telling women how to live. They often contradict each other. Of particular concern are philosophies that criticize or diminish respect for women who choose to make the sacrifices necessary to be mothers, teachers, nurturers, or friends to children."  4. forces that violate sincerely held religious principles. "The Church is a relatively small minority even when linked with people who are like-minded. It will be hard to change society at large, but we must work to improve the moral culture that surrounds us. Latter-day Saints in every country should be good citizens, participate in civic affairs, educate themselves on the issues, and vote."  Our primary emphasis needs to be to make the necessary sacrifices to protect our own families and bless the rising generation.  "We must help inoculate them from a world that sounds a lot like the Jerusalem that Lehi and Jeremiah experienced. In addition, we need to prepare them to make and keep sacred covenants and to be the principal emissaries to help the Lord establish His Church and gather scattered Israel and the Lord’s elect everywhere."  We do not liberate ourselves.  Jesus Christ is the Great Deliverer.  "If we are true to His light, follow His commandments, and rely on His merits, we will avoid spiritual, physical, and intellectual bondage as well as the lamentation of wandering in our own wilderness, for He is mighty to save."  This is a sobering warning from an apostle of God.  We need to learn from the warnings of Jeremiah and Lehi during the time just before the destruction of Jerusalem and Babylonian captivity of the Jews. We can avoid bondage of any kind, and enjoy the liberty of living the Gospel, if only we will repent, keep the commandments, and train up the rising generation to keep sacred covenants as well.  These are things to consider while reading the beginning of the Book of Mormon and the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament as well.

Elder Neil L. Anderson, Power in the Priesthood 

Men are not the priesthood.  "A man may open the drapes so the warm sunlight comes into the room, but the man does not own the sun or the light or the warmth it brings. The blessings of the priesthood are infinitely greater than the one who is asked to administer the gift."  The sacrament and the temple are key to spiritual strength.  "Why are the priesthood ordinances administered by men?"  There are some things we know and some things we don't.  All are alike unto God.  Sacred responsibilities are given to each gender.  The priesthood was given to Adam, and it can only operate by faith, worthiness and humility. Pornography is a plague.  The First Presidency holds the keys of the priesthood.  Women need to be asked for counsel and listened to.  Elder Anderson met some faithful brothers in Brazil.  "I testify that as you worthily participate in the ordinances of the priesthood, the Lord will give you greater strength, peace, and eternal perspective. Whatever your situation, your home will be “blessed by the strength of priesthood power” and those close to you will more fully desire these blessings for themselves." Together as men and women our privilege and our responsibility is to prepare the earth for the return of the Savior.

David M. McConkie, Teaching with the Power and Authority of God

Teachers are called of God and are on the Lord's errand.  "What would the Savior say if He were teaching my class today, and how would He say it?"  Teachers are called to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not their own ideas or philosophies.  Teachers are commanded to teach from the Standard Works and the words of the Living Prophets, by the Holy Ghost.   Live the Gospel.  "President Marion G. Romney said, “I always know when I am speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost because I always learn something from what I’ve said."

Elder Kevin S. Hamilton, Continually Holding Fast

The family of Elder Hamilton's father left the Church because of a small decision to take a ride in the country instead of going to sacrament meeting.  Remember Lehi's dream.  Don't just cling.  Continually hold fast, just like Elder Bednar has taught.  Attend all meetings. Obtain spiritual strength and power.  The meetings are unique, but connected.   What does it mean to continually hold fast to the rod of iron? It is part of the doctrine of Christ.  It means keeping all of the covenants of the Lord.  It means obtaining the fruit of the tree of life, that which is most desirable, the love of God.  There are blessings and protections that come from obeying these simple truths.

Elder Adrián Ochoa, Look Up

Elder Ochoa recounts a story in which he and his cousins were sent to get groceries, but were distracted by playing marbles.  The didn't notice the "signs of the times" and were pelted by hail and storm.  There was flooding and crossing a barbed-wire fence, but fortunately they were sheltered and fed by good family.  They continued to play marbles.  "And if we had been wiser, we would have looked at the sky, spotted the clouds forming, and accelerated our pace to stay ahead of the storm. Now that I have a little more experience, I always remind myself, 'Don’t forget to look up.'" Pay attention to the signs of the times, the perilous times.  Elder Ochoa repeats the scripture that President Packer cited earlier: "Men shall be lovers of their own selves, … disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, … false accusers, incontinent, … lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:2–4)."  Repetition… pay attention.  "We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation. … And the preparation most likely to be neglected is the one less visible and more difficult—the spiritual" - Elder Dallin H. Oaks.  "Given the urgent need for spiritual preparation in a time of such peril, I want to extend a word of warning about one very strong sign of the times. My professional life put me on the forefront of technology, so I recognize the value it has, especially in communication. So much information of man is now at our fingertips. But the Internet is also full of much that is filthy and misleading. Technology has augmented our freedom of speech, but it also gives an unqualified blogger false credibility based on the number of viewers. This is why now, more than ever, we must remember this eternal principle: “By their fruits ye shall know them” " Wow. Is that specific enough?  Pay close attention to what he is saying, but pay closer attention to what the Holy Ghost is teaching you.  "In particular, I caution you not to view filthy images or give your attention to the false accusers of Christ and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both actions create the same effect: the loss of the Holy Ghost and His protecting, sustaining power. Vice and unhappiness always follow."  "There are those in the world who seek to undermine your faith by mixing lies with half-truths. This is why it is absolutely critical that you remain constantly worthy of the Spirit. The companionship of the Holy Ghost is not just a pleasant convenience—it is essential to your spiritual survival. If you will not treasure up the words of Christ and listen closely to the promptings of the Spirit, you will be deceived (see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37). We must do these things."  "No one knows when the Lord will come again. But the perilous times are now upon us. Today is the time to look to the Source of truth and ensure that our testimonies are strong."  There were many people out searching for the three lost boys.  God is mindful of all of us.  "Yes, there are signs of storms forming all around us. Let us look up and prepare ourselves. There is safety in a strong testimony. Let us cherish and strengthen our testimonies every day."  Wake up. Pay attention. Have your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you.

Elder Terence M. Vinson, Drawing Closer to God

Elder Vinson tells a story of his grandson who understood his grandfather's love for him.  In Africa and the Islands of the Pacific the people are happy because they know that God loves them and takes care of them as a close personal friend.  "God should be the center of our universe—our literal focal point. Is He? Or is He sometimes far from the thoughts and intents of our hearts? (seeMosiah 5:13). Notice that it’s not just the thoughts of our hearts that are important but the “intents.” How do our behavior and actions reflect the integrity of our intents?"  We can draw closer to God by keeping the covenants that we have made with Him, and remembering Him always.  One of the ways that God gives us to help us remember him is adversity, such as was the case with the Brother of Jared.  "But here is the point—rather than solve the problem Himself, the Lord wants us to develop the faith that will help us rely upon Him in solving our problems and trust Him. Then we can feel His love more constantly, more powerfully, more clearly, and more personally. We become united with Him, and we can become like Him. For us to be like Him is His goal. In fact, it is His glory as well as His work (seeMoses 1:39)."  Like the boy who pushed the rock with all his might, but couldn't make it budge, whose father then came and added his strength, we need the strength of God in our lives.  We can rely upon God at all times, especially in times of need.  One man's father called upon God to stop a fire that was spreading, and a big black cloud came and rained hard, precisely on the spot of the fire but no where else.  God answered a simple prayer.  "Our Savior wants us to really love Him to the point that we want to align our will with His. We can then feel His love and know His glory. Then He can bless us as He wants to. This happened to Nephi the son of Helaman, who reached the stage where the Lord trusted him implicitly and, because of that, was able to bless him with all that he asked (see Helaman 10:4–5)."  Yann Martel expressed his feelings for Christ in the movie The Life of Pi.  Elder Holland exemplified the love of Christ with his simple gesture of putting his arm around Elder Vinson.  Jesus Christ's invitation to "come and see" is inviting and personal.  We can be like Enos. (Enos 1:27) I really love this talk.  It is one of my favorites, and it is true that the sweetest feeling of all is to draw close to the Savior and to be near Him.

Elder Russel M. Nelson, Decisions for Eternity

This is a hopeful thought: "The wise use of your freedom to make your own decisions is crucial to your spiritual growth, now and for eternity. You are never too young to learn, never too old to change."  The first step is remembering that we are children of God.  We should love our Father in Heaven even more than our earthly parents.  Thank God for the priceless gift of a physical and spiritual body.  Perhaps unlike many doctors, Elder Nelson learned a respect for the human body: "My professional years as a medical doctor gave me a profound respect for the human body."  "Your body repairs itself."  Bodily weakness, special needs, aging, and death are also gifts.  The body is a temple: "With your body being such a vital part of God’s eternal plan, it is little wonder that the Apostle Paul described it as a 'temple of God.' Each time you look in the mirror, see your body as your temple. That truth—refreshed gratefully each day—can positively influence your decisions about how you will care for your body and how you will use it. And those decisions will determine your destiny. How could this be? Because your body is the temple for your spirit. And how you use your body affects your spirit. Some of the decisions that will determine your eternal destiny include: - How will you choose to care for and use your body? - What spiritual attributes will you choose to develop?"  Jeremiah and Abraham were chosen before they were born. "Your Heavenly Father has known you for a very long time. You, as His son or daughter, were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time, to be a leader in His great work on earth. You were chosen not for your bodily characteristics but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom, and a desire to serve others." You developed some of these attributes premortally. Others you can develop here on earth as you persistently seek them."  Self-master is essential.  "Mistakes happen. Errors are made. Sins are committed. What can we do then? We can learn from them. And we can truly repent."  "True change—permanent change—can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ."  Jesus loves you and gives access to His power through obedience.  The path toward eternal life includes celestial marriage.  "In our day civil governments have a vested interest in protecting marriage because strong families constitute the best way of providing for the health, education, welfare, and prosperity of rising generations. But civil governments are heavily influenced by social trends and secular philosophies as they write, rewrite, and enforce laws. Regardless of what civil legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed. Remember: sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God!"  Be prepared for your personal interview with Jesus Christ.

President Thomas S. Monson, Till We Meet Again

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.  Blessings, blessings, blessings.  "May heaven’s blessings be with you. May your homes be filled with love and courtesy and with the Spirit of the Lord. May you constantly nourish your testimonies of the gospel that they will be a protection to you against the buffetings of the adversary." "May the Spirit we have felt here be and abide with us as we go about those things which occupy us each day. May we show increased kindness toward one another, and may we ever be found doing the work of the Lord."  Amen.