A vortex of the miraculous

…history is saying it is our job to radically and fundamentally change the world….

We are the only generation who has ever wanted to change the world over white wine and Brie. The change, as I understand it, does not have to do with a collection of more data. Spiritual advancement does not mean that we grow more metaphysically complicated. Many people in this room already know the basic principles because we’ve been learning it together for 20 years. The people, my generation of seekers, as I see it, need a psychological shift. It’s like when you stay a student, at some point rehearsal is over. And if you take a good look at your life, I would like to submit to you to ponder this: Look at the stress and some of the challenges that you’ve had in your life over the last two and three years. Is it possible that some of those stresses and challenges were a direct focus on that part of yourself that you know stands between good and great. A focus that you know makes the difference between a life in which “yeah, you know, I’m coping, I’m functioning,” and a fuller actualization of yourself. Is that not true? Is it something that you sort of thought you could get away with by not dealing with it? Now, why is it so important that we have to actualize ourselves more fully? Because whether you call it the authentic self, the divine self, the Christ self, or the Buddha self – I don’t care what we call it – it is a space of quantum possibility. It is a vortex of the miraculous.

Marianne Williamson, talk at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore, December, 2004

Priesthood eyes

No priesthood holder who wants to succeed will be careless about where his eyes may go. Choosing to look at images which incite lust will cause the Spirit to withdraw. You have been warned by Elder Clayton as well as you may ever be warned about the dangers of the Internet and the media in putting pornographic images before us. But immodesty is now so common that everyday life requires discipline—a conscious choice not to linger watching whatever might create in us feelings which would repel the Spirit.

The same care is required in what we say. We cannot hope to speak for the Lord unless we are careful with our speech. Vulgarity and profanity offend the Spirit. Just as immodesty seems to be more common, so does vulgar and profane language. It used to be that only in certain places and with certain groups would we hear the name of the Lord taken in vain or hear vulgar words and crude humor. Now it seems to be everywhere and, for many, socially acceptable, where
once it was not.

….God helps the faithful priesthood holder who decides to see and say no evil, even in a wicked world. It will not be easy. It never is. But you can have the promise fulfilled for you as I know that it can be for me: “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).

Henry B. Eyring, “God Helps the Faithful Priesthood Holder,” October 2007 General Conference

Are you most careful to control what

enters your mind
through your eyes
and ears

to ensure that it is wholesome and elevating?

Richard G. Scott, “Honor the Priesthood and Use It Well,” October General Conference, 2008

Young men of the Aaronic Priesthood, remember the scriptural injunction “Be ye clean who bear the vessels of the Lord.” ( 3 Ne. 20:41; D&C 38:42; see also Isa. 52:11.) Remember the story of Joseph in Egypt, who hearkened not to the wife of Potiphar and maintained his purity and virtue. (See Gen. 39:6–20.)

Consider carefully the words of the prophet Alma to his errant son, Corianton, “Forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes.” ( Alma 39:9.)

“The lusts of your eyes.” In our day, what does that expression mean?

Movies, television programs, and video recordings that are both suggestive and lewd.

Magazines and books that are obscene and pornographic.

We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading.

Ezra Taft Benson, “To the ‘Youth of the Noble Birthright’,” Ensign, May 1986

Never imitate

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance,” from Essays: First Series (1841)

The danger of liberation without self control

“Whatever liberates our spirit without giving us self-control is disastrous.”
– Goethe

“Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” (Proverbs 25:28)
[The King james Version reads: “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.”]

“So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6)

Acquiring discipline and the power of righteousness

Continually bless your life with the power of righteousness. It builds confidence. It engenders trust. It yields enduring, worthy achievement. To be righteous is to seek intently to be obedient to the commandments of God. It is to be clean in thought and act. It is to be honest and just. Righteousness is shown more in acts than in words. A righteous life requires discipline. Discipline is that characteristic which will give you the strength to avoid giving up what you want most in life for something you think you want now. It is a friend, not a harsh taskmaster that makes life miserable. Discipline is easier to acquire when it is rooted in faith in Jesus Christ, when it is nourished by an understanding of His teachings and plan of happiness.

Richard G. Scott, “The Power of Righteousness,” Ensign, Nov. 1998, 68

Permissiveness never produced greatness

gordon-b-hinckley-1973.jpg “Permissiveness never produced greatness. Integrity, loyalty, and strength are virtues whose sinews are developed through the struggles that go on within as we practice self-discipline under the demands of divinely spoken truth.”

Gordon B. Hinckley, “The True Strength of the Church,” Ensign, Jul 1973, 48; repeated in “‘It’s True, Isn’t It?’,” Ensign, Jul 1993, 2.

Work first, play later

A note about Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ work habits:

Elder Oaks has often quoted his motto, “Work first, play later.” His family jokes that it is really “Work first, play never.”

“I don’t do anything for fun. I just have fun at what I do,” he explains.

“Time is a stewardship, and my goal is simply not to waste any.”

(Don L. Searle, “Elder Dallin H. Oaks: ‘It Begins by Following the Other Apostles’,” Ensign, Jun 1984, 15.)

I am afraid my family would say the same about me: work first, play never!

Elder Oaks repeated similar counsel to students at Brigham Young University, shortly after his call to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

“I know of no better words of advice on the subject of ceasing to be idle than to “work first and play after.” The discipline of forcing oneself to work first, until the job is completed–whether it be a daily assignment, a term paper, or other needed task–and only then to enjoy the pleasure of play, is a master secret of life. It bears immediate fruits in accomplishment, but its most important effects are long-range. In following this priority we learn self-discipline, which unlocks the door to undreamed-of accomplishments.

How do you spend your time? Are you the master of your time, or do others control it by flicking the switch on a television or by impromptu invitations to pleasures or diversions that you have no willpower to resist? Work first and play after.”

(Counsel for Students, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, BYU Devotional, 18 September 1984.)

Remembering James E. Faust

President James E. FaustEarly yesterday morning President James E. Faust, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, passed away.  I have greatly admired his General Conference addresses.  A refined and polished speaker, he was a bold minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ as well as a masterful story teller.  Examples include his recent April 2007 talk on forgiveness, in which he described the compassion of an Amish community for the family of a man who killed several of their young women, or the story of Bobby Polacio, a 14-year-old young man who chose honesty above his strong personal desire to win in an athletic contest.  I remember several of the stories he told at First Presidency Christmas Devotionals, including the powerful story of a Japanese Christian man who lost his wife during the bombing of Nagasaki, but was not bitter against American military men, for whom he and his daughter performed music from Handel’s Messiah.  President Faust’s teachings about self mastery have always impressed me, in large part because they clearly came from a leader who possessed self mastery:    Continue reading