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Michelle Stott James|June 21, 2016 Many years ago, as a high school student, I had the opportunity to become acquainted with several Catholic nuns who lived in a convent in my hometown and worked in the nearby Catholic hospital. As their schedules permitted, I often spent time with them, walking in the park or visiting in the parlor of the convent. One afternoon I happened to be talking with Sister Columba. She was a tiny, elderly woman who had been a member of the Irish Army before she became a nun. That day she was sharing with me the profound love that she had for our Savior, Jesus Christ, and as she spoke, tears were streaming down her face. It was a powerful spiritual moment that touched me in the deepest center of my being. After I left that day, I pondered Sister Columba’s testimony of Christ. I had grown up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I had attended my church meetings and seminary classes. I had frequently borne testimony that the gospel of Jesus Christ was true. And yet I couldn’t comprehend how it could be, with all of this truth, that I had never felt anything for Jesus Christ—certainly nothing like the level of worship and gratitude that I had experienced from Sister Columba. That afternoon with this frail nun in the quiet parlor of the convent became the definitive moment of my spiritual growth, as it launched a quest to know my Savior that has shaped my entire life. The most critical point, which I have at last come to comprehend, is the absolute centrality of Jesus Christ and His Atonement to every aspect of our lives. Because of that centrality, the most significant challenge for us is to learn to grasp this center and to build our lives upon this secure foundation. This injunction is nothing new. If we really look at it, this one fact—the centrality of Christ and the Atonement—builds the focus for all the religious instruction that the Church conveys. The question that I have been grappling with is this: Since Christ and His Atonement are so clearly the center toward which all our religious experience leads, why is it often so difficult for us to actually connect with that center and to make it our own in an active way? Of course there are many ways to answer this question, but today I would like to share some insights that I have found as I have pondered this question in my own life. Mortal Perception and Spiritual Perception We are born into this world as somewhat awkwardly composite beings in which an eternal spirit has been enclosed in a mortal, physical body. This dividedness comes, I believe, because these two disparate elements—mortal body and eternal spirit—provide us with two distinctly different mechanisms for comprehending the world. I will call these “mortal perception” and “spiritual perception.” Mortal perception is the means of understanding that is provided by our physical body. This body is equipped with an amazing ar
James B. McDonald|June 26, 2001 It is a humbling experience to speak with you this morning and to have present friends, family, missionaries, colleagues, and many others. As I reflected on the message I wanted to share today, I was reminded of an experience my mother-in-law, Helen Thomas, had a few years ago. She noticed that her vision was deteriorating. The images she saw were becoming increasingly blurred and faint. Finally she scheduled an eye exam and was told she had cataracts. Fortunately she was able to have corrective surgery, which restored her vision. My mother-in-law was so excited after the operation, she said, “I hadn’t realized how much my eyesight had changed. I have not been able to see this well for years. My vision must have changed just a little bit at a time.” There are important lessons in this experience for all of us. Thus I will first talk about cataracts and their causes, consequences, and correction. Then I will draw a parallel between the causes and prevention of cataracts with what we might refer to as the causes and prevention of spiritual cataracts. Now let’s talk about cataracts. Many cataracts begin as small spots or specks in the lens of the eye. These spots interfere with light rays that pass through the lens to be focused as an image on the retina in the back of the eye. The greater the number of specks, the more obscure the image. These specks can become so dense that the entire lens becomes milky white, and the light rays can’t pass through the lens, resulting in blindness. But it is important to remember that the light is still there; it just can’t pass through the lens of the eye. The effects of cataracts can be illustrated by looking at the stars. If you are high up in the mountains and look at the stars on a clear night, their images are sharp and crystal clear. In a setting like that, it is inspirational to look at the North Star and the numerous other constellations that have fascinated countless generations. However, if you try to look at the same stars from a highly populated area, the stars will appear fuzzy or may seem to disappear because of the physical pollutants in the atmosphere. Just like cataracts in the lens of the eye, the physical pollutants in the atmosphere deflect or block the light rays and obscure the image of the stars so that they appear fuzzy. Even if the light from the stars isn’t visible to the naked eye, the stars are still there. In the early days of navigation, the North Star was used to guide ships to their desired destinations. However, this was not possible when the skies were overcast. Just as those sailors were without guidance on overcast nights, those with severe cataracts miss many things. They may not be able to see the vibrant fall colors on a drive up the canyon or see the excited smile on the face of a newly baptized member of the Church or see the radiant glow of a new bride as she kneels at the altar in the temple. Cataracts, if left uncorrec
Neal A. Maxwell|Jan. 12, 1999 It is a special time for you as students in terms of the calendar, brothers and sisters. A new semester has started. Obviously it is the end of one year and the beginning of another. Soon it will be the end of a century, and a whole new century will open up before you. And you really are, as we enter upon that new century, part of the hope of Israel. So I am grateful for President Bateman’s invitation to be with you in this time of transition, and I will, with some encouragement from my wife and some others, wax a little bit autobiographical today, which I typically don’t do. My life has been, fortunately—for me at least—intertwined with Brigham Young University for nearly 28 years: either as Church commissioner of education, as a member of the board of trustees, as chairman of the executive committee, or off and on as the grandfather of several students here. No wonder, therefore, that I feel that President Bateman and the faculty and administration are truly colleagues. Furthermore, you as students continue to be, at least to me, another royal generation being raised up for the purposes of the Lord in your individual lives. Yes, you have some personal imperfections of which you are aware, probably painfully at times. But you are also drenched in personal gifts, talents, and abilities of which you may be less aware. So though longevity is one reason for giving some advice today, the other reason for so doing is because of your immense possibilities carved out of this particular time in human history. It surprises me that I have lived nearly three-fourths of the 20th century. Such a span is not comparatively a long time, considering the able and spritely septagenarians and octogenarians among whom I labor. Yet it is still a significant time span. Certainly at times in the spring of 1945, as an 18-year-old infantryman on Okinawa, it did not look very likely to me that my life would span three-quarters of this century. Nevertheless, experiences undergone and lessons learned have combined over the years to heighten my gratitude to God for the gift of life. I have lived through a depression, a world war, and a cold war, and have long since entered my anecdotage—and you will not be entirely spared from that latter symptom today. In the passing years I have developed much appreciation for the institution of the family. Other institutions simply cannot compensate fully for failing families. If we will hold fast to the Church’s proclamation on the family, we will see that we hold the jewels, as it were, that can enrich so many other things. Let the world go its own way on the family. It appears to be determined to do that. But we do not have that option. Our doctrines and teachings on the family are very, very powerful, and they are full of implications for all the people on this planet. Though I murmured as a young man at times with chores, I have acquired in the space of this passage of time a hardened
Henry B. Eyring|Jan. 3, 1999 I am grateful to be with you. Those who speak to you sometimes ask for your prayers to sustain them in their efforts. I ask that of you tonight with a special urgency and for a specific purpose. Years ago I served as the bishop of a ward composed of young people. Time has wiped away much of what I learned then of their sorrows and mistakes, but I can still see in my mind most of their faces. I meet some of them as I travel about the world. Their faces and their physiques have been changed enough by time that I sometimes stumble trying to remember names. Others I have followed more closely, with a chance to know what life has offered them. When I learn of their lives, I am amazed at the variety of their experiences. Each life seems to be unique. About all they have in common, as nearly as I can tell, is that they have been surprised by the pattern of the tests of their faith. The surprise has come because they could not know when the tests would come, what they would be, nor how long they would last. For a few, the tests are over. For some of the members of that ward, the tests ended early. I was reminded of one young man the other day. For me his face will always be young and bright with hope. He left our ward for a mission in Japan. Decades later I mentioned his name in a talk I gave to a group of Latter-day Saints in Tokyo. After the meeting a number of members came to me, their faces shining with the brightness that I remember in his face when he returned from his mission. They told that he was “their” missionary. If I understood their English, they said that he was the greatest missionary they had ever known. I was released as the bishop when our family was asked to move to another state. I kept track of that missionary enough to know that he had graduated from college, applied to medical school, and been accepted. I did not know his plans for the summer before he began medical school, but I am sure that he looked forward with great anticipation to the years ahead. A phone rang where we then lived, and I learned that he had been killed. He and friends had gone to climb a peak in the Wind River Range in the western United States. I was invited to speak at his funeral. I asked some of the young men who had been climbing with him, friends from our old ward family, to meet me at the chapel where the service would begin in a few minutes. We went to a room to be alone. After we had renewed our acquaintance, I asked if they would tell me something about our friend’s life. I think they knew why. I wished to speak in the funeral about him and his life. They knew how much I had admired him. They also knew that I had not seen him nor spoken with him for a few years. They knew that I wanted to praise him but that the praise had to be true. They told me this story: They had camped the night in preparation for the ascent to the peak. As they climbed, high on the face of the mountain, a storm came upon them
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