Monday, December 11, 2017

Becoming Closer to Christ: Part 2

Continuing my challenge to read a conference talk about the Savior each day (I've missed a couple of days but hope to still read the talks before Christmas).  But the other post was getting rather long, so I'm going to break it into a second post.

Elder Robert D. Hales: Becoming a Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Favorite Quotes:
"Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry."

"Listen to the Apostle Peter’s invitation to become a disciple of the Savior:
“Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity.”1
As you can see, weaving the spiritual tapestry of personal discipleship requires more than a single thread."
"The attributes of the Savior, as we perceive them, are not a script to be followed or list to be checked off. They are interwoven characteristics, added one to another, which develop in us in interactive ways. In other words, we cannot obtain one Christlike characteristic without also obtaining and influencing others. As one characteristic becomes strong, so do many more."
"Brothers and sisters, now more than ever, we cannot be a “part-time disciple”! We cannot be a disciple on just one point of doctrine or another. The constellation of characteristics that result from faith in Christ—including the ones we have talked about today—are all necessary to our standing strong in these last days.As we earnestly strive to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, these characteristics will be interwoven, added upon, and interactively strengthened in us. There will be no disparity between the kindness we show our enemies and the kindness we bestow on our friends. We will be as honest when no one is looking as when others are watching. We will be as devoted to God in the public square as we are in our private closet."
"I testify that everyone can be a disciple of the Savior. Discipleship is not constrained by age, gender, ethnic origin, or calling. Through our individual discipleship, we, as Latter-day Saints, build up a collective strength to bless our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Now is the time to recommit ourselves to being His disciples with all diligence."
Christlike characteristics (I added the underlining, but the words are his):
  • Faith is a catalyst. Without works, without virtuous living, our faith is without power to activate discipleship.
  • This virtue is more than sexual purity. It is cleanliness and holiness in mind and body. Virtue is also power. As we faithfully live the gospel, we will have power to be virtuous in every thought, feeling, and action. Our minds become more receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ.10 We embody Christ not only in what we say and do but also in who we are.
  • As we live virtuous lives, we come to know our Heavenly Father and His Son in a special way.
  • As temperate disciples, we live the gospel in a balanced and steady way. We do not “run faster than [we have] strength.”13 Day by day we move forward, undeterred by the refining challenges of mortality.
  • With His plan and purposes in our hearts, we move forward not only enduring all things but also enduring them patiently and well.
  • From temperance to patience and from patience to godliness, our natures change. We gain the brotherly kindness that is a hallmark of all true disciples. Like the Good Samaritan, we cross the road to minister to whoever is in need, even if they are not within the circle of our friends.19 We bless them that curse us. We do good to those who despitefully use us.20 Is any attribute more godly or Christlike?
  • I testify that the efforts we make to become disciples of our Savior are truly added upon until we are “possessed” of His love

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Becoming Closer to Christ

I joined a Facebook group that is going to spend the next month studying LDS General Conference Talks about the Savior to help us draw closer to Him during this holiday season.  My plan is to record my favorite quotes, insights, etc. in this post.  In addition, my dear friend Sara started a spiritual challenge that I'm participating in.  The challenge asks us to pray morning and night and read our scriptures daily. Then each day, we are to do one additional action to draw closer to Christ.  We decide what that will be, although Sara provided a long list of ideas.  The challenge is designed to help us develop "righteous routines" and "holy habits" as Sister Dalton spoke about at Time Out for Women that Sara attended.  I'm excited to do small and simple things to come closer to my beloved Savior.

President Uchtdorf: Christlike Attributes-The Wind Beneath Our Wings
Favorite Quotes:
"Faith is such a principle of power. We need this source of power in our lives. God works by power, but this power is usually exercised in response to our faith. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). God works according to the faith of His children."

"As we strive to understand, internalize, and live correct gospel principles, we will become more spiritually self-reliant. The principle of spiritual self-reliance grows out of a fundamental doctrine of the Church that God has granted us—agency. I believe that moral agency is one of the greatest gifts of God unto His children, next to life itself."

"We recognize that we are living in a time of turmoil, disaster, and war. We and many others feel strongly the great need for a “defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (D&C 115:6). How do we find such a place of safety? The prophet of God, even President Hinckley, has taught: “Our safety lies in the virtue of our lives. Our strength lies in our righteousness”

"Individually, we need to first “follow Him,” and as we do this, the Savior will bless us beyond our own capacity to become what He wants us to be."

"To follow Christ is to become more like Him. It is to learn from His character. As spirit children of our Heavenly Father, we do have the potential to incorporate Christlike attributes into our life and character. The Savior invites us to learn His gospel by living His teachings. To follow Him is to apply correct principles and then witness for ourselves the blessings that follow. This process is very complex and very simple at the same time. Ancient and modern prophets described it with three words: “Keep the commandments”—nothing more, nothing less.
Developing Christlike attributes in our lives is not an easy task, especially when we move away from generalities and abstractions and begin to deal with real life. The test comes in practicing what we proclaim. The reality check comes when Christlike attributes need to become visible in our lives—as husband or wife, as father or mother, as son or daughter, in our friendships, in our employment, in our business, and in our recreation. We can recognize our growth, as can those around us, as we gradually increase our capacity to “act in all holiness before [Him]” (D&C 43:9)."
"Developing Christlike attributes can be a painful process. We need to be ready to accept direction and correction from the Lord and His servants. This worldwide conference with its music and spoken word offers spiritual power, direction, and blessings “from on high” (D&C 43:16). It is a time when the voice of personal inspiration and revelation will bring peace to our souls and will teach us how to become more Christlike. This voice will be as sweet as the voice of a dear friend, and it will fill our souls when our hearts are sufficiently contrite."
My thoughts:
I find it comforting that he says that we can recognize our growth as we GRADUALLY increase our capacity.  My growth is often very slow, almost imperceptible...or at the very least, not as immediate as I would wish. 
Cheryl Esplin: The Sacrament: A Renewal for the Soul

Favorite Quotes:
"Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, ‘One of the invitations inherent in the sacramental ordinance is that it be a truly spiritual experience, a holy communion, a renewal for the soul."
"The sacrament becomes a spiritually strengthening experience when we listen to the sacrament prayers and recommit to our covenants. To do this, we must be willing to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ.2 Speaking of this promise, President Henry B. Eyring taught: “That means we must see ourselves as His. We will put Him first in our lives. We will want what He wants rather than what we want or what the world teaches us to want."

"The sacrament gives us an opportunity for introspection and an opportunity to turn our heart and will to God. Obedience to the commandments brings the power of the gospel into our lives and greater peace and spirituality."

"One Sunday after her self-evaluation, she began to feel gloomy and pessimistic. She could see that she was making the same errors over and over again, week to week. But then she had a distinct impression that she was neglecting a big part of the Atonement—Christ’s enabling power. She was forgetting all the times the Savior helped her be who she needed to be and serve beyond her own capacity."

My thoughts:
This talk was given while I was serving as ward Relief Society President.  The story of the Young Woman leader was so very touching to me and still is.  I, too, find that I often make the same mistakes over and over.  But I have come to rely on the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  I was literally able to be more and do more with the Lord's help than I could on my own.  I was able to fit more into my busy schedule and I was able to handle the pressures in my life better because I was putting my trust in Him and striving to magnify my calling.  I came to love the sacrament, and I still do.  I often found/find tears streaming down my face during the sacrament as I feel love and gratitude for my Savior, and sometimes as my heart is filled with love and charity for those in my ward.  The sacrament is a renewal for my soul.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong: Always Remember Him
Favorite Quotes:
6 ways to always remember the Savior:
1. "First, we can always remember Him by having confidence in His covenants, promises, and assurances."
2.  "Second, we can always remember Him by gratefully acknowledging His hand throughout our lives."...  "We can remember those who give us a chance, and a second chance, with honesty, kindness, patience, and encouragement. And we can become someone others remember when they most needed help. Gratefully remembering the assistance of others and the Spirit’s guiding influence is a way we remember Him. It is a way we count our many blessings and see what God hath done."
3. "Third, we can always remember Him by trusting when the Lord assures us, “He who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.”..."To be worthy does not mean to be perfect."..."When trust is betrayed, dreams shattered, hearts broken and broken again, when we want justice and need mercy, when our fists clench and our tears flow, when we need to know what to hold onto and what to let go of, we can always remember Him. Life is not as cruel as it can sometimes seem. His infinite compassion can help us find our way, truth, and life."
4. "Fourth, He invites us to remember that He is always welcoming us home."
5. "Fifth, we can always remember Him on the Sabbath through the sacrament."..."As Amulek teaches, we remember Him when we pray over our fields, our flocks, and our households and when we remember the needy, the naked, the sick and afflicted."
6.  "Finally, sixth, our Savior invites us to always remember Him as He always remembers us."

J Devn Cornish: The Privilege of Prayer
Favorite Quotes:
"God our Father is not a feeling or an idea or a force. He is a holy person who, as the scriptures teach, has a face and hands and a glorious immortal body. He is real, He knows each of us individually, and He loves us, every one. He wants to bless us."

"Little children, young people, and adults alike, please believe how very much your loving Heavenly Father wants to bless you. But because He will not infringe upon our agency, we must ask for His help. This is generally done through prayer. Prayer is one of the most precious gifts of God to man."

"Honesty is essential in requesting things from God. It would not be fully honest, for example, to ask the Lord for help on a test in school if I have not paid attention in class, done the homework assigned, or studied for the test. Often as I pray, the Spirit nudges me to admit that there is more I should do to receive the help I am asking from the Lord. Then I must commit and do my part. It is contrary to the economy of heaven for the Lord to do for us that which we can do for ourselves."

"When we truly believe that God rules His kingdom and that He has all power and all glory, we are recognizing that He really is in charge, that He loves us with a perfect love, and that He wants us to be happy. I have found that one of the secrets to a joyful life is to recognize that doing things the Lord’s way will make me happier than doing things my way."

" We must not only say our prayers; we must also live them. The Lord is much more pleased with the person who prays and then goes to work than with the person who only prays. Much like medicine, prayer works only when we use it as directed."

President Thomas S. Monson said: “To those within the sound of my voice who are struggling with challenges and difficulties large and small, prayer is the provider of spiritual strength; it is the passport to peace. Prayer is the means by which we approach our Father in Heaven, who loves us. Speak to Him in prayer and then listen for the answer. Miracles are wrought through prayer.”

Elder M. Joseph Brough: His Daily Guiding Hand
Favorite Quotes:
"Heavenly Father knows what you and I need better than anyone else. As a result, He has developed a personal care package suited to each one of us. It has many components. It includes His Son and the Atonement, the Holy Ghost, commandments, scriptures, prayer, prophets, apostles, parents, grandparents, local Church leaders, and many others—all to help us return to live with Him someday."

President Boyd K. Packer said: “Bishops are inspired! Each of us has agency to accept or reject counsel from our leaders, but never disregard the counsel of your bishop, whether given over the pulpit or individually.”

"Perhaps Heavenly Father’s greatest care package component is described in these words: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.”8
To teach us all that we must do, Jesus Christ led the way by giving the perfect example that we must try to emulate. He pleads with us with arms outstretched to come, follow Him.9 And when we fail, which we all do, He reminds us, “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent.”
"Repentance is not a punishment; it is a privilege. It is a privilege that leads and guides us. No wonder the scriptures declare that we should teach nothing save repentance."
"Heavenly Father has many resources, but often He uses another person to assist Him. Daily He gives us opportunities to lead, guide, and walk beside one in need. We must follow the example of the Savior. We too must be about Heavenly Father’s work."
My thoughts:
One of my Father's care packages to me has been callings to serve in the Church.  Each of them has blessed my life, taught me important lessons, helped me develop treasured relationships, and helped me feel the Lord's love for me.

Another of my Father's care packages to me has been wonderful leaders (including Bishops, stake presidents, YW leaders, RS presidents and many others) and treasured friends.  So often when I'm feeling discouraged or I'm praying for help, that help or comfort comes through a friend.

President Uchtdorf: Grateful in any Circumstances
Favorite Quotes:
One of my favorite quotes ever from any conference talk is this one:  "...those who set aside the bottle of bitterness and lift instead the goblet of gratitude can find a purifying drink of healing, peace, and understanding."

"Everyone’s situation is different, and the details of each life are unique. Nevertheless, I have learned that there is something that would take away the bitterness that may come into our lives. There is one thing we can do to make life sweeter, more joyful, even glorious.
We can be grateful!"
"All of His commandments are given to make blessings available to us. Commandments are opportunities to exercise our agency and to receive blessings. Our loving Heavenly Father knows that choosing to develop a spirit of gratitude will bring us true joy and great happiness."
"Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be."
"We can choose to be grateful, no matter what.   This type of gratitude transcends whatever is happening around us. It surpasses disappointment, discouragement, and despair. It blooms just as beautifully in the icy landscape of winter as it does in the pleasant warmth of summer.  When we are grateful to God in our circumstances, we can experience gentle peace in the midst of tribulation. In grief, we can still lift up our hearts in praise. In pain, we can glory in Christ’s Atonement. In the cold of bitter sorrow, we can experience the closeness and warmth of heaven’s embrace."
"True gratitude is an expression of hope and testimony. It comes from acknowledging that we do not always understand the trials of life but trusting that one day we will."
"How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings."
**"How blessed we are if we recognize God’s handiwork in the marvelous tapestry of life. Gratitude to our Father in Heaven broadens our perception and clears our vision. It inspires humility and fosters empathy toward our fellowmen and all of God’s creation. Gratitude is a catalyst to all Christlike attributes! A thankful heart is the parent of all virtues."

I have a testimony of the power of gratitude.  It's something I really try to teach my students and my children.  (Not always as successfully as I would like, but I do try!)  Rereading this talk just a few weeks ago in preparation for a lesson in Young Women's, I was really struck my the connection between gratitude and other virtues.  I am really trying to develop more charity and to be more humble and more forgiving...and it seems that perhaps one part of doing so is to express gratitude!

Neal A. Maxwell: O, Divine Redeemer
Favorite Quotes:  (This is another talk where nearly every line is beautiful and touching!)
"Whether descriptively designated as Creator, Only Begotten Son, Prince of Peace, Advocate, Mediator, Son of God, Savior, Messiah, Author and Finisher of Salvation, King of Kings—I witness that Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven whereby one can be saved! (See D&C 18:23.)
I testify that He is utterly incomparable in what He is, what He knows, what He has accomplished, and what He has experienced.Yet, movingly, He calls us His friends. (See John 15:15.)" 
"He rejoices in our genuine goodness and achievement, but any assessment of where we stand in relation to Him tells us that we do not stand at all! We kneel!"
"Can we, even in the depths of disease, tell Him anything at all about suffering? In ways we cannot comprehend, our sicknesses and infirmities were borne by Him even before these were borne by us. (See Alma 7:11–12Matt. 8:17.) The very weight of our combined sins caused Him to descend below all. (See D&C 122:8.) We have never been, nor will we be, in depths such as He has known. Thus His atonement made His empathy and His capacity to succor us perfect, for which we can be everlastingly grateful as He tutors us in our trials. There was no ram in the thicket at Calvary to spare Him, this Friend of Abraham and Isaac."
"Has He not invited us to observe His cosmic craftsmanship in the heavens that we might see “God moving in His majesty and power”? (D&C 88:47.) But do we not also see Him “moving in His majesty and power” as each prodigal finally completes his homeward orbit?"
"Indeed, we cannot teach Him anything! But we can listen to Him. We can love Him, we can honor Him, we can worship Him! We can keep His commandments, and we can feast upon His scriptures! Yes, we who are so forgetful and even rebellious are never forgotten by Him! We are His “work” and His “glory,” and He is never distracted! (See Moses 1:39.)
Therefore, in addition to my boundless admiration of His achievements and my adoration of Jesus for what He is—knowing that my superlatives are too shallow to do more than echo his excellence—as one of His Special Witnesses in the fulness of times, I attest to the fulness of His ministry!"
"Jesus Christ is the Jehovah of the Red Sea and of Sinai, the Resurrected Lord, the Spokesman for the Father in the theophany at Palmyra—a Palmyra pageant with a precious audience of one!  He lives today, mercifully granting unto all nations as much light as they can bear and messengers of their own to teach them. (See Alma 29:8.) And who better than the Light of the World can decide the degree of divine disclosure—whether it is to be flashlights or floodlights?"
"Soon, however, all flesh shall see Him together. All knees shall bow in His presence, and all tongues confess His name. (See D&C 76:110–11Philip. 2:10–11.) Knees which never before have assumed that posture for that purpose will do so then—and promptly. Tongues which have never before spoken His name except in gross profanity will do so then—and worshipfully.... All will then acknowledge the completeness of His justice and His mercy (see Alma 12:15) and will see how human indifference to God—not God’s indifference to humanity—accounts for so much suffering." (Italics added...this really struck me!)

Bruce R. McConkie: The Purifying Power of Gethsemane
"...all who believe and obey the glorious gospel of God, all who are true and faithful and overcome the world, all who suffer for Christ and his word, all who are chastened and scourged in the Cause of him whose we are—all shall become as their Maker and sit with him on his throne and reign with him forever in everlasting glory."

"In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets.
True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word."
"We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane."
"As Adam brought death, so Christ brought life; as Adam is the father of mortality, so Christ is the father of immortality.  And without both, mortality and immortality, man cannot work out his salvation and ascend to those heights beyond the skies where gods and angels dwell forever in eternal glory."
"But if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived.  May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement."
"We must search the scriptures, accepting them as the mind and will and voice of the Lord and the very power of God unto salvation.  As we read, ponder, and pray, there will come into our minds a view of the three gardens of God—the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Garden of the Empty Tomb where Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene."
"And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King. This I know of myself independent of any other person.
I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.  But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through his atoning blood and in no other way."   (THIS is the type of testimony and knowledge and faith I want to develop!!) 
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland: The First Great Commandment
Favorite Quotes:
"Here I ask your indulgence as I take some nonscriptural liberty in my portrayal of this exchange. In effect, Peter said to his associates: “Brethren, it has been a glorious three years. None of us could have imagined such a few short months ago the miracles we have seen and the divinity we have enjoyed. We have talked with, prayed with, and labored with the very Son of God Himself. We have walked with Him and wept with Him, and on the night of that horrible ending, no one wept more bitterly than I. But that is over. He has finished His work, and He has risen from the tomb. He has worked out His salvation and ours. So you ask, ‘What do we do now?’ I don’t know more to tell you than to return to your former life, rejoicing. I intend to ‘go a fishing.’” And at least six of the ten other remaining Apostles said in agreement, “We also go with thee.” John, who was one of them, writes, “They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately.”

"After a joyful reunion with the resurrected Jesus, Peter had an exchange with the Savior that I consider the crucial turning point of the apostolic ministry generally and certainly for Peter personally, moving this great rock of a man to a majestic life of devoted service and leadership. Looking at their battered little boats, their frayed nets, and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said to His senior Apostle, “Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?” Peter said, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee."

"What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me.”

"My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand onecommandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.”13 And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty."

“If ye love me, keep my commandments,”14 Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. The Crucifixion, Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ mark the beginning of a Christian life, not the end of it."
This talk feels special to me.  When it was given, I think I'd begun to let some things slide.  I was active in the church but I was really stressed out and wasn't making scripture study and prayer a priority. I felt overwhelmed and looking back, I recognize that I'd begun to let my testimony fade a bit.  A couple of months before this talk was given, Elder Holland must have shared some similar remarks somewhere because our Bishopric shared clips from it and it had a profound influence on me.  I determined that I wanted to be better.  Then Elder Holland gave this address in conference and my heart was again touched.  Just a couple of months later, I was called as Relief Society President which began a couple of years of intense tutoring and learning for me.  It changed my trajectory.  It feels like this talk was given to "go to the rescue" for was a turning point for me...and I'm eternally grateful.  I don't think I'll ever hear it without a powerful response and without reminding me of the sacred experiences I had as I served as Relief Society President and remember.

I want to be loyal.  I want to bless my neighbors, lift up the poor, right wrongs, share truth and protect children.  I want to be a loyal disciple of Christ for the rest of my days.

President Gordon B. Hinckley: Drawing Nearer to the Lord
Favorite Quotes:
"The opinions of people concerning us for the most part arise out of personal and individual experiences. It is your friendliness, your concern for others, and the good examples of your lives that result in the opinions held by others concerning the Latter-day Saints."  (Am I living so that people's opinion of the Church will be positive?)

"God is our Father who watches over His kingdom. Jesus is the Christ whose name this Church bears. He stands at its head. The gospel has been restored and is moving with power across the earth. Our faith is made secure by the things which we know to be true."

President Hinckley cautioned us not to look to the press in matters of doctrine. Now that might also include blogs, social media, etc.  Go to the source...scriptures, prophets/apostles, personal revelation.

President Eyring: To Draw Closer to God
Favorite Quotes:
President Benson said: “Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us.”

President Eyring continued:  "While what President Benson said will be true in the future, we need to feel now that God knows us and loves us as individuals. There are times you have felt the closeness of God, your Father, and that you are his child. Those times can come more often. There is a simple way to think about it.
If you want to stay close to someone who has been dear to you, but from whom you are separated, you know how to do it. You would find a way to speak to them, you would listen to them, and you would discover ways to do things for each other. The more often that happened, the longer it went on, the deeper would be the bond of affection. If much time passed without the speaking, the listening, and the doing, the bond would weaken."
"You will act after you have listened because when you hear his voice by the Spirit you will always feel that you are impelled to do something. You mustn’t be surprised if the instruction seems accompanied with what you feel as a rebuke."
"Now, you will still be startled, as President Benson said you would be, to realize how familiar the face of our Heavenly Father is. But when you see him, you will know his voice, because you will have prayed, listened, obeyed, and come to share the thoughts and intents of his heart. You will have drawn nearer to him."
Characteristics of God that He mentions:   *close *Father of our Spirits *omnipotent *knows and loves us *perfect *God "loves you, wants you to be with him, and knows you must have a mighty change in your heart, through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, humble repentance, and the making and keeping of sacred covenants."  *kind
How to draw closer to God:  Pray...listen for His answers.  Listen to teachings of the prophets and apostles. Read the scriptures.  Fast to help you listen better.  Truly want to have Lord's will done, not your own...and pray for that to happen.  Act.  Repent.  Make and keep sacred covenants.  Be kind to His other children and help them.

President Uchtdorf: Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear
Favorite Quotes:
"Fear rarely has the power to change our hearts, and it will never transform us into people who love what is right and who want to obey Heavenly Father."

"The more I come to know my Heavenly Father, the more I see how He inspires and leads His children. He is not angry, vengeful, or retaliatory. His very purpose—His work and His glory—is to mentor us, exalt us, and lead us to His fulness....Our Father in Heaven’s love for us, His children, surpasses by far our ability to comprehend. Does this mean that God condones or overlooks behaviors that run contrary to His commands? No, definitely not! But He wants to change more than just our behaviors. He wants to change our very natures. He wants to change our hearts."God motivates through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned.8 God is on our side. He loves us, and when we stumble, He wants us to rise up, try again, and become stronger.
He is our mentor. He is our great and cherished hope. He desires to stimulate us with faith. He trusts us to learn from our missteps and make correct choices. This is the better way!"
"Brothers and sisters, we are the Lord’s “little flock.” We are the Saints of the latter days. Inherent in our name is the commitment to look forward to the Savior’s return and prepare ourselves and the world to receive Him. Therefore, let us serve God and love our fellowmen. Let us do this with a natural confidence, with humility, never looking down on any other religion or group of people. Brothers and sisters, we are charged with studying the word of God and heeding the voice of the Spirit, that we may “know the signs of the times, and the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.”

"Christ’s perfect love allows us to walk with humility, dignity, and a bold confidence as followers of our beloved Savior. Christ’s perfect love gives us the confidence to press through our fears and place our complete trust in the power and goodness of our Heavenly Father and of His Son, Jesus Christ.
In our homes, in our places of business, in our Church callings, in our hearts, let us replace fear with Christ’s perfect love."
"Christ’s love will help us become a little kinder, more forgiving, more caring, and more dedicated to His work."
My insights/Thoughts:
Find joy!   Do not fear, but put trust in God.

Consider what means I use to motivate myself, my children, my students, and I motivate by using fear?  What steps can I take to eliminate fear as a motivational tactic and instead motivate with love?

Elder Russell M. Nelson: Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into our Lives
Favorite Quotes:
"God so loved the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son2 to help us.3 And His Son, Jesus Christ, gave His life for us. All so that we could have access to godly power—power sufficient to deal with the burdens, obstacles, and temptations of our day."

"It is doctrinally incomplete to speak of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice by shortcut phrases, such as “the Atonement” or “the enabling power of the Atonement” or “applying the Atonement” or “being strengthened by the Atonement.” These expressions present a real risk of misdirecting faith by treating the event as if it had living existence and capabilities independent of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Under the Father’s great eternal plan, it is the Savior who suffered. It is the Savior who broke the bands of death. It is the Savior who paid the price for our sins and transgressions and blots them out on condition of our repentance. It is the Savior who delivers us from physical and spiritual death."

"True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world. They are undaunted, devoted, and courageous."

"There is nothing easy or automatic about becoming such powerful disciples. Our focus must be riveted on the Savior and His gospel. It is mentally rigorous to strive to look unto Him in every thought.15But when we do, our doubts and fears flee."

"Faith in Jesus Christ propels us to do things we otherwise would not do. Faith that motivates us to action gives us more access to His power."

"Our covenants bind us to Him and give us godly power."
WOW!  This quote is powerful:  "When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do. When you spiritually stretch beyond anything you have ever done before, then His power will flow into you."
President Nelson shares ways to draw the power of the Savior into our lives:
1.  Learn of Him.  Study His words and teachings.  
2.  Exercise faith in Him and follow Him.
3.  Make sacred covenants and keep them with precision.
4.  Reach up to the Savior in faith.

"True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world. They are undaunted, devoted, and courageous." It reminds me a lot of Sister Eubank's talk in this Women's Conference to be righteous, be articulate, be distinct, be different, be happy. Am I willing to stand out, speak up, be different? Am I undaunted, devoted and courageous?
President Monson: "Kindness, Charity, and Love"
Favorite Quotes:
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes. Jesus, our Savior, was the epitome of kindness and compassion.

"...let us examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior’s example by being kind, loving, and charitable. And as we do so, we will be in a better position to call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families, and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes difficult journey back to our heavenly home."
My thoughts:
Charity is a topic I have been studying lately. One of the things I have learned is that true charity isn't something we can attain for is bestowed upon us if we are true followers of Jesus Christ. (See for example Moroni 7:48). That doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to develop it...just the opposite..but it means that we can't be truly charitable in our hearts without the Savior. We can be kind (and boy does this world need kindness!!) and do charitable acts but true charity is the love that our Fatehr and Savior have for each of us, and we can only receive that as a spiritual gift. Understanding that better has helped me to 1. Not be quite so hard on myself when I do not have perfect charity and more importantly, 2. pray sincerely to be given this spiritual gift and to try to live so that I can receive it. As for kindness and love, I recently read a book, Of Mess and Moxie, by a Christian author Jen Hatmaker. While I don't agree with everything she said, I was really touched by a chapter in her book called Fangirl. She said we should fangirl the people who mean the most to us, the actual people we know, not those in Hollywood or famous in other ways. One of her friends created a texting rule that when ever she had a kind or loving thought about someone, noticed one of their talents or noticed something positive about them, she texted them right away to let them know, before the thought went away. I am trying to do that...and it makes my life happier and hopefully others as well. I am especially trying, as she recommended and as Sister Oscarson asked in her talk in October conference, to notice those who might be lonely or less noticed and to reach out to them. I am not as great at it as I would like but I think as I continue to try, I will get better. How I love President Monson...he truly exemplifies these principles he has taught!

Bonnie Cordon: "Trust in the Lord and Lean Not"

Favorite Quotes:
"When we spiritually lean to our own understanding, we lean away from our Savior. If we lean, we are not centered; we are not balanced; we are not focused on Christ."

"More scriptures enlighten our minds, nourish our spirits, answer our questions, increase our trust in the Lord, and help us center our lives on Him."

Every time I have read this talk, I have been touched by the story of Amy.  Amy had cancer and chemo was awful.  So her husband said they needed to find someone to serve.  “Service,” Amy testifies, “saved my life. Where I ultimately found my strength to keep moving forward was the happiness I discovered in trying to relieve the suffering of those around me. I looked forward to our service projects with great joy and anticipation. Still to this day it seems like such a strange paradox. You would think that someone who was bald, poisoned, and fighting for [her] life was justified in thinking that ‘right now it is all about me.’ However, when I thought about myself, my situation, my suffering and pain, the world became very dark and depressing. When my focus turned to others, there was light, hope, strength, courage, and joy. I know that this is possible because of the sustaining, healing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”

Insights/My Thoughts:
I find it so comforting to know that before this life, we chose to follow the Savior.  We accepted the plan.  Before the veil of forgetfulness was drawn, we "voiced our support, enthusiasm, and joy for the plan of happiness set forth by our Heavenly Father."   If I chose to follow Him then, I can choose to follow Him again.

Sister Cordon shares 3 ways to come closer to Christ:
1.  Study the scriptures.  Don't just read them; feast on the words of Christ.
2.  Pray.  As we pray, we will come to trust the Savior more.
3.  Serve others.