I thought I'd do something a bit different this year with regard to General Conference notes. Every time I come across a part of a talk that I think directly references true discipleship to Christ, I'll copy it here.
After some quotes, I'll add my own commentary about why I think that quote pertains to discipleship.
Elder Quentin L. Cook - Can Ye Feel So Now?
Local leaders across the world report that when viewed as a whole, Church members, especially our youth, have never been stronger. But they almost always raise two concerns: first, the challenge of increased unrighteousness in the world and, second, the apathy and lack of commitment of some members. They seek counsel about how to help members to follow the Savior and achieve a deep and lasting conversion.
While anything that lessens commitment is of consequence, two relevant challenges are both prevalent and significant. The first is unkindness, violence, and domestic abuse. The second is sexual immorality and impure thoughts. These often precede and are at the root of the choice to be less committed.
COMMENTARY: becoming a true disciple of Jesus Christ requires the sacrifice of all selfish desires. We all, for a time, can control our impulses and fleeting desires - we may stave them off for a time, but they will be back. The only way to truly become converted to Jesus Christ is to break our hearts of all selfish desires and to have contrite spirits. This begins with correct and pure thoughts. As we repeatedly, and consciously think correct and pure thoughts, our base desires (apathy and sexual immorality as referenced in this talk), become dead and we can then begin on the path to sanctification.
Sister Ann M. Dibb - I Know It. I Live It. I Love It.
One of the most effective but sometimes difficult gospel principles to apply is humility and submission to the will of God. In Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He expressed to the Father, “Not my will, but thine, be done.” This should be our prayer as well. Oftentimes, it is in these quiet, prayerful moments that we feel encircled in Heavenly Father’s love and those joyful, loving feelings are restored.
COMMENTARY: to be truly selfless, one must submit to the will of God - to have his or her will to be the will of God.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf - Of Regrets and Resolutions
Perhaps the most universal regret dying patients expressed was that they wished they had spent more time with the people they love.
Men in particular sang this universal lament: they “deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the [daily] treadmill of … work.” Many had lost out on choice memories that come from spending time with family and friends. They missed developing a deep connection with those who meant the most to them.
Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life.
I think of our Lord and Exemplar, Jesus Christ, and His short life among the people of Galilee and Jerusalem. I have tried to imagine Him bustling between meetings or multitasking to get a list of urgent things accomplished.
I can’t see it.
Instead I see the compassionate and caring Son of God purposefully living each day. When He interacted with those around Him, they felt important and loved. He knew the infinite value of the people He met. He blessed them, ministered to them. He lifted them up, healed them. He gave them the precious gift of His time.
When it comes to living the gospel, we should not be like the boy who dipped his toe in the water and then claimed he went swimming. As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we are capable of so much more. For that, good intentions are not enough. We must do. Even more important, we must become what Heavenly Father wants us to be.
Discipleship is the pursuit of holiness and happiness. It is the path to our best and happiest self.
Elder L. Tom Perry - Becoming Goodly Parents
These suggestions for creating stronger family cultures work in tandem with the culture of the Church. Our strengthened family cultures will be a protection for our children from “the fiery darts of the adversary” (1 Nephi 15:24) embedded in their peer culture, the entertainment and celebrity cultures, the credit and entitlement cultures, and the Internet and media cultures to which they are constantly exposed. Strong family cultures will help our children live in the world and not become “of the world” (John 15:19).
COMMENTARY: the key thing to note here with Elder Perry's quote is the list of worldly cultures: entertainment, celebrity status, credit and entitlement, Internet and media. All of these cultures are based on the selfish desires within us. They all seek to gratify the self. None, speaking generally, endorse a selfless life of discipleship to Christ. Of course, there are media outlets and Internet sites that promote and teach discipleship, but by and large, the above cultures do not teach discipleship. In fact, they are all the antithesis to becoming a selfless disciple of Christ.
The key question for all parents is: are you promoting a culture of discipleship or a culture of the selfish? I would imagine there is a mixture of both in most homes; and if so, are you ensuring that the culture of discipleship is outweighing the culture of selfishness in your home?
Elder M. Russell Ballard - Be Anxiously Engaged
All of this symbolism [of the bees and beehives] attests to one fact: great things are brought about and burdens are lightened through the efforts of many hands “anxiously engaged in a good cause” (D&C 58:27). Imagine what the millions of Latter-day Saints could accomplish in the world if we functioned like a beehive in our focused, concentrated commitment to the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Savior’s words are simple, yet their meaning is profound and deeply significant. We are to love God and to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. Imagine what good we can do in the world if we all join together, united as followers of Christ, anxiously and busily responding to the needs of others and serving those around us—our families, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens.
When our hearts are no longer set upon the things of this world, we will no longer aspire to the honors of men or seek only to gratify our pride (see D&C 121:35–37). Rather, we take on the Christlike qualities that Jesus taught:
•We are gentle and meek and long-suffering (see DC 121:41).
• We are kind, without hypocrisy or guile (see DC 121:42).
• We feel charity toward all men (see DC 121:45).
• Our thoughts are always virtuous (see DC 121:45).
• We no longer desire to do evil (see Mosiah 5:2).
•The Holy Ghost is our constant companion, and the doctrines of the priesthood distill upon our souls as the dews from heaven (see DC 121:45–46).
COMMENTARY: Elder Ballard's talk was all about becoming a disciple of Christ. He went to to suggest if all we do every morning in our prayer is ask in faith, who or how we can help that day, that that would change our lives and hearts significantly.
Elder Robert C. Gay - What Shall a Man Give in Exchange for his Soul? This is the exchange the Savior is asking of us: we are to give up all our sins, big or small, for the Father’s reward of eternal life. We are to forget self-justifying stories, excuses, rationalizations, defense mechanisms, procrastinations, appearances, personal pride, judgmental thoughts, and doing things our way. We are to separate ourselves from all worldliness and take upon us the image of God in our countenances.
COMMENTARY: another good talk about what it requires to become a true disciple of Christ. We really need to lose all the selfish desires within us to find the true and lasting happiness that discipleship in Christ offers.
Elder Scott D. Whiting - Temple Standard Like the contractor, when we become aware of elements in our own lives that are inconsistent with the teachings of the Lord, when our efforts have been less than our very best, we should move quickly to correct anything that is amiss, recognizing that we cannot hide our sins from the Lord. We need to remember that “when we undertake to cover our sins, … behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; [and] the Spirit of the Lord is grieved.”
I also learned that the high standards of temple building employed by this Church are a type and even a symbol of how we should be living our own lives.
We are each made of the finest materials, and we are the miraculous result of divine craftsmanship. However, as we move past the age of accountability and step onto the battlefield of sin and temptation, our own temple can become in need of renovation and repair work. Perhaps there are walls within us that are gritty and need buffing or windows of our souls that need replacement in order that we can stand in holy places. Gratefully, the temple standard that we are asked to meet is not that of perfection, although we are striving for it, but rather that we are keeping the commandments and doing our best to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that we will all endeavor to live a life worthy of the blessings of the temple by doing our best, by making the necessary improvements and eliminating flaws and imperfections so that the Spirit of God may always dwell in us.
COMMENTARY: we are commanded by the Savior Himself to "be perfect." Only by comparing our heart's desires to that of the Lord's can we assess if we are perfect or not. If there remains in us any selfish desires or opinions, then we have more work to do. We can, at first, attack the symptoms of our imperfections by adhering to the commandments and not succumbing to temptations. But if we attack the core - our hearts - and rid it of all desire for bad and replace it with a love for all that is Good and we have a will that is God's will, then we are on the path to becoming perfect, even as Christ and our Father in Heaven is perfect.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson - Brethren, We Have Work to Do
As men of the priesthood, we have an essential role to play in society, at home, and in the Church. But we must be men that women can trust, that children can trust, and that God can trust. In the Church and kingdom of God in these latter days, we cannot afford to have boys and men who are drifting. We cannot afford young men who lack self-discipline and live only to be entertained. We cannot afford young adult men who are going nowhere in life, who are not serious about forming families and making a real contribution in this world. We cannot afford husbands and fathers who fail to provide spiritual leadership in the home. We cannot afford to have those who exercise the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God, waste their strength in pornography or spend their lives in cyberspace (ironically being of the world, while not being in the world).
COMMENTARY: I found this talk to be quite fascinating. While I emphatically agree with many of the recommendations he offers - especially about having self-discipline - I somewhat disagree with what is driving men to not "man up". He seemingly buys into the premise that men are evil and horrible by nature and must be fixed. I attribute the results of men acting the way they do today to the religion of feminisim - that the problems we see today are the result of decades of buying the feminist premise. The premise of feminism is false and is proving the destruction of the family and much more today. However, regardless of what is causing men to act this way, the solution to counteract this is the same: discipleship in Christ. Men must set the narrative of true discipleship in Christ. We must truly be selfless, in direct opposition to the extreme selfishness of feminisim. Discipleship and selflessness truly is the answer.
Bishop Gary E. Stevenson - Be Valiant in Courage, Strength and Activity
Missionaries are taught from Preach My Gospel, “What you choose to think and do when you are alone and you believe no one is watching is a strong measure of your virtue.” Be courageous! Be strong! “Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved.”
COMMENTARY: as a man thinks, so he is. As we think selflessly; we will become selfless and we become disciples of Christ. The more our thoughts are attuned to Christ, the less power our natural desires have over us; the more we submit to the will of God.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf - The Joy of the Priesthood
Christ is the source of all true priesthood authority and power on earth. It is His work, in which we are privileged to assist. “And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.”
We do not act for personal gain, but rather we seek to serve and to lift up others. We lead not by force but through “persuasion, … long-suffering, … gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” COMMENTARY: the above quote is simply a definition of selflessness.
President Henry B. Eyring - Help Them Aim High My son has given priesthood service across three continents but most importantly in his home and within his family. He has built his life around them. He works close to home, and he often returns to join his wife and younger children at the lunch hour. His family lives very near Sister Eyring and me. They care for our yard as though it were their own. This son is living not only to qualify for eternal life but also to live surrounded eternally by grateful family members whom he is gathering around him.
Life eternal is to live in unity, in families, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Eternal life is only possible through the keys of the priesthood of God, which were restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Holding that eternal goal before the youth you lead is as great a gift as you could give them. You will do it primarily by example in your own family. Those you lead may not have a family in the Church, but I challenge you to help them feel and want the love of family on both sides of the veil.
COMMENTARY: this quote provided quite a bit of comfort to me. The nature of our life (thousands of miles away from parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/cousins) does not allow us to serve those members of our family. Therefore, most of our sevice is centered around our own, immediate family, our neighbors, our church friends and with those we work.
President Henry B. Eyring - Where is the Pavilion? As we do what He would have us do for His Father’s children, the Lord considers it kindness to Him, and we will feel closer to Him as we feel His love and His approval. In time we will become like Him and will think of the Judgment Day with happy anticipation.
The pavilion that seems to be hiding you from God may be fear of man rather than this desire to serve others. The Savior’s only motivation was to help people. Many of you, as I have, have felt fear in approaching someone you have offended or who has hurt you. And yet I have seen the Lord melt hearts time after time, including my own. And so I challenge you to go for the Lord to someone, despite any fear you may have, to extend love and forgiveness. I promise you that as you do, you will feel the love of the Savior for that person and His love for you, and it will not seem to come from a great distance. For you, that challenge may be in a family, it may be in a community, or it may be across a nation.
But if you go for the Lord to bless others, He will see and reward it. If you do this often enough and long enough, you will feel a change in your very nature through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Not only will you feel closer to Him, but you will also feel more and more that you are becoming like Him. Then, when you do see Him, as we all will, it will be for you as it was for Moroni when he said: “And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland - The First Great Commandment
COMMENTARY: I won't even try to separate out a few quotes from this talk. Just go read the whole thing - it is all about discipleship.
Elder Robert D. Hales - Being a More Christian Christian As Christians today, we have the opportunity to act straightway, immediately, and decisively, just as Peter and Andrew did: “they forsook their nets, and followed him.” We too are called upon to leave our nets, to reject worldly habits, customs, and traditions. We are also called to forsake our sins. “When [Jesus] had called the people unto him … , he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” Denying ourselves of ungodly behavior is the beginning of repentance, which brings a mighty change of heart until “we have no more disposition to do evil.”
COMMENARY: like Elder Holland's talk, Elder Hale's talked about commitment to the Savior. This talk is another one that should be read in its entirety.
Elder Daniel L. Johnson - Becoming a True Disciple Our discipleship will be developed and proven not by the type of trials that we are faced with but how we endure them. As we have been taught by President Henry B. Eyring: “So, the great test of life is to see whether we will hearken to and obey God’s commands in the midst of the storms of life. It is not to endure storms, but to choose the right while they rage. And the tragedy of life is to fail in that test and so fail to qualify to return in glory to our heavenly home” (“Spiritual Preparedness: Start Early and Be Steady,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2005, 38).