(This article was originally published on Gospel Ideals).
“I know that my Redeemer lives.” Job said it. Other prophets and apostles of both the Bible and Book of Mormon have said it, and each first Sunday of every month, numerous members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, including me, testify of it in their Fast and Testimony meetings. However, even with so many testators, millions of people ask how they can personally attain a sure knowledge that Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, does in fact live.
The answer is quite simple: Heavenly Father, by the power of the Holy Ghost, will reveal it to our hearts and minds when we sincerely obey and pray to Him (Moroni 10:4-5).
This truth—this promise from God—is a process that applies to all people and in all ages of their lives. For example, a friend of mine recently asked her six-year-old niece how she knew Heavenly Father loved her. She replied that she knew Heavenly Father loved her because when she kept the commandments, He helped her. She had not only obeyed Him, but she had also recognized His hand in her life.
My first steps toward my testimony of Jesus Christ began in a similar fashion when I was a child. I no longer remember all the details surrounding such events, or even all the prayers I offered, but I do remember that every time I prayed to Him about things that were important to me at the time but now seem a bit frivolous, I recognized that He had answered me anyway. I prayed to Him for things like help in finding lost items, in providing ways to stay modest when my clothes were malfunctioning, and in achieving goals I’d spent many hours working on. In every instance, God answered those prayers in the affirmative, and each time He did, I not only knew that He had done so, but my trust and belief in Him also grew. I began to know that my redeemer lives.
But affirmative answers to my prayers are not the only reason I know God lives. I, like every person on this earth, have trials that test me almost more than I think I can bear. Many of them are ongoing, and though I have prayed for relief from them, they continue. Along that path, however, God has blessed me with tender, comforting mercies that provide a touch of balm to my soul and give me the strength to carry on.
One of those loving mercies came while I was working with young women in a spiritual activity at a church girls’ camp. All the participants were blind-folded, given an animal sound, and told we needed to find the rest of our “family” by making the assigned sound. When we found our family members, we were to hold them close to us and ultimately complete a specific task which brought us “Home.”
As luck would have it, shortly after I found my family, I lost them again, and at the end of activity, I was a lone person in the field. At that point, someone noticed I was “lost” and sent my family to retrieve me. They did so, and finally, tearfully, I returned to home base. But I wasn’t tearful because I was embarrassed I was the last one on the field (though I slightly was); I was crying because one of Christ’s parables had suddenly become alive in me; Alone in that field, I had received an answer of comfort to one of my never-ending prayers.
The parable is found in Matthew 20:1-16. It describes how a householder hired laborers for his vineyard at varying times of the day, and at the end of the day, paid all workers the same reward. Before that activity, when I’d read that parable, I’d thought as many of the earlier-hired workers in the story had, that it wasn’t fair for those who’d worked all day to receive the same wage as those who’d worked an hour. However, as I stood alone, after all I could do on my own, and was finally rescued, I realized that parable witnesses of Christ’s mercy. I learned that it doesn't matter to Him whether we make it to God’s Kingdom first or last. What matters is that we get there. And when we get there, we’ll each receive the same reward: Eternal Life.
That answered prayer, along with many others, comforted my heart and strengthened my hope in Jesus Christ. That is how I know that my redeemer lives.<< MORE >>
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It's Friday the 13th! Normally we think of Friday the 13th as unlucky—but today is your lucky day! It's a one day sale on over thirty books. Stock up for yourself, grab great deals on Christmas gifts, and find something for everyone!
The Book Blogger's Cookbook (2011) by Christy DorrityPromotion Price: 99¢ Click here to purchase! Great books, bloggers, and recipes meet in this fresh and unique cookbook that helps you experience books, not just read them. Books were selected from the author’s book review blog and paired with delectable recipes like “Fairy Touched Calico Brownies” from the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull, “7-Day Layer Dip” from Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, and “I Hate Chocolate Cake” from Amanda Hocking’s Switched. Whether you're a food lover, an avid reader or a book blogger, there’s something for you in The 2011 Book Blogger’s Cookbook.
Working It Out by Rachael Anderson
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way she likes it. But when she gets roped into going to an auction to help out a friend, everything changes. She meets Seth Tuttle—a guy who unexpectedly kisses her then disappears, leaving her
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by Stephanie Fowers
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Third Time's the Charm by Heather B. Moore Sale price for promotion: 99¢.Click here to purchase! Liz Carlson will settle for a normal man. A normal man with a job, that is. Married twice, then divorced twice, Liz had her rose-colored glasses fall off and shatter on the ground a long time ago. Her main focus now is raising her six-year-old daughter and surviving long days at work on her feet as a hairdresser. When Sloane Branden answers her call for help, quite literally, Liz doesn’t even give him a second glance. She has sworn off dating for as many years as it takes, and it seems that Sloane has done the same after his own tumultuous marriage. But when Liz realizes that Sloane defies every stereotypical deadbeat she has dated, she might just find room in her heart and discover the third time’s the charm.
Loyalty's Web by Joyce DiPastena Sale price for promotion: 99¢. Click here to purchase from Amazon and Smashwords! Heléne de Laurant has not forgotten how the Earl of Gunthar destroyed her father’s castle during Henry II’s war with his sons. Apparently neither have her family and friends, for when someone tries to murder Gunthar, every sign points in their direction. Heléne realizes the only way to prove her loved ones’ innocence is by exposing the true assassin. As Heléne and Gunthar spar over the identity of the traitor, fierce determination gives way to mutual attraction. Heléne must race against time, and dark secrets of the past, to unmask the would-be killer before the kingdom plunges back into war and takes the life of the man she has unexpectedly learned to love.
I, Spy (Spy Another Day #1)
by Jordan McCollum
Regular price: $3.99 Promotion Price: 99¢ Click here to purchase on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, or author's websiteCanada is probably the last place you’d expect to find an American spy. But even idyllic Ottawa has its deadly secrets—and so does CIA operative
Talia Reynolds. She can climb through ventilation shafts, blend in at the occasional diplomatic function, even scale buildings (small ones). But there’s one thing she can’t do: tell her aerospace
engineer boyfriend Danny about her Top Secret occupation. It worked for a year, keeping Danny in the dark, keeping him away from danger, keeping her secrets. And then Talia finally catches a hot
case: Fyodor Timofeyev. Russian. Aerospace executive. Possible spy? She can make this work, too—until Danny needs her at the same time her country does. And when Fyodor targets Danny? Suddenly her
schedule isn’t the only thing suffering. Now to save her secrets and her country, Talia must sacrifice the man she loves.
by Cami Checketts
Promotion Price: FREE Click here to purchase!
Can they catch a killer that no one believes is real?
Jake Merrill was raised by his grandmother, Ruby, and her hilarious friends. After a suspicious death at the retirement home where Ruby lives, she enlists Jake and Chanel, the beautiful activities director, to help her find the killer.
Secrets Ruby has kept for decades threaten her family and the man she's always loved, but could never have. Chanel's unstable ex-boyfriend, a presumably dead relative, and vicious criminals add to the confusion. Time is running out as Jake, Chanel, and Ruby desperately search for clues to solve the murders and fight to save those they love. "Poison Me made me laugh out loud and thoroughly enjoy myself. I wish I had a friend like Ruby! Snappy dialogue, romance, and a strong sense of family made this book well worth reading." Rachel Ann Nunes, bestselling author of Line of Fire and Before I Say Goodbye
The Colony by Cami Checketts Sale price for promotion: 99¢.Click here to purchase! To protect her sons from the mistakes of her past, Brinlee Trapper escapes to a secluded mountain home. But there are dangers lurking in the mountains she has never encountered. The little family is saved from injury by Jed, a mysterious hunter. Brinlee is drawn to him, but she worries about his involvement with a peaceful commune hidden deep in the mountains behind her property. Lance, Brinlee’s attentive neighbor, has his own troubled history. Between his obvious attraction to Brinlee and his developing love for her children, Brinlee finds it more than difficult to guard her heart against this tender intrusion. While Jed offers a life of excitement and freedom, Lance holds the key to the family Brinlee always wanted. When it comes time to choose, she learns that both men have secrets that could shatter her fledgling trust in men and the wrong decision could leave more than her heart exposed to danger. "Cami Checketts is a genius! She writes about topics that aren't widely discussed, in and out of books, and she does such a brilliant job of crafting these things into wonderful stories that touch your heart and remain with you for days afterwards." Myra, Reviewer, Pieces of Whimsy
A Change of Plans (Safe Harbors #1) by Donna K. Weaver Sale price for promotion: $2.99. Click here to purchase from Amazon and Barnes & Noble! When Lyn sets off on her supposedly uncomplicated and unromantic cruise, she never dreams it will include pirates. All the 25-year-old Colorado high school teacher wants is to forget that her dead fiancé was a cheating scumbag. What she plans is a vacation diversion; what fate provides is Braedon, an intriguing surgeon. She finds herself drawn to him: his gentle humor, his love of music, and even his willingness to let her take him down during morning karate practices. Against the backdrop of the ship’s make-believe world and its temporary friendships, her emotions come alive. However, fear is an emotion, too. Unaware of the sensitive waters he navigates, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendship—on the very anniversary Lyn came on the cruise to forget. But Lyn's painful memories are too powerful, and she runs off in a panic. Things are bad enough when the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise’s snorkeling excursions in American Samoa. However, paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped. Lyn’s fear of a fairytale turns grim. Now she must fight alongside the man she rejected, first for their freedom and then against storms, sharks, and shipwreck.Also available as an audio book from Audible!
The Change (Unbounded #1)
by Teyla Branton
No Second Chances. Death, Life, or Love—Unbounded Always Play for Keeps.
There are only two ways to kill Unbounded, and fire isn’t one of them—as law school dropout Erin Radkey learns the hard way. By fluke of a recessive gene, she has become Unbounded, a nearly immortal being with paranormal abilities.
Erin’s Change separates her from her loved ones and alters everything she believes to be true. A week earlier she was considering a marriage proposal; now she contemplates the best way to stay alive. Caught in a battle between two Unbounded groups, the Emporium and the Renegades, she is also hunted by a secret mortal society sworn to eradicate the Unbounded gene.
As Erin plunges into this dangerous new life, she must carve out her own place in the madness, protect her mortal family, and decide which group she should join. Her unique ability is vital to both groups in the race to secure an identification software that spells death for all Unbounded—or enslavement for the entire mortal world. Some will stop at nothing to use Erin as one more pawn in a battle that has spanned centuries. Erin’s undeniable attraction to Ritter Langton, whose family was massacred by opposing Unbounded two hundred and forty years ago, complicates her choices. There are no second chances. Death, life, or love—Unbounded always play for keeps.
Non-stop action, terrifying consequences, and powerful romance make The Change an exciting addition to the world of romantic urban fantasy.
by Ilyan Kei Lavanway
Young wife Gracie yearns for renewed innocence. Abiathar wants to secure it for her. Their trek has been anything but blissful. Stomach their journey, and let your faith be strengthened through their experience. Glimpse tribulations and miracles future pioneers may expect as you live vicariously through the life of this young family.
Out of the Picture and Into the Picture
by Victor G. La Van Way and Ilyan Kei Levanway
Out of the Picture and Into the Picture by Victor G. La Van Way and Ilyan Kei Lavanway is a fantasy adventure book containing two short stories about a pilot who is miraculously reunited with his father in a strange storm. Experience superimposed worlds and altered realities. Relive the thrill of flight as you follow this pilot's mysterious journey. Find a renewed hope and youthful determination.
The Big Debate (Literary Loom Book One) by Carolyn Twede Frank Promotion Price: 99¢ Click here to purchase! A bizarre corpse . . . A strange girl . . . A creepy teacher . . . A cool invention . . . Combine these with an old school and a new student anxious to fit in, and the adventure begins. Fifteen-year-old Josh’s big mouth gets him in trouble at first.<< MORE >>
In recent days, over 43 LDS authors signed a letter titled "Mormon Writers Ask for Manuscripts to be Treated on Quality of Work Not Content of Biography." I was one of those authors, for I do not believe that anyone, no matter their beliefs, should be mistreated. However, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I affirm that I do not support the gay lifestyle. My feelings are the same as those published by the Church at this link.<< MORE >>
Dan opened his eyes. The tent roof spread darkly overhead, just as it had before he’d fallen asleep. But when he rolled over, he saw a bright light glowing through the tent wall. It was from the dining room of the house.
Page moaned. “What’s wrong?”
“Looks like Mom and Dad are awake,” Dan said. “They must still be worried about us. Didn’t they ever sleep in their backyards when they were kids?”
Page shifted inside her sleeping bag. “What do Mom and Dad have to do with—er . . .” Page sat up. “What are you talking about?”
“The same thing you’re talking about. The light. It woke you up, didn’t it?”
“No,” Page said. “I woke up because my feet are tingling.”
“So?” Dan crinkled his toes. They were a little sore from running in the town race that day, but they weren’t tingling. “You probably just slept funny.”
Page reached beside her and grabbed her Sabatons of Peace. They were the foot armor she’d earned in the Hidden Kingdom yesterday before they’d whooshed back home to Utah. “My feet are tingling the same way they did when Mom showed us how our sabatons worked. She said if it happened again, I was supposed to tell her about it.”
Dan scrambled out of his sleeping bag. “Why didn’t you tell me they tingled then?”
“I just thought my feet weren’t used to wearing the sabatons.” Page put them on her feet and crawled to the tent door. She unzipped it. She poked her head through the opening.
Page turned back to him. “What?”
He pointed at her feet. “Your sabatons are glowing.”
Page scooted back inside the tent. She stretched her feet in front of her. “Wow! They’ve never done that before.”
“Maybe mine will glow too.” Dan shoved his feet into his own sabatons. He stared at them and waited.
Why didn’t his feet tingle? Why didn’t his sabatons glow? Mom had told him there wasn’t anything wrong with him. She said there were other kids who didn’t go to the Hidden Kingdom until they were nine years old either. Was she wrong?
“Let’s go,” Page said.
They climbed out of the tent and ran to the back door. Dan opened it.
“Mom?” Dan called.
When no one answered, Dan switched on the kitchen light. He waved for Page to follow him.
They walked to the dining room door. Dan pushed it open.
The first thing Dan saw was a black box that looked like a treasure chest. It lay in the middle of the table. Mom and Dad sat in the chairs on either side of the table.
“Dad?” Dan said.
Dad stood. “What are you two doing in here? Is something wrong?”
“The dining room light woke me up,” Dan said. “And then Page’s sabatons—look at them!”
Dan moved from in front of Page.
“I feel like something bad is going to happen,” Page said.
Dad’s eyes rounded wide. “Quick! Close the door!”
A shiver shot through Dan’s chest. Why did Dad look so scared?
Mom rushed over to Page and knelt next to her. “Are your toes tingling again?”
“Yes,” Page said.
Mom looked at Dad.
Dad placed his clenched fist on top of the treasure chest. “We better leave,” he said.
Suddenly, Dan’s feet began to tingle, and his sabatons glowed. But he didn’t feel danger coming. Instead, he pictured Cameron, the boy who’d taught them how to use their bows and arrows while they were in the Hidden Kingdom.
“They’ll warn you of danger,” Cameron’s voice said inside Dan’s mind.
Dan scrunched his eyebrows together. He stared down at his metal-plated foot armor, especially at the arrows along the upper rims. Had Cameron been talking to Page and not to him?
Worse than that? It was way too small. Dan would never be able to run faster than the wind, faster than lightning, even faster than a superhero before he reached the back fence.
Mom took her hands off the steering wheel and looked over her shoulder at Dan. “Your sister’s almost at the slide. Don’t you want to go with her?”
Dan squirmed within his seat belt. “Not really.”
“Are you sure? Your dad and I used to love to play here when we were kids,” Mom said.
Dan slipped his hand into his pants pocket and squeezed the hard, gold medal. “Fastest Boy in Mrs. Peabody’s Class,” it said. He’d won it last month before school ended.
“I’m sure,” he said.
Mom sighed, opened her car door, and stepped outside.
Dan watched her through the window. Any minute now, she would call Page back, and the three of them would return to the house where Grandpa lived before he disappeared. It was the same house he and his family now lived in.
Mom glanced down at Dan. “You’ll like it here,” she said.
“No I won’t,” Dan said.
Mom cocked her head to one side. She smiled the way she did when she hid a Christmas or birthday present behind her back. “Try the swings first, Page,” she called to Dan’s sister. “They’re amazing.”
Page turned and waved.
Dan undid his seatbelt. He opened his door. “What’s so amazing about the swings?”
Mom smiled her secret smile again. “You’ll have to find that out for yourself.”
“Oh, all right.” Dan climbed out of the car.
“Race ya, Dan!” Page called. She started running.
Dan ran too. Within seconds, he zipped past Page and jumped onto the first tree swing.
“Take care of your little sister,” Mom called.
Why? They weren’t going anywhere. “All right,” Dan called back. He then pushed his air-light sneakers into the sky.
Page jumped onto the tree swing next to his. She kicked off her sandals.
“Look! I’m higher than the other trees!” Dan said.
“So am I,” Page said.
“Now I’m higher than the Rocky Mountains.” Dan pumped his swing higher, but when it also went faster, he gritted his teeth. He clenched the swing chains.
“What’s happening?” Page yelled.
“We’ve got to jump off these swings!” Dan said. Then he jumped.
Clouds whisked past him. Wind whooshed like the inside of a hollow tunnel. The playground . . . then Mom . . . disappeared.
Dan landed on his stomach with his face pressed flat against the ground.
“Are you all right?” Page whispered.
Dan moaned. He wanted to say, “I don’t know. Are you?” But his mouth was full of dirt.
“I think so,” Page said. “Nothing hurts.”
That’s weird! Dan thought.
Dan spit out the dirt. “Page?” he thought again. “Are you moving your mouth when you talk?”
“No,” Page answered. “Are you?”
“No. All I do is think the words and you hear them.”
“Same with me. Cool, huh?”
“Cool. And strange. Have you opened your eyes yet?”
“Nope. I’m afraid to look. When we jumped, I couldn’t see the playground anymore.”
“Me neither,” Dan said. “Let’s both open our eyes at the same time. Okay?”
“Okay. On the count of three. One . . .”
“Two. . .”
“Three,” they said together. Both opened their eyes.
“Where are we?” Page said.
Right in front of them, Dan saw a tall, rocky mountain. It went straight toward the sky.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “Mom said we would be surprised. Do you think this is what she was talking about?”
“Maybe.” Page frowned.
“Your voice is wobbling,” Dan said. “Are you all right?”
“I feel like I did the first day I went to Kindergarten.”
That’s how Dan felt too—all scared inside—but he didn’t want his sister to know. He wanted her to think he was brave. So he looked over his shoulder away from her.
“AAAAAAAH!” Page screamed. “We’re on the edge of a mountain!”
“Don’t look down!” Dan grabbed her hand. “We’ll be all right. Let’s climb away from here.”
Inch after inch, Dan and Page climbed up the face of the rocky mountain until it flattened into a large, green field. The grass was sprinkled with tiny gold and purple flowers.
They crawled a few more feet into the field then stood. Safe again.
Page squeezed Dan’s hand tighter. “Are we still in the Rocky Mountains?”
Dan looked around him. He saw a circle of sharp, jagged mountains with a valley in the middle. The mountains were covered in thick, moss-like grass and lots of tall, bushy trees.
Some of the trees were dark green. Some were deep red. And some were bright gold. A shimmering castle stood on top of the tallest mountain on the other side of the valley.
“I don’t know where we are,” Dan said.
“You are in the Hidden Kingdom,” said a gravelly voice.<< MORE >>
A number of years ago, my husband and I had a difficult time getting along with one of our neighbors. Not even quick fixes, like cookies at the door, seemed to solve our grievances (although the cookies didn’t hurt J). To make matters more difficult, we were in the same ward, and the wife and I were serving in the same organization. Needless to say, we frequently felt offended and angry with one another.
Eventually, our bishop called my husband and me in to talk with him about the situation. After listening to our side of the story, we discussed possible solutions, including “cookies-at-the-door,” but ultimately, he said something like, “Read the scriptures, and when you find your answer, tell me about it.”
Several weeks later, I found my answer in Doctrine and Covenants 38:27, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”
Prior to this, I knew I needed to turn the other cheek and love my “enemies”—Isn’t that what the cookies were all about?—but when I read that scripture I realized I had to do more than try to show love; I had to become united with my neighbors or I wouldn’t belong to Christ. That knowledge stung. Worse, how could I accomplish it?
Although I’m still working on becoming “one” with others, over the ensuing years, I’ve come to know that being offended has nothing to do with the offense or the person who committed that offense. Instead, it has everything to do with ourselves and how we handle the situation. I’ve also learned there are four truths—albeit personal assessments—I’ve had to make on my continuing journey to become one with Christ.
1) 1) Am I choosing to not be offended?In a recent conference address, Elder Bednar stated: “To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.
"In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13-14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. . . To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.”
“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
3) Am I striving to become like Christ?Again, from Elder Bednar: “The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations.
“ And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).
4) 4) Do I fully trust Christ? While sometimes I might forget I know I can trust Christ, the truth is, I do know that I can. A few years after the event I mentioned at the beginning of this article, my family and I faced another, even more difficult challenge which involved lawsuits, large monetary loss, and great fear and distrust. After several years of trying to resolve the issue, I felt very angry and bitter. I knew these feelings were wrong, and yet no matter how hard I tried to get over them, I couldn’t do it.
One day, as I was folding laundry and feeling overwhelmingly upset, I prayed, “Heavenly Father, please help me! I can’t do this on my own.” Suddenly, just as the people of Alma had their burdens lightened so they could not feel them (Mosiah 24:14), I, literally, could no longer feel the burden of my anger and bitterness. I then knew the Lord was carrying that burden for me while I worked through my feelings. Christ does visit us in our afflictions.
A final note. I believe life is a laboratory, where each person has the opportunity to become more like Christ. Because of, or perhaps in spite of, that fact, we often find our own wills and weaknesses at odds with the wills and weaknesses of others. While such experiences may hurt us, they also provide the challenging friction that adds to our refiner’s fire and offers the double-edged opportunity to be saviors ourselves. I mean, through what other experiences can we better develop love and forgiveness for “enemies” who are, in fact, our beloved brothers and sisters—people we once, desperately, wanted to bring back home?<< MORE >>
When I was a child, Christmas Eve was a magical night of lying in bed and rapidly kicking my legs and feet between my sheets because I couldn’t contain my excitement; morning held the promise of long awaited dreams coming true. One particular year, I imagined the large box under the tree, addressed only to me, would be something expensive and wondrous, something like an elaborate dollhouse.
But as sometimes happens on Christmas morning, when I opened the box, instead of a dollhouse, I found a children’s novel buried under wadded newspaper. Although disappointed, I accepted the gift and read the book. It wasn’t until years later that I, with older and somewhat wiser eyes, realized the book was actually the better gift. As a child, had I played with dolls? Not much. Did I read books? Yes. The novel, though not what I’d thought I’d wanted, turned out to be the better gift.
Now, Christmas means so much more to me than temporal gifts. Besides being a time of giving, it’s also a time of gratitude for answered prayers and a time of rejoicing in God’s never-ending love and involvement in our lives. Actually, Christmas is becoming more like Thanksgiving to me, in that I enjoy the traditions that go along with the holiday, but like giving thanks for blessings, the deep and lasting, Eternal impressions that fill my heart and lift my sights closer to heaven are gifts that are always with me. I believe cherishing these spiritual witnesses is the real secret to keeping Christmas in my heart all year long.
However, just as that long ago holiday brought me disappointment, Heavenly Father’s gift of life to us also brings tribulations and heartache. Years ago, my husband and I faced an enemy—a hardship—from which we couldn’t walk away nor eliminate. We dealt with it as best we could, relying on the Lord for help, but we still couldn’t find relief. Eventually, I felt very bitter against “the enemy,” and though I knew I had to forgive, I couldn’t seem to find a way out of that bitterness. Finally, one day as I was folding laundry and feeling overwhelmed by my emotions, I prayed, “Please help me, Heavenly Father. I can’t do this on my own.” Instantly, my burden was gone. Literally. I knew the bitterness and the associated problems were still there somewhere, but I couldn’t feel them, and I knew then as I do now that the Lord had taken my burden for me and carried it as I struggled through the situation. This experience happened to me during the summer, but my joy and amazement felt like Christmas.
That is why this Christmas I’ve chosen to share with you a few gifts of comfort that only Christ can give during some of this life’s greatest trials. I don’t know whether or not I’ve chosen the right quotes that will lift you in your circumstances, but if I haven’t, please know the answers—the peace—you seek is out there and can be found through the mouths of our prophets and the whisperings of His Spirit to your soul. I know this to be true. Merry Christmas.
“I feel that judgment for sin is not always as cut-and-dried as some of us seem to think. The Lord said, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Does that mean that every person who kills will be condemned, no matter the circumstances? I feel the Lord recognized differences in intent and circumstances: Was the person who took his life mentally ill? Was he or she so deeply depressed as to be unbalanced or otherwise emotionally disturbed? Was the suicide a tragic, pitiful call for help that went unheeded too long or progressed faster than the victim intended? Did he or she somehow not understand the seriousness of the act? Was he or she suffering from a chemical imbalance in their system that led to despair and a loss of self-control?
“Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth.” (Russell M. Ballard )
And . . .
“we have our ‘second estate,’ which is the mortality we are now experiencing and our sojourn in the spirit world following death (italics added,Pres.
Marion G. Romney )
Victims of Abuse:
If you struggle with abuse, you may want to read this article in its entirety. Here’s a snippet:
“Satan uses your abuse to undermine your self-confidence, destroy trust in authority, create fear, and generate feelings of despair. Abuse can damage your ability to form healthy human relationships. You must have faith that all of these negative consequences can be resolved; otherwise they will keep you from full recovery. While these outcomes have powerful influence in your life, they do not define the real you. ” (Richard G. Scott)
To Those With Heavy Burdens:
You who may be momentarily disheartened, remember, life is not meant to be easy. Trials must be
borne and grief endured along the way. As you remember that “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37), know that He is your Father. You are a son or
daughter created in His image, entitled through your worthiness to receive revelation to help with your righteous endeavors. You may take upon you the holy name of the Lord. You can qualify to speak
in the sacred name of God (see D&C 1:20). It matters not that giants of tribulation torment you. Your prayerful access to help is just as real as when David battled his Goliath (see
1 Sam. 17). . . “For with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27)— Russell M. Nelson
“These are the reasons for the continual trials with which we are all faced. We need these experiences so that we might draw closer to the Lord and learn to depend on him for everything.” –Bishop H. Burke Peterson
“The fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ brings great comfort in stressing times of mortality. It brings light where there is darkness and a calming influence where there is turmoil. It gives eternal hope where there is mortal despair. It is more than just beautiful doctrine. It is a reality in our lives that if we can be obedient and obtain the eternal rewards that God grants us, if we will draw nigh unto Him and embrace the eternal doctrine, we will be blessed.” Robert D. Hales<< MORE >>
In preparation for this year’s holiday season, I experimented with what I called “The 12 days of Thanksgiving.” For twelve consecutive days (I actually went 15), I kept track of any “extra” blessings that came that day or “things” for which I felt especially or unusually grateful. The results amazed me. Every single day, I received answers to prayers, or "saw" amazing-to-me blessings.And you know what? As soon as I recognized them, I felt gratitude.After this experiment, I began to ponder on and study the words “thanksgiving” and “gratitude.” I went to LDS.org first, and to my surprise, while the word “thanksgiving” is frequently found in the scriptures, the word “gratitude” is not there at all. Neither is “grateful.” How could this be? Haven’t our leaders frequently taught us gratitude is a commandment from the Lord? That it’s a means to humility, the “mark of a noble soul and a refined character”, and “the foundation upon which repentance is built ”?
While these statements about gratitude are correct, through further study, I’ve come to see that not only is there a slight difference between the meanings of “Thanksgiving” and “gratitude,” but there is also an increased power that comes from combining the two.
The dictionary defines gratitude as a “feeling” of thanks and thanksgiving as an “act” of thanks, such as through prayer, acknowledgement, or praise. A feeling versus an action. Hmmm. To me, that sounds very much like sorrow for sins versus confessing and forsaking those sins, or even more profoundly, Nephi’s faithful “I know” compared with “I will go and do." Each, like the joining of gratitude and thanksgiving, are spiritual laws where obeying the individual commandments increases righteousness, but obeying its companion at the same time opens the windows of heaven.
One of the greatest scriptural examples of this principal is contained in the book of Luke:
“And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
In this Biblical account, ten deathly ill men obeyed the Lord and were healed from their disease. It is reasonable to me that each must have felt some measure of happiness, wonder, and perhaps even gratitude for the relieving of their suffering, but only one—the one who returned and physically thanked the Lord for His merciful gift—received the greater blessing.
Elder Merrill J. Bateman said, “As part of the great miracle of the Atonement and the Savior’s power to mend broken hearts, to heal from within, the parable of the ten lepers takes on new meaning. Luke describes Jesus meeting ten lepers. Upon seeing the Savior, they cried, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Jesus responded, “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” As they went their way, they were cleansed. One returned, fell on his face at the Master’s feet, and gave thanks. Jesus said, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” And then the Lord said to the one who returned, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (see Luke 17:12–19). In becoming a whole person, the grateful leper was healed inside as well as on the outside. That day nine lepers were healed skin deep, but only one had the faith to be made whole. The tenth leper was changed eternally by his faith in the Savior and the healing power of His Atonement.”
Modern scripture also reiterates this truth: “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more (D&C 78:19).”
<< MORE >>
After studying this principal, I began to wonder. During my 12 Days of Thanksgiving, did I allow heaven’s greater blessings to come into my life as well as perhaps bless the lives of others by immediately expressing thanks when I recognized them? In some instances, I’m sure I did, but in all cases? I don’t know. I simply can’t remember. But what I do know is now—right now—I have some thanking, some praising, and definitely some praying to do. For I am grateful.
My family lives on a small farm. We raise hay, cows and goats, but we also try to raise a garden. I say try because over the years I’ve learned that animals and
gardens don’t necessarily mix. Take my strawberry “patch” for instance. Strawberries are among my favorite fruits, so every year I try to grow them. Before we became farmers, I was successful at
growing them, but when adversity—i.e., goats—entered my life, I discovered that they, too, like to eat strawberries. Not a good thing.
Because goats are so prone to finding ways out of their pens and then making a beeline for the garden, every year for the past several years, I’ve tried to outsmart them by planting new strawberry plants in hidden or remote areas of our yard. But without fail, and no matter how hard we try to maintain their pens, the animals manage to break out, find my strawberries, and eat them either before or just after the plants have begun to bear fruit. Two years ago I finally, dejectedly, gave up my quest to grow strawberries.
And then a new spring arrived. While I was weeding the flower garden and preparing it for a new year, I found a single strawberry plant growing amid the other perennials. I was SOOO excited. It had survived not only the goats but also my neglect because I hadn’t known it was there.
At first, I considered digging it up and moving it, yet again, to a new location, but I eventually decided to leave it where it was. I also told my husband about it,
and he, knowing the struggles I’d had, directly put up a metal panel fence around the flower bed. I wasn’t sure it would be enough protection, but I hoped, and nourished, watched. After a few months,
it began to bear a few berries. I thought they were among the most delicious berries I’d tasted, but before the season had ended . . , yup! You guessed it. The goats escaped, went straight for the
flower garden, and ripped the top right off the strawberry plant.
Again summer, fall, and winter passed into a new spring—this spring—and I began to prepare the flower garden for the coming season. To my delight, I found not only
one living strawberry plant, but FIVE! Strawberries are prolific, and such growth is not uncommon, but after all the adversity I’d had with them, I felt they were the most wonderful plants in the
One righteous person has the same thriving, fruit-bearing power. Over the course of time, the world has faced innumerable hardships and conflicts, but in spite of
them, righteous men and women have stepped forward and changed the course of man’s downward spiral. While the scriptures overflow with powerful examples of such people, like David fighting Goliath,
Esther saving the Jews, and Captain Moroni raising his coat of freedom and leading others against a wicked king, these righteous people are not the only ones who’ve stood—or now stand—for
righteousness and make a difference in this struggling world.
In fact, if we are watching, we’ll see that in spite of the world’s growing degradation and perniciousness, modern LDS youth and adults have increased their devotion
to temple attendance, scripture study, and kindness. In the July, 1985 Ensign, Gail Argetsinger, costume director for the Manti pageant, saw the results of a good man living his religion:
When I decided to make the armor for the pageant’s “Moroni and the Title of Liberty” scene out of leather, I visited several dealers in New York City. One place, in a rough section of Manhattan, had exactly what I was looking for.
The store was run by a blunt but friendly man who introduced himself as “Sam.” My husband, Jerry, and I explained what we were looking for and that we represented the Hill Cumorah Pageant, sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sam lit up like a candle. “The Mormons! Well, come right in, make yourselves at home.”
Jerry and I looked at each other. Usually our introduction drew no response except, “So? You got cash?” This leather dealer was actually glad to see us!
He gave us advice on selecting hides and how to cut them to best advantage. Then, as we worked, Sam began to talk about his experience with Latter-day Saints.
When he had joined the United States Air Force at the outbreak of World War II, his basic training had been at Hill Air Force Base in Utah. It was his first time out of New York City. Like many good Jewish boys, he had been raised in fear of the gentiles. He had never seen a Latter-day Saint. But as he got to know the many LDS airmen in his group, he learned to love them. “I don’t believe I’ve ever been treated better by anyone,” he said. “But the reason I’ll always love the Mormons is for something that happened later in the war.”
In 1942 Sam was flying bombing missions over North Africa. His commanding officer, Major Hawkins, was a Latter-day Saint from Salt Lake City.
As Passover approached, Sam and the other Jews in camp discussed how they would celebrate it under combat conditions. To start with, there was no unleavened bread. They thought they would have to use soda crackers.
On the night before the Passover celebration, when Major Hawkins returned from a combat mission about midnight, he went to Sam’s tent and awakened him. “Sam,” he whispered, “I just heard you boys have no unleavened bread for Passover.”
“That’s right,” Sam told him.
“Well, come on,” said the major, pulling Sam to his feet. “There’s still time. I’ll fly you to Tel Aviv to get some.” So Sam and the major squeezed piggyback into the cockpit of a small plane and flew all the way to Palestine.
“I still can’t believe it,” Sam told us. “I asked myself what kind of a man would understand the importance of our sacred rituals. This was the middle of a war, and we didn’t exactly own the skies at that point. He risked his life to get us that unleavened bread. The Mormons are something special, all right!”
Sam gave us a good price break on the leather. And it was all because forty years before a righteous man had lived the teachings of the gospel.
When we went back to his store the next year, Sam was unable to give us the same price break on his leather. I told him it was quite all right. We greatly appreciated his generosity the first time, but to expect such a deal the second time would be taking advantage of him. We expected to pay a fair price.
He smiled. “A Mormon would understand that.” Then he told us the whole story of his war experience again. “The Latter-day Saints are something special,” he kept repeating. “I really love them.”
Thank you, Major Hawkins, wherever you are!
I agree. Thank you to Major Hawkins and to everyone else who lives the principles of the gospel. Like a strawberry plant, righteousness has the power to spread and grow good fruit that leads ourselves, our families, and our nations back to Christ. I mean, remember Joseph from the Old Testament? After being sold into slavery, taken far from his family, and imprisoned through false accusations, his faithful obedience eventually spread so far and bore enough good fruit that he saved himself, his family, and his people from starvation. Not only that, but he also restored peace and goodness to his family. Isn’t that what we all want?<< MORE >>
The October General Conference marks the beginning of a beloved time of year. With Thanksgiving reunions just around the corner, Christmas surprises close on its heels, and inspired words from our prophet ringing through our hearts, we can’t help but rejoice. And that rejoicing is only increased when we add music to our celebrations.
Consider the Christmas season. Each year, we observe through sacred words, nativities, and gift-giving the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. However, some of my most memorable celebrations have come through my participation in music. For example, each year when I hear “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve or sing the words “yet in my flesh shall I see God” from Handel’s “Messiah,” I inwardly rejoice.
Special commemorations are not the only ways we can celebrate our faith. According to the dictionary, to celebrate also means to proclaim widely and favorably, so when we bear our testimonies in Sacrament Meetings or express our gratitude to God around our Thanksgiving tables, we are, in fact, celebrating our faith. But if we combine those proclamations with music, our rejoicing becomes even more profound. For example, if it wasn’t for the musical celebrations performed each Sunday morning by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, my husband’s father would not have found the church. According to him, years ago neither he nor his family belonged to a church, but they did regularly listen to the Tabernacle Choir’s Sunday radio broadcast. One day, the missionaries came to the door and asked him if he’d like to learn about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He refused. The missionaries then asked him what church he did belong to, and he, not knowing what else to say, said, “The Church of Richard L. Evans.” The two missionaries looked at each other and then said, “That’s us!” Needless to say, my father-in-law let the missionaries in, and his family later joined the church.
This leads me to another way we celebrate our faith. It is not defined in the dictionary, nevertheless, it is very real and comes nearest, I believe, to true heavenly rejoicing. It is the method born of Spirit speaking to spirit and is one of the tender mercies given to us from the Lord. The only feeling I can think of that comes closest to it is like what we feel those first moments after the birth of a baby. But more frequently, that spiritual celebration comes through our hymns.
Elder Merrill J. Bateman told the following story :
“. . . When she was old enough, the parents enrolled Heather in a special school . . .One morning as Heather and the teacher visited about the prior weekend, the teacher learned that Heather had attended Primary. The teacher then sang for Heather “When He Comes Again.”
“The expression on Heather’s face revealed the delight within her. When the teacher asked Heather if she had a favorite song, the young girl’s wide eyes and engaging smile left little doubt. But what was the song? Through a series of questions, the teacher learned that Heather’s song was one she had heard in Primary . . . (and after three days of painstaking work) the teacher (finally) began to sing, “There is sunshine in my soul today.” Heather’s body jumped, and a big smile crossed her face. Her eyes gazed directly into the teacher’s, indicating success . . . Both teacher and student rejoiced.
“. . . After finishing the first verse and chorus, the teacher asked if she wanted to hear the rest of the verses, and Heather’s eyes opened wide with a firm yes. The teacher began to sing:
There is music in my soul today,
A carol to my King,
And Jesus listening can hear
The songs I cannot sing.
“Heather’s reaction to these lines was so strong that the teacher stopped. As the reality and significance of the words pressed on the teacher’s mind, she asked: “Heather, is that what you like about the song? . . . Does Jesus . . . hear the songs you cannot sing?”
“The direct, penetrating gaze indicated yes.
“Feeling guided by the Spirit, the teacher asked, “Heather, does Jesus talk to you in your mind and in your heart?”
“Again, the child’s look was penetrating.
“. . . Does Jesus say, ‘Heather, I love you’?”
“Heather’s radiant eyes widened, and she smiled.
“After a pause, the teacher asked next, “Does He say, ‘Heather, you’re special’?”
“The answer again was yes.
“Finally the teacher asked, “Does He say, ‘Heather, be patient; I have great things in store for you’?”
“Heather summoned all her strength, and her head became erect and her eyes penetrated the teacher’s soul. She knew she was
loved, she was special, and she needed only to be patient.
“Two years later, Heather died . . .Her younger brother Mark also suffers from the disease but not to the extent of his older sisters. . . As the parents discussed
Heather’s passing and the funeral that would take place, Mark exclaimed, “No go Heather’s funeral!” . . . For two days he could not be persuaded.
“On the morning of the funeral, the father went to Mark’s room to get him up. As he entered the room, Mark was sitting up in bed with a big smile on his face. His first words were, “Dad, go Heather’s funeral!”
“The father responded, “Mark, what has changed your mind?”
“. . . Dad, dreamed about Heather.”
“Mark, what was Heather doing?”
“Oh, Dad, Heather running and jumping and singing, ‘There is sunshine in my soul today.’ Dad, go Heather’s funeral.”
It’s no secret that I love music, especially the hymns of the church. Perhaps that’s because music is one of my talents, or maybe it’s because I grow closer
to God through the hymns, but whatever the truth, I am grateful I can celebrate my faith in Jesus Christ through music.
“Because I have loved so deeply,
Because I have loved so long,
God in His great compassion
Gave me the gift of song.” (Paul Laurence Dunbar)<< MORE >>
"Secrets thrive in my family.” I wasn’t sure if I’d said the words or dreamed them, but when I heard a drawer slide open in the
empty bedroom next to my own, my heartbeat jumped into overdrive, and I pulled the comforter up to my neck. “Sylvie? Is that you, kitty?” Suddenly, a beam of light flashed across the hall wall
just opposite my open doorway, pausing momentarily on my mother’s favorite Mansfield painting, and I no longer doubted what the noise was.
Barely breathing, I stared wide-eyed at the now-dark hallway, my ears tuning out the sounds of rain and thunder to focus on the groan of the floorboards as the intruder crossed my mother’s room just through the wall. Then I heard a soft, metallic thwack. A click. A jingle of music. My mother’s jewelry box!
I clamped my lips over my mouth, silencing a gasp.
The intruder padded quickly across my mother’s bedroom carpet and into the hall, where his footsteps were still soft on the hardwood floor. He moved toward my bedroom door and stopped.
If only I could cry for help without him hearing me! But my mother’s neighbor, Oliver, was the only one close enough to hear me, and the intruder would certainly get to me before Oliver, pounding on the door with his cane, could fumble his key into my mother’s front-door lock. Besides, what could he do besides get himself hurt?
Silently, I reached to the nightstand and felt across the top of it. My cell phone was gone.
An ominous shiver trickled across my skin. I tried to remember the last time I’d had my cell phone. Oh, yes. When I’d arrived earlier that evening, I’d slipped it inside the pocket of my leather jacket just before unlocking the front door and then . . . My breathing quickened. The jacket was in the entryway closet.
White lightning flashed. Thunder cracked and rain pelted the window glass like heavy, driving sand, filling the room with so much clatter I had to strain even harder to hear the thief’s movements.
Finally, I heard him again, creeping away from my door toward my mother’s office. Another metallic scrape and then joggling. Her locked desk drawer.
For a crazy, hair-raising moment, I thought of charging after the thief, but as I held myself there in the bed, clenching and unclenching my fists beneath the sheet, I knew I had only one real alternative: to get out of the house without him seeing me.
I scanned the room. The closest window was only a few feet from my bed, but to get to it, I’d have to clamber over the dresser, slide open the window glass, then force out the screen. I could do it, but if the heavy rain and howling wind blasted through the window, blew paper across the room, or—heaven forbid—slammed my door shut, the thief would be in my room before I could get outside.
The other windows in the house were even more insurmountable, and the back door had two noisy locks and a hard-to-open knob. That left the front door.
Quick, dull thuds sounded in my ears. The thief was still trying to break into that drawer, which meant he was probably standing in front of the desk with his back to the doorway. This is my chance!
Quietly slipping from beneath the covers, I placed my bare feet on the floor and stepped gingerly onto the carpet. Blessedly, the floorboards didn’t creak. The thuds from the office continued.
I crept into the hall and inched my hand toward Oliver’s condo key on the wall hook. I grasped it.
The jimmying stopped. Warily, I leaned forward and glanced into the room. The thief was looking the other way, so I gathered the skirt of my blue silk nightgown with one hand and, still clutching Oliver’s house key with the other, dashed past the doorway. I crouched behind the brown leather armchair closest to the front door. I waited, listening, barely daring to breathe.
The rustling stopped. A lean, broad-shouldered shadow stepped into the hall and paused. He looked toward the bedroom where I’d been sleeping and then swiftly moved to it.
Guessing I had only a few seconds before the man returned to my mother’s office, I raced to the front door—it was unlocked!—and leapt down the two porch steps and around the dividing wall to Oliver’s side of the double condo. By then my heart beat so fast and my fingers trembled so violently I could barely shove the key into the lock.
Hearing my mother’s front door bang open from next door, I hurtled into Oliver’s dark entryway and bolted his door behind me. “Oliver!”
“Emi?” Oliver’s tired voice, followed by a harsh cough, came from the living room.
“I need your phone!” I rushed to him through the dark and swept my hand across the nearby end table where he usually kept it. “There’s a man in Mama’s house! He’s stealing her stuff.”
“What?” Oliver groggily pushed up from the couch, his white hair gleaming through the dark like a slow-rising moon. “Are you hurt?”
I brushed the rain from my face. “I’m fine, but I’ve got to call the police.” My teeth chattered as I groped for the lamp switch, but by the time I found it and clicked on the light, Oliver had swiped his newspaper off the coffee table and grabbed the telephone that lay beneath it.
He pulled the russet afghan from his lap. “Here, Emi. Put this around your shoulders. Let me call them.” He patted the couch cushion next to him.
Still trembling in fear over who might be outside, I gratefully lowered myself onto the couch. “Thank you, Oliver. You’re a lifesaver.”
He nodded slightly and punched in 9-1-1.
The dispatcher kept Oliver on the telephone until the Tampa police arrived about ten minutes later. After verifying that the thief was gone and that we were all right, two officers searched my mother’s condo, while another questioned me about where I was during the crime, what I had witnessed, and who else had access to my mother’s home.
“Oliver’s the only other person who has a key,” I told him.
As proof, Oliver held it out to him.
Detective Cole, a tall, black man, looked only at me. “So you don’t live here, Miss Warrin?”
“I have my own apartment.”
“And you were here tonight because . . .?”
“I’m cat- and house-sitting for my mother. She’s on a cruise in Greece doing research for her next novel. She writes romantic suspense. Joanna Michaels?”
He lifted his eyebrows.
Okay, so he didn’t recognize the name.
“Anyway, I’d told her Oliver would be happy to take care of things for her, but she insisted it had to be me. Mama just can’t get used to the idea of me living alone—uh, sorry. Too much information, huh?”
“That’s perfectly fine. You’ve had a rough night.” Detective Cole took several seconds to write something in his notebook. “Did the man threaten you in any way?”
I hugged the afghan even tighter around my shoulders. “I don’t think he even knew I was there.”
“So he was noisy?”
“No. Well, sometimes, but mostly he was so quiet I could hardly hear him. It was like he was trying not to wake—” I caught my breath. Had the thief known I was in the house the whole time? No. That couldn’t be.
The officer looked at me for a moment before moving on. “How tall would you say he was?”
“I’m not sure. The best view I had of him was during the few seconds I hid behind the chair. Several inches taller than me, maybe.”
As the detective continued writing, Oliver placed his hand on my shoulder. “You’re doing fine, Emi.”
The interrogation ended about ten minutes later when another officer tapped on Oliver’s door. Oliver opened it, and Sylvie raced
When did she get out of the house? I wondered.
“Miss Warrin,” the second officer said, “we need you to return to your mother’s condo and give us a detailed report of everything that’s been stolen. We’ll need serial numbers and identifying characteristics.” He scrutinized my face with wide, rounded eyes. “And any other facts you can give us about you—or, I mean, your family—will be extremely helpful.”
I wish I knew more about my family, I thought, barely refraining from rolling my eyes. I scooped Sylvie into my arms before moving to the doorway. “Hmm. I’m not familiar with where my mother keeps that sort of information,” I said aloud. “I’m pretty sure her file cabinets are filled with her writing research and book contracts, but I’ll see what I can find.” I scratched between Sylvie’s ears, and instead of cuddling against me the way she usually did, she yowled and leapt from my arms. “Sylvie! What’s the matter with you?”
“Would you like me to go through the house with you?” Oliver asked.
I watched as Sylvie ran down the hallway and disappeared. Then I looked into Oliver’s thin, pallid face, noticing the concern etched into the wrinkles around his blue eyes.
“No, thanks, Oliver,” I said, motioning to the policemen. “I’ll be fine. Besides, I’d hate myself if you—”
“—caught pneumonia or something from going out in that rain.” I squeezed his hand with both of mine, stilling my trembling fingers in the process.
“Why don’t you call your mother and ask her?” Oliver said.
Detective Cole paused inside the doorway. “Is that a problem?”
“No, it’s not that. It’s just she won’t . . . uh . . . she worries so much, I know she’ll blow this all out of proportion and make me—”
Detective Cole lifted his eyebrows again.
“How about I call her?” Oliver asked, releasing my hand. “Maybe I can smooth things over for you.”
“Of course.” He took his long, wool overcoat from the coat rack. “I’ll do my best. But here, trade me. This will protect you better.”
I slipped the damp afghan off my shoulders and handed it to him in exchange for the coat. As I shrugged into it, I noticed it smelled of coffee and peppermint—and a bit like Oliver’s favorite steak.
“Ready?” Detective Cole asked me.
Just before I followed the officer outside, Oliver held up his cell phone to let me know he was about to try to reach my mother.
A few moments later, Detective Cole held his large hand firmly on the front doorknob of my mother’s condo. “Before we go in, I want to prepare you for what you’re about to see. I’m guessing things are . . . not as you left them.”
Overturned drawers, missing electronics, that sort of thing, I supposed. “I understand,” I said.
He nodded and we entered the condo.<< MORE >>
I know I never have. In fact, rather than reaching upward to attain similar spiritual gifts, I too often compare myself to others in more physical ways—their homes, their bodies, their accomplishments—believing if I only had what they had or looked like they looked, I would be happy and successful. But the truth is real success has nothing to do with material wealth, honor or appearance.
In Gospel Doctrine, Joseph F. Smith states, “The great truth enunciated by the Savior seems very generally to be lost sight of in this generation, that it will profit a man nothing though he should gain the whole world, if he loses his own soul.
"The standard of success as declared by the word of God, is the salvation of the soul. The greatest gift of God is eternal life. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, pg. 125).”
Such a standard is not easy—it requires constant vigilance—but that truth is the reality we should concentrate on, not on having a nice car or selling a lot of books (I’m an author, after all J).
The Heart of the Matter
Marvin J. Ashton wrote: “When the Lord measures an individual, He does not take a tape measure around the person’s head to determine his mental capacity, nor his chest to determine his manliness, but He measures the heart as an indicator of the person’s capacity and potential to bless others.
“Why the heart? Because the heart is a synonym for one’s entire makeup (Ensign, November 1988 ).”
In other words, the Lord will judge us by our characters. “Your character will be the yardstick that God will use to determine how well you have met your mortal probation,” Elder Richard G. Scott affirms. “Strong moral character results from consistent correct choices in the trials and testing of life. Such choices are made with trust in things that are believed and, when acted upon, will be confirmed as true. . . . . Satan and his troops have defined their character by resolute opposition to the will of our Father and consistent violation of His commandments. You solidify your character by consistent correct choices (Elder Richard G. Scott, Ensign, January 2007 ).”
Since correct choices are so vital to the development of our characters and thus our pathways to Eternal Life, perhaps that is the reason the Lord chose this message—the command to choose perfectly, to be perfect as He is—when he presented the Beatitudes to the Nephites shortly after His death and resurrection. Here are just a few of the character traits we must work for in our quest for Eternal Life:
“And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.
“And blessed are the merciful . . .
“And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (3 Nephi 12: 5-8).
This character list of Christ-like perfection goes on and on, yet so do the Eternal blessings. Notice, not one of them pertains to nicer homes, expensive clothing, or worldly prestige.
When I began this article by mentioning that too often I compare myself to other’s achievements, I meant that literally. Especially in relation to writing success. For years, I felt jealousy when the fictitious Anne of Green Gables received her contract to have her book published. The same goes for Jo March in Little Women. I’ve had to fight jealous demons in relation to live people, too, but all the while I’ve known such feelings were wrong and I had to find a way to overcome them. Since our competition in life . . . is solely with our old self, we ought to be free of the jealousies and anxieties of the world which go with interpersonal competition. Very importantly, it is patience, combined with love, which permits us “in process of time” to detoxify our disappointments. Patience and love take the radioactivity out of our resentments. These are neither small nor occasional needs in most of our lives!"
In time and after much study, I learned that at the root of jealousy is natural-man selfishness. Go figure. But I also discovered that three interconnected ways we can overcome that tendency is to develop patience, love and humility. In a talk by Elder Neal A. Maxwell, he said:
"The patient person assumes that what others have to say is worth listening to. A patient person is not so chronically eager to put forth his own ideas. In true humility, we do some waiting upon others. We value them for what they say and what they have to contribute. Patience and humility are special friends.
Since our competition in life . . . is solely with our old self, we ought to be free of the jealousies and anxieties of the world which go with interpersonal competition. Very importantly, it is patience, combined with love, which permits us “in process of time” to detoxify our disappointments. Patience and love take the radioactivity out of our resentments. These are neither small nor occasional needs in most of our lives!"
Once I heard that statement, I began to remind myself—whenever I felt jealousy rising within me—that any real competition I have is with me and my own progress. Conversely, everyone else also faces the same challenge and thereby deserves my encouragements and praises when they step closer toward their divine potential. We’re all on this pathway to perfection together, after all.
Sometimes, in all this self-competing, we begin to see ourselves as less than we really are. We may even doubt our abilities to succeed, or worse, feel our quest for Eternal Life is a hopeless endeavor. This is wrong. Nephi said it perfectly: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” The Lord has commanded us to be meek, merciful, even perfect, so that means He will—and has—provided a way for us to accomplish them. Countless scriptures speak of His outstretched arms, His unending patience, His Eternal love and interest in our lives. He has not left us alone. He will guide us, perhaps even carry us, to the top of His yardstick.<< MORE >>
Family Home Evening Lesson #3 based on the LDS Church's Addiction Recovery Program
Purpose: Help family members understand that full repentance helps us overcome our weaknesses and develop charity, the pure love of Christ.
Provide each family member with a pencil and a small notebook they can use as a journal.
"I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.
"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors" (Alma 34:31–32).
Song: “Come Unto Jesus” (Hymn #117)
In his 1998 April conference talk, Elder Robert D. Hales recounted the story of a 1968 marathon runner named John Stephen Akhwari from
"You must restore as far as possible all that which is stolen, damaged, or defiled. Willing restitution is concrete evidence to the Lord that you are committed to do all you can to repent” (Richard G. Scott, in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 102; or Ensign, May 1995, 76).
Role Play or Discussion:
Ask volunteers to suggest situations for which they feel family members may need to make amends. Then ask them to act out or discuss how they can make full restitution in those situations. The following information from the Addiction Recovery Program manual will help you teach correct principals:
It is very important that you are not impulsive or careless as you attempt to make amends. It is equally important that you do not procrastinate making amends. Pray for the Lord’s guidance and consult with a trusted adviser for help to avoid these pitfalls.
If those you seek to make amends with give you the chance to apologize, be brief and specific about the situation you remember. Details are not necessary. The purpose is not to explain or describe your side of things. The purpose is to admit those wrongs you have committed, offer an apology, and make restitution wherever possible. Do not argue with people or criticize them, even if their response is not favorable or accepting. Approach each person in a spirit of humility, offering reconciliation, never justification.
In other cases, you may have no way of making amends directly. The person may be dead, or you may not be able to discover where he or she lives. In such cases, you can still make amends indirectly. You can write the person a letter expressing your regret and desire for reconciliation, even if the letter cannot be delivered. You can give a gift to the person’s favorite charity. You can find someone who reminds you of that person and do something to help him or her. Or you may be able to do something to help a member of the family anonymously.
(Reconciliation) must never lead to the further harm of others. Also, at times you may have caused harm that is beyond human ability to repair. Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke of this reality: “Sometimes . . . restitution is not possible in real terms, such as when one contributed to another’s loss of faith or virtue. Instead, a subsequent example of righteousness provides a compensatory form of restitution” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 41; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 31). From the moment you decide to adopt these true principles as your new way of life, you begin to make amends.
You may still have one or two people you feel like you cannot face. Do not despair. . . We recommend you take your feelings to the Lord in honest prayer. If you still have great fear or anger toward an individual, you probably should postpone meeting with him or her. To overcome negative feelings, you could pray for charity and to see the person as the Lord sees him or her. You could look for positive reasons why restitution and reconciliation will help. If you do these things and are patient, the Lord can and will—in His own way and in His own time—give you the ability and the miraculous opportunities to be reconciled to everyone on your list.
Mosiah 4:11-12, 26
11 And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.
12 And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.
26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.
Now that we have made restitution and done all we can to put ourselves in harmony with the commandments of the Lord, we have at least partially entered into His rest; remaining there is now our greatest desire. What can we do to ensure we keep ourselves in harmony with God and continue on His path to further righteousness?
List family member’s ideas on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or a large piece of paper. Include the following ideas in your discussion. You may wish to refer to the following scriptures: D&C 88:63; 1 Thessalonians 5:17–19; 2 Nephi 32:3; Luke 22:32; D&C 64:33; D&C 31:11–13.
“It is part of the gift of charity to be able to recognize the Lord’s hand and feel His love in all that surrounds us. At times it will not be easy to discover the Lord’s love for us in all that we experience, because He is a perfect, anonymous giver. You will search all your life to uncover His hand and the gifts He has bestowed upon you because of His intimate, modest, humble way of granting such wonderful gifts. . . Brothers and sisters, as an especial witness of Christ, I bear testimony to you again of the overwhelming love of God for each of us personally. Magnifying that gift from God will bring a new heart, a pure heart, and ever-increasing love and peace. As we increasingly think and act like Him, the attributes of the natural man will slip away to be replaced by the heart and the mind of Christ. We will become like Him and then truly receive Him” (Elder Gene R. Cook of the Seventy).
Bear your testimony of how full repentance of sin and weakness will cause us to change our ways, correct our course in life, and draw closer to God.
“Converted means to turn from one belief or course of action to another. Conversion is a spiritual and moral change.Conversion implies not merely mental acceptance of Jesus and his teachings but also a motivating faith in him and his gospel—a faith which works a transformation, an actual change in one’s understanding of life’s meaning and in his allegiance to God in interest, in thought, and in conduct” (Marion G. Romney, in Conference Report, Guatemala Area Conference 1977, 8).
Write your testimony of how your efforts to overcome your weaknesses have converted your heart more fully to God. Record any spiritual feelings and experiences you have had through this process. Express your gratitude for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in your writing.
A series of Family Home Evening lessons based on the
Help family members understand when we truly repent and partake of the gift of the Atonement, we grow closer to God.
Ask a volunteer to walk back and forth across the room. Ask: Was it difficult for you to accomplish this task?
Now have the same volunteer hold the chain or other heavy object you’ve provided and again walk back and forth across the room. Ask: Was it any more difficult to accomplish this task?
In the story, “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, Scrooge’s deceased friend, Jacob Marley, appears to Scrooge as a ghost carrying a long and heavy chain which represents the injustices and sins he committed in his life.
How are our sins and weaknesses like carrying a heavy chain through life?
At the conclusion of Lesson 1, we completed an assignment which helped us recognize our weaknesses, chose one to overcome, and considered our actions related to that weakness. Very likely, those actions have hurt others. What must we now do to be cleansed of those transgressions or sins? (Repent)
In order to fully repent, we must first confess our sins and weaknesses.
Spencer W. Kimball said: “Repentance can never come until one has bared his soul and admitted his actions without excuses or rationalizations. . . . Those persons who choose to meet the issue and transform their lives may find repentance the harder road at first, but they will find it the infinitely more desirable path as they taste of its fruits” (“The Gospel of Repentance,” Ensign, Oct. 1982, 4).
Who must we confess our sins to?
Note: If the sin is serious, we must confess them to the proper priesthood authorities. Otherwise, this quote by President Brigham Young may be helpful in your discussion.
“When we ask the brethren, as we frequently do, to speak in sacrament meetings, we wish them, if they have injured their neighbors, to confess their wrongs; but do not tell about your nonsensical conduct that nobody knows of but yourselves. Tell to the public that which belongs to the public. If you have sinned against the people, confess to them. If you have sinned against a family or a neighborhood, go to them and confess. If you have sinned against your Ward, confess to your Ward. If you have sinned against one individual, take that person by yourselves and make your confession to him. And if you have sinned against your God, or against yourselves, confess to God, and keep the matter to yourselves, for I do not want to know anything about it” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , 158).
How can confessing your sins to God give you courage and strength to confess to another person?
How would your behavior change if you were only concerned about looking good to God?
Consider how holding back part of your confession undermines the sincerity of your efforts. What part of your inventory, if any, are you tempted to hide?
Forsaking Sin Leads to a Change in Heart
After the rigorous emotional and spiritual cleansing of recognizing and confessing our sins and weaknesses, we may be amazed at the transformation in ourselves as we begin to abstain from our weaknesses. We likely pray and study our scriptures more diligently and keep other commandments more readily. As time passes, however, we may notice that avoiding our weaknesses and sins is not enough. We want to lose even the desire for that sin.
“By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43).
What can we do to rid ourselves of our desires return to our weaknesses and sins? (See
President Ezra Taft Benson said: “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. . . May we be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, choose to follow Him, be changed for Him, captained by Him, consumed in Him, and born again” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 5–6; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 6–7).
What obstacles—including attitudes and feelings—keep you from giving away “all [your] sins” and more fully receiving the Spirit of the Lord?
List your chosen character weakness and next to it write the strength it may become as you come unto Christ.
"No matter what the source of difficulty and no matter how you begin to obtain relief . . .The final healing comes through faith in Jesus Christ and His teachings, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and obedience to His commandments” (Richard G. Scott, in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 9; or Ensign, May 1994, 9).
What have you learned about the Savior that has helped or influenced your desire or ability to change your behavior?
Just as the people of
What can we do to make the atonement more meaningful in our lives? (Ponder the words of the sacrament prayer, pray for God to help us do what we can not do for ourselves, keep the commandments and thereby show our love for God.)
"When the Atonement and our repentance satisfy the laws of justice and mercy, we are, in effect, free from sin. But just as the sinless Christ was “made perfect” through interaction with his Father’s grace, so his atoning grace can move us beyond the remission of sins to the perfection of a divine nature. Those who inherit the celestial kingdom are “just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood” (D&C 76:69; emphasis added). As
“Whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ” (Mosiah 5:9).
Most of us think of taking Christ’s name upon us in context of baptism and the sacrament, and rightly so. What might it mean to be called by the name of Christ and to have His reputation as your own?
Write about the feelings you experience when you think of His willingness to give you His name or reputation in exchange for all your shortcomings.
Ask family members to apply the principles you’ve discussed in this lesson by confessing their sin/weakness to the proper persons, avoiding the weakness, and seeking help from Christ to overcome the desire to participate in that weakness or sin.
Conclusion: Bear your testimony of your love for and trust in our Savior.
“Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God … giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. … They that wait upon the Lord shall … mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa 40:28-31).
Years ago, I had the impression I should write a song, but I had no idea how I could accomplish such a task. Yes, I’d had musical training in voice and piano, but very little theory training, and even less in musical composition. Worse, I’d only been married for a few years and didn't own a piano. I simply couldn't do it, and even if I could, why would God want me to do it?
I pondered that problem for some time and finally confessed my struggles to my husband. He said, “If the Lord told you to do something, He’ll help you find a way.” His convictions gave me the courage to move forward, but still I wondered “why.”
Finally, after months of personal study, struggle, and prayer, I completed it. After that, still trying to find the answer to “why,” I performed the song in church and family settings, but I still didn't’t receive a confirmation of its purpose. I was beginning to wonder if the only reason I’d been “assigned” to write it was so I could learn more about music. One day, the answer came: I needed to give the song to a relative I barely knew. It was meant for her. Again, “why?”
Like I said, I barely knew the girl, so I still don't know why I needed to write and give it to her, but I did feel like my gift touched her heart, at least a little, and reminded her that Heavenly Father was aware of her.
I learned a profound principle through that experience: the worth of the soul is great in the sight of God. Think of it. Writing that song was not easy for me. I had to struggle and study. I had to invent ways to compensate for my lack of resources. I had to pray. And when I completed the “assignment,” I learned its “only” purpose was to touch, perhaps, the heart of one soul. Needless to say, that witness humbled me.
I have since gathered a few “Worth of Soul” quotes I’d like to share here. Most, if not all, you may have heard before, but like the simple testimony of the song, “I am a Child of God,” their repetition and simplicity do not negate their power.
1) Jesus Christ:
"What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
"And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
“And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
“I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4–7.)
2) President Thomas S. Monson:
“In March of 1967, early in my service as a member of the Council of the Twelve, I was attending a conference of the Monument Park West Stake in
“When it was his opportunity to participate, President Child took in hand the Doctrine and Covenants and left the pulpit to stand among the priesthood brethren to whom he was directing his message. He turned to section 18 and began to read:
“’Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.
“And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!’”
“President Child then raised his eyes from the scriptures and asked the brethren: ‘What is the worth of a human soul?’ He avoided calling on a bishop, a stake president, or a high councilor for a response. Instead, he selected the president of an elders quorum—a brother who had been a bit drowsy and had missed the significance of the question.
"The startled man responded, ‘Brother Child, could you please repeat the question?’
"The question was repeated: ‘What is the worth of a human soul?’
“I knew President Child’s style. I prayed fervently for that quorum president. He remained silent for what seemed like an eternity and then declared, ‘Brother Child, the worth of a human soul is its capacity to become as God.’
“All present pondered that reply. Brother Child returned to the stand, leaned over to me, and said, ‘A profound reply; a profound reply!’
3) Elder Boyd K. Packer:
“no greater ideal has been revealed than the supernal truth that we are the children of God, and we differ, by virtue of our creation, from all other living things” (Ensign, May 1992, p. 67).
4) Elaine L. Jack:
“Over and over again, the Lord assures us of our worth and value to him. In D&C 18:10–11, he admonishes us to ‘remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
“’For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.’
“Our eternal worth is given to us by God; it cannot be manipulated or decreased by anyone. Of course, if we are not living the commandments, we may lose sight of our divine worth and potential. Nevertheless, each soul’s inherent worth is always great in the sight of our loving Heavenly Father. I think that is imperative to know! Worthlessness is not an option for anyone.”
5) Marvin J. Ashton:
“A wise teacher and stake Relief Society president … flashed a large picture on a screen. It showed a bright-eyed boy with unkempt hair and folded arms, deep in thought. The caption read, ‘I know I’m somebody ‘cause God don’t make no junk.’ Please let me repeat, ‘I know I’m somebody ‘cause God don’t make no junk.’"
"Junk" has been defined as discarded, useless, meaningless matter, and yet too many times we compare ourselves to it. Even when I'd received the impression to write the song, I doubted both my ability and my worth to do it. I was a mere "nobody," right? Wrong. My testimony, added to those I've listed above, is I, like you, am a Child of God. We are matter organized for specific, eternal purposes. We, collectively and individually, are those Jesus Christ sacrificed His life and blood for. In truth, it isn't self-deprecation we should feel. It's eternal amazement.
The fourteen through eighteen-year-olds in our stake recently attended a pioneer trek youth conference. They, like our ancestors, faced torrential rain, lack of food and sleep, difficult terrain, and frequently altered courses due to the weather; but also like our forebears, they learned a vital, eternal lesson: we, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are all in “this”—life, the church, and furthering God’s work—together.
There are many steps to achieving this accord, such as unified prayer, repenting of our sins, and forgiving others; but another important but often overlooked requirement is receiving, accepting, and fulfilling callings from our Priesthood leadership. In truth, how we respond to our callings holds at least three eternal consequences.
1) Consider the scriptural account of Christ gathering his disciples. While walking by the
In the preceding texts, I bolded the words “follow,” “called,” and “chose,” because they indicate that before Christ can “choose” his elect, he will first “call” them: “There has been a day of calling, but the time has come for a day of choosing; and let those be chosen that are worthy. And it shall be manifest unto my servant, by the voice of the Spirit, those that are chosen; and they shall be sanctified” (D&C 105:35-36). Thus, if we do not initially accept the call to follow Him, how can we hope to be sanctified among His elect at the last day? The parable of the ten virgins in which half were excluded from the bridegroom’s feast reveals similar repercussions (Matt. 25:1-13).
2) Christ said, “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). Thus, any calling we receive through Priesthood authority is an invitation from Christ to follow Him, to become like Him, to learn to know Him. President Howard W. Hunter described it this way:
"The Lord’s invitation to follow him is individual and personal, and it is compelling. We cannot stand forever between two opinions. Each of us must at some time face the crucial question: “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matt. 16:15) Our personal salvation depends on our answer to that question and our commitment to that answer. . . To follow an individual means to watch him or listen to him closely; to accept his authority, to take him as a leader, and to obey him; to support and advocate his ideas; and to take him as a model.”
3) As the parable of the talents implies, we each have gifts and abilities only we can magnify to lift others and further the Lord’s Kingdom. In fact, those are the purposes for those gifts:
"And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God. Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand? Also the body hath need of every member that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect" (D&C 84:109-110).
True, callings in the church frequently come at inconvenient or uncomfortable times; and often, they seem beyond our abilities to accomplish them, but are those satisfactory reasons not to accept them? Each of us, just like our forefathers, must answer that question for him or herself; but I hope, before we do, we will ponder this statement by President James E. Faust:
"To stay on the right track, we must honor and sustain those who hold the presiding priesthood keys. We are reminded that many are “called, but few are chosen.” When are we chosen? We are chosen by the Lord only when we have done our best to move this holy work forward through our consecrated efforts and talents."
They’re everywhere: faithful yet heart-broken Latter-day Saints sitting alone in Sacrament Meeting because their family members have chosen “other paths.” I know because I’ve not only seen them, I’m one of them.
Not in the usual sense, for I’m not the parent of a wayward child, but I do have other family members who’ve either become apathetic toward church attendance or who’ve lost their testimonies through sin or miss-choice. And it grieves me. Grieves me to the point that many Sundays are tearful days of mourning, days that remind me my family’s opportunities for God’s blessings, including Eternal Life together, are at stake.
And yet, though this Sunday “cry session” has gone on for more years than I’d like to count, I have learned to hope.
One learning experience came while I, as a Young Women’s leader, was attending a Stake Young Women’s girl’s camp. I was participating in a familiar, spiritual activity in which all the participants were blind-folded, given a “name” (actually, I think it was something like an animal sound), told we needed to find the rest of our “family,” and then while holding them close to us, complete a specific task which brought us “Home.” As luck would have it, shortly after I found my family I lost them again. For the rest of the activity, I was a lone person in the field.
Until the end. That was when, after all other groups had succeeded with their tasks, someone noticed I was lost and sent my “family” to retrieve me. Finally, tearfully, I returned “Home.” But I wasn’t tearful because I was embarrassed that I was the last one on the field (though I slightly was); it was because one of Christ’s parables had suddenly become alive in me:
1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
In other words, it doesn't matter whether my family and I make it to God’s Kingdom first or last. What matters is that we get there. And when we get there, we’ll each receive the same reward: Eternal Life.
A second lesson came while I was praying for a specific loved one, pouring out my sorrow and hopelessness. I felt alone and at the end of my “How do I hang on?” rope. But then, very distinctly, I heard the voice of another loved one who’d passed beyond the veil in recent years say to me, “Don’t give up on . . . .”
Yes, her voice taught me I was not alone in this trial, that our deceased loved ones are working, perhaps mourning for our “lost” family members, too; but mostly, it filled me with hope. I still carry her words and that hope inside me.
Finally, I’ve learned to hope because the Lord has heard my prayers. I know He has. I’ve seen His answers. Sometimes in small ways, sometimes in large, but one answer I’ll share here because I believe it can help others.
Some time ago, I was searching LDS.org for an article to supplement a Sunday lesson I had to give as part of the calling I had at that time. I don’t remember the subject I was researching, but I do remember one article that appeared on the computer screen. It had NOTHING to do with my subject but everything to do with the specific, “wayward child” trial I then faced. It was a talk given by a general authority which told me exactly what I needed to do in this situation (I’ve included it in the following list). I immediately read it, recognized it for the Heavenly Answer it was, printed it, and now keep it in my journal where I’ve read and re-read it almost as much as I read my patriarchal blessing. It’s another one of my life-lines from God, something that guides me as I struggle, worry, and work to help Heavenly Father bring my family—and His—back Home.
I love General Conference. Always have. Even when I was a kid. Because of that, I wanted my children to learn to love conference, too, in spite of the other, conflicting influences that surrounded them. So this is what I did. And it worked!
Ever since my children have been old enough to read and write, we have made one conference day a "candy day;" meaning, while we listen to both sessions, we take notes. All of us. I take my notes, however, in the form of questions.
When each session is over, I then ask my questions and they take turns answering them. I ask many simple ones, like what was the opening song? Who spoke first? And, "so and so said we should do what if we need help?" (Pray). But I also occasionally ask more complicated ones of the older children, related to specific stories and scriptures. When they answer correctly, I give them a piece of candy (fun sized candy bars, usually). They love it!
And so do I. Not because of the sugary treats (which I also enjoy!), but because I not only have the opportunity to go over—and sometimes reteach—every talk from that session, but I see that my children now have fond, family memories of conference as they've learned to feast on the real "treats" of the gospel.
This activity was amazing! One of the young women's mother told me her daughter, who's usually not very vocal about our activities, couldn't stop talking about it when she returned home that night. To me, that's success!
What we did:
1. They (the Young Men's organization was in charge) gathered random information (description, likes, where serving, etc.) about the current and recently returned missionaries in our ward.
2. They had men from the ward who went to those missions or parents of the missionaries prepare and bring a food item to share with the youth.
3. They had each "mission" set up in a different room throughout the building, and had the youth rotate between the rooms to not only learn a little about that country and eat their food but also guess which ward missionary was currently serving in that country.
4. The Young Men began the evening by quoting Section 4 from the Doctrine and Covenants.
If you try this activity, let me know how it went. I'd love to hear about it.
Although this wasn't an "original" idea, going bowling has been one of our most successful yw/ym combined activities. Even the expense was little compared with the success of the event, for we had youth attend who have never attended a mutual activity before. We even had a non-member relative join us.
Another great thing about this activity was it gave the youth and the leaders a chance to "let their hair down." Sure, the boys were competitive (they still had fun), but the girls just enjoyed their time together by visiting, trying goofy ways to bowl, and laughing. LOTS OF SMILES that night. It was amazing.
For the past three years, a good friend of mine—a violin teacher (and and her students)—and I (with my piano students) have presented a Christmas program of music and narration for a local nursing home. Since it is a generalized program that can incorporate different music titles each year, I thought I'd share it with you, my readers, in case you're searching for something similar.
SONG: JOY TO THE WORLD
Christmas is a sacred season. It’s a time when love increases, friendships deepen, and hearts join together to celebrate the birth of Christ. Tonight, several young music students will celebrate these feelings and their love of Christ through their music. The first numbers are traditional and folk carols; but just as all things that are filled with the Christmas spirit, their ultimate messages reflect unity, joy, and peace in Christ.
SONGS: GOOD KING WENCESLAS
GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMAN
I SAW THREE SHIPS
Favorite Christmas symbols also reflect the Savior, such as candy canes for shepherd’s crooks, candles for lights that can not be hid, and wreaths as the promise of Eternal Life. But what about the snow? Could it be that it represents all that is white, and good, and pure? Or, perhaps it is because, that while we know Christ was born in the spring, we continue to celebrate it in the winter because it represents the hope Christ brought to our dark and dying world.
SONGS: IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER
JOLLY OLD ST. NICHOLAS
O CHRISTMAS TREE
“And (Mary) brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn."
SONG: AWAY IN A MANGER
This is what we think of when we picture Christ’s birth. But what were the first sounds the holy child heard? Was it the gentle lullaby of His mother? The calming low of cattle? Or was it the peaceful jingling of bells—bells worn by lambs?
SONGS: CAROL OF THE BELLS
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of
SONGS: OH COME ALL YE FAITHFUL
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING
Christmas is a sacred season. It’s a time when love increases, friendships deepen, and hearts join together to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is also a time to remember one of Christ’s greatest promises: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
SONGS: SILENT NIGHT
WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS
For Young Women's in Excellence, we had a Personal Progress Pageant.
1. The girls dressed up in prom dresses, either their own or some we borrowed—This gave us the opportunity to "enforce" and talk about modesty, too—and we made banners out of three inch, white ribbon with the name of their value written (sewn) on it.
2. We set up an archway similar to those put together for wedding receptions, placed a red "rug" (I used three, brick red bath towels lined side by side to form a platform), and then outlined a runway with crepe paper.
3. One of the fathers was our MC. He called each girl out, one at a time, from the curtain behind the archway (the cultural hall room dividers), asked her to tell about what she'd been doing in Personal Progress this past year, and then asked her a random, "silly" question from a box which another advisor had prepared earlier.
4. The girls stood on the platform, received a rose and a crown-shaped handout which referenced the D&C scripture about inheriting principalities, etc, answered their questions, then walked the runway. During and after, another father took their pictures. The girls really liked this event—they planned it, actually—we had a good turn out, and it's my hope that they not only felt like Young Women in Excellence, but that their feelings about Personal Progress improved.
Over the years, I’ve gradually come to know this crucial truth: each of us is better—kinder, more talented, more capable of good and noble actions—than we think we are.
My first memory of this developing understanding came when I was a young woman attending girls camp. I had decided I’d watch for the good in the other girls. I then reported to them during testimony meeting that I had found something good in each of them and they could ask me what I’d learned if they liked. After that meeting, a new Beehive asked me to tell her what was good about her. I answered her, and though I didn’t know how my words had affected her, I felt grateful—grateful I’d looked for the good in others and hopeful that I’d lifted her self-esteem.
I’ve had other similar experiences, such as the time I gave a Christmas gift to a girl who not only thought she’d been forgotten, but was perhaps the least accepted, most friendless young woman in the school. I wish I could describe to you how she beamed when I gave her that gift. I hoped—still hope—it made her feel some measure of worth.
And yet, though I hope those things, and though I know, really know, that each of us is of more eternal worth that we believe we are, I’m still subject to thoughts of inadequacy, self-debasing depression, and hopelessness.
Why is that? I believe the answer can be summed up with these three words: Satan the Deceiver. In an article titled “Overcoming Feelings of Inadequacy,” from the August 2007 Ensign, David S. Baxter, said:
The Savior invites improvement to encourage us in reaching our potential (emphasis added). The adversary deploys derision to discourage us with feelings of worthlessness. Satan “seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27). He uses the circumstances of life to drag us down so that we think less of ourselves than we should. He would have us look at how far we have yet to travel and the challenges en route, in the desire that we might give up in a state of discouragement and hopelessness.
Please do not misunderstand me. I fully realize there are biological, emotional, and psychological reasons people become depressed and require medical attention; however, for the majority of us, I believe the fallen Son of the Morning is the main perpetrator. In fact, I recently attended a young women’s camp where we had a special speaker, a Seminary teacher, who taught us about Satan’s tempting devices. One of his statements, which I’ll paraphrase here, made a lasting impression on me. “Think about it. Satan resentfully attacks us through our bodies. He does this because he is forever banned from having such a precious gift.”
Isn’t that exactly what Satan’s doing when he whispers demeaning nothings in our ears? Words that lead us to believe ill of ourselves or slip into depression and/or laziness? I believe it is, but I also believe we do not have to be deceived. We can recognize and overpower Satan’s treachery. Consider Moroni’s counsel: “Wherefore, all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil . . . I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do (and believe) good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do (and believe) evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil (parenthesis added)” (
With that introduction, let’s look at a few of Satan’s lies and their corresponding, eternal truths. That way, we can judge for ourselves.
First, lets look at a few attacks against the body:
Satan’s Lie: You can’t because . . .
A. You’re incapable.
Matthew 19:26 “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”
President Harold B. Lee: “Whom the Lord calls He qualifies.”
B. You’re too weak.
1 Cor 1:27 “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty . . ."
D&C 1:19 “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh . . . ”
Ether 12:27 “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
C. You’re too out of shape.
D&C 89:3 The Word of Wisdom was “Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints.”
1 Cor 9:25, 27 “And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. . . But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
Satan’s Lie: You have no worth to anyone.
D&C 18:10 “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. . .”
PS 8:5 “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour”.
PS 82:6 “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”
My Thought: An old adage of home organization is “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Since God’s house is a house of order, doesn’t that imply there’s “A place for everyone and everyone is in his or her place?”
Satan’s Lie: Women have less value than men.
Christ's Truth: President Howard W. Hunter, the 14th President of the Church, counseled: “A man who holds the priesthood accepts his wife as a partner in the leadership of the home and family with full knowledge of and full participation in all decisions relating thereto. … By divine appointment, the responsibility to preside in the home rests upon the priest-hood holder (see Moses 4:22). The Lord intended that the wife be a helpmeet for man (meet means equal)—that is, a companion equal and necessary in full partnership. Presiding in righteousness necessitates a shared responsibility between husband and wife; together you act with knowledge and participation in all family matters. For a man to operate independently of or without regard to the feelings and counsel of his wife in governing the family is to exercise unrighteous dominion” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 68; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 50–51).
My Thoughts: I recently attended a class titled “Enmity and the Mission of Mother Eve” by Cherie Burton at BYU-Idaho’s Education Week. There, she defined “helpmeet” from its Hebrew root word “ezer conegno” to mean in paraphrase, “one who has the power to give help—often someone in a superior position.” She further explained, as far as I understood it, that man and woman were equal in strength and “saving” power; they, together, through their differing roles and unique abilities, had the power to complete God’s purpose of bringing to pass the immortality of man. Some other notes I found both interesting and empowering: Adam’s abilities, as man, had obedience, a sense of divine duty, and a willingness (oath bound) to serve God. Eve, as woman, had wisdom, intuition into the mind and will of God, and the ability to see the “whole picture.”
Satan’s Lie: You’re unworthy, too imperfect, and unable to ever be good enough or “perfect.”
Christ’s Truth: Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
My thought: This is an obvious example of truth shrouded by evil. YES, we are unworthy, imperfect, and unable to reach perfection ALONE. We cannot cleanse ourselves of sin. We cannot do everything. Nor can we run faster than we are able. Each of these can only be tempered and accomplished through Christ and His Atonement. He’s our Savior. Remember that. He’s blessed us with the supreme gift of repentance. I hope we accept and use it. Remember, too, that Christ didn’t even refer to himself as perfect until after He’d completed His work on earth, been resurrected, and returned to The Father. All things were done in order for Christ just as they will be for us if we are obedient and rely on Him.
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I realize these are not all of Satan’s lies nor are they all of Christ’s truths related to those lies. It may also be that other scriptures will more powerfully help you combat Satan, but what I truly hope you’ll take away from this article is you can ignore Satan’s buffetings. Heavenly Father has blessed us with that ability. And even if we don’t yet know what Christ’s truth is connected with the lie Satan is currently hitting us with, we can and must do what Christ did when Satan tempted Him. He said, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” And obey. And believe.
Some may respond by saying reverence is a private feeling or something we can feel no matter what events are taking place around us. Besides, members of Christ’s church are friendly, aren’t they? They work together, too, and they try to accomplish much in a short time.
While I believe such characteristics are good and represent our love for each other and our dedication to God’s service, and while I also believe we can feel our love for Him even as we are chatting or “catching that person we just have to talk to before we leave the room,” I can’t help wondering. . .
Last summer, I toured a Buddhist temple in
I had these same feelings a year earlier when I entered the Sistine Chapel in
Another thought. The same year I toured
The chapel doors seem to say to me, “Sh, be still.”
For this is a reverent place to be, “Sh, be still.”
We gather here on the Sabbath day,
To learn of Jesus, to sing and pray.
So when we come through the chapel doors, “Sh, be still.”
Similarly, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone in the September, 1976 Friend, described reverence in this way:
“Reverence during meetings is a very important part of the responsibility we have as members of His true church. We are all impressed with the reverence shown by children in Primary who enter the chapel quietly with arms folded. Their reverence is an example that all members of the Church should appreciate and remember when attending any meetings in the chapel.
“However, reverence is not shown only in the chapel. Boys and girls who have learned how to be reverent do not run up and down the halls or yell and talk loudly inside the church. Reverent people also do not offend or hurt people’s feelings or make fun of others’ clothing or appearance. They try to be kind to everyone they meet.
“At Sunday School and sacrament meeting we have an opportunity to show our Savior how much we love Him by being reverent. It is not reverent to walk in and out of a sacrament meeting while it is in progress. We should get a drink of water and go to the rest room before the meeting begins. It is very disturbing to a speaker when someone leaves. The attention of other members in the congregation is also distracted.
“Determine to be reverent in sacrament meeting by never speaking out loud. Speak in a whisper and then only when it is absolutely necessary. Sing the hymns with your parents. Children have beautiful voices and it adds much to the meeting when they sing. It is appropriate to take the sacrament with your right hand. And during the administration and passing of the sacrament, we should try to think of the Savior.
“Boys and girls who have smaller brothers and sisters should not tease them. They should not keep asking their mothers or fathers to let them take these little ones out. Your brothers and sisters and often older people can learn how to be reverent by watching your behavior.”
As a mother, I have struggled to find a simple, effective method to help my children understand and gain personal testimonies. I have found one such method.
Several years ago,
As the quote ended, her young son’s face clouded with worry. “Mama, do you think I have a testimony?”
Sister Erickson knew that her son was a spiritually sensitive young man who said his prayers, attended church, and tried to do the things that would please our Heavenly Father; so instinctively she wanted to respond, “Of course you do,” but she felt restrained. She looked steadily at her son, silently praying to know what to say.
Suddenly, the light of knowledge filled her mind. She picked up a piece of paper and a pencil and drew a circle. She then divided the circle in half and asked, “Son, do you believe that Heavenly Father is the father of our spirits, that he loves each of us very much, and that he hears and answers our prayers?”
Her son answered, “Yes,” and Sister Erickson wrote the words “Heavenly Father” in the top half of the circle.
Next, she said, “Kevin, do you believe Jesus Christ lives and that he died for us that we might live with him again?”
Again her son answered, “Yes.”
Sister Erickson wrote “Jesus Christ” in the bottom half of the circle and then formed a ball with her hands. “You see,” she continued, “this is the core of a testimony. No matter what else you believe, if the core is not there to sustain it, it will fail.”
After this explanation she asked, “Do you believe in the Holy Ghost and know that He will protect, prompt, and comfort us?”
He nodded, and his mother drew a line straight up from the top of the circle. She then asked several other, gospel-related questions, including:
“Do you believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet?”
“Do you believe the Book of Mormon is true?”
“Do you believe the present day prophet is called of God?”
To each, he answered, “Yes,” and she added another ray to the circle’s perimeter.
When she finished, she referred to her drawing and asked, “What have I drawn?”
“A sun,” he answered.
“It looks like a sun,” she replied, “but what I’ve really drawn is a picture of your testimony. And yes, your testimony is like a sun. Just as the sun gives life, light, healing, and warmth to your soul. As you continue to grow in the gospel, the rays will become thicker and brighter.” She put down her pencil. “Now, do you have a testimony?”
Her son’s eyes opened wide, and with obvious relief, he said, “I do!”
Sister Erickson now witnesses that Heavenly Father knew her son needed to know for himself that he had a testimony. I am very grateful she has shared this experience, but I am even more grateful to Heavenly Father for revealing it to her. Now I know I can not only measure the strength of my own testimony, but I can also teach my children; I will simply start with the Son’s core and work outward.<< MORE >>
(A sacred, musical Christmas program for FHE, Ward Choir programs, or other inspirational services.)
Author’s Note: This program includes a list of hymns which may be sung by choirs, congregations, or family members throughout the course of the performance; however, these hymns are suggestions only and may be substituted by hymn arrangements or other appropriate music.
O Little Town of Bethlehem (Hymns #208)—sung twice
The Lord is My Light (Hymns #89)
Once in Royal David’s City (Hymns #205)
While Shepherd’s Watched their Flocks (Hymns #211)
Who Is the Child? (CSB, pg. 46)
With Wondering Awe (Hymns #210)
Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus (CSB, pg. 36)
I Believe in Christ (Hymns #134)
NARRATOR 1: Since the beginning of time, prophets have testified that Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, would come to the earth. Moses said the Only Begotten Son would come in the meridian of time (Moses 5:57-59).
NARRATOR 2: Isaiah declared: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).” And Micah prophesied that the promised Messiah would be born in the little town of
SONG: O LITTLE TOWN OF
NARRATOR 1: Mary, Jesus’ mother, also testified of Christ’s coming birth. Soon after the angel Gabriel told her she would conceive and bear the Son of God, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. There, she rejoiced, saying: “My soul doth magnify the Lord,
“And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
“For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
“For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
“And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
“He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
“He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
“He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
“He hath holpen his servant
“As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever (Luke 1:46-55).”
SONG: THE LORD IS MY LIGHT (Hymns #89)
NARRATOR 2: Several months later, God fulfilled His promise to the world by sending the Messiah. The apostle, Luke records:
“And it came to pass, in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed...
“And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of
“To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
“And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
“And she brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:1, 3-7).
SONG: ONCE IN ROYAL DAVID’S CITY (Hymns #205)
NARRATOR 1: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
NARRATOR 2: “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:8-11).”
SONG: WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS (Hymns #211)
NARRATOR 1: Some who saw the Holy Child may have asked: “Is this the One? Is this truly the Creator of the World?” But others knew the truth.
NARRATOR 2: “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
“And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child (Luke 2:15-17).”
NARRATOR 1: Because these humble men obeyed the Lord, they were privileged to not only see the Christ, but to also testify of his divinity. They knew that Jesus truly was the One.
SONG: WHO IS THE CHILD? (CSB, pg. 46)
NARRATOR 1: The heavens also declared Christ’s divinity. In Matthew, chapter 2, it states:
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the east to
SONG: WITH WONDERING AWE (Hymns #210)
NARRATOR 2: Those who lived on the American continent saw the star, too, but shortly before it appeared in the sky, Jesus Christ, Himself, testified that He, the Son of God, would soon be born on the earth. In the Book of Mormon we read:
“And it came to pass that... the prophesies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully; for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.
“But there were some who began to say that the time was past for the words to be fulfilled, which were spoken by Samuel, the Lamanite . . .
NARRATOR 1: “Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.
NARRATOR 2: “Now it came to pass that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.
NARRATOR 1: “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
“Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfill all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given (III Nephi 1:4-5, 9-14).”
SONG: SAMUEL TELLS OF THE BABY JESUS (CSB, pg. 36)
NARRATOR 2: Christ’s personal testimony, followed by the promised signs, not only saved His people, but also
brought peace and truth to all. This is what Christ always does for us. He teaches us. He
strengthens us. He comforts us in our times of need. But most of all, He redeems us.
NARRATOR 1: That is why we believe in Christ.
SONG: I BELIEVE IN CHRIST (Hymns #134)
SONG: O LITTLE TOWN OF
PARENT: They lived happily in
CHILD: A famine means that the people began to run out of food.
PARENT: Naomi’s family decided to move to a place that had food.
CHILD: That place was called
PARENT: While living there, Naomi’s husband died, and her sons married.
CHILD: The girls they married were from
PARENT: Orpah and Ruth were good and kind, but their families had not taught them to believe in the Lord.
CHILD: They worshipped many other gods.
PARENT: But after Orpah and Ruth married Naomi’s sons, they began to learn about God.
CHILD: And for a time, they were happy.
PARENT: Then a very sad thing happened: both Naomi’s sons died.
CHILD: Now, Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth were widows. They had to decide what to do and where to go.
PARENT: Naomi decided to go back to
CHILD: Orpah and Ruth wanted to go with her.
PARENT: Naomi loved Orpah and Ruth. She knew she would miss them, but she wanted them to be blessed with their
own families. She said, “Go, return . . . to (your) mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye
have dealt with (my sons) and with me.”
CHILD: Orpah kissed Naomi good-bye. She went back to her first family.
PARENT: But Ruth clung to Naomi. She did not want to go back to worshipping idols. She did not want to leave
BOTH: Ruth said: “Intreat me not to leave thee . . . for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will
lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy god, my God.”
CHILD: Naomi knew Ruth loved her. She also knew Ruth loved the Lord. She let Ruth move to
Several years ago, I heard a true story of two sister missionaries in
“It’s a bat,” one said.
To which her companion replied, “No, it’s not. It’s a snake.”
Back and forth the Sisters quarreled until they finally decided to discontinue the fight, step away from their current positions, and approach the place where it had fallen so they could get another, better view. Only then did they learn who was right.
As both a piano teacher and a mother of a sometimes reluctant piano student, these same three principles have helped me encourage both my students and my child to practice when we have bumped into periods of practice resistance. And each time I have utilized them, I’ve kept two of my most important, musical teaching/parental goals: one, my student (or child) and I have retained open levels of communication, and two, they have eventually regained their own desires to practice.
Principle one, discontinue the fight. Just as the Sisters had to stop bickering before they could effectively progress, so, too, must parents and children avoid contention so that the child’s learning can move forward. Music has the innate ability to lift hearts and soothe emotions; it can—and should—feed the soul. That means parents will be most effective if they first refuse to turn a child’s practice sessions into a battleground. The best way to do this is to establish practice guidelines before the student begins lessons so that practice becomes non-negotiable. However, if practicing disputes do arise; further student rebellion can be avoided by simply asking your student why he doesn’t want to practice. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t like the piece his teacher has assigned him. Maybe he feels the piece is too difficult. Maybe he has a personality conflict with his teacher. Or maybe he just had a bad day or is too tired. Only after you discover his reason can you then find a suitable solution.
Second, step away. One of the benefits the two missionaries received from following this principal was they physically removed themselves from their embattled positions. It can provide the same benefit to your music student. Learning an instrument demands hard work and dedication, and just like any other “work,” can be refreshed and even improved by getting away from it; i.e., taking a short, “break.” One effective break is to divide practice time into two or three smaller sessions, such as practicing half the required pieces or minutes before school and the other half after school. Another is to occasionally turn your student’s practicing time into “game” or “variation” time. Consider these ideas:
· Have a family practice/talent show or play “American Idol,” with every family member taking turns practicing her instrument while the others “judge.”
· Adapt board games by turning the instructions on squares to challenging musical tasks. Or play television games like “Hollywood Squares” or “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” with musical questions and terms. There are also several musical games you can purchase in music stores or over the internet.
· Make or purchase flashcards. They can be a fun way to review notes and musical terms; and if you “double” them, you can turn them into a matching game.
· Put each of your student’s practicing assignments on individual pieces of paper and have her “fish” her next task from a “hat.” This option is even more effective if the parent takes a practice turn, too.
· Let your child roll dice or pull a number from a bowl to see how many times she will practice her next piece.
· Offer rewards. Perhaps a candy corn, an M&M, or an apple slice after correctly playing one song. Or keep a weekly tally and exchange, say 20 marks, into a larger reward. Favorite activities are also great motivators.
Principle three, assess the situation from another viewpoint. The way the missionaries did this was to walk to where they’d seen the creature fall from the tree. Sometimes this is what students need to do, too; they need to see their “creature”—their practicing—from an altered perspective. I’ve listed some applicable, view-changing techniques below.
· Make up words or stories to music they believe is “boring.”
· Provide opportunities for your student to perform, other than at recitals. Students tend to rise to the challenge when they know they have an upcoming performance.
· Tape record your student’s pieces so they can not only share them with others but also be the audience of their own work.
· With the help of your student’s teacher, purchase or provide level appropriate “fun” music—pieces they want to play but aren’t required to practice—and allow them a special session of playing only what they want to play.
· Occasionally suggest they “modify” their pieces by playing the legato sections staccato, increasing or decreasing the tempo, and/or tweaking the dynamic markings.
· Let your student be the teacher. Allow him to teach you principles such as how to find “C” on the piano or how to tell the difference between forte and moderato. More advanced students can show you how to distinguish between the major and minor scales or what an inversion is.
· Have your student keep a list of new skills he’s acquired or of all the pieces he’s learned (include the title and the composer). This will not only provide him with a sense of accomplishment but also encourage him to add to that list by practicing.
Last but not definitely not least, allow yourself time to notice the truth—the beauty—of what your student has accomplished. When my friend and her companion finally discovered what had truly fallen from the tree, they marveled. Why? Because it was a snake with a bat in its mouth. Both Sisters had been correct, and both suddenly realized they needed each other’s perspective in order to see the whole picture.
So it is with our children. They need our viewpoints and our guidance to encourage, challenge, and praise them as they struggle to learn a musical instrument, but most of all, they need us to help them cherish the unique beauty and inspiration they are learning to create through their instrument.
And when they find that joy, we, their parents, have all we need.
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