Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 1 – That Ye Might Believe that Jesus is the Christ

In the premortal existence, a grand council was held and Heavenly Father presented to us his plan for our salvation. We were so happy that we shouted for joy (see Job 38:7).

Elder L Tom Perry (Oct 2006) said:

What occurred in this first estate is dimly understood, but we do know that we lived there as spirits, children of our Heavenly Father, and we made certain steps of advancement to prepare for the opportunity of housing our eternal spirits in earthly bodies. We also know that our Father held a great council to explain the purpose of earth life. We had the opportunity of accepting or rejecting the plan of salvation. It was not forced upon us. The essence of the plan was that man would have an opportunity of working out his own salvation on earth, with God’s help.

This plan, which was set out before the beginning of time, required that someone must come to earth would atone for the sins of mankind.

Joseph Smith told us that: “At the first organization in heaven we were all present, and saw the Savior chosen and appointed, and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 181.)

Moses, through revelation, gives us some of the details of that grand council  “Satan … came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, [and] I will by thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

Then the Lord continued: “But, behold, my Beloved Son … said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.” (Moses 4:1–2)

Abraham quotes the words of the Lord when he said: “Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.

“And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.” (Abr. 3:27–28.)

As part of that plan, Jesus Christ was born onto the earth, the child of a mortal mother and a divine Father, more than 2000 years ago.

While he was on the earth he did many great and wonderful things – he taught the gospel, he healed the sick, he established a church, he bestowed priesthood authority. Important as all of these things were – they were not the reason he came to earth. He came into this mortal existence to carry out the assignment that he had accepted in the pre-mortal existence; to fulfil his foreordained mission to atone for the sins of the world and thus facilitate his Father’s great plan of salvation for His children.

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Posted in Inspirational

New life and love, and light and hope, this good New Year.

My Pearl Among Women received as a Christmas gift a new CD by John Rutter. We love John Rutter and have a number of his CDs but this collection includes a beautiful song that we were unfamiliar with. It is called New Year and the lyrics are as follows:

Turn your eyes to the light;

Cast away the works of darkness, let them go:

Turn your eyes to the light.

Turn your face to the sun:

Feel the warmth, the hope of new beginnings

With each new year.

The light was always there if we could but see it;

And warmth was in the air if we’d known how to feel.

Turn your eyes to the light,

Turn your face to the sun:

New light, new hope, new year.

Turn your ears to the sound;

Somewhere near, a voice is calling:

Hear the news,

Turn your ears to the sound.

Turn your heart to the love;

Christ is come to bring the world new life.

The voice is always there, if the world will hear it;

And love is always there, if you search in your heart.

Turn your ears to the sound,

Turn your heart to the love:

New life, new love, new year.

New life and love, and light and hope, this good

New Year.

John Rutter
John Rutter

I thought I would share a few thoughts about these words.  The first part of the song is about light and darkness. The symbolism of light and darkness is a familiar one to us. The word light appears 535 times in the scriptures. And it is generally associated with the Son of God. Christ is the light of the world in contrast with Satan who is the Prince of Darkness.

Turn your eyes to the light;

President Uchtdorf has spoken of a painting that he has in his office:

‘The painting shows a dark room with an open door from which light is shining. It is interesting to me that the light coming through the door does not illuminate the entire room—only the space immediately in front of the door. To me, the darkness and light in this painting are a metaphor for life. It is part of our condition as mortal beings to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness. We might have lost a loved one; a child might have strayed; we might have received a troubling medical diagnosis; we might have employment challenges and be burdened by doubts or fears; or we might feel alone or unloved. But even though we may feel lost in the midst of our current circumstances, God promises the hope of His light—He promises to illuminate the way before us and show us the way out of darkness.’

When we are surrounded by so much darkness it can be tempting to focus on that darkness – instead we should turn our eyes to the light.

In this year’s First Presidency Christmas Message we are reminded that the Lord has promised: “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Cast away the works of darkness, let them go:

Sometimes the darkness has an external source – there is much tragedy and grief in the world – but other times we create the darkness by the things that we do. The phrase ‘cast away the works of darkness seems to refer to Romans 13:12

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

Elder Robert D Hales said : ‘As children, we learned how to keep darkness away by turning on a light. Sometimes, when our parents went away for the evening, we would turn on every light in the house! We understood the physical law that is also a spiritual law: light and darkness cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Light dispels darkness. When light is present, darkness is vanquished and must depart. More importantly, darkness cannot conquer light unless the light is diminished or departs. When the spiritual light of the Holy Ghost is present, the darkness of Satan departs.’

I like John Rutter’s phrase ‘let them go’ – to me this implies that sometimes we hang onto these works of darkness – perhaps ‘favourite’ sins, ingrained bad habits, long held grudges or bad feelings towards other people. Sometimes we wrap ourselves in darkness instead of putting on the armour of light – we need to let them go.

Turn your face to the sun:

There is a Maori proverb – turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.

Isn’t that a wonderful thought – as we orient our lives towards the Son we can put our fears, our sins, our worries behind us. Some of them may still be there – but they won’t be in front of us all the time.

The song goes on to say that as we turn our face to the sun we can ‘feel the warmth, the hope of new beginnings With each new year.’

New Year is traditionally a time where we take stock, maybe set some goals or make some resolutions. As you face the New Year do you face it with fear and trepidation? Or do you feel the warmth, the hope of new beginnings? Within our own lives we don’t need a New Year to make new beginnings – through the Saviour’s atonement we have the opportunity to continually repent and to continually experience the hope of new beginnings. The Saviour’s atonement is always available to us. As Rutter says in the song:

The light was always there if we could but see it;

And warmth was in the air if we’d known how to feel.

The next thing that the song talks about is:

Somewhere near, a voice is calling:

Hear the news,

Turn your ears to the sound.

Somewhere near a voice is calling – makes me think of the still small voice of the Spirit – if we live worthy of it will call to us – but we have to turn our ears to the sound to hear it – it will generally not shout at us to gain our attention.

Elder Packer, in his classic talk The Candle of the Lord describes it this way:

‘The voice of the Spirit is described in the scripture as being neither “loud” nor “harsh.” It is “not a voice of thunder, neither … voice of a great tumultuous noise.” But rather, “a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper,” and it can “pierce even to the very soul” and “cause [the heart] to burn.” (3 Ne. 11:3Hel. 5:30D&C 85:6–7.) Remember, Elijah found the voice of the Lord was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but was a “still small voice.” (1 Kgs. 19:12.)

The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. (No wonder that the Word of Wisdom was revealed to us, for how could the drunkard or the addict feel such a voice?)

Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening and say in our manner and expression, like Samuel of ancient times, “Speak [Lord], for thy servant heareth.” (1 Sam. 3:10.)’

And what is the news? The news is the good news of the gospel Christ is come to bring the world new life.– that Jesus Christ has atoned for our sins and that his gospel and Church have been restored in theses latter days with all power and authority necessary to help us return to live with our Heavenly Father with our families.

Turn your heart to the love;

In 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 we read:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

It must be a great thing to have the gift of tongues, or the gift of prophesy, or the faith to move mountains – but we are told here that it is a greater thing to be filled with love.

Orson Scott Card put this into modern terms for us: “And though I attend all my meetings faithfully, and fulfill all my callings, and make a home teaching visit during the first week of the month; and though in all ways I am an active Church member, yet if I do not spend time in love and service for others, then I am not yet a Saint, for I do not yet love the Lord with all my heart, might, mind, and strength; and I do not love my neighbor as myself.”

A story is told about Alexander the Great. When he had his portrait painted, the selected artist was greatly perplexed about how to do it. Alexander had an ugly scar from battle on the side of his forehead. The artist did not want to paint that scar in the portrait, because it would be offensive. But leaving the scar out of the painting would not be honest either, and the likeness of his king would be false. The artist finally arrived at a decision what to do. He asked Alexander to lean his head forward and rest it on the fingers of his hand in a way that covered the scar. The finished portrait of the great conqueror was valued as a success.

Do you and I find ways to portray other people in the best light possible, or do we instead focus on their scars?

Elder Dallin H Oakes explains that charity is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes. Thus, as Moroni declared, “except men shall have charity they cannot inherit” the place prepared for them in the mansions of the Father (Ether 12:34).He also wrote: ‘But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.’ (Moroni 7:47)

The converse would seem to be true – if we are not found possessed of it at the last day it will not be well with us.

Christ spent much of his ministry training 12 men. The world teaches that that we should seek to great, or rich or famous. Jesus was teaching these men that they must be humble. That they were not to be puffed up, that they were not to harbour feelings of envy but were to be meek and gentle and full of love. These are lessons that we all need to learn.

May we all be blessed with New life and love, and light and hope, this good New Year.

Posted in Temples

Holiness to the Lord

Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. During his mortal life Jesus said that he had no place to lay His head.  Joseph Smith and Brigham Young stated, respectively, at the cornerstone ceremonies of the Nauvoo and Salt Lake temples that these buildings were designed to remedy that situation.

Emblazoned on each LDS temple are the words:

‘HOLINESS TO THE LORD

THE HOUSE OF THE LORD’

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Brigham Young used the phrase ‘Holiness to the Lord’ in dedicating the Salt Lake Temple and said that the temple was a monument to the Saints’ “liberality, dedication and faith.”  He explained what the phrase ‘Holiness to the Lord’ meant to him:

‘Thirty years’ experience has taught me that every moment of my life must be holiness to the Lord, resulting from equity, justice, mercy, and uprightness in all my actions, which is the only course by which I can preserve the Spirit of the Almighty to myself.’ (Quoted in Exterior Symbolism of the Salt Lake Temple, Richard G Oman, BYU Studies Vol 36 No 4 page 42, 1996-1997)

According to President Gordon B Hinckley:

‘The first phrase of this statement is a declared recognition of the Almighty and a pledge of holiness and reverence before Him. The second is a statement of ownership. This is His house, built through the consecrations of the people and presented to him as their offering of love and sacrifice.’ (Exterior Symbolism of the Salt Lake Temple, p 52)

At the dedication of the Jordan River Temple President Ezra Taft Benson said:

‘When the Saviour walked the earth, He stated that there was no place to lay His head. He may have been referring to the fact that in His day there was no temple in the Holy land which had not been desecrated. Today there are many dedicated temples, hallowed places where the son of Man may come.’ (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, page 250)

Posted in Jesus Christ

Scriptural advent calendar – December 25

HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

D&C 76: 40-42

And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us—

 41 That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness;

 42 That through him all might be saved whom the Father had put into his power and made by him;

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Jesus’ name was determined premortally to be the loftiest, and the only name under heaven offering salvation to mankind. Yet on earth He willingly lived, wrote Paul, as a person ‘of no reputation’ (Philippians 2:7).

As the Creator Lord, He constructed the universe, yet in Galilee He was known merely as ‘the carpenter’s son’! The Lord of the universe was even without honour in his own provincial Nazarene countryside.

He issued the original commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, but was accused of violating the Sabbath because He gave healing rest to the afflicted.

The irony was constant. This whole earth is actually Jesus’ footstool, but at Bethlehem there was ‘no crib for his bed’. (Neal A Maxwell)

Posted in Christmas story

Scriptural advent calendar – December 24

Matthew 2:13-15

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:

 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.

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Bruce R. McConkie

“As Egypt had been a land of refuge for the house of Jacob anciently, so now it became a convenient and natural refuge for Jacob’s King. It was a nearby Roman province, outside the jurisdiction of Herod, where more than a million Jews already dwelt. And as Israel anciently had been called out of Egypt, so now her King was to return to the Canaan of promise to perform his earthly ministry. Since Herod is believed to have died when Jesus was two or three years old, our Lord’s sojourn in that land may have been as short as a few months. Presumptively it was the plan for him to spend his childhood, youth, and young manhood in Nazareth.

“Hosea’s prophecy, ‘When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt’ (Hos. 11:1), though having seeming reference to the house of Israel itself, is one of the many illustrations of prophetic utterances having dual meaning and fulfillment.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary,1:104)

Posted in Christmas story

Scriptural advent calendar – December 23

Matthew 2:11-12

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

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Thomas S. Monson

“Since that time, the spirit of giving gifts has been present in the mind of each Christian as he commemorates the Christmas season. I wonder if we might profit today by asking ourselves, ‘What gift would God have me give to Him or to others at this precious season of the year?’

“I feel that I might answer that question and declare in all solemnity that our Heavenly Father would want each one of His children to render unto Him a gift of obedience so that we would actually love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength. Then, I am sure, He would expect us to love our neighbors as ourselves.” (Be Your Best Self, p. 187.)

Posted in Joseph Smith

Happy Birthday, Joseph

Much has been written or spoken about Joseph Smith in the last few weeks and months fulfilling Moroni’s prophecy that Joseph’s  ‘name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues.’

In honour of Joseph’s birth on 23 December 1805 I thought I would share a few descriptions of Joseph from those who knew him.

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Jane James, an Afro-American convert :

I could not begin to tell you what he was, only this way, he was tall, over six feet; he was a fine, big, noble, beautiful man! He had blue eyes and light hair, and very fine white skin.

Rachel Ridgeway Grant (mother of Heber J Grant)

I guess you have seen the picture where Brother Joseph was preaching to the Indians. I was there at that time. The Indians were all kneeling down on the grass in front of the Mansion, and if you have seen that picture, that just describes the way everything was, though it is a miserable picture of the Prophet. He was a fine, noble-looking man, always so neat. There are some of the pictures that do not look a particle like him. When he was preaching you could feel the power and influence.

Jacob Jones

The Prophet weighed about 150 pounds, had nice brown hair, was always jovial and could crack a joke. He could sing well and loved music, loved to dance and would leave a meal at any time to wrestle with anyone. He was nimble as a cat and he was fond of us boys and would often play with us.

Anyone could not help but love him and he loved everybody. He always shook hands with all, even the babes. He had a very fine gray horse that he always rode whenever there was a parade.

Matthew S. Davis, member of Congress:

Washington 6th February 1840. My Dear Mary- I went last evening to hear Joe Smith, the celebrated Mormon, expound his doctrine. I with several others, had a desire to understand his tenets as explained by himself. He is not an educated man: but he is a plain, sensible strong minded man. Everything he says, is said in a manner to leave an impression that he is sincere. There is no levity, no fanaticism, no want of dignity in his deportment. He is apparently from forty to forty five years of age, rather above the middle stature, and what you ladies would call a very good looking man. ln his garb there are no peculiarities, his dress being that of a plain unpretending citizen. He is by profession a Farmer; but is evidently well read.

Josiah Quincy III, Mayor of Boston and President of Harvard University:

Pre-eminent among the stragglers by the door stood a man of commanding appearance, clad in the costume of a journeyman carpenter when about his work. He was a hearty, athletic fellow, with blue eyes standing prominently out upon his light complexion, a long nose, and a retreating forehead. He wore striped pantaloons, a linen jacket which had not lately seen the wash tub, and a beard of some three days’ growth. This was the founder of the religion which had been preached in every quarter of the earth.

A fine looking man is what the passerby would instinctively have murmured upon meeting this remarkable individual who had fashioned the mould which was to shape the feelings of so many thousands of his fellow-mortals.

George  Q Cannon, Liverpool born member of the Quorum of the Twelve:

He was more than six feet in height, with expansive chest and clean cut limbs ” a staunch and graceful figure. His head, crowned with a mass of soft, wavy hair, was grandly poised. His face possessed a complexion of such clearness and transparency that the soul appeared to shine through. He wore no beard, and the full strength and beauty of his countenance impressed all beholders at a glance. He had eyes which seemed to read the hearts of men. His mouth was one of mingled power and sweetness. His majesty of air was natural, not studied. Though full of personal and prophetic dignity whenever occasion demanded, he could at other times unbend and be as happy and unconventional as a boy. This was one of his most striking characteristics; and it was sometimes held up to scorn by his traducers, that the chosen *’man of God” should at times mingle as a man of earth with his earthly brethren.

Louisa Young Littlefield, met the Prophet as a 12 year old girl in 1834:

I will speak of a prominent trait of his character which was perhaps more marked in his early career than was the case after public cares and responsibilities multiplied upon him from so many sources. I mean his natural fondness for children. In Kirtland, when wagon loads of grown people and children came in from the country to meeting, Joseph would make his way to as many of the wagons as he well could and cordially shake the hand of each person. Every child and young babe in the company were especially noticed by him and tenderly taken by the hand, with his kind words and blessings. He loved innocence and purity, and he seemed to find it in the greatest perfection with the prattling child.

James Worthington Phippen:

I was favorably impressed with his noble mien, his stately form and his pleasant, smiling face and cheerful conversation.  Before I ever saw Joseph Smith I was satisfied that he was a man inspired of God, and when I beheld him if anything further could have increased my knowledge of him being a Prophet of the Lord, I was confirmed. During my acquaintance with him from 1839 until 1844, his teachings and examples were strong proof to me of his divine calling, without the inspiration of the Lord. I was an attentive listener and observer of the teachings, sayings and example of the Prophet Joseph Smith from the first time I saw him till the month of May, 1844, at which time I left Nauvoo for the state of New York on a mission. And being quite familiar with the history of his life as written, I remember many sayings recorded that I heard him utter. In common with those who were acquainted with his public life and doings in the midst of the Saints in Nauvoo, I had great joy and satisfaction in listening to his teachings.

Emmeline B Wells, 5th Relief Society General President:

In his manner he was gentle and kindly, and he was always affectionate to his friends, and at times demonstrative. He was strong and ardent in his nature and valued highly the quality of sincerity in friendship. He was manly to an unusual degree, yet tender-hearted as a woman on occasions. In his tastes he was literary as well as spiritual, fond of the drama, of music and of poetry. A very dear friend of mine who knew the Prophet intimately . . .[said] that she had known him to shed tears when hearing some specially fine vocal music, particularly old-fashioned songs and ballads. With such noble characteristics it is not strange that he was so intensely beloved.

John S. Reed, lawyer who helped Joseph Smith  in some of his early law suits:

… The first acquaintance I had with General Smith was about the year 1823. He came into my neighborhood, being then about eighteen years of age, and resided there two years, during which time I became intimately acquainted with him. I do know that his character was irreproachable, and that he was well known for truth and uprightness; that he moved in the first circles of the community, and he was often spoken of as a young man of intelligence and good morals, and possessing a mind susceptible of the highest intellectual attainments. I early discovered that his mind was constantly in search of truth, expressing an anxious desire to know the will of God.

Peter H. Burnett, a former Governor of California:

You could see at a glance that his education was very limited. He was an awkward and vehement speaker. In conversation he was slow, and used too many words to express his ideas, and would not generally go directly to a point. But, with all these drawbacks, he was much more than an ordinary man. He possessed the most indomitable perseverance, was a good judge of men, and deemed himself born to command, and he did command. His views were so strange and striking, and his manner was so earnest, and apparently so candid, that you could not but be interested. There was a kind, familiar look about him, that pleased you. He was very courteous in discussion, readily admitting what he did not intend to controvert, and would not oppose you abruptly, but had due deference to your feelings. He had the capacity for discussing a subject in different aspects, and for proposing many original views, even of ordinary matters. His illustrations were his own. He had great influence over others. As an evidence of this I will state that on Thursday, just before I left to return to Liberty [Missouri], I saw him out among the crowd, conversing freely with every one, and seeming to be perfectly at ease. In the short space of five days he had managed so to mollify his enemies that he could go unprotected among them without the slightest danger.

Dr. John M. Bernhisel, close friend of Joseph Smith:

Having been a boarder in General Smith’s family for more than nine months, and having therefore had abundant opportunities of contemplating his character and observing his conduct, I have concluded to give you a few of my “impressions” of him.

General Joseph Smith is naturally a man of strong mental powers, and is possessed of much energy and decision of character, great penetration, and a profound knowledge of human nature. He is a man of calm judgment, enlarged views, and is eminently distinguished by his love of justice. He is kind and obliging, generous and benevolent, sociable and cheerful, and is possessed of a mind of a contemplative and reactive character. He is honest, frank, fearless and independent, and as free from dissimulation as any man to be found.

But it is in the gentle charities of domestic life, as the tender and affectionate husband and parent, the warm and sympathizing friend, that the prominent traits of his character are revealed, and his heart is felt to be keenly alive to the kindest and softest emotions of which human nature is susceptible; and I feel assured that his family and friends formed one of the greatest consolations to him while the vials of wrath were poured upon his head, while his footsteps were pursued by malice and envy, and reproach and slander were strewn in his path, as well as during numerous and cruel persecutions, and severe and protracted sufferings in chains and loathsome prisons, for worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience.

He is a true lover of his country, and a bright and shining example of integrity and moral excellence in all the relations of life. As a religious teacher, as well as a man, he is greatly beloved by this people. It is almost superfluous to add that the numerous ridiculous and scandalous reports in circulation respecting him have not the least foundation in truth.

Lorenzo Snow

I shall never forget the first time I saw Joseph Smith. It was in Father Johnson’s house, in the township of Hiram, in the State of Ohio, about twenty-five miles from Kirtland. It was near Father Johnson’s where the mob tarred and feathered him. When I saw him he was standing in the doorway. Before him was a small bowery occupied by about a hundred and fifty or two hundred men and women. There for the first time I heard his voice. When I heard his testimony in regard to what the Lord had revealed to him, it seemed to me that he must be an honest man. He talked and looked like an honest man. He was an honest man.

Margarette McIntire Burgess, convert who lived in Nauvoo as a child:

Another time my older brother and I were going to school, near to the building which was known as Joseph’s brick store. It had been raining the previous day, causing the ground to be very muddy, especially along that street. My brother Wallace and I both got fast in the mud, and could not get out, and of course childlike, we began to cry, for we thought we would have to stay there. But looking up, I beheld the loving friend of children, the Prophet Joseph, coming to us. He soon had us on higher and drier ground. Then he stooped down and cleaned the mud from our little, heavyladen shoes, took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped our tear-stained faces. He spoke kind and cheering words to us, and sent us on our way to school rejoicing.

Brigham Young:

When I first heard him preach, he brought heaven and earth together; and all the priests of the day could not tell me anything correct about heaven, hell, God, angels, or devils; they were as blind as Egyptian darkness. When I saw Joseph Smith, he took heaven, figuratively speaking, and brought it down to earth; and he took the earth, brought it up, and opened up in plainness and simplicity, the things of God; and that is the beauty of his mission.

Posted in Christmas story

Scriptural advent calendar – December 22

Matthew 2:7-10

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.

 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.

 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.

 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

WiseMenSeekHimStill

We are all just travelers on this journey called life;
Some walk in darkness, while others follow a light.
We carry our treasures so close to our heart;
Some we let go of while others never part.
And somewhere on this journey we encounter a King
That will change us forever, to Him our treasures bring.

(Chorus)
And wise men still seek Him, they follow a star
That leads them to Jesus as travelers a far.
Men of great nations and the poor of the earth
All join together to proclaim Christ’s birth.

(Verse 2)
Sometimes we find ourselves with no room at the inn
Filled with hopes and dreams, none of them with Him.
Walk along a winding road, and can’t find our way;
Look to the Heavens a star as bright as day.
And somehow He finds Himself in the hardest of hearts,
Whispers I love you, never more to part.

(Repeat Chorus)
And wise men still seek Him, they follow a star
That leads them to Jesus as travelers a far.
Men of great nations and the poor of the earth
All join together to proclaim Christ’s birth.

(Bridge)
Star of Bethlehem shine tonight
And lead us and guide us to His perfect light.
Oh come Lord Jesus, we ask Thee to stay
And renew our spirit on this Christmas day.

(Verse 3)
We are all just travelers on this journey called life;
Been through the darkness, and now we see the light.
We carry a treasure more precious than gold,
A gift of redemption, His grace we now hold.
And someday we’ll find ourselves at the foot of the King
With all of God’s angels, His praises we’ll sing.

(Repeat Chorus)
And wise men still seek Him, they follow a star
That leads them to Jesus as travelers a far.
Men of great nations and the poor of the earth
All join together to proclaim Christ’s birth.
by Lynn Cooper

Posted in Christmas story

Christmas Sacrament Meeting

This Sunday we enjoyed a special Christmas presentation of words and music as part of our Sacrament programme. The programme was compiled by our Bishop and comprised of readings, recorded music, congregational carols and musical items.

Recording: Tabernacle Choir & Natalie Cole, Processional: Come, O Come

Reading 1, 2 Nephi 2:18-2

Recording: Alfie Boe & Tabernacle Choir, I Wonder As I Wander

Reading 2, 1 Nephi 11:13-21 & Mosiah 3:8 

Reading 3, Luke 1:26-38 

Carol: duet, 205 Once In Royal David’s City

Reading 4, Jeffrey R. Holland Maybe Christmas Doesn’t Come from a Store Ensign, Dec. 1977, 63–65 

One impression which has persisted with me recently is that this is a story—in profound paradox with our own times—that this is a story of intense poverty. I wonder if Luke did not have some special meaning when he wrote not “there was no room in the inn” but specifically that “there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7; italics added.) We cannot be certain, but it is my guess that money could talk in those days as well as in our own. I think if Joseph and Mary had been people of influence or means, they would have found lodging even at that busy time of year. I have wondered if the Inspired Version also was suggesting they did not know the “right people” in saying, “There was none to give room for them in the inns.” (JST, Luke 2:7.)
We cannot be certain what the historian intended, but we do know these two were desperately poor. At the purification offering which the parents made after the child’s birth, a turtledove was substituted for the required lamb, a substitution the Lord had allowed in the Law of Moses to ease the burden of the truly impoverished. (See Lev. 12:8.) . . .. . . As a father I have recently begun to think more often of Joseph, that strong, silent, almost unknown man who must have been more worthy than any other mortal man to be the guiding foster father of the living Son of God. It was Joseph selected from among all men who would teach Jesus to work. It was Joseph who taught him the books of the law. It was Joseph who, in the seclusion of the shop, helped him begin to understand who he was and ultimately what he was to become.

I was a student at BYU just finishing my first year of graduate work when our first child, a son, was born. We were very poor, though not so poor as Joseph and Mary. My wife and I were both going to school, both holding jobs, and in addition worked as head residents in an off-campus apartment complex to help defray our rent. We drove a little Volkswagen which had a half-dead battery because we couldn’t afford a new one (Volkswagen or battery).

Nevertheless, when I realized that our own night of nights was coming, I believe I would have done any honorable thing in this world, and mortgaged any future I had, to make sure my wife had the clean sheets, the sterile utensils, the attentive nurses, and the skilled doctors who brought forth our first born son. If she or that child had needed special care . . . I believe I would have ransomed my very life to get it.

I compare those feelings (which I have had with each succeeding child) with what Joseph must have felt as he moved through the streets of a city not his own, with not a friend or kinsman in sight, nor anyone willing to extend a helping hand. In these very last and most painful hours of her “confinement,” Mary had ridden or walked approximately 100 miles from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea. Surely Joseph must have wept at her silent courage. Now, alone and unnoticed, they had to descend from human company to a stable, a grotto full of animals, there to bring forth the Son of God. I wonder what emotions Joseph might have had as he cleared away the dung and debris. I wonder
if he felt the sting of tears as he hurriedly tried to find the cleanest straw and hold the animals back.

mary-joseph-nativity-art-lds-191342-print

I wonder if he wondered: “Could there be a more unhealthy, a more disease-ridden, a more despicable circumstance in which a child could be born? Is this a place fit for a king? Should the mother of the Son of God be asked to enter the valley of the shadow of death in such a foul and unfamiliar place as this? Is it wrong to wish her some comfort? Is it right He should be born here?” But I am certain Joseph did not mutter and Mary did not wail. They knew a great deal and did the best they could.

Carol: 206 O Little Town of Bethlehem

Reading 5,  Luke 2:1-16

Reading 6, Barbara Norton: David R. Crocket Christmas at Winter Quarters, Church News Dec. 21 1996 (includes a recording: Fiddlesticks, “Farewell To Nauvoo” 

Throughout 1845 anti-Mormon persecution in Illinois grew in frequency and intensity. By Autumn it was clear that the city of Nauvoo would have to be abandoned. The exodus began prematurely in February as a result of mob violence. In appalling conditions and intense suffering the saints made their way across Iowa to Winter Quarters. The westward migration continued throughout 1846 until by Christmas some 10,000 people were accommodated in temporary homes, some in just tents or wagons, the more fortunate in turf or timber shacks and cabins.

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Christmas Day at Winter Quarters in 1846 was a working day. It was also a day for joy, a day to count many blessings despite numerous trials. Harriet Young, wife of Lorenzo Dow Young, recorded: “This morning we were saluted from every quarter with ‘Happy Christmas’ or ‘Christmas Gift.’ We staid at home, retired from the busy crowd.” . . .
. . . The frozen Missouri river nearby, reflected the bright sunshine as the Saints went to work at their various day’s activities. Among the daily tasks were, fetching water from wells and streams, chopping wood, building houses, patiently caring for the more than three hundred sick in the city, watching the children, and feeding the animals. Mary Richards spent her morning gathering together a large load a clothes. She went to her sister-in-law’s house “to spend Christmas over the wash tub.” Mary and Jane Richards washed all day, enjoying their company, and certainly they spoke longingly of their husbands (Samuel W. Richards and Franklin D. Richards) who were away
from home on this Christmas Day, serving the Lord on missions in England.

The Church leaders, including President Brigham Young, attended to important business in council meetings during the afternoon and into the evening. There was an incredible amount of planning and organization that still needed attention, to prepare for the continued massive exodus of the Church to their future mountain home in the Rocky Mountains. These faithful Saints also took time this day to stop and reverently reflect on the Savior’s birth.  They reminisced about their difficult journey during the past year that brought them settle at this location on the west bank of the Missouri River. They cast their thoughts on loved-ones who were away: In the Mormon Battalion, on missions, on trading expeditions, and dear family and friends who during the year had departed from this life. . . .. . . After the labors of the day were complete, time was spent in small, quiet gatherings of family and friends. A small party was held at the home of Elder Heber C. Kimball. His daughter, Helen Mar Whitney, wrote that it “was very enjoyable and passed off in fine style.” A gathering was also held at Edwin Wooley’s home which was attended by many sisters, including Eliza R. Snow, Patty Session, Phoebe Chase, Hannah Markham and Hannah Green. Surely they discussed the Christmas Days of years gone by, including the previous year in their beloved City of Joseph, Nauvoo the Beautiful.

As the night became late, the Saints quietly returned to their homes, wagons and tents, put their children to bed and retired to rest for the important work of the coming day. They knew that their Savior had been born, lived, and died for them. They rejoiced despite their afflictions, that they were blessed to receive the restored gospel in their lives. They retired with the hope of a better day, when they could celebrate future Christmas Days under permanent roofs, in a land far to the west. The faith and sacrifices experienced on that Christmas Day long ago, reaped blessing and rewards for generations to come.

One of the early pioneers, John Menzies Macfarlane, later wrote the carol the missionaries will nowsing for us, the only carol in our hymn book written by a latter-day saint and one of very few LDS hymns to be accepted in the wider Christian community, 212 Far Far Away On Judea’s Plains.

Carol, 212, Far Far Away On Judea’s Plains

Reading 7, from Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

The name Scrooge has become synonymous with an anti-Christmas spirit of selfish miserliness and lack of charity. But we should remember that that is not how the story ends. The famous Dicken’s book “A Christmas Carol” is about change and redemption. It is a metaphor of the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. These are the last few paragraphs.
“A merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit.”

scrooge-before-and-after

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man,as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!

May we have the same joy and spirit of goodwill in our Christmas this year

Concluding Remarks

Carol: 202 O Come All Ye Faithful

Posted in Christmas story

Scriptural advent calendar – December 21

 Matthew 2:1-6

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judæa: for thus it is written by the prophet,

 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

wise-men

If Jesus had come, as these wise men, riding on a camel, bearing gold, frankincense, and myrrh, with a crown on his head, he undoubtedly would have been accepted—king of the Jews. His coming had been long awaited, but they could not accept one, born so humbly and lowly in a stable.
He came born away from home, in obscurity.
He preached—the clearest, most simple, teacher of profound truth that ever came among men.
He healed—
He called followers about him, even apostles.
He suffered—betrayed, denied, and deserted.
He died—a horrible death upon a cross.
He was resurrected—after three days in a tomb. He lives. He will return again. (William J Critchlow, October 1959)