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"Joy to the World"

Let every heart prepare him room.
~"Joy to the World"

Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace.
~"Silent Night"

Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.
 ~"O Little Town of Bethlehem"

Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
~"Hark! the Herald Angels Sing"

Lord, with the angels we too would rejoice;
Help us to sing with the heart and voice.
~"Far, Far Away on Judea's Plains"

"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep:
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
~"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

Sharing Time: What are your favorite words from the Christmas hymns?

Every Sister

An Extensive Sphere of Action The Lord, His Church, families, and communities need the influence of righteous women. In fact, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that “every sister in this Church who has made covenants with the Lord has a divine mandate to help save souls, to lead the women of the world, to strengthen the homes of Zion, and to build the kingdom of God.”1
Some sisters may wonder if they can accomplish such lofty aims. But as Eliza R. Snow (1804–87), second Relief Society general president, explained, “There is no sister so isolated, and her sphere so narrow but what she can do a great deal towards establishing the Kingdom of God upon the earth.”2 Sister Snow also taught that Relief Society was organized “for the accomplishment of every good and noble work.”3
Participation in Relief Society enlarges our spheres of influence by giving each sister opportunities to build faith, to strengthen families and homes, and to provide service both …

2011 First Presidency Christmas Devotional

Did you watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional last Sunday? Wasn't it wonderful? It's one of the few things that light the Christmas spirit in me (I'm somewhat of a Scrooge, for those of you who don't know me). I am watching it again now because I missed some of it and wanted to remember the parts that touched me so I can share them with you:

Opening & Closing
Love the wintry blue dresses instead of red.The French horns in "The First Noel" sounded heavenly. The entire song was angelic.MoTab sang "Silent Night" with much reverence and sincerity. The harp was beautiful.President Uchtdorf
"Don't ever play with fire--an important message with literal and figurative implications for everyone, not only children.""The Lord does not expect that we commit to move mountains, but He does require that we bring as gifts our best efforts to move ourselves, one foot in front of the other, walking in the ways He has prepared and taught…

Remember Christ

“Jesus is the reason for the season” is more often said than remembered. This Christmas use the following ideas to remember Jesus, for this holiday is in celebration of His birth. Have each family member give a gift to Jesus by writing down a promise to do or not do something, such as helping more, being nicer to a sibling, or not lying. Keep the written promises in a wrapped box under the tree. On Christmas Day, New Year’s, or the following Christmas, open up the box and have everyone evaluate his or her improvement. Set aside one night, such as Christmas Eve, as a holy night of reading from the scriptures the Christmas story and other stories of Jesus’s life and teachings. Sing together or play on an instrument the Christmas hymns. Follow a scriptural advent calendar, reading a scripture about Jesus every night. Involve the family in service: the Savior’s life was all about serving others. There are plenty of opportunities during Christmas. Visit friends, bringing treats and singin…

The Purpose of Suffering for Sin

Excerpts from "Sin and Suffering," a BYU fireside address by Elder Oaks:

Where there has been sin, there must be suffering.
Let us recall two scriptures: (1) “Repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment” (Alma 42:16); and (2) the Savior said that he had suffered these things for all, “that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I” (D&C 19:16–17).
This obviously means that the unrepentant transgressor must suffer for his own sins. Does it also mean that a person who repents does not need to suffer at all because the entire punishment is borne by the Savior? That cannot be the meaning because it would be inconsistent with the Savior’s other teachings. What is meant is that the person who repents does not need to suffer “even as” the Savior suffered for that sin. Sinners who are repenting will experience some suffering, but because of their repentance and the Atonement, they will not experience…

Gratitude

It is no secret our country suffers from severe ingratitude. We are always wanting something more, newer, or better. We raise our children to be materialistic and high maintenance. We are deep in debt or bankrupt. We consider ourselves poor if we only have one car and a regular cell phone instead of a smartphone. We celebrate Christmas--the season of buying and getting--before Thanksgiving is even in sight. And the only time we momentarily wake up from our selfish lives to be reminded of gratitide is when something tragic occurs: death, natural disasters, crime, and the like. This quickly passes and we go on with our lives, complaining bitterly or wishing wistfully about what we don't have.

But the kind of gratitude we show matters too. There are different degrees of gratitude: there is the obvious gesture of saying thank you, the nicer gesture of doing something in return, and the heavenly attitude of constantly living a thankful life. As President Monson stated in General Confer…

Scrubbing the Tub

A poem I wrote for my BYU creative writing class. My professor loved it, but the New Era didn't. I hope you appreciate it.

It’s about time the bathtub was cleaned. A detailed history of sweaty workouts, first dates, bad hair days, And all-night cramming stains the puky plastic. I snow the tub with Comet and let the dam loose, Warm water crashing down. I start to scrub. And scrub. The tub frowns back at me the same. I think I’m going to need a bigger brush.
Scritcha, scritcha, scritcha. One layer gone. Scritcha, scritcha, scritcha. Two. Three. My wrist is as limp as a doggy ear. More Comet. More water. More slaving away like Cinderella. I think I can even hear my evil step-sisters laughing. If only, if only I had not waited until the grime came, saw, and conquered! The clock tick-tocks in rhythm with the scrub brush, but it doesn’t harmonize. Red knees, cramping arms, everywhere wet, wet, wet, Forehead and faucet dripping.
Finally! One last scritcha and I stand up to behold The fruit…

Marriage: Underrated

This popular t-shirt, TV sitcoms, and movies such as Hall Pass all joke about how awful, boring, unromantic, and overrated marriage is. Marriage is not taken seriously in our culture. Weddings are; marriage is not.

We married people are responsible for changing this terrible attitude toward married life. If all we do is complain about the bad and encourage every negative stereotype about husbands and wives, then that is all people will think of marriage. If we focus on the good and break negative stereotypes, then perhaps more people will want to be like us.

What is it about marriage that changes things? Regular boyfriends and girlfriends work, go to school, have kids, maybe live together--things married people do too--and yet still have time for each other and find their relationships exciting and desirable. I think it is the fact that a legal marriage makes people feel stuck or more accountable. And people like easy exits. The fear of such a high commitment level is the reason suc…

Pray for These

I am constantly reminded of how incredibly horrific life can be. The terrors of mankind and nature are revealed everyday on the news and in TV shows--fictional and documentative. As I hear survivors and witnesses of such disturbing events share their experiences, I cannot help but feel compassion, pain, and sorrow for them.

Every one of these people is a child of God, known and loved and not forgotten by Him. Let us remember them in our prayers. Pray for all the children who are being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. Pray for all the women who have been raped, murdered, and mutilated. Pray for all the innocent victims of terrifying civil wars. Pray for all the people lost or injured in unforgiving wildernesses. Pray for all the fearful people caught in natural disasters and freak accidents. Pray for all these people to be blessed with comfort, peace, hope, temporal salvation if it's God will, and spiritual salvation if it's not.

Challenge: Next time you pray, ask…

Who Are Christians?

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are frequently labeled Mormons/the Mormon Church or Latter-day Saints/the LDS Church. No matter what people call us, they never reference Christ, the Son of God, whom we worship and for whom our church is named. We are never called Christians.

Who are Christians? According to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, a Christian is "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ." There are many things wrong with this definition: 1.) it implies that to be Christian you only need to profess belief, 2.) the belief is in Christ's teachings, not in Him, and 3.) there are many interpretations of what His teachings are. The last problem is why people do not consider us Christians. The first two are why I don't consider many people Christians.

Of course, to be Christian you need to believe in Christ. We do. We believe He is the Son of God and atoned for our sins. We worship Him and only Him--not prophets,…

Random Acts of Kindness

Service does not have to be big or time consuming. Sometimes the best service is small, random acts of kindness. These little but meaningful acts brighten other people’s day and make them feel loved. Try one of the following ideas to surprise a stranger, friend, neighbor, or family member.
FOR STRANGERS: Put coins into a parking meter running low. Return stray shopping carts in the parking lot so that they don’t damage cars. Pay for something for someone waiting behind you in line. Give up your seat on a bus or in a waiting room. Hand out or randomly leave treats for students studying in the library during midterms and finals. Hold open the door for people and help them carry in packages or other loads. Give $5 gift cards for fast food places to homeless people. Smile and say hello! FOR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS: Doorbell ditch, leaving behind treats, a small gift, or a kind note. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway, weed their yard, or wash their car. Buy or make a lunch for your roomma…

The Power of Service

I received this story from my father, who got it from his bishop. It has been edited for usage and clarity. Names have been changed for privacy:

This is an amazing story, a miracle really, that happened right here in the loving Lake Elsinore Ward.
There was a very less-active man married to a very active woman: the Smith family. They lived in Horse Thief and had three little children. Sister Smith held callings and juggled her kids and was as active and faithful as could be. What an example she was. Brother Smith was a good guy, but just didn't care much for the Church. 
They asked us to help them move out when Brother Smith found his dream job across the country on the East Coast. As always, our sweet priesthood brethren and our Relief Society sisters jumped in without hesitation to assist in the move. 
The Lord works in mysterious ways! Here's the rest of the story as written in a Facebook message from Brother Smith: 
"Hello Bishop Johnson! Thanks for accepting my friend re…

How to Teach the Scriptures to Toddlers

Teaching scripture stories to toddlers is important for instilling them with faith in God, gospel knowledge, and power to do what’s right. But it’s not easy for them to understand the scriptures and they have short attention spans, so try the following ideas to help them learn better.
If your toddler has difficulty cooperating during family scripture study, let them read their church books while the family reads from the scriptures. They will learn that it is a special time to read about the gospel. Try reading toddler books about scripture stories together before bed.Retell scriptures stories in your own words at a toddler level. To get little children involved, have them do something (like clap) every time they hear a certain key word (like faith). Or make little happy and sad faces for them to hold up when they hear the words “happy” and “sad.”Read the Church's scripture stories for children. After a few sentences, read the corresponding verses from the scriptures. Remember Eld…

Teach by Example

My one-year-old son recently reminded me how important it is to teach by example. One night when we were about to have family scripture study, as we always do before he goes to bed, he folded his arms on his own. We did not teach him by folding his arms for him; he learned by watching us. Now he does it every time we read scriptures or say prayer.

On the other hand, when my baby started yelling and "talking" back when he was upset or wanted attention, I realized I needed to watch how I express my frustration around him. I told my husband  we need to yell less often (especially since we aren't even mad, just yelling across the house or over the TV--not that we should yell when we're mad either) and keep calm when we discipline our son. Although it doesn't seem to make a difference in any one situation, I have noticed small improvements in the long run.

Parenthood is a chance to refine ourselves as we realize how influential we are in our children's lives. We …

Family Scripture Study

Family scripture study strengthens family ties, spiritually prepares each family member for the day, and increases everyone’s knowledge and testimony of the gospel. If you do not have family scripture study, start today!
Try to have scripture study everyday with the whole family. Decide on a time that works best for your family, such as before school or before bed.Decide what you will read each day. One idea is to read the scriptures beginning to end and create a reading chart to follow and mark your progress. Another idea is to study by topic by going through the index or letting a family member choose.Make sure everyone is involved. Ask a family member to pray. Make sure everyone has a set of scriptures. Have the older kids help the younger kids follow along. Take turns reading aloud.If everyone has conflicting schedules, then have short devotionals whenever everyone is together or with different family members throughout the day. Say a prayer and read a short scripture passage. Ano…

Scripture Study with Your Spouse

Having scripture study together as husband and wife is very important for a strong relationship with each other and with God. There is no one way to do it—find the method that works best for you. The important thing is to just do it.
Aim for daily scripture study together in a quiet place for at least fifteen minutes. Begin and end with prayer. Take turns reading aloud, with the other spouse following along, and share your insights. Study by topic or create a reading schedule to take away pressure and time in finding a passage to study. A schedule also helps you keep track of progress and work toward a goal. When you have a question about something you read, search together for the answer. Find other scriptures, consult religious books, or search online. Make it a team effort to learn. Listen to each other. Never criticize or make fun of anything your spouse shares during scripture study. If you disagree about something, find common ground and move on. If you think it is a major mi…

Make Time for Scripture Study

Making time for personal scripture study can be difficult when you have a busy schedule. Take advantage of the few moments you have each day to squeeze in a short scripture study.
Study the scriptures for one minute right after you wake up or before you go to bed.Read a few scripture verses any few minutes you get: while eating, brushing your teeth, waiting for something to boil or heat up in the microwave, watching TV during commercials, etc.Buy the scriptures on CD or download them to your iPod to listen to in the car, at home, or while exercising.Keep scriptures in your car or purse to read when you have down time or are waiting for something. Also, you can download the scriptures onto smartphones.Sign up to get a daily scripture verse email.If even these tips don’t work for you, then stop wasting time! If you have time to watch your favorite TV show, go on Facebook, or read a book, then you have time for a few minutes of personal scripture study. Put God and your spirituality firs…

Personal Scripture Study Tips

Personal scripture study nurtures your spirit, deepens your gospel knowledge and understanding, and brings you closer to God. Put effort into your personal scripture study to maximize its blessings. Here are some tips to help you.
Choose a time and place that will let you get the most out of your personal scripture study. Find a time when you are alert and unhurried and a place where you have peace and quiet. If you have no quiet, private place, then sit in the bathroom with the fan on to block out noise.Decide how you will study the scriptures. You can read from beginning to end or study by topic. Either way, determine in advance to stay on task, be organized, and reach your goal. Make a reading chart to track your progress.Study for a certain amount of time or distance; for example, one chapter a day or for ten minutes. Begin and end with a prayer. Ask for the Spirit to be with you as you read so that you can be enlightened and find answers to questions and problems you have.Use oth…

Motes and Beams

I consider myself a pretty compassionate, understanding person, especially with strangers and acquaintances. I always give them the benefit of the doubt and don't take anything personally, so it takes a lot for me to get irritated with others. But once I am, my Christlike attitude quickly departs.

Recently I was very irked with a couple in my ward for not fulfilling their calling as Nursery teachers. We have six Nurseries in the ward, each with ten children. It is very chaotic on Sundays, especially when we need to find substitutes. All we ask of the teachers is to call subs or call us to give us warning of their absence. This couple had only done so once on the night before church. The rest of the time they had been gone.

I was very frustrated. I thought they were being immature. I heard they did not like their calling and that was why they were not showing up. I was mad that they accepted a calling they were not willing to do instead of just saying no and only the bishopric kno…

Expressions of Love

Sharing Time: How do you express love?

How to Memorize the Apostles in Order

Here are little facts and mnemonic devices to help you memorize the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in order.

1. Monson: His name rhymes with one.

2. Eyring: The first part of his last name sounds like eye, and we have two eyes.

3. Uchtdorf: He was called to the Presidency on February 3, 2008.

4. Packer: The Green Bay Packers have won four Super Bowls.

5. Perry: He was born August 5, 1922.

6. Nelson: He hassix degrees (BA, MA, PhD, and 3 honorary degrees).

7. Oaks: The Creation took seven days, and one creation is oak trees.

8. Ballard: Think of the eight ball in billiards, which is similar to his name.

9. Scott: Two parents + seven children = family ofnine.

10. Hales: He had tenother major Church callings before called as an apostle.

11. Holland: The two l's in his name look like the number eleven.

12. Bednar: The name David A. Bednar istwelve letters long.

13. Cook: Thirteen is a baker's dozen, and a baker is related to a cook.

14. Christofferson: His last name is four…

Where Jesus Walked

If
by Carma Salvesen
From the November 2010 New Era

If I could go to Galilee And walk where Jesus walked And sit in tender grasses On the hillside where He taught. If I could sit and ponder On a rock that knew His hand, Or walk along the seashore Where His feet had touched the sand. My spirit yearns within me, But it doesn’t seem my fate. I’ll never walk where Jesus walked. I’ll never see … but wait. I worship in His temple Where I know He’s walked before. Have His feet been down this hallway? Have His fingers touched this door? Has He stood here in this very room And looked at what I see? In the beauty of His temple I can feel His love for me. I close my eyes and picture Him, My worries melt away. I don’t need to go to Galilee Or travel far away. For my tender heart is filled With what He wants me to be taught And my testimony burns within— I’ve walked where Jesus walked! Sharing Time: How have you walked where Jesus walked?

For God So Loved the World

John 3:16 reads, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This verse reminds us of the Atonement and how grateful we are that Christ died for us so we could return to Him. However, I do not think we understand the true depth of this scripture.

When we are enduring trials not brought about by sin, often the questions "Why me?" or "What did I do to deserve this?" are at the forefront of our minds. Many cease to believe in God on the basis that if He really cared He wouldn't let terrible things happen to innocent people. Such thoughts are the result of not understanding the plan of salvation, especially the Atonement.

Elder Richard G. Scott said in an October 1995 General Conference:
Now may I share some suggestions with you who face the second source of adversity, the testing that a wise Heavenly Father determines is needed even when you are living a wo…

Family Home Evening for Babies

Family home evening can sometimes be a challenge because we don't know what to do. This is especially true for those of us with only a baby. There are plenty of ideas for single members, couples, and families, but I have yet to find good suggestions for planning a family home evening lesson for a baby (not yet in Nursery). So I compiled my own list: Read gospel-related board books. They are short and introduce common scripture stories in a very simple manner. Read the scriptures. Elder Bednar said, "Youth of all ages, even infants, can and do respond to the distinctive spirit of the Book of Mormon. Children may not understand all of the words and stories, but they certainly can feel the 'familiar spirit' described by Isaiah (Isaiah 29:4; see also 2 Nephi 26:16)." Sing Primary songs together. There is no better way to invite the Spirit, teach basic gospel principles, and prepare your baby for Nursery and Primary. Sing interactive songs to get wiggle…

The Name of Mother

I know a name, a glorious name,
Dearer than any other.
Listen, I'll whisper the name to you:
It is the name of  mother.

("The Dearest Names," Children's Songbook, 208)

Sidney J. Harris said, "The commonest fallacy among women is that simply having children makes them a mother--which is as absurd as believing that having a piano makes one a musician." What defines a mother is not having children, but having a mother's heart. By this definition, any woman can be given the name of mother. And what an honor to be given this name, for "of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother" (Lin Yutang).

Unfortunately, some women do not believe this and view motherhood as bondage and weakness. However, it is easy to be a worldly woman and mother, to be selfish, idle, and shallow. It is not easy to be a godly woman and mother, to be selfless, productive, and deep. Yet in the end, the better women are those who have gone through the refiner's fi…

The Best Day of the Week

My favorite day of the week is Sunday. It is the one day I get to forget about worldly cares and just enjoy being with my family, focus on my spirituality, and participate in uplifting activities. I love how different the Sabbath Day feels from the rest of the week. On the Sabbath I dress up and put on makeup and stay that way all day. On the Sabbath I learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ. On the Sabbath I relax and rest. On the Sabbath I play with my husband and baby. On the Sabbath I read the scriptures and the Ensign. On the Sabbath I listen to beautiful music and feel the Spirit.

I feel deep sorrow whenever I hear people say they dislike Sunday. I think their negative attitudes come from their misunderstanding of the purpose of the Sabbath. The Lord did not give us the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy to punish us or to benefit Himself. Jesus said, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27). This scripture means, as one of my BYU re…

Modesty in Marriage: A Message for Newlyweds

Congratulations! You’re married! All that chastity has paid off with a beautiful temple wedding. But virtue doesn’t stop at the altar—modesty in all areas continues in marriage.
Clothing: Remain modest in respect for your spouse and temple garments. On beach days and date nights, you can still dress attractively without flaunting your sexuality.Bedroom: The Church has no official rules on what is and is not allowed in the bedroom, except for obvious behaviors that break covenants, such as infidelity, pornography, and abuse. However, President Kimball advised, “If it is unnatural, you just don’t do it. That is all, and all the family life should be kept clean and worthy and on a very high plane. There are some people who have said that behind the bedroom doors anything goes. That is not true and the Lord would not condone it.”1 When you are unsure of something concerning intimacy, examine your motivation and feelings. Sex should never be dirty, …

Modesty Means Men Too!

In all the modesty talks, the focus is usually on women, but modesty applies to men too.
Extremes: The most obvious immodesty for men is sporting extreme hairdos and offensive clothing and accessories. Modesty is about being moderate and includes not showing off flashy, expensive apparel. Dress your best without being distracting, especially at church or in the temple.Tight Clothing: Tight clothing is just as immodest for men as it is for women!Revealing Clothing: If what you are wearing doesn't cover garments, whether or not you are endowed, then it is immodest. This rule applies to athletic wear as well. Of course some sports require certain clothing that may not allow for garments (such as swimming), but those activities are not excuses to be immodest.Words (spoken or written): Men are usually the most immodest when it comes to what they say. Repeating crude humor, sharing intimate activities, and using profanity are all inappropriate for a priesthood holder to do. Other Behavio…

Accidental Immodesty

We may think we are dressed modestly when really we aren’t, even if we are following all the written rules. Modesty is just as much about the spirit of the law as it is about the letter of the law. Here are some ways to check for accidental immodesty before heading out the door.

Sneaky Skin: You may not realize areas of skin that are showing because you cannot see them. Stand in front of a mirror and bend over in all directions. Check for skin showing on your backside, tummy, and chest. If you can see down your shirt, so can anyone else taller than you.Tight Clothing: Your clothes are too tight if you can’t pinch them, move around comfortably in them, or put them on easily.Glamour: Too much jewelry, heavy makeup, and incredible heel height make you look more like a woman of the world than a woman of the Lord. Modesty means not obsessing over fashion and makeovers or focusing on the “vain imaginations” of the world.1 The word modesty is related to…

Modesty: Beyond Fashion

We’ve all heard the modesty talk so many times, we could recite it in our sleep. And most of us already dress modestly, so it feels like they’re preaching to the choir. But this time it’s not about the clothes—modesty extends beyond fashion to all aspects of your life.

Conversation: What we talk about with our friends and significant others is just as important as what we wear. If you have nonmember friends who like to share their sexual conquests, tell them that’s private information you aren’t interested in. When on dates, don’t talk about sexual activities. Men, avoid crude humor and let your friends know it’s not funny to you—sex is an intimate topic. Photos: We all have social media accounts through which we share our everyday lives, vacations, and fun times with the rest of the world. We need to be careful, though, of what photos we take and post of ourselves. When unsure, just ask yourself, “Would I be embarrassed if my bishop saw this pic…

Modesty: At All Times and Places

Church, school, home—we are modest where and when expected. However, are we using the following situations as excuses to dress immodestly?
Beach/Pool: Women, choose your swimsuit by how much it covers, not by its name—even one-piece suits can be immodest with plunging necklines and no backs. Men, avoid tight swimming shorts.Athletics: Sports, dance, and exercise all require flexible, proper-fitting clothing. It’s possible to find such clothing in (more) modest styles or to make them more modest, such as by wearing spandex shorts underneath track shorts. Even sports with mandatory uniforms can be worked around. For example, a girl in my stake ordered her high-school cheerleading skirt longer than required with no problem. Halloween: Often this holiday is seen as the night modesty is scared away. Most women’s costumes revolve around sex appeal and men's around crude humor. There are so many creative costumes out there that are modest and…