Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Illegals and the Census

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the question of whether or not the 2020 census should include people who are in the United States illegally. The Census is used for a number of different reasons and ways. One very important way that the Census is used is to determine which areas of the United States need more or fewer representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives.

            Arthur E. Gary, general counsel for the Department of Justice, sent a three-page letter dated December 12, 2017, to Dr. Ron Jarmin of the Census Bureau. Gary requested in his letter that the Bureau reinstate on the 2020 Census questionnaire a question regarding citizenship. I hope that you noticed the word “reinstate.” The DOJ is claiming that they need an accurate counting of citizens in order to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

            Liberals are up in arms about the idea. They need the illegals to be counted in order to have more Democrat representatives. They claim that such a question on the questionnaire would frighten illegals from participating in the Census. Columnist Rick Moran has a question about the liberal hysteria. 

I fail to see how such a question could generate controversy. Illegal aliens are already very distrustful of the census so it’s hard to see how one question would make it worse. They really needn’t worry. The Census Bureau cannot share information from the census with Homeland Security or any other federal agency due to confidentiality laws.

Instead of getting hysterical about adding the citizenship question, perhaps illegal alien advocates could explain to them they are in no danger of discovery from the Census Bureau. That would be a far more productive use of their time and energy.

            It appears that the United States Government has an important need to know the number of citizens in the country. This number is needed for both representation and for voting rights verification. I say put the question on questionnaire!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Lehi and Joseph Smith

            Approximately ten years ago I started a huge project for my grandchildren. I heard of Apostles and Stake Presidents who read and marked a Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ for each of their grandchildren. I decided to do the same thing even I recognized that I am neither an Apostle nor a priesthood leader. I may be the most doctrinally prepared to do this for my grandchildren.

            As part of my project, I purchase a nice set of LDS scriptures for each grandchild and have their name embossed on the cover. I mark the footnotes and Seminary master scriptures throughout the scriptures – Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. Then I read each Book of Mormon, while marking the words and phrases that I would emphasize if I was reading the Book of Mormon with them. I also write some of the principles that I find in the scriptures as I read them. I give the set of scriptures to the child at the time of their baptism. Last year was a busy year because five of my grandchildren were baptized within an eight-month period of time.

            Now I am working on another set of scriptures for a grandson that will turn eight years old the end of May 2018. It does not seem to matter how many times I read the Book of Mormon because I always marvel at the story of Lehi and his experience as a prophet of God. I marvel not only because of the story but also because his story is similar to the story of Joseph Smith. I wonder how Joseph felt when he realized that he shared similar experiences with Lehi. How would you feel?

            Lehi lived at a time when “many prophets” (1 Nephi 1:4) went about calling the people to repentance and prophesying that Jerusalem would be destroyed if the people did not repent. [We know that Jerusalem was destroyed within a few years of these prophesies.] One day while Lehi went about his work, he was praying mightily for his people. Suddenly, he saw “a pillar of fire” that “dwelt upon a rock.” He “saw and heard much; and because of the things which he saw and heard he did quake and tremble exceedingly” (1:6). He returned to his home and “cast himself upon his bed, being overcome with the Spirit” (1:7).

            As you may recall, Joseph Smith was a young man of fourteen years when he began to attend religious revivals with his family. Each of the preachers claimed to have the truth and urged the young man to join their church. Everyone claimed to love everyone else, yet there was contention: “it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensured – priest contending against priest, and convert against convert” (Joseph Smith – History 1:6). Joseph did not know who to believe or which church to join, and he sought an answer in the scriptures.

            One night Joseph was reading in the Bible when he came to the Epistle of James where he read: “If any of you lack reason, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). Joseph decided to ask God and went to a nearby grove of trees to utter his first prayer.

            Both Lehi and Joseph had sincere desires to know what God would have them do. They turned to God in prayer, and each received spiritual knowledge. The principle contained in these experiences is: Great desires produce great results, while mediocre desires produce mediocre results.

            While Lehi was overcome by the Spirit, “he was carried away in a vision.” In the vision “he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels”
(1 Nephi 1:8). He also “saw One descending out of the midst of heaven, and he beheld that his luster was above that of the sun at noon-day” (1:9).

            Joseph Smith went to a predetermined place in the grove of trees and looked around to make sure that he was alone. “I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God… I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun… When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description” (Joseph Smith – History 1:15-17).

            Lehi and Joseph Smith were both concerned about spiritual matters, and both prayed. In return, both of them received visions where they saw the Father and the Son. This is not the only similarity between the two of them.

            Lehi “saw twelve others” following the One, and they stood before Lehi. They “gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read” (1 Nephi 1:10-11). Joseph was visited by the Angel Moroni who gave him a record written on metal plates and told him to translate the information, which became the Book of Mormon. (See “Testimony of Joseph Smith” in the Book of Mormon.)

            Lehi tried to share his new enlightenment with the people, but “the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them… they were angry with him; …and they also sought his life” (1 Nephi 1:18-20). Joseph also tried to teach his new knowledge to the people of his day, but they rejected him also. Moroni warned Joseph that the people would try to get the metal plates with the record.

I soon found out the reason why I had received such strict charges to keep them safe, and why it was that the messenger had said that when I had done what was required at my hand, he would call for them. For no sooner was it known that I had them, than the most strenuous exertions were used to get them from me. Every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to for that purpose. The persecution became more bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continually to get them from me if possible (Joseph Smith – History 1:60).

            Lehi was warned of God in a dream that he must leave Jerusalem because the people would kill him. Lehi took his family and departed into the wilderness and eventually made their way to the American continents (1 Nephi 2:1-2). Joseph was forced to move from place to place – from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois. He was arrested on numerous occasions on spurious charges, and his followers were persecuted and killed. He and his brother Hyrum were killed on June 27, 1844, in the jail in Carthage. Illinois. He sealed his mission with his own blood. (See Doctrine and Covenants 135:3.)

            The Lord loves all of His children, and He provides information for our safety and happiness. Usually, this is accomplished through prophets. Amos said, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but [until] he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). To be spiritually and physically safe, we would be wise to pay attention when a prophet speaks. If we hear a prophet quote another prophet, we should pay particular attention. The experiences of Lehi and Joseph Smith should convince us to listen and to obey the words of the prophets.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Goals for the New Year

            Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when the rising generation learns to set and achieve goals. They need to understand that setting goals is like using a road map. No one would set out across the United States without knowing where they wanted to end their journey. The same is true with goals: we must know where we want to end up.

            Many, many people set goals for the New Year or make New Year’s resolutions. Few of them succeed in meeting their goals in a satisfactory manner. This site gives some tips to help us achieve our goals. The author of the article says there are two main things that we need to understand about goal setting: “First, it’s a game of psychology. You just need to know how your brain plays tricks on you. Second, there are strategy and techniques that will help you. Most people abandon their goals because they mess up the psychology and they don’t know the effective strategies and techniques.” With that understanding, here are seven tips for reaching goals successfully.

1. Be grateful for your progress so far. [The author says that this is “the keystone habit for achieving goals. If we are not grateful, we feel guilty, lose confidence, procrastinate, and move slower.] Gratitude fixes all this. Just take it easy on yourself.
If you create a daily habit just for a few minutes to express gratitude for the progress you achieved so far, you will gain huge confidence.

The trick is powerful because you can’t be grateful and feel negative emotions at the same time. After you do this, you will see two things will happen: (1) You will start to see progress with your goals; (2) You will want to set and achieve more goals because it feels great and you start building more confidence. [It is easy to see why this key is #1!]

2. If you set fewer goals, you will achieve more in the long term. … If you have like 20 goals, you will dilute your energy between all goals and achieve none of them. Ideally, you will have a maximum of 3 goals per quarter….

3. You don’t need a detailed plan; you only need to know the next actionable step. …I don’t need to know the whole picture, the whole plan. I just need to know the next actionable step. … This is a key technique if you want to learn how to achieve your goals. I ask myself: “What is the next action that I can perform to advance this goal?” I may come up with 2-3 steps, but I need only one. I write it down. I do this for each goal….

4. If you find a goal buddy, you will increase your success by 10x and learn how to achieve your goals. This is so powerful. If you have an accountability partner, which we call “a goal buddy”, your progress will skyrocket. … Your partner will hold you accountable for your progress.

5. You absolutely need to review your goals once per week. Let’s combine two powerful concepts with a third one. You have the goal buddy and you want to have one actionable task each week. So, why not do a weekly review call with your buddy? … If you don’t have a goal buddy yet, you would still want to do the weekly review! It’s just as valuable, just a little bit harder.

6. Revise, delete or change every quarter. In 3 months’ time, you will know more about your goals than you do right now. And when you have more experience and information, you might want to change things around. That’s why it’s useful to sit down each quarter, take some time (like 2-3 hours) and think deeply about the goals and answer questions like “Why is this goal important for me?” … You don’t need to know how you are going to achieve the whole goal, but you absolutely need to know why it is important to you.

7. Start with your goals now. … Take a sheet of paper and create a list of small tasks that you will complete this week… Start now.

            The above tips are good for adults, youth, and children. If you are working with children, you might like this site. It has a “six-step guide to helping your kids set and reach their goals this year.” Here are the six steps.

1. Confront unrealistic goals. … Encourage your kids to choose goals that are realistic. Whatever the goal your child sets, be sure that your child came up with the goal. If you want your child to follow through, the goal has to have meaning to your child.

2. Choose just-out-of-reach goals. Everyone enjoys feeling successful after meeting a goal…. Encourage your kids to choose goals that are attainable but also just out of reach. In doing so, they learn to push themselves to meet a new challenge versus hiding out in the comfort zone.

3. Set specific goals. A good goal is a specific goal…. Ask your child to brainstorm more specific goals that can actually be measured (“I want to score two baskets each game,” for example).

4. Break it down. One of the reasons that goals and resolutions can be so hard to keep is that often they feel huge and it’s hard to know where to begin. Teach your kids to break their goals into smaller, manageable steps….

5. Set up checkpoints. … It’s important to encourage your child to establish his own checkpoint system. Some kids like to review their goals every week, while others prefer longer periods of time to work on the steps. For kids to learn to set and meet their own goals, they need to develop systems that actually work for them.

6. Make it a family plan. When families make goal setting a family effort, they learn to support each other. This fosters a family environment based on cooperation instead of one grounded in competition. It also reinforces the fact that although all people are individuals with their own unique interests, we can all work together and provide support and help when needed. It also adds some family fun to the process of learning to set and meet goals! [The family could be the “goal buddy” spoken of by the previous author.]

            The purpose of setting goals is to become better, whether it is better at basketball or better at writing novels. I use goal setting to help me accomplish little and big tasks that otherwise get set to the side. For example, I have a large goal to make a quilt for each of my grandchildren. With seventeen of them, the task could become overwhelming. So, I set a goal to do so many each year. Last year I set a goal to make three quilts. I cut, sewed, and quilted each quilt one at a time, but I was able to reach my medium goal of completing three quilts last year. My large goal is about 50 percent complete and will take several more years. However, I have the satisfaction of meeting the smaller goals on a regular basis.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Freedom from Disbelief

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday is that the gap between science and religion appears to be closing. The statements of scientists are beginning to mirror the teachings of prophets and to give support to the scriptures.

            Prophets have taught their people about God for thousands of years. They taught that Heavenly Father is real and that He would one day send His Son, even Jesus Christ, to earth to atone for the sins of all mankind. One such prophet is Alma who lived in ancient America. He taught the people of his day that there is a God and that Christ would come to earth. A man called Korihor went about telling the people that Alma and his brethren were teaching false doctrine. The man was brought before Alma the high priest for questioning:

37 And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?

38 And he answered, Nay.

39 Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ? For behold, I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come.

40 And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only.

41 But, behold, I have all things as a testimony that these things are true; and ye also have all things as a testimony unto you that they are true; and will ye deny them? Believest thou that these things are true?

42 Behold, I know that thou believest. …

43 And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words.

44 But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. (See Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 30:37-44.) 

            Alma follows three key strategies in dealing with the unbelieving Korihor: (1) He bears his witness that he knows there is a God and that Christ will come. (2) He shifts the burden of proof to the unbeliever where it belongs. “What evidence have ye?” (3) He illustrates that “all things” bear witness of a God – the earth itself, its motion, and the movements of the planets.

            Scientists are now realizing the truth of Alma’s words. Even though they are not religious, they are suddenly talking about God. This site has an interesting article about what the scientists are saying. The following is a summary of a seven-page article.

So, what are these stunning discoveries that have scientists suddenly speaking of God? Three revolutionary discoveries from the fields of astronomy and molecular biology stand out:

1. The universe had a beginning.

2. The universe is just right for life.

3. DNA coding reveals intelligence.

            If the above information does not convince you that there is a God, try this site. It tells about a well-respected scientist named Michio Kaku who believes that there is evidence of God in his work. He explains that Einstein’s physics and quantum physics cannot provide all the answers and leaves a gap in the scientists’ explanations about the universe.

Without getting into the physics, Kaku concludes that we live in a Matrix-style universe, created by an intelligence.

“I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence… Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore. To me it is clear that we exist in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”

So does this mean Kaku now believes in God? Yes and no. Nowhere does he endorse any particular religious philosophy. Instead, he may be referring to Spinosa’s God, a sort of deification of the laws of the universe themselves. Einstein came to a similar conclusion.

            Kaku and other scientists may be suffering from the same type of blindness that affected Korihor. Scientists have admitted that the universe is much bigger than they previously thought and that it is expanding, but they still appear to be looking for a specific sign to prove there is a God.

            While scientists pursue their search, people of faith believe the teachings of the prophets and the words of God. For example, we read in the scriptures that Moses stood face to face with God and was shown the earth and all its inhabitants as well as many other worlds, and God said to Moses:

31 … For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.

32 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten. (See Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:31-32.) 

            As Alma told Korihor, the earth itself with everything on it, its motion, the movements of the planets, the cycle of the seasons, and everything around us is proof that there is a God. Those who have “eyes to see” will see the available signs, while the spiritually blind continue to demand signs before they will believe.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

New Mental Health Disorder

            Did you hear the news that there is a new disorder? Yes, there is, according to Teri Webster! It will be recognized as a mental health disorder by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018. It is the gaming disorder or an addiction to playing video games.

            According to WHO, in order to qualify for the disorder, a person must have “significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning” from playing video games.

            An individual might consider asking some questions, the same ones that a potential alcoholic might ask.

. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your gaming?
. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your gaming?
. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your gaming?
. Are video games usually the first thing you think about in the morning when you wake up?

            Other things to consider in a diagnosis are the amount of time used in playing video games and any mood or behavior changes. Like any other serious addiction, one should seek counseling and behavior modification or visit with a psychologist or mental health professional.

            One may ask if video gaming is hazardous to one’s health. Well, people have died from excessive gaming. Here are some of the examples given.

. Brian Vigneault, age 35, played for 22 hours before taking a break and never returned to the game. A detective said he did not respond when found in his home.

. Man, 24-years-old, played for 19 hours before collapsing and dying in an Internet café in Shanghai in 2015.

. Teenager in Taiwan died in 2012 after playing “Diablo 3” for 40 hours.

. Man in South Korea played for 50 hours in 2005 and suffered heart failure.

            Admittedly, death is a rare occurrence for gamers, but there are other problems caused by spending too much time playing video games, problems in employment, family relationships, etc. However, there are also benefits from playing video games.

For example, playing 3-D video games can boost memory. And a Canadian study found that playing Super Mario or other three-dimensional video games may help in preventing dementia. Also, video games can “improve hand-eye coordination and reaction time.”

            My son who is an emergency room doctor swears that his experiences with video games helped him in medical school. I remembered his comments when a daughter-in-law shared her recent experience with surgery. She said that her major abdominal surgery was performed by a robot. The robot was controlled by two doctors – one standing right next to the operating table to watch what was happening and one seated a few feet away to control the robot.

            So, Miss M, it may be good for you to play video games with your brothers and cousins. You may be able to increase your memory, “improve hand-eye coordination and reaction time,” and avoid dementia by playing some video games. However, you must remember to limit your playing time. If you are wise, playing video games can be a good thing.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Military Christmas

            My VIP for this week is the American soldier, airman, sailor, marine, etc. My mind
for several days has been with the men and women in the Armed Services who were away from home for Christmas because they were somewhere protecting America. I recognize and appreciate their sacrifices in behalf of me and my family.

            I remain in the Christmas mode even though I know that it is nearing time to be back in the real world. However, I found this story about a soldier in my Christmas box and wanted to share it. I know the dear friend that gave it to me because we both had sons in the military at the time. The title of the story is “A Soldier’s Christmas.” The author is unknown to me.

It was the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.
I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
And to see just who in this home did live.

I looked all about, a strange sight I did see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stocking by mantle, just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.

With medals and badges, awards of all kinds,
A sober thought came through my mind.
For this house was different, it was dark and dreary,
I found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.

The soldier lay sleeping, silent, alone,
Curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home.
The face was so gentle, the room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured a United States soldier.

Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?
Curled upon on a poncho, the floor for a bed?
I realized the families that I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.

Soon round the world, the children would play,
And grownups would celebrate a bright Christmas day.
They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,
Because of the soldiers, like the one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.

The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, don’t cry; this life is my choice;
I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more,
My life is my God, my country, my corps.”
The soldier rolled over and drifted to sleep.
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent and still,
And we both shivered from the cold night’s chill.

I didn’t want to leave on that cold, dark night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.
Then the soldier rolled over, with a voice soft and pure,
Whispered, “Carry on, Santa; It’s Christmas Day, all is secure.”

One look at my watch, and I knew he was right,
“Merry Christmas, my friend, and to all a Good Night!”

            My son was away from home and family for one Christmas. It was a sacrifice for both he and his family. I know a little of the sacrifices made by military personnel and others who stand guard around the world. I want to thank each of them for the opportunity to live my life in peace and safety. Thank you!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Waiting for the Christ Child

            Today was a delightful day with much family time, both in person and on Facetime. During one conversation I learned that my eleven-year-old granddaughter is reading my blog and sharing what I write with other people. I also learned that she likes to read the Christmas stories that I share.

            So in keeping with the spirit of Christmas and to make my granddaughter happy, I thought that I would share a story tonight. I found the following story, copied on green paper, in my Christmas box last night. It was obviously given to me some time ago by somebody near and dear to me. I do not remember the giver or when I received the gift, but I appreciate the story and its message. It was written by Gaye Willis and is titled “Will the Christ Child Come? This story is for you, Miss M!

One Christmas we had an interesting experience that I would like to share. Halfway through December we were doing the regular evening things when there was a knock at the door. We opened it to find a small package with a beautiful ceramic lamb inside. We looked at the calendar and realized that the 12 days of Christmas were beginning!! We waited excitedly for the next night’s surprise and only then, with the gift of a matching shepherd, did we realize that the lamb was part of a nativity set.

Each night we grew more excited to see what piece we would receive. Each was exquisitely beautiful. The kids kept trying to catch the givers as we slowly built the scene at the manager and began to focus on Christ’s birth. On Christmas Eve, all the pieces were in place, but the baby Jesus. My 12-year-old son really wanted to catch our benefactors and began to devise all kinds of ways to trap them. He ate his dinner in the mini-van watching and waiting, but no one came. Finally we called him in to go through our family’s Christmas Eve traditions.

But before the kids went to bed, we checked the front step – No Baby Jesus! We began to worry that my son had scared them off. My husband suggested that maybe they dropped the Jesus and there wouldn’t be anything coming. Somehow something was missing that Christmas Eve. There was a feeling that things weren’t complete. The kids went to bed and I put out Christmas, but before I went to bed I again checked to see if the Jesus had come – no, the doorstep was empty.

In our family the kids can open their stockings when they want to, but they have to wait to open any presents until Dad wakes up. So one by one they woke up very early and I also woke up to watch them. Even before they opened their stockings, each child checked to see if perhaps during the night the baby Jesus had come. Missing that piece of the set seemed to have an odd effect. At least it changed my focus.

I knew there were presents under the tree for me and I was excited to watch the children open their gifts, but first on my mind was the feeling of waiting for the ceramic Christ Child. We had opened just about all of the presents when one of the children found one more for me buried deep beneath the limbs of the tree. He handed me a small package from my former visiting teaching companion.

This sister was somewhat less-active in the church. I had been her visiting teacher for a couple of years and then, when she was asked to be a visiting teacher, she requested to go with me. I had learned over time they didn’t have much for Christmas, so that their focus was the children. It sounded like she didn’t get many gifts to open, so I had always given her a small package – new dish towels, the next year’s Relief Society lesson manual – not much, but something for her to open.

I was touched when at Church on the day before Christmas she had given me this small package, saying it was just a token of her love and appreciation. As I took off the bow, I remembered my friendship with her and was filled with gratitude for knowing her and for her kindness and sacrifice in this year giving me a gift. But as the paper fell away, I began to tremble and cry. There in the small brown box was the baby Jesus. He had come!

I realized on that Christmas Day that Christ will come into our lives in ways that we don’t expect. The spirit of Christ comes into our hearts as we serve one another. We had waited and watched for him to come, expecting the dramatic “knock” at the door and the “scurrying of feet,” but he came in a small, simple package that represented service, friendship, gratitude, and love.

This experience taught me that the beginning of the true spirit of Christmas comes as we open our hearts and actively focus on the Savior. But we will most likely find him in the small and simple acts of love, friendship and service that we give to each other. This Christmas I want to feel again the joy of knowing that Christ is in our home. I want to focus on loving and serving. More than that I want to open my heart to him all year that I may see him again!

            Yesterday in sacrament meeting our Bishop recounted an experience that happened during sacrament meeting two weeks previously. His three-year-old son came from the audience to sit on his father’s lap during the talks, and the speaker was sharing some ideas of how we can share the spirit of Christmas with others. The little boy whispered to his father, “What are you doing for Jesus?”

            The Bishop’s immediate thought was, “I am the Bishop. I am always trying to do the Lord’s work.” As he considered the question over the next two weeks, he realized that being the Bishop was not enough and there was much more that he could do for Jesus. The Bishop was correct because he is always serving members of the ward. He is definitely the busiest member of the ward, yet he realized that he could do more.

            I have been pondering the little boy’s question for the past two days and wondering what more I can do for Christ. So, I ask my readers, “What are you doing for Jesus?” I have some better questions: Will you continue to do things for Jesus after the Christmas holidays are over? Will the Savior be welcome in your home all year? Will you wait for Him to knock at the door, or will you recognize Him in the little ways that He comes into your life?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Reason for the Season

            Today is the Sabbath Day. It is also Christmas Eve. Since my family does its big dinner and celebration on Christmas Eve and because it is also the Sabbath Day, today was a little different than our normal Christmas Eve.

            The first thing that is different is that I did as much of the cooking as possible yesterday in order to have a more restful Sabbath Day. We attended our regular sacrament meeting where we took the opportunity to renew our covenants with Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. We worshipped them with music and with words.

            I returned home and invested a couple of hours in the scriptures. I completed the food preparation that I could not do yesterday. We had the unique opportunity because of Facetime to watch our family in Utah do the Nativity. That was fun to feel a part of a larger gathering.

            Local family members arrived in time to watch the Utah nativity. Then we had a delightful dinner together. We did an abbreviated Nativity reactivation because we were short on actors. (We invited three families to join us for dinner and the Nativity, but none of them could make it.) We played a Christmas-oriented game. We sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and ate angel food cake. Then we went our separate ways until tomorrow.

            It is now late on Christmas Eve. As we enter Christmas Day, I believe it is important for us to continue the holy feelings that have been a part of this day. You see, we would not be celebrating Christmas if the events of Easter did not take place. If Jesus Christ had not atoned for the sins of all mankind and then was resurrected, we would not be celebrating His birthday. Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season.

            Here is a poem that expresses my feelings this night. I do not know the author of it.

            One Solitary Life
He was born in an obscure village.
            He worked in a carpenter shop
until he was thirty. He then became
an itinerant preacher.
            He never held an office.
                        He never had a family
                                    or owned a house.
            He didn’t go to college.
He had no credentials but himself….

Nineteen centuries have come and gone,
and today he is the central figure
            of the human race.
All the armies that ever marched,
            and all the navies that ever sailed,
            all the parliaments that ever sat,
            and all the kings that ever reigned
            have not affected the life of man
            on this earth as much as that…
                                    One Solitary Life

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Gifts of the Wise Men

            I wrote about the Nativity yesterday with a short paragraph about the wise men. I noted that the scriptures do not tell us how many wise men came to see the newborn King. People through the ages assumed that there were three wise men because they brought three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They are assumed to be rich because of their expensive gifts.

            There is no information about how many wise men, who they were, or what country they came from. The assumption is that the wise men rode on camels from their homes in the “east,” but this information is not given in the scriptures. I assume that they rode something – camels, donkeys, elephants, or whatever – because they were carrying heavy gifts, plus all their camping gear.

            I understand that the wise men were watching for a new star in the heavens and then left their home country to look for the newborn King. The testimony of St. Matthew shares the following:

1 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 Jerusalem,

2 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 (Matthew 2:1-2).

            According to the scriptures, the shepherds found the newborn King soon after his birth. However, the wise men came some time later. Jesus was circumcised when eight days old (Luke 2:21). He was presented in the temple after Mary’s days of purification (Luke 2:22). Elder James E. Talmage says that the days of purification for post-birth mothers is 40 days (Jesus the Christ, Chapter 8). At any rate the Holy Family is living in a house, and the Baby is now described as a “young child” (Matthew 2:11) when the wise men arrive.

            I always assumed that the gifts of the magi were simply gifts. However, Christopher Kirkland believes that the gifts might have had more meaning and be connected with the temple.

Gold is for Kings, and in ancient Israel often connotes the heavenly presence…. Ancient Israel used gold extensively in the Temple decor, connoting the heavenly realms and the presence of a king…. [He also suggests that the gold might not have been gold coins but items made from gold.]

Frankincense was a rare spice used in the Temple (Leviticus 2:1, 4, and 24:7 are some examples)…. It was burnt with almost every sacrifice offered in Jerusalem’s temple. Mixed with salt, the smoke became white, and was seen as prayers ascending up to heaven…. It was impossible to perform temple ordinances as proscribed in the Law of Moses without Frankincense.

Myrrh is a natural preservative…. Myrrh was also mixed with olive oil and other spices to be used for anointings in the Temple. It was kept in a flask in the Holy of Holies. The formula for this “holy anointing oil” is found in Exodus 30:23-25….

When we normally consider the wise men’s gifts, we usually tend to focus on the fact that they were rare and costly, and the lesson we derive from it is that we too should offer our best to Christ. While that is true, we shouldn’t forget that the gifts were also incredibly specific in their nature and use. Aside from their exchange value, the gifts would have been of very little practical use, especially for a young child. Unless….

… they were more than just gifts. Perhaps the wise men did more than just bring the young toddler gold to make His house more heavenly and sacred, frankincense for making offerings and consecrating sacrifices, and myrrh for anointing kings and priests. Perhaps they actually put these items to use in his behalf.

            Kirkland ties all his ideas about the gifts together with the LDS temple ceremonies, but I would like my readers to consider his idea of the wise men using their gifts to anoint and consecrate the newborn King. Is this the reason why the wise men were alerted to watch for the star? Were they Jewish priests living far from Bethlehem?

            These are all great questions. So is this one: Were the “Three Kings” special witnesses to Herod and other ruling classes just as the shepherds were witnesses to the lower classes? If the wise men came as special witnesses, there were at least two of them and possibly many more. We may or may not discover the answers to these questions in this life or learn them in the next one, but we can do as Mary did and ponder these things in our hearts (Luke 2:19).