Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolutions for 2014

The start of a new year is the time when I reflect on the events of the past year and whether goals set at the beginning of the year have been achieved. I ask myself questions such as:

  • Where did I do well and where did I fall short and why?
  • What could I have done better?
  • What needs to change in this coming year?
This exercise then leads to another round of goal setting.

As I have done my evaluation of 2013 and thought about plans for the coming year, the words of Amulek, spoken over two millennia ago, have guided my thinking. He said that, "if we do not improve our time while in this life,then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed" Alma 34:33,emphasis added). His wisdom has caused me to think a little differently about what I want to do in 2014. I don't want to just tackle a list of desirable projects. At times in the past, my goal setting has been more like constructing a bucket list of good ideas rather than an effort to really focus my life.

In 2014, I want to focus on just a few really important areas. I want to become a better

  • Disciple of Christ,
  • Husband,
  • Father, and
  • Grandfather.
These are the most important areas of my life and the ones that have eternal significance. If I can improve in each of these areas in 2014, I will count this year as a success. I will have become a better son of God. I will have improved the time allotted to me.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

The beautiful carol, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," is about the coming of Jesus and the blessings which His birth brings to me and the whole human family. The carol, "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful," is about my coming to Jesus. His coming can give me hope, but to receive it I must seek and come to Him as did the shepherds and the wise men. The words of this beautiful carol, composed by John F. Wade in the eighteenth century, are,

Oh, come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant!
Oh, come ye, oh come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold him,
Born the King of angels;

Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Christ, the Lord.

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation;
Sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above!
Glory to God,
Glory in the highest;

Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Christ, the Lord.

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be all glory giv’n.
Son of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing;

Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him;
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Christ, the Lord.

Jesus' miraculous birth, exemplary life, and unselfish act of atonement are the pivotal events in all of human history. Amulek declared,

"For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made." (Alma 34:9)

Prophets prophesied of His coming. An angel announced His birth while a choir of angels sang in the heavens. Has there ever been a more anticipated or celebrated yet humble birth?

For me, "O Come All Ye Faithful" extends an invitation to symbolically journey to Bethlehem and worship the Only Begotten Son of the Father just as the shepherds and wise men did centuries ago. Years after His birth, Jesus made this invitation when He said,

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
I owe Jesus the hope I have for Eternal Life with my Heavenly Father. He is worthy of my adoration, worship, devotion, and discipleship not just as I celebrate His birth today but every day of my life.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel"

One of my favorite Christmas carols has become "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel". With beautifully moving verse, this carol teaches of the reasons we have to rejoice in Jesus' birth. The words of the carol are,

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

These beautiful words teach about the atoning mission of Jesus Christ and why I have reason to rejoice in His birth. Without Jesus, I would be in bondage to sin, doomed to hell, and exiled from God. But with Jesus' suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary, He paid the price of my sins and ransomed me. He swung open the doors of hell to enable me to escape the captivity of sin and be forgiven though repentance. In the words of Isaiah, Jesus "was wounded for...[my] transgressions, he was bruised for...[my] iniquities: the chastisement of...[my] peace was upon him; and with his stripes...[I am] healed" (Isaiah 53:5).

Because of Jesus, the dark shadow of death does will not permanently hold my body captive in a cold grave but I have the promise of a resurrection or the reuniting of my body and spirit. Abinadi taught,

"For were it not for the redemption which he hath made for his people, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, I say unto you, were it not for this, all mankind must have perished. But behold, the bands of death shall be broken, and the Son reigneth, and hath power over the dead; therefore, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead" (Mosiah 15:19-20).

Jesus was the first to be resurrected and the rest of Heavenly Father's children, including me, will follow.

Christ's teachings and example gives me the way to return to my Heavenly Home. He is the only way home (John 14:6). It is only through His gospel and His "merits, mercy, and grace" (2 Nephi 2:8) that I can return home to live eternally with my Heavenly Father.
The prophet Alma prophesied of Jesus' birth and taught about His atoning mission. He said,

"And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem...she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:10-12)

I am grateful that Emmanuel, the promised Messiah, even Jesus the Christ came to earth. He has given me every reason to rejoice. He has given me the peace found in hope.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Innkeepers, Shepherds, and Wise Men

I love everything about Christmas. The sacred music, beautiful decorations, bright lights, giving of gifts, and cherished traditions create a special spirit during this season of the year. Most of all I love the message of Christmas. The story of the first Christmas reminds me of the importance of the Savior in my life. To me the message is that through Jesus' miraculous birth, exemplary ministry, and atoning mission, I can find peace, goodwill, hope, and eternal life along with all of God's children.

While there are many things to be learned from the story of Christ's birth, there are three events from that first Christmas that teach me important principles for my life as I strive to be a disciple of Christ.

The first of these events took place on the crowded streets of Bethlehem shortly before the Savior was born. Luke records,

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed . . . And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee . . . unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem . . . To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:1 -7, emphasis added).

The phrase,“there was no room for them in the inn” has always peaked my curiosity. I wonder why there was no room in the inns of Bethlehem for Mary, Joseph, and the yet to be born Son of God. I think about those scriptural accounts where some humble man or woman was inspired to care for one of God's servants. Amulek was told by an angel to care for Alma. A widow was commanded to provide for Elijah. Why wasn’t an innkeeper told to prepare a more fitting place than a stable for the birth of the Son of God? Perhaps the Spirit did try to whisper to someone but he was too busy conducting business to hear the promptings telling him to prepare a place for his King’s birth.

Unfortunately, unless I am careful, I am no different than the innkeepers. My life can become so caught up in my daily routines of life that I may fail to let Christ in. When He knocks, do I let Him into my life or am I so busy that I turn Him away?

President Thomas S. Monson said,

“Before we can successfully undertake a personal search for Jesus, we must first prepare time for him in our lives and room for him in our hearts. In these busy days there are many who have time for gold, time for shopping, time for work, time for play, but not time for Christ.

"Lovely homes dot the land and provide rooms for eating, rooms for sleeping, playrooms, sewing rooms, television rooms, but no room for Christ." (Thomas S. Monson, "The Search for Jesus," Ensign, December 1990)

In the beautiful poem, "A Prayer for December," the poet offered this prayer:

Dearest God, please never let me,

Crowd my life full to the brim.

So like the keeper of Bethlehem’s inn,

I find I have no room for Him.

Instead let my heart’s door be ever open,

Ready to welcome the newborn King,

Let me offer the best I have,

To Him who gives me everything. (Author unknown)

At this Christmas season, I pray that I may rededicate my life to always inviting Him in, to truly knowing Him, to always hearing His voice, and to doing His will. May I never crowd Him out.

The second event took place with the shepherds on the plains of Judea when the angel and the heavenly hosts announced the birth of the Savior to the shepherds. Again Luke records,

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy . . . . For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this [shall be] a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away . . .the shepherds said one to another, Let us . . . go . . . unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which . . . the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen [it], they made [it] known abroad . . .” (Luke 2:8-17).

As I contemplate this account, I wonder why the angels appeared to the shepherds. Why wasn’t the Savior’s birth announced to the powerful religious or political leaders of the Jews? After all He was the King of the Jews. Why the shepherds? Maybe it was to the shepherds because they were humble, meek, and submissive and not only would they hear and accept the message but they would also act upon it. Perhaps angels did announce the Savior's birth to many others, but as with the innkeepers, they were also too busy. Maybe it was just too inconvenient or it didn’t fit in with their beliefs and traditions, and they chose not to listen or perhaps they procrastinated doing something with the message and missed their opportunity to worship the Christ child.

There may also be another reason why others are not mentioned. Luke says that the shepherds after visiting and worshipping Jesus went and “made it known” to others. They went and testified of what they had seen and felt. They shared their sacred experience with someone who recorded it. Perhaps, there were others who visited the baby Jesus but they kept silent and didn't speak of it so it was never recorded.

For me there is much to be learned from the shepherds. I learn to be humble, to listen, to go when the Spirit speaks, and importantly to testify. After I have made room for Jesus in my life, after I have sought Him and let Him in, after I have gained a testimony of Him, I need to tell others both through my actions and my words that I believe and accept Christ.

The final event took place some time later when the wise men came seeking Jesus. Matthew records,

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem . . . there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem . . . . And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 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.” (Matthew 2: 1 - 3, 9 - 11)

It's interesting that these seekers of Jesus were called “wise men”. Our traditions refer to them as three kings, but all Matthew says is that they were wise men. These men who knew of the prophecies about Jesus' birth were undoubtedly watching for the signs of His birth. Maybe they even heard heavenly choirs and heeded the message of an angel. While the innkeepers of Bethlehem, King Herod, the religious leaders of Judea, and others may have been caught unprepared, they were ready. Having seen the Star, they went searching for Him. When they found Him, they gave Him the gifts they brought. But these worldly gifts of wealth were no where near the value of the goodness of their lives. I am sure they had prepared by giving gifts of sacrifice, love, obedience, and devotion. These were the gifts and treasures of eternal significance that insured them a place at the cradle of the recently born King.

I need to be similarly prepared to receive Him. I must love, sacrifice, be obedient, and devoted so that I will be ready whenever my call to serve and worship Him comes.

As I reflect upon these events of long ago, I have much to wonder about. I believe if I can learn the lessons of the first Christmas and let Him into my life and heart, bear testimony of Him as the Shepherds did, and worship Him as the Wise men then I will be ready, as the Shepherds and Wise Men were ready, to worship Him not only during this Christmas season but throughout the whole year.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Light of the World

“[Jesus Christ] is the Light of Bethlehem, born of Mary, His mortal mother, and His Father, Almighty God. . . . He is the Light of theAtonement fulfilled in the Garden of Gethsemane and on Golgotha, who took upon Himself the sins of the world, that all mankind mayobtain eternal salvation. He is the Light of the empty tomb, the resurrected Lord with a glorified body of flesh and bone, who broke thebands of death and gained an everlasting victory over the grave. . . . He is my Light, my Redeemer, my Savior—and yours.” (Robert D. Hales, “Out of Darkness into His Marvelous Light,” Ensign, May 2002)page83image3156

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


"How difficult it is for any of us to forgive those who have injured us. We are all prone to brood on the evil done us. That brooding becomes as a gnawing and destructive canker. Is there a virtue more in need of application in our time than the virtue of forgiving and forgetting? There are those who would look upon this as a sign of weakness. Is it? I submit that it takes neither strength nor intelligence to brood in anger over wrongs suffered, to go through life with a spirit of vindictiveness, to dissipate one’s abilities in planning retribution. There is no peace in the nursing of a grudge. There is no happiness in living for the day when you can 'get even.'" (Gordon B. Hinckley, "Of You It Is Required To Forgive," Ensign, June 1991)


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Achieving Unity

The following is a wonderful story told by President Henry B. Eyring on achieving unity in our relationships, particularly marriage:

“It is only with the companionship of the Holy Ghost that we can hope to be equally yoked in a marriage free from discord. I have seen how that companionship is crucial for felicity in a marriage. The miracle of becoming one requires the help of heaven, and it takes time. Our goal is to live together forever in the presence of Heavenly Father and our Savior.

“My father and my mother were very different from each other. My mother was a singer and an artist. My father loved chemistry. Once at a symphony concert, my mother was surprised when my father stood up and began to leave before the applause began. My mother asked him where he was going. His response was, in all innocence: 'Well, it’s over, isn’t it?' Only the gentle influence of the Holy Ghost got him there with her in the first place and brought him back to concerts time and time again.

“My mother lived in New Jersey for 16 years so that my father could support the family by doing research and teaching chemistry. To her it was a sacrifice being separated from her widowed mother and her unmarried sister, who had cared for her in the old family farmhouse. They both died while Mother was far away in New Jersey. Those were the only times I ever saw my mother cry.

“Years later my father was offered a job in Utah. He asked my mother, again in all innocence, 'Mildred, what do you think I should do?'

“She said, 'Henry, do whatever you think is best.'

“He turned down the offer. The next morning she wrote him a letter that I wish I still had. I remember that she told him, 'Don’t open it here. Go to the office and open it there.' It began with a rebuke. He had promised her years before that if he ever could, he would take her to be near her family. He was surprised by her expression of irritation. He had not remembered the desire of her heart. He immediately sent a message accepting the job offer.

“He said, 'Mildred, why didn’t you tell me?'

“She said, 'You were supposed to remember.'

“He always spoke of that choice to move to Utah as his own, never as a sacrifice of his professional career. They had received the miracle of becoming one. It would have been better if Dad had been reminded by the Holy Ghost of the promise he had made years earlier. But he did allow the Holy Ghost to soften his heart so that her choice became his." (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/to-my-grandchildren?lang=engce)