The Third Sunday of Advent

The Festival of Advent is celebrated the four Sundays before Christmas. It is a time of preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ. This year, my family is celebrating Advent with activities and a devotional each Sunday night. Read about our first week HERE and our second week HERE.

Helama 14 5Last night as we were setting up our Christmas tree, my six year old son asked me if we believed in the star on the top of the tree. I thought it was a very insightful question for a six year old to ask. I said yes we do believe in the Christmas Star and asked him, what does the star symbolize? He said, “It’s Jesus’ birthday star.”

We went on to talk about the signs of Christ’s birth, specifically the signs given to the people on this continent by the prophet Samuel the Lamanite. In Helaman 14, we read:

2 And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.

3 And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.

4 Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.

5 And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.

6 And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.

7 And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth.

8 And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall believe on the Son of God, the same shall have everlasting life.

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The Second Sunday of Advent

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time for Christians to prepare for the celebration of Christmas. Our family is celebrating the Festival of Advent each Sunday leading up to Christmas with scriptures and stories. Last week’s devotional is HERE.

Luke 1.37 Nothing impossibleToday we’re focusing our readings on the Annunciation. In this important event, the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she will be the mother of Jesus Christ.
In Luke 1 we read about this event:

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

The lesson for me is an important one. Mary asks, “How shall this be?” Gabriel answers, “With God nothing is impossible.” This is another example of the enabling power of the Atonement, and of Jesus Christ in our lives. We all have hard things given to us, and with God, nothing is impossible. And I’m sure Mary, even though she was willing, “be it unto me according to thy word”, was scared of the unknown. So many times I think we all face the unknown in similar ways. The Lord gives us trials to test us and to strengthen us, but if we allow His help, nothing is impossible. Our Father in Heaven loves us, because we are His children. He wants us to succeed. With God nothing is impossible.

Tonight, we will have the blessing of hearing from the First Presidency and leaders of the Church in the Christmas Devotional. In addition to beautiful music, we will have the opportunity to hear the testimony of the living prophets about our Savior Jesus Christ. I hope that you will take the time to watch with your family and to enjoy the Spirit of Christmas. You can watch the broadcast online at LDS.org or BYUTV.org, at 6 pm MST.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

The First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 9.6Today marks the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of expectation and preparation for the Christmas holiday. During the weeks of Advent many Christians participate in readings, songs, worship, devotionals, and traditions that prepare them for the arrival of the Christ Child on Christmas Eve. Advent is not something that is normally associated with LDS Christmas worship, but in many countries around the world, LDS families, along with members of other Christian faiths, celebrate the four weeks before Christmas in preparation for the holiday.

After many years, I have finally decided to start this tradition in our family as a way to turn us toward the Savior instead of the holiday rush and the more secular aspects of Christmas. Starting today and over the next weeks, I am going to share our Advent devotionals here, and hope that you will join us in preparing for Christmas.

Traditionally, on the first Sunday of Advent the readings and devotionals focus on the Old Testament prophesies of Christ. This video from the Church focuses on the prophesies of Isaiah. Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!

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My Personal Themes from General Conference

McConkie follow the prophetWe’re 10 days out from General Conference. I am still thinking about it and letting the lessons I learned from it percolate in my head. I hope you had your own personal theme develop for you as you listened to the speakers.

I was impressed by speaker after speaker with three themes.

First, FOLLOW THE PROPHET! Yes, I realize that’s in all caps, because yes, I am screaming that at the world. We just need to follow the prophet to find the answers to our questions, the solutions to our problems and for maximum happiness in this life. Sister McConkie taught in her talk “We heed prophetic word even when it may seem unreasonable, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. According to the world’s standards, following the prophet may be unpopular, politically incorrect, or socially unacceptable. But following the prophet is always right.” Did we get that? Following the prophet is always right, despite what is popular out there in the world.

Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the 70s also addressed following the prophet instead of following popular trends as well. He asked us, “Which way do you face?”, and challenged us to not invert the first and second great commandments. Again we were reminded, “The scornful often accuse prophets of not living in the 21st century or of being bigoted. They attempt to persuade or even pressure the Church into lowering God’s standards to the level of their own inappropriate behavior, which in the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell, will ‘develop self-contentment instead of seeking self-improvement’ and repentance. Lowering the Lord’s standards to the level of a society’s inappropriate behavior is—apostasy.” That was the money quote for me, lowering the Lord’s standards to the level of society is apostasy. Makes you think about the things we’re interested in and advocating for. I hope we all asked ourselves if “our issues” match up with what the prophets are teaching us, and if they don’t, instead of rationalizing them away, we’re willing to change our thoughts to match the council of the prophets and the standards and doctrines of the Church.

Eyring revelation from GodMy second theme of General Conference was the importance of receiving our own witness of the teachings of the prophets. Elder Eyring’s talk specifically addressed this and the principle of “confirming revelation.” He said, “Human judgment and logical thinking will not be enough to get answers to the questions that matter most in life. We need revelation from God.” Did we hear that? We cannot rely on our own judgments, the opinions of friends, junk we see on facebook, or the latest and greatest train of thought. We must receive our own “confirming revelation” like Nephi of old.

I am heart broken to see so many friends, who are also members of the Church, cherry picking the words of the prophets to fit their agendas, rejecting the doctrines of the church, specifically those regarding chastity, morality and marriage, for worldly standards and practices. The thing is, the world is always in a constant state of flux, and revels in emotionally charged rhetoric that will surely short change us on our salvation. I’ve also been told numerous times by these same friends that they had “personal revelation” and/or a “witness of the spirit” that things like The Family Proclamation and the Church’s stand and support of traditional marriage are not true. I’ll just be bold here and state that these witnesses cannot be true. It might have been a witness, but a witness that is not inline with the doctrines of the Church and the words of the modern, living prophets is not from the Lord. The Holy Spirit is not going to give any of us a confirmation or a witness of something that goes against what the Lord has taught. The Holy Ghost will always witness the truthfulness of the Gospel and the truthfulness of the words of the prophets.
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Debunking that Quote about Brigham Young’s Greatest Fear

Brigham_Young_by_Charles_William_Carter

The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.” – Brigham Young

This quote is probably familiar to many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have participated in online discussions about the church.

Faithful members have had it thrown in their faces by dissidents and detractors on numerous occasions. Dissenters see it as a powerful sound-bite in support of the notion that members of the church must be continually vigilant that the fallible leaders of the church do not lead the church astray.

And as a soundbite it is reasonably effective. But there is one problem: Brigham Young never said it. The quote is completely spurious.

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