Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Message by William B Smart

f the joyousness it is well to reflect that Christmas comes at three levels.
Let’s call the first the Santa Claus level. It’s the level of Christmas trees and holly, of whispered secrets and colorful packages, of candlelight and rich food and warm open houses. It’s carolers in the shopping malls, excited children, and weary but loving parents. It’s a lovely time of special warmth and caring and giving. It’s the level at which we eat too much and spend too much and do too much – and enjoy every minute of it. We love the Santa Claus level of Christmas.
But there’s a higher, more beautiful level. Let’s call it the Silent Night level. It’s the level of all our glorious Christmas carols, of that beloved, familiar story: “Now in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus....” It’s the level of the crowded inn and the silent, holy moment in a dark stable when the Son of Man came to earth. It’s the shepherds on steep, bare hills near Bethlehem, angels with their glad tidings, the new star in the East, wise men traveling far in search of the Holy One. How beautiful and meaningful it is; how infinitely poorer we would be without this sacred second level of Christmas.
The trouble is, these two levels don’t last. They can’t.
Twelve days of Christmas, at the first level, is about all most of us can stand. It’s too intense, too extravagant. The tree dies out and needles fall. The candles burn down. The beautiful wrappings go out with the trash, the carolers are up on the ski slopes, the toys break, and the biggest day in the stores for the entire year is exchange day, December 26th. The feast is over and the dieting begins. But the lonely and the hungry are with us still, perhaps lonelier and hungrier than before.
Lovely and joyous as the first level of Christmas is, there will come day, very soon, when Mother will put away the decorations and vacuum the living room and think, “Thank goodness that this over for another year.”
Even the second level, the level of the Baby Jesus, can’t last. How many times this season can you sing, “Silent Night?” The angels and the star, and the shepherd, even the silent, sacred mystery of the holy night itself, can’t long satisfy humanity’s basic need. The man who keeps Christ in the manger will, in the end, be disappointed and empty.
No, for Christmas to last all year long, for it to grow in beauty and meaning and purpose, for it to have the power to change lives, we must celebrate it at the third level, that of the adult Christ. It is at this level—not as an infant—that our Savior brings his gifts of lasting joy, lasting peace, lasting hope. It was the adult Christ who reached out and touched the untouchable, who loved the unlovable, who so loved us all that even in his agony on the cross, he prayed forgiveness for his enemies.
This is Christ, creator of worlds without number, who wept because so many of us lack affection and hate each other – and then who willingly gave his life for all of us, including those for whom he wept. This is the Christ, the adult Christ, who gave us the perfect example, and asked us to follow him.
Accepting that invitation is the way – the only way – that all mankind can celebrate Christmas all year and all life long. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Joseph Smith's Last Dream

In June, 1844, when Joseph Smith went to carthage and delivered himself up to Gov. Ford, I accompanied him, and while on the way thither, he related to me and his brother Hyrum the following dream:
He said: “While I was at Jordan’s in Iowa the other night, I dreamed that myself and my brother Hyrum went on board of a large steamboat, lying in a small bay, near the great ocean. Shortly after we went on board there was an “alarm of fire,” and I discovered that the boat had been anchored some distance from the shore, out in the bay, and that an escape from the fire, in the confusion, appeared hazardous; but, as delay was folly, I and Hyrum jumped overboard, and tried our faith at walking upon the water.
At first we sank in the water nearly to our knees, but as we proceeded we increased in faith, and were soon able to walk upon the water. On looking towards the burning boat in the east, we saw that it was drifting towards the wharf and the town, with a great flame and clouds of smoke; and, as if by whirlwind, the town was taking fire, too, so that the scene of destruction and horror of the frightened inhabitants was terrible.
We proceeded on the bosom of the mighty deep and were soon out of sight of land. The ocean was still; the rays of the sun were bright, and we forgot all the troubles of our Mother Earth. Just at that moment I heard the sound of a human voice, and, turning round, saw my brother Samuel H. approaching towards us from the east. We stopped and he came up. After a moment’s conversation he informed me that he had been lonesome back, and had made up his mind to go with me across the mighty deep.
We all started again, and in a short time were blest with the first sight of a city, whose gold and silver steeples and towers were more beautiful than any I had ever seen or heard of on earth. It stood, as it were, upon the western shore of the mighty deep we were walking on, and its order and glory seemed far beyond the wisdom of man. While we were gazing upon the perfection of the city, a small boat launched off from the port, and, almost as quick as thought, came to us. In an instant they took us on board and saluted us with a welcome, and with music such as is not on earth. The next scene, on landing, was more than I can describe: the greeting of old friends, the music from a thousand towers, and the light of God himself at the return of three of his sons, soothed my soul into a quiet and a joy that I felt as if I was truly in heaven. I gazed upon the splendor; I greeted my friends, I awoke, and lo, it was a dream!
While I meditated upon such a marvelous scene, I fell asleep again, and behold I stood near the shore of the burning boat, and there was a great consternation among the officers, crew and passengers of the flaming craft, as there seemed to be much ammunition or powder on board. The alarm was given that the fire was near the magazine, and in a moment, suddenly, it blew up with a great noise, and sank in deep water with all on board. I then turned to the country east, among the bushy openings, and saw William and Wilson Law endeavoring to escape from the wild beasts of the forest, but two lions rushed out of a thicket and devoured them. I awoke again.”
I will say that Joseph never told this dream again, as he was martyred about two days after. I relate from recollection as nearly as I can.
Page 1 of Joseph Smith's Last Dream, as told by W. W. Phelps.
Page 1 of Joseph Smith’s Last Dream, as told by W. W. Phelps.
Page 2 of Joseph Smith's Last Dream, as told by W. W. Phelps.
Page 2 of Joseph Smith’s Last Dream, as told by W. W. Phelps.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


I recently on my FB side shared this post:

So it seemed fitting to share this story about a journey of mine over the last few weeks.

Several weeks ago I had a Branch member from my Branch come into my mind and just would not leave.  (I have to clarify which Branch because I have the Branch where my records are and the Branch that I consider my "home" Branch) well this dear Branch member just kept coming to my mind and the thought came that I needed to share with this Branch Member what an inspiration this person has been in my life and how much I enjoy this person.

I found myself thinking I can do this but I don't really know this person and then I was stumped at what I should share with this Branch member.  So, for the last several weeks I have been reflecting on what I should share.
My Teacher Development years came into my mind and I found myself again thinking, "that was so cool and very special for me but I spent 6 weeks with those members and it was so easy to share what I wanted to share with them."
I must admit I was very disappointed that at this point it was a one way conversation.

The other day as I was driving home, I heard so softly that familiar whisper, "Naomi."  I was stunned, "Naomi?"
There is just a short blip about her in the story of Ruth.
How am I going to share that with this Branch member?"
The only response I received was that sweet whisper once again; "Naomi."

Today I sat down to write my thoughts for the Branch Member still not sure what I was going to say when I found myself looking through for "Naomi."
As I scrolled for the responses I found that most all had reference to Ruth and Naomi, not one single thing about Naomi.

Then I found an article from the 1992 Oct conference that jumped out at me.
As I read the article I found myself getting excited.
This was it!!!  
This was the message I was suppose to share with thist inspirational Branch Member.
Trait after Trait I seen this beloved Branch member.

The letter is written and a little Christmas box filled with beautiful wooden ornaments made by another inspirational friend who also relies on the Spirit is all ready to be delivered to this wonderful Branch member just in time for Christmas.

Not sure what is going to come but one thing I know for sure this beloved Branch Member along with many others who have inspired names will forever be Naomi to me.

Here is the article that spoke to me.  May it speak to you and those Naomi's you are blessed to know.

Confidence through Conversion


I am so pleased to join with you in this great congregation of Relief Society women and Young Women and leaders of our Primary children. It is good to have President Hinckley, President Monson, President Hunter, and other priesthood leaders with us tonight.
I think we live in a wonderful time, and I call it wonderful because each of us has available to us personally the knowledge we need to live confident, righteous, even happy lives. We do live, as women and men always have, in complicated, variable and sometimes abusive circumstances. But because of the restored gospel, each of us has, or has available to us, a kind of knowledge that assures our survival, even our triumphant survival of the unsettling conditions that may threaten our balance and our progress.
Long ago, Moses stood on a mountain and talked with God. God showed him the world in which we all live. It was a rare vision—unlike any other I have seen recorded: “And Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created.” The scripture says, “He greatly marveled and wondered.” (Moses 1:8.) Can you even begin to imagine what it would be like to see everyone and everything that ever was or will be on this earth? This filled Moses with awe, and he said to himself, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” (Moses 1:10.) Then the Lord taught him a most important and central truth. He said, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) And I would add every man and every woman. What a wonder, to Moses and to us, that we, who may feel as nothing when we compare ourselves to the vast universe, are in fact the reason for its creation and for the creation of the earth.
I think it is important to stretch our minds and try to comprehend, as Moses was shown, the paradox of being small and great at the same time. The scriptures help us keep in our awareness our unique and eternal identities. We had existence as individuals long before this life. We hadagency then, and we chose to come to earth, though we knew there would be hazards and hard things here. We had sufficient confidence then to choose to follow the plan of Jesus Christ. We knew that his help would come in showing us ways to live righteously, ways to love and serve each other, and ways to shun the bad and seek the good.
Then a transition takes place and we find ourselves here—one of the ones Moses saw—part of a great panorama, and yet struggling as individuals to find the identity we once knew, as well as the sense of purpose and belonging we once had. As we gain our gospel knowledge here on earth, where we have to learn it all over again, we see this precious truth—that in our premortal life we exercised our agency when we chose Christ as our leader. He does his part and each of us can do ours to make covenants and build a partnership with him. How that happens is described by King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon:
“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.
“And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.” (Mosiah 5:7–8.)
My whole hope in speaking to you about gospel knowledge of our individual importance to our Heavenly Father and our Savior is that it will build our confidence in our own ability to make good decisions that will help us grow spiritually. Some people want a strong authoritative voice to say, “Do this” or “Do that.” Some want God to tell them exactly what to do before they risk anything. Recently at a BYU fireside address, Elder Dallin Oaks said: “Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances where they pray for guidance and don’t receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances where choices are trivial or where either choice is acceptable. We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it, and upon our own best judgment if we do not.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strength Can Become Our Downfall,” Fireside of BYU Stakes, 7 June 1992, pp. 3–4.)
When we are converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ we become both humble and courageous. Our conversion strengthens us greatly in our decision making. A good example of the kinds of real circumstances good people face in this life can be found in the Old Testament in the very short, five-page book of Ruth. Each time I read it I see something new. Lately I have been thinking of it as a story of conversion, of courage and decision making. It is about another time, another culture, yet it is about us too.
Naomi and her husband, Elimelech, and their two sons had gone into the enemy country of Moab because there was a great famine in Israel, their home. In due time their sons married Moabite wives, named Orpah and Ruth. Then in a ten-year period, the father and the two sons died. Naomihad heard that the famine had lifted in Judah, and she wanted to return to her people. She counsels her daughters-in-law to return to their mothers’ homes. Naomi called them her daughters and kissed them, and they wept with their love for her. (Now isn’t that quite remarkable? I fail to understand how this clear and well-known record hasn’t had more influence on all the unfunny mother-in-law jokes that abound in the world.) But eventually Orpah decides to stay in Moab, and again Naomisays to Ruth, “Behold, thy sister in law has gone back to her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.” (Ruth 1:15.)
At this point, in majestic Hebraic poetry, Ruth announces her decision and confirms her conversion. “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” (Ruth 1:16.)
When Naomi, herself realistic and wise, saw Ruth’s steadfastness, she “left off speaking to her” (see Ruth 1:18), which does not mean she stopped talking with her, but that she quit trying to convince her of the difficulties she would face in Israel. Ruth, the Moabitess, would face bigotry, poverty, and much insecurity, but she was converted, and she had decided. She and Naomi became a great team, facing together not only the problems before them, but the opportunities that would come also.
In time, Ruth married Boaz, and a child was born to them. “And the women said to Naomi, Blessed be the Lord … for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born [a child].
“And Naomi took the child … and became nurse unto it.
“And the women her neighbours gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David.” (Ruth 4:14–17.)
Now that was a kind of a prophecy which is very important to us. In a culture hostile to the leadership of women, these women—Naomi and Ruth—lived to bring about an end the scripture’s writer carefully emphasizes: Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David, through whose lines, which are carefully detailed for us in the first chapter of Matthew, came Jesus who is called Christ. Would you ever have expected the small book of Ruth to foretell such a great event?
Ruth confidently met hardships not uncommon in our time—the death of a loved one, loneliness in a new place, and the need to work hard for her bread. Her small efforts, linked significantly to a later great event, tell me that each of us can take seriously the importance of our daily lives and decisions as we choose to follow God.
What I have told you tonight is my personal testimony. I am grateful for what I understand of agency and for the trust I have in my Heavenly Father and His guidance. I am grateful for the atonement of my Savior, who perfectly understood the risks. I am grateful for the blessings of faith and charity which fill my soul with joy and gladness and cause me to say, we do live in a wonderful time.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Monday, December 15, 2014

What Child Is This?

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved this song.  It is one of my most favorite Christmas songs.  May we never forget, "The reason for the season and not just this Christmas season but every season we have in this mortal life.

Let Them See You by JJ Weeks Band with lyrics

The Power of Words

Just this year I have started listening to a local Christian radio station due to my CD player has again become worn out.
One of the first songs I heard was entitled "Words."
I love the lyrics and the message of this upbeat song.

Our tongues can be one of the cruelest weapons we posses especially women.
I shall ever forget a talk by Elder Jeffery R. Holland about "women's tongues."
 I will post it at the end.
But for now here are the lyrics that young man wrote that has captured my attention:

Hawk Nelson
"They've made me feel like a prisoner.
They've made me feel set free
They've made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a King.

PowerWordsThey've lifted my heart to places I've never been
And they've dragged me down again 
Back to where I began.

Words can build you up
Words break you down
Start a fire in your heart or put it out 

Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don't wanna say a word
unless it points the world back to You.

You can heal the heartache
Speak over the fear
God, your voice is the only thing we need to hear

Words can build us up
Words can tear us down
Start a fire in our hearts or put it out.
Let the words I say 
Be the sound of your grace
I don't wanna say a word 
unless it points the world back to you.

I wanna speak your love
not just another noise
Oh, I wanna be your light
I wanna be your voice."

Powerful!! One can learn so much just by this remarkable young mans lyrics.  Below is a link so you cn enjoy the song also and another link in which this young man and his band members tell the "inspiration" behind these lyrics.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do:)

Now as promises in closing here is that article by Elder Jeffery R Holland:

"The Tongue of Angels

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity.
The Prophet Joseph Smith deepened our understanding of the power of speech when he taught, “It is by words … [that] every being works when he works by faith. God said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light.’ Joshua spake, and the great lights which God had created stood still. Elijah commanded, and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months, so that it did not rain. … All this was done by faith. … Faith, then, works by words; and with [words] its mightiest works have been, and will be, performed. 1 Like all gifts “which cometh from above,” words are “sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit.” 2
It is with this realization of the power and sanctity of words that I wish to caution us, if caution is needed, regarding how we speak to each other and how we speak of ourselves.
There is a line from the Apocrypha which puts the seriousness of this issue better than I can. It reads, “The stroke of the whip maketh marks in the flesh: but the stroke of the tongue breaketh the bones.” 3 With that stinging image in mind, I was particularly impressed to read in the book of James that there was a way I could be “a perfect man.”
Said James: “For in many things we offend all. [But] if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”
Continuing the imagery of the bridle, he writes: “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.
“Behold also … ships, which though they be … great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm.”
Then James makes his point: “The tongue is [also] a little member. … [But] behold, how great a [forest (Greek)] a little fire [can burn].
“… So is the tongue [a fire] among our members, … it defileth the whole body, … it is set on fire of hell.
“For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, … hath been tamed of mankind:
“But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
“Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
“Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” 4
Well, that is pretty straightforward! Obviously James doesn’t mean our tongues are always iniquitous, nor that everything we say is “full of deadly poison.” But he clearly means that at least some things we say can be destructive, even venomous—and that is a chilling indictment for a Latter-day Saint! The voice that bears profound testimony, utters fervent prayer, and sings the hymns of Zion can be the same voice that berates and criticizes, embarrasses and demeans, inflicts pain and destroys the spirit of oneself and of others in the process. “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing,” James grieves. “My brethren [and sisters], these things ought not so to be.”
Is this something we could all work on just a little? Is this an area in which we could each try to be a little more like a “perfect” man or woman?
Husbands, you have been entrusted with the most sacred gift God can give you—a wife, a daughter of God, the mother of your children who has voluntarily given herself to you for love and joyful companionship. Think of the kind things you said when you were courting, think of the blessings you have given with hands placed lovingly upon her head, think of yourself and of her as the god and goddess you both inherently are, and then reflect on other moments characterized by cold, caustic, unbridled words. Given the damage that can be done with our tongues, little wonder the Savior said, “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” 5 A husband who would never dream of striking his wife physically can break, if not her bones, then certainly her heart by the brutality of thoughtless or unkind speech. Physical abuse is uniformly and unequivocally condemned in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If it is possible to be more condemning than that, we speak even more vigorously against all forms of sexual abuse. Today, I speak against verbal and emotional abuse of anyone against anyone, but especially of husbands against wives. Brethren, these things ought not to be.
In that same spirit we speak to the sisters as well, for the sin of verbal abuse knows no gender. Wives, what of the unbridled tongue in yourmouth, of the power for good or ill in your words? How is it that such a lovely voice which by divine nature is so angelic, so close to the veil, so instinctively gentle and inherently kind could ever in a turn be so shrill, so biting, so acrid and untamed? A woman’s words can be more piercing than any dagger ever forged, and they can drive the people they love to retreat beyond a barrier more distant than anyone in the beginning of that exchange could ever have imagined. Sisters, there is no place in that magnificent spirit of yours for acerbic or abrasive expression of any kind, including gossip or backbiting or catty remarks. Let it never be said of our home or our ward or our neighborhood that “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity … [burning] among our members.”
May I expand this counsel to make it a full family matter. We must be so careful in speaking to a child. What we say or don’t say, how we say it and when is so very, very important in shaping a child’s view of himself or herself. But it is even more important in shaping that child’s faith in us and their faith in God. Be constructive in your comments to a child—always. Never tell them, even in whimsy, that they are fat or dumb or lazy or homely. You would never do that maliciously, but they remember and may struggle for years trying to forget—and to forgive. And try not to compare your children, even if you think you are skillful at it. You may say most positively that “Susan is pretty and Sandra is bright,” but all Susan will remember is that she isn’t bright and Sandra that she isn’t pretty. Praise each child individually for what that child is, and help him or her escape our culture’s obsession with comparing, competing, and never feeling we are “enough.”
In all of this, I suppose it goes without saying that negative speaking so often flows from negative thinking, including negative thinking about ourselves. We see our own faults, we speak—or at least think—critically of ourselves, and before long that is how we see everyone and everything. No sunshine, no roses, no promise of hope or happiness. Before long we and everybody around us are miserable.
I love what Elder Orson F. Whitney once said: “The spirit of the gospel is optimistic; it trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things. The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down and away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs, complains, and is slow to yield obedience.” 6We should honor the Savior’s declaration to “be of good cheer.” 7 (Indeed, it seems to me we may be more guilty of breaking that commandment than almost any other!) Speak hopefully. Speak encouragingly, including about yourself. Try not to complain and moan incessantly. As someone once said, “Even in the golden age of civilization someone undoubtedly grumbled that everything looked too yellow.”
I have often thought that Nephi’s being bound with cords and beaten by rods must have been more tolerable to him than listening to Laman and Lemuel’s constant murmuring. 8 Surely he must have said at least once, “Hit me one more time. I can still hear you.” Yes, life has its problems, and yes, there are negative things to face, but please accept one of Elder Holland’s maxims for living—no misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse.
Paul put it candidly, but very hopefully. He said to all of us: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but [only] that which is good … [and] edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God. …
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you. …
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” 9
In his deeply moving final testimony, Nephi calls us to “follow the Son [of God], with full purpose of heart,” promising that “after ye have … received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, [ye] can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels. … And … how could ye speak with the tongue of angels save it were by the Holy Ghost? Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.”10 Indeed, Christ was and is “the Word,” according to John the Beloved, 11full of grace and truth, full of mercy and compassion.
So, brothers and sisters, in this long eternal quest to be more like our Savior, may we try to be “perfect” men and women in at least this one way now—by offending not in word, or more positively put, by speaking with a new tongue, the tongue of angels. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail. I pray that my words, even on this challenging subject, will be encouraging to you, not discouraging, that you can hear in my voice that I love you, because I do. More importantly, please know that your Father in Heaven loves you and so does His Only Begotten Son. When They speak to you—and They will—it will not be in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but it will be with a voice still and small, a voice tender and kind. 12 It will be with the tongue of angels. May we all rejoice in the thought that when we say edifying, encouraging things unto the least of these, our brethren and sisters and little ones, we say it unto God. 13 In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."