Christmas History Facts, Santa Claus, and St. Nicholas

Christmas History Facts, Santa Claus, and St Nicholas

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.st-nicholas

Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned. The prisons were so full of bishops, priests, and deacons, there was no room for the real criminals—murderers, thieves and robbers. After his release, Nicholas attended the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church, where a unique relic, called manna, formed in his grave. This liquid substance, said to have healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St. Nicholas Day, December 6th (December 19 on the Julian Calendar).

Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas’ life and deeds. These accounts help us understand his extraordinary character and why he is so beloved and revered as protector and helper of those in need.

Origin of setting out stockings

saint-nicholas-childrenOne story tells of a poor man with three daughters. In those days a young woman’s father had to offer prospective husbands something of value—a dowry. The larger the dowry, the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband. Without a dowry, a woman was unlikely to marry. This poor man’s daughters, without dowries, were therefore destined to be sold into slavery. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold appeared in their home-providing the needed dowries. The bags of gold, tossed through an open window, are said to have landed in stockings or shoes left before the fire to dry. This led to the custom of children hanging stockings or putting out shoes, eagerly awaiting gifts from Saint Nicholas. Sometimes the story is told with gold balls instead of bags of gold. That is why three gold balls, sometimes represented as oranges, are one of the symbols for St. Nicholas. And so St. Nicholas is a gift-giver.

One of the oldest stories showing St. Nicholas as a protector of children takes place long after his death. The townspeople of Myra were celebrating the good saint on the eve of his feast day when a band of Arab pirates from Crete came into the district. They stole treasures from the Church of Saint Nicholas to take away as booty. As they were leaving town, they snatched a young boy, Basilios, to make into a slave. The emir, or ruler, selected Basilios to be his personal cupbearer, as not knowing the language, Basilios would not understand what the king said to those around him. So, for the next year Basilios waited on the king, bringing his wine in a beautiful golden cup. For Basilios’ parents, devastated at the loss of their only child, the year passed slowly, filled with grief. As the next St. Nicholas’ feast day approached, Basilios’ mother would not join in the festivity, as it was now a day of tragedy. However, she was persuaded to have a simple observance at home—with quiet prayers for Basilios’ safekeeping. Meanwhile, as Basilios was fulfilling his tasks serving the emir, he was suddenly whisked up and away. St. Nicholas appeared to the terrified boy, blessed him, and set him down at his home back in Myra. Imagine the joy and wonderment when Basilios amazingly appeared before his parents, still holding the king’s golden cup. This is the first story told of St. Nicholas protecting children—which became his primary role in the West.

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Christmas Stories: Gift of the Magi and the Savior Jesus Christ

Christmas Stories:

Gift of the Magi and the Savior Jesus Christ

Of sacrifice and the Savior

Alex Mac Farland

gift-of-magi-christmas-hairchain2December 2016 – As I was growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, my grade school education included learning about one of the town’s more famous past residents, William Sydney Porter. Perhaps you’ve heard of his pseudonym, “O. Henry.” Porter (1862-1910) left employment in his family’s drug store to establish himself as a writer.

He is best remembered for crafting “The Gift of the Magi,” one of America’s best loved short stories. The story has captivated readers around the globe. A young husband and wife are deeply in love but financially poor. Yet each secretly sacrifices greatly in order to buy the other an extravagant Christmas gift – combs for her hair and a chain for his pocket watch. Their sacrifices provide the irony that climaxes this tender Christmas classic.

Their actions certainly demonstrate sacrificial love, but as a child, I was frustrated by it. It was years before I understood the ultimate act of sacrificial love on which O. Henry’s story was based.

The Old Testament book of Isaiah points to the coming Savior in a number of key passages. Isaiah famously speaks of the one who would someday be “led like a Lamb to slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7), and “by Whose stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24). Writing around 750 BC, Isaiah prophesied events from the Savior’s time on earth that we would later read about in the Gospels: He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:34). The Messiah would be God incarnate (Isaiah 9:6, Mark 14:61, John 10:30-33). He would be beaten beyond recognition before being put to death on the cross (Isaiah 52:14, Matthew 27:26-31).

Jesus-gethsemane-Greatest-of-All-Del-Parson-211887Here is where the facts about Christmas might seem to be as hard to reconcile as the ending of an O. Henry tale. Clearly, the Father loves and cherishes His unique and only Son, Jesus. So much so that when Christ was suffering for the sins of the world and dying on the Cross, the Father looked away. Though no one fully understands how, for the first and only time in all of eternity, the Father and the Son were separated. As Christ’s horrific betrayal, woundings, and death culminated, it is a wonder that the wrath of God didn’t erupt onto the entire globe.

The irony is that Isaiah 53:10 says, “It pleased the Father to bruise Him” (literally, “to crush Him”). How can this be? How could God possibly have been pleased with the vicious execution of the One called “His beloved Son”? How could the hateful and brutal treatment of Jesus been pleasing to the Father?

jesus-rock1The wording of Isaiah and similar passages such as John 3:16 show the compassionate heart of the Father: If it means that you would be saved – restored in this life and saved from hell in the next – the Father’s heart in Isaiah 53:10 is essentially saying to all of us, “I did all of this because I love you.”

Unlike the best human writers, God leaves no holes in the plotline of His amazing drama! Think of it: In Jesus’s coming to earth, the Author wrote Himself into the play. And He invites you, through faith in Christ, to enter into the story. Christ’s presence in the Bible and His work through history truly are the greatest story ever told. In love, God sent His Son. In love, the Son died and arose. And in love, we meet Jesus personally.

What makes this more than just a great story is the element no other author could include: The cliffhanger story of Jesus happens also to be…reality.

Alex McFarland is co-host of Exploring the Word heard daily on American Family Radio. He is author of 17 books, and speaks regularly around the U.S. Learn more at alexmcfarland.com and purchase his books at afastore.net.
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Read “The Gift of the Magi” at https://americanenglish.state.gov

Character Education: Faith, Decision, and Charlie Brown

Character Education: Choose Wisely

Quentin L. Cook

keyold“Refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15).

 

My desire this evening is to share some counsel about decisions and choices.

Lucy Rationalizes

charlie-brown-lucy-baseballWhen I was a young lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area, our firm did some legal work for the company that produced the Charlie Brown holiday TV specials.1 I became a fan of Charles Schulz and his creation—Peanuts, with Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy, and other wonderful characters.

One of my favorite comic strips involved Lucy. As I remember it, Charlie Brown’s baseball team was in an important game—Lucy was playing right field, and a high fly ball was hit to her. The bases were loaded, and it was the last of the ninth inning. If Lucy caught the ball, her team would win. If Lucy dropped the ball, the other team would win.

charlie-brown-lucyAs could happen only in a comic strip, the entire team surrounded Lucy as the ball came down. Lucy was thinking, “If I catch the ball, I will be the hero; if I don’t, I will be the goat.”

The ball came down, and as her teammates eagerly looked on, Lucy dropped the ball. Charlie Brown threw his glove to the ground in disgust. Lucy then looked at her teammates, put her hands on her hips, and said, “How do you expect me to catch the ball when I am worried about our country’s foreign policy?”

This was one of many fly balls Lucy dropped through the years, and she had a new excuse each time.2 While always humorous, Lucy’s excuses were rationalizations; they were untrue reasons for her failure to catch the ball.

Decisions Determine Destiny

It is important to rise above rationalizations and make the best choices.

freewill1During the ministry of President Thomas S. Monson, he has often taught that decisions determine destiny.3 In that spirit my counsel tonight is to rise above any rationalizations that prevent us from making righteous decisions, especially with respect to serving Jesus Christ. In Isaiah we are taught we must “refuse the evil, and choose the good.”4

I believe it is of particular importance in our day, when Satan is raging in the hearts of men in so many new and subtle ways, that our choices and decisions be made carefully, consistent with the goals and objectives by which we profess to live. We need unequivocal commitment to the commandments and strict adherence to sacred covenants. When we allow rationalizations to prevent us from temple endowments, worthy missions, and temple marriage, they are particularly harmful. It is heartbreaking when we profess belief in these goals yet neglect the everyday conduct required to achieve them.5

Some young people profess their goal is to be married in the temple but do not date temple-worthy individuals. To be honest, some don’t even date, period! You single men, the longer you remain single after an appropriate age and maturity, the more comfortable you can become. But the more uncomfortable you ought to become! Please get “anxiously engaged”6 in spiritual and social activities compatible with your goal of a temple marriage.

Some postpone marriage until education is complete and a job obtained. While widely accepted in the world, this reasoning does not demonstrate faith, does not comply with counsel of modern prophets, and is not compatible with sound doctrine.

I recently met a fine teenage young man. His goals were to go on a mission, obtain an education, marry in the temple, and have a faithful happy family. I was very pleased with his goals. But during further conversation, it became evident that his conduct and the choices he was making were not consistent with his goals. I felt he genuinely wanted to go on a mission and was avoiding serious transgressions that would prohibit a mission, but his day-to-day conduct was not preparing him for the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual challenges he would face.7 He had not learned to work hard. He was not serious about school or seminary. He attended church, but he had not read the Book of Mormon. He was spending a large amount of time on video games and social media. He seemed to think that showing up for his mission would be sufficient. Young men, please recommit to worthy conduct and serious preparation to be emissaries of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

My concern is not only about the big tipping-point decisions but also the middle ground—the workaday world and seemingly ordinary decisions where we spend most of our time. In these areas, we need to emphasize moderation, balance, and especially wisdom. It is important to rise above rationalizations and make the best choices.

Everyday Decisions

A wonderful example of the need for moderation, balance, and wisdom is the use of the Internet. It can be used to do missionary outreach, to assist with priesthood responsibilities, to find precious ancestors for sacred temple ordinances, and much more. The potential for good is enormous. We also know that it can transmit much that is evil, including pornography, digital cruelty,8 and anonymous yakking. It can also perpetuate foolishness. As Brother Randall L. Ridd poignantly taught at the last general conference, speaking of the Internet, “You can get caught up in endless loops of triviality that waste your time and degrade your potential.”9

Frivolous Distractions

When we turn down the volume and examine the substance, there is very little that will assist us in our eternal quest toward righteous goals.

RushSocialMedia2PIXDistractions and opposition to righteousness are not just on the Internet; they are everywhere. They affect not just the youth but all of us. We live in a world that is literally in commotion.10 We are surrounded by obsessive portrayals of “fun and games” and immoral and dysfunctional lives. These are presented as normal conduct in much of the media.

Elder David A. Bednar recently cautioned members to be authentic in the use of social media.11 A prominent thought leader, Arthur C. Brooks, has emphasized this point. He observes that when using social media, we tend to broadcast the smiling details of our lives but not the hard times at school or work. We portray an incomplete life—sometimes in a self-aggrandizing or fake way. We share this life, and then we consume the “almost exclusively … fake lives of [our] social media ‘friends.’” Brooks asserts, “How could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are, and the other part of your time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?”12

Sometimes it feels like we are drowning in frivolous foolishness, nonsensical noise, and continuous contention. When we turn down the volume and examine the substance, there is very little that will assist us in our eternal quest toward righteous goals. One father wisely responds to his children with their numerous requests to participate in these distractions. He simply asks them, “Will this make you a better person?”

When we rationalize wrong choices, big or small, which are inconsistent with the restored gospel, we lose the blessings and protections we need and often become ensnared in sin or simply lose our way.

Erosion of Judeo-Christian Values

But when culture, knowledge, and social mores are separated from God’s plan of happiness and the essential role of Jesus Christ, there is an inevitable disintegration of society.

apathydudeI am particularly concerned with foolishness13 and being obsessed with “every new thing.” In the Church we encourage and celebrate truth and knowledge of every kind. But when culture, knowledge, and social mores are separated from God’s plan of happiness and the essential role of Jesus Christ, there is an inevitable disintegration of society.14 In our day, despite unprecedented gains in many areas, especially science and communication, essential basic values have eroded and overall happiness and well-being have diminished.

When the Apostle Paul was invited to speak on Mars Hill in Athens, he found some of the same intellectual pretension and absence of true wisdom that exist today.15 In Acts we read this account: “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.”16 Paul’s emphasis was the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. When the crowd realized the religious nature of his message, some mocked him; others essentially dismissed him, saying, “We will hear thee again of this matter.”17 Paul left Athens without any success. Dean Frederic Farrar wrote of this visit: “At Athens he founded no church, to Athens he wrote no epistle, and in Athens, often as he passed its neighbourhood, he never set foot again.”18

Subtle Influences

Many choices are not inherently evil, but if they absorb all of our time and keep us from the best choices, then they become insidious.

bigbenclockI believe Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s inspired message distinguishing between “good, better, best” provides an effective way to evaluate choices and priorities.19 Many choices are not inherently evil, but if they absorb all of our time and keep us from the best choices, then they become insidious.

Even worthwhile endeavors need evaluation in order to determine if they have become distractions from the best goals. I had a memorable discussion with my father when I was a teenager. He did not believe enough young people were focused on or preparing for long-term important goals—like employment and providing for families.

Meaningful study and preparatory work experience were always at the top of my father’s recommended priorities. He appreciated that extracurricular activities like debate and student government might have a direct connection with some of my important goals. He was less certain about the extensive time I spent participating in football, basketball, baseball, and track. He acknowledged that athletics could build strength, endurance, and teamwork but asserted that perhaps concentrating on one sport for a shorter time would be better. In his view, sports were good but not the best for me. He was concerned that some sports were about building local celebrity or fame at the expense of more important long-term goals.

Given this history, one of the reasons I like the account of Lucy playing baseball is that, in my father’s view, I should have been studying foreign policy and not worrying about whether I was going to catch a ball. I should make it clear that my mother loved sports. It would have taken a hospitalization for her to miss one of my games.

I had decided to follow my dad’s advice and not play intercollegiate sports in college. Then our high school football coach informed me that the Stanford football coach wanted to have lunch with Merlin Olsen and me. Those of you who are younger may not know Merlin. He was an incredible all-American tackle on the Logan High School football team where I played quarterback and safety and returned kickoffs and punts. In high school Merlin was recruited by most football powers across the nation. In college he won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman. Merlin was ultimately the third overall pick in the National Football League draft and played in an amazing 14 consecutive Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.20

The lunch with the Stanford coach was at the Bluebird restaurant in Logan, Utah. After we shook hands, he never once made eye contact with me. He talked directly to Merlin but ignored me. At the end of the lunch, for the first time, he turned toward me, but he could not remember my name. He then informed Merlin, “If you choose Stanford and want to bring your friend with you, he has good enough grades and it could probably be arranged.” This experience confirmed for me that I should follow my dad’s wise counsel.

cook-choices-192x192My intent is not to discourage participation in sports or the use of the Internet or other worthwhile activities young people enjoy. They are the kind of activities that require moderation, balance, and wisdom. When used wisely, they enrich our lives.

However, I encourage everyone, young and old, to review goals and objectives and strive to exercise greater discipline. Our daily conduct and choices should be consistent with our goals. We need to rise above rationalizations and distractions. It is especially important to make choices consistent with our covenants to serve Jesus Christ in righteousness.21 We must not take our eyes off or drop that ball for any reason.

This life is the time to prepare to meet God.22 We are a happy, joyous people. We appreciate a good sense of humor and treasure unstructured time with friends and family. But we need to recognize that there is a seriousness of purpose that must undergird our approach to life and all our choices. Distractions and rationalizations that limit progress are harmful enough, but when they diminish faith in Jesus Christ and His Church, they are tragic.

My prayer . . . we will make our conduct consistent with the noble purposes required of those who are in the service of the Master. In all things we should remember that being “valiant in the testimony of Jesus” is the great dividing test between the celestial and terrestrial kingdoms.23 We want to be found on the celestial side of that divide. As one of His Apostles, I bear fervent testimony of the reality of the Atonement and the divinity of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

 

  1. Lee Mendelson-Bill Melendez Production TV Specials.
  1. From the moons of Saturn distracting her to worrying about possible toxic substances in her glove, Lucy always rationalized why she dropped the ball.
  1. See “Decisions Determine Destiny,” chapter 8 in Pathways to Perfection: Discourses of Thomas S. Monson (1973), 57–65.
  1. Isaiah 7:15.
  1. “If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces” (William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, act 1, scene 2, lines 12–14).
  1. Doctrine and Covenants 58:27.
  1. See Adjusting to Missionary Life (booklet, 2013), 23–49.
  1. See Stephanie Rosenbloom, “Dealing with Digital Cruelty,” New York Times, Aug. 24, 2014, SR1.
  1. Randall L. Ridd, “The Choice Generation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 56.
  1. See Doctrine and Covenants 45:26.
  1. See David A. Bednar, “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood” (speech delivered at BYU Campus Education Week, Aug. 19, 2014); lds.org/prophets-and-apostles/unto-all-the-world/to-sweep-the-earth-as-with-a-flood.
  1. Arthur C. Brooks, “Love People, Not Pleasure,” New York Times, July 20, 2014, SR1.
  1. Unfortunately, one diversion that has increased in our day is pure foolishness. When the Savior enumerated some of the things that can defile man, He included foolishness (see Mark 7:22).
  1. This happened in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as with the Book of Mormon civilizations.
  1. See Frederic W. Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul (1898), 302. There were philosophers of all kinds, including Epicureans and Stoics, rival groups who some described as the Pharisees and the Sadducees of the pagan world. See also Quentin L. Cook, “Looking beyond the Mark,” Ensign, Mar. 2003, 41–44; Liahona, Mar. 2003, 21–24.
  1. Acts 17:21.
  1. Acts 17:32.
  1. Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, 312.
  1. See Dallin H. Oaks, “Good, Better, Best,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 104–8.
  1. Merlin Olsen was a hall of fame football player, actor, and NFL commentator for NBC. He won the Outland Trophy playing football for Utah State University. He played pro football for the Los Angeles Rams. On TV he played Jonathan Garvey opposite Michael Landon on Little House on the Prairie and had his own TV program, Father Murphy. Merlin is now deceased (Mar. 11, 2010), and we miss him very much.

 

Thanksgiving Stories: Faith and Native American Covenant

Were American Settlers God’s Covenant People?

The people called upon to honor God and keep the Faith

History-Clues

By Timothy Ballard massbaycolony2

 

As the Puritans arrived upon the shores of the New World, their leader John Winthrop shared words that sounded a lot like those declared by Father Lehi [ancestor of the Native Americans] when he brought his people to the same land. Said Winthrop: “Thus stands the cause between God and us, we are entered into Covenant with Him for this work . . . . If we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.” Winthrop called upon his people to live the commandments, that God might make them a “City upon a Hill.”

bible1The prophet Nephi [among ancient Native Americans] saw the early American settlers in vision and described them appropriately: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them . . . . which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel.” (1 Nephi 13:20,23)

Where did the expression “bury the hatchet” come from?

lamanitesburyweaponsWhen ancient Native Americans made a covenant with God to serve Him and stop killing people, they buried their weapons deep in the earth.

 

John Winthrop

From wikipedia

massbaycolonyWinthrop’s reference to the “city upon a hill” in A Modell of Christian Charity has become an enduring symbol in American political discourse.[136] Many leading American politicians, going back to revolutionary times, have cited Winthrop in their writings or speeches. Winthrop’s reputation suffered in the late 19th and early 20th century, when critics like Nathaniel Hawthorne and H. L. Mencken pointed out the negative aspects of Puritan rule, leading to modern assessments of him as a “lost Founding Father”. Political scientist Matthew Holland argues that Winthrop “is at once a significant founding father of America’s best and worst impulses”, with his calls for charity and public participation offset by rigid intolerance, exclusionism and judgmentalism.[137] But at heart he did truly want to be a good leader.

Winthrop strongly believed that civil liberty was “the proper end and object of authority”, meaning it was the duty of the government to be selfless for the people and promote justice instead of promoting the general welfare.[138] Winthrop supports this point of view from his past actions such as when he passed laws requiring the heads of households to make sure their children and even their servants to receive proper education and for town to support teachers from public funds.[60]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Winthrop

Biblical Worldview: Gospel Eclipse Glasses prevent Eclipse of Christ in our Lives

Biblical Worldview:

Gospel Eclipse Glasses prevent Eclipse of Christ in Our Lives

Spiritual Eclipse

By Elder Gary E. Stevenson

Don’t let life’s distractions eclipse heaven’s light.

Solar Eclipse

The other rare and heavenly event occurring on the same day and captivating millions worldwide was a total solar eclipse. This was the first time such an eclipse had marched across the entire United States in 99 years.2 Have you ever seen a solar eclipse? Perhaps I could describe this in greater detail.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the earth and the sun, almost completely blocking any light from the sun’s surface.3 The fact that this can happen is a marvel to me. If you imagine the sun as the size of a common bicycle tire, the moon in comparison would scarcely be the size of a small pebble.

How is it possible that the very source of our warmth, light, and life could be so greatly obscured by something comparatively insignificant in size?

Although the sun is 400 times larger than the moon, it is also 400 times farther away from the earth.4 From earth’s perspective, this geometry makes the sun and moon appear to be the same size. When the two are aligned just right, the moon seems to obscure the entire sun. Friends and family of mine who were in the zone of total eclipse described how light was replaced by darkness, the stars appeared, and birds quit singing. The air became chilly, as temperatures in an eclipse can decrease by more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius).5

They described a sense of awe, astonishment, and even anxiety, knowing an eclipse brings certain hazards. However, they all exercised care to prevent permanent eye damage or “eclipse blindness” during the eclipse event. Safety was made possible because they wore glasses equipped with special filtered lenses that protected their eyes from any potential harm.

The Analogy

In the same manner that the very small moon can block the magnificent sun, extinguishing its light and warmth, a spiritual eclipse can occur when we allow minor and troublesome obstructions—those we face in our daily lives—to get so close that they block out the magnitude, brightness, and warmth of the light of Jesus Christ and His gospel.

Neal A. Maxwell took this analogy even further when he stated: “Even something as small as a man’s thumb, when held very near the eye, can blind him to the very large sun. Yet the sun is still there. Blindness is brought upon the man by himself. When we draw other things too close, placing them first, we obscure our vision of heaven.”6

Clearly, none of us wants to purposefully obscure our vision of heaven or allow a spiritual eclipse to occur in our lives. Let me share some thoughts that may assist us in preventing spiritual eclipse from causing us permanent spiritual damage.

Gospel Glasses: Maintain a Gospel Perspective

Do you recall my description of special eyewear used to protect those viewing a solar eclipse from eye damage or even eclipse blindness? Looking at a spiritual eclipse through the protecting and softening lens of the Spirit provides a gospel perspective, thus protecting us from spiritual blindness.

Let’s consider some examples. With the words of the prophets in our hearts and the Holy Spirit as our counselor, we can gaze at partially blocked heavenly light through “gospel glasses,” avoiding the harm of a spiritual eclipse.

So how do we put on gospel glasses? Here are some examples: Our gospel glasses inform us that the Lord desires that we partake of the sacrament each week and that He desires that we study the scriptures and have daily prayer. They also inform us that Satan will tempt us not to. We know that his agenda seeks to take away our agency through distractions and worldly temptations. Even in Job’s day, perhaps there were some experiencing a spiritual eclipse, described as: “They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night.”7

Brothers and sisters, when I speak of seeing through gospel glasses, please know that I am not suggesting that we do not acknowledge or discuss the challenges we face or that we walk blissfully ignorant of the traps and evils the enemy has placed before us. I am not speaking of wearing blinders—but just the opposite. I am suggesting that we look at challenges through the lens of the gospel. Dallin H. Oaks observed that “perspective is the ability to see all relevant information in a meaningful relationship.”8 A gospel perspective expands our sight to an eternal view.

When you put on gospel glasses, you find enhanced perspective, focus, and vision in the way you think about your priorities, your problems, your temptations, and even your mistakes. You will see brighter light that you could not see without them.

Ironically, it is not only the negative that can cause spiritual eclipse in our lives. Often, admirable or positive endeavors to which we dedicate ourselves can be drawn so close that they blot out gospel light and bring darkness. These dangers or distractions could include education and prosperity, power and influence, ambition, even talents and gifts.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has taught that “any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. … There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks.”9

Let me share in greater detail examples that could become catalysts for avoiding our own spiritual eclipses.

Social Media

A few months ago I spoke at BYU Women’s Conference.10 I described how technology, including social media, facilitates spreading “the knowledge of a Savior … throughout every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.”11 These technologies include Church websites like LDS.org and Mormon.org; mobile apps such as Gospel Library, Mormon Channel, LDS Tools, and Family Tree; and social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. These modalities have generated hundreds of millions of likes, shares, views, retweets, and pins and have become very effective and efficient in sharing the gospel with family, friends, and associates.

All of the virtues and appropriate use of these technologies notwithstanding, there are risks associated with them that, when drawn too close, can put us in a spiritual eclipse and potentially block the brightness and warmth of the gospel.

The use of social media, mobile apps, and games can be inordinately time-consuming and can reduce face-to-face interaction. This loss of personal conversation can affect marriages, take the place of valuable spiritual practices, and stifle the development of social skills, especially among youth.

Two additional risks related to social media are idealized reality and debilitating comparisons.

Many (if not most) of the pictures posted on social media tend to portray life at its very best—often unrealistically. We have all seen beautiful images of home decor, wonderful vacation spots, smiling selfies, elaborate food preparation, and seemingly unattainable body images.

Here, for example, is an image that you might see on someone’s social media account. However, it doesn’t quite capture the full picture of what is actually going on in real life.

Comparing our own seemingly average existence with others’ well-edited, perfectly crafted lives as represented on social media may leave us with feelings of discouragement, envy, and even failure.

One person who has shared numerous posts of her own said, perhaps only partly in jest, “What’s the point of being happy if you’re not going to post it?”12

As Bonnie L. Oscarson reminded us this morning, success in life doesn’t come down to how many likes we get or how many social media friends or followers we have. It does, however, have something to do with meaningfully connecting with others and adding light to their lives.

Hopefully, we can learn to be more real, find more humor, and experience less discouragement when confronted with images that may portray idealized reality and that too often lead to debilitating comparisons.

Comparison apparently is not just a sign of our times but was in times past as well. The Apostle Paul warned the people of his day that “they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”13

With so many appropriate and inspired uses of technology, let us use it to teach, inspire, and lift ourselves and to encourage others to become their finest—rather than to portray our idealized virtual selves. Let us also teach and demonstrate the righteous use of technology to the rising generation and warn against the associated hazards and destructive use of it. Viewing social media through the lens of the gospel can prevent it from becoming a spiritual eclipse in our lives.

Pride

Let’s now address the age-old stumbling block of pride. Pride is the opposite of humility, which is a “willingness to submit to the will of the Lord.”14 When prideful, we tend to take honor to ourselves rather than giving it to others, including the Lord. Pride is often competitive; it is a tendency to seek to obtain more and presume we are better than others. Pride often results in feelings of anger and hatred; it causes one to hold grudges or to withhold forgiveness. Pride, however, can be swallowed in the Christlike attribute of humility.

Relationships, even with close family and loved ones, especially with close family and loved ones—even between husbands and wives—are fostered in humility and are stymied by pride.

Many years ago an executive of a large retailer called me to talk about his company, which was being bought out by one of its competitors. He and numerous other headquarters personnel were extremely anxious that they might lose their jobs. Knowing that I was well acquainted with senior management of the acquiring company, he asked if I would be willing to both introduce him and give a strong reference on his behalf, even to arrange a meeting for him. He then concluded with the following statement: “You know what they say? ‘The meek shall perish!’”

I understood his comment was more than likely intended as humor. I got the joke. But there was an important principle that I felt might ultimately be of use to him. I replied, “Actually, that isn’t what they say. In fact, it is just the opposite. ‘The meek … shall inherit the earth’15 is what they say.”

In my experience in the Church as well as throughout my professional career, some of the greatest, most effective people I have known have been among the most meek and humble.

Humility and meekness fit hand in glove. May we remember that “none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart.”16

I pray that we will strive to avoid the spiritual eclipse of pride by embracing the virtue of humility.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a solar eclipse is indeed a remarkable phenomenon of nature during which the beauty, warmth, and light of the sun can be completely covered by a comparatively insignificant object, causing darkness and chill.

A similar phenomenon can be replicated in a spiritual sense, when otherwise small and insignificant matters are drawn too close and block the beauty, warmth, and heavenly light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, replacing it with cold darkness.

Eyewear designed to protect the sight of those in the zone of a total solar eclipse can prevent permanent damage and even blindness.17 Gospel glasses comprised of a knowledge and testimony of gospel principles and ordinances provide a gospel perspective that can similarly provide greater spiritual protection and clarity for someone exposed to the hazards of a spiritual eclipse.

If you discover anything that seems to be blocking the light and joy of the gospel in your life, I invite you to place it in a gospel perspective. Look through a gospel lens and be vigilant not to allow insignificant and inconsequential matters in life to obscure your eternal view of the great plan of happiness. In short, don’t let life’s distractions eclipse heaven’s light.

I bear testimony that no matter the obstruction that may block our vision of gospel light, the light is still there. That source of warmth, truth, and brightness is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I bear testimony of a loving Heavenly Father; of His Son, Jesus Christ; and of the Son’s role as our Savior and Redeemer.

 

Culture Wars: American Family Association, Judeo-Christian Values vs. War on Christianity

Culture Wars:

American Family Association, Judeo-Christian Values vs. War on Christianity

When the fight comes to you

Tim Wildmon

President, American Family Association

Let me challenge you to stay involved with groups like AFA. We will win some and we will lose some. But we can’t quit. We can never give up. What a future America will look like for our children, grandchildren, and Christians in general is very much at stake. ~Tim Wildmon

Truth about America

October 2017 – There is a difference between going looking for a fight and having a fight come to you. It was that way with the colonists who decided to break away from the king of England in the 1700s. Those soon-to-be Americans – the men and women who founded our country – decided they had had enough abuse from the king, and so they made their grievances public with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and the war for America began.

Our founders didn’t go looking for a fight with the British crown, but the provocation for a fight came to them. It is much the same way for those of us who believe in traditional Christian values in modern day America. For the past four decades, we haven’t been looking for a fight, but our beliefs and morals have been under assault. For example:

Honoring God and prayer were very much a part of public life, but then the secularists went against those practices through the courts and many of us felt the need to fight back by forming Christian legal organizations to challenge the atheists and secularists in the courtrooms.
Christian teaching regarding sexual behavior was the standard before Alfred Kinsey, Hugh Hefner, and the entertainment industry (Hollywood) began to attack it relentlessly. Television programming from the 1970s forward has proclaimed there are no rules with respect to sex. Christians saw this as having dire consequences for the long term health of our society and decided to fight back and were mocked for doing so.
The taking of innocent human life through abortion was illegal in most states until the 1973 Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision overruled the states and made abortion the law of the land. Some Christians decided to fight back, and thus was born the pro-life movement.
For all of human history, the definition of marriage has been the union of one man and one woman. The vast majority of states, even liberal California, have reaffirmed this view of marriage in the last 20 years. But one federal judge overruled seven million Californians, and later the Supreme Court concurred, thus changing the legal definition of marriage to include men “marrying” men and women “marrying” women. Talk about a classic oxymoron! Some Christians decided to fight back, and what America will do with this issue remains to be seen.

There are many more examples of what the “culture war” is all about, but I’ve just laid out four of the more high profile issues of our time. These issues were why my dad, Rev. Don Wildmon, founded the American Family Association. He saw the need to give Christians (and others who support traditional values) an organized response to the attacks on the Christian value system. That was in 1977. But we have been backed into a corner and left with no recourse but to fight for our values.

There were other groups like AFA who have also engaged in the effort to preserve and restore these values. The culture war is really a spiritual war; therefore it is eternal. There will

by Carl Bloch

always be good and evil, right and wrong, moral and immoral. And just as these values matter in our personal lives, they also matter for the well-being of our country. If we as a nation continue to rebel against God and godly principles, He will either destroy us or He will allow us to implode. I can’t tell you exactly what that looks like, but judging by historical and biblical accounts, it will be really, really bad.

Challenge to Christian Soldiers

If you are a Christian soldier, let me encourage, warn, and challenge you. Let me encourage you that standing for the Lord and His righteousness is always the right thing to do. We must do what we can, while we can.

Elections matter. Building strong families matters. Being involved in your community matters. Winning converts to Christianity matters. Let me warn you that the world is against us – and sometimes hostile towards us – because we make moral judgments based on Scripture and proclaim them publicly. Jesus told us this would be the case.

Finally, let me challenge you to stay involved with groups like AFA. We will win some and we will lose some. But we can’t quit. We can never give up. What a future America will look like for our children, grandchildren, and Christians in general is very much at stake.

https://afajournal.org/past-issues/2017/october/when-the-fight-comes-to-you/