Thursday, December 18, 2014

Buddy the Elf

Today is "International Answer the Telephone Like Buddy the Elf Day." In case you're not familiar with him, Buddy the Elf is this guy:

I hope this video works for you. It seems that I've had some trouble with these in the past.

Now, I wouldn't recommend answering the phone like Buddy does. In fact, there are quite a few things that Buddy does that I wouldn't recommend. However, he gives us a few examples, even in this short video, of things that we would do well to emulate.

The first thing I noticed in this video, beside how unlike himself Buddy acts in the first few seconds of the video, is how friendly Buddy naturally is. He greets nearly everyone he passes with a warm smile and often a compliment. We can copy that. When we meet others today, we can express genuine happiness to see them. If we can think of something positive to say right on the spot, we can say it. It might just make someone's day.

The world need more happiness and human kindness. The world needs people who greet others pleasantly, and sometimes, people really need someone to lift their spirits so they can get through the day. It doesn't take much, just a smile and a kind word, but it can really make a big impact on others. Buddy always tried to spread cheer and happiness, and so can we.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas in the Book of Mormon

Everyone knows and loves the Christmas story found in Luke Chapter 2, but one Christmas, while I was on my mission, an investigator asked me if there were any references to Christmas in the Book of Mormon. I first thought of Nephi's vision of Mary.
And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. 
And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.  
And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? 
And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. 
And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. 
And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! 
And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. 
And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? 
And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things. 
And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul. 
 1 Nephi 11: 13-23
 Of course, I could have also shared the experience of Christmas among the Nephites, but it's so far removed from the typical Christmas story that I thought it was better to stick with the reference to the virgin mother. Little did I know then that there was another reference to Mary later in the Book of Mormon, when King Benjamin told his people what an angel told him about Christ.

And the things which I shall tell you are made known unto me by an angel from God. And he said unto me: Awake; and I awoke, and behold he stood before me. 
And he said unto me: Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy. 
For the Lord hath heard thy prayers, and hath judged of thy righteousness, and hath sent me to declare unto thee that thou mayest rejoice; and that thou mayest declare unto thy people, that they may also be filled with joy. 
For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth amongst men, working mighty miracles, such as healing the sick, raising the dead, causing the lame to walk, the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and curing all manner of diseases. 
And he shall cast out devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men. 
And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. 
And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary. 
Mosiah 3: 2-8
 Of course, neither of these references are nearly as detailed as Luke's account. They don't say anything about shepherds or wise men, or even the star. However, they, too, make mention of the birth of our Savior, and that's the really important part. I think it's nice that we have a second witness of the birth of the Savior, as our way of saying "Yes, we believe that happened, and they believed it, too." With Christ's birth being one of the most important events in all of history, it makes sense that the Nephites would have known and written about it, and we're fortunate enough to have a copy of a translation of their record. The Book of Mormon really is Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and I'm glad that that testament includes at least three references to the birth of Christ.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Who Are The Wise Men?

Popular culture holds that there were three wise men and that they came from Asia, hence the song "We Three Kings From Orient Are." Some even claim to know their names. While I'm not sure how much of that is supported in the text of the Bible, I'm pretty sure that some of it isn't. I don't think we know how many wise men there were or exactly where they came from or whether or not they were actually kings. One theory popular among Mormons is that the wise men included Samuel the Lamanite and Alma (the Younger, I think), but we don't have any proof for that, either. The exact number and nationalities of the wise men is a secret that was lost to time, but a favorite Christmas quote of mine implies that there are far more "wise men" than we've considered so far.

"Wise men still seek Him"

And I might add:

"This season, and always."

The wise men who sought Jesus weren't just the ones that were carrying Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. They were also the ones who followed Him through Galilee, who walked on water to meet Him, and who touched the hem of His clothes. They include everyone who profess His name and follow His teachings. If we are wise enough to follow Him, the group of "wise men" also includes us.

It is no longer possible for us to literally follow the Star of Bethlehem, bearing gifts to the newborn king, but we can still follow the light of the Master, bearing gifts of broken hearts, contrite spirits, and all our good works, and offer them to our Heavenly King. By being born a few thousand years after His birth, we've missed our chance to see Him in-person, but sooner or later, we're all going to come face-to-face with our Savior, whether we want to or not. The question is not whether we'll ever go to see Jesus, but what "gifts" we'll bring with us when we do. My hope is that we will seek Jesus during our lifetimes, so we may have good gifts to present to Him when we meet Him, just as the first few wise men did.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Lament of the Lame-Gift-Giver

For the past few days, I've been trying to find the articulation required to meaningfully blog about the giving and receiving of gifts. I have several potential blog post ideas on that topic, but I haven't yet found the right words to blog about them. Part of the reason for this is that I don't want to be a hypocrite. I don't want to blog about how to give good gifts, knowing that I'll fail at that, by my own standards. I also don't want to blog about a topic about which I know so little, compared to my audience. Maybe I'll just leave the subject of gift-giving alone. Except that I do want to make one point on the subject: We shouldn't stress out about it as much as some of us do.

Christmas was never really instituted by Christ or His church - we just kind of adopted it - but all the same, it was never meant to make people miserable or upset. Christmas is all about joy. But some people, including myself, have got it in their heads that they owe others gifts that are sufficiently valuable/thoughtful/creative/personal, and such people often find themselves falling short by our own standards. We stress out about how our gifts aren't as good as other people's gifts, and we feel like we've let our loved ones down.

I'm sure that our loved ones don't want us to feel that way, and that they wouldn't want us to stress out about how lame our gifts are. They'd tell us that they don't really care about the gifts, and that what's really important is that we get to spend time together and share our love for each other. That's what Christmas is really about - love. Gifts are just expressions of that love. But some of us aren't very good at expressing our love that way. I'm sure that my loved ones deserve better gifts than what I'm giving them, and maybe they're Christlike enough to say they don't really care about the gifts, but I still feel bad, thinking that I should have done better for them.

But as I've acknowledged above, this is not a problem that I should be worrying about. Christmas isn't really about the presents, so I shouldn't worry about it as if it were. Okay, so some of the presents are lame - that's not really the point! If the happiness of your Christmas hinges on whether I give you a wonderful Christmas present (first of all, brace yourself for disappointment, but secondly), you might want to adjust your priorities. And if the happiness of my Christmas hinges on whether or not I manage to give wonderful Christmas presents, I probably need to adjust mine. Christmas isn't really about the presents, so even if some of the presents are terrible, it's not the end of the world. I don't really care if I get lame presents. I just hope that the people I'm getting presents for feel the same way.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Spirituality Cycle

This morning, I had the opportunity to sing "If The Savior Stood Beside Me" for my Mom in Primary as part of her sharing time lesson. Her lesson was on how thinking about Jesus can help us chose the right, and during her lesson, she shared something that I found rather insightful. If we imagine Jesus being near us, that can help us to be righteous, and being righteous can help us have Christ's spirit with us, which can continue to help us be righteous. All that it takes to get the cycle started is to make an attempt to be righteous, or to feel the spirit in such a way that inspires you to be righteous.

Christmastime is a great time to start or restart this cycle because the spirit id very strong this time of year, and there is lots of encouragement and many opportunities to do good. Let's try to catch the spirit of Christmas and see how long we can keep the cycle going. And if you ever break the cycle, you can restart it with a renewed commitment to do good. But once you've got the cycle started, it shouldn't be too hard to keep up. It's easier to do good when you have the spirit with you, and it's easy to have the spirit with you when you're doing good.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Greatest Gift Ever Given

The MormonAd from yesterday's blog post says that Jesus Christ is "the greatest gift ever given," but I'm not sure how doctrinally accurate that is. I seem to recall a scripture or two saying that Eternal Life is the greatest of all the gifts of God.
And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.
D&C 14:7
Or is it Salvation?
If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.
D&C 6:13
Or the fruit from the tree in Lehi's vision of the Iron Rod and the Tree of Life?
Wherefore, the wicked are rejected from the righteous, and also from that tree of life, whose fruit is most precious and most desirable above all other fruits; yea, and it is the greatest of all the gifts of God. And thus I spake unto my brethren. Amen.
1 Nephi 15:36
How can all of those things be "the greatest of all the gifts of God" and Jesus Christ still be "the greatest gift ever given?"

Maybe they all go together. I understand that there's a slight difference between "salvation" and "eternal life," and that it's possible to have salvation and not have eternal life, but it's not possible to have eternal life and not also have salvation, and it's not possible to have either of them without Jesus Christ. The tree in Lehi's dream was "a representation of the love of God" (1 Nephi 11:25), which would make the fruit of the tree a representation of the fruit (product or result) of the love of God. Make of that what you will, but I imagine that it's strongly connected to either Jesus Christ or the many other blessings we receive from God, including salvation and eternal life.

Jesus Christ may or may not be the greatest gift ever given. If He isn't, He is at least the means by which we gain the greatest of all the gifts of God, and if He is the greatest gift ever given, that's probably because He enables us to gain the greatest of all the gifts of God. Whichever way you look at it, God has unbelievable blessings in store for the righteous, and we get them by following Jesus Christ.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Make Your Holiday a Holy Day

Here's a trip down Memory Lane:

It says "Make your Holiday a Holy Day. Feast upon the word. Learn of Christ - The greatest gift ever given. (See John 3:16)"

I wonder how many people remember and understand that "Holiday" is just a common abbreviation of "Holy Day." Those of us who do remember tend to see the Holidays with a little deeper meaning, a little bit more reverence and respect. For us, it's not just a day off from work, like another Saturday. It's more like another Sunday - a day to draw closer to God, to thank Him for our blessings, and to reach out in love to those around us.

Granted, not all holidays are Holy Days. Holidays like Valentines Day, St. Patrick's Day, and Halloween are fun to observe, but they don't necessarily have much sacred meaning (Maybe Valentines Day does, but I think it's debatable. Though, I'll probably feel differently about it when I get married). Some holidays are just special days off. But other Holidays, like Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving, are set apart for holy purposes, and should be given proper respect.

Yes, Christmas is fun, but if it doesn't also make you feel something, you're doing it wrong. I, apparently, am doing it wrong, but I plan on changing that tomorrow night and/or the night after that. The thing that turns holidays into holy days is the spirit. Try to catch the spirit of Christmas some time in the next two weeks. It'll make the season that much more special to you.