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Our Heavenly Father has gifted us with two wonderful blessings, being a husband or wife, and being a parent. Whether it is by the gift of a child to each other or through the loving action of adoption or circumstance it is a calling that will live with you for time and eternity. We are given the wondrous blessings of having the restored Gospel to help us enjoy and get the most pleasure of being a parent and having a loving family. 

Family and the Priesthood

What a blessing it is to have the Priesthood in our lives. It is the responsibility of a priesthood holder to help protect, enrich, and provide for his family the same blessing that was bestowed upon him when becoming a priest. This also is shared with other families that may not have a priesthood holder in the household. By living through Gospel principles, and everlasting covenants the family benefits both spiritually and emotionally. It is said, “Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.” (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 18:21). To this I understand the expression that “a family that prays together, stays together”.

Devotion to the Lord and Our Family

Our families should be cherished like pure spring water from the mountains and streams. They are our most cherished gifts from our Heavenly Father and we must ensure that there is stability of mind, body, and soul. Devoted parents are the key to salvation for your children and generations to come. Our first steps should always be steps taken on the path of righteousness. Through this our families can find joy and happiness even in the most troubled moments of our lives, love is the answer.

Be the Best at Your Callings

When we are given a calling it should become second nature to do our best in what is put before you. Whether it is a calling from our Church or a calling from our Heavenly Father we should always do our best to help others and ourselves. Our family responsibilities are the most important and blessed calling that is bestowed upon us. Showing love to one another will reflect upon our children the importance of showing and sharing love. Working together also instills a good foundation for our children to build their own families upon. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (New Testament, John 13:34). Sometimes we find it difficult to love unconditionally because of our past hurts and instances. If we remember and follow Our Savior's example of love, even in these modern times when it seems difficult, we can feel and share his love.

Forever Families

In one of my favorite children's hymns there is a line that says, “Families can be together forever, through Heavenly Father’s plan”. If we look at Our Father’s Plan of Salvation by understanding the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement, and living the principles of the Gospel, we can have family relationships that will last for all time and eternity. What a wonderful feeling that can only warm your heart with joy and love. We have been blessed with an opportunity to come closer to or Heavenly Father and Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ by reading and pondering the Holy Bible and the companion Book of Mormon to open the spiritual doors to everlasting life and happiness. I hope that you enjoyed reading this as much as I have sharing this with you. I was inspired by the writings of President Boyd K. Packer.





 
 
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   The sensation of human guilt is as universal as it is varied. All of us have experienced at least some form of shame, guilt, embarrassment, or self-directed anger which tells us quite bluntly that our behavior fell below our standards. Guilt affects each of us in a similar way; we feel to some degree that we did something wrong, and we regret getting into these circumstances. But as each person is unique, so is each sin, and therefore each episode of guilt. So many nuances and subtle emotions can mingle with each episode, creating an experience that is simultaneously unique and all-too-common.
   This emotion, which is never pleasant, can be a very useful tool. A healthy dose of guilt causes us to recognize that we can do better, that our actions were unacceptable, that there is room for improvement, and motivates us to fix the situation. But used to excess by an over-critical mind, unnecessary guilt shifts the focus of shame from one's actions to one's overall worth as a human-being.

Some anxiety and depression is caused by physical disorders, but much (perhaps most) of it is not pain of the body but of the spirit. Spiritual pain resulting from guilt can be replaced with peace of mind.
In contrast to the hard words condemning sin, listen to the calming, healing words of mercy, which balance the harsher words of justice.”
-President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

As Elder Packer's quote implies, the duty we have been given by Jesus Christ to “forgive all men” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10) applies not only to others, but also to ourselves.
   We all learn pretty early-on in life that other people are not perfect, and that we shouldn't expect perfection. But pretty often, we take a bit longer to learn that we shouldn't expect perfection from ourselves. It is commendable to reach for perfection, and to try every day to get a little closer, but when we set the bar at perfect, and view everything that falls short as failure, we're bound to get quite disappointed with ourselves.
As any athlete knows, the key to success is practice and persistence and dedication over a long period of time. It is much easier to climb a staircase or a ladder than it is to jump directly from the ground to the same height. No high jumper has ever gone directly from the couch to a nine-foot vertical jump at the Olympics. This would be a marvelous overall goal for anyone to think of setting, but a goal that lofty would need to be comprised of many smaller goals to become a reality. “First, I'll work on routine and get that down. Then, I'll work to clear five feet. Then, I'll try to clear five feet and three inches, etc., etc.”
   A beginning jumper shouldn't be discouraged that he can't immediately jump over a house, and similarly, we shouldn't be discouraged just because we have some way to go on the road to spiritual and moral perfection. It's not something that happens right away, but something that comes little by little as we continually work for it.

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   God has said that if we wish to live with Him once more, we need to be perfect, but He knows that we can't possibly do that on our own. As mortal beings, we are naturally weak and undisciplined. It is not only expected that we will mess up throughout our lives, but inevitable. So how can God expect perfection from children He knows are incapable of it? 
   It is with this in mind, that our Heavenly Father sent is Son, Jesus Christ to live among us. As God's Son, Christ had the capability to fully temper and control the natural urges and temptations that His mortal body would experience. Having absolutely no sin of His own, Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, and also for our pains, infirmities, and yes, our guilt. He felt all of it. He experienced every bit of suffering that human family had, did, and would ever experience. And why? This was the price paid to allow us an out from our sins.    
   Thanks to this atonement made by Jesus Christ, our Savior, if we do everything we can to fix the situation presented by our misdoings, and gratefully acknowledge the miraculous sacrifice that Christ made, we can fully repent. And as far as God is concerned, the sin never happened. We are as clean and pure as the day we were born. This is how we achieve perfection, through Christ.
   As we earnestly repent of our sins and misdeeds, and look upon Christ, we are given the wonderful gift of a clean conscience. There is no point to carry the shame with us once we have been forgiven by our loving Heavenly Father. It is time to forgive ourselves, and jettison any self-hate from our souls. God doesn't count it against us anymore. Why should we?




 
 
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Since I was but a wee lad, I've always loved, loved, LOVED Christmas. Though perhaps my reasons for this love have evolved over the years, the season just fills me with an almost childlike giddiness. Much of Christiandom yearly celebrates this veneration of Christ, and my faith (Mormonism) is no exception. Though Mormons don't really do anything vastly different than other Christmas celebrators, it's hard not to bring up the development of my own personal fledgling faith in connection to the Christmas spirit. Like most American children, I was taught of the mystical Santa Claus, who lived at the north pole, was morbidly obese, and brought presents to all the good children of the world. It was a whimsical, if silly, legend that was lots of fun to take part in each year. But I'm forever grateful that my parents, while happy to entertain our young minds with Santa, always drove home the real reason we were giving gifts  to one another. Every Christmas morning, before rushing downstairs for the merriment, my mom and dad would always gather the family into one room, and we'd kneel on the floor and say a prayer to God, thanking Him for this joyous holiday which allowed us to commemorate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The non-Santa aspects of Christmas have always carried with them a weight of reverence, and they have inspired my faith from the very beginning.
I have nothing against those who do not celebrate Christmas. But it always bothers me a bit when otherwise deeply Christian people seem so jaded with the whole experience. It's gotten to the point of cliche for people to declare their hate for the holiday. Perhaps those people have legitimate reasons for their distaste for the season, but I wonder if their aversion would be better directed at particular aspects and traditions of Christmas, rather than discounting it altogether. So companies are exploiting Christmas for commercial reasons? You don't have to. So you have to spend it with an annoying distant relative? Buck up, and remember that experiences can only be positive when you bring the right frame of mind. Not to point to myself as a wonderful example, but if ever I feel myself displeased with some hassle of the season, or disappointed with some yuletide experience, I quickly remind myself of the Babe in Bethlehem, my Lord Jesus Christ. I try to emulate his example of giving, love, and gratitude. Surrounding myself with whatever family and friends that are available, I joy in the high spirits and laughter that Christmas can bring, if only we let it.

 
 
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Newel K. Whitney (left) is an extremely important figure in the history of Mormonism. While somewhat obscure, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are familiar with story of his first encounter with Joseph Smith, in which the Prophet famously said, "Newel K. Whitney, thou art the man." But a story like this one needs a little background.
Born in 1795, a full ten years before Joseph Smith Jr., the first Prophet of the Church, Newel Whitney grew up in Vermont, but as an adult would move to Kirtland, Ohio and open a general store having some success in business.
In the late 1820's, Newel and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Whitney were on a spiritual journey of sorts. They were looking for a church to join, and for a while were active in the Campbellite movement, though eventually returned to their search. In late 1830, just months after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had officially been founded, the Whitneys were visited by the missionaries, who brought with them a copy of the Book of Mormon. Elizabeth Whitney  heard the missionaries' message first, and was deeply moved, getting baptized into the Church November of that year. Newel still wasn't convinced though, and continued to pray for an answer.
In February of 1831, Joseph Smith himself journeyed to Kirtland, Ohio and showed up unannounced to Newel K. Whitney's store. Joseph marched right up to Newel and proclaimed, "Newel K. Whitney, thou art the man!"
Whitney had never seen Smith in his life, and didn't know what the Prophet was talking about, or how he knew his name. Smith explained, "I am Joseph the Prophet. You prayed me here; now what do you want of me?" This was exactly the witness that Whitney needed.
Soon Newel K. Whitney would join the Church, and in time became one of the greatest leaders in the history of Mormonism. When he died in 1850, he was the Presiding Bishop of the Church. He left a great legacy, and one that continues to today.  His family and descendants shared his trait of hard work and faith, and continue to bless the world through their service.

 
 
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Unless you live in a nation that outlaws proselytism, you probably have at one point in your life, had some sort of contact with one of the Mormon missionaries. Maybe you've seen them handing out copies of the Book of Mormon on the street. Perhaps you've seen them on their bikes, on the way to some appointment. Maybe they've even knocked on your door.
Though they may know of them, people might not always know a whole lot about these these missionaries who spread Mormonism throughout the world.



 
 
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Jesus Christ takes on many roles. He is our teacher, our master, our elder brother, and our redeemer, just to name a few. One exceptionally large role he fills is as the Son of God. But what does it mean to be the Son of God? Aren't we all God's children?



 
 
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Life by its very nature is filled with trial and hardship. To experience life is to experience all things, the good and the bad. At times the bad will appear to outweigh any good, and the burden will become so crushing and hard to bear, that our view of the good slips, and we'll see nothing but the darkness supplied by our anguish. There is however, a way out of rough times, and back into the light. His name is Jesus Christ.I sometimes wonder why a God that loves me would put me through such pain. Why, when I am trying my hardest, am I succumbing to woes of a troubled heart? 
I have had a handful of times in my short life where anguish seemed to prevail, and the grasp of the evil one seemed to drag my soul deeper. Each of these experiences, though challenging, have seemed to fortify me for the next, and show me by stark contrast the beauty of a good day. I come out of them taking more pleasure in simple things, and with more faith that the future will be better.
It stands to reason then, that this is why my Lord and Savior would deem me worthy of such pain, even when I am being righteous. That my Father, in an effort to strengthen me for things to come, is giving me a little bit more than I thought I could handle, so that in the future, I know I can handle more.
Sometimes, however, this knowledge alone just isn't enough to carry on with. We might not have the strength inside us to withstand every challenge, and we may stumble and fall. But that is the beauty of Jesus Christ; that when we have spent some time at our lowest, and are holding on with the last piece of energy within us, He can step in and stretch us. He will take a normal man who is trying, and create something extraordinary. Though He may not have made our problems smaller, He has made us big enough to conquer them.
If we still feel it unfair that God would deign to give us trials, we need only remember one thing: the Son of God, our Savior Jesus Christ, experienced them too. In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Lord experienced the anguish and grief, for every sin, every disappointment, and every sorrow that has ever been felt, or will be felt. He experienced even your pains.
From this day on, stand strong in the comforting knowledge that through every time of trouble, every moment of pain, Jesus the Christ has been there, holding you, helping you, or cheering you on. He truly wants you to be happy, more than even you do. That is why He descended below all things, so that no matter how far you fall, He will be there to catch you. All you must do is trust that He can show you the way back up. And follow Him.


 
 
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The Holy Bible is rife with role models ready to emulate. One such example is the famous Old Testament prophet Daniel. The main reason would would strive to be like Daniel is his stalwart resilience. He knew and loved his God, and was willing to do anything for Him. Daniel's boldness was in full display when he famously found himself cast into a den of hungry lions.
Daniel was not only a spiritual leader (as the Lord's prophet) but also a member of the king's court. Throughout his life, Daniel would serve as a courtier to five kings, but his famous acts in the lions' den happened while serving under Darius of Mede.
Darius' court consisted of a large pool of men in line for the throne, who were presided over by a council of three presidents. These three presidents were in turn led by King Darius himself. Darius was fond of Daniel, viewing him with deep respect, so early in his kinghood, Darius promoted Daniel to the office of the first of these three presidents, in effect making Daniel second in command over the kingdom.
The men-in-waiting and the other presidents were not too pleased with this decision, and therefore set out to find something with which they could incriminate Daniel. Some past transgression, some scandal they could dig up to make him appear undesirable to be in such a high office. They came up empty. Daniel was a clean slate; nothing in his history could be used against him. If they were to condemn this man, they would have to somehow make his righteousness a crime.
So the court confronted the king and by some means coerced him to sign an abominable proclamation: In the next thirty days, anyone caught praying to any man or God, unless they prayed to the king, would be thrown in a den of lions. When he learned of this proclamation, Daniel boldly decided not to change a thing. He went straight home and poured out his soul to his God, and continued his usual habit of praying three times a day. As this edict was designed to snare Daniel in particular, those behind it descended upon him and caught him in the act of praying. 
King Darius realized at this time the seriousness of the situation. His decree now put the life of his good friend Daniel in peril. Wanting desperately to rectify the situation, Darius sought to reverse the command. He was stopped however by his court, who reminded him that, under the laws of the Medes and the Persians, the decree was irrevocable. Darius was forced to put Daniel into the den and seal the entrance, but not before sharing a desperate, parting word with his friend: "Thy God whom thou servest continually, He will deliver thee."
Reluctantly sealing the den, Darius went home. That night, he sent away all distractions from his quarters, and spent the night in prayer and fasting, losing much sleep begging the Lord to spare his friend. Early in the morning, the king ran for the lions' den, and opened it up. Not knowing what to expect, King Darius cautiously called out to Daniel, "O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?"
Miraculously, Daniel's voice rang out from inside the cave, "O king live for ever. My God hath sent His angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before Him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt."
Daniel's timeless story is a wonderful reminder of the blessings associated with righteousness. True, because of the wickedness of other men, Daniel's righteousness landed him in a den of lions, dire circumstances to be sure. But also because of his righteousness, Daniel was delivered. His personal righteousness and his insistence of praying to His God, seemingly damning in this situation, actually spelled his deliverance.
When the Lord commands, we do, and any trial we face because of our obedience is far outweighed by the blessing our righteousness will entitle us to. It may not come in such an evident and dramatic matter as it did for Daniel, and it may not even happen in this earthly life, but it will come, and it will be worth it.
I testify of these things in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ--Amen.

 
 
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After crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus Christ and His disciples went up into the mountains. The feast of Passover was soon.
Looking up from where He sat, Jesus saw a large crowd of people making their way up the mountain towards them. Having seen the miracles Jesus could perform, they had followed the Savior, wanting to learn from Him. They numbered about five thousand.
Knowing it was time for the feast of the Passover, Christ said to His apostle Philip, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?"  Philip informed the Savior that the money they had would not buy enough bread to feed so many people, even if they just had a morsel each.
Of course, Christ knew this. He only asked to test Philip. He knew exactly what needed to be done.
Just then, the apostle Andrew (Simon Peter's brother) came to the Lord and said, "There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are thy among so many?"
Jesus had the multitude sit down on the grassy hill. Giving thanks to His Father in prayer, He handed food to each of His disciples, who distributed generous helping of fish and bread o all who were gathered. As the multitude finished up the feast. Jesus asked that His disciples go back through the crowd and gather up the leftovers of the meal, so nothing would go to waste. The leftover food filled twelve baskets of bread.
All who were there who had seen this miracle proclaimed, "This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world."
And thus by small and simple means, did the Son of God make great and wonderful things to pass.
In His holy name, Jesus Christ-- Amen.

 
 
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Those of us who can see generally take this ability for granted. We hear this a lot: that we, as people, expect some mundanely normal experience to be a given. But it's all too true. You don't know what you have until you no longer have it. The visually impaired know all too well that sight is a blessing of the greatest kind. This was no less true than in the time of Jesus Christ.
Sometime before Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, the Savior was traveling through the city of Jericho. As He came into the city, the people of Jericho were understandably stirred up by His presence. A stone's throw away, a blind man sat by himself, wondering what all the clamor was about.
This man, unable to see, was probably unable to work. Though being blind is still no picnic, obviously it wan't like today, when the blind are blessed with many advanced tools allowing them to function in the everyday world. Nor did the blind (or those with any handicaps for that matter) have laws in place to protect them from unemployment and poverty. In many circumstances, a handicap could be a social death-sentence. The blind, dumb, deaf, and lame could only sit on the periphery, dependent on the kindness of others.
When this particular man asked a passerby, He learned, to his delight, that the crowd was stirred up because Jesus of Nazareth was passing through. This was his chance. The man yelled out to his Savior, pleading, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me!" 
The people, shocked by how loud and audacious this man was being, scolded him. They told him to hold his peace. It was not dignified to be so bold. But he did not care. It didn't matter what these people thought. Jesus had come to bless him, to lift him out of his humble circumstances. He yelled again, "Thou son of David, have mercy on me!"
The Lord commanded that this man be brought to Him. With the man before Him, He asked, "What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?"
The man knew what he required. Trusting in his God, he said, "Lord, that I might receive my sight."
Pleased with this humble man, Jesus said, "Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee."
In an instant, his vision was restored. Before him stood his Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, the sweetness of that first of many wondrous sights this man would see. He got up, and followed his Savior, and the multitude glorified God.
Even if our physical eyes are in perfect health, we all may lose our sight. Being blinded by our carnal desires and worldly temptations, we may at times find ourselves lost in the darkness, with seemingly no way of getting back. I testify though, that if we but have faith, and turn unto Him who can restore our vision, that we can know the way to true happiness. The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is that way, and through Him and Him alone can we be made whole. His eternal power will open our eyes if we but ask. We need not be ashamed that we come to Him, for why would the opinions of other's matter when our eternal happiness can be secured through Him we approach?
I leave you with this message in the His holy name, Jesus Christ-- Amen