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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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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an "open canon" of scripture. This means that the LDS Church teaches that God's revelation of divine principles to mankind did not end with the conclusion of the Holy Bible. It is a fundamental belief in Mormonism that God has not shut the door on mankind, that the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth, and that God speaks to us today through the mouths of His prophets and through personal revelation in answer to prayer.
Officially, there are four books which the LDS Church has declared "canon".  Together, these books of scripture constitute the "Standard Works". Here they are in no particular order.


 
 
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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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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.