Editor’s note: The “spoken word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. The following was given December 2, 2018.For them, the true meaning of Christmas is symbolized by a little Christmas tree, “half-buried in snow, resting in a quiet cemetery.“ It reminds them of the great gifts so abundant in this joyous season: pure love, compassion, kindheartedness. It brings to mind the greatest gift of love, given to the world some 2,000 years ago. Such gifts are what give Christmas its deepest meaning.This couple never found out who this caring person was, and they have decided to stop investigating. The benevolent giver, after all, wanted to remain anonymous. So instead, they try to treat everyone as if he or she might be “the giver.” Their need to thank their unidentified friend has been replaced with a desire to simply live better. Now they pause to examine their hearts a little more, and they ask: Why do we give? Are we hoping to be praised or recognized, or do we give because we love, because we care?The Music and the Spoken Word broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM, ksl.com, KSL X-stream, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, BYU-TV International, CBS Radio Network, Dish Network, DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143), and on the Tabernacle Choir's website and YouTube channel. The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org.Read the full story in the December 2008 issue of the Ensign.What does Christmas mean to you? One couple learned something about the meaning of Christmas several years ago when, the day after Christmas, their infant son passed away. Each year since that tragic event, they have placed a Christmas stocking by the fireplace in his memory.Tuning inThe couple has also made it a tradition to go to the cemetery at Christmastime to visit their son’s grave. Every time they do, they discover that someone has already been there and has placed something special on the baby’s small grave: some flowers, a stuffed animal, a little toy. They tried for years to discover who the good-hearted giver could be; they asked family and friends, but no one would admit to leaving the gifts.One year heavy snowstorms made traveling difficult, and the couple was unable to visit the grave until several days later than usual. When they finally did make it to the cemetery, they were surprised to find on the grave a small, decorated Christmas tree, covered with snow. The couple was deeply moved; someone still cared so much about their grief and loss that they were willing to brave the snowstorms to show their compassion.
“In just five years the Lord will come upon a starlit night to save mankind from all their sins and give the world His light,” the narration states in the video.The three-minute video speaks in rhyme throughout the clip, giving it a kid-friendly, storybook feeling. When Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy comes true, the video concludes by stating that the Lord always fulfills His promises.“Samuel and the Star,” published on December 6, tells the story of Samuel the Lamanite (an ancient American prophet in the Book of Mormon) and how he prophesied that the Savior would be born in five years from that time.The people in the Americas, he said, would be able to tell when Christ was born in Bethlehem by watching a sign in the sky—one night the sun would set and yet the world would stay light as though it were day.A Book of Mormon story about the birth of Christ is portrayed in a new animated video by the Church.
A full-time missionary from Peru serving in Bolivia passed away Wednesday, December 5, following a brief illness.“We express our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones and pray they will be comforted and sustained during this time,” said Church spokesman Daniel Woodruff.Elder Brian Lezama Sanchez, 26, of Cajamarca, Peru, who had been serving in the Bolivia La Paz El Alto Mission since August 2017, died while being transferred to a hospital after receiving medical treatment at another hospital. The exact cause of death is undetermined.
Enduring, eternal joy comes through the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and His gospel—through having faith in the Lord, repenting, being obedient, serving, and keeping a gospel perspective about the trials encountered in mortality.“You and others will be blessed if you do.”Drawing from the Guide to the Scriptures, Elder Bednar spoke of joy being a “condition of great happiness that results from righteous living.”“How important it is for us to never confuse or trade the enduring, deep joy of devoted discipleship for temporary and shallow fun.”For students heading into finals and the Christmas season, the timing of the words of Elder Bednar was encouraging.“Rather than talking about stress and the things I have to do, I can talk about being grateful and about joyful things.”
Elder David A. Bednar speaks about the difference between fun and joy at the campus devotional in the Marriott Center at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.For Caleb Naumu, a student from Huntsville, Utah, studying global supply chain management, his takeaway from the devotional was a sense of responsibility.There is a distinct contrast between righteous joy and worldly fun, Elder Bednar said.“Joy comes from exercising faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, worthily receiving and faithfully honoring sacred ordinances and covenants, and striving to become deeply converted to the Savior and His purposes,” he said. “Fun is the result of amusement, playful and often boisterous action or speech, or pleasurable diversion.”The enduring joy felt by the woman is not a blessing reserved for a select few, Elder Bednar taught. Rather, every person striving to remember and honor sacred covenants and follow the commandments can receive this gift, according to God’s will and timing.Joy can endure through times and experiences both good and bad “because of our knowledge of the Father’s plan and of the Savior’s Atonement,” he said.Recognizing many additional truths could be discussed, Elder Bednar invited students to identify, study, and prayerfully ponder additional principles that enable the spiritual gift of joy.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during the campus devotional held in the Marriott Center at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.Audience members sing a closing hymn after listening to Elder David A. Bednar speak at the campus devotional in the Marriott Center at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.“Interestingly, our gospel perspective helps us to understand that joy is more than a fleeting feeling or emotion; rather, it is a spiritual gift and a state of being and becoming.”While a day spent on rides at Disneyland is considered fun, joy comes through worthily preparing for and participating in the ordinance of the sacrament.“We are often going through the motions without joy,” he said. “If we are feeling that way, we can focus on Jesus Christ, and through doing the little principles we will feel better; we will feel joy.”“Since becoming President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson frequently has extended an invitation to the people of the world that includes the promise of joy: ‘Our message to the world is simple and sincere: We invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life,’” said Elder Bednar.“Indeed, she was becoming more like the Savior and receiving His image in her countenance, a part of which was becoming joyful.”“It was a good reminder that we are the controllers of our joy,” said Kierra Maiden, a student from Logan, Utah, studying elementary education. “Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, and it is a good reminder to be grateful to be here and to find joy. We get to choose to connect with that eternal joy.”“Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, obedience, service, and a gospel perspective about the trials we encounter in mortality all invite us to come unto the source of enduring joy—Jesus Christ,” he said.“Immediately obvious to me was the fact that this woman was not simply speaking familiar words,” he said. “The light that shined in her eyes, the spiritually dignified tone of her voice, her bright and peaceful countenance—everything about her affirmed the truthfulness of what she was saying.”“Joy primarily is spiritual; fun primarily is temporal,” he said. “Joy primarily is enduring; fun primarily is temporary. Joy primarily is deep and rich; fun primarily is shallow. Joy primarily is whole and complete; fun primarily is partial. Joy primarily pertains to mortality and eternity; fun pertains only to mortality.In his devotional address, Elder Bednar explained the difference between temporal fun and eternal joy and how true joy can be obtained.“Because of Heavenly Father’s plan and the Savior’s Atonement, challenges and afflictions invite us to lift up our eyes to Jesus Christ, the true source of joy,” he said. “The precious perspective provided by the restored gospel allows us to learn lessons that prepare us for eternity through the adversities of mortality.”
Audience members listen as Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks during the campus devotional in the Marriott Center at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.
Men’s choir members sing during the campus devotional in the Marriott Center at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.During a “spiritually powerful testimony meeting” recently, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles listened intently as a woman declared great joy because of the Father’s plan of salvation.Naumu said he recognizes that he still has responsibilities and tasks associated with being a student but that in the busyness he can focus on the “more important things.”The woman was filled with and radiated joy, the Apostle shared with students during a campus devotional at Brigham Young University on December 4.Aleah Bucknum, from Wenatchee, Washington, felt impressed to be part of “changing the conversation” she has with others. Audience members listen as Elder David A. Bednar speaks during the campus devotional in the Marriott Center at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.Prior to Elder Bednar’s address, BYU President Kevin J Worthen addressed students. With emotion in his voice, he encouraged students to be “more aware of and more caring for the well-being of every individual in our community” and invited students to “pay attention to the thoughts and feelings you experience and then to act on those impressions. Elder David A. Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, enter the arena as they attend the campus devotional in the Marriott Center at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.
Hawaiian-born Shimabukuro’s musical career began when he was 4 years old and his fingers were finally long enough to reach the chords. His mother, Carol Shimabukuro, an accomplished ukulele player and singer, placed the instrument in his hands for the first time, and for Shimabukuro, it was love at first touch.In the 2012 documentary Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings, Shimabukuro said, “When I’m on stage, all I’m trying to do and all want to do is just connect with people, and I want to be as sensitive as possible so that I can feel what they’re feeling. Music communicates the purest form of human emotion.”Don’t miss the chance to hear Jake’s inspiring story and listen to this one-of-a-kind ukulele master musician play the instrument like you’ve never heard it before on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Learn more at rootstech.org.After Shimabukuro released a viral video in 2005, his records have repeatedly topped the Billboard World Music Charts, and he has toured the world playing his beloved ukulele for people from all walks of life, from poor and underprivileged schoolchildren to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He has performed with distinguished musicians and at well-known venues such as the Sydney Opera House, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Lincoln Center.On the day Pure Heart’s album was released, Shimabukuro was pleasantly surprised to discover that local radio stations around Hawaii were playing all of their songs. In the following years, Pure Heart and Colón, the subsequent band Shimabukuro was a part of, went on to win multiple Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, the Hawaiian equivalent to a Grammy.This musical success helped Shimabukuro realize how much he wanted to pursue music as a career, and in 2005 he experienced his big break. A video of him playing his own version of George Harrison’s love ballad “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” went viral on YouTube, catapulting him into the global spotlight.World-renowned ukulele musician and composer Jake Shimabukuro will be the featured keynote speaker at the RootsTech conference on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City.After high school Shimabukuro worked in a music store and formed a band called Pure Heart with two fellow employees. They sought out restaurants and clubs to play in and later recorded their first demo tape.“We are so excited to have Jake join us at RootsTech,” said Jen Allen, event director. “Not only is he an accomplished musician, but he’s a dedicated husband and father who understands the important role of family. His music and his message will be inspiring to the RootsTech audience.”
There was no Church presence. So Brother Clark and his wife, Glenna, received permission from Church headquarters to hold services in their home. The Clarks were the only Latter-day Saint family living in what has now become the member-rich Barranquilla temple district,BARRANQUILLA, Colombia“My heart was so full of gratitude that I was able to play a small part in bringing such a blessing to the people of Colombia.”As President Oaks was about to step into a waiting vehicle that would take him to the airport before flying home to Salt Lake City, the Church leader stopped for a moment before offering a few final words of counsel to the Colombians whom, in the coming days, would be worshipping in the Church’s newest temple.“This day is so special for me because my German ancestors came initially to Barranquilla—this is where my family’s history in Colombia began,” said Elder Mathias Held, a General Authority Seventy and a Bogota native. “But now that the temple is here, we can never take it for granted. We need to make sure we come here often.” President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, and his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, pause for a photo outside the Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Jason Swensen.
A little girl enjoys the gardens outside the Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Jason Swensen.
President Dallin H. Oaks, left, signals the end of the cornerstone ceremony of the Barranquilla Colombia Temple with a wave on Sunday, December 9, 2018. Photo by Jason Swensen.The Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Ryan Jensen.Excursions to Barranquilla—“the big city”—were memorable and fun. But Sister Eberhard admits she never imagined a temple would one day be built here within sight of the mighty Magdalena River.“I feel so blessed today—we’ve looked forward to this Sunday since this temple was announced. I bought an apartment so close to the temple that I can walk; there’s no reason for me not to serve.” The Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Ryan Jensen.In the months and years leading up to Sunday’s dedication, Barranquilla Colombia Hipodromo Stake President Ivar Romero has witnessed the power of the temple—even one yet to be opened—to change lives.Few people at Sunday’s dedication likely recognized Sister Diane Eberhard. She and her husband, Elder Charles Eberhard, arrived in Barranquilla days ago from Mesa, Arizona, to began serving an 18-month mission in the new temple.“Be faithful. Be honest. Be good citizens of your nation. The Lord will bless you in His work.”His spirits soared even higher when he discovered many of the people he taught as a missionary had remained involved in the Church.He admits Colombia has known hard times. But the Latter-day Saints have endured and prospered because the Lord knows them. The Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Ryan Jensen. A choir performs at the cornerstone ceremony of the Barranquilla Colombia Temple on Sunday, December 9, 2018. Photo by Jason Swensen.Hunter recently returned to his mission for the first time to participate in the public open house of the Barranquilla temple.But the growth of the Church in Colombia has sometimes happened amid trouble, violence, and civil strife. A few decades ago, Colombians had to rely largely upon one another when North American missionaries were pulled from the country.“This is the evidence of the love the Lord has for His people in Colombia,” he said while gazing at the temple. “Without a doubt, the Lord is showing His love for us.”Sunday’s dedication was broadcast to Church meetinghouses across the country.As a young girl in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Sister Eberhard lived with her family in a jungle camp outside of Barranquilla. Her father, James Clark, was in the oil business, and the American family of eight called northern Colombia their home for several years. “This was a magnificent occasion at an extraordinarily beautiful temple,” he told the Church News following the dedication. “Sister Oaks and I were thrilled to be a part of this, and we pray for the Lord’s blessings to be upon the people of this nation and the work of the Lord here.”President Dallin H. Oaks presided over Sunday’s dedication. By the time he left the temple, the sun was falling, and the day seemed anxious to end. But many from the Barranquilla temple district waited around to bid farewell to the First Counselor in the First Presidency.One of Elder Held’s fellow Colombian converts, Barranquilla resident Juan Carlos Cabrera, echoed his thoughts:Looking back The Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Ryan Jensen. The Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Ryan Jensen.Holladay, Utah, resident Cary Hunter was serving his mission in Colombia in the late 1980s when he received an unwanted call from his mission leaders saying his service in Colombia was ending immediately. Sister Kristen Oaks, left, places some mortar on the temple capstone under the watch of her husband, President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency during the Sunday, Nov. 9, 2018, dedication of the Barranquilla Colombia Temple. At right are Elder Ulisses Soares and his wife, Sister Rosana Soares. Photo by Jason Swensen. President Dallin H. Oaks helps Jocelyn Rodriquez climb atop the platform to assist with sealing the capstone of the Barranquilla Colombia Temple on December 9, 2018. Photo by Jason Swensen.“To have a temple here brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “During the temple dedication, I felt that my parents were close by.”“I have a lot of love and admiration for my parents,” she said while sitting on a bench outside the temple. “They faithfully gathered us together every Sunday for Sabbath services and reading scriptures and having Primary during the week.”A defining day in Colombia
Visiting General Authorities and their wives outside the Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Jason Swensen.“This temple has already proven to be a great motivator and faith builder,” he said. “I have seen many people return to the Church because of this temple. People of all faiths see this temple and realize they want to be here with their families.”There is an oft-spoken Colombian expression that Latter-day Saints here perhaps utter with deeper meaning following Sunday’s dedication of the Barranquilla Colombia Temple.Elder Enrique R. Falabella, a General Authority Seventy who presides over the South America Northwest Area, fought emotion as he considered the eternal work that will soon happen inside the walls of the Barranquilla temple.As worshippers walked out of the Church’s 161st temple Sunday following one of the day’s three dedicatory sessions, they seemed almost unaware of the stifling Caribbean heat. Instead, they appeared refreshed by a soaring combination of joy and renewed dedication. Dedicated Sunday, December 9, 2018, the Barranquilla Colombia Temple is that nation's second temple and the 161st in operation in the world. Photo by Jason Swensen.The Church’s official beginnings in Colombia happened more than a decade later when the first two Latter-day Saint missionaries—Elders Randall Harmsen and Jerry Broome of the Andes Mission—arrived in the capital city of Bogota in 1966 and began sharing the gospel to all who would listen. Later that year, the Colombian government granted official recognition to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.The power of a templeBut she is a true pioneer here. Now a second Colombian temple is found in the country’s northern tip near the Caribbean Sea, a region known to produce top-flight soccer players, champion prizefighters, and some of the world’s friendliest people. The Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Ryan Jensen. The Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Ryan Jensen. The Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Ryan Jensen.“El que tiene tienda que la atienda.”“Through all the tough times that Colombia went through, they had stayed strong and never lost faith,” he said. “I think it is because of the strong will and the dedication of these types of people that the Lord has blessed them with a second temple.”The past half-century has been a Church success story. Today there are over 200,000 members worshiping in some 250 congregations across the country, with five missions in operation. Members line up to enter the opening session of the dedication of the Barranquilla Colombia Temple on Sunday, December 9, 2018. Photo by Jason Swensen. “This is an experience I will never forget; being with President Oaks and Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.” Visitors mingle outside the Barranquilla Colombia Temple following the Sunday, December 9, 2018, temple dedication. Photo by Jason Swensen. The Barranquilla Colombia Temple. Photo by Ryan Jensen.“My heart was broken as my companion and I threw our belongings in our suitcase to rush to the bus station,” he recalled. “It all happened so fast, and I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to the Church in Colombia.”Almost two decades have passed since Colombian Latter-day Saints celebrated the opening of their country’s first temple—the Bogota Colombia Temple, dedicated on April, 24, 1999, by President Gordon B. Hinckley. President Dallin H. Oaks, left, welcomes visitors to the cornerstone ceremony of the Barranquilla Colombia Temple on Sunday December 9, 2018. Participating in addition to the interpreter at the side of the First Counselor in the First Presidency are Sister Kristen Oaks, center, Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Sister Rosana Soares. Photo by Jason Swensen. Following the dedication of the Barranquilla Colombina Temple on December 9, 2018, Sister missionaries wait outside the temple to help clean it. Photo by Jason Swensen.Translated literally, it means whoever owns the store attends and cares for it. Metaphorically, it’s a reminder to take ownership and accountability for anything of great value and importance.“It is hard to explain the feelings I felt when we drove down the road and saw the Barranquilla temple for the first time,” he said. “It had been 30 years since I had been in Colombia. I had left my mission in such a hurry, not knowing what would become of the church in Colombia, and now I was looking at the most beautiful building I think I had ever seen. Other General Authorities participating in Sunday’s dedication included Elder Kevin R. Duncan and Elder Hugo Montoya. The visiting Brethren were accompanied by their wives—Sister Kristen Oaks, Sister Rosana Soares, Sister Ruth Falabella, Sister Nancy Duncan, Sister Maria Montoya, and Sister Irene Held. Martin Garzon and Jocelyn Rodriquez represented the Colombian youth in placing mortar on the capstone of the Barranquilla Colombia Temple on December 9, 2018. Photo by Jason Swensen.
Elder Ulisses Soares and Sister Rosana Soares greet young people gathered for a December 8, 2018, youth devotional in Barranquilla, Colombia. Photo by Jason Swensen.“I didn’t plan to do that, but I couldn’t help it,” he said, smiling.“When possible, attend the temple and feel the joy and peace that come from serving in the House of the Lord. Prepare yourself for the temple covenants you will make in the future.” (For the Strength of Youth, p. 43)Jesus Christ, she concluded, has built His home in Barranquilla.Other devotional highlights Saturday included remarks from two youth—Jose Gabriel Uyoque and Estefany Velez—who talked about how temple worship and family history research is blessing their lives. Meanwhile, Barranquilla Colombia Temple President Cesar Davila noted the Latter-day blessing of being taught by President Oaks, Elder Soares and the other living prophets and Apostles.The soon-to-be dedicated temple can aptly be called many things: A holy edifice. A sacred haven. The House of the Lord. But it is also an essential place of gathering—a venue built to help bring together scattered Israel.“Reading that book ranks first among the things you should do on a daily basis to learn the gospel and to strengthen you in keeping God’s commandments,” he said. “Why is this so? The major significance of the Book of Mormon is its witness of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer.A pair of videos featuring youth from the new temple district championed the blessings that await young people who embrace the gospel, serve in the temple, and perform family history research.President Oaks concluded with counsel about the Book of Mormon.Hundreds attended Saturday's devotional in a Barranquilla stake center. But the gathering enjoyed an intimate feel. President Oaks, Elder Soares, Elder Fallabella and their wives—Sister Oaks, Sister Rosana Soares, and Sister Ruth Falabella—arrived early to shake hands or offer a wave to every young person in attendance.“But the largest majority of ordinances performed in any temple are proxy ordinances performed for persons who have lived in mortality and are now in the world of the spirits,” he said. “In the glorious plan of our Heavenly Father, all of His children who have ever lived upon the earth will have the opportunity to make the covenants and receive the blessings that qualify them for eternal life. The temples are the place and the living faithful children of God are the persons to provide that opportunity.”President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, shakes the hands of young women who arrived early to secure front row seats for the December8, 2018, youth devotional in Barranquilla, Colombia. Photo by Jason Swensen.That’s why it is essential that young people keep their eyes focused on the temple, he said. The Barranquilla temple joins temples across the world as a symbol of faith in God.The First Counselor in the First Presidency anchored much of his message Saturday to the words of his own priesthood leader, President Russell M. Nelson, who has declared the gathering of Israel “is the most important thing taking place on earth today,” and that youth around the globe are invited to be gatherers.The local professional soccer team, Junior, was competing for the national club finals against vaunted rival Medellin. Remember, “futbol” and Colombia are usually found in the same sentence. You could say soccer is part of the national identity—but some would argue that’s a vast understatement.President Oaks reminded the Barranquilla-area youth that President Nelson has encouraged them to keep at close-hand a copy of “For the Strength of Youth.” The manual includes key instruction about the temple that has never been more relevant for Barranquilla-area youth:Latter-day Saint youth here had to make a tough choice Saturday night.“I compliment you for being here,” said President Oaks.Elder Soares testified of President Oak’s prophetic calling and told his young audience that they belong to a “special generation” of God’s children.President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, welcomes a young woman to the December 8, 2018, youth devotional in Barranquilla, Colombia. Photo by Jason Swensen.Even the most exciting sporting events are typically forgotten in time, he said. But the lessons learned at Saturday’s devotional could resonate across generations and through eternity. “It will bless your lives forever.”Serving in the new temple allows the Barranquilla-area young men and young women to remain on “the covenant path,” he added. The Lord is eager to bless all who remain loyal to His covenants.“What an invitation from a prophet—an invitation to each of you,” said President Oaks.Times are turbulent, but the Lord knows His children are strong enough to weather challenges. The adversary also knows the power of Latter-day youth. He wants to confuse and distract them from their goals.“I want you to know you can be strong and you can do this alone,” said Sister Oaks, a Church convert.But even while this bustling coastal city came to a halt for the headline-grabbing game, hundreds of young people opted instead to spend their evening with a pair of Latter-day Apostles—President Dallin H. Oaks and Elder Ulisses Soares.Elder Enrique R. Falabella of the Seventy conducted the meeting.“The temple produces a transformation in people and converts their efforts to get to the temple into something immensely valuable,” said Elder Soares.As Sister Oaks was returning to her seat she was met by her husband, who gave her a kiss, prompting “ahhhhs” from the audience.“His Atonement is the most fundamental doctrine of our faith. Nothing you can learn will be as significant as these basics of our faith, and the Book of Mormon is the way God has given us to learn those great truths.”Before concluding his remarks, President Oaks invited his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, to share a few thoughts. She shared many of her remarks in Spanish and acknowledged that many of the youth may sometimes find themselves alone in their faith.Young people squeeze into a Barranquilla, Colombia, stake center for a December 8, 2018, youth devotional featuring President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency and Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Photo by Jason Swensen.BARRANQUILLA, ColombiaSo perhaps it is little surprise that even in a soccer-crazed country, young Colombians decided to be at the devotional. They know well that on Sunday their city will change forever with the dedication of the Barranquilla Colombia Temple.And each of the thousands of young people living in the Church’s newest temple district here near the Caribbean Sea is called a “gatherer,” said President Oaks on the dedication-eve of Colombia’s second temple.“Surely you know about sharing the gospel with your friends and serving a full-time mission, a duty of young men who hold the Aaronic Priesthood and a privilege of Young Women,” he said. “But what does ‘the gathering’ mean for persons on the other side of the veil?Of course the temple is the “precious place” to perform key ordinances for members who are living and can attend in person.The gathering of Israel ultimately offers Christ’s gospel to God’s children on both sides of the veil.“You were preserved by our Heavenly Father to come to this earth in a time of great opportunity and technological developments,” he said.“The second temple for the country of Colombia, which we will dedicate tomorrow, is the answer to that question.”
Sister missionaries help unload boxes of packages for the missionaries on Temple Square. Photo courtesy of Jerri-Ann Sturzenegger.Liu, who grew up in Baoding, Hebei Province, China, doesn’t remember exactly what her package held, but she does remember feeling loved that Christmas. “We don’t really celebrate Christmas in China, so I didn’t get gifts from my parents, because we don’t do that,” she said. “I was really happy. I felt really loved. … I think all the sisters were really happy. [A gift] doesn't have to be something big, like a $50 gift card … just a little present just makes people really happy.” The Holiday Service Project first delivered packages to missionaries in the Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission in December 2016. Photo courtesy of Jerri-Ann Sturzenegger.Blakely’s mother, Jerri-Ann, reached out to other members of her ward, the Hamilton Mill Ward, Sugar Hill Stake, in Flowery Branch, Georgia, to see if they wanted to help. Her sister and sister-in-law who lived in Salt Lake City also contacted their ward members. Those who volunteered were given a list of suggestions for things to include in the packages, and drawstring bags emblazoned with a Temple Square Mission logo designed by Blakely’s cousin, Tom Sturzenegger, were ordered to hold the gifts.Blakely, now a senior at BYU–Hawaii, is excited to help out with the project and to continue serving the missionaries of Temple Square. “It was a really special experience,” she said. “I’m looking forward to being more involved and hands-on this year.”“Everybody just jumped in and said, ‘I’ll take a bag,’ ‘I’ll take four bags,’” said Jerri-Ann. “Some young women jumped in and said, ‘I’ll take 20—I’ll use it as a Personal Progress project.’ And it just kind of went from there.” They called the effort “the Holiday Service Project.”
Kaitlyn Torrez, a young woman in the Collins Hill Ward, Lilburn Stake, in Georgia compiled 30 gift packages as part of a Personal Progress project. Photo courtesy of Jerri-Ann Sturzenegger.“Everybody just jumped in”During her recovery, Blakely and her mother worked together on preparations for the project. They selected new material for the drawstring bags and decided to ask volunteers to include one more item in every package. “We ask the donors of the bags to put in a self-addressed envelope so that the sisters can send them a thank-you letter,” said Jerri-Ann. “And that’s the fun part, when the donors get those letters back.” “There was a table where [the mission leaders] would put all the packages, and we would come by at the end of the day to see if any packages had been sent for us,” said Blakely. “There were tons of packages for those who were from the U.S., but almost never any for sisters from outside the U.S.”“I talked to my mom and I was like, can we get a package together for Sister Liu?” Blakely said. And from that suggestion came the idea to put together a gift not just for Sister Sturzenegger’s companion, but for every sister in the mission—about 200 missionaries—for the December 2016 Christmas season.After the project’s first year, coordinators calculated that the amount of gifts and time given to the Holiday Service Project in December 2016 amounted to about “a nine- or ten-thousand-dollar project, which is great—and all that’s just donated,” Jerri-Ann said.
Missionaries open Christmas packages donated by the Holiday Service Project in December 2017. Photo courtesy of Jerri-Ann Sturzenegger.“Mom, please stop sending me so many packages.” Bags of gifts for Temple Square missionaries are printed with a design by Tom Sturzenegger. Photo courtesy of Jerri-Ann Sturzenegger.
Blakely Sturzenegger, standing with her companion, Sister Ete, served as a missionary in the Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission from June 2016 to March 2018. Photo courtesy of Jerri-Ann Sturzenegger.
In December 2017, the second year of the Holiday Service Project, volunteers included self-addressed envelopes in the packages so sister missionaries could write back to those who donated gifts. Photo courtesy of Jerri-Ann Sturzenegger.
Blakely Sturzenegger and some of the sister missionaries on Temple Square stand for a photo. Photo courtesy of Jerri-Ann Sturzenegger.Long distances and shipping prices made it difficult for some of the sisters to receive anything from home during their missions. That’s why Sister Sturzenegger wrote home to her family in Georgia, asking them to stem the flow of mail. Then she had an idea.Then in July 2017, six months after the Holiday Service Project’s first run, Blakely had to return home from her mission for emergency medical treatment. Fortunately, the treatment was a success, and she was allowed to return to her mission on Temple Square only six weeks later. But Blakely realized that her mission would be extended beyond what she originally expected, and she would still be serving on Temple Square during Christmas in 2017. “We were like, well, let’s do [the project] again,” said Jerri-Ann.That’s a phrase not many mothers of full-time missionaries expect to hear—but that’s the message Jerri-Ann Sturzenegger received from her daughter, Blakely, while Blakely was serving full-time in the Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission in December 2016. The reason? Blakely noticed her companion, Sister Yi Yi Liu, was being left out.“As sisters in the mission, we would only get so much money a month, and it wasn’t very much,” said Blakely. Often, that meant being unable to purchase some desired items. Blakely and her family decided to assemble packages filling those sorts of needs: “Things like a toothbrush, umbrella, water bottle—that was really special. … And there’d be necklaces or bracelets or scarves, things that sisters just would’ve gone without,” Blakely said.A bigger, better projectFor some sisters, like Blakely’s companion, Sister Liu, the gifts were among the first Christmas presents they’d ever received. “It was amazing to see those sisters who’d never gotten a Christmas present before, just because their culture doesn’t celebrate Christmas,” Blakely said. Several missionaries sent video clips back to Jerri-Ann and the other project coordinators, thanking them for their service and kindness.That Christmas season, “we had more people asking [to participate]—in fact, we had so many people that we ran out of bags,” Jerri-Ann said. They again successfully delivered all the packages to the mission home in Salt Lake City. “[Blakely] got home from her mission in March,” explained Jerri-Ann. “This year she gets to help us take all the bags back out, and so we’ve already started. It’s on Facebook now. We’ve already got people signing up, asking for bags.”When Christmas drew near, Jerri-Ann flew with the packages from Georgia to Salt Lake City. She combined the gifts with those gathered by her Utah-based relatives, and they dropped them off at the mission home on Temple Square, where the packages were distributed to the sisters.
Resources for teaching the 2019 Mutual theme for the youth of the Church are now live on LDS.org.Youth and youth leaders can visit youth.lds.org now to download the following 2018 Mutual theme resources:Available resourcesFollow LDS Youth on Instagram and Facebook for ongoing posts about the theme throughout 2019.Logo
The 2019 mutual theme logo is two tablets (as in the tablets of the “Ten Commandments”) coming together to form a heart.The 2019 mutual theme logo is two tablets (as in the tablets of the “Ten Commandments”) coming together to form a heart. VideoThe mutual theme will be used in For the Strength of Youth (FSY) conferences around the world and can also be used in camps, youth activities, firesides, Sunday lessons, and Mutual opening exercises.The 2019 Mutual theme video, which was filmed in the Philippines and Japan, features local youth choosing to obey the commandments and deciding to act in Christlike ways. The video, shown at the top of this article, may be downloaded here or on youth.lds.org.The sheet music for the theme song, “If We Love Him,” available in the January issue of the Liahona magazine in 27 languages.
The 2019 mutual theme album cover.In an accompanying article, the Young Men General Presidency explains, “Our love for God is demonstrated by our willingness and diligence in keeping His commandments” (“Keep My Commandments,” Jan. 2019 New Era and Liahona).“The 2019 annual youth theme is a call to action—a personal invitation from our Savior,” the Young Women General Presidency states in an upcoming article in the Church magazines. “Are you all in? Do you love Him? Are you willing to follow in His footsteps?” (“If Ye Love Me,” Jan. 2019 New Era and Liahona).How to use the themeMusic album
Poster for young men.Throughout 2019, youth will have the opportunity to memorize and apply the teachings found in John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Theme poster for young women.The English 2019 Mutual theme album has 11 songs written and performed by LDS youth. Download individual songs or the entire album from the resources page. Each song includes a downloadable Mp3 file, instrumental version, and sheet music. You can also stream the album on Youth.lds.org, the LDS Music app, Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube (in English, Spanish, and Portuguese).
Known for its impressive innovation with energy-efficient vehicles, self-flying drones, rocketry, and developments in wheelchair capabilities, the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology has a new place to call home—one that is now equipped to accommodate more creativity and growth than ever before.“[The building] is a result of a lot of planning and a lot of generous donations,” said BYU President Kevin J Worthen during the dedicatory service on December 4. “I like to think of it as one of the temples of learning seen in vision by several during the early days of this institution. It exists as a result of the extraordinary efforts of many.”At the age of 69, when most of his contemporaries were winding down professionally, Harvey took on the responsibility of developing the engineering program at BYU.Located on the southeast corner of the Provo campus, the new five-story building—and an adjacent research laboratory—includes classrooms, teaching labs, research labs, experiential learning project space, and office space. More than 17,000 donors funded 100 percent of the $85 million price tag for the building.
Fun facts about the new BYU Engineering Building. Courtesy of Aaron Thorup.While there were attempts at a plan to restore the original building, the estimated cost and short lifespan of the proposed project left decision makers few options. They decided the building needed to be demolished.Two hallmarks of Fletcher’s work—a commitment to excellence as well as loyalty to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ—are important for students today, Worthen taught.While the top few floors of the new building look like modern classrooms, team rooms, and office space, the “innovation floor” of the building focuses on building and problem-solving. “Project bays” house a variety of projects each semester, and include tools, workspace, and materials. The research laboratory includes two wind tunnels, a water tunnel, engine test facilities, and combustion reactors. Harvey’s Café, named in honor of Harvey Fletcher, the first dean of the college, resides on the ground level.During a community meeting discussing the plans, many opposed the decision, arguing that taking the building down would change the spirit of the community.“As we begin in this new engineering building, I hope that you, like Harvey Fletcher, engage in educational work that is second to none, while having instilled in your very being your duty to God and your fellow man.”
Visitors walk the stairs to a reception after Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles delivered the dedicatory prayer for the new Engineering Building at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.Visitors arrive for the dedication of the new Engineering Building at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.“Our students built this,” said Jay Christofferson, chairman of construction and facilities management in the college of engineering. “Every time we see a building go up on campus our students have been successful in managing and organizing the project.” Mechanical engineering student Diana Bolanos works on a mill in the new engineering building after Elder David A. Bednar delivered the dedicatory prayer for the new Engineering Building at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.In 1900, a year after completing his 8th grade year, Fletcher, a young man born and raised in Provo, Utah, entered Brigham Young Academy. After spending the previous year working at a grocery store, he decided to go back to school, not because he felt he needed to further his education, but rather he thought it would be fun to be with his schoolmates again.Although students have been using the space since the beginning of the fall semester, the official dedication marks the beginning of a new era for engineering students, said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the dedicatory service.“Today we honor the past as we move into a new season, a new engineering building, and a new engineering research laboratory,” Elder Bednar said. “I pray we will always remember those who have gone before.”After much discussion, one person stood and shared the thought, “The spirit of the school is not found in the building, it is found in the people,” Elder Bednar recalled.“We had engineering studies done by several firms, and there was a universal conclusion—this building has lived its useful life,” Elder Bednar recalled.There are two fundamental reasons for holding such an event, Elder Bednar taught. First, dedications are held to express appreciation and gratitude. Second, dedications are held to celebrate “a new season” for the college.Looking at the new BYU Engineering Building with that same approach, Elder Bednar encouraged students and faculty members to move into the new season with gratitude.Because it had originally been built with limited resources and was well used for a century, the building was in need of major renovations and had become dangerous.During the dedication, President Worthen shared the story of Harvey Fletcher, the first college dean in the engineering department and namesake of the school’s first engineering building on campus.Today there are 4,200 students in the college of engineering at BYU, where 11 different degrees are offered—chemical engineering, computer engineering, cybersecurity, industrial design, manufacturing engineering, technology and engineering studies, civil engineering, construction and facilities management, electrical engineering, information technology, and mechanical engineering.PROVO, Utah“He was a leader in his field of study, and also as a person he demonstrated that it is possible to be a world-class scholar, while being unquestioningly loyal to the principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ,” Worthen said. “That we can succeed in the world of work, in the world of ideas and not despite our faith in Christ, but because of it.”“Because he did not do the assigned work, he failed his first physics class,” President Worthen said. “But showing the resilience that we hope our students develop, Harvey retook the course and received the highest grade in the class.”“This building was meant to inspire the students to continue their innovation,” said Mallory Platt, one of the architects from VCBO Architecture who worked on the project. “We worked closely with the faculty, making sure what they wanted was represented here.”His work in the engineering field—acoustics, electrical engineering, speech, medicine, music, and physics—more than qualified him for his job as the first dean of the College of Physics and Engineering Sciences at BYU in the 1950s.A “new season” has begun for engineering students at Brigham Young University after the dedication of a 200,000-square-foot building and research lab for the college.He would go on to earn a PhD summa cum laude from the University of Chicago, where he worked in the lab of a Nobel Prize–winning physicist. Fletcher later became the head of the physics department at BYU and a professor of electrical engineering at Columbia University and established himself as the “father of stereophonic sound” for his work developing an early electronic hearing aid.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints talks to the audience prior to delivering the dedicatory prayer for the new Engineering Building at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.Sharing the experience he had while serving as president of Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) in Rexburg, Idaho, Elder Bednar told of his responsibility to oversee the fate of the Spori Building, the college’s first building ever built on campus and completed in 1903. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles talks to the audience prior to delivering the dedicatory prayer for the new Engineering Building at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.Officially named the Engineering Building, the new space follows the pattern of recent structures constructed on campus of being named for what is housed in the building, rather than being named after a person. Students and visitors walk the halls after Elder David A. Bednar delivered the dedicatory prayer for the new Engineering Building at BYU in Provo on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News. Visitors walk past engineering projects in the new Engineering Building on BYU campus on Tuesday, December 4, 2018. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.“Harvey’s was a remarkable journey, a journey from failing physics, whose main ambition was to simply hang out with his classmates, to an award-winning physicist,” President Worthen said.
Elder Soares shared the lessons he learned about his parents’ conversion with missionaries at the Church’s Guatemala Missionary Training Center on November 3.
Image by Aaron Thorup.Elder Uceda agreed. “Elder Soares brought a sweet spirit to all the meetings during his visit to Central America,” Elder Uceda said. “He shook hands with many members and invited them to follow the Lord. The members in Central America were blessed by his visit.”Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addresses local Church leaders in Guatemala.Elder Godoy said he has known Elder Soares for more than 20 years—before they were both called as General Authorities—and has watched as the Lord has worked through him. But this trip was different, said Elder Godoy. He witnessed Elder Soares act as an Apostle. “This case was not just the Lord through him, it was the Lord in him,” said Elder Godoy.The missionary devotional was part of a recent trip to Central America November 2–11. On his first travel assignment as an Apostle without another member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Soares visited Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama.They emphasized the recent teachings of President Russell M. Nelson and spoke to members about obtaining a “real conversion”—just as Elder Soares’ parents did years earlier.
Image by Aaron Thorup.Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to members in Panama.Reading from the pages of his mother’s journal, Elder Ulisses Soares recently learned much about his parents’ conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A missionary asks Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles a question during meeting in Costa Rica on November 8, 2018.Elder Soares promised the young missionaries in the Guatemala MTC, who will serve throughout Central America when their training is complete, that they will impact generations. “Elder Godoy came to the Church as a young man,” Elder Soares told the elders and sisters. “Now he is a General Authority.”Another example of great faith, he said, was found in a counselor in a stake presidency. The counselor was released during Elder Soares’ visit, after serving for 21 years under three stake presidents. He never questioned why he was not made the stake president, he just served, said Elder Soares.Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addresses young single adults in Guatemala on November 4, 2018.As a manifestation of his conversion, one leader traveled nine hours by bus to attend a leadership conference with Elder Soares and Elder Godoy.For Elder Soares the trip was a “sweet experience.” He returned home with “a feeling of gratitude for the faith we found among those members.”Accompanying Elder Soares was Elder Carlos A. Godoy of the Presidency of the Seventy and members of the Church’s Central America Area Presidency: Elder Juan A. Uceda, Elder Jorge F. Zeballos, and Elder Valeri V. Cordón, all General Authority Seventies.Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addresses missionaries in Costa Rica on November 8, 2018.Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to members in Panama.“That is the beauty of the people of Central America,” he said. “They want to serve the Lord. They want to do what He has asked them to do.”Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles addresses young single adults in Guatemala on November 4, 2018.Elder Soares said the two Latter-day Saints are two of many examples of the faith of the members.“I was grateful to be there and see what is happening in Central America,” said Elder Soares. “I will always remember the faith of the people. They just want to follow the Savior, as expressed by the questions they asked and their sacrifice to be at the meetings.”During the visit, Elder Soares and Elder Godoy participated in leadership trainings, missionary meetings, member devotionals, and a mission presidents seminar.A woman waited four hours to give the men a special homemade gift, which was an “expression of her faith,” said Elder Soares. Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks to members in Panama.Many of those members attended special devotionals for couples and young single adults, which were broadcast across Central America. The leaders focused on President Nelson’s teachings, the temple, family relationships, and building faith. “They are eager to learn. Because of their challenges in life—members face many challenges in Central America—they are eager to listen,” said Elder Godoy.
Elder Ulisses Soares and his wife, Sister Rosana Fernandez Soares, greets missionaries in Costa Rica on November 8, 2018.
Elder Ulisses Soares greets missionaries in Costa Rica on November 8, 2018.Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks missionaries in Costa Rica on November 8, 2018.It took months for Apparecido and Mercedes Carecho Soares to commit to baptism in their native Brazil, but the missionaries who taught them remained faithful and strong. They never gave up or “I would not be here today,” said Elder Soares, who was sustained a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during last April’s general conference.The missionaries showed “faith, desire, and focus on helping my parents,” he recalled.The Church has 272,000 members, six missions, and two temples in Guatemala. In Panama there are 55,000 members, one mission, and a temple. Costa Rica has 48,000 members, two missions, and one temple.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced officially which pageants will continue following the Church's October 27 statement that “the goal of every activity in the Church should be to increase faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to share His gospel message throughout the world.”
According to Newsroom, conversations on how to modify or end pageant productions took place in October 2018, and three of the seven productions will continue. The pageants that will continue are as follows:
The pageants to end include:
“Our Savior, Jesus Christ, offers to us four incomparable gifts—the capacity to love others, the ability to forgive, the blessing of repentance and the promise of life everlasting. These four unique gifts will bring us more and more joy as we accept and act upon them. They were made possible because Jehovah condescended to come to earth as the baby Jesus. He was born of an immortal Father and a mortal mother. He was born in Bethlehem under the most humble of circumstances. His was the holy birth foreseen by prophets since the days of Adam. Jesus Christ is God’s transcendent gift—the gift of the Father to all of His children. (See John 3:16.) We joyfully celebrate His birth this Christmas season.”Following is the 2018 First Presidency Christmas message, released December 6 and signed by President Russell M. Nelson, President Dallin H. Oaks, and President Henry B. Eyring:
Youth and young adults in the Caribbean and beyond, he added, must also play a central role for good in the home.For the Caribbean members, hosting Elder Christofferson just weeks after President Nelson and Elder Renlund’s visit was a sweet blessing.“Elder Christofferson’s visit helped us to deepen our conversion and increase our faith in Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ,” said Elder Walter F. Gonzalez, who presides over the Caribbean Area.—On September 1, 2018, President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles met with hundreds of missionaries and members in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.Elder Christofferson was also inspired by the resiliency of the Puerto Rican members and their fellow islanders. Elder D. Todd Christofferson offers counsel on November 10, 2018, at a leadership conference in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.Decades from now, when Caribbean members study their history, they will surely find multiple chapters written on a period bookended loosely by the autumn of 2017 to the autumn of 2018.A vibrant generationA day later, the visiting Brethren worshipped with thousands of Latter-day Saints in San Juan’s Colieso de Puerto Rico.“The area,” said Elder Christofferson, “is energized.”“We’re a little more on our own.”—On September 15, 2017, just days after Hurricane Irma, President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency visited the heavily damaged Caribbean island of St. Thomas before meeting with members in San Juan, Puerto Rico.“During a special stake conference in Puerto Rico, Elder Christofferson said that we must seize the momentum that God has given us,” he said. “That momentum has a beginning and an end. We must use it to assist in the gathering of the House of Israel on both sides of the veil while helping to prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior.” Missionaries in Puerto Rico listen to Elder D. Todd Christofferson during his visit to the Caribbean November 10–18.Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s recent Caribbean visit placed an exclamation point on a monumental year here for Latter-day Saints.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson fist bumps a little boy following a meeting on November 11, 2018, with the Santo Domingo Dominican Republic San Geronimo Stake.Such defining events are opening valuable “windows of opportunity” for the Caribbean members, particularly in Puerto Rico, observed Elder Christofferson. Sister missionaries serving in Puerto Rico smile listening to Elder D. Todd Christofferson during this visit to the Caribbean November 10–18.“Use the time between now and then so that when you walk through that door that says ‘Holiness to the Lord’ you are a holier person than you are today.”Now the Puerto Rican Saints are approaching another key moment in their lives: a temple on their native soil.Meanwhile, the Dominican Republic remains a power for the Church in the Caribbean. The economy there is vibrant “and there is strength in all generations,” he said.“There is a real vibrancy in the Church whenever we place focus on the rising generation,” he said. “It seems to make everything better, for both the older and younger members.”Future temples in Haiti and Puerto Rico, he added, have injected new energy across the region.President Eyring offered counsel that the members would draw upon in the difficult year ahead: “The Lord watches over his people,” he said. “Everything will work out well if they will trust the Lord and be faithful.”Hope for Puerto Rico Elder D. Todd Christofferson greets attendees at a devotional for married couples in Puetro Rico during the Apostle's visit to the Caribbean November 10–18.SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO—On June 1, 2018, congregations across the Caribbean Area celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1978 revelation on the priesthood. Many here are of African descent and President Spencer W. Kimball’s revelation would open the Church in full across the Caribbean.—Five days later, Hurricane Maria reached landfall in Puerto Rico, exacting an almost unimaginable toll in both human life and property damage. Most Latter-day Saints and the fellow islanders went months without electricity and running water.—On October 7, 2018, President Nelson announced plans to build 12 new temples—including the future San Juan Puerto Rico Temple, the island’s first. Missionaries from the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo West Mission gather to hear Elder D. Todd Christofferson on November 10, 2018.Multiple events—some tragic, many joyful—forever changed the lives of members living across the region. Here are a few defining highlights:It's been four decades since the priesthood revelation has defined the Church in the Caribbean Area. All members now have full access to the blessings of the temple and priesthood authority. Dedicated temples in Haiti and Puerto Rico will soon join the area’s first temple in Santo Domingo.Meanwhile, missionaries serving in Puerto Rico were evacuated for several months.In his November 17 meeting for young married couples in Puerto Rico, he delivered a central message: “You can make a real contribution—you don’t have to wait until you are older to make a difference in the Lord’s cause.”“Think about what you can bring on the day of the dedication—a better, holier you,” he said. “Look at what is in your life that is unworthy and can be eliminated. Consider your Christlike attributes that can be expanded and improved. A young elder asks Elder D. Todd Christofferson questions during a gathering of the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo West Mission on November 10, 2018.“That’s always been true, but it seems more so now,” he said. “Agencies of support that we took for granted have largely withdrawn their support. In schools and other community organizations, there is more and more pressure to be ‘value free’ and not sustain moral teachings that we try to communicate in the Church and at home.Irma had largely spared Puerto Rico—but a second, far more destructive storm was beginning to brew in the Caribbean.An undeniable energy
Elder D. Todd Christofferson shakes hands with a missionary at a gathering with the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo West Mission on November 10, 2018.During his time to San Juan, Elder Christofferson counseled them to follow the Lord’s commands by preparing now to offer themselves at the future temple with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.Elder Christofferson returned from the Caribbean uplifted by the area’s youth. God’s spirit fills them with light and hope.And missionary work—particularly in Haiti and in Puerto Rico (where the missionaries have returned)—continues to grow.The Apostle’s November 10–18 trip included gatherings with missionaries, young married couples, local priesthood leaders, and a seminar with all the mission presidents and their companions serving in the Caribbean Area. He also spoke at a business ethics conference and at a religious freedom conference in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, respectively.“The best days of your life are ahead of you and for your loved ones,” promised President Nelson.The two powerful hurricanes staggered the members. “But they have bounced back,” he said. Homes and roads have been rebuilt. And Latter-day Saints have followed their leaders. They are enduring and moving on.—On October 28, 2017, members in Port-au-Prince, Haiti—who also know well the pain of natural disasters—rejoiced with the groundbreaking for that Caribbean nation’s first temple.“The people are more spiritually sensitive because of what they have endured. People have turned to the Lord.”
Being a witness to prophecyReflecting on the idea of the oak tree, which was shared by President Nelson and President Ballard during their recent trip to South America, Elder Gong said Elder Melvin J. Ballard’s description of the great oak tree was fitting in more ways than one. Elder Gong greets a member of the Primary after a stake conference in the Santiago Chile El Bosque Stake.“In a spirit of peace, Elder and Sister Gong expressed their love and gratitude for Sister De Los Santos. They rejoiced in hearing of the influence the gospel has had in the lives of her daughters and grandchildren,” Elder Teixeira said. He noted too that Rufina had said that having an Apostle visit her home was the fulfillment of a promise made by her husband before his passing that she would see great miracles in her life.It’s wonderful to see how strong and united families in the gospel are, Elder Gong noted. “Anytime you’re with members, you feel their strength,” he said.In addition to visiting with members in each country, Elder Gong said he had the privilege briefly to greet the presidents and matrons and others serving in the Santiago, Montevideo, Asunción, and Buenos Aires temples. Elder Gong said, “To feel the gathering of Israel on both sides of the veil in those places is just a remarkable testimony experience. … These temple blessings on the covenant path are so real and strengthening for the members.”Great miraclesIn April of 1834, the Prophet Joseph Smith gathered all the men in the Church who held the priesthood for a testimony meeting. At that time, the sum total of priesthood holders in the Church fit into a small 14-by-14 foot room.It is clear that the members and youth love President Nelson, Elder Gong said.“For me, one of the testimonies and inspirations was to feel the connections to prophecies about this area, which I’d thought about over the years but which we were now witnessing in a direct and personal way with the people who are there,” he said.Commenting on the power of that experience, Elder Mark A. Bragg, a General Authority Seventy and First Counselor in the South America South Area Presidency, said, “It was powerful thinking of the moment when [Elder Melvin J. Ballard] dedicated the land for the preaching of the gospel and to see how the Church has flourished and how the blessings have been poured down on the people of South America.”“Standing at that historic and sacred site, I felt the profound love of our Father in Heaven for His children and for the ongoing fulfillment of prophecy to bless Heavenly Father’s sons and daughters,” Elder Gong said, recalling his own recent visit to that same park with members of the South America South Area Presidency.Recounting this occurrence from early Church history, Elder Gong shared the Prophet Joseph’s response at the end of the meeting: “I’ve been edified by your testimonies, but you don’t comprehend the destinies of this Church and kingdom. This church will fill North and South America. It will fill the world.”He noted that, as President Russell M. Nelson shared on his recent travels to South America, in 1924 when President Nelson was born, the fulfillment of the prophecy from Joseph Smith was not yet visible in South America.“It was exciting to see the love of the members for President Russell M. Nelson, who had recently visited their countries as well,” Elder Gong said. “The youth there raised their hands to signify the blessings that have come in their lives as they have followed President Nelson’s inspired counsel. This is part of a continuing fulfillment of prophecy.”
During a nine-day tour, Elder Gong traveled to Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Courtesy of Mary Archbold.In Santiago, a senior couple turned up at a devotional for young married couples because, after 40 years of being together, the husband was baptized, and the couple was recently sealed in in the Santiago Chile Temple. “So they figured that they were newlyweds and deserved to participate, and they wanted to shake Elder Gong’s hand,” Elder Bragg said. Elder Gong ministers to a sister in the Argentina Bahia Blanca Stake on November 18.“One of the little boys in the family, I think he is 10 years old, and he is raising chickens,” Elder Gong said. “He takes the chickens and eggs and he sells them because his family is remodeling their house, and he’s helping. After tithing, he takes the money that he earns and helps the family buy the things they need for their house.”“There was a young man who is a convert of about two years in Bahía Blanca, Argentina, who walked miles to the airport on the outskirts of town to welcome Elder Gong. His name is Branco Zarate. He is the only member in his family and is amazingly faithful just waiting until he can serve a mission,” Elder Bragg said.“We see and feel the establishing of the Church as a whole through the blessings to individuals and multigeneration families. It’s wonderful to see in the beginning of every young married couple the beginning of a great oak that’s growing with deep roots in the gospel and wonderful branches and fruit coming. I saw that, and I felt that very deeply,” Elder Gong said. “I think we’re always blessed when we see the faith and strength of members and to be reminded that there is great truth in the fact that the gospel is going to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. When you see it in different countries and cultures, you’re reminded of how universal the gospel is and how it truly blesses people no matter their country, no matter their circumstances. To be a witness of that is an incredible blessing.” Elder Gong asks missionaries to raise their hands to show love for their mission president and his wife following a conference with missionaries in the Chile Rancagua Mission on November 10.On Christmas Day in 1925, Elder Melvin J. Ballard, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stood in a grove of willow trees in what is now known as the Tres de Febrero Park in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and invoked an apostolic blessing to dedicate the land of South America for the preaching of the gospel. And 89 years after that original dedication, in 2014, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—the grandson of Elder Melvin J. Ballard—returned to that same park to dedicate the specific country of Argentina.“He taught by his example that we need to slow down and be sure that we are seeing people and ministering one by one. Anyone who attended [meetings with him] learned from his teachings, but it was not as powerful as what they learned from his example,” he said. At each of the meetings he attended with various groups of members, Elder Gong taught from the scriptures and from the teachings of President Nelson, who Elder Gong said it is clear that the members and youth love.Sitting in his office overlooking the grounds of Temple Square after returning from a nine-day visit to the South America South Area, Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reflected on a recent experience he had of witnessing the ongoing fulfillment of a prophecy made more than 180 years ago. Elder Gong greets members following a youth devotional in La Cisterna, Chile, on November 9.Watching Elder Gong minister to the people was perhaps the most memorable part of each meeting or home visit for Elder Bragg. “He taught by his example that we need to slow down and be sure that we are seeing people and ministering one by one,” he said. Elder Gong and Sister Gong visit Rufina De Los Santos and her daughters in their home in Paraguay on November 15. Elder Gerrit W. Gong arrives at a youth devotional in La Cisterna, Chile.“He taught all of these principles using experiences that were applicable to the lives of those in the congregation and were easily understood,” Elder Bragg said. “He taught the youth on a few occasions that they can literally hold in their hands the proof of a loving Heavenly Father in the form of the scriptures and their patriarchal blessing. These are loving guides on how they can return to Him.” Elder Gong greets youth following a devotional in La Cisterna, Chile, on November 9.A prophetic revelationDuring his nine days in South America, Elder Gong visited four countries: Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. In each country, he visited temples, attended stake conferences and devotionals or other meetings with members, visited with missionaries, and ministered to members in their homes. And everywhere he went, the members were excited to see him and learn from him.“If you ask anyone who was in any meeting, the way in which Elder Gong greeted each individual in a very personal and loving way is what stands out above all else,” Elder Bragg said. “Where possible, he met each person and personally let them know that they are loved, that the Lord loves them.” Elder Gong greets members while attending stake conference in the Santiago Chile El Bosque Stake on November 11.After reading both the dedicatory prayers while standing together in the park, Elder Gong and members of the Area Presidency then discussed how those specific promised blessings could be applied and help as they went about teaching and talking with youth, young adults, young married couples, missionaries, and other members throughout their travels. Elder Gerrit W. Gong speaks at a devotional for youth in La Cisterna, Chile, on November 9. Elder and Sister Gong, center, with Elder and Sister Bragg, right, and President and Sister Carmack with the last group of missionaries to be trained at the Chile Missionary Training Center in Santiago on November 11.“I’ve grown up hearing about that,” Elder Gong said. Elder Gong meets with missionaries from the Chile Rancagua Mission on November 10.In each location he was accompanied by his wife, Sister Susan Gong, and members of the South America South Area Presidency and their wives—Elder Benjamin de Hoyos and Sister Evelia de Hoyos, Elder Mark A. Bragg and Sister Yvonne Bragg, and Elder Juan Pablo Villar and Sister Carola Villar—as well as Area Seventies and their wives.Relating another memorable moment with members, Elder Gong described a humble family he met in Bahía Blanca.At the end of every meeting or encounter with members, Elder Gong left everyone feeling uplifted and more hopeful in their personal worship, Elder Bragg said. “The end result of ministering one-by-one is that all are eventually blessed. What starts small and focused eventually expands and touches everyone.”Elder and Sister Gong said they also felt privileged to meet in a devotional with the dedicated employees of the South America South Area and with the director for religious affairs in the Bahía Blanca municipality. “We were grateful to meet all those we were privileged to be with,” they said.“The sense of being at a place where prophecy is being fulfilled and how, as a consequence of our Father in Heaven’s blessing and those apostolic blessings, those dedications, the work then in a miraculous way starts to expand, you see it, you feel it,” Elder Gong said.Elder Jose A. Teixeira of the Presidency of the Seventy shared a story of a visit Elder Gong made to the De Los Santos family in Paraguay. Sister Rufina De Los Santos and her daughters met with Elder Gong and his wife, Sister Susan Gong, and shared stories about her late husband, who served as a patriarch for 13 years.With members of the Area Presidency and Area Seventies and their wives, Elder and Sister Gong had the opportunity to meet with eight missions and two MTCs in the four countries and with five additional mission presidents and their companions at a special lunch. “These are consecrated, effective mission presidents and companions, with fabulous Preach My Gospel missionaries,” said Elder Gong. “They speak with the Spirit from their hearts with everyone they meet. They know how to plan and find. They are bringing many souls to our Savior, Jesus Christ.”And as Elder Bragg noted, in nearly every meeting, Elder Gong shared principles from the scriptures and from the teachings of President Nelson—including themes of ministering, staying on the covenant path, personal revelation, the proper use of the name of the Church, and using the gospel to find answers and overcome challenges and obstacles.Sharing stories of the excitement members felt for the Apostle’s visit, Elder Bragg expressed how memorable each encounter was both for him to witness and for Elder Gong as he connected with members.Teaching by example
“Conscience is a defining personal imperative that stirs deep in the soul of each person,” he said. It is that “invisible space” in the heart and mind where right and wrong are decided, making one a human being.Entitled “Ethics and Integrity in Business: How Fair Play Yields Better Results,” the November 13 conference drew participants from government, business, media, and academia from across the Caribbean. Cosponsors included the Church, Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business, and the Dominican Republic’s General Directorate on Ethics and Integrity in Government.When acknowledged and followed, conscience leads to light and truth. “My plea is that we all maintain a conscience that is a robust and uncompromising guide,” he said.A weak or numbed conscience opens the door for personal “Watergates.” It brings about disasters “that can hurt and destroy both the guilty and the innocent.”But for Elder Christofferson, two statements of scripture confirm this “universal instinct.”Elder Christofferson concluded his keynote address with a suggestion that he is certain would strengthen one’s conscience.“After we listened to and discussed each taped conversation, the judge determined what was relevant to the investigation,” said Elder Christofferson. “The tapes showed President Nixon’s complicity in the illegal cover-up, but no definitive evidence that he was in any way involved with the initial break-in.”“Underneath the diversity of human experience, we somehow find a way to agree on what it means to be good—loving your neighbors, caring for the poor, protecting the most vulnerable, keeping family obligations, controlling selfish appetites, serving a higher purpose than mere survival, and much more.”But real conscience holds one to a higher standard based on “fixed moral concepts and values” such as justice, mercy, love, honesty, generosity, self-restraint, and integrity that exist “apart from personal preference.”After graduating from law school in 1972, he began clerking for Judge John J. Sirica, then-chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. That clerkship coincided with the Watergate proceedings directed largely by Judge Sirica.“Putting one’s integrity on hold, even for seemingly small acts in seemingly small matters, places one in danger of eventually losing the benefit and protection of conscience altogether,” he declared in his recent keynote address at a business ethics conference in the Dominican Republic.And second, from Moroni 7:15–16: “It is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain … as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil.”“The life lesson I took away from [Nixon’s] experience was that my hope for avoiding the possibility of a similar catastrophe in my own life lay in never making an exception—always and invariably submitting to the dictates of an ethical conscience.”There are moral absolutes, he said. Truth and moral concepts cannot be based on whim and personal preference.“The concept that conscience entitles one to do whatever he likes derives from moral relativism,” he said. “By moral relativism, I mean the belief that no moral claim can be verified as objectively true or false or better than any other—that ethical or moral truths depend on the attitudes and feelings of those who hold them, and that no one can judge the validity of someone else’s ‘truth.’”“A life devoted to service to others allows conscience to flourish,” he said. “Service provides a natural barrier against the ills that flow in the wake of self-will and self-interest. A focus outside ourselves and beyond personal autonomy and personal pleasure will protect and strengthen conscience.“As Jesus said to His Apostles, ‘Whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all’ (Mark 10:43–44).”While serving as a young law clerk, Elder D. Todd Christofferson made a defining decision that continues to guide his life: no matter the circumstances, always submit “to the dictates of an ethical conscience.”Nixon was, in Elder Christofferson’s assessment, a “basically decent [man].” But his decisions to whitewash the crime occurred when the president opted not to assert his conscience.“Not all consciences come to the same conclusion on every matter—personalities, perspectives, histories, and circumstances are too diverse for that—but they tend to promote the greater good, not serve personal interests or the demands of blind ideology.”First, a declaration from Christ in Doctrine and Covenants 93:2: “I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”Watergate culminated, of course, in the political demise of Richard Nixon. The American president’s efforts to cover up the scandal—infamously immortalized in tape recordings of meetings in the Oval Office—resulted in him becoming a co-conspirator in the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex.Decades later, Elder Christofferson still wonders why Nixon allowed the Watergate scandal to grow and fester. Over time, the president’s conscience apparently grew increasingly numb. Participants at the Ethics and Integrity in Business Conference in the Dominican Republic applaud following Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s keynote address on November 13, 2018.Forces are in play, he added, that would dilute the influence of conscience in society and culture by seeing it more as granting license than as imposing duties.During the Watergate investigation, Nixon’s recordings were subpoenaed. Judge Sirica and his clerk (and future Apostle) Todd Christofferson listened to all the tapes in chambers.The general acceptance of so many common standards suggests they derive from a common source that some call “moral sense” and others may call “common sense” or “practical wisdom.”A member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Christofferson drew upon his “ringside seat” to the Watergate political scandal to teach the essentialness of conscience. That pivotal moment in American history enabled the young lawyer to learn “crucial life lessons” that continue to serve him well.
The Gilbert Arizona Temple opened four years ago, and this fast-growing town is adjacent to Mesa—Arizona’s third-largest city—and other growing municipalities of Chandler and Queen Creek.Last year’s single giving machine in Salt Lake City resulted in more than $550,000 raised for local and global charities.“Each giving machine will offer much-needed items for purchase from a variety of local and global charity partners,” Sister Aburto said. “All donations will be accounted for by the vending machines with the exact amount purchased going to each charity. One hundred percent of all donations will be used for the purchased items as determined by the applicable charitable organization. The administrative expenses will be covered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”She added, “Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, and when we help others, we are sharing His light with the people around us.”
Sam Blinston, 15, was one of the first to use #LightTheWorld giving machines in Gilbert, Arizona. The giving machines, part of the Church’s popular #LightTheWorld campaign, opened in Gilbert, Arizona, on Thursday, November 29. Photo by Jill Adair.“I think it opens up other avenues of giving for our community members,” he said.Sunny Arizona got a little brighter this holiday season.GILBERT, ARIZONAGilbert is located in the southeast part of the Phoenix metro area and is home to about a quarter of a million people.Donations to the giving machine will benefit global as well as local nonprofit organizations, including four in Arizona—A New Leaf, Helen’s Hope Chest, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, and United Food Bank. The machines will be available throughout the Christmas season.“Isn’t that wonderful?” Sister Aburto asked, when noting that Gilbert is one of only five locations the machines are available throughout the world. Other machines are located in Salt Lake City, Utah; New York, New York; London, England; and Manila, Philippines.Cheryl Blinston of Queen Creek brought her 15-year-old son, Sam, to attend the event and make a donation.Dave Richins, a member of the Church in Mesa and president and CEO of United Food Bank, said he thinks Gilbert is a great location for anyone in the Phoenix area and believes people will seek it out for the opportunity to donate.The Gilbert #LightTheWorld giving machines can be found at Water Tower Plaza, 45 W. Page Ave., in Gilbert’s downtown area.“To be a part of it this year is just great,” he said. “I love the idea that there are items here from a pair of socks for a homeless person to airfare to reunite a refugee child with their family and everything in between. It is very meaningful.”
Joe Dulin, chief philanthropy officer with nonprofit organization A New Leaf, makes a purchase from the giving machines on Thursday, November 29. Photo by Jill Adair.
Sister Reyna Aburto, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, holds up her #LightTheWorld Give sticker in front of the Church’s giving machines. Part of the Church’s popular #LightTheWorld campaign, the machines opened in Gilbert, Arizona, on Thursday, November 29. Photo by Jill Adair.On Thursday, November 29, in a square in downtown Gilbert, #LightTheWorld giving machines became available to the public, offering users the chance to make charitable donations for items such as diapers, turkeys, or toys. A ribbon-cutting ceremony, attended by Sister Reyna I. Aburto, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency; Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels; and representatives from other nonprofit organizations kicked off the giving.“I’m so excited it’s in Gilbert,” she said. “There’s a large, giving community here—not just the LDS community, but the community at large.” Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels cuts the ribbon for the opening of the giving machines on Thursday, November 29, 2018, accompanied by Sister Reyna Aburto and leaders of local nonprofits that will benefit from donations made in Gilbert, Arizona. Photo by Jill Adair.
Sister Reyna Aburto of the Relief Society General Presidency and her husband, Brother Carlos Aburto, visit with the media following the ribbon-cutting ceremony for giving machines in Gilbert, Arizona. Part of the Church’s popular #LightTheWorld campaign, the machines opened in Gilbert on Thursday, November 29, 2018. Photo by Jill Adair.The giving machines, which opened in Gilbert, Arizona, on Thursday, November 29, offer items ranging from $3 and up. Photo by Jill Adair.Missionaries will be assisting visitors during the day, and local volunteers will provide security to the outdoor machines at night.Sister Power, a full-time missionary in the Gilbert Mission, greeted visitors at the machines.“As we participate in this campaign, as we serve each other this season, and as we buy something from these amazing machines, we realize there is joy in giving,” Sister Aburto said. “Every season is a perfect season to give, not only during this time but throughout the year.”Joe Dulin, chief philanthropy officer with A New Leaf, said the Church has been an “incredible support system” for his organization that shelters homeless and domestic violence victims while offering a variety of other services to those in need in the community.“There’s something for everyone,” she said. “It’s a simple way to give as Christ would give.”
“Next to my regular tree, I have a little tree that is completely focused on the Savior. I call it our “Christ” tree. Each decoration points our hearts and minds towards Him. It’s little so my kids can easily see and touch it. We start out with some basic ornaments as the background and then each morning up until Christmas, the little tree gets decorated with a new picture of Jesus. Each morning we have a special little family devotional and at the end my kids open a little gift box with a small picture of the Savior and a little candy treat. The kids love the surprise aspect and getting to hang something
new each day. I love that when Christmas finally arrives, our tree will be filled with pictures of our Savior.” —Kristy Nielsen“One way we focus on Christ is to hold a ‘Bethlehem Supper’ on Christmas Eve where everyone dresses up and ‘becomes’ a character from the Bible. The dinner is at Mary’s parents home on the eve of her departure with Joseph to go to Bethlehem. We discuss the long journey, the pregnancy, Herod’s oppression, how Joseph and Mary feel about the baby,
and any other questions or topics that come up while everyone stays in character and eats the feast made up of foods they could have eaten—figs, dates, unleavened bread, fish, and grape juice. —Richard and Linda Eyre, Fourteenth Ward, Salt Lake Stake“Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done, nor is it found in the purchasing of gifts. We find real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season,” taught President Thomas S. Monson in a 2012 First Presidency Christmas Devotional.“We collect Nativity sets whenever we travel so we put them up around our home to remind us of the real meaning of Christmas. We listen to lots of Christmas music, and read certain scriptures daily that talk about the Savior, in addition
to our daily family scripture study. We also participate in service to our neighbors and community and host a Christmas Day potluck for ward members, investigators, or community members who don’t have a place to go that day. [By doing these things] we feel the Spirit more abundantly, we make new friends, and we stay focused on the Savior. —Cathy Liggett, Greenville Ward, Heath Texas StakeThree families shared with the Church News traditions that help them and their families keep the Christmas season focused on Christ. CAPTION.
“Historical standard of truth”Being part of the Joseph Smith Papers project over the years has given Elder Snow some sweet experiences. Dean C. Jessee, left, is one of the founders of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. He and Nathan Waite, an associate editorial manager, look through some of the recent volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers. Photo by Trent Toone, Deseret News.“Gail provides unflagging emotional support and encouragement that lift us,” R. Eric Smith said. “She loves learning from and is inspired by Joseph Smith’s history, and that enthusiasm is infectious for all of us.”Smith also credited Larry Miller for authorizing more funds for the website.MemoriesThe Joseph Smith Papers played a role in assisting historical revisions to headings in the 2013 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants and paved the way for other Church History Department projects, including The First Fifty Years of Relief Society (2016) and the new Saints series (2018).Reid L. Neilson, managing director of the Church History Department and the assistant Church historian and recorder, credited the Joseph Smith Papers with creating new employment opportunities for Latter-day Saint historians, establishing a foundation for other projects, and creating a sense of trust among the senior leadership of the Church, who recognize the value of the Church History Department as “a real asset for them to further their own mission, values, and aims,” Neilson said.“This is a well-worn metaphor, but I really think the Joseph Smith Papers is the lunar mission for the Church,” Elder Snow said. “It’s helped the Church with so many things in its 10-year lifetime. These individuals who work on the papers are dedicated to their research and to being totally transparent and yet interpret from a faith-based perspective for the most part. I think it’s been immensely helpful to the Church. We’ve kind of taken the narrative away from a lot of the critics and those that have sensationalized certain aspects of our Church history by this very solid research that’s been done by the project.”
Robin Scott Jensen, associate managing historian and project archivist for the Joseph Smith Papers Project, holds fragments of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon that have been in the possession of the Church History Department.More to come
A photo of the first Joseph Smith Papers volume, published in 2008. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.Other challenges have come in the form of personal sacrifice for team members in taking time away from family to put in extra hours and meet stressful, daunting deadlines.“The Joseph Smith Papers has greatly deepened our historical knowledge of early Latter-day Saint history,” said Matthew J. Grow, publications director at the Church History Department and a general editor of the papers.“That was very special,” Elder Snow said.Howcroft committed to digging deeper and reading more, fully immersing herself in a study of Joseph Smith, his life, and his teachings. As a result, her testimony of the Prophet was strengthened.“That was a really special trip,” Gail Miller said. “That helped us to see the vision and importance of what was happening.”The Joseph Smith Papers would not have been possible without the financial support of the Larry H. and Gail Miller family.Miller family“I hope people will partake of it, be inspired by it, and use it in their lives,” Gail Miller said.“I was kind of shell-shocked by this difference. I was seeing a man that was much more complicated, much more nuanced,” Howcroft said. “So I had several months where I was a little bewildered at, wait a second, he’s not entirely the person than I thought he was.”But as she combed through documents, Howcroft realized the real Joseph Smith was different than the one she’d encountered growing up.“Of all the things we have here in Church history, that’s probably what stirs me the most and strengthens my testimony the most,” Elder Snow saidWhat Baer, an attorney, loves about the Joseph Smith Papers is the original sourcing, the absence of commentary, and how the documents paint a full picture of who Joseph Smith was and the way he thought.“During the darkest hours of that 2008–2009 era when the economy was tanking, I had the strongest feeling that we have to do everything we can to keep our company running,” Gail Miller said. “I knew I had to keep giving to this project because I believe that many of the blessings in my life and many of the successes that come to us through business are related to this project.”While driving to Idaho on a business trip, Baer discovered the Joseph Smith Papers podcast and became fascinated. He purchased the Histories series, volumes 1 and 2. Since then he’s collected most of the 18 volumes and keeps them in his bedroom.“Nothing we could do could surpass in importance making available in a collected way the life’s work of Joseph Smith,” Elder Jensen told the Church News in 2008.“For me, he became much more powerful,” Howcroft said. “I look back on how the Joseph Smith Papers has changed me. I look at who I was, and I bear little resemblance to that individual now 20 years later. I wouldn’t change that path for anything. But it required me throw out my earlier framework and meet Joseph on his terms, effectively learning at the feet of Joseph Smith. Mark Ashurst-McGee works on the Joseph Smith Papers Project at the Church Office Building in Salt Lake City on August 6, 2008. Photo by Trent Toone, Deseret News.“That is what draws me to him the most. From physical suffering and harassment to financial difficulty to betrayals of friends to legal problems to great sorrow over the loss of children and other loved ones, his challenges were unusually severe,” R. Eric Smith said. “His example reminds us that living the gospel is no inoculation against adversity. From the experiences of him and other early Church members, I have found encouragement to press forward and trust in the Lord.”“I think it’s a magnificent production we can all be proud of,” Bushman said.Richard Lyman Bushman, a member of the national advisory board of the Joseph Smith Papers who also served as a general editor of the papers, described the impact of the project as “huge” and “authoritative,” adding that it measures up to the best documentary editing projects in the country, including high-level projects like the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson Papers.“We’ve promised the public that this is going to be comprehensive, meaning it’s everything, but what documents should be in print versus what should be on the website?” Neilson said. “So just trying to figure out what the priorities are—what should be published, what should be highlighted, what should be annotated, what should be showcased, what should be simply electronic? And to do it within a prescribed timeline and budget like any project. It’s tough, but the team’s done a marvelous job making the right decisions along the way. We’ve been blessed.”Sharalyn D. Howcroft is an archivist and document specialist with the Joseph Smith Papers. She was among the first women to begin working on the project in 2000 when it initially was called “The Papers of Joseph Smith” and spearheaded by Dean C. Jessee.Learning at the feet of a prophet“Every Church member can now own their own copy of high-quality photographs of the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon. I think that’s pretty amazing,” Elder Snow said. “If people have an interest in the first decades of Church history, this gives them the best history that has ever been done. … No one could ever write about Joseph Smith again without quoting the papers as a source.”
A letter from Joseph Smith to his wife Emma from Liberty Jail, March 21, 1839, is one of several thousand documents that have been published in the Joseph Smith Papers project over the last 10 years. Image provided by the Joseph Smith Papers Project.At that point, Howcroft’s understanding of Joseph Smith was essentially what she’d learned from seminary and Church manuals. She considered her testimony of the Prophet to be that of an “average Church member,” she said.True to Elder Snow’s words, in the last decade, the award-winning papers project has granted scholars and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints greater access to original sources for Joseph Smith’s life and teachings.ChallengesAnother treasured memory was being invited by the First Presidency to be present when the seer stone was photographed for the same volume.After becoming the Church Historian and Recorder in 2012, Elder Snow traveled to Independence, Missouri, to meet with historians from the Community of Christ. He was allowed to hold and look at the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon before it was later published in Revelations and Translations, Volume 3, Parts 1 and 2. He had no idea the Church would later acquire the printer’s manuscript in 2017.“Not everyone in society reads history. We’re aware of the fact that history is not the most popular subject,” Jensen said with a smile. “But as a documentary editor, it’s heartening to see the words of your subject being read. … The Joseph Smith Papers really plowed the ground for a lot of historical scholarship and research. I think it’s also showed the way to have both scholarship and faith at the same time.” Elder Steven E. Snow, a General Authority Seventy and Church Historian and Recorder, stands next to a bookshelf in his Church History Library office containing volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, published over the last decade, on October 23, 2018. Photo by Trent Toone, Deseret News.R. Eric Smith admires Joseph Smith’s fortitude—“his ability to bear pain and encounter adversity with great strength and courage,” he said.The family originally gave the project a $10 million donation as an endowment in the form of stocks. Then came the great recession in 2008, and the stocks dropped. When Larry Miller died in 2009, there were concerns about the family continuing to support the project, but Gail Miller was determined to honor their commitment, she said.“The Joseph Smith Papers is the research gift that keeps on giving,” she said in an email. “Not only in terms of what they produce but what it makes possible for scholars to do.”The Church News recently spoke with scholars, historians, donors, and Church members to get their reflections, thoughts, memories, and impressions of the Joseph Smith Papers one decade since the first volume was published.Although they’ve given “substantially more” than they expected, Gail Miller says it’s been “an honor to be involved with something of this importance and magnitude,” she said.One question Elder Snow fielded when he started was “How long will the project go?” The best estimate at this point is 2022, with as many as 25 total volumes or more.Ten years and 18 volumes later, Elder Jensen’s successor, Elder Steven E. Snow, says the Joseph Smith Papers are to the Church what scientific and technological advancements have been to the U.S. space program. So much is being learned, discovered, and made possible as part of the project, beyond the initial core mission, he said.Justin Baer, bishop of the Farmington 18th Ward in the Farmington Utah South Stake, first became interested in the Joseph Smith Papers in 2013.The podcast was originally a television series produced by Dennis Lyman and Glenn Rawson. It was designed to showcase the research and scholarly discoveries of the Joseph Smith Papers. Over three seasons they produced 100 half-hour episodes. When the series concluded in 2010, Lyman and Rawson wanted to keep it going and it became “The History of the Saints.”In addition to fulfilling her late husband’s dream of helping “millions (even billions) to know Brother Joseph again,” the Joseph Smith Papers has strengthened Gail Miller’s testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. She said she is very pleased with how the Church has used their resources and hopes families will consider incorporating the papers into personal and family gospel study in the coming years.Kathleen Flake, the Richard Lyman Bushman Professor of Mormon Studies at the University of Virginia, agreed.“I know of no other religious tradition that has documented so well and so carefully, at such a high cost, its own history and beginnings. I think that’s really what the Joseph Smith Papers is about,” Neilson said. “If you want to study the rise of a new religious movement, the rise of what we believe is the kingdom of God in the latter days, there is no better resource than the papers, because in there you’ll find all the revelations, all the scriptures that Joseph Smith produced by revelation, and you’ll find all the founding documents of this dispensation. How does it get better than that?”In 2008, the Miller family treated all the researchers to a Church history tour. Unfortunately, Larry Miller wasn’t well enough to go, but Gail and her children went.“To be able to hold that, think about all the history and how that had been used by the Prophet Joseph was a very remarkable experience,” Elder Snow said.“What I found in the papers is a man who is deeply human, who was confronted with significant challenges, who felt the difficulties of mortality acutely, and seeing the merging of a prophetic mantle with human struggles. For me, it made prophets and heaven more accessible because God takes deeply flawed human beings to do His work. In spite of our flaws, He works with us.”Bushman, Columbia University’s Gouverneur Morris Professor of History emeritus and former Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University, added that the Joseph Smith Papers are “of immense significance” because they have “established a standard of historical truth.”Church members “heavily” use the project’s print and website resources (josephsmithpapers.org), said R. Eric Smith, a general editor who helped build the project’s editorial, web, and production team from the ground up.“From my perspective in managing the department, I think over the past decade, virtually everything that we’ve produced has its genesis back with the Joseph Smith Papers, either by content, access to new documents, or the number of scholars, historians, and editors that have come here to be part of the team we have created,” Neilson said. “The Joseph Smith Papers is the standard-bearer that brought people here.”The volume Elder Snow is most looking forward to will feature the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon.It’s received high praise from scholars like Thomas P. Slaughter, the Arthur R. Miller Professor of History at the University of Rochester, who endorsed the project as “the gold standard in the field of historical documentary editing.” Criticism of the project has been minimal, if nonexistent, Elder Snow said.“One of the things I love about the Joseph Smith Papers is to see people as they were and form my own conclusions about what I think of what they wrote,” Baer said. “If you want to learn about Joseph Smith, this is the best place to go,” he said. “It’s been an absolute joy for me the last five years to get into these documents.”“Larry had a real vision for the importance of electronic publishing,” Smith said. “I think he saw better than most where publishing was headed in the digital age.”In addition to the funding, Gail Miller has supported the project in other ways.The monumental size and scope of the Joseph Smith Papers project forced the JSP team to make some difficult decisions over the years, Neilson said.“The project is very demanding,” Smith said. “The publication schedule is aggressive, our historical and editorial standards are very high, and an incredible amount of collaboration and consensus are required to move forward. Sometimes I have wondered why a project involving Joseph Smith should be so hard. Shouldn’t it all fall together into place so easily for us? I have come to feel that part of our work on the project is not just to publish the papers. It is to learn to be persistent and to work together patiently despite challenges and surprises. I think we are supposed to be learning some of what Joseph and his fellow Saints were learning back then.”The papers welcome historical scrutiny of how the Latter-day Saint faith was founded, Neilson said. Elder Marlin K. Jensen presents a copy of a Joseph Smith Papers volume to Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during a press conference in 2009. Photo by Laura Seitz, Deseret News.“Sometimes we’ve had a tendency to make everything as positive as possible and have been reluctant to publish anything that was at all derogatory to any of the people from the past, and that’s got us in trouble,” said Bushman, author of the 2005 Joseph Smith biography Rough Stone Rolling. “But these papers are looking at all the difficult issues and coming to a judgment, one that we can conclude from all the evidence. Because they’ve done such a good scholarly job and because their work is reviewed by the Church and approved, it’s the standard of historical truth. If there’s a debate about a question, the judgments that we find in those volumes are the ones that will pretty much stand. It’s grounded on thorough research so there are things we can rely on. I think that can be of immense value as we go down through the years.” Richard Turley Jr. served as assistant Church historian and recorder when the Joseph Smith Papers published its first volume. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.In the fall of 2008, then–Church Historian and Recorder Elder Marlin K. Jensen called the Joseph Smith Papers project “the single most significant historical project of our generation.”Robin S. Jensen, an associate managing historian and volume editor, said some team members felt nervous at the beginning because it was unknown how Church members and scholars would react. They were grateful when the overall reaction was immensely positive.A member’s perspectiveThe next anticipated volumes to be published will be Documents, Volume 8 in May and Documents, Volume 9 in September. Photos of the seer stones in a volume of the Joseph Smith papers. Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News.