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Written by Sister Vicki Ali

"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke 11:13)

We are in the midst of the biggest gift-giving season of the year. Organized folks are most likely finished buying gifts for loved ones. Maybe you’re still searching for that elusive perfect gift to give someone.

What exactly is a perfect gift — either one we are expecting to receive or planning to give? Some try to treat others to something they can’t or won’t get for themselves. As givers, what joy it is to see pure delight in the recipient’s reaction.

I’ve also often heard advice from parents not wanting to over-indulge children, describing giving them three gifts during the holidays: 1) something a child needs (like a clothing item), 2) a book (to educate or grow the mind), and 3) something special they want.

We’ve probably all witnessed or seen a funny video of a kid recklessly tearing into Christmas presents, throwing clothing items quickly aside or over a shoulder, continuing to seek the toy or gift they really wanted. Or how about the baby or toddler who opens a present and misses the gift inside the box because they are fascinated by the box itself or the packaging? Remember the kid from the movie "A Christmas Story" who dreamed endlessly about the Red Ryder BB gun despite all the warnings of, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”? All funny scenarios, but can we as adults sometimes still be stuck in these unknowing, yet immature thoughts and reactions?

Our Heavenly Father, the wisest of all parents, gifts our lives with things we need, knowledge, and sometimes what we want. First and foremost, in terms of necessities, He gave the gift of His Son for our salvation because we’re all in desperate need of a Savior, whether we realize it or not. He gave us something we could never afford ourselves, and it brings Him joy when we are delighted and acknowledge the enormity of receiving this gift.

People in Jerusalem when Jesus was born awaited a Messiah who was supposed to be presented in much different packaging than the babe born in obscurity and wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger bed. They looked for one to physically free them from Roman oppression, not from the darkness of sin within all of humanity. Centuries later, we who know the beginning and ending of the story of God’s most precious gift to earth, may be tempted to judge that place in history and not understand how so many missed recognizing the Savior.

If we’re honest, in our daily lives, we all wish for immediate release of pain and captivity of situations where we feel stuck. I believe our Father wishes to give His children all of our heart’s desires, but He loves us enough not to do so. If we want to mature spiritually beyond the child tossing aside under-appreciated gifts, then we have to accept and recognize practical necessities for our spiritual lives and knowledge-building gifts lovingly provided by our Father more than we yearn for our own desires.

This doesn’t come easily or naturally, but we can pray for help to do so, as expressed so eloquently in this song by Natalie Grant:

"Help me want the Healer, more than the healing
Help me want the Saviour, more than the saving
Help me want the Giver, more than the giving
Oh help me want You Jesus, more than anything…

When I'm desperate and my heart's overcome
All that I need, You've already done
Help me want You more, than anything…"

The release felt within your heart as you sing along — Maybe in the car at the top of your lungs? Don’t judge or laugh — is indescribable! In the simple acceptance that there isn’t a situation where the presence of Jesus, in whatever form He chooses to present, is always the perfect gift. And more than anything, the greatest thing He’s ever saved me from … is me.

This article has undergone ministry review and approval.

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Written by Brother Michael McGuire

Today's Miracle Monday is a story of how Brother Michael McGuire received help from above one snowy morning.

Back in the winter of 2015, around the month of December, at about 5 a.m., I was on my way to work. It was a cold, snowy winter morning. I was about 20 minuets from work, and I was turning onto the onramp for the highway when my car slid on ice in the turn and went right off the road. I couldn't get back onto the road because I was stuck pretty good.

I had AAA, so I called to get towed back onto the road. They told me they couldn't find my location. I said I was on the onramp to the highway. They said, "Sorry, sir, we can't locate you."

I called out to God, and I told Him, "You know where I am, Lord. Please help me, as I am stranded here." Almost as soon as I prayed to God, three young men showed up at my car door and knocked on the window. Their appearance was either Hispanic or Native American. Anyhow, the one who knocked on the window instructed me to put the car in reverse, and they would push it back. Then, he told me to put it in drive, and they would push me forward onto the ramp. This did get me back onto the ramp.

They smiled and waved, and they vanished. I got out of my car and looked around but couldn't find them. I thanked God for this experience — and I even arrived 15 minuets early to work.

Hebrews 13:2: "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for some have entertained angels unawares."

Did You Ever Receive a Helping Hand?

Does today's story remind you of a time when God sent you much-needed help in the form of what could've been a heavenly being? Click here to share your story with us!

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Written by GospelBlog

As we continue to prepare for the celebrations surrounding Christmas Day, it's appropriate to remember why Christ came in the first place. Today's Good Word tells us that we were not saved by our own righteous works but instead by God's mercy.

No matter how many good deeds we do, we also commit sin. Good works cannot wash away sin or pay the price for it. Under the Law of Moses, a blood sacrifice was required to forgive sin (not a penance of good deeds).

Jesus Christ came to earth in order to be the last of those blood sacrifices. During His life, He did only good deeds and no sin. Therefore, He was the only one worthy to enter heaven based on His life track record. Instead of claiming His reward, He offered it to us — those who could never obtain it without Him.

This Christmas, let's remember our place before God and where we stand in relationship to Him. He is so high above us, but He sacrificed so much to raise us to His eternal presence.

This article has undergone ministry review and approval.

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Written by Brother Rich Nath

"O Holy Night" has been one of my favorite Christmas hymns since I can remember. Though, I can't say that I've heard it sung during congregational singing much. Maybe that's because it's a tough song to sing since much of it is written in higher notes. It surely isn't because of the words or the message that the song brings, which is one of hope and salvation.

The song has a special meaning in my heart for what it inspired about 10 years ago. Right around the start of the holidays, my family was struggling with an issue.

One morning on the way to work, "O Holy Night" was on the radio. When it reached the words, "fall on your knees," the Spirit fell on me and I began to weep. I started to pray aloud to God and knew that we, as a family, needed to fast and pray and to specifically fall on our knees before the Lord for the problem we faced.

We did so, and while the problem didn't go away completely, there was peace and our prayers were answered.

This song also means a lot to my wife. She used to sing it every year on Christmas Eve at her church. The last time she did was six years ago, when she sang it as a duet with her father. It turned out to basically be a trio, as that was the Christmas she was pregnant with our son.

He is our miracle baby, and to this day I'm reminded of that night when I hear the song played. Maybe someday he'll be able to sing it with his mom during the Sunday School Christmas program, which will make me fall to my knees in thanksgiving to God.


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Written by Brother Jerry Valenti

During the period of time covered by the Book of Alma, the Nephite nation is intended to be "one nation under God." The system of government is one designed by Mosiah, a seer of God. It replaced the former system where kings ruled over the land. In Alma 51, the new system of government — only about 25 years old at this point — faces a severe challenge as the nation becomes severely divided, making it difficult to continue as one nation under God. This article presents an overview of this episode. See if you can spot any parallels to another nation that is intended to be one nation under God.

Change in Leadership of the Government

At the end of Alma 50, the previous leader's term expires — actually, he dies — and a man named Pahoran is "appointed chief judge and governor over the people, with an oath and sacred ordinance to judge righteously…and to grant unto them their sacred privileges to worship the Lord their God, yea, to support and maintain the cause of God all his days" (Alma 50:39).

A Portion of the People Want Change

Alma 51 begins by saying "there were a part of the people who desired that a few particular points of the law should be altered" (verse 2). Are these proposed changes contrary to the precepts of God? It doesn't say, but based on what happens later, it's not unreasonable to assume that they are. At the very least, it seems likely that the proposed changes will primarily benefit the people supporting them.

The Government Leader Refuses to Alter the System

Choosing to keep things unchanged, "Pahoran would not alter nor suffer the law to be altered, therefore, he did not hearken to those who had sent in…their petitions concerning the altering of the law" (verse 3). Was he respectful of their feelings in turning them down? It doesn't say. Did the people feel he was mean or even insulting in rejecting these attempted changes? Who knows? However, as long as he was fulfilling his oath to "support and maintain the cause of God" — maintaining the concept of "One Nation Under God" — he was doing the job he was appointed to do.

The People Who Want Change Try to Remove the Leader From Office

Incensed by Pahoran's refusal to accept their proposed changes, "those who were desirous that the law should be altered were angry with him, and desired that he should no longer be chief judge over the land" (verse 4). Backed by wealthy, powerful people of "high birth" (verse 8), they manage to force a national election on a referendum to eliminate the entire governmental system and go back to a system of kings. Much to their chagrin, they lose the election "and Pahoran retained the judgment-seat" (verse 7).

Divisiveness Ensues: Not 'One Nation Under God'

Right at this time, the Lamanites launch an attack against the Nephite nation. However, those Nephites who had opposed Pahoran "were so wroth with the chief judge, and also with [his supporters], that they would not take up arms to defend their country" (verse 13). In fact, when they "heard that the Lamanites were coming down to battle against them, they were (actually) glad in their hearts" (verse 13), preferring tragedy to come to the country rather than being willing to follow this leader and be part of one nation under God.

Destruction Comes: 'One Nation Under God' Is Restored

When Moroni, the leader of the Nephite army, learns of this rebellion, "he [is] exceeding wroth because of the stubbornness of those people…his soul [is] filled with anger against them" (verse 14). There is no mention of tolerance, inclusion, or compromise in his reaction — if these people are not willing to support one nation under God, they are the enemy.

Lest anyone try to criticize Moroni for his reaction, let's remember that the scriptures say that if all men had been like Moroni, "the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men" (Alma 48:17). Moroni is an agent of God for this period of time.

This agent of God, with the approval of the government and a majority of the people, leads the army against these Nephite dissenters, killing 4,000 of them and imprisoning others. The remainder of them are "brought down to humble themselves like unto their brethren, and to fight valiantly for their freedom" (verse 21) against the Lamanites. One nation under God is restored.

'One Nation Under God' Today

The United States of America is intended to be "One Nation Under God" — American history and the Book of Mormon both support this concept. Yet, our recent history has many parallels to the story related above, and we currently find ourselves in the "divisiveness phase". According to prophecy, destruction will be next — not necessarily in the manner described above, but it will come from God with the purpose of destroying and/or humbling the wicked and ushering in a period of peace on this land, which will then be one nation under God as He wants it to be.

In the meantime, let's do our best to support the "One Nation Under God" concept through supporting godly causes and leaders and opposing those who work against the precepts of God. Let's also make sure we are personally prepared to be counted among the people of God should the destruction come in our lifetime such that we need not fear and we will be part of the kingdom of Zion on this land — a time of peace when we will truly be one nation under God.

This article has undergone ministry review and approval.

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Written by Sister Erin Light

Often, when we think of Jesus Christ as a baby, we think of the manger scene and how nice it is and how exciting it must’ve been for them to be there on that holy night. We hear the stories of Mary and Joseph, how they traveled a difficult journey and Mary’s faith in what happened to her.

But it’s not too often that we think about God as a small baby. The lyrics in "Welcome to Our World" by Chris Rice are extremely touching.

“How I wish we would’ve known”...

Not many people welcomed Christ into the world. We expected a King, someone regal and large in presence. This song expresses the humbling realization of God coming down to take on flesh and blood for us. But He was essentially a stranger, unnoticed for so many years, until He comes into His own.

“Bring your peace into our violence, bid our hungry souls be filled.”

I think of all the saints before Christ’s birth who followed the written or spoken word without knowing when He would be arriving. They believed in a creator they could not connect to and followed the ritualistic law of Moses. It took Jesus’ birth to Earth, announced by John the Baptist, for people to really take a second look and think, “Is this really Him?”

“Fragile finger sent to heal us, tender brow prepared for thorn.”

The gravity of Jesus’ birth was that He came not to live, but to give us a chance to live — eternally, forever with Him. The, “Oh look, it’s a baby” joy we think about that surrounds the celebrations of a birth, in this case, also comes with the realization and the weight of what will happen — how much God really loves us, and how much He gave for us.

This song is a song of praise, a song of thanks and of humility. “Welcome to our world,” as the title shares, welcomes Christ into a world that wasn’t really ready to welcome Him. We’re human! We could’ve praised His entrance more; we could’ve showered Him with gifts. But God didn’t need all the pomp and circumstance. He just needed a bright star above a manger, and the love of His parents and a few lowly shepherds to welcome Him.

How will we welcome Christ into our homes and hearts this Christmas? Will we leave Him in the manger or decorate our hearts with gifts of praise and thankfulness to set before Him? There is certainly no Christmas without Christ, thank God!

This article has undergone ministry review and approval.

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Written by Sister Tammy Valenti

Today's Miracle Monday, submitted by Sister Tammy Valenti, is in response to our call for articles about weather-related experiences. This one is certainly a whirl. Enjoy!

About 20 years ago when I was working at a hospital, God spared me from a tornado.

It was a long day at work, which started about two hours before my normal tour of duty. I was in charge of a patient event that very hot summer day and found myself exhausted around 4 p.m. I was supposed to be on the job for another 30 minutes, but the rains had begun, and I wanted to get home before the weather got worse.

To exit the hospital grounds, I needed to drive around the building that I worked in and exit through the gate onto the road. As I was approaching the gate, something that appeared to be a heavy fog rolled in. I couldn’t see anything. I stopped in the road leading to the exit, but then I realized that if anybody else was trying to make their way to the exit, they wouldn’t be able to see me, so I needed to get out of the way. I backed into a parking spot just off the road to pray while I waited for the weather to clear.

Within a few moments, a tornado came roaring down the street I was about to turn onto. It sounded like a train going down the street. Once it passed, the “fog” disappeared. As I drove home on the same path as the tornado, I saw all of the destruction, including massive trees that were completely uprooted and the local hospital sign, which was completely constructed of bricks, reduced to rubble.

Had God not prompted me to “get out of the way,” I would have driven out on the road directly in the path of this destructive tornado. Even though I was very close to it as it passed, I was spared from any harm. Praise God!

Did You Ever Have a 'Close Call'?

Has today's story reminded you of a time when you had a close call? Let's praise God together for sparing us in these critical moments. Click here to share your story on the blog.

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Written by Sister Colleen Moore

Christmas is my most favorite time of the year!

I love playing Christmas songs and baking cookies with our daughter. I love hearing our children laugh as they come back inside our home all rosy-cheeked from sledding. I enjoy hearing their stories of who went the fastest and how many times someone fell in the snow.

I love watching Christmas movies together as a family and enjoying my cup of coffee. I look forward to making homemade cinnamon rolls every year for Christmas morning; it's one of my favorite family traditions.

I just love this time of year. It gives me that warm, fuzzy feeling.

I also love looking out the window and seeing fluffy snowflakes floating slowly to the ground. There's something so beautiful about the snow. I love the way the cold air smells outside and being cozy in our warm home. I even enjoy getting all bundled and stepping outside to view the beauty all around me. It's quiet out here in the country where we live, and there's such a peace in watching the snowfall. It's quiet. The animals are tucked away, hibernating, and the birds have all flown south.

It reminds me of the song "Silent Night"…

"All is calm...all is bright." The calm from the silence outside and the snow creates a pretty, bright sparkle. This song brings me to tears every time I hear it. There's such power in the words! It gives me goosebumps when we sing it at Church. It's a small reminder of the big reason why we celebrate. It's Jesus's birthday!

Can you imagine what it felt like to witness seeing Him for the first time? To be Mary or Joseph and hold Him in your arms and know He was the Son of God? It brings tears to my eyes even thinking about it. I wonder how the wise men felt when they brought Him His gifts. I have no doubt the power of God touched their hearts when they saw the face of this precious little baby.

Let us all remember our King as we celebrate Him and what Christmas is all about! Jesus, the true meaning of life.

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:14)

This article has undergone ministry review and approval.

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Written by Brother Jerry Valenti

When I go in my basement, I see several shelves stacked with brightly colored boxes containing the board games from my younger days (and my children's younger days). It seems that board games have gone out of style today, but we have many fond memories of taking out the game boards and the various pieces and competing against one another to be the winner of the game. Here are some of the board games we played:

  • Monopoly: The object of this game is to amass property, houses, hotels, and money. If I am the winner of the game, I eventually own Boardwalk, Park Place, and all of the property on the board as well as having lots of money. And then…everything goes back in the box.
  • Risk: The object of this game is to conquer countries with your armies. If I am the winner of this game, it means my armies have taken over every country in the world such that I own the whole world! And then…everything goes back in the box.
  • The Game of Life: In this game, sometimes you get married and sometimes you don't. Sometimes you have children and sometimes you don't. You could have a high-paying career (such as a doctor or lawyer) or perhaps earn a somewhat lower salary. At the end of the game, you can wind up at Millionaire Acres or in the Poor House. And then, regardless of how your journey has gone or how it has ended…everything goes back in the box.

The common theme of the above is obvious. Regardless of the game, regardless of how you play it, regardless of whether you win or lose, when the game is over, everything goes back in the box. You don't get to keep any of the money you made or any of the countries you conquered — it all goes back in the box.

In Alma 50, the Nephites and Lamanites engage in something similar to the game of Risk described above (except for real, of course). Virtually all of their actions have to do with their "possessions" — either protecting their possessions or being in a position to add to their possessions. For example, the Nephites:

  • "placed armies on the south, in the borders of their possessions" (verse 10)
  • "did seek to cut off the strength and the power of the Lamanites from off the lands of their possessions, that they should have no power upon the lands of their possession" (verse 12)
  • "began the foundation of a city…by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites" (verse 13)

This is by no means meant to be critical of the efforts of the Nephites to protect their lands and their people. Rather, in looking at how focused these people were on their possessions, it causes me to wonder how focused I am on my own possessions today.

"For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out" (1 Timothy 6:7)

For example, how much time/money am I willing to spend to add to my possessions? While there's nothing wrong with having possessions (hey, I own all those board games), do I ever reach the point where I realize my possessions are enough? Or, should I devote every day of my life to trying to add to my possessions? When I am near death, will I look back and rue the missed opportunities to enjoy time with my loved ones or enjoy the possessions I had? I can't take the possessions with me — when the game is over, everything goes back in the box.

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36)

And, even more critical, what spiritual price am I willing to pay to add to my possessions? Am I willing to be cruel or dishonest toward other people? Am I willing to sacrifice Church time? Am I willing to sacrifice prayer time or time reading the scriptures? Basically, am I willing to compromise my relationship with God to have possessions in this life? Although people seem willing to make this choice every day, it doesn't seem like a wise choice from the perspective of eternity.

Risking your eternal home to have more possessions in this life is like giving up your house to win a game of Monopoly. When the game is over and everything goes back in the box, how foolish would you feel to now be without a home and have nothing to show for it? How much worse to have no mansion in heaven when we reach the end of our lives and have nothing to show for it? The possessions that we worked so hard to amass won't be coming with us — they'll be going back in the box because the game is over.

This article has undergone ministry review and approval.

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