Thursday, December 29, 2005

We'll Sing the Songs of Zion

UPDATED -- See Updates Below:

I just ran across a new web site you might find interesting via Mark Hansen's Blog.

If you like LDS music, you might want to tune in to KZION - a 24 hr/365 days a year Internet LDS "Radio Station". It is based out of St. George, Utah, and is commercial free. It is funded by donations. Here's an excerpt from the KZION Home Page:
"More than a music format, LDS Music is a lifestyle designed for all audiences that enjoy great music from an LDS perspective. At we're not afraid to mix it up a little, delivering music from many different genres and musical styles. We dedicate Sundays to Sabbath appropriate music.

KZION is made available under the donationware principle. That means it's offered free of charge, and if you find it valuable, you are invited to Support this work by donating. All donations go directly to the operation of KZION."
I've been listening to KZION at work the last couple of days, and it seems quite nice. To listen to KZION, you will need the Windows Media Player, and for best results I would anticipate you would need a high-speed internet connection, and a fairly good amount of RAM memory in you PC.

So if you are looking for a good source of LDS music, you might want to give KZION a try.


Maren points out a couple of additional alternatives for great Internet music listening:

BYU Radio offers Two Channels: A vocal channel, which plays vocal music, and occasional talks and LDS news items, and an Instrumental Channel, that plays LDS instrumental music only. -- (Great for listing to when preparing talks or lessons!)

Maren also recommends another music service called Pandora builds a "virtual" radio station for you. You type in an artist name, or a song title, then they search their music database and will then stream similar music by similar artists. I tried to type in a couple of LDS artists, but they weren't in the Pandora database. Then I typed in "Gordon Lightfoot", just for the heck of it. They did a search, and then started playing a Gordon Lightfoot song, next came a song by the Beatles, that was in the same vein. This was followed by a Cat Stevens tune, and tunes from other artists that I wasn't familiar with, but were of the same genre. I really enjoyed the songs that Pandora pre-selected. If there was an occasional song that I didn't care for, you can just click the fast forward button on their player, and it immediately goes to the next song. Pandora has the capability to program several "radio stations" for you, each with its own unique flavor. -- The Good part is that there are no commercials. If you want to store your radio stations, you can sign up for a free membership.

Thanks Maren for your excellent suggestions!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy Blogiversary

This month Marks the 1st anniversary of my blogging experience. My first post was actually on December 17th, 2004. This will be the 140th posting on this blog. I have posted an additional 27 posts on my two "sister blogs", The Gospel Study Page, and Our Family Heritage, for a total of 167 posts all together. Sometime today, this blog will have received its 6,000th hit. To all of you who have visited The Whole Note, I thank you for stopping by. I especially would like to thank all those who have shared your thoughts and feelings with me in comments. Many of your comments have been thoughtful and inspiring. Its nice to know that someone is actually reading this stuff, and that at times it resonates within others, and that once in a while, it even does some good. I think I take the most satisfaction in knowing that.

My original intention for this blog was to provide a way to keep our dispersed family (scattered all across America) informed of our doings. To a large extent, this blog has succeeded in that regard. My hope would be in the future to get more of my extended family members into blogging as well. That would be fun!

This blog has also provided me an outlet for sharing my impressions and feelings as well. I have always enjoyed writing, and having this blog has given me a reason to write more often.

Along the way, I have become "acquainted" with some fellow bloggers with whom I share many common values and interests. It has been fun to "meet" these people, and share comments back and forth on our blogs. It has been an enriching experience, and I value the on-line friendships that have developed.

At times as I have been out for a walk on my street, I have perceived that at each home, there are struggles going on within. Daily battles being fought in each home, often in "quiet desperation." The Internet provides a way for some of those desperate struggles to be openly discussed in a way that is just not possible in face-to-face communications. Often times I have seen fellow bloggers gathering around someone who is suffering and struggling, with words of encouragement, hope, and faith. I have seen such communications coming with the true spirit of charity and love, with a desire to uplift and to build one another.

I have seen many kinds of struggles this past year. There are struggles between good and evil, and the consequences that come from our choices. But many of the struggles and challenges I have seen this past year are those which do not necessarily come because of sin or poor decision making. Rather, they are the tests of mortality that we are called upon to endure. The things that try men's (and women's) souls. I call these kinds of challenges "Random Acts of Mortality" . These types of struggles can include health issues, a loss of loved ones, employment problems, financial crises, relationship problems, and mental illnesses. Some parents struggle with special needs children, with the financial, psychological, spiritual and emotional demands that entails, along with the need to be an advocate on behalf of your child with the schools and various public agencies.

Then there are those whose struggles are way more than I could ever imagine coping with. I don't know if I could face up to the challenges that they have shouldered. I know its not right to compare ourselves with others, but to those who struggle, and still are fighting the good fight, you have my deepest respect. There are those of you who struggle with some of the same kinds of issues that I and members of my family struggle with. It has been inspiring to see how you have dealt with these issues, and the faith and courage you have shown in facing them. You have set a good example for me, and have bolstered my faith. My hat's off to you.

May each of you receive the choicest of the Lord's blessings in the coming year.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Church In The News

Many of us don't get a chance to watch much Sunday Morning TV, with church meetings and family obligations. On Sunday, December 18th, the CBS Sunday Morning Show, with Charles Osgood, aired a piece called Mormons in America, which featured a family in Virginia who have recently converted to the LDS church. It just so happens that this family lives in my Brother Doug's ward in Centreville, VA.

Doug had apprised my mom and dad ahead of time when the piece would be airing. They were able to record it on their VCR. Later, on Christmas eve, we all watched the video tape of the program, and were quite impressed with the article. They included video of sunday school and primary classes held in Doug's ward. In a couple of scenes, we were able to see his daughter (our niece) Lizzy! Now she's famous -- been on national TV, you know!

I thought the report was really quite fair and balanced toward the church. They had a couple of church history facts wrong, but the substance of the report was good, and maybe even favorable toward the church. You can read the transcript here. Its always interesting to see how the church is viewed from those who are outside of the church.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A New Kind of Magic

I have been trying to come up with an answer to a perplexing problem for weeks now. How do you tell your kids what they need to know about Santa Claus, now that they are getting older. Our 12-year old son was told 2 years ago about Santa, but he loved the magic of Christmas, and the story of Santa so much, that he had re-convinced himself of his childhood beliefs. He was just sure that he had seen Santa's shadow, and that he had heard reindeer on the roof. He could recall seeing a red blinking light in the sky, and was sure that it was Rudolph. Bryan turns 13 in a couple of months, and it was high time that he disabused of these notions. But how to do it in a way that will not leave him feeling let-down, and still have some fun with the magic of Christmas?

On the other hand, our 10 year old daughter, Amy, had pretty much figured out things for herself. She started asking some direct questions, and so we started to give her some direct answers. Our answers to her were gentle, and the kind that let her come to her own (correct) conclusions.

(Note: You can View more of our Christmas Photos Here.)

After our annual family Christmas Eve gathering, Amy told us that knowing what she now knows, made her feel more grown up. She also said that things make better sense now, and that she doesn't feel so "kiddish" any more. For her, feeling more grown-up was a good thing. She liked being in on the secrets, and being included with the adults. It made her feel more a part of the adult world (but please, not too much of the adult world too soon, I hope!).

After weeks of trying to figure out what to do, a flash of inspiration hit me. Why not incorporate the kids into the Santa Claus experience? The quickest way to help Bryan to understand the truth about Santa, was for him to becomeSanta. Only he didn't know about it yet. I had some last minute shopping to do on Saturday (Christmas Eve), and I took Bryan with me. Along the way, I dropped some subtle hints. We got some gifts for the grandparents, and a nice gift to Dawn Ann. Then we had to wade through the mob at the grocery store, and get our supplies for Christmas dinner. While we ate our lunch, we heard a report on the radio about the true origins of Rudolph, which stem from Montgomery Wards in 1939. That had to make an impression too.

At the grocery store, I made a point of dropping him a subtle hint that we needed to get some things to put in the Christmas stockings. (Santa has always filled the stockings at our house before). So we got some treats and stocking stuffers at the store.

I had been looking for these little "Smoosh Me" pillows. I looked all over for them, and finally found them at the grocery store, of all places! We decided to get one for Mama, Amy and Bryan. I let him pick out the colors himself. These would become presents from "Santa" as well.

We hid away the gifts we had purchased in the trunk of the car, for later retrieval. Later after we returned from our family Christmas Eve gathering at my mom and dad's house it was time for the new magic to begin! Amy went to bed right away (with a wink). Bryan and I told mama that she had to stay away from the living room (there was elf work to be done!).

We got the gifts out of the trunk of the car and brought them into the living room. As we were outside retrieving the gifts, I told Bryan that this year he would become one of Santa's helpers. He gave me a quizzical look, and the wheels of his mind started turning. I asked him, who do you think Santa is? The truth began to dawn on him. He asked, is it you? Then I gave him a wink and a nod. Bryan responded by saying, "I thought I saw his shadow once, and I heard noises on the roof too!" I said, sometimes our minds can play tricks on us when we want to believe in something badly enough. I explained that it is kind of like Harry Potter, that it is fun and wonderful and magical -- but it's still make believe.

When I made the Harry Potter reference, his mind suddenly clicked back to the previous conversation that he had with his mother, where she discussed the nature of Santa Claus with him two years before. Now everything was becoming clear to him. It also was dawning on him that we were letting him in on one of the secrets of life, and that we wanted him to participate with us, like a grown up!

A new smile slowly crossed his face -- his sneaky, mischievous smile. He was going to get to sneak around the house, and do it LEGALLY too! ( A talent which he comes by quite naturally, I might add!) Bryan was full of excitement at the prospects! We wrapped the presents that we needed to wrap for mama! Then we got all the goodies out and filled the stockings with care. Finally, we placed the "Santa" presents under the tree. After we were done, I got the camera and tripod out to take some photos of the tree, including some photos of the "Christmas elf" as well.

After Bryan went to bed, I went to get Amy. Mama was surprised that I would wake Amy up, but I told her that the two of us had a deal. I had arranged with her to put some extra little stocking-stuffer gifts into the Christmas Stockings. It was her little way to play Christmas elf too! We hid our little surprises in the stockins, and then she went back to bed, with a wink and a smile.

We had all agreed on a 7:30 am wake up time. Being Sunday, we had church at 10:00 am. However, no one got up at 7:30! At 8:00 we knew we had to get going so that we would have time enough to open presents before going to church. So we actually had to go wake up the kids for Christmas morning! That was a first!

Once they were awakened, it didn't take long for them to get all wound up and ready to go. There were surprises for everyone! As things worked out, there was no one person who knew what all the gifts were for everyone else. Not even mom and dad!

This year we found a different attitude with the kids, now that they were in the know, and were willing accomplices with St. Nick. Instead of focusing so much on what they were getting, they were actually looking to see the reactions of others to whom they were giving. They still got nice presents, and enjoyed them, but their Christmas morning experience was enhanced because now they were as much concerned about the happiness of others, as they were for themselves. A natural outgrowth of this has been an increased amount of appreciation for what mom and dad have done, and more gratitude for what they have received. Both of the kids have come to us individually and expressed their gratitude, several times today.

Next year it will be Amy's turn to play chief house elf. (We started calling Bryan "Dobby" after the house elf in Harry Potter - to which Bryan just smiles.) Amy's already looking forward to her turn next year. We'll probably let them take turns every other year from now on.

Hmm. . . I think we just started a new Christmas tradition at our house!

Christmas Worship

Today, by coincidence of the calendar, we attended church on Christmas today. Many other churches have special worship services on Christmas Day, regardless of what day of the week Christmas may fall upon. (Midnight Mass, for instance - Actually someday I would like to attend a Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeline, just to have the experience.)

In our church, however, the only time we attend worship services on Christmas day, is if Christmas day falls upon a Sunday. This year we had that happy coincidence.

I like having worship services on Christmas, because it helps to reinforce the importance of Christ in Christmas. In our ward, we had a combined Christmas service with the other ward that meets in our building. We had a combined ward choir, and each Bishop took a few minutes for some comments.

I thought the service went very nicely. It took quite a while to administer the sacrament to the extra-large congregation. The chapel, and all of the overflows . There was a nice balance of congregational singing, and choir numbers as well. I participated in the choir, so I got to sing all the songs! Great!

The choir performed three songs, all of which I had performed before with previous choirs. They were:
  • Still, Still, Still
  • O come, O come Emanuel
  • Away In a Manger
The arrangements for all three of these numbers were quite nice.

I have a recording of the same version of Away In A Manger, that I performed with my high school choir. You can listen to it here:

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In high school, we made a choir album (recorded on a vinyl LP) of our "Concert Choir". I converted all of the Christmas songs to digital format, and posted them on my audio blog. You can listen to them here.

I met a new cousin today at church! He is from the "other" ward, and was the choir director of our combined choir. His name is Mark Bradford. After the meeting was over, I thanked him for leading the choir, and asked him if he was descended from William Bradford, of the Mayflower. He said that yes, he was. So I shook his hand and said: "Howdy cousin!" as I am descended from William Bradford as well.

We enjoyed attending the church services. Rather than disrupting our Christmas celebrations, it enhanced them. We were able to spend some quality time thinking of the life and mission of the Savior, and what he means to each of us, and the joy that he brings to us.

Sometimes I wish our church had Christmas Day worship services every year. In lieu of official church services when Christmas does not fall upon Sunday, we will need to make sure we have our own devotional service as a part of our Christmas tradition each year. -- Sunday or not.

Friday, December 23, 2005

200 Years Ago Today

Way back in ancient times (1975-1976) we were celebrating the American Revolution Bicentennial. They ran these little 60-second radio spots highlighting events in history that led up to the American Revolution. The title of that radio series was "200 Years Ago Today". Each day they would highlight an event in 1775-1776 that that occurred on the same day of the year as the current date. Each broadcast would begin with the words: "200 years ago today . . ." Its hard to believe that was 30 years ago! However that 30 years helps to put some things into perspective.

Today we celebrate another bicentennial. Two-Hundred Years ago today (December 23, 2005) the Prophet Joseph Smith was born. We know that the USA had only been an independent nation for about 30 years when he was born. We were reminded in the First Presidency fireside tonight that many of Joseph Smith's ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, and were patriots. Thirty years later, after the Revolutionary War was over, the constitution and bill of rights had been adopted, the time was right for the next step in preparation for the restoration of the gospel.

A little more than 24 years after his birth, Joseph Smith organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The significance of the birth and mission of Joseph Smith should not be overlooked. The church he organized has grown significantly. What was once only an American church, centered in the Rocky Mountain West, has become a worldwide church. Now more church members live outside the United States, that within it. The influence of the church will continue to grow and gain momentum. I believe that the growth rate will accelerate at the rate in which the members of the church are able to accommodate growth. The Lord has said: "My house is a house of order, and not of confusion." If the church were to grow too fast, it would outpace the capability to provide proper leadership. Overgrown membership without solid leadership could lead to a state of confusion.

For us, it means that we need to do all we can to cultivate those leadership qualities, in both ourselves, and those around us, that we may be prepared for the growth that is to come. You can see why church leaders plead for more senior or "mature" missionary couples to serve in leadership training positions. They can go into the places in the world where leadership is weak, but membership is growing quickly. There they can help steer the course of the church where leadership is needed the most.

I am grateful for Joseph Smith, and the restoration of the gospel that came through him. I remember two experiences in my youth that helped me to gain a testimony of that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

First, as a young man, I had the assignment to play the piano for the opening exercises of priesthood meeting. I did this from age 14, until I went to college at BYU. My piano talent is not that great. For me to get a hymn ready to play in church, I have to practice it over, and over, and over again. However, that was not necessarily a bad thing. Because each time I would play a hymn, I would also silently repeat the words to the hymn in my head -- over, and over, and over again. (Essentially it amounted to pondering the words of the hymn, while I was practicing it.)

I remember having special spiritual feelings while I practiced "Joseph Smith's First Prayer", or better known in those days: "Oh, how lovely was the morning," in the old Blue (pre 1985) Hymnbook. I felt the presence of the spirit as I played that hymn. I found that I would play it on my own, even if I didn't have to play it in church that week -- just because I loved the way it made me feel. Looking back on it now, I realize that it was the Spirit testifying to me that the events of the first vision were really true! Joseph did go into that grove to pray! He did see the Father and the Son! He did receive instructions from them!

Later, in the weeks prior to leaving for my mission to British Columbia, Canada, I memorized the first discussion. In those days, the first discussion was excerpts of the Joseph Smith story, in his own words. As I memorized his words, I again received a manifestation from the Spirit that what I was memorizing, and what I would soon be declaring to the world, was true!

It is a testimony that anyone can have, if they will study and learn. Ponder and Pray, and listen for the witness of the Holy Ghost of the truthfulness of these things.

It all started 200 years ago today, the day that Joseph Smith was born. His work and legacy continues on today. I would expect that we will have a series of bicentennial celebrations over the next few years. (The First Vision in 1820. The organization of the church in 1830, etc.)

While we do not worship Joseph Smith, as some have erroneously alleged, we do respect him, and honor him for the servant of the Lord that he was.

I close this post with the words of John Taylor, who was a successor to Joseph Smith:
"Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it . . . He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord's anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!" (John Taylor in Doctrine & Covenants 135:3)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Mary Did You Know?

Update: I have written more about this song. You can hear my favorite version of Mary Did You know, and read the lyrics here.

This morning, in my blog reading, I came across a relatively new Christmas song, "Mary Did You Know". Like Kimberly, I have grown to love this song.

I first heard this song performed by Kim Bracken during the Christmas Season of 2004. It was on one of those FM 100 Christmas compilation CD's (Volume IV). I found it very moving, but didn't think much more about it until last week. Then last week Hugh Hewitt featured it as "bumper music" on his nationally syndicated talk show. Each time a segment of the show would begin or end, he would play a different rendition this song.

Ever since then, I can't seem to get this song out of my head!

On Sunday night, I was cooking dinner, and whistling the tune as I was making my way around the kitchen. After dinner, while the kids were doing the dishes, I picked up a recorder, and figured out the melody. I have found that usually, if I can whistle a tune, I can play it on the recorder. Later on, I sat down at the piano, and began creating my own piano arrangement of it.

It seems this song has universal (at least among Christians) appeal. There are more versions of it than I can count. Today I did some research on the song, and found that it was published in 1991, and is well on its way to becoming a new classic. You can read about the history of the song, and about the lyricist (Mark Lowry) and the composer (Buddy Greene) here. You can listen to a version of the song performed by Lowry and Greene here . ( Note: This is a web page that plays the song automatically when you go to it. I found it works best with a high-speed connection, and Internet Explorer.)

Which version is best? I suppose that is all a matter of taste. Both Lowry and Greene, the creators of this song are Contemporary Christian Musicians (CCM). Their CCM version, while nice, has a few too many runs and flourishes in it for my taste. I have heard some recommend the Clay Aiken Version. I'm sure he does a nice job, although I haven't heard it yet. It appears that many Christian and Country artists have recorded versions of the song.

As for me, I guess it comes down to the version that I first heard, and that first moved me. I still like Kim Bracken's version, even though she is still a relatively unknown Utah, LDS musician. Her version is powerful -- yet plain and simple. With its elegant simplicity, Kim Bracken's version focuses more on the subject matter, than drawing attention to herself.

Like a humble offering to a king.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hello Broadband!

Christmas came a few days early at our house! Santa made an early delivery, and we had a broadband internet connection installed via our local cable company. After the cable company installed the cable modem, we installed a wireless network into our home. We purchased a combination Router, Firewall, and Wireless Access Point. Our laptop already had a WIFI adapter built-in. For our desktop, we got a USB attached wireless network adapter.

We no longer tie up the phone line for hours to be on the internet -- no more having to forward the home phone to the cell phone if we were expecting an important phone call. The router allows both computers to share the cable modem connection at the same time. Another benefit with the wireless network is that we can take the laptop anywhere in the house and still have an internet connection -- without cables! This will be particularly helpful for our homeschool. All these benefits are nice, let alone the major increase in speed. Downloading programs, or updating the windows operating system happens in seconds, instead of hours. For our Windows 2000 computer, we would often have to leave the computer on all night, with the phone line tied up to download the needed updates.

With the high-speed, always-on internet connection, we found that we had a greater need for internet filtering and parental controls. On dial-up, the slow speed prevented access to a lot of things. We found our 12-year old son innocently playing a game of checkers on-line at a game site. The checkers game also included a chat room on the sidebar. We told Bryan that we did not want him engaging in chat rooms, fearful that he might be tricked into giving out personal information. So we began a search for filtering and parental control technology. Some of these things we can block out with the hardware firewall. But even blocking certain activities with the firewall still won't block out harmful content. (Unless you want to make your own list of all of the thousands of undesireable websites, and then enter them all into the firewall, and then keep the list current and updated all the time. -- No Thanks, that's what you pay for with web filtering software.)

I searched a number of advisory websites. First I went to Kim Kommando's web site for her recommendations. Next I went to Consumer Reports for their review of internet filters and parental controls. Click here to see the Consumer Reports recommendations. Safe Eyes was the top recommendation from Consumer Reports.

After reading several reviews and recommendations, we have installed a free trial of the Safe Eyes filtering system. There were several things we liked about this system over the others. First, you don't have to download updates to banned sites (or "black list") to your computer(s) every few days. The the black list is kept on safe eyes' web site. Second, it is very flexible. Now each member of the family must enter their own unique user id and password to have any access to the Internet. Each person can have a unique profile of the types of web sites they are allowed to access, and the types of activities they are allowed to do on the internet. You can also set up designated time periods when each user is allowed to have access to the internet. Another thing we liked was that you pay one fee, up front for use of the software. No annual subscription fees to renew each year. Also when you purchase Safe Eyes, you are licensed to install it on up to three computers. So we can install it on both of our computers, without having to purchase it twice! Finally, Safe Eyes seems to have a minimal impact on internet access speed. I don't notice much, if any difference in speed with the filtering program in place.

In setting up the profiles, you can block certain activities on the internet for each user, if desired. For the kids, we were able to block chat rooms, email, peer to peer transfers, FTP, and instant messaging. We were also able to block a host of web sites for the kids including por*ography, adult content, games, gambling, auctions, violence, weapons, murder/suicide, school cheating, and several other types of web sites. Even for the us adults, we still blocked anything indecent, or immoral. Other things, like auctions, we allowed access to mom and dad. (Ebay comes in really handy sometimes, especially around Christmas!)

I have just installed it tonight, and set up the user profiles for each member of the family. We will have to try it out for a few days and see how we like it in practice. In theory it sounds great! I'll give a report in a week or so when our 15-day trial period runs out. Just from what I have seen thus far, I anticipate that we will be purchasing this product. However, we want to see it running in practice for a few days -- the proof will be in the pudding.

Of course, the best web filter of all is parents. The computers will be in public places in the house, and there will be a parent nearby when any of the children are on the internet. Still, having this protection brings us a level of relief, now that the internet is more accessible to us than ever before.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Light of Christ

During the Christmas season, we commemorate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It is interesting that one of the symbols we use in our celebration are Christmas Lights. Each of these tiny lights, can help us to remember Jesus, who is the Light of the World.

In my latest talk, I was asked to speak on the Light of Christ. Here are some exerpts from my talk. You can read the full version here.

A Gift to All Mankind

In the Doctrine and Covenants we read:
46 And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit.
47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father. (D&C 84:46-47)
There is a lot of meaning is packed into these two verses:

1. The Light of Christ is given to every person that comes into the world.
It does not matter what their race, religion, wealth, or social class may be. It doesn’t matter if they live in a free country, or a country dominated by avowed atheist dictators. It eveb doesn’t matter what they believe. The light of Christ is given to all of God’s Children, everywhere on earth. This gift has been given to all mankind from the time of the Garden of Eden, down to our present time, and will continue as long as the earth shall stand. There has never been a time on the face of the earth, when the light of Christ was not present. The Light of Christ still remained present, even during the deepest, darkest times of apostasy, when the fullness of the Gospel was not found on the earth. God has never abandoned his Children on this earth, at any time. His light has ever shone forth.

The Light of Christ existed before we were born, and it will be with us for every moment of our lives, and it will continue after we have died. It is ever there.

2. Those who hearken (which means to listen, and to obey) to the light of Christ will be enlightened.
Inspiration and enlightenment comes to all those who will listen to the light of Christ. This enlightenment can come in many forms. It can come to the inventor, the scientist, the painter, the sculptor, the composer, the performer, the architect, and the author. The result of this enlightenment can produce great, and even inspired things for the blessing and good of all mankind.

Think of the advancements in science, medicine, communications, technology, and transportation that have come about in the last 100 years. Think of the great writers, composers, and artists who have been inspired by the Light of Christ to lift and inspire mankind to the glory of God. Think of the religious reformers who prepared the way for the restoration of the gospel. All of these have been inspired by the Light of Christ.

3. Those who continue to hearken to the Light of Christ, will be led back to our Heavenly Father.

As a person continues to listen and obey the Light of Christ, they will eventually be led back to the presence of the Father.

Think of 14-year-old Joseph Smith, who hearkened to the voice of the Spirit as he became interested in religion, and desired to know the will of God concerning which church to join. Remember as he was studying the scriptures how he was not only influence by the Light of Christ, but by his obedience to the light which he had already received, he was then moved upon by the power of the Holy Ghost – which in turn led him to the Sacred Grove where he would receive his miraculous First Vision. There he would behold the presence of God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ, and was given the answers to his questions, and was further instructed by them.

The Light of Christ, is also known as the Spirit of Truth. Those who seek after that spirit, and cling to the truths that they learn, will eventually be led back to the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Truth Vs. Error

The Light of Christ is not only given to us for enlightenment, and to draw us toward the Savior; but also is given to us to discern right from wrong.

Sometimes this manifestation of the Light of Christ is called a moral sense, or our conscience, The Light of Christ will always direct us to make good choices, and to avoid evil, unless we subdue it, or silence it.

Each person enters mortality to obtain a physical body, and to be tested. We are taught in that in order to be tested, there must be an opposition in the choices that we make. On the one hand we have the Light of Christ, which inspires us to do good; and on the other hand we have Satan and his followers, which tempt us to do evil. These two forces are set in opposition to one another. We are in the middle, between these to forces tugging at us in opposite directions. We have been given our moral agency are free to choose for ourselves which course we will follow.

Can We Lose The Light of Christ?

If you were to close your eyes on a bright, sun-shiny day, you would not see the light. The sun, however, continues to shine, as always. The only reason you cannot see it is that you have closed your eyes; and by so doing, you have shut down your ability to perceive it.

The same is true with the Light of Christ. We couldn’t hide ourselves from the Light of Christ – even if we wanted to! We can, however choose to ignore what we see, or cloud our spiritual eyes and minds so much with disobedience and wickedness that we can no longer perceive the light.

A Spark In The Dark

Perhaps you know someone who has fallen into this condition of spiritual blindness. Perhaps it may even happened to you or me. It happens, even to the best of us, if we are not careful. We can lose the light we once had, and can fall into sin and transgression.

What if that has happened to you, or to someone you know. Be assured that the Light is still there. There is no depth so low, no darkness so deep that cannot be penetrated by the Light of Christ. God will never abandon us, no matter how far we may have fallen. The light, and life of his love is ever there. His arms are stretched out still. There is none that he will turn away, if we will but come unto him.

Those whose minds have become sufficiently darkened may find it hard to believe in Christ, and that he is trying to reach each one of us.

In a recent Ensign article, Elder Boyd K Packer gives the following example:
“Man himself, with all his limitations, can convey messages through fiber-optic cables. A single tiny fiber of glass, smaller than a human hair, can carry 40,000 messages at the same time. These can then be decoded and turned into sight and sound and color, even motion. Man can do that.

A laser beam, where there is no wire or fiber at all, can carry 100 billion bits of information in a second.

If man can do that, why should we marvel at the promise that the Light of Christ is in all of us and that the Holy Ghost can visit any of us?
It should not be difficult, therefore, to understand how revelation from God to His children on earth can come to all mankind through both the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Ghost.” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Light of Christ,” Ensign, Apr. 2005, 8)
Even in our darkest hour, when we may feel so unworthy, and so unwanted – know that our Savior, and his light are still there for you. It is Satan, and not Christ that tells you that you are worthless, unwanted, and unredeemable. Do not listen to him. Believe in Christ, that he is, and that he can save you.

Know that his power is great. For he is mighty to save. He has taken upon him the sins and pains of the whole world. He has suffered these things for all -- that they might not suffer. He has broken the terrible bonds of death – that we may all live once more. He has triumphed over all things. And though each of us are weak and lowly, still, because of his love for us, he desires to draw all men unto him, that he may lift them up, and return them to the presence of the Father. And for this, all he asks is that we follow Him, and keep his commandments.


During this season of gift giving, let us remember the that the greatest Christmas gift ever given was when the Father sent his Only Begotten Son to be our Savior and Redeemer. In return, the greatest gift that we can ever give is to love and serve God, and our fellow-men – the two great commandments, walking in holiness before him. May we show our gratitude to our Heavenly Father by giving him our gifts of love and service during this Christmas season.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Baby, What You Goin' To Be

In a previous post, I discussed how my all-time favorite Christmas music is Handel’s Messiah. I consider it to be in a class itself.

That's not to say that Other Christmas music is unimportant to me. After the Messiah, perhaps the next most significant Christmas song to my wife and I is “Baby, What You Goin’ To Be”, by Natalie Sleeth.

Here are the Lyrics to this Song:
Baby, Lying in a manger, slumbering so sweetly,
Whatcha gonna be?
Baby all the world is watchin',
all the world awaits to see,
what will you be?
Baby sleeping in a stable, underneath the heavens,
whatcha gonna say?
Baby, did you bring the Good News?
Did you come to light our way?

Oh, look, see the cattle asleep, see the shepherds beside,
See the Wise Men, they bow unto you.
Are you the one who was meant to be Master?
To bring in the Kingdom too?
Alleluia Baby, Hope of all the people,
what you come here to do?
What you come to say?
Baby, can you be the Savior?
Come to save the world one day?
Baby can you be the Savior?
Come to save the world one day?
Baby lying in a manger,
will you save the world one day?
I have sung this song with a number of Choirs over the years.

My first experience with this song came as I was singing with the Mormon Youth Chorus. I remember that we had prepared it as a part of our Christmas concert that was performed in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. I learned both the bass and the tenor parts, but I sang bass in the performance. This song has multiple movements among the parts. At various points in the song, each of the parts, in turn, (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) has the melody.

When it came time to sing the two lines: "Come to save the world one day? Baby can you be the Savior?" I found myself struggling to retain my composure. I felt a deep spiritual connection that I was not only just singing about something that happened long ago and far away. But rather, something that was meant for me. Here. Today!

At the time, I had been struggling in my spiritual life, and I was filled with a hope that this Savior came not only to save the whole world, but to save ME as well! Could it be true? Was there a Savior even for me, in all my feelings weakness and sin?

Have you ever felt like you were a lost soul? That you were not worth Saving? As I sang this song, and later listened to a recording of it (over and over, again) I felt the assurance of the Spirit to my heart and soul that the Savior did, indeed, come into the world for me. This assurance gave me hope, and with this hope, I was able to make some needed changes in the direction of my life.

Even today, it is still difficult for me sing this song without tearing up a bit (or a lot).

Baby, What You Goin' To Be is also a special song for my wife. Shortly after we were married, we found ourselves in the Murray (Utah) 23rd Ward. We sang this song as members of the ward choir.

We had a wonderful choir director, Sister Frances Vane. She was a professional musician, and was well known in local musical circles. She had an endearing way to make it incredibly fun to participate in a ward choir. Frances was in her mid-80's at that time. One day, I gave Dawn Ann a kiss after sacrament meeting as we separated for classes. Frances caught us in the act, and with twinkling eyes, a wagging finger, and a pretend scowl on her face said, "No kissing in the chapel!" Unfortunately, a few months after the Christmas season, Frances passed away. We really missed her. Even today, if I give my wife a kiss in the chapel, I have to look up to the heavens, and say, "Sorry Frances", with a smile on my face.

That Christmas, in Frances' ward choir, we rehearsed and sang Baby What You Goin' To Be. It so happened, that Dawn Ann was carrying our first child, Bryan during that Christmas Season. She was about 7 months along at the time.

Expecting a child herself, Dawn Ann found that she could identify more with Mary during that Christmas season, than ever before. She thought of the Love that Mary had for her son, and the knowledge she had that he would be the Savior of the World. Dawn Ann also wondered if Mary knew that to become the Savior, that one day he would have to be sacrificed as well. What would it be like for us to lose our only son?

As all new parents, we couldn't help but reflect on what our baby was goin' to be. Of course, she knew that our baby would not be the Savior of the World, but she was filled with the hope and wonderment that all new parents have as they consider the possibilities for their child. During that Christmas season, and during that song, we were filled with all of the hopes and dreams, and possibilities of what our child might one-day become. Once again, singing this song with dry eyes became difficult, if not impossible.

The words to this song, while wonderful, cannot reflect the depth of meaning it carries without the beautiful music composed by Natalie Sleeth. You can listen to a rendition of this song by the Tabernacle Choir by clicking the player below:

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Calling GF Handel . . . George, Are You There?

Now that the holiday season is in full-swing, I started reflecting on some of my favorite Christmas Music. For me, the music is one of the things that makes this season so special.

I would have to say that Handel's Messiah is my overall favorite piece of Christmas Music. I once got to be a part of a group (Choir and Orchestra) that performed the entire Messiah from beginning to end. I even have my own copy of the score! On other occasions, I have been privileged to sing selected choruses from the Messiah. Unlike my friend Woody, I've never been a soloist. (Hats off to Woody!)

The Reason Why the Messiah is my favorite piece of Christmas music is because of its sheer power to testify of the Divinity of the Son of God. I find this music to be powerfully inspiring, with the ability to uplift and give comfort. Normally the Messiah is thought of as music appropriate for the Christmas and Easter Seasons -- which in deed, it is.

For me The Messiah is much more than holiday music. The Messiah is also a spiritual 911 call.

When I am feeling burdened by life, or by my own mistakes, I can play this music and find inspiration. Through the music of the Messiah, I once again feel the hope that comes to us as we realize we have a Savior who loves us, in spite of ourselves, and is willing to take upon himself our burdens. In fact, he already has.

Because of the hope and inspiration this music brings to me, and to many others -- I'm quite sure that Handel received inspiration from above when he composed this music. He was also inspired as he attached words of scripture that truly testify of the reality, divinity, and the eventual triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In answer to my earlier question--George, Are you there? -- I can only say that I have the Messiah on CD, loaded into my computer, and even on my MP3 player. I can play the Messiah at almost anytime, and anywhere -- including right now!


It's a little on the chilly side here today!

We had a "commuter special" snowstorm come through the valley last evening. It started snowing at about 3:00 pm, and continued until about 9:00 pm. It took me 1 1/2 hours to get home, when a normal commute is about 25 minutes.

I decided to shovel/snowblow the walks and driveway last night so that I wouldn't have to do it in the morning. It was a good thing too! Last night it was about 20 degrees when I was out working on the driveway. We had about 8 inches of snow at our house. This morning, after the storm passed and the skies cleared, the temperatures dropped down to 7 degrees.

So I get here to work this morning, only to find that there is only 1-2 inches of snow here. There is something unfair about all of that! I guess it all depends on the whims of the "Lake Effect" from the Great Salt Lake.

Meanwhile, I think I'll see if I still have some hot chocolate mix here in my desk.