A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College Chapel, Cambridge 2008

If you would like to be part of a tradition dating back to 1918 and listen to some beautiful music as well, tune into “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” this morning (Christmas Eve, 2008) on the BBC. It is broadcast from the King’s College Chapel, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, and starts at 8:00 AM Mountain Standard Time. That’s 3:00 PM (15:00) in Great Britain. Cambridge, by the way, is 50 miles north of London.

To start listening, click here. For an outline of the program, go here. For a history of the service, click here. To see an image of the King’s College Chapel, go here.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ

These are notes from a lesson I gave on the Second Coming of Christ this past Sunday, December 7, 2008, in a meeting with youth. They outline the events roughly in the order they will appear, though this list is not comprehensive or complete. I was only able to give part of the lesson. A PDF of these notes is here.

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ

  • Apostasy. After the death of the apostles at the time of Christ, the Church fell away and the fulness of the gospel was lost. As Paul said of the Second Coming, “that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.) He also said that “after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you” (Acts 20:29-30), meaning those who would lead the Church astray through selfishness and wickedness.
  • Restoration of the Church, the Priesthood, Priesthood Keys, and Ordinances. As promised, there was a “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:19-21). In due season, the priesthood, keys, and ordinances, including temple ordinances, were restored to the earth between 1829 and 1842.
  • The Gathering of Israel—Missionary Work. Since 1830, hundreds of thousands of missionaries have been sent out to gather the elect into the Church, those who hear the Lord’s voice and do not harden their hearts. The Lord called it “the gathering of mine elect.” (D&C 29:7.)
  • Signs in the Heavens. Among other signs, the sun will refuse its shining, the moon will be turned into blood, and stars will fall from heaven. (Isaiah 13:10; D&C 133:49.)
  • Old Jerusalem Rebuilt, the New Jerusalem Built, and Temples Built and Restored. The old city of Jerusalem will be restored (Ether 13:5), the New Jerusalem will be built on the American continent (D&C 45:66), and temples will dot the earth—”We are living in the greatest era of temple building ever witnessed” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Nov. 1985, 54).
  • The Constitution Will Hang by a Thread. Joseph Smith, on July 19, 1840, is quoted as saying that the Constitution of the United States will be on the brink of ruin, but that also it will be born away from the verge of destruction. Others reported hearing the Prophet utter this prophecy, such as Eliza R. Snow, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Hyde, and Brigham Young.
  • Division of the Righteous and the Wicked. The righteous will be gathered at Zion, the New Jerusalem, all other peoples will be at war with one another, and will be afraid to come against the people of Zion. (D&C 45:63-75.)
  • Adam-ondi-Ahman. (Possible meaning, “Adam Before God.”) High priests and others of Adam’s righteous posterity will gather in the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman (D&C 116), previous to the Second Coming of Christ. It will be a gathering like the one that took place there three years previous to the death of Adam (D&C 107:53-57).
  • Battle of Armageddon. All nations will be gathered in a battle in the valley of Megiddo in Palestine for a great battle against the Jews in Israel and Jerusalem. (Joel 3; Zechariah 12; Revelation 16.)
  • Angels Fly in the Midst of Heaven and Announce the Coming of Christ and Other Events with Trumpets. Seven angels will announce events related to the coming of Christ. (D&C 88:92-106.) There will be a great sign in heaven (D&C 88:93), then silence for half an hour, then the face of the Lord will be unveiled (D&C 88:95).
  • The Second Coming of the Son of Man. A light will shine from the east to the west (Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:26), but people on the earth will think it is a comet or a planet (History of the Church, 5:337). Christ will descend—dressed in red (Isaiah 63:2; D&C 133:48)—with ten thousands of His saints (Jude 1:14), and the saints on earth, both the living and the dead, will be caught up to meet Him (1 Thessalonians 4:17; D&C 88:96-98; D&C 109:75). There will be a great earthquake as the Lord rests His foot upon the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:4; D&C 45:48). The mountain will split in two, and the people under siege in Jerusalem will escape through the pass or valley. The Jews will ask what are the wounds in His hands and His feet, and then weep and lament (Zechariah 13:6; D&C 45:51-53). The wicked will plead for the rocks to fall upon them (Hosea 10:8; Luke 23:30; Revelation 6:16), be destroyed, and the world will end.
  • A New Heaven and New Earth. After the thousand years, Satan will be loosed for a little season with his armies (D&C 29:22; D&C 88:111), and then will fight the saints once more in the battle of the Great God (D&C 88:114). Satan and his armies will be defeated by Michael (Adam) and his armies (D&C 88:115). Then the old earth will pass away and there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Ether 13:9; D&C 29:23-24). The earth will be a sea of glass and fire (D&C 77:1; D&C 130:7), a celestial kingdom to the worthy inhabitants of the earth, becoming a great Urim and Thummim to all who dwell on it (D&C 130:8-10).

Finishing the Book of Mormon

Yesterday, I ran into a couple from our ward while out shopping. I was thrilled to hear that they have been reading the Book of Mormon as a family this year and have only 10 chapters to go before they finish. It will be the first time that they have read the Book of Mormon completely through as a family. They also said—and I loved this!—that even though the kids didn’t “get” everything that they read together, they still benefited from the consistent habit of reading.

Well, that made my day hearing that a family took on one of our ward goals seriously. We have taken it on seriously in our home, too. It looks like we will actually finish reading the Book of Mormon this year (though we have to read Ether and Moroni to get there). I have to admit that we started reading the Book of Mormon as a family several years ago, and we are finally finishing this year. Woo hoo! It’s a long time coming and I can’t tell you how happy I am to get there.

I love the Book of Mormon. It is a gift from God, a treasure that I discovered when I was 17 years old. I have read it many times, and it becomes more and more powerful to me each time I read it. Not only have I read it in English, but also in German, French, and Spanish. I have also read a facsimile of the original 1830 edition.

The Book of Mormon has been a constant companion of my life since I joined the Church when I was a senior in high school. It is the book that saved me—from spiritual ignorance and serious self-doubt and confusion. It has been a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalms 119:105). Most of all, it is a magnificent witness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, of whom it testifies on nearly every page. It is an anchor to my soul.

I have read it once myself this year so far, and will also finish it again with my family by December 31. I am also part way through it on my own, in German once again. I am so proud of all of you who have read it this year, and to the rest: Parley P. Pratt read it in a day and we have three whole weeks left until the end of the year! You can do it! Don’t give up! Just keep reading, keep trying. God will bless you in your efforts, and you will never be sorry that you did it.

Fifth Sunday Family Home Evening Presentation

Here are the notes from our presentation on family home evening last Sunday afternoon. If you would like to download the notes in PDF, click here. (Both these versions have been corrected.)

Family Home Evening: What Works for Our Family
Fifth Sunday Presentation, November 30, 2008

Sister Fitzgerald

• We started holding family home evening as a newlywed couple to create a habit.
• We try to follow a weekly rotation: (1) service activity, (2) sharing from Church magazines, (3) game night, and (4) lesson.

Brother Hughes

• We start family night with calendaring. The kids feel important and recognized.
• Lessons need to be less boring!
• The kids love “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?”
• Important that our children hear our testimonies in the home.

Brother Swapp

• We put the children in charge of the entire home evening.
• They like to reteach what they learn in Primary.
• At the end of the lesson, we go around in a circle and tell what we like about each other. We don’t allow repeats, so the kids are anxious to go first.
• It is important to teach eternal principles in a peaceful setting rather than in the heat of the battle.

Brother and Sister Jackson

• Use a Lazy Susan from Wal-mart to show the rotation of duties.
• Conductor hat and train whistle for the person who conducts family home evening and gathers the family.
• Conductor passes out a small Primary songbook and baton to someone to lead the music, a prayer hand goes to the person giving the prayer. They pass around a smiley face ball for sharing good news, and a medal for those doing show-and-tell or sharing talents.
• Treats are always served on a silver tray.
• Have kept all lessons over the years in four file drawers.
• College kids come home and still want to participate. “If you keep doing it, when does it ever stop?” —Sister Jackson
• “FHE Plus. Fun, Have Everyone Participate, Positive.” —Brother Jackson

Brother Rogers

• We just always had it.
• Called the kids to see what they liked about it growing up.
• The kids like it and will push you, “Is it time for home evening, Dad?”
• Tailor make the activities to fit ages of children, meet the needs of the family.
• Very important to just spend time together.
• Treats were the highlight!

Brother Steen

• The best part of family night is after 8:30 pm, when the kids are in bed!
• (1) Spend time together as a family. (2) Get everyone involved.
• During a plan of salvation lesson, one of the children said, “I’m going to end up in the stars.” He realized that he wasn’t being nice to his brothers.

Brother Heiner

• One night a month all the children had personal interviews with Dad.
• Played a game where everyone closed their eyes and answered questions about a person, a room, etc. Taught the children to be very observant. Now they remember everything!
• Child sat on lap and got tickled if he or she got a wrong answer to a question.
• Neal Maxwell asked not if we had gone through the temple but if the temple had gone through us. We likewise can ask the same question about family home evening.

Bishop Fitzgerald

• We started having family night when we were first married and will continue to hold it as a couple after the children are gone from the home.
• Being regular and consistent will have a greater effect than you know.
• Bear testimony in the home regularly. Family night is a place to do that.
• It is important that your children hear your heartfelt feelings about them, the family, and the gospel. Nothing will draw them closer to you or the Church than hearing your honest, positive feelings, face to face.

A Season of Trials

I am aware that this Christmas season may feel a little different than seasons past. We have seen a sharp worldwide economic downturn in the last few months, resulting in the loss of jobs, a decline in income, and pervasive instability. Stress goes up along with our credit card balances, and our spirits go down when our prospects look gloomy. And when our reserves are low, tensions run high.

So why does Heavenly Father place us in situations that stress us so much? Why is it that when we are praying daily, studying our scriptures, attending our meetings, paying our tithing, living up to our duty, and being good neighbors, we aren’t protected from the slings and arrows of daily life?

Think about it this way: If we pray to never be tempted again, what will the answer be? If we plead for a stress-free life, what will we get? If we ask for all the comforts, ease, and rest that life could offer, what can we expect in return? Of course, the answer to these prayers will be No, No, and No!

No matter how distressing or uneasy we feel about it, this life is a test. The Lord can pose whatever question He wishes, or visit affliction on us whenever He desires (if we are not bringing it on ourselves). What could His purpose possibly be other than to turn us into better, wiser, stronger, and ultimately happier people?

There is, however, only one question that we really need to answer with our lives, when all is said and done: “Will I be faithful to the Lord, no matter what happens?”

If we answer Yes! with our hearts, head, and hands, we can be sure that there is no struggle we cannot overcome, no test we cannot pass, no season we cannot endure.

May we be grateful for the strength to face trials, and the wisdom to use that strength in His service this Christmas season.