I think it’s time to leave the past behind and start thinking about what’s before us in the coming year.
In answer to a recent comment on an earlier post, I do believe that a wife can contribute to her husband’s feelings of low self-esteem, more so than any other person. Very much so. And I do believe that her disdain or coldness towards her husband can open a door to temptation for him. However, there is a fundamental principle here that we cannot set aside. As Thomas S. Monson said at our last conference: “If we make the wrong choice, we have no one to blame but ourselves.”
To me this means that, even though we may blame our bad choices on others, no one is responsible for our choices except ourselves. Blaming others for our choices is a classic self-deception. In fact, when we nurture a blaming attitude, it opens us up to temptation and sin and is often the fuel behind bad choices. It is subtle, but it is real.
Most youth, for example, get caught up in a web of blame, usually of their parents, before they get caught in the web of sin. Blame of others is the doorway to rationalization of sin. The truth is, as Pres. Monson said, we cannot lay the responsibility for our choices at any other door but our own. When we rationalize that someone else has hurt us or ignored us or whatever, and then we sin as a result, we have allowed ourselves to be deceived.
We can’t blame another unless we first judge them. And we can’t judge them unless we disdain them. And we won’t disdain them unless we have first been blinded by pride. And we cannot be blinded by pride without first accepting a falsehood as true, without willfully taking pleasure in sin of some sort.
When pride is present, the Spirit is absent. And the Spirit will be absent only if we set aside faith and the truth in favor of some sort of self-deception or illicit gratification, which may be as simple as being defensive, telling a lie, however innocent, or intentionally misleading another to protect our egos.
This is the chain that I see most often leading up to the rationalization of sin. If you recognize the start of the chain, you will be more likely to avoid reaching the end of it.
If you choose to indulge in pornography because you blame another for mistreating you, you have allowed Satan to deceive you.
The first step to recovery, I believe, is looking at ourselves straight in the mirror and taking full responsibility for our actions.
But this does not mean that a wife does not need to repent of her poor behavior toward her husband. No. It just means that we cannot claim that such behaviors are or ever can be named as the cause of our sin.
As I mentioned yesterday in a post, we’ll be studying the New Testament this year in Sunday School. Here is a link to the online version of the New Testament Class Member Study Guide. The nice thing about the online version of this guide is that you can click on references to passages of scripture and read them on the spot.
We have wireless Internet at our Church. You can read scriptures online, for example, or install them locally on your electronic device. Some people bring their iPads and other devices to Church and can look at the scriptures (and this study guide) right during class on them. It’s kind of cool.
I think it is an exciting development that we have so many electronic resources from the Church, literally at our fingertips. But I am still a little on the old-fashioned side and like bringing my scriptures to Church. You know, the kind printed on actual paper. With leather bindings. I am just that way, you know.
Sometimes I think electronica can be deliriously distracting, especially to our youth. For example, one might appear to be looking up a verse from Isaiah on her smart phone, but what she is actually doing is texting her friend across the room. It’s the modern version of passing notes in class, only sneakier!
But, well, er, if I save money and get an iPad, don’t be surprised if I lay aside my old-fashioned ways and tote something shiny and new to Church.
Have a blessed day.
Last Sunday, two sons and their father sang “The Wintry Day, Descending to Its Close” during our sacrament meeting. They were accompanied by their mother on the piano and a cousin who played an obligato on the flute.
The lyrics were written by Orson F. Whitney with music by Edward P. Kimball. Elder Whitney was an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1906 until his death 1931 at the age of 75. Brother Kimball was an organist for the Tabernacle Choir for many years
The song has sunk deep into my heart. I keep thinking of the words again and again, and the tune runs through my mind like an unforgettable voice from the past.
Here are the words, if you would like to read them:
The wintry day, descending to its close,
Invites all wearied nature to repose,
And shades of night are falling dense and fast
Like sable curtains closing o’er the past.
Pale through the gloom the newly fallen snow
Wraps in a shroud the silent earth below
As though ’twere mercy’s hand had spread the pall,
A symbol of forgiveness unto all.
I cannot go to rest but linger still
In meditation at my window sill,
While, like the twinkling stars in heaven’s dome,
Come one by one sweet memories of home.
And wouldst thou ask me where my fancy roves
To reproduce the happy scenes it loves?
Where hope and memory together dwell
And paint the pictured beauties that I tell?
Away beyond the prairies of the West
Where exiled Saints in solitude were blest;
Where industry the seal of wealth has set
Amid the peaceful vales of Deseret,
Unheeding still the fiercest blasts that blow,
With tops encrusted by eternal snow,
The towering peaks that shield the tender sod,
Stand, types of freedom reared by nature’s God.
The wilderness, that naught before would yield,
Is now become a fertile, fruitful field.
Where roamed at will the savage Indian band,
The templed cities of the Saints now stand.
And sweet religion in its purity
Invites all men to its security.
This is my home, the spot I love so well,
Whose worth and beauty pen nor tongue can tell.
Recently I discovered a free audio download for the James Talmage classic Jesus the Christ. With our study of the New Testament in Sunday School this year, this would be a great addition to your MP3 player.
To download individual chapters, click on this link. To download an MP3 from this page, right click on the name of the chapter you want to download, and then select Save Link As. Then choose the place on your computer, such as a the desktop or a folder, where you want to save the MP3
To download the entire book at once (zip file), click on this link.
One of my all-time favorite novels is Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. I have read this book many times. I just finished reading it again yesterday, Christmas afternoon.
Most of you are familiar with the story of the miserly, taciturn Ebeneezer Scrooge and his disdain for Christmas. He remains in his determined ardor until after an encounter with his business partner Jacob Marley, seven years dead, and the three spirits that haunt him into an ever clearer view of his life—the consequences of his choices and the destiny those choices might lead him to if he does not change his ways.
On our first Christmas after we were married, I received an edition of A Christmas Carol from my father that I have always loved. It is illustrated with photographs of richly detailed caricatures of scenes from the story. The caricatures were created by Peter Fluck and Roger Law.
There is probably nothing I enjoy more in literature or on film than watching a person change for the better. This is a common theme. Little else touches our hearts more than seeing a grumpy curmudgeon transformed to a repentant, humble lighthearted soul.
Isn’t that the hope of Christmas: The power to change for the better?
The first year I taught seminary, I struggled. I remember the last day we met that year—1984. It was just before the Christmas break. I was desperate. I wanted to get the kids’ attention. I wanted to leave them on a happy, hopeful note.
It came to me what to do. That morning I read to them from the last chapter (Stave Five) of A Christmas Carol. I was amazed as the whole class sat quietly in rapt attention.
When Scrooge awakes after seeing his name carved on a headstone, he undergoes a “mighty change of heart” (Mosiah 5:2). He hoops and hollers and dances about his bedchamber. He knows he’s been given another chance, and he is ebullient with gratitude and generosity.
He buys a prize turkey for the Cratchit’s and sends it to them by cab. He walks the streets of London, greeting all warmly. He goes to church. He finally goes to dinner at the home of his nephew Fred, stunning incredulous inmates and guests.
The story ends the next morning when Scrooge plays a hearty joke on his clerk Bob Cratchit. I repeat it here:
“He was early at the office next morning. Oh, he was early there. If he could only be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late! That was the thing he had set his heart upon. And he did it; yes, he did! The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him come into the Tank.
“His hat was off, before he opened the door; his comforter too. He was on his stool in a jiffy, driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o’clock.
“‘Hallo!’ growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. ‘What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?’
“‘I am very sorry, sir,’ said Bob. ‘I am behind my time.’
“‘You are!’ repeated Scrooge. ‘Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.’
“‘It’s only once a year, sir,’ pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. ‘It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.’
“‘Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,’ said Scrooge, ‘I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,’ he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; ‘and therefore I am about to raise your salary!’
“Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.
“‘A merry Christmas, Bob!’ said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’
“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world…and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
“May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
So a Merry Christmas to all of you. I can keep it as well the day after Christmas, as well as Scrooge himself. God bless us all to do so, every one of us!
Be part of a tradition dating back to 1918 and hear some beautiful music as well by tuning into “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” tomorrow morning (Christmas Eve, 2010).
It is broadcast over the BBC (American Public Radio) 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.
The broadcast originates from an ancient venue. Construction on the chapel, which is 50 miles north of London, began in AD 1446.
You can listen to the broadcast live on Classical 89 radio (FM 89.1 in Salt Lake County and 89.1/89.5 in Utah County) or you can listen to streaming audio over the Internet on the BBC Radio 4 or Classical 89.
Here is the order of the 90-minute service. The actual carols or hymns performed may vary somewhat from the program below. A new hymn—one has been commissioned annually since 1982—will be added to the program.
A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols
Processional Hymn: “Once in Royal David’s City”
- Carol: “If Ye Would Hear the Angels Sing”
First Lesson from Genesis 3:8–15, 17–19
- Carol: “Remember, O Thou Man”
- Carol: “Adam lay ybounden”
Second Lesson from Genesis 22:15–18
- Carol: “Angels from the Realms of Glory”
- Carol: “In Dulci Jubilo”
Third Lesson from Isaiah 9:2, 6–7
- Carol: “Nowell Sing We Now All and Some”
- Hymn: “Unto Us is Born a Son”
Fourth Lesson from Isaiah 11:1–3a, 4a, 6–9
- Carol: “The Lamb”
- Carol: “A Spotless Rose Is Blowing”
Fifth Lesson from the Gospel of Luke 1:26–35, 38
- Carol: “I Sing of a Maiden”
- Carol: “The Night when She First Gave Birth” (“Mary”)
Sixth Lesson from Luke 2:1, 3–7
- Carol: “Sweet Baby, Sleep! What Ails My Dear?” (“Wither’s Rocking Hymn)”
- Carol: “What Sweeter Music Can We Bring”
Seventh Lesson from Luke 2:8–16
- Carol: “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly”
- Hymn: “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen”
Eighth Lesson from the Gospel of Matthew 2:1–12
- Carol: “Illuminare Jerusalem”
- Carol: “Glory, Alleluia to the Christ Child”
Ninth Lesson from the Gospel of John 1: 1–14
- Hymn: “O Come, All Ye Faithful” (“Adeste Fideles”)
- Hymn: “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
Organ Voluntaries: “In Dulci Jubilo”
I love traditional English choir music and look forward to tuning in. I hope you enjoy the program as well.