Christmas

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Mormon Missionaries Soul Pancake
YouTube screenshot from Soul Pancake channel

A YouTube channel widely known for their Kid President videos, Soul Pancake, set up a piano on a street corner and put some holiday sheet music on it to see who might show up and play something. They got plenty of people to come play and sing. What we didn’t expect was to find two LDS missionaries with name tags on the video playing Christmas songs!

We all love a Mormon featured on the news or in a large publication so it was fun to see Soul Pancake’s video with our two elders playing their little Christmas hearts out.

Here is what they said in their description:

We put a piano on a street corner with holiday sheet music, and waited to see what would happen. The result: some incredible moments of holiday cheer as strangers played music and sang together. This holiday season, we invite everyone to treat your fellow people with kindness, because you never know who you might end up coraling with next to the Holiday Pop-Up Piano 😉
Happy Holidays! Love, SoulPancake

Here is the video:

Thomas S Monson Christmas
via lds.org

Which Christmas memories hold the dearest place in your heart? For President Thomas S. Monson, the Christmas of 1951 made an indelible impression upon him that will last forever. After all, it’s not often that you have the chance to help save Christmas – and that’s just what he did. President Monson shared the following story:

“On a cold winter’s night in 1951 there was a knock at my door, and a German brother from Ogden, Utah, announced himself and said, “Are you Bishop Monson?” I answered in the affirmative. He began to weep and said, “My brother and his wife and family are coming here from Germany. They are going to live in your ward. Will you come with us to see the apartment we have rented for them?” On the way to the apartment, he told me he had not seen his brother for many years.

I looked at the apartment. It was cold and dreary. The paint was peeling, the wallpaper soiled, the cupboards empty. A forty-watt bulb hanging from the living room ceiling revealed a linoleum floor covering with a large hole in the center. I was heartsick. I thought, “What a dismal welcome for a family which has endured so much.”

READ FULL STORY on I Love the Book of Mormon.

Of the 419 missions (as of March 19, 2016) in the world, some are very expensive, some are very cold, some hot, some humid, some dry.

But some are just plain DIRTY.

This list is by no means comprehensive and doesn’t mean that there are unsanitary conditions even in some of the mission apartments in Provo, Utah. Ahem…P-day cleaning! However, we wanted to come up with a list to help missionaries who are preparing to serve in some of the least sanitary countries so that they can know what to look out for and how they might avoid getting sick.

If an elder shakes hands with 20 people per day (on average) and has a 23 months in the mission field (after their time in the MTC), they have shaken hands with 13,800 people by the time their mission ends. For sisters thats 10,200! That’s a lot of hands! We don’t want to make moms nervous or anyone nervous for that matter, but there are things you can do to make sure you are keeping yourself healthy during your mission. But first, here are the missions in the countries with the least overall sanitation:

The Least Sanitary Mission Countries

  1. Brazil (There are 34 Missions)
    • I listed Brazil as #1 because not because there are 39 million people without proper sanitation, but because there are 34 missions. That’s more missions than any other country other than the US (124 missions) and Mexico (tied at 34), but both the US and Mexico have much better sanitation than Brazil.
  2. India Banaglore and India New Delhi Missions
    • 818 million people in India don’t have access to a toilet connected to a septic tank. That’s a lot of squatters. Toilet paper? I don’t think so. And without a toilet are there places to wash hands?
  3. The 6 Nigerian missions (Benin City, Calabar, Enugu, Lagos, Owerri and Port Harcourt)
    • 103 million people in Nigeria don’t have access to proper sanitation
  4. Indonesia Jakarta Mission
    • 109 million people lack access to sanitation in Indonesia
  5. Vietnam Hanoi Mission
    • 22 Million don’t have access to proper sanitation in Vietnam
  6. All the Philippines Missions (There are 21)
    • 22 Million don’t have access to proper sanitation in the Philippines
  7. Democratic Republic of Congo (3 Missions)
    • 50 Million don’t have access to proper sanitation in DR Congo
  8. Ghana (4 Missions)
    • 20 million in Ghana don’t have access to proper sanitation
  9. Kenya Nairobi Mission
    • 27 Million in Kenya don’t have access to proper sanitation

This information came from takepart.com (see the infographic at the bottom of the article).

What can you do to stay healthy in these missions?

  1. Keep your hands clean with HAND SANITIZER.
    • PureBioGuard is the best hand sanitizer we have found. In countries where running water is not clean or is not available, hand sanitizer is absolutely key. PureBioGuard is way inexpensive and one pack can last an entire mission (per missionary). You can read more about it here. With just one use, it is engineered to keep your hands clean all day long no matter how many hands you shake and even if you wash your hands. PureBioGuard is alcohol-free, Triclosan-free, non-toxic, and completely safe for kids, pets, and the environment. It will last 12+ hours and has been proven to maintain effectiveness through up to 10 hand-washings! It will then shed naturally as the skin regenerates a new layer. This brand is actually used by many missions around the world already who buy it in bulk (but is not officially endorsed by the Church).
  2. Just say NO to meals that are not sanitary.
    • Be kind to members who cook, but if it comes down to it, it really is okay to say no to a meal that you know was not prepared with properly sanitized hands or in a sanitized home. This can be very difficult because you don’t want to offend the members or investigators. However, remember that over 10,000 hours of proselyting time were lost in just 4 months (according to one study from the BYU department of health sciences) because of illness/injury. Prayer does work, but God expects us to be as wise as serpents so we shouldn’t eat food that we know is not clean.
  3. Keep YOUR apartment clean.
    • Even in these countries, mission presidents do all they can to find apartments that are in good places and that have access to sanitation. Take advantage of that! You don’t have to live like the people to come to love the people. Yes, the Lord will bless you, but you need to do all you can to be part of the answer to your parents’ prayers to keep you safe and healthy. Do your laundry, shower, keep the mission rules about hygiene.
  4. Exercise!
    • Obedience. Yes. It works. If you take the time to exercise each day, your immune system will be much more prepared to fight off anything you do pick up while shaking hands or using a random bathroom while in a pinch in your area.
  5. Pray
    • Yes, please keep asking for help to stay healthy and strong. You are being prayed for in every temple around the world. You are being prayed for in your family’s and friend’s and ward’s prayers. Add your prayers to theirs.

Elders and sisters, please, be wise. The Lord needs you to be healthy and strong and you can do your part by staying clean. We hope this helped you.

Top Countries Without Sanitation
Via: TakePart.com

Infographic and information from Takepart.

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While her parents and siblings lived in the bush of Malawi, this 21-year-old girl grew up alone with her uncle in the city. When she met the missionaries she spoke broken English and couldn’t attempt to read a full verse in the Book of Mormon.

She spent her days washing, cleaning, cooking, and going to market for her uncle. She joined the Church, still with little knowledge but a great desire to grow in truth.

Ever since her baptism she worked with the missionaries multiple times a week, improving her English but not helping her living conditions. On Christmas day we went to visit her in her concrete house that seemed to be sagging in the rain. As we handed her a small gift, she was overcome, holding in her hands the only present she had received for Christmas.

Tears filled my eyes, thinking of the package I had just opened that morning from my family, filled with such a generous offering.

What a heart-changing season Christmas time is. This is a season when hearts and hands are opened to one another in love. Something in the very air we breathe influences each of us to become a little more forgiving, a little more generous, and a little more compassionate to the needy.

Many families take the time to serve in their communities and some even donate money or goods to humanitarian efforts. As we bustle around town picking up last minute gifts and musing about how people will react to our best-laid plans, our hearts naturally feel a greater sense of gratitude for the blessings we’ve received and feel in greater debt to the Lord for all that He has given us. Both our literal and emotional houses are decorated with lovely things.

Amidst the quintessential joy of Christmas our hearts can also ache for those that will not experience such a privileged Christmas as we will. Tremendous pangs of guilt sweep over me at times, knowing so vividly how others are living while I am experiencing relative pomp and circumstance. At least, that was once my perspective. My Christmas last year in Africa changed my outlook.

To read the full article on Meridian Magazine, click here

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Christmas on the mission

Christmas was fast approaching, we could feel it in the air as we walked down Ohio St in Bangor Maine. It had been snowing, and it was cold outside, but we were excited for Christmas! My companion would be finishing his mission just 2 weeks after Christmas, and this would be my first in the mission field.

I knew this Christmas was going to be different, I was 2,000 miles away from my family, it would be my first Christmas where I did not see them. But some things would be the same, like watching  the First Presidency Christmas devotional! That year a part of it stood out.

“Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done, nor is it found in the purchasing of gifts. We find real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season. We can keep Him in our thoughts and in our lives as we go about the work He would have us perform here on earth. At this time, particularly, let us follow His example as we love and serve our fellow man. A segment of our society desperately yearning for an expression of love is found among those growing older, and particularly when they suffer from pangs of loneliness. The chill wind of dying hopes and vanished dreams whistles through the ranks of the elderly and those who approach the declining side of the summit of life.” ~President Thomas S. Monson

As the days before Christmas grew ever fewer, we looked at our schedule… Christmas Day was empty. We thought the members must’ve just thought we were already booked! So we mentioned it to the Bishop before church. In Sacrament meeting, he announced that no one had invited the missionaries over for Christmas, he told the members that he would be traveling out of town for Christmas, but he pleaded with the members to please invite the missionaries over so they’re not alone.

We thought this will do the trick, we will have at least half a dozen invites now. At the end of Church, we eagerly collected the calendar from the Relief Society President… No one had signed up for Christmas Day, it was completely empty. Depressed and rejected we left the church, it felt like no one wanted us. I thought this is going to be the worse Christmas I’ve ever had.

Tuesday morning did not feel like Christmas, we somberly opened our Christmas packages from our families, and then exchanged gifts for each other. We held our studies, and then thought, what are we going to do? No one wants us. As we looked at our planners we realized, it’s Tuesday, we normally go to the senior center every Tuesday, let’s go today! We then remembered the words of the Prophet not to forget the elderly!

As we walked the icy road over to the senior center, the phone rang it was our Zone Leaders, they asked how Christmas was going? We explained our situation, they listened in shock that no one invited us over. We arrived at the senior center and told them we had to go.

As we walked into the senior center the lady who ran the center came up to us in disbelief and said. “What are you doing here?” We explained that it was Tuesday, and we always come over on Tuesdays. She then looked at us and said. “But it’s Christmas!” To which we replied “The Prophet told us not to forget the Elderly this Christmas.” She started to tear up and invited us in to have Christmas Lunch with the seniors.

Lunch was delicious, everyone kept asking us why we were there on Christmas? We would explain who and what the Prophet was, and that he told us not to forget the elderly. After lunch we helped out with a small activity, at the end we looked at all the senior citizens, they eagerly looked at us almost to ask if we were staying, I looked at the schedule, and there was nothing for the next few hours, I asked the lady who was in charge and she replied “Today is rather slim on activities, we try to let the staff have Christmas off to be with their families, and most of our residents leave today to spend time with their family, or their family comes here. The only ones left are those who don’t have anyone..”

The words struck me, at that point I talked with my companion and we decided that we would stay with them, they would have “someone” today. Right then the Zone Leaders called us, they were excited. They said. “We told the member who is feeding us Christmas dinner that you had nowhere to go, they told us you could join us! It starts in less than an hour, we need to come get you ASAP” I looked at my companion and we said. “Thanks, but we’re going to stay at the senior center” dumbfounded it took them a second to reply back “Are you sure?”, “Yes, we want to send Christmas here”.

After we hung up the phone we came back into the room where everyone was waiting with eager eyes, one of the ladies asked “Are you leaving?” we replied “No, we’re here to spend Christmas with you” They smiled. We decided to sing Christmas carols. I’ve never seen so much energy in a room full of old people, they were singing along, many of them had tears in their eyes, and even some of the families who were visiting their grandparents had come into the room to listen, the Spirit was strong. When we finished they thanked us for making Christmas for them. But in reality, they made Christmas for us.

As we walked home to our apartment we had learned the true meaning of Christmas. We learned “If you serve like He did you will find Him. When you find Him, you find the true meaning of Christmas.”

 

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Jesus, the ultimate example of emotional self-control and the Creator of our world, was troubled and yes, he even wept. Jesus loved deeply. He knew that to truly love meant being vulnerable to having his heart shattered with pain, and yet he truly loved anyway. The news of Lazarus’ death caused Jesus’ heart to be troubled to the point of weeping. Even though this part of the story is the sad part, it has brought me comfort because it reminds me of the one thing I have in common with Jesus: our humanity.

Humanity brings with it what I like to call the bittersweet paradox of joy. If you have never felt this joy, you will if you are human. It is the feeling of happiness, despite the pain. The hope along side the despair. The shimmer of light within the tragedy. The optimism of a terminal cancer patient. Mother Teresa’s Kaligat Home for the Dying. Jesus coming only after the death of Lazarus.

This week my dear cousin Whitney Jensen and her husband Jayson experienced deeply this paradox of joy. Whitney was young and full of life. She was a fourth grade teacher who was blossoming in her new married life with her sweetheart and returned missionary Jayson Jensen. They were madly in love and were both watching the beauty of life unfold for them. Whitney was one of the most Christlike, kind and optimistic people I knew, as shown in this Facebook post:

Whitney last post

This was the last thing she ever posted.

Heavenly Father chose to take her home from what seemed to be a hopeful beginning of a beautiful new family. This would be shocking during any time of year, but it was especially shocking at Christmas time. I don’t think I’ll ever know in this life why this happened to them at this very time. What I do know, however, is that because of her death, thousands of people have been lifted and inspired by her life. The bittersweet paradox of joy.

Whitney on her wedding day (May 30, 2013)
Whitney on her wedding day (May 30, 2013)

I sat at her funeral on Monday and looked back to see the entire chapel overflowing with many people standing. So many who came to support and lift Jayson and Whitney’s family were lifted themselves by the optimism and hope of the family, who lost their dear Whitney at Christmastime.

(read the details of her passing below in her husband’s post)

A different manger scene
A different manger scene, Jesus was at this manger too

Her burial was Tuesday and as we stood outside in the snow, we sang hymns and Christmas songs. It somewhat reminded me of a manger scene and it made me think: this is what Christmas is all about. The joy we feel amidst the pain. It is a paradox to me, but it is what God intended us to experience. He is a God who weeps when we weep and who feels joy when we rejoice. If we are to become like He is, we must experience the paradox of joy. In the classic Christmas story we all read in Luke 2 every Christmas, Simeon tells Mary of this paradox when she brings the Infant Jesus to the temple:

“Behold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel…yeah a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also…”

Like Mary, we will all be pierced by this sword, but the pain will be swallowed up in joy. Jesus did weep at Lazarus’ death, but don’t forget that Lazarus came forth from the grave. Jesus’ promise to Martha is a promise to us all: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

***Author’s note: Please Click here to support Jayson and his family at this time of loss. And read the full touching story from her husband below. If you haven’t given yet this year, please consider giving to this fund for Jayson and his family to recover after this tragic loss. 

From Jayson Jensen, husband of Whitney:

On my birthday last month, my wife woke me up to the most exciting news of my life. After more than two years of trying, we found out that my Whitney was finally pregnant. The following month was one of most spiritually strengthening of my life. Despite the craziness of life, I felt like the most blessed person alive.

At the beginning of this month, however, we found out that this tiny blessing would be leaving us to be with our Heavenly Father. This was the most difficult news I could have received at that time. People kept saying “This is a blessing” and “Your child is too perfect for this world”. I believed what they were saying, but nothing they said could comfort me or bring that child back.

Just when I thought our sorrow was over, after what we thought was a clean miscarriage, Whitney began to complain about pain. Small, sharp pains soon became intense. I rushed my princess into the emergency room. They began to operate on Whitney and discovered that she was septic.

The doctors removed as much of the infection fluid as they could. In her hospital room, she began receiving lots of pain medication and antibiotics. Her condition worsened, she was moved to the ICU, and her organs began to slowly shut down. Over the next few hours, her heart and breathing would stop several times. I kept hoping and praying that her condition would improve.

During this time, I kept picturing a future in which Whitney would feel better. I just kept hoping that the pain would go away. This blessing came very differently than expected. My pretty princess passed away on the morning of December 17, 2015. She was finally free from all her pain.

This past month, I have lost more than any person should ever have to lose. I love her. I will always love her. I miss her so much, and I can only imagine the emotional pain she is feeling having lost all her friends and family members.

Despite how I am feeling right now, deep down I know that I haven’t really lost her. Almost two and a half years ago, we were sealed to one another in the Salt Lake Temple.

I love all of our family members and friends. So many have reached out to us at this time. I will never be able to thank everyone for their love, support, and the outpouring of blessings at this time.  Know that your words have strengthened and uplifted me at this time, and I’m sure Whitney too.

I keep hoping to just hold her one last time in my arms. I will forever await that day. If there is a relationship that needs to be repaired, fix it. No offense is worth the pain. You will never regret the kind words you say. If you have anyone close to you, hug them and let them know that you love them like it’s the last chance you’ll get.

Whitney and Jayson are the middle couple
Whitney and Jayson are the middle couple

Click here to support Jayson and his family.

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Image via SheTraveled

It’s easy for a sister missionary to get homesick around the holidays. Not only do you get to hear your family’s voices on Christmas–and see their faces if your mission president allows video conferencing–but this time of year is filled with special family traditions that you’ll probably be missing out on when you’re away from home.

I served my mission in Japan where only 1% of the population identifies as Christian, which had its ups and downs around Christmastime. Celebrations of the Savior’s birth outside of our church building were rare, so it was harder to join in on many of the Christmas traditions I was used to. (For example, rather than opening presents, my companion and I spent Christmas morning handing out flyers at a busy train station because everyone was heading to work like any other day.) However, serving my mission in a predominantly non-Christian country gave me many opportunities to teach the people why they saw Christmas lights go up in all the local stores and why holiday celebrations were such a big deal on American movies and TV.

I found that the best way to avoid homesickness during this festive season was to bring my own Christmas traditions to the mission field.

To see the full article at SheTraveled, click here

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If you’re anything like me, your Facebook feed is probably brimming with Christmas music videos. And, that’s one of the things I look forward to the most this wonderful season–the cheerful and uplifting music we get to listen to only this one time during the year. After all, as the popular movie Elf states, “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

But, between parties and presents and family and friends, who has time to sift through and listen to all of it? So, in order to help you a little this season, we’ve compiled a list of our top eight Christmas music videos, many of which were shared during the Church’s “12 Days of Social.” Take a listen!

1. David Archuleta & Nathan Pacheco, “The Prayer”

2.  BYU Vocal Point & Noteworthy, “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful”

To see the rest of the list on LDSLiving, click here.

via lds.net

A few stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah County are hosting a Christmas campaign in which they need the help of all returned missionaries, young and old.

The campaign, My Mission Christmas, is a mission reunion of sorts, where all who have served are invited to take part. Robert Walz, head of the committee that developed the campaign, explained that participants are asked to share a Christmas memory from their mission on social media, hopefully with a picture, and tag the post with #MyMissionChristmas.

MISSIONREUNION

With the goal of spreading the message of Christ’s birth through the campaign, Durfee explained that the hope is for returned missionaries to share a personal message from the time in their lives when every day was focused on teaching people about the Savior. He hopes that the message returned missionaries choose to share will help others see how the Latter-day Saint faith is different from so many others.

To read the full article on LDS.net, click here

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via lds.org

1.  Study Scriptures About Christ

The best way to keep Christ in Christmas is to go to the source, the scriptures, and learn about Christ: his birth, life, death, and teachings. Studying the life of Jesus Christ, especially on a daily basis, will bring Christ into your life, especially at Christmas time.

Improve your study of the word of Godwith these scripture study techniques.

2.  Keep a Christmas Journal

A simple, yet effective way to focus your thoughts upon Christ during Christmas is to keep a journal and write your thoughts about Him in it. All you need is a little notebook and a pen/pencil to get you started. Write down what you’re thankful for, how you feel, and what hopes you have for the Christmas season. Write about past experiences, including those at Christmas time, and how you’ve seen the hand of God in your life. Share those Christmas traditions that remind you of Christ.

Putting your thoughts to paper is a powerful way to change the focus of your thoughts, and having a Christmas journal will help you keep Christ in Christmas.

3.  Focus Decorations on Christ

Decorate your home with pictures of Christ, from both His birth and life. You can put up decorations that feature the birth of Christ including a nativity scene and Christmas advent calendar. Be creative as you decorate for the holiday. Hang up words and sayings about Christ and Christmas such as, “Christ – The Reason for the Season” and “Christ = Christmas.” If you can’t find Christ centered decorations you can make your own.

To read the full article, click here