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Sunday, November 30, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Our Savior Came: A Poem with a Powerful Christmas Message for All

As promised, here is the Christmas-themed message I made reference to in my last post. Many years ago, I was reading our copy of the December Ward Newsletter. The message featured a poem penned by Lou Pinter. It is a poem with a powerful message. I share it in the hopes that it will help us all remember the true meaning of Christmas.





‘Twas the Night Before the Savior Came

‘Twas the night before Our Savior came and all through the house,
Not a person was praying, not one in the house.
Their scriptures were lain on the shelf without care,
Thinking Our Savior would not come there.
 And Mom in her rocker with baby on her lap
Was watching the late show, while I took a nap.
Where out of the East there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But angels proclaiming that our Savior was here!
With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray,
I knew in a moment it must be the day!
The beauty of His face made me cover my head,
It was Our Savior returning just like he said....
 And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,
I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.
In the Book of Life which He held in His hand,
Was written the names of every saved man.
He spoke not a word, as He searched for my name.
Then He said, “It’s not here.” My head hung in shame.
The people whose names had been written with love,
He gathered to take to His father above.
With those who were read, He rose without a sound,
While all the rest were left standing around.
I fell to my knees, but it was too late.
I had waited too long and thus sealed my fate.
I stood and cried as they rose out of sight,
“Oh, if only I’d been ready tonight.”
In the words of this poem, the meaning is clear,
The coming of Our Savior is drawing near.
There is only one life and when comes the last call,
We will find that the scriptures were true, after all....
 
I hope that during the hustle and bustle of the season, we will not forget that without Christ, there is no Christmas. It is my hope and prayer that we may selflessly give and joyfully receive this Christmas. I also hope and pray that we may be prepared for His Second Coming, for He will come again. I know this is true with all my heart, and I share this witness and this post with you in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Big news from Church Headquarters/Important Events in Church History and Family this month/General Update

I am blogging today for three main reasons: the first is to share some big news from Church headquarters, the second is to share important events that will be happening in Church history this month, and the final reason is to give a general update of our situation since last week when I last posted. Hang on to your hats! This will be a wild ride!

The Church announced that on December 3rd and 4th, it will be sending out newsletters to all who have an LDS account. "The content is a message from the First Presidency and two messages concerning the holiday season," according to the news release on lds.org. The First Presidency writes, "We are pleased to announce this new Church email newsletter that we will regularly publish and share with members throughout the world. This newsletter is part of our effort to find more effective ways to communicate with our growing global membership in order to share timely and valuable messages that can strengthen our love for Jesus Christ, for our families, and for those around us.” There will be options to unsubscribe to these e-mails, but I doubt many will want to do so. All members need to ascertain that their e-mail as listed on their LDS account is accurate in order to receive the newsletters, which will be initially translated into 10 languages.

Elder Anthony D. Perkins of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who apparently has some involvement in this project, said, "In a world where communication channels are so numerous and fragmented, delivering a message that does not become distorted along the way is increasingly difficult. The Church has a unique advantage in that millions of faithful members have entrusted their email address to us. We feel the time has come to utilize these personal email addresses to improve the effectiveness of our communications to Church members."


E-mails will be part of the "News and Inspiration" subscription. The first e-mail will contain a welcome and introduction by the First Presidency which will serve as a greeting and explain the purpose for this and future e-mails. The e-mail will also focus on the Church's Christmas theme, "He Is The Gift." The e-mail will finally detail information about the upcoming Christmas Devotional on December 7.


Elder Perkins concluded: "One purpose of email newsletters is to assist members in becoming aware of Church resources that will strengthen their faith in Christ, bless their families, and help them serve in the community. We plan that over time members will have a few more specific choices in newsletters they would like to receive. But this email channel could also be used to notify members during emergency situations or for matters of urgent importance to the First Presidency or the Twelve."

This is an exciting new development in Church History. I for one can't wait for the Church newsletters. It will be interesting to see how such newsletters help to bring the leading brethren at Church headquarters closer to the people. I urge all who are interested to update their e-mail addresses in their online profile on lds.org. If you are unsure how to do so, your ward should have a technology specialist that can assist you in doing so.

That was the major thing I wanted to focus on in this blog post. But I also wanted to bring my readers up-to-date on a few other Church History events that are happening in December. Elder Holland will turn 74 on December 3. This may come as a surprise to some. He certainly doesn't look 74. Hopefully he will be with us for at least another 20 years. He may even live to be President of the Church one day, but please don't quote me on that. It's just a personal opinion. Again, speaking personally, I would love it if President Monson lived to break President Gordon B. Hinckley's record of being the oldest living prophet. That will happen on March 26, 2025. In the meantime, this December is significant also because of the fact that on December 9, President Monson will overtake President Howard W. Hunter to become the 9th oldest prophet in the Church's history. Also in the realm of exciting developments, though a site has not been officially announced for the Tucson Arizona Temple, a potential site has been identified, and the webmaster of ldschurchtemples.com projects that the Tucson Arizona temple will have a groundbreaking ceremony sometime in 2015. This means it has moved up considerably in the list of announced temples, since several other temples that do have a site announced do not have a potential groundbreaking time frame yet. These all stack up to make December an exciting month for Church History events.

No less significant to me are the important events that will take place in my family this month. Amy's dad, Gene Nuttall, celebrates his 74th birthday on December 8. Happy Birthday, Dad Nuttall! On December 14, my mom will become 59. I wish to express my love and appreciation to her for all she's done to support and encourage me over the years. Two days later, I will mark my 28th birthday. I'm getting older by the minute! And two days after that will commemorate 4 wonderful years since I knelt across the altar from my beloved Amy and heard those wonderful words that bound us together for eternity. These last four years have been wonderful. While our circumstances haven't always been ideal, we have always had each other, and that means a lot. I love you, sweetheart, now and forever!

On December 25, we celebrate Christmas. Either right after posting this post or sometime this week, I will post something specifically Christmas related, but for now, I just want to express my gratitude for the season, and more than that, the reason for the season. Without the birth in Bethlehem, there would be no garden of Gethsemane or cross of Calvary, and I would have reason to despair because of the weight of my transgressions. But because of Him, I will be redeemed from my transgressions and shortcomings and will triumph over all my trials. Because of Him, I have great reason to rejoice.

Life goes on. My work week went very smoothly. Thanksgiving Day, we spent the afternoon with Amy's family, came home and rested, then saw my parents and brother and sister-in-law that night. It was a great holiday that went by far too quickly. The next day, when I presented a list of my upcoming appointments to my supervisor at work, he noticed I mentioned a couple that were for Amy. He asked how long I had been married. I told him it would be four years on December 18. He asked if I had any plans for the anniversary. I told him I would probably be working on that day. He surprised me by saying that I should seriously consider taking that day off to be with my wife and said that he would have no problem whatsoever making the necessary arrangements for me and approving the request for time off. So I am considering it. It would be lovely to spend the day of our anniversary with Amy, especially as we have not always had that opportunity, but at the same time, I don't know what Kelly Services would say about my taking time off for that, as they would be approving the time off in addition to my getting approval from ROI Solutions. So we'll have to think about it and pray about it.

Got my third check from Kelly Services on Friday. Even with taking time off for breaks and lunch, and the time I took off for the appointment with Dr. Green, I worked 35.75 hours during the pay period. However, because of the demands on our pocketbooks and everything coming due at the same time, we will have to settle for paying our rent in two payments instead of one. I am glad our landlord is easygoing about when and how much of the rent is paid. I am also glad that, thanks to his flexibility, we will be all right financially until I get paid again on Friday.

Haven't found a house yet, but it's still early on in the game, so I'm not worried. I'll only hit the panic button if/when mid-May rolls around and we haven't found anything by then. Plenty of time still. And the Lord has confirmed that we need to stay in the American Fork East Stake, so we'll be focusing our search in that area. We have looked into some foreclosed homes, but who knows if/when they'll be on the market. I feel confident we will find the right place for us in the Lord's due time.

My health has been relatively good since I started working. I have struggled a bit more with coughing and allergies since then, and I have also had a lot more stress headaches and migraines. Unfortunately, these often hit when I am at work and can do nothing about them except plow through. With the Lord's help, however, I've not had to take any sick time yet. I know the Lord will continue to sustain me as I provide for my family. I am grateful to Him for His help in sustaining me through my work days.

Well, that's about all that's going on with us. While things could be a lot better, I know they could also be a lot worse. I feel incredibly blessed to be doing as well as I am in the situation I am in. I recognize that the Lord has given me all these blessings. I only hope I am giving Him sufficient credit for them and showing Him sufficient gratitude for them. I hope you, my readers, are all doing well and are still enjoying hearing and reading about my exploits and adventures. I know I am looking forward to seeing what this next week will bring, especially as it will be the first full work week I will have. Until I post again, my readers, I wish you well.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A Progress Report: My Job and Other Matters

Hello, all! I know it has been a while since I've posted. Life has been a bit crazy. But I promised myself I would update this blog before going to bed tonight, so here I am. When I last wrote, I had only completed one day of training because I had doctor's appointments lined up. The one that was scheduled for the following Monday was rescheduled. I was kind of ticked off about that because I had taken a week off of work to accommodate the appointment, and I was told that I wouldn't be able to see Katarina Waters after all. Instead Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Utah Hospital scheduled me to see Dr. Michael Green on the 20th of this month. So not only did I wind up unnecessarily missing a week of work, but I had to get another afternoon off because they didn't schedule me correctly in the first place. I will speak more of how that appointment went in a minute.

On Tuesday the 11th, I resumed training. I didn't take any notes on what I was being trained on because I have auditory recall and thus remember quite a bit of what I hear. I learned a lot in the training and had many valuable experiences. That Friday, I got my first paycheck. It was for less than $80, as it only covered the first day of my training, but it was the first money I'd earned at my first job. I cannot adequately articulate the feelings of satisfaction that I got from marking this milestone. It means more than I can possibly put into words to be providing for my family.

On Monday the 17th, I started my first day on the phones. I have had many interesting interactions with customers. Most of them are very good to work with. I've had a few calls that I've had to hand over to a supervisor because either the person on the line requested it or because I didn't have the know-how to handle the relevant issue. I have grown a lot as a call center employee this week, and am able to handle each call with greater confidence and assurance now than I had when I first began. I even logged in some overtime (staying past 4:30 pm), though it may not count as such because I have to clock out for breaks and lunch time every day.

On Thursday, we met with Dr. Michael Green. He listened carefully to my concerns and then gave me the prescription I needed for the medication I take for my muscles. He also talked about how to improve my walking and standing posture and the need to get serious about frequent exercise. He told me quite frankly that if I didn't develop a habit of regular exercise now, I'd likely be looking at an earlier decline in my mobility. I appreciated his candor and will do my best to do better in the future.

I had my first misunderstanding with a supervisor on Friday when he had heard I had said something I wasn't supposed to say about the the essential oils. I was quick to let him know that I knew company policy and would never do a thing like that, and he seemed satisfied by my explanation. I just wish I knew who was trying to get me in trouble with the supervisors. I'd very much like to talk to whoever it was. But it's all in the past.

Also on Friday, two other important job-related developments happened. My team leaders had handed out shift preference papers and had us specify, in order of preference, which shift we'd like to work. My preference order was as follows: 1. Tuesday-Saturday 8:00 am-4:30 pm. 2. Monday-Friday 6:00 am-2:30 pm. 3. Monday-Friday 2:00 pm-7:30 pm. I mentioned to my team leaders, however, that staying on my current schedule of Monday-Friday 8:00 am-4:30 pm would be optimal for me. And apparently they took me seriously. When I inquired of my supervisor on Friday after work what my new shift would be, he replied it would be Monday-Friday 8:00 am-4:30 pm. I am grateful that I can keep my current schedule and won't have to worry about working on an off day or at odd hours.

When I checked my e-mail Friday night, I discovered an e-mail from Kelly Services, the employment agency that got me the job at ROI Solutions. The e-mail directed me to check their eStubs website for my paystubs (note the plural). So I checked my bank account and discovered money there, and when I checked the paystub site, I discovered that with this job, I will get paid every week instead of once every two weeks. This will be a much better arrangement for us. We should be on much more firm financial ground as a result of this. Truly blessings abound!

The weekend has passed by all too quickly. I had physical therapy on Saturday, after which we went and got me some snow boots and ran some other errands. We came home exhausted, our week catching up with us. So we took a nap for several hours. I prepared the lesson I was to teach in Elders' Quorum today and attempted to edit the Sacrament Meeting. But in doing so, I found that there was a problem with the recording just as there had been the week before. Amy cleverly discerned that the problem was due to the batteries not being securely held in place in the recording device. So we replaced the batteries and taped up the back and hopefully that fixed the problem. As we habitually do, we were up very late last night.

Today, Church was great. My lesson went far better than I expected to it go. After Church, our home teachers came by. Amy had a meeting for her calling (she's on the Relief Society Activities Committee), and I had one home teaching visit to do. After we had both returned home, we enjoyed a very leisurely, relaxing rest of the day.

I don't know what all this week will bring. I do know I will be working every day this week except Thursday, when we will gather with Amy's family for Thanksgiving. Hopefully there will be an opportunity for me to see my family on Thursday as well, but we'll see how it goes. Hopefully, with all going well, I will be getting ideas soon for my book, which I haven't worked on in months. In the meantime, I've got more than enough to keep me busy. Hope you all are well and looking forward to reading about the next saga in my life. Until I write again, dear readers, all the best!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Temple Predictions

On the LDS Chuch Growth Blog post about potential new missions, some people in the comments were making predictions about completion dates for future temples. That sounded like fun, so I just had to get on board. And since I am using this blog as a forum to discuss such topics, I thought I would reproduce my personal predictions here. The following is a verbatim copy of a comment I posted on that blog post just a few minutes ago. Enjoy!

Based on information about temples as found on ldschurchtemples.com, these are my predictions for temple order of completion and date:
First, of the three temples undergoing renovation, two will be dedicated in late 2015: Montreal Quebec and Mexico City Mexico. The remaining temple, Suva Fiji, will either be rededicated in late 2015 or early 2016.

Now, of the ones under construction, this is my prediction for completion dates and order:
144. Phoenix Arizona Temple: Will be dedicated on November 16, 2014.
145. Cordoba Argentina Temple: Will be dedicated in early 2015.
146. Payson Utah Temple: Will be dedicated in early- or mid-2015.
147. Indianapolis Indiana Temple: Will be dedicated in mid-2015.
148. Trujillo Peru Temple: Will be dedicated in mid-2015.
149. Tijuana Mexico Temple: Will be dedicated in late 2015.
150. Provo City Center Temple: Will be dedicated in late 2015.
151. Rome Italy Temple: Will be dedicated in late 2015.
152. Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple: Will be dedicated in early 2016.
153. Hartford Connecticut Temple: Will be dedicated in mid-2016.
154. Fort Collins Colorado Temple: Will be dedicated in late 2016.
155. Paris France Temple: Will be dedicated in late 2016.
156. Sapporo Japan Temple: Will be dedicated in late 2016.
157. Meridian Idaho Temple: Will be dedicated in mid-2017.
158. Fortaleza Brazil Temple: Will be dedicated in late 2017. (with all going well. Note that though ground was broken on this temple in 2011, full scale work has yet to begin on this temple.)

Now, if I may be so bold, I would like to give a progress report on the announced temples that haven't had their ground broken. I provide a number for them as well, though the numbers are VERY tentative and will change based on groundbreaking date. This, again, is based on information found at ldschurchtemples.com.
159. Lisbon Portugal Temple: Planning and approval phase; land purchase finalized; groundbreaking
anticipated in late 2014-early 2015.
160. Concepcion Chile Temple: Planning and approval phase; temple and site designs complete; groundbreaking pending.
161. Barranquilla Colombia Temple: Planning and approval phase; temple and site designs complete; groundbreaking pending.
162. Star Valley Wyoming Temple: Planning and approval phase; initial design plans complete; groundbreaking pending.
163. Arequipa Peru Temple: Planning and approval phase; initial design plans complete; groundbreaking pending.
164. Winnipeg Manitoba Temple: Planning and approval phase; groundbreaking pending.
165. Kinshasa Democratic Republic of the Congo Temple: Planning and approval phase; groundbreaking pending.
166. Rio de Janeiro Brazil Temple: Planning and approval phase; groundbreaking pending.
167. Tucson Arizona Temple: Awaiting official site announcement; proposal submitted to Pima County.
168. Urdaneta Philippines Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.
169. Durban South Africa Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.
170. Cedar City Utah Temple: Planning and approval phase; awaiting official site announcement.

Well, what do you think?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Potential New Missions for 2015: Matthew Martinich's predictions

Matthew Martinich, whom I've mentioned in the past, is a fellow blogger that focuses on posting developments in LDS Church Growth. Two of his hobbies are to post potential new temple sites (around general conference time) and to post sites where new missions might potentially be established. He has recently posted his projections for which new missions might potentially be created in 2015, and with his permission, I am sharing those predictions. Rather than having an extra long post, I will post a link to his post and anyone interested can follow his predictions there. Before doing so, I want to make it absolutely clear: These are Matthew Martinich's predictions, not mine, and a link to them only appears here with his express permission. That said, here's the link:

Matthew Martinich's Predictions for Potential Missions that may be created in 2015

This is really exciting stuff. His research is thorough, his predictions well thought out and reasoned. I am amazed at how well he is able to pinpoint such changes as this. So let's all show our support to him by keeping our eyes out for new missions in 2015, shall we? Thanks, friends!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My first published work

I am excited to announce that my first published piece will appear in the July 2015 Ensign in the Young Adult section, unless it gets bumped to a future issue for something more important. Here's how it happened: Years ago, I wrote an article in response to a request in the New Era. I sent it in to them. After the staff of the New Era read it, I received word from them that they couldn't use it but were handing it over to the Ensign. Soon after that the Ensign contacted me to have me fill out the necessary paperwork and set the rate for my work and give them permission to publish my work and ownership of it. I waited and nothing happened. I shared the article with only a select few because it wasn't mine anymore. Then on Wednesday I got word from the Ensign that they would be publishing my article finally. They sent me a copy of the final draft to look over. I was kind of bummed out a little because they cut out half of the experience I had written about. But they had warned me up front that the article would be edited for length and clarity. The most important thing is that something will be published under my name. This will be great, because this way I will already be a published author when my first book finally comes out. Anyways, I just wanted to post and let all my readers know this exciting news! All the best until I write again.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Update/Three important Church History Developments/Four Church History Upcoming Events

Hello, readers! I am updating the blog for a few reasons, the least of which is to bring you all up to speed on what has happened since my last post. My weekend went about how I expected it to. I went to training for my job on Monday. When I mentioned that I would have two upcoming doctors appointments in the near future (one with my neurologist Dr. Sharon Weinstein the next day and another with spasticity specialist Nurse Katarina Waters the following Monday), my supervisors determined that, since the training built upon itself day after day, it would be wiser for me to discontinue the training for the job until the following Tuesday. So I enjoyed the training the rest of the day and then came home, tired but happy that I would have another week before I had to worry about continuing the training. I should mention that while I will be working at ROI Solutions, the company I will be serving will be Young Living Essential Oils. The instructor was  kind enough to give us samples of her four favorite essential oils: Stress Away, Peppermint, Lavender and Lime.

Then today, I went to see Dr. Weinstein. She determined that the stress headaches I have been struggling with will likely go away as I get into the job. She also said that the nausea should likewise diminish with the stress but that if it doesn't, I should see my gastroenterologist about whether there was a stomach issue. She said I could discontinue one of my medications since it seems I am doing better. I will be going to Physical Therapy tomorrow and hopefully enjoying the rest of the week before I have to be back at work on Tuesday.

That being said, there were three important developments in Church History that occurred and four Church History upcoming events that I wanted to blog about. First, it was announced by Elder Paul V. Johnson, Commissioner of Church Education, on November 2 during a CES devotional, that where in previous years CES devotionals had been held in January, March, May, September, and November, effective immediately, CES Devotionals will be renamed "Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults: An Evening with (name of speaker)." They will be held three times a year, "on the second Sunday in January, the first Sunday in May, and the second Sunday in September." The devotional will be open to "all young adults, both married and single . . . Students finishing high school or the equivalent are also invited to attend. January devotionals will be held at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah; at BYU–Idaho; or at BYU–Hawaii. May devotionals will be held in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City or at other sites at Church headquarters. September devotionals will be held at other locations in the United States." (announcement can be found here.)

Also at the devotional, Elder Johnson additionally announced a change in curriculum for religious requirements for Church-owned schools and institutes as well as seminaries, effective Fall 2015. There are four new courses that will span all standard works: “Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel,” “Foundations of the Restoration,” “The Teachings and Doctrine of the Book of Mormon” and “The Eternal Family.” While the standard scripture courses will still be available as electives, these will be required for graduation. Those who have already completed the previous "required" classes are being encouraged to take the four new courses as electives. As I said, this is also supposed to be effective for seminaries, but I haven't found an official source to substantiate that. Here is a link to a couple of sources about that: LDS Church Announces Changes to Religious Education Curriculum
New Religion Classes

The third thing of note that happened was that Pope Francis of the Catholic Church has invited religious leaders and scholars representing 14 faith traditions from 23 countries to a meeting at the Vatican later this month to discuss how men and women complement each other in marriage. The LDS Church was one of the religions invited. The Church will respond to this invitation by sending President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency (who will speak on November 18 representing the Church), Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Bishop Gérald Caussé, First Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. For more information on this monumental meeting, click here.

These developments stacked up to make November a very important month in Church History. But that's not all that's going on this month. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf turns 74 on November 6. Elder Richard G. Scott will turn 86 on November 7. A cultural celebration will be held in Phoenix Arizona on November 15, with the temple scheduled to be dedicated the next day, though it is still unclear who will dedicate that temple. (Though likely not President Eyring, as he will be at the Vatican at that time). On November 19, President Thomas S. Monson will surpass President John Taylor to become the 10th longest serving President of the LDS Church. All of these events stack up to make November a most exciting month.

It's past midnight on November 5, so I want to wish my dad, Lee Stokes, a very happy 59th Birthday. The older I get, the more I realize he is not perfect. But with that realization, I also acknowledge that a good majority of what I know about being a good husband and father I learned from him. So Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you!

Not much else to report. I will try to write again once my training is complete to let you know how it went. Until I find something else to "sound off" about again, all the best, dear readers!