Editors Note: This article was written for www.MormonFeed.com, and has been used here with permission from them. MormonFeed is a platform for the Latter-day Saint community to create and share uplifting messages and media. We recommend you check it out and get involved.
Christmas, that special time of year that where we get to spend too much money, eat too much food and watch too much TV but not even feel guilty about it until the 1st of January. Every individual and family has their own unique traditions and customs over the festive period, but when it comes to being a Mormon at Christmas, there are somethings that are just unavoidable.
Your Christmas CD collection doesn’t just contain the obligatory Bublé album, but much to the embarrassment of anyone who happens to be within earshot, you will be blasting out some Christmassy Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Remember, you didn’t choose the thug life, the thug life chose you.
2. Christmas Time, mistletoe and… Shloer
Rather than stocking up on wine, champagne and whatever other tipples may be the custom at this time of year, you’ve been bulk buying shloer since November. By Christmas you will have a stash of it large enough to cause the onset of type 2 diabetes in a small herd of elephants. That won’t stop you consuming it all by New Years, mind…
3. Bake Cookies
You will bake cookies and take them to someone. Heck you might even receive some cookies! Failing that, you will visit a lonely person, fill a charity shoebox or find some other way of letting out your inner Christmas do-gooder.
4. Getting far too excited about the Christmas Devotional
You will get more enthusiastic about listening to a bunch of elderly men talk for an hour than is socially acceptable. Incidentally, you can view it here.
The missionaries, your ward mission leader, the bishop and just about everyone else keeps hassling you to #ShareTheGift. You know at some point you’re going to have to cave to their greater righteousness, but that doesn’t mean you’re happy about it. Oh, did we mention that you really should Share The Gift.
6. Mr. Krueger’s Christmas
You’ll remember that time someone thought it was a good idea to watch Mr. Krueger’s Christmas. The mere thought of it will take you to a dark place…
7. Stake Carol Concert
You will attend a local carol concert, and despite it being of very questionable quality, it will be one of the highlights of your Christmas every year.
8. Double Carol Concert
As if one carol concert wasn’t enough, you’ll catch some of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas concert. Whilst the quality is undoubtedly better, you will lose sleep at night trying to work out why and how the Muppets and Big Bird came to be involved.
9. The Ward Christmas Party
You will see things that can never be unseen. How can you ever look that member in the eyes again after seeing those dance moves?
10. When Someone Suggests a Christmas Day Service
When someone suggests having a Christmas morning service, and you know that will mean you have to wait longer to open your presents, but saying that out loud would make everyone judge you.
11. You’ll remember the true meaning of Christmas
Despite all the other things, you’ll remember what Christmas is really about, and that’s what will make it so special to you.
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General Conference is upon us. The time of year when we have the opportunity to hear from inspired Prophets, Apostles and other Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We’re not here to try and persuade you why you should be watching – if the previous sentence didn’t manage that, then we don’t reckon we can do much else. What we can do though is help you to share the experience with someone who may otherwise miss out.
Whether it is someone you know who is struggling in their faith, a relative who is curious about your beliefs or a friend who has questions about life – general conference is a fantastic gift to give. These days it’s much easier than physically taking someone to a meetinghouse to watch it, so we want to run through some of the great ways to reach out this year.
Invite them to watch
It’s obvious, it’s simple, but it’s effective. Reach out to someone by extending an invitation for them to tune into some of conference. It’s nearly as simple these days as watching BBC One, and no licence fee necessary. Direct them to conference.lds.org where each session will be live streamed. The UK session timings are shown in the image to the right. A personal invitation like this is one of the best ways to encourage someone to participate in conference. With the ability to instantly text, email and message an invitation to someone these days, it’s hard to find an excuse (although a real conversation is thoroughly encouraged too).
Why not go one step further and throw a bit of a ‘mini conference party’. Apart from sounding pretty lame and as if it was plucked straight out of suburban Utah, having someone round to watch it with you could be a great experience. It’s just like a movie night, albeit with less love stories and action, though you can still promise them anecdotes and popcorn.
Of course you can also invite someone to watch it at a meetinghouse. Timings may vary somewhat from the live timings shown here, so check with your local leaders if you intend to attend a broadcast at a church building and don’t already know the schedule.
Another great way to spread the word about conference is through social media. With only a few clicks you can share the message to friends near and far. Some may find it a less intimidating approach, and it allows friends to make the choice whether they want to check it out without any pressure. The church has produced some great resources for doing this, including images here. My personal favourite is this short little video:
You can share this simply by putting this link (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/invite-others?lang=eng – where there are plenty more ideas for sharing too) onto your Facebook status, Google+ post, Tweet or whatever other network you may want.
If you’re not that technically versed, or just want the easy option, then simply share some of the stuff from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United Kingdom Facebook Page as they’ve been banging on about it for a couple of weeks now.
Another really easy way to share the good feeling of conference on social media is by using the hashtag – #LDSconf. The last few conferences this has trended on Twitter in the States during conference weekend, it would be nice to see if we could spread some of that across the pond. Note that hashtags are now accepted on most social networks including Facebook and Google+, so the conference hashtag lovin’ doesn’t have to be restricted to Twitter.
If you’re a blogger then it’s a great opportunity to get something on your site about conference. A little post about it may encourage some of your readers to check it out. On top of that, the church has produced some great materials to help bloggers to spread the word available here. We plumped for a little widget (which you can see at the top of the sidebar on the right), but there are plenty of options. If it’s a little too late to get a blog entry out before conference, why not write one afterward about your experiences, then you can always direct readers to view the on demand streaming of the sessions that is made available. For more information about this, visit http://www.lds.org/general-conference/when-conference-materials-will-be-available?lang=eng.
Watch it, Share it, Live it
It’s not exactly a secret in our faith that by sharing blessings with others our benefits are multiplied too, and conference should be no exception. Years ago conference may have meant a trek to a distant building, a fight for a seat that actually had a view of the screen, and the perennial battle between trying to pay attention and trying not to lose your patience with the family of 6 children sat in the row behind you. These days it’s a little harder to find an excuse not to be watching it, and not to have encouraged someone else too as well. Most importantly of all though, let’s face it, any church meeting that can be viewed in pyjamas is a rare treat, so spread the joy!
For a number of decades the British public has been presented with the ‘melting pot’ phenomenon. Multiculturalism has received mixed reviews and has lead to a lack of understanding and an increase of ignorance. When it comes to the issue of immigration, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is often synonymous with fear and intolerance. In turn, this leads to racial marginalisation and radicalisation from both sides. In both the public sphere and the political arena, the natural phenomenon of multiculturalism is received with unnatural responses which distort the outcome, for example: curbs and controls, projections and estimates, targets and tough measures.
Recent events and events yet to come are continuing to threaten British tolerance towards non-nationals. Now more than ever the British government would do well to adopt what I call ‘The Mormon Model of Multiculturalism’.
An ‘All Inclusive, Integrationist’ Model
“Members of the Church live in a wide variety of political, social, and economic conditions. Wards and branches also vary in size and leadership resources. These conditions may require local leaders to adapt some Church programs” – Handbook 2: Administering the Church.
With over 14 million members worshipping in 29000 congregations throughout the world, the Church adopts a policy known as ‘uniformity and adaption’. The doctrines, ordinances and practices of the Church are uniform, wherever you worship. The sacrament is administered in the exact same way, as dictated by scripture in Spain as it is in Sweden. The commandments, core curriculum and doctrine remain consistent throughout the whole Church.
The Church does recognise that local circumstances can affect the format, implementation and execution of certain activities, meetings and callings (assignments). Although there may be slight changes in the day to day running of a Church congregation, the day to day running of the whole Church does not change. Borders and barriers do not prevent the application of the doctrines of the Restored Gospel.
This integrationist and flexible approach ensures the Church’s identity and cultural integrity remain consistent. Church members are free to allow their local cultures to influence the over-arching culture of the Church.
Church Services In Spain
When we were choosing which Spanish city we wanted to study in for 6 months, one of our main criteria was the size and geographical proximity of a Church congregation. Valencia has 3 wards (large congregations) in the city centre and a whole army of full-time missionaries seeking to establish ward number 4. The Church has the same signage on the door, the same services and the same songs (albeit in Spanish). Our records were transferred from the UK and received in Spain. There is a Bishop and a whole hierarchy of members ready to welcome us into their sanctuary.
Despite this uniformity, we know that we are in a new country. As a reflection of the local culture, the services always start late (the Spanish are never early), things take a little longer (ok, some members take a lot longer bearing their testimony or teaching a lesson) and there are never a lack of comments in lessons (Spaniards love to talk). The Spanish personality isn’t left at the door and the culture left in the car park. The Church doesn’t want or expect its members to be robots.
I personally love how the Church adapts its programmes to suit the local needs of the members. In the UK we can sing the national anthem (it’s hymn number #341), we can observe a moment’s silence on Remembrance Sunday and we can invite royal monarchs to worship with us. The Spanish can eat tapas in the cultural hall and host talent nights showcasing the best Flamenco dancers.
God created individuals with the ability to act for themselves. The Church encourages its members to become disciples of Jesus Christ (by keeping His commandments) and to express themselves through their talents. And it works. Marvellously.
I grew up around Mormons in Utah (where there are many Mormons) but have spent most of my adult life amongst the church members of Scotland. But there are some traditions that transcend cultures. In times of crisis or change, we show our love by bringing food.
Let me put it this way: after the birth of each of my children, I didn’t have to cook meals for at least a week. I remember vividly the tuna casserole that was waiting on the doorstep when I arrived home from the hospital with my first baby in tow. Not having to worry about what we were going to eat that night felt like a big blessing. This was repeated each time I had a baby (and I’ve had three!) At my most vulnerable and tired, my friends and fellow church members showed they cared in a very tangible way. There have been opportunities for me to return the care. I’ve prepped meals for those who have just had babies, who are receiving treatment for cancer, moving house, and for those who are grieving. There is nothing that we feel a hot meal can’t fix. It is a simple way of saying that we care and want to help.
I’ve even extended this beyond my Mormon circle of friends, bringing meals to neighbours and friends who have had babies and bereavements as a way of showing my care. I don’t know if they knew what to make of my gift of French bread, pasta and sauce, but to me it was an emergency dinner kit to be used on those days when you just can’t find your way through to the kitchen.
We take very literally the lesson taught by Jesus Christ taught in Matthew 25:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
So if a Mormon turns up to your door with a casserole or a pot of soup, it’s our way of saying that we care.
I’ll be bringing you my recommend articles from around the web each week. They’ll usually be focused on LDS culture or events, but now and then I might sneak something a little bit different in. Check out this week’s gems below.
- How to Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke – Eric Clapp 3.0
- Five Lessons My Father Taught Me About the Value of Money – Monevator
- The Salt and Pepper Talks – The Hippie Cahier
Worthless women and the men who make them – Single Dad Laughing
- Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice – By Common Consent
- What a Pope Can Teach Us About Modesty – The Exponent
In related happenings, Ethan, who wrote a great article for us about his upcoming adventure earlier this week, has now arrived in Valencia. We wish him, his wife and imminent wee nipper all the best! You can follow their experiences over on his blog.
And finally, this video is a worthwhile reminder to not lose sight of those things that really matter.
Please note, while I try to only recommend sites whose content is to an acceptable standard, we cannot be held responsible for the content of any external websites.
I have so many reasons to reflect with a spirit of gratitude upon the events of this summer.
To see the story of the Restoration and the story of the Church in the British Isles told with such power, it was such an incredible blessing.
We have an incredible bank of talent among the membership of the Church in the United Kingdom and everywhere in fact. We have incredible people! Incredible men! Incredible women! Incredible youth! Incredible children! And they are so willing! Those talents when directed towards the cause of building a Zion – when we consecrate ourselves and our talents – we create an affect far greater than the sum of the individual talents that are being offered. There is a Zion-synergy.
I learned again that there is a special spirit that accompanies the story and testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the coming forth of The Book of Mormon. It is powerful and persuasive.
I saw that there is an incredible appetite for the things of the Kingdom among the Latter-day Saints. There is a hunger and a thirst for righteousness. There is a light in the eyes of the people of the Lord when they feel they are accomplishing the will and purposes of the Lord. I saw that in the faces of hundreds and hundreds of people over the summer. Not only among those who were participating day in and day out but also in the faces of the thousands who came to see the British Pageant and brought people they care about with them. It was the spirit of joy. It was the spirit of the Gospel. It was the spirit of service.
I also saw that there is a sacred power connected to faith and sacrifice when we come together as members of the Church – under covenant to sacrifice and serve – to accomplish the work of the Lord. Those people in the British Pageant company came forward largely not knowing what they would be expected to do. They felt something within them stir and they came forward as volunteers with a humble desire to serve. And they were called and their service was magnificent.
I learned too that there is something profound for each of us in knowing the stories of the early days of the Church in our country. Those first missionaries and those first converts have so much to teach us in the 21st-century Church in the Britain and Ireland of today. Of course, we do missionary work in a very different way today than they did it back in the 1830s and 40s. But there are so many things that are exactly the same; not least the Gospel message and the Spirit! But something of the resolution and strength and commitment and honesty of those early Saints is offered as their blessing upon us as we come to learn more of their stories. We aren’t going to be asked to leave our homes and our jobs and our country to emigrate to some foreign place or sail the Atlantic or push a handcart across the plains but in our own time and in our own ways we will face exactly the same sort of testing as those early members of the Church faced. It is a good thing to know something of their story and to see our efforts in relation to the work of salvation as a continuation of that story – the story of Heber C. Kimball, Joseph Fielding, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, George Watt, George Q. Cannon and the other great souls that we learn of through the pages of our British Church history. These were real people with the same kinds of personal challenges and weaknesses that we have as people. But they never let their circumstances, their limitations and incapacities prevent them from making an offering of love and service. In fact, it was because of their weaknesses that they were empowered to make their offering and it was all the more beautiful because of it all. We can do the same in our own way and in our own times. This is their story and now our story too.
I also felt strongly that it is possible for us to create a Zion today. I felt the British Pageant company really were striving together to live by Zion principles. And we felt it in our friendships and in our fellowship. Something special was experienced. Something it is hard to put into words because words do not really capture the feeling or do justice to the joy. But we learned something about how to create such a Zion in our own hearts and in our own families and because of that we are better equipped to play our part in building Zion in our ward and branch families and in our stakes.
I saw again that as Mormons, we love to work hard and we love to play. We are at our best when we are working together. We love to enjoy ourselves. I was reminded that if we are not enjoying what we are doing in the Church and through our service, it is likely to be because we are not doing it the way that it should be done as defined by the Lord Himself. Even in the midst of the hard work and testing and the disappointments, there is joy. There is joy in everything.
Me, Myself & I
My name is Ethan Wilkinson and I am a student at Cardiff University. I study politics, Italian and Spanish and today my wife and I are leaving the UK to study abroad for 11 months as part of the European Union’s ERASMUS programme. We got married last November during our second year of university and we are expecting a baby this October. Yes…we are having our first-born baby abroad in Spain! I will be studying at the University of Valencia (España) for the autumn semester and the spring semester will be at the University of Pavia (Italia). I lived in Spain as a teenager and I served my mission in Italy so both countries are familiar, however the respective cultures are still a world away from our great British one.
Paella, Tapas & Churros
When I think about the BBCs (Basic British Comforts) that I will miss, I realise that most of the franchises, outlets and shops are in the food sector. Nando’s, Tesco, Bella Italia, Asda, Haribo, Domino’s, Cadbury. Granted that not all of these are British (but they are certainly widely available in the UK) and some of these products can be located in Spanish cities up and down the country. But, I am familiar with the aisles, the price tags and the menu combinations of these great culinary dishes, right here, on my own island. Restaurant, a British magazine aimed at chefs, ranked three out of the top ten best restaurants worldwide, in Spain. I am sure that I will eventually embrace la cocina española, but for now I know that my wife will miss her loaf of Brace’s bread and I will miss my lemon and herb, double chicken wrap with pineapple and cheese from Nando’s.
Husband To Father
I have and am very much enjoying being a husband to a beautiful wife. I have some very good (non-Mormon) friends at university that thought that I was crazy to be getting married “so young”. My lecturers didn’t understand why I wanted to commit myself and take this big step in the staircase of life during my university studies. I got married and they were excited and happy for me. Then, it was announced that I would soon be a father and having a child, not just during my degree but during my year abroad in Spain. “Oh, but it’s a third world country that doesn’t accept the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) and the NHS won’t be there to save you” they said. Well, maybe it was because of all of those years of planning and completing YM (Young Men) Duty to God goals or the daily goals set as a full-time missionary, but my wife and I knew that if we were to press forward in faith, not just believing but knowing that God would provide for our family (regardless of our location in the world or location in life’s journey), that He would do just that. And He already has.
As a student you constantly seek out the offers, buy the bargains and accept the freebies. It has been no different being a married student and it will not be different being a parent student. We have been blessed to be surrounded by very good and generous family and friends (both Mormons and non-Mormons) who have bought baby grows and blankets, nappies and toys. Of course money will be tight and the trips to Nando’s will be less frequent (and not just because there are no Nando’s restaurants in Spain!), but I can’t wait to be a dad!
Today I leave as a husband and will return in a year’s time as a father.