Christ-Centered Easter Activity Countdown- 2019

Time to get inspired for Easter!  With Easter being April 21 we will start our countdown on Friday March 29th.  A lot of these will be repeats from last year but I’m also going to incorporate some of this year’s activity from the Friend Magazine.  They don’t start until Palm Sunday so I won’t be going along day by day because I like to give Easter as much attention and preparation as we give Christmas.  I hope this helps you as you make your Easter preparations more intentional.

  1. Friend The Miracle of Easter (Day 2) “When Jesus was a boy, He lived with Mary and Joseph in a city called Nazareth. He always did what Heavenly Father wanted Him to do.”  Date with Dad- It’s our ward’s Father/Son camp out but you could substitute any activity with Dad!
  2. Friend (Day 3) “When Jesus grew up, He went to the Jordan River. He asked His cousin, John the Baptist, to baptize Him. Then He began to teach others about Heavenly Father.”  We will have cousins in town so we’re going to party with cousins, but you could also attend a baptism if possible.
  3. Jesus is the Light of the world.  Use trick candles on cupcakes, as the kids blow them out and they re-light explain that even though they tried to put out Jesus’ light, his light did not go away.  (Got this from The Joy Journey, scroll down, it’s one of the last activities, this is also a great resource for ideas!)
  4. Jesus created the World for us- visit a zoo or aquarium to see some of His creations.
  5. 2018 Friend activity #3– “Jesus said, “I thirst.” Jesus felt pain and was terribly thirsty. He understands whenever you feel sick or tired or hurt. Jesus wants us to help others who are ill or tired. What can you do to help someone in your family who isn’t feeling well or is very tired?”  Serve someone who has been ill (take a meal, make a card, take treats to the hospital, etc.)
  6. Read the Easter Story from this month’s Friend Jr.
  7. He is Risen cut and paste, there’s also a tracing one
  8. Jesus rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey- go to a petting zoo with a donkey
  9. Resurrection Eggs for toddlers
  10. Jesus continued His church by calling a Prophet.  Read about President Nelson in the Friend and watch General Conference.
  11. Friend Jr. Life of Jesus Christ Sequencing activity.  I will put each picture in an egg and make it an egg hunt and then sequence and talk about each part of Christ’s life.
  12. 2018 Friend activity #5– “Jesus said, “Behold thy mother!”  Before he died, Jesus asked one of His disciples to take care of Mary, His mother.” Mom date!  Our ward will be having a mother/daughter activity this evening but again, this could be any fun activity with mom.
  13. Jesus prayed in a garden and after his Resurrection he visited Mary in a garden- visit the Botanical Garden (they have butterflies this time of year!!!)
  14. Jesus was the Lamb of God, make a lamb craft
  15. Easter Movie Night, we will probably watch To This End Was I Born, and one of the VeggieTales Easter shows.
  16. Friend (Day 1)- “Our Heavenly Parents love us dearly. They want us to live with Them forever. Before we came to earth, Heavenly Father knew we would need someone to show us the path back to Him. We would need someone to save us from our sins. Who could He send to save us?”  Talk about our Heavenly Family, and Jesus as our older brother.  Explain that because they love us they gave us our Earthly Families as well.  Extended family Easter Egg hunt.
  17. Friend (Day 5)- “Some people were angry with Jesus because of His teachings. They didn’t believe that He was the Son of God. Jesus knew it was almost time for the greatest miracle of all. Jesus gave His disciples the sacrament to help them remember His sacrifice for us. Then He went with some of the disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. There He prayed to Heavenly Father, and He felt the pain of all of our sins. He did this so we could repent and return to live with our Heavenly Parents.”  Take the sacrament at church.
  18. Friend (Day 6)- “After Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, people came with swords to arrest Him. They took Him to Pilate, the governor of Judea. Then they took Him to a cross on a hill called Calvary.”  Make palm frond crosses- my little brother will grab some extra palm fronds for us from the Palm Sunday service at the Episcopal church he attends.  Here’s a simple tutorial.
  19. Friend (Day 4)- “Wherever He went, Jesus taught and helped people. No one had ever seen anyone do miracles like He did! He healed people who couldn’t walk and people who couldn’t see. He blessed children and taught people how to pray. He even brought a girl who had died back to life. What greater miracles could there be than these?”  Do a service project to be a miracle for someone else.
  20. Easter Sequencing Activity– this one focuses just on Christ’s death and Resurrection- the other one I’m using covers His whole life.
  21. Show a picture of Jesus washing the Apostles’ feet, then wash each others’ feet in a foot spa or just in the tub.
  22. Make an “Easter Garden” in a pot with some little plants, a rock for the tomb, etc.  Mine will be much simpler than the one in the link, but it gives a good idea for reference.
  23. Make Resurrection Rolls, and tell the Easter story as you do it
  24. Friend (Day 8)- “Jesus really did live after He had died, and so will we! He visited with His disciples for 40 days. He ate with them and talked with them. What a joyful time it was! Then He asked His disciples to meet Him on a mountain. He told them what they should do after He went to heaven. And He gave them a promise that He would always be with them. This wonderful promise is for us too!”  Use a glove and your hand to explain the Resurrection.  I explain how I do this in my Family Home Evening post for this month.

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for Little Ones- April 2019

President Nelson promised us that if we would really dive in to this home based church supported thing that it would “unleash the power of the family.”  I saw that really clearly at the end of February.  President’s Day weekend we went to have dinner at my parents’ house while my aunt was visiting.  My grandma was not doing well and my aunt had come to see her.  After dinner we gathered my little family, plus my parents, aunt, and my little brother into my Grandma’s living room to do Family Home Evening.  We discussed John 3:16 and while my Grandma couldn’t say much, her attitude and the way she lit up as the kids made Valentine’s for Heavenly Father was a quiet way for her to bare testimony of God’s love, and the importance of family.  Guys, that’s the last time I saw her alive.  She passed a week and two days later.  And while part of my grieving process is asking myself why I didn’t just make the drive over there one more time, I am also so grateful that that was our last moment, and her last moment with my kids.  Our last earthly experience together was spent following the prophet, learning of Christ, serving her, and just loving.  That’s the power of the family that we need to unleash.  So keep going, you never know which week is going to have an eternal impact on your family.

April 1-14 Thou Art the Christ

Prep Materials: Keys (house, car, filing cabinet, etc.), Priesthood keys (either print the printable or gather up some extra keys), Pictures of Priesthood Ordinances (printable or Gospel Art book)

Song: The Priesthood is Restored pg. 89

Teach children about Priesthood keys.  Show them your key ring and let them use the keys to open the front door, turn the car on and off, open filing cabinets, etc. (whatever keys you have lying around).  Explain that these are things that are special and important to your family so they need to have keys so not everyone can get inside.  Talk about what might happen if you didn’t keep them locked.  Have a different set of keys (either from the printable, baby keys, or just some extra keys from around the house) explain that Heavenly Father refers to the Priesthood power as being keys to things that are special and important to him, and that the Prophet who has all of the keys has the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Gather pictures (either from the printable or the gospel art library) of baptism, confirmation, the temple, temple marriage, and the sacrament.  Explain that these are the things that are special to Heavenly Father that you need his special keys- the Priesthood- to perform.  Match the key to the ordinance.

Priesthood Keys Matching

 

April 15-21 O Grave, Where is Thy Victory

Prep Materials: Glove, Pictures of Christ (Gospel Art Book)- birth, adult, Garden, Cross, Resurrection

Song: Pick one of the Easter songs, they start around page 64- my kids’ favorite is Easter Hosanna pg. 68

I love using the glove and hand object lesson to teach about death and the resurrection.  We starting teaching our son this idea at Easter 2 years ago and then reviewed it when we realized my Grandma’s death was imminent a little over a year ago.  I was surprised then, at 3 1/2 how much he understood and how it helped him process what was going on.  My other Grandmother passed about a month ago and he has been using this analogy on his own to explain what is happening.  I do make sure as I’m explaining this concept that while Jesus came back to life after 3 days, our loved ones will come back to life and we will see them again in the Resurrection, but that will not be for a very long time.  One of my Grandpa’s died when I was 5, and I knew that he would come back to life so I didn’t understand why everyone else was so sad.  I remember a few years later realizing that he hadn’t come back and honestly feeling a little betrayed.  It’s a wonderful, beautiful, and comforting thing to understand the Resurrection, but I think it’s also important to help children understand that it is sad when someone dies because we won’t see them for a long time.

Sorry about the tangent, if you haven’t done or seen the hand and glove thing here’s how it goes.  Since it’s Easter have pictures of Christ’s birth, Christ in life, in the Garden, on the cross, and the Resurrection on hand- the gospel art book has these.

Explain that your hand is like your spirit, wiggle it and talk about the pre-earth life.  Show the picture of Christ’s birth and explain that when you are born you receive a body, put the glove on your hand- the glove is like your body.  Show that they can now wiggle and move together.  Show a picture of Christ when he was grown and explain that our bodies grown with us.  Show Christ in the garden, explain that sometimes our bodies feel pain and that we can use our bodies to pray.  Show Christ on the cross and explain that he died for us.  Take the glove off and put it in a tomb (under a bowl or something), explain that when we die our body stays here on earth and can’t move anymore but our spirit goes to Heaven and waits.  Show Christ resurrected, explain that after 3 days Christ was resurrected and because of that, someday (a long time from now) we will also be resurrected, put the glove back on.

 

Click for my post full of Christ-centered Easter ideas

 

April 22-28 What Shall I do to Inherit Eternal Life?

Prep Materials: Props for Good Samaritan (bandages)

Song: I’m Trying to be Like Jesus pg. 78

Help the kids act out the story of the Good Samaritan, break out the doctor kit for some bandages to put on the injured person.  Take turns acting out the different roles.  Talk about ways we can help people and be good neighbors to everyone.  Make plans to do something nice for someone who needs it.

 

April 29-May 5 I Am the Good Shepherd

Prep Materials: Stuffed animals (lambs), any other props to help be a shepherd, wolf, or robber

Song: Little Lambs so White and Fair pg. 58

More acting practice!  Grab some stuffed animals to be your lambs and put them somewhere they can be “guarded”.  Take turns being the shepherd (guarding), wolf and robber (trying to get the animals).

 

Materials List:

Keys (house, car, filing cabinet, etc.)

Priesthood keys (either print the Priesthood Keys Matching or gather up some extra keys)

Pictures of Priesthood Ordinances (printable or Gospel Art book)

Glove

Pictures of Christ (Gospel Art Book)- birth, adult, Garden, Cross, Resurrection

Props for Good Samaritan (bandages)

Stuffed animals (lambs)

any other props to help be a shepherd, wolf, or robber

 

 

 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for little ones- March 2019

March 4-10 Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole

Prep Materials: bandages (or toilet paper), laundry basket/ sturdy box, blindfold, robe

Song: Tell Me the Stories of Jesus pg 57

Use pictures, Bible videos, and acting out to tell the story of some of Jesus’ miracles.  Pick and choose your favorites/ what your children would enjoy and relate to best, or spread this over multiple nights.

Heals a leper- wrap the kids up in bandages (or toilet paper) to look like a leper

Stills a tempest- use a laundry basket or large sturdy box as the boat, turn on the Bible Video or the Animated New Testament Story, shake them around during the storm then stop when Christ calms the sea

Man sick with the palsy- show the picture at the end of manual and tell the story (unless you want to lift your kids in the air and lower them down!)

Blind men- use a blindfold to cover their eyes as you read them the story in Matthew 9:27-29

Jairus’ daughter- have a child lie down and explain that the family was told that their daughter had died but Jesus came, touch her hand and say, “Talitha cumi.”  Explain that it means, “Daughter, arise.”  Have the child get up.

The woman with the issue of blood-  Tell the kids that there was a woman who had been sick for a long time, she heard about Jesus and thought that if she could just touch His clothes she could be healed.  Have a parent dress up in a robe (anything long that can trail behind a little), have the kids reach out and touch it as the parent walks by and then say, “who touched me?”  Finish up the story explaining that she was healed after she touched his clothes.

 

March 11-17 These Twelve Jesus Sent Forth

Prep materials- back packs, heavy objects (rocks/books)

Song: I Feel My Savior’s Love pg 74

Fill backpacks with heavy objects, have the kids put them on and try to walk around.  If it’s still too easy for them add more weight.  Then help lift the backpack and walk with them.  Ask them if that’s easier.  Explain that burdens are hard things in life (help them come up with some hard things they have to do), then tell them that Jesus said he will make our burdens light.

 

March 18-24 Who Hath Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear

Prep Materials: Blindfold, ear plugs

Song: Reverently, Quietly pg 26

Sing Do As I’m Doing, Children’s Song Book 276.  Do a few rounds normally, taking turns with who decides the action.  After a few rounds pull out a blind fold, take turns wearing the blind fold and trying to follow along.  Now attempt to do a sing along of favorite primary songs but take turns using ear plugs (or have a parent cover their ears).  Talk about how it was hard to follow along when they couldn’t see or hear.  Paraphrase Matthew 13:13-16.  Talk about how we need to use our eyes and ears while being reverent to learn about and follow Jesus.

 

March 25-31 Be Not Afraid

Prep Materials: laundry basket/ sturdy box, blanket, picture of Christ

Pull out that laundry basket boat from a few weeks ago.  Use a blanket to make waves.  Have the children act out the story by stepping out of the boat into the waves, pull the blanket up towards their face to symbolize sinking.  Hold up a picture of Jesus, when they look away from it have them “sink” when they look at the picture pull the blanket back down and then reach out a hand to help them out.  Show them the picture at the end of the lesson, remind them that when things get hard or scary Jesus will help them.

 

Materials List

bandages (or toilet paper)

laundry basket/ sturdy box

blindfold

robe

back packs

heavy objects (rocks/books)

ear plugs

blanket

picture of Christ

 

What does Come Follow Me look like in your home?

Shortly after two hour church and the Come Follow Me curriculum were officially announced in General Conference I was perusing Facebook and saw that an old friend from Elementary school had asked in a Latter-day Saint mom group how people thought they might implement it in their home in the new year.  A lot of moms were excitedly sharing their different ideas, and then I saw one person comment, “Honestly, I probably won’t.”

It broke my heart, had she not just heard all of the blessings promised?  Pres. Nelson said it would “unleash the power of the family.”  I don’t know about you, but every time I hear that I just picture us dressed up like the Incredibles.  But she indicated that she wasn’t even going to try.

That comment has stuck with me, and was a big part of why I started sharing my Family Home Evening ideas on my blog.  I realize that life is overwhelming and this could feel like adding one more thing to your plate, so my hope is that by sharing ideas and compiling a list of materials, those that feel overwhelmed can at least have a springboard.  We’re not perfect at it by any means, we missed a week while traveling, and I’m sure we’ll miss weeks here and there in the future.  But, we’re trying and that’s a big part of it.

I’ve also seen a lot of questions about “the right way” to do it.  Is your Sunday lesson supposed to kick off the new week or wrap up the last week?  Should Family Home Evening be separate?  Do you read personally or as a family?  How do I get through these scriptures with kids when they have no attention span?  How do I fit in Book of Mormon as well?

The answer is- there’s no RIGHT way to do this.  The only wrong way is to do nothing.  The introductory materials in the Come Follow Me for Individuals and Families manual says, “Use this resource in any way that is helpful to you.”  ANY WAY!  In his talk introducing these adjustments, Elder Quentin L. Cook said, “there is flexibility for each individual and family to determine prayerfully how and when it will be implemented.”

So really what it comes down to, is they don’t want to command us on exactly how to use it.  They recognize that each family works differently and they don’t want to give a structure that’s not going to work for everyone.  We need to use our agency, seek personal revelation, and do many things of our own free will (D&C 58:26-27).

That being said, it can be helpful to hear about others experiences as we figure things our for ourselves.  So here’s how we are implementing this in our home, for now.  I’m sure we will make adjustments as needed in the future.

We do our Family Home Evening after church on Sunday wrapping up the current week.  We don’t have a set time of day on Sunday because I frequently have to stay after church for my calling.  We also regularly go to visit my parents or my in-laws on Sunday.  Those weeks I just bring my FHE stuff with me and we do it with them.

This last week we had a beautiful experience as we had a combined Family Home Evening with my parents, my younger brother who attends an Episcopal church, my Grandma who is not long for this world*, and my aunt who was visiting from out of state.  Talk about unleashing the power of the family!!!

Throughout the week we read the assigned set of scriptures with the kids at bed time from the New Testament Stories book published by the church.  And by read, I mean they typically watch them on my phone.  It’s also typically a fight to get them to hold still, but regularly my son surprises me by talking about something we read in the scriptures later in the week.  The stories don’t always align in the same order as the lessons. I realized this week that me missed some that went with a previous week, so we’ll just be catching up and then I will look through a little better in the future.  On the weeks when we have more days than stories we either re-watch or supplement with related stories from the Book of Mormon, or just let them pick a story they want to watch.

My husband and I read the assigned chapters together which typically takes a few nights, and then we read through the study material together and discuss the questions.

Something that is not happening yet- here’s where I could use your help.  I really want to use my study journal and go through the study material by myself as well.  My initial plan was to do this on Sunday afternoons, but like I said, I regularly stay after church for my calling and then we frequently go to see family for dinner.  Also my children don’t like to give me long stretches of uninterrupted time to study.  So Sundays haven’t been working out like I had hoped.  And I haven’t seen or taken the opportunity to fit it in on a different day.  So, if you are doing this, help me out!  Leave me a comment with how you fit this in to your week between kid nurturing, cleaning, cooking, exercising, ministering, flossing,  breathing….

 

*Update- My Grandma passed away just a few days after posting this, a week and a half after that Family Home Evening.  That was actually the last time we saw her alive.  What a beautiful closing memory to have been learning together from the scriptures with 4 generations present.

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for little ones- Feb 2019

Can you believe it is already time to start preparing for February?!?  How are you adapting to the new schedule and new curriculum?  I’m still kind of weirded out by the short schedule, granted I’ve still been at church at least 4 hours between choir practice and conducting Ministering Interviews, but at least it’s not 5!  At home the kids are doing pretty well with Family Home Evening, but admittedly our plant that we planted for the Sower lesson is already dead…  I’m not sure what happened, plenty of water, plenty of sun, maybe too much sun? maybe it froze over night?  I don’t know, luckily keeping plants alive is not a pre-requisite to Salvation because I would be burning in the bad place!

Thank you so much for the overwhelming response to last month’s post, and if you’re new this month then welcome.  I was shocked, amazed, humbled, over-joyed (basically had all the feels) when January’s FHE post hit 1,000 views in the first 24 hours, and about 3,500 views total.  So thanks for reading and sharing, but even more I’m so grateful and glad to know that we are in this together to help teach and inspire our kids.

If you’re looking for more ways to make February meaningful with your kids check out my Family-centered Valentine’s Activities.

But on to Family Home Evening!

Feb. 4-10 For the Spirit of the Lord is Upon Me

Prep Materials: masking tape, preferred toys and treats, picture of Christ, picture of Sun, big prize or treat

Song: Choose The Right Way pg. 160

Create a path through your house- masking tape on the floor works well.  Review the story of Christ being tempted.  Tell the kids they need to stay on the path to get to the special prize at the end.  Place some of their favorite items or small treats just out of reach from the path.  Have one parent be the “Holy Ghost” reminding them to stay on the path and the other one try to get them to step off.  Have a picture of Jesus and a picture of the sun to represent the Celestial Kingdom at the end.  Explain that returning to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is the best gift we can receive, and then give them a prize or favorite treat.

 

Feb. 11-17 Ye Must Be Born Again

Prep Materials: pre-made Valentine with picture of Jesus, supplies to make Valentines (construction paper, glue, markers, etc.)

Song: As  I Have Loved You pg. 136  or God Loved Us, So He Sent His Son Hymn #187

Make a big Valentine card for your kids from Heavenly Father with a picture of Jesus in the middle.  Read John 3:16 together and explain to the kids that Heavenly Father showed his love to us by giving us Jesus.  Now have the kids make Valentines for Heavenly Father and Jesus.  I’ve made a simple printable with pictures they can glue on to Valentines, you could also encourage them to draw some of their own ideas.

Valentines for Heavenly Father

Feb. 18-24 Blessed Are Ye

Prep Materials: flashlights, candlestick (an actual one or made out of a paper towel roll or pvc pipe to fit the flashlights you will use), bushel (either a basket or a small box will work), pictures or objects to find

Song: I Am Like a Star Shining Brightly pg. 163

Pull out those flashlights from last month again!  Hide a few objects or pictures for them to find.  Read/ summarize Matthew 5:14-16.  Take the kids outside in the evening or in a dark room in the house.  Mom or dad should go first with the flashlight, turn it on and look around for a second and then place it under your “bushel” and keep trying to guide them.  Take turns being the light, give them the option to use a “candle stick” or a “bushel” as they guide the family to find things like a picture of Jesus, scriptures, a picture of Pres. Nelson, the temple, etc.

 

Feb 25-March 3 He Taught Them As One Having Authority

Prep Materials: containers (tupperware or casserole dishes), large rock, sand, small houses (you could just draw or print them on paper or make them out of legos), pitcher of water

Song: The Wise Man and the Foolish Man pg. 281

Using two large containers place a large rock in one and a pile of sand in the other.  Make two small houses.  Sing the song together and place the house on the rock, when you get to “the rains came down….” pour water around it.   Repeat for the sand.  Discuss what happened to the houses.  Read Helaman 5:12 together and talk about how you can build your house on the Rock of our Redeemer.

 

Combined Materials List:

masking tape

preferred toys and treats

picture of Christ

picture of Sun

big prize or treat

Valentine with picture of Jesus

supplies to make Valentines (construction paper, glue, markers, etc.)

flashlights

candlestick (paper towel roll/pvc pipe)

bushel (basket or a small box)

pictures or objects to find

containers (tupperware or casserole dishes)

large rock

sand

small houses

pitcher of water

Family-centered Valentine’s Activity Calendar

If you have followed my Christ-centered Thanksgiving and Christmas activity posts then I hope you love this one as well.  I wanted to put together activities last year to make Valentine’s day more meaningful, but then my Grandma died and life got crazy and I didn’t have a chance to get to it.  This year I started early, because February is actually going to be crazier this time around with a wedding and a baby blessing, but those have been planned with ample notice, whereas funerals just happen when they need to happen.

As I was thinking through incorporating the wedding and the baby blessing into the calendar, lines from the Family: A Proclamation to the World kept coming to mind.  Initially I put it out of my mind and thought it wasn’t really related to Valentine’s day, and then it hit me that if I want to make Valentine’s Day meaningful then really Valentine’s Day is ALL about the family and the teachings in the Proclamation.

Obviously some of our bigger activities are not universal (unless you also have a family member getting married in February and another family member who recently had a baby, in which case we should be friends!), so I’ve tried to include a few ideas for alternate or extra activities that go along with the same theme.  And if you are a member of another faith, I’m sure you can still incorporate these ideas based on your beliefs, and I think you will find more similarities than differences in the beliefs outlined in the Proclamation on the family.

  1.  I love to see the temple- walk around the temple (or if you live too far away look at pictures) and explain it’s importance.
  2. THE FAMILY is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan… The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.” Wedding time!
    • If you don’t have a wedding to go to this month, or even if you do, you could pull out wedding albums, pictures, that wedding DVD you watched like once, and any other mementos from your wedding and show them to your kids.  Talk to them about your wedding day and how special it was.
  3. “Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” Baby blessing time!
    • Pull out baby pictures and any mementos from when your kids were blessed (or Christened).  Tell them about their blessing and how much of a blessing it is to have them in your life.
  4. Learn the song Love One Another, Children’s Song Book pg. 136.  Including the sign language could be really fun.  This is a really great activity to throw in on a day you know will be very busy.
  5. HUSBAND AND WIFE have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. ” Trade off date nights with the kids.  Obviously this is going to look different for each family depending on the number of kids, but for us we’ll do this over two nights, I’ll take one kid and my husband will take the other and then the next night we’ll switch.  Go as simple or as big as your budget and your calendar allow.  Maybe it’s just a walk or ice cream (or a walk to ice cream so it cancels out!) or maybe it’s bigger like a performance or game.  The biggest thing is that it’s dedicated time to them and their interests.
  6.  See above (and if you’re family is big enough you could just do one on ones the rest of the time until Valentine’s day and ignore the rest of the list!)
  7. We love our cousins!  We’ll be blessed to have cousins visiting so we’ll party hard with them, but if cousins aren’t available you could make Valentine’s to mail to them.
  8. We love our grandparents!  Make Valentine’s for grandparents
  9. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” Do a wholesome recreational activity as a family.  For us this will probably be the Renaissance Festival.
  10. Heavenly Father loves us so he gave us a Prophet.  In Arizona we will have a special fireside with President Nelson and President Oaks this day.
    • If you’re not in AZ you could talk about going to church to take the sacrament and read John 3:16.
  11. Make a fun heart craft
  12. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” Focus on compassion, do some kind of service project.  We will probably take a meal to a refugee family through Gathering Humanity.
  13. Make Valentine’s for friends and classmates (and by make, I mean write their names on little store bought cards, but if you’re crafty and into really making cute Valentine’s for everyone then POWER to you!)
  14. Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself- take treats to neighbors.  We started this a few years ago and our neighbors LOVE it.  Christmas time always gets so busy and we always end up getting sick so I decided to stop pretending like I was going to take around Christmas treats and now we just do Valentine’s day treats.  It’s way better than hunting down a babysitter and trying to get in to an overcrowded restaurant.

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope this helps you make the time very meaningful for your family!

Come Follow Me Family Home Evening for little ones- Jan 2019

Can I just say how excited I am for this Come Follow Me curriculum.  There’s a lot of reasons:

  • studying the same material across age groups
  • home focus- which goes right along with some of my feelings about deliberate parenting
  • multi-modal learning- it’s making my educator heart sing
  • lots of opportunities to use my laminator- also making my teacher heart happy 🙂
  • FHE whenever works best for your family (which relieved all of the guilt I have had about having community choir on Monday nights!)
  • Family Home Evening ideas!

I keep thinking I should film the craziness that is Family Home Evening at our house but my 4-year-old is typically in his underwear and I’m not going to put that out there for the internet.  It’s kind of a circus and I’ll admit that I have gotten to the point of yelling, and threatening, and time out.  I’ve been better recently about keeping my patience and the kids have been a tiny bit better about listening.  One of the things I noticed was that they could smell fear and lack of preparation; the weeks where we were just throwing something together went really badly.  The past few months we started just using the Behold Your Little Ones manual, and that’s when I noticed that things started getting better and I think it has everything to do with my husband and I having a plan and being organized.

With the new curriculum I want to get even more organized and I figure if I take a day and get everything prepped for the coming month then we can have super low stress family home evenings after church on Sundays.  And if I’m already doing the work, I figured I’d share with others and hopefully make things a little easier for you as well.  So I’ll give you ideas for how to take what’s in the curriculum and make it work with little ones, and at the end of the post there’s a combined materials list for the whole month.

Dec. 31- Jan 6  We are Responsible for Our Own Learning

Prep Materials: plant, rocks, thorns/weeds, pot for planting, print/ laminate sower game

Song: Faith pg. 96

Lesson: Review the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13:1-23.  If you are a super overachiever you could plant seeds ahead of time in rocks, among weeds or thorns, and in good ground and compare how they have grown.  I’m not so good at the growing things from seeds thing, so I’ll probably just fill a cup with rocks, show the kids the weeds in the front yard (maybe pull some while we’re at it!), and buy a plant already growing in good soil.  We’ll compare how things grow in different types of soil and talk about needing to listen well at home and at church so we can learn about Jesus really well.  Then we’ll  dig a hole (a favorite activity for my kids), put our new plant in, water it, and get it some sunshine (but not too much!).

Activity: Sower game

 

Jan 7- 13 Be it Unto Me According to Thy Word

Prep Materials: Christ’s lineage print outs, Pictures of ancestors, optional names and titles for game

Song:  Family History- I Am Doing It pg. 94 (or go to the Family History Section in topics, there’s a surprising amount of songs in this category)

Lesson: Christ’s lineage is laid out.  Below you will find an attachment with His ENTIRE lineage, do with it as you please depending on your kids’ reading and comprehension level.  Then there are pictures that just have His most famous Ancestors.  I plan to print those out, laminate them, and turn them into ornaments.  I will do the same with pictures from our own family tree.  I’m just going to go ahead and leave our Christmas tree up until we get to this activity, but you could make a tree out of paper, or just do the activity on the floor.  We’ll first talk about Christ’s lineage and then put our own family tree together.

Christ’s Lineage Pictures

Christ’s Lineage (this is the entire lineage given in Luke 3 as a list, if your kids can read and have a decent attention span you may want to put the names in a bigger font and print them to put together as well)

Activity: Let the kids play with the print outs.  I am going to print out 2 sets of our ancestor pictures and Christ’s lineage pictures and play a simple memory game.  If your kids can read you may want to have them match the picture with the name and title (great grandma, great-great grandpa, etc.)

 

Jan 14-20 We Have Come to Worship Him

Prep Materials: Kid friendly nativity set

Song: Picture a Christmas pg. 50 or Nativity Song pg. 52

Lesson: Hopefully they remember a lot from having just gone over the story, it’s like Christmas Eve round 2!  Use a kid friendly nativity set, if you don’t have one, you might be able to find one on clearance right now, or, I just have this little printable set.  Put the characters (yes even the animals) in a bag and have the kids pull them out at random then talk about that character’s contribution to the story.  Then have the kids tell the story the best they can (probably good to have the camera ready!!)

Activity: Just let them play with the nativity!

 

Jan 21-27 We Have Found the Messiah

Prep Materials: Flashlights (with pictures of Jesus if you want), Objects to find (could be church related, could just be for fun)

Song: Teach Me to Walk in the Light pg. 177

Lesson: Explain that Jesus is the Light of the World.  Either make a room in your house really dark or wait until it’s dark outside.  Give the kids a flashlight (you could tape a picture of Christ to it to help with the visual), then send them on a scavenger hunt.  You could do church related things like a picture of the Prophet, scriptures, church clothes, etc. or just fun items, or a mixture.  The final item could be some sort of Celestial treat!

 

Jan 28- Feb 3 Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

Prep Materials: two mason jars, food coloring, water, bleach AND/OR a tea bag (with a string), a cup with water, a lighter

Song: When I am Baptized pg. 103

Lesson: You could do either of these object lessons or both to teach about baptism

#1- super simple and guaranteed to work.  Fill a mason jar with water, the other one with some bleach.  Talk about mistakes that we make and drop food coloring into the water with each mistake.  Then explain that when we are baptized our sins are washed away- dump the bleach in and the water will return to clear.

#2- sorta complicated, and sometimes it doesn’t work quite right- you should definitely do a practice run!  We used to do this on the mission a lot and would turn it into kind of a story and get really into it- until our mission president told us we had to stop playing with fire, I’m sure he didn’t expect to have that conversation with a set of sisters, but it’s really cool.

Take a tea bag (it can be any kind of herbal tea but the bag needs to be the kind that is folded in on itself with a staple and a string (as opposed to sealed around the edges) and preferably individually wrapped)

Tell the kids that the bag wants to get to heaven but it can’t.  Toss it up in the air a few times to show that it can’t get there.  It will need to go through some steps to get there.

1- It needs to have faith so first off it’s gotta leave the comfort of it’s wrapper (or box if they aren’t individually wrapped).

2- Now it’s out but it still can’t get there, put your finger on the string to “weigh it down.”  Explain that it’s going to need to let go of the things holding it back by repenting.  Take off the string.

3-  Toss it up and down again, see that it’s doing better now but still can’t make it to heaven.  Even though it repented and let go of the weight it still has some things that need to be washed away.  Carefully take out the staple and empty the contents into a cup of water and explain that baptism washes everything away (but do NOT get the bag itself wet!)  Now you should have a tube, carefully stand it on one end.

4- Explain that now it’s standing taller, it’s getting closer, but it still needs one more thing, the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Sometimes the scriptures call this the baptism by fire because fire also purifies.  Light the top end of the tea bag tube on fire and as it burns it should suddenly float into the air “up to heaven!”

Activity: Set up a washing station in the sink or bathtub with toys that are dirty.

 

Full materials list for the month

plant

rocks, thorns/weeds

pot for planting

Sower game

Pictures of ancestors

Names and titles for ancestor matching (optional)

Christ’s Lineage Pictures

Kid Friendly Nativity Set

Flashlights (with pictures of Jesus if you want)

Scavenger Hunt objects

2 mason jars

food coloring

water

bleach

AND/OR a tea bag (with a string)

cup with water

lighter

 

 

#LightTheWorld Countdown for Little Children

I am so excited about this year’s light the world campaign and the opportunity to combine it with our annual tradition of having a Christ-centered advent calendar.  My kids call them circle activities because we use muffin tins to create our calendar so they take a circle off each day to find out what our activity is.  I have been doing them for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter the past couple of years (hoping to add Valentine’s day this year!) in order to keep our celebration meaningful, deliberate, and focused on the Savior.

I’m by no means anti-Santa, I love Santa, we do Santa.  But, I have had to DO nothing in order for my 4 year old and 2 year old to learn about Santa. He’s everywhere- in fact he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…

However, I do have to be deliberate and intentional in making sure they learn the true meaning of this time of year.  It’s not all strictly “religious” but I make sure that we find ways to tie the “just for fun” things back to the Savior.

As I mentioned I love the #LightTheWorld campaign for this year especially.  This time it’s broken down by week:

1- Light the World (global focus)

2- Light your Community

3- Light your Family

4- Light your Faith

As I sat down to start brainstorming our calendar I struggled a little to figure out how we could make sure the kids were actually involved in and understanding global service.  I reached out to friends for help and got some great ideas to incorporate into our calendar.  A really cool idea that didn’t make it on the calendar is the Light the World vending machine.  There is one in Gilbert by the water tower (also one at Temple Square in Salt Lake, Manhattan, London, and Manila- and if you can’t get to any of those there is a way to donate online at that hyper link).  This is a vending machine for charities- you choose to donate a pair of glasses, or a chicken, or clean water, etc!

Additionally- we’ll be kicking off our celebration before the calendar actually starts, I could just add it but it would throw off the perfect 24 spaces on the calendar and that might make my slightly obsessive brain explode.  But, we’ll be attending a local Live Nativity on November 30th at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church.  It runs the 30th-1st.  There is also the Walk through Bethlehem in Chandler that sounds amazing but as I looked at our crazy calendar for the month I realized I needed to pair down a little and the time and distance on that was going to be a little too much for us this year.  That one runs the 14th-16th.

I’ve had a lot of fun thinking through how to incorporate these ideas for my little ones, and I really hope this helps others find ways to serve and make this season meaningful no matter the ages of your children or if we belong to different faiths- together we can Light the World!

 

1- Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad!”- We’ll be attending a Christmas party- this is an example of how I incorporate a “just for fun” event and still make it meaningful.  This day has also been set aside as a Day of Service.  We will be bringing food and toy donations to the party as our service for the day.

Week 1- World

2- Jesus speaks to the world through His prophet- watch the Christmas Devotional

3- Missionaries are sent around the world to share the gospel- color pictures to mail to a missionary in a foreign country

4- Refugees have had to leave their homes in other parts of the world and come here to be safe.  Take a meal or other donations for refugee families.  If you’re in AZ then Gathering Humanity is an amazing organization!

5- Jesus created the world- Decorate the Christmas tree and talk about the days of the Creation

6- Jesus is the Light of the World- go to a light display (probably Glendale Glitters for us)

7- We believe in a God of miracles for the whole world.  Tell the Hanukkah story.  I’ve purchased this children’s book which tells the story and has beautiful illustrations.  I include Hanukkah each year for my kids because one of my best friends is Jewish and while we won’t be able to celebrate together this year, I have cherished memories of lighting the menorah with her growing up.  Also, I want my children to know and understand that God loves ALL of His children and provides them with miracles even if they believe differently than we do.  This also fits in so well with the global focus, no coincidence that Hanukkah lined up with week 1 this year, amIright??!

8- Asylum seekers come from different parts of the world and arrive here with nothing hoping to find safety.  Make and donate a backpack asylee kit.  We will have the kids pick the backpack and stuff it with the necessary items (my 2 year old LOVES backpacks right now so this will be a good way to get her involved).  We will be partnering with Gathering Humanity again for this one.  And special thanks to my cousin for guiding me to this idea!

Week 2- Community

9- Donate to the Humanitarian/ Fast offering fund.  We typically just do this online, but in order to get the kids involved we are going to go old school and use the paper slip and envelope and actual cash then have the kids hand it to the Bishop.

10- Angel craft

11- Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”  Make little ornaments and take them to our neighbors

12- Nativity Craft- I bought a cute little foam kit at Hobby Lobby.  They have a few different ones depending on your kids skill level (and your capability for handling messes!)

13- Take toy and clothes donations to Maggie’s Place.  One of our Thanksgiving activities was to clean up and clean out the playroom- this is where those will be going.

14- Jesus was born in a stable- go to a petting zoo to see the types of animals that might have been there.  We will be heading over to Superstition Farm.  This might seem silly, but we have done this a few years in a row now and the kids LOVE it.  Two years ago my son ran around the petting zoo yelling, “Jesus, where are you!”  Apparently when I told him we would see animals like the ones that were there when Jesus was born, he figured we would also see baby Jesus.  Last year we went after we saw The Star and they started calling all of the animals the names from the movie.

15- Jesus healed the sick- take treats to the NICU.  Our daughter was a NICU baby so we make sure and take treats to current NICU parents this time of year.  Be aware if you decide on a NICU for service it is best to call ahead and you really will just drop off the treats with the desk.  Small children will most likely not be allowed into the NICU.   We walk to the door together as a family and then my husband takes the kids to a nursery viewing window while I take the treats in to the actual NICU.

Week 3- Family

16- Jesus said, “Ye shall meet together oft.”  Church!  It might seem like cheating because we do this every week anyway, but I call it being creative with my resources.  Also, I think it’s good to periodically talk about WHY we go to church.

17- Light your family- Make little gifts for Grandparents

18- Cards for cousins

19- Jesus asked us to pray together as families- have family prayer and review how to pray

20- Gingerbread Stables

21- Family Movie Night- The Nativity (8 minutes- live action) Christmas Story videos (more very short videos telling the story) Joy to the World (about 45 min total), and we’ll probably do a VeggieTales or The Star

22- Make memories with Family- activity with extended family and open presents with them

Week 4- Light Your Faith

23- Sing Choirs of Angels- sing Christmas songs at church and with our opera singing relatives coming into town!  My husband’s brother is engaged and we will finally get to meet his fiancee this day!  Their common interest in opera brought them together!

24- Bethlehem dinner- I make lamb and other foods similar to what they would have eaten at that time in Bethlehem.  I’m hoping this year to eat it by light of a candle from that era as well.  Then we’ll read the story from Luke 2 and hopefully have the kids act it out!

 

Merry Christmas!!!  I hope this has given you some good ideas to incorporate in your own family’s celebration!

Thanksgiving Activity List

It’s that time of year again! Time for another round of holiday circle activities!  A lot of these are similar to last year where I also gave an in depth explanation of why and how I do this.  But to sum up I make a calendar using muffin tins and have an activity each day for my 2 and 4 year old kids.  This helps make our holiday prep and observance more deliberate and meaningful and to prevent going straight from asking for candy to asking for presents and forgetting to be thankful in between.

IMG_20161031_151857448

I live in Phoenix, so the outings are naturally Phoenix based, but they are pretty easily adaptable to wherever you live.  And if you do live in the Phoenix area then I would LOVE to have you join us on any of our outings.

Thanksgiving Activities 2018!

  1. The Pilgrims came to America in a boat called the Mayflower- I think I’m going to be brave and try to fold boats out of paper this year- but if I chicken out or if you’re just not that brave either then just use a bath toy.  We have a water table so we’ll float a boat in that on the back porch, but it’s also fun in the bathtub, sink, or a large tupperware.
  2. Hand turkeys
  3. Pilgrim coloring page (I’ll be at Time out for Women so this will be an easy no prep activity for daddy to handle)
  4. The Pilgrims came to America for religious freedom, they wanted to go to the church they felt was right without being persecuted- go to church
  5. We are thankful for our bodies- go for a walk
  6. We show gratitude for our food by sharing with those in need- donate food- depending on the schedule we will donate to a food drive or take a meal to a refugee family through Gathering Humanity, maybe both 🙂 that link will take you to their sign-up genius where you can sign up to deliver a prepared meal for a family’s first night in their new home, purchase two weeks worth of groceries (both of those can be done using Wal-Mart pick-up if your schedule doesn’t allow for drop off, or you can sign up to set up an apartment or help in the warehouse- this has been an amazing and simple way to serve the community
  7. Begin Thankful Tree- I bought a thankful tree last year at Target, it has paper leaves to write on, we will start it today and then add to it throughout the month
  8. We are thankful for cousins- color pictures to mail to cousins
  9. We are thankful for animals- go to the zoo
  10. We are thankful for Primary/ Nursery- color pictures for their teachers and deliver them the next day at church
  11. We are thankful for the brave men and women that keep our country safe- color pictures for Operation Gratitude, this group sends care packages to active duty soldiers and veterans, they have some specific guidelines so look them up before you start
  12. We show gratitude for our home by keeping it clean- pick a chore
  13. We are thankful for our food- color a picture for the cashier (we’ve done this a few years in a row and they are always surprised and so grateful)
  14. We are thankful for Preschool- make a card for the teacher
  15. We are thankful for our minds and imagination- go to the Children’s Museum
  16. We are thankful for Grandparents- color pictures for Grandparents
  17. We are thankful for the earth- go to the Botanical Garden
  18. We are thankful for the temple- walk around the temple grounds
  19. We are thankful for friends- make a treat for a friend
  20. We are thankful for daddy’s job- take him lunch at work
  21. We show gratitude for our toys by cleaning them up and sharing with children in need- pick up and select toys to donate (bonus of getting ready for new toys coming in a few weeks for Christmas)
  22. Thanksgiving feast!
  23. The Native Americans helped the Pilgrims- visit Native American ruins, we’ll be heading up to Wupatki National Monument near Flagstaff (it’s connected to Sunset Crater National Monument so you get to see a volcano while you’re at it!)
  24. We are grateful for our family- fun family outing, for us this is going to be attending a horse race- I tried to find a way to make horses fit into Thanksgiving but all I could come up with was family time 🙂

 

You may be wondering how we afford the Zoo, the Children’s Museum, the Botanical Gardens, a National Park, and a horse race all in one month.  We’re not rolling in the dough, and those that know me know that I’m pretty cheap.  So here’s how we make it work- the kids get a zoo membership from Grandparents as their birthday present and the Children’s museum as a Christmas present.  For the Botanical Gardens, I watch for a culture pass at the library which gets two adults in for free so we’ll only have to pay for the 4 year old (they also have a free day once a month but it’s a Tuesday and I wanted to go as a family so we’ll use the culture pass to go on a Saturday).  The National Monument is $15 (per car) for both the ruins and the volcano and the horse race is only $2 admission.  So we’ll be able to do all of these things in one month for about $35 out of pocket.  While we’re thankful for daddy’s job and the financial security it brings, we are also thankful for all the money saving ideas we can find!

IN the World

This post is an extension of remarks I offered in a recent sacrament meeting.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have paid clergy or preachers.  Rather, each week different members of the ward (congregation) are asked to speak on a specific subject.  I was recently given this opportunity with the prompt “How can we be in the world but not of the world?”

I feel that we frequently focus on the end of that phrase- not OF the world.  Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, succinctly and eloquently taught us how to do this:

“We will have to stay calm under peer pressure, not be impressed by popular trends or false prophets, disregard the ridicule of the ungodly, resist the temptations of the evil one, and overcome our own laziness.”

This is so important especially in our day where so many lines are being blurred and crossed, however, I think we sometimes pay too little attention to the beginning of that phrase where we are asked to be IN the world.

While this exact admonition is not found word for word in the scriptures, the idea is certainly there and similar commands are made both anciently and in modern times.

In Matthew 5 we read:
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Additionally, Elder Quentin L. Cook said:

“We cannot avoid the world. A cloistered existence is not the answer. In a positive sense, our contribution to the world is part of our challenge and is essential if we are to develop our talents.”

We are not to be cloistered, or under a bushel.  We need to be on a candlestick and contributing.

Why is that important?

President Russell M. Nelson taught:

“True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world.”

I don’t know about you, but I would like to be counted as a true disciple.

President Spencer W. Kimball offered these thoughts:

“Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.”

While that was specifically directed towards the women of the church, it does not take the men off the hook.  Missionary work is driven forward as we are different, and articulate.  As we stand out and speak up, and as we are a light.

How then can we appropriately be IN the world to be this light?

We can:

Be Involved

Be Inclusive

Be Informed

Be Inspirational

 

Where do we do these things?  Sister Neill F. Marriott taught that we carry a circle of influence with us wherever we go.  I want to discuss 3 circles in which we can carry a significant influence.

 

First in our communities.

Do you know your neighbors?  Are you involved in their lives to any degree?  Do you include them in yours?  My uncle once said that the garage door opener was a destructive force in neighborhoods.  And it’s kinda true, we never have to talk to our neighbors because we don’t have to spend time in our front yards unlocking our doors and it feels awkward to just ring our neighbors’ doorbells for no reason.  Which is why I love Halloween…I get to ring my neighbor’s doorbell, they give my kid candy, and then we chat for a second.

Other Holidays are a great opportunity to connect- I used to make plans to carol to our neighbors at Christmas, but to the dismay of my high school dreams of eternal duets, my husband doesn’t like singing in public, my kids don’t sing on command, and it’s a little less cute for me to sit there and solo on the porch.  Also, we always get overbooked and sick right around Christmas.  So the last 2 years I scrapped the Christmas caroling idea and now we take treats to our neighbors for Valentine’s day.  They love it.  We have an older, wheelchair bound gentleman down the street and he loves our visit.  This last year we met a new neighbor on Valentine’s day, she was actually crying when she opened the door because she was going to have to put down her dog the next day.  I followed up with flowers a few days later to make sure she was doing ok, but I would have had no idea what was going on if I hadn’t taken her a Valentine treat.  Find a reason to knock on your neighbors’ doors periodically, and spend some time outside- in your yard or out for a walk so you have opportunities to meet and talk to your neighbors.

Additionally, the Church Handbook of Instruction states:

Members are also urged to be actively engaged in worthy causes to improve their communities and make them wholesome places in which to live and rear families.

This will depend greatly on your season of life and time availability, but find ways to serve whether on a regular and scheduled basis, or simply donating goods.  There are many opportunities to serve refugees in our community depending on your time and resource availability you could set up an apartment for an incoming family, make and drop off a meal for their first night in the country, stock them up with groceries- you can even do a clicklist and someone else can pick it up if you have the money but not the time, or you can simply donate goods as you declutter your home.  You may be involved on the PTA, or HOA.  Join a club or sports team.  I’m part of a community choir, I’m the only active member of the church in the group- which is completely opposite of any other choir I’ve ever been a part of, but I’ve had many opportunities to answer questions, and share experiences with other members of the choir.

Get in the world by being involved and inclusive in your community.  Avoid being of the world by being offish.

 

The next sphere I want to talk about bridges both locally and nationally.  And since we’re already discussing one taboo topic- religion- let’s just go ahead and discuss politics while we’re at it.

Again from the handbook:

“As citizens, Church members are encouraged to participate in political and governmental affairs, including involvement in the political party of their choice.

Members are encouraged to register to vote, to study issues and candidates carefully, and to vote for individuals whom they believe will act with integrity and sound judgment. Latter-day Saints have a special obligation to seek out, vote for, and uphold leaders who are honest, good, and wise.”

In the last Presidential election, which as you might remember was a little heated to say the least, and an incredibly close call in the end, 45% of adults in the US did not vote.  Please don’t be part of that 45%!  We just had an election about 2 weeks ago…did you vote?  We have another one coming up in about 2 months, will you vote in that one?  And more importantly, will you be an informed voter?

Getting informed is time consuming and can be frustrating as it can be difficult to find unbiased information but it’s SO important.  Take a look a multiple sources, including looking into the other side of the argument.  It may or may not change your opinion, but it will certainly help you make a more informed decision.  It will also help you engage in more civil and constructive discussions on the topic.

We also need to decide what principles will guide our decisions and stick to them.  May I suggest that one of these guiding principles would be to follow the prophet, even, and especially when he may say something that goes against our typical political line of thinking.

Earlier this year I posted something from President Nelson that went against the grain of a certain line of political thought.  The topic and political side are unimportant, but I want to share an exchange that occurred with another member of the church that I knew from my mission.

She responded:
“I’m alarmed that the prophet would make such a [leftist or rightist] and non-sensical comment.”  She went on about her thoughts on the topic then concluded with: “Why do people… now apparently including our prophet!, think that laws impact people’s choices at all??? Utterly ridiculous”

I was a bit shocked that a fellow active member of the church would speak out so derisively of our prophet.  Even to go so far as to call him ridiculous.  But, while this example was extreme, I had noticed multiple examples of a similar attitude when the church made an official statement that went against someone’s political leanings.

I responded to her with these thoughts:

“I don’t think of this as a [leftist or rightist] view. I think that the Prophet is the center, and sometimes the right aligns to center, and sometimes the left aligns to center.

I think the most important thing is to look introspectively and make sure that we are aligning our political views, the policies we support, and our general behavior with God and His teachings rather than trying to make Him and His teachings fit into our political views.”

With the recent statement on the Medical Marijuana bill in Utah, a friend and fellow blogger published an amazing article on this exact same subject of following the prophet.  I highly recommend reading the post, but here is a quote I stole from it by Elder Neal A Maxwell from 1978:

“Discipleship includes good citizenship; and in this connection, if you are careful students of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions—especially when the First Presidency has spoken out—the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. … But make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).

President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life” (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ.”

Please be IN the world by being involved and informed politically but avoid becoming OF the world by putting party above Prophets.

 

The last sphere of influence I will discuss today is our potential global influence via the world wide web.

Social media is a two edged sword, on the one hand it can turn into a major time suck which can take us away from real relationships and higher priorities as well as turning into a war of words and tumult of opinions.  On the other hand, it offers a convenient way to keep in contact with friends, family, and associates and gives us the opportunity to share goodness on a large scale.

 

Elder David A. Bednar, in his address that began the #sharegoodness campaign, taught the importance of our online presence:

“The Lord is hastening His work, and it is no coincidence that these powerful communication innovations and inventions are occurring in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Social media channels are global tools that can personally and positively impact large numbers of individuals and families. And I believe the time has come for us as disciples of Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and more effectively to testify of God the Eternal Father, His plan of happiness for His children, and His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world; to proclaim the reality of the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days; and to accomplish the Lord’s work.”

Sharing goodness isn’t just about always sharing church related material.  I feel it’s more about HOW we share than specifically WHAT we share, and should certainly extend to how we share our opinions on secular matters such as politics, current events, and really any issues that are argued on the internet.

He offered these guidelines to help us as we post on social media:

Be Authentic and Consistent and Seek to Edify and Uplift

“Our messages should be truthful, honest, and accurate.  We should not exaggerate, embellish, or pretend to be someone or something we are not.”

Last year I posted an “end of year review” detailing some of the fun things we had done throughout the year.  We had gone on several trips, etc.  After I posted it, I just didn’t feel well, authentic.  The post made it seem like 2017 was this beautiful fairy tale year.  When in fact, 2017 was a really hard year.  I was struggling with post partum depression, we had 3 ER visits, found mold- hence the ER visits, and my car basically exploded.  Yes, it had a lot of fun moments as well, but I realized in only sharing the fun, I failed to share the goodness.  I failed to share how we had learned and grown and the miracles we had seen despite the challenges.  So I wrote a blog post end of year review to be more authentic and accurate.

From Elder Bednar:

“Our content should be trustworthy and constructive. And anonymity on the Internet is not a license to be inauthentic.”

“We and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn, or belittle.”

Before you post something, make sure it comes from a trustworthy place.  Unfortunately, many entities put together posts and click bait articles that are not entirely true (or just outright lies) and specifically intended to stir contention.  Before you share stop and check that it is true, and then think about how it is worded, will it be informative and potentially inspirational, or will it primarily come off as judgmental and offensive?  A good guide can be to ask yourself if you would say it or share it if the person you disagree with was standing right next to you.  Name calling or insinuating that the other side is stupid is by no means constructive, it merely tears down and creates a bigger divide.  It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

Consider the example I gave earlier of my friends’ response to what I posted from Pres. Nelson.  She used words like non-sensical and ridiculous to describe our prophet, even if it wasn’t the prophet, but someone else I held in high respect it would still be rude.  She also insinuated my stupidity which immediately put me on the defensive.  Perhaps a better way to have worded her post could have been:

While I respect our prophet and your opinion on this issue, I am confused by this statement.  The church often emphasizes the need for personal responsibility, and I’m concerned that more laws would not change behavior.

That would have gotten her same point across without being offensive.  You can and should boldly share your opinions, but you ought to do it pleasantly. Because…

“Authenticity is strengthened through consistency. The gospel messages you share will be accepted more readily if your Christlike example is evident in the ongoing pattern of your posts.”

If your other posts and comments do not follow His example and demonstrate His love, then people will not be keen to listen when you share a message that is specifically gospel related.

Elder Bednar went on to say:

“Brothers and sisters, share the gospel with genuine love and concern for others. Be courageous and bold but not overbearing in sustaining and defending our beliefs, and avoid contention. As disciples our purpose should be to use social media channels as a means of projecting the light and truth of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ into a world that increasingly is dark and confused.”

Let’s be in the world wide web by being inspirational but not of the world by being offensive.

In closing I want you to consider the many temples we have in the world.  While we have temples in many areas that are primarily known for their high Latter-day Saint populations, we also have temples in places like New York City and Las Vegas which are certainly more well known for their worldliness.  Temples are here IN the world, but are certainly not of it.

Sis. Marriott shared this insight:

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” We too as [children] of God have been placed all around the world, like temples, and we each have our own unique look and outward design, like temples. We also have a spiritual light within us, like temples.

We have our own roles on the earth.  Each is influential. Each role will have moral power as we reflect gospel truths and temple covenants in our lives.”

I invite you to consider how you can individually be more IN the world by being involved, inclusive, informed, and inspirational then having the integrity to not become OF the world.