Sunday, June 19, 2016

June 2016

     This month we held a specialized training on the doctrine of the family.  In preparation, missionaries studied talks by Elder Bednar and Sister Julie Beck on the role of the family in the plan of salvation ( and  The training opened with a companionship teaching a 5 minute version of the plan of salvation lesson as a backdrop to the family pillar of the plan.  As Elder Bednar taught, “Emphasizing marriage without linking it to the simple and fundamental doctrine of the plan of happiness cannot provide sufficient direction, protection, or hope in a world that grows increasingly confused and wicked.”  We discussed how it is that "the family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children" (Family Proclamation and Moses 6:59-60).  Forming families is faith based work and critical to bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of Heavenly Father's children.  It will take intentional effort to raise families unto the Lord because, as President Spencer W. Kimball prophesied, “. . . The time will come when only those who believe deeply and actively in the family will be able to preserve their families in the midst of the gathering evil around us.”

     Our June departing missionaries are Sister Parsons, with Pres. & Sis. Eaton, and Sister Orr in the front.  Elders Caputo, Jones, Christiansen, Capener, Noh, and Oliphant are in back.

     Our June incoming missionaries are Sisters Bowman & Peterson, with Sis. & Pres. Eaton, Sisters Baird, Tayco, and Wynder in front.  Sisters Taylor & Williams, Elders Lyon, Jang, Roach, Cardin, and Duncan are in back.

     We will try something new at our missionary choir devotional this month.  Converts from other countries over the past 3 years will join the choir in singing "Hark All Ye Nations."  It has been an amazing thing to witness many receive the gospel here who may not have been able to hear about it in their native lands.  As Bishop Causse has taught, "The gathering of His elect from the four corners of the earth is taking place not only by sending missionaries to faraway countries but also with the arrival of people from other areas into our own cities and neighborhoods. Many, without knowing it, are being led by the Lord to places where they can hear the gospel and come into His fold."

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

May 2016

     We said goodbye to these dear missionaries--Front: with Pres. & Sis. Eaton; Middle: Sisters Loeak, Ketchum, Davis, and Frischknecht; Back: Elders Clawson and Hisita.  We welcomed Elder Clayburn and Sister Wilkinson!

     Our theme for zone conference this month was Repent, and Teach Repentance, or “Bringing our lives in line with God’s will through repentance is a central purpose of our lives” (Preach My Gospel, 62).  During the morning we talked about the doctrine of repentance and in the afternoon we practiced how we could better teach it.  Missionaries were asked to prepare a 3-minute talk on one of the following aspects of repentance:
Ø The role of the sacrament in repenting
Ø The role of repentance in developing Christ-like attributes
Ø Recognizing the need to repent more fully and regularly without getting overwhelmed

     One of my favorite explanations of the role of repentance comes from Elder Oaks' talk at the January broadcast to all missionaries worldwide.  He explained that there is more to dwelling in God's presence than simply being clean.
“When a person has gone through the repentance process, the Savior does more than cleanse that person from sin. He also gives him or her new strength. That strengthening is essential for us to realize the purpose of the cleansing, which is to return to our Heavenly Father. To be admitted to His presence, we must be more than clean. We must also be changed from a morally weak person who has sinned into a strong person with the strength to resist sin and the spiritual stature to dwell in the presence of God. That is what it means to be saved.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Teach Repentance and Baptize Converts)

1) Auburn Zone--Front: Sisters Whitney, Skousen, & Hammond, Pres. & Sis. Eaton, Sisters Huhem, Souza, and Lucky; Back: Pres. Layman, Elders Richards, Beaudette, Willardsen, Chappell, Gonzalez, Brice, Miller, Mousser, Jiao, Capener, Riley & Pres. McKinney
2) Enumclaw Zone--Front: Pres. Layman, Pres. & Sis. Eaton, Sisters Palmer, McGarity, and Lewis; Back: Elders Kidwell, Chance, Lloyd, Cabrera, Perkins, Odell, Noh, Kofford, Latimer, Payne, Cook, Elzey, & Pres. McKinney
3) Graham Zone--Front: Sisters Hunt, Parsons, Beazer, Pres. & Sis. Eaton, Sisters Woolsey and Zavala; Back: Elders Hunt, Lee-Wen, Snook, Samuels, Downs, Oliva, Sirrine, McDowell, and Scheidell
4) Puyallup South Zone--Front: Pres. Layman, Sisters Heiner & Pope, Sis. & Pres. Eaton, Sisters Lyman & Linker; Back: Elders Caputo, Samuelson, Jackson, Lappalainen, Miner, Pinckney, Willoughby, Jones, Allen, Cook, & Pres. McKinney
5) Puyallup Zone--Front: Pres. Layman, Sisters Westover & Cauley, Sis. & Pres. Eaton, Sisters Gafa & Hollingsworth, and Pres. McKinney; Back:Elders Nelson, Anderton, Tripp, Wagstaff, Jensen, Czarnecki, Oliphant, Fenton, Anderson, & Kelley
6) Federal Way Zone--Front: Sisters Webb, Orr, & Northrup, Sis. & Pres. Eaton, Sisters Erickson, Young, and Jorgensen; Middle: Elders Drake, Chugg, Wingle, Lowry, Sullivan, Rodarte, Jeong, Li, Moon, Snyder, and Pres. McKinney
7) Kent Zone--Back: Elders Draney, Ovard, Bakes, White, Nelson, Steiner, Knight, Thurgood, and Pres. Layman; Middle: Sisters Draney & Durham, Pres. McKinney, Elder Lewis, Sis. & Pres. Eaton, Elders Clayburn, Palmer, and Zamora; Seated: Sisters Stewart, Eldridge, Herlin, Thurman, Peterson, Giles, Richardson, and Wright; Front: Elders Graham, Nelson, and Anderson
8)Renton Zone--Back: Elders Knowles, Mitton, Northrup, John, Rex, Boyack, Covington, Pres. Layman, and Elder Sanders; Middle: Pres. McKinney, Elder Sumsion, Sis. & Pres. Eaton, Elders Williams and Hunter; Seated: Sisters Knowles, Chamberlain, Beck, Livingstone, McClellan, Bailey, Wilkinson, Pineda, and Yost; Front: Elders Christiansen, Richards, and Stucki

Monday, April 25, 2016

April 2016

     Since we didn't have a transfer this month, I've included a picture of mission leadership council instead of our arriving and departing missionaries.  (Front: Sisters Palmer, Huhem, Peterson, Lyman, Bailey, Loeak, Young, and Ketchum; Middle: Elders Nelson, Knight, Chappell,Lee-Wen, Sis. & Pres. Eaton, Elders Graham, Li, Noh, Sumsion, and Snyder; Back: Elders Riley, Oliphant, Mousser, Caputo, Nelson, Anderson, Anderton, Snook, Ha, and John)

     Each week as missionaries write letters, they often include questions.  Rather than answer the questions one by one, President Eaton creates a Q&A document and sends it to all the missionaries.  That way if others have the same question they can receive the answer as well.  Here is a sampling of questions and answers from this month.

1. What advice do you have for someone who struggles with feeling confident in oneself?
​I think true confidence in oneself is really confidence in Christ--"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philip. 4:13). It's this kind of confidence that protects us from pride because we acknowledge our dependence upon the Lord. Begin by increasing your faith that this is true. Look for examples in your life when the Lord has helped you with something in the past, and pray that He will increase your faith (Mark 9:24) that He will help you in the future. Then take steps forward to the edge of your comfort zone with a prayer in your heart. As you put forth a concerted effort to recognize His hand each day in even small ways and write those experiences down, you will discover a pattern and your faith, and thus your confidence, will grow.
2. On a spiritual level, how do I stay humble? I have been ridiculously humbled by God and I want to avoid that experience because honestly it stinks! So I'm trying to figure out how to stay humble to avoid large humbling events from God? Any talks or scriptures on how to preserve humility once it's reached? 
In the Saturday morning session of general conference, Elder Snow spoke about humility. That may be a good talk to review when it becomes available. Among others, he quoted President Spencer W. Kimball teaching, “How does one get humble? To me, one must constantly be reminded of his dependence. On whom dependent? On the Lord. How remind one's self? By real, constant, worshipful, grateful prayer.” (To see the full talk from President Kimball, you can go to One of my goals from conference is to say one prayer each day where I simply express gratitude and ask for nothing. I am hopeful that this will help me better remember the Giver of all good things and be less like the goldfish Elder Maxwell has described, “congratulating [myself] on [my] self-sufficiency, never mind the food pellets or changes of water.” I’m sure you can find more and better things to study, but this can get you started. 
3. I know awhile back you gave us a cool insight on "plates or no plates" I forgot how you modeled it, I just remember it being super cool. If it be possible could I get an outline on that?  
Here’s something along those lines from Elder Tad Callister in his talk, “The Book of Mormon—a Book from God”: 
That is the genius of the Book of Mormon—there is no middle ground. It is either the word of God as professed, or it is a total fraud. This book does not merely claim to be a moral treatise or theological commentary or collection of insightful writings. It claims to be the word of God—every sentence, every verse, every page. Joseph Smith declared that an angel of God directed him to gold plates, which contained the writings of prophets in ancient America, and that he translated those plates by divine powers. If that story is true, then the Book of Mormon is holy scripture, just as it professes to be; if not, it is a sophisticated but, nonetheless, diabolical hoax. C. S. Lewis spoke of a similar dilemma faced by someone who must choose whether to accept or reject the Savior’s divinity—where there is likewise no middle ground: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. … You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. … But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”2
 Likewise, we must make a simple choice with the Book of Mormon: it is either of God or the devil. There is no other option. 
4. I've been praying for charity daily and reading about it in the Book of Mormon and Preach my Gospel, but I'm still struggling. What can I do to increase my love for those around me? I almost feel ashamed for asking, because I feel like I've been applying what prophets, apostles, and other church leaders have suggested, but nothing seems to be changing.
I probably don't have more to add than what you've already studied. Maybe you have grown more in this area than you realize. The thing that helps me the most is to try to understand other's circumstances and feelings. This is difficult because we are somewhat limited in our understanding of others by our own experiences. As I was studying the New Testament, I came across an interesting scripture that I hadn’t noticed before in Hebrews 10:24—"And let us consider (footnote: understand) one another to provoke (1828 Dictionary: to move, incite, stir up) unto love and to good works." There is something about understanding one another that moves us to love one another as well.

This same concept is repeated in Adjusting to Missionary Life on p. 38. This section deals with managing social demands and there is a portion that gives suggestions on how to develop love for others. The third bullet point advises us to ask questions about the lives, beliefs, and experiences of those you meet until their behavior makes more sense to you. When we can see from another’s perspective, we gain understanding which moves us to love.

Closely related is another bullet on this page—gaining understanding by praying for the gift of charity, specifically asking for eyes to see others as God sees them. Sometimes we don’t know the right questions to ask or maybe the person we are trying to understand is closed, shy, or private about their life and experiences. When we see others as they truly are—spiritual sons and daughters of infinite worth to God—we act differently toward them. We have more compassion.

I encourage you to continue to seek for this spiritual gift. I don't think it is an on-off switch type of gift but more like a dimmer switch that can grow brighter gradually. Each year I am continually seeking to receive and develop this gift.
5.  While studying D&C 4, I was wondering what exactly it means to have your "eye single to the glory of God"? All of the other attributes were pretty easy to understand, but I was just wondering what your interpretation of that missionary quality is?
The Webster’s 1828 Dictionary has many definitions for glory—words like brightness, splendor, magnificence, and praise.  When I look at the phrase in context—an eye single to the glory of God—I think the definition that best fits may be “that which brings honor.”  The imagery of the word “eye” seems to indicate our focus, what we see.  Maybe the phrase “an eye single to the glory of God” means that we should focus on that which brings honor to God.

Well what is it that brings honor to God?  According to Moses 1:39, it is bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of His children.  This is exactly what missionaries do as they help people enter into gospel covenants.  Alma, a great Book of Mormon missionary, declares this as his glory as well in Alma 29:9.  He says, “. . .[T]his is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.”
 One other potential meaning of this phrase is to remind us that our motives must be pure and our desires only for the glory of God and not our own glory.  Nephi taught that the Lord “commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Nephi 26:29).  What John the Baptist said of the Savior is true for all of us who try to bring others to the Savior:  “He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30).
 Elder Robert D. Hales warned seminary teachers against this particular hazard, which applies to missionaries just as much:  “one of the greatest mistakes is when teachers turn the students to themselves rather than to the Lord. . . . There is nothing more dangerous than when a student turns his or her love and attention to the teacher the same way a convert sometimes does to a missionary rather than to the Lord.  And then if the teacher or missionary leaves or conducts his life contrary to the teachings of the gospel, the student is devastated.  His testimony falters.  His faith is destroyed.  The really great teacher is careful to have the students turn themselves to the Lord.”

Saturday, April 2, 2016

March 2016

     In March we had a specialized training on personal and companion study.  Of course we want scripture study to continue long after full-time missionary service is completed.  We hoped to generate the following outcomes:
      1.    Study, not read.  Missionaries will begin to understand how and desire to study the scriptures rather than simply read them.
2.      Lifelong habit.  Missionaries will understand the importance of and have a resolve to study the Book of Mormon daily for the rest of their lives and to help their investigators do the same.
3.       Applied study.  Missionaries will understand why and how to apply their morning study to their investigators and potential investigators.
4.      Building doctrinal foundation.  Missionaries will understand the importance of and be committed to engaging in a deeper study of the doctrines taught in the missionary lessons.

     We are shrinking as a mission!  While we had 7 missionaries departing this month (front: Sisters Goodman, Singer, Dodson, with Sis. & Pres. Eaton; back: Elders Larsen, Tima, Tavo, and Patchett) we only had 2 arriving!  We are especially pleased to welcome Hermana McGarity and Elder Lewis!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 2016

     Our departing group was small this month!  (Sisters Soliz and Baxter, Sis. & Pres. Eaton, Elders Maekawa and Berkheimer) We are missing our two temple square missionaries who went back to the square a day later, Sisters Dean and Ngwenya.

     We had a little February sunshine to welcome our newest missionaries--Sisters Pineda, Peterson, McClellan, Giles, with Sis. & Pres. Eaton, Elders Clouse and Murphy.

     February is zone conference month.  Our theme is "Agents, Not Objects."  This concept applies to our investigators as well as ourselves as we take responsibility for our own learning.  Part two focused on being led by the Spirit in teaching people, not lessons.  Pictures below show some role plays.

1) Elders Ovard, Latimer, Snyder, Jackson, Clauson, and Wagstaff
2) Back Left group: Elders Richards, Saydyk, Snook and Stoker; Back Right group: Elders Tavo, Clouse, Fulmer, and Drake; Front group: Elders Rodarte, Richards, Tima, and Wingle
3) Left group: Elders Watterson, Jolley, (backs of ) Jeong, and Northrup; Right group: Elders White, Palmer, (backs of) Chugg, and Lowry
4) Sisters Webb, Pineda, Northrup, and Orr

Teach Repentance
President Rob Eaton

           I love repentance.  It’s like taking a hot shower after getting dirty and sweaty.  It’s like washing and vacuuming your car after a long road trip.  Repentance is one of God’s greatest gifts to his children. 

But it is also one of his most underused and least understood gifts.  One Christian writer candidly acknowledged how unfashionable repentance has become in many churches today:  “There seems to be today a great indifference toward the matter of repentance. In some cases, there is even a hostility toward the issue of repentance. It is not fashionable to preach a Gospel that demands that men and women turn from sin.  That kind of preaching is very rare today, and very often frowned upon. There is both indifference and hostility toward repentance even though it is a centerpiece of the Christian Gospel.”

Sometimes we’re even a bit fuzzy on repentance ourselves.  Too often we think of repentance as bitter medicine to be taken only when we commit serious sexual sins or as a few things investigators must take care of in order to get baptized, like getting married and quitting smoking.  Too few of us think of repentance as a “turning of the heart and will to God, [as well as] a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined” (Bible Dictionary).  When we think of repentance as simply checking off some boxes, it’s hard for us to teach our investigators about it with conviction and depth. 

            That is why I am inviting you to do more to understand and implement repentance in your own lives.  As you study and apply repentance more in your own life, you will develop a conversion mentality rather than a checklist mentality.  With that understanding, you will teach repentance with greater power and greater joy.  “Repentance is a divine gift, and there should be a smile on our faces when we speak of it,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson has taught.  That will become true for us as we become as good at repenting as we are at sinning.

            I invite you to begin talking about repentance with your companion and your investigators as much as you talk about baptism.  From the first lesson on, you will look for opportunities to help investigators undergo “a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world” (Bible Dictionary).  Elder D. Todd Christofferson said:  “As missionaries conduct investigators on the path of repentance, they will need to understand . . . that repentance means much more than completing a checklist. . . . Repentance must be understood as a fundamental change of direction in life and a transformation of character. . . . Always missionaries will retain the larger focus on achieving not just the resolution of a specific sin or failing, but on the grand transition from ‘natural man’ to ‘saint.’”

            One of the challenges we have had in teaching repentance well is that it feels like we don’t really talk about it until the third lesson (which might be the fourth or fifth visit).  Together, we will find new ways to weave repentance into how to begin teaching and every lesson as we fulfill the charge the Lord has given missionaries in this dispensation:  “Say nothing but repentance to this generation” (D&C 11:9).  I believe encouraging investigators to liken the Book of Mormon to themselves and ask God what they can change will be a key to doing this.

            This doesn’t mean we should baptize fewer people.  (However, it does mean that you should never push to get someone who has not yet repented to get baptized so that we can meet a baptismal goal.)  In fact, when we teach repentance well and early, I believe we will help more people get baptized, because they will have learned how to repent and overcome their sins.  And those we do baptize will be converts, much more likely to endure to the end.

            So please keep praying and planning and pleading for baptisms.  But every time you do, pray and plan and plead for your investigators to repent and to know how to help them repent.  As we do this, we will fulfill our charge to teach repentance and baptize converts.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

January 2016

     January's Mission Leadership Council--Front: Sisters Palmer, Singer, Wright, Lyman, Bailey, Goodman, Pres. & Sis. Eaton, Sisters Ketchum, and Baxter; Middle: Elders Mousser, Anderton, Wagstaff, Ha, Lee-Wen, Sumsion, Chappell, Berkheimer, Brown, Nelson, Nelson, and Maekawa;
Back: Elders Oliphant, Willardson, Anderson, and Christiansen (missing Elders John and Jones)

     This month we took our annual trip to the Seattle temple!
1) Sisters Lucky, Livingstone, Eaton, Thurman, and Hollingsworth
2) Sisters Lyman, Wright, Young, Rimer, and Woolsey 
3) Front: Elders Nelson, Perkins, Cabrera, Dalley, and Meyer; Back: Elders Kelly, Chance, Sumsion, Kidwell, Fenton, Beaudette, and Tripp

     President Eaton asked the missionaries to share their feelings about being able to attend.  Here are a few of their comments.

Elder Knight:  “The temple was amazing. I had the opportunity to reflect on the past months of my mission and things I want to improve! When I enter the temple and see my life through the eyes of the temple it honestly changes everything! Who I am, who I want to be and become as a disciple of our Savior! . . . In the temple I realized I can't let any of this precious time go to waste, it simply isn't my time!”

Sister Woolsey:  “My temple experience was amazing being able to do temple work for my grandmother. There a new spirit there as I did that. I loved every bit of it, and received so many answers. The rest of my mission experience is going to be different. It is going to be great!”

Elder Beaudette:  “The session at the temple this morning brought much needed peace and assurance. I've been spiritually strained over the last few months and I've realized its because I started to gain more charity for people and so I care about them more and their struggles become my struggles.”

Elder Sumsion:  “The Temple is solace from the world and helps regenerate my soul and desire to follow Christ.”

Sister Rimer:  “When I was sitting in the Celestial room I just kept thinking about all the people who don't have an opportunity to feel the Spirit of that room. It is so peaceful and set apart from the world. I don't think anyone could be stressed out in that room. I love the Temple. I want everyone to get the opportunity to go! Sometimes I forget how important my personal mission is, but the Temple reminded me of how much this work does matter. Everyone deserves the opportunity to go to the Temple and feel Gods love there.”

Elder Nelson:  “I felt so lucky to be a member of Christ's Church going through the Temple today. Specifically I realized that regular Temple attendance, like the Sabbath Day with the sacrament, helps us to remember the covenants we have made to God. It's easy for the severity of those promises we make to get dim the longer we're away. The law of consecration is something I want to renew going forward. Giving all my time, talents, and means to build God's Kingdom is a blessing that will bring even greater blessings.”

Elder Wagstaff:  “When looking through the lens of the the temple, I am more motivated to teach repentance better so that after the converts are baptized, they will be able to go to the temple for themselves and their ancestors.”

Elder Snook:  “Going to the temple was really amazing. It has helped me want to really help people get to the temple and make covenants with God. It really reminded me the importance of going to the temple and how much joy it can bring my life, so I know how happy and how much joy it can bring other people. Our investigators need to get baptized and get to the temple so they can be safe from temptation and be happy here and for eternity. That changes my perspective on my mission when I view it through the lens of the temple because being baptized is really the beginning of their happiness. It starts them getting to the temple, and that is really our ultimate goal.”

Elder Cook:  “The temple was amazing today, in the celestial room i was able to take time and pray to heavenly father for multiple things, but this prayer was unlike any if have experienced before...during the middle of the prayer i was mentioning something along the lines of continuing to help me through the struggles of missionary work and as soon as i said that i felt the spirit so strongly it was as if God was giving me a was powerful and it made me reflect on what i can do to improve, but to also not be so hard on myself all the time. I felt his love for me soooo strongly and it was truly amazing and such a great experience for me and also an answer to many prayers!

Elder Samuelson:  “I truly love the temple and wish we could go more often! For my mission, it shows me that there's much more beyond baptism that we're helping people to achieve -- it's the temple ordinances, so that they can be exalted in the celestial kingdom. Like Elder Oaks said, nothing but the fulness will exalt them.”

Hermana Huhem:  “As I was sitting there in the Celestial room, I could envision my my investigators not only in white baptismal clothes, but in temple clothing sitting right there with me. My heart spiritually, and physically ached. I realized how much I lacked in helping everyone I come in contact with get to the temple. I realized how much I needed to change so that I could help people get to the temple. . . . As I sat there in the celestial room the Spirit filled my heart with an indescribable determination to plan better, work harder, pray mightily, study diligently, find daily, teach continually, testify always, and so much more. So that I can fulfill my glorious and sacred calling of bringing soul unto Christ. To help them truly repent, experience changes in their very nature.”

Elder John:  “Since, I went to the temple last week my love for the savior has increased dramatically. My love for the people has increased as well. Charity is the pure love of Christ! We cannot teach or invite others to come unto Christ if we have not charity. I'm grateful for the temple and the physical and spiritual rejuvenation it provides to me. I will always make sure I stay worthy to enter and worship in the Lord's house. I will attend the temple often for the rest of my life!

Elder Anderson:  “When I look at my mission in terms of the temple. Two thoughts, first, I want to get people there! My goal is the temple! It’s a conversion that will last more than a few months, or even years. Second. I am still reminded of how you had your whole family in the temple at one time. That is my goal, my whole family, in the temple together.

Friday, January 1, 2016

December 2015

     Our December dearly departed are pictured with the Eatons--front: Pres. Eaton, Elders Johnson, Alcazar, and Green;back: Sisters Eaton, Hill, Sonasi, Halford, Lee, and Clement.

     And our December incoming elders and sisters with the Eatons--front: Pres. & Sis. Eaton, Sisters Mickelson, Souza, and Baker; back: Elders Pinckney, Stoker, Ovard, Sisters Pope, Erickson, and Whitney.

Being a Witness at Christmas 

     How fitting it was that God called shepherds to be among the few who witnessed the newborn Savior, the Good Shepherd. Surely one reason God sent angels to these particular shepherds was because he knew how they would react. After the heavenly messengers announced where they could behold the newborn Christ, the shepherds wasted no time in responding. “They came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16).

     After seeing the Christ-child for themselves, what they did next instinctively made them worthy witnesses: “when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child” (Luke 2:17). They had no key indicators, no ward mission plan, no one pressuring them to open their mouths. These humble servants simply couldn’t keep such Good News to themselves. They knew they had seen the Savior, and they wanted to share that message with others.

     Nearly 34 years later, others would react similarly after being allowed to see and feel and know the resurrected Savior personally. At the end of one of the most miraculous days in scriptural history, the 2500 saints gathered at a temple in Bountiful prepared themselves for the Savior’s return the next day.

     What would you have done that night after experiencing the events of 3 Nephi 11 – 17, knowing that the Savior would return the next day? These faithful descendants of Lehi also could not keep such Good News to themselves. We read that “it was noised abroad among the people immediately” what had happened and that Christ “would also show himself on the morrow unto the multitude.” In fact, “even all the night it was noised abroad,” which resulted in many people who “did labor exceedingly all that night, that they might be on the morrow in the place where Jesus should show himself unto the multitude” (3 Nephi 19:2 – 3).

     The next day, great multitudes were able to be taught by the Savior because of those messengers who labored through the night. I cannot help but wonder how he looked on those who sacrificed so much through the night to bear witness of him and invite others to literally come unto him.

     I like to think that the Twelve Jesus called to be his special witnesses were among the messengers who spread abroad the news of his coming. Perhaps it was with awareness of such sacrifice that the Savior looked upon his disciples so fondly that next day: “his countenance did smile upon them, and the light of his countenance did shine upon them” (3 Nephi 19:25).

     Before my mission as a young man, Christmas mostly meant being with my family and getting presents and eating so much fudge I got sick and occasionally getting a good present for someone else. But as a full-time missionary I discovered another whole layer of meaning to Christmas—a layer filled with deeper significance and greater joy. I discovered the joy of being a witness at Christmas.

     What kind of witness will you be this Christmas and this year? Will you be a reluctant, distracted, halfhearted witness? Will you be a dutiful but mechanical witness? Or will you follow the example of the shepherds and the people at Bountiful, sharing with others your witness of the Savior out of the love of your heart with holy haste and a sense of purpose, “glorifying and praising God for all the things that [you have] heard and seen”? (Luke 2:20).

     This Christmas, I invite you to be a giver of the best gift of all—the salvation made possible by Jesus Christ. Be a witness this Christmas. I bear you my witness that as you do, his countenance will smile upon you and your efforts on his behalf.