Jennifer Thomas, an independent American composer, pianist, violinist, concert performer, and recording artist was born on 23 June 1977 in Seattle, Washington. Her genre of music includes Classical, Crossover, and New Age. While most of her works are original, she also covers classical pieces as well as pop music and movie soundtracks. She was trained by her mother (Carolyn Southworth) and started playing the piano and violin at the age of 5. She later went on to study music at Brigham Young University – Idaho where she earned a music degree in Performing Arts/Piano Pedagogy. For 3 years, she performed as a featured soloist for the Temple Square Concert Series on historic Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, and she has also performed with various symphonies including the Oregon Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra.
Jennifer’s fourth album Winter Symphony was released on Friday, 20 November 2015. The Christmas album features the Ensign Chorus (recorded at Bastyr Cathedral), soprano Felicia Farerre, violinist Taylor Davis, and musicians from The Utah Symphony, Salt Lake City Pops Orchestra, and the Chochin Chamber Orchestra. The album includes such holiday favorites as “Silent Night”, “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “Carol of the Bells”, as well as cinematic scores from “Home Alone”, “Edward Scissorhands”, and more.
Just in time for the Christmas season, Jennifer has released a new music video which is appropriately titled Alleluia. The song is featured on her new Christmas album titled Winter Symphony which now has a holiday station. Jennifer’s original composition “Alleluia” creates that same type of exuberance and jubilation as the timeless “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, as viewers and listeners will want to join in and shout “Alleluia” – God be praised!
Jennifer Thomas has done a magnificent job in creating a masterpiece that certainly helps to reminds us all of the real reason that we celebrate the Christmas season. She has indeed created a masterful work of art through the unique gift of music that will in time, itself be considered timeless. The message conveyed by the video is one of hope, everlasting joy, and peace that anyone can obtain by focusing less on the material aspects and commercialism that are so often at the forefront during the Christmas season, and focusing more on the Savior of the World – He who was born King – He who is the Light and the Life of the world – He who is the Prince of Peace.
On Sunday, 6 December 2015, at 5 p.m. MDT, BYUtv presented “In Performance: Christmas under the Stars” with special guest artists Gentri and Lexi Mae Walker. The program aired before the broadcast of the 2015 First Presidency‘s Christmas Devotional of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Filmed on site at an old Jerusalem replica set, Gentri and Lexi graced the audience with Christmas songs celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and the holiday season. Casey Elliott of Gentri commented, “I think music communicates more effectively than words.” And, Brad Robins remarked, “When you’re on stage you have an influence that you don’t have just with spoken word.”
Lexi Mae Walker is only 13-years-old, but she has already graced the stage of Good Morning America, America’s Got Talent, and the Queen Latifah Show. In her brief time in the music business, she has had the privilege of performing with Alex Boyé, The Piano Guys, Lindsey Stirling, David Archuleta, and Kristen Chenoweth. She sang beautiful holiday classics as only she could perform them. She commented, “I hope they remember the message that we’re giving about Jesus Christ. Throughout the whole season, there’s that underlying feeling of being more loved, and just feeling that the best is brought out in you and in everyone else.”
Gentri – The Gentlemen’s Trio, established in June 2014, is comprised of Brad Robins, Casey Elliott, and Bradley Quinn Lever. The members of the trio are distinguished tenors. According to their official website, their music can be described “only as ‘Cinematic Pop,’ a fusion of lush, epic orchestrations coupled with rich, dynamic three-part harmonies.”
Lexi Mae Walker may only be 13-years-old, but she is definitely not a stranger to the stage and the music industry. She has been singing professionally since she was a little girl, and is perhaps best known as a soloist with the One Voice Children’s Choir out of Salt Lake City.
Humble Thoughts Concerning the Second Coming and the End of the World
With all the chaos and confusion that is happening in our world today, it is of little wonder that so many people are asking the same questions that the disciples asked of the Master centuries ago, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). The Master’s response to them still applies to us during these often turbulent, confused, and chaotic times:
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:4-14)
There are many good hearten people, including some Christians, who are anxiously anticipating the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, even to the point of making futile attempts at guessing the day and the hour when He shall appear. However, scriptures emphatically teach us:
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. (Mathew 24:36-39)
Scriptures also remind us, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. . . .Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2,6)
While there are some people who put their trust in chariots, and some who put their trust in horses, I will continue to remember the name of the Lord our God (See Psalm 20:7) and strive to endure to the end.
Therefore, I will no more put my confidence and trust in the speculations of man about the Second Coming of Christ than I will in those who purport that the four “blood moons” signal the end of the world. Instead of being overly concerned and feeding into much of the frenzy of the false and nonsensical teachings about the Second Coming and the end of the age, I choose to make sure that my house is in order, and that I am ready to meet the Savior at any day, at any moment or hour of the day. I choose to keep my lamp filled with oil to be ready when the Bridegroom comes.
Instead of heeding the vain teachings and babbling of men, we would be wise to follow the teachings of the Master Himself as in the “Parable of the Ten Virgins:”
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 25:1-14)
O be wise; what can I say more? (Jacob 6:12, Book of Mormon)
Summer is the opportune time for many high school and college students to seek employment. Some need a job so that they can save money to help pay their school expenses. Some may have aspirations of making a sizable purchase such as an automobile or a new computer. And others may go to work to earn money to build a little nest egg in a checking or savings account to be used for future necessities.
Working for a Higher Purpose
Still, there are others who have an even higher purpose for joining the workforce. There are those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who spend their summers working in order to earn money to help finance their upcoming full-time missions.
The money that they earn will go towards new suits or dresses, sturdy footwear, and mission accounts. The jobs that they perform could range from washing cars to mowing lawns to teaching music lessons to babysitting. No job is considered insignificant, and no earned wages are considered too small. These future missionaries realize that their labors are not in vain. Soon they will be working in the Lord’s vineyard in various parts of the world teaching His gospel, and performing labors of love for the people they will serve.
Mission Funds are Sacred Funds
An 18-year-old recent high school graduate from South Jordan, Utah, Cole Byrd, commented, “I know the money that I’m making will go toward finding people to teach the gospel in my mission.” Byrd, who has received his mission call to serve in the Chile Santiago South Mission, gets up early each morning, checks the operability of his lawn equipment, and then goes to work at various landscaping jobs. He never misses a day of work because he realizes that he is earning money to help support him in an even greater work that he will soon be a part of.
For the past two years, Vanessa Palmer, a graduate of BYU-Idaho, has been teaching kindergarten students at Columbia Elementary in West Jordan, Utah. She has lived on her own for the past five years, and one of the things that she has learned is how to budget and manage the money that she earns. She admits that she had not always planned to serve a mission, and leaving a promising career behind for 18 months as she goes to serve in the Idaho Boise Mission was not an easy decision, “But after much prayer, I just felt like I needed to go,” she said. She further commented, “I just know there is someone in the Boise mission that I need to teach and share the gospel with.”
For God and Country
Living in Annapolis, Maryland, the home of the United States Naval Academy, I have been blessed over the years to see young men and young women from my ward who have a desire to serve their country, place their careers on hold for 18 months to two years to willingly serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ. They have to make the decision to serve a mission prior to the start of third year of school, and once they make the decision, they do so realizing that once they leave the Academy, getting back in is not necessarily an easy process. However, that process has become somewhat easier over the years, as those in charge at the Naval Academy have witnessed the quality of young officers that are found in returned missionaries.
Cathryn DeLong, a Pennsylvania native, and a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy for the past two years, will soon be leaving the Academy to serve an 18-month mission in the Russia Novosibirsk Mission. As a Midshipman, DeLong does not earn a large income, but she has stated that she is satisfied to know that the money that she does earn will help allow her to bring the saving message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to others. She also commented, “I’m excited to have this adventure. I will be meeting people in Russia and sharing the gospel with them.” She will spend a few weeks of naval training in Israel before reporting to the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in August 2014.
On the Lord’s Errand
Christ commanded His Apostles, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). As modern-day disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, many young men and women are anxiously engaged in preparing to answer the call to embark on the Lord’s errand wherever He needs them to go. Some may be at the start of a rewarding career, and some may already be well established in their career field. Nevertheless, each are willing to give of their time and service for the greater cause of bringing the world His Truth. With that higher purpose at the forefront, they know that the money that they earn from their labors during their summer employment will help enable them to do the work that the Lord has called them to do.
People who profess to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ and adhere to the teachings found in His Word are far more blessed today than members of the early Christian Church in that they are able to possess a copy of the scriptures for themselves. They do not have to rely on an ecclesiastical leader to reveal to them the treasures found in the Word of God which can easily be left to the misguided personal interpretations rendered by said leaders. Also, they do not have to wait to attend a church service to have the scriptures read to them, but they are able to read and study the scriptures for themselves. Furthermore, those who wish to study the scriptures, unlike those in the early Christian Church who were only exposed to certain portions of the scriptures, now have a more complete canon. Many homes have more than one copy of the Bible, and in some cases, different versions and/or translations of the Bible can also be found. And with the rapid increase in technological advances, a person is able to open the scriptures and read them whenever he wants, and wherever he may be in the world.
Reasons for the fall of the Early Christian Church
In his Deseret News article titled “Defending the Faith: The fall of the early Christian church was almost inevitable”, Daniel Peterson exhorts, “The church founded anciently by Christ not only didn’t survive intact but probably couldn’t have.” He notes that there are perhaps several reasons for this. He states that one of the main reasons that Christ’s early Church did not survive intact was because with the expansion of Christianity beyond Palestine to many parts of the world, ancient means of travel and communication, as compared to our standards today, were extremely slow. Peterson also points out that, “the “supply lines” of ancient Christianity were long, fragile, corruptible and dangerously exposed to persecution, human sin and ambition, misunderstanding, forgetfulness and a host of other threats.” Another reason which Peterson states for the descent of the early Church is the fact that there was no New Testament. In his Deseret News article, Peterson commented,
To make things still worse, for at least the first century of Christianity (and, in sense, for much longer than that), there was no New Testament. It was still being written over the initial 30 to 70 years after the ascension of Christ, and, even when they were complete, individual gospels and epistles circulated separately; the “New Testament” hadn’t yet been gathered together, and the canon hadn’t yet been defined. Even after they had been written and put into circulation, copies of scriptural texts, expensive and hand-produced, were extremely rare. Ordinary Christians wouldn’t have had their own private copies of scripture, let alone several of them, as we often do today. (Many of them likely couldn’t read, anyhow.)
The Coming Forth of the New Testament
Christians regard both the Old and New Testaments as sacred scripture. The New Testament in particular deals explicitly with first-century Christianity. As such, as Christianity has spread throughout the world, the New Testament (in part or in whole) has served as a main resource for Christian theology and also as the true north of a Christian’s moral compass. Throughout the ages, the New Testament has had a major influence on religious, philosophical, and political movements in Christendom, and its teachings and doctrines are strongly evidenced in the literature, art, and music of many cultures. In almost all Christian denominations and sects today, the New Testament consists of 27 books. It was originally written by various writers who were early Jewish disciples of Jesus Christ in the first and perhaps second centuries of the Christian era. The language used for the text was Koine Greek, which was the common language of the Eastern Mediterranean from the Conquests of Alexander the Great (335–323 BC) until the evolution of Byzantine Greek (c. 600). All of the writings which were eventually incorporated into the New Testament text were perhaps written no later than AD 150. The New Testament consists of:
- four narratives of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – collectively referred to as the “Gospels”)
- a narrative of the Apostles’ ministries in the early church called the “Acts of the Apostles” (which is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke and perhaps written by the same author)
- twenty-one letters referred to as “Epistles” in the biblical context, written by various authors, and consisting of Christian doctrine, counsel, instruction, and conflict resolution
- an Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation, which is a book of prophecy, containing some instructions to seven local congregations of Asia Minor, but mostly containing prophetic symbolism about the end times
Peterson further commented in his Deseret News article that “It’s literally a miracle that Christianity survived as well as it did” especially considering the fact that,
Local leaders, who perhaps joined the church after only the briefest of missionary instruction — commonly at the hands of preachers who, themselves, had received no more than a brief oral introduction to the basic Christian story and a few fundamental doctrines — would have had no scriptures to consult, let alone anything like a “general handbook of instructions” when difficult questions arose. And teachers and class members were unable to simply flip through their personal copies of the Bible in order to learn Christian doctrine and practice.
The Inability to Communicate with the Apostles in an Expeditious Manner
What did the early Church leaders do when they were faced with a crisis or dilemma that necessitated immediate attention? During the time of the Apostles, they could send them inquiries for help, but the problem arose in trying to locate them at any given time or in any particular place as they did not have a permanent headquarters. Also there was no way of knowing if they were dead or alive. Even the amount of time that it took to get an inquiry to one of the Apostles was considerably long considering the antiquated means of transportation that had to be used to reach a certain location. And after a message reached one of them, the next major concern was the amount of time it would take to receive a reply. Therefore, in some cases, local leadership may have deliberated important issues for weeks, months, or even years before seeking advice from an Apostle. If an Apostle were to visit an area, how would the people be able to identify him as being who he claimed to be if they had never met him previously? After all, the Apostle Paul had given stern warning against “false apostles” as recorded in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15:
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
Peterson concludes his article by stating, “For these and other reasons, as I say, it’s difficult for me to imagine how the ancient church could ever have survived without serious deformation. And we know by divine revelation that, in fact, it didn’t. That is why the Restoration was necessary.” He further points out that all of the modern conveniences and technology that we are afforded today have contributed immensely to the great cause of the Restoration of Christ’s Church.
In my young 56 years of life I have been blessed to read that volume of Holy Writ nine times in its entirety. Each time that I read from its pages, I am forever amazed at how even though I have read the same passages numerous times, I still learn many new and wonderful things. I also find that as I grow older and continue on this pilgrim journey, my understanding of certain passages of scripture is heightened, and my testimony of the Savior about whom the volume is written is confirmed. It is enlightening to experience how different passages take on whole new meanings as I enter different seasons of my life and I continue to liken the scriptures unto myself.
There are some people who may ask why I would repeatedly read the Bible in its entirety. “Isn’t once enough?” they might ask. I answer their question with a question (something that all of my teachers said that I should not do) — Why Not? And as far as once being enough, well, no it isn’t because I am reminded that we are to “Study to shew [ourselves] approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
As I grow older with each passing year I am reminded, “For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away” (1 Peter 1:24). However, the Prophet Isaiah declared, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). And the Psalmist exhorted, “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).
I bear solemn witness and testimony that the Word of God never grows old. It is always fresh with new insights for all those who will take the time to read and feast upon its words. In the sacred name of Him whose Word is “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (see Psalm 119:105), our Lord and savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Key Verse: Psalm 90:12
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Good morning class and welcome to Spiritual Mathematics 101. What is Spiritual Mathematics? Simply put it is taking those basic math skills of subtraction, division, addition, and multiplication that we learned in our early school days and applying those concepts to our spiritual growth process.
Let us begin by examining the basic principle of subtraction. Even small children understand basic mathematical equations such as two take away two leaves zero. Just as the basic skill of subtraction is taught and learned early in life, the principle of Christ’s forgiveness should also be learned early in life. Christ “takes away” the sins of those who repent and believe on Him. We can express this basic principle with the simple mathematical equation: Repentance – Sin = Forgiveness. In 1 John 3:5 we read, “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin.”
Next, we will examine the basic principle of division. In Isaiah 53:12 we read, “Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Christ is our Great Exemplar. He gave Himself for us, dividing a portion with the great. As Christians, we are to follow His example. In 1 John 2:6 we read, “He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” We should be willing to divide our time, talent, testimony, and treasure for the furtherance of the work of the ministry.
The basic premise behind the principle of addition is that the way to gain more of something is to add to that something. For example, if a child has one apple and then a friend gives him another apple, he now has one more apple than he originally started with or two apples. We are to grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ by adding, or increasing in the fruits and virtues of the Spirit. In 2 Peter 1:5-7 we are taught, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” We begin with faith and end with love. We can express this idea with the mathematical equation: Faith + Virtue + Knowledge + Temperance + Patience + Godliness + Brotherly Kindness + Charity [the pure love of Christ] = Growth in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Adding these fruits of the Spirit to our life will settle, establish, and strengthen us as Christians.
Finally, let us examine the basic principle of multiplication. Some people seem to have difficulty with multiplication tables. Multiplication is nothing more than repeated addition. It is fascinating to observe the great increase that multiplication brings. For example, if you have some good news to share with a lot of people, start out by telling a couple of your closest friends. It is almost guaranteed that each of those friends will tell a couple of their close friends, and so on and so forth until the news is spread over a large area. Christ wants the number of His disciples to be increased. This is done through our missionary efforts of sharing the Gospel and bringing others unto Him. As we do this we will receive multiplied blessings (see Jude 1:2).