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)
The Piano Guys, Peter Hollens, & David Archuleta get together to sing “Angels, From the Realms of Glory”
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” ~ Isaiah 9:6-7
A Hallelujah Christmas cover of Cloverton sung by Payton Kemp and Nathan Osmond. This song was arranged and produced by Brandon Vandermyde on Keyboard with Zack Vandermyde on Guitar and Emily Youngberg on Cello.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. ~ Isaiah 9:6,7
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. ~ Luke 2: 12-20
A shepherd may be referred to as one who leads, herds, guards, and tends sheep. A good shepherd is very protective of the flock which he has been entrusted to care for, and if necessary, in the act of caring for his fold, will give his life. Therefore, sheep are completely dependent on their shepherd for provision, guidance, and protection.
The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 100:3 to “Know (ye) that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Sheep are figurative of believers who follow their Shepherd. Jesus Christ is our Divine Shepherd and we are the sheep of His pasture. He provides for, guides, and protects us in the same manner as a shepherd cares for the sheep of his fold. In referring to the purpose and mission of the Divine Shepherd in each of our daily lives the late President James E. Faust, former Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught:
The Divine Shepherd has a message of hope, strength, and deliverance for all. If there were no night, we would not appreciate the day, nor could we see the stars and the vastness of the heavens. We must partake of the bitter with the sweet. There is a divine purpose in the adversities we encounter every day. They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless. (James E. Faust, “The Refiner’s Fire“, Ensign, May 1979)
In the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ), Nephi, the founding king and prophet of ancient inhabitants known as the Nephites taught:
And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture (1 Nephi 22:25).
Nephi also taught:
And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth (1 Nephi 13:41).
In describing the Lord as a shepherd, David wrote out of his own personal experiences from his early years of caring for sheep. Amidst the world, the Church is a sheepfold, exposed to deceivers and persecutors. The Divine Shepherd of the sheep knows all that are His individually by name, guards them by His providence, guides them by His Spirit and Word, and goes before them in the same way as Eastern shepherds go before their sheep, to set them in the way of His steps.
As ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints help to care for the sheep of the Divine Shepherd’s fold by tending to their spiritual needs and concerns through their Church callings and other acts of unselfish service. As they do so, the Spirit of Christ sets before them an open door.
His sheep know Him as: (1) the Good Shepherd – “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11); (2) the Great Shepherd – “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20,21); and (3) the Chief Shepherd – “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 5:4). With this knowledge and understanding that He is the only True Shepherd and “he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber” (see John 10:1), the sheep of His fold will see their Shepherd, and be cautious and shy away from strangers who would attempt to draw them away from the fold.
Most Christians are familiar with the 23rd Psalm. The Psalm does not necessarily focus on the animal like qualities of sheep, but rather on the discipleship qualities of those who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. When a person recognizes the voice of the Divine Shepherd he should be willing to follow Him. When he allows Christ, his Shepherd, to lead and guide him, he will find peace, contentment, and safety for his soul. However, if he chooses to ignore the Shepherd’s voice and wander away from the fold, he will have no one to blame but himself when he falls into the snares of those who seek to destroy him.
Because of the subtle uncertainties of life, each of us should be willing to follow the Divine Shepherd who offers us eternal confidence. Even if we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need fear no evil: for our Shepherd is with us; His rod and His staff give us great comfort. (see Psalm 23:4). It is He alone who is able to walk us through the valley and bring us safely to the other side. Christ, the Divine Shepherd and Host, promises to guide and protect us through life and to bring us safely home to live in His presence forever (see Psalm 23:5, 6). He gives us the blessed assurance, “Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:44).
In the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ), Alma the Younger,a prophet and “chief judge” of the Nephites, as recorded in Alma 5:59-60, exhorted:
For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock? And behold, if a wolf enter his flock doth he not drive him out? Yea, and at the last, if he can, he will destroy him. And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed.
When we were born, our parents gave us a name. However, there is no name given among men that is comparable to the matchless name of Jesus Christ. His name is above all names, and it is only through His name that humanity may gain salvation. This is what His name means to me:
C – The Christ-child who in Bethlehem’s manger lay. Born of a virgin, a choice and blessed daughter of our Heavenly Father. Not an ordinary child by any means, but One who was born King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He whose name is Immanuel – God is with us.
H – He was born of a humble birth and in humility Christ our Savior came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. He who knew no sin paid the last sacrifice for sin by becoming the Sacrificial Lamb for the slaughter thus taking upon Himself all the sins of humanity – past, present, and future – for those born, and those who were not yet born.
R – His Resurrection was glorious. Death and the grave could not hold Him. On the third day He triumphantly arose from the grave and lives forevermore seated at the right hand of God the Eternal Father. Because He lives we too shall live and one day we shall behold Him and see Him and know Him as He IS – our Lord, our Savior, our Master, and our King.
I – His atoning love for each of us is infinite, unconditional, and matchless. No greater love hath any man than He who willingly laid down His life for those whom He loves. For a few, men may willingly give their lives, but none will ever pay such a high price as this One who with His life, and because of His infinite love for us, paid a tremendous debt that He did not owe, and one that we could never pay on our own.
S – He is the Savior of the world. Read and meditate upon the words of John 3:16 – 18, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” He is the Life and the Light of the world for “in him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (see John 1:4,5). “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
T – In a day and time when it sometimes becomes difficult to discern between what is truth and what is not, some may ask the pointed question, “What is truth?” He is the embodiment of all truth. He declares in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” And again in John 8:32 He declares, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth” (see 2 Corinthians 13:8). He is the God of truth and He cannot lie. “For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:45).
With Every Beat of Your Heart
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
The heart is the organ that supplies blood and oxygen to all parts of the body making it one of the most important organs in the entire human body. It is about the size of a clenched fist, weighs between 7 and 15 ounces (200 to 425 grams), and is shaped like a cone. It is located between the lungs in the middle of the chest, behind and slightly to the left of the breastbone (sternum). A double-layered membrane called the pericardium surrounds your heart like a sack.
The heart is really nothing more than a pump. It is composed of muscle which pumps blood throughout the body distributing essential nutrients throughout the body and carrying away waste products to keep us fresh and comfortable. Blood is pumped away from the heart through arteries and returns to the heart through veins. If the heart ever ceases to pump blood the body begins to shut down and after a very short period of time will die. Like any other muscle in the human body, the heart contracts and expands.
Unlike skeletal muscles, however, the heart works on the “All -or-Nothing Law”. That is, each time the heart contracts it does so with all its force. It beats approximately 72 times per minute. By the end of a long life, a person’s heart may have beaten (expanded and contracted) more than 3.5 billion times, without ever pausing to rest. Infect, each day, the average heart beats 100,000 times, pumping about 2,000 gallons (7,571 liters) of blood. Like a pumping machine, the heart provides the power needed for life.
The Use of the Word “Heart” in Scripture
“My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” ( Psalm 73:26).
The word heart appears in the King James Version of the Bible some 830 times – 725 times in the Old Testament and 105 times in the New Testament. As used in Scriptures, the heart is more than just the organ that pumps blood through the body. It is a metaphor for a person’s innermost core or spiritual center. When the Scriptures speak of the heart, they are speaking of the total person or one’s whole soul. God sees, tests, and searches the hidden depths of the human heart. One who has a “pure heart “lives a life that is directed and devoted totally and unreservedly to God.
In the Old Testament, the phrase “hardness of heart” not only refers to the enemies of God’s people, like Pharaoh in Egypt, but it also refers to God’s people – Israel. In the New Testament it describes not only the scribes and Pharisees, but the disciples as well. A hard-hearted person is self-centered, typically prideful, stubborn, and resistant to what
God wants to do in his life. Thus, it is deep below the surface of our lives that God begins a work of renewing grace in us. The real action is rooted deep in the heart.
In Mark 6: 45-52 we read of an account where the phrase “hardness of heart” is used in reference to the disciples. The disciples had just witnessed the feeding of 5,000 with only five loaves and two fishes and the gathering of twelve baskets full of fragments and fishes afterwards. This is the account as recorded by Mark:
45 And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.
46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
47 And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.
48 And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
49 But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:
50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.
51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.
52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.
What Type of Heart Do We Have?
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:9.10).
What type of heart do we have? Do we have pure hearts that seek after doing those things which the Lord has called us to do with willingness and gladness? Do we have a desire to live our lives completely directed by and dedicated to God’s will? Or, do we have hardened hearts? Are we self-centered and unreceptive to the will of God, believing that our own way is the best way?
Charles Dickens once said, “A loving heart is the truest wisdom.” And Sarah Ban Breathnach once said, “Whatever we are willing for–peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance–it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.”
Having a pure heart brings with it the blessings of the Lord, whereas having a hardened heart pronounces a curse upon one’s own life. A hardhearted person lives a life that is full of misery, disparity, and woe. This is illustrated in the case of the captivity of Judah as recorded in Jeremiah 17:1-8:
1 The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars;
2 Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.
3 0 my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders.
4 And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.
5 Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.
6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.
8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
The Heart of the Matter
Everything that we do in life is a matter of the heart. Whatever we have a heart’s desire to do is normally what we will do, whether it be right or wrong. Our actions are governed by the type of heart that we have and the intents of that heart. The Lord judges us by the intents of our hearts. He reminds us in Jeremiah 17:9-10, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” And we are reminded in Matthew 6: 19-21, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
I leave these thoughts with you humbly in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.