Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas / Judy

When there's only adults at home, Christmas is different than it used to be. For one thing, we got up about 10:00 am to exchange presents. Ironically, we had to  wake up Ben, and of course Grandpa felt like he was getting up in the middle of the night. Presents were wonderful and at this age, you're as excited about the things you give as you are about what you get. Except, I have to say, I was very excited to get a new digital camera! Several of the kids pitched in to get it for me and now I can't wait to learn how to use it. Maybe I could even put pictures on this blog--what an idea! Lloyd gave me a piece of luggage so I can now come visit everybody in style and a couple beautiful sweaters; Jen and Uche gave us a gorgeous clock that I will ask Kristen to come help me hang in just the right place; and Kristen and Nathan gave us an embossser that I'm going to use to stamp all our books. Ben gave Lloyd a hat and me a book, "Eat, Pray, Love," that he says all the actresses he knows are reading. Should be interesting.

Lloyd gave me another present that's special to me. On our first anniversary, he gave me a charm bracelet with the liberty bell on it because we were living in Philadelphia. Then he gave me another charm when he graduated from Penn, another when Jen was born and also Kristen. Then the price of gold went through the roof and we couldn't afford charms any more. But this Christmas he gave me the bracelet all shined up and with a new charm--a silver trumpet (white gold) for Aaron. He says that he'll give me a charm for every child eventually, a handy gift idea for any occasion. I almost cried and now I can't wait for the rest of them.

Lloyd had to work on Christmas Day, of course, but Ellen and Jason came and had a turkey dinner with us. All in all it was a wonderful, pleasant but quiet day. Like I said, it's different without little ones but that's not to say it's bad.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Family Christmas Letter 2008 / Judy

Wow! This is much easier than printing out a hundred Christmas letters and sending them snail-mail. First of all I'll give updates on everyone, then I'll tell about our year.

jen & uchenna - ponca city, ok

Jen and Uchenna are living in Ponca City, OK, for now, but will probably be transferred next year. Uche received his PhD in chemical engineering from BYU and is now working for Conoco Phillips in their alternative fuels research dept. Go Uche!

kristen & nathan - paso robles, ca

Kristen and Nathan are still in Paso Robles and it's wonderful to have them close by. Kristen is expecting baby boy # 8 next month. (Yes, she has her hands full.) Nathan works from home and is in the branch presidency of the Spanish branch.

aaron & marrisse - kaysville, ut

Aaron and Marrisse are in Kaysville, Ut, and have four girls and a boy. Their little Katrina was born last Christmas day--six weeks early, but she's doing fine now. Aaron is an acoustical engineer and travels a lot setting up sound systems in churches and other buildings.

emily & troy - kaysville, ut

Emily and Troy are also in Kaysville and Troy works as an engineer in the same company Aaron does. They have 3 boys and 2 girls, including a boy and girl twin. They have a beautiful new home that the whole family loves.

hilary & dave - paso robles, ca

Hilary and Dave are also in Paso and have four sweet little boys. Their youngest, Brennen, 2, has lots of food allergies but makes up for it by being absolutely adorable. Dave works 3 days a week with a pulmonologist and 2 days a week with a family practice.

maryruth & dominic - caldwell, id

MaryRuth and Dominic just moved to Idaho for Dominic's new job. He received his masters in Psychology and is working full-time as a home-call counselor while pursuing his Phd. They have 2 boys and a girl and are expecting another baby in the spring, but we don't' know who's coming yet.

josh and megan - montgomery village, md

Josh and Megan live back east in Maryland. Josh is an attorney and works for a D.C. law firm. They have a girl and 3 boys, two of whom are twins. It's been an adjustment for them to live so far away from home, but at least they are near Lloyd's brother and his family and it always helps to be near family.

ellen & jason - philadelphia, pa

Ellen and Jason are here visiting. They spent the summer in India where Jason interned at an architecture office, then they spent the past four months in London on a study abroad program. Jason has one more semester to go at the Univ. of Penn. before he gets his masters in architecture. They have one beautiful little girl, 10 months old, who is already quite the world traveler.

ben - san luis obispo, ca

Ben is in his second year at PCPA (the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts). He just finished being in the ensemble for "White Christmas," where it was fun to watch him singing and dancing. In February he'll have a major role in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and we're all looking forward to that. He's now applying to schools for next Fall to get a BFA.

judy & lloyd - san luis obispo, ca

As for me and Lloyd, we did some fun traveling this year. We went up the coast to Monterrey and San Francisco, then down the coast to Disneyland. We also visited Jen and Uche in Oklahoma and spent some time in Williamsburg, VA--one of our favorite places. We're both pretty well and still love being here with my Dad.

Hope everyone is well and happy and that 2009 is even better than 2008!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Faithful Christians, Jews, & Muslims / Lloyd

A narrow roadway clings to the mountain side as the road rises at a steep slope from sea level to the pass high above.  Rivers of earth that begin up on the mountain flow down under the roadway and carry dirt and rock that spill into the deep ravine on the other side.  Eventually they begin to carry the road with them and disrupt traffic on this steep and dangerous but vital link from below to above.

Though flows may be dug out and hauled away, piers are also built on either side of them and the roadway spans the rivers of earth like a bridge over water. The piers are anchored and supported by pylons driven down into bedrock. The pylons also create a density of earth and rocks between them that impedes the rate of flow, but never completely. Otherwise, the pressure would build to such an extent that the pylons would fail.   

Members of the faithful religious community, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, are the pylons that anchor the roadway. They also limit as much as possible the rate and extent of cross flow that threatens to wash out the vital pathway to cultural stability, civility, spirituality and refinement.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Beautiful Gifts of Christmas / Lloyd

When we receive a patriarchal blessing early in life we are too inexperienced to even imagine the possibilities of the words -- the breadth and depth of human experience we might encounter in our lives.  If Heavenly Father is more interested in our growth than in our comfort, the door is wide open to what he may find acceptable for our eternal benefit.

Maybe, in our briefings about mortality, it was the specter of such extreme possibilities that frightened a third of God’s family to support Satan’s plan for “safety” and rebel against God.

I have been counseled to learn the principle of repentance, which so many fail to understand.  The Gospel which we have embraced requires strong faith and true repentance and is a Gospel of love and forgiveness.  As we love our fellowmen and forgive and see the virtues in them we are then prepared to reach out and redeem to a great degree many who have fallen by the wayside.  After all, when we are in the service of our fellow beings we are only in the service of our God.

I had no idea when I received this counsel in my patriarchal blessing that I would be working with men and women whose lives the Lord had permitted, dare we say designed, to span such an extended range of experiences. (See My Church Calling - Prison Ministry)
I have a hard time believing that our lives are just a crapshoot of possibilities.  Recall this scripture from the Book of Mormon:

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 12) (Emphasis added)

And this also from Mosiah:

19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19) (Emphasis added)

Also, I had no idea that my path to fully appreciate and work with people who struggle would include life-long ADD and depression, including hospitalization on a psychiatric unit, in addition to having to learn the principles of strong faith and true repentance in my own life.

So in this context I offer you the following quote which I’ve carried in my wallet for many years:

“It is my hope and my belief that the Lord never permits the light of faith wholly to be extinguished in any human heart, however faint the light may glow. The Lord has provided that there shall still be there a spark which, with teaching, with the spirit of righteousness, with love, with tenderness, with example, with living the Gospel, shall brighten and glow again, however darkened the mind may have been. And if we shall fail so to reach those among us of our own whose faith has dwindled low, we shall fail in one of the main things which the Lord expects at our hands.” –J. Reuben Clark (October General Conference, 1936)

We celebrate the birth of Christ because it heralds his death and resurrection and the resulting great blessings for us and those we love. Enoch expressed it wonderfully:

45 And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth; and he cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the day of the Lord come? When shall the blood of the Righteous be shed, that all they that mourn may be sanctified and have eternal life? . . .
47 And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me.(Moses 7:45, 47) (Emphasis added)

So this Christmas let’s especially celebrate the gifts of faith and repentance and forgiveness that we find under the beautiful tree of Christ’s Atonement.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Church Calling - Prison Ministry / Lloyd

assisting inmates convicted of sex offences

For several years I volunteered as a facilitator for the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), teaching non-violence strategies to prison inmates. But when I began work at a state mental hospital I was unable to get the time needed to facilitate an AVP weekend session: from 3-9 Fri, 9-9 Sat, and 9-6 Sun.

As an alternative, the prison Rabbi who sponsored and supervised our AVP activity received permission from the Warden for me to conduct weekly, 2-hour group sessions with sexual offenders.

In California at the end of their prison terms, individuals convicted of sexual offenses are interviewed by two or more clinicians to determine whether they will be retained under state civil commitment laws governing Sexual Violent Predators (SVP’s). Sexual offenders are incarcerated in prison many years for their offense; but they receive no treatment during that time; and then at parole they can be sent to a state mental hospital—essentially for life.

About three years ago a couple of inmates who attended LDS church services at our local prison had asked if I could help them with treatment groups before their interviews. They had 2-3 years to go; and they wanted to go home, not to a state mental hospital as SVP’s. I am a California licensed psychiatric technician.

core religious beliefs

We’ve found that the optimum group size for effective communication is 8 inmates. Two of the eight have been the original LDS men who asked for help. The rest have been Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Catholics, etc. We meet as a 12-step program by invitation only because these guys could get beat up or worse if other inmates knew the nature of their offense.  Some of the guys say they have been convicted of murder rather than be known as pedophiles or as rapists.

We started with no preconceived therapy methodologies, only that we would review what was available and see what worked best. In the end we’ve settled on two books written by Latter-day Saints and cycle through them each year or so.
First, we discuss in depth Willpower is Not Enough: Why We Don’t Succeed at Change by A. Dean Byrd.  Dr. Byrd is currently President of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (see and a family friend of over twenty years.

Then, we work through He Did Deliver Me from Bondage by Colleen C. Harrison. Sister Harrison’s primary addiction was over-eating with a myriad of associated personal issues. She isn’t a clinician but provides a deeply moving, personal memoir with a set of activities that are patterned after the 12-step program originated by Alcoholics Anonymous and based on readings in the Book of Mormon.

Participants in our group have strong religious loyalties, and it’s been a tribute to their trust, love,  and respect for our two LDS inmate organizers that they’ve agreed to use these LDS materials. That doesn’t mean we haven’t had spirited discussions about it. But in the end we agreed that each participant would take turns presenting a chapter and supplementing the LDS readings with their own Bible references.

deeply moving, spiritual experiences

I never leave our sessions without being moved and strengthened in my own testimony and faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and in God’s abiding love for all his children -- including those who warrant incarceration.

beginning results

Thus far only one of our participants has been referred to the State Hospital as an SVP, and he dropped out of the program early when the group decided not to focus on sexual offenses and relapse prevention but on Wellness and Recovery. He insisted that he needed to see why and how he got to be the way he was (almost like his offenses weren't his fault). We’ve learned that it’s best to admit where we are now and then have Heavenly Father help us become different.

So far our success has been wildly better than the secular treatment models currently used in state hospitals.

a church calling to non-member
prison inmates

Our group meets at 12:30 each Sunday. And every year our ward’s schedule of Sunday meetings rotates between beginning at 9am and 11am. The years we start at 9am I have a Church calling--President of the Sunday School; the years we start at 11am I attend Sacrament Meeting and then go to our group meeting at the Prison.

Notwithstanding, my bishop set me apart to work as a “Sunday School worker” for the men at the prison; and the stake president always inquires whether we’re keeping our men out of the state mental hospital.

This past summer we successfully lost our first LDS inmate to parole; the second is up for interviews and possible parole this coming June.  It will be interesting to see whether our non-LDS group continues to meet and what curriculum they choose for the future.

Book, Movie and Gifts / Judy

the book

I just finished reading Twilight and although it was very good, much more detailed than the movie, I still preferred the movie. It was so visually stunning and emotionally powerful, that I didn't feel the same reading the book. Lloyd is reading it now and he says he likes it much better than the movie. He'll have to do his own post about it.

the movie

Last Monday we saw Australia. We liked it a lot, and it really was a grand, sweeping epic move. But there were some scenes where I could just hear the director saying, "We need this shot to project this idea." And it seems to me that the viewer shouldn't be able to tell that kind of stuff; it should be seamless and invisible. Kristen says probably most people wouldn't see that--that I see LOTS of movies. True. You all will have to see it too so we can compare. I do have to say that I was drooling over Hugh Jackman and his character alone made the movie worth seeing.

the gifts

In the paper today was a list of gifts that cracked me up. They were mostly for sci-fi fans and here are some of my favorites:

An R2-D2 Aquarium. A sleek, 20" tall replica of the droid with an aquarium in his middle section. It costs a mere $129.95 and the domed head rotates on spoken demand, there's a built-in periscope and LED lights change from red to blue to green.

Capt. Kirk's chair. A full-size replica of the captain's chair from the original Enterprise. It swivels, makes numerous sound effects, plays Kirk's entire opening-credit monologue and sells for $2,700. A bargain.

Battlestar Gallactica toaster. The sleek ebony $65 toaster burns words like "Cylon" into your toast.

Now, even though I am a big sci-fi fan, please don't give me any of these!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fudge - Cornbread - Hawaiian Haystack / Judy

I've been asked for the following recipes so here they are:

great grandmother's fudge
(the best in the world)

1 Stick (1/2 cup) butter
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 can evaporated milk

Bring these to a boil and boil five minutes and add 2 tsp. vanilla.
Pour this hot mixture into large bowl containing 16 oz. Hershey milk chocolate bars, 12 oz. chocolate chips, 1 large jar (0r two small ones) of Marshmallow cream, and 2 cups walnuts. Mix well. Pour into large, greased pan and chill.


2 cups flour
2 cups cornmeal
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 tsp. salt
7 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2 cups milk
2/3 cups oil

Mix dry ingredients. In separate bowl mix eggs, milk and oil. Add to dry mixture and fold in carefully (if it's mixed too much the cornbread is dry and tough). Bake 20-25 minutes at
400 degrees.  This makes a good breakfast with butter and syrup. Note: this recipe is doubled, which I always did for the family.

hawaiian haystacks

Cook chopped boneless, skinless chicken breasts and chopped onion in oil in skillet. Add Cream of chicken soup (1 or 2 cans, depending on how many people you're feeding).

To serve, put the following on your plate depending on what you like:

chow mein noodles
cooked rice
chicken/soup mixture from above
grated cheese
chopped tomatoes
green onions
pineapple chunks or tidbits
sliced almonds


The View from Grandfather’s Corner / Lloyd

This morning I discontinued and deleted two blogs that I began in mid-September to support Proposition 8: Family Man & Watch on Satan.

I do not enjoy criticizing or being in opposition. I prefer helping and encouraging. And so my blogging efforts with Judy on She Says, He Says will be more in keeping with “The View from Grandfather’s Corner.” Hopefully, I won’t be a  crotchety grandfather.  

Isn’t the Spirit of goodwill during the Christmas season grand?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Mailing - aaarrgghhh / Judy

And here's the other side of Christmas. Today I took six big packages to the post office; they were so heavy I could only carry two at a time into the P.O. Of course the line was forever, so for the first two packages, I used the APC (Automated Postal Center) where there was no line.  I felt a little intimidated, but I thought it went fine. But then I had to leave (to answer nature's call) to go to a nearby store and when I came back, I took in the next two packages and used the APC again. That's when I realized to my horror that for the first two pkgs. I had placed the printed "stamp," which I somehow thought was a mailing label, OVER my handwritten address instead of up in the corner! Where was my brain?  

I immediately cornered a postal employee and told him what I'd done and asked if there was any way I could get those pkgs. back before they left because basically, they had no visible address to send them to. He asked when it happened and by now it had been nearly 40 minutes and he said, "No. The truck just left a few minutes ago." Aarrgghh! Then, seeing me disintegrate in front of his eyes, he assured me that they would merely be returned to my address, probably the next morning. So the only problem was the $45 in postage I'd wasted and which I'd have to pay again tomorrow when I re-sent them. Again, aaarrgghhh!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Fun Even While Shopping / Judy


Yesterday Dad and I were in Sears and standing in line to check out. The lady in front of us was worried her husband was going to see what she'd bought him for Christmas (about 5 things), so she kept darting looks all around while the clerk rang her up. She said, "I sent him off to another part of the store, but he wanders."


Pretty soon all of us in line, about 6 people, were helping her by making a "wall" in front of her and we were all laughing while she kept giggling. Every once in a while she ducked down behind the register's desk, evidently when her husband was walking by.  She said, "I feel like I'm doing something illegal."

wonderful fun

We were all having a great time because we understood exactly what was happening, and I thought  how fun that everyone is helping her surprise her husband. This is the kind of thing that happens at Christmas and it's wonderful!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Are Liberals Just Sad? / Judy

Many of you know that I belong to a writer's group that meets twice a month. I really enjoy it because it keeps me writing something and the group gives me good feedback. And I feel like I've made some good friends. However, I am the lone conservative in the group. I'm grateful they tolerate me, but it sure is interesting to hear them talk among themselves about the state of the world. I get a perspective I normally wouldn't hear. And the thing I've noticed is how gloomy their world outlook is. They seem to have no hope, no joy, and everything is terrible. One of them is blatently anti-American; according to her there is nothing good about this country. This is hard to listen to and frankly gets a little boring.

I was thinking about this the other day while I was reading through Time magazine, a known "liberal rag," and they fell right into the same attitude. The whole magazine was so dour it was depressing to read it. Here are a few of the headlines: 1. In an article on the sinking of Venice, Italy: "The city of bridges always had one foot in the sea. Now the waters are rising." 2. "In the wake of the terrorism in Mumbai, India has no good options, nor does the U.S." 3. "Will Iraq stumble after US soldiers leave? Dangerous times for the cities." 4. "Is this Detroit's last winter? "In Michigan the death of the auto industry has been going on so long, it's become part of the culture." 5. "A few scholars and politicians think it's time to kill the 401K." 6. "Dying for a drink; our watery world is drying up fast." 

I know the media works to sensationalize the news and make everybody afraid; that's how they sell their stuff. But I read the newspaper every day and I've read other news magazines and never felt such a gloomy, foreboding sense of doom before. I wonder if it's because Liberals have no faith? Without faith you would naturally have no sense of hope and wouldn't even see the good in the world. All you'd see is how rotten everything is and then naturally you'd want to protest about it. 

Let me give an example of how they can't see anything beyond their preconceived notions. Once one of the women in my group, a member of Mothers for Peace, which is always protesting about something at the Diablo Nuclear Power Plant, was ranting about how dangerous the nuclear waste was, so therefore the whole industry should be shut down. I said, "I know there are problems but some people are doing something about it." Then I told her about my brother who works up at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and how his job was to neutralize the waste. He says they have a process that turns it into an inert glass log, absolutely harmless, then bury it so it's completely safe. As I talked I could see her eyes glaze over so she didn't even hear what I was saying because it didn't fit into her world view. She never even acknowledged my talking to her.

I see this attitude in my writing group and I see it in much of the media. And I think it's sad.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Three Specific Movies & in General / Judy

twilight and movies in general

Anyone who knows us knows we like movies and we see as many as we can on Lloyd's day off. We like summertime blockbusters and holiday movies, but generally don't like the serious spring and fall (adult) movies that are usually rated R anyway. Yesterday we saw "Twilight"--again--and liked it just as much as we did the first time. It really is amazing and romantic and beautiful and we thought the acting was superb. I read that the director is not going to do the next movie because they want to get it out by the end of next year and she didn't think that was enough planning time.

four christmases

On Saturday I went by myself to see "Four Christmases" because I thought Lloyd probably wouldn't like it. I didn't like it much either. I know it's been the top movie for two weeks in a row, but I'm not sure why. Of course I really like both the stars and there are some very funny moments in it, but somehow extremely dysfunctional families are just not that humorous for me. I must be out of sync with the rest of the country (no surprise there) but I think sad families are just sad.

prince caspian

Then last night we saw "Prince Caspian" on DVD and really liked it. We kept commenting that the situation in the kingdom appeared to be right out of the Book of Mormon, (not the talking animals, minotaurs or dancing trees part of the movie.)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Dress for Ellen / Lloyd

NOTE: This is the true story of a young mother, Mary Jeppson, who lived in the remote prairie town of Hillspring, Alberta, and how she celebrated Christmas in 1927 as told by President Thomas S. Monson during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in the Tabernacle Dec. 7, and reported in the Deseret News, 13 Dec 1997. This story is adapted from that report in the Deseret News and posted in ths Blog written for our family on 8 Dec 2008. A complete and illustrated story is also available in both hardcover and in soft cover from Deseret Book: A Christmas Dress for EllenLloyd Abbott (8 April 2013)

President Thomas S. Monson  

christmas dress for ellen

That December her heart was so full of sorrow and concern for her six small children that she felt it would surely break. On Christmas Eve, all her children, except the oldest, Ellen, 10, were dancing around, excited to hang their stockings for Santa to come. Mary helped each one of her children hang a little darned and mended stocking, but she couldn't persuade Ellen to participate. Of all the children, Ellen alone knew there was nothing with which to fill the stockings.

Then the young mother sat by the fire, thinking of her plight. Spring had come very late and winter had come very early for the last two years, causing the crops to freeze and fail.

In October Mary had received a letter from her sisters living in Idaho who, despite their own setbacks, had asked what they could send her family for Christmas.

In November, in desperation, Mary had written.

Mary had requested only necessities. She told them how desperately the family needed food, especially wheat, yeast, flour and some cornmeal. She also asked for some old, used quilts and for some worn-out pants to cut up and use to patch her sons' clothes, and mentioned the family's desperate need for socks, shoes, gloves, hats and coats.

Then finally, Mary asked if someone might have a dress she had outgrown to send to Ellen, who only had one dress that was patched and faded. Mary felt she could fix up such a dress and thus bring some joy to Ellen, who had too much to worry about for a 10-year-old.

The week before Christmas  Mary's husband, Leland, made a daily three-hour round trip into the town of Cardston to check at the train station and the post office for a package from Idaho. Nothing came.

Then at 3:30 on Christmas morning, while her husband and children slept, Mary heard a knock at the door. It was the mailman, a member of the Church from Cardston, telling Mary 10 large crates from the States had arrived for the Jeppson family. He knew they had been waiting for the packages and that there would be no Christmas without them. With horse and sleigh, he set out from his home Christmas Eve and traveled eight hours in a severe snowstorm to deliver the crates to the Jeppsons' isolated farm house.

Mary had thanked him all she could, but she always said that there just were not words enough to express her thanks. After all, how do you thank a miracle, and a Christmas miracle at that?''

Inside the boxes was a note from Mary's sisters. They told her that quilting bees had been held all over the Malad Valley, and from these, six thick, warm beautiful quilts had been made for them. They also told of the many women who had sewn shirts for the boys and dresses for the girls, and of others who had knitted warm gloves and hats.

The donation of socks and shoes had come from people for miles around. The Relief Society had held a bazaar to raise the money to buy the coats, and all of Mary Jeppson's sisters, nieces, cousins, aunts and uncles in Idaho had gotten together to bake the breads and make the candy to send.

There was even a crate half full of beef that had been cured and packed so that it could be shipped along with two or three slabs of bacon and two hams.

The letter closed with these words: “We hope you have a Merry Christmas, and thank you so much for making our Christmas the best one we've ever had!”

Mary's children awoke that morning to bacon, hot muffins and jars of jams and jellies and canned fruit. Every stocking that was hanging was stuffed full of homemade taffy, fudge, divinity and dried fruit of every kind.

The most wonderful miracle, though, occurred when Ellen, the very last to get up . . . looked to where her stocking was supposed to have been hung the night before and saw hanging there a beautiful red Christmas dress, trimmed with white and green satin ribbons. She later said it was the most wonderful Christmas morning ever.

“That morning,'' concluded President Monson, “with the Christmas dress for Ellen, a childhood had been brought back, a childhood of hopes and dreams and Santas and the miracle of Christmas.''

“If there is one common denominator, perhaps it is this: Christmas is love. Christmas is the time when the bonds of family love transcend distance and inconvenience,'' said President Monson. “It is a time when love of neighbor rises above petty day-to-day irritations, and doors swing open to give and receive expressions of appreciation and affection.”

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Have a Baby / Lloyd

It was customary in our mission for missionaries to review their patriarchal blessing with the president. During my interview the mission...