Best Sacrament Christmas Program Ever

I'm in charge of music in my ward and decided to go out with a bang for the Christmas Program. My partner Dallin and I rounded up all the best talent in the ward and created the a Christmas Program that will go down in history. At least for me. Not that I'm biased or proud but it came out just how I wanted it. Scriptures and their readers, songs and their singers, all hand-selected and delivered.

The idea was to get out of the same old Luke 2 story rut and get to the juice of why Christ's birth was even a big deal. It matters that Christ was born because Christ atoned for our sins and died for us. His birth would be meaningless without his life and death.

So without further ado... Merry Christmas!

Reader: Matt Turner
“I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.” “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”“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.”
Mosiah 15:1 Isaiah 25:9 Isaiah 9:6

O Holy Night: Leah Petit Accompanied by: Dallin Larsen

Reader: Roxeanne Hutchins
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Behold the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Matthew 1:18, 20-21 Luke 2:4-7

Away in a Manger: Men’s Ensemble A Capella

O Come All Ye Faithful: Choir Accompanied by: Dallin Larsen

Reader: Dani Passey
“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 Savior, 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 heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Luke 2: 8-14 2 Ne 32:3?

Angels We Have Heard On High Accompanied by: Bryce Coombs

Reader: Heidi Juergens
“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 Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.”
Luke 2:16-19 Luke 1: 46-49

Mary’s Lullaby: Sara Olds Accompanied by: Sister Olds

Reader: Eric Jones
“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him.” And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” “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”
John 2:40 Matt 4:23 John 3:16-17

I Heard Him Come: Dallin Larsen Accompanied by: Bryce Coombs

Reader: Shane Mount
“He is despised, and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father – That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”
Isaiah 53:3-7 D&C 76:22-24

I Know That My Redeemer Lives: Scott Moore, Leslie Hyatt and Choir Accompanied by: Dallin Larsen

Bishop Robison Testimony

Closing Prayer


Great news

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often announces its three-fold mission:
  1. Preach the Gospel
  2. Perfect the Saints
  3. Redeem the Dead
Every nonprofit organization has a mission statement and this unofficial one coined by Spencer W. Kimball has guided church funding and activities since 1981. It has been confirmed that the church is adding a fourth fold to its already three-fold mission of the church:

4. Help the Poor and the Needy

Because it's hard to feel the spirit or of God's love when your most basic needs are not met
Because the act of helping others in need perfects us as we fulfill our baptismal covenants
Because Christ did, and asked us to do likewise

I would love to delve into the political implications of such a statement, and thrash any of those morons who believe in any level of deserved poverty crap, but I'm going to simply say that I'm excited. "Caring for the poor and needy has always been a basic tenet of the Church," said LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter, this is simply a reminder that it is our responsibility.

Traveling Responsibly in Burma

I'm going to Burma in 19 days and it's giving me anxiety. I don't usually get too stressed about travel itineraries and over-planning when I go abroad. I never buy guidebooks and cringe at the idea of booking a tour operator. Give me a good 3-4 days of internet surfing and I have a handful of possible travel routes worked out. But not with Burma. 12 days there is stressing me out. I'm not worried about safety (I'm well connected and well protected), or expenses (I'm more or less rolling in dough) or hitting all the sites in my limited amount of time (seen one or two, seen 'em all... sort of).

Here's the thing. I believe that as citizens of the world, we have a duty to travel responsibly. We shouldn't flaunt our wealth or enforce our culture upon the areas we visit. We should make an effort to at least learn Hello and Thank You in whatever languages we can, and then some. And we shouldn't go to places we're not welcome.

That last one is what's got me all riled up and ready for a guilt complex. Aung San Suu Kyi (Burmese political leader [and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate] currently under house arrest [for fighting for democracy. How dare she!] made a statement requesting that tourists stay out of Burma for now. Travel money goes straight to the hands of the military junta running the place.

72% of people polled here said travelers should avoid Burma. Another report cites, "The military dictatorship is eager to encourage tourism, and tries hard to present an attractive image to the world." (link) I don't want my money spent on ammunition, oppression or the lavish wedding of General Than Shwe's daughter.

But there is a flip side. Many pro-Burma organizations (like the Free Burma Coalition) say that travel to Myanmar, when done responsibly, is a good thing. It brings outside influence to an otherwise isolated people (good, not in an ethnocentric way, but in that they can see that what they endure is not normal and shouldn't be accepted), awareness to the outside (as long as travelers are aware and spread the word upon their return home), and if done right, some say that just 2 percent of travel funds could end up in the hands of the junta. Lu Maw, one of the Mustache Brothers (famous Burmese satirists) said, "We need many ears, many eyes. The regime is rich - if tourists don't come it makes no difference to them. But it does to us." (link)

So I'm going. And planning, more than I ever have for a trip, to make sure that I do it right.

This Damien Rice song was written for Aung San Suu Kyi. There used to be a great video on YouTube with video of her in action interposed with Damien and Lisa singing (their voices sounded better too) but alas, copyright issues and this live version isn't bad.

Go Damien and hygiene. Maybe that's why Lisa Hannigan left you for a decent (US-Bound) solo career.


All I want for Christmas..

How is it that this is still and will always be the best non-hymn Christmas song?

An added bonus to the video is a pre-skanky Mariah Carey and go-go dancers in lit Christmas tree frames.


Bring On The Christmas Cheer

I always resent finals season, not for (should-be) long study hours (or actual study escape daytime TV binges) but because it takes away from the Christmas season. Growing up, Thanksgiving 'til New Years was guaranteed to be filled with Christmas spirit/activities and now I have to work a lot more for it. Energy that should be spent doorbell ditching goodies and building gingerbread mansions is spent reading, reviewing and testing. It might also have something to do with crap college apartment decorations that don't measure up to home, having the season split in two with traveling home, and the fact that my last four Christmases I've been in kind of a funk (just home from Africa and angry at materialism, in Thailand where there isn't Christmas, just home from Thailand and depressed at post-mission life, and round one of empty nester parents/post-dramatic breakup).

The Christmas season this year has had the potential of being very bah humbug but I'm not going to let it. I'm not going home, but rather working a ton (time and half at the MTC means oodles of play money in Asia) and spending it with my sister and her family (my favorite people on earth). I get to prep for my trip, hibernate with Brooke and for the first time in my life, I may have a White Christmas (I saw that movie last week by the way, and it is not that good, nor is it really much about Christmas. Lame.)

Christmas music has been great respite from all the cold and school hating I've been doing, especially the Sufjan Stevens version of Holy, Holy, Holy (30+ plays this week alone). It talks (sings?) quite a bit about the Trinity, a belief which I don't ascribe to (I believe the Godhead are three separate personages), but I've taken the (non-copyright endorsed) liberty to change the lines about the Trinity to ones I actually believe in (I don't think the writer would be too happy about it because the song was actually written for Trinity Sunday, but this means a lot more to me). Actually, when I sing along (there's a really pretty, subtle harmony line), it's different every time. Adjusted lyrics go something like this:
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
There is a sign at the sight of thee, merciful and mighty
Blessed Redeemer (x3) love for eternity

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in pow’r (x3) in love, and purity

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty
Born Christmas morning (x3) in peace and humility
or Praising his mercy(x3) Faith, love and charity

Text: Reginald Heber (1783-1826)
Music: John Baccus Dykes
Merry Christmas Season!


The Whole Fam Damily, pt. 1

When Brent and Mia set the date for their wedding to be the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I immediately pictured long tables topped with mismatched tablecloths and Chinet event paper plates because we had to make room for everyone. Scratch that everyone, make that Everyone (the capital E makes a difference). Extended family and close friends from both sides were sure to be there. Sure enough, family and friends came in droves for the red-letter day and I got big hugs from cousins, sincere talks with aunts and uncles, and enough whirlwind chaos to last me a while. In fact, Thanksgiving was big enough that we had to have it at the church. Don't worry, my mom made about a hundred trips to Safeway and I think we came home from the meal with a full turkey, cooked and ready for leftovers.

The best part of Thanksgiving day was Karaoke. Yes, Karaoke. Brent and Brian are always talking about it (it was even all set up for after Grandpa's funeral. It didn't make it into the program, not for lack of appropriateness to the occasion but rather a lack of adequate sound system). I don't think I've ever really sung karaoke but I got first run as the boys were setting it up. We are the Champions. What better karaoke is there than Queen, right? The further I got into the song (and more dramatically I sang), heads popped into the room one by one until I had a bonafide crowd. I won't go into the setlist for the Karaoke party but rest assured, it was awesome- and I'm positive Mia's family thinks we're crazy.

It was a party. Pictures:
My debut
Boys rocking out (I think also to Queen)
Dad and Aunt Paula
Babies playing house

Cute Hart girls

Pt. 2 might take a while.