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Seventh Witness – Shepherds

They made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.   ~ Luke 2:16–17

At the birth of Him who is called the “good shepherd” (John 10;14), shepherds were the first to receive the announcement of His holy birth. (Like 2: 8-16) These were not ordinary shepherds, for it had been prophesied among the Nephites that angels would declare the glad tidings of the Messiah’s birth to “just and holy men.” (Alma 13:26.) These were probably the priesthood holders acting as shepherds in the temple fields.

Their job that night and other nights was to witness the birth of the lambs!  Many gave birth to two lambs and they needed to know the first born so they could become sacrifical lambs. They would mark the first born male with a red cord around the neck. This special night they got to witness the first born son of God – the Lamb of God.
Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who leads and watches over his followers. Many prophets compared him to a shepherd. “The Lord is my shepherd.” (Ps. 23:1) “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd.” (Isa. 40:11) “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” (John 10:11,14)​
​The special witnesses borne by these shepherds were to be told to family, friends, and neighbors. They were to be told in the courts of the temple, and from there to be told among all nations of the earth. Luke tells us that after the shepherds had seen the “babe lying in a manger, … they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” (Luke 2:16–17.) Such was the declaration of the angel who stood before them that holy night, that these “good tidings of great joy” should “be to all people.” (Luke 2:10.)
Jesus was witnessed and visited by shepherds – symbolic of him becoming our “Good Shepherd” keeping us safe as he leads us back home!  ☺️

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Sixth Witness – Joseph

Joseph legally claimed Jesus as his own when he named the child. 
​            ~ Isaiah 7:14 

Joseph was a patriarch of a man.  He was the one that had family home evenings with Jesus, he taught him a trade, told him stories, encouraged him to walk, talk, read and sing.
Angel Gabriel helped him whenever he needed it. Gabriel first comforted Joseph, “Fear not to take Mary as thy wife… for she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21) Fulfilling the prophesy, “The Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14.)

The angel giving Joseph the name of the baby was very significant.  In that culture when a man names the child he is legally claiming him as his own.  Joseph named him “Jesus” which means save his people just as the angel told him. He loved Jesus as his own.
We know that he was righteous and faithful in keeping the law of Moses. He was strickly obedient and rose immediately when warned to flee Bethlehem.
​There are no scriptural record of any words spoken by Joseph, yet his righteousness and reactions to Mary’s condition bear testimony to his belief in Christ’s divine sonship. 

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Fifth Witness – Mary

He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. ~ Luke 1:49

Jesus was born the son of God to a virgin mother as foretold by Isaiah (Isa. 7:14) and other prophets (1 Nephi 11:13-21; Alma 7:9-10.) Gabriel called her, “highly favoured” and “blessed… among women” (Luke 1:28.)

From the Book of Mormon we learn what the mother of the Savior looked like. Nephi “beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.” (1 Nephi 11:13)

​Mary was a perfect mortal witness. Gabriel told her she would conceive “the Son of the Highest.” (Luke 1:32.) 

Christ’s mother was very special and the Nephites understood how special she was because her name was announced. It was their culture to not write the name of women except in very special circumstances. There are only 4 women names in the whole Book of Mormon.

“He shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.” (Mosiah ​3:7-8)

Nephi understood the symbolism of the fruit of the tree when he witnessed the love Mary had for Jesus. 

“I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw? And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirableabove all things. And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and themost joyous to the soul.” (1 Ne. 11:19–23.)

Nephi knew the meaning of the tree was love because he could feel their love for each other.  Love is the MOST desirable, the MOST joyous.
How did you feel when your children were born? or when you held a newborn baby? It is that love that God desires us all to feel and have and experience. When is the last time you felt the love of God?
​Following that marvelous event, she testified, saying, “He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:49.)

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Fourth Witness – John the Baptist

The babe [John] leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. ~ Luke 1:41

What a marvelous event it must have been when Elisabeth greeted her cousin Mary in the spirit of prophecy and Mary responding by that same spirit, then John leaping for joy. The testimonies of two women—the aged Elisabeth and the young Mary—each bearing a child conceived under miraculous circumstances. They, and the unborn John, all rejoice in the great event about to take place.
Christ was the rightful heir to David’s kingdom and John was rightful heir of the office of Elias. He began his ministry, to “go before the face of the Lord to prepare his [Christ’s] ways,” by leaping for joy while still within his mother’s womb. (Luke 1:41, 76; see also Luke 1:15.)

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Third Witness – Elisabeth

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? ~ Luke 1:42

Elizabeth is a type of Alishiba, the wife of Aaron. Her name means ALL sons are priests. Elizabeth’s line was to bare the priests! She and Zachariah were not able to bare children. He being a Priest was at the prayer alter praying for Salvation (Jesus) and he received salvation for his family! 

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Second Witness – Zacharias

His son he would “go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.”       ~ Luke 1:76 

Zacharias was a “just and holy” man (Alma 13:26) and a priest. He and his wife Elisabeth were descendants in the Priest’s line (Luke 1:5) In Hebrew his name meant Lord has Remembered  and her name meant consecrated to God.
This noble couple were promised a child who would be the forerunner of the Messiah. Zacharias did not believe this could happen as they were “sticken in years” so Gabriel told him he would “not be able to speak, unto the day that these things shall be performed” (Luke 1:20.)

He remained mute until “Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered.” (Luke 1:57) It was then that Zacharias’s “mouth was opened” (Luke 1:64) and he bore witness of the divine mission of his newborn son, testifying that he would “go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.” (Luke 1:65) News of these miraculous occurrences “were noised abroad throughout Judea.” (Luke 1:76.)

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First Witness – Gabriel

Introduced himself as Gabriel, one who stood “in the presence of God.”          ~ Luke 1:11, 19 

Angel Gabriel is the first witness, he was a righteous messenger from the King or God who brought messages and helped prepared for the birth of the Christ. In Hebrew the word “angel” is Malak which means messenger from the King. Gabriel means God is my strong man.  He “stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 157), and that he holds the keys of the “restoration of all things” (D&C 27:6–7.)
Gabriel made his initial appearance in the temple to Zacharias, a faithful priest, who performed a ritual for his nation—burning incense on the altar within the Holy Place.

In response to his prayer, an “angel of the Lord” appeared before Zacharias, standing on the right side of the altar of incense and identified himself as Gabriel, one who stood “in the presence of God.” (Luke 1:11, 19.) Gabriel tells him of the good news and gives him instructions.
Gabriel also visits Mary and Joseph to help prepare the way for the birth of Christ. ​

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The Twelve Witnesses of Christmas

Each day I will post one of the twelve witnesses of Christ’s birth and talk about its importance to you and us today.

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The Importance of Reflecting

and types of questions to ask while conducting a reflection

Experience is NOT the best teacher. If so, we’d all be getting better as we get older and many are not getting wiser. Why not? According to John Maxwell, author of The Five Levels of Leadership, it is because we are not reflecting on those experiences.

When we reflect on the experiences, the people we met, the thoughts we think about, the things we learn is when we gain wisdom. Reflection is more than thinking about a random thought or experience it is meditating, pondering, marinating on that experience. It is asking questions, listening for answers and asking more questions on the same subject. Pull out what is valuable and meditate some more.

If we spent time at the end of the day to reflect on one thing that we’ve learned or observed it will help us become a better person. This is a practice of most successful parents and homeschoolers. John sums it up beautifully, “Reflection turns experience into insight.”

If we spent time at the end of the day to reflect on one thing that we’ve learned or observed it will help us become a better person. This is a practice of most successful parents and homeschoolers. John sums it up beautifully, “Reflection turns experience into insight.”

When we conduct a reflection with our children we are teaching them the importance of reflecting and how to do it. Let’s have a reflection together by experiencing a lesson. I like following the EDGE method of teaching. Pretend with me you are sitting down with a teacher, ready to learn. While you are experiencing this moment (reading the next section) please pay attention to how you are reacting to this lesson and method. The teacher begins:

Explain – “I’m going to teach you a math lesson on how to create geometric shapes in a sequential order in the first two dimensions. You will will be the creator of these shapes and when you are finished you will have the three pillars of the plan!” [how are you feeling?] “What are we going to experience?”… “Yes, we are going to be drawing shapes for the numbers one, two, and three. Then I’ll tell you how they also tell the story of the Plan of Happiness.”
    Demonstrate – She draws a point, a circle, a line and another circle on the board. As she is drawing them she is explaining each shape and calls the two circles a “vesica pisces.” She then connects the upper point with the line and creates an equilateral triangle talking about the strength of a triangle. [are you getting it?]
    Guide – She then asks you to take out your paper, pencil, compass and straight edge. “Now follow after me, in the same manner that I drew these shapes you now draw them. Start with a point, open your compass and create a circle around that point. The point represents God, he opened up his compass and creates the Universe, meaning “one turn.” Now he has a place for all his children. The first thing he does is create a plan (line) for them all to return back to him. Draw the line from the center point to the circle using your straight edge. This new point represents you. Keeping your compass the same as before (same distance as the radius), draw a circle around the new point. This is your influence. Because the two circles share the same radius God’s influence will always be with you. With your straight edge connect the new upper point to the two on the line, creating an equilateral triangle. This represents Christ, who was lifted up and now shines light onto our path back to God. [did you do it? how are you feeling?] The circle represents the number one, God and the CREATION, the second point away from God represents the number two, you and the FALL. The third point is Christ, the number three and the ATONEMENT. These are the first three pillars of the of Plan of Happiness.” [Did she teach all of the explanation? What have you learned so far? How are you feeling now?]
    Enable – She asks you to draw them again, to practice using the compass and invites you to write down the numbers and their representations next to the drawings and to have you write down your thoughts about the Plan of Happiness.

Now let’s reflect on your experience with this lesson. When having a reflection you must first have a leader. The leader can be you or your child. They must know ahead of time that they will lead the discussion so they can be thinking of leading questions while going through the experience. Make sure you create a safe environment where all can feel comfortable to share their answers without judgment or snickering.

There are six types of questions to ask while conducting a Reflection, after an experience:

1. General Questions about the experience

  • What did you experience?
  • Have you learned this before? How was it similar?
  • Did you learn something new? How was it different from what you knew before?
  • What equipment or tools did you need?
  • Did they help with this experience? Could you have created this project without them?

2. Reaction Questions 

  • How did you react when she said, “Math lesson?”
  • What questions came up for you when I drew the shapes?
  • How did you react?
  • How did you respond inside?
  • What happened when you did it yourself? Did you gain understanding when you created this project yourself?

3. Personal Application Questions

  • What did you learn about your teaching style?
  • What did you learn about YOU?
  • What did you learn about learning styles?
  • What did you learn about your children?
  • How can you take what you learn here into your life? brother? sister? friends? family work? 
4. Action Questions. These can be rhetorical questions.
What will you do differently? What will you continue to do?How will your teaching will improve?How you responded to this lesson is how you respond to all new learning.

5. Recording Questions

  • What will you write down? or journal about?
  • Who will you brainstorm with?
  • How will you remember your experience? (Draw out lesson plans, paint, write music)

6. Rejoicing Questions

  • How will you memorialize (make permanent) your experience?
  • How will you show God your gratitude for this moment of enlightenment or inspiration?
  • Who will you report to when you act on your new thoughts?
  • How do you rejoice?

Become the best person you can by reflecting on your learning, homeschool teachings, the people you meet, the thoughts you are having in your head. Reflect back on what you just read. Make reflection a daily practice. 

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Reviewing in Homeschooling

The Stripling Warriors reviewed all that their mothers taught them to Helaman. “They rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers,.. that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.” (Alma 56:47-48.) Reviewing helped them to remember their reason for helping with the battles. None of them were killed in battle, even though they had no previous battle experience.
Reviewing helps to retain learning so you can easily recall it. Joseph Smith experienced this repetition when the Angel Moroni came to him 4 times and told him the same things with little variation. “But what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before;” (JS-H 1:46) Remember he was able to retain and write it all down word for word after he heard it the fourth time.

Repetition is a pattern of revelation. David A Bednar, of the quorum of the twelve, gave a talk in 2016, to the youth at BYU Idaho where he said, “Repetition is a vehicle in which the Holy Spirit can enlighten our minds, influence our hearts and enlarge our understanding.” He added, “Repetition is an important aspect of ordinances. The line upon line pattern of revelation can invite, renew, enrich and enlarge knowledge we already have obtained. It can also bring new knowledge into our minds and hearts.” This pattern can easily be utilized in your homeschool.

Your attitude toward repetition and review is key to learning. When you hear the typical topic of a lesson or presentation think not, “I already know this” or “I’ve heard this before.” This type of attitude stops our learning. Be open to repetition and know that it facilitates revelation!

Studies have shown that we recall only 75% of what we learn in a class and when we study within the first ten minutes we can remember almost all of it. However, with only one review or repetition a month later you only remember 10%. The good news is you can remember up to 75% of the information when you repeat that review within 24 hours and again in one week and again at one month. How incredible repetition is when it is consistently used. 🙂

Think about when your spouse repeats the words, “I love you,” do you shun it away? or accept it and enjoy the words over and over again? Think about repeating as receiving new learning, a way to retain what you have learned and a gateway to more revelation.
Remember that repetition should be of relevant things. Things that will bring you closer to God, strengthen you or help you fulfill your personal mission. One of Satan’s greatest tools is to get you to forget the virtuous, lovely and things of good report. Focus on the praiseworthy and the relevant in your learning.

Happy Reviewing in your Homeschooling! 🙂

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