Joseph B Elder Man of Action

29 Captain Willie's Ride

Joseph B. Elder: Man of Action

Joseph Elder joined the Latter-day Saints in 1855—the only member of his family to do so. The following year he was a student at McKendry College in Lebanon, Illinois when he felt impressed to go to St Louis, Missouri. There he met the missionaries and they advised him to quit school and assist with the immigration of converts traveling to the Salt Lake Valley. Joseph was ordained an elder at that time and recorded this in his diary, “I am determined by the help of God to perform every duty and bear every burden that God through his holy priesthood is willing to lay upon my shoulders.”

Answering the call, Joseph returned, quit school, and bade farewell to his family. “Oh, how my heart did almost break to leave them,” he said, “when they with tears and sobs and entreaties pled to the last for me to stay. But God had use for me in other places and I must go.”

He spent the next four months purchasing and driving unruly cattle to the handcart resupply station in Florence, Nebraska. It was dangerous and difficult work. He was in Florence when the Willie Handcart Company arrived.

It was about ten o’clock one night, and Joseph had gone to bed, when he was summoned to meet with the leaders. He got up and went to see why he was wanted. He was asked to prepare to leave the next day with the handcart company. They wanted him to start the journey with a supply wagon and they would pick him up farther along the trail. He had expected to travel speedily with the missionaries to Zion. Nonetheless, he agreed.

In the days ahead, Joseph took it upon himself, and that with great delight, to hunt buffalo for the camp. When the Company reached Fort Kearney, Nebraska, the express company of returning missionaries and leaders caught up to the Willie Company. Rather than join and journey on in speed and comfort to Utah, Joseph was asked to continue on with the handcart company, plodding his way to Utah. Again, notwithstanding his expectations, Joseph agreed–not one word of complaint in his diary.

And on they went. When snow caught the emigrants on October 19, 1856, Joseph commented “it was severe, for the people [were] weak having been on short rations.” The next morning Joseph said the snow was 6-8 inches deep. “The camp was hungry, naked, and cold. To rush them into the snow would be certain death to a great many of them.” Captain James Willie determined that he would go in search of the rescue wagons that he knew were somewhere ahead of them. Of the hundreds in camp, he chose Joseph Elder to travel with him.

Joseph said, “The snow and an awful cold wind blew in our faces all day.” They rode 27 miles and just at nightfall they found the rescue wagons. Joseph described the awful trek of the Willie Company over Rocky Ridge two days later. “Oh, how my heart did quake and shudder at the awful scenes which surrounded me.” Finally, Joseph and the suffering saints reached the Salt Lake Valley. He described what it was like to look upon the Zion of God that he had so long dreamed of. “We emerged from amongst the mountains and the beautiful  Valley with all of its loveliness spread itself out before our view. My heart was so full of joy and gratitude. The journey was over at last.”

Or so he thought. Two weeks later, President Brigham Young asked for volunteers to go out and rescue the Martin Company still out on the Plains. Joseph answered the call and volunteered.

Joseph Benson Elder–a man of action, not talk—a hero–who simply did what he was asked.

Artwork by Julie Rogers

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Sam and Amanda Chambers

Sam and Amanda Chambers

Samuel and Amanda Chambers

April 27, 1870, Samuel and Amanda Chambers arrived in Salt Lake City. They quickly found a home and Samuel began working at a sawmill in Big Cottonwood Canyon. They were taken in by the saints and welcomed. Considering that this is a missionary-minded Church and gathered from all over the world their arrival would not have been terribly unusual, except that Samuel and Amanda Chambers were black, and therein lies a wonderful story.

Sam Chambers was born a slave May 21, 1831, in Pickens County, Alabama. He grew up an orphan after his mother was sold by slave traders. Then in 1844, Mormon missionaries came into the area proselyting. Samuel, then 13 years-old attended their street meetings and was converted. Discussions and a nighttime baptism soon followed. And that was it–he would not have any further contact with the Church for 26 years. Yet, somehow he never lost his faith. Following the Civil War, Samuel and Amanda, his wife, were now free. They wanted to emigrate to Utah. Finally, with a simple ox-drawn wagon they journeyed to join the saints. Samuel would later say, “I did not come to Utah to know the truth of the Gospel, but I received it away back where the Gospel found me.”

Then in May 1873, Church leaders sought to strengthen the deacons quorums throughout the Valley. Men and boys were ordained and trained to fill those responsibilities, much of which involved care and cleaning of the ward meetinghouses. Though he did not hold the priesthood Samuel was invited to participate. He did so willingly and gratefully, giving dedicated service for many years. “I have joy,” he said, “in cleaning up and whatever I am called to do.” In 1874 he was given a patriarchal blessing. In it promised he would live a long life and his name would be held in remembrance among the saints.

By 1878, Sam and Amanda had begun to farm and grow fruit in the southeast end of the Salt Lake Valley. Before he was through, Samuel Chambers owned 30 acres and was recognized as an authority on fruit growing. They built a comfortable home and prospered.

He paid his tithing faithfully and when donations were sought to be build the Wilford Ward building in 1902, few members matched the $200 donated by Sam and Amanda. In his later years Samuel was invited to meet with the High Priests. Regularly and powerfully, Samuel bore his testimony of the Gospel–one who heard him said, “like an apostle.” Samuel developed a reputation as a defender of the faith. He was unwilling to tolerate criticism of the Church and its leaders. Those who were visitors to Sam and Amanda’s lovely home received a copy of the Book of Mormon.

Samuel passed away November 9, 1929, four years after his Amanda. He was 98 years-old, and true and faithful to the very end.

It is written, “Jesus] doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation…. He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God.”

Source: William G. Hartley, Samuel D. Chambers, The New Era, June 1974


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Caleb Baldwin Noble Friend

Liberty Jail by Robinson

Caleb Baldwin: Bold Friend

Caleb was born September 2, 1791, in Nobletown, New York. As he matured he was quiet and soft-spoken except when speaking in defense of his friends and then he was known to have a “fiery tongue.” Caleb fought under Captain Charles Parker in the War of 1812. He married Nancy, December 9, 1814. When Mormon missionaries passed through northern Ohio in late 1830, Caleb and his wife were baptized. Most know the story that when Julia Murdock passed away in 1831 that her newborn twins were given to Emma and Joseph Smith to raise, but what no one remembers is that it was Caleb and Nancy who cared for the three older children while their father John served as a missionary.

Later when the saints experienced intense persecution in northern Missouri, Caleb was among able defenders in what was called the Battle of the Blue. He was captured and “was beaten almost to death by Missourians with hickory sticks,” the scars of which he carried for the rest of his life.

Caleb became a missionary, preaching the gospel fearlessly. Finally in late 1838 he was living somewhere near Far West, Missouri. When the Mormon\Missouri War broke out Caleb fought in defense of his people. When Far West fell, Caleb was among those arrested and charged with treason. He was brought before Judge Austin A. King to be arraigned. Caleb asked for a fair trial and then asked the Judge what he was to do with his family who were being driven out of the state by the mob. Judge King’s answer was that if Caleb would renounce his religion and forsake Joseph Smith, he should be set free and protected. Caleb refused.

He was bound over as a prisoner along with Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Alexander McRae, Lyman Wight, and Sidney Rigdon for next four months in Liberty Jail, Clay County Missouri. Caleb was Caleb Baldwin. It was he, along with Alexander McRae that scribed that letter dictated by the Prophet Joseph Smith to the Church that would later become Doctrine and Covenants 121-123.

When Joseph and the other prisoners escaped Missouri, they fled to Quincy, Illinois. There Joseph and the others found their families, but not Caleb. His family yet remained in Missouri. Caleb knew he was a wanted man in Missouri. If he went back and was captured he would be imprisoned or killed. He went back for Nancy and the children and got them out safely.

In Nauvoo, Caleb helped build the Nauvoo Temple. On one occasion the Prophet Joseph stood atop a barrel to preach to a gathered crowd. When the barrel began to teeter, Caleb rushed forward and Joseph put his hand on Caleb’s shoulder to steady himself. That act symbolized the life and service of Caleb Baldwin. When the saints went west to the Rocky Mountains Caleb was among the first. He was 57 years-old when he made the journey and was called Father Baldwin. Though he held no high position, he often included in counsel with the leaders of the Church. He arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September of 1848, where he died just a few months later.

It is said that the name “Baldwin” is of Germanic origins and that Bald means bold and that Wine means friend or protector. Caleb Baldwin was indeed a bold friend, mostly and undeservedly, forgotten by history.


Artwork by Robinson

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John Stucki



30 Some Must Push and Some Must Pull by Michael BedardJohn Stucki and the Piece of Meat
If you can imagine, nearly all of our pioneer fathers walked across the plains. Very few rode in a wagon. It would have been difficult enough to walk over a thousand miles, but to couple that with pulling a loaded handcart made it that much more strenuous. It has been estimated that those handcart pioneers burned upwards of 4000 calories a day, and that, often on a diet scarcely sufficient to sustain life. If there is one thing that is common to the handcart pioneer experience—they were hungry. There was never enough to eat, and if Brother Brigham had not sent out wagonloads of food, more than one company would have perished on the plains.
The Samuel Stucki family left Florence, Nebraska on July 6, 1860. Soon after they started out they were put on half rations—that is, only half enough food to keep the average person healthy—and they were pulling heavy-laden handcarts on hot summer days.
Nine-year old John describes that his father, Samuel, gave the greater portion of his half ration to his wife who was trying to keep her strength while pulling the handcart and nursing a baby. Soon she was too weak to pull the cart and Samuel struggled on alone, pulling the loaded cart and his three youngest children. It wasn’t long before Mother could not keep up with the company and father was so starved and weakened that he could not go on.
Behind the cart was John, pushing and wishing that he could just sit down and rest. “I will never forget,” he said, “how hungry I was all the time.”
Then one day, some buffalo were seen nearby. The men of camp went out and soon, the delicious meat was divided among the camp. The Stucki family was given a small piece of meat. That was in the forepart of the week and Father put it in the back of the cart, and said they would save it for a nice Sunday dinner.
But for John that raw meat was so close and smelled so good. “I could not resist,” he said, “but had to cut off a piece or two each half day. Although I was afraid of getting a severe whipping after cutting a little the first few times, I could not resist taking a little each half day. I would chew it so long it got perfectly tasteless.”
The family traveled on and then came Sunday. “When Father went to get the meat on Sunday noon he asked me if I had been cutting off some of the meat. I said “yes,” that I was so hungry that I could not let it alone. Then, instead of giving me the severe scolding and whipping, he did not say a word, but started to wipe the tears from his eyes.”
Hafen and Hafen, Handcarts to Zion, p. 189-190

Artwork by Michael Bedard

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Trust-in-God by Julie Rogers

Marie Wilhemina Krause Madsen

When we talk about pioneers I frequently hear people speak of the toughness of a people who could endure such physical demands, and that is true, but there is another dimension to that toughness that is equally, if not more important—Faith—spiritual toughness!

Mina was born to a mother with great faith in the restored Gospel who taught her well. And though her father was never converted, he supported the desire of his wife and family to immigrate to Zion. However, it was expensive to move a large family and it was decided that one child would stay behind to make the journey later. Mina, at 8 years of age, was designated to remain behind.

On that journey, Mina’s mother and two little sisters passed away from cholera near Mormon Grove, Kansas, and Mina’s father never went on to Utah. He settled the family in St Louis, Missouri.

Meanwhile, unaware of the tragedy, Mina made ready to come on to Utah with the Frandsen family, but when vicious rumors spread that Mina was being kidnapped by the Frandsens, she was taken away and placed in an orphanage. The Frandsens went on without her.

Determined to go on, Mina joined with the Madsen family and started the journey. In Iowa City they became part of the Hodgett Wagon Company. This company along with the Hunt Wagon company are often forgotten in the heroic struggle for survival in the Wyoming snows of 1856, but they ought not to be. They would not get to the Valley until December 1856, two weeks after the Martin Company.

At Devil’s Gate, Lars Madsen, Mina’s protecting father, collapsed in the snow. She clung to his side, but he pushed her away and told her to leave him. By the time she got back with help, Lars was gone.

Mina remained with the Madsen family and eventually married one of their sons. They settled in the San Pete Valley and had 11 children.

But what of her family? Unbeknownst to Mina, her father had started a plumbing business in St Louis and had become very wealthy. Mina wanted to know what became of her family, and eventually she ran an ad in a newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri. That ad reached Johan Krause, Mina’s father, and he and Mina’s sister Augusta traveled to Utah.

Finally, after 32 years the family was reunited. After a time, Mina’s father returned to St Louis contending that the Mormons had stolen his daughter. She would never see him again. It is said the family offered Mina every material comfort if she would renounce her faith and come back with them to Missouri. Mina refused. She would give up her immediate family for an eternal one and would forgo a mansion on earth for her place in a heavenly one. It is said that Mina loved the Book of Mormon and would read it every day to her children.

Sister Mina served as a relief society president and died in the faith in October of 1900, beloved by all and an example to generations.


Family records from Mandi Brady

Jolene Allphin, Tell My Story Too, p. 348-9

Artwork by Julie Rogers

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Tree of Life


lehisdream_1440x9601The Tree of Life
There were two trees in the Garden of Eden – “The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” and “The Tree of Life.” After partaking of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, and [were] not allowed to return and partake of the “Tree of Life.” And from there, it seems as though the entire Bible is a saga of man’s continued fall from that mysterious tree. What was that tree, and how do we get back to it? Well, there’s the story.
Thirty-four centuries later Nephi saw the “Tree of Life” in a vision. He described it as beautiful, white, and precious above every other tree. He described the fruit as most desirable to make one happy. What is this tree and how do we partake of its fruit. That was Nephi’s question?
While Nephi pondered the Tree and its meaning, He was caught away in vision and saw the most beautiful and fair of women in the village of Nazareth. It was Mary, the mother of Jesus, who would not be born for another 600 years. The next thing he saw was Mary caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, and when he next saw her, she was carrying that Baby in her arms.
After seeing these things, Nephi was then asked if he understood now the meaning of the tree.
“…Yea,” he said in answer. “It is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men…” (1 Nephi 11:22)
You see? God’s love is like a great and beautiful tree shading and nourishing this earth. “The Tree of Life” was a representation of God’s love manifested in the coming of Jesus Christ. Indeed God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. Christ is the living embodiment of God’s love for us. His word and Gospel, like a rod of iron, leads us back to that “The Tree of life or Tree of Love.” Christ came to lead us back to that very tree from which Adam and Eve were barred. And when we partake of that love by the Spirit, there is nothing in this world more powerful, more pure, more joyous to the soul than the love of almighty God. Nephi would later say, “He hath filled me with his love even unto the consuming of my flesh” (2 Nephi 4:21). To receive that love is our most desirable mortal experience. To know that love, is to live abundantly, and to live without that love is only to exist.
Life has always been, and still is, all about love – God for His Son, the Son for us, and us for each other. That perfect, pure, and unfailing love is called charity. May it take root in your heart and become a “Tree of Life” – that reaches toward Heaven, and nourishes and shelters your family and friends.

Sources: 1 Nephi 8-11, 12:16-18, 15

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Sarah and Mary by Julie RogersWilliam Ashton: Continue On
When stories are told of the Martin Handcart Company, of their sufferings and sacrifice; of their rescue and struggle, the story of this one family surely needs to be remembered.
William and Sarah Ashton left England in May 1856 on the ship Horizon with their children Betsey, Sarah Ellen, Mary, and Elizabeth Ann. They left all behind, including their youngest, Esther who had passed away just before the journey.
The family arrived in Boston and while they waited to board the train to Iowa City, Elizabeth Ann, just 2, also passed away. The family continued on and eventually found themselves in Iowa waiting for handcarts. The handcarts were late in coming and the emigrants of the Martin Handcart Company did not depart the Iowa City campground until July 28, 1856.
The family pulled their handcart 300 miles across Iowa to Florence, Nebraska. There, Sarah Ann Barlow Ashton gave birth to a baby girl, but Sarah, weakened by all that she had endured, did not survive. August 26, 1856, she passed away at Cutler’s Park. The family continued on, and then September 11, the newborn infant passed away and was buried on the plains of Nebraska, 9 miles west of Prairie Creek.
One can only imagine the burden of grief the family bore as they continued on to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. There on October 9, 1856, William and a few others enlisted in the United States Army. It was not unusual for a cash inducement to be offered to recruits in the wilderness, as well as draws on the commissary in advance of future pay. Perhaps William saw this as a way to provide necessary food and supplies for his 3 girls, whom, it is presumed, he left in the care of the Barlow family.
While Betsey, Sarah, and Mary continued on, William their father, remained behind at Fort Laramie. Ten days later, severe winter storms caught the Martin Company on the banks of the North Platte River. Rumors reached William that none of the Martin Handcart Company survived. William, the Englishman, served five years as a foot soldier in the U.S. army making his way from Wyoming, to Kansas, and finally to California. Upon his discharge he vanished from the records.
The three girls suffered with the handcart saints at Red Buttes Camp near the Platte River. There 11 year-old Betsy succumbed to the cold and passed away. Sarah and Mary continued on to the Valley. In the bitter cold journey, Sarah lost her sight in one eye.
In time, both girls would marry, Sarah to Thomas Beckstead and Mary to Isaac Wardle. Mary and Isaac were expecting a child. At his birth they would name him William Ashton Wardle and while he would live to good age, his mother, Mary passed away at his birth.
Now, of a family of 8, only Sarah continued on. She was a devoted wife, mother, and disciple of the Lord. She and Thomas had 10 children and eventually settled in the small farming community of Whitney, Idaho. Then sometime after December of 1888, a man named Clark brought a copy of the Latter-day Saint’s Millennial Star, published in England, to Sarah’s door. In it was the following ad, “Wanted: Elder William Ashton is very anxious to learn the address of any one or all of his daughters, Betsey, Sarah, and Mary who emigrated from Stockport, England on the 18th of May, 1856. They crossed the plains in one of the “Handcart Companies. Brother Ashton’s address is Charlesworth, near Broadbottom, Derbyshire, England. –Utah Papers please copy.”
After 33 years apart, William was reunited with his family.
If I take one thing from this unusual story it is that no matter what happens to us and our families, continue on in faith, and God willing, all will be made right in the end.
Tell My Story Too by Jolene Allphin p. 159-160
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Artwork by Julie Rogers

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Christmas: Alvin Smith


Christmas: Alvin Smith

It was just before Christmas, 1835. Joseph went to a scheduled debate at the home of his brother, William. During the course of the evening’s events things got a little heated between the participants. Joseph commented that such behavior was not becoming of the men involved. William became angry, and then violent. It became a fight between the Prophet Joseph Smith and his enraged brother, William. In the end, Joseph was sorely injured, and the Smith family was torn into factions.

In the days that followed, letters passed back and forth between Joseph and William. It was in one of those letters, at the very end, that Joseph wrote this most tender prayer,

And now may God have mercy upon my father’s house. May God take away enmity, from between me and thee, and may all blessings be restored, and the past be forgotten forever. May humble  repentance bring us both to thee, O God, and to thy power and protection, and a crown, to enjoy the society of Father, Mother [&] Alvin. (!/paperSummary/letter-to-william-smith-18-december-1835&p=8 )

Joseph prays to be with Alvin in the eternities, and therein lies a beautiful story. Alvin was the oldest living child of Joseph Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. He was a noble and obedient son; faithful to his family, and God. November 19, 1823, Alvin passed away suddenly, leaving his family shocked and stricken with grief. “We all, with one accord wept over our irretrievable loss,” wrote Mother Smith, “and we could not be comforted, because he was not.”

At his funeral, many friends and neighbors paid their respects, not the least of which being the lovely girl Alvin had been engaged to marry. Alvin was much loved, respected, and missed. However, the minister who preached the funeral sermon intimated Alvin had gone to hell, because he had never been baptized. This comment deeply hurt the family, especially Joseph Smith Sr. It opened a wound in the soul of Joseph Jr. he would carry to his latest days. “I remember well,” he said, “the pangs of sorrow that swelled my youthful bosom and almost burst my tender heart when he died.”

Yet Alvin had died not baptized and not a member of any organized Church. Would Alvin be saved or was he everlastingly damned? From 1823 to 1836 this question must have torn at Joseph. His prayer that he and William could be together with Alvin in the next life represented a profound search for consolation.

Imagine then the joy of this night—January 21, 1836, on the third-floor, attic story of the Kirtland Temple, in Joseph Smith’s office. It is a night of glorious visions and heavenly manifestations for Joseph and many others. In the course of that night was one vision, perhaps more significant for more people than any other. Joseph said,

The Heavens were opened upon us and I beheld the celestial kingdom of God, and the glory thereof, whether in the body or out, I cannot tell.” Joseph witnessed the Father and Son enthroned in glory. He saw the ancient patriarchs, and then he said, “I saw…my father and mother; and my brother Alvin that has long since slept.

How could that be? The voice of the Lord came to Joseph, “all who have died without a knowledge of this Gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God…. For I the Lord will judge all men according to their works, according to the desires of their hearts.”

Alvin represented all the righteous dead of all the ages–he would be saved! Two months later the keys of Elijah were restored, and in Nauvoo on August 15, 1840, upon hearing the doctrine of baptism for the dead revealed, the weakened and enfeebled Father Smith requested that Alvin be immediately baptized, and it was done.

Christmas is the gift of a Savior who will save all men in all ages of the world that are willing. Merry Christmas!


Doctrine and Covenants 137

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Christmas, Come Unto Me

wise men

Christmas-Come Unto Me

The most important, most joyful, and most holy of all feasts among the Jews was the Feast of the Tabernacles. It was an 8 day celebration held in the late autumn that marked the end of the festival season. Each day of the Feast, except for the last, a procession led by the priests and Levites would descend the Temple mount to the pool of Siloam where they would draw water, walk back up the hill amidst the most jubilant of celebrations from participants and onlookers, ascend to the Temple, and pour that water, which was considered to be living water, on the altar. During this the pilgrims who came to Jerusalem would chant “O Lord, save us we pray!”

“It was said that he who has not seen the joy of the drawing of the water at the Feast of the Tabernacles does not know what joy is.” (Bible Dictionary p. 673)

The pouring out of the water and the plea for salvation represented the coming age of the Messiah when joy and salvation would be poured out upon the Lord’s people like rain and living water would flow forth from Jerusalem to all nations.

On the 8th day of the Feast—the day that was called “The Great Day,” this ritual was not performed. It was on that day when this ritual was most missed that Jesus, known across all Jerusalem, stood in the Temple and announced “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scriptures hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37). That moment would have been spellbinding—electrifying! He was declaring to all Israel that he was the Messiah and salvation and joy was found in Him. “Come unto Me!”

The great doctors of the law came to him though yet a boy and he taught them. His mother came seeking help and he turned water to wine. A leper came pleading and Jesus touched and restored him. Nicodemus came by night confused and Jesus taught him. Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue came pleading for the life of his daughter and it was given. Mary and Martha came weeping and Lazarus was called forth from the grave into their arms. The woman of Samaria came to draw water and was given living water. A drowning Peter reached out for Jesus and was saved. A woman with an issue of blood—unclean—came, reaching out to Jesus. She was made whole and sent her on her way rejoicing. A man possessed of a legion of devils ran wildly down the hill to Jesus. He went away whole bearing a powerful witness. A blind man cast off his beggars garment and came to Jesus. He was welcomed and healed. As will we all—no matter who or what we are—then as now, we are all welcomed, loved, and lifted.

It is Christmas, come unto Christ and find rest to your soul. And when the season is over—come back again—every day, until finally, he comes to you.

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On Sale Now!

“This Child: A Testimony of Christ and Christmas” is on sale now! Get this for some wonderful people in your life to let them feel the true spirit of Christmas during this holiday season. Don’t miss out on this great deal! Click here

This Child picture

A Testimony of Christ and Christmas

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