A Gift of Memories

Last year I did something I’ve wanted to do for years—I gave my parents a book filled with letters from their friends and family. These letters recalled cherished experiences and expressed love and respect for Mom and Dad. As a result, my parents were reminded that there are many people who need them, love them, and look to their example.

I wasn’t surprised at the number of people who thought of someone they wanted to honor in this way. But I was surprised that everyone seemed convinced that it was too difficult for them to do. Nothing could be further from the truth! Compiling the book was one of the most exciting and enjoyable things I have ever done.

I discovered a side of my parents that I never knew. Some of the letters made me laugh, like the one from a longtime friend who told me about a live chicken that laid an egg on center stage during my Dad’s big scene in the school play. Other letters told of experiences that filled me with overwhelming love and respect, such as the letter I received from a couple who gave my parents credit for inspiring them to marry in the temple.

So what are you waiting for? Here’s how to create a book of joy, love, and memories:

  1. 1.

    Compile a list of the names and addresses of all the friends and family members you can think of. Don’t worry if it isn’t complete at first—you can add to it as you go along.

  2. 2.

    Write a letter such as the one that follows:

    “Dear ________________,

    “I would like to honor my parents, (insert their names here), this year (at Christmas, on their Golden Wedding Anniversary, on their birthdays, etc.) with a book filled with highlights from their past. I want to include letters, stories, memories, and photographs that will remind them of the joy they are to us and to others.

    “Would you please help me with this project by writing down some of your memories of your relationship with Mom and Dad? If you prefer to tape-record your thoughts, I will transcribe them, or you may call and give me the information over the phone, and I will write it up. Whatever you send will be treasured.

    “You can help me further by sending me the names and addresses of other friends of my parents so that I can ask them to participate in the project as well.

    “I appreciate your help. I am sure you can understand how much this will mean to my parents.



    Type the letter and mail photocopies of it to the people on your list.

  3. 3.

    As the letters come in, check the names off your list. Add any new names and addresses you receive, then mail letters to those people.

  4. 4.

    Compile the incoming letters in a book. A photo album, three-ring binder, or padded notebook are all excellent choices. The letters can be arranged in alphabetical order with a table of contents at the beginning so they can be easily located, or they can be divided into sections representing different times in your parents’ lives.

Before you give the book to your parents, you may want to make copies of it to share with your brothers and sisters.LaRene Gaunt, Sandy, Utah

Trim Your Tree for Safety

Fire danger increases during the holiday season because of tree lights and decorations on houses, as well as candles on centerpieces and other ornaments. This year, you may want to take an extra precaution and place a battery-operated smoke detector on or near your tree. It could give you that valuable early fire warning that will allow your family to exit your home safely. After Christmas you can mount the detector in another part of your house.Diana Wilson, Wilsonville, Oregon

The Night Joseph Smith Came to Family Home Evening

“Why role-play only the Christmas story every year? Why not the Joseph Smith story, too?” my husband asked as we planned a lesson to commemorate Joseph Smith’s birthday on December 23. We couldn’t forget our children’s engrossed reverence the week before, as all three “shepherds” (with towels on their heads and wooden dowels in their hands) had knelt before Baby Jesus (a favorite doll) and our two-year-old had reached out to pat him gently. We decided to try another role-playing session. What resulted was an eye-opening experience for us all.

During the week, we reviewed the story of Joseph Smith’s first vision with our children and assigned each child his part in the play.

In family home evening on Monday, we first met Joseph Smith (Matthew, our very proud two-year-old) and his family (the rest of us). Then we went from room to room as Joseph and his family listened to different “preachers.” My husband and I alternated the preacher role—he in one room, I in the next. Whoever wasn’t preaching walked along with the children, who listened wide-eyed and rather timidly to their preacher-parents’”sermons.”

Next, we all returned to the living room and Dad asked, “Now, how do you think Joseph Smith felt? Do you think he might have wondered why all the preachers said such different things, and who was right?” The children agreed that Joseph certainly must have wondered. Dad then lit a candle, and we felt as if we were right there with Joseph as he read James 1:5 by candlelight.

After “Joseph” finished contemplating the scripture, we all got up to follow him (“invisibly,” of course, since no one else was really there) to the grove of trees (the family room) where he knelt to pray. Suddenly Heavenly Father (Daniel, age four) appeared standing above him “in the air” (on the organ bench) beside Jesus (Dad). Daniel solemnly recited the lines that Dad had rehearsed with him earlier: “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:17.)

Dad then told how Jesus taught Joseph that he should not join any of the existing churches. We explained how the Lord chose Joseph Smith to restore the gospel to the earth, and how Joseph faithfully carried out that mission.

Several days after the lesson, I realized what an impression this experience had made on our children when a neighbor child came over to play. Our son confidently told his friend, “I know a prophet that lived a long time ago—Joseph Smith. Do you know him?”

The First Vision has never been more alive to any of us or its truth more powerfully felt than at that family home evening. We now plan to role-play other stories from the scriptures.Lorraine Richardson, Riverside, California

How Many More Good Deeds until Christmas?

Even though December was still a few days away, my boys were beginning to talk about what they wanted for Christmas. A catalog had come in the mail, and they were already fighting over the toys on its pages. I was worried about their selfishness and their materialistic concerns. How could I teach them that Christmas means more if you give of yourself?

A few days later, I pulled out our fabric advent calendar to prepare it for the Christmas countdown. As I looked at the twenty-four small pockets, I had an idea: I would teach my boys about love and service in daily doses!

When I filled the pockets with ornaments to be pinned, one a day, to the tree, I added twenty-four different instructions for good deeds. These included “Hug everyone in the family,” “Bake cookies and give them all away,” “Invite a friend to visit the community manger scene with us,” and “Do a secret service for someone.”

As a result, we had the best December ever. The children looked forward to each day’s suggestion. Soon their friends joined them after school to see what they could do that day.

We learned, as we counted the days to Christmas, to make each day count.Annette P. Bowen, Bellevue, Washington

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer