Friday, December 19, 2014

Cherished Christmas Memories

       As I reflect on the Christmas season, I can’t help but remember three very special Christmas memories that have meant so much to me and which still bring warm feelings after these many years. Two were gifts received and one was a gift given.
The first memory stems from my early teenage years. As a young pre-teen, I wanted to learn to play a musical instrument. I asked my parents about the accordion, but to no avail. At age twelve, my mother tried to interest me in the organ, as she played it very well. After six months of lessons, I realized that the organ was not for me. In seventh grade, I signed up for the trumpet in junior high, but for some strange reason I was placed in the beginning orchestra class and on the violin rather than the beginning band class and the trumpet.
I tried to have myself reassigned, but was told I would have to wait a year to get into the band class. In eighth grade, I finally made it into the beginning band and was allowed to play the trumpet.
I believe that my father was very pleased, as he once played the trumpet as a young man and even played with a small band on the radio, in Philadelphia, in the thirties.
Once accepted into the band, I had to acquire a trumpet. These were lean financial times for my parents, so my father took me to a local pawnshop where I was able to get a well-used silver trumpet for $35.00. New trumpets cost about $500.00 and at that time, was well out of reach, financially, for my parents.
I began to play this old beat up trumpet and enjoyed being in the band. After a year and a half or so, Christmas was soon to come. I told my parents that I would really like to get a new trumpet, as the one I had was difficult to play well, due to the condition it was in. My brain told me that it would not be probable, but my heart was optimistic.
When Christmas morning arrived, my heart began to race, as I saw a brand new trumpet case under the tree. As I opened up the case, I found my old trumpet, a new mouthpiece, and new bottle of lubricant. I must have shown great disappointment in my face, as my dad told me that perhaps the new items would help the old trumpet play better.
        It wasn’t until later that afternoon that my father told me that they forgot to give me one of my presents and he instructed me to look under the couch. There was the brand new gold trumpet that belonged to the new case under the tree. I was ecstatic!
It wasn’t until many years later that I began to understand how much of a sacrifice that trumpet represented, considering the financial limitations my parents lived under at the time they bought the trumpet. I believe that my father had a great desire to give me the instrument, which would fulfill a boy’s dream and perhaps a father’s dream as well, because dad always regretted that he had not continued to play the trumpet.
Later, as a 16 year old, my interest in the trumpet waned considerably and my new desires rested on getting a motorcycle. Unbeknownst to my parents, I took that expensive gift and sold it to buy a used motorcycle.
         When my parents found out, I am sure they were very disappointed in me, first of all for not consulting with them and secondly because I had treated their great sacrifice so lightly.
It was the action of an unfeeling teenager, who would not fully understand the disappointment the parents felt until many years later.
The second memory also was an act of sacrifice from my father. After graduating from high school and later finishing four years in the Navy, I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My parents were not thrilled with my decision and more so when I decided to serve as a missionary for the church. I needed to come up with the money to support myself as a missionary and I knew that I could not approach my parents, as they believed it was a waste of time and money. My father believed I should start a career and begin to establish myself and that serving a mission for two years would delay that.
          When the time came for me to leave on my missionary service to Germany, I sold all of my earthly possessions. Germany was an expensive mission, so I sold my new MG sports car to an acquaintance, my personal items and my clothes. My friend Don mentioned in a talk he gave in sacrament meeting, at my farewell, that he knew I had sold everything because he said, “I bought his shirts.”
          I think this comment touched the hearts of ward members, who themselves were humble, as to the things of the earth, and the elders quorum stepped forward to assist what I was not able to raise myself. I raised a little more than half of what I would need and the elders promised that when my money had run out, they would send me monthly amounts to augment what I had raised.
Once I was in Germany, I found that the cost of living gradually rose over time and money was tight. After about a year in the mission, Christmas approached. Right before Christmas day, I received a letter in the mail from my father. Inside the envelope was just a short note, which said “Dear Ron, wish I could send more, Dad”. Inside was a $20.00 bill.
         My heart was deeply touched, because I knew that my father had fallen on lean times with a job change and though this $20.00 bill was quite a bit less than the cost of the trumpet, it represented a significant sacrifice. More than the financial sacrifice, it represented something very special to me because what my father was communicating between those short words was that he was proud of me and that he approved of what I had decided to do with two years of my life.
To this day, I remember with great fondness, that gift of acceptance and love from my father, which meant so much more than the money.
         The final memory was that of a gift given. After serving as a missionary, I attended Brigham Young University. I was basically penniless when I arrived, except for a few dollars that I was able to save from a few weeks of work after the mission.
After attending the university for a year and working a part-time job, I had been able to save enough to buy a brand new 10 speed racing bicycle for my transportation, as an automobile was beyond my ability to afford. I picked out the bike late in September and enjoyed it immensely. As Christmas approached, our student church branch decided to do a “Sub for Santa” project to assist a couple of needy families in the area.
          As the student members came around to our apartment complex, seeking donations for these families, they knocked on our apartment door. Upon entering, they gave my roommates and I a list of the members in the families we were helping, with their ages, sizes and a list of suggested gifts they were seeking to buy.
As I spoke with one of the students soliciting donations, he informed me that one family being helped, consisted of a single mother who had five children and he also mentioned that one of those children was a 16-year-old boy, who desperately wanted a bike for Christmas. Almost as an after thought he added, but that of course is beyond our ability, given the number of people we were helping.
           I suddenly felt the spirit of the Lord come over me, encouraging me to give the boy my brand new racing bike and so I gave it to the student seeking the donations.
That Christmas, I felt a warm glow much greater than the joy of owning that new bike. That Christmas, I felt the joy of sacrifice, which must have been something akin to that my parents felt, giving me the new trumpet.
           It is very easy for us to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season and to sometimes lose sight of why we celebrate Christmas, but from time to time I reflect on those Christmas memories, which still fill my heart with that warm glow after so many years. The reason why these memories are so special to me is because they all represent a great sacrifice for someone else.
It is appropriate that we remember the why of Christmas. I like to simply remember that Christmas is a celebration, in which the Savior came to earth to pay a debt that he did not owe, for all of us, who had a debt that we could not pay. It is a sacrifice that is beyond my comprehension. Because I will never, in this life, begin to comprehend the gift given to all of us, I simply try to keep this remembrance in my heart during the season.

By: Ronald Forstner

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


This last two years my wife and I have share the responsibility and blessing of teaching the 10 going on 11 year olds. They are a young and energetic group to share the Gospel with.  This year the course subject has been the Old Testament where they have a change to learn about God's plan of salvation and the creation of the earth.  They are learning how to develop a testimony of the Gospel through the stories and examples of the Old Testament prophets and people.  One of the Old Testament characters that we learned about was Samson where we tried to help the children understand that the Lord blessed Samson with physical strength to accomplish his mission. When Samson kept his covenants and was strong spiritually, he was blessed with this physical strength. They learned the Samson's strength was not actually in his hair but his hair was a sign of this covenant with the Lord. To demonstrate their commitment to develop spiritual strength so that they could receive blessing from their Father in Heaven as well as an enrichment activity, they all created wigs. (Pictures attached)

As the locks of hair they had to identify and attached a covenant to their wig that they had chosen to keep.  Some of the covenant where: Daily Pray, Reading Scriptures, Sharing testimony, Helping parent, attending church, etc.  They were free to come up with some of their own.  If they never allow those locks to be cut and removed they too would be worth to receive blessing from their Heavenly Father.

We hope that they will carry this lessen along with the others that we have had throughout year with them for the reminder of their life's.  So that they can feel the love of a kind and caring Father who loves them so much that he send his Son to die for them.

By: Steven J. Stark