Sunday, April 27, 2014

We never Stand Alone

Wherever we are in life, there are times when all of us have challenges and struggles. Although they are different for each, they are common to all.

Many of the challenges we face exist because we live in this mortal world, populated by all manner of individuals. At times we ask in desperation, “How can I keep my sights firmly fixed on the celestial as I navigate through this telestial world?”

There will be times when you will walk a path strewn with thorns and marked by struggle. There may be times when you feel detached—even isolated—from the Giver of every good gift. You worry that you walk alone. Fear replaces faith.

When you find yourself in such circumstances, I plead with you to remember prayer. I love the words of President Ezra Taft Benson concerning prayer. Said he:

“All through my life the counsel to depend on prayer has been prized above almost any other advice I have … received. It has become an integral part of me—an anchor, a constant source of strength, and the basis of my knowledge of things divine. …

“… Though reverses come, in prayer we can find reassurance, for God will speak peace to the soul. That peace, that spirit of serenity, is life’s greatest blessing.”

As we seek our Heavenly Father through fervent, sincere prayer and earnest, dedicated scripture study, our testimonies will become strong and deeply rooted. We will know of God’s love for us. We will understand that we do not ever walk alone. I promise you that you will one day stand aside and look at your difficult times, and you will realize that He was always there beside you. I know this to be true in the passing of my eternal companion—Frances Beverly Johnson Monson.

Taken from  We Never Stand Alone, by President Thomas S. Monson, October 2013 General Conference.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Church and Kingdom of God

We announce that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on earth, the only place where men may come to learn the true doctrines of salvation and find the authority of the holy priesthood.

I desire to say that no man of himself can lead this church. It is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ; he is at the head. The church bears his name, has his priesthood, administers his gospel, preaches his doctrine, and does his work.

He chooses men and calls them to be instruments in his hands to accomplish his purposes, and he guides and directs them in their labors. But men are only instruments in the Lord’s hands, and the honor and glory for all that his servants accomplish is and should be ascribed unto him forever.

If this were the work of man, it would fail, but it is the work of the Lord, and he does not fail. And we have the assurance that if we keep the commandments and are valiant in the testimony of Jesus and are true to every trust, the Lord will guide and direct us and his church in the paths of righteousness, for the accomplishment of all his purposes.

Our Savior came into the world to teach us love for each other, and as that great lesson was made manifest through his great suffering and death that we might live, should we not express our love for our fellowmen by service rendered in their behalf? Should we not show our appreciation for the infinite service he rendered us, by giving service in his cause?

The man who does only those things in the Church which concern himself alone will never reach exaltation. For instance, the man who is willing to pray, to pay his tithes and offerings, and to attend to the ordinary duties which concern his own personal life, and nothing more, will never reach the goal of perfection.

Never refuse to serve. When a presiding officer asks your help, be glad to accept and give the best you have to that labor. The Lord expects this of us, and we are under covenant to do so. This course brings joy and peace, and at the same time those who serve receive the greatest blessing. The teacher gains more than the one taught; the blessing returned to us when we accept a call to work in the Church is far greater than the blessing we can impart to others. He who refuses to perform any labor or shirks responsibility when it is given him in the Church is in grave danger of losing the guidance of the Spirit. Eventually he becomes lukewarm and indifferent to all duties, and, like the plant that is not cultivated and watered, he shrivels up and dies a spiritual death.

Your challenge this week:  Find ways to magnify your calling and support your local leaders.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Luncheon Recipes

Southwestern Chicken Barley Chili
YIELD: SERVES 6-8 by Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Note: in anticipation of the questions, yes, I think this would freeze very well, even though it might be ultra-thick when reheated (simply add some chicken broth or water to thin). Also, I think it would fare quite well in the slow cooker, adding the first set of ingredients (perhaps all??) to the slow cooker and cooking on low for about 7 hours and then adding in the corn and beans (if you didn’t throw them in first) for the last hour.

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup medium barley (not quick cooking)
4 cups water
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
dash cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into bite-size pieces
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
Garnishes: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, tortilla chips

In a large pot (about 6-quarts), combine the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, barley, water, chili powder, cumin, dried oregano and cayenne (if using). Stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and add the chicken. Stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer the chili for 40 minutes, until the barley is tender and chewy and the chicken is no longer pink. Stir occasionally, while it simmers to prevent sticking and to make sure it stays at a steady simmer. After 40 minutes, add the beans and corn. Stir to combine and simmer for five more minutes. Serve the chili with optional garnishes, if desired.
The chili will thicken considerably upon cooling. Add chicken broth or water as needed to achieve a desirable consistency (especially if reheating the leftovers).

Sugar Cookie Bars
YIELD: MAKES 9X13-INCH PAN OF BARS by Mel's Kitchen Cafe

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened to cool room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest (optional)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk or cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, granulated sugar and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until combined.
Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Press and/or spread the sugar cookie mixture gently into an even layer into the bottom of the pan.
Bake for 10-13 minutes. Don't overbake! The bars shouldn't have any color around the edges and barely be set in the middle. Let the bars cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting, cream together the butter and powdered sugar until smooth (if the mixture has trouble coming together, add a drop or two of milk). Add in the vanilla and mix. Add the milk or cream and mix until the frosting is light and fluffy. Add food coloring, if desired.

Cream of Broccoli-Cheese Soup

Yield: 10 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

½ cup butter
 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
 4 cups milk
 2 cups half-and-half
 4 heads broccoli, stems removed and discarded, and florets cut into bite-size pieces
 Pinch of nutmeg
 12 ounces medium or sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3 cups)
 1 t salt
1/4 t pepper
 2 cups chicken broth

1.  Rinse broccoli with cold water, cut, and put cut tops in microwavable dish, add 1/4 c water, put plastic wrap over and microwave for 4 minutes.

2. Finely chop onions.  In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add the onions.  Sauté for 5 to 6 minutes until they begin to soften, stirring frequently with wooden spoon.

3.Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to combine, cooking for about 1 minute. Turn off heat.  Measure milk and half and half all into one bowl.  Turn heat back on and pour in about 1-2 cups of the milk mixture (doesn't need to be exact) stirring with a whisk while you do this.  Continue stirring constantly until smooth--adding more milk if it becomes too thick to stir.  When it's smooth, slowly stir in the rest of the milk along with the half and half. Continue to stir milk mixture constantly until it comes to a boil.  Boil for 1 1/2 min. then turn down to lowest setting. 

4. Add the nutmeg, broccoli, salt, and black pepper.

5.  Take about 2 c of soup mixture and half of broccoli pieces and put in blender.  Cover with lid loosely.  (The heat builds up pressure on lid, so hold it on loosely.)  Blend on low for about 5 sec.  Pour back in soup and mix. 

6. Add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring to melt the cheese after each addition.
Finally, whisk in the broth, and re-warm over low heat if needed, and serve.

Lemon Bars

2 c. flour
1 c. butter
1/2 c. powdered sugar

2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
3-4 eggs
1/4 c. flour
1/3 c. lemon juice

For Crust
Sift flour and powdered sugar. Cut in butter. The mixture will cling together. Press into a 9x11x2" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes

For Filling
Beat together eggs, sugar, and lemon juice. Add 1/4 C flour and baking powder. Pour mixture over crust and bake at 350 for 25 minutes longer.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into bars when cool.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Witnesses for Christ

In choosing a representative to stand at the head of this “great and marvelous work about to come forth unto the children of men,” [see D&C 4:1] the Lord did not select one who was versed in the learning and traditions of the world. His ways are not the ways of man, neither are his thoughts like the thoughts of men [see Isaiah 55:8]. One taught in the learning of the world would have had too much to unlearn of the traditions and philosophy of men. In his great wisdom the Lord chose an unsophisticated child—a boy fourteen years of age. Unto this youth the Lord revealed the fulness of the gospel, which the world would not receive because of unbelief. Through years of heavenly guidance—for he was instructed by messengers from the presence of the Lord—this young man, Joseph Smith, was prepared to direct the work of the restoration of the Gospel and the building of the Kingdom of God.

Hyrum Smith was among the first baptized in this dispensation. Through his life he stood by the side of his brother Joseph and strengthened him by encouragement, faith and devoted love. Hyrum was a man of wonderful tenderness of heart. He possessed deep humility and loved his brother better than he loved his own life. This is shown in his death through which he obtained a martyr’s crown. He was fearless in his defense of truth. Verily he “loved that which is right.”

Sister Demke issued two questions when teaching this lesson:
1.  Think about your testimony of Joseph Smith and what it means to you.
2.  Think about someone in your life who has been your rock - someone you could always count on.

We raise our voices in thanksgiving for the lives and ministries of the Prophet Joseph Smith, of Hyrum Smith the Patriarch, and of the prophets and apostles and righteous men and women who have built on the foundation they laid.

Challenge this week:
If you want to have a stronger testimony of Joseph Smith, pray for that
Read the talk:  Hyrum Smith:  Firm as the Pillars of Heaven
Reach out to a friend this week.