Friday, December 17, 2010

THE STAR PROPHECY, by Joan Sowards

The Star Prophecy by Joan Sowards is a tale about a young Nephite’s quest to find the newborn Savior. However, it’s more than a Christmas story. This is a book that can be read, reread and enjoyed any time of the year. Mrs. Sowards tells the account of Enoch and his friends as though intimately familiar with the era, and weaves her tale through both the Book of Mormon and the New Testament’s scriptural accounts of Christ’s birth in such a way that, as a reader, I was convinced it could have happened just as she told it.

Even though they have largely turned wicked, the Nephites have grown up with the prophecies regarding the Savior’s birth. Young Enoch has always dreamed of returning to Jerusalem to see the baby Jesus in person and he begins his preparations as a poor orphan boy of fifteen. The odds against his leaving the land of Zarahemla, paying for a ship large enough to cross the ocean, and actually making the trek alive, are overwhelming. Enoch has never even sailed a ship.

After four years, Enoch receives word that the ship he commissioned to be built is finished. The shipbuilder Omnihah was trained by Hagoth of old who, it’s recorded in the Book of Mormon, built large ships and took several expeditions across the sea.

Enoch knows that according to Samuel the Lamanite’s prophecy, only one year remains before the Savior’s birth, and he prepares for his voyage. Enoch’s mission to find the Savior is not without sacrifice. He leaves the drunkard uncle who raised him, hoping the man will be safe while he’s gone. He leaves the woman he loves, hoping she’ll wait for him, and he sets sail with only a few friends and his faith that the Lord will guide them to Jerusalem and safely back.

Once he and his comrades set sail, Enoch’s little brother nearly drowns while trying to swim to the ship so that he can go with them. Then, they discover a young man accused of murder has stowed away in order to avoid prosecution.

The Star Prophecy is full of interesting details that bring this story to life, such as customs of the time, the foods they ate, and their experiences aboard the ship. As the travelers come to various islands and then to the land of Jerusalem, they and the people are described in such a way that I felt as though I was standing in the distance and watching the story unfold. Enoch’s quest became my quest and I felt his confusion and disappointment when they arrived in Jerusalem only to discover that no one there knew of Christ’s birth.

Through perseverance and talking to those who are lowly of heart, they discover that the Savior has indeed been born, and is in Bethlehem. They wonder, as does their shepherd-guide, why baby Jesus was allowed to be born in such humble circumstances and not a kingly palace, and they are filled with awe and reverence when Mary allows them to hold her Holy child.

As I read this story, I found many parallels between Enoch’s life and the lives we live today. It reaffirmed to me that people, no matter when they’re born, all have similar fears and feelings as we do—that living in a wicked world is perilous no matter the era, and that the opportunity for hazard when we trust the wrong people is an ageless dilemma.

The Star Prophecy by Joan Sowards is written as an adventure by a young man who just happens to have lived anciently. It isn’t preachy, or doctrinal, yet I found that reading it was a profound experience. I highly recomend it as a gift for Christmas, birthdays, or for any occasion where you'd like to say, "I love you" with a good book.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


One of my first Christmas memories is of my dad making fudge. He did it every year, and we had fresh pecans in it from our trees in the yard. So, it's only natural that I also celebrate Christmas by making sweet treats to share. Just writing this blog post makes me want to run to the kitchen and make a batch of fudge.

However, this post is not about fudge. It’s about Sweetened Condensed Milk. It’s kind of pricey, and sometimes a recipe calls for it, and we don’t have any on hand. That’s when this recipe comes in handy. It's easy and inexpensive. Merry Christmas!


1 C. instant non-fat dry milk powder

¾ C. sugar

1/3 C. hot water

3 TBSP melted butter or margarine

Dissolve the sugar in the water and let cool. (I’ve found that the water cools off too soon, making it difficult for the sugar to dissolve properly. If this happened, put it in the microwave for several seconds until the sugar dissolves. I do this in a glass measuring cup. Add the powdered milk, the sugar mixture, and the melted butter to a blender and blend to liquefy. Approximately 20 seconds.

Monday, December 6, 2010


One of the things that I love about the month of December is all of the holiday movies. For some reason, I just love watching the girl get the guy and then kiss under the mistletoe. I’m not particularly fond of the tear-jerkers (in movies or books), and some Christmas movies are just too ridiculous (a recent movie with talking dogs in it comes to mind. Yuck!) But a lot of them are really fun to watch.

I enjoy The Miracle on Elm Street, in all its varieties. Then there’s this one Christmas movie (don’t remember the name of it) where the MC works at the mall as a perfume sales-woman. She’s in a stale relationship with a guy that’s more worried about his plans for the future than actually living for the day. She puts a wish-list in Santa’s mailbox—and they start coming true.

One of my other favorites is Christmas in Handcuffs with Melissa Joan Heart. She’s in her twenties and still single and working at a junky café. This is the year that she finally has a boyfriend to take to her parent’s Family-Christmas-Hideaway. It involves several days in a secluded cabin with siblings, parents, and an eccentric grandma. No cell phones allowed. The day the MC is to leave for the hideaway, everything in her life goes wrong—she accidentally fries her hair while trying to perm it—she missed the job interview her dad set up for her—her boss threatens to fire her—and her boyfriend breaks up with her in the café.

She goes berserk! No one can hardly blame her at that point. And when the next guy comes in the door, she kidnaps him at gunpoint with a display gun of her bosses, hauls him to the retreat, and says he’s her boyfriend. It’s pretty clever, actually. Not that I approve of kidnapping, of course—but I think Ms. Heart does crazy better than anyone I know.

If you’re the type of person who gets the doldrums during Christmas holiday, I’d suggest either Christmas in Handcuffs—watching someone go berserk on TV can really make our sometimes crazy lives seem so, so normal. The other Christmas movie that I absolutely love is Elf. I am not a Will Ferrell fan, but every time I watch this movie, I laugh out loud. And I love Ed Asner as Santa Clause.

So, if I seem distracted during the Christmas holiday, you can figure that I’m either busy with Christmas celebrations, unwinding with a fun Christmas flick, or reading a great book.

May the Lord’s blessings be upon us all as we prepare to celebrate His birth.