Southern Indiana Branch - Sr. Rebecca Paris Reporting

The Southern Indiana Congregation was pleased to have Priest Nathan Paris give his first sermon on Christmas Sunday, December 20th. He did a good job talking about the birth of Christ and what Christmas giving means to him. We were happy to have Megan and Andrew Romer come to visit us and support Nathan in his first sermon. The youth also did a presentation that was enjoyed by all of us and our many visitors that day.

That same evening we hosted nearly 250 members of the community in a walk up, live Nativity. This is the second year we have done this to raise money for the local Salvation Army needs. We raised over $450.00 in 2 hours. It is a fun night, and it is always so awesome to be able to share the

"Good News" about the birth of baby Jesus with our community. They may never understand who we are, but we strive to witness to each of them about the love we share of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

We pray each of you has a blessed New Year!

Carthage Branch – Elder Dustin Westbay Reporting

It’s been a busy time down in the Carthage Branch. This summer, we are pleased to say, we received our new Church sign for our building. It looks amazing. We have been very blessed with several guest speakers. Patriarchs Carl VunCannon and Jim Gates, along with Elder Alex VunCannon are among the guests that we had the opportunity to have speak at our branch.

Priest Caleb Bayless received his Master’s Degree in Educational Administration, so we wish him big congratulations on that milestone in his life.

In October, Elder Dustin Westbay and his wife Tina celebrated their 4 year anniversary of adopting their daughter, Daisy Lorraine Westbay. On November 17, 2015, Dustin and Tina adopted their youngest son, Alex James Westbay, and the family is now complete.

On a sad note, our branch lost one of our members when Carl Shaw passed away on November 17, 2015, after a sudden illness. Carl will be missed by the Saints here in Carthage.

Elder Ron Westbay took a fall in mid-January and dislocated his knee, requiring surgery. Ron is now home and recovering. Sister Barbara Miller had surgery but is recovering as well. Thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

We have had several non-member guests during our services in the last couple of months. We are looking forward to reaching out to them and answering any questions that they might have.

God’s blessings to all.

First Michigan – Sr. Kathleen Haley Reporting

November 1 - For our Communion service, Elder Tom Vanderwalker used the theme, "Give God Thanks for all our Blessings." God has given us so much and has asked us to be ready for the time when He calls us to Zion. We must always be prepared for the call and not be like the 5 virgins who had to go get their oil, onlyto return after the door had been closed, at which time the Lord can say, "Ye know me not."

Nov. 6, 7, & 8 - We spent a beautiful weekend at the Ontario/Michigan Retreat. Along with Apostle Bob Murie who was in charge, we had Bishop Jerry Scherer and Patriarch Carl VunCannon (the first time for both), and Seventies Ted Webb and Roger Schuelke. The theme "You Are Called" allowed us to explore the many types of callings we have. We also had a very enlightening class on "The Ministry of the Patriarch." Apostle Murie asked the Aaronic priesthood to stand around the room to invite the angels to attend. Brother VunCannon was asked to offer the departing blessing after the Communion service, where we were asked to form a circle and hold hands. Before he started to pray, he said that he had something to say. The Lord spoke through him and told us that He had also attended the retreat and was pleased, and to always feel free to come to him with our problems and sorrows. Seventy Ted Webb confirmed the message of the Lord. This gave so much more meaning to the last hymn that we sang, "This is holy ground, we are standing on Holy Ground." Praise God!

November 15 - Thanksgiving is here! Our service today consisted of our memories of times past, the blessings that we have received and how thankful we are to our Heavenly Father for all that He has given us.

December 6 - Priest Karl Bell used D&C 160:5: "Christ gave his life for us. What have we done for Him?" By the looks of the chaos around us, we have not done much. If we try to follow Him, we should not be discouraged because the Lord is with us and will continue to bless us.

December 20 - Apostle Bob Murie, in his Christmas sermon, compared ‘JOY’ to ‘HAPPINESS’. The Bible speaks of HAPPINESS 32 times but refers to JOY 232 times. It’s good to try to find HAPPINESS in this world, but it‘s much better to always carry the JOY of Christ in our hearts.

We are very sad to report the death of our oldest member, Marie Schaper, and her son Don. On Dec. 26, Don had a massive heart attack and died. On Dec 27, Marie had a severe stroke and died on the 29th. We send our heart-felt prayers and condolences to the rest of the family. Marie was a very beautiful child of God. We will miss her greatly.

Our prayers always go out for those who are sick and afflicted in so many ways. May the Lord send his blessings to them.

January 3, 2016 - Elder Tom Vanderwalker, in his Communion address, reminded us that we should always REJOICE. The Joy of the Lord is our strength. We need to start each day with prayer. Our days will be different when we walk with God. Sometimes due to circumstances, our faith may waver but we always need to return to God. Be thankful for all things and praise God for our blessings.

January 17 - Elder Denny Post was scheduled to speak, but on Saturday afternoon his sister had a massive stroke and passed away. We send the family our heartfelt prayers. It is very hard to lose a loved one. We know that they are better off with the Lord, but we feel so sorry for those who are left. We know how much they will miss their loved one.

Apostle Bob Murie, in his sermon for the day, commented on one of the greatest commandments that Jesus gave us. Jesus said it all in just two words. "FOLLOW ME." Some of the earliest apostles dropped everything and obeyed. Could we or would we do that today, or would we make some excuse to go home and finish up a few things first? By doing it our way, the opportunity to serve will have passed. We always need to follow the light of Jesus.

We also had our business meeting this morning. Elder Jim Malmgren will be our new branch president. The other officers stayed the same. We would like to sincerely thank Brother Bob for all the hard work and loving care that he has given to God’s people over the many years that he has guided us. We all love him dearly, but now he will have more time to serve in the office that he now holds. May God continue to bless you abundantly.

Our list of people that need special prayers, for a number of different reasons, continues to grow. Remember to always pray for those who are in need.

Blackgum Branch - Sr. Gail Kightlinger Reporting

These last few months have been a blessing in a lot of ways; heartache in others. I am sure everyone knows by now that we lost our beloved pastor, Dwayne Davis. He was such a big part of our Church. He could talk to people and pull them in. He baptized so many. He is very missed. He always spoke of angels helping him when he had no one else. In the last few weeks I have been capturing something in my camera that looked like an angel. My sister, Charlotte, was looking at a picture I had sent to her in 2013 of her son (Chad Buttery) preaching with Dwayne Davis sitting near. It looked as if a halo was over his head. We were excited. Angels are real!

We had our business meeting this month and we are still blessed with Curtis Davis as our branch president. He gave a wonderful sermon today. Curtis is working hard for Christ, to bring others to our Lord in these latter days.

Our sister in Christ, Peggy Harper, had an operation recently and is needing prayers. William Kightlinger has been having a lot of problems with Parkinson’s disease. Margert Johnson just got out of the hospital with pneumonia and also needs prayers.

We are looking forward to having Roger Tracy visit with us during the month of February. It is always a blessing to have others to bring the gospel. We must always keep focused on God, do the best we can, for we may be someone else’s testimony. Sometimes a smile, a hello, or even a hug can bring someone to Christ. God bless each and every one of you. Remember, God loves You!

First Branch - Sr. Brenda Evans Reporting

First Branch members are experiencing their first really cold weather of the winter season and are thanking God for the long autumn and rejoicing that spring is only 7 weeks away!

This report begins in November even though it seems a long time ago. The annual Thanksgiving dinner held at the branch was well attended and everyone enjoyed the bountiful feast. Good food and good fellowship always seem to go together.

As we moved into December, our thoughts, of course, turned to Christmas. We came to Church to "Mingle and Jingle" - where we fellowshipped together singing Christmas carols and winter fun songs.

A memorable experience on December 13th which reminded each of us of our own spiritual heritage and personal response to the Lord was an ordination service. Brother Matthew VerDught was ordained a priest by High Priest David Van Fleet and High Priest Ammon VerDught. Brother Josh Terry was ordained a priest by Seventies Derek Ashwill and Chad Buttery. These young men and their families have testified of God moving in their lives. Their response is to serve God faithfully and valiantly. "And after this manner did they ordain priests and teachers according to the gifts and callings of God unto men; and they ordained them by the power of the Holy Ghost which was in them" (Moroni 3:3).

A delightful musical was performed at First Branch in December. Sister Linda VerDught gathered many talented and resourceful children and adults together to present a Christmas musical entitled, "The Great, Late Potentate," which was about a king (potentate) who overslept and missed a very important occurrence. His tardiness caused him to be left behind when the Wise Men departed to follow the star. The late potentate had to begin his journey alone. Upon reaching Bethlehem, the children inform him that he is late and that the reason the star had been there was because the Child had been there; but now the star was not there because the Child was not there; he needed to be following Jesus! Brother Terry Holloway sang the part of the late Potentate. His rich baritone and musical ability made the words seem even more meaningful as we listened to him sing: "Something in my heart keeps saying ‘Follow Him…’ and so I follow Him and all I need to know is that I follow Him." Brother Holloway, the children, the musicians, the set designers and the costume makers all did a praiseworthy job. Those who were in attendance expressed their delight and appreciation for such an enjoyable and meaningful presentation.

At First Branch, the New Year of 2016 began with a Memorial Service for Sister Roxanna Byrd who died early December 14th, 2015. On January 2nd, her life of dedicated service and compassion to those who were in need was remembered. She was a gifted counselor, a talented musician, a faithful friend, and a loving wife and mother. She will be missed by everyone who knew her, but we take heart from the words of Abinadi "But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ. He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death. Even this mortal shall put on immortality,..(and) If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness..." (Mosiah 8:81-84).

We end our news of First Branch activities with a report that our Chili and Soup Fellowship gathering on January 16th was very well attended despite the deterrent of very cold temperatures outside and the Kansas City Chief’s play-off game being played on TV! Many youth and adults brought their special chilis, soups, desserts, and snacks along with their smiles and good cheer to enjoy an evening of food and games, fun, fellowship and happiness. Our thanks, again, to Sister Leith Setter, who has made it her mission to plan wonderful opportunities for all of us to come together in love and good will. "And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves …" (I Peter 4:8).

Center Branch - Sr. Cindy Patience Reporting

Many events have transpired since we last reported on the activity at Center Branch. Although our branch president Bill Derr has had a long and rigorous healing process after being very seriously injured in a car accident, he has diligently continued as our fearless leader at Center. Between his good wife, Connie, and his counselors, Eddie Gates and Terry Patience, and a helpful congregation, we have maintained an even keel through this challenging time. We are grateful for Bill’s continued leadership.

Since we last reported, our dear sister, Manon Wheeler, has crossed to the other side. She was such a blessing to all who knew her. She had spent countless hours, over many years, working with Lunch Partners, rising early to come in and prepare food prior to the rest of the workers. She also had a remarkable ability to give love and positive support to everyone she came in contact with. She was a strong helpmate to her husband David, and together they served the Lord and His Kingdom in a humble and quiet way. We miss her.

On the brighter side, Center has welcomed several new families into the branch this past year. The pews are filling in and more voices can be heard during hymns, prayers, and testimonies. We were happy to welcome the Raymond and Peggy Clough family who have been regulars in our midst recently. Raymond is Raymond and Wilma Cough’s son, and Peggy is Thomas and Kathy Moat’s daughter. It is good to see their faces there among us! Also with us is the Darrin and Melody Moore family who also have added much to the happy fellowship we always experience together at Center. Their youthful joy and enthusiasm warms our hearts and we feel blessed by their presence. Darrin is our Sunday School Director. We are studying The Enduring Word by Christina Salyards.

Center’s children have been blessed withsomeone very special that they look forward to seeing every week. They call him "the candy man." Each Sunday, if the children show up and attend and listen during Sunday school, they earn a sweet treat. Dennis Patterson makes sure that he rewards them every Sunday and keeps stocked up on sweets to share with our young ones who will remember this simple but generous act for years to come.

Late last summer, we had a wonderful baptismal service at the Blue Springs Church. Seventy Matt Goodrich and his wife Ester’s granddaughter, Ariana, was so excited for her grandfather to baptize her. She practically glowed as she walked into the water and again after she came out. Tina Baxley’s family also glowed with joy as Zachary Grippy was baptized. We are happy to have these two young people as new members in the Church.

Our branch choir has resumed this year under the leadership of Verne Gilliam. We enjoy music from them or from the children’s bell choir often, as well as from the many gifted soloists and piano players we have in our midst. We even had some instrumental solos by some of the young people, including Tessa Wood on the harp and Josh Patterson on his guitar! Judith Deacon does a wonderful job of coordinating the music.

A small group of the Center Branch women continue to meet on most Fridays at Jonna Patterson’s or Cindy Patience’s homes for a Beth Moore Bible study. Those who attend have increased their spiritual awareness and grown closer together. Also, the women of the branch met in November under Diana Galbraith and Melody Moore’s leadership and had an uplifting evening sharing and laughing together. Rachel Killpack presented a class on prayer and the importance of praying for our priesthood. Assignments are to be made for the women to pray for particular priesthood members throughout the year. We also planned a holiday get-together for the branch which we held at the end of December. The holiday dinner had a Mexican theme and there were tacos for all, plus a piñata for the kids. All who attended had a great time.

In early December the congregation visited Mike and Gail Coffey and sang Christmas carols for Gail who was in hospice care at that time. It was a touching moment for those who attended. A few weeks later Gail succumbed to cancer. The congregation was there to help and serve her family during the grieving process. We will miss Gail and her joyful countenance. She was truly a gift to her family and to our congregation, as well as to the people she shared her life with in Belize. It was hard to see her leave us so soon.

May the Lord bless each branch as we endure and continue to work and look towards His Kingdom.

Treasure Valley and Magic Valley Branches - Br. Morgan Wigle Reporting

The branches in Idaho have been working together to strengthen each other as we continue to press forward without priesthood in the Magic Valley area. We have had great support from traveling ministry from Independence, and have been able to continue services on a part time basis while we bring the ministry of invitation to those who would come.

We’ve experienced a great spirit of unity that has brought our two groups closer together. We’ve enjoyed having Magic Valley up for combined sacrament services and get togethers whenever we can. We had our first youth function for the year in January. We were short a few kids due to illness, but had a good turnout. The youth talked about goals for the year, planned a worship service for Church, and then went to Eagle Island State Park for some fun on the tubing hill! We even convinced Hazel Easterday to go down the "big hill." Once!

Ted and Debbie Kollecker traveled down to Twin Falls in January for services and had a wonderful service and great time visiting with the Magic Valley group. The Wigle family is looking forward to going down there in February for services as well. The youth group is looking forward to their function in Twin Falls this month.

Sandee Hill has recently had major shoulder surgery and is recovering for the next six to eight weeks. She is in good spirits and hopes to be back with us quickly. Bert and Paula Brackett are up in Boise for the next couple of months while Bert serves in the Idaho Senate. Paula is hoping they adjourn early so they both can make it to conference this year!

The Treasure Valley Branch is planning a community garden to help feed the poor as an outreach project. We will be using some of Tony and Sandee Hill’s land that was once utilized as a pasture to grow produce and give away much of the produce to those in need. We are looking at another branch canning day in the near future as well.

We’re looking forward to a great 2016 that is filled with greater unity and understanding about the Kingdom, and where the Lord would lead us.

Sperry Branch - Sr. Debbie Eastin Reporting

It’s February, 2016, and my recall of 2015 events seems to have faded. My New Year’s resolution should have included improving my documentation skills, or possibly taking a Ginko Biloba supplement. So please accept my sincere apology if people and events are not all reflected in this article.

November was a month of thankful reflection and gratitude. On November 8th, our veterans were recognized for their military service. Seventy Roger Tracy provided the message and High Priest Elbert Rogers the ministry of music. The service concluded with a Thanksgiving dinner with lots of desserts… yum. On the 13th, several of our men attended the Men’s Retreat in Blackgum. Each spoke highly of the event and the blessings received by their attendance. On the 22nd, the branch had a short business meeting followed by a worship service. High Priest Elbert Rogers was thanked for his year of service as our branch president and once again confirmed for that ministry for 2016. Elder Ken Roberson provided the message and Coral Rogers and Jonnetta Selvidge provided a musical duet. Our branch is greatly blessed to have individuals with musical talents that contribute to each service. Thank you Donna Carter, Bonita Reynolds, and the Children’s Chorus for lifting us up with your songs.

December danced with the color and sounds of a joyful Christmas season. Coral Rogers decorated the Church with care. The Men’s Quartet, accompanied by Sister Pat Whiteman, sang for us during Sacrament Service on December 6th. Later that day, Nellie Colley celebrated her 100th birthday at the Broken Arrow Nursing Home. On the 13th, Brothers Tracy and Rogers traveled to other branches and Apostle Don Burnett joined us. The service was followed by a basket dinner with lots of food and fellowship shared by all. On the 19th, five of our musically gifted members went Christmas caroling; they sang for seniors and shut-in members both in Sperry and Skiatook. Later, the branch donated to the Sperry Ministerial Alliance 80 jars of peanut butter and 80 cans of cranberry sauce (plus some jars of jelly from a PB&J lover) for food baskets to local families with needs. On the 23rd, High Priest Steve Van Meter brought the Christmas message with Priest Mike Zahner and Sister Whiteman providing an organ/piano special. Sunday was a delightful start to a week of family and holiday events.

On December 27th, a business meeting was held to approve the budget for 2016 and confirm officers. The budget was approved at $21,800. Sperry Branch officers were confirmed as follows:

Branch President - High Priest Elbert Rogers

Counselors to the Branch President - High Priest

Steve Van Meter and Elder Ken Roberson

Bishop’s Agent* - Deacon Jim Crank

Secretary/Librarian/Book Steward - Debbie Eastin

Recorder - Patti Jobe

Church School Director - Brenda Seaton

Morning Worship Coordinator - Naoma Minjarez

Music Leader - Coral Rogers

Men’s Leader - Priest John Seaton

Women’s Leader - Joyce Van Meter

Children’s Leader (K-5) - Donna Carter

Youth Leader (6-12) - Cynthia Tibbitts

Vacation Church School/Children’s Workshop - Patricia Powers

Children/Youth/ Adult Leader - Coral Rogers

Home Ministry - Priest Patrick Meledeo and

Teacher Paul Van Meter

Hospital Ministry - Elder C.H. Whiteman

Missionary Outreach - Seventy Roger Tracy

Card Ministry - Rosalie Blevins

Prayer Requests - Cynthia Tibbitts

Building Committee - Deacon Jim Crank,

Seventy Roger Tracy, High Priest Steve Van

Meter, Elder C.H. Whiteman and High Priest

Elbert Rogers as ex officio

*Appointed by the Presiding Bishopric

The Men’s breakfast and Women’s meeting continue on a monthly basis. Wednesday nights, Stuart Tindle and Roger Tracy provide hotdogs, chips, sweets, and drinks to encourage attendance and fellowship before Wednesday night prayer services. Scripture study and discussions continue with plenty of opportunity for members to attend. Scripture study with open discussion is also held on Sunday evenings at 5:30pm. The 1st Monday of the month, Scripture study is held at Charlene Burd’s home. The event is informal and subjects change for each meeting. On the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month, the Women’s Department meets to study "Where Do We Get Our Witness" by High Priest Lane Harold. Then, on the last Thursday, we gather at George and Bonita Reynolds’ home. The group began a Book of Mormon study on January 28th.