Elder Nelson Teaches about Symbols of Christ’s Birth

  By Marianne Holman, Church News staff writer

  • 20 December 2013

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stands with his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, right, and Jennifer Armitstead, president of the Salt Lake Chapter of BYU Management Society.  Photo by Michael Rodich.

Article Highlights

  • The Hebrew root of the name Jesus literally means “Jehovah is salvation.”
  • Christ, the Bread of Life, was born in Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means “house of bread.”
  • At new star appeared at the birth of Him who is the Light of the World.
  • The shepherds were among the first to visit the Good Shepherd who later became the lamb.

“My thoughts at Christmas live with an ever-growing love for God the Eternal Father who, ‘so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’” —Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve

Members of the Church have the responsibility to help prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, said Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

“Before that can happen, before it will happen, ‘this gospel shall be preached unto every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,’” he said. “And as we do this, each day can become our own day with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Yes, our own spirit of Christmas can be ours each and every day of our lives. We can be part of the solution to problems of the world as we live in accord with the teachings of the Creator of the world.”

Elder Nelson spoke December 13 at a Salt Lake hotel during a Christmas luncheon sponsored by the Salt Lake chapter of the BYU Management Society, whose purpose is to promote moral and ethical leadership in the workforce throughout the world.

Elder Nelson spoke of the great responsibility followers of Christ have in promoting peace on earth and good will among men.

“We live in a time where more and more people deny God and reject His commandments,” Elder Nelson said. “The battle for truth and righteousness becomes the burden of us who love the Lord and rejoice in the freedom provided by obedience to His commandments. As His disciples, we proclaim truth that has withstood the test of time. Noble traditions based on unchanging truth become even more dear with each passing year.”

Among the sweetest of these traditions is Christmas, he said.

“We love this Christmas season just as we cherish the memories of Christmases past,” he said. “Our thoughts at Christmastime turn to the Babe of Bethlehem, who was born to bring peace on earth and good will among men. He was born to bless all humankind. He was anointed by His Father to atone for us. He came to make immortality a reality and eternal life a possibility for all who would ever live.”

Because of the Savior’s dual citizenship—one of heaven and one of earth—He was able to perform a task that no one else could.

“While we sing 'Silent Night' or 'O Holy Night' with reverence for Him, we know that the life of our Lord did not begin in Bethlehem nor did it end at Calvary’s cross,” he said. “In a premortal realm, Jesus was anointed by His Father to be the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all humankind. It is He who heads the Church that bears His holy name. It is He who provided scriptures to guide us and enlighten our minds with unchanging truth.”

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks at a Christmas luncheon sponsored by BYU Management Society on December 13. Photo by Marianne Holman.

The scriptures teach of the Savior’s life and mortal ministry and how more than 2,000 years ago an angel told Joseph and Mary that her forthcoming Holy Child was to be named Jesus. Joseph and Mary knew the significance of the name, whose Hebrew root, Jehoshua, literally means “Jehovah is salvation.”

“So the work of the premortal Jehovah, soon to be named ‘Jesus,’ was salvation,” Elder Nelson said. “He was to be the Savior of the world. His mission was signified by His name.”

Elder Nelson spoke of other forms of symbolism found in the accounts of the Christ Child’s birth.

As prophesied, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, or in Hebrew, Bet lehem, which means “house of bread.” “How significant it is that He, the ‘bread of life’ would come from the ‘house of bread.’ The 'Lamb of God' was born in humble circumstances among animals, during Passover season when other lambs were being prepared for Paschal sacrifice.

Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Wendy Nelson, right, visit with BYU Management Society members on December 13. Photo by Marianne Holman.

“At the birth of Him who is called the ‘good shepherd,’ shepherds were the first to receive the announcement of His holy birth,” Elder Nelson said. “Uniquely, He was the Heavenly Shepherd who later became the lamb.”

At the birth of Him who is called the “bright and morning star,” a new star appeared in the heavens, and darkness was banished worldwide as a sign of His holy birth, He who is the “Light of the World.”

During His life, the Savior was baptized in the lowest body of fresh water on planet Earth, symbolizing the humble depths to which He would go before He would rise above all things, Elder Nelson taught.

“From His example He taught that we, too, can come from the depths of our own challenging circumstances and ascend to the heights of our own glorious potential and divine destiny. His mortal ministry provided an example by which we are to live,” Elder Nelson said. “Amidst the dry and dusty wilderness of a desert, the Savior taught lessons that could be fully appreciated only by those who knew what it was like to be parched with thirst.”

Sharing the example of the Samaritan woman at the well, Elder Nelson taught that the Savior is the living water that leads to everlasting life.

“That scripture reminds me of an experience that I had with Elder Mark E. Petersen several years ago, when He was a member of the Twelve Apostles,” he said.

Elder Nelson accompanied Elder Petersen, who at the time was suffering from cancer, on a trip to the Holy Land. His physical condition allowed him to eat and drink very little. While he was addressing a group of people, Elder Petersen recited the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. When he read “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness,” the Apostle laid his notes aside and with tears in his eyes, looked up and asked the audience if they knew what it was like to hunger and to thirst.

“I knew that he really knew,” Elder Nelson said. “Then he completed his thought: ‘When you can really hunger and thirst after righteousness, you can become more Christlike.’ Surely he was a living example of that.”

It is through the exemplary life and the Atonement of God’s beloved Son that all will be able to live eternally. God’s great plan of happiness and the doctrine of Christ was restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and through that restoration, the gift of the Holy Ghost was again available along with eternal ordinances of the temple, Elder Nelson taught.

“My thoughts at Christmas live with an ever-growing love for God the Eternal Father who, ‘so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’”