Elder Oaks: Don’t Let the Secular Overshadow the Savior This Christmas
Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer
- The Savior taught us how to perfect our personal lives, and we live in peace and prosperity when we follow His teachings.
- As we focus on the "true gifts" at Christmastime, we are able to celebrate the life and mission of the Savior as we try to emulate Him.
“The gift that Christ gives is the greatest gift ever given, and it is available to each of us. That is the gift we should celebrate at this and every Christmas.” —Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve
“Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of the Son of God and also to remember His teachings,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the BYU Management Society Christmas luncheon held in the Little America Hotel on December 9.
“At this time of year we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ,” he said. “His life was the greatest life ever lived.”
Sharing the impact—both secularly and spiritually—the life of the Savior has had on the world, Elder Oaks spoke of the buildings, art, music, and philosophies that exist because of the celebration of the birth, life, and mission of Jesus Christ. More important than those influences, Elder Oaks spoke of the Savior’s mission.
“Our Savior’s mission was to save us from death, to save us from sin, and to save us from ignorance,” Elder Oaks said. “What did He teach us? And even more importantly, what have we learned? We live in peace and prosperity when we follow His teachings. In contrast, virtually every unhappiness and sorrow in the world is traceable to failures to follow His teachings.”
Asking listeners to remember what Jesus taught—in addition to recognizing what He did not teach—when He was on the earth, Elder Oaks spoke of the lessons the Savior shared in regard to how people should live their lives.
Although the people were in slavery to Rome, He did not teach them military arts or activities; amid high infant mortality and low life expectancy He did not teach principles of health; with many people hungry, He did not teach about agriculture or nutrition.
“Perhaps we can understand in a small measure the importance of these things Jesus taught by comparing them with the things He did not teach,” Elder Oaks said. “Think how important it would have been for Him to have addressed the social issues of His day, such as questions of freedom and health and government. We have no record that He addressed any of those subjects. That was not His mission. Instead, He taught people how to perfect their personal lives.”
Whether it was teaching how to be meek and humble, to “thirst after righteousness,” to love their enemies, or to serve others around them, the Savior taught all to love one another and be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world.
“The whole world needed His message, but He said He was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” he said. “And what He taught them was how to live their personal lives.”
Recognizing that people today must “choose between Jesus’s way and the world’s way,” Elder Oaks encouraged individuals to never neglect priorities on things of eternity.
“Of course we know that we must meet the requirements of the world in many ways, including the need to earn our daily bread and pursue the education and other activities that will allow us to do so. … But we must never neglect our overriding priority on the things of eternity—the bread of life—that the Savior and His Church provide us,” Elder Oaks said. “We must not forget our worshipping and witnessing of the Savior of all mankind.”
Observing that in recent years Christmas has become more of a secular holiday—Santa instead of the Savior, spending money rather than worshipping, Frosty and Rudolph rather than Christ-centered music—Elder Oaks said many secular features are overshadowing the Savior and His ministry.
“A major force in all of this has been the increasing secularism of society that has led to court rulings outlawing public religious symbolism, such as the well-loved manger scenes,” he said. Another instance may be a public school fearful of allowing their choirs to sing religious hymns at Christmastime.
“As such, they are objectionable to those legal or administrative authorities who are sensitive to the increasing aggressiveness and litigiousness of secular forces in our society,” he said. “In saying this I am not advocating an official establishment of Christianity in this nation, which is clearly forbidden. I favor respectful recognition of the increasingly diverse fundamental values of many of our citizens, but that should not prevent an open and tolerant acknowledgement of the religious traditions at the foundation of Western society.”
Although individuals are not able to control the public observance of Christmas, they can control their private observances of Christmas, Elder Oaks said.
“Where are Christians today in their private observances of Christmas?” he asked.
Sharing a personal experiment he did with cards he received a few Christmases ago, Elder Oaks spoke of the lack of religious images and words included in their messages. He also spoke of the focus on gift-giving rather than the “true gifts” of the season.
As individuals focus on the “true gifts” at Christmastime, they are able to celebrate the life and mission of the Savior as they try to emulate Him.
“The gift that Christ gives is the greatest gift ever given, and it is available to each of us,” Elder Oaks said. “That is the gift we should celebrate at this and every Christmas.”
Latter-day Saints are uniquely qualified to celebrate the mission of Jesus Christ throughout the year, the Apostle taught.
“We have the gift of the Holy Ghost, whose mission is to testify of the Father and the Son,” he said. “For that reason, we have a duty to testify, like the shepherds, who ‘when they had seen [what the angels described], they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.’ We know whom we seek, and we know why.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kristen M. Oaks, greet people at the BYU Management Society Salt Lake Chapter’s Christmas luncheon on December 9 in the Little America Hotel. Photo by Welden C. Andersen.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles greets people at the BYU Management Society Salt Lake Chapter’s Christmas luncheon held on December 9 in the Little America Hotel. Photo by Welden C. Andersen.