Messages of Peace, Love, Joy Mark 2016 First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional

Contributed By Racher Sterzer and Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writers

  • 5 December 2016

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, conducts the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 4, 2016.  Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Amid the tumult of another busy holiday season, some 20,000 people took time to gather at the Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City—while thousands more tuned in via the internet and other media—to hear Christmas messages from leaders of the Church during the First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional on Sunday.

President Thomas S. Monson presided at the annual devotional, and President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, offered the concluding address. President Eyring said the wish of President Monson—and of the entire First Presidency—is that “you will have in this season and always the feelings of joy, love, and peace that the Savior promised to His faithful and submissive disciples.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, conducted the meeting and, on behalf of the First Presidency, wished those in attendance at the Conference Center, as well as those listening from their homes around the world, “a Merry Christmas and a joyful Christmas season.”

(Watch the entire broadcast.)

In his remarks, President Eyring explained that the true spirit of Christmas is characterized by peace—“not political peace, for the Savior was born at a time of fear and unrest,” nor economic peace, for He was born in a humble stable. Not even the peace that comes when all the wrapped packages are placed under the decorated tree, “for that peace is momentary.”

“[The] peace we seek is only through and because of Jesus Christ,” he said.

Some live in beautiful, peaceful surroundings and experience inner turmoil, while others feel peace in the midst of great personal loss or trials, President Eyring noted. He shared three ways individuals can increase the peace they experience this season, throughout the year, and throughout their lives.

First, like the angels who sang on the night of His birth, individuals can feel peace as they celebrate the Savior Jesus Christ and “come and adore him” (Hymns, no. 202).

First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 4, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Second, like the shepherds who saw the Christ child and “made known abroad” the glad tidings of His birth (Luke 2:17), individuals can teach peace to their families and others they love.

Third, like the Wise Men, individuals can give gifts of love and peace as disciples of Jesus Christ.

“You and your family will have built your own Christmas traditions to fit your circumstances, but they will have some things in common,” President Eyring said. “They will draw hearts to the Savior. And they will include acts of kindness that will merit the approbation of the Savior.”

President Eyring said the angels, shepherds, and Wise Men were able to find peace from their faith in Jesus Christ. “So will you. The Savior’s birth is the gift that makes it possible for the Father to give us ‘peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come’ (D&C 59:23).”

The program also included Christmas messages from General Authorities and General Officers of the Church, as well as music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.

Prophets of old testified of the birth, life, and ministry of Jesus Christ, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught during the devotional.

Drawing from the experiences of people in the scriptures—Mary, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, and Book of Mormon prophets Lehi, Abinadi, and Nephi—Elder Oaks presented passages of scripture that share the knowledge of a Savior and foresight of prophets long ago.

Recognizing the mortal birth, life, and death of the Son of God as an “essential” part of a bigger plan, Elder Oaks taught that before the earth was created, Jesus Christ was chosen to experience mortal life and be the Savior necessary to carry out that plan.

“As we prepare for His Second Coming, and as we stand in holy places, we persist in observing Christmas not just as a season of ‘Greetings’ or ‘Happy Holidays,’ but as a celebration of the birth of the Son of God and a time to remember His teachings and the eternal significance of His Atonement.”

Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Presidency of the Seventy addressed the topic “The Fulness of the Story of Christmas” and said the “babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection.”

Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem is not the beginning of the story, and Calvary is not the end, he said. Ultimately, the fulness of the story of Christmas culminates with the last three days of the Savior’s life, said Elder Christensen.

“The light we love at Christmas emanates from the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. The story we cherish at Christmas tells of our Father’s great plan of happiness, which Christ made possible. The gift that makes the Christmas season sacred is the gift of His very life, which He gave that we might have everlasting life. May we receive this gift and share His love and His gospel with all the world, particularly during this wonderful season of the year.”

Brother Douglas D. Holmes, First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency, focused his message on the giving and receiving of gifts—a central part of the Christmas season—but specifically on the priceless gifts God offers freely to all at Christmas and throughout the year, he said.

“I pray we will not leave them unopened but receive them. … I testify that as we do, we will be filled, step by step and degree by degree, with love, joy, peace, purity, and power,” he said.

Individuals’ gifts to each other will never compare to the gift of God’s Son, Brother Holmes said. “But I believe that the joy of giving and receiving gifts can turn our hearts toward the ‘gifts of God.’”

Individual talk summaries

President Eyring Shares Three Ways to Increase Personal Peace

Remember Significance of Atonement This Season, Elder Oaks Says

Joy of Christmas Includes Christ's Gift of Redemption, Says Elder Christensen

Gifts from Heavenly Father Include Holy Ghost, Says Brother Holmes

First Presidency's Christmas Devotional, Sunday, December 4, 2016, in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 4, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 4, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, speaks during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 4, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 4, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 4, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

President Thomas S. Monson talks with President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and President Henry B. Eyring prior to the start of the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 4, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Brother Douglas D. Holmes, First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency, speaks during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 4, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Elder Craig C. Christensen speaks during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional, Sunday, December 4, 2016, in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 4, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

The Orchestra at Temple Square plays during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional in Salt Lake City on Sunday, December 4, 2016. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.