Speaking from the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, members of the First Presidency testified of the Savior. Following is President Gordon B. Hinckley’s address:
Merry Christmas! my beloved friends. I greet you wherever you may be as members of the Church family. We are met tonight to pay homage to our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, whose life and death mean so very much to each one of us. This is a gathering for prayer and song and speech, in tribute to the Master of all, the Lord Omnipotent, who condescended to come to earth, to be born in a stable, in a conquered nation, under the humblest of circumstances.
He was the Prince Almighty who left the royal courts on high and came among us to teach us and to lead us in His quiet and wonderful way.
As we now embark on the third millennium since His birth, we think of His tremendous influence upon the world. We feel profoundly grateful to have been born in this wonderful season of His glorious work.
How grateful we of this Church should feel. We live in the fulness of times. Mark that phrase. Mark the word fulness. It denotes all of good that has been gathered together in the past and restored to earth in this final dispensation.
My heart tonight is filled with thanksgiving unto the Almighty God. Through the gift of His Son, who is the God of this world, we have been so magnificently blessed. My heart rings with the words of our hymn, “Count your blessings; name them one by one. Count your many blessings; see what God hath done” (Hymns, no. 241).
How thankful I feel for political freedom enjoyed by most of our people throughout the world. As we look across the vast expanse of human history, how thankful we feel for the right to worship as we please, to assemble together without fear of oppression, to lift our voices in prayer to the God of the universe, to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
The precious boon of human liberty is really the product of the Savior’s teaching of the dignity of man. He declared the precious nature of every individual soul. We say with the Psalmist, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12).
I believe that human freedom and human liberty are the marvelous fruits of the doctrine of the Christ. Said Paul to the Corinthians, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
All of earth’s children are the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Fatherhood denotes brotherhood and sisterhood. We are of His family, you and I. We have within each of us something of His divinity. We have an obligation one to another. We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is the Light of Christ which has brought into the world an enlarged sense of brotherhood. While there is much of darkness and strife, of brutality and evil in our time, there is yet more of appreciation and respect, of reaching down and helping, of giving and loving than at any previous period in the history of the world, I so believe.
At this glad season how grateful we should feel. “He, watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps” (see Ps. 121:4). He walked the earth as our teacher, our leader, our exemplar, our Lord. Through His matchless Atonement, He did for each of us what we could not do for ourselves. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55). Through His great atoning sacrifice, He cut the knot of the cords that bound us and gave us freedom to go forward on the road to immortality and eternal life. He is our Lord, our Master, our Redeemer, our King, our Ruler, and our God. Without Him there is no salvation.
When I was a boy, my father would offer me a coin now and again to memorize a poem or a piece of scripture. Memorization was easy then. It is well nigh impossible now.
I remember his offering me 25 cents to memorize William Ernest Henley’s poem “Invictus.” I can still remember it. I will repeat two verses:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.
(R. J. Cook, comp., One Hundred and One Famous Poems , 95)
It is a great poem. It places upon the individual the responsibility for what he does with his life. Through these many years, when I have been faced with difficult choices I have repeated these stirring words.
But on the other hand, it may sound arrogant and conceited in terms of the Atonement. Orson F. Whitney, of the Quorum of the Twelve of many years ago, so regarded it and wrote a marvelous response using the same poetic meter and entitling his verse “The Soul’s Captain.”
I repeat three of the verses from his writing.
Art thou in truth? Then what of him
Who bought thee with his blood?
Who plunged into devouring seas
And snatched thee from the flood?
Free will is thine—free agency,
To wield for right or wrong;
But thou must answer unto him
To whom all souls belong.
Bend to the dust that head “unbowed,”
Small part of life’s great whole!
And see in him, and him alone,
The Captain of thy soul.
(Improvement Era, May 1926, 611)
So it is. When all is said and done, when all the legions of the ages have passed in review, when man’s terrible inhumanity to man has been chronicled, when God’s great love for His children has been measured, then above all stands the lone figure of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, the living Son of the living God, the Prince of Peace, the Holy One.
Isaiah spoke of Him centuries before His coming: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).
Nephi, long before the Master’s birth, was given a vision of His coming. He saw in that vision the mother of Christ, “a virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins” (1 Ne. 11:15).
Of her He was born in Bethlehem of Judea, and the angel said unto Nephi, “Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” (1 Ne. 11:21).
And Nephi “beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him; and … they cast him out from among them.” And He “was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world” (1 Ne. 11:28, 33).
All of these ancient visions were fulfilled. He came to earth. He walked the dusty roads of Palestine, teaching the people, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, raising the dead, giving His life on Calvary’s cross, and rising on the third day to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20).
He had been the Creator of this earth, under His Father’s direction, for as John records, “without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). He was the great Jehovah who spoke with the prophets of old.
He was the lowly babe who came to earth in the meridian of time and brought to us the gift of Christmas. He was the Resurrection and the Life, who brought to us the wonder of Easter. And it was He who in this most glorious of dispensations was introduced to the boy Joseph by His Father, the Almighty Elohim, the God of the universe. And this same Joseph has become the preeminent witness of His living reality in this season of earth’s history.
Some years ago I was assigned to the Rochester New York Stake conference. On Saturday I said to the brethren who were with me, “Let us get up early in the morning, early Sunday morning, and go to the Sacred Grove before the conference.” They all agreed. Accordingly, very early on that spring Sabbath, the mission president, the stake president, the regional representative, and I went out to Palmyra and walked into the grove. No one else was there. It was peaceful and beautiful. It had rained during the night. Tiny new leaves were upon the trees.
We spoke quietly one to another. We knelt upon the damp ground and prayed. We did not hear an audible voice. We did not see a vision. But in an indefinable way we were told in our minds, each of us, that yes, it happened here just as Joseph said it happened. It was here that God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, appeared to the 14-year-old boy and spoke with him. Their matchless light rested upon him, and he was instructed in what he should do.
That sublime occasion, the First Vision, parted the curtains through which came the restoration to earth of the Church of Christ. It came out of the wilderness of darkness, out of the bleakness of ages past into the glorious dawn of a new day. The Book of Mormon followed as another witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. His holy supernal priesthood was restored under the hands of those who held it anciently. Keys and powers were bestowed upon the Prophet and his associates. The ancient Church was again upon the earth with all of the blessings, powers, doctrines, keys, and principles of previous dispensations. It is His Church. It carries His name. It is governed by His priesthood. There is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved. Joseph Smith, whose birthday we also commemorate at this season, became His great testator.
Declared the Prophet, without equivocation, without uncertainty, but with the confirmation that came of actual experience:
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).
And so at this glad season we lift our voices and sing, “Glory to God, glory to God, glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, goodwill toward men” (“Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains,” Hymns, no. 212).
The testimony of the great Prophet of this dispensation has been repeated and confirmed by generations of Latter-day Saints who have received a certain knowledge by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I add my own testimony by repeating these words which I penned some years ago while contemplating the miracle and the marvel of our Lord and Master, our Savior and Redeemer:
I know that my Redeemer lives,
Triumphant Savior, Son of God,
Victorious over pain and death,
My King, my Leader, and my Lord.
He lives, my one sure rock of faith,
The one bright hope of men on earth,
The beacon to a better way,
The light beyond the veil of death.
Oh, give me thy sweet Spirit still,
The peace that comes alone from thee,
The faith to walk the lonely road
That leads to thine eternity.
(“My Redeemer Lives,” Hymns, no. 135)
As you reflect on these marvelous things, may there come into your hearts the true spirit of Christmas, to bring you gladness, to bring you peace, to bring you love, is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Following are excerpts from the address of President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency:
As we commence the Christmas season, with all of its beauty and meaning, we are reminded that from the Lord came the long-awaited declaration: “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets” (3 Ne. 1:13). …
Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, He came forth from heaven to live on earth as mortal man and to establish the kingdom of God. During His earthly ministry, He taught men the higher law. His glorious gospel reshaped the thinking of the world. He blessed the sick. He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. He even raised the dead to life.
What was the reaction to His message of mercy, His words of wisdom, His lessons of life? There were a precious few who appreciated Him. They bathed His feet. They learned His word. They followed His example.
Down through the generations of time, the message from Jesus has been the same. To Peter by the shores of beautiful Galilee, He said, “Follow me.” To Philip of old came the call, “Follow me.” To the Levite who sat at receipt of customs came the instruction, “Follow me.” And to you and to me, if we but listen, shall come that same beckoning invitation, “Follow me.”
As we follow in His steps today, we too will have an opportunity to bless the lives of others. Jesus invites us to give of ourselves. “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34). …
Our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless, but they are also perishable. There are hearts to gladden. There are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given. There are deeds to be done. There are souls to be saved.
There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ. It is the time to love the Lord our God with all our heart and our neighbors as ourselves. It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much, he who gives time gives more, but he who gives of himself gives all.
Someone has appropriately said, “We make a living by what we get, but we build a life by what we give.” It is through giving, rather than getting, that the Spirit of Christ enters our lives.
Let us listen for the sound of His sandaled feet. Let us reach out for the Carpenter’s hand.
Following are excerpts from the address of President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency:
I wish that each of us will have a fuller and richer appreciation for all that the great gift of the Savior’s birth, life, and death means to us and our eternal happiness. Christmas is a season of hope.
Christmas is such a wonderful time. Our relationships with family and friends are strengthened and revitalized. …
I wonder why it takes the Christmas season to bring out the best in all of us. Parents have the same love for their children 365 days a year. We are all nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends, and brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God each day of our lives.
I would hope that we can try to open our hearts a little more each day and not wait for the Christmas season. A gift given or an expression of kindness may be more unexpected and appreciated in July than in December.
The angel who heralded the Savior’s birth stated that His coming was to bring great joy to all people. The blessings which flow from the Atonement and the Resurrection are available to us each day and throughout all eternity. At this Christmas season I believe there is much reason for hope for greater days ahead. Despite our personal challenges or difficulties or worldwide problems, we can take comfort in the knowledge that the Savior is leading this Church through our prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley. I testify that we will never be led astray.