The Answer Tree


Seek learning, even by study and also by faith (D&C 88:118).

The lights were turned low, and the soft strains of Christmas carols filled the room as Grandma Joy fashioned fancy bows for the packages she had just wrapped with gaily colored paper. She smiled just thinking about her children and grandchildren, who would be visiting her tomorrow on Christmas Day. She was looking forward to the sparkling eyes and clapping hands of her grandchildren as they opened their gifts.

Grandma Joy had made each grandchild a pair of soft flannel pajamas with colorful trains, toy soldiers, rag dolls, or kittens on them. Each child would have his own favorite color, and, as a special treat, she had crocheted matching slippers with big, bouncy pom-poms on them.

Finished now with the bows, Grandma Joy relaxed in her recliner rocking chair to enjoy the music and to let her mind wander back over the day to see if she had forgotten anything. The sugar cookies were baked and decorated. The fruitcakes, taken from the oven only an hour ago, were sending their spicy aroma throughout the house as they cooled on racks on the kitchen counter. The family’s traditional salad mold was in the refrigerator, and the homemade fudge and divinity were heaped in fancy dishes about the living room.

The dining room table was covered with her best tablecloth, and in the center rested a bowl of shining red apples, ripe yellow bananas, thick-skinned navel oranges, and clusters of purple and red grapes. And on top of the television was Grandma Joy’s special gift for Tanya.

Tanya was the oldest grandchild. She had a keen, active mind overflowing with questions that Grandma Joy had run out of instant answers to—questions like:

“Grandma Joy, why wasn’t Jesus born in a beautiful home instead of a stable? I’ve been in a barn with cattle, and it’s not a very pleasant place for a human baby to be born.

“Once when I was building a birdhouse, the hammer slipped and hit my finger. It hurt really bad, and my fingernail turned black, and I finally lost it. So how could Jesus let the people crucify Him? How could He stand it when the soldiers drove nails through His hands and feet?

“How could Jesus go forty days and nights without food, when I get so hungry that I eat after school and then can hardly wait until Dad gets home for dinner?

“How could Jesus love all the little children and hold them in His arms? When Jimmy gets dirty and his hands are sticky, I don’t want him near me!

“Why did Jesus just wander around—why didn’t He work at a job like Dad does? I see on TV that when people don’t work, the police sometimes chase them out of parks, and charity groups have to feed them. …”

Tanya must have a good Primary teacher, Grandma Joy mused, one who gets children to think for themselves. Since Tanya left here last Sunday, I’ve needed every minute to prepare the Answer Tree for her.

The little Christmas tree had tiny packages hanging from its green branches. Grandma Joy had spent hours that week studying and reading the Bible and other good books, writing down the answers to Tanya’s questions, and wrapping the little pieces of paper as ornaments for the two-foot tree.

After a lovely Christmas dinner the next day, and after all the other gifts had been exchanged, Grandma Joy and Tanya sat together in the big chair near the little tree. The younger children were napping, and the other adults were visiting quietly together. It was a perfect time for Tanya to open the ornament-packages on the Answer Tree. She picked a blue ball-shaped one first and read:

“‘Jesus loved little children because He knew that they are innocent and trusting and eager to learn. He compared the kingdom of God to a child. Sticky hands or straggly hair or dirty knees aren’t as important as a pure heart. Jesus sees our souls.’

“Oh, Grandma Joy,” Tanya exclaimed, “these are answers to my questions! Thank you!”

Choosing a red package made up to look like a Wise Man, Tanya read the message inside:

“‘Only because He sacrificed Himself for us—and rose again—can we be resurrected after we die. He suffered for our sins so that we can live with Him again if we live righteously here on earth. Jesus let the soldiers nail Him to the cross and endured the pain because He loved us and wants us to be with Him always.’”

Unwrapping a white ornament that looked like an open Bible, Tanya read:

“‘Not much is said directly about why Heavenly Father didn’t arrange for Jesus to be born in a better place than a stable, but maybe one reason was that His humble birth helped to show that He came to save everyone. The Jews were expecting the Savior to be more like a warrior-king who would conquer their enemies, so His birth in a stable might have been a way to indicate His true ministry right from the start of His mortal life. Another reason that He was born in a stable may have been to show that it is one of God’s commandments to obey the laws of the land. Mary and Joseph were doing that when they went to Bethlehem to pay their taxes.’”

Inside a tiny gift box with an orange bow was this message:

“‘Jesus wandered from place to place because He needed to teach as many people as He could before He died. There were no radios or televisions or even loudspeakers for Him to use, so He had to travel from place to place to heal people and to teach them. Until He went to Gethsemane and Calvary, that was His job.’”

Tanya opened a green bell package next and read:

“‘Like Jesus, Moses fasted for forty days. Both of them were with Heavenly Father during that time and were sustained by Him as they received His counsel. Heavenly Father helped them so that they could help us.’”

Finally Tanya took the gold star from the top of the tree. Carefully she opened it, then read this verse from “O Little Town of Bethlehem”:

“‘How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.’

“Oh, Grandma Joy, I’m so glad that I can come to you with my questions,” Tanya said as she snuggled in the big chair with her grandmother once again. “Your Christmas Answer Tree explained things so that I can understand them.”

“Thank you, dear,” Grandma Joy told her. “That’s the best praise anyone can get.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Julie F. Young