Christmas is such a joyful time.
I remember those happy Christmas traditions in the home of my parents. What joy was ours at Christmas time with our noble parents and their eleven children.
When our own family was growing up, my wife, Flora, and the children would decorate our home with holly and pine boughs and then bake delicious cakes and cookies. The spirit of love and giving seemed to abound.
I hope your homes reflect that same joy.
But I also hope that the commemoration of the Christmas season is more than just a tradition in your homes. I hope it reflects your deep abiding testimony of the divinity of our Savior’s birth and mission. And I hope that the sweet peace you feel during this season will cause you to be ever more committed to live his teachings and thereby demonstrate your love and allegiance to him.
As a special witness of our Lord Jesus Christ, I bear my testimony that he whose birth we commemorate at this special season is our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Lord.
Not only was he born in a humble setting in Bethlehem and crucified on a cross on Golgotha, but on the third day he arose from the grave. Today he lives! Of that I personally testify. I know it. He is close to this Church and to his servants.
The knowledge that he lives is the most priceless knowledge in the world.
Our belief in Jesus Christ is not based on historical tradition alone, although we fully accept the historical records of both the Old and New Worlds that constitute witnesses of his divinity.
Our belief in Jesus Christ stems also from his direct visitation, in company with the Father, to the boy prophet Joseph Smith. This was the greatest event that has occurred in this world since the resurrection of Jesus Christ. On that occasion he was both seen and heard, and he has been seen and heard on several other occasions in this dispensation.
Hear the testimony given by the Prophet Joseph Smith of one of those glorious manifestations:
“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.” (D&C 76:22–23.)
We are modern witnesses to the truth that he lives.
We believe and declare that he was born into the world in the miraculous manner described in the Holy Bible.
We believe and also declare that Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father in the flesh, had power to do many miracles: to raise the dead, to cause the lame to walk and the blind to see, and to forgive sin on condition of repentance.
We believe and declare, as Isaiah foresaw, that he bore “our griefs, … carried our sorrows: … was wounded for our transgressions, was bruised for our iniquities … and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa. 53:4–5.)
Because of his infinite love for us, he suffered the pains of all men so we would not have to suffer if we would repent.
“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
“But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I.
“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—
“Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (D&C 19:16–19.)
He lives today because He is a God and has the power of resurrection. And because he lives, all others will be immortal. Resurrection is his free gift to all mankind.
We believe and declare that no man or woman who ever lives will receive salvation on the merit of their own good works alone, or on the basis of merely confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, or just by compliance with Church ordinances.
Salvation, in its ultimate sense, consists of coming into the presence of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. Salvation will only come to those who are cleansed from all evil and filth.
We must become pure and holy as Jesus Christ and his Father are pure and holy—for “Man of Holiness” is the name of God.
We become pure only as we subscribe to the laws and ordinances the Savior has prescribed in his gospel.
This means we acknowledge the name of Christ as the only name under heaven by which salvation may come to us.
It means we fully repent and forsake all that has been evil in our past lives.
It means we receive the ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost so that we are cleansed from sin “every whit,” as the scriptures teach.
It means thereafter a life committed to practicing his teachings. Then we truly are his disciples.
But all this is not sufficient to make us worthy to come unto the glorified presence of God the Father and Jesus Christ.
As a Church, we are in accord with Nephi, who said, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Ne. 25:23.)
Grace consists of God’s gift to his children wherein he gave his Only Begotten Son that whosoever would believe in him and comply with his laws and ordinances would have everlasting life.
By grace, the Savior accomplished his atoning sacrifice so that all mankind will attain immortality.
By his grace, and by our faith in his atonement and repentance of our sins, we receive the strength to do the works necessary that we otherwise could not do by our own power.
By his grace we receive an endowment of blessing and spiritual strength that may eventually lead us to eternal life if we endure to the end.
By his grace we become more like his divine personality.
Yes, it is “by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Ne. 25:23.)
What is meant by “after all we can do”?
“After all we can do” includes extending our best effort. It includes living his commandments.
“After all we can do” includes loving our fellow men and praying for those who regard us as their adversary. It means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and giving “succor [to] those who stand in need of our succor” (Mosiah 4:16)—remembering that what we do unto one of the least of God’s children, we do unto him.
“After all we can do” means leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings and treating others the way we would want to be treated.
“What manner of men ought ye to be?” the Lord asks. And then he answers: “Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Ne. 27:27.)
“Behold I am the light which ye should hold up—that which ye have seen me do.” (3 Ne. 18:24.)
Therefore, let us strive to make our testimonies vibrant and strong.
Let our actions be Christlike so that by our diligence and with God’s grace we may add to our character faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, and diligence.
Our objective, said the apostle Peter, is to attain such a “divine nature.”
Let us therefore strive to have, as Alma admonished, “the image of God engraven on [our] countenances.” (Alma 5:19.)
Let our personal lives, our homes and our work performance reflect our Christ-like character; let us so live that others will say about us, “there is a true Christian!”
Yes, we believe in Jesus Christ. But even more, we look to him. We trust him and strive to emulate his attributes, because there has not been nor will there ever be “any other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.” (Mosiah 3:17.)
God bless us, my bothers and sisters, one and all, to always have his Spirit with us, so that we will always believe, accept, and live his teachings. Then everyone will see and know that we are his disciples.
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:
1. The commemoration of the Christmas season should reflect our deep and abiding testimony of the divinity of our Savior’s birth and mission.
2. The visitation to Joseph Smith of our Heavenly Father and his Only Begotten Son, was the greatest event that has occurred in this world since the resurrection of the Savior.
3. Salvation will come only to those who are cleansed from all evil and filth.
4. Share President Benson’s explanation of the statement, “It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Ne. 25:23; italics added.)
1. Share your feelings about President Benson’s admonition to be Christ-like, emulating the Savior’s attributes.
2. Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
3. Would this discussion be better after talking with the head of the household before the visit? Is there a special message from the bishop or quorum leader?