On Christmas day in 1906, Orson F. Whitney, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was speaking in the Tabernacle. He defined three essential kinds of things that must accompany a gift given at Christmas. May I share with you from his words those three prime elements.
The first essential was that “the gift should not impoverish the giver. While designed to promote the happiness of the one who receives it, it should also give happiness to the one who bestows. Therefore it should be such a gift as the giver can afford to give, one that will benefit in the highest sense the bestower, and one that will exemplify the truth of the divine declaration: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35.)”1
The second essential was that “the gift should be appropriate—suited to the time, the place, the person, and the condition; an example, in short, of ‘the eternal fitness of things.’”2
The third essential was that “lastly, and firstly, and all the time, it should be given ungrudgingly, not for policy’s sake, nor to conform to any mere custom of fashion, it should be an expression of pure friendship, of exalted affection, and the giving should be heartfelt and sincere. The cost should cut no figure. Well and wisely has it been said: ‘The best Christmas gift is not the one that costs the most money, but the one that carries with it the most love.’”3
Now, with those thoughts in mind, with the essentials for the giver to consider as he selects his gifts this Christmas, may I suggest three Christmas gifts that are out of the ordinary.
First, a gift to the Savior. Secondly, a gift of love to someone in your family. Thirdly, a gift to self.
Some have thought it important to give a gift to the Savior at Christmastime. President Kimball relates one such gift he received that was earmarked for the Savior. I’d like to quote somewhat from his remarks.
“In one of the stakes of Zion lives a family who also believes in a birthday for Jesus. … They gave me a crisp fifty dollar bill [and] said, ‘Today is the Lord’s birthday. We always give gifts to our family members on their birthdays. We should like to give a gift to the Saviour. Will you please place this money where it will please the Redeemer most?’
“Two days later, Sister Kimball and I were on our way to Europe for a six-month’s tour of all the missions. As we made hasty and extensive preparations, we kept thinking about the birthday gift entrusted to us, and then the thought came to us that perhaps in Europe we would find the most appreciative recipient.
“For months we toured the missions, held meetings with the missionaries and Saints, and met many wonderful folks. There were numerous opportunities to present the gift, for the majority of the Saints over there could use extra funds. But we waited. Toward the end of the mission tour, we met a little woman in Germany. She was a widow; or was she? For she had been alone with her family of children for ten years. Whether her husband was deceased or not, she did not know. A victim of World War II, he had disappeared and no word had ever come from him. It was said that he was behind the Iron Curtain. The little folks who were but children when he was taken away were now near grown, and the son was a full-time missionary among his German people.
“It was nearing the time of the temple dedication at Bern, Switzerland. I said to this good woman, ‘Are you going to the temple dedication?’ I saw the disappointment in her eyes as she said how she would like to go, but how impossible it was because of lack of finances. ‘Here is the place for the gift’ was the thought which rooted itself in my mind. I quietly checked with the mission president as to her worthiness and the appropriateness of her going to the temple; and then I gave to him half of the gift, which he assured me would pay the actual bus transportation to Bern and return.
“A few weeks later we were in southern France. … We were one hour late for our meeting at Nice. It was a hot night. The building was filled to capacity. A woman sat at the piano, entertaining this large crowd until our arrival. For one hour she had played. I was embarrassed for our delay and so grateful to her for what she had done to hold the group and entertain them that I inquired concerning her. Her husband, a professor, had died not long ago and the widow was making a meager living through her musical talents. She was a rather recent convert. Her mission president and the elder assured me that she was worthy and deserving so I left with her mission president to be given to her the other half of the Saviour’s gift.
“We completed our mission tours … and finally returned to Bern for the dedication service of the Swiss Temple. The prophet of the Lord, President David O. McKay, was present with three of the apostles. After the glorious dedication meetings were over, the regular temple services were conducted in the various languages. As I assisted the French Saints in their session, I was conscious of the little musician; and she literally beamed as she was enjoying the Saviour’s birthday gift. She had used it to pay for her transportation to the temple. Her eyes shone with a new luster; her step was lighter; she radiated joy and peace as she came through the temple with new light, new hope. And I whispered to myself, ‘Thank the Lord for good folks who remember the Redeemer on his birthday.’”4
What kind of gift could you select this season to give to the Savior? It may be a gift of money for someone in need. But there are other ways, too, that we can give to the Savior this Christmas season. Remember his words, “For behold, this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) What more fitting gift could you give to the Savior than to share the gospel with a neighbor, a friend, a fellow student you’ve met, or someone who lives in another city or state who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Perhaps your birthday gift for the Savior this season might be a Book of Mormon with your testimony written in the front of it. It might be a subscription to the Ensign or New Era or Friend for a nonmember neighbor. It might be a testimony that you personally share that could get the faith process started. Do you know how pleased the Savior would be to have that kind of gift given to him?
I remember a few seasons ago we invited a photographer to come into our home to take our Christmas picture. He looked like a Latter-day Saint, and we didn’t discuss religion with him. He came and took several poses in our home and outside. As I went a week or so later to pick up the proofs. I looked around his home and began to conclude that he wasn’t a member of the Church. I then began to ask him questions that I hadn’t before. I asked him if he had lived in Salt Lake City all of his life. He said, “No, I’ve been here about seven years.” I said, “How do you enjoy living among the Mormons?’” And he said, “Well, they don’t bother me, and I don’t bother them. The home teachers haven’t even come by to see me.” And then he said, “In fact, no one has ever spoken to me about the Church.” And here he had been in our midst for seven years! Somewhere in our neighborhoods there may be someone living this Christmas season whom we could select as our gift for the Savior. There might be something we could do with that person that would bring him closer and better prepare him to hear the gospel taught by the missionaries.
The second gift is the pure gift of love, costing no money at all. Are there some gifts of love that you can give this Christmas season? Maybe your gift to a younger member of the family would be to spend an afternoon with him or her during the Christmas season, or it might be an invitation for a frolic in the snow. Your gift might be to go downtown—investing something of time with someone. I am sure there are special gifts of love you can give to your mothers and fathers if you spend some time thinking and if you love enough to share yourselves in this way this Christmas season.
Now, thirdly, I want to discuss a gift to self. What kind of a gift could you give to yourself this Christmas season? I am reminded of the story, and maybe some of you have heard it, about a young boy named Johnny. He went to the corner drugstore one day and asked Mr. Brown if he could borrow the phone. Mr. Brown knew him well, and said, “Sure, Johnny.” Johnny dialed the number, and Mr. Brown couldn’t help but hear the conversation which went like this:
“Hello, Mr. Green? I understand you are looking for a boy to come by your place after school and do some yardwork and help on some odd chores.”
“Oh, you already have a boy, and you’re doing fine. I see. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Green.” He hung up the phone and started out of the drugstore. The owner, Mr. Brown, felt a little bit down because of the boy’s conversation, and he said, “Johnny, I just want you to know I’m sorry you didn’t get that job.” Johnny turned around with a smile on his face, and said, “Mr. Brown, I got that job. I was just checking up on myself.”
Now you know there are a few times each year where a few significant experiences in our lives permit us the time to check up on ourselves. For those of us who go to the temple, there is the chance to sit in front of our bishop and stake president each year and do some soul searching. When a young couple prepares for a temple marriage, they have that kind of an opportunity. A young man who is preparing for the mission field has that kind of an opportunity. Somehow, it seems that the end of the year is a time to reflect. Since we are bound to have more of the spirit of Christ at the Christmas season, now is a time to look at ourselves, to check up on ourselves, and to determine a gift to give to ourselves this season. It may be a determination to live closer to the Savior. It may be a determination to more consistently walk in the light of the Spirit. It may be a more serious determination to study the scriptures. Some may want to read the scriptures every day—even as much as seven pages. And then, when the next Christmas season rolls around, they will have studied and read all of the standard works: the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine and Covenants—all in less than a year!
Some may want to gain, or retain, the forgiveness of sins, and know they can stand in the light of noonday with a clear conscience. You all know the story of Enos who, as a young man, was checking up on himself, and he discovered something was missing. He then gave himself a gift that led to the forgiveness of his sins. Enos went to his knees, and he prayed all day and into the night. Then the voice of the Lord came, saying, “Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee.” (Enos 1:5.)
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we applied ourselves so well that by Christmas day we had resolved the issues of our lives and, where necessary, had made proper confession to our judge in Israel, had petitioned the Lord until our hearts were right, and had had enough faith to gain for ourselves the forgiveness of sin? Wouldn’t it be great to wake up on Christmas day with a clear conscience before God? If we could do that, we would probably have the happiest Christmas that we have ever had in our lives!
A Christmas would not be complete without mentioning that we must also be a gracious receiver of gifts—especially the greatest gift of all: the atonement of Jesus Christ that brings to us, if we will receive it, that great miracle of forgiveness. What kind of a receiver have we been of the Savior’s great gift? Have we truly received it? Have we truly opened it and applied it to our lives?
I hope and pray that this Christmas will indeed be the happiest and most memorable one we have ever experienced. I pray that our hearts will be filled with that love that comes to those who follow their Savior. I pray that our consciences will be void of offense toward God and man. I pray we can seriously consider our gift to the Savior, our gift of love to our families, and a gift to ourselves that will move us along the road to eternal life.