The Message:

A Gift Remembered

First Counselor in the First Presidency

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Adapted from a December 2000 First Presidency Christmas devotional.There is no better time to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ.

President Thomas S. Monson

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).

With the birth of the babe in Bethlehem, there emerged a great endowment, a power stronger than weapons, a wealth more lasting than the coins of Caesar. This child was to be the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Promised Messiah, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

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). The same thought is captured beautifully in this poem by Christina Rossetti:

What can I give Him,

Poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd

I would bring a lamb.

If I were a Wise Man

I would do my part,

Yet what can I give Him?

Give my heart.

(In Jack M. Lyon and others, eds., Best-Loved Poems of the LDS People, 1996, 166–67.)

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.

Recently I went to an Alzheimer’s care facility in Salt Lake City to visit a long-time friend, Mayre Nielsen, who is 97 years of age. I was escorted by a young woman attendant to Mayre’s bedside. As I greeted her, she looked at me with glistening eyes but did not speak a word. I said to her, “Mayre, do you remember when we first met?” Still there was no answer. I continued, “It was long years ago, when you were a member of the Primary General Board and accompanied Sister Monson and me to an assignment in Sydney, Australia.”

Without uttering a sound, Mayre watched me carefully as I continued. “You will recall, Mayre, that you were to stay at the home of the stake Primary president, Sister Beryl Lord. You had learned, however, that Sister Lord was married to a nonmember who was indifferent toward the Church. For this reason, you were concerned about staying in Sister Lord’s home and asked if you could stay at a local hotel instead. I told you I felt we should wait until we met Sister Lord and her husband and then decide where you should stay. You asked how you should act, were you to stay in their home. I told you to act as a Latter-day Saint, to be yourself, to offer the blessing on the food and to offer your evening and morning prayers.

“Do you remember, Mayre, that when we arrived at the airport in Sydney, Australia, the stake Primary president, Sister Lord, welcomed you and said, ‘I hope you are going to stay at our home’?

“You looked at me pleadingly, Mayre, obviously hoping I would suggest you stay in a hotel. However, I was impressed to suggest otherwise and told you I thought you should stay at Sister Lord’s home and meet her husband and family. I asked Sister Lord where her husband was, and she pointed to the lobby of the airport and indicated that he was standing behind a pillar, out of view. We met Frank Lord, and then you departed with them to an unknown fate.”

I paused in my narrative. Mayre Nielsen still had not spoken to me, and yet her eyes remained fixed on me. I continued speaking. “Mayre, just over a year later,” I said, “I returned to the Sydney stake to divide it and create the Sydney South stake. Following the conference, a man I recognized approached me with tears in his eyes. He told me he was Frank Lord, husband of the stake Primary president, and that just a few months earlier he had entered the waters of baptism and had become a member of the Church. I asked him how he had gone from being one who was indifferent toward the Church to one who had become a member. Mayre, he told me that it was your example and your sweet spirit when you stayed in their home that had prompted him to commence his study of the gospel and to become a member of the Church. He asked if I would be sure to thank you for the profound influence for good you had on him.

“When I returned home from attending that conference, Mayre, I telephoned you and expressed to you Brother Frank Lord’s great gratitude that you had stayed in his home and had had such a powerful effect on his life. I recall that you, too, were most grateful for the inspiration which directed that you stay with the Lord family.”

I continued speaking: “Shortly after that, Brother Lord served as a counselor in his ward bishopric and then was called to the stake high council. Since there was no temple in Australia at that time, Brother and Sister Lord journeyed to the New Zealand Temple for their endowments and sealing. Over the years Brother Lord’s testimony has remained strong. He has filled many Church positions and continues active to this day.

“Mayre Nielsen, thank you for having the truth, living the truth, and sharing the truth.”

I stopped speaking, and the attendant said, “President Monson, Mayre doesn’t know people. She is unable to recognize anyone and doesn’t know who you are. I’ll show you what I mean.”

Turning to Mayre, the attendant said, “Mayre, do you know who this man is?”

Mayre looked at the young woman and said, as clear as clear could be, “Of course. This is Brother Monson.” She then turned back to me, took my hand in hers, and pressed it to her lips. The young attendant also had tears in her eyes as she looked at Mayre in disbelief. Mayre had remembered; Mayre had spoken.

The promise found in the third verse of the beautiful Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” had been fulfilled:

How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is giv’n!

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of his heav’n.

No ear may hear his coming;

But in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive him, still

The dear Christ enters in.

(Hymns, no. 208)

Painting The Holy Night by Feuerstein

Photography by Craig Dimond

Painting Jesus Christ by Harry Anderson