“President Benson Suggests Gifts of Service, Obedience to the Savior,” Ensign, Mar. 1987, 75–76
President Ezra Taft Benson, speaking at the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional at the Salt Lake Tabernacle December 7, spoke of the Savior’s many gifts to mankind and suggested what members might in turn give to Him.
The devotional was presented to a capacity audience at Temple Square and was telecast over the Church’s satellite network to more than a thousand meetinghouses throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
The services were conducted by President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency. President Thomas S. Monson, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, also spoke to the congregation.
Speaking of the Savior, President Benson said, “First, he gave us the perfect model—himself—after which we are to pattern our lives.
“Not only did he set for us the perfect example,” President Benson added, “but for our sake he willingly gave his life. He went through agony in both body and spirit, which we cannot comprehend, to give us the glorious blessing of the Atonement and the Resurrection.
“Some men are willing to die for their faith, but they are not willing to fully live it,” he pointed out. “Christ both lived and died for us. By walking in his steps, and through his atonement, we can gain the greatest gift of all—eternal life.
“The only true test of greatness, blessedness, joyfulness is how close can a life come to being like the Master’s, Jesus Christ,” the President noted. “He is the right way, the full truth, and the abundant life.”
The Savior’s second great gift was his Church, said President Benson. “There is no salvation or exaltation for us outside of the Church. … We must work with it and in it, build it up, and move it forward.
“The Church is true,” he added. “Keep its laws, attend its meetings, sustain its leaders, accept its callings, enjoy its blessings.”
The third gift President Benson mentioned was the gift of scripture, particularly the Book of Mormon.
“The Book of Mormon was written for our day,” President Benson noted. “Mormon, who compiled it, saw us in vision and was directed to put into the book those things God felt we would especially need in our time. We therefore should know the Book of Mormon better than any other book.”
President Benson urged members to read and study the Book of Mormon and understand its teachings. “I have noted within the Church a difference in discernment, insight, conviction, and spirit between those who know and love the Book of Mormon and those who do not,” he said. “That book is a great sifter.”
Regarding the gifts we can give the Savior in return, President Benson suggested we make a gift of “our lives and sacrifices, not only now but in the future.
“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. …
“Sacrifice is truly the crowning test of the gospel,” he said. “Men are tried and tested in this mortal probation to see if they will put first in their lives the kingdom of God.”
Members should give up their sins, President Benson said. “Why don’t we go all the way with the Lord—not part way? Why don’t we sacrifice all of our sins—not just some of them?” he asked.
President Benson talked about the premortal existence and how our memories are now veiled. “Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us,” he said.
“God loves us. He is watching us. He wants us to succeed. We will know some day that he has not left one thing undone for the eternal welfare of each of us.”
President Monson spoke about giving and about the spirit of Christmas.
“The spirit of Christmas is something I hope each of us would have within his heart and within his life, not only at this particular season, but throughout the year,” he said, adding that, “when we keep the spirit of Christmas, we keep the spirit of Christ.”
He then posed the question, “What gifts would the Lord have me give to him or to others at this precious season of the year?
“May I suggest an answer to this searching question? Our Heavenly Father would want each of us to render to him and to his Son the gift of obedience.
“I feel he would ask us to give of ourselves and not be selfish, nor greedy, nor quarrelsome,” President Monson said.
He pointed out that “in this marvelous dispensation of the fulness of times, 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.”
President Monson related a personal experience he had as a young boy. He had received a long-yearned-for electric train for Christmas, and his mother had purchased a less expensive windup train as a gift for a neighbor boy named Mark.
Before President Monson went with his mother to deliver the gift, he noticed that the windup train included an oil tanker car. He decided he wanted it for his own train, and pleaded with his mother to let him keep the car.
Finally she handed it over, saying, “If you need it more than Mark, you take it.”
Mark was thrilled with the gift and watched with joy as his new windup train, with only an engine and the two remaining cars, went around the track.
“Mother wisely asked, ‘What do you think of Mark’s train, Tommy?’
“I felt a keen sense of guilt and became very much aware of my foolishness,” he said. “I said to mother, ‘Wait just a moment; I’ll be right back.’”
He ran to his home, retrieved the oil tanker car, then added an additional car from his own set. Then he hurried back and said to Mark, “We forgot to bring two cars that belong to your train.”
President Monson reported that he “felt a supreme joy difficult to describe and impossible to forget” as he watched Mark’s lengthened train move around its track. “I had found the Christmas spirit.
“My prayer tonight is that each of us may discover anew the Christmas spirit—even the spirit of Christ,” he concluded.