My beloved brothers and sisters, what a treasured season this is! We love the strains of “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful”1 and eagerly come to adore Him: Jesus the Christ—that singular babe of Bethlehem—“the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament [and] the Messiah of the New.”2
Tonight let us consider together the blessings that come to us as we focus on the life, mission, doctrine, and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. I invite you, as King Benjamin did for Saints in his day, to “consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God.” That blessing is for us here and now, but added to it is the eventual promise of “never-ending happiness.”3 Simply stated, true followers of Jesus Christ have the privilege of experiencing unspeakable joy forever.
I was reminded of this the other day when I met an angel named Lydia. This angel was not dressed in white, and she made it easy for us to visit by coming to my office. Lydia is 12 years old. I was told that she is suffering from a rare, aggressive form of brain cancer.4 She has an angelic face and a poise beyond her years. As we talked about her life and what lies ahead, she was calm and at peace. When I asked if she had any questions, she quickly replied, “What is heaven like?” This led to a heart-to-heart discussion about the purpose of life and the blessings that our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son have offered to those who honor and follow Them.
I am deeply moved by the faith of Lydia and her family! Though facing a monumental challenge as far as this earth life is concerned, Lydia is filled with faith. She has an eternal perspective. She knows that the Lord loves her and will care for her. Her devoted family is filled with the same peace and composure that only faith in the Lord can bring.
Lydia’s wish was to meet the President of the Lord’s Church, but her desires run much deeper than any onetime experience here in mortality. Her deepest desire is to be with her family forever in the celestial realm. That includes her desire always to be with Heavenly Father and Jesus too.
Indeed, our desires influence each of us in profound ways, not just here and now but beyond. Consider the significance of this statement from Alma: “[The Lord] granteth unto men according to their desire.”5
Desire is important in this season of gift giving, when we are particularly mindful of the desires of those whom we love. During this season, I invite you to consider your own desires. What are your deepest desires? What do you really want to experience and accomplish in this life? Do you really want to become more and more like Jesus Christ? Do you really want to live with Heavenly Father and with your family forever and live as He lives?
If you do, you will want to accept many gifts offered by the Lord to help you and me during our time of mortal probation. Let us focus on four of the gifts Jesus Christ gave to all who are willing to receive them.6
First, He gave you and me an unlimited capacity to love. That includes the capacity to love the unlovable and those who not only do not love you but presently persecute and despitefully use you.7
With the Savior’s help, we can learn to love as He loved. It may require a change of heart—most certainly a softening of our hearts—as we are tutored by the Savior how to really take care of each other. My dear brothers and sisters, we can truly minister in the Lord’s way as we accept His gift of love.
Ask for the Lord’s help to love those He needs you to love, including those for whom it is not always easy to feel affection. You may even want to ask God for His angels to walk with you where you presently do not want to tread.8
A second gift the Savior offers you is the ability to forgive. Through His infinite Atonement, you can forgive those who have hurt you and who may never accept responsibility for their cruelty to you.
It is usually easy to forgive one who sincerely and humbly seeks your forgiveness. But the Savior will grant you the ability to forgive anyone who has mistreated you in any way. Then their hurtful acts can no longer canker your soul.
A third gift from the Savior is that of repentance. This gift is not always well understood. As you know, the New Testament was originally written in the Greek language. In passages where the Savior calls upon people to repent, the word translated as “repent” is the Greek term metanoeo.9 This is a very powerful Greek verb. The prefix meta means “change.” We also use that prefix in English. For example, the word metamorphosis means “change in form or shape.” The suffix noeo relates to a Greek word that means “mind.”10 It also relates to other Greek words that mean “knowledge,”11 “spirit,”12 and “breath.”13
Can we begin to see the breadth and depth of what the Lord is giving to us when He offers us the gift to repent? He invites us to change our minds, our knowledge, our spirit, even our breathing. For example, when we repent, we breathe with gratitude to God, who lends us breath from day to day.14 And we desire to use that breath in serving Him and His children. Repentance is a resplendent gift. It is a process never to be feared. It is a gift for us to receive with joy and to use—even embrace—day after day as we seek to become more like our Savior.
King Lamoni’s father caught a glimpse of what lay ahead for those who believed in Christ and followed Him. He declared that he would give away all his sins for the privilege of knowing the Lord.15 True repentance is not an event. It is a never-ending privilege. It is fundamental to progression and having peace of mind, comfort, and joy.
A fourth gift from our Savior is actually a promise—a promise of life everlasting. This does not mean simply living for a really, really, really long time. Everyone will live forever after death, regardless of the kingdom or glory for which they may qualify. Everyone will be resurrected and experience immortality. But eternal life is so much more than a designation of time. Eternal life is the kind and quality of life that Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son live. When the Father offers us everlasting life, He is saying in essence, “If you choose to follow my Son—if your desire is really to become more like Him—then in time you may live as we live and preside over worlds and kingdoms as we do.”
These four unique gifts will bring us more and more joy as we accept them. They were made possible because Jehovah condescended to come to earth as the baby Jesus. He was born of an immortal Father and a mortal mother. He was born in Bethlehem under the most humble of circumstances. His was the holy birth foreseen by prophets since the days of Adam. Jesus Christ is God’s transcendent gift—the gift of the Father to all of His children.16 That birth we joyfully celebrate each Christmas season.
With our thoughts and feelings so focused on the Savior of the world, what, then, do we need to do to receive these gifts offered to us so willingly by Jesus Christ? What is the key to loving as He loves, forgiving as He forgives, repenting to become more like Him, and ultimately living with Him and our Heavenly Father?
The key is to make and keep sacred covenants. We choose to live and progress on the Lord’s covenant path and to stay on it. It is not a complicated way. It is the way to true joy in this life and eternal life beyond.
My dear brothers and sisters, my deepest desires are for all of Heavenly Father’s children to have the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and to heed His teachings and for Israel to be gathered as promised in these latter days. And I desire that we will believe and receive the love the Savior has for each of us. His infinite and perfect love moved Him to atone for you and me. That gift—His Atonement—allows all of His other gifts to become ours.
In a coming day—in that Millennium for which we are now preparing—“every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess”17 that Jesus is the Christ. And it won’t just be this magnificent Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square singing “Hallelujah.”18 Every person who has chosen to follow Jesus Christ will sing and shout: “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”19 “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever,”20 “King of kings, and Lord of lords.”21
I testify that God lives! Jesus is the Christ—the Messiah. This is His Church, which He directs through His prophets. Humbly, we invoke His blessings upon each of you, including desire and ability to accept all gifts the Savior offers to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.