A Season for Gratitude
December 1997

“A Season for Gratitude,” Ensign, Dec. 1997, 2

First Presidency Message

A Season for Gratitude

This is a season for giving and a time for gratitude. We remember with appreciation the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith, which is celebrated this same month of December, two days before Christmas.

How great indeed is our debt to him. His life began in Vermont and ended in Illinois, and marvelous were the things that happened between that simple beginning and tragic ending. It was he who brought us a true knowledge of God, the Eternal Father, and His Risen Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. During the short time of his great vision he learned more concerning the nature of Deity than all of those who through centuries had argued the matter in learned councils and scholarly forums. He brought us the marvelous Book of Mormon as another witness for the living reality of the Son of God. To him, from those who held it anciently, came the priesthood, the power, the gift, the authority, the keys to speak and act in the name of God. He gave us the organization of the Church and its great and sacred mission. Through him were restored the keys of the holy temples, that men and women might enter into eternal covenants with God and that the great work for the dead might be accomplished to open the way for eternal blessings.

Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.

Ever and ever the keys he will hold.

Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,

Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.

(“Praise to the Man,” Hymns, no. 27)

He was the instrument in the hands of the Almighty. He was the servant acting under the direction of the Lord Jesus Christ in bringing to pass this great latter-day work.

We stand in reverence before him. He is the great prophet of this dispensation. He stands at the head of this great and mighty work which is spreading across the earth. He is our prophet, our revelator, our seer, our friend. Let us not forget him. Let not his memory be forgotten in the celebration of Christmas. God be thanked for the Prophet Joseph.

Now, what a wonderful season this is, this Christmas season. All of the Christian world, while not understanding the things that we understand, pauses for a moment and remembers with gratitude the birth of the Son of God.

To quote the words of Phillips Brooks:

Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!

Christmas in lands of the fir-tree and pine,

Christmas in lands of the palm-tree and vine,

Christmas where snow peaks stand solemn and white,

Christmas where cornfields stand sunny and bright. …

Everywhere, everywhere, Christmas tonight!

For the Christ-child who comes is the Master of all;

No palace too great, no cottage too small.

(“Christmas Everywhere,” in Best-Loved Poems of the LDS People, comp. Jack M. Lyon and others [1996], 30)

In that spirit we reach out to embrace one and all with that love which is of the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We Latter-day Saints are a vast concourse of people bound together in a oneness of love and faith. Our blessing is great, as a people and as individuals. We carry in our hearts a firm and unshakable conviction of the divine mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Creator who, under the direction of His Father, made all things, “and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). He was the promised Messiah, who came with healing in His wings. He was the worker of miracles, the great healer, the resurrection and the life. His is the only name under heaven whereby we must be saved.

He was with His Father in the beginning. He was made flesh and dwelt among us, “and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, … full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

As many as received Him, to them He gave power to become the sons and daughters of God, “even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).

He came as a gift of His Eternal Father. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

He condescended to leave His throne on high and come to earth to be born in a manger, in a conquered nation. He walked the dusty roads of Palestine, healing the sick, teaching the doctrine, blessing all who would accept Him.

He came “into the world [not] to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).

Not too long ago we walked where He walked, in Shepherd’s Field, Bethlehem, Nazareth, Cana, Galilee, Jerusalem, Gethsemane, Golgotha, the empty tomb. We sensed the majesty and the wonder of this man called Jesus.

He taught us the wondrous things of God. He opened the eyes of understanding to all who would listen. He was the fulfillment of the law, the sacrifice that would thereafter do away with every other sacrifice.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

“And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;

“And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

“But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

“And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins” (Isa. 11:1–5).

On Calvary’s hill He gave His life for each of us. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55).

We honor His birth. But without His death that birth would have been but one more birth. It was the redemption which He worked out in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross of Calvary which made His gift immortal, universal, and everlasting. His was a great Atonement for the sins of all mankind. He was the resurrection and the life, “the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). Because of Him all men will be raised from the grave.

But beyond this He taught us the way, the truth, and the life. He gave the keys through which we may go on to immortality and eternal life.

We love Him. We honor Him. We thank Him. We worship Him. He has done for each of us and for all mankind that which none other could have done. God be thanked for the gift of His Beloved Son, our Savior, the Redeemer of the world, the Lamb without blemish who was offered as a sacrifice for all mankind.

He it was who directed the restoration of this, His work, in this the dispensation of the fulness of time. This is His Church which bears His Holy Name.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come;

Let earth receive her King!

Let ev’ry heart prepare him room,

And Saints and angels sing.

(“Joy to the World,” Hymns, no. 201)

Christmas is more than trees and twinkling lights, more than toys and gifts and baubles of a hundred varieties. It is love. It is the love of the Son of God for all mankind. It reaches out beyond our power to comprehend. It is magnificent and beautiful.

It is peace. It is the peace which comforts, which sustains, which blesses all who accept it.

It is faith. It is faith in God and His Eternal Son. It is faith in His wondrous ways and message. It is faith in Him as our Redeemer and our Lord.

We testify of His living reality. We testify of the divinity of His nature. In our times of grateful meditation, we acknowledge His priceless gift to us and pledge our love and faith. This is what Christmas is really about.

To each of you we extend our love and blessing. May you, wherever you may be across the world, have a wonderful Christmas. May there be peace and love and kindness in your homes. May you husbands smile with love upon your wives. May you wives know the sweet joy of being loved and honored and respected and looked up to. May your children be happy and filled with that indescribable magic which is the spirit of Christmas. May those of you who are single find sweet companionship in the knowledge that you are not alone, that Jesus stands as your friend. He came “to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79).

To each of you we extend our love and blessing. May it be a happy and wonderful season. We leave a blessing upon you, a blessing of Christmas, that you may be happy. May even those whose hearts are heavy rise with the healing which comes alone from Him who comforts and reassures. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me” (John 14:1).

So said He in His hour of great tribulation: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

In the spirit of that great promise and gift, may we all rejoice this blessed Christmas season.

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis

You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussions:

  1. Even in the Christmas season, let us not forget the December birth of Joseph Smith Jr., the great prophet of this dispensation. God be thanked for him.

  2. This season is when all the Christian world pauses to remember with gratitude the birth of the Son of God, the great Jehovah, the Creator who under the direction of the Father made all things, the promised Messiah, the only name under heaven whereby we can be saved.

  3. We honor Jesus’ birth, but without His death that birth would have been but one more birth. He made the great Atonement for the sins of mankind. He taught the way, the truth, and the life; he is the door to immortality and eternal life.

  4. Christmas is more than twinkling lights, toys, and gifts.

  • It is love—the love of the Son of God for all mankind.

  • It is peace—peace which comforts, sustains, and blesses all who accept it.

  • It is faith—faith in God and His Eternal Son.

Discussion Helps

  1. Relate your feelings about the blessings of the Christmas season and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  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 a previsit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum leader?

Gentle Healer, by Greg K. Olsen, courtesy of Glenda Perryman

Right: Joseph Smith before the Nauvoo Temple, by Dale Kilbourn; far right: John and Peter at the Tomb, by Robert T. Barrett