“My Most Precious Gift,” Liahona, Dec. 2007, 43
As I thought about all the gifts and cards we would be giving during another Christmas season, suddenly a question came to my mind. Of all the gifts I had received during Christmastime in the past, had any of them significantly affected my life? Then I remembered December 1963.
I was home alone because my parents had gone out. I was a young teacher at the time. Classes had ended, I was on vacation, and Christmas was fast approaching. I looked around for something to read, but I had already read everything in our home library. I decided to go see a neighbor who had a good book collection and had often loaned books to me. This time she offered a book that two young men—foreigners—had left with her.
“I’d like to know your opinion of it,” she said. “The content seems interesting.”
She then added that the young men were missionaries. Missionaries? My interest in the book immediately died. At the time I was not interested in anything having to do with religion, but I took the book anyway.
As I said good-bye, my neighbor added, “Inside the book you’ll find a little note they wrote, suggesting that before reading the book, a person needs to say a prayer to God.”
Not having any plans that rainy Saturday, I decided to read the “interesting” book. I opened it and found the note written by the missionaries. I put the book on my bed, knelt down, and for the first time in my life, offered up a prayer to God in my own words.
As I started to read, the story captivated me. How was young Nephi able to exercise such unshakable faith? I wondered if I would ever be capable of doing something like that. As I read the book of Mosiah, I drew strength from the words of King Benjamin. At the time I had no idea I was reading a book that would become my favorite for more than 40 years.
During those years the book’s pages have provided me with much support, comfort, and strength, and I have discovered many important insights that I shared in talks and lessons at the little Tucumán Branch in Argentina, where I was baptized and confirmed. Two years later, while serving a full-time mission, I also wrote little notes on pieces of paper, suggesting to investigators that they pray before reading the copy of the Book of Mormon my companion and I left in their hands.
So many years have passed since then. But how could I have forgotten the most precious Christmas gift I ever received and the neighbor who gave it to me? I can hardly remember her face, and I struggle to remember her name—Marina. Thank you, neighbor. You have my eternal gratitude.