President Faust: Testifying of Savior is honor, privilege

Christmas is much more than beautifully wrapped presents, brightly decorated homes and trees, holiday music and delicious food - "it is paying homage to our Savior and Redeemer, the Lord, Jesus Christ," said President James E. Faust.

Speaking Dec. 7 at the First Presidency Christmas devotional, President Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, called Christmas the greatest holiday of all Christendom."It is a wonderful time to strengthen family ties and to express love for our families, our friends, and neighbors," he said. "To testify of the life and the mission of the Savior is an honor and privilege."

President Faust said that tidings of the greatest joy have come to mankind because of the mortal life of Jesus Christ.

"We will have everlasting joy because He atoned for our sins, and accomplished the greatest of all acts - the wondrous resurrection, which broke the dreaded shackles of death."

Joy is an important element of Christmas, explained President Faust, but should not be confined to the yuletide holidays. "Great joy should come to us throughout our lives - at times of births, weddings, blessings, baptisms, graduations, and when a missionary leaves or returns home. Joy also comes in experiencing the miracle of healing. It is felt in the exhilaration of a breathtaking sunrise and the gentle warmth of the sun as it fades into the night."

Love also brings joy - "the sense of belonging to one's family and to God's family," said President Faust. "Indeed, watching our children grow in faith and testimony brings great joy."

President Faust said he knows some Church members have children who have strayed from the gospel. "To those of you who suffer the pain of an empty chair, be assured that the Savior knows and understands your sorrow. The Good Shepherd is watching over them and they will return, either in this life or in the life to come."

Church members feel a particular kind of joy when a child that has been lost, for whatever reason, is found and restored, said President Faust.

He then recounted a story to illustrate the joy that comes when that which is lost is found.

During the long journey to the Salt Lake Valley 150 years ago, "dysentery had spread through a small band of pioneers and little Annie Petersen was stricken with the dread disease," explained President Faust. The captain of the pioneer company told Annie's parents, Oli and Marn Petersen, to leave their dead baby under a bush, where she could not be seen.

They did as they were told and moved along with the company. However, that night as the other pioneers retired to bed, the grieving parents remained awake. Marn Petersen felt as though her baby were not dead, recounted President Faust. Then, reluctantly, the couple went to bed.

However, when Oli awoke in the early dawn, Marn's place in bed was empty. After a frantic search he and the other members of the company saw her walking toward then, down the road they had traveled the day before.

"Marn, her baby clutched to her breast and stumbling with weariness was coming toward the camp. Oli ran to meet her, took the tiny girl from her arms and helped her to the campfire. Darling, why didn't you waken me and tell me you were going back to the baby?' Suddenly a look of astonishment crossed his face.Our baby, she's warm! She isn't still and cold like dead babies are! She's alive!' "

President Faust noted that no greater tidings could have come to Oli and Marn Petersen. "A precious child was presumed to be dead, and yet she was saved by the unrelenting efforts of an inspired parent," he said. "Other beloved children, presumed to be spiritually dead, can be reclaimed through the same loving effort."

President Faust concluded that Jesus summed up the meaning of His birth, His being, and His whole ministry in one precious phrase, "These things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves." (John 17:13.)

Additional Information

The full texts of the Christmas Devotional addresses by President Hinckley, President Monson and President Faust will soo be avauilable on the church News Web site:

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