`A gift that is greater than all gifts'

During this "season of great significance," Church members should be grateful for the "gift that is greater than all gifts" - the Atonement of Jesus Christ, said President Gordon B. Hinckley during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional.

More than 6,000 Church employees gathered Dec. 7 in the Tabernacle - decorated with sparkling Christmas trees, festive garlands and bright poinsettias - and overflow areas on Temple Square for the First Presidency Christmas Devotional.Thousands of other Church members watched the devotional over the Church satellite system throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

Members of the Quorum of the Twelve, the Seventy and the Presiding Bishopric, as well as general auxiliary leaders, attended the devotional, which was conducted by President Gordon B. Hinckley. Elder Ronald E. Poelman of the Seventy and Young Women Gen. Pres. Margaret D. Nadauld gave the invocation and the benediction, respectively.

The Tabernacle Choir, directed by Jerold Ottley and Craig Jessop, and accompanied by Clay Christiansen and Richard Elliott, provided Christmas music. The congregation also joined the choir in singing several Christmas carols.

During his address, President Hinckley called Christmas a season of great significance. "It is the season of the winter solstice. . . . In a few days comes the promise that spring will come again and summer will return, as it has through all the millennia that men have been upon the earth.

"It is no wonder that in ancient times Christmas, commemorating the birth of the Christ child, was celebrated at this solstice season," President Hinckley remarked. "Men had no knowledge of the time of His birth, and so they came to bond the celebration of Christmas with the celebration of the return of the sun."

"While we now know through revelation the time of the Savior's birth, we observe the 25th of December with the Christian world."

President Hinckley said December also marks the 192nd anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

"His birthday will grow in recognition and in importance as the years pass and the Church continues to grow. He was the great prophet of this Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. It was to him that the God of the universe and the Redeemer of the world appeared to part the curtain and open the way to the restoration of eternal truth and divine authority."

President Hinckley explained that this incomparable visitation marked the beginning of a new day for all mankind.

"Born in humble circumstances, reared largely without the benefit of formal education, Joseph became the leader of this, the cause of Christ whose influence will yet be felt throughout the earth."

The Prophet Joseph Smith received the keys to the eternal priesthood and translated a second witness of the divinity and reality of the Lord.

"He it is who stands at the head of this dispensation as prophet and apostle, as seer and revelator," he said. "At this season of his birth, it is well that we pause to remember him as we determine within ourselves to follow his teachings that came of revelation from the Almighty.

"And now, most importantly, President Hinckley continued, "we honor the birth of our Lord, the Son of God, who condescended to come to earth because He loved us. He came to do for us that which we could not do for ourselves," President Hinckley said. "Without His Atonement we would be helpless before the unrelenting grasp of death. We would stand hopeless and helpless in our sins, going nowhere, making no progress."

President Hinckley explained that because of Christ, and Christ alone, "there is hope, there is peace, there is light and understanding. Through His great act of redemption, through His atoning sacrifice came eternal life.

"The gift of the resurrection is afforded all, and the opportunity for eternal progress and eventual exaltation is granted those who will listen to Him and obey Him."

There is nothing to compare to the resurrection in all of the earth's history, President Hinckley continued.

"The great political empires have come and gone," he said. "But the lonely figure of the Son of God, hanging on the cross on Calvary's hill, to die a mortal death and to rise again in immortality, has become the realization of the eternal hope of the world."

It is the miracle of the resurrection that gives wonder to His birth, President Hinckley said.

"And so at this Christmas time we honor not only the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem, but also the crucified Lord who died for each of us, and rose the third day to become `the first fruits of them that slept.' . . . How thankful we ought to be. How grateful we must be for this gift that is greater than all other gifts."

President Hinckley noted that at this season, materialism almost becomes a travesty of the true spirit of Christmas. "But possibly the effort is not all lost. At least there comes into our lives a touch of generosity toward others. Our hearts are opened, our thoughts are lifted as at no other season of the year. We greatly overdo it, but perhaps it is not all bad. We think of others and what a blessing that is."

Then President Hinckley shared his testimony of the Redeemer.

"He was and is the Son of God," President Hinckley testified. ". . . He rose from the grave the third day as the Redeemer of the world, the Savior of mankind, triumphant over death and hell. He was seen by many in both the old world and the new. He ascended to His Father on high, and there He stands as King of kings and Lord of lords. He has come to earth again in a glorious vision to usher in this last and final dispensation in which we live. He presides over this great latter-day work as head of the church which bears His name.

"We, you and I, are His disciples. We have taken upon ourselves His holy name. We worship Him. We love Him. We look to Him as our truest friend, as our incomparable leader, as the promised Messiah, the living Son of the living God."

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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