"Which Christmas was best for you?"
Whenever I have asked my children that question, they reply "the Christmas of 1976 was best."That year, I was in Provo, Utah, teaching Japanese literature and culture at BYU as a Fulbright visiting professor.
One of my students, Spencer Mack, invited my family to dinner on Christmas Eve. We were happy to accept. Unfortunately, I got lost driving from Provo to Brother Mack's home in Salt Lake City and we were more than an hour late arriving.
When we got there and finally stepped into the living room I immediately saw a special person who made my heart stand still. It was President Spencer W. Kimball, a living prophet. My student was President Kimball's grandson who had served a mission in our native Sapporo, Japan. President Kimball and his wife, Camilla, welcomed my family warmly and comforted me in my embarrassment over being so late.
Then, on that calm, silent Christmas Eve, President Kimball told us about his journey to Jerusalem with a voice that sounded like heavenly music. My children listened to him with their eyes wide open. As I listened, I realized how much President Kimball loved our Savior.
Because of the special experience on that night, Christmas became one of highlights in the lives of my family members. Before, we had celebrated Christmas by eating Christmas cake, singing songs and giving presents even though Christmas isn't an official holiday in Japan.
We were back in Saporro in 1977, and we decided during a family home evening to make Christmas that year different from previous ones. Each member of the family was given a duty to help make Christmas special. My oldest daughter, Kayo, wrote a story titled "Christmas of the Animal Village."
The story was bound and presented with a Christmas card by our family to ward members and neighbors. We had learned from members of the Church in Utah in 1976 about sharing Christmas joy and love. The following Christmas, members of the ward joined in giving gifts to each other as their concern for others and desire to share love increased.
Nineteen years have passed since that Christmas Eve we spent at Brother Mack's house. Four of our six children have married and my wife, Yoko, and I now have four grandchildren.
Time flies by, but we will never forget the holy night we spent with President and Sister Kimball. That experience continues to foster in each member of my family the desire to do something special at Christmas each year.