President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, said as he grows older it seems he enjoys the Christmas season more. "Perhaps this is because there are many more than just our family to love and be loved by," he said in the message he delivered at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional Dec. 3.
Among the Christmas experiences that are etched most sharply in his memory, he said, are those spent away from home while serving in the mission field or in military service."Each Christmas when I was in the military in World War II, I wondered when the terrible suffering and agony of war would end and we could all go home," he said. "And as we sang `Peace on earth, good will to all men,' I wondered if the Germans and the Japanese who were Christians were also singing this familiar refrain with the same yearnings in their hearts. Then it all ended 50 years ago after the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan. Mankind had never before seen such destructive power. There was a concern in our hearts about the beast that had been unleashed."
President Faust recounted a story that Kenneth J. Brown, who was serving as a Marine in Japan after the dropping of the bomb, told about meeting a Japanese Christian at Christmas time in Nagasaki. The Japanese man, Professor Iida, had been a teacher of music in a Christian girls' college until it was closed by imperial command. He had been imprisoned because of his professed Christianity. After being released, he had returned to Nagasaki and continued his music instruction in his home even though it was forbidden. He had been able to continue a small chorus and asked if he and his students could perform for the American Marines.
The concert on Christmas Eve was well attended; there was nothing else for the Americans to do. The choir sang in English. The Marines suspected the singers had memorized the words for their benefit and didn't know what they were singing. They sang beautifully, as if a choir from heaven were singing. The closing number was an aria from "The Messiah." The girl sang with all the conviction of one who knew that Jesus was indeed the Savior of mankind and it brought tears.
Later, the Marine helped Professor Iida take down the trimmings. He asked how the the singers had survived the bomb. The professor said that was only half his group. Nearly every member of the choir lost one or more family members; some were orphans. The Marine asked about the soloist, saying she must have the soul of an angel because of the way she sang. The professor said her mother and two of her brothers were taken. He acknowledged that she did sing well, and said he was proud of her. She was his daughter.
President Faust quoted Kenneth Brown: "The next day was Christmas, the one I remember best. For that day I knew that Christianity had not failed in spite of people's unwillingness to live by His teachings. I had seen hatred give way to service, pain to rejoicing, sorrow to forgiveness. This was possible because a babe had been born in a manger who later taught love of God and fellowmen. We had caused them the greatest grief and yet we were their Christian brothers and as such they were willing to forget their grief and unite with us in singing `Peace on earth, good will to all men.'
"The words of Miss Iida's song testimony would not be stilled, `Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.' They seemed to echo and re-echo over the half-dead city that day.
"That day also I knew that there was a greater power on earth than the atomic bomb." ("A Greater Power," by Kenneth J. Brown, 1960, Christmas I Remember Best, Deseret News Publishing Co., Salt Lake City, 1983: pp. 51-53.)
President Faust said: "That power has influenced for good the hosts of His followers on the earth for almost two thousand years. It is the power in the knowledge that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, our Savior, our advocate with the Father, the King of kings, Lord of lords, and the Prince of peace. It is the power by which, through faith and obedience to His teachings, we can find joy and happiness, peace and comfort. It is the priesthood power by which the world was created, the plan of salvation and happiness was put in place to eternally bless our lives if we are true to our covenants. It is the power that was magnified by His agony on the cross, bringing the singular most important blessing to mankind. The greatest of all acts in all history was the atoning sacrifice of our Savior and our Redeemer."