"Our work is designed to make people happy," said President Gordon B. Hinckley. "It is the work of the Lord."
Speaking Dec. 15 to several thousand missionaries from four missions serving in the Salt Lake City area, President Hinckley consoled and encouraged them in their assignments, then shared his feelings for the Christmas season.
"The work is not easy," President Hinckley said. "Missionary work has never been easy. Give it everything you have. Bring the spirit of the Lord into your work. Pray for it. Live for it. Live worthy of it. Go at it with enthusiasm."
Missionaries from the proselytizing missions of the Utah Salt Lake City and Utah Salt Lake City South missions, as well as sister missionaries from the Temple Square Mission, and senior couples and sisters from the Family and Church History Mission gathered in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square for the early morning Christmas devotional.
President Hinckley paid tribute for the life and accomplishments of the Prophet Joseph Smith, whose birthday is two days prior to Christmas.
"How great is our debt to him. His life began in Vermont and ended in Illinois, and marvelous were the things that happened between that simple beginning and that tragic ending."
President Hinckley then read a letter of a member that, "illustrates the power of this work."
The member wrote how years before, while working on his doctorate in the San Francisco Bay area, a favorite professor would occasionally invite him to lunch.
One day, this professor leaned over the table, looked him square in the eye and asked, "What do you Mormons do with people?"
The question stunned the member. In explanation, the professor told how his nephew once had trouble in school and with the law as a teenager. Out of concern, the professor arranged for several psychological evaluations of his nephew.
After extensive examination, the head of the counseling division suggested that menial employment was the most that could be expected of this young man.
"Basically, they did not see much hope," said the professor.
In time, the young man married a young lady who was a member of the Church. She seemed to turn him around. He joined the Church and completed high school.
"He went to college and graduate school. . . . He completed his doctorate back East," said the professor. Now, in his 30s "he is being sought after by several major universities to conduct post-doctoral research," the professor said.
"That is the miracle of this work in which we are engaged," President Hinckley said. "It changes people. . . . This gospel, if accepted and lived, will cause miracles to occur."
President Hinckley recounted the divine mission and life of the Lord Jesus Christ, then said, "To me it is a thing of wonder that He who was born in Bethlehem of Judea has so touched men's hearts and influenced men's lives. Wherever His name is revered, wherever His name is spoken in love, there is a difference in human behavior. And it is the workings of that miraculous Spirit that makes Christmas different."
He read from a letter written years ago by a member of the Church who served with the Canadian Mounted Police. In 1955, in the interlake area of Manitoba, this member and a junior constable were delivering gifts on Christmas Eve to families in the area.
"The most difficult delivery we left for the last a family living on a little-used bush road about four miles from town," wrote the member. "The family consisted of the mother and four children, ranging in ages from 1 1/2 to 8 years. There was no telephone."
It was nearly seven o'clock and dark when they set out. It was cold, but no wind. The sky was clear and there was a bit of a moon. "We managed three miles without difficulty, but at the side road our hearts sank. The road was filled with snow; there was not even a trail through it. We studied it carefully. . . . If only we had brought our snowshoes. We were about to turn back when my companion said, 'It's going to be a bleak Christmas for those kids.' "
They agreed to try and loaded a box of toys on a sled. "The journey of half a mile seemed like a hundred," the member said. In time they saw "a small cabin with a dim light in the window." Nearly exhausted, they struggled through the gate and up a bit of a path to the house.
After knocking, there was complete silence for a few moments, then the door slowly opened.
"It must have been a shock for them to see two burly policemen dressed in buffalo coats. They looked apprehensive, but when they saw the sleigh and box of presents, the expressions changed to amazement. One little voice cried, 'See, Mama, Santa Claus did come.'
"The mother burst into tears," he said. "You are an answer to prayer." She told how she had tried to condition her children that there would be no Christmas. But the children couldn't believe it. The oldest boy said, "We can always pray." They knelt and prayed, but the mother dreaded the disappointment they would suffer if their prayers were not answered.
"We had hardly said, 'Amen,' when you wonderful men knocked on the door," she said.
"Such is the real spirit of Christmas," President Hinckley said in conclusion. "Such is the manner in which men's hearts are touched to bless others at this joyous and glad and wonderful season of the year."
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