Christmastime is family time, said President Boyd K. Packer on Dec. 19.
"Everything about the celebration, except the things that are creeping in now that are almost pagan, is for families, for little children — the gifts, the wise men, the shepherds. It is part of who we are and what we do."
Speaking in sacrament meeting in his home ward in the Sandy Utah Cottonwood Creek Stake, President Packer testified of the reality of the Savior and the joy of Christmas to ward and family members.
"I want our family to know that they have heard grandpa bear his testimony," he said. "I know that Jesus is the Christ, that He lives, that the gospel is true, and that I know Him when I see Him, and I know His voice when I hear Him. I want you little ones to remember that you heard your grandfather bear a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Accompanying President Packer to the meeting were his wife, Sister Donna S. Packer, and their son, Elder Allan F. Packer of the Seventy. Both also addressed the congregation.
President Packer noted that the Christmas season comes "again and again and again."
"Sister Packer and I have celebrated together 63 Christmases, and that is just a beginning," he said. "We know that Christmastime is family time. The joy of Christmas is when little children are around. I know parents struggle through the year in the raising of their children, but at Christmastime we are glad to have them around! They make the Christmas spirit. Christmastime is family time."
President Packer said Latter-day Saints know from the scriptures that Jesus Christ was born into and raised in a family.
"When you read the scriptures, you learn much by what is said," he said. "But there are a number of verses where what is not said becomes powerfully important."
For example, Joseph, was espoused to Mary, who was found to be expecting a baby.
"Of course that would be a startling and difficult thing for him," said President Packer. "Not knowing what to do about it, he would refer to the Hebrew law. He had two choices: One, to denounce her publicly. You can imagine in a small village what that would do to have a man denounce a woman. But the scriptures say that Joseph was 'a just man.' That is one of the words that is missed when reading the scripture. 'Joseph [was] a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily' (Matthew 1:19). In other words, that was the other option he had, just to separate and say nothing about it publicly."
President Packer said while Joseph was worried about all of that, an angel came to him in a dream and told him about Mary's Son.
In another example, President Packer explained that later — when Jesus was preaching in the synagogue in His hometown — the people marveled and said, "Is not this the carpenter?" (Mark 6:3).
President Packer explained that because they did not say "the carpenter's son" that Joseph had likely already died.
"We know that Joseph was alive when Jesus was 12 and lost among the sojourners. When they found Him, Joseph scolded him and said, 'Don't you understand that we have sought thee sorrowing (see Luke 2:48)? We were anxious. Why did you do this?' That is a fatherly thing to do."
President Packer added, "The other thing that was said when he preached and they marveled at it: 'Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon?' — so we know he had four brothers — 'and are not his sisters here with us?' (Mark 6:3). So there were at least two sisters in the family.
"So Mary and Joseph had at least six children after the birth of Christ.
"That is the family, and that is the pattern. That is what the gospel is about."
President Packer said questions often arise that cannot be answered in mortality. "You have to understand the eternal nature of things," he said. "When you understand that there was no beginning and there will be no end, then you understand that all things are not done in mortality."
Further, he said, there are a lot of things that cannot be explained.
For example, he said, Church members sometimes worry about promises in a patriarchal blessing that are unfulfilled by the untimely death of a young man or young woman.
"It does not all have to happen in mortality," he said. "It happens in this life and the next. The thing we will know as we go through the veil is how much the same it is, not how different it is."
He said those who serve in the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve know about the proceedings of the gospel beyond the veil. "We are not so desperate when someone dies young, because we have the knowledge of what can be taken care of and fixed beyond the veil," he said.
Since last Christmas, President Packer said his 29-year-old grandson, Spencer William Packer, died. He had been married for two years, had no children, and had a congenital heart problem. "We watched him grow up and be as perfect as a young man can be in this life," President Packer said. "He was happy and handsome and hardworking. When he was married we were glad because we expected that there would be some more little ones at Christmastime. But with him it was not to be."
President Packer said he has recently thought a lot about his grandson. "I do not worry about it because I know where he is and what it is like and that his young widow, having been married a short time before he was gone, was sealed to him in the temple. How do you figure all of that out? You do not have to. You just have to have faith, and all things will work. And they do work.
"If you could see beyond the veil, you would finally come to believe that the word 'father' means Father and that all of the love and tenderness and strength that comes into a man's life as a father is at least evident in our Father, the Father of us all. And Christ, His Beloved Son, the Only Begotten Son, we can know how He felt when Christ was taken."
During her remarks, Sister Packer thanked the deacons for the memorable experience they created by passing the sacrament well.
She recalled a day as a teenager when she watched her mother's face as her three brothers performed their ordinary priesthood duties.
"I knew how pleased she was that they had kept themselves worthy that they could do that and later go on missions and serve the Lord. They would later be married in the temple and continued throughout their lifetime to serve," she said.
"I do know that as young people, even younger than the two who spoke today, we can have those spiritual experiences which give us the strength and the faith and the courage, all those qualities that are needed so that we can serve the Lord in this part of the vineyard."
Sister Packer closed by saying she is grateful to serve the Lord in any way she can.
"I know that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ," she testified. "I know that Joseph Smith was and is a Prophet. Through his calling and obedience, he was able to restore all the ordinances to us so that we can participate in this experience. I know we have a Father in Heaven who hears and answers our prayers. Even in the darkest hour He is there, and He buoys us up. We can feel His presence and that of our Savior at all times if we keep ourselves clean. He knows us personally."
Elder Allan Packer spoke of the personal worthiness and righteousness needed for Church members to return to their Father in Heaven.
He said as he has traveled this year as a General Authority he has tried to share the key message of the reality of the living Christ. "I bear testimony of the Savior that He lives," Elder Packer said.