The Christmas spirit is enlarged when we foster an attitude of being a cheerful giver. Let me take you back to a Christmas morning when I learned this important truth.
When I returned home from serving as a full-time missionary in the Eastern States Mission, headquartered in New York City, my mission president encouraged me to volunteer as a tour guide on Temple Square. He knew how I loved to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When I interviewed with the mission president on Temple Square, he asked me only one question — would I recite the Joseph Smith story in full! Fortunately, I had grown to love and share that precious scripture on my mission. I did my very best in reciting Joseph's witness that he "saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description." I concluded with my testimony of the Prophet Joseph. As I rehearsed the compelling story for this mission leader, I remember wondering how well I did. Thankfully, well enough, because two weeks later I received a letter inviting me to serve as a volunteer tour guide on Temple Square; I happily accepted.
As volunteer guides, we would devote several hours each week to taking tours on Temple Square. I loved feeling the missionary spirit again as I spoke with so many visitors.
Two weeks before Christmas I received a call from one of the assistant directors of the mission inviting me to serve on Christmas Day. Being my first year home from my mission, having been gone for two years, I was excited to spend Christmas Day with my family, and I remember feeling a bit disappointed about being away from them. I was sure that everyone would want to be home with their families and that no one would be on Temple Square on Christmas morning!
But, from the time I was a small boy, I was taught at my mother's knee to always say "yes" when asked to serve; therefore, I grudgingly accepted the assignment.
When I arrived at Temple Square on Christmas Day, I was to lead the 9 a.m. tour. To my complete shock, a multitude of people arrived. Members, visitors, tourists and beautiful children all dressed in their lovely Christmas clothes chose to spend that morning on that sacred ground. I was humbled as I looked at the families and all those who had come that morning — having left their warm homes, family gatherings, trees, tinsel and newly received treasures to spend time near the Lord's holy house, showing a deep appreciation and love for their Savior Jesus Christ.
As I looked over the vast gathering, a passage of scripture came to my mind, one that I had loved on my mission — from 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.
"But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.
"Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver."
As I recalled those verses, and saw the crowd gathering to begin the tour, tears filled my eyes. I was embarrassed to think that I had grudgingly given of myself that Christmas morning. I felt I needed an immediate attitude change.
As I led the tour, my love for these people and my love of the Savior grew. I will never forget standing next to the Christus statue in the North Visitors' Center and bearing my testimony. I received a powerful and strong impression within my mind and heart that witnessed to me the Lord knew everyone in that group individually and that He loved them.
An overwhelming emotion overcame me as I bore my testimony that day on Temple Square of the love that I had for Jesus Christ and the love He had for all of us. From that Christmas Day forward, I signed up for a Christmas morning tour each year until we moved away from Utah five years later.
The Spirit taught me a great lesson that morning regarding God's love for His children. I also learned the importance of having an attitude of being a cheerful giver, not out of necessity or grudgingly as the scripture states, but cheerfully and freely.
I am deeply grateful to have had this special and sacred witness which has influenced my life for good throughout the years and added to my reverence for Christmas morn.