PROVO, Utah — Missionaries at missionary training centers worldwide received a special gift from Elder Neil L. Andersen and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, on Christmas day — an invitation to join the Andersen family for the holiday.
“This might be the first time you have ever been away from your own families on Christmas,” said Sister Andersen. “We want you to feel part of our family so we prepared a surprise for you.”
The surprise was a 10-minute video highlighting “the most precious grandchildren in the world” talking and singing of Christmas and the Savior, Jesus Christ, explained Elder Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Elder and Sister Andersen, assisted by many of their grandchildren, presented a Christmas devotional to the missionaries in the Provo MTC on Dec. 25.
The meeting was broadcast to the Church’s 14 other missionary training centers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom.
“I am so happy that Sister Andersen and I, along with our family, have this opportunity to spend Christmas with you here in the MTC,” wrote Elder Andersen in a Christmas message to the missionaries. “There is no greater gift you could give to the Savior than your own willingness to serve Him and to testify of His divine mission. I promise you that He knows you. He love you, and He appreciates deeply your willingness to serve in the great cause of the restored gospel.”
The Andersens began the devotional with Sister Andersen retelling the classic Christmas story, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” by Dr. Seuss. In the story, the Grinch tries to put an end to Christmas by stealing presents and goodies from the homes in Whoville. But Whoville’s inhabitants still celebrate the holiday — by singing.
“’Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more,’” recounted Sister Andersen. “There is great meaning in that, Elders and Sisters, especially as you sit here in the MTC on Christmas Day, because Christmas does mean so much more. On this blessed Christmas Day, as you are preparing to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, preparing to proclaim the birth of the babe in Bethlehem, you know that it means so much more.”
Elder Andersen began his remarks by reminding the missionaries that Christmas is about a little babe. He asked the missionaries to watch out for children during their service and to remember what the Savior taught about children.
“Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3),” recounted Elder Andersen.
When the Savior came to the new world after His Resurrection, he again spoke of children. “And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and become as a little child, and be baptized in my name, or ye can in nowise receive these things. And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God" (3 Nephi 11:37-38), he said.
Elder Andersen said, missionaries at the MTC become as little children, “willing to submit, as we learn how to be what the Lord would want us to be.”
Elder Andersen then shared a message with the missionaries. “Think of the Savior,” he told them. “You were with Him in the beginning. You are with Him now. As you live your life as you should, you will be with Him forever.”
The Savior was there in the premortal life when the Father presented a plan. “Central to this plan was He, our Savior.”
The Savior would show the way. “He would feel our burdens. He would descend all things, that He might comprehend all things. And He would bring about the resurrection, allowing all of us who die to live.”
Elder Andersen promised the missionaries that if they are faithful, they will be with the Savior again.
The Savior “taught us how to live. He showed us the way. That is what you will be doing. You will be teaching people everyday what the Savior taught.”
Elder Andersen said that 47 years ago on Christmas Day, he too spent the holiday in the missionary training center.
Closing, he expressed his love for the missionaries and his gratitude for who they are.
“I give you my Christmas message that He lives,” he said. “He is the Savior of the world.
“Your faith is not faith in vain. He is the Savior and Redeemer. He is the only begotten of the Father. He is the Lamb of God. One day we will kneel at His feet. I know this is true. He lives. He is the Son of God.
“We love you, we consider you our fellow servants. We thank you for all you are willing to do in this noble and worthy cause.”