Opportunities to give are limitless, but perishable

There is no better time than the Christmas season to rededicate oneself to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ, President Thomas S. Monson said Dec. 3.

Speaking to a capacity crowd at the Church's Conference Center during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, offered yuletide remarks with his customary warmth.

"As we follow in His steps today, we too will have an opportunity to bless the lives of others. Jesus invites us to give of ourselves. . . . Our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless, but they are also perishable. There are hearts to gladden. There are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given. There are deeds to be done. There are souls to be saved. . . .

"It is the time to love the Lord our God with all our heart and our neighbors as ourselves," he continued. "It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much, he who gives time gives more, but he who gives of himself gives all. Someone has appropriately said: 'We make a living by what we get, but we build a life by what we give.'

"It is through giving, rather than getting, that the Spirit of Christ enters our lives. Let us listen for the sound of sandaled feet. Let us reach out for the Carpenter's hand."

President Monson then shared with the congregation a visit he recently made to an Alzheimer's care facility in Salt Lake City. He saw a long-time friend, 97-year-old Mayre Nielsen. Staring at President Monson with glistening eyes, she made no response as he reminded her of a visit to Sydney, Australia, years ago when she was a member of the Primary General Board. She was traveling on assignment with President Monson, then of the Quorum of the Twelve, and his wife, Sister Frances Monson.

"Without uttering a word, Mayre watched me carefully as I continued. 'You will recall, Mayre, that you were to stay at the home of the stake Primary president, Sister Beryl Lord. You had learned, however, that Sister Lord was married to a non-member who was indifferent toward the Church. You asked how you should act, were you to stay in their home. I told you to act as a Latter-day Saint, to be yourself, to offer the blessing on the food and to offer your evening and morning prayers.' "

Sister Nielsen did stay at Sister Lord's home, President Monson recalled. He then continued relating his visit with her at the care center: "Mayre, just over a year later, I returned to the Sydney Stake to divide it and create the Sydney South Stake. Following the conference, a man I recognized approached me with tears in his eyes. He told me he was Frank Lord, husband of the stake Primary president, and that just a few months earlier he had entered the waters of baptism and had become a member of the Church.

"I asked him how he had gone from being one who was indifferent toward the Church to one who had become a member. Mayre, he told me that it was your example and your sweet spirit when you stayed in their home that had prompted him to commence his study of the gospel and to become a member of the Church."

President Monson then reminded her how Brother and Sister Lord were sealed in the New Zealand Temple and how Brother Lord had served in many callings. "Mayre Nielsen, thank you for having the truth, living the truth, and sharing the truth."

Then, President Monson said, the young attendant who had accompanied him to Sister Nielsen's bedside reminded him she did not recognize him nor understand what he said. To show what she meant, she turned to the elderly woman and asked, "Mayre, do you know who this man is?"

"Mayre looked at the young woman and said, as clear as clear could be, 'Of course. This is Brother Monson.' She then turned back to me, took my hand in hers, and pressed it to her lips. The young attendant also had tears in her eyes as she looked at Mayre in disbelief. Mayre had remembered; Mayre had spoken.

"The promise found in the third verse of the beautiful Christmas carol, 'O Little Town of Bethlehem,' had been fulfilled:

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv'n!

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heav'n.

No ear may hear his coming; but in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive him,

Still the dear Christ enters in."