Transcript of this address.
It is not enough to read the scriptural accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, President Gordon B. Hinckley declared during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional Dec. 2. "It is so much more important to repeat in our own way the simple and wonderful lessons He taught.
"If there is to be a change in this quarrelsome old world it must begin with each of us," said President Hinckley, speaking in the Church's Conference Center on a crisp December evening. "And so our prayer at this wondrous season of Christmas is that we will look inward to test our own hearts and look outward for an opportunity to reach down and lift someone who is in need. It will not be difficult to find someone."
President Hinckley stood at the pulpit on one side of the Conference Center's stage which was adorned in Christmas lights, trees and poinsettias. Accompanying him were his counselors in the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, who also offered holiday messages centered on the Savior and His gospel, and families and friendships.
Music for the evening was provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square. Directed by Craig Jessop and Mack Wilberg, the choir and orchestra performed several traditional Christmas hymns and carols, including "Joy to the World," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "The First Noel," "What Shall We Give to the Babe in the Manger" and "Silent Night." The congregation joined the Tabernacle Choir in singing the third verse of "Silent Night."
Members of the Church and others began filing into the Conference Center early for the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional. A mid-week heavy snowfall in the Salt Lake Valley added to the festive air. Temple Square was adorned with Christmas lights, expanded from years past in anticipation of the upcoming 2002 Winter Games. (Please see Dec. 1, 2001, Church News.)
"What a glorious thing it is that, at least at this time of the year, hearts of men and women across the world turn in adoration to the Son of God who left the royal courts on high and came to earth to be born under the most humble of circumstances," President Hinckley said in his opening remarks.
"He was the firstborn of the Father, a prince of the royal household of God. When Satan's plan concerning the salvation of all men was rejected, it was the Lord Jesus Christ who stepped forward and said that He would follow the plan of His Father concerning the sons and daughters of God. He would preserve their right to choose good or evil. He would take upon Himself a mortal body and then give His life as a great atoning sacrifice for their sins and shortcomings. . . .
"In the meridian of time He was born in the flesh, Son of God and Son of Mary. Angels sang at His coming and wise men came out of the east to bring unto Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. He was the promised Messiah who came with healing in His wings."
President Hinckley continued by describing the life of the Redeemer, including His ministry, His agony of Gethsemane, and His betrayal and crucifixion.
"Following His resurrection, He visited His other sheep. He came to this hemisphere after the terrible destruction of the wicked had occurred. He taught the people. He ministered to their children. He instituted the sacrament. He organized His work and left His blessing. Through all of the centuries that have passed, His shining figure stands supreme before the entire human family.
"And now, in the fulness of times, He has come again," President Hinckley declared.
Continuing, the Church president described the appearance of the Father and the Son to the 14-year-old Joseph Smith. "The Son was introduced by the Father. They spoke to the boy. After centuries of darkness, They parted the curtains and let in the light of a new and glorious dispensation. Another volume of scripture came forth testifying of His divinity. His royal priesthood was restored with all of its keys and blessings reaching out to both the living and the dead."
Referring to the current world conflict, President Hinckley said: "But above and beyond all of the conflict, all of the quarreling, all of the sound and fury of battle, He is our refuge, our Rock of Ages, our source of peace, comfort and certain assurance concerning the immortality of the human soul.
"Praise be to the Almighty and to His Only Begotten Son, the Redeemer of all mankind. Every one of us is better, our lives are richer, our faith is more certain because of Jesus Christ, the living Son of the living God, our Redeemer and our King, whose birth in Bethlehem of Judea we honor at this time."
Describing the spirit of Christmas, President Hinckley then related the story of Howard Fransen, who was a guide on Temple Square when he came upon a little girl crying. The child was traveling by bus from Seattle, Wash., home to Arkansas on a cold winter night. She had lost her bus ticket during a layover in Salt Lake City, and she was frightened. He helped her contact her sister in Seattle, in the hopes she would reach the girl's parents, who had no phone.
"Throughout all of this the little girl had not smiled. He took her back to the bus station, purchased a ticket for her from his own purse and waited with her until the bus was ready to leave. Only when she was safely seated and the bus pulled away did a big smile cross her face as she waved goodbye.
"Several days later a small envelope arrived in the mail. The address was written in pencil, minus some capitals and punctuation. Inside was a check for the bus fare and a note from her parents expressing thanks.
"Now all of this was a small thing," President Hinckley continued, "but it is really a retelling of the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is the story of the spirit of the Christ at work in our time and in our neighborhood.
"Brothers and sisters, boys and girls, we can all be a little kinder, a little more patient, a little more helpful. We can all reach out to the very many who are in distress for any number of reasons. We can replace anger with love. We can put selfishness out of our lives. We can get on our knees and pray to the Father in the name of Jesus, and then stand on our feet and reach out to bless the destitute, the poor, the oppressed, and those in trouble."
Offering the invocation and benediction on the evening were, respectively, Elder Rex D. Pinegar, Emeritus General Authority; and Sister Carol B. Thomas, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency.
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