Years ago, there was a Mormonad that appeared in the December issue of the New Era that gave me pause. It had been a busy and hectic month and I had not even had time to look at this magazine. Late one night, I opened it to this page and remembered what the season is really all about. I was chastened and refocused as I gazed at the image and the words on the poster — “Christmas Presence.” It was then that I realized that His presence was what I truly desired. It was not about the “Christmas presents” that I had been focusing all my energy and resources on at all. It was and is all about Him!
As we contemplate and celebrate this season, perhaps we can keep several things in mind. One is a little Primary song that many of us memorized and sang as a child. The words are simple but applicable to each of us as parents and leaders of young women and others. They begin like this: “Jesus was once a little child, A little child like me; And He was pure and meek and mild as a little child should be. So little children, Let’s you and I, Try to be like Him, Try, try, try” (“Jesus Once Was a Little Child,” Children’s Songbook, 55).
This is what we are trying to do in the Young Women. Personal Progress is really all about developing Christlike attributes as each young woman focuses on values and standards and learning and living them. It is all about developing private religious practices that the Savior developed as a youth. These include scripture study, prayer, paying of tithing, attending the temple and pondering, to name a few.
The second is that the gifts that we must seek and help the young women seek and develop are not to be found online or in a catalog or in the commercial sector, but are really very available to each of us. They are the gifts of the Spirit and they include love, joy, peace and goodwill. As the angel declared, “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). They are available to all! Moroni asked each of us in his final words, a searching question. He asked, “How is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing?” (Moroni 7:20). And then he gave the answer, “In Christ there should come every good thing” (Moroni 7:22). And so in Young Women, everything we do leads to the Lord and His holy house — the temple. The caption of the Mormonad reads, “This year, instead of getting wrapped up in unimportant things, invite the Savior into your celebrations” (New Era, December 1991). We are seeing more and more young women doing just that as they participate in family history and go to the temple to do baptisms.
The third thing to keep in mind is the importance of seeking those gifts which will last and strengthen your family. One year, I decided to give my daughter and daughters-in-law experiences rather than purchased presents. These included learning to cook and make rolls and Christmas toffee. These experiences in my kitchen blessed our relationships with one another and with our family. You might consider this when you are working with young women. Give them the things they will remember and cherish the most that include experiences with the Spirit in activities and Sunday lessons.
Moroni again teaches us in his final words that the gifts of the Spirit are dispensed to the faithful. And he exhorts us to “deny not the gifts of God, for they are many. . . .and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them” (Moroni 10:8). And then he enumerates some of the gifts that are bestowed on “every man severally, according as he will” (Moroni 10:17). In other words, we can obtain these things to bless others according to what we desire and what we do. It is up to us!
It is our hope as a Young Women general presidency that each young woman will seek the gifts of the Spirit to which they are entitled and will do those things that will invite the Holy Ghost to be a constant companion. Our greatest desire is to help the young women become sensitive and worthy to have the constant presence of the Holy Ghost in their lives. This precious gift — to have this presence always — will enable them to make correct decisions and to obtain additional gifts of the Spirit. And they will need these gifts, and His presence in their lives, now and in the future.
Lastly, I feel, as I know each of you do, such gratitude to be called to assist in this great work. I am thankful for a prophet of God, President Thomas S. Monson, who leads the way by being present in so many ways in our lives. In my personal experience, President Monson exemplifies in all he does and says exactly the words of the Primary song and what it looks like to “try to be like Him.” I am grateful for his presence in our lives.
At this busy and wonderful season, I hope that each of the parents, grandparents and leaders in Young Women will give the gift of our presence in the lives of our families, and the young women whom we serve. Just your hug, your words of encouragement, and your reminder to them of their identity as daughters of a King, are cherished gifts. And may we each pause individually and feel His presence in our lives. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: . . .and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9: 6).