President Russell M. Nelson highlighted four gifts offered by Jesus Christ and promised that true followers of the Savior “have the privilege of experiencing unspeakable joy forever” during the First Presidency's Christmas Devotional on Sunday evening, Dec. 2.
The leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said he was recently reminded of the blessings that come from focusing on the life, mission, doctrine and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ when he talked with 12-year-old Lydia Terry.
President Nelson met Lydia — who is suffering from a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer — a few weeks ago in his office. “As we talked about her life and what lies ahead, she was calm and at peace. When I asked if she had any questions, she quickly replied, ‘What is heaven like?’”
This question, President Nelson said, led to “a heart-to-heart discussion about the purpose of life” and the blessings that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ “have offered to those who honor and follow Them.”
President Nelson said he was “deeply moved by the faith of Lydia and her family.” With her parents, Kellie and Stephen Terry of Bountiful, Utah, Lydia was able to attend the devotional.
“Though facing a monumental challenge as far as this earth life is concerned, Lydia is filled with faith,” said President Nelson. “She has an eternal perspective. She knows that the Lord loves her and will care for her.”
For Lydia, meeting President Nelson and attending the devotional was literally a wish fulfilled. “It is so amazing just to know the prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” she said after the devotional. “It was probably the greatest experience of my life.”
During his address, President Nelson introduced Lydia to the capacity congregation in the Conference Center — and to millions of other Church members participating in the devotional via broadcast across the globe.
She said she will remember “everything” about the evening, including listening to “the Tabernacle Choir, because I love to sing” and seeing “President Nelson waving to me from the stand.”
President Nelson said Lydia’s deepest desire is to be with her family forever in the celestial realm. That includes her desire to also be with Heavenly Father and Jesus.
“Indeed, our desires influence each of us in profound ways, not just here and now but beyond,” he said.
Desire is important in this season of gift giving, when we are particularly mindful of the desires of those whom we love, added President Nelson, inviting Latter-day Saints to also consider their own desires this Christmas season.
“What are your deepest desires? What do you really want to experience and accomplish in this life? Do you really want to become more and more like Jesus Christ? Do you really want to live with Heavenly Father and with your family forever and live as He lives?
“If you do, you will want to accept many gifts offered by the Lord to help you and me during our time of mortal probation.”
President Nelson then emphasized four of the gifts Jesus Christ gave to all who are willing to receive them:
1. Jesus Christ gives the unlimited capacity to love.
“That includes the capacity to love the unlovable and those who not only do not love you but presently persecute and despitefully use you,” said President Nelson. “With the Savior’s help, we can learn to love as He loved. It may require a change of heart —most certainly a softening of our hearts — as we are tutored by the Savior how to really take care of each other.
“My dear brothers and sisters, we can truly minister in the Lord’s way as we accept His gift of love.”
2. The Savior offers the ability to forgive.
“Through His infinite Atonement, you can forgive those who have hurt you and who may never accept responsibility for their cruelty to you,” said President Nelson.“It is usually easy to forgive one who sincerely and humbly seeks your forgiveness. But the Savior will grant you the ability to forgive anyone who has mistreated you in any way. Then their hurtful acts can no longer canker your soul.”
3. The Savior gives the gift of repentance.
“This gift is not always well understood,” he said, noting that the word repent comes from the Greek prefix meaning change. “Can we begin to see the breadth and depth of what the Lord is giving to us when He offers the gift to repent? He invites us to change our minds, our knowledge, our spirit, even our breathing.”
For example, “when we repent, we breathe with gratitude to God, who lends us breath from day today,” said President Nelson. “And we desire to use that breath in serving Him and His children. Repentance is a resplendent gift.”
It is a process never to be feared, he added. “It is a gift for us to receive with joy and to use — even embrace — day after day as we seek to become more like our Savior.”
4. The promise of life everlasting.
Eternal life is so much more than a designation of time, he explained. “Eternal life is the kind and quality of life that Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son live. When the Father offers us everlasting life, He is saying in essence, ‘If you choose to follow My Son — if your desire is really to become more like Him — then in time you may live as We live, and preside over worlds and kingdoms as We do.’”
President Nelson said the four unique gifts will bring Latter-day Saints more and more joy as they accept them. “They were made possible,” he said, “because Jehovah condescended to come to earth as the baby Jesus. He was born of an immortal Father and a mortal mother. He was born in Bethlehem under the most humble of circumstances. His was the holy birth foreseen by prophets since the days of Adam. Jesus Christ is God’s transcendent gift — the gift of the Father to all of His children. That birth we joyfully celebrate each Christmas season.
“With our thoughts and feelings so focused on the Savior of the world, what, then, do we need to do to receive these gifts offered to us so willingly by Jesus Christ? What is the key to loving as He loves, forgiving as He forgives, repenting to become more like Him and ultimately living with Him and our Heavenly Father?”
The key is to make and keep sacred covenants, said President Nelson. “We choose to live and progress on the Lord’s covenant path and to stay on it. It is not a complicated way. It is the way to true joy in this life and eternal life beyond.
“My dear brothers and sisters, my deepest desires are for all of Heavenly Father’s children to have the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and to heed His teachings and for Israel to be gathered as promised in these latter days. I pray that we will believe and receive the love the Savior has for each of us.”