President Oaks gives a universal ‘formula’ for peace

Years ago, an 11-year-old girl was disappointed that she did not receive the new doll she wanted for Christmas. Her grieving and anguish was later replaced by peace as she learned of the deeper meaning of giving gifts.

President Dallin H. Oaks shared this story, published in the Deseret News several years ago, during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Sunday, Dec. 8. He quoted the words of the young girl’s father as he taught her an unforgettable lesson:

“You have heard it said that we give gifts on Christmas because the shepherds and wise men brought gifts to the Christ Child, but let me tell you of the real first Christmas gift.”

The father described to his daughter the immense love Heavenly Father had for His eldest Son. Even knowing all that Christ would go through on the earth, Heavenly Father gave His Son to be the Savior of the world. 

“And the second part of this wondrous gift is that Christ, the Son, knowing, too, all this, gave Himself willingly that we might have eternal life,” the father said.

An illustration was shown during a story President Dallin H. Oaks shared during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019.
An illustration was shown during a story President Dallin H. Oaks shared during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Reflecting on the conversation with her father many years later, the woman wrote in her story:  “That was the first Christmas night I could remember that I didn’t go to sleep with my Christmas doll on my pillow. I had something better. Within my heart was a new and thrilling peace. I had found a gift that could not be worn out or lost, a gift that I could never grow out of, but one that, with God’s help, I must grow into.”

Speaking in the Conference Center to Church members around the world, President Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency, testified of the Savior as the Prince of Peace and declared that peace comes from following Him.

“Peace is the Savior’s promise, and peace is our goal,” he said. “This promised peace is the sense of well-being and serenity that comes from keeping His commandments.”

Read the First Presidency’s 2019 Christmas Message

President Oaks quoted the words of Charles Dickens, illustrating the way Christians honor the Savior: “No one ever lived, Who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong. … Remember! — It is Christianity to do good always — even to those who do evil to us.  It is Christianity to love our neighbour as ourself, and to do to all men as we would have them do to us. …

A photo of Charles Dickens that was shown during President Dallin H. Oaks' address during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019.
A photo of Charles Dickens that was shown during President Dallin H. Oaks’ address during the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“If we do this, and remember the life and lessons of our Lord Jesus Christ, and try to act up to them, we may confidently hope that God will forgive us our sins and mistakes, and enable us to live and die in peace.”

President Oaks then emphasized various scriptures and teachings from Church leaders to expound upon the peace that comes from remembering life and lessons of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Savior fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy that “the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever” (Isaiah 32:17).  

To His Apostles in His final instructions, the Savior said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

During His visit to the Americas, the Savior quoted Isaiah, “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (3 Nephi 22:13).

“What our Savior taught about peace in the life of a single person also applies to peace in a family, peace in a nation, and peace in the world,” President Oaks said.

The Savior and His Apostles taught of the importance of individual righteousness, loving one’s enemies and living peaceably with all. 

“War and conflict are the result of wickedness; peace is the product of righteousness,” he explained. “The blessings of the gospel are universal, and so is the formula for peace: keep the commandments of God.”

President Howard W. Hunter taught that peace comes “only upon the terms and conditions set by God, and in no other way.”

President Oaks continued quoting from President Hunter: “If we look to man and the ways of the world, we will find turmoil and confusion. If we will but turn to God, we will find peace for the restless soul. … This peace shelters us from the worldly turmoil.”

He then referenced Doctrine and Covenants 59:23: “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” 

President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “Peace is the fruit of righteousness. It cannot be bought with money, and cannot be traded nor bartered. It must be earned.”

In order to achieve peace among nations, there must be general righteousness among the people in those nations, President Oaks said.

“The blessings of the gospel are universal, and so is the formula for peace: keep the commandments of God.”

Quoting from Elder John A. Widstoe during the troubled years of World War II, President Oaks said, “The only way to build a peaceful community is to build men and women who are lovers and makers of peace. Each individual, by that doctrine of Christ and His Church, holds in his own hands the peace of the world.”

Elder Eldred G. Smith’s words 30 years later echoed the same truth: “If each person would have peace within his soul, then there would be peace in the family.  If there is peace in each family, then there is peace in the nation. If there is peace in the nations, there is peace in the world.

“Let us not just sing, ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,’ but let us mean it.  Make it my goal — your goal.”

President Oaks closed his address by testifying of God’s love in sending His beloved Son and quoting President Russell M. Nelson: “Jesus Christ is God’s transcendent gift — the gift of the Father to all of His children.”