Read these cherished Christmas memories shared by Church leaders

In years past, general Church leaders have written about treasured Christmas experiences and shared them with the Church News. Here we have collected inspirational Christmas stories written by members of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and some of their wives.

President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency

Elder Dallin H. Oaks shares an experience he had as a 12-year-old deacon delivering baskets of oranges and grapefruits to widows in his ward.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks shares an experience he had as a 12-year-old deacon delivering baskets of oranges and grapefruits to widows in his ward. Credit: manuta – stock.adobe.com

This story was originally published in the Dec. 11, 2010, issue of the Church News, when President Oaks was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

As a 12-year-old deacon, I was pleased to accompany the bishop to deliver Christmas baskets to the widows of our ward in Vernal, Utah. The backseat of his car was filled with baskets of grapefruit and oranges. This was during World War II, when grapefruit and oranges were scarce, so they were quite a treat. He waited in the car while I took a basket to each door and said, “The bishop asked me to give you this Christmas basket from the ward.”

When we had delivered all the baskets but one, the bishop drove me home. There he handed me the last basket and said, “This is for your mother.” Before I could reply, he drove away. 

Read the rest of President Oaks’ Christmas memory here.

Sister Kristen M. Oaks, wife of President Oaks

A woman plays the violin.
A woman plays the violin. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This experience was originally published in the Nov. 29, 2008, issue of the Church News.

My most poignant memory of Christmas does not come from home being surrounded by a family I love, the elegance of decorations or the gifts of love that we exchange. My most cherished memory of Christmas takes me back to Japan where I listened to the lone pensive melody of a single violin.

It was December, and I was a newly arrived missionary still unsure and hesitant, serving in Sendai, Japan. I saw no vestiges of the Christmas I knew at home. There were no familiar Christmas lights or trees or snowmen and few other Americans. Instead of the familiar scents of gingerbread, turkey and evergreen, I walked through stands of raw fish, mounds of seaweed, and pots of boiling rice. In that sea of dark heads, nothing seemed familiar.

Read the rest of Sister Oaks’ experience as a new missionary here.

President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency

Dr. Henry B. Eyring and his wife, Kathleen, and family before his inauguration as president of Ricks College. Their sons are Matthew, front, Henry and Stuart.
Dr. Henry B. Eyring and his wife, Kathleen, and family before his inauguration as president of Ricks College. Their sons are Matthew, front, Henry and Stuart. Credit: Deseret News archives

This story was originally published in the Dec. 17, 2011, issue of the Church News, when President Eyring was serving as first counselor in the First Presidency under President Thomas S. Monson.

Childhood memories are for me the most vivid and the emotions from those times most easily recovered. Just a few weeks ago, I walked through heavy snow that reached above the tops of my shoes to stand next to a fence that now surrounds the yard of the house in which I lived as a boy.

My daughter and her husband stood at my side. We had driven through the storm from their apartment in New York City to the town of Princeton, N.J. Our purpose was to recover and create memories. Since she was a little girl, she had heard my stories of that house and the happiness I had felt living there with my mother, father, my older brother and my younger brother.

Read about President Eyring’s memories of Christmas 1941 here.

President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

A scene from the Bible Videos portrays Jesus' disciples coming back to the shore of the Sea of Galilee when they realize it is Him.
A scene from the Bible Videos portrays Jesus’ disciples coming back to the shore of the Sea of Galilee when they realize it is Him. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This story was originally published in the Dec. 6, 2008, issue of the Church News, when President Ballard was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

One of the most memorable Christmastimes for our family was our visit to the Holy Land in 1993. At Shepherd’s Field, located about three miles northeast of Bethlehem, we had a wonderful view looking across a rocky valley back at the Savior’s birthplace. There, a Bedouin shepherd with his flock of dark brown-faced and long-eared sheep appeared over the hill and began guiding his flock in our direction. It was quite a moment for all of us as we witnessed a scene that has been repeated over and over for many millennia.

For eight days, we walked where Jesus walked. We read the appropriate scriptures at each stopping place as we followed His life, His ministry, and His marvelous miracles. As we stood together on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, it was easy to imagine the Savior beckoning to two rough-hewn fishermen to “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” As we sat together on the Mount of Beatitudes and read the powerful language of the Sermon on the Mount, we could almost hear the Master Teacher’s voice echoing across the grassy slope. We gained a greater appreciation for the reality of His life, His mission, His Atonement, His Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Read more about President Ballard’s visit to the Holy Land here.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland served as a full-time missionary in England from 1960 to 1962.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland served as a full-time missionary in England from 1960 to 1962. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This story was originally published in the Dec. 17, 2011, issue of the Church News.

I suppose everyone remembers his or her first Christmas away from home. The reason might be missions or military service, student life or employment assignments but, whatever the reason, that first Christmas “away” is a poignant memory for all of us. To those who have been away from home at Christmas, or who may be away from home this year, I dedicate my own such remembrance.

In my case it was my service as a missionary. For 19 years I had enjoyed Christmas surrounded by family and friends. I suppose, in my youthful self-centeredness, I had never considered spending it any other way. Then, as the Yule Season approached in 1960, I found myself half a world away from all that. I had been in England less than three months when, on the first of December, I was summoned to the mission office to meet Elder Eldon Smith, newly arrived from Champion, Alberta, Canada — my first junior companion.

Read the rest of Elder Holland’s Christmas experience here.

Sister Harriet R. Uchtdorf, wife of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

The  — or Christmas tree in English — has been a special part of Sister Harriet R. Uchtorf's family celebration as long as she can remember.
The — or Christmas tree in English — has been a special part of Sister Harriet R. Uchtorf’s family celebration as long as she can remember. Credit: New Africa – stock.adobe.com

This story was originally published in the Dec. 12, 2009, issue of the Church News.

The Weinachtsbaum, as we call the Christmas tree in Germany, has been a special part of our family celebration as long as I can remember.

My parents often told me the stories about the evergreen Christmas tree and the certain magic surrounding it. When all other trees turned brown and lost their leaves, the evergreen stayed strong and visibly alive. It was like a symbol of life and hope, a message from nature that spring and summer would certainly return after a long winter season. Additionally, the flickering of real wax candle lights seemed like stars twinkling in the winter sky.

Read more about Sister Uchtdorf’s childhood Christmas experience here.

Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Elder Quentin L. Cook remembers how a song blessed his life during a Christmas when he was far from home for the first time.
Elder Quentin L. Cook remembers how a song blessed his life during a Christmas when he was far from home for the first time. Credit: Вера Мохова – stock.ad

This article was originally published in the Dec. 20, 2008, issue of the Church News.

Christmases with my family have been both special and spiritual. However, one Christmas that stands out in my mind as among the most memorable was when I was far from home for the first time.

I was a young missionary in Swindon, England, in 1960. Swindon had been opened for missionary work approximately three months before this Christmas. Originally it was a railroad town connecting Bristol and London, but had become a significant industrial town. There were a few families and individuals who had already been baptized and confirmed members of the Church. We also had several investigators.

Our mission president had asked us to go out among the people on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He suggested that we briefly visit all of our new members and investigators, then prayerfully go from house to house teaching and blessing the people. My companion, Elder Noel D. Luke, and I were well received, and there was warmth, receptiveness and generosity as we visited the new members and our investigators.

Read the rest of Elder Cook’s experience as a missionary in England here.

Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

People walk the grounds of the Mexico City Mexico Temple where Christmas lights were illuminated on Nov. 28, 2021.
People walk the grounds of the Mexico City Mexico Temple where Christmas lights were illuminated on Nov. 28, 2021. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This experience was originally published in the Dec. 19, 2009, issue of the Church News.

Christmas 1994 found my wife, Kathy, and me in Mexico City with our two youngest children, Ryan and Michael, ages 15 and 10.

We had arrived in August when I was assigned as a member of the Mexico South Area Presidency of the Church.

For Ryan and Michael especially, life was rather unsettled. I had been called to the First Quorum of the Seventy in April 1993, and our family moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to the Salt Lake area that summer.

With corporate mergers affecting my employment, we had moved each of the two previous years as well — from Tennessee to Virginia in 1991, and from Virginia to North Carolina in 1992.

Now after one year in Utah, we had moved again, this time out of the country. The two boys had been in five schools in five years and were now coping with a different culture and a new language.

Read the rest of Elder Christofferson’s experience here.

Sister Kathy Christofferson, wife of Elder Christofferson

Journey of the Magi by James Tissot
Journey of the Magi by James Tissot Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This story was originally published in the Dec. 24, 2017, issue of the Church News.

It was Christmas Eve of 1988. The telephone rang at 5:30 in the morning. Any call at that hour couldn’t be something good. I handed the phone to my husband, Elder D. Todd Christofferson, then the president of the Franklin Tennessee Stake. He hung the phone up after a brief conversation.

“That was the county sheriff,” he said. “He told me our stake center [some 10 miles from our home] has sustained some damage from a tornado, and he thought I might want to come down and assess the damage.”

I was surprised, as was he. There had not been any warning of one. Gentle rain fell in the night but was not accompanied by high winds.

The damage, Elder Christofferson found, was much more severe than we had imagined. This building, which had been dedicated just three years earlier, looked as though a giant wrecking ball had swung through its center, taking most of the roof over the cultural hall and flinging it far away and dumping the rest on the floor. Structural damage to the adjacent halls and rooms was also severe.

Read more about their experience here.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Simeon Reverencing the Christ Child by Greg K. Olsen
Simeon Reverencing the Christ Child by Greg K. Olsen Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

This story was originally published in the Dec. 11, 2016, issue of the Church News.

My parents immigrated to the United States from Sweden. Because we lived in humble circumstances, the gifts we received at Christmas were simple, frequently handmade and personal. In keeping with Swedish tradition, Santa Claus (Jultomten) came on Christmas Eve bringing gifts for the children.

Every Christmas Eve I remember, from my earliest memory to my father’s last Christmas on earth in 2008 (at age 91), before Jultomten came, my dad would read to his family the Christmas story, as recorded in Luke 2. In the early years, he read the account in Swedish; in later years, he read in heavily accented English.

Read about Elder Renlund’s memories of his father here.

Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Elder Ulisses Soares shares an experience he had as a stake president when his 6-year-old daughter decided to give away her dolls to a family in need who had just joined the Church.
Elder Ulisses Soares shares an experience he had as a stake president when his 6-year-old daughter decided to give away her dolls to a family in need who had just joined the Church. Credit: Alexey Petrunin – stock.adobe.com

When Elder Soares was serving in the Presidency of the Seventy, he shared the following story, which was originally published in the Dec. 22, 2013, issue of the Church News.

When I served as a stake president, I enjoyed meeting each new convert baptized in our stake. It was a great opportunity to welcome them and explain a little about the path they should take to return to our Heavenly Father’s presence.

I remember one specific family who came in together — a father, mother and four little daughters. That night I could not have imagined the impact that their interview would have not only on me, but also on my family.

Read the rest of the story here.