5 memorable stories from past First Presidency Christmas Devotionals

The new Christmas message found on mormon.org is a reminder of what this season is about: A Savior was born, over 2,000 years ago.

Here are some stories from past First Presidency Christmas Devotionals to help you feel the spirit of Christ this Christmas season.

1. First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2000, President Gordon B. Hinckley

“Some years ago I was assigned to the Rochester New York Stake conference. On Saturday I said to the brethren who were with me, “Let us get up early in the morning, early Sunday morning, and go to the Sacred Grove before the conference.” They all agreed. Accordingly, very early on that spring Sabbath, the mission president, the stake president, the regional representative, and I went out to Palmyra and walked into the grove. No one else was there. It was peaceful and beautiful. It had rained during the night. Tiny new leaves were upon the trees.

We spoke quietly one to another. We knelt upon the damp ground and prayed. We did not hear an audible voice. We did not see a vision. But in an indefinable way we were told in our minds, each of us, that yes, it happened here just as Joseph said it happened. It was here that God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, appeared to the 14-year-old boy and spoke with him. Their matchless light rested upon him, and he was instructed in what he should do.

That sublime occasion, the First Vision, parted the curtains through which came the restoration to earth of the Church of Christ. It came out of the wilderness of darkness, out of the bleakness of ages past into the glorious dawn of a new day. The Book of Mormon followed as another witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. His holy supernal priesthood was restored under the hands of those who held it anciently. Keys and powers were bestowed upon the Prophet and his associates. The ancient Church was again upon the earth with all of the blessings, powers, doctrines, keys, and principles of previous dispensations. It is His Church. It carries His name. It is governed by His priesthood. There is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved. Joseph Smith, whose birthday we also commemorate at this season, became His great testator.

Declared the Prophet, without equivocation, without uncertainty, but with the confirmation that came of actual experience:

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

And so at this glad season we lift our voices and sing, “Glory to God, glory to God, glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”

2. First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 1997, President Thomas S. Monson

Ed Note: The full transcript isn’t available online, but the Feb. 1998 Ensign gave a summary of Pres. Monson’s talk.

In his devotional address, President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, said: “Christmas is many things to many people—from the eager, materialistic grasping of a child for a present to the deep spiritual thankfulness of the mature heart for the gift of a Savior. If there is one common denominator, perhaps it is this: Christmas is love. Christmas is the time when the bonds of family love transcend distance and inconvenience. It is a time when love of neighbor rises above petty day-to-day irritations and doors swing open to give and receive expressions of appreciation and affection.”

President Monson related a Christmas story set in 1927 in the town of Hillspring, Alberta, Canada. Mary and Leland Jeppson and their six young children had experienced hard times, and oldest daughter Ellen, age 10, was particularly cynical about prospects for the family’s Christmas. Family members in Idaho had learned of their plight and promised to send some basics, but Christmas Eve arrived with no relief in sight. In the middle of the night, the postman arrived with 10 crates that had arrived late the previous afternoon. “Ellen, the very last to get up, rubbed her eyes in disbelief as she looked at the spot where her stocking was supposed to have been hung the night before and saw hanging there a beautiful red Christmas dress, trimmed with white and green satin ribbons. … That morning, with the Christmas dress for Ellen, a childhood had been brought back, a childhood of hopes and dreams and Santas and the miracle of Christmas.”

3. First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2014, Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson

A few years ago we had a daughter living in Connecticut. She attended a Relief Society meeting one evening at which everyone was invited to share a story from the life of one of their ancestors. She listened to a sister named Donna tell a story which has had a great deal of meaning to her family through the years and which involved a simple act of kindness shown at Christmastime. Our daughter was amazed to hear that the name of the person who had shown kindness was her own great-great-grandfather. It was a sweet experience as our daughter and Donna shared notes after and realized how their ancestors had touched each other’s lives.

With the permission of Donna, I would like to share a portion of her story. It took place in a small town in Utah in December of 1901. There was a family with a mother, a father, and eight children. The year had been difficult, with one of the children suffering poor health, which drained the resources of the family and the energy of the mother. On Christmas Eve, the mother told her excited children that Santa would not be coming that year. She simply had not been able to manage the money or energy to make anything to give her children for Christmas. The older children were still hopeful, and the oldest son began to hang stockings on the mantle. His mother gently told him that Santa was not coming, but the boy insisted she must be wrong. Finally the mother suggested that instead of hanging stockings, they put a plate on the table for each person in the family. It gave the children reassurance that they would receive something, so they went off to bed.

On Christmas morning, the children all awoke, got dressed, and eagerly went into the dining room to see what gift they had received. On each of the plates they found a large dill pickle. Tears of disappointment filled their eyes, and they turned to go back to their bedrooms so their tears wouldn’t be noticed. Their mother noticed: “Children, I didn’t have anything else, and I just couldn’t bear to leave your plates empty.” Her voice broke but she went on bravely, “We have a lot to be grateful for.” Their father joined in and reminded them that they were indeed blessed with many things, including a loving family, the improved health of those who had been ill during the year, and food for their table. Their spirits brightened, and as they began to celebrate the day, the oldest son bumped the table and was amazed to find a dime lying near his plate. He was convinced that Santa had come and had left a dime for them to buy some candy. He put on his coat and raced out the door.

The stores were all closed; however, Jed Stringham, who ran the local grocery store, happened to live right next door to his store. The boy knocked on the door of Jed’s home and apologized for disturbing him on Christmas Day but explained that Santa had left a dime for them and he was hoping Brother Stringham would open his store and sell him some candy for the little ones at home.

Jed answered, “You bet I will. Come.” When the boy got home he was carrying a large bag of candy and excitedly explained that Brother Stringham had taken a scoop from each tray of candy, from hard tack to the very best. He had given it to him, saying, “Take this dime’s worth home to those little ones, and enjoy some yourself.” It was obvious that Jed Stringham had been very generous and had given him much more than a dime’s worth. There was plenty for each child to enjoy. The children remember their mother saying, “God bless Brother Stringham.” What he did was not a huge sacrifice, and it really took very little effort, but the story of the miraculous dime and Brother Stringham’s candy meant enough to this family that it was written down and has been told and retold in Donna’s family for years. Sometimes, small things mean the most.

As our daughter Emily listened to this story, she recognized the name Jed Stringham as being her great-great-grandfather and was touched that he had not only opened his store but his heart with his simple act of kindness on that memorable Christmas morning. Our family had never heard this story before, and we now feel blessed to have received a copy, which will become a part of our family history. It reminds both of our families that those who have made covenants to be witnesses of the Savior of the world should always strive to be generous with their time and means to bless the lives of those around them—and especially at Christmas when the hearts of children and parents are most tender.

4. First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 2010, President Henry B. Eyring

(One day) I visited my elderly aunt in a rest home a few years ago. She was a widow. The effects of age left her unable to care for herself. Though I had known her since I was a little boy, she did not recognize me or others of her family in the crowded sitting room of the rest home.

I looked into her face expecting to see the pain of loneliness and of loss. Yet her face shone with love and radiant joy. Her voice had the happy sound I remembered from the days of long before. Most of the time I was with her that day she just looked at us pleasantly as we spoke to her.

Then, every few minutes, she would repeat with a radiant smile these six words, as if they were part of the conversation: “I know that my Redeemer lives.” It seemed to me that her joy and a sound of gratitude in her voice grew with each repetition of that declaration.

I cannot know all the sources of that miracle of peace in her life. But I know one. Since she was a little girl, she had been in sacrament meetings. She had bowed her head and heard words spoken in prayer to our Heavenly Father. Uncounted times she had pledged to take upon her the name of the Son, to always remember Him, and to keep His commandments that she might have His Spirit to be with her.

And so, while the passing years had stripped away from her life so much of what had brought her joy, she retained the supernal gifts we can feel at Christmastime. She remembered her Redeemer. She knew that He lived. She felt His love. And she felt His love for all of Heavenly Father’s children, wherever they were and whatever their circumstances.

I realized, as we left her smiling presence, that she had been giving us the gift she had received. She knew the source of the peace she felt. And out of her gratitude and love for the Savior, she wanted us to share in the blessing with her. I had gone to comfort her and came away comforted.

That is the spirit of Christmas, which puts in our hearts a desire to give joy to other people. We feel a spirit of giving and gratitude for what we have been given. The celebration of Christmas helps us keep our promise to always remember Him and His gifts to us. And that remembrance creates a desire in us to give gifts to Him.

5. First Presidency Christmas Devotional, December 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley

Ed Note: The full transcript isn’t available online, but the Feb. 1999 Ensign gave a summary of Pres. Hinckley’s talk.

“At this Christmas season we gather together to sing His praises and speak our words of faith and gratitude and love,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley at the annual First Presidency Christmas devotional, held 6 December 1998 in the Tabernacle on Temple Square and broadcast via the Church’s satellite system and rebroadcast via KBYU-TV.

“It is His influence in our lives that stirs within us a little more of kindness, a little more of respect, a little more of love, a little more of concern,” President Hinckley continued. “It is because of Him and His teachings that we reach out to those in trouble, distress, and need, wherever they may be.”

President Hinckley then told the story of a two-year-old girl who survived Hurricane Mitch in La Lima, Honduras, to illustrate his hope that “the overpowering spirit of Christmas may come into the lives of men and women and children throughout the world that their hearts may be opened and their hands extended to help the needy.” While trying to save the girl, her father had suffered a stroke and died. “No one knew anything of her until a young man, two days later, happened to look up in that abandoned house and saw her still alive,” President Hinckley related. “I would hope that at this Christmas season, when there will be no gift-giving among these devastated people, this small orphan girl might receive perhaps a little taste of candy, something sweet and delicious.”

***A follow up to this story, as reported in the March 1999 Ensign***

"As a result of President Hinckley’s remarks, about 4,000 pounds of candy and 35,000 pounds of toys and clothing were shipped to children in Honduras and Nicaragua. Church-organized shipments during December 1998 also included school supplies, cleaning and building equipment, disposable diapers, and additional emergency supplies. Gathered and packaged at the Church’s Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City, the Christmas donations were provided by corporations, government agencies, Church wards and stakes, and individuals of numerous faiths.")

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