Peace on earth through celebrating not only Christ’s birth but also his atonement and resurrection were the takeaways BYU-Hawaii students and community members received after watching the First Presidency Christmas Devotional on Dec. 4.
“Each of the speakers went past the glitter and glamour of Christmas. This [devotional] goes beyond all of that. What they say appeals to all followers of Christ in our different needs, levels, and understandings,” said President Vonn Logan, the first counselor in the Laie YSA 2nd Stake Presidency.
Logan said the Christmas devotional “lays the ground work” for the Christmas season not only for members of the church, but also for all believers of Christ, celebrating and remembering the birth of the Savior.
President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, and other general authorities of the church, emphasized the birth of the Savior through four talks given during a broadcast to thousands of members of the church in the conference center and throughout the world. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir serenaded members of the church in the conference center with traditional Christmas hymns as well as other arrangements such as, “Whence Is That Goodly Fragrance Flowing” and the “Wexford Carol.”
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke on the prophecies of the birth of Jesus Christ, recounting that the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ is central to God’s purposes of the eternal salvation of mankind.
Elder Craig C. Christensen, of the Presidency of the Seventy, addressed the importance of Christ’s birth as being “the birth story of the ages.” Christensen quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley, who said, “There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter,” focusing on the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Brother Douglas D. Holmes, first counselor of the Young Men General Presidency related the importance of the gift of the Holy Ghost. “Giving and receiving gifts is part of Christmas…the joy of giving and receiving gifts turns our hearts,” Holmes said.
Leah Rasmussen, a freshman majoring in business management from Alaska, said her favorite speaker was Holmes. “I found it very profound that every day we have the opportunity to pursue light and truth. That really stood out to me,” Rasmussen said. “I feel like this devotional is one of the first that I’ve felt where I actually participated and engaged in it. I think any messages the church puts out at Christmastime, Mormon Messages, Light the World or Because of Him, all those things encourage Christ year-round,” she added.
President Logan said when he compared his first Christmas with his wife and newborn daughter, they were poor college students and only had three gifts under their small tree: a glass tumbler he bought his wife, a bottle of Old Spice men’s cologne she bought for him and a little rattle for their daughter.
Twenty years later, President Logan said their financial situation has improved and they’re able to afford more gifts. However, he said, “The thing that is most important is peace. What we seek is peace. Peace is not something that we gain through money. It’s not something that comes through position, and [President Eyring] points that out so significantly.”
Eyring focused predominantly on peace during Christmas. He noted Jesus was not born during the best economic and political time. “The peace of Christmas is the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,” he said.
“Henry B. Eyring’s talk stood out to me,” said Samuel Mangakahia, a sophomore majoring in graphic design from Australia. “Finding traditions in your own family based on what Christ would do and remembering who to worship – especially Heavenly Father – and keeping the commandments. After doing these things, peace and hope will be found.”
President Logan said President Eyring’s talk and “parental observations” on peace reminded him of the Christmases he spent with his family. “President Eyring’s talk was very heart-warming,” he said. “My wife and I were in the same situation where our Christmases were spent with our children and now we’re just shrinking back again.”
Logan added the most important things aren’t the material things people often associate with Christmas, such as gifts and other commodities. “[My wife and I] didn’t feel any different between our beginning and where we are now. The most overwhelming part of our Christmas wasn’t the value of what was under the tree but what we felt in our hearts,” he said. “That suggests to me the value of peace.” Love and obedience are two things Logan attributes to having a peaceful home and family.