Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
As the traditional family comes under increasing attack, LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley says it was Jesus Christ, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, who set out the commandments upon which personal behavior and family relationships are based.
Speaking Sunday at the Conference Center during the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional, President Hinckley said Christmas is a remembrance of both Christ's life and sacrifice, as well as the laws he prescribed for mankind's happiness.
A capacity crowd filled the 21,000-seat Conference Center, decorated for the season both inside and out, with thousands milling about colorfully lighted Temple Square and the church administration block before and after the services. Music was provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square.
In his centerpiece address, President Hinckley said, "It was Jehovah whose finger wrote on the tablets of stone the Ten Commandments which have become the foundation of much of the law which circumscribes our behavior and defines our relationships. The further teachings of the Old Testament become the safeguard of the traditional family" at a time when that institution is "under attack" and "seems to be falling apart all about us."
The biblical Sodom and Gomorrah "became examples of that which was evil and abominable in the sight of God," President Hinckley said. "It was Jehovah, speaking through his prophets, who decried evil and pleaded for righteousness. When there was no repentance, it was his withering hand that destroyed them."
Quoting Matthew from the New Testament, he said Christ prescribed marriage between a man and a woman, "and the twain shall be one flesh. . . . What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
His message comes just weeks after a ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Court ordering the state legislature there to provide for the establishment of same-sex unions. The move comes as Congress considers legislation that would define marriage nationally as a union between one man and one woman.
President Hinckley also lauded the faith's first latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith, saying "it is because of him, and his singular and remarkable experience" with a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ "that we know the Savior as we do." Joseph Smith's birthday also falls in December.
"In that single, glorious vision, more knowledge was gained concerning the nature of Deity than had been obtained in all the endless discussions of men through the centuries."
Christ's birth in Bethlehem was central to God's "great plan of happiness" for humanity, he said, meaning the "greatest fear of all men's fears, the fear of death, could be set aside and the reality of eternal life was to come through a great act of redemption." No man fully understands the Atonement of Christ, yet each will be forever touched by it.
He assured the thousands in the Conference Center and countless others who tuned in via satellite, Internet and tape-delayed broadcast that the spirit of Christmas, which causes people to "reach out in love toward others, encouraging that goodness in the lives of men and women, is the spirit of Christ."
In another address, President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, said it is that spirit that "makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service." Obedience to Christ's gospel "will bring peace on earth," he said, "because it means good will toward all men."
During this season, many "become more interested in people than things" and bring Christmas to full bloom through "giving, not getting. . . . Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered and God obeyed."
As the supreme example for all men, Jesus "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Do we have the determination to do likewise?"
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