President Gordon B. Hinckley opened the LDS Church's annual Christmas devotional on a somber note Sunday night, announcing that the wife of the late Elder David B. Haight had died.
Ruby Haight survived her husband, a member of the Council of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, after his death last summer. "She has gone to join him. She was a great lady, beautiful and sweet and pure in character . . . . We extend our condolences to the family and our prayers that the Lord will comfort and sustain and bless them."
President Hinckley addressed thousands packed into the Conference Center, along with a worldwide audience as the proceedings of the devotional were broadcast via satellite and Internet. His remarks, and those of his counselors in the First Presidency, reflected a witness of Jesus Christ during the season of his birth.
Music for the service was provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Orchestra at Temple Square.
At Christmas time, he said, "We feel a little kinder, a little more generous, a little more happy and more like the kind of people we ought to be at all times. Our thoughts turn to the less fortunate," and prayers are offered for the sick, the hungry, the cold, the friendless and those at war.
President Hinckley described Nephi's vision of the birth of Christ, his life, death and resurrection from the dead.
"Let us never forget as we celebrate Christmas with song and story, with gifts and mundane baubles, the greater message that Jesus Christ, the Firstborn of the Father, came into the world that 'the world through him might be saved.'
"He has come again to usher in a dispensation. And he will come yet again in clouds of glory to usher in a millennium and reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
"May each of you at this glad season have bread on your tables, clothing on your backs, a roof over your heads and most of all, a conviction in your hearts of him who is the Son of God."
Of all the things Christmas is, most of all, it is the love of Christ, according to President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency.
Lee Maloy, a young sailor with the U.S. Merchant Marine, saw the power of that gift on Christmas Eve 1944 as he and his shipmates were headed home across the Atlantic. All were thinking of Christmas with their families when the ship's alarms began to sound and a German submarine was sighted 100 yards away.
Waiting to be fired upon, they saw a Morse code message flashing at them instead, signaling out Merry Christmas. "As the reality of what had just transpired and the words 'Merry Christmas' took hold in their minds and their hearts, they unitedly sent up a cheer" of relief, joy and true celebration.
"The spirit of love had prevailed the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of Christ."
President Monson asked the audience to let Christmas be a time for lifting others from loneliness, for praying for peace, for forgetting self and finding time for others, for discarding the meaningless and stressing true values. "Let it be a time of peace because we have found peace in his teachings."
President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, told of a young Canadian man who sent every cent of his paycheck home to his parents during the Great Depression. On Christmas morning, the young man gave his father "the greatest Christmas gift he had ever received."
Opening the gift, he found it was his son's Boy Scout journal, which had the letters "GT" printed on each page in the corner. The letters on each day were crossed out, and the journal recorded happenings during the year.
After tears filled his eyes, the father announced to his large family that their brother, Brigham, had given the journal to him, with a note that read, "Dear Father, I had no money to buy gifts this year. This is all I have to give you. Each crossed-out GT is a record of a good turn which I have done for someone each day of the year."
Brigham Card is now 90 years old and loaned President Faust the diary he had given his father in 1933. "It still records the crossed-out GT for each day of the year, showing he did a good deed for someone else each day."We are each the agents of our Father in Heaven to do Christ-like deeds for all his Father's children," President Faust said, "even as he offered to do in the grand premortal council when he said, 'Here am I, send me.' "