Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Elder John A. Widtsoe on perspective in giving of Christmas gifts

Elder John A. Widtsoe (1872-1952) was born in Norway. He was raised by his widowed mother who immigrated to Utah when John was 11. He was educated at Harvard and in Europe, and had formative roles in programs in several Utah universities including BYU. He served as an apostle from 1921 to his death in 1952.
"Christmas gifts should be in memory of the divine gift, the life of Jesus Christ. His gift gave us eternal life: our gifts should enliven with joy those who receive. His gift was the sacrifice of his earthly life: our gifts should represent personal sacrifices on our part.
"It is easy to give to our own, those whom we love. Their gladness becomes our joy. We are not quite so ready to give to others, even if they are in need, for their happiness does not seem so necessary to our happiness. It appears yet more difficult to give to the Lord, for we are prone to believe that he must give and ask nothing in return.
"We have foolishly reversed the proper order. Our first gift at Christmas should be to the Lord; next to the friend or stranger by our gate; then, surcharged with the effulgence from such giving, we would enhance the value of our gifts to our very own. A selfish gift leaves a scar upon the soul, and it is but half a gift."
- John A. Widtsoe, "The Gifts of Christmas," Ensign, December 1972, p. 4
Click here to read the full talk

This was a beautiful article written by an apostle not many of us remember today. I love how Elder Widtsoe invites us to ponder our motivation in gift-giving; in reality, we are emulating the eternal gift of the Savior as He gave His life for us. So in the process of gift-giving, we might think about those who need the gifts most, and what our "personal sacrifices" might mean to them.

As we share gifts with others and consider our motives for doing so, Elder Widtsoe teaches that we can find increasing "effulgence" (brightness or intensity) as we discover the proper motivation. We might remember the warning written by Mormon many centuries ago: "For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God." (Moroni 7:8)

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