Friday, December 21, 2018

Elder John A. Widtsoe on giving gifts to the Lord and others

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.
"How can we give to the Lord? What shall we give to him? Every kind word to our own, every help given them, is as a gift to God, whose chief concern is the welfare of his children. Every gentle deed to our neighbor, every kindness to the poor and suffering, is a gift to the Lord, before whom all mankind are equal. Every conformity to the Lord’s plan of salvation—and this is of first importance—is a direct gift to God, for thereby we fit ourselves more nearly for our divinely planned destiny.
"The desire and the effort to give to the Lord, born of the surrender of man to the plan of salvation, stamp every Christmas gift with genuine value. They who identify themselves with the plan, who do not resist it, who earnestly seek to tread the path of the plan, are true givers to the Lord, and their gifts to men come with the flavor of heaven. The Lord and his plan must have place in our Christmas celebration....
"Would it not be well this Christmas to give first to the Lord, directly through obedience, sacrifice, and love, and then to give to him indirectly through gifts to friends and those in need as well as to our own? Should we do this, perhaps many of us would discover a new Christmas joy."
- John A. Widtsoe, "The Gifts of Christmas," The Improvement Era, vol. 38 [1935], p. 752; reprinted in Ensign, December 1972, p. 4
Click here to read the full talk

This is a fascinating short talk by Elder Widtsoe—I recommend following the link and reading the full article. He encourages us to ponder the act of gift-giving, and particularly to think about how our gifts to one another can demonstrate our love for the Lord. Since He cares so deeply for each of His children, any act of kindness or service we render to others is also an act of kindness towards Him. More importantly, every act of obedience to God is a "direct gift to God" as we thereby grow and prepare to serve more completely.

This final paragraph is a beautiful summary of Elder Widtsoe's philosophy. First, we give directly to God as we show love, sacrifice, and obedience; then we give indirectly to Him as we offer our loving contributions to one another. Through this process, we truly "discover a new Christmas joy."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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