Drawing from the visions of the prophets of old, President Gordon B. Hinckley inaugurated the Christmas season by opening the scriptures and reading the "marvelous and beautiful words concerning the birth of our Lord."
"Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father," he said, quoting 1 Nephi 11: 14-21. "There is nothing in sacred literature more descriptive and beautiful concerning the birth of the Lord."
Standing amid trees bedecked in white lights, on a stage adorned with poinsettias and the rich colors of the season, President Hinckley addressed a capacity congregation in the Conference Center during the annual First Presidency Christmas Devotional Dec. 5. Proceedings were broadcast by satellite and on the Internet.
Quoting further from Nephi, President Hinckley said, " 'I beheld the Son of God going forth among the children of men; and I saw many fall down at his feet and worship him.
" 'And I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory; and the multitudes were gathered together to hear him. . . .'
"Nephi envisioned not only the matchless beauty of His life, but also the hatred that led to His crucifixion on Calvary's hill," President Hinckley said. "His vision paralleled that of the prophet Isaiah, who said, 'He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities. . .' (Isaiah 53:5).
"Let us remember always that through His infinite Atonement salvation will come to all, and the opportunity for exaltation will be afforded those who walk in obedience to His commandments.
"How magnificent, how glorious His ways and His teachings," President Hinckley continued. "Peace was His message."
President Hinckley recounted the Savior's appearance following His resurrection to the Old and New worlds, showing His wounded hands and feet and side. "And then," he continued, " 'while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
" 'Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven' (Acts 1:9-11).
"He has come again to usher in a dispensation," continued President Hinckley. "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.
"Now at this season of the year we honor also His great testator, the Prophet Joseph Smith," he said. "We recognize the 199th year of his birth with honor, love, respect and faith."
To the Prophet Joseph's testimony, "we add our testimony at this glorious Christmas season. He lives, resplendent, magnificent, the wondrous Lord Immanuel. He lives, the Eternal Son of the Ever Living Father. He lives the Great Creator, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Savior of the New, the Wondrous Light in a dark and troubled world. He lives to bless us, to teach us, to heal us, to touch our troubled hearts, to give substance to our greatest dreams, to assure the immortality of our souls."
Considering the wonder and glory of the season," President Hinckley said, "As the Spirit of Christmas enters our hearts, 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 those less fortunate. Our prayers are offered in behalf of those who are sick, of those who are hungry and cold, of those who are without friends, and of those who are on the battlefields where the nations are at war."
President Hinckley was accompanied by his counselors in the First Presidency, President Thomas S. Monson and President James E. Faust, who delivered holiday messages of comfort and inspiration. (Please see page 4 for reports on their addresses.) The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, directed by Craig Jessop and Mack Wilberg, provided Christmas hymns and carols.
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