“Take some time this Christmas season, at least an hour if not more, to reflect on the wonder and majesty of the Son of God,” Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told students at Brigham Young University during a campus devotional on Dec. 12.
“As Christmas approaches, I realize that some may have concerns and perhaps anxiety about the future,” he said. “There may be a lot of ‘noise’ in your life, more or less constant engagement online without ‘down time,’ without time to be quiet and reflect and think, without time to look inside and discern where you are and where you should be going. You may be influenced by unrealistic expectations like ‘perfection should be immediate’ or ‘uninterrupted happiness and success should be the norm in life.’ ”
That is why it is so important to take time to reflect on the Savior, he said. “Let it be an hour of reassurance and renewal for you.”
Sharing a Christmas message with college students, Elder Christofferson highlighted Christmas memories from pioneer forebears and spoke of the need for the Savior.
Elder Christofferson quoted President Gordon B. Hinckley, who said, “There would be no Christmas if there had not been Easter. The babe Jesus of Bethlehem would be but another baby without the redeeming Christ of Gethsemane and Calvary, and the triumphant fact of the Resurrection.”
The apostle shared an experience he had when a woman, who has been a member of the Church for many years, asked him, “Why do I need Jesus Christ? I keep the commandments; I’m a good person. Why do I need a Savior?”
Elder Christofferson recounted his response: “Well, to start with, there is this small matter of death. I assume you don’t want your death to be your final status, and without Christ there would be no resurrection.”
He continued to answer about the need that even the best people have for the forgiveness and cleansing that is only possible through the Savior’s atoning sacrifice and grace.
“At another level, however, the question might be, ‘Can’t God do whatever He wants and save us just because He loves us, without the need for a Savior?’ Phrased this way, there are quite a few people in today’s world who would share that question. They believe in God and a post-mortal existence, but assume that because God loves us it doesn’t matter so much what we do or don’t do, He just takes care of things.”
That philosophy has ancient roots, the apostle taught. From the beginning, Satan wanted to redeem all mankind without allowing God’s children agency or giving the glory to the Father.
“This was not simply a case of Jesus supporting the Father’s plan and Lucifer proposing a slight modification,” he said. “Lucifer’s proposal would have destroyed the plan by eliminating our opportunity to act independently. Lucifer’s plan was founded on coercion, making all the other sons and daughters of God — all of us — essentially his puppets.”
By contrast, the Savior chose to carry out the Father’s plan, offering every person an essential mortal experience.
“By ‘mortal experience’ I mean choosing our course, ‘tasting the bitter, that we might know to prize the good,’ learning, repenting, and growing, becoming beings capable of acting for ourselves rather than simply being ‘acted upon,’ and ultimately overcoming evil and demonstrating our desire and ability to live a celestial law,” Elder Christofferson said. “This requires a knowledge of good and evil on our part with the capacity and opportunity to choose between the two. And it requires accountability for choices made — otherwise they aren’t really choices.”
Choice, in turn, requires law, or predictable outcomes, Elder Christofferson taught.
“We must be able by a particular action or choice to cause a particular outcome or result and by the opposite choice create the opposite outcome. If actions don’t have fixed consequences, then one has no control over outcomes and choice is meaningless.”
The justice of God, a system of fixed and immutable laws that He Himself abides by and employs, is needed to have and exercise agency. Justice is the foundation of freedom to act, and is the only path to ultimate happiness. Yet, because no one is perfect, mercy is also needed, he said.
“Being just, but also being motivated by love, our Heavenly Father created mercy,” he said. “He did this by offering His Only Begotten Son as propitiation for our sin, a being that could, with His Atonement, satisfy justice, putting us right with the law so that it is once again supporting and preserving us, not condemning us.”
Because of the Savior’s Atonement, God is able to be merciful to those who take responsibility and repent, he said.
“It is because of the Atonement of Christ that we can recover from bad choices, and it is because of the Atonement of Christ that the impact on us of others’ sins and mistakes and every other injustice is redressed,” he said. “Yes, to be made whole and holy we need a Savior, and God needed to include a Savior in His plan if He was to have any chance of saving and exalting any of His children.
“So, the answer to our question is no, God cannot act any way He pleases to save a person. He must do it in a way that upholds immutable law, and thanks be to God, He has done so by providing a Savior.”
Recognizing that Satan did not volunteer to be a savior, Elder Christofferson taught “he was not interested in suffering or dying for anyone. He wasn’t going to shed any blood. He wanted the glory, honor and power of God without paying any price.”
What Satan failed to understand is that a person cannot possess the power of God without being the embodiment of justice.
“Lucifer was seeking for power without goodness,” he said. “He supposed that he could be a law unto himself, meaning the law would be whatever he said it was at any given moment, and he could change his mind at any time. In that way, no one could count on anything, and no one would have the ability to be an independent actor. He would be supreme, and no one else could advance.”
In contrast, the Savior understood that both justice and mercy would be required for all humankind to advance. He didn’t coerce or dominate, but did all He could to free and lift God’s children.
“He perfectly unites justice and mercy,” Elder Christofferson said. “He saves us from, not in but from our sins. And He also redeems us from the Fall, from spiritual and physical death. He opens the door to immortality and eternal life.”
Encouraging listeners to take time to think of the Savior this Christmas season, Elder Christofferson said, “Take time to relax, be at peace, and see this little child in your mind. Do not be too concerned or overwhelmed with what is coming in His life or in yours. Instead, take a peaceful moment to contemplate perhaps the most serene moment in the history of the world — when all of heaven rejoiced with the message ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’ ” (Luke 2:14).