Monday, December 12, 2011

Is it better to give or receive (Christmas Post)

My friend Jocelyn Christensen has invited me to do a blog post about "Christmas in the Book of Mormon" to add to her Book of Mormon Blog Hop.  I'm only on 1st Nephi in my BOM series, but I thought it might be OK to interrupt my usual programming to bring you the following attempt at doing so...

When I was 5 years old on a Christmas Eve night I promised myself and God that I would say Happy Birthday to Jesus in the morning BEFORE I opened any presents.  On Christmas morning, as soon as I opened my eyes, I rushed out to the living room to see what Santa brought for me.  I had a nice pile of stuff, one being a huge present wrapped in paper with Santas all over it.  My good presents were nearly always wrapped in Santa wrapping paper.  You can ask my wife about my obsession with Santas on my wrapping paper that continues today.
If it was wrapped in Santas, you knew it was good
So I had that paper torn 1/2 off before I remembered my promise.  I stopped what I was doing, bowed my head, closed my eyes, and said, "Oh yeah, Happy Birthday, Jesus," and then opened my new Tonka fire truck.  Considering that I only have maybe 3 memories of being that young, I think it's significant that this is one of them.  Cuz, ya see, my folks didn't take me to church, we didn't have family prayer, I'd never had the scriptures read to me.  My Mom had told me that we celebrate Christmas because it was Jesus' birthday, and that was good enough for me.  So, what I was really doing is declaring my faith in The Savior, and my acceptance of His role in my life, and, even though it would be years and years before I started to go to church on my own, that knowledge has never left me.

Ain't she a beauty.  I used to race down the sidewalk, pushing my firetruck in front of me, bellowing the best and loudest siren you ever heard, and alternately blinking my eyes to simulate the flashing lights.  I had that fire truck for many years.  Mom and Dad really got their money's worth out of this gift.  The gift of knowing that Christmas was a celebration of Christ's birthday lasted much longer.  They really got their money's worth out of that gift too.

Oh yes, The Book of Mormon, right.  Sorry, got carried away with my fire truck.
Five years before the birth of The Savior, the prophet Samuel stood on a city wall and preached a powerful sermon on the coming of The Son of God.  Many believed him and went to seek out a priesthood holder to baptize them.  Others were angry at Samuel, and tried to chuck rocks at him.  They couldn't hit him.  They tried to shoot arrows at him.  They couldn't hit him.  Seeing this miracle, many more believed in Samuel's words and were converted.  However, the sinful and violent non-believers remained in power. 

Here's Samuel's prophecy of Christ's birth:

Helaman 14: 3-8
3.  And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of His coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.
4.  Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.
5.  And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.
6.  And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.
7.  And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth.
8.  And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall believe on the Son of God, the same shall have everlasting life.
Mexico/ Central America is 8 hours behind Jerusalem time, so when it gets night time in Zarahemla, about 7:04pm, and they notice it doesn't get dark, it would have been 3:04am in Jerusalem.  This may be the time that Joseph and Mary feel the birth process begin and are desperately searching for a place for Mary to lie down.  It also may be the time that the angel appeared to the shepherds proclaiming the good tidings of great joy.  That is pure speculation on my part, and is completely irrelevant to anything, but I like thinking about stuff like that for some reason. 

Five years later the righteous people of the BOM waited very anxiously for the sign to be given, while the wicked waited anxiously for the sign not to be given.

3 Nephi 1: 8
8.  But behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been in vain.
9.  Now it came to pass that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the prophet.


  1. Experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
  2. (of a period of time or situation) Causing or characterized by worry or nervousness.
"That they might know that their faith had not been in vain."  Have you ever had a doubt about your faith and thought that meant you must not have any?  It doesn't.  Even Nephi (the current prophet Nephi of this time) was worried.

3 Nephi 1: 12-15 and 17 and 21
12.  And it came to pass that he [Nephi] cried mightily unto The Lord all that day; and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, saying:
13.  Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
14.  Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son -of the father because of me, and the Son because of my flesh.  And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.
15.  And it came to pass that the words which came unto Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold, at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; and the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.
17.  And they began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear; yea, in fine, all the people upon the face of the whole earth from the west to the east, both in the land north and in the land south, were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth.
21.  And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word.

Is it better to give or to receive?
Whoever told you it is better to give must have never been given a brand new Tonka fire truck.  It is better to receive.  Well, I don't really say it's better to receive based on a fire truck or gift card to Walmart or any worldly present.  I'm talking about this gift:

John 3:16
16.  For God so loved that world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Can you imagine any amount of gift giving or righteous acts of love and charity that would do us any good if we did not receive the gift of the Son of God? 

Back to Samuel's prophecy.
Helaman 14: 15-17
15.  For behold, He surely must die that salvation may come; yea, it behooveth Him and becometh expedient that He dieth, to bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, that thereby men may be brought into the presence of The Lord.
16.  Yea, behold, this death bringeth to pass the resurrection, and redeemeth all mankind from the first death -that spiritual death; for all mankind, by the fall of Adam being cut off from the presence of The Lord, are considered as dead, both as to things temporal and to things spiritual.
17.  But behold, the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind, yea, even all mankind, and bringeth them back into the presence of The Lord.

My parents dropping me off at the MTC in 1987
Thank you Mom and Dad for teaching me that, although fire trucks are cool, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  His gift of love and sacrifice is overwhelming to me, and I stand all amazed at it, but it is one that I am happy to receive.

Peace be with you, and Merry Christmas.


  1. Oh this post is so beautiful and just so you, JB. I can just see you as a kid (and thanks to your picture) racing down the street pushing that fire truck, blinking your eyes furiously!

    Thank you for sharing your straight-forward yet profound testimony. I truly is better to receive if what you are receiving is the Christ!

    Merry Christmas and thanks for linking up!

    Love you lots!

  2. Well done John. As I was reading this, this thought occurred to me: The gift of the Savior and his atonement is the greatest gift we can ever receive - so I guess missionary work is the ultimate act of "re-gifting".

  3. Ha! Good one, Mormon guy. Thanks, Jocelyn.

  4. I loved this John. I loved the insight into your life as a little boy. Little boys are so precious. How wonderful that you had such faith even as a child. I can see what an inspiration you have been to your family and all of us who know you. It's certain that you were born for such a time as this.