Gifts from Father

“God loved us, so he sent his Son. Christ Jesus, the atoning One. To show us by the path he trod. The one and only way to God.” – “God Loved Us, So He Sent His Son,” Hymn No. 187, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints  

Every man, woman, and child on planet earth is a literal spirit child of Heavenly Father. We once knew Him far better than we do now. He raised us in our spiritual infancy and tutored us. From the beginning, He has bestowed countless gifts upon us. Since Christmas is a time for gift-giving, it is fitting that we remember some of the superlative gifts our Father has so graciously given us

The first gift we were each given by Father was life. In a way that has not been fully revealed, He begat us as spirits in the distant eons of the past. We existed as intelligences prior to that, but we became spirits – cognitive beings with spirit bodies – because of Him. We lived, grew, and learned in a place we call the pre-earth, or pre-mortal, realm. It was there that the Gospel Plan was taught to us and where we learned our possibilities; specifically, our possibility, through the intervening power of a divine Mediator, of becoming like our Father. 

One of the things that set our Father apart from the rest of us was that He had a perfected, immortal body of flesh and bone. Some people consider flesh and bone inferior to spirit. The reverse is true. This is why the Savior resurrected Himself with a body of flesh and bone as recorded in Luke 24:36-43. Therefore, the second great gift the Eternal Father bestowed upon us was a physical body and a chance to live in a mortal state of testing wherein we could, if we faithfully followed His “way of holiness” (Isaiah 35:8) outlined by the Savior, we could return to Him and receive exaltation. 

Our bodies are not trivial, unimportant, temporary things; they are holy temples! (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) As gifts of God, they must not be defiled with promiscuity and whoredoms, tattooed with graffiti, pierced in strange ways, polluted with drugs and alcohol or harmful foods and chemicals, and so forth. They must be honored, cultivated, and fortified, though not worshiped unduly. Proper health as part of true religion is not a superstition of past ages, but a verity and requirement for all who have been gifted bodies by their All-Wise Father. All of us, like our Lord Jesus and because of Him, will be resurrected with physical bodies and possess them for eternity. 

The next gift our Father in Heaven bestowed upon us is free will. We may call it moral agency or, simply, Freedom. Whatever we call it, it stands only next to life itself in the hierarchy of blessings. In the Father’s Gospel Plan, agency is paramount. We may even say that Jesus Christ’s supreme purpose is to ensure, protect, and extend our agency. The Apostle Paul told us to: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). 

What Christ offers each of us through His atoning blood is Freedom – Freedom from the damnation of sin, Freedom from the Devil, Freedom from hell, Freedom from the fallen world and natural man, and Freedom from death. The Father’s Gospel, which may rightfully be called the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is a Gospel of Liberty. Agency is so crucial that the Lord has intervened throughout history, and notably in modern times in the creation of the United States and the crafting of its inspired Constitution, to create a situation wherein man might be free and accountable for his own sins (Doctrine and Covenants 101:77-80). 

The next gift we can mention is prophets. From Adam, who was a holy prophet, down through Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Malachi, John, Peter, and others, the Lord has revealed His and the Father’s will through authorized representatives. These prophets give us the essential understanding we need to know about our relationship to God and His Son in every age. They are also the necessary legal administrators of the Gospel and its beautiful saving ordinances. 

Without exception, every time the Gospel has been on the earth, a prophet has stood its head. At no time has the Church of Jesus Christ ever existed without a prophet. Such is a contradiction in terms, for the Church must be headed by a called and authorized prophet (Ephesians 4:11; Amos 3:7; Numbers 12:6). It is through duly-called and ordained prophets that Gospel light and salvation are administered, because of the grace and will of Christ the Lord. 

In modern days, the Father has given a wonderful gift – the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For centuries after the martyrdom of the Apostles, apostasy and confusion were rampant. There were no prophets or legal administrators to perform saving ordinances like baptism. In 1820, Gospel light burst forth again as the Eternal Father and His resurrected Son Jesus Christ appeared from Heaven to the young man Joseph Smith in modern New York state, initiating the fulfillment of numerous ancient prophecies. Joseph Smith had prayed to know which of all the conflicting churches was true. In response, the Lord told him that though professed His name, they had all gone astray and denied His power (Joseph Smith History 1:19). 

Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord’s Church was restored to earth as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. John the Baptist and, later, Peter, James, and John, appeared to confer Priesthood authority on Joseph Smith and a man named Oliver Cowdery. On the sacred date of April 6, 1830, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally restored. It was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that the Lord would do a “marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:10-14). The coming forth of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which was foretold by Isaiah in the same passage cited and also by Ezekiel and others (Ezekiel 38), joined the Bible in testifying boldly of the divinity of Jesus Christ and of His mission to atone for and redeem all mankind. 

The Book of Mormon contains a prophecy from the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, after His Ascencion, as He ministered among the ancient inhabitants of America – Israelites descended from Joseph who had been led away from Israel around 600 B.C. just prior to the Babylonian captivity. He told them that their sacred records would be revealed to future generations and that it would be delivered to their posterity by the Gentiles. Said He: 

“And when these things come to pass that thy seed shall begin to know these things—it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel. . . . 

“For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them. . . . 

“Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant” (3 Nephi 21: 7, 9, 11). 

The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its original purity had been foreseen by ancient seers and dreamed of by Reformers and pious men for centuries. It was made reality through the Prophet Joseph Smith, whose birthday we commemorate today on December 23. The Restoration is one of the greatest gifts God has given mankind. With the Restoration came the “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). As John foresaw, this “everlasting Gospel” was revealed by an angel from Heaven (Revelation 14:6). 

A depiction of Joseph Smith’s First Vision wherein the Father and Son appeared to Him.

This “marvelous work” that the Father performed was for us, His children. He restored the Gospel with its Priesthood authority and powerfully simple doctrines because He wants us to come to His Son Jesus Christ and be enabled by our faithful obedience and His atoning grace to return to Him. 

This brings us to the most phenomenal of all our Father’s beautiful gifts – the Savior Jesus Christ. In the divine record, we read this testimony of the mortal Messiah: 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). 

The Father loves us and so He sent His Son. All the prophets past and present have and do testify of Jesus Christ. The entire Gospel Plan points us to Him. Isaiah prophesied of the Savior’s redeeming mission in these words: 

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6). 

Speaking Messianically, Isaiah foresaw even more about the Lord’s ministry: 

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 

“To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; 

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3). 

A third prophecy from Isaiah foretold of the Lord’s miraculous birth and appearance in the flesh: 

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). 

Immanuel means “God with us.” What better promise could the Father, through Isaiah, have offered than that the Divine Son should come to earth and dwell among His people? He would be among them, heal them, teach them, and show them the path back to Heaven. If the Jews had recognized it, they could have truly enjoyed the presence of God among them, for He was literally among them in the flesh showing His power, miracles, mercy, wisdom, and love. 

Another ancient prophet in the Americas named Alma prophesied of the Savior’s mission, giving this eloquent description that complements Isaiah’s prophecies perfectly: 

“For behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all—for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people. . . .  

“. . . behold, the Spirit hath said this much unto me, saying: Cry unto this people, saying—Repent ye, and prepare the way of the Lord, and walk in his paths, which are straight; for behold, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the Son of God cometh upon the face of the earth. 

“And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. 

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. 

“And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. 

“Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me. 

“Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness” (Alma 7:7, 9-14). 

Yes, the Savior is mighty, majestic, and merciful. He can cleanse us every whit and save us from all unrighteousness! He not only figuratively or intellectually suffered our afflictions, but they were literally placed upon Him in the flesh and He bore them. The unimaginable burden caused Him to bleed from every pore of His body (Luke 22:44; Doctrine and Covenants 19:16-24). God was with us, He suffered what we have suffered, and He understands us, our trials, and our heartaches more perfectly than we do. Truly, with His stripes we are healed! 

As His ultimate gift to His children, our loving Father in Heaven gave us His Firstborn Son as the final sacrifice to redeem and liberate the rest of us – to free us from our sins, our sicknesses, and our fallen natures. He sent the Christ to take away our pain, comfort us when we mourn, strengthen us in hard times, and succor us with pure love unsurpassed. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) and fulfilling the will of the Father – to heal, help, serve, lift, and love – in all things. Through Him, and His Atonement, we may receive the highest and holiest of all that God has to offer – eternal life in the Father’s Celestial Kingdom. 

This Christmas season we need more of the light and spirit of Christmas in our lives, which is the light and spirit of Christ. Two thousand years ago, the innkeepers refused to let their Messiah in; they rejected the Light of the world. Do we also refuse Him? Do we turn Him away? He said: 

“I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:20-21). 

We have the power to open the door and let the Savior in. We can, if we will, let the Light and Life of the world fill our hearts and homes. Is this not a marvelous gift? It is a gift freely given that all can accept, enjoy, and benefit from. We can show our appreciation and love to our Father by accepting His gift. The Lord taught: 

“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). 

What more could we want this Christmas, and every day, than for the love of our Heavenly Father and our Savior to fill our lives and for Them to come in unto us? Open the inn doors of your heart this Christmas and see if the Lord won’t verify His promise to come in and stay with you and, with the Father, fill your life with light and love. Merry Christmas! 

Zack Strong, 
December 23, 2022 

Gratitude for the Gifts of God

God exists. He lives. He is your Father. He knows you, loves you, and is intimately concerned for your wellbeing. His Firstborn Son is Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. The Savior also loves you more than you can comprehend. He suffered and died for your sins and then rose from the grave to empower you to overcome obstacles, sin, and death, on your journey back to Heavenly Father. 

One of the ways the Father and the Son have aided us in our mortal testing period is by giving us gifts. These gifts don’t come wrapped in a bow or under a tree. Rather, they come in the form of talents, aptitudes, and skills. The holy scriptures talk many times about several of the gifts that are given to mankind. The Savior told His disciples: 

“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 

“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 

“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:15-18). 

These are examples of spiritual gifts, but there are so many more! The Apostle Paul listed several others and told us something of their purpose: 

“[C]oncerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. . . . 

“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . . 

“. . . the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 

“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 

“To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 

“To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. . . . 

“. . . covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Corinthians 12:1, 4, 7-10, 31). 

Spiritual gifts are given to us to “profit withal.” Said otherwise, each of us is given gifts to benefit others. One person has the gift of healing, but why? To heal others. Another is given the gift of prophecy. Why? So that others can hear the prophecies and repent and change their lives. Some are given the gift of speaking in tongues to be able to communicate with their brothers and sisters from other lands, to serve them more effectively, and to preach the Gospel to them in their own language. 

Almost none of these amazing spiritual gifts are given to benefit the receiver alone. In His Sermon on the Mount, the Lord taught: 

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 

“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). 

In the same way that we are to let our convictions and testimonies of Jesus Christ shine to help others come to their Redeemer, we are to share our gifts for the same purpose. The two great commandments are to love God and to love our neighbors. We can love and serve them as the Savior did by sharing our gifts, talents, abilities, time, and love with them. 

Additional scripture that the Lord has so graciously given to us in these last days before His return in glory also tell us of spiritual gifts and confirm what Paul said about their purpose. An ancient Israelite prophet living in the New World around 400 A.D. explained in great detail the importance, origin, and reason for spiritual gifts: 

“And again, I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them. 

“For behold, to one is given by the Spirit of God, that he may teach the word of wisdom; 

“And to another, that he may teach the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 

“And to another, exceedingly great faith; and to another, the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 

“And again, to another, that he may work mighty miracles; 

“And again, to another, that he may prophesy concerning all things; 

“And again, to another, the beholding of angels and ministering spirits; 

“And again, to another, all kinds of tongues; 

“And again, to another, the interpretation of languages and of divers kinds of tongues. 

“And all these gifts come by the Spirit of Christ; and they come unto every man severally, according as he will. 

“And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ. 

“And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men” (Moroni 10:8-19). 

God is good. He gives gifts – so many gifts – to benefit His children. He pours out these gifts upon all, but more upon the believing and the grateful. Those who trust in Him are led by Him and the Holy Spirit provides numerous gifts depending on the situations they find themselves in, from translating languages to healing the sick to receiving the ministrations of angels to teaching truth. All of these wonderful abilities come from God for the purpose of blessing us. 

In modern times, the Lord made a declaration about gifts that we should remember. Said He: 

“[Y]e are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do in all holiness of heart, walking uprightly before me, considering the end of your salvation, doing all things with prayer and thanksgiving, that ye may not be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils. 

“Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given; 

“For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:7-9). 

The Lord is anxious to bless us and give us all the gifts we can use and need. He wants us to ask Him for gifts. He wants us to approach Him boldly (Hebrews 4:15-16). He wants us to be thankful and to live continuously in the spirit of thanksgiving. 

As we ask of Him in our prayers and as we receive according to our faith, we need to remember why we receive gifts – “for the benefit of those who love [God] and keep all [His] commandments, and him that seeketh so to do.” We don’t need to be perfect to receive gifts of God. Every person on earth has at least one spiritual gift. These gifts are evidence of our Father’s and our Savior’s love. 

This Thanksgiving, I give my sincerest thanks to my Father in Heaven for the gifts He has given me. I have been blessed with several distinct gifts that have blessed my life, increased my faith in Jesus Christ, and have allowed me to better uplift others in my sphere of influence. These gifts are real and they are evidence of His goodness. 

Art by Jenedy Paige

I have a powerful testimony that I am a son of God and that each man and woman one earth is a beloved son or daughter of the Almighty. I know this without any doubt. It is true! The Bible confirms it and the Spirit teaches us that we are His children and that we came from His realm to inhabit this planet to learn, grow, and prove our faithfulness to His commands that would be delivered to us through our Mediator Jesus Christ.

As we make our way through mortality, we need help; we need spiritual gifts. These the Lord is willing to pour down upon us. And I testify that He has flooded the earth with spiritual gifts to benefit us, to witness to us that He is aware of us and that He cares, and to give us the joy of helping others through their challenges to come to Christ and to glorify God. In the end, the greatest gift God has given us is His Son Jesus Christ who died and rose again to draw all men to Him that they might be saved and exalted in the Father’s Kingdom. 

Zack Strong, 
November 24, 2022