Many people, stories, talks, blog posts, commentaries, thoughts, etc. this Christmas season will likely turn and encourage all of us to spend a bit more time sharing or giving gifts, but since I am selfish I will focus this particular post on the act of receiving gifts this Christmas season. And not just receiving gifts when they are packaged up nicely with a bow, but also rummaging through the house looking for them.
In one of the most amazing revelations ever given the Lord Himself declared “…they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received. For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift”. 1
To make the point of receiving gifts even more clearly at the outset, I think it is appropriate to make a list, since lists are always appropriate.
- We can only enjoythat which we are willing to receive. This statement is made very clear, by indicating that those who do not enjoy the gifts of the celestial kingdom, do (not) so by their own choice, since they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received. Yet for us to understand this statement, we must define ‘enjoy’, and we must understand the use of ‘willing’ in this sentence.
- The best definition for enjoy is “to have and usewith satisfaction or joy”. The critical term ‘and use’ indicates that there is some action of difference between simply having, and actually using that creates the state that can be termed ‘enjoy[ment]’. After all, we’ve all been given gifts that we ‘have’ (you know, the ones sitting in a box on the shelf in the garage…in its original package) and we’ve all been given gifts that we have and use. That is the difference, and with that we can understand the word ‘enjoy’.
- The footnote in verse 32 (b) for ‘willing’ indicates a study of the word ‘agency’ or ‘choice’.
With the understanding of item 1 (on our list), we could perhaps re-phrase verse 32 to read something like this: “…they shall return again to their own place, [to have and use with satisfaction and joy] that which they [chose] to receive, because they did not [choose] [to have and use with satisfaction and joy] that which they might have received. For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?
I know the answer, and the answer is nothing.
I am going to throw my two youngest sisters and under the bus now, and I don’t feel too bad about it because 1) the older of my two sisters is currently on a mission in Tijjana, Mexico, and the younger of the two leaves tomorrow for her mission in Tokyo, Japan; 2) they are both awesome and amazing and probably won’t read this blog post anyway2; and 3) it provides me with an excellent example to illustrate this point.
Backstory: For Christmas last year, I gave each of my 7 siblings, plus each of my parents a book. The book I gave the 4 sisters was the same, but the note that I wrote in the front was personalized, and indicated why I thought they should read it, or what they could hope to gain from reading it. It was a book that I had read and that I thought would help them a great deal with life, lessons, and the gospel. I thought that if they read it, they could learn a lot of things, just like I had learned. A couple of months ago, while at my parent’s house, I happened upon a bookshelf (in my sisters room – the one in Tijuana) – where I spotted the book that I had given her for Christmas. I naturally grabbed it, opened it up and fully expected to see markings, highlights, insights, and many documented proofs of her great love and appreciation for the book that I had given her. What I did see was her bookmark located about page 3 of the book. I won’t lie, I did not feel like she had ‘received the gift’ and therefore had not ‘profited’ by reading it. Then, only a few weeks later, we were staying at my parents house again and we happened to be in my youngest sisters room – where I beheld on her book shelf the book that I had given her for Christmas – and the same sad story was repeated.3
Verse 33 of this passage also highlights two more lessons that we must know in order to properly receive a gift. They are also best explained by a list, which identifies the missed opportunities if we “receive not the gift”:
- He rejoices not in that which is givenunto him
- Neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift
I imagine we can all think of a gift that we have either received or that has been given by us, that has been used with satisfaction or joy. These types of gifts, allow both the giver and the receiver “to understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together”. 4 The opposite of this potential joy as described above, is the lack of enjoyment, rejoicing, and satisfaction that can only come with the active receiving of gifts (like the book I gave my sisters).
Therefore, my purpose in this post – and in the making of lists to highlight important positive and negative consequences – is to make sure that this Christmas season, all of us focus on becoming the best gift receivers that we can be. Because after all, by being great gift receivers, we can 1) “rejoice in that which is given” and 2) “rejoice in him who is the giver of the gift”. In order to accomplish this feat, there are three critical objectives necessary for gift receiving:
- Recognizethat which is given
Our first objective in becoming great gift receivers is to recognize “that which is given”. At this point, I could try to come up with some fancy words, or great points (or lists) to make about the best gift, but someone much more talented than me has already done it. So, as a very real motivation and invitation to proclaim (discover, embrace, and share) the greatest gift this Christmas season, please go here to recognize “that which is given” to each of us. Once we have recognized what has been given, it allows us to truly “rejoice in him who is the giver of the gift”.
Much has been said, and much will continue to be said about this gift, and the giver of this amazing gift, and it is literally the gift that keeps on giving. It is the source of all other gifts, the source of all joy, all light, all hope, and all love, and this gift gets better with age and with increased use as we personalize and “use it with satisfaction”. The gift of a savior is the most loving, caring, wise, and needful thing that could ever be given. “At the very core of our mortal probation is the choice to receive Jesus as the Christ”. 5
- Seek for more gifts
Our second objective in becoming great gift receivers is to continually want more gifts. That shouldn’t be hard right? I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a child tell me on Christmas that they were tired of receiving gifts. We can have more and more gifts too; we just need to know how and where to find them. “No message appears in scripture more times, in more ways than, ask, and ye shall receive”. 6 And not only is it an invitation, but “each of us accepts a sacred and ongoing responsibility to desire, to seek, to work, and to live that we indeed receive…”.7 At this point, we are even encouraged to become a bit greedy – supported by the commandments to “lay hold upon every good gift,”8 “Seek ye earnestly the best gifts”,9 and even “Covet earnestly the best gifts”.10
The best gifts include “long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, pure knowledge”, 11 unshakeable faith and/or testimony12, or maybe even “his image in our countenance”. 13 But, perhaps more than anything, we should “covet earnestly” His unselfish and infinite love. We should seek for it, lay hold upon it, and covet it earnestly. It should be noted again here that the Lord himself said “seek ye diligently and ye shall find me; ask and ye shall receive”.14 Perhaps this is the process that Alma and Enos followed, because they both indicate that they also ‘received’ a remission of their sins.15
The Father’s gift of His son, and Jesus Christ’s gift of His life (His atonement and His declaration of love) are Their gift to us. Let that gift sink in. Appreciate it. Savor it. Let it change us. Let it help us. Let it give us peace. Let it calm our troubled hearts.16 Let it bless us. Let it feed our hungry souls. Let it bless in time of need.17 Enjoy it (let us have it and use it for our satisfaction). Let us feel grateful for it. Let us share it. Let it move us to action. Let it change our hearts and our eyes so that we can see as He sees.
- Give it away
The last and maybe most important element in becoming great gift receivers – is the understanding that in order to fully receive anything it is necessary to give it away. While this may seem like an opposite, the truth is that giving is in fact the truest form of receiving. So, in all of our seeking, coveting, and asking for gifts, let it be understood that we should be giving them all away in order to fully receive them. Let us covet his love so that we can give it away freely. Let us covet our free will so that we can voluntarily submit and place it on God’s altar as the only uniquely personal thing that we have to offer.18
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv’n
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of his heav’n
No ear may hear his coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him
The dear Christ enters in19
Let us rejoice in Him who is the giver of the gift by receiving His love and His gift and helping Him to give it away.
1 D&C 88:32-33
2 Dear Kaitlyn and Kallie, if you read this years from now, or really any time at all. Know that I love you and think you are both amazing. In addition, I realize that I am just as much at fault in this story, if I presented you with a gift that you did not ‘choose’ to receive because it wasn’t what you wanted (even though I may have thought you needed it) at the time. Maybe someday you will read it and we can rejoice together.
3 It should be noted that Kaitlyn and Kallie are the only siblings that I have proof of not reading my gift from last Christmas – it could be possible that the other two sisters, and my parents have failed to read the books that I gave them for Christmas as well. I refuse to believe however that my three brothers didn’t read the book that I gave them, because if they didn’t It would be a personal insult to everything that I hold dear, and since they are fellow writers on this blog, I hold them to a much higher standard than anyone else.
4 D&C 50:22
5 See “Receiving by The Spirit”, by A. Roger Merrill – October 2006
6 See “Reverence Invites Revelation”, by Boyd K. Packer – October 1991. He also lists Matt. 21:22; James 4:3; 1 Jn. 3:22; 1 Ne. 15:11; Enos 1:15; Mosiah 4:21; D&C 4:7; and Moses 6:52 as examples of this.
7 See “Receive the Holy Ghost”, by David A. Bednar, October 2010
8 See Moroni 10
9 See D&C 46
10 1 Cor. 13:31
11 See D&C 121:41-42
12 See Enos 1:11, Mormon 9:28, 2 Ne. 31:19, and Jacob 7:5.
13 Alma 5:14
14 D&C 88:63
15 See Alma 38:8 and Enos 1:2
16 See Hymn 136 “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”
18 See “Swallowed up in the Will of The Father”, by Neal A. Maxwell, October 1995
19 See Hymn 208 “O Little Town of Bethlehem”