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The Best Gifts

Chris Lowry - Oct 2023
Audio of "The Best Gifts"
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Thank you for the beautiful and inspiring music. I’m grateful for the gift of music. To all in attendance, I express my gratitude that you’ve taken your time to be here. I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us so that we may be edified and drawn closer to our Savior through what we feel and hear today.

Gift giving and receiving is part of our culture. We give gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, and at other important times in our friends’ and loved ones' lives. We are just beginning the holiday season; gift-giving plays an important role in our celebration of the Savior’s birth and life.

Gift-giving can be very rewarding. Receiving gifts can be both joyful and helpful. We all know that gift-giving can be challenging too. For some, part of the fun of giving gifts is figuring out what gifts they should give. Sometimes it feels like a test of how well we know the person that we’re giving the gift to. We must know what the receiver likes. We might also consider what they need. At times, we might feel that they need something that they are unaware of and fear that they might not appreciate our gifts when we have given them.

I’ve been gifted with things that I didn’t want or that I didn’t understand and appreciate at the time I received them. Perhaps you have too. I would like to share one of my experiences as the receiver of a gift that I didn’t think that I wanted.

Some years ago, I received a gift from one of my children that I didn’t appreciate at the moment. I wasn’t expecting much when I opened the package because I was getting it from a young child. Tina, my wife, was involved in selecting it, so I wasn’t worried that it might be a box of old toys that my son no longer wanted. However, when I opened the package, I certainly wasn’t expecting a pair of slippers.

Of course, I was grateful that he got me a gift, and I thanked him for it, but in my mind, I thought, “This isn’t what I hoped for,” and in my heart I didn’t really feel joy for the gift.

Dutifully, I put the slippers on and wore them around the house. Over the next few weeks, something amazing happened. I had never owned a pair of slippers, so I was surprised to find how useful they were. When I came home from work and put on my slippers, they kept my socks clean even when I sometimes discovered sticky spills by stepping in them. They also kept my feet warm and comfortable. They protected my feet from little toys strewn about the house (that I won’t refer to as Legos) so that I didn’t need to hop around on one foot after stepping on the unnamed toys. They were also very convenient. I could slip them off when I wanted to put my feet up on the couch. I could slip them back on whenever I needed to go anywhere. And occasionally, I would cheat and slip them on to take the trash out. Before long, I realized that slippers were a great gift. Oddly enough, they were one of my favorite gifts that I had ever been given. I wore that pair for several years until they completely fell apart.

Even better than the satisfaction and joy that I received from those slippers, my son felt so pleased and proud that I liked his gift. He saw me using them and was joyful because he knew I liked his gift. A simple pair of slippers brought us closer together.

Our Heavenly Father is the greatest giver of gifts. His superiority as a gift giver flows from two divine attributes: perfect love and perfect knowledge. While we may struggle with knowing the best gifts for our loved ones, He does not. He knows each of us perfectly and knows what gifts we need and what gifts we want. He will never select a gift that needs to be returned, is the wrong size, is useless, or is broken. We will only receive the gifts that we need and that can bring us true joy when we understand and use them as He desires. When we receive and use His gifts, we can be brought closer to Him, just as my son and I rejoiced and were drawn together.

Similar to how I didn’t understand the usefulness of my slippers and I didn’t appreciate them when they were given to me by my son, sometimes we may not understand or think that we don’t want the gifts that our Heavenly Father bestows us. When that happens, we are in danger of not benefiting from the gift and may harm ourselves and our relationship with our Heavenly Father. He said, “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] In fact, the Lord tells us we need to be grateful for what he gives us, and He is displeased when we aren’t.[2]

To rejoice in our gifts, we must know what they are; therefore, each of us should ponder and ask, “Do I know which gifts Heavenly Father has given me?” Lack of awareness of His gifts prevents us from receiving them. How sad we will be to learn that He gave us gifts that we did not open! How regretful we will be when we recognize what we could have rejoiced in, and how it would have helped us and drawn us closer to Heavenly Father! If there are good reasons for FOMO, or the fear of missing out, this would be one. Please discover the gifts that Heavenly Father has given to you and always be searching for those that He will give you. A grateful heart will help you to find them. Patriarchal blessings and other priesthood blessings can also help you to identify them.

Sometimes we receive gifts with “some assembly required.” These can be challenging gifts because the instructions may seem vague, and the steps needed to assemble the gifts aren’t clear. Despite or perhaps due to the challenges presented by them, these gifts may be the most rewarding because we can see how our efforts paid off.

Heavenly Father, the perfect gift giver, also bestows gifts on us with “some assembly required.” These challenging gifts stretch us to develop the divine attributes that our Father and Savior possess, which is the very reason for His plan. His plan isn’t simply that we return to Him; in fact, we were already with Him when He presented the plan. The purpose is to become as He is so that He can give us the greatest of all His gifts: eternal life, which is to live the same life as He does.

These soul-stretching gifts often take the form of adversities in our lives. They come in many boxes with a wide assortment of shapes, sizes, wrapping papers, and ribbons. I can’t possibly list all the ways that these things come into our lives, nor am I trying to suggest that Heavenly Father causes all of them. However, He did give us the gift of living in a fallen world and these conditions arise from and are inherent to such a world. Even His Son didn’t escape them; in fact, He suffered beyond our ability to understand so that He would know “according to the flesh” how to succor us.[3]

Although I cannot enumerate nor understand all the ways these challenges come to us, I have no doubt that Heavenly Father has given us other gifts and will give us all the gifts that we need to deal with all the adversities that we do and will face.

Many gifts are given to us, but I would like to focus on just two of them: the gift of the Holy Ghost and the gift of sanctification through Jesus Christ’s atoning power and mercy.

We've heard of cell phones being compared to prayer before, but I still want us to consider how easy it is to stay in contact with those we love using these devices. They are ubiquitous. I see them at church, in my classes, in homes, and I even see people using them while driving—which research shows is a very dangerous activity. I think that all of us have had relationships strengthened, been taught important things, and received warnings of danger and messages of comfort through our phones.

Think of how marvelous it is that we can have all of that and more from the Holy Ghost. In fact, I am suggesting that during our mortal lives, the gift of the Holy Ghost is the greatest gift that our Heavenly Father offers us. The Holy Ghost can teach us all truth. There is no such thing as a wrong number with Him. He can comfort, guide, warn, help us feel closer to Heavenly Father and the Savior; help us to understand and love those around us, thereby strengthening all our relationships; and He helps us to overcome weakness and sin. Those vague instructions that we talked about earlier can be made crystal clear through the Holy Ghost. The scriptures say, “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.”[4] Unspeakable means that it is so great that it can’t be expressed in words.

There are many things that we need to do to receive this great gift. I’m sure you’ve been taught some of them before. I will focus on one thing: desire the gift. I believe that one of the reasons we don’t receive the Holy Ghost as much as we could or should is that we don’t desire this gift or appreciate it enough to ask for it and constantly seek it.

Do you remember the account of the Savior’s visit to the Nephites following His resurrection? After the first day He had visited them, the people who had seen and heard Him knew that He was returning the next day, so they spent the night gathering those who hadn’t been there that day. When they had gathered, they taught the newcomers exactly what the Savior had taught the preceding day. Then the prophet recorded something very important. “Behold, they knelt again and prayed to the Father in the name of Jesus. And they did pray for that which they most desired.” Now, I’ve wondered, what would I have prayed for? What would you have prayed for? Nephi continues, “And they desired that the Holy Ghost should be given unto them.”[5]

Why were these people so desirous to receive the Holy Ghost? Why is the gift of the Holy Ghost so great and important to us?

When I compared the gift of the Holy Ghost to a cell phone earlier, I listed some of the blessings we can receive through the Holy Ghost. The Nephites had stood in the presence of the Savior Himself, but they knew that He couldn’t always be physically present, yet His Spirit could always be with them. Just the day before, the Savior had administered the sacrament to them and promised, “And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.”[6] Why wouldn’t we want that?

Hundreds of years earlier, their great prophet Nephi had taught them the importance of the gift of the Holy Ghost: “For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do.”[7]

This, I believe, was key to their great desire and should be the key to ours. The Holy Ghost can show us everything that we are to do, and this is what leads us to the second great gift that I want to address: the gift of sanctification through the atoning power and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Sanctification is the process of being purified so that we become holy through Christ’s Atonement.[8] Isn’t this what the Atonement is about? God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son so that we would not perish but have everlasting life.[9] The life that is meant for us is one in which we become like our Heavenly Parents in every way through the grace, merits, and mercy of Jesus Christ.[10]

This is the greatest gift that our Heavenly Father has to offer. The Lord said, “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.”[11] The gift of the Holy Ghost can lead us to this gift. That is why I consider the gift of the Holy Ghost to be the greatest gift that God offers us in mortality.

What will the Holy Ghost show us that we must do? Here’s a wonderful promise recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 59:3–4:

Yea, blessed are they . . . who have obeyed my gospel; for they shall receive for their reward the good things of the earth, and it shall bring forth in its strength. And they shall also be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time—they that are faithful and diligent before me.

The Lord is promising that he will bless the righteous with more commandments through revelation.

How will these commandments come to us? Some will come through inspired priesthood and other Church leaders. However, some will come to us personally, and that can only happen through the ministry of the Holy Ghost. Listen to what Elder David A. Bednar said on the topic.

It is one thing to obey the institutional, public, and shared commandments associated with the Lord’s kingdom on earth—commandments such as the law of chastity, the law of tithing, and the Word of Wisdom; it is an even greater thing to receive and respond to the individual, private, and personally revealed commandments that result from continual and faithful obedience.[12]

As we receive and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, this great gift will allow Christ’s atoning power to work in our lives. We will begin to become exactly who our Heavenly Father wants us to be, and that is when we are truly in a state of “at-one-ment” with Him. This is why the scriptures record that “thou shalt declare repentance and faith on the Savior, and remission of sins by baptism, and by fire, yea, even the Holy Ghost.”[13] The purifying and sanctifying power of Christ are administered through the operation of the Holy Ghost.[14]

President Brigham Young described what will happen as we begin to receive this influence in our lives:

If we take a course to promote the principles of life—seek unto our Father and God, and obtain his will and perform it, the spirit [he’s speaking of our spirits] will be purified, sanctified, cleansed, and made holy in the body . . . When the spirit overcomes the evil consequences of the fall, which are in the mortal tabernacle, it will reign predominant in the flesh, and is then prepared to be exalted.[15]

What wonderful gifts are available to us! I know that the Holy Ghost can become our constant companion. At times, I have felt him abiding with me, strengthening me, teaching me, guiding my thoughts, feelings, and actions, and changing my heart sometimes through reproof and sometimes through feelings of divine approval and love. I know that He will lead us to our Savior; I know that He will inspire us to do the things that our Heavenly Father wants us to do.

I invite all of us to seek the great gift of the Holy Ghost that our Father offers us and to ask for the Holy Ghost to be with us. Let us examine our lives and see what we need to do to receive this gift that we might both rejoice in the gift and in the giver of the gift. Then, as we begin to unwrap this great gift, let us not put it in the closet or on the shelf. Rather, let us use it daily because it will lead us to the greatest of gifts that our Father offers, even eternal life. I know that by listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, our Father can tell us what we must do to become as He is.

At the start of this holiday season, I bear testimony that God does so love the world that “He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”[16] In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.


[1] Doctrine and Covenants 88:33.

[2] See Doctrine and Covenants 59:15–21.

[3] Alma 7:12.

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 121:26.

[5] 3 Nephi 19:9.

[6] 3 Nephi 18:7.

[7] 2 Nephi 32:5.

[8] “Sanctification,” Guide to the Scriptures

[9] See John 3:16–17.

[10] 2 Nephi 2:8.

[11] Doctrine and Covenants 14:7.

[12] David A. Bednar, “In a State of Happiness,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, January 6, 2004.

[13] Doctrine and Covenants 19:31.

[14] “Holy Ghost,” Bible Dictionary; 2 Nephi 31:17.

[15] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, volume 7, 287; emphasis added.

[16] John 3:16.