05282017
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The year President Monson gave Christmas to immigrants

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LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson. (Photo courtesy LDS Church)

With Christmas just around the corner, busy families have more than enough to worry about. For most people, Christmas means concerts to attend, gifts to wrap, parties to attend and food to eat.

But the most meaningful and memorable Christmases are usually those when we forget about ourselves and reach out to those most in need. That’s certainly the case for LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, who has spent his life in service to others.

On that topic, he once said, “In looking back over the years, it is obvious that the Christmases I remember best, the Christmases which touched my heart the most, are Christmases filled with love and giving and the Spirit of the Savior. I believe that such would be true for all of us as we reminisce concerning our best-remembered Christmases.”

One such Christmas story is related in President Monson’s biography, “To the Rescue” by Heidi Swinton, where President Monson creates a wonderful Christmas for an immigrant family.

“In looking back over the years, it is obvious that the Christmases I remember best, the Christmases which touched my heart the most, are Christmases filled with love and giving and the Spirit of the Savior.” —President Thomas S. Monson

It was just after World War II, and a German LDS man named Karl Guertler had rented an apartment for his brother, Hans, who would soon arrive in Utah with his wife and children from Germany. The apartment was in the boundaries of the 67th Ward, where Thomas S. Monson was serving as bishop.

Karl and Bishop Monson went together to survey the apartment before Hans’ family’s arrival, which would be just before Christmas. The dwelling was dark, dingy and empty.

So President Monson enlisted the help of ward members. Each contributed what they could to help ready the apartment for Christmas. Those with specialized skills painted the house, did electrical work and installed new flooring. Others put up new wallpaper, carpeted the floors, furnished the empty rooms and filled the kitchen cupboards with food. Local vendors donated appliances, and the youth decorated a Christmas tree that sat in the corner. Ward members were there to welcome the new family when they arrived, and everyone sang Christmas carols together. (See To the Rescue, 153-154.)

Such a large-scale service project may not be feasible in many situations, but the basic principles of President Monson’s selfless service can be universally applied. We can all recognize a person’s needs — large or small — and do all we can to meet them. When we do, we help make someone else’s Christmas a little more merry and bright.

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