One family with whom I met on my mission included a father who was dead-set against joining the Mormon church. His wife told me the reason why: During a hard time of his life, he had sought divine help from God as taught to him by his Buddhist and Taoist parents. Help came. So he knew that he had found truth already, and didn’t need anything we had to offer.
This Christmas, like every year, I find myself torn at the idea of telling my children that Santa Claus will come in the night to give them presents versus simply telling them the whole truth – that their parents love them and want to give them presents. This is complicated, of course, by social standards which dictate that children are introduced to a jolly fat man with magical powers.
I worry that, when they learn the truth, my kids will feel their faith was misplaced – and that perhaps they were lied to. I know it’s over the top and I’m over-thinking simple holiday traditions, but stay with me.
This concern led me to consider somewhat lessons of faith, truth, and reality.
Here is what Alma has to say about faith: “And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.”
My kids believe in a being who doesn’t exist. But it doesn’t change the truth that, because they are loved, somebody hears their desires and gives them gifts appropriate to their wants. As they sat on Santa’s lap and told him about their secret desires, their parents were listening. In a few years they will learn to speak to their parents directly about what they want. They’ll also learn how to be helpers at Christmas, and learn how to give good gifts to others as well.
In other words, they will gradually lay aside the parts of their understanding which are false, and have the faith which is true confirmed and developed.
The mother of this family I taught on my mission eventually started attending church and was soon baptized. She shared her experiences and knowledge with her family. Soon she was joined by her daughter and then her son. A few years later I got a letter in the mail which said, simply “Miracles do happen!” and a photo of this family, with the father dressed in baptismal clothes, standing with smiling missionaries.
I hope that I can focus this Christmas on what is true – that there is a Heavenly Father who hears us, no matter what we call him, no matter where we are, or what we believe. He knows us and loves us, and gives us gifts that we need and want. He hears not only our prayers but the yearnings of our hearts. I am grateful for a God who is real, and who loves me. I am grateful for the greatest gift ever given – the chance to return home again someday through the sacrifice of his son, Jesus Christ, the savior of the world.