It has been years since I read a Christmas book so warm, so real, and so tender. When I was a young girl my siblings and I would sit by the fire and listen to Dad read us Christmas stories from his favorite books. Those were happy times as I began to understand what Christmas was about – what it meant to love Christ and be like Him. Ardeth G. Kapp’s newest book rekindled for me that warmth and sweetness. It is a treasure. I read it the first week of December and wanted to shout to the masses, “You must read this!” So here’s my chance.

The Joy of Believing is a collection of inspiring true stories from Sister Kapp’s life. Each is accented with a beautiful holiday illustration. Kapp is a gifted writer, a seasoned author, and a captivating storyteller. Her anecdotes rise from her heart. They glisten with wonder and magic. After reading the first three chapters, I mailed copies of the book to family and friends as gifts. Her book is now on my “favorite” list, to be read again and again for it helps us see Christmas from a better, truer place.

Do You Believe?

In the heat of the summer, Kapp’s nephew randomly sat down next to his “Nana Ardie” and asked her point-blank, “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” Kapp writes:

“Do you believe in Santa Claus?” is a question that invites thoughtful consideration before giving an honest answer to a trusting child … I searched for an appropriate response. “Let me answer your question, Josh, so you will never outgrow your love for Santa and all that he stands for.” (4).

She then asked Josh about the flag as a symbol and what it meant to him. She did the same with the eagle.

This seven-year-old boy with an inquisitive mind had been very patient as we shared our thoughts and feelings. Now, before I asked him to answer his own question, I wanted to let him know my honest feelings.

“Josh,” I explained, looking into his innocent bright eyes, “all my life I have believed in Santa, and all Santa stands for. He helps us want to love and serve everyone and be especially happy at Christmastime. I believe in the flag and all the good our flag stands for. I believe the eagle is real, and when you are an Eagle Scout, you will learn more about the eagle. Now I’d like to ask you the question you asked me: Josh do you believe in Santa?”

Josh nodded his head with a knowing smile … A warm hug even on a hot summer day is like a period at the end of an important discussion. Oh, the joy of believing! Josh happily returned to his skateboard, wiser than he was before (6-7).

Kapp’s book doesn’t just give you permission to believe in Santa Claus; it gives you impetus to believe with all your heart in something more. Kapp continues,

In the spring of 1980, my husband and I went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the town of Bethlehem. We walked the paths where Jesus walked and felt His presence there. We stood outside of Jerusalem beneath the gnarled olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Savior of the world suffered and shed drops of blood.

As we looked on the brow of the hill at Golgotha, we could hear in our minds the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”‘ … We thought of Him moving up the streets of the old city, carrying the cross toward Golgotha, because there was no room for Him in the hearts of the persecutors.

In the quiet of that hour, we each asked ourselves, “Why did He do this all for me? How in God’s name can I ever repay Him?” And we wondered if we [un]like the innkeeper, would call, “Come back, come back. You can have my room. My heart. My time. My life. My vote. I give it all. All that I have. All that I am. All that I ever hope to be.” Oh yes, it is okay to believe in Christ one more year and another and another and another. (16-17).

About Ardeth Kapp

Ardeth Greene Kapp was the Young Women general president when I entered the Young Women program. I admired her so much as a teenager. I read some of her books. She seemed so beautiful and pure to me. Later, she accompanied her husband, Heber, in his assignment as president of the Canada Vancouver Mission. She also served as matron of the Cardston Alberta Temple, where her husband was the president.

She grew up in Canada and many of her stories recount experiences from her childhood there. She is a bestselling author of more than a dozen books. And I tell you this because her stories are drawn from these experiences.

She shares stories about her grandmother, about special Christmas gifts given and received, about hopes for a different kind of white Christmas with her missionaries, about strengthening family and connecting with those in temporal, spiritual or physical need. It is difficult to quote from her book without giving away the wonderful details of her stories, so I will refrain. But let me simply say, Sister Kapp’s person, the Christlike woman she has become, is just as moving as what she says with her stories.

Each chapter stands beautifully on its own but Kapp wisely and gracefully weaves them together, enhancing a detail here, sharing more information about someone there, layering the meaning of what she is saying deeper and deeper. I enjoyed this immensely about her writing.

The Greatest Gift

From a chapter entitled, “The Little Lamb,” Kapp writes:

While we return in celebration and tradition to the birth of the Babe in the manger each Christmas, is it possible that we could ever overlook the purpose of His life, His atonement, His resurrection, and His great gift of eternal life for each of us, when we know that he will never forget us, never leave us, that He will stand by us?

He is our advocate with the Father. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Friend … He was the Lamb of God, perfect and without blemish. The gift He bought with a dear price is the greatest of all gifts, that of eternal life. May we “always remember him and keep his commandments … that [we] may always have his Spirit to be with [us]” (D&C 20:77) and feel unbounded gratitude at this Christmas season and always (76, 78).

I loved The Joy of Believing . I loved what it was about, how it was written, the illustrations, how it made me feel. As I contemplated the message of each chapter, I felt closer to the Savior, closer to my husband and daughters, closer to my parents and extended family. I wanted to gather everyone around the fire again and read from Sister Kapp’s book. In Christmases to come, I believe we will do just that.

Additional book recommendations for the readers on your list can be found below.

Some of these will be reviewed in depth after the New Year. Merry Christmas Meridian readers! May the Savior’s generous gifts bless you and your family during this very special season.

Wake Up to a Happier Life
By Amanda Dickson

This book is about finding joy in the work you do every day, be it radio co-host (like Amanda Dickson), mother, lawyer or deli manager. Dickson’s book is a fun read. She writes like she talks, with a great sense of humor. Her anecdotes effectively bring home her ideas and can be applied to relationships and life generally. If you want a few keys on how to live happier (even if you’re already happy in the work you are doing) this is a book for you. It is extremely engaging and spot on when it comes to life philosophies. Thoroughly helpful, practical and refreshing!

21 Days Closer to Christ
By Emily Freeman with paintings by Simon Dewey

This gorgeous book is a collaborative effort between Freeman and Dewey. It’s an invitation, a 21-day journey toward a more personal relationship with the Savior. Coming on the heels of President Eyring’s talk about seeing the hand of the Lord I our lives, I thought it a beautiful way to commence an effort of noticing the Lord at work in our day-to-day experiences. Emphasis is placed on daily scripture study and personal prayer. Each chapter concludes with a scriptural reading and an assignment designed to help readers apply the concepts discussed. I am only two days into the journey but enjoying it very much so far.

Finding Peace, Happiness, and Joy
By Richard G. Scott

Elder Scott intended this book to be read as though he and you were together in an open and frank discussion of truth. True to his sensitive, warm and very personal style, Elder Scott counsels readers with apostolic power about how we can fully use the direction the Lord has provided for us. Elder Scott points out that Satan promotes distraction and would have good people fill their lives with “good things” so there is no room for the “essential ones”. The book is full of insightful stories and examples – a wonderful addition to any library by one of our beloved Apostles.

Press On
By Joseph B. Wirthlin

Who can forget Elder Wirthlin’s conference address from October, how he diligently moved forward through his remarks with Elder Nelson supporting him for several minutes? Truly, the motto “Press On” is one Elder Wirthlin lives by. He is known among his colleagues as a wise and resilient man, a man of complete integrity.

This book is about finding inspiration and encouragement to carry on despite life’s challenges. Elder Wirthlin’s message centers upon the three virtues spoken of by Paul – faith, hope and charity. He shares with us his gentle humor and life experience, including the passing of his sweet companion, Elisa. This book, adapted from many talks (some previously unpublished) gives readers sound counsel in a shifting world about how to successfully and faithfully press on through mortality.