As one of the most polarizing years in U.S. history draws to an end, Mormon leaders are urging all to mark the holidays with acts of love and forgiveness.

Speaking Sunday night at the LDS Church First Presidency’s annual Christmas Devotional, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the governing First Presidency, reminded the faith’s nearly 16 million members that love should be what “best describes the feelings we experience at Christmastime.”

(Courtesy LDS Church) Dieter Uchtdorf, second counselor to President Thomas S. Monson, reminded the faith’s nearly 16 million members that love should be what “best describes the feelings we experience at Christmastime.”

“After all, the gift that we celebrate at Christmas is a gift of love — God’s gift of his son,” Uchtdorf told a crowd that packed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 21,000-seat Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

“During this season, touched by that love, hearts soften,” Uchtdorf added during a talk broadcast by BYUtv and viewed online by a global audience. “We feel a tenderness that causes us to reach out to others in kindness and compassion. Christmas inspires us to love better.”

Uchtdorf briefly recounted his own impoverished childhood growing up in then-East Germany. His family members twice fled their home as refugees in a seven-year period.

“These were times of great need,” he said, “but I consider them happy times, because I could feel the love we had for each other, for the Lord, and for his church.”

(Courtesy LDS Church) Cristina Franco, second counselor in the general presidency of the church’s Primary auxiliary, added that forgiveness can be the greatest gift of all to give during the Christmas season.

Cristina Franco, second counselor in the general presidency of the church’s Primary organization for children, added that forgiveness can be the greatest gift of all to give during the Christmas season.

“Forgiving others brings peace and joy to our lives,” she said.

Kevin Duncan, a member of the church’s First Quorum of the Seventy, recalled that as a child, “I thought Christmas came just one day a year.”

“As an adult, I now realize that it is Christmas every day,” he said. “We are the recipients of a continuous flow of heavenly gifts — every day.”

Uchtdorf concluded the devotional, which also included music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra, by calling on all to embrace a “Christmas tradition” that emphasizes both charitable thoughts and actions.

“No matter where we are,” he said, “[let us strive] to be a little kinder, more forgiving, less judging, more grateful, and more generous in sharing our abundance with those in need.”

President Thomas S. Monson, the faith’s ailing 90-year-old leader, did not attend Sunday’s service.