First of all, let’s make this clear:
Joseph Smith deserves to be celebrated. He is the founder of a major religion, a bona fide historical heavyweight, and revered prophet of millions. Nobody would begrudge a commemoration in favour of John Wesley or Ellen White. My sense is that Latter-day Saints are happy to honour Joseph’s 200th birthday…
…But there’s one problem, an elephant that I think may be in the room for some Mormons. If only his birthday were not on December 23! The exmo boards are all a-flutter over “Smithmas” (a nasty and pejorative word) and the Joseph “nativity” at BYU. No surprise there. But in my own ward yesterday, I sensed a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the Friday broadcast. No “bring your friends” invitation. No top-billing in the announcements. Instead, the congregation seemed (rightly) to prefer to concentrate on Christmas. I have even heard a few grumblings, especially over the Joseph-centric Christmas Ensign.
This is a tough issue. How do you tip one’s hat to the Prophet without being accused of celebrating “Smithmas”? Will TV clips of the Friday event make Mormons look like they “worship” Joseph (as they sing “Praise to the Man” and not “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”)? How are you handling the double celebration? Do you wish Joseph had been born in February?