Christmas in the old and new world

I don’t do much business with Deseret Book, but I enjoy getting their catalogs so I can see all the crazy crap they’re selling and make fun of it. But I especially enjoy getting their Fall/Winter catalog so I can see all the nativities that they sell because they do sell some cool nativities. I don’t buy any of these nativities because they are too nice to live in my house. But I enjoy looking at the nativities nonetheless.

One that caught my eye was the “Christmas in the old and new world” set, which has Christmas in Bethlehem on one side and Christmas in the Book of Mormon place, wherever that was, on the other. Aside from the fact that the top looks a little like a ceiling fan to me, I find it aesthetically acceptable. What I can’t quite work out is how I feel about the concept of a Book of Mormon nativity. My Inner Peculiar-People Person thinks it’s awesome. Mormony Christmas! My Inner Traditionalist-slash-Curmudgeon can’t decide if it’s lame or if she hates the living crap out of it. Must we Mormonify everything? Can’t we just let Christmas be? I know my Inner Gen X-er couldn’t less about it one way or the other, but she is being drowned out by the warring factions within.

Just kidding. I just got started with the hyperbole and couldn’t stop. You know how it is.

My husband and I have been reading the Book of Mormon with our children…very…slowly…and we just happened to be getting to 3 Nephi when December started. (Such a relief, as we’ve been working on this project for about two years.) We said, “Oh, goody, just in time for Christmas.” But actually,there isn’t much to the Book of Mormon Christmas story. Samuel the Lamanite prophesies about the sign of Jesus’s birth, and Samuel the Lamanite is cool, for sure, but Christmas Day in Zarahemla is given sort of a cursory treatment. According to 1 Nephi 1, the non-believers were just about to kill the believers when all of a sudden the star shows up, and people are astonished and fall to the earth. (Has anyone else noticed how often people in the Book of Mormon are so astonished that they fall to the earth? Was that like a Western Hemisphere “thing”?) On the creche it’s just some folks and a donkey, and they don’t even appear to be looking up at the sky, so I’m not sure what that’s about.

Anyway, not like it matters–let’s get that clear from the outset–but I know that for some Mormons it’s part of their Christmas tradition to read the story of Jesus’s birth as told in the Book of Mormon in addition to the account in the Bible. They’re probably the folks for whom this creche was made. (Them, and people who just like to collect creches.) In our family, we prefer to stick with the Luke version because the 3 Nephi version just doesn’t seem to add much. In and of itself it’s a fine story, of course–the Book of Mormon as a whole is pretty awesome, in my opinion–but it lacks the drama of Jesus actually showing up in person, so it sort of pales in comparison to the one with Mary and Joseph and the taxes. Still, I think that nativity is kind of sweet (ceiling fan notwithstanding).

Do you incorporate any particularly-Mormon components into your Christmas observance and traditions?


  1. (Complete threadjack) Have I ever mentioned that deseretbook’s website completely sucks? The search engine finds nothing. This page you linked to is all messed up (which happens a lot). If you want a giftcard, you can either email it or print it off yourself – they don’t appear to mail nice-looking gift cards (someone correct me if that is wrong because I really need one). I haven’t ordered in a while, but does it still take 2 or 3 weeks to get your order? The stuff from amazon takes a day or two. Deseretbook takes weeks! /threadjack

  2. I love RJ and her hyperbole.

    We’ve never really done specifically Book of Mormon stuff for Christmas. We have an ‘old world’ nativity, we read from Luke, my mom reads “The Littlest Angel” and we eat some really great food.

    When I was younger, my mom would sometimes bake a birthday cake for Jesus on April 6 (I know, I know!) but while super Mormony that’s not really what you’re asking.

  3. And what is going on on the New World side of that Nativity? I can’t even tell.

  4. Steve Evans says:

    That’s a traditional German Christmas creche– the candles, when lit, will cause the fan to slowly rotate.

    The Book of Mormon version is not a Nativity story, per se — it’s more like the “meanwhile….” part of the Biblical story. It serves to inform and provide a little dramatic backdrop, and helps further the book’s stated aims of proving that Jesus is the Christ, but yeah, it can’t compare to Luke.

  5. I am so glad the ceiling fan has a purpose. Well, technically I guess it’s the candles that have a purpose. Still not sure what the fan’s all about. Who needs a slowly rotating fan at Christmastime? Maybe Christmas was slightly warmer in the New World.

  6. I apologize if that last comment offended any Germans. I love Germans and German creches and German ceiling fans.

  7. my kids love having us read 3 Nephi 1 along with the Luke story on Christmas Eve, because they get to turn the lights off and on and fall to the ground in appropriate places. much more interactive :-)

  8. One year I wrote out a Christmas Eve program, intending for it to be a prototype, but somehow it ossified and we now read the same commentary on the scriptures, year after year…

    Anyway, I’m pretty sure I put something from 3 Ne 1 in there, because I pretty much threw the kitchen sink in. We do the prophecies, then the birth, etc. and I know we sing “Said Samuel, within five years…” so we must follow up on it. Not a real highlight of the evening, but it is there.

    OTOH, my 18yo son used the later part of that chapter for his FHE lesson last week, and it turned into a pretty good discussion on how frames of reference determine whether we recognize miracles in our lives.

  9. Latter-day Guy says:

    RE 5: The whole scene rotates. See here: []

  10. Latter-day Guy says:

    (Admin, are links no longer allowed? It took three tries to get 9 to show up.)

  11. Steve Evans says:

    LD-G, multiple links in a single comment will get picked up by the filter.

  12. “Do you incorporate any particularly-Mormon components into your Christmas observance and traditions?”

    Um, hello! Joseph Smith’s birthday is December 23. So in my house we celebrate “Smithmas” two days before “Christmas.” For most of December, in lieu of nativity scenes, we put up little figurines of Joseph, Emma, Oliver and Moroni, along with a tophat, a seerstone, some gold plates, Laban’s sword and a Urim and Thummim. Seriously, doesn’t everyone do this?

  13. That reminds me of a mission story…

  14. Who needs a slowly rotating fan at Christmastime?

    When the fan turns, then so too will the nativity scenes. It’s pre-industrial automation.

  15. We always read the Nativity in Mark then go to bed and wait for Santa.

  16. We have a “shepherds’ dinner”, which consists of sitting on blanket in the living room in front of the Christmas tree with the kids dressed as shepherds and eat flat bread, goat cheese, grapes and olives out of a wooden bowl. We read from Luke, sing Christmas carols etc. Seems perfectly Mormon to me.

    I agree with Steve that the material about the day of Christ’s birth that is found in the Book of Mormon isn’t meant to be a “Nativity” or add anything to the story of Christ’s birth except to report what was going on elsewhere among a group of people who believed in Christ. The story of Samuel’s prophecy and the people in the Western Hemisphere seeing the sign of Christ’s birth is important for reasons other than conceptualizing Jesus Christ as a newborn baby. It shows the importance of the coming of the Messiah to a group removed from the scene by immense geographical barriers but who nevertheless had faith that Old Testament prophecies and prophecies/revelations of their contemporary holy men would be fulfilled. When the sign came, it was an instance of faith rewarded. It has nothing to do with the nativity per se except that it happened at the same time and shows something consistent about God’s role in human affairs.

  17. Antonio Parr says:


    No, Virginia, we must not Mormonify everything. In fact, we ~should~ not Mormonify everything, especially Christmas, a holy time when we can link arms with our fellow Christians and, without any reservation, link arms and sing hymns of praise and thanksgiving in remembrance of the birth of our Lord. We spoil things (and create needless barriers) when we start to bring in ancillary events half a world away.

    Christ was born in Bethlehem. Isn’t it enough to turn our eyes to that lowly manger, and remember that

    like a stone on the surface of a still river
    drives the ripples on forever
    Redemption rips through the surface of time
    in the cry of a tiny babe

    (“Cry of a Tiny Babe”, by Bruce Cockburn)

  18. “On the morrow come I into the world…” is a great intro. to the choir singing “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day.” That’s a good enough reason for me to include a bit of 3 Nephi in most ward Christmas programs.

  19. Great song, Kristine. Why is truth and the God of truth always marching military-style in our hymns? Why, other than the song you mentioned, can’t Jesus and his cause do some fancy footwork?

  20. Well, we’re at least not the only denomination with a lot of square, 4/4 hymns! But I hear you. We should do a lot more of this:

  21. I think we need to nominate this one for the favorite Aaron B. quote list:

    “Do you incorporate any particularly-Mormon components into your Christmas observance and traditions?”

    “Um, hello! Joseph Smith’s birthday is December 23. So in my house we celebrate “Smithmas” two days before “Christmas.” For most of December, in lieu of nativity scenes, we put up little figurines of Joseph, Emma, Oliver and Moroni, along with a tophat, a seerstone, some gold plates, Laban’s sword and a Urim and Thummim. Seriously, doesn’t everyone do this?”

  22. John Mansfield says:

    “We always read the Nativity in Mark”

    Very funny, Ronan.

  23. “On the morrow come I into the world…” is a great intro. to the choir singing “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day.”

    Or that song from Annie.

  24. RJ, How do you expect to obtain eternal salvation if you do not buy from Deserted Book???? “Christmas in the Old and New World” will buy you at least 5 CK credits for your stamp book. Come on! Get with the program!

  25. I just have to say that I am really enjoying this thread. :)

  26. I really like the story of Christ’s birth in the BofM because it is one of faith. I see it as an example to follow for the second coming. Those who believed that Christ was coming had to face insurmountable obstacles. They thought they would be killed right down to the very moment. “On the morrow” as has been pointed out. It’s a story that shows how anticipated Christ’s birth was and how much faith the people had that all the prophecies were true – not just a fantasy. I like the book, “The Nephite Christmas” (or something like that). We read it to our kids. I think there may come a time when they will need to hold to faith like that.

  27. What Mormony things do we do? We manifest that thoroughly Mormon sentiment known as “religious-envy” by attending a candlelight Christmas Eve service as a family at the local Methodist church.

  28. In the extended family, we always read scriptures from both the Bible and the BoM.

    The 3 Nephi story is one of my favorites, actually. I am quite awestruck at the faith of those people (as Stephanie already mentioned in 26).

  29. Well, the last couple of years, we have read Luke, and then 3 Nephi, but then the conversation usually turns to the idea of Samuel setting a precedent for an outlier coming into the church and prophesying, and how such types are received on Fast Sunday now….
    And then we go to bed, wondering why we thought living in Missouri would be such a great idea.

  30. My guess is that on the new world side, all the figures are just laying down. Boring design disguised as piety.

  31. Latter-day Guy says:

    “…wondering why we thought living in Missouri would be such a great idea.”

    Which part of Missouri?

  32. Near Far West. Are you in Missouri also?

  33. Kristine, that song is great, but I have to admit that for a minute I thought I was watching a scene from Hogwarts…video quality not so good, some kids looked like ghosts.

    And that’s, incidentally, how I bring mormonism into my christmas worship. When the ghost of christmas past, present, or future shows up, I ask to shake his hand.

  34. LOL. This is hilarious.

  35. Oh! I just remembered a story the missionaries told me of one man who would refuse to buy anything from Deseret Book because he thought they were guilty of priestcraft.

    Must be a Utah thing.
    (Just kidding on that one, my Eastie is coming out a bit there)

  36. Latter-day Guy says:

    I will be this evening––I’m out of state at school usually. We’re from down in the SW near Joplin/Springfield area. It’s always nice to meet a fellow resident of Zion! ;-)

  37. While a little late to comment… the Holidays brought me into Deseret Book where I was taken back by the increasing number of LDS type artists who are rendering Christ as a heroic, blue-eyed, western european nobleman. The artwork is wonderful, but very unconvincing to me. Do we really have to fudge on this aspect? I hope that the disconnect evident in our artwork bears no relation to possible disconnect in our doctrine…