Saturday, December 4, 2010

LDS Congregations Organize Nativity Scenes To Promote Interdenominational Christian Fellowship And To Counter Anti-Mormon Bigotry

In the past, one of the reasons why some have questioned whether or not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly Christian is because we don't celebrate Christmas in quite the same fashion as other Christian denominations. We have no crosses on the outside or inside of our chapels, and as a rule of thumb, we do not hold services on Christmas day unless it coincides on a Sunday, although individual bishops are free to hold special Christmas services if they desire. But each December, the First Presidency of the LDS Church presents a Christmas devotional with messages by members of the First Presidency and music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; this year, it will be held on December 5th at 6 P.M. Mountain Time (specific information HERE)

One way to counter this negative perception is for Mormons to get involved in community nativity scenes. The web has seen a sudden upsurge in stories about LDS involvement in local nativity scenes. Here's a short sampling:

-- "Congregations join for large display of Nativity scenes", the Daily Oklahoman, December 4th 2010: The Oklahoma City Ward will join with other LDS congregations to display hundreds of Nativity scenes at their chapel during a program called “Glory to the Newborn King: An Interfaith Nativity Scene” to be held December 17-18. Organizer Julie Mills of Bethany said the Oklahoma City Ward has assembled 50 to 100 Nativity scenes each year for the past several years during the Christmas holidays. This year, the congregation has joined with 10 other LDS congregations to present about 300 Nativity scenes from around the world.

-- "Actors Bring Nativity to Life", KOLR Channel 10, December 3rd 2010: For the fourth year, the LDS congregation South Cox Road in Springfield, MO have put together a living nativity scene. Brian Chandler, the local stake president, said "We've invited others from the community which is our desire to make this a community event not just our church members, but to invite all people from all faiths to come and join with us and celebrate the nativity". A display of international nativity scenes is also available inside the chapel.

-- "Nativity set collection display boasts international flair", Bloomington (IL) Pantagraph, December 3rd 2010: On December 3-4, the LDS congregation in Normal, IL, is displaying more than 300 Nativity sets collected from across the globe. The representations of the birth of Jesus, ranging from an egg-shaped set from Israel to a homemade one measuring 3 feet across, cover 18 tables. The manger scenes came from as far away as Russia and Germany, and materials included wood, metal, glass and even straw.

-- "Hi-tech nativity scene", The Peterborough (ON) Examiner, December 4th 2010: The LDS congregation in Hamilton Township, Ontario, Canada is hosting their fifth annual Cobourg Nativity and Choir Performance this weekend. Along with more than 200 nativity displays in media ranging from Lego to ice, science writer Peter McMahon will have a computer program set up to show the skies on any of the three dates put forth as the actual birth date of Christ.

-- "Annual nativity scene display this weekend",, December 3rd 2010: The LDS congregation in Fort St. John, British Columbia, Canada is holding an open viewing of various different nativity scenes on December 3-4. There are more than 300 different Christmas nativity scenes from around the world both outside and inside the church. Church officials say the different scenes are owned by members of the congregation and some have been collected from various parts of the world.

This is just a relatively small sampling; the same Google search identified at least five other instances, and that was just on the first three pages of the search alone. There is no evidence that the sudden upsurge in LDS Nativity scenes has been specifically promoted or orchestrated by Church headquarters in Salt Lake, so this reflects a genuine desire for increased fellowship at the local level.

Although Latter-day Saints are taught that Jesus Christ was actually born on April 6th, we do celebrate His birth on December 25th. In response to a question posed in Ensign magazine in December 1992, Roger A. Hendrix, then the president of the LDS Chile Santiago South Mission, said that the simple answer to the question is that, regardless of whether or not April 6th is Christ’s birth date, there is no compelling reason for Church members to go against a well-established Christian holiday unless the Lord requires it of us. And there are at least three good reasons why we can feel comfortable observing the traditional date. First, Joseph Smith apparently approved of the growing religious significance of the December 25th holiday. Second, Latter-day Saints have not been inclined to take extreme positions on matters not essential to the message of the Restoration. And finally, it is not uncommon for historical events to be celebrated on a day other than when they occurred. For example, few people care that the signing of the Declaration of Independence is celebrated in the United States on July 4th instead of on July 2nd, the actual date of the signing.

The governing principle in such situations is one of intent, which is also why we use water instead of wine in our Sacramental emblems.


Anonymous said...

Mormons’ theology is based on First Century Christianity, not Fourth Century Creeds. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ comport more closely with Early Christianity than any other denomination. And Mormons’ teenagers have been judged to “top the charts” in Christian Characteristics by a UNC-Chapel Hill study. Read about it here:

Those who would denigrate the Mormon religion, usually are mis-informed.

Mormons have a better understanding of Christianity than any other denomination, according to a 2010 Pew Forum poll:

11 of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were non-Trinitarian Christians. Those who insist on a narrow definition of Christianity are doing our Republic an injustice.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how you can say that Mormon theology is based on First Century Christianity. It is completely contrary to the teachings of the Bible. The Jesus of the Bible is a different Jesus than the Jesus of the Mormon religion. The Jesus of the Bible is the son of God, born to a virgin by immaculate conception. The Jesus of Mormonism was a spirit child of the Mormon God and one of his wives. According to Mormonism, Jesus and Satan were brothers. I'm not trying to be disrespectful of anyone's beliefs, I just don't understand how it could be the same. The main theme of Christianity is that God loved us so much that he sent his son to die for us so that we would be forgiven of our sins, by grace, not by works. Salvation is a free gift given to us. We don't have to earn it. Therefore, the focus of Christianity is the fact that Jesus died for our sins even though we didn't deserve it, yet Mormons are not allowed to wear crosses and crosses are not put on the churches. It seems to me that that is denying what Jesus did for us.

Anonymous said...

The earlier writer of a comment was right. The Mormon Church theology most closely matches an untold number of verses in the Bible. Those who have other views have not really read the Bible closely or choose to ignore anything that does not agree with what they have been taught.

A few examples:

* Where but the LDS Church are there 12 Apostles?

* Where but the LDS Church are their legitimate prophets?

* Where but the LDS Church is there "baptism for the dead"?

* Where are the "Seventy" except in the LDS Church?

* When Jesus was baptized, there were plainly three separate beings (read your scriptures carefully), not an "all in one" trinity.

* Except for the LDS Church, doctrine is in the form of "creeds" which were written solely by "men" with NO input from God.

* Where but in the LDS Church can you find someone who can clearly describe God?

* There is NO evidence of "paid clergy" in the primitive church and none in the LDS Church.

* Legitimate "revelation" from God can only be found in the LDS Church.

I could go on and on. Read your Bible carefully and see how much it agrees with the LDS doctrine and how many "omissions" there are in other church's theologies. That is because the LDS Church theology was revealed by God and the other churches rely on creeds written by men.