We’re just a few days past Thanksgiving, and, already, some critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are rolling out their annual claim that Mormons celebrate “Smithmas,” the birthday of the Prophet Joseph Smith (23 December), with more enthusiasm and vigor than they celebrate the mainstream Christian holiday of Christmas.
For many, I think it’s just a rather bitter and not particularly funny joke. Some, though, seem to take the claim seriously — or, at least, to want others to take it seriously.
The truth, of course, is that most Latter-day Saints don’t even know that 23 December is the Prophet’s birthday, let alone celebrate it. The charge that “Smithmas” is our most beloved and revered holy day rests on an obscure blend of ill-humored joking and, perhaps, flat dishonesty.
Just to put the truth on the record, though, for those who might otherwise be innocently taken in by the claim, here are some things that I’ve written about it during previous years:
The image of Joseph Smith’s First Vision shown above will serve as clearly as anything, I suppose, to illustrate the believing Latter-day Saint view of his position. It is clearly subordinate. The Father and the Son initiated that visit. He didn’t. He was the (surprised and eventually overwhelmed) petitioner. The Father and the Son are instructing him, not the other way around. He is kneeling before them. They are not kneeling before him.
Latter-day Saints have no problem distinguishing a prophet of God from God himself, or telling Joseph Smith apart from the Lord.
Back in the day when my wife and I used to host a little “birthday party” for Joseph Smith on 23 December, we would maybe tell a story or two about the Prophet — or invite somebody else to do so. (The late and much lamented historian Scott Faulring came one year, for example.) Maybe we would express some appreciation for him. Then we would enjoy potluck refreshments and sing Christmas carols. Note: Not “Smithmas carols.” Christmas carols. It was an excuse to get together with some highly musical friends and sing.
Posted from Salt Lake City, Utah