By Sharon Lindbloom
23 December 2016
December Christmas celebrations notwithstanding, according to LDS leaders past and present, Jesus was born on 6 April 1 B.C. This fact was pointed out recently at LDS Daily in an article titled, “Was Jesus Christ Really Born in December?” Here journalist Aleah Ingram noted that James Talmage, a now-deceased apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “believed the Savior was born on April 6, referencing the first verse in the twentieth section of the Doctrine and Covenants.” In his book, Jesus the Christ, considered by Mormons to be “the definitive work on the life of Christ” (Deseret News, 1/25/03), James Talmage wrote,
“We believe April 6th to be the birthday of Jesus Christ as indicated in a revelation of the present dispensation already cited [D&C 2:1], in which that day is made without qualification the completion of the one thousand eight hundred and thirtieth year since the coming of the Lord in the flesh. This acceptance is admittedly based on faith in modern revelation, and is in no wise set forth as the result of chronological research or analysis. We believe that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, April 6, B.C. 1.” (104)
The LDS Daily article also cited past LDS prophets Harold B. Lee and Spencer W. Kimball stating unambiguously that Jesus was born on April 6, as well as a more recent comment from the April 2014 General Conference when LDS apostle David A. Bednar noted,
“Today is April 6. We know by revelation that today is the actual and accurate date of the Savior’s birth.” (“Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Ensign, May 2014)
Not mentioned in the LDS Daily article but equally important to the topic, is this statement included in an LDS Church manual:
Jesus Was Born in Bethlehem, April 6, 1 B.C.” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 22)
In Christianity, the exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown. The important fact is that Jesus was born in real time and in a real place. Therefore, Mormons believing Jesus’ birthday is on April 6 doesn’t really matter in the context of salvation.
But here’s what I find really interesting about this LDS Daily article. Though several Mormon leaders have clearly stated that the birth of Christ was on April 6, and though each of the leaders mentioned above are, according to the LDS Church, “prophets, seers, and revelators,” and though the April 6 date is included in an LDS teaching manual, and though a current apostle of the Church said in General Conference that the “actual and accurate” date of Christ’s birth is known by revelation, the LDS Daily article pointed out, “the Church has no official position” on the date of Jesus’ birth. After citing Mormon historians who disagree with LDS general authorities, the journalist wrote, “At the end of the day, there is no definitive way to prove the actual birth date of Jesus Christ.”
This leaves me scratching my head. While I do not believe LDS authorities receive their revelations directly from God, Mormons say they do. Mormonism plants its “true church” flag on the declaration that it is led by trustworthy latter-day prophets.
“By Christ’s authority, twelve Apostles were again called to lead that Church and receive direct revelation. This direct communication with the Savior continues today,… As with the early Church that we read about in the scriptures, [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] is led by a prophet who instructs God’s people under the Savior’s direction.” (“How can I know His true Church today?” at mormon.org)
“What many people do not realize is that there are again prophets on earth—speaking on behalf of God today! Through prophets, Heavenly Father continues to demonstrate His love and attention by sending us the messages we need right now. These men act as mouthpieces for God. Just as Moses spoke for God to all the Israelites, living prophets give instructions and counsel to all people today… These messages from God are available to all people: President Thomas S. Monson, his counselors, and the Twelve Apostles speak to the world twice a year during a meeting called general conference.” (“Why do we have prophets?” and “How do prophets impact society?” at mormon.org)
However, when Mormon prophets and apostles state at general conferences that it is known via revelation that Jesus was born on April 6, the Church “has no official position” on the matter and Mormons are left with the ambiguous bottom line: “there is no definitive way to prove the actual birth date of Jesus.”
Then LDS claims to the contrary, neither is there a definitive way to “prove” that Joseph Smith ever spoke with God, that the Book of Mormon came from God, or that the LDS Church is “the only true and living church upon the face of the earth.” If Latter-day Saints cannot or do not believe their prophets on inconsequential teachings like the birthday of Christ, why do they trust these men on doctrines related to salvation and exaltation? Or on the nature of God? Or on the Atonement? Indeed, what is to say that LDS prophets and apostles speak for – or hear from – God at all? The actual date of Christ’s birth doesn’t matter; but following a false prophet will matter for all of eternity.
As I wrote earlier, the important thing pertaining to Christ’s birth is not the specific date, but the fact.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Discussing the great biblical Christmas passage in Luke 2, Christian theologian John Piper summed up,
Christmas in Sum:
The Lord of never-ending, universal, sovereign governance. The Lord of all lords.
On a day— in real history. [“When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son…” -Galatians 4:4]
In a city— in a real world. [“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah…from you shall come forth…one who is to be ruler in Israel…” -Micah 5:2]
The Savior— to take away all our guilt. [“You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” -Matthew 1:21]
The Christ— to fulfill all our hopes. [“For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him.” -1 Corinthians 1:20]
The Lord— to defeat all our enemies and make us safe and satisfied for ever. [“Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace…” -Isaiah 9:6-7] (John Piper, “A Savior Is Born! God Gets the Glory, You Get the Peace,” The Dawning of Indestructible Joy)
No matter the date of His birth, Jesus – God made flesh – was born to die, to save us from our sins. For this, with all the host of heaven we rejoice, “Glory to God in the Highest! And on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”