“UNTO US THIS DAY”
— by LaFond Hall
(with some revision by Robert Starling)
Most Christmas stories center around the blessed events in Bethlehem, and the birth of
the Christ child. But there were also believers in the New World, in ancient America,
who were anxiously awaiting a sign in the heavens that would tell them that Jesus was
born, and that sign would literally save their lives. They lived in a land where wicked
men persecuted Christians, and were waiting to destroy them if the sign did not appear.
Their story -a favorite of our family- is equally as important at this special time of year.
“Oh, Grandpa, Grandpa, what are we going to do?”
It was late afternoon of a bright, golden day as eight year old Oman ran sobbing into his grandfather’s
small cottage on the outskirts of the great city Zarahemla. His small body shook as he threw his arms around
the old man’s neck.
“What is it, little one? What troubles you so?”
“Oh, Grandpa, you know what it is… I just had to get away from home. Mother has been crying now for
two days, and Father looks so sad and solemn. We spend lots of time praying, but it doesn’t do any good.
I just know it doesn’t do any good!”
“There, there, lad. Don’t say such things. Prayer is always worthwhile.” He comforted the little boy and
held him close until his crying ceased.
“Grandpa, tell me once again what Samuel said. Are you sure he was telling the truth? After all, he was a
Lamanite, wasn’t he?
Amner smiled. “Yes, he was a Lamanite; but he was also a prophet. And he was telling the truth. He said
many things, my boy. He scolded the people for their wickedness, and reminded them of their many
blessings. And he promised us that in about five years time -which is just about now- that Jesus would be
born in Jerusalem. When that happens we will know it in our land here because there will be a night when
there is no darkness, and a new star will also appear.”
“Oh, I want to believe Grandpa, I truly want to. But tomorrow we’ll all be killed unless we reject those
words of Samuel. And I, I…, –His voice broke. After a moment he continued quietly, “My friend Zanoh and
all his family had their names taken from the records of the Church this morning. The family of Landi did
the same thing yesterday.
“Is that what you want, little one?”
“Oh, no! I was just barely baptized last summer. But…” He hesitated, “but I have thought about it.
My father spoke with my mother about it, too. They’ve agreed to face execution before they deny the faith,
but they told me that I must choose for myself.”
“That’s good my boy. They are wise. Your see, Samuel also said, “Behold ye are free. Ye are permitted
to act for yourselves, for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.” You are
at the age of accountability, lad; no one can decide for you.”
“Grandpa, Samuel wasn’t the only one who said there would be a Christ, was he?
“No indeed. All of our fathers from the days of our ancestor Lehi have spoken of Christ. And even before
Lehi’s time the prophets of old told of the coming of the Messiah. The Plates of Brass contain many such
prophecies. We know that he will be born near Jerusalem, and we know that his mother will be a beautiful
virgin whose name is Mary. And we know that he will come soon, Oman, –very soon.”
“But will it be soon enough?” The little boy turned a tear-stained face toward his grandfather, pleading
for reassurance. Will God save us tomorrow, Grandpa? Do you think he will?”
“I don’t know, Oman.” The old man brushed back an unruly lock of hair from the boy’s forehead. “For
your sake and your family’s, I wish I could say ‘yes’ with certainty. He paused a moment “but for me it
doesn’t matter that much. I’ve already lived most of my life, and it’s been one of abundant blessings.”
“But — the Lord didn’t save Abinadi!?” Oman’s eyes were wide. “The wicked priests burned him up,
“Yes my boy,they did.”
“But he wouldn’t deny Christ!” There was pride in the youngster’s voice. “And the people that believed
Alma in Amoniha wouldn’t deny either, would they?”
“No, Oman, they wouldn’t deny their beliefs.”
The youngster sat quietly for a time, studying the shape of his sandal. Then suddenly he said,
“Why did God let the wicked men kill them?”
The old Nephite, had been expecting this question. “Because it was not just to the righteous that God
said, “ye are permitted to choose for yourselves”. If we could only choose righteousness, that would be no
choice, at all. “
“Grandfather,” Oman stood up. “I’m going home now. Mother will be worried if I stay here until the
darkness comes. I know now what I should do. I’m pretty scared, but I… but when the rulers take the church
records tomorrow, my name will be listed there in the same column with yours and Father’s and Mother’s.
“I’m proud of you, Son”. Amner reached for his gnarled cane and got to his feet. “It would be hard for
me to walk to your home tomorrow morning, so can you please ask your father to bring the family here” Let
us be together as we wait for the soldiers to come.” He patted the blond head of his grandson and told him
The little boy stepped out into the twilight. But what a curious, luminous, beautiful kind of twilight it was!
The sun had gone down to be sure, and there was a rosy glow above the western mountains where it had
But behind the mountains to the north and the jungle to the south, the sky was bright with a blue-white
light. Oman turned quickly to look at the city of Zarahemla. It wasn’t in shadows as it should have been by
now, but somehow curiously light. It was almost like noonday, yet… unexplainably different. There were no
shadows anywhere, and the source of light seemed to be everywhere, –and yet nowhere in particular.
“Grandpa…, Grandpa!” called Oman. “Y-You’d better come out here. There’s the funniest sunset, or the
brightest moonlight, or…”
Amner stepped outside his cottage, and for a long moment he looked around him. He placed his hands on
the boy’s shoulders, then smiled and spoke gently and reverently.
“There is no moon tonight, dear boy, and the sun has already gone to rest. But I don’t think your mother
will be concerned. You see, there will be no darkness tonight.
“For unto us is born this day, in the city of David
a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
(see 3rd Book of Nephi, Chapter 1 in The Book of Mormon- Another Testament of Jesus Christ)
THE OTHER CHRISTMAS MIRACLE
– by Robert Starling
On a certain night every year all over the earth, millions of families gather together and share a two thousand year-old story, of how a baby was born in a humble stable who would become the long-awaited Messiah of Israel, and save the entire world from sin and error.
To non-believers, it is an incredible tale of angels appearing like UFO’s to frightened shepherds in the Middle East, as they were camping out in the hills tending their flocks. According to the story, there were also wise and pious men in a far country to the east of Bethlehem who saw a bright new star in the sky, announcing the birth of the Christ child and fulfilling ancient prophesies. Like the shepherds, they would undertake a journey to go and worship the baby boy. Who these men were, where they were from, and how many were in their party is not known. It is a well-known but little-understood mystery of the Christmas season.
But there was another amazing and wondrous celestial event that took place on that fateful night, in an even more distant land a world away. And with that heavenly sign of his coming, the child Jesus, by his very birth, prevented the kind of horrific slaughter of innocents that took place at the hands of Herod in Bethlehem about two years later. This was the “other” Christmas miracle. How did it happen?
As millions of believers throughout the world are aware, but yet few celebrate, another wise and holy man named Samuel had come preaching on a distant continent among the people whom Jesus later referred to as his “other sheep”. Samuel had prophesied that a savior would be born in about five years’ time, and that the sign of his coming would be not only a new star in the heavens, but that in that land there would be a day, a night, and a day without darkness.
There were many who believed the words of Samuel and looked forward to these heavenly signs, but they were scoffed at and ridiculed by the rich and powerful. As the five-year deadline approached, the intolerance and persecution intensified, until at last the rulers proclaimed that if the new star did not appear, and the night without darkness did not occur by a certain date, those who would not deny their strange beliefs would be put to death. Like the many Christians who later suffered martyrdom in the coliseums of Rome, these believers were ready to lay down their lives in their commitment to their faith.
But the sign did come. As the sun began to set on that fateful day, there was no darkness. In all that night, it was light in their land as though it was mid-day. The faithful were spared, and many more were converted. The celestial signs of the birth of Christ had indeed brought about “peace on earth”, at least in that land, and at least for a short time.
That’s a beautiful story, but how could it be true? In today’s world of scientific facts and hard reality, how could any reasonable and intelligent person believe such a fable? Is there any evidence that such a thing can really happen?
Actually . . . For centuries Christian and non-Christian astronomers have speculated on what might have been a reasonable explanation of the so-called “Star of Bethlehem”. Some have postulated that a supernova explosion in a distant galaxy might account for a “new star” in the heavens. Others have calculated a rare alignment of planets that could have created an extraordinary light in the night sky. In fact, just a few days ago on December 21 of this year, a spectacular conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn occurred that hasn’t been as visible for almost 800 years. It was covered on major news networks and brought people out of their homes all over the world with their binoculars and telescopes to scan the evening sky.
But what about a night without darkness? Has that ever happened before? Wouldn’t a person be deluded and crazy to believe in something like that?
Actually . . . In a September 2003 conference of the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum (BMAF), John Tvedtnes presented a paper called “Book of Mormon Hits,” in which he provided several scientific possibilities based on historical events:
* Glowing night fogs have been observed in various places. The cause is unknown although it is thought that it might be electrical in nature. The phenomenon was first described in 1982 by meteorologist William R. Corliss. One such luminous fog extended from Africa to Sweden and throughout North and South America. Another happened in 1783 in the Alps, and another in Western Europe in August 1821. An 1831 glowing night fog was observed almost world-wide. Corliss concludes that “nights were so bright that the smallest print could be read at midnight.”
* There is also something that is called “earthquake luminosity.” On 9 December 1731, following an earthquake in Florence, Italy, luminous clouds appeared over England. Similar things have happened in places like France and South America. In fact, it is very common in South America where it is called the “Andes glow.” Sometimes it follows the mountain ridges for as much as 300 miles in length.
* In 1908 there was a period of time during which there were some very, very bright skies, when an object burned up in the atmosphere and exploded over the Tunguska region of Siberia. Most scientists now believe it was a comet or asteroid. People in Scotland reported that in rooms facing north, objects cast shadows at night. In London it was possible to read the small print in the London Times at midnight. It was possible to read the large print indoors at 1:30 a.m. The room was quite as light as if it had been day.” Photographs were taken by this natural light at 1:00 a.m. at Stockholm, Sweden, and also at Novorzhev, Russia.
A Cornell University research paper published by the American Geophysical Union in 2009 explores the 1908 “Tunguska Event” in greater detail, and attributes the “nights without darkness” to ice crystals in the upper atmosphere similar to those caused by frozen water vapor from the Space Shuttle exhaust plume. This “noctilucent cloud phenomenon” (the scientific term) was observed for days after the space shuttle Endeavour (STS-118) launched on Aug. 8, 2007. Similar cloud formations had been observed following launches in 1997 and 2003.
Links to these papers can be found below. But whatever caused it to happen, and however widespread it was, the “night without darkness” came at the precise time prophesied by Samuel. And this “other Christmas miracle” physically saved the lives of believing Nephites on that holy night so long ago. Just as we are saved by trusting in Christ in our crazy world today.
Robert Starling is a creative consultant for Book of Mormon Central. (www.bookofmormoncentral.org) He has been a writer and producer for the NBC Television Network, and at Schick Sunn Classic Pictures, Osmond Productions, and the media production department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His recent book “A Case for Latter-day Christianity” is available in many bookstores, on Barnes and Noble, and on Amazon.com in printed and e-book versions. He lives in Riverton, Utah with his wife Sharon. They have four adult children and eleven grandchildren.