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10 times Church leaders referenced ‘A Christmas Carol’ — published on this day in 1843

Elder Gerrit W. Gong recently used the story to illustrate a gospel principle, but he’s not the only leader who loves Charles Dickens’ classic

Audience members during the 2023 First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional were delighted when Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles donned a scarf and top hat while sharing his family’s annual tradition of reading Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

He explained that the book — published on Dec. 19, 1843 — was written at a time in Victorian England when people were reconsidering the meaning of Christmas. “At a time when many felt unsettled, isolated and lonely, Dickens’ ‘Christmas Carol’ addressed a deep yearning for friendship, love and anchoring Christian values, just as Ebenezer Scrooge found peace and healing to his past, present and future.”

Unfortunately, many think of the grumpy old miser instead of the generous new Scrooge when they think of the character. “Are there those around us, perhaps we ourselves, who could be a different person if only we would stop typecasting or stereotyping them as their old self?” Elder Gong asked.  

Elder Gong isn’t the only Church leader who has used the beloved Christmas story to illustrate gospel principles. On the 180th anniversary of the book’s publication, here are nine other times that leaders referenced “A Christmas Carol”:

The magic of Christmas

“In ‘A Christmas Carol,’ written by English author Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew captures the magic of this sacred time of year. He reflects, ‘I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round… as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their… hearts freely, and to think of [other] people. … And therefore…, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!’

“As a parent, and now as a grandparent, I have been reminded of the magic of Christmas as I have watched my children, and now their children, celebrate the Savior’s birth and enjoy one another’s company as our family gathers together. I am sure you have watched, as I have, the joy and innocence with which children look forward to and relish this special holiday. Seeing their joy reminds each of us of happy Christmases past. It was Dickens again who observed, ‘It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.’”

— Elder L. Whitney Clayton, December 2015 First Presidency Christmas Devotional, “Fear Not”

“A Christmas Carol” open on a table to the title page. A black and white line illustration of the Scrooge’s third visitor — the Ghost of Christmas Future — on the facing page.
A copy of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” lies open with its title page showing. | laplateresca - stock.adobe.com

Jacob Marley: ‘Mankind was my business’

“In ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Jacob Marley is living a nightmare, bound in the chains he ‘forged in life … link by link.’ He vocalizes his nightmare in response to a comment by Scrooge that he was always a good man of business.

“‘Business!’ cries Marley. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business! …

“‘Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?’

“In your pursuit of an income, may you remember, as Marley stated, that mankind is your true business and that the Savior is your light to lead you to becoming an A-level individual.”

— Elder Lynn G. Robbins in the December 2013 Ensign article, “Making a Living, Making a Life”

The law of sacrifice and the natural man

“In Charles Dickens’ timeless classic ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Bob Cratchit hoped to spend Christmas Day with his family. ‘If quite convenient, Sir,’ he asked his employer, Mr. Scrooge.

“‘It’s not convenient,’ said Scrooge, ‘and it’s not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you’d think yourself ill used.’ …

“‘And yet,’ said Scrooge, ‘you don’t think me ill-used, when I pay a day’s wages for no work.’

“The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

“‘A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!’ said Scrooge. 

“For Scrooge — as with any selfish, or ‘natural,’ man — sacrifice is never convenient.

“The natural man has a tendency to think only of himself — not only to place himself first, but rarely, if ever, to place anyone else second, including God. For the natural man, sacrifice does not come naturally. He has an insatiable appetite for more. His so-called needs seem to always outpace his income so that having ‘enough’ is forever out of reach, just as it was for the miser Scrooge. …

“In ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Mr. Scrooge changed his ways — he was not the man he had been. Likewise, this is the gospel of repentance. If the Spirit is prompting us to more fully obey the law of sacrifice in our life, may we begin making that change today.”

— Elder Lynn G. Robbins, April 2005 general conference, “Tithing — a Commandment Even for the Destitute”

David Morgan as Ebenezer Scrooge in Hale Center Theater Orem’s “A Christmas Carol.”
David Morgan as Ebenezer Scrooge in Hale Center Theater Orem’s “A Christmas Carol.” | Suzy Oliveira

Keeping Christmas all year

“At this time of the year, my family knows that I will read again my Christmas treasury of books and ponder the wondrous words of the authors. First will be the Gospel of Luke — even the Christmas story. This will be followed by ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens and, finally, ‘The Mansion’ by Henry Van Dyke.

“I always must wipe my eyes when reading these inspired writings. They touch my inner soul, as they will yours.

“Wrote Dickens, ‘I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round … as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.’

In his classic ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Dickens’s now converted character, Ebenezer Scrooge, declares at last: ‘I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. The Spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.’”

— President Thomas S. Monson in the December 2003 Liahona article, “The Gifts of Christmas”

Overcoming selfishness

“Some, like Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ have a hard time loving anyone, even themselves, because of their selfishness. Love seeks to give rather than to get. Charity towards and compassion for others is a way to overcome too much self-love.”

— President James E. Faust in the December 2001 Liahona article, “A Christmas with No Presents”

Ebenezer Scrooge: ‘I am not the man I was’

“As we remember that ‘when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God’ (Mosiah 2:17), we will not find ourselves in the unenviable position of Jacob Marley’s ghost, who spoke to Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ immortal ‘A Christmas Carol.’ 

“Marley spoke sadly of opportunities lost. Said he: ‘Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness. Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunities misused! Yet such was I. Oh! such was I!’

“Marley added: ‘Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!’

“Fortunately, as we know, Ebenezer Scrooge changed his life for the better. I love his line, ‘I am not the man I was.’

“Why is the story ‘A Christmas Carol’ so popular? Why is it ever new? I personally feel it is inspired of God. It brings out the best within human nature. It gives hope. It motivates change. We can turn from the paths which would lead us down and, with a song in our hearts, follow a star and walk toward the light. We can quicken our step, bolster our courage and bask in the sunlight of truth. We can hear more clearly the laughter of little children. We can dry the tear of the weeping. We can comfort the dying by sharing the promise of eternal life. If we lift one weary hand which hangs down, if we bring peace to one struggling soul, if we give as did the Master, we can — by showing the way — become a guiding star for some lost mariner.”

— President Thomas S. Monson, October 2001 general conference, “Now Is the Time”

Kelsey Grammer, left, as Ebenezer Scrooge, and Jane Krakowski as the Lamplighter in a still from NBC’s 2004 “A Christmas Carol: The Musical.”
Kelsey Grammer, left, as Ebenezer Scrooge, and Jane Krakowski as the Lamplighter in a still from NBC’s 2004 “A Christmas Carol: The Musical.” | NBC

Tiny Tim: ‘God bless us every one’

“All of us love Dickens’s immortal ‘A Christmas Carol.’ It is the story of the rich and selfish Ebenezer Scrooge, who is mean and unmerciful in his treatment of his employee, Bob Cratchit. And then in the night of Christmas Eve, Scrooge’s deceased partner, Jacob Marley, comes to visit him with visions of Christmas past, of Christmas present and of Christmas future. This terrifying experience so shocks Scrooge that when he realizes that it was a dream, he is happy and changes his entire life. He reaches out to the Cratchit family. The story is a portrayal of the Spirit of Christ, which can turn men’s lives completely around. It is a story of selfishness being replaced by generosity. It is a story of unconcern being replaced by deep concern. It is a story of hate being replaced by love. It is a story of sweet benediction when the little crippled child, Tiny Tim, calls out, ‘God bless us every one.’”

— President Gordon B. Hinckley in the December 1994 Liahona article, “To Do Good Always”

Children’s love

“In our daily experiences with children, we discover they are most perceptive and often utter profound truths. Charles Dickens, the author of the classic ‘A Christmas Carol,’ illustrated this fact when he described the humble Bob Cratchit family assembling for a rather meager but long-anticipated Christmas dinner. Bob, the father, was returning home with his frail son Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Tiny Tim ‘bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame.’ Bob’s wife asked of him, ‘And how did little Tim behave?’

“‘As good as gold,’ said Bob, ‘and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.’ (Charles Dickens, ‘Christmas Carol’ and ‘Cricket on the Hearth,’ New York: Grosset and Dunlop, n.d., 50–51.)

“Charles Dickens himself said, ‘I love these little people, and it is not a slight thing when they who are so fresh from God love us.’

“Children express their love in original and innovative ways.”

— President Thomas S. Monson, October 1991 general conference, “Precious Children — A Gift from God”

Richard Wilkins as Scrooge and Scott Fidel as Tiny Tim in Hale Centre Theatre’s 2002 production of “A Christmas Carol.”
Richard Wilkins as Scrooge and Scott Fidel as Tiny Tim in Hale Centre Theatre’s 2002 production of “A Christmas Carol.” | Steve Fidel, Deseret News

The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future

“Perhaps I was influenced too — as have been countless thousands of others — by the words of Charles Dickens as he wrote that immortal classic, ‘A Christmas Carol.’ We recall the habitual response of ‘Bah! Humbug!’ that Ebenezer Scrooge gave to any Christmas greeting. On one such occasion his cheerful nephew replied: ‘I have always thought of Christmastime… as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time… and I say, God bless it!’

“Then you will remember Scrooge’s dream when the Ghost of Christmas Past appeared and said to him: ‘I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link… and of my own free will I wore it.’

“Thus Scrooge was reminded of his own neglect of his fellowmen and his heart began to soften. By the time of the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Present, he was able to say, ‘Tonight, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.’

“Then when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appeared, Scrooge said: ‘I am prepared for what you have to say to me… with a thankful heart.’

“As he was shown the sad fates of some he had failed to help and foresaw his own lonely death, he pleaded, ‘Assure me that I yet may change… [and] I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.’

“He was overjoyed when he awakened and found that he was still alive and had time to make amends, which he promptly set about to do.

“May we live so that we will have no regrets for Christmases past. May our present Christmases be filled with the joy that comes from keeping the commandments that our Lord and Savior came to teach. May we continue to look forward with expectation for happier Christmases to come because we have shared our blessings with others. And may it be said of us, that ‘he knew how to celebrate Christmas reverence.’”

— President N. Eldon Tanner in the December 1977 Liahona article, “Christmas Remembrances of the First Presidency”

Related Stories
First Presidency’s Christmas Devotional 2023: Read talk summaries, see photos
Elder Gerrit W. Gong: ‘Christ, Our Savior is Born’
What a teacup, a bag of cash and ‘A Christmas Carol’ taught Elder Curtis about business ethics
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