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JOSEPH SMITH’S BIRTHDAY COMMEMORATED

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Late December, the time of the celebration of the Savior's birth, is also when Joseph Smith was born.

The Historic Sites missionary couples in the New York Rochester Mission had a memorable experience when they gathered to commemorate the Prophet's birthday on Dec. 23 at the Joseph Smith home on Stafford Road in Palmyra."It was an unforgetable evening," said Elder Leland A. Poole, a public affairs missionary in Palmyra. "Where else could you have such an experience but in the very place where it all began, in the `Cradle of the Restoration.' "

The home was decorated for Christmas with lights in every window and an antique red sleigh on the front lawn. There was a historically correct wreath on the front door made of white pine, rue (the herb of grace), celosea (a reddish velvety flower) and lime. Inside the house was a Christmas tree decorated with wooden and metal ornaments, strings of popcorn, and gingerbread men. Evergreen bows and poinsettias added to the Christmas feeling. The packages under the tree were wrapped in brown paper and cord, as they might have been in the 1820s when the Smith family lived here.

The missionary couples assembled in the parlor for a short program that consisted of a brief talk by Sister Dorothy Nielson, who is a Historic Site missionary at the Joseph Smith Home, and a playlet entitled "Mother and Son." A solo, "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief," was sung by Palmyra member Bruce Nichols at the conclusion of the program.

Sister Nielson told of the early Christmas traditions in America and said: "Because of their Puritan background, celebrations were remarkably simple and austere on the frontier, compared to England or Western Europe. Here in this plainly decorated home we are reminded of a more simple time. Away from the noise and commercialism of Christmas, across the street from the Sacred Grove, and in the very parlor where Joseph lived, we celebrate not only the birth of the Savior but also the birthday of our Prophet Joseph Smith."

The playlet portrayed young Joseph's experience in the Sacred Grove. He tells his mother of the visitation of the Father and the Son. Lucy responds with motherly concern, realizing that her young son was to be a prophet of God. Joseph recounts his vision to his mother with conviction and power. His mother responds with great tenderness. When he returns from his visit to the Reverend Lane, shocked at the rejection he received, his mother nods her head, holding him close and saying, "I know, my son, I know."

The part of young Joseph was played by Ryan Brown with his mother, Kathy, portraying Lucy, and his father Vance portraying Reverend Lane.

"We are so blessed to be here in the midst of these historic places," said Elder Robert L. Stephenson, Historic Sites director. "There is no place in this world where we could experience what we did tonight."