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Book review: Fictional 'We Three Kings' shares Nativity story with Book of Mormon twist

"WE THREE KINGS," by John Pontius, Bonneville Books, $15.99, 229 pages (f)

"We Three Kings" by John Pontius is an interesting and entertaining tale of an element of the Christmas story.

As the title suggests, "We Three Kings" follows the journey of the famous magi as they make their way to visit the newborn Jesus Christ. Pontius puts a new twist on the tale as the three kings are actually the prophet Nephi, his brother Timothy and a skeptic from Zarahemla called Cephus. Having seen the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite fulfilled, Nephi feels a prompting (aided by a visitation from his father) to visit the Christ child. Cognisant that people in Zarahemla may not believe him, he enlists the company of a rich merchant and opponent of the church to verify his story should they return.

The story has many elements that draw on questions or gaps in the narrative of the Book of Mormon that may be of interest to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is a work of fiction, however, and Pontius is sure to point out that the suggestions he makes, while possible, are just suggestions and narrative techniques. For example, he includes the use of the Liahona, the close relationship between Timothy and Nephi and what happened to the elder Nephi, son of Helaman, at his death.

Recognizing it as a work of fiction is important as the book transports readers 2,000 years into the past. If some of the anachronistic phrasing can be overlooked, the story provides an intriguing approach to the Christmas story.

It is also an entertaining and easy-to-read story. It can also direct attention to a reader's own relationship to Jesus Christ and cause them to think deeper on "the reason for the season."

For Christians around the world, the Nativity is about more than the birth of the Christ and "We Three King" links elements of Jesus Christ's later ministry to enable deeper reflection on the deeper import of the story.

There is no foul language or sexual situations. There are violent scenes, but those are generally described and not detailed.

James Holt is a senior lecturer in religious education at the University of Chester, U.K., and can be contacted at james.holt@chester.ac.uk