Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: December 3

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel: December 3

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 03, 2008

From east to west, from shore to shore,
Let every heart awake and sing
The holy Child Whom Mary bore,
The Christ, the everlasting King.

Behold, the world’s Creator wears
The form and fashion of a slave;
Our very flesh our Maker shares,
His fallen creature, man, to save.

For this how wondrously He wrought!
A maiden, in her lowly place,
Became, in ways beyond all thought,
The chosen vessel of His grace.

She bowed her to the angel’s word
Declaring what the Father willed,
And suddenly the promised Lord
That pure and hallowed temple filled.

He shrank not from the oxen’s stall,
He lay within the manger bed,
And He whose bounty feedeth all
At Mary’s breast Himself was fed.

And while the angels in the sky
Sang praise above the silent field,
To shepherds poor the Lord Most High,
The one great Shepherd, was revealed.

All glory for this blessèd morn
To God the Father ever be;
All praise to Thee, O virgin born,
All praise, O Holy Ghost, to Thee.

— Caelius Sedulius (5th cent.); translated by John Ellerton

Relief Society Magazine, December 1965

“Madonna and Child,” by Crivelli



  1. There’s a large set of old RS magazines and M*’s at the Gadfield Elm chapel. It’s interesting to see such un-Mormon art in them, which for someone who was brought up on Ensign-safe Mormon art, is somewhat surprising.

    Nice series.

    Comment by Ronan — December 3, 2008 @ 10:59 am

  2. I had the same thought. The art and the poem here are pretty Catholic. Very interesting and nice, but you would not see it today.

    Comment by Martin Willey — December 3, 2008 @ 11:06 am

  3. I talked about that yesterday with some of the library staff here. We’re all agreed — these images wouldn’t be used in the church today, yet they are gorgeous.

    I should maybe clarify, too, that the poems are supplied by me and didn’t appear in the church magazines. I’m trying to match poem to image.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 3, 2008 @ 11:45 am

  4. If the art was done by a Mormon, I could si it in an insert on an art exhibit, but not the cover.

    We tend to go for something a bit more universal.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 3, 2008 @ 12:50 pm

  5. My mother has a collection of many years worth of these R.S. magazine covers, and she displays them every Christmas. I have a set of about six December covers–including this one–and they are my favorite holiday decoration.

    Ardis, thanks for doing this series. Loving it.

    Comment by Rechabite — December 3, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

  6. Ardis,
    Maybe I don’t want to ask this question, but why do you think there is such a difference between then and now with the art?

    Comment by m&m — December 3, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

  7. I saw your comment soon after you posted it last night, m&m, and it kept me awake thinking. I don’t know why there is a difference; I only know that there is a difference.

    Are we more dogmatic now? Maybe, but I remember a discussion in DOMcKay’s diary in the ’60s after someone wanted to donate some art glass doors to be used in the church administration office. The panels were abstract, not figural, but one or more GAs objected to the panels because the pattern reminded him of feathers, and he didn’t want anyone to think that Mormons thought that angels had wings. So it’s hard for me to be sure we’re more dogmatic now and would object to this cover, say, because Mary is wearing medieval clothing and has a stylized halo.

    Were we simply more in touch then with high Western culture? I think the general American public is far less familiar with great Western art now than then, so is it a case of American magazine staffs simply not knowing of images like this? But we do use fine art illustrations of various episodes in the Savior’s life in our magazines, so that may not be entirely the reason.

    Do we have so many layers of correlative administration now that it’s too much bother for a magazine art director to go through the effort of having such an artwork approved? Is it just easier to propose something safer?

    Does it have anything to do with a worldwide readership? Have we got into such a habit of being so literal in our art choices because we think symbolic or allegorical or Catholic images might mislead new members in non-Western cultures?

    Some of these covers carry a note that the art was used by permission of such-and-such museum — has the licensing for images owned by the big museums become too cumbersome or expensive for the Ensign?

    I can speculate but I sure don’t know. I’d entertain other people’s speculations, too — but please, no scornful blanket statements like “That’s Correlation for you” or “Because Mormons are dumb.” Explain why you think Correlation would have this effect, or in what way Mormons are dumb if you have to make such statements.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — December 4, 2008 @ 7:31 am

  8. Thanks for the thoughts, Ardis.

    (And I am sorry this kept you up thinking.) :)

    Comment by m&m — December 4, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

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