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Cover image via LDS.org.
In a recent article, Dr. John P. Pratt discussed the birth of Jesus Christ being on the evening preceding April 6, 1 BC (Gregorian Calendar). He has included as much information as possible in a simple and understandable article. Additionally, he has shown how the interlocking dates of four quite different calendars all synchronize beautifully with the April 6, 1 BC birth date and add an important witness that this date is the Savior’s birthday.[i]
Many Latter-day Saints believe that the confusion for some about the date of Christ’s birth has been resolved by revelation, making the study of why April 6, 1 BC fits so well with other dates in the life of Christ and other Biblical and modern dates all the more interesting.
The story of how this happened starts with Elder James E. Talmage writing the landmark book Jesus the Christ in the Salt Lake Temple.
Commissioned by the First Presidency to Write Jesus the Christ
Elder James E. Talmage received the commission by the First Presidency under Joseph F. Smith to write the first comprehensive biography of Jesus Christ that included modern additions to the scriptures and also included the Savior’s pre and postmortal life. He began writing the book Jesus the Christ in a room he was assigned in the Salt Lake Temple.[ii]
In 1905, the First Presidency: Joseph F. Smith, John R. Winder and Anthon H. Lund, commissioned Elder James E. Talmage to write the book Jesus the Christ. In 1915, when the book was reviewed by the First Presidency, President Smith’s counselors were Anthon H. Lund and Charles W. Penrose.
Elder James E. Talmage’s book Jesus the Christ is the official book on the life of Christ in the Church’s Missionary Reference Library.
A Confusing List of Opinions on Christ’s Birthday
The birth date of Jesus has been embroiled for ages in controversy and confusion. Dates promoted by one scholar or another range over a decade of BC and AD dates. Elder James E. Talmage was involved in a work to seek resolution of that confusion. I think that the important issue is whether we can trust Elder James E. Talmage and the review of President Joseph F. Smith to discern a true revelation.
Elder James E. Talmage’s Resolution of the Confusion
Jesus the Christ is the definitive work on the life of Christ written by a modern Apostle commissioned by the First Presidency under the Prophet Joseph F. Smith. So after Elder Talmage documented the many opinions on the birthday of the Savior in chapter 8 of the book and the chapter 8 footnotes, he received revelation or inspiration that allowed him to resolve the issue and declare the true birthday of Jesus Christ. Prompted by an interpretation of D&C 20:1, he made the bold statement in Chapter 8 of Jesus the Christ. “We believe that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, April 6, B.C. 1.”[iii]
Meeting with the Entire First Presidency
On May 4, 1915, Elder Talmage reviewed chapter 8 including that bold statement with President Joseph F. Smith and the complete First Presidency. Also attending were as many of the Twelve that were not on traveling assignments. The text was reviewed and approved for publication as we see it today. The bold statement was not removed, softened or edited.[iv]
Elder Talmage noted in his journal: “May 4th, 1915—At meeting of the First Presidency and Twelve in the Temple, I read three chapters of the book. At each of the meetings thus far held for this purpose, all members of the First Presidency and all of the Twelve who are not absent from the city on appointed duties were present. We have now read nine of the 43 chapters.”[v]
Reasons to Trust Elder James E. Talmage and President Joseph F. Smith
This is the Elder James E. Talmage who had just published in 1912 a work on the Holy Temple and would give remarkable insights in the discussions about the theory of organic evolution in 1931. This is the Prophet and President of the Church, Joseph F. Smith, who would shortly receive by revelation what would become section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the extremely important Vision of the Redemption of the Dead.[vi]
Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants contains Joseph F. Smith’s Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, received in 1918.
We can trust Elder James E. Talmage and President Joseph F. Smith as true prophets, seers and revelators. They would have removed the bold statement from the book if it wasn’t completely true, revealing the actual birthday of Jesus Christ. If anyone has the right to revelation on the subject, or to detect a false revelation, it would be President Joseph F. Smith, the First Presidency and Elder James E. Talmage reviewing an official publication on the life of Jesus Christ copyrighted by the President of the Church.
The Bold Statement is Published in Jesus the Christ
The Brethren published the bold statement as is. They claimed no special abilities in historical analysis but only that an insight into an interpretation of a scripture was received through revelation and that it clarifies the confusion about Christ’s birthday, revealing the actual date of His birth.
Because President Joseph F. Smith and Elder James E. Talmage published Jesus the Christ with the bold statement, I believe that we can be confident that this statement is true. Otherwise, it would have been detected as false and would not be published. As they set the Church in order and call leaders in the Church, the Prophet and the Apostles receive and discern true revelations every week.
Independent of everything else regarding Herod’s death date, the views of other General Authorities and other proposed dating matters, this question of faith in Elder James E. Talmage and President Joseph F. Smith as true prophets, seers and revelators is why I think we ought to learn more about April 6, 1 BC.
We ought to learn why this date works so well as a key anchor date in a long functioning computerized calendar model that contains and links with many different but complementary sacred calendars.
I hope you enjoy reading John Pratt’s article.
Have patience. Elder James E. Talmage’s and President Joseph F. Smith’s judgment and discernment will be validated. Indeed, “We believe that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, April 6, B.C. 1.” is a true statement containing true dating facts.[vii]
[i] John P. Pratt, “The Birth Date of Jesus Christ,” johnpratt.com, June 24, 2018.
“There is compelling evidence from the Bible, Book of Mormon, and sacred calendars that Jesus was born on the evening before Thu 6 Apr 1 BC.”
The programming environment and experience of John Pratt both in creating and using his ancient calendar system:
RPMNote: These calendars are all programmed with appropriate linkages between separately defined calendars using a Java based calendar object programming structure which has been in use for 16 years. Other calculators and small computers have been used by John Pratt over the years of this life-long research project, including several models of programmable calculators before the Java based system was available and developed. His current programming and testing environment can examine the effect of one calendar on others using multiple year collections of dates.
Dr. Pratt has worked with me as a top-level computer programmer for over 25 years specializing in search applications. He runs quality assurance tests to verify the correctness of the programming. For example, one test is that every Julian Day (a unique integer given to each day) in the range of the calendar is converted into a unique string of characters such as “Tue 10 Jul 2018” (for the Gregorian Calendar). Then that same string is input back into the inverse calendar conversion routine to verify that it returns back the original Julian Day number. That is done for all 3,000,000 dates in history before the calendar is determined to be ready to use. In addition to his Ph.D in Astronomy from the University of Arizona in Tuscon, he also has university degrees in physics and mathematics from the University of Utah (Honors in Physics) and is able to calculate the probabilities of several calendars all agreeing on a holy day just happening by chance.
All of John Pratt’s research is documented in 24 volumes of 150-page university research log books. His earliest Java based utility programs include the first version of the Realignment Interval program December 17, 1997.The oldest calendar spreadsheet program that runs in the current environment is version 2.5 dated November 2012. His basic conversion programs have been online since 2002. All of his data, articles and research took 9.2 MB in the 1.0 release. The July 7, 2018 release takes almost 700 MB. Johnpratt.com has been operational since 23 May 1997. John used HP-35 and HP-45 programmable calculators and the TRS-80 computer before Java and the internet became widely available.
This is certainly a lifetime research project. In fact, those readers who have been with Meridian Magazine since the beginning may remember that Dr. Pratt was the Science and Religion Editor for its first nine years and contributed many articles about religious chronology which are all found on his website, including an article in the very first issue on 12 Feb 1999 entitled “What Every Mormon Should Know About Astronomy.”
[ii] Ronald P. Millett, “Why So Bold a Statement? Elder James E. Talmage and April 6,” Meridian Magazine, November 12, 2012.
“Apostle, scientist and scholar James E. Talmage added a belief statement to the Church’s doctrinal list in his landmark book Jesus the Christ when he declared: “We believe that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea, April 6, B.C. 1.” Instead of a modest statement supporting the Dionysian designation of 1 BC as the year zero of the Christian era via the April 6 BC 1 date; instead of a note in the preface or a footnote in his chapter 8 discussion of the birth of the Savior; instead of saying “it seemed to me that” or “I believe after study and contemplation that,” instead of any of those options, Elder Talmage boldly declared that “we believe” in April 6, BC 1 as the birth date of the Redeemer of the world.”
“So back to the original question: Why so bold a statement by Elder Talmage? It could only happen, I am sure, if he felt very strongly that he had been inspired in his interpretation of D&C 20:1 as a clear indicator of an April 6, BC 1 birth date of Jesus Christ. It would have to be a powerful impression for his statement to rise from “it seems to me” in a footnote to the ‘we believe’ almost ‘catechism level’ in the main text that implies an application of this belief statement to the whole Church. He surely would have had to successfully defend this inspiration to the First Presidency and the Twelve as they reviewed his book in those 18 separate sessions. Otherwise, in my opinion, it certainly would not have been included in the final publication of the book.
“Here is the crucial verse that he pondered:
“The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being one thousand eight hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the flesh, it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April” (D&C 20:1)
“Whatever the editing and revelatory history of this verse may have been, it is part of the officially canonized scriptures accepted by the Church. This verse in the Doctrine and Covenants motivated Elder Talmage’s bold declaration. Revelation and inspiration while pondering a specific scripture is certainly a standard method to obtain more light and knowledge for modern prophets and apostles as well as for every member of the Church.”
Ronald P. Millett, “Did Jesus Christ Live Exactly 12,048 Days?” Meridian Magazine, July 16, 2017.
“The Book of Mormon gives exact calendar dates for the birth and the death of Jesus Christ which correspond to the length of His life being 12,048 days, exactly 33 years from Passover to Passover. This value supports His birth date of April 6, 1 BC and His death date of April 1, 33 AD, with the resurrection date on April 3, 33 AD. These dates are dismissed by most scholars, both LDS and non-LDS, mainly because of the current historical records and data that Herod the Great died in April of 4 BC.
“The length of Jesus’ life is one of the calculations that can lead to a conclusion that the secular, religious and calendar information on Jesus Christ’s birth and death dates were intentionally left ambiguous by the Lord and constitute a test of our faith.
“I believe that recent discoveries of ancient calendars that strongly testify of Christ, His life and the religious events documented in the Holy Scriptures may help resolve this ambiguity. These multiple ancient calendars such as the Nephite, Hebrew and Venus calendars provide interlocking supporting evidence for the 1 BC to 33 AD hypothesis for these all important dates in the life of the Savior and in the history of the world.”
“Joseph F. Smith,” Wikipedia.com, retrieved 7/11/2018, including illustration.
“James E. Talmage,” Wikipedia.com, retrieved 7/11/2018.
“Chronology of the First Presidency (LDS Church),” Wikipedia.com, retrieved 7/11/2018.
[iii] On the Hebrew calendar, the evening before April 6, that is April 5, is actually when the day begins for April 6.
[iv] Ronald P. Millett, “Did Jesus Christ Live Exactly 12,048 Days?” Meridian Magazine, July 16, 2017.
[v] James P, Harris, ed., “Essential James E. Talmage, Chapter 24: Jesus the Christ,” Signature Book’s Library, Retrieved 7/3/2017.
“Nov. 19, 1914—Spent some time at the office of the First Presidency. During the afternoon attended a meeting of the First Presidency and certain invited members of the Deseret Sunday School Union Board. At this meeting I read aloud several chapters of the book, “Jesus The Christ” now in process of preparation. The purpose being to ascertain whether the book would be properly suited for the lower or higher grades in the theological department. As was intended the work is being prepared for our people in general and is not adapted for use as a textbook for immature students. It was decided by the First Presidency that the work be completed of the same scope and plan as here-to-fore followed, … In connection with the matter of the book, it may be well to record here that since my beginning on the writing September 14th last, I have devoted every spare hour to that labor and have at present in written form though not all in revised condition, twenty chapters. According to present indications, the work of the book will be interrupted through other appointments already made. The purpose is, however, to bring it to completion at the earliest possible time, though with some relief from the intense pressure under which the writing has been here-to-fore done…
“Apr. 19th, 1915—Finished the actual writing on the book, “Jesus The Christ” to which I have devoted every spare hour since settling down to the work of composition on September 14th, last. Had it not been that I was privileged to do this work in the Temple, it would be at present far from completion. I have felt the inspiration of the place and have appreciated the privacy and quietness incident thereto. I hope to proceed with the work of revision without delay…
[reading of chapters 1-6 not detailed in this document]
“May 4th, 1915—At meeting of the First Presidency and Twelve in the Temple, I read three chapters of the book. At each of the meetings thus far held for this purpose, all members of the First Presidency and all of the Twelve who are not absent from the city on appointed duties were present. We have now read nine of the 43 chapters…[chapters 7-9, This reading would include chapter 8 on the birth of Christ and Elder Talmage notes that all members of the First Presidency and Twelve were present with the exception of the members of the Twelve on special assignments.]
“May 6, 1915—Attended committee meeting at 8:15 a.m. in the Temple. At 9:30 a.m. the Presidency and Twelve sat to hear another reading of the matter prepared for the book. Two chapters were read and passed. Then attended regular council meeting of the First Presidency and the Twelve. [chapters 10-11]
“May 7, 1915—Forenoon devoted to reading four chapters of the book to the First Presidency and the Twelve…[chapters 12-15]
“May 11, 1915—Forenoon devoted to meeting of First Presidency and Twelve at which three chapters of the book were read…[chapters 16-17]
“May 13, 1915—Attended an early morning meeting of the counselors of the First Presidency and Twelve at which three chapters of the book were read. The reading thus far finished includes chapter 21. President Smith was absent, he having left yesterday afternoon for a trip to the Hawaiian Islands… [chapters 18-21, President Joseph F. Smith departed for the Hawaiian Islands on May 12, 2015. Note that in this entry with President Smith now going to Hawaii, Elder Talmage refers to the “counselors of the First Presidency” instead of just the “First Presidency” emphasizing President Smith’s departure and the change it made to their meetings.]
[vi] James E. Talmage: The House of the Lord,” Wikipedia.org, retrieved 7/11/2018.
“The House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries, Ancient and Modern is a 1912 book by James E. Talmage that discusses the doctrine and purpose of the temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Published by the LDS Church, it was the first book to contain photographs of the interiors of Mormon temples.”
Ronald P. Millett, “Did Jesus Christ Live Exactly 12,048 Days?” Meridian Magazine, July 16, 2017.
Mary Jane Woodger, “From Obscurity to Scripture: Joseph F. Smith’s Vision of the Redemption of the Dead,” BYU Religious Studies Center,
“I was one of those who casually participated in one of the most significant acts of common consent of my generation. I excuse my lack of understanding because I was young when in the April 1976 general conference I sustained and approved the actions of the First Presidency and Council of the Twelve in adding two new sections to the Pearl of Great Price, formally enlarging the official body of the standard works of the Church. Though Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve called that time a day of “great events relating to the scriptures,” my reaction to the addition of scripture was nonchalant. I was not alone in that response. Indeed, Elder Packer felt that most Church members had the same reaction. He said: “I was surprised, and I think all of the Brethren were surprised, at how casually that announcement of two additions to the standard works was received by the Church. But we will live to sense the significance of it; we will tell our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, and we will record in our diaries, that we were on the earth and remember when that took place.” This paper will seek to attach the proper significance to the inclusion of Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead in the standard works.”
[vii] “Selected Teachings on the Date of Jesus’ Birth,” ScottWoodward.org, retrieved 6/25/2017.
“David A. Bednar (Quorum of the Twelve)
“Today is April 6. We know by revelation that today is the actual and accurate date of the Savior’s birth. April 6 also is the day on which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized. (See D&C 20:1; Harold B. Lee, “Strengthen the Stakes of Zion,” Ensign, July 1973, 2; Spencer W. Kimball, “Remarks and Dedication of the Fayette, New York, Buildings, Ensign, May 1980, 54; Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Volume 1: 1995–1999 , 409.) (“Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Ensign, May 2014)”