Do Mormons Celebrate New Years?
As a child I remember on occasion staying up to watch “the Apple” drop in New York city at midnight on December 31st. For me, it soon lost its luster and I have personally found other ways to celebrate and ring in the new year besides an extra effort at incurring sleep deprivation. Now that I have children, that’s harder because they think it’s something fun to stay up till midnight just to do it as if watching the clock turn to midnight will have some type of social impact on their lives.
There is no church doctrine surrounding New Year’s celebrations except the obvious one. Do it sober. 🙂 The LDS church has a doctrine we call the Word of Wisdom which is a revelation Joseph Smith received on taking care of your body. The result of living that law for the past 180 or so years is LDS men and women have a longer lifespan than non-LDS people by several years. I’ve seen numbers that are as high as 11 extra years touted but that link to a study shows about 7 years.
The core of this doctrine is to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea (herbal is OK), and other harmful substances; and to partake of wholesome grains, fruits, and herbs. The revelation ends with a promise of health, mental alertness, and that the “that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.” You can read the revelation on the Word of Wisdom in its entirety here.
So back to New Years celebrations. On the Sunday closest to New Years, we typically find this hymn sung. The lyrics are from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson and there are several other verses to the poem, but these three are the ones in the LDS hymnal. You can listen to the song at this link to Ring Out, Wild Bells.
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
As with so many others, the LDS faith is a strong believer in personal repentance and self-improvement. The ringing in of a new year is an important time to make resolutions to improve our lives in all areas. I typically set goals each year for things I’d like to do and ways I’d like to live my life better. There is an importance in keeping our priorities straight in life. Celebrating New Years’ is a good time to reflect on our lives and set goals to realign ourselves with our priorities. One excellent talk on this subject was given by Lynn G. Robbins in the April 2011 General Conference. His talk was entitled “What manner of men and women ought ye to be?” and focused on the need to be, rather than just do. Here’s one snippet from this excellent talk.
Many of us create to do lists to remind us of things we want to accomplish. But people rarely have to be lists. Why? To do’s are activities or events that can be checked off the list when done. To be, however, is never done. You can’t earn checkmarks with to be’s. I can take my wife out for a lovely evening this Friday, which is a to do. But being a good husband is not an event; it needs to be part of my nature—my character, or who I am.
Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace.
Mormons do celebrate New Years, but should do it more with a re-commitment of our priorities in life, than in having a New Year’s Eve party to celebrating the passing of another year.
What does the Book of Mormon teach about Jesus Christ?