Jacob Marley's Regret

"At this time of the rolling year I suffer most..."

December 8, 2014

I remember President Monson sharing that each year at Christmas time he reads “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. I’m trying to make that a yearly christmas tradition for myself too. In that story, the main character (Ebenezer Scrooge) receives a visit from his deceased, disembodied, and now fettered business partner who can only tell him of the grief and guilt he now suffers as a result of their uncharitable dealings. Scrooge asks his former partner, “But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?” The reply from the ghost of Jacob Marley is foreboding:

“It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world—oh, woe is me!—and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth and turned to happiness!”


“At this time of the rolling year I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode! Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”

Scrooge is even permitted to see other spirits in similar plights:

“The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.”

We don’t know for sure what the afterlife entails for anyone, but this scenario represents a sincere and good-faith effort to imagine what we might call a Spirit prison (it’s even more powerful in the context of the story). “A Christmas Carol” is all about the change of heart that only the atonement of Jesus Christ can bring. We can all benefit from our own changes of heart, even if they represent more minor course corrections that what Ebenezer Scrooge experienced in this story.

If you’ve never actually read “A Christmas Carol”, do yourself a favor and add it to your list of other holiday readings. As we go about our home teaching and our holiday bustling, let us raise those around us to “that blessed Star”, even Jesus Christ.

-Michael Whatcott