The Forgotten Words of Jacob Marley

One of my all-time favorite books is A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. I didn’t always like it. In fact, when I was much younger, I pretty much hated it. I felt like it was over-commercialized and overused during Christmas.

A few years ago, while listening to an audio rendition of the book, I heard something that I felt like I had never heard before. The passage comes from that pivotal moment when Ebenezer Scrooge meets the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley, now a chained and tormented soul, is lamenting the opportunities he lost to serve mankind. This is what happens next:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!…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!”

Marley's Ghost

Marley’s Ghost

Throughout my life, I have seen countless film and stage adaptations of this very scene. But that was the first time I had ever truly felt Jacob Marley’s words. As someone who is deeply introverted, that passage seemed to completely revolutionize my outlook on the world and my place in it. It made me see just how much I had been like Jacob Marley; that I, too, had walked “through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down.” I realized that the weight of my selfishness was one of my own making.

I was suddenly filled with a desire to move outside of myself, and make mankind my business.

To help me remember what I had felt, I searched online for an image of Jacob Marley that matched his message—an image of the sadness and regret in his eyes, an image of him inviting me to consider my ways and consider my business. I wanted to print this image out and hang it up in a place where I would see Marley often and remember the words that he had said.

But after hours of searching online, most of the images I found were either laughable or grotesque. There was no real image that matched Marley’s message of repentance.

My inability to find an inviting image of a humbled Marley led me to this realization:

I had never truly heard Marley’s message because it had always been drowned out by excessive, showy theatrics; lights, fog machines, heavy chains, and loud noises. Because of an overemphasis on the ghostly and ghastly, Marley’s message had been lost to me.

Not long ago, I shared these thoughts with Angela Johnson, an accomplished sculptor and a dear friend. I told her how I wished there could be an image of Jacob Marley that invited viewers to make mankind their business.

Two days later, Angela sent me an email with the subject header “Meet Jacob Marley.”

Imagine my surprise when, after opening the email, I saw—for the first time—the REAL Jacob Marley.

A clay sculpture of Jacob Marley, shown at different angles.

A clay sculpture of Jacob Marley, shown at different angles.

Angela had created a Jacob Marley door knocker, with the linens around his head serving as the knocker.

Overcome by emotion, I called Angela. I think I even managed to get out a few words before the tears started to roll down my cheeks. I couldn’t help but think of how beautifully symbolic the whole thing was. Here I wanted a sculpture of Jacob Marley to remind me that people are to be my business, and my friend literally made it her business to create that sculpture.

Within two weeks Angela had the sculpture cast in bronze and the real Jacob Marley was immortalized.

I am grateful to share this image of the REAL Jacob Marley—and the message it speaks without saying a word—with you.

Jacob Marley door knocker.

Jacob Marley door knocker.

Do You Have Room for the Savior?

“Do you have room for the Savior? And do you seek Him anew? Have you a place for the one who lived and died for you? Are you as humble as a shepherd boy or as wise as men of old? Would you have come that night? Would you have sought the light? Do you have room?”

With overwhelming gratitude, I present to you this remarkable, Christmas gift:

The Message:

The chorus struck me deeply: “Would you have come that night? Would you have sought the light? Do you have room?”

President Thomas S. Monson wrote: we flush with embarrassment when we remember, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7.) No room. No room. No room. Ever has it been.

As we undertake our personal search for Jesus, aided and guided by the principle of prayer, it is fundamental that we have a clear concept of him whom we seek…And when we find him, will we be prepared as were the wise men of old to provide gifts from our many treasures? They presented gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are not the gifts Jesus asks of us. From the treasure of our hearts Jesus asks that we give of ourselves: “Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.” (D&C 64:34.)

In this marvelous dispensation of the fulness of times, our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless, but they are also perishable. There are hearts to gladden. There are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given. There are deeds to be done. There are souls to be saved.

As we remember that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17), we will not find ourselves in the unenviable position of Jacob Marley’s ghost, who spoke to Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’s immortal A Christmas Carol. Marley spoke sadly of opportunities lost. Said he…“Why did I walk through crowds of fellow beings with my eyes turned down, and never raised 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?”

In a vain effort to comfort Marley, Scrooge proffered: “But you were always a good man of business, Jacob.” Lamented Marley: “Mankind was my business!”

That is the message that this song (and video) attempts to convey. In seeking Christ, we will find Him in the service and love we render to others.

Background on the Song and Video:

In 2009, Shawna created a video (herself) to this song and sent it out to her family via YouTube. It became an overnight success, gaining over 100,000 views during the holiday season.

About the song, Shawna wrote:

I originally wrote this song as a Christmas gift for my family, and I sang it to them on Christmas Eve. It was inspired by President Monson’s 1990 Ensign article entitled The Search for Jesus. For the next 4 or 5 years, my dad would occasionally ask me, “Have you done anything with that song?” But other than a few hundred print copies I placed in a local music store, the answer was, “Not yet.”

My dad died suddenly and unexpectedly about two years ago. He was my first, and biggest fan. In my youth, I sat at the piano and practiced for hours and hours, and my dad would sit in a wing back chair in the corner and listen. Lots of people listened to me perform, but he was the only one who listened to me practice. That meant more to me than anything he could have ever given me.

I have kept thinking that the best way I could honor him would be to do something with the song. So I put it with the video and shared it a month ago at our Stake Music Night. I later posted it on YouTube and sent the link to 5 people. (3 of my kids live out of town, and I figured it would be an easy way for them to see it.) They shared it with a few people, and the rest is history.

I think it’s an incredible example of the power of the Internet for GOOD. 3 1/2 weeks ago, the song was still tucked away in my music file drawer. But now, it will be sung around the world this Christmas in Sacrament Meetings, firesides, Christmas Eve worship services, outdoor pageants, Evangelical gatherings, small town churches, interfaith celebrations, seminary classes, neighborhood parties, and (my favorite) Family Home Evenings.

However, due to copyright issues, Shawna decided to take the song down. A couple of weeks ago, Shawna was looking for some help in remaking that video, and, through the act of an internet angel, she and I were able to connect.

And thus began a string of miraculous circumstances surrounding the creation of this video:

Shawna Belt Edwards and Seth Adam Smith working on the video “Do You Have Room?”

Though my family lives in Utah, I travel quite a bit. In recent months, I’ve been working in Arizona at the ANASAZI Foundation. I wasn’t even supposed to be home at the time that I was contacted by Shawna Belt Edwards but certain (serendipitous) events brought me home for an extra week. Because of this, I was able to meet up with Shawna and work with her directly on the video.

Another thing is that Shawna was hoping to have the project done by the 18th of November (the same day that she released it the year before—for good karma). Ironically, that was the only time frame in which I could complete the video.

With humility, I extend my profound gratitude to MormonSoprano for informing me about this song. And to Shawna Belt Edwards for allowing me into her home and allowing me to work on a such a beautiful and miraculous project. The serendipitous circumstances which have surrounded this music have overwhelmed me. I am grateful to Shawna for allowing me to play a part in this magnificent and divine orchestration.

Post Script: I’m proud to say that my biggest contribution to the video project is at the end—a quote, by Elder Neal A. Maxwell: “Each of us is an inn-keeper who decides if there is room for Jesus!”