Charles Dickens, the Victorian master novelist, wrote The Life of Our Lord in the 1840s, while he was completing David Copperfield. It is a simple, straightforward account of Jesus’ life and teachings, adapted from the Gospel of St. Luke. Dickens hoped to teach his young children about religion and faith. Since he wrote it exclusively for his children, the author didn’t want it published during his or his children’s lifeline.
According to President Gordon B. Hinckley:
I was a missionary in London in 1934, sixty years ago, and I vividly recall the advertisements of one of the popular newspapers that Dickens’ The Life of Our Lord would be published serially. I paid little attention to it. Following serialization, it was published as a book. There was a surge of interest, and then it seemed to fade.
Years later Sister Hinckley found a copy of the book and read it to our children. . . It is a wonderful story, told in language beautiful and easily understood.
. . . The Life of Our Lord [is] written in a very personal way, without adornment of flights of fancy, and written for the children he loved.”
Dickens’ story carries with it a compelling admonition:
Remember!–It is Christianity to do good, always–even to those who do evil to us. It is Christianity to love our neighbors as ourself, and to do to all men as we would have them do to us. It is Christianity to be gentle, merciful, and forgiving, and to keep those qualities quiet in our own hearts, and never boast of them, or of our prayers or of our love of God, but always to show that we love Him by humbly trying to do right in everything. If we do this, and remember the life and lessons of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and try to act up to them, we can confidently hope that God will forgive us our sins and mistakes, and enable us to live and die in peace.
The book was finally published after the death of his last son.
The book isn’t universally loved. According to Kirkus Reviews: “Though a bestseller at the time, it is way down on the list of rewrites of the life of Jesus that an adult would ever care to read.” Kendal B. Hunter, a Mormon writing on amazon.com, also has point of view:
The only drawback with the book is theology, but that is understandable since we are of different faiths. Dickens focuses mainly on the ethical aspects of Christ’s life, which is good, but incomplete. Another president of the Church of Jesus Christ, President Howard W. Hunter [a relative perhaps?], once gave a talk called, “Ethics Alone is not Sufficient.” If you remember in A Christmas Carol, Scrooge makes a conversion to ethical ideal, but not a conversion to Christ. He is going in the right direction, but not far enough.