Sarah arose early in the morning. She looked out and saw Abraham saddling the donkey as though for a journey. Later he came in and said, “God has commanded me to bring Isaac up to a mountain that he will show me, there to offer a sacrifice.” Sarah watched them ride off together. [Read more...]
And they’re having a party!
So I’d like to bat a topic around: what is the proper domain of revelation? That is, what is the proper range of subject matter on which prophets can speak with divine authority? Are there subjects where prophets are on more shaky ground to invoke divine inspiration? How are we to tell?
Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.”
The Collect: Heavenly Father, who gavest power to Thy Son, Jesus Christ, to rise in resurrected glory on this holy day: let our hearts be changed through faith in His name so that we of Thy latter-day Church may live as spiritually begotten sons and daughters of Christ, adopted through Baptism in His name, that we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, may live and serve Everyman as though he were Christ, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. [Read more...]
Eric Huntsman concludes his series on Holy Week.
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!
Christ is risen. Hallelujah! Christ is risen indeed. That is how Christians all over the world have been greeting each other all over the world this morning, and it is how I wish to greet you as I bring my brief stint guest-posting here at BCC to an end. [Read more...]
The Collect: Almighty God, who through your Son overcame the world and conquered death, grant that we might not only live in him, but that we might daily rejoice in this gift of life through thy Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
Many Christian traditions celebrate an Easter Vigil. The version I have experienced is the Episcopal one, from the Book of Common Prayer. I’m not sure I have a lot to say about it, except that it’s beautiful, and that it seems familiar to me. It reminds me of the temple endowment in many ways–it is a retelling, recreation of salvific history from Creation to Fall to Atonement to Exaltation:
Let us hear the record of God’s saving deeds in history, how
he saved his people in ages past; and let us pray that our God
will bring each of us to the fullness of redemption.
One of my favorites of the sermons I’ve been able to publish in Dialogue is an Easter Vigil sermon; I think it gets at both what might seem familiar to Mormons and what might be strangely, newly lovely in it. [Read more...]
The Collect: O God, thou who sawest fit to try our faith on this day between the death and resurrection of thy Son: lift up our hearts with the hope of his rising, by the power of thy Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Collect: God the Eternal Father, we ask Thee in the name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, to strengthen our resolve as we contemplate the suffering and voluntary sacrifice of Thy Son and seek to emulate the loyalty of Thy Servant Simon Peter in the Garden but without violence or aggression, seeking healing and peace rather than confrontation and conflict as we hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, through the grace of Thy Son and His Atonement in Gethsemane and on Calvary, who now lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. [Read more...]
And he, bearing his cross went forth into a place
called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha:
where they crucified him . . .
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished,
that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst . . .
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said,
It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Good Friday is observed with great solemnity in some Christian traditions. While not marked as a holiday as such in the LDS community, Good Friday can be a tender and reflective time for individuals and families to pause and consider how Jesus, as our great high priest, offered himself as a sacrifice for us: “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). Understanding how and why he died makes the miracle of his resurrection on Easter morning all the more glorious and joyous. [Read more...]
The Thursday before Easter is a day rich in deep, often poignant events. These include Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, at which he instituted the sacrament and washed his disciples’ feet; his prayer and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; his betrayal by Judas and abandonment by the other disciples; and his arrest, cynical examination, and abuse by the Jewish authorities of the time.
Known as Holy Thursday in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communities, in many English-speaking countries this Thursday is sometimes called “Maundy Thursday.” The word “maundy” is an early English form of the Latin mandatum for “commandment” and recalls Jesus’ teaching “A new commandment I give you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye love one another” (John 13:34). [Read more...]
The Collect: Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he died, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in this holy ordinance gives us a pledge of eternal life. Holiness to the Lord. Amen.
On Palm Sunday our direction was turned to the Herodian temple and it is there where it must remain. Jesus’ first act in Jerusalem was to visit the temple. With the cursing of the fig tree, the parable of the wicked tenants, and the violent cleansing of its precincts, his rejection of the temple was total. By driving out the money changers he was certainly making a statement about financial corruption in holy places, but more to the point was that by doing so, the rituals of the temple were disrupted. This seems to be the central purpose of Holy Week — the apocalyptic rejection of the Jewish temple and its replacement in his own body. Here he goes beyond the Qumran community who had fled to the desert to await the new temple; Jesus destroys it himself. Note the tearing of the veil at his death. [Read more...]
In the Anglican tradition, a service called Tenebrae is often celebrated on Wednesday in Holy Week. According to the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services,
Apart from the chant of the Lamentations (in which each verse is introduced by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet), the most conspicuous feature of the service is the gradual extinguishing of candles and other lights in the church until only a single candle, considered a symbol of our Lord, remains. Toward the end of the service this candle is hidden, typifying the apparent victory of the forces of evil. At the very end, a loud noise is made, symbolizing the earthquake at the time of the resurrection (Matthew 28:2), the hidden candle is restored to its place, and by its light all depart in silence.
The texts for today are Mark 14:1–11; Matthew 26:1–16; Luke 22:1–6 and cover the plot to kill Jesus, the Marcan and Matthean anointing of Jesus prior to his Passion, and Judas’ decision to betray Jesus. The fact that the lovely story of the anointing is in an intercalation (or “sandwiched”) between two dark, deceitful scenes has given the day its traditional name “Spy Wednesday.”
One note on chronology: many LDS harmonies list “no events recorded” for Wednesday, and as far as I can tell this arose from J. Reuben Clark, and others, adopting the harmonization of some nineteenth century Victorian divines, who read “two days before Passover” inclusively. For my reasons for counting it exclusively, see the discussion in my working chronology. I think this also fits the pattern of relative time markers in Mark, and even if it did not, remembering these events on “Spy Wednesday” puts us in harmony with the majority of other Christians who are following traditional observances during Holy Week. [Read more...]
In 1999, Jimmie Duane Ross got $840,000 from his former employer, the result of an arbitration hearing. I don’t know what Ross did with that money; I do know, however, one thing he didn’t do: pay his taxes.[fn1]
Which is wrong, of course, but not by itself newsworthy. Lots of people don’t pay their taxes.[fn2] So why blog this? Two reasons: first, today is April 15th.[fn3] Second, in addition to standard tax protester arguments for why he didn’t need to pay his taxes, Ross made some expressly Mormon arguments. [Read more...]
The texts for Tuesday are Mark 11:20–13:37; Matt 21:23–25:46; Luke 20:1–21:38; John 12:37–50.
Mark begins by addressing the lessons learned from the withered fig tree, preparing readers to continue seeing the temple and Jerusalem authorities as unfruitful and ripe for destruction. But rather than obsessing about the failing of the biblical chief priests and Pharisees, it is probably best, as always, to see how they most frequently represent our own failings. As the prophet had declared, and as a chorus of Handel’s Messiah so vividly portrays, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord had laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). [Read more...]
Tuesday in Holy Week
The Collect: O God, who by the suffering of thy Son madest us a refuge in our suffering, grant that we, in our own fateful hours, might trust in the foolishness of the cross; whose shame sealed the triumph of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever, amen. [Read more...]
Monday in Holy Week
The Collect: Heavenly Father, who sent Thy Son as Thy chosen servant to bring justice to the nations, grant that we may both recognize and preach Thy Son, the Great High Priest, as the light of the world and purifier of the faith so that we may faithfully seek Thy righteousness in fruits meet for repentance, thus finding life and peace and an eternal inheritance in the New Covenant, following the example of Melchizedek in humbling ourselves so that we may exercise mighty faith in Jesus Christ, Thy Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. [Read more...]
Welcome to Agreeable, a bimonthly advice column in which I will tell you, dear Reader, as to whether your planned course of action is “agreeable” or “hmph”. Direct your questions (max 200 words, please!) to the admin address (see ‘About’, above) with the subject line “Agreeable”.
Consider the following example: A young woman–someone who is not deeply committed to the church, though she was raised in it, but who nonetheless respects it and wants to be part of this faith community–has just arrived as a new member in a typical YSA ward. She has just arrived because she has spent most of the past year living abroad, where among many other challenging and enlightening experiences, she became a devout fan of tea. [Read more...]
Eric Huntsman discusses the neglected outcast of Holy Week.
As I note in my seasonal blog, the Monday of Holy Week is what I sometimes refer to as one of the “overlooked days” of Holy Week. Even churches, such as the Roman Catholic or Anglican, that are heavily liturgical do not tend to have specific services for Monday and Tuesday (or even Wednesday, as far as I know), though sometimes they have general Passion Week collects (or communal prayer) on the mornings of those days. [Read more...]
My wife, Kristine K. (disambiguation: not the same as Kristine) gave this sermon today in the Slate Canyon 13th Ward in Provo.
“[When] in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth . . . the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep . . . the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light” (Gen 1:1-3).  In this opening scene of creation, I picture “the Spirit of the Gods . . . brooding upon the face of the waters” (Abr. 4:2), in a way, as a feeling out or trying to get a sense of what is out there. Then realizing that they need a clearer view of the materials they have to work with, the Gods utter, “Let there be light.” What is revealed in that primordial light is primordial chaos—a watery wasteland. I’m sure the Gods realized—maybe in that moment, maybe before—that their work would be difficult, that it would be a long and arduous process. In his book Reflections of a Scientist, Henry Eyring informs us that it takes an average of 250 years to deposit one foot of sediment, or roughly 112 million years to deposit all known sediments.  In fact, the Book of Abraham says that after the Gods “prepar[ed] the earth to bring forth grass” (4:11) or “prepared[ed] the waters to bring forth . . . the moving creatures (4:20),” they “watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed” (4:18).  [Read more...]
My wife, Kristine K. (disambiguation: not the same as Kristine), and I both delivered sermons today in the Slate Canyon 13th Ward in Provo. I spoke first, on the War in Heaven, and then she spoke on the Creation. I’m posting my sermon now, with Kristine’s to follow shortly, as I believe that it will also resonate with readers of BCC.
For the vital part that the war in heaven plays in LDS theology, much about it remains unclear. The phrase itself derives from Revelation chapter 12, which depicts “a great red dragon” whose “tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (vv. 3-4, NRSV). Then, we read, “war broke out in heaven.” This seems to have been instigated by Michael and his angels, as the text mentions their aggression first, going on to say that “the dragon and his angels fought back, but were defeated” (vv. 7-8, NRSV). The effect of this defeat is that Satan “was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (v. 9, NRSV).
Alongside Eric Huntsman’s excellent Holy Week posts we will be continuing with the Mormon Lectionary Project, thus bringing adaptations of Cranmer’s Anglican collects to our worships, as well as the designated lectionary readings.
Palm Sunday, Year A
The Collect: Heavenly Father: In your love towards the human race you sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, and also be made partakers of his atonement; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
On Palm Sunday the Messiah is finally revealed. No more preaching in the Galilean backwaters. No more Messianic Secret. On Palm Sunday, Jesus publicly enacts the prophecy of Zechariah concerning the Messiah:
“Tell the daughter of Zion, Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” [Read more...]
Growing up in heavily Catholic Pittsburgh, I always had Palm Sunday in the back of my mind somewhere, but it was not really brought to the forefront until a bishop on our family ward in Philadelphia tried to plan a Palm Sunday procession one year. He actually flew in, at his own expense, palm fronds, and the primary children were making banners that said, among other things, “Welcome Jesus.” Needless to say, when the stake presidency got wind of it, all the plans were cancelled. I did not think about it again until Elaine and I were in Hawai’i one spring that it really impacted me. Visiting the Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew in Honolulu on a Saturday, I was struck by the volunteers who were there weaving little crosses out of palm fronds. When I inquired, they explained that they were going to be used for the Palm Sunday service the next day.
Eric Huntsman continues his series with us for Holy Week. Today: something a little more ‘orthodox’.
In the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Saturday before Holy Week begins is known as “Lazarus Saturday,” and that is the day in which our friends of that tradition commemorate the raising of Lazarus as commemorated in John 11. The reason for putting it before Palm Sunday is because in the Fourth Gospel the raising of Lazarus is the proximate cause of the crowds’ rapturous reception of Jesus at the triumphal entry and the plot against Jesus, which the chief priests begin to organize because they see that “the whole world is going after him.” (In the Synoptics it is the cleansing of the temple that leads to their hardening opposition to Jesus, but of course the Gospel according to John placed that event, or an earlier occurrence of it, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry). [Read more...]
This week, in honor of Easter and the resurrected Savior, the Church is launching new devotional media dedicated to focusing on Christ in our lives, and reminding us what we are truly celebrating at this and ever Easter.
The first site, “Because of Him” launches a brand new inspirational short reminding us of the grace and unlimited potential found through Christ. It’s a new format— current, relevant and contemporary. The Church is trying something new here, and it’s beautiful, quite moving and worth your time. This video will likely be shared through social media by members and non-members alike, with it’s focus deeply meaningful for all Christians.
Along with the video, which you are welcome to share, there is missionary information on Easter and on the ministry of Jesus.
The second campaign is “Starting Today” which challenges Christians of all denominations to dedicate themselves to making small, immediate changes in their lives to reflect their love of God and of the Savior.
Starting Today also is encouraging people of faith to use the hashtag #StartingToday to create and share memes and pinterest-style testimonies on social media. It’s Christ-focused and reminds us that through small and simple things, great things can come to pass. Really, we can all make small changes to bring us closer to God.
Eric Huntsman received his BA from BYU in Classical Greek and Latin in 1990 and then went on to receive an MA and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in Ancient History in 1992 and 1997. In 1994 he began teaching full-time at BYU in Classics. In 2003 he transferred to Ancient Scripture, where he is currently an associate professor specializing in New Testament. After a year teaching at the BYU-Jerusalem Center from 2011-2012, he returned to BYU and began serving as the coordinator for the Ancient Near Eastern Studies (ANES) program in the Kennedy Center for International Relations. The ANES major has two tracks, one in Hebrew Bible and one in Greek New Testament. A co-author of Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament with Richard Holzapfel and Thomas Wayment, Huntsman is the author of God So Loved the World, a study of and devotional reflection on the Passion Narratives, and Good Tidings of Great Joy, a similar treatment of the Infancy Narratives. This August his new book, The Miracles of Jesus, will be released by Deseret Book.
I was excited when John Fowles approached me about guest blogging for By Common Consent. I have checked on blogs here from time to time and been particularly interested in the Mormon Lectionary Project. As a self-confessed “high church Mormon” (when I am not veering towards a more evangelical style when speaking and teaching!), I love using holidays and elements of the traditional liturgical calendar to structure my personal study and our family worship. Scriptures that reflect pivotal moments of Jesus’ life and ministry, together with music that conveys the feelings of these events, have always spoken powerfully to me. [Read more...]
Taylor G. Petrey is the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Assistant Professor of Religion, and Director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Program at Kalamazoo College. He holds a ThD and MTS from Harvard Divinity School in New Testament and Early Christianity.
As a scholar who writes about gender in early Christianity, I was initially happy to discover that Alonzo Gaskill, an associate professor in BYU Religious Education’s Church History and Doctrine department has recently published a book on supposedly ancient apocryphal teachings of Jesus related to women, titled The Lost Teachings of Jesus on the Sacred Place of Women (Ceder Fort, 2014). I was quite disappointed to discover that the text Gaskill’s commentary is based on is a well-known forgery. Readers deserve to be warned against this problematic book in the strongest terms. [Read more...]