I don’t think it’s insignificant that Mormons do not have religious holidays, even Christmas and Easter are drawn from western Christian traditions; and thus are usually celebrated by Mormons when the rest of Christendom celebrates them according to the region of the world they are in at the time of those holidays. For instance, Easter in Russia is celebrated by Mormons according to the Orthodox calendar, while Easter in Italy is celebrated by Mormons on the date accorded by Catholic tradition. Christmas in Russia slides by January 7th with little fanfare, culturally crushed by seventy years of Soviet thought. As I’ve mentioned before, while I don’t dislike Christmas, I don’t love it. What holidays offer me is what it means to be Christian as I flesh out day-to-day actions and interactions from all the celebratory traditions that can be overwhelming and at the same time feel meaningless.
In The Exponent II Winter 2011 Issue; Erica Eastley explores some of the practices of new Mormons with non-Christian backgrounds. She notes, “[The] culture of the LDS Church is heavily influenced by Protestant culture and practice. This isn’t surprising or necessarily a bad thing, but it does affect how the Church and its doctrines are received by people whose background isn’t Protestant.” [Read more...]
A Christmas memory: At some point in my teenage years my mother purchased a new nativity set, a Fontanini. I didn’t eagerly await the unwrapping of the nativity scene in the same way I did the Dickens Village; it was a tradition each year for my parents to purchase one new piece for the village. Possibly my favorite Christmas memories consisted of watching the village grow year after year. When I finally left home the Village had become quite substantial. But the preparations for the traditions into which we spoke and enacted every Christmas were not complete until the Nativity had been unwrapped and carefully and lovingly arranged on the table. The placement of the Nativity allowed the celebration to officially commence.
In this special Halloween episode, Scott B. and Steve Evans play host to BCC’s long-time friend and Juvenile Instructor blogger Matt Bowman, who thrills the children with tales of Cain, Bigfoot, and secret UFO societies. Later, recent BCC guest blogger Theric (Eric Jepson) gives us an update on the soon-to-be-released anthology “Monsters and Mormons.”
And if that lineup isn’t sufficient, our very own Kristine Haglund checks in to help the ladies design Halloween costumes depicting famous Mormon women.
Episode Content Guide (below the fold) [Read more...]
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early,
when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre,
and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
Christian holidays like Easter and Christmas were not widely celebrated in the United States during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. Such anniversaries were associated with Catholicism, and much of Protestant America saw them as symbols of “popery” and pagan in origin.
We all back? Good. Brooks is right that most of the folks in Africa (and elsewhere) who join religious movements join because of the creeds promoted, not in spite of them. Sullivan, on the other hand, is correct that we apply our human reason to any particular set of creeds, using that act to determine if they are appropriate for our belief (There is a reason folks go church shopping). So, while I believe that they are both right, I also believe that they are both wrong. They are setting up a false choice between rational and miraculous belief. As a Mormon, I get to believe in both types. We believe that God tells us the truth via our hearts and our minds. So, while both Brooks and Sullivan appear to believe that casual dismissal of Mormonism is de rigueur, Mormonism actually resolves the false dilemma their two approaches create.
Why on Easter? Because we, as Mormons, actually believe that Christ did something rationally impossible. He rose from the dead on the third day, ascended to His Father, and created the means for our return. That doesn’t make us unique (plenty of Christians believe the same), but it does mean that our faith derives from some miraculous moment (in our own experience and in historical experience). At the same time, we derive further meaning from that moment (and many like it) to determine how to live on earth. The derivation of law from experience is the very heart of rationalism. There is no contradiction, really, between the two, or rather, they exist in apparent contradiction, but aren’t, really. We have a Moebius strip of a religion, folks. That’s what gives it power and that is what allows it to appeal to the rational, the irrational, the conservative, the liberal, the fundamentalist, and the revisionist. Christ’s message is to all people; He died & He is Risen.
First, Vaughan Williams: Five Mystical Songs Since I was a little girl, Easter has arrived for me with the opening Rise, Heart (skip to 25 seconds in to avoid annoying announcer). The rest of the five are here. If I ever understand atonement, it will be because of “Love Bade Me Welcome.” [Read more...]
The dark of night lies everywhere.
So young the night around,
We see how vast with stars the sky,
Each star as radiant as day.
And if the earth could have its way,
It would sleep on– through Easter Day—
Lulled by the reading of the psalms.
The dark of night lies everywhere.
So young the night, the square seems like
Eternity form end to end
Where still a thousand years must wait
The dawn of day and light. [Read more...]
The liturgy of Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, and often includes the washing of feet–either the priest washing other priests’ or congregants’ feet or congregants washing one another’s. It is a startlingly beautiful, powerful, and visceral reminder of Jesus’s personal love for those he called friends.
The traditional service for Wednesday night before Maundy Thursday is known as Tenebrae. Services vary among denominations, but most of them feature the gradual extinguishing of lights in the sanctuary until the service ends in total darknesss. This night marks the beginning of the end, the descent into despair that will be miraculously lifted by the dawn of Easter.
The music for these services often consists of settings of texts from the Lamentations of Jeremiah. A few examples:
The world would be a better place if everyone listened to Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at least once a year, and I highly recommend it as a Holy Week observance.
The story of the Anointing at Bethany is often part of the reading for Holy Monday (even though it’s not chronologically proper to holy week), so the first section of the St. Matthew (particularly starting at about 10 minutes in) is especially good for today.
And for the textually-inclined, here‘s a sermon on the anointing.
Text below: [Read more...]
I’m pretty sure I had never seen anyone with ashes on his forehead until I was in college–the imposition of ashes at the start of Lent just wasn’t part of the liturgical life of the Baptist/Methodist/Campbellite town I grew up in. I was initially puzzled, and then vaguely repulsed by this physical, public acknowledgment of sin and penitence and the messiness of mortality.
Culturally, Mormons aren’t really big on public acknowledgment of sin–we’re optimistic that sin can be contained at home or, at worst, in the bishop’s office. We speak cheerily of the 4 (or 5, or 7, depending on the teacher’s creativity) R’s of Repentance, a discreet process akin to running the dishwasher. [Read more...]
Happy International Women’s Day to BCC readers. This is, unfortunately, a rarely celebrated holiday in the U.S., but is recognized around the world as a moment to celebrate the achievements of women, appreciate the women in our own lives, and most importantly think about women’s issues and what work remains to be done to achieve safety and equality for women. Today, ten women from around the world were honored at the U.S. State Department as Women of Courage. In the case of some of these women, “courage” is an understatement. [Read more...]
Justify your claims with YouTube clips, quotes, and scandalous photographs! [Read more...]
Mormon culture, especially of the Wasatch Front variety, is big on creative dating. There has been a lot of discussion of whether this is a good thing, but that there is pressure for bringing creativity to the dating enterprise among at least some groups of Mormon young people seems clear. [Read more...]
In this episode, Scott B. listens in while Kristine Haglund and Nicholas S, aka Latter-day Guy, get their musical geek on. First, Nicholas and Kristine share some highlights and lowlights of their LDS music experiences. Later, the group discusses ways to improve music in LDS settings and opine on their favorite and most hated LDS songs.
Links for your convenience:
(I’ve stopped counting :))
For this week, a single text:
- O magnum mysterium, [Read more...]
Recurring Guest and BCC Man-Crush Kyle M returns with honor.
I haven’t had a carb in over a week now, and you know, it hasn’t been that bad. December might be the perfect month for Atkins or South Beach Diet, because I’m literally surrounded by carbs and sugar for a whole month—sugar cookies, candy canes, hot chocolate, seasonal peppermint ice cream (the best kind). If I can forgo all the carb temptations of December, that’s like skipping carbs for two regular months, and as a reward to myself, I won’t set New Years resolutions.
You already know I love Mendelssohn’s motets. His Sechs Sprüche for various occasions in the liturgical calendar are short pieces for 8-part choir. I love them for lots of reasons, not least the recurrent use of my second-favorite German word “frohlocken.” (My very favorite is “Wonne”. I know you were wondering.) This video has good notes, with translations and links to the other five (of which my very favorite is Am Neujahrstage, in case you were wondering).
By Common Consent wishes a Happy Thanksgiving to all of those who share and participate in this wonderful community. In celebration of a holiday characterized by a table overflowing with countless delicious and diverse culinary creations, we offer you a selection of Thanksgiving-themed contributions from our authors. Whether you crave cranberries or haiku, music or football, there is something here for everyone. Enjoy!
From Steve Evans
Thanks to all of our readers and friends. You are the reason we maintain this site. We don’t always show it, but we love our BCC community. I’m profoundly grateful for all of you. Yes, even Aaron.
Presumably, you’re all watching or listening to General Conference now, or at least checking out By Common Consent, thinking that you ought to be. Whatever is or isn’t said in the conference sessions today, very likely there will be no mention of the fact that today is Holy Saturday, the quietest and most somber day in the whole Christian calendar. That’s all right; just because no general authority is going to name today the Sabbatum Sanctum, doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from calling it such.
I have a tradition of reading Eugene England’s powerful and appropriately somber essay “Easter Weekend” on Holy Saturday. But I have also noticed that, very nearly exactly 25 years ago, on the day before Easter in 1985, a sermon–also powerful, and also appropriately somber–was given in general conference. Elder Bruce R. McConkie delivered his last general conference address, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane”, during the morning session of that Holy Saturday. (He died 13 days later.) Whomever may or may not be speaking at the time you’re reading this, I very sincerely doubt that they will have anything as important, or as appropriate, to say this Eastertide as Elder McConkie did, a quarter-century ago. I remember watching it, long ago, and it moves me still.
You’re hosting a holiday party in your home for your office co-workers. You are the only Mormon, and your co-workers know of your peculiar-peopleness. Several of them have nervously approached you to ask whether the customary holiday party alcohol will be forbidden at the party (none of them expect you to purchase alcohol or to drink it).
YOU MAKE THE CALL!
This year Easter is April 16. In our ward, there will be a musical number, flowers on the podium, and a couple of talks to mark the occasion. It will not be surprising if the lessons in the auxiliaries and Sunday School go on with the pre-set lesson schedule and make no mention of the holiday (holy day). It would be a big surprise if talks the week before Easter made reference to Palm Sunday. There will be no mention made of Good Friday, and most Mormons wouldn’t understand a reference to Maundy Thursday. [Read more...]