Bishop Caussé’s Invitation to Attention and the Question of Grace #LDSConf

Bishop Caussé opens his talk with a stunning acknowledgement about failing to pay attention: his family lived in Paris for 22 years without ever making time to visit the Eiffel Tower! Similarly, he suggests, we can all too easily miss occasions for spiritual wonder all around us. In a monitory tone, he says:

Our ability to marvel is fragile. Over the long term, such things as casual commandment-keeping, apathy, or even weariness may set in and make us insensitive to the most remarkable signs and miracles of the gospel.

Later, he quotes Marcel Proust by way of inviting us to undertake a wondrous spiritual journey made possible by the simple mechanism of paying attention: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” This quote marvelously captures both the “renewing of [the] mind” that Paul makes a consequence of grace and the spiritual riches that await those with eyes to see and ears to hear.
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The talk so many have been waiting for: thank you President Wixom! #ldsconf

It has been a difficult few years for me, trying to sit and listen and just be with several friends in my ward and larger circles going through acute crises of faith. The causes are varied: feelings of having been hurt by the church’s policies or actions, social alienation for having the wrong kind of family, troubling historical facts, or just feeling like they needed a break from church activity. At times I felt overwhelmed by selfish personal sense of loss of not having these friends with me at church, overwhelmed by the emotional exertion they sometimes called on me to help them bear for a time, overwhelmed by my own complex feelings and faith in a time of tension between different parts of the flock. So often talks from our leaders seemed to ignore or belittle these struggles I saw all around me and within me. Even when it was addressed in conference, it often felt oblique or keeping the doubts (and by extension the doubters) at a safe arm’s length. Speakers usually seemed to misunderstand or mischaracterize the concerns, and there was a lack of feeling like voices of this struggle were even heard, much less having an impact. Then came today’s talk by President Wixom. Wixom, tenderly quoting a woman in her ward who faced doubts and left activity for a time:

“I did not separate myself from the Church because of bad behavior, spiritual apathy, looking for an excuse not to live the commandments, or searching for an easy out. I felt I needed the answer to the question ‘What do I really believe?’”

“My testimony had become like a pile of ashes. It had all burned down. All that remained was Jesus Christ.”

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Easter Day

At last the day of rejoicing has come!  Our Lenten afflictions now past, we echo the Psalm: “The LORD has punished me sorely, / but he did not hand me over to death.” Indeed, through Jesus we have been handed over to life! Whatever satisfaction we found in anticipation during the dark days of Lent has now become reality with the risen Jesus. “[We] shall not die, but live, / and declare the works of the LORD.” [Read more…]

Blessed Easter, Blessed Spring, Blessed Day

It’s morning. Which means, as always, by God’s grace, it’s time to begin again.

20 Years of Statistical Reports, Visualized #ldsconf

Did you know that, as of December 31, 2014, the church had 3,114 stakes with 29,621 wards and branches? Of course you do: every April during Conference, somebody reads the church’s annual Statistical Report from the prior year.

The thing is, though, that, standing alone, the Statistical Report is so much cocktail party fodder: it’s interesting (because numbers!), but ultimately doesn’t tell us much at all. Put it into some kind of context, though, and suddenly the numbers start to tell a story.

So here’s some context:  [Read more…]

The Sower – Elder Dallin Oaks #ldsconf

HERE COMES THE HAMMER

A couple of weeks ago, Elder Oaks hinted at his upcoming General Conference address: the importance of the parables of Jesus for current issues. Today, we saw the complete perspective, namely what sort of reception are we going to provide for the Savior’s message? [Read more…]

Potemkin Villages #ldsconf

Uchtdorf

President Uchtdorf (aka the Silver Fox) began his remarks during the Priesthood Session with the following:

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The Great Vigil of Easter

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…]

Elder Christofferson: The ascendance of the tripartite model #LDSConf

In the spirit world where the dead await the glorious Resurrection of the just, B. H. Roberts is currently giggling to himself, trying not to smile too conspicuously. Bruce R. McConkie wants to go over and wipe the smile off his face with his spirit fist.
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Elder Perry: World Religion vs. Religion of “The World”

Elder Perry’s talk reflects on his visit to the Colloquium on Marriage and Family held at the Vatican last November. This event gathered representatives of 14 different faiths—and as such, the participation of Church leaders raises once again the question of whether Mormonism is a world religion. Elder Perry does not address this question directly, but his use of the word “world” in ways that both harmonize with and run counter to usual LDS usage suggests that answer might be “yes,” albeit not for reasons we might usually suppose. [Read more…]

A Mormon Easter Sermon, Again

Very nearly exactly 30 years ago, on the Saturday morning before Easter, April 6, 1985, a sermon, just like those which will begin a half-hour from now, was given during the first session of general conference. Except that it wasn’t “just like” any other sermon given that day–and, I strongly suspect, won’t be like any of those who read this are likely to hear this morning, or through all conference. The sermon I’m talking about is Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s final general conference address, “The Purifying Power of Gethsemane”, given on that Holy Saturday. He’d come from the hospital, where was dying of cancer, to the old Tabernacle to give this sermon; he passed away 13 days later. Whoever may or may not speak this morning, trust me: they will almost certainly not have anything as important, or as appropriate, to say this Eastertide as Elder McConkie did, thirty years ago. I remember watching it, long ago, and it moved me. Though I struggle with McConkie’s influence on the church and his Christian theology and interpretation of scripture, I cannot deny: it moves me still.
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Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday represents the time in between, the time when Jesus had died, but before he had risen again. We read in the Gospel that two of his disciples, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, brought “a mixture of myrrh and aloes” and then “wrapped [the body of Jesus] with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.” Having thus laid him in the tomb, how might they reasonably expect to see him alive again? [Read more…]

Good Friday: Holding Fast the Profession of Our Faith Without Wavering

Jesus’ Trial Before the Sanhedrin (John 18:19-27, Mark 14:53-65, Matt. 26:57-67, Luke 22:63-71), The Passion of the Christ (2004)[1]

* * *

The story of Christ’s passion recorded in John 18 and 19 makes for riveting though heart-wrenching reading, especially on Good Friday. In the Garden, Jesus’ Apostles both betray (John 18:4-5) and loyally defend him (John 18:10). [Read more…]

Survey says…!

Have you seen this? It’s a survey from the BYUSA Student Advisory Council regarding the dress and grooming portion of the Honor Code. You’ll notice that this survey never actually asks for student attitudes toward the Honor Code; it seems to be more about figuring out where the dress standards could be enforced more strictly and nudging students (“If you feel that it is appropriate”) to provide specific violations. I do not encourage you to click that link and troll the completely anonymous survey; it was no fun at all. Not one bit. [Read more…]

#ldsconf – Something different this time.

So, this would normally be the post where we tell you about our open threads, live coverage and other reporting on General Conference. BCC’s Conference reporting and coverage has been a bloggernacle staple for years. But this time, we’re doing things a little differently, and we hope you’ll understand.
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Proficiscere

It is Maundy Thursday. Today is the day that for millennia Christians have gathered to consecrate oil for anointing. For my part I have made a point to revisit the related venerable rites. The oil. The garden. Life. Death.
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The Observer Effect Applied to Church Doctrine and Conference Talks

We’re really glad to have Kacy Faulconer back with us, in time for General Conference.

Writing about something helps me figure out what I think about it. More specifically, figuring out what I want to write about something is usually a good way to think more carefully about it. You know how it is in an English class when you get assigned to write a paper on the role of the hero in contemporary children’s literature and you find out—when you dig into writing this paper—that you think Professor Snape is the true hero of the Harry Potter series. Or something like that. [Read more…]

MLP: Maundy Thursday

Mormon Lectionary Project

Maundy Thursday

Exodus 12:1-4, 11-141 Corinthians 11:23-26John 13:1-17, 31b-35Psalm 116:1, 10-17; 3 Nephi 18:1-9

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…]

Wednesday in Holy Week (Tenebrae)

 

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.

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Periphery Privilege

I used to think I had it pretty tough as a missionary and then as a member of the church in Austria. It’s easy to feel isolated and maybe even a little under siege (see below!) with Mormons few and far between on the outskirts of the vineyard. [Read more…]

NotEs fRom a GrAmMAr aNarcHist

As a literary anarchist I am writing a book on grammar and thought I would share some of my rules of thumb in hopes others might find them useful.

1. Never end a sentence in. [Read more…]

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography

9780252039089[1]

Review of Michael Hicks, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015). 210 pages with Notes and an Index. Part of the Music in American Life series.

Michael has been posting teasers from his book manuscript for many months now, and so when my volume finally arrived in the mail my interest had been fully piqued and I consumed it in just two days. [Read more…]

Tuesday in Holy Week

Part of the punitive appeal of crucifixion lies in the fact of public display: nothing says “remember who’s in charge” quite like a bunch of corpse-bedecked crosses outside the city gates. So, too, with Jesus, crucified as a troublemaker alongside two thieves and atop a hill, such that the scene might be visible from a distance. The message from the Romans: “We will not tolerate that business about destroying the temple and raising it up in three days, no sir, so don’t even think about it.” [Read more…]

The “Anti-Mormon” Card

“The Cast Iron-Rodders know all the answers to the unanswerable. They require that every single facet of their faith be absolutely “true;” otherwise nothing is.”–Samuel W. Taylor, Aunty-Mormon I Ain’t, Nor Ante-Mormon Neither

I have been reading my way through dozens of anti-Mormon novels published in the second half of the nineteenth century. This is something that I could not have done even ten years ago without flying all over the country and hanging out in special-collections rooms where you have to wear latex gloves and a hazmat suit to touch a book. But then Google decided to digitize that portion of the world no longer protected by copyright, and now it is as easy as watching TV. [Read more…]

Wave Operators. Omniscience. God. Heaven. Charity. Atonement. Reconciliation. Love. Infinity. Part I.

“Maybe we’ve spent too long trying to figure this all out with theory. . . love isn’t something we invented. It’s observable, powerful. It has to mean something.”
“Love has meaning, yes. Social utility, social bonding, child rearing.”
“We love people who have died. Where is the social utility in that?”
“None.”
“Maybe it means something more, something we can’t–yet–understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artifact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. I’m drawn across the universe to someone I haven’t seen in a decade, who I know is probably dead. Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it . . .”

“I saw . . . my brother Alvin, that has long since slept; and marveled how it was that he had obtained an inheritance in that [Celestial] kingdom, seeing that he had departed this life before the Lord had set his hand to gather Israel the second time, and had not been baptized for the remission of sins. Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom; for I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works,[and] according to the desire of their hearts.”

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Louise Yates Robison

Sometimes church (like so much else) looks like a place designed for extroverts. Gregariousness, if not a virtue exactly, at least seems like the sort of thing that could come in handy, since the realities of lay ministry so often oblige us to give talks, teach lessons, or otherwise act in semi-public ways. What, then, of the shy among us? Perhaps their (ok, our) patron saint could be Louise Yates Robison, who notwithstanding deep shyness served effectively as the General Relief Society President during the difficult years of the Great Depression. [Read more…]

Cleansing the Temple: Monday in Holy Week

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

* * *

Jesus likely knew that he was sealing His fate when he “cleansed” the temple by casting out the money changers after his “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. In the Gospel of Mark, this cleansing of the temple occurs on the Monday of Holy Week (Mark 11:15-19). [Read more…]

10 Questions For Sister Oscarson

Dear President Oscarson,

I like you President Oscarson. I like your wit and your humility. I know I’m not a young woman anymore but I feel like you’re my leader. I feel comfortable with you. I want to support all the women leaders in our church. In fact, I look at you like a Helaman and here we are your daughters ready to fight for what you deem worthy. Maybe that’s going a bit far. But you know, we’re Mormon and we like to draw dramatic parallels. Anyway, I bring that up because the other night you asked us to do three things: defend marriage between a man and woman, elevate divine roles of mothers and fathers and stand and defend the sanctity of the home. You also asked us to boldly defend the proclamation. [Read more…]

Thoughts on the Resurrection

Hand-444159_640I was asked to give the concluding remarks in our ward’s Easter program, held today in advance of conference next week.

In 3 Nephi, it reads:

5 And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.
6 And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:
7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.

[Read more…]

Congratulations to 2014 AML Winners Steve Peck and Michael Austin

Steve and Michael

BCC permas put their pants on just like the rest of you–one leg at a time. Except, once their pants are on, they take home top honors from the 2014 Association for Mormon Letters Conference. A hearty congratulations to Steve Peck for mopping the floor with the competition for the 2014 Short Fiction Award and Michael Austin for leaving the contenders for the 2014 Religious Nonfiction Award in the dust (and ashes)! Read on for their citations: [Read more…]

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