Three Thoughts, Two Minutes, One Lord

The Cenotaph, London, England (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cenotaph)

The Cenotaph, London, England (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cenotaph)

ce·no·taph, ˈsenəˌtaf/
noun
1.
a tomblike monument to someone buried elsewhere, esp. one commemorating people who died in a war.

Today is Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom, Veterans Day in the United States. Yesterday, the Sunday before Remembrance Day, or Remembrance Sunday, my thoughts turned to the religious and public traditions and rituals observed in the United Kingdom to commemorate the importance of this day as a day of national . . . contrition? penance? gratitude? All of them, I think — “celebrate” is the wrong word for what occurs in the public ceremonies that occur on Remembrance Sunday and Remembrance Day. It is a solemn “remembering,” a holy Remembrance, because we remember the lives of those who served particularly in the Great War (1914-1918) but also in all conflicts in the protection of national or territorial integrity and political freedoms and heritage; more specifically, we contemplate the sacrifice that it is to put one’s life on the line for these values and ideals. Very few, if any, “celebrate” that these sacrifices were made or that such devastating wars occurred; virtually all unite across racial, ethnic, and religious divides to remember them and commemorate their sacrifices. [Read more...]

The Christian Disciplines: Meditation

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True contemplation is not a psychological trick but a theological grace (Thomas Merton).

I’ll admit to a disappointment. Foster states that Christian meditation “involves no hidden mysteries, no secret mantras, no mental gymnastics, no esoteric flights into the cosmic consciousness.” Alas. It is as I said before — discipline as vainglory is a major temptation for me. Personally, I would love to fly into the cosmic consciousness, but such is not the purpose of Christian meditation.
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The Christian Disciplines: An Introduction

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____

I go through life as a transient on his way to eternity, made in the image of God but with that image debased, needing to be taught how to meditate, to worship, to think (Donald Coggan).

In reading the scriptures suggested by Richard Foster, I was most struck by Romans 8:18: “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” As one raised Mormon, I have tended to avoid Romans, so beloved as it is by the evangelicals who are most critical of Mormon works-based soteriology (as they see it). And yet, it is Mormon scripture that reminds us that “the natural man is an enemy to God” (Mosiah 3:19). So, I’m with St. Paul: I know what is right but I’m terrible at doing it and in my natural state, I cannot help that. [Read more...]

Power in Prayer

Unfortunate Brothers: Korea's Reunification Dilemma, directed by Dodge Billingsley of Combat Films & Research

Unfortunate Brothers: Korea’s Reunification Dilemma, directed by Dodge Billingsley of Combat Films & Research

The excellent and moving documentary “Unfortunate Brothers: Korea’s Reunification Dilemma” will be screening at Westminster College in Salt Lake City on Monday, September 23, 2013 at 7:00 pm. There will be a Q & A following the film with the director, an expert from the film, and a member of the National Unification Advisory council. Admission is free, doors open at 6:30pm. This is the ninth original documentary created for the “Beyond the Border” series produced by Combat Films & Research for the David M. Kennedy Center at Brigham Young University, and the first program focusing on Korea. It will also air on September 30, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. on KBYU-11.
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A Mormon Homily for Rosh Hashanah

Leshana Tova Tikoseiv Vesichoseim Le’Alter LeChaim Tovim U’Leshalom — “May you be inscribed and sealed for a Good Year and for a Good and Peaceful Life”

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Sacramental Memory

In one of the leadership training videos produced by the Church a woman talks about a particularly chaotic, frustrating day she had with her four year old. She told him she was at her wit’s end and didn’t know what do anymore. He suggested she sing “I am a Child of God,” which, of course, she then did. She said she was grateful for the opportunity to be reminded of who her child was.

There is a significant distinction between knowing (or understanding) and remembering in this little didactic story. It’s unlikely that this mother had stopped believing that her child was a child of God, and likewise it seems wrong to interpret her as becoming uncertain about her child’s eternal identity, whereas once she had been much more confident.* She said that she needed to be reminded of this. What she had known was never in doubt; it would be wrong to say that her knowledge about this thing was incomplete or had broken down. She had forgotten and needed to remember. [Read more...]

A Stranger, A Pilgrim: Liveblogging El Camino

[Update Day 1], [Update Day 2], [Update Day 3], [Update Day 4], [Update Day 5], [Update Day 6]

scallop shell symbol8 Yo te haré saber y te enseñaré el camino en que debes andar;
te aconsejaré con mis ojos puestos en ti.

9 No seas como el caballo o como el mulo, que no tienen entendimiento;
cuyos arreos incluyen brida y freno para sujetarlos,
porque si no, no se acercan a ti

10 Muchos son los dolores del impío,
pero al que confía en el SEÑOR, la misericordia lo
rodeará.

11 Alegraos en el SEÑOR y rogocijaos, justos;
dad voces de júbilo, todos los rectos de corazón.

- Salmos 32:8-11

Madrid, March 30, 2013john f.: A motley crew of Mormons walking The Way of St. James might seem strangers on the Camino indeed. This will not be the first time that Jordan and I have raised eyebrows as Mormons in a culturally non-Mormon setting. Nearly fifteen years ago we studied Yiddish together in Vilnius — many of our fellow students young and old, I recall, found it very amusing that a couple of Mormon brothers were among them. [Read more...]

This is my body, this is my blood

I have recently become more interested in the historical Jesus. For me, the starting point of my Christian faith must be an understanding of who the mortal Jesus was and what he was trying to do for his contemporaries. There are other Jesuses, of course — the premortal Word and the Christ of the Church — but given the absolute theological centrality of the historical Incarnation, I want to know how Jesus of Nazareth was meant to be understood in the context of 1st century Palestinian Judaism. I believe in Jesus’ divinity but it is his divinity as uniquely embedded in a historical moment that most compels me. I am also more and more convinced that Jesus was attempting to change men’s hearts in the here and now. That is not to ignore the promise of “treasure in heaven” but I think the real value of that promise is to guarantee a happy ending — and thus provide a relief — to our mortal travails. It is in this context that I would like to offer the following reading of the Last Supper. [Read more...]

Your Sunday Brunch Special: “Conferring the Priesthood.” When Architecture Becomes Liturgy.

Priesthood is a complex subject in Mormonism. The very meaning of the word has ebbed and flowed. Below, I focus on ecclesiastical office in a narrow sense. I only consider church structures involving the practice of ordination, not “setting apart” in the modern vernacular.
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Remembrance Talk

As cathedral bells toll remembrance in Worcester, I thought I’d repost these thoughts on war for 11/11/11.

For Christians, Remembrance Sunday can stir mixed emotions. Today we remember the fallen of war and regret that war seems to be the natural condition of man. We weep along with God who, when surveying the war and murder that polluted his earth said, “I gave them commandment that they should love one another, but they are without affection, and they hate their own blood. As a result misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them . . . ; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?” (Moses 7:37).

The observance of Armistice Day — the 11th Day of the 11th month — was originally intended to ensure that never again would the nation commit to the slaughter and evil that have become synonymous with words such as “Somme” and “Flanders Fields.”
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The Hand(s) of God

I have recently had the pleasure of participating again in priesthood blessings, an LDS ritual based on New Testament precedent in which believers place olive oil and then their hands on a person’s head before pronouncing a prayerful blessing on the recipient. As I indicated a few years ago, these blessings are a sacred part of my attachment to the LDS Church. These recent experiences, blessings of support in the midst of complex and challenging life circumstances, returned to my mind an episode[1] some years ago in my practice as an ICU physician. [Read more...]

Female healing article now available

The last six years have been a lot of fun, and I count myself very fortunate to have been able to work on this project and to work on it with Kristine. Honestly, there were moments in the Church History Library when I thought to myself, “If I never have the opportunity to see anything else or work on another project, I will still be full.” We owe many friends and institutions much for their support. Thank you.
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Of Shirts, Signals, and Sacraments

Those who bless and pass the sacrament should dress modestly and be well groomed and clean. Clothing or jewelry should not call attention to itself or distract members during the sacrament. Ties and white shirts are recommended because they add to the dignity of the ordinance. However, they should not be required as a mandatory prerequisite for a priesthood holder to participate. Nor should it be required that all be alike in dress and appearance. Bishops should use discretion when giving such guidance to young men, taking into account their financial circumstances and maturity in the Church…

…The passing of the sacrament should be natural and unobtrusive, not rigid or overly formal. Those who pass the sacrament should not be required to assume any special posture or action, such as holding the left hand behind the back. The process of passing the sacrament should not call attention to itself or detract from the purpose of the ordinance. 2010 Church Handbook of Instructions, Handbook 2, Section 20.4.1(emphasis added).

The paragraphs above from the CHI address some of the commonly seen/held-yet-false beliefs/practices concerning the administration of the Sacrament: dress codes, hand positions, stances.[1] [Read more...]

What Love Requires

As lines of people approached long tables filled with grilled tri-tip and baked potatoes, a small loaf of bread, sliced and ready for the taking sat by a large basket of rolls last night at the ward Christmas party. The paper laying next to the crusty loaf labeled it “Gluten Free”.  Cranberry filled Jell-O with a cream cheese underlay was cut into generous helpings and divided into lots. One was gluten-free, the others endowed with a crunchy pretzel crust. Trays of gluten-free, chocolate-oozing dessert were delivered to table after table by the Young Men along with slices of regular chocolate and vanilla sheet cakes from Costco. In addition, a moist gluten-free coffee cake was there for your indulgence. It’s one of the small things we do in our ward for the handful of people who suffer from Celiac disease. That’s what love requires.

We have a handful of brothers in our ward, suffering from diseases not of the body, but of the spirit that caused them to become part of the criminal justice system, and for a time were (or still are) incarcerated. [Read more...]

Primary Sharing Time Idea: Repentance

This is a Sharing Time I did this year on the topic of Repentance. (Previous entries in my Primary ideas series are A Chieko Okazaki Sharing Time Lesson and How to Sincerely Enjoy Working in Nursery.)
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BCC Zeitcast 58: Female Ritual Healing In Mormonism

The BCC Zeitcast returns with a brand new season!

In this two-part episode, Scott B. and J. Stapley discuss the long-promised and oft-cited paper on Female Ritual Healing which Stapley and BCC Emeritus Kris Wright co-authored, and which will be published in the Winter 2011 Journal of Mormon History, due out this January. [Read more...]

Mormon Temples – How They Work. Part 2.

Part 1 is here.

Most temples have their own unique design elements directed to setting the stage for what the Saints regard as sacred activities. They also represent architectural design trends from the era in which these temples were built, the preferences of the architect(s) and the direction of Church leaders. On the inside, despite the uniqueness of design vision that may exist, there are certain necessities required by function.[1]
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Mormon Temples – How They Work. Part 1.

Most people don’t really “get” Mormon Temples. As I’ve traveled in the US and other countries, if the subject comes up, I always find genuine confusion about temples and why we have them. Explaining the temple to people can be interesting, depending on the background of the listener. But I would guess that most Latter-day Saints share a similar ignorance about how temples currently operate. I’m here to clean up this mess, pull the curtain back, and tell you what happens inside a Mormon Temple. Sitting on the edge of your seat yet?
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A Mormon Sermon for Reformation Sunday

Delivered in church on October 31, 2010*

By 1528 at the latest Martin Luther had written the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, number 68 in our hymn book, as a homily on Psalm 46. The words to this hymn always turn my thoughts to Luther’s experience in taking refuge in the mighty Wartburg fortress at Eisenach in the German principality of Thuringia in 1521. We can imagine Luther reflecting on his isolation while sequestered in that fortress, in disguise as a knight for his own protection, as he later penned the words. [Read more...]

Ritual, Imitation and Sacral Connectivity: The example of making a Malanggan

I have recently been reading an early French sociologist named Gabriel Tarde.  There has been a revival of Tarde’s work in recent sociological debates and his ideas have begun to be reconsidered in a number of different areas.  One of those areas concerns ritual.  In this post I intend to consider ritual through a Tardean lens in the hope that some insight can be offered regarding how we can engage with Mormon liturgy. [Read more...]

Baptism Rituals

Just over a year ago I went to a Church of England baptismal service for some of my wife’s relatives.  Though they were baptised in a glorified paddling pool (which made me very grateful we have formal fonts) there were two things about that experience which impressed me to the extent that I would like to see these practices adopted by the LDS Church in the UK.  In order to do this there would need to be a policy change in the CHI in order to provide the flexibility to implement these suggestions, so I admit that it is probably unlikely.  Nevertheless here are my thoughts. [Read more...]

Those in Favour, Manifest it? Part 2

Part 1 can be found here.  This second post is concerned with the process of sustaining and asks whether we sustain the person or the office? [Read more...]

Those in favour, Manifest it? Part 1

This just a short, two part series on sustaining.  This first post tries to ask some questions regarding the purpose of sustaining (both others and ourselves) and the second post will look at the process of sustaining by examining the question of whether we sustain the person or the office. [Read more...]

A Mormon Liturgy for Fourth Advent

I recently left a note here about the “liturgy” that our ward routinely does in honor of Remembrance Sunday and which I look forward to every year. We also enjoy a uniquely Mormon liturgy on Fourth Advent to celebrate Christmas properly as one — as a “ward family”. Hopefully the word “liturgy” isn’t misleading here: make no mistake, the meetings still had the rough and tumble of low church Mormon practices (i.e. this wasn’t a ritualized sung Eucharist or anything, just a slightly different readings-based format to Sacrament Meeting channeling the inspiration received by the Bishop in contemplating the Christmas message for the ward). [Read more...]

A Mormon Liturgy for Remembrance Sunday

Remembrance Sunday is the second Sunday in November, the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day, which falls on November 11 every year. Each year my ward celebrates Remembrance Sunday with a peculiarly Mormon liturgy that is wonderful to experience. [Read more...]

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