Why do churches sometimes act like corporations? Isn’t there something fundamentally at odds between the ostensibly otherworldly business of saving souls and the dollars-and-cents mindset of 21st-century global capitalism? Questions of this kind these seem to undergird discussions of church finance, covering such matters as the property dealings of American Catholic dioceses, the uses of monies donated to Islamic charities, or the investment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a shopping mall across the street from historic Temple Square in Salt Lake City, or, now, a 32-story mixed-use structure in downtown Philadelphia.
Mormon Lectionary Project: The Presentation, Year A
The Collect: O Lord: as we turn to thy Temple in our hearts and with our actions, wilt thou, we pray, send thy Presence into our midst and make us, the body of thy Church, into a living Temple, that by thy grace we might become a refuge of holiness for the distressed of the earth.
With this post, we’re taking the Mormon Lectionary Project into new territory, using the genre to write about figures without days in the Common Lectionary. Most of these will be LDS, but Gandhi comes first because of his death date, 30 Jan. 1948. Just as we’ve been adding LDS scripture to previous posts, it seemed appropriate to include the Qur’an and the Bhagavad Gita in this one.
Mohandas K. Gandhi
A little over six months have passed since the Church held its mission president training meeting that was double-billed as a worldwide leadership training meeting relating to missionary work to which all members were invited (either in person at the BYU Marriott Center or virtually, by way of the internet) and which was preceded by unprecedented fanfare. [Read more...]
Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it (John Wesley).
At the risk of breaking Jesus’ injunction to keep schtum about one’s fasting habits, I am pretty good at fasting. I generally fast twice a week, meaning 2×24 hours without food, and began this year with a two-day fasting (non-)binge. I do this for health reasons, because I simply cannot do moderation — I cannot eat moderately, it is either all or nothing. For five days a week it is all, for two it is nothing. This way I am able to keep my weight down. It works.
So when Foster talks about epic multi-week fasts I think I could do it. I am a faster. Hooray! [Read more...]
The Epiphany, Year A
The Collect: O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
What’s wrong with this picture? More men in women’s meeting than women in general sessions of conference
I was talking to a friend about these images of gender imbalance in the speaking parts in General Conference. In trying to convey how alienating such an overwhelmingly male meeting can be for women in the audience, I posed this hypothetical: if there were a meeting as female as general conference is male, would men in the audience perceive it as a meeting for them, that related to them, where they felt comfortable and welcome? Or would they perceive it to be a women’s meeting? 
It occurred to me that this isn’t merely a hypothetical. We do have a meeting that is mostly female, the annual Relief Society meeting. Although we understand it to be a women’s meeting, there is actually more male participation in this “women’s” meeting than there is female participation in the meetings that are supposed to be for women as much as they are for men, the general sessions of conference. This is illustrated in a newly updated infographic (click to enlarge):
Holy Innocents, Year A
The Collect: We remember today, Heavenly Father, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. [Read more...]
Christmas II, Year A
The Collect: Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
Christmas I, Year A
The Collect: O God, on this day when we rejoice in the birth of thy Son, whom thou hast given to us in everlasting love, instill in us thy presence, that, as we still await the consummation of all things, the babe in the manger might yet dwell with us in our hearts, through the grace of thy Holy Spirit, forever and ever, world without end. [Read more...]
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A
The Collect: Heavenly Father, purify us through the Spirit, that thy Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; and if not a mansion, then a manger . . . for there is room for him with us. [Read more...]
BCC has long championed the liturgical year. We are happy to welcome the efforts of Jason Kerr, Visiting Assistant Professor of English at BYU, to further the cause.
Inspired by a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, BCC permas RJH and John F. recently started a Facebook group, The Mormon Confraternity of St. James, dedicated to the principle of holy envy, or the idea that people can find spiritual meaning in religious practices from outside their particular traditions. After attending a recent Advent mass with Confraternity members at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake, I realized that I have a special love for the formal reading in the church service of scriptural passages chosen for their appropriateness to the occasion in the liturgical year. These passages can then inform the homily given as part of the service. This series will use the lectionary texts of the Episcopal Church as the basis for brief Mormon homilies for each major festival of the liturgical year. Each homily will also include a Mormon version of the collect for the day—a brief formal prayer modelled on the masterful ones composed by Thomas Cranmer for the Book of Common Prayer, but adapted to the Mormon context.
We are posting this a few days early in order to introduce the project. Typically, posts will appear on the relevant holiday.
One of my most vivid memories as a boy growing up in the gospel-centered home that I did is of a Family Home Evening that we had when I was maybe four, in the basement of our little starter home in Bountiful, Utah. Mom and Dad helped my little brother and me trace our hands with blue marker on poster board. We cut those out, and then wrote on the five fingers of each hand our life’s goals, which we arrived at with Mom and Dad’s gentle persuasion:
1. Get Baptized and Receive the Holy Ghost
2. Receive the Aaronic Priesthood
3. Receive the Melchizedek Priesthood
4. Go on a Mission
5. Get Married in the Temple
That remains a pretty ideal life’s plan for young men in the Church today1—and there is a lot of good to it. Speaking personally, those were good goals for me, and they served me well. Over the years, I have also become more sensitive to the fact that sometimes ideals aren’t attainable, and that within Mormon culture the pain of unmet expectations or attainments can be really acute, even brutal. I want to speak in this post to a slightly different set of expectations that I wish we laid more cultural emphasis on—expectations that, in my view, are more attainable for a larger percentage of our willing young men and that might be more easily adapted to young women, as well.
“Prayer — secret, fervent, believing prayer — lies at the root of all personal godliness” (William Carey).
Happy Advent! This is my favourite time in the Christian year. We enter a new time in the calendar, one mercifully shorn (unlike Christmas and Easter) of commercial excess. Just remember that Advent is not yet Christmas, so hold off on the New Testament for now and concentrate more on the promise of the renewal of the covenant made in the Old. If you are in Salt Lake, you could have joined with the MCSJ at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. I am sure they will plan some Christmas activities.
I have had reasonable success with last month’s discipline (meditation). I have certainly meditated more than I usually do, so I’ll take that as a win. I must admit to being worried about this month’s focus, mainly because when it comes to prayer, my faith is weak. I am with the disciples, who had prayed all their lives but still said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Foster’s chapter on prayer is a challenge because he seems to accept the power of intercessory prayer . . . and I don’t. [Read more...]
With Advent, and thus the beginning of the Christian year fast approaching, now is a good time for our annual liturgical year post. In years past I have attempted to create a Mormon calendar, but given the hassles inherent in the moveable feasts, I will simply suggest here some resources for fashioning your own:
1. The LDS Sunday curriculum readings make an excellent lectionary. As a supplement suited to the rhythm of the Christian year, I recommend the readings found in both CommonPrayer.net and Oremus (both of which can be downloaded to your electronic device). The aesthetic is Anglo-Catholic.
2. You can also follow the Christian calendar via the above resources. Both offer prayers and thoughts appropriate to the day.
3. A Mormon holiday supplement would be good, and might include General Conference, April 6, the restoration of the priesthood, the birth and death of the Prophet, Pioneer Day, and the visit of Moroni. The marking of national holidays can also be appropriate, provided they are not excuses for jingoism — in our family, the liturgy there is to make such days Flag Days. When I remember, I try to mark the holidays of other major religions, not as a religious tourist, but as a way to educate my children. Family Home Evening is perfect for this kind of thing.
4. What I don’t have, and would like, is some kind of musical resource tailored to the calendar. Kristine Haglund is excellent at suggesting music. What I need is some kind of Kristine-app to automate the selection!
Last year’s discussion of the Christian calendar and its Mormon iteration follows:
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...]
Childhood allergies like hay fever are linked to an absence of contact with fecal matter in their early years.  In other words, their houses were too clean for them to develop immunity.  When antibodies have no real threats to fight off, they’ll pick the next best thing – dust, pet dander, and pollen.  I’m pretty sure it would make my mother proud that my hay fever is a byproduct of her obsessive cleanliness. Perhaps this phenomenon also explains why Mormons are prone to creating extra rules on top of our already high standards. Let me explain. [Read more...]
This Sunday marks my 10th anniversary of entering the MTC. This was back before they made you say goodbye to your family at the curbside, so I have vivid memories of sitting in the large room, watching the short video of missionaries singing “Called To Serve,” parents walking out one door while missionaries walked out another, and absolutely everyone weeping uncontrollably. (It’s probably for the best that saying goodbye is now like ripping off a bandaid.) While my opinion of my mission in particular and LDS missions in general have changed over the years—for instance, whoever thinks those were truly “the best two years” must have had a lousy post-mission life—I am still very grateful for my time spent in the Washington DC North Mission, for the people I worked with, and especially the people I served.
As I’m sure is the case with everyone, I have mixed memories. So without further ado, below are 10 of my favorite Mission moments, followed by 10 of my most painful regrets. [Read more...]
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.
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...]
Are Mormon marriages more equal or less equal than other marriages? Do Mormon women feel that they are taken seriously and treated as equals by their husbands? Are they encouraged to follow their dreams? Do they find their work (whether at home or in the workplace) meaningful and rewarding? In the give and take of marriage, are men and women giving and taking fairly?
I recently finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. In the book, she talks about several things we can do to help women achieve their potential and to help men and women feel more equal and personally satisfied, within their personal lives and in the workplace. This list includes things like: [Read more...]
On my mission, in one city my companion and I had to walk 45 mins to get to our area to teach. We were newly together and frankly, she was driving me nuts. She insisted on singing hymns the entire time we walked through the banana fields and winding rural paths. Relentlessly. Finally, I couldn’t take it any more, so I started belting out Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.” She recoiled as if I had just taken a big swig of Vodka, wiped my mouth, and then offered it to her. But then, she accepted the proffered folk song olive branch and started to sing it with me. She shrugged and said she guessed it was not inappropriate even if it wasn’t a hymn. [Read more...]
What does it mean to become more Christlike? I will confess that the quest to be Christlike has sometimes bothered me, not because I don’t think it is a worthy goal (at my house, we are currently memorizing Moroni 10:32–33), but because I am naturally plagued by mortal doubts as to its practical feasibility. I understand that becoming like Christ is the whole point of the gospel. But it is not an unproblematic proposition, when you think about it.
It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between righteousness (that needs no correction) and self-righteousness (that can’t bear or acknowledge the need for correction). Put another way, it’s difficult to confidently consider something personal revelation unless it differs from our own conscience or our own self-justifications or what we would do (even if we are tempted to do otherwise). Yet, the more we live the gospel, the more righteous and godlike we become and the less likely revelation will contradict our own views. [Read more...]
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.
I was reminded recently that there is a folk belief amongst us Saints that I find particularly pernicious. It isn’t something that comes up all that frequently in Sunday School, but I’ve encountered it in more than one Mormon forum, usually whispered to emphasize the sacred and deep-doctrine status of said belief. I’m also hesitant to bring it up here, because it relies on temple language for its authority. But it occurred to me that people might want to use it to comfort or counsel people who are upset with the gender imbalance in the church. I’m convinced that it will only make things worse if used for this purpose.
The belief is this: Women are automatically saved to the celestial kingdom by divine decree. [Read more...]