The Mormon Lectionary Project: Christmas II

Christmas II, Year A

Isaiah 62:6-12, Psalm 97, Titus 3:4-7, Luke 2:1-7, 8-20, Mosiah 5:7-9

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.

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The Mormon Lectionary Project: Christmas I

Christmas I, Year A

Isaiah 9:2-7, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-14, Psalm 96, 2 Nephi 25:23-27

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...]

The Mormon Lectionary Project: Fourth Advent

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A

Isaiah 7:10-16Romans 1:1-7Matthew 1:18-25Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18, 1 Nephi 11:16-22

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...]

The Mormon Lectionary Project: Third Advent

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.

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Five Goals

2013-12-07 00.02.27One 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.

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The Christian Disciplines: Prayer

[All posts in series]

“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...]

Liturgical year

Edit: 18/xi/13

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:

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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...]

Purity, Rules and Allergies

Childhood allergies like hay fever are linked to an absence of contact with fecal matter in their early years. [1]  In other words, their houses were too clean for them to develop immunity. [2] When antibodies have no real threats to fight off, they’ll pick the next best thing – dust, pet dander, and pollen. [3]  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...]

Missionary Memories and Regrets: Reflections after 10 Years

Look at my head of hair!

Look at my head of hair!

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...]

The Christian Disciplines: Meditation

[All posts in series]

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

[All posts in series]

____

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...]

Mormon Marriage Equality

Are men and women partners or competitors?  What about in marriage?  Do men feel threatened by wives with successful careers?

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...]

183rd Semiannual General Conference Portal

DRAMATIZATION

This page is a portal to all content at BCC related to the 183rd Semiannual General Conference, held October 5-6, 2013. [Read more...]

Songs I Wish Were in the Hymn Book

Growing up I always thought the image on the hymn book was Angkor Wat.

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...]

On Becoming More Christlike

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. 

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Conversion or Comfort Zone?

Pay no attention to the cricket . . .

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...]

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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Real People sin

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...]

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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Religious Belonging & Dunbar’s Number

Everyone must stay in these arbitrary groups we’ve created.  Don’t cross the streams.

A few years ago I read a great book by Nicholas Christokis and James Fowler called Connected:  The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks.  There are a few points about social networks that I’ve been thinking about as relates to our social networks like the church, Facebook, and the blogs we frequent.

Given the findings of the book, the most important aspect of our church life is our local ward.  At work we used to say that to an employee, their direct leader was the whole company, for good or bad.  The same can be said of our local wards:  to members, the experiences in those local wards are the whole church experience (or nearly so).  Having a ward you like and where you feel accepted is therefore pretty important.

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Reading as Response, an Introduction Courtesy of BYU Studies

BYU Studies has posted an understanding, helpful response today to the article in the New York Times (“Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt”) that has caused some stir in Mormon circles online over the weekend.

BYU Studies’ Editor-in-Chief, John W. Welch, notes that “BYU Studies may shed some important light on those subjects. While no one has all the answers to every question, the BYU Studies website, together with many other resources and publications, are now easily available to provide many well-researched and well-written treatments of topics of current interest. We invite people to familiarize themselves with this website. It may come in very handy.”

I really like the BYU Studies response and the selection of potential starting points for reading about certain historical issues offered there. Reading about and candidly discussing our history is the perfect response to this problem. [Read more...]

The Discipline of Mormonism

ImageRecent posts here at BCC have considered the ideas of ordinances and covenants—the terms themselves and how the Latter-day Saint understanding of them has developed over time. In this post, I would like to consider these concepts in still another light. I believe that it is our particular regimen of covenants (which are made in ritual contexts we call ordinances) that imparts to the LDS way of life most if not all of its distinctive energy.  [Read more...]

For the Strength of YOUth

In a recent post, frequent commenter Ardis noted her experience with the standards of the church that have been pushing similar themes since the mid-1960s.  This reminded me of a post I did elsewhere noting some of the “timeless standards” from the 1965 pamphlet.

There is a new trend in the church to elevate the For the Strength of Youth standards to something that should be applied to all members, not just the youth.  I’ve experienced first hand and heard online from others that local wards have reviewed the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and standards with the adults, explaining that it applies to them as well.  In our Singapore stake, this was presented in a talk called “For the Strength of YOU.”  What’s behind this trend?  Here are some possible theories: [Read more...]

Covenants — Is the Lord Bound?

This IndentureThis post began as a response to J. Stapley’s recent post about Ordinances but quickly veered off in a tangent that would have constituted a threadjack of his post, so I’ve posted it as an independent contemplation.

J. was exploring possible origins of Mormon use of the word “ordinance” (or early influence as to the use and meaning of the word) in legal usage in his post and especially in the ensuing discussion in the comments (J. notes that he is beginning to think that “JS . . . was explicitly using legal language” when using the term “ordinance”). I think “covenant” also falls into this category of a term coopted from legal usage to express a religious teaching. [Read more...]

Changes to Missionary Program? Best Guesses?

(Video clip from Habitat for Humanity, http://www.habitat.org)

For the last couple of weeks, our ward has been announcing a worldwide leadership training meeting that will be held on the afternoon of Sunday, June 23, 2013 in BYU’s Marriott Center. The meeting is being billed as a very big deal. Church leaders have requested local units to even modify their meeting times if they conflict with the 4:00 pm meeting time (which will be the case for us). If I understand correctly, the meeting is technically part of the mission presidents training but, unusually, all members of ward and stake councils and their spouses and all other members of the Church who are interested are invited to attend. My understanding is that all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles will be in attendance. The upshot is that they have an important message to deliver, presumably about missionary work. [Read more...]

The Testimony Puzzle

“I’d like to stand on my feet today . . .”

I have never been a big fan of testimony meetings for a variety of reasons, but maybe my opinion is starting to shift.

I recently taught the May Sunday School youth lesson from Come Follow Me “What does it mean to bear testimony?” Since I teach 12-13 year olds, including my own son, I wanted to find a game or object lesson to help illustrate testimony.  I found the idea for a puzzle on the church’s website.

I showed the class a partially constructed puzzle.  My son immediately shouted out “It’s a goldfish in a bowl.  Boom!”  I said it wasn’t a goldfish.  Another boy agreed with my son:  “It’s definitely a goldfish.”  I assured the class again that the picture was not a goldfish.  The puzzle object lesson seemed to be working in ways not intended, demonstrating that some people draw wrong conclusions based on scant evidence and their own personal assumptions.

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Keys

Roman Key

A Roman iron key, c. 1st–3rd century AD. 185 mm (7 1/4″) long, “head” of key measures 2 1/4 x 2 3/4.”

As Rebecca J just noted, the theme for youth instruction for the month of June is priesthood and priesthood keys. In the revelations of Joseph Smith, the Biblical leitmotifs of opening and closing, of binding and unbinding, and of sealing and unsealing all come to be associated in deeply significant ways with the priesthood orders of the Church. In this post, I will focus on the theme of opening and closing as it connects to the imagery of keys.

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Female Garments: The Underwear Business

knee length shorts – good today, bad tomorrow

The history of garments is complex.  At one time they were made by members from patterns.  The marks used to be cut rather than embroidered.  And modifications to the styles have been made on several occasions, particularly changing the styles for women to feminize them and make them more practical (elbow and knee length vs. wrist and ankle, also the change to two-piece).  The church has made changes so that they fit better, so that women have more options, to allow those serving in the military to wear them, and to use new fabrics as they’ve become available.

And yet, despite all these changes, many women find garments problematic at one time or another for a variety of reasons.  On the positive side, women report finding garments spiritually comforting, a reminder of their covenants.  Many also appreciate the lack of visible panty lines (at least not where you expect to see them!).  I appreciate both of these things myself.  Some women consider them to be very comfortable, particular for lounging around the house.  But I have also experienced many of the drawbacks women discuss when only other women are present. [Read more...]

Using the Youth Sunday School Curriculum to Train Future Missionaries

I am happy to introduce a new monthly youth Sunday school series at BCC: adapting the youth Sunday school curriculum to train future missionaries.

In my own ward I’m fortunate to teach 17-18 year-olds. Some of them already have turned in their mission papers and are awaiting calls. Others are working on their papers. The Sunday school curriculum adapts itself easily to teaching the youth how to share the gospel both with investigators in a formal setting and with friends. [Read more...]

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