Check out Jeremy G.’s notes for this piece.
Search Results for: advent
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
This is a do-it-yourself entry. The tune is “Hyfrydol,” which we have as “In Humility, Our Savior” in our hymnal. (A very nice organ prelude on the tune starts at 7:56 here. Bonus points if you listen to the preceding prelude, on Rhosymedre, and know which hymn in our book uses that tune). The text is by Charles Wesley. Sing out!
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free; [Read more…]
In the past, I’ve done the 12 days of Christmas, starting them, in snotty pedantic fashion, on December 25th, which is where they begin in the Catholic and Anglican liturgical calendar. But since Mormons tend to frontload our musical celebration, I thought I’d try some Advent music earlier in the season. Today is the first Sunday of Advent–for some possibilities for celebrating, see Eric Huntsman’s excellent post at T&S.
I thought I’d start with some Marian devotion, since we don’t get to do that much at church ;) And also because I know of no fuller instantiation of longing and active waiting than the last month of pregnancy. [Read more…]
Genesis 12 is the first Old Testament chapter that focuses entirely on the life of Abram. It describes his and Sarai’s departure from Haran and journey to the land of Egypt. The LDS Church’s Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual does not assign this chapter in Sunday School, except as an “additional reading” to Lesson 8. Its exclusion from the formally-assigned chapters saves the curriculum writers from having to come up with “How-can-you-apply-this-to-your-daily-life?”-type questions for passages like this one:
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…]
The idea for this grew out of a series of conversations I’ve been having with a Mormon kid in my high school English class about the books we read.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has faced considerable criticism over the years: most recently for its use of racist language and a questionable depiction of an African American, more generally for its cynicism regarding human nature and criticism of social authority. Regardless, I would argue that Twain’s Realist premise — that idealism and social mandates ought to be rejected in the face of pragmatism and experience — raises some useful questions for the Mormon reader. [Read more…]
When I arrived in the mission field, nineteen and green as grass, I was mostly frightened and homesick. That lasted about four weeks. The homesick part. Fortunately my parents, though poor, were entirely in favor of this adventure. After spending a night in the mission home, sleeping alone upstairs in a quiet Cambridge neighborhood, where I didn’t actually sleep, I was sent to the airport at 9 a.m. where I had to buy a ticket to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
A topic often under discussion in the bloggernacle is how to navigate marriages when one spouse experiences a change in belief. If this describes your marriage, please follow the link to participate. Eligibility requirements are below.
We know the story of the 10 virgins. A group of young women were waiting for the bridegroom. Five had brought oil with them and five had not. The bridal party was delayed and so the bridesmaids slept. In the middle of the night, the bridal party arrives and, as the bridesmaids prepare their lamps, the foolish young women asked the wise young women to borrow some of their oil. The wise young women did not share their oil and so the foolish young women left to buy some more but while they were gone the bridal party arrived and those who were ready went inside the house. When the bridesmaids returned the Lord would not let them into the celebrations. All this is well known. But, the parable does not necessarily answer why the ‘foolish virgins’ were, in fact, foolish. We commonly assume the young women were foolish because they did not bring enough oil but there might be another possibility. [Read more…]
2 Nephi 2:11 makes it clear. There must needs be a list of awful Mormon novels to balance the earlier list of great ones. God has spoken, and middling awfulness just won’t do. So I went in search of the worst novels in the English language ever to deal with Mormonism—paying special care to include all different kinds of awfulness because one just won’t do. [Read more…]
“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…]
“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.”—Dante Alighieri (as reimagined by Dan Brown through John F. Kennedy)
The above bit of folk wisdom does not come from Dante. It is a wholly modern misquotation first fumbled by Harvard graduate John F. Kennedy in a speech about the Peace Corps and then adopted by Dan Brown’s fictional Harvard symbologist, Robert Langdon in the multi-kazillion dollar bestseller Inferno. Harvard, apparently, has been slipping a bit in the Italian Classics Department. [Read more…]
Mormon Lectionary Project: Ash Wednesday
The Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Like Advent, Lent signals new life on the horizon. Shorn of all the secular trappings of Easter, the beginning of Lent is thus, along with First Advent, perhaps holier than the holiday it precedes. It is a day worth paying attention to, but in doing so, we admit our Anglo-Catholic tendencies. We Protestants (and Mormonism, whatever its doctrinal divergences, is culturally low church Protestant) have had an uneasy relationship with Lent, the 40 days (not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Henry VIII, for example, allowed the eating of dairy products, hitherto forbidden during Lent, in his new English church. The Puritans abolished Lent altogether before it was reinstated by Charles II in 1664. By Victorian times, it had almost disappeared from English custom as one Yorkshireman ruefully noted in 1865: [Read more…]
During an interview following yesterday’s press conference about the need to balance the protection of religious freedoms and gay rights, Elder Dallin H. Oaks addressed the issue of apologies. When asked specifically about whether church leaders saw a need to apologize for past language on homosexuality he broadened the discussion somewhat. From the Salt Lake Tribune:
But Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, wasn’t sure apologizing for past language on homosexuality would be advisable.
“I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them,” Oaks said in an interview. “We sometimes look back on issues and say, ‘Maybe that was counterproductive for what we wish to achieve,’ but we look forward and not backward.”
The church doesn’t “seek apologies,” he said, “and we don’t give them.”
Every year the same thing happens. Once Christmas week arrives, the profane calendar stops. No more Wednesday or Thursday, just Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Yesterday was Sunday but didn’t feel like it, just Christmas + 3. The effect lasts until about New Year before we return again to the rhythms of the sun and the times and seasons bequeathed to us by the Romans. This is why marking sacred time is so important, not because we are fundamentalists who despise the secular calendar but because we are Christians who need to find some way to extricate ourselves from its utter dominance. Christmastime offers a glimpse of how this works. [Read more…]
[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]
A few months ago, I began reading the Old Testament, a book of scripture which I have never before been able to read all the way through (the closest I ever came was 25 years ago while on my mission in South Korea; reading from Joseph Smith’s Inspired Version of the Bible, I made it all the way through Jeremiah, at which point I simply couldn’t take it any more and gave up). This reading, once I determined that I was going to do it right, involved my trusty Revised English Bible (my favorite translation out of the four or so I own) and Robert Alter’s wonderful translations and commentary. Just before Christmas I finished working through his largest chunk of the Old Testament, The Five Books of Moses, and I figured I ought to be able to come with at five statements of gratitude for my reading of this, the oldest and most foundational text of the whole Western religious and philosophical tradition. [Read more…]
The very first thing we talked about in our newly formed Relief Society Presidency meeting one year ago was this: how should we celebrate birthdays? A card? A candy bar? What should we do? What should we do? A card in the mail? Sing happy birthday just before the lesson on Sunday? A cookie? No, a candy bar. Oh, no, how about a card in the mail with a lovely stamp on it? What should we do?
Now, this was my first foray in being a part of a Relief Society Presidency, so what did I know right? But I was pretty sure accepting the call to be the second counselor didn’t require me to make sure everyone got a candy bar on their birthday. That’s not what the bishop explained to me. So I sat in my chair silently huffing about how long the discussion was carrying on. [Read more…]
Early America was replete with ghost stories, hauntings, and the like. While transcribing a diary/autobiography I came across this one, which I share for your enjoyment.
This story is set in a large farmhouse near Paris, New York, ca. 1810. The narrator recalls his childhood, one that was relatively carefree, though not unacquainted with death. At the time of the experience, a younger brother was quite ill, and the narrator had just suffered a severe case of complicated measles. The family were attentive Presbyterians, and apparently a little hell-fire was preached in their local congregation.
On my first New Testament quiz of the year I always set the same question: “Outline Mark’s version of the Nativity story.” Without fail one or two students fall for it and quickly learn that their assumptions about the gospels will not always withstand the scrutiny of actually reading them. The absence of the traditional birth narrative in Mark then becomes a running joke in class in the run up to Christmas, with hilarious gags such as
“Who will win the Turner (modern art) Prize this year? The empty space entitled ‘Christmas according to St. Mark!'”
doing the rounds.
All of this, of course, does not do justice to the Markan account, whose account of the nativity of Christ is rather profound. True, there is no star, no shepherds, no Christmas card scene, but the theology of Jesus’ (re-)birth is no less interesting for all that. In Mark 1, Jesus is born in four ways:
With a new liturgical year beginning this Sunday (the First Sunday of Advent), the Mormon Lectionary Project has completed its first cycle. As we enter into the project’s second year, here are some brief notes on what to expect. Our goal is to collect the project in book form after this year, and these plans reflect that goal. [Read more…]
Genesis 1 is probably a liturgical text from the ancient temple that celebrated God’s enthronement as lord of the heavens and the earth. On the seventh day he comes to rest, his work done, his Person triumphant. This is the king of kings, lord of lords. Such a notion — God’s royal prerogative — is not on the face of it particularly difficult for Christians, but we ought still give attention to two issues, one theological and one practical: how is it that it is Christ who is the King, and what difference ought that belief make in our lives?
2nd Sunday before Advent
In five days I have gone from little interest in family history (or better put, feeling I had no time to prioritise it) to burning the midnight oil trawling through old censuses and BMD records. Tolkien once said that all cosmic music — even the bad — will eventually bend to God’s harmony; in the case of the evils of the Great War it seems that one small positive is a renewed interest in family history in Britain. This was my conversion: I went to a talk on Remembrance Day about the battle of Gheluvelt fought in 1914 by my local regiment (the Worcestershires). My interest piqued — and being a Worcestershire man — I typed some family names into Family Search and became aware of the service of a number of g-grand uncles. One was badly injured at Ypres in 1917 and reading his medical records was a grim experience. My aunt remembers he had a dent in his skull; now we know why. It’s compelling stuff.
Why do we do family history? [Read more…]
TV writer and producer Glen A. Larson passed away from esophageal cancer on Friday in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife and nine children.
3rd Sunday before Advent; Remembrance Sunday
Today marks Remembrance Sunday across the Commonwealth, the Sunday before Armistice Day. The focal point of the commemoration is London’s Whitehall, where the Queen and other senior royal, political, and military figures laid wreaths at the Cenotaph. For the first time since 1946, the Republic of Ireland has played an official role, with the Irish ambassador laying a wreath in memory of the 30,000 Irish who died in the Great War. [Read more…]
A recent article outlines a presentation by a family-friendly NGO, the UN Family Rights Caucus, to a panel discussion at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva as a follow-up to the successful passage of a resolution on the “Protection of the Family” (A/HRC/26/L.20/Rev.1) earlier in the summer. [Read more…]
If you know a story about Mary Fielding Smith, odds are it’s one of these four: she blessed an ox that was about to die on the pioneer trail; when, on another occasion, a search party had been unable to find her lost cattle, she prayed and was told the cattle’s exact location; when Captain Cornelius Lott gave her a hard time about attempting the trek as a widow, she swore she’d beat him to the Valley, which she did; or, later, she insisted on paying her tithing because she would not be deprived of the blessings.
While these stories have the benefit of being more or less true—on Lavina Fielding Anderson’s search of primary sources, they seem to agree that Mary asked her brother and another elder to bless the ox—the fact that they represent the sum of what we as a people generally know about her ought to give us pause.  To say that she was more complicated is obvious, and complicating details aren’t hard to find: letters between her and Hyrum indicating some disagreement over her tactics as a step-parent, as well as other evidence suggesting that her marriages to Hyrum and, later, to Heber C. Kimball as a plural wife left her feeling lonely and not altogether satisfied.  I share these details not to point out with gleeful cynicism that Mary Fielding Smith wasn’t all she’s been made out to be, but rather to reflect on what it means for us as Latter-day Saints to honor our forebears.