We do not live the life we think we do. We think that we are the star of our own show or, sometimes, the villain. We think that what we do matters, because we are doing it; our acts are windows into the soul or the building blocks of our character. We assume, though we claim to be disciples, though we claim to be saints, that we are the most important actors in our salvation play. I’m not certain that we are entirely wrong, but we are definitely not entirely right. [Read more...]
[Another part of my ongoing "Tips for Teachers" series. See the associated links here.]
My friend’s ward has an interesting Elder’s Quorum lesson schedule and I’m not sure how wide-spread it is in other wards. It goes like this:
1st Sunday: EQ Presidency Message
2 & 3rd: PH/RS manual
4th: “Teachings for our Times” (usually a conference address)
5th: Bishopric message
“In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions” (McDermid 1908)
Know This, That Every Soul is Free (First hymn in Emma’s original hymnal)
Amazing Grace (included in Emma’s Nauvoo collection of hymns)
Today we remember Emma Hale Smith, the Elect Lady of the Restoration and wife of Joseph Smith. The readings are about love and doubt, and the ways that they live together in every broken human heart. Emma, like the Apostle Thomas, like most of us, was hopelessly twinned–she loved and she doubted. And perhaps this is as it should be. Joseph, like all human beings, was not perfect, not entirely worthy of the perfect love and trust we owe only to God, who never compels our love or condemns our questioning. Emma’s great gift to the Saints, perhaps, is her example of letting her heart be broken again and again, without ever giving up the integrity of her soul. And while we Brighamites have sometimes let our knowledge of Emma’s doubt obscure our memory of her devotion and love, it is hopeful that we are learning, as the body of Christ, to honor Emma again, to recognize that the Father’s house has many mansions, and that Christ has “broken down the middle wall of partition,” both between our own doubting and loving selves, and between us as Saints of an ongoing restoration, to make us “fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God.”
The Collect: O God, who sent thy Son, “for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace,” make us also new persons. Break down the partitions in our hearts and minds; let us find reconciliation in the midst of doubt, that we may love Thee and each other with whole hearts. Let grace and charity abound in our remembrance of our foremothers and forefathers. Help us to sing with the saints, that the prayers of the righteous may be answered with a blessing on our heads. Amen.
The need for heroes seems to be a human thing, but the type of hero desired seems more generational. See the hand-wringing over the new Captain America films, for instance. Maybe this hero phenomenon gives us another way to think about current discussions about “faith-promoting” versus “warts and all” history. Perhaps the sort of heroes people prefer today differs from the sort of heroes older members of the Church felt a need for. I struck on this probably-obvious idea while reading a book about gone-too-soon author David Foster Wallace.
Wallace half-joked that his deep love for the film Braveheart was due to familial connection. But he also explained that he couldn’t really connect on a gut-level with his famous forefather:
I wept as he cried “Freedom.” Which I’m sure from the outside looks so cheesy. [...] He was perfect though: he was never weak, he was never cowardly, he was never . . . There was no, there was nothing in there—I couldn’t recognize myself in him at all, you know?1
Ignore the ceremony that surrounded it and you may find that the recent canonisation of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII had more in common with Mormon religious impulses than you may at first have thought. Ignore also what Rahner and Vorgrimler call the “unbridled sentimentality and religious trash”* to which we all succumb and instead judge the veneration of saints in Catholicism as generously as you can. Herewith a quick comparison of veneration, intercession, and canonisation in the Catholic and Mormon traditions.
Two minutes can seem a very long time. I know because I was given the responsibility for keeping time during the two-minute standing silence that our UK ward observed every Remembrance Sunday. I was strict about it and timed exactly two minutes, but everyone, including my fellow bishopric members, began glancing around anxiously, the other counselor looking at me out of the corner of his eye. Perhaps in past years, people had been casual about the two minutes, just estimating it. Based on my experience of a two-minute silence, a two-minute long siren wail would seem an eternity. [Read more...]
Sorry, no, not that Alma; his son.
As Grant Hardy has pointed out, Mormon likes to tell stories that parallel each other. Often, those parallels seem meant to starkly contrast good and evil; the parallels between King Benjamin and King Noah immediately spring to mind. Other times, they seem to illustrate the consequences of different behaviors. Compare, for example, the escape of Limhi’s people from the Lamanites with the escape of Alma Sr.’s people. [Read more...]
With this post, the MLP inaugurates something we’ve been meaning to do for a while: use the lectionary format to celebrate specific LDS figures. In the spirit of the 1978 First Presidency statement noting the contributions made by non-LDS religious leaders and philosophers to the spread of light and truth, we’ll also be expanding the series to honor a broad spectrum of people who have contributed to the advancement of the human family from a smaller capacity to a greater one. We’re also increasing the amount of LDS scripture in each post, to include selections from the Small Plates, the abridgments of Mormon and Moroni, and the Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price.
Emmeline B. Wells
The Collect: O God, thou who givest us both daily bread and holy light to feed our minds and spirits, grant that we, like thy servant Emmeline B. Wells, may, through the grace of thy Son, Jesus Christ, write, teach, serve, and lead, that our sisters and brothers might forever be established in the strength of thy Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sarah arose early in the morning. She looked out and saw Abraham saddling the donkey as though for a journey. Later he came in and said, “God has commanded me to bring Isaac up to a mountain that he will show me, there to offer a sacrifice.” Sarah watched them ride off together. [Read more...]
And they’re having a party!
So I’d like to bat a topic around: what is the proper domain of revelation? That is, what is the proper range of subject matter on which prophets can speak with divine authority? Are there subjects where prophets are on more shaky ground to invoke divine inspiration? How are we to tell?
Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.”
The Collect: Heavenly Father, who gavest power to Thy Son, Jesus Christ, to rise in resurrected glory on this holy day: let our hearts be changed through faith in His name so that we of Thy latter-day Church may live as spiritually begotten sons and daughters of Christ, adopted through Baptism in His name, that we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, may live and serve Everyman as though he were Christ, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. [Read more...]
Eric Huntsman concludes his series on Holy Week.
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!
Christ is risen. Hallelujah! Christ is risen indeed. That is how Christians all over the world have been greeting each other all over the world this morning, and it is how I wish to greet you as I bring my brief stint guest-posting here at BCC to an end. [Read more...]
The Collect: Almighty God, who through your Son overcame the world and conquered death, grant that we might not only live in him, but that we might daily rejoice in this gift of life through thy Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
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...]
The Collect: O God, thou who sawest fit to try our faith on this day between the death and resurrection of thy Son: lift up our hearts with the hope of his rising, by the power of thy Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Collect: God the Eternal Father, we ask Thee in the name of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, to strengthen our resolve as we contemplate the suffering and voluntary sacrifice of Thy Son and seek to emulate the loyalty of Thy Servant Simon Peter in the Garden but without violence or aggression, seeking healing and peace rather than confrontation and conflict as we hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, through the grace of Thy Son and His Atonement in Gethsemane and on Calvary, who now lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. [Read more...]
And he, bearing his cross went forth into a place
called the place of the skull, which is called in Hebrew Golgotha:
where they crucified him . . .
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished,
that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst . . .
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said,
It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
Good Friday is observed with great solemnity in some Christian traditions. While not marked as a holiday as such in the LDS community, Good Friday can be a tender and reflective time for individuals and families to pause and consider how Jesus, as our great high priest, offered himself as a sacrifice for us: “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). Understanding how and why he died makes the miracle of his resurrection on Easter morning all the more glorious and joyous. [Read more...]
The Thursday before Easter is a day rich in deep, often poignant events. These include Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, at which he instituted the sacrament and washed his disciples’ feet; his prayer and agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; his betrayal by Judas and abandonment by the other disciples; and his arrest, cynical examination, and abuse by the Jewish authorities of the time.
Known as Holy Thursday in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communities, in many English-speaking countries this Thursday is sometimes called “Maundy Thursday.” The word “maundy” is an early English form of the Latin mandatum for “commandment” and recalls Jesus’ teaching “A new commandment I give you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye love one another” (John 13:34). [Read more...]
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...]
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.
The texts for today are Mark 14:1–11; Matthew 26:1–16; Luke 22:1–6 and cover the plot to kill Jesus, the Marcan and Matthean anointing of Jesus prior to his Passion, and Judas’ decision to betray Jesus. The fact that the lovely story of the anointing is in an intercalation (or “sandwiched”) between two dark, deceitful scenes has given the day its traditional name “Spy Wednesday.”
One note on chronology: many LDS harmonies list “no events recorded” for Wednesday, and as far as I can tell this arose from J. Reuben Clark, and others, adopting the harmonization of some nineteenth century Victorian divines, who read “two days before Passover” inclusively. For my reasons for counting it exclusively, see the discussion in my working chronology. I think this also fits the pattern of relative time markers in Mark, and even if it did not, remembering these events on “Spy Wednesday” puts us in harmony with the majority of other Christians who are following traditional observances during Holy Week. [Read more...]
In 1999, Jimmie Duane Ross got $840,000 from his former employer, the result of an arbitration hearing. I don’t know what Ross did with that money; I do know, however, one thing he didn’t do: pay his taxes.[fn1]
Which is wrong, of course, but not by itself newsworthy. Lots of people don’t pay their taxes.[fn2] So why blog this? Two reasons: first, today is April 15th.[fn3] Second, in addition to standard tax protester arguments for why he didn’t need to pay his taxes, Ross made some expressly Mormon arguments. [Read more...]
The texts for Tuesday are Mark 11:20–13:37; Matt 21:23–25:46; Luke 20:1–21:38; John 12:37–50.
Mark begins by addressing the lessons learned from the withered fig tree, preparing readers to continue seeing the temple and Jerusalem authorities as unfruitful and ripe for destruction. But rather than obsessing about the failing of the biblical chief priests and Pharisees, it is probably best, as always, to see how they most frequently represent our own failings. As the prophet had declared, and as a chorus of Handel’s Messiah so vividly portrays, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord had laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). [Read more...]
Tuesday in Holy Week
The Collect: O God, who by the suffering of thy Son madest us a refuge in our suffering, grant that we, in our own fateful hours, might trust in the foolishness of the cross; whose shame sealed the triumph of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever, amen. [Read more...]
Monday in Holy Week
The Collect: Heavenly Father, who sent Thy Son as Thy chosen servant to bring justice to the nations, grant that we may both recognize and preach Thy Son, the Great High Priest, as the light of the world and purifier of the faith so that we may faithfully seek Thy righteousness in fruits meet for repentance, thus finding life and peace and an eternal inheritance in the New Covenant, following the example of Melchizedek in humbling ourselves so that we may exercise mighty faith in Jesus Christ, Thy Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. [Read more...]
Welcome to Agreeable, a bimonthly advice column in which I will tell you, dear Reader, as to whether your planned course of action is “agreeable” or “hmph”. Direct your questions (max 200 words, please!) to the admin address (see ‘About’, above) with the subject line “Agreeable”.
Consider the following example: A young woman–someone who is not deeply committed to the church, though she was raised in it, but who nonetheless respects it and wants to be part of this faith community–has just arrived as a new member in a typical YSA ward. She has just arrived because she has spent most of the past year living abroad, where among many other challenging and enlightening experiences, she became a devout fan of tea. [Read more...]