The Mormon Lectionary Project: Holy Innocents

Holy Innocents, Year A

Jeremiah 31:15-17Revelation 21:1-7Matthew 2:13-18Psalm 124, Moses 7:28

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...]

Why Mormons Should Be Hopeful Gay Marriage Won’t Tear The Church Apart

December is traditionally the time for Oscar-bait dramas but this year they’ve been upstaged by a 43-year-old federal judge. Judge Shelby was confirmed to the United States District Court for the District of Utah on the recommendation of Senator Orrin Hatch. He enjoyed support of Tea Party favorite Senator Mike Lee who endorsed him as “pre-eminently qualified” and predicted he would be an “outstanding judge”.

On Friday, only a little more than a year and a few months after being confirmed to the bench, Shelby struck down Utah’s law banning same-sex marriage. Depending on your politics you might view Shelby’s opinion as one of the best heel turns ever executed–up there with the moment Andre the Giant challenged Hulk Hogan to the title in WrestleMania III. [1] If you lean left Shelby looks like the second coming of David Souter following Planned Parenthood v. Casey. [Read more...]

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...]

Christmas Eve

If I could only have one recording of Christmas music, this performance of Vaughan Williams’ Hodie would be it. Christmas for me is Milton in the voice of Janet Baker, and Hardy and Herbert in John Shirley-Quirk’s lugubrious baritone.

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Families: Ordained of God

Merry Christmas from Brad Kramer

Just a quick post to wish everyone a very happy Christmas. Whether you’re in Utah or in the mission field, thanks for reading BCC and being part of the crowd. Many of you will spend this holiday with your families: others will not. Still others will wish they weren’t with their families. [Read more...]

Governor Grinch

Gary Herbert
Every Gay down in Zion
Liked Gay Marriage a lot…
But the Gov, Who lived just North of Downtown,
Did NOT! [Read more...]

Review: Stephen H. Webb’s Mormon Christianity

webbcoverWhat if Joseph Smith’s vision of God really does have something important to say to all Christians today?
— Stephen H. Webb

The recent “Mormon moment” exasperated theologian Stephen Webb. It wasn’t that Mitt Romney’s presidential run lent undue legitimacy to the LDS Church, or that Webb thought the media went too soft on the religious background of the Republican nominee. Although he is not a Mormon himself, Webb was unnerved by shallow discussions about Mormon underwear and other apparent trivialities. According to Webb, such conversations fail to pay due attention to Mormon metaphysics—the way Mormons understand the nature of matter, humans, God, and existence. His new book, Mormon Christianityexplores the development and coherence of this core belief taught by Joseph Smith: “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes…” (D&C 131:7). Mormons make no ultimate distinction between spirit and matter, the natural and supernatural, which largely sets them apart from the broader Christian tradition. “The Mormon imagination is solidly grounded in material reality,” writes Webb, “but it takes the physical world to new and unheard-of heights” (10). Webb believes Christian lungs can benefit from the rarefied air of these heights.
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Non-Christmas Programs in Sacrament Meeting Today

I’m a big fan of Christmas, so I was looking forward to the Christmas program at Church this morning.  While the choir sang two Christmas numbers and two of our congregational hymns were also from the Christmas section of the hymnal, the talks had nothing to do with Christmas.  We have five missionaries serving in our ward (three sisters and two elders), and each of them spoke.  I’m not sure what the theme was supposed to be, or if there even was one; I guess it was on missionary work.  I couldn’t believe it; we had visitors in the congregation who doubtless had come expecting a Christmas service, but no such service was presented; I imagine them scratching their heads as they left the building. [Read more...]

The Surprising Nativity: A Chrismas Homily

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

The passage from the New Testament which always hear this time of year includes these important, well-known lines:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field , keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo , the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold , I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

The phrase “sore afraid” is a translation of the Greek word phobeō; it communicates the idea of, not just fear, but of taking alarm, and of sudden surprise. The shepherds, in other words, were terrified–not because, or at least not solely because, the appearance of the angel was a terrifying vision, but also because it was unexpected, and shocking. This was not something they ever could have been prepared for. [Read more...]

Advent IV–Rorate caeli

A final Advent post from Jason Wood

This will be my last post in this series, as Advent draws to a close and Christmas Eve approaches. It’s been fun to share some of my favorite music for this season, and I appreciate the chance to do so. The Rorate caeli returns for the fourth Sunday of Advent as the Introit, this time with a new plainchant in mode 1.

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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...]

Judge Robert Shelby: 2013 Boggs-Doniphan Gentile (Non-Mormon) of the Year

The Boggs-Doniphan Gentile (Non-Mormon) of the Year award honors the non-Mormon who had the greatest impact on Mormonism, for good or ill, during the year. (See that other blog for Mormon of the Year.) The previous winners are John Turner, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez, Judge Vaughn Walker, Stephen Colbert, and Mike Huckabee. There’s no need for nominations and voting this year. This happened:

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Book Review: To Mormons with Love

I was hoping for a little more whoop ass, but the book was very sweet and sincere.

I just finished reading a fascinating book a couple months ago called To Mormons, With Love by Chrisy Ross. She blogs here and gives a quick overview of her book here. You can buy her book on Kindle here. Chrisy and her family are nondenominational Christians who live (voluntarily, not because of Witness Relocation or anything like that) in Utah County – and even enjoy it mostly! I’m not sure I know many Mormons for whom I could say the same, but I might live in the opposite of a Mormon bubble. [Read more...]

The Holly & The Ivy

IMG_1227Yule approaches.  This Saturday, in the late afternoon, the sun will appear at its lowest apex in our daytime skies, signaling the shift from days of light waning into days of light waxing. This nadir is a tipping point, creating the longest night and shortest day each year, and this was a tremendously significant moment to many northern cultures (my own Highland and Norse ancestors included).

Historically (because what’s a BCC post without some history!) the solstice was celebrated by widely varied northern cultures, but there are common, remarkable themes to those celebrations. Of note, because it’s difficult to calculate the azimuth [1], many celebrations of the solstice were over a period of days. [2] [Read more...]

Hannah Grover Hegsted

Now that the Church has released its treatment of Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah, many of our people are going to be learning of the phenomenon of post-Manifesto polygamy for the first time.  To get up to speed one can read, for example, Quinn, Hardy and Hales, but I would like to point folks to a more intimate account, from a woman’s perspective, as to why one might have entered into such a post-Manifesto marriage.  The article I would like to suggest that you read is Julie Hemming Savage, “Hannah Grover Hegsted and Post-Manifesto Plural Marriage,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26/3 (Fall 1993): 100-117.  I recommend this article not only because it is terrific, but the subject of the piece happens to be a relative of mine.  My most famous Mormon ancestor was Thomas Grover through his wife Hannah Tupper.  Their son, Thomas Grover III married Elizabeth Heiner.  My great-grandmother was their first daughter and second child, Evelyn Maria Grover, born September 3, 1868.  Hannah was her younger sister, born November 26, 1870.  So Hannah was my Grandpa’s aunt. [Read more...]

More Advent Goodness

…from Jason Wood

Advent III – Gaudete in Domino

For this week’s Introit, I was going to use the plainsong for Gaudete in Domino, but it is in a minor mode and doesn’t seem very joyful. Instead, enjoy these minstrels from my hometown of Orem, UT singing the English translation of this text “Rejoice in the Lord alway,” formerly attributed to John Redford, but now usually considered of anonymous composition. Who knew there was a Catholic church in Orem?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ezc1JEEeRZY [Read more...]

No Longer Stooopid

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, a federal district court has ruled that the Utah anti-polygamy statute is in part unconstitutional, in effect decriminalizing polygamy.  Here is the decision if you would like to read it, although I’ll warn you it is 91 pages of dense legalese.  The court basically follows the dissent of Chief Justice Christine Durham in the 2006 Holm case, which I’ve considered to be the right approach, so I applaud this decision. [Read more...]

Why I Like Popes (Some of Them, Sometimes)

[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Jorge Mario Bergoglio was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001. I didn’t take any notice–but then, I’m neither Catholic, nor from Argentina. (Of the tens of millions of people who do fit that description, the word is quite a few of them noticed it very much.) Perhaps I should have, though, because one of the most important things John Paul II did during his 26+ years as the Bishop of Rome (the second-longest period of service in all of Catholic history) was bring into the College of Cardinals large numbers of bishops whom he trusted to carry forward the church in a manner that he understood to be where the Holy Spirit was calling it. And Francis, the current Roman Pontiff and now Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, is certainly a servant of God very much after the pattern of John Paul the Great. [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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Is Church Music “Good”?

BCC guest blogger Sharon H. has a background in Humanities education and arts administration, and in her free time, she’s been organizing a pretty epic Christmas concert for the New York, NY stake.

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 9.59.27 PM

I remember it was over a mediocre burger within my first week of moving to Texas. My colleague was being friendly, telling me about her church in case I needed one. As we were both music educators, she went into extra detail about her church’s music. She told how their previous music minister was a good Christian man but really impossible to work with as a director. But they had just hired a new minister and purchased a completely new sound system all built directly into the sanctuary—I should hear it—and this new music minister was full of ideas and was already asking her opinion for upcoming events. Exciting, I agreed. Had I found a church yet? I had, actually. Do they have good music?

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2013 Christmas gift book guide

I’m a little late in getting this posted. I blame the 4:17 pm sunset time. And look, I wait for three years to have the Doctrine and Covenants as the topic of study, and now we are back to the Hebrew Bible. I guess this is how the rest of you felt last year. Also check out Ben’s fine recap of this year’s crop of Mormon Studies publications.

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Music for Advent II

Part II of Jason Wood’s guest series–thanks, Jason!!

Advent II – Populus Sion

In my remaining posts, I’ll try to share some interesting background information I’ve picked up singing in church choirs (at least info I find interesting) in addition to musical selections of chant, hymns, anthems, and organ music.

Background — Gregorian chant

I shared a few chants in last week’s post. I am far from an expert on plainchant, but I am an enthusiast. Back in the 2000-2002 time frame, before cell phones had polyphonic ringtones, I programmed the Victimae paschali laudes and Veni creator spiritus chants into my phone so that I had seasonally appropriate ringtones. As the oldest and most “unadorned” music of the church, chant, also known as plainsong or plainchant, is especially fitting for the seasons of Advent and Lent. [Read more...]

Are we not all beggars? No, not really.

Once in a while I hear someone complaining that we don’t refer to the scriptures enough around here, so here goes:

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

It takes real gall to disagree with King Benjamin. Here goes.

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“Bound Hand and Foot with Graveclothes”

Everyone knows where to find the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” And maybe because it’s an easy verse to memorize, maybe because it is in the middle of a dramatic story, and maybe because it is possibly the densest theological phrase in all of scripture, I’ve returned to it, and to the rest of John 11 over and over in my life and in my thinking. There’s a detail, though, that I hadn’t noticed until this year, that makes the story speak to me in lovely new ways. [Read more...]

Were church leaders “wrong”?

In the short time since the “Race and the Priesthood” section of Gospel Topics was added to lds.org, I have seen various reactions. Some people have asked if church leaders were wrong about the priesthood and temple restriction, then could they possibly be wrong about something significant today? Similarly, I have seen the syllogism rephrased for rhetorical effect: The ban was not wrong. If it were then church leaders could similarly be wrong about something today like [invoke pet topic here].

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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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Responses to Gospel Inquiries

I think this is a pretty big deal.

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“Like the most …

“Like the most precious diamond . . .The Madiba who emerged from prison in January 1990 was virtually flawless” (Desmond Tutu).

A Yule Blessing From The Mountaintops

If you like artist Jon McNaughton’s special recipe of mixing religious devotion and political propaganda, then you are going to love his new Christmas card…

[Read more...]

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