Beehive 1, Angel 0?

I was recently reading an article about gnostics, mystery cults, and the secret teachings of Jesus. When read with a Mormon eye, much of it rang true to me. The article spoke about the secret knowledge that allows believers to pass through the “veil of the Temple” and become the sons of God. The author contended that this “mystery religion” lay at the heart of Jesus’ message, a message that the Gospel writers and Church Fathers downplayed and eventually rejected (allegedly).

I must confess to having read this article during a particularly dour section of the Sunday block. In my mind I was thinking about Christian exotica (and the wonderfully Strange Fruit at the heart of Nauvoo Mormonism) whilst my ears caught snippets of comments like “prayer is like a GPS receiver.” The juxtaposition was jarring — doctrines that swell the breast vs. the often pedagogical laziness of Mormon Sundays — and I silently wondered whether our religion is the most schizophrenic on Earth.

The contrast between the blandness of everyday Mormon worship and the deep water that flows from temple Mormonism is stark. This juxtaposition of exotic and mundane is rendered anecdotally in the accounts of Mormons who find their temple experiences shocking and uncomfortable. Going from brown 1970s chapels that echo with the correlated curriculum to the Great and Terrible House of the Lord requires a major shift of gear.

I cannot think of another religion like it. If you are a Quaker you are not ushered from silent meditation to a secret back room where they mosh for Jesus. Mega-churches do not have a High Church hour complete with candles, robes, and Gregorian chants. But Mormons go from cheap business suits to ritual robes in a few short moments. We sing saccharine songs about families in the service of a time when we will be like God, worlds without end.

In a way, I welcome the juxtaposition of sacred and mundane. Often the sacred is the mundane. After all, Joseph’s City of Zion was to be a city of temples and shops. But I can’t help wondering whether the corporate church is edging out the Mormon mystery religion.

Is the beehive swarming the angel?

Or should we not find it amazing that the same church that calls us to dig the widow’s garden, teach bum-numbing lessons, and act in lame roadshow skits, also calls us to kneel at sacred altars with our families, breach the veil of the temple and arrive at the throne of God?


  1. Every once in a while when you are not railing against three hour meetings or discrediting the spiritual feelings of others, you write some beautiful, perceptive and amazing things.

    Thanks Ronan

  2. I consider my railing against the three hour block to be beautiful, perceptive, and amazing :)

    (Seriously, other churches have words like “Evensong.” We have “The Block.” ‘Nuff said.)

    As I dozed off for my Sunday nap I thought about how New York Jews like Harold Bloom are blown away by the King Follet Discourse whilst most Mormons are unaware of it. That kind of symbolises what I’m trying to say here.

    We once had the Sermon at the Grove; we now have the slowly-cadenced Conference talk. But is the latter any less useful than the former in getting Mormons to the same place?

    Three hours is still too long though. Today, at 12pm (i.e. when church finishes), the final speaker got up and told us we were “going into overtime.” The silent groan was written on every face. My kids started fighting so we left.

  3. I think Sacrament last is a bad idea.

    Anyway, I like the mix, but maybe because I’m not old enough inmy Mormonism to have witnessed a “roadshow”

  4. Roadshows are alive and well in the UK.

  5. You have spoken to the heart of my Mormonism as well. A friend recently told me of another friend who is considering a return to Mormonism precisely because (s)he has come to accept magical mysticism again.
    This shift from mysticism tracks along with administrative shifts as Weber has proclaimed them, from prophet to bureaucracy, from sect to cult. I think it’s very tough to have any kind of strong coherence when you’re heavily mystical. Too much mysticism, and we’re all a bunch of Hiram Pages, fighting with the prophet over revelation rights.
    My only objection to your wonderful post is your pseudo-etymological misuse of schizophrenia, which means a failure to reality-test thought content: the “split” is between form and content, rather than being of two minds. I’m aware that you are using it in a common colloquial usage, but since it refers to a devastating psychiatric illness, I prefer to leave it as such a reference.

    I personally love that we live the paradox–the problem comes in not recognizing the paradox. In a sense this paradox (and I would leave behind Mauss’s sociological dichotomy, as useful as it is generally) speaks to the paradox at the center of existence. We are eternal beings, gods in embryo, a force greater than any in the universe (in an important if somewhat rhetorical sense), and yet we belch, scrape our knees, defecate, and snore. Living through that paradox is the core of existence.

    And great work on leaving the meeting in a timely fashion. Overtime should be restricted to athletic contests and consensual mystical experiences.

  6. I’ll still take the three-hour block over the garage band worship of most of southern evangelical Churches…

  7. I also think Ronan has signalled one of the major benefits to having a temple recommend and living one’s life worthy to participate in the temple – and to actually going to the temple.

    There is a higher sense of enlightenment in the temple you’re just not going to get outside it.

  8. Jonathan Green says:

    Ronan, I hope you were paying attention in priesthood today. The first SWK lesson had some pretty unambiguous things to say about pre-existence and deification.

  9. Sam MB, I wonder if it’s a split between form and content, or a contest between two kinds of content — the rational-propositional and the experiential?

  10. I’ll take a three-hour service project over the three hour block any week.

    My definition of church mundane is if a primary child can answer the question. It seems that 90%+ of the Priesthood/G.D. questions are mundane.

  11. If 90% questions of the priesthood/GD questions are mundane, then you just live in the wrong ward.

  12. Or should we not find it amazing that the same church that calls us to dig the widow’s garden, teach bum-numbing lessons, and act in lame roadshow skits, also calls us to kneel with our families, breach the veil of the temple and arrive at the throne of God?

    Beautiful stuff, Ronan.

  13. Well done Ronan. I dig this post.

  14. Excellent post!

  15. re9, i was defining schizophrenia. i’m not sure many would agree with psychosis as “experiential” given its heavy distortions. i’m intrigued by your proposal if i understand it as reflecting the institutional:mystical divide. specifically, how much is rational-propositional versus institutional and how much is experiential vs. mystical? i agree that your dichotomy is extremely important in understanding how we think about existence, but i wonder whether within Mormonism, Ronan is confronting a somewhat different dichotomy.

  16. One aspect of the beehive is the thought often expressed the gospel is true because it works, or because it all fits together so well. Seeing the gospel of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of the work and glory of God as a sort of self-help program seems to be looking the wrong way through the binoculars.

    While I can see that the practicalities may be overshadowing the great mysteries, I think we need both. I sat in a bishopric meeting this morning where the EQ pres. described the struggles of a member, and we all cried. It was an amazing moment, to mourn with those who mourn and to feel real love. But we then had to do something, and the conversation turned to the practicalities of the ward bureaucracy, and what could get done, because her problems were too big for any one of us. And so it will get worked on, and it will be tedious but necessary.

    As for the quality of lessons and such, I wonder if we sometimes don’t judge too harshly. If a person came to church who had an obvious struggle with smoking, or had just gotten out of prison, we would be justifiably unhappy if ward members judged them or complained about the smell of cigarettes or the fear they felt near an ex-con. But we’re filled with indignation at the sin of laziness (pedagogical or otherwise), pedestrianism and complacency from ineffective teachers. Most people in the church are doing the best they can with lapses — some of them significant, but generally well-meaning. I suppose I’m saying, He who has never been pedagogically lazy, cast the first stone.

  17. This is a great post, Ronan! It makes me want to go to the temple very badly. I always have dug the spiritual part of Mormonism and been worn down by the part at church, so that I read and pray and tithe and dream, but I only go to church to the point at which I feel like I’m losing my religion, then I stay home until it comes back.

    This post makes me realize the temple might be something I really connect to and get a lot from. The people who find it off-putting might be the very ones who like going to church, i.e. not me. So, what do I have to do to be able to go? Go to church regularly for a few months and hold a calling? Quit shopping and eating out on Sunday? I bought my dress long ago, in anticipation of being able to go someday. Oh also I’m afraid of being asked to promise I will always do what church leaders say even if they tell me to put an anti-gay-marriage sign in my yard. I don’t think I can do that in good conscience. Do I have to promise that?

  18. Not Ophelia says:

    But I can’t help wondering whether the corporate church is edging out the Mormon mystery religion.

    Having experienced both the gutting of the temple ceremony [1990] and the recent changes to the initiatory, I fear that’s only too true.

  19. Cool post, Ronan.

    In this wonderful age of information the “mystery religion” — or at least its more “overt” qualities as expressed in its rites and whatnot — has no place to hide anymore. But even so, the meaning behind the symbols has always had the hearts of the converted as its true repository.

  20. Christopher Smith says:

    Why does everybody hate Pentecostal “garage-band” worship? I think it’s one of the most wonderful things in the world.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    Good post, Ronan. We sure have an odd mix of both the low and the high church.

    This is why I wish temple prep classes were more geared to really preparing people for what they will experience there. As they stand they are focused more on basic gospel principles of every day life. That is all well and good, but by this point these people pretty much understand prayer and studying the scriptures and what not. You could summarize these things in a lesson or two and then focus more on what is actually going to happen in the temple itself.

    In our zeal to protect the sacred boundaries of temple worship, we are in my view overly restrictive in what we feel we can say openly about the temple. I think a temple prep class ought to be able to prepare a potential initiant sufficiently so that she would have a very good sense of what would happen and there would be no possibility of being shocked or freaked out.

  22. Or should we not find it amazing that the same church that calls us to dig the widow’s garden, teach bum-numbing lessons, and act in lame roadshow skits, also calls us to kneel with our families, breach the veil of the temple and arrive at the throne of God?

    Lovely. Lovely. Lovely.

    Exactly why I am a Mormon.

  23. Kevin Barney, yes, I want that as well. I want to know in advance what exactly is going to happen, and what I’m going to be asked to promise to, to be sure I can promise that, and won’t upset everyone by saying “no I don’t think so”. I don’t want to go to any anti sites to find that out, either, and I don’t think I should have to. :-/

  24. Tatiana,
    Please feel free to contact any of us if you want a kosher-but-frank reading list. Also, be sure to visit

    Thanks for the comments. I don’t have any clarifications to add. Mostly the post was a clumsy meditation on the strange relationship between austere Protestant worship on the one hand, and a fairly Oriental mystery religion on the other. It’s a relationship that can and should be in harmony, but isn’t always. I wonder also what the future of this relationship will be.

    (OK, one clarification!) I don’t mean to compare spiritual vs. practical here, but mystery vs. mundane. Big diff. James — who if there was a mystery religion at the heart of Jesus’ teachings would have known about it — tells us clearly what “pure religion” is.

  25. What mysticism in the temple? Very prosaic and non-deep IMHO.

  26. Steve Evans says:

    Agreed, Ronan — good post. Though as another commenter pointed out, today’s priesthood lesson wasn’t bland unless you weren’t paying attention. “Gods in embryo,” for crying out loud!!

    Plus, we read the bit about SWK changed I am a Child of God from “teach me all that I must know” to “teach me all that I must do.” The teacher asked the class, “what does this change mean?” My answer: “it means that the doctrine of divine grace is almost dead.” Good times!

  27. HiveRadical says:

    While my alias online bespeaks some affinity for the Beehive I find this constant attempt to seperate, or set in contrast and competition, the two, to not make any sense to myself. I think in many instances it’s a false construct and a false allocation of what constitutes the Beehive of Deseret and the Angel flying in the midst of heaven. Frankly an attempt to seperate the two either seems to bespeak a misunderstanding of one, or the other, or both.

    One of the items that I think some of you should look into are the research Nibley did into the seemingly related words found in the Egyptian language to the term deseret. A path through the wilderness. A path to the temple. Red. Gold. Honey.

    The thematic tie Nibley gives to the presence and role of Bees in ancient mythical accounts to times of renewal and apocolyps. I simply have difficulty seeing the beehive tied to what you tie it to.

    To think that the true Hive can advance without it also being accounted and advance for the angel seems contrary in my mind. Even the image of a trumpet blowing glowing amber being flying through the air, how can that not evoke the true ties of deseret to restoration and renewal?

  28. HiveRadical says:

    Plus, we read the bit about SWK changed I am a Child of God from “teach me all that I must know” to “teach me all that I must do.” The teacher asked the class, “what does this change mean?” My answer: “it means that the doctrine of divine grace is almost dead.” Good times!

    That seems, to me, sad beyond measure. To believe that the advocation of doing right to be usurping Christ’s divine grace is entirely contrary. The view that implies of God’s grace is a grace that surpases true will, true agency. We can only do good through the grace of God. Doing his will would not be available to us without his Grace. The doctrine of divine grace is dead when we believe that God’s grace has no connection to our empowerment to “do” the right.

  29. HiveRadical, I think you might not understand some of the ways the Beehive and Angel images have been used in the Mormon Studies literature. In Armand Mauss’s book of the same name, the beehive is the symbol of accommodation, of the church becoming more similar to mainstream American culture. The angel is the symbol of Mormon distinctiveness, of sharp differentiation between the church and the “world.” These terms are often used not as invoking the “true Hive” (although I’m not sure what that is) but rather the conflicting impulses to integrate into the world around us or to maintain our distinctiveness.

    My reading of Ronan’s usage is that he really, and quite deliberately, follows in Mauss’s path. Mysticism, for Ronan, is a symbol of differentiation, while the bureaucratic and conventional aspects of our worship appears as a way in which we become more similar to our surrounding environment.

    So your discontent may well reflect a difference in word usage.

  30. The three hour block usually feels to me like a duty; the temple feels like a place of true worship. “Prosaic and non-deep” said Lulu. There are moments in the temple ritual where I have to restrain my tears (and sometimes don’t succeed.) The physical rituals, the symbolism feel myself partaking of, the moments of revelation are at the core of my Mormonism. I realize that others do not have the same experience I do in the temple, and I’d love to see better temple prep classes as well. I’d love to be with others who love the temple as I do and go through several sessions in a row, talking freely between each about what insights we’ve received.

  31. An excellent post Ronan. I’m definitely one of those high-church longing kind of guys. Having Stake Conference in a “cathedral” made me want to have more appropriate music, like chanting “If you could Hie to Kolob” in Latin.

    i love teh temple for it’s more mysticl aspects. One point in particular seems to me to offer a real moment of both introspection and communion, and I wish one could pause there.

    Just as Catholics sometimes have Latin mass, and LDS have some temples where the ordinances are enacted live (instead of via film), perhaps one day we will have the option to attend a fuller “legacy” endowment.

  32. Geh! “Its” not “it’s”! I’m educated, really!

  33. Steve Evans says:

    HiveRadical (#28), talk about missing the point of my comment.

  34. Though as another commenter pointed out, today’s priesthood lesson wasn’t bland unless you weren’t paying attention. “Gods in embryo,” for crying out loud!!

    Vienna 4th ward ward conference threw a spanner in that works. So instead of scoffing silently to ourselves at the idea of Bros Jensen and Miller ever making it to the celestial kingdom, much less becoming gods with their bottom-of-the-heap HT percentages, we belabored the stake motto, hymn #220.

  35. Pete,
    From what you told me, Jensen’s never going to the CK. Lazy bum.

  36. JNS, you have explained my terminology well, lieber Bruder.

    HR, I’m aware of Nibley’s writing on deseret, and I’m intrigued by them. But I think the church adopted the masonic skep-hive symbol because of its allusions to work and industry (plus, of course, the BoM connection). Of course, the masonic connection does immediately tie the beehive into esoterica. But yeah, I’m riffing off of Mauss here.
    The angel vs. the beehive is the prophet vs. the priest. Joseph, of course, assumed both titles, something which is probably at the root of this dichotomy.

  37. I don’t understand people like you. You’re not more in tune than the Brethren–there is a reason the church is run the way it is run. You don’t have to like every lesson given (or agree with what has been said) but to think yourself or your time more precious than sitting through a lesson that is often the “same old” but perhaps helping someone else in the room (if even only the teacher him/herself) and simply supporting our fellow saints in their journey through the gospel . . . well, I think you may need more ‘basics’ than you think. I’m sorry, I just don’t consider a constant critic to be one who is especially “enlightened.”

    (And yes, I undestand this isn’t the main point of your post).

  38. Ronan is a “constant critic”?

  39. It seems that way to me in many of his posts.

  40. Anon,

    The church changes. The programs change and even the doctrine changes at times. Believe it or not, the meeting schedules have changed. Most changes have been grass roots changes, not initiating with the bretheren.

    I don’t believe Ronan is implying he is more in tune than the GAs. If you had any clue how revelation works, you’d realize the bretheren wouldn’t be offended by the mere suggestion of exploring a shorter block.

  41. Anon, you express concern for the goal of “supporting our fellow saints in their journey through the gospel.” I wonder if you could apply that goal to Ronan?

  42. Ronan is Honest and Blunt, and I disagree with him on many things, (In fact, I am a large proponant of the “mundane” as practical religion understood and applied seems a lot more valuable to me than the ineffable.) but I would not call him a constant critic. He’s a smart man, and I have personally never seen him challenge and “basics” of the Gospel in the years I have read his posts. That’s just my opinion, of course, and I may secretly be in his flat somewhere smoking a hookah and drawing pentagrams, but all in all, he’s never presented himself thus here.

    I do not want to offend you, but I think you may be confusing his tone here. It is honestly a challenge of blogging to communicate Tone correctly. In fact, I may be confusing your tone even now. In any case, I find Ronan sincere, honest, and straight-forward in where he stands. Those are all valuable traits, as far as I’m concerned.

  43. In any case, it’s often less than enlightening for us to discuss other people’s spiritual states. I’ve been the focus of a lot of that kind of discussion over the years, and it hasn’t really enlightened me about myself — or anyone else about me, since people’s observations and inferences are often entirely wrong.

    Let’s do try to avoid turning this thread into a debate over Ronan’s degree of belief or spiritual progress. We all fall short of the glory of God, all of us. But let’s do focus on our own beams and not other folks’ motes, right?

  44. I have a clue about revelation–not an expert, but I have a clue. I know the Brethren do not always agree about Church programs, etc. That is no surprise to me. And his suggestion of church being too long wasn’t what I was referring to. It’s more the comments like “the blandness of everyday Mormon worship” and reading during “a particularly dour session of the Sunday block” etc. I’m saying that there is a reason we worship the way we do on Sundays (bland and bum-numbing to some) and why we don’t get into the same deeper doctrinal issues as are presented in the Temple. It comes off as self righteous, at best. That he is too good for the rest of us simpletons and simply endures the not-up-to-my-intellectual-level church services others work hard to put together. I’m sorry if this is off putting, but take heart. . . it’s only one readers opinion.

  45. Anon, “It comes off as self righteous, at best. That he is too good for the rest of us simpletons and simply endures the not-up-to-my-intellectual-level church services others work hard to put together. I’m sorry if this is off putting, but take heart. . . it’s only one readers opinion.” That’s the kind of stuff I’d like us to avoid. If you feel that there’s a serious issue between you and Ronan regarding how he expressed himself in his post, please do the Doctrine and Covenants thing and approach him privately. You can email him through the address listed on our contact page, if you must. But please, no more of this in public.

  46. Anon, I understood exactly what you were saying, and I sympathize. I come here out of curiosity sometimes, but find that this blog troubles my soul far more than it could ever comfort it. Saying that, of course, will land me in hot water, but it is honestly how I feel. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone.

  47. J. Nelson–you’re right. I know it doesn’t really come off well to criticize criticism . . . but my point is that maybe it’s not the way the Church is, maybe it’s his perspective. I know it doesn’t speak well to cast stones when we all live in glass houses, but I guess I feel as if I’m standing up to the intellectual school yard bully. I think someone who criticises others (his ward for example) so openly should be open to criticism as well.

  48. I thought the point of his post was that the way we worship is a wonderful thing. I didn’t think that “blandness” was a slam, per se.

  49. Anon, I have to agree with KyleM that you may not be reading the post charitably. In my reading, Ronan concludes that there is value in both the “blandness” and the mysticism of our church. But even if he did intend to directly criticize people in his ward, I think that it would be far more productive (and appropriate) for you to approach him privately. If he was in error, a correction coming from him will have far more impact than one from you. If you have simply misunderstood his intentions, then both of you can reach peace together.

    Anon, too, if the site truly disrupts your spirituality, I would hope you could choose to avoid it. We don’t intend to hurt people, and — much though it pains me to say it — BCC isn’t required reading for Mormons. On the other hand, I’d also point out that troubling our souls is sometimes for the good. Our God brings us peace, but He also brings a sword. And He condemns those who claim that all is well in Zion.

  50. Ronan –

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d be interested in reading the article that set you on your flights of fancy.

  51. “and I may secretly be in his flat somewhere smoking a hookah and drawing pentagrams”

    Wow, that is evil! LOL

    Thanks for the clarity about the symbols. I understand better now, and the post has helped me focus on the relationship between these two sides of church life. Someone said that church was a duty, and it is. But I think there is something deeply spiritual about performing a a duty that benefits others.

    And although I have a cheap business suit, which I wear 52 times a year, I draw the line at road shows. Vile. Sorry if that seems self-righteous to anyone.

  52. I think someone who criticises others (his ward for example) so openly should be open to criticism as well.

    Ronan is a hero of the faith and his thoughtful analysis in no way merits him anonymous criticism.

  53. Wow. Thanks for the feedback, I guess.


  54. Now that we’ve all played “Everybody loves Ronan”, I would like to go back to the discussion.

    I find it interesting that at times in my life I and others have found the “mystery” in the Chapel and and the “mundane” in the Temple.

    Could this be simply an issue of time and perspective?

  55. What I mean to say is:

    Is not the symbol of the Sacrament as ineffable as the Process of the Temple. And is not the repitition of either potentially as problematic?

    Perhaps the difference is that you don’t have children swinging from your neck tie during one?

  56. Did someone remove my comment? I would hate to think I was being punished for expressing my views as openly as other. Perhaps it was a mistake. Luckily I saved it . . . here it is again.

    Yes it is hard to read tone on a blog. I also did not mean to challenge Ronan’s spiritually, or suggest he isn’t a good person etc. . . but I am dumbfounded that no one else (besides annon II) read his post as even a little off putting to our usual Sunday worship. The “bland” thing being the least offensive. I also find it interesting that someone (or a blog in general) that seems to be all about dissecting/analyzing/criticising the in’s and out’s of Mormonism, can’t take a little criticism as well. Truly, my intent was not to offend. I can see your point with taking this directly to Ronan, but I believe I was making a point about his post and not using this as a means to publicly scrutinize his spirituality.

  57. Anon, too says:

    My comment was removed, too.

  58. Steve Evans says:

    OK, I know we don’t have a formal written policy on this topic, so I will clue in the clueless: calling in to question someone else’s faithfulness is de facto offensive and won’t be tolerated. Shape up, people.

  59. Anon, too says:

    I don’t believe my comment had anything to do with questioning anyone’s faithfulness. I did not save my post as Anon did, but what I remember writing is something as benign as “The reason no one else has said anything is because they have either left or was invited to, as I just was (#49). All I did was offer sympathy for what I believe Anon is feeling. Beyond that, I have nothing to say about this particular thread.”

  60. Steve–Ironically, the post that removed specifically said it was NOT intended to call into question Ronan’s faithfulness. Again–totally dumbfounded here . . . open criticism in a post is allowed, however calling someone on their criticism is not allowed. I’m not trying to cause problems, but I don’t back down from intimidation either.

  61. Anon, yes, it’s like rain on your wedding day. Let’s move on, shall we? This is a stupid threadjack and won’t be allowed to continue. More comments along “ronan’s unrighteous” or “I wasn’t sayint anything about ronan being unrighteous,” etc. will be deleted. I’m sure you can sympathize. Or, if you can’t, then move along anyhow.

  62. I started the comments off basically in agreement with the anons, but this particular post, I just don’t see, hence my compliment. To me, there is obviously more to Ronan than his online persona seems to reveal.

    I apologize if I inadvertantly threadjacked what I felt was a thoughtful, beautiful post about the dichotomy of the gospel, and lacked any spirit of criticism that I could find. I certainly did not mean to start a flame war, not even the watered down Mormon variety.

    I was trying to encourage more enlightening and thoughtful posts of this sort and less of the others. I do not think arguing furthers that goal in any way.

  63. Nope–can’t sympathize. However I will move on. I would like to thank others for their more sincere responses and suggestions. Most of us were trying to be “adult” and respectful about this. Would have liked to hear from Ronan himself. Oh well . . . another reader strong-armed out of the way for a differing opinion.

  64. Anon, too says:

    Doc, by calling me one of the “anons,” I fear you presume that I feel exactly as Anon does. I sought merely to offer sympathy for the discomfort this thread may have caused, and made no mention of my own feelings regarding the subject. This includes Ronan, of course, who I do not know and would never presume to judge. He is certainly entitled to his opinion, as is Anon. I try to see both sides, when they are thoughtfully presented. That’s all. I do agree wholeheartedly with your last sentence, however. Thank you.

  65. Anon, if the email you put in the comment box is real, you will already have heard from me.

    Please, everyone, talk about Saddam’s hanging or something. My ears burn.

  66. Latter-day Guy says:

    I am coming into this rather late, I fear (having missed the debate about Ronan’s faithfulness ;-) ). I thought that the original post was quite fascinating and it really resonated with some things I have been thinking about recently. Specifically, how does one (at least during the sacrament ordinance) maintain a fitting (temple-like?) sense of solemnity? (It would be nice to have that throughout the whole meeting but unless the speakers make it a priority it really won’t happen; testimony meeting ins usually a complete wash.)

    Certainly it seems that the Aaronic priesthood holders need to do their part. But something that has helped me personally is to use a scriptural paradigm when participating in the ordinance. Of course, reading about the burial and resurrection of Christ is fitting, but I have also found if I look at it as a return to Eden it fits rather well. Adam’s “curse” of labor is lifted temporarily on the sabbath, and in place of cherubim barring the way to the tree of life, angels/servants bring the fruit to you.

    Also, Luke’s record of the road to Emmaus has been helpful: we gather, speaking of what has transpired during the week (often not good news); hopefully the Lord draws near through the Holy Spirit and we are taught about Christ from the scriptures; most importantly, in breaking bread, if we are prepared we can see (a symbol of) the Christ.

    Does anybody else do this? If so, what do you find helpful? (Sorry about the thread-jack.)

  67. Latter-day Guy,
    No, your comment is not a threadjack so much as a course correction. Matt tried the same above. Certainly the atonement of Christ embodied in the Eucharist is the mystery of all mysteries, and I am always interested in strategies to make more of something that for me, lamentably, is often a hollow ritual. So yes, let’s hear suggestions for raising the sacrament to its rightful plane in our own personal worship.

  68. I too like garage band Christianity. I also like the gospel music, clapping and swaying, traditions in protestant churches of our African brothers and sisters. Personally, I hope that, over time, some of it becomes adapted and adopted in our own style of worship.

    I know more than a few people who do not attend our church regularly, in good part, because church seems boring and too long, and they find it hard to sit still (particularly males). These include some individuals who even tithe, read church magazines, and find joy (believe it or not) in home teaching, going to the cannery or, in the old days, the welfare farm.

    There are several potential cures. One is to distribute appropriate ADHD medications to those who attend church. Another is to call such hyperactive individuals as church leaders. While there is a certain amount of guilt associated with skipping Sunday School or Priesthood/Relief Society for a bishopric member or high councilor to conduct an interview or issue a calling, the guilt is less than the guilt associated with running off to the donut shop, participating in the unofficial foyer class, or simply staying home.

    The standard cure, of course, is to inform the individual that church is not, in fact, boring, or that if it seems boring and too long, it is an illusion that is the fault of the individual who feels that way.

    I suppose another cure is to acknowledge, frankly, (1) that many talks and lessons are bland and boring, (2) that, yes, it can seem like torture to set through the entire three hours, and (3) that great blessings can come through great sacrifice, even sitting through the three hours.

  69. As corny as it sounds, this book has really added some value to my Sacrament experience. Maybe it’s because I have a 3 year old girl and so this is what we do during the passing of the Sacrament.

    Seriously though, I would also love a “Saviour and the Serpent” for my interaction with the Sacrament. Maybe I’ll have to check out Smiley Gaskill’s other Symbol book and see if he touches on it.

  70. I’ve been trying to think of something to add to this lovely thought-provoking post, but I couldn’t think of anything, so I’ll just say: thanks, Ronan.

  71. HiveRadical says:

    J. Nelson-Seawright on #29

    I’m familiar with the usage of the hive and angel in Mormon Studies, I’ve perused the book.

    But I don’t think my commentary is necesarily all that far off. I think there’s some degree of accomidation inherently tied to the distinctiveness of our faith. “Make unto yourself friends with the Mammon of Unrighteousness” is not some accidental phrase. I think it’s a mistake to think all or even inherently most of our blending and accomidation with society is either divergent from or in contrast to our more ‘mystical’ and esoteric features. I find the fact that both elements, distinctiveness and accomidation, being brought together are rather telling and, in and of themselves, distinct items. I know of no other faith that can and is merging science, art, business, culture along with faith, doctrine, and epicenters of dogma WITHOUT really sacrificing it’s fundamentals than our faith. Certainly there’s falterings. There needs be in the balancing act.

    But I think the overall take at trying to seperate or give more or less importance to either aspect of our lives and forms of worship is to rather miss the whole point.

    The cliché “in the world but not of the world” reaches points in our faith I cannot, for all my searching, find anywhere else.

    So I would posit that our distinctivness is our capacity to show the links and inherent ties between items the rest of the world is set upon seeing as inherently in conflict.

    I may be overly idealistic and perchance to simplistic in saying it but I’d venture to state that the gospel IS the grand unified field theory. The Atonement will, I believe, bring to “at-one-ment” far more things, in far more facets of existance, than we presently fathom. I can prove no such thing, I wouldn’t attempt such at such a point. But I see elegance in the atonement that spans from the depths of my own soul and experience to the bounds of what many would consider the crass and worldly.

    Peculiar to an infinite degree. Even in it’s conformities.

    To paraphrase (since I’m not recalling the precise quote) President Young, “Away with stereotypical Mormons!”

    The concept of conforming certainly isn’t cut and dry.

    “Gee Bart, that’s so non-conformist… …in a conforming kind of way.”

    –“Lisa Simpson”

  72. HiveRadical says:


    I appreciate your comment #36.

    “The angel vs. the beehive is the prophet vs. the priest. Joseph, of course, assumed both titles, something which is probably at the root of this dichotomy.”

    Brought to my mind the thoughts of Joseph and Asenath.

    Ephraim and Manasah and the Saving of Joseph’s brethren has so many ties to the Restoration it bogles my mind.

    I got to thinking about Asenath’s line. An Egyptian daughter of a priest with a name that has connections to Neith which in turn has heavy connections to the honeybee. Egypt being linked in imagery and symbolically to the world. It’s as if Joseph, with the birth right ultimately from Abraham, and Asenath become the perfect symbolic types and shadows of the marriage of the best of the world and the divine lineage. Thus giving birth to the two tribes that would initiate the ultimate salvation of the world. The reconciliation of the promised land with the land of Egypt.

    Don’t know if this is anything new to any of you but it’s profound to my little mind.

    Anywho. Thanks.

  73. Being the “mormon-curious” person that I am and coming from the perspective of one who has a varied Christian background (from evangelical to Eastern Orthodox to High Church Anglican and back to mainline Protestantism) I found Ronan intial post on sacred -vs- mundane quite interesting. In fact I have been studying (alone-no lessons here) the LDS Church and Mormon history & theology & J.S. for about 2 years now and I have found the Temple aspect quite intriguing. It may be the “mystery” that has kept me surfing and this blog and other lds related sites. I have been seeking something deeper as long as I can remember and Ronan’s post struck me as not only beautiful but also “familiar” even to someone who has as of yet been “looking into a mirror dimly”!

    Thanks for the post Ronan

  74. Thomas Parkin says:

    I wanted to add a quick bit on this thread before too many days have gone by – and it is lost in the rearview mirror.

    I spent last weekend with my parents, who live directly across from the Conference Center in SLC. While there (in the bloody bitter cold) I was able to go through the Salt Lake temple for the first time. (Also the first time I’d been through a live-actor session.) How much can one say? I imagine that since my father hadn’t told me much of what I saw, I shouldn’t say what he refrained from for many years, although he must have known how interesting it would be to me – and we talk about everything. Needless to say, I was, not surprised, but more reminded, by the rich symbology everywhere in that temple. The moving from creation to world to the gorgeous terrestial room. And what a wonderful surprise I found in the Celestial Room! I’d not have thought.

    The next night Eldred G Smith and his wife Hortense gave their fireside in my parents branch. They brought along, among other artifacts, Hyrum’s death clothes, Lucy Mack’s dinner bell, and a desk in which Joseph kept the plates upon receipt, which bares Alvin Smith’s carved name. While these are naturally nothing like holy relcis – somehow having them at had brought again to my mind the superb touchability of our metaphysics. And Eldred Smith is a relic. He did indeed move like an old man, if not a 100 year old man, but his eyes, when seen straight up close, are trendously bright blue and alive.

    I got a chance to read from the diaries of a few 19th century polygamist wives, including Emmeline Wells (there’s a woman for you!). I am as certain as ever that there is less embarassment in this thing than our sensibilities tell – though one reads of these women’s emotional deprivations, and understands clearly that it is an inferior family style.

    Then – read quite a bit from my father’s Discourses of Brigham Young. (something I don’t have at hand.) I didn’t find it dated, as I’d expected, but rather found page after page of things so revealing I laughed – that feeling of humor when a good joke reveals the hidden obvious. I thought about how our thinking of and feeling and discussion about B Young is dictated by his detractors. Not that Adam-God shouldn’t be pulled out an examined from time to time. But why should we allow the margins to define him? I read 20 pages of quotes on wealth that, if the LDS were to hear and live them, could completely transform our culture to the good.

    Anyway – a lot of old-time Mormonism packed into a few days.

    Finally, I do not find normal Mormon worship ‘mundane.’ I think we are inclinded to be somewhat superficial and distracted – and think that has much to do with the emphasis the church has often placed upon mere appearances. If we go to offer up our broken heart, however … very rarely have I not found some healing, some nourishment. I may be desperate for it, and maybe that’s it. I can no longer afford give a small d*mn about the ninny things that used to bother me so much.


  75. Oh, now I get it! Great post Ronan. It turns out that you really are my hero. And David J. too.

  76. I know this thread is probably dead, but I just read it and wanted to add my praise to both Ronan and T. Parkin. That last comment by Parkin really lifted me and seemed so perfect, especially with regard to brother Brigham. I agree so much about church services. Maybe I am just in a good ward, or maybe I am just much more easily entertained or just plain shallow, but I find so much that is fulfilling there. I am EQ instructor in my ward and preparing a lesson for this Sunday. Reading your comments terrifies but challenges me.
    Thanks all.