With Advent, and thus the beginning of the Christian year fast approaching, now is a good time for our annual liturgical year post. In years past I have attempted to create a Mormon calendar, but given the hassles inherent in the moveable feasts, I will simply suggest here some resources for fashioning your own:
1. The LDS Sunday curriculum readings make an excellent lectionary. As a supplement suited to the rhythm of the Christian year, I recommend the readings found in both CommonPrayer.net and Oremus (both of which can be downloaded to your electronic device). The aesthetic is Anglo-Catholic.
2. You can also follow the Christian calendar via the above resources. Both offer prayers and thoughts appropriate to the day.
3. A Mormon holiday supplement would be good, and might include General Conference, April 6, the restoration of the priesthood, the birth and death of the Prophet, Pioneer Day, and the visit of Moroni. The marking of national holidays can also be appropriate, provided they are not excuses for jingoism — in our family, the liturgy there is to make such days Flag Days. When I remember, I try to mark the holidays of other major religions, not as a religious tourist, but as a way to educate my children. Family Home Evening is perfect for this kind of thing.
4. What I don’t have, and would like, is some kind of musical resource tailored to the calendar. Kristine Haglund is excellent at suggesting music. What I need is some kind of Kristine-app to automate the selection!
Last year’s discussion of the Christian calendar and its Mormon iteration follows:
I understand why Mormonism does not follow the Christian liturgy. The low church of Yankee America from which Mormonism sprang was rightly suspicious of the cadences and rituals of old Christianity, associated as it was with so many ecclesiastical abuses and the poisonous elitism of medieval European religion. Mormonism has a rich tradition of worship on which to draw, and many Saints are satisfied with their own cycle of worship, from the Sunday block and Firesides to Family Home Evening and daily study.
However, believing that we can learn from other traditions and recognising that some people are interested in a more formal cycle of worship, I try to follow a Mormon liturgical year of sorts, inspired by Common Prayer: A Liturgy For Ordinary Radicals. Two quick points:
1. Mormons have an aversion to so-called “vain repetitions” widely understood to refer to set prayers. It has to be said, however, that Mormonism does indeed have set prayers of its own and even our informal prayers often fall into “vain repetition,” so the reluctance to say things like the Lord’s Prayer is both somewhat illogical and a fairly new tradition in Mormonism. Written prayers can often provide a source for meditation and can easily flow into something more personal.
2. It strikes me as somewhat unfortunate that in abandoning, for the most part, the Christian calendar, Mormonism loses a link with an ancient cycle of worship that goes all the way back to the temples of Israel. We of course do follow a calendar — a secular one — and are happy to both commercialise what could otherwise be important feasts, e.g. Halloween, and mark the seasons laid down by the Caesars rather than the Bible. Our year is thus more pagan than Christian. I believe that the Christian calendar can help us enter a new time in which God’s work in the world is remembered both weekly — from the Lord’s Day along the daily path of creation and atonement — and annually from Advent to Easter.