BCC is pleased to feature this guest post from Peter H. Bendtsen of Fredericia, Denmark, where he works as a Key Account Manager in the chemical business. In the Church he served as a missionary in Manchester, UK from 1993-95; since then he’s been a Bishop’s counselor, Bishop, and High Councilor. He and his wife Lisette Krogstrup Bendtsen have two children.
We like to quote Krister Stendahl, the Swedish Bishop of Stockholm, who mentioned that he has holy envy of us Mormons for our temple worship.
What then could we as Mormons have of holy envy with regard to other Christian religions?
Last summer my family and I visited Rome, Italy for our family vacation and of course we had to go and see St. Peter’s Basilica since we were there.
It is a splendid and truly magnificent church, with one papal monument after another featuring emperors and kings worthy of commemoration, which they often were at that time in history.
Coming from Denmark we were naturally interested in the one monument of them all made by a Danish artist—the only Protestant artist that ever was allowed to make decorations in this Catholic Church.
Danes say that the monument looks like Hans Christian Andersen the Danish poet, but that must be a coincidence.
Some years before this visit in Rome we as a family also went to see another beautiful and grand church. This time it was in England and while there we had the chance to see the Church of England’s most renowned Cathedral in Canterbury.This church has a magnificent stained glass decoration. Both churches are unique in their own special ways and have their individual room for their special differences. One thing in common in both is their individual beauty and the unique sound and acoustics produced by their stone walls and special construction.
Sometimes when I’m out driving in Denmark and find a special looking church I will then go and have a look at the church. If I find myself alone in the church, which you most likely will be if you are not there on a Sunday morning, I will take one of their hymnbooks and sing one of their hymns. I do this not so much to enjoy my singing, but more the ring and special sound there is to it in those beautiful churches. (It is way better than singing in the shower). If you are really lucky you also might find the organist practicing playing on the organ. (A real organ with real pipes and not just an electronically modified keyboard.) Then I have Holy Envy.
Another thing for Denmark is the special Danish hymns that we do not have the chance to sing in our church. Each country is only allowed a very few hymns that are unique to their languages in the church. The English LDS Hymnbook has 341 hymns and songs whereas the Danish LDS hymnbook only has 207 hymns and most of them are taken from the English hymnbook.
There can also be holy envy within our church regarding the Latter-day Saints whose native language is English, compared to those of us whose native tongue is Danish. Beside the hymnbook there are words that we do not have proper and useful translations for in Danish, like the words for Invocation and Benediction. You can translate them into Danish, but they do not make for useful meanings to use in connection with the opening and closing prayers in meetings. Generally church language in the scriptures in Denmark has been newly translated into a more up to date Danish language, and that may also be the reason that when praying in Denmark the wording is almost normal spoken language as it is spoken today, rather than more formal usage. The old, formal Thee and Thou is not in use any more in Denmark.
Having mentioned all those fine churches I must of course not forget to mention the Danish sculptor that was allowed to decorate the St. Peter’s Church in Rome. His name is Bertel Thorvaldsen for those that have not already guessed it.
His masterpiece is, in my opinion, not the grave monument for Pope Pius VII in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, but rather the marble Christ figure in Copenhagen together with the figures of the Twelve Apostles. The church where they stand is called the “Church of our Lady.” Compared to the two other churches mentioned above this is the smallest of them all. Here less is more, and the only decoration that is shown in this church with its light brown and white walls and white ceiling with its gold square decoration is the famous Christ figure in the center behind the altar of the church. On each side of the church are the Twelve Apostles shown with their individual characters. For example Peter is standing with the keys of the kingdom in his hands looking towards Jesus, while Thomas has a mason’s square draped over his shoulder. Here you will find peace and tranquility and closeness to Christ and our Heavenly Father regardless of what denomination you belong to. You will also find a natural reverence for those people that walked and talked with Christ. It is almost like their stories are coming out of the marble spoken directly to you.
Unfortunately I have not had the chance to sing by myself in this church for the time being, but when I go there once again I will find Holy Envy.