Testimony

Yesterday, in a conversation about apologetics at the Maxwell Institute, I bore my testimony in a semi-public place, which is not something I usually do. Even so, I felt that I should share the substance of what I said here, with some slight elaboration.

I believe that trying to love people matters. I believe that even though I’m less certain by the day what love even is or whether love has the power to do what I hope it can. I believe it because that is the life to which my reading of the New Testament, in particular, calls me. On a pretty deep level, I can do no other: I routinely fail to love in the way that I believe I should do, and yet each failure sends me back to the path, more secure in my conviction. For me, Jesus is love. I say that in part because it’s what the scriptures witness to me, but more because in my own life I have experienced Jesus as the most faithful of friends, even and especially as I fail. His faithfulness calls me to be similarly faithful to those I love. I do not understand how to walk this way, but every day I try. The life that I try to lead in spite of my failures is my witness.

Messianic Family

As I’ve been making my way—very slowly—through N. T. Wright’s massive Paul and the Faithfulness of God, I’ve been thinking about the relationship between Paul’s argument in the Epistle to the Romans and LDS family theology. Romans has been important to me for a long time, to the point that it (along with Paul’s related writings about the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians) has become pretty central to my own witness of how and why Jesus matters, not only cosmically, but personally. 

Until recently, I’ve thought that Paul’s major message to Latter-day Saints has to do with reframing our strong cultural emphasis on obedience. I still think that, but now it seems to me that Paul’s argument also goes to the heart of the recent LDS emphasis on the centrality of the family, defined in terms of heterosexual marriage. [fn1] [Read more…]

Resurrection

As a Mormon raised on the 2nd Article of Faith, I believed that the principle of individual responsibility made the concept of an inherited “original sin” incoherent. We each, I thought, came into the world as blank slates, given eight years to develop the capacity for accountability—at which point baptism gave us a clean start, just in case. From then on, we bore the responsibility of acting well, with repentance and weekly sacrament participation to take care of our inevitable mistakes. With Christ’s help, we would be capable of living in the world as good people.

It’s not that I disbelieve any of this now, exactly. Still, I’ve recently found myself telling people that I believe in original sin. I always hasten to clarify that it’s not the Augustinian seminally-transmitted version of original sin that has won my assent. I don’t believe that my veins flow with depravity born from Adam’s fall, and I don’t believe that newborn babies carry its taint. I do believe, though, that our common humanity has a dark side that none of us escapes. [Read more…]

Intercessory Prayer

Anglo-Mormon that I am, I subscribe to the Society of St. John the Evangelist‘s daily “Brother, Give Us a Word” email. A few weeks back, the word was “Intercede,” and this is what Br. Geoffrey Tristram had to say about it:

Intercessory prayer is hard work, but it is a work of love. It is carrying those we love and long to be healed in our hearts, and taking them wonderfully and mysteriously into the very heart of God.

[Read more…]

Prayer on the Anniversary of the June 8 Revelation

O God of freedom, who led the Children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt: as we recall how Pharaoh’s heart hardened to the cries of your people, so do we pray that you will soften our hearts through the Holy Spirit, that we, like your Son, might proclaim liberty to the captive and let the oppressed go free. We give thanks for Spencer W. Kimball, who had the courage to pray through his own prejudice to hear your voice, and we pray for the same courage. We give thanks for Jane Manning James, whose faithful petitions for sealing went too long unheard; tune our ears and hearts, we pray, to the petitions now arising from our African-American sisters and brothers, that we might hear and act. Bring us together, Lord, we pray, into the body of Christ, where, in love, the gifts that we once despised might now at last take their due place, for without them we cannot be the Zion you called us to become. We acknowledge that we have not loved your image in these your children with our whole hearts; for this, for all that we have done that we ought not, and for all that we have left undone, though we ought, we ask you to fill us with new love and courage to bring about your work of redemption, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Aphorisms on Pornography

I’ve written this as a list of aphorisms, without the traditional scholia. I figure that’s what the comment section is for. [Read more…]

Prayer for Easter Morning

O God of abundant life: as we rise with Jesus from the dark tomb of our failures to love, grant that we may greet our sisters and brothers with the gentleness of his call to Mary, the sweet art of the Spirit’s loving breath making up our defects until we become one in love as you are one God. Amen.

For music, Jamie Hall singing Ralph Vaughan Williams’s setting of George Herbert’s “Easter” from Five Mystical Songs:

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Prayer for Holy Saturday

O God of our darkest night, when your Son was absent from us as you were absent from him: may your Spirit nevertheless breathe gently upon us as we huddle together in the darkling fright of the tomb. Amen.

For music, Paula Matthussen’s “of an implacable subtraction,” performed by Dana Jessen on bassoon and Mantra Percussion on electronics:

Prayer for Good Friday

O God of the cross, where your Son hung in abjection, icon of the suffering that we ceaselessly inflict on others: fill our emptiness with the Holy Spirit of love, that we, seeing the crucified Jesus, might at long last learn to stop crucifying our sisters and brothers in creation, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, Kenneth Leighton’s setting of Peter Abelard’s “Solus ad victimam”:

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Prayer for Maundy Thursday

O God of our Gethsemane slumbers: in our fear and confusion, strengthen us in your Spirit, that even though we do not know what tomorrow may bring, we might watch with your Son this night. Amen.

For music, Eleanor Friedberger’s “I Won’t Fall Apart on You Tonight”:

Prayer for Wednesday in Holy Week

O God of Truth: grant that we, through the grace of your Son, might learn to love one another as you love us, that when we receive the Comforter of your Spirit, we may also bring comfort to the people we meet in our way, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, the Salt Lake Vocal Artists singing Bob Chilcott’s setting of “If Ye Love Me”:

Prayer for Tuesday in Holy Week

O God of all our troubles: in our longing for them soon to be done, grant us your Spirit to call us home to you, that in our remaining sojourn we might yet walk with those who need your love, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, Mahalia Jackson’s “Trouble of the World”:

Prayer for Monday in Holy Week

O God of our long wilderness road: as we approach the end of our Lenten journey, let the light of your Spirit come shining from the west down to the east, in anticipation of the day when, through Christ our Lord, we shall be released. Amen.

For music, Jack Johnson singing Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”:

Prayer for Palm Sunday

Our triumphant God, in whose glory we rejoice this day: pour out your Spirit upon us, that we at last might come in the name of the Lord and be blessed. Amen.

For music, Simon and Garfunkel’s “Benedictus”:

Prayer for the Fifth Saturday in Lent

O God of freedom: in our mental slavery, we cry for your Spirit to help us sing redemption songs, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Music, Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”:

Prayer for the Fifth Friday in Lent

O God of the mysterious clouds, who appears most in darkness and speaks most in silence: we who have looked at love from both sides now and find that we do not really know love at all cry out like the bride for her lost lover, pleading for your Spirit to sate our hungry hearts; grant that we might learn to practice the fierce but gentle love of your Son, that in loving one another we may at last love you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”:

Prayer for the Fifth Thursday in Lent

O God, whose breath brooded over the waters: we come seeking the mysterious flow of your Spirit, hoping for a wind to clear away the clouds of our sorrow and reveal the clear light of your Son, and yet here we remain, lost but believing, in prayer telling all we can. Amen.

For music, Nick Drake’s “Riverman”:

Prayer for the Fifth Wednesday in Lent

O God of all we are: halfway from coal, halfway to diamond, we come before you rejoicing in the abundant grace of this moment, knowing our faults, but not needing any more than all you have given us; send us, then, your Spirit to make our delight in simple beauty full, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, the piano demo of R. E. M.’s “Beat a Drum”:

Prayer for the Fifth Tuesday in Lent

O God, whose voice in our hearts goes beyond words: grant us your Spirit, that we may be ever more enveloped by the mystery of the Word made flesh in your Son, until our rejoicing breaks forth into our own songs without words, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, the marvelous Jacqueline Du Pré playing Mendelssohn’s “Song without Words in D major, Op. 109”:

Prayer for the Fifth Monday in Lent

O God of our abandonment, whose night seems to know no dawn: grant that we, in the darkness of your Spirit, might hear the beating of your heart and find peace as we remain in the twilight of its shadow, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, this stunning live version of Florence and the Machine’s “Cosmic Love”:

Prayer for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

O God of our weary hands, which rest today from their labors: may your Spirit fill us with strength to take others’ hands in our own, that, feeling the tactile witness of their work, we might at last understand one another in love, through the grace of Him whose hands were pierced for us, Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, “Rest These Hands,” by British-born composer Anna Clyne (b. 1980):

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Prayer for the Fourth Saturday in Lent

O God, you who haunt all our disappointments: grant the slightest taste of your Spirit to let us know that our pleas are heard, that even though we may not get what we want, we may yet discern your faithfulness and love, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths:

 

Prayer for the Fourth Friday in Lent

O Lord of song, whom we praise with our broken music: accept the songs of our childlike joy and hear your Spirit in our breaths as we, in gratitude for your glorious gifts, reach out to fill your cup as you have filled ours, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple”:

Prayer for the Fourth Thursday in Lent

O God of all our griefs, you whose name we cry out to the darkness, in whom we strain to believe: send a flicker of your Spirit to show us the face of your Son in all of the broken people around us, that when we learn to see his face in our own we might at last become one people as you are One God. Amen.

For music, “Jesus Alone” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds:

Post for the Fourth Wednesday in Lent

Our God of the sanctuary, before whose doors our prayers blow like a great desert storm, all sand and wind: as we walk in Jesus’ wilderness way, may your Spirit tune our impatient hearts and voices to the seasons of your day, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, Mazzy Star’s “Seasons of Your Day”:

Prayer for the Fourth Tuesday in Lent

O God of light, in whom there is no darkness at all: in gratitude that Jesus came to meet us in our darkness, we pray for your Spirit to guide us through your mysterious love, the darkness that is no darkness. Amen.

For music, Voces8 singing Judith Bingham’s “The Darkness is No Darkness”:

 

Prayer for the Fourth Monday in Lent

Our beloved God, whose image in the people around us we wound daily: grant us your Spirit, opening our hearts and eyes to the sufferings of your Son, until at last we have the strength not to carry on. Amen.

For music, Beth Orton’s “God Song”:

 

Prayer for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Mothering Sunday)

Our mothering God, who daily feeds us out of your self with Jesus’ body and blood that we might find new birth in your Spirit: grant that we through our own gifts and labors might give life to your church, one people as you are One God. Amen.

For music: John Tavener’s “Mother of God, Here I Stand”:

 

Prayer for the Third Saturday in Lent

Our God of wayfarers, who led the children of Israel through the wilderness: grant that we, in the short sojourn before we cross over the Jordan to our heavenly home, might catch enough of your Spirit to forge the kind of love here that makes for joyous meetings there, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, the inimitable Neko Case singing “Wayfaring Stranger”:

Prayer for the Third Friday in Lent

O God of our uncertainties: as Jesus in the wilderness refused the comfort of turning stones into bread, grant that we might not too readily quench our thirst for your Spirit. Amen.

For music, Mary Rocap’s “A Half a Dozen Things.” She’s a singer-songwriter from Durham, NC, who used to sell our family the best eggs. She’s not LDS, but I’ve long thought of this song as capturing the spirit of the bloggernacle.