From the Archives: The Liturgy of Jello

It’s the tri-ante-dodransbicentennial (or something like that) of the Relief Society. Hurrah! Go read the minutes.

Here’s my talk from the celebration in my ward a few years ago (with apologies for not having come up with anything better in the last 4 years!):

I have mixed feelings about our yearly celebration of the birthday of the Relief Society, starting with the nitpicky wish that we called it “founding” or “establishment” or even “anniversary” and not something as redolent of frosting and froufiness as “birthday.” The rest of the country has Women’s History Month (which still isn’t enough) but we only have Relief Society History day. Any excuse for a party will do, and I love our gatherings, but it pains me that it’s not enough time to discover a thousandth part of our heritage of faith as Mormon women. And sometimes even this single evening can feel like too much: I have finally come to accept the fact that some people, even smart, wonderful people whom I love, just don’t want to hear more stories about “pioneer women.” And, although this sentiment is profoundly alien to me, I can imagine how it might arise. [Read more…]

Some Thoughts on the Inevitable Failure of Pretty Much Everything

Most social movements, most bureaucratic structures, most utopias, and most dreams are doomed. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t dream and try to build things. There is beauty in the ashes, especially if we figure out how polyphony works and how moments of passing discord contribute to the ultimate harmony.

We could do worse than trying to learn from William Byrd. He lived in a moment of great religious discord–Protestants and Catholics were killing each other everywhere, and the choice of whether to set music in English or in Latin was open to potentially dangerous political interpretation. He set this piece both in Latin and in English–a reminder, perhaps, that Zion is always under siege from all sides, often from those who believe they are her most ardent defenders.

Holy Innocents II

A response, of sorts, to RJH’s post. This is the text of the end of my ward’s Christmas program from last year. The program was scheduled just two days after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and we were all sick and stunned. I still think it’s too glib a response–it’s too easy to love the idea of vulnerability from a safe distance. And yet, and yet… [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.

[Read more…]

“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…]

Music for Advent 1

I’ve asked my friend Jason to do some guest posts for Advent this year. I’ll probably chime in with Germanic and (Neo-)Romantic emendations to his  Anglican purist selections from time to time. Enjoy!!

Advent I – Rorate caeli

I am both honored and humbled to have been asked to do some guest posts on some of my favorite advent music this year, considering I have nowhere near the breadth of knowledge of choral music that Kristine does, and I also lack her gift for writing. [Ed. Note: he’s lying.]  A little background about me: I have a Ph.D. in molecular biology, and work studying the biology of aging. However, for the past 15 years, choral music has been my main non work-related artistic outlet. I think I have somewhat of an unusual choral background for a Mormon. [Read more…]

Music for Thanksgiving

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a body of Thanksgiving music as expansive as Christmas music? There is!! Psalm settings–there are zillions of great ones, and we Mormons mostly don’t know them at all.  So many great things to discover–start here!

Two settings by Hugo Distler:

  (not a great performance–youtube provides choirs with not-too-vibrato-y sopranos, reasonable rhythmic intensity, bearable German diction, and decent intonation, but not all at the same time) [Read more…]

For my sisters

…and anybody else who needs it tonight.

Not one sparrow is forgotten,
E’en the raven God will feed;
And the lily of the valley
From His bounty hath its need.
Then shall I not trust Thee, Father,
In Thy mercy have a share?
And through faith and prayer, my Mother,
Merit Thy protecting care?

                Shaker Hymn (Canterbury Shakers Hymnal, 1908)

What Radical, Power-Hungry, Selfish, Man-Hating, Evil, Secular, Disobedient Feminists Who Want Priesthood for Personal Gain and Don’t Care about Prophecy or Ecclesiastical Order or the Will of God Would Do

hint: it would not involve praying or attending church meetings (even in pants!) or politely asking men’s permission for anything

Please revise your internet vitriol accordingly.

From the Archive

In (sort of) response to Kaimi’s post at T&S.

What I Wish I Had Said, Part 26 or so

July 3, 2011 By Kristine

(I know, I know. I should shut up already, or else get my own blog called “WIWIHS.”)

So, the other day, I was talking with some friends about Mormon intellectuals. Among the things we discussed was how folks whose spiritual gifts are on the brainy side can appropriately consecrate those gifts in the service of the Church and of their congregations, especially since Mormons sometimes seem uncomfortable or suspicious of too much thinkiness. [Read more…]

Music for No Particular Reason

Here’s the text: [Read more…]

And God Saw that It Was Good

Our Sacrament Meeting was especially, egregiously, exuberantly noisy today. I was on the stand to lead the singing, and it was so noisy that I started looking around to see if the grownups or teenagers were being excessively chatty. They weren’t. It was all good, wholesome, inevitable baby and toddler noise, punctuated by the barely controlled pandemonium of the Primary children’s musical offering for Father’s Day. I had a squirmy moment of worrying about visitors being shocked by our irreverence, and then just settled in to enjoy it. [Read more…]

Dear church leaders, fix this, now.

When I read this article about Elizabeth Smart, I was, as always, impressed with her courage and wisdom. I was also disheartened to learn that she had heard the chewed gum analogy (and I’m willing to bet it was from a seminary or church teacher, or at least a Mormon school teacher). Generally I think we are (finally!) abandoning the chewed gum, licked cupcake, wilted rose object lessons–I can’t recall ever having been taught them and I feel reasonably certain that my daughter will not hear them. That’s why I allow her to attend church!

However, the very first scripture girls are required to study in their Personal Progress work on the value of Virtue is Moroni 9:9, which describes young women as having lost their virtue by being raped. That scripture reference needs to go, NOW. And we need to start explicitly teaching that this scripture reflects a cultural mistake among Book of Mormon peoples in their understanding of virtue, one which fails to properly apply the principle of agency and denies the power of the Atonement. The chastity in which the Lord delights (Jacob 2) is not merely virginity, and cannot be taken away by another person, especially not by violence or abuse.

Take this reference out of the Personal Progress manual. Do it now.


The Sunday Afternoon Holl and Oaks Session

The Holl and Oaks Session

President Uchtdorf conducting. Sister Stephens praying–no big deal; women pray all the time :)

Girls watching opening prayer

Girls learning to fly.

[Read more…]

The Sunday Morning Pepto-Bismol Explosion Session

Choir in pink (!), Andrew Unsworth at the organ, Wilberg conducting.

First Presidency is sitting down. President Eyring conducting.

Whoa–it’s not just women praying this time, they’re even letting Democrats pray!!!

Crazy dudes out in force on Temple Square.

Crazy dudes out in force on Temple Square.

[Read more…]

Music for Holy Week–Monday

This day is sometimes celebrated as the day of the Anointing at Bethany (although the timing is different in Matthew than in Mark). [See Julie Smith’s excellent treatment of the Markan account.] Bach’s St. Matthew Passion begins with this episode.

[Read more…]

Music for Holy Week–Palm Sunday

Hosanna to the Son of David [Read more…]

An Embarrassment of Riches

This weekend promises lots and lots of geeky Mormon goodness. If you’re in Provo, join the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities for their annual conference, featuring keynote speakers David Loy and Elliot Wolfson, and lots of beloved bloggers from BCC and other (only slightly less loveable) ‘nacle haunts.

Meanwhile, back at the Claremont Graduate School, [Read more…]

Coming Attractions

The Department of Religion at Claremont Graduate University presents “Beyond the Mormon Moment: Directions for Mormon Studies in the New Century”, a conference in honor of the work of Armand L. Mauss. The lineup of speakers looks outstanding–Jana Riess, Claudia & Richard Bushman, Mike McBride (aka Mr. ExponentIICaroline), JI types Paul Reeve and Max Mueller, Molly Bennion, Patrick Mason, Wilfried Decoo and Walter Van Beek.


Why I’d Like to Hear a Woman Pray in Conference

It’s because every time I’m on a plane, and the captain’s voice on the intercom is female, I get a little teary. I’ve never wanted to be a pilot, and it really doesn’t make any practical difference whether a man or a woman lands the plane safely. I have no eloquent or reasoned argument to explain my emotion. But it matters. It. Just. Does.

I want my daughter to know girls can fly.


…Christus natus est!

Hodie Salvator apparuit:
Hodie in terra canunt Angeli,
laetantur Archangeli
Hodie exsultant justi, dicentes:
Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Palestrina, Sweelinck, Poulenc, Vaughan Williams, Willan, Whitbourne, Britten (plainchant) [Read more…]

Christmas Eve

The Oxen
–Thomas Hardy
Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then. [Read more…]

More Music for Advent

Music for Advent

Sorry I’ve been such a slacker this year. Here’s a nice long piece to make up for a few days, at least. I love Hugo Distler‘s choral music. I wish he had lived long enough to write more, but I also love listening to his Christmas music with its long shadows, too–the light shines in darkness.

Die Weihnachtsgeschichte

Music for Mourning

And this. And this. And this. And Brahms.

Music for Advent

O Radix Jesse

Contemporary(ish) settings by Willan, Miškinis

Text: [Read more…]

Music for Advent III

I heard Chanticleer sing this last night. I can die happy now.

Music for Advent II

Gabriel’s Message

King’s College

Good Shepherd Band

Karen Grignon (I kind of love this, even though it’s a bit of a mess)

Music for Advent

For the first Sunday in Advent–three settings of O Come, O Come Emmanuel


Robert Shaw

Choir of Clare College Cambridge (with some rarely sung verses)

From the Archives: Weeping, Singing, Remembering–A November Homily

This is from 2005–an epoch ago, in blog time, so perhaps some of you won’t be bored to tears by it. Wishing you all a wonderful day and season!

Weeping, Singing, Remembering–A November Homily

November is an odd month–hard to say whether it’s the end of autumn, or the beginning of winter. This year I think we’ve even had a few days of spring. It doesn’t fit easily in the American cultural calendar, either–the somewhat belated harvest festival at the end of it seems to be mostly an impediment to full-out marketing of Christmas merchandise beginning right after Halloween and a decorating dilemma: no one can decide whether to stay with the gold and orange-tones of autumn, or go straight to red and green. And then smack in the middle of the month is Veteran’s Day, suggesting red, white and blue accents perhaps. [Read more…]