…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…]

Mormons in Congress 2012, Part 7

More timely and trenchant analysis from Kay King:

 U.S. House Races in California and American Samoa

One Less Mormon in California

California has more Latter-day Saints than any American state except Utah.  Numerically twice as many Church members live in California than live in Idaho, and Church statistics give the number of California Mormons as nearly 800,000.  Since California is the most populous state in the nation with well over 37 million inhabitants, however, Latter-day Saints make up only about 2% of the state’s population, which makes California about as Mormon as the average for the United States as a whole.

California has 53 House members – the largest of any state; Texas with a distant 30 will have the second largest number next year; New York and Florida will be tied for third with 27; and Illinois will be fifth with 18.

Currently two California congressmen are Church members, and since the early 1950s there have been Mormons in the California congressional delegation.  [Read more…]

Learn to Like (IX)

#10 is here. Read it!

#9 Learn to like the sunrise and sunset, the beating of rain on the roof and windows, and the gentle fall of snow on a winter day.

Finally! An easy one–I like sunsets and sunrises and I adore the sound of rain on the roof. In fact, it occasionally makes me weepy with joy. (Even more occasionally, it makes me want to go outside and dance around naked. Ahem.) Indeed, these all seem so eminently likeable, I can’t imagine anyone needing to learn to like them. I am a bit of a pagan, deep down, under the veneer of Mormonism and the soul-patina of an Anglican chorister, and it’s easier for me to find my way to the Creator through creation than almost any other way. [Read more…]

Testament of Freedom

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy but cannot disjoin them.

—Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774)

Learn to Like (VIII)

George Handley on Lowell Bennion’s 8th Commandment: Learn to like gardening, puttering around the house, and fixing things.

Learn to Like (VII)

#7 Learn to like the song of birds, the companionship of dogs.

At the risk of continuing to paint an exceedingly unattractively misanthropic and cranky picture of myself, I must confess that this picture is a lie. I don’t actually like our dog this much. She’s a divorce-guilt dog, and a capitulation to my animal-adoring daughter, who asked literally every day for 5 years if she could pleeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaase have a dog. To the dog (hopefully not to the daughter!) I’m like the wire mommy in those awful monkey experiments–I provide food, water, and occasional walks, but very little sincere affection or cuddliness. [Read more…]

Learn to Like (VI)

More Lowell Bennion, more George Handley, a little Adam Miller… an embarrassment of riches.

Learn to Like (V)

I have, alas, neither gorgeous prose nor profound insight to offer in my consideration of the 5th of Lowell Bennion’s aphorisms: “Learn to like people even though they may be different… different from you.” So I’m hoping you’ll all learn to like my writing even though it’s different from George’s.

Liking people is hard for me. I love a great many people, but I mostly like to admire them from afar. I’m tempted to prefer the company of books to the company of people, and to selfishly hoard my solitary pleasure in the out of doors instead of sharing nature’s wonders with a friend. Often, this is because I feel shy and inadequate around most people–practically everyone is smarter or prettier or more talented or kinder or richer or more athletic or more __________ (fill in any of a thousand positive attributes) than I am. (Although it has to be said that not all that many people have better shoes ;)). But sometimes–shamefully often, in fact–it’s because learning to like someone requires a particular kind of effort that is less pleasurable for me than, say, the effort of keeping all the characters in War and Peace straight. [Read more…]

Father’s Day Hymn

I hope you all got to sing Hymn #296 today–it’s an absolutely perfect Father’s Day text. Listen here or here (start at 3:35).

1. Our Father, by whose name all fatherhood is known,
Who dost in love proclaim each family thine own,
Bless thou all parents, guarding well,
With constant love as sentinel,
The homes in which thy people dwell. [Read more…]

Learn to Like (III)

George’s third installment is up at Home Waters. Go read and comment there–it’s great!

Learn to Like (II)

The second of George’s meditations on Lowell Bennion’s guide, and my response.

#2 “Learn to like reading, conversation, music”

The underlying principle of Doc’s aphorisms seems to be that it matters a great deal how we spend our time and where our deepest affections lie. This matters not only to our character but to the communities, large and small, of which we are a part. As I suggested in my previous post, this is in part because how we spend our time also tends to determine how we spend our money and resources, that is, how we consume. The activities listed here—reading, engaging in conversation, and listening to or performing music—have in common the fact that they involve communing, even when done in solitude. Moreover, arguably they are not, at least not by definition, pricey or complicated activities. In ideal practice, they are activities in which we connect to a larger community or otherwise broaden our sense of the world. [Read more…]

Learn to Like… A Series on Lowell Bennion’s Desiderata

Reading George Handley’s wonderful tribute to Lowell Bennion, I thought it would be great to spend a little more time with Bennion’s thought. I proposed a series of posts, looking at each line of Bennion’s “learn to like…” guide to life. Here’s George’s first installment (cross-posted at Home Waters).

Lessons from Doc: #1 “Learn to Like What Doesn’t Cost Much”

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6: 6-8).

Price, of course, is not always a reflection of quality, as I have sadly learned in this economy of increasingly poorly made products. We live in an economy that thrives on obsolescence, so durability is arguably at least one reason to buy what may cost more. As I mentioned in my earlier post, Lowell Bennion (“Doc”) used to say that we should evaluate things according to three principles: Is it well made? Is it functional? Is it beautiful? But when he urges us to learn to like what doesn’t cost much, he seems to be underscoring the importance of practicing the principle of self-restraint. [Read more…]

Dialogue Annual Awards

Dialogue is happy to announce its Best of 2011 Awards.

For best Article: Taylor Petrey,“Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology”–Winter
For Fiction: David G. Pace, “American Trinity”–Summer
For Poetry: Anna Taylor Lewis, “Dishes”–Fall, Matt Nagel, “Blessing My Son”–Fall, Paul Swenson, “Marginalia”–Spring
For Personal Voices: Scott Davis, “The Fabulous Jesus: A Heresy of Reconciliation”–Fall
and for “From the Pulpit”: Paul Reeve “That the Glory of God Might be Manifest”–Spring [Read more…]

To See Face to Face

Once upon a time, I was a college student in need of a job. The Massachusetts Association for the Blind needed aides in its residential school for children with multiple handicaps. With visions of Anne Sullivan dancing in my head, I went for an interview. The director checked to see that I had a pulse, then hired me.

I worked the 3-11 shift, in the highest-functioning class. None of the kids spoke, although a few had a little bit of sign language–10 or 15 words, at most. One of the boys, Kevin, had a chart with pictures and could communicate maybe 100 words by pointing. All of them behaved in strange and off-putting ways–lots of peculiar vocalizations, rocking and other kinds of self-stimulating, hair twirling and pulling, constant masturbation, sketchy toileting habits, and “self-feeding skills” that made every meal its own little apocalypse. One girl anxiously gulped air all day long, so that by the end of every day her stomach was as distended as that of a woman many months pregnant. All of them had been essentially abandoned by their parents, although two or three mothers still came to visit every few weeks or months–as often as they could bear it, I think. The whole building reeked of urine and despair. [Read more…]

Upcoming Conferences

It’s May! It’s May! But that need not turn us all into Lerner and Lowe-whistling ninnies. Intellectual delights abound:

May 18-19: “Economies and Humanities,” sponsored by Mormon Scholars in the Humanities at Southern Virginia University, featuring too many bloggernacle luminaries to name and the omnipresent Jim Faulconer (I’ve heard that some scholars speculate he might be the Holy Ghost)

May 23: An SMPT-sponsored conference on B.H. Roberts’s Seventy’s Course in Theology with Kent Robson, Grant Underwood, Jim Faulconer, and Blake Ostler

and, because no amount of Jim F. could ever be too much,

May 27-28: Wide-ranging discussions of religion and politics, sponsored by the John Adams Center, at Duck Beach, NC. Speakers include Nate Oman, Ben Huff, Terryl Givens, James Ceasar (UVA Professor of Politics, Senior Fellow at Hoover Institution), Jim Faulconer, Ralph Hancock and Brant Bishop [Read more…]

Another Mother’s Day Talk PSA

Not everyone can give this talk–among other things, not many people can get away with a Larry Summers joke–but I think it is a wonderful example of a talk that is about Jesus and mothers, in their proper order. (And about Indonesian cross-dressing beauty queens…)

What I Learned at Stake Conference

We need to revise the last verse of “Come, O Thou King of Kings.” “Chosen race” and “heathen nations” just don’t work in 2012.


The Ordinary Means of Grace

“…The sure and general rule for all who groan for the salvation of God is this, — whenever opportunity serves, use all the means which God has ordained; for who knows in which God will meet thee with the grace that bringeth salvation?” (John Wesley, Sermon 16)

I just finished a Holy Week full of singing the Anglican music that makes me wonder sometimes if it’s just a cruel joke that I wasn’t born a couple of centuries ago in England. The Great Vigil of Easter is full of holy joy–it makes the salvific history of Christianity vivid to me in ways that no Mormon liturgy does (yet…). I thought, last night, as we rang bells and sang and shouted “He is risen–alleluia, alleluia” over and over again, that Easter had come, that my cup was full, that I could not dare ask for more sweetness. But God promises not just a full measure of grace and joy, but “good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over.” [Read more…]

Eternity’s Sunrise

He is risen. Alleluia, alleluia!

He who binds himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy.
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sun rise.

The Saturday Afternoon Only the Very Elect are Inside on a day like This Thread

We’re back. MTC choir with the sisters in colorful plumage, elders in dark suits. Conducted by Ryan Eggett. They sounded good warming up, just a little soprano-y.

First Presidency is on the stand.

President Eyring conducting.

New RS Presidency:

Linda K. Burton–served with husband as president of Korea Seoul West Mission. Studied elementary education at U of U. Married to Craig Burton, six children, 19 grandchildren.

Carole M. Stephens–attended Weber State and is a member of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. Married to Martin R. Stephens, 6 children, 15 grandchildren.

Linda S. Reeves–served with her husband as president of California Riverside Mission. B.A. in Special Education from BYU. Married to Melvyn Reeves, 13 children (that’s not a typo).

Richard Maynes named to Presidency of the Seventy to succeed Elder Snow.
First Quorum: Larry Echo Hawk (Arlington, VA), Robert C. Gay (Palm Beach, FL), Scott D. Whiting (Kailua, HI)

Presiding Bishopric: Gary E. Stevenson, Gérald Caussé, Dean M. Davies


Elder Holland: Labourers in the Vineyard [British spelling retained for RJH and other loyalists and snobs]

It is important to note that no one has been treated unfairly here. The first workers agreed to the full wage of the day and received it.

…If there is any sympathy to be generated, it should be for the men not chosen, who also had mouths to feed and backs to clothe. Luck never seemed to be with them–they always saw someone else chosen. These last and most discouraged of laborers, hearing only that they will be treated fairly, accept work without knowing the wage, knowing that anything will be better than nothing which is what they have had so far. They are stunned to receive the same as all the others. Surely never had such compassion been seen in all their working days.

It is against that reading of the story that the grumbling of the first laborers must be seen.

We are not diminished when someone else is added upon. …The race we are really in is the race against sin, and surely envy is one of the most universal of those.
Envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving.

What a bright prospect that is–downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment.

What happened in this story at 9 or noon or 3 is swept up in the universally generous payment at the end of the day. The formula of faith is to hold on, work on, see it through, and let the distress of earlier hours fall away in the abundance of the final reward.

This is a story about generosity, compassion, and grace. Surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who feel they don’t deserve it.

However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you have made, or talents you think you don’t have, or distance from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.

Come boldly to the throne of grace and fall at the feet of the Holy one of Israel. Come and feast without money and without price at the table of the Lord.

I testify of the renewing power of God’s love and the miracle of His grace.

Lead Kindly Light is going to take a long time at this tempo–time to start dinner.

Elder Hales: “Coming to Ourselves and Becoming Spiritually Self-Reliant: The Sacrament, The Temple, and Sacrifice in Service”

At times of darkness, challenge, sorrow, or sin, we may feel the Holy Ghost reminding us that we are truly sons and daughters of a caring Heavenly Father who loves us…At these times we should strive to come to ourselves and come back into the light of the Savior’s love.

More than just thinking about the facts of the Savior’s suffering and death, our pondering helps us recognize that through the Savior’s sacrifice, we have the hope opportunity, and strength to make real, heartfelt changes in our lives.

The sacrament gives us an opportunity to come to ourselves and experience “a mighty change of heart”–to remember who we are and what we most desire.

Patterns of Christlike living include obedience, making sacrifices to keep the commandments, loving one another, being chaste in thought and action, and giving of ourselves to build the Kingdom of God.

As our desires to learn and live the gospel increase, we naturally seek to serve one another.

With His love and the love of His Son in my heart, I challenge each of us to follow our spiritual desires and come to ourselves. We are on the right path when we can say, I worthily partake of the sacrament each week, I am worthy to hold a temple recommend, and I sacrifice to serve and bless others.

He knows us and waits for us, even when we are a great way off.

Elder Ulisses Soares: “Abide in the Lord’s Territory!”

To sow in the spirit means that all our thoughts, words, and actions must elevate us to the level of divinity of our Heavenly Parents.

To enhance our spirit, it is required that we “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from us with all malice.”

The light of Christ together with the companionship of the Holy Ghost must help us determine if our manner of living is placing us in the Lord’s territory or not.

In Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, the Lord teaches us what it means to sow in the Spirit and what really places us in the Lord’s territory, as follows: humble ourselves before God, witness we have come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, testify to the Church that we have truly repented, take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, have a determination to serve Him to the end…

Elder Quentin Cook: “In Tune to the Music of Faith”

This is the Mormon moment talk.

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks: “one culprit is an aggressive scientific atheism tone deaf to the music of faith…”

It needs to be taught and understood that we love and respect ALL of the people that Lehi described. Remember it is not up to us to judge. Judgment is the Lord’s.

Shout-out to scout leaders and nursery leaders. AMEN!!

Our great desire is to raise our children in truth and righteousness. One principle that will help us accomplish this is to avoid being overly judgmental about conduct that is foolish or unwise, but not sinful.

The message, ministry, and Atonement of Jesus Christ, our Savior is our essential family curriculum.

A dividing line between those who hear the music of faith and those who are tone deaf or off key, is the active study of the scriptures.

Our doctrine is clear; we are to be positive and of good cheer. We emphasize our faith, not our fears. We rejoice in the Lord’s assurance that He will stand by us and give us guidance and direction. The Holy Ghost testifies to our hearts that we have a loving Father in Heaven whose merciful plan for our redemption will be fulfilled in every aspect because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Elder Scott: distinction between revelation and inspiration

“Relationships can be strengthened through the veil with people we know and love.” Maybe Elder Scott has been reading Kierkegaard.

Enemies to revelation: loud laughter, exaggeration, loudness
Aids to revelation: careful speech, good health practices, avoiding distractions

Revelation can also be given in a dream. “Inspired communication in the night is generally accompanied by a sacred feeling for the entire experience. …He may in a dream make it both easier to understand and more likely to touch our hearts by teaching us through someone we love and respect.”

For spirituality to grow stronger and more available it must be planted in a righteous environment. Haughtiness, pride and conceit are like stony ground that will never produce spiritual fruit.

When we are acting as instruments in behalf of others, we are more easily inspired than when we think only of ourselves. In the process of helping others, the Lord can piggy-back directions for our own benefit.

You will be prompted to know what to do as you meet the conditions for such divine guidance in your life, namely: obedience to the commandments, trust in His divine plan of happiness, and the avoidance of anything contrary to it.

The real genesis of a church’s stand on race

This version takes a little more work than the stinking pile of worn-out racist speculations a popular BYU professor has been peddling. Do the work.

Mormonism’s Negro Doctrine
by Lester Bush

There once was a time, albeit brief, when a “Negro problem” did not exist for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During those early months in New York and Ohio no mention was even made of Church attitudes towards blacks. The gospel was for “all nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples,” [1. The injunction was found in many places in the then-recently published Book of Mormon (e.g., I Ne. 19:17; 22:28; 2 Ne. 30:8; Mosiah 27:25; Alma 29:8; 3 Ne. 28:29; similarly, I Ne. 17:35; 2 Ne. 26:26-28, 33; Mosiah 23:7; Alma 26:37), and was reaffirmed in a revelation to Joseph Smith, 9 Feb. 1831, published the following July: “And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall teach them unto all men; for they shall be taught unto all nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples”; Evening and Morning Star, July 1832; presently Doctrine & Covenants 42:58.] and no exceptions were made. A Negro, “Black Pete,” was among the first converts in Ohio, and his story was prominently reported in the local press.[2. Ashtabula Journal, 5 Feb. 1831, and Albany Journal, 16 Feb. 1831. These papers attribute the account to the Painesville Gazette, and Geauga Gazette, respectively.] W. W. Phelps opened a mission to Missouri in July 1831 and preached to “all the families of the earth,” specifically mentioning Negroes among his first audience.[3. Manuscript History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, entry undated. Last preceding dated entry was from June 1831, though an intervening reprint from July suggests that the account originated in the latter month.] The following year another black, Elijah Abel, was baptized in Maryland.

Read the whole thing. Really. If you only ever read one Mormon history paper in your life, this should be it.