Let Us Worship How We May?

church

Bradley Burgess is a convert to the LDS Church from a mostly Anglican background. He is originally from South Africa, but has lived on the US side of the pond for the better part of a decade. He holds degrees in piano and organ performance, and is a graduate of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. A professional organist and church musician, Bradley currently serves as the full-time Associate Director of Music and Worship Arts at a large downtown Methodist Church.

In 1842, responding to a request for information about the Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith composed a letter to the editor of Chicago’s first newspaper, the Chicago Democrat. In this document—now known as the Wentworth Letter, after the newspaper’s editor, John Wentworth—Joseph spelled out some of the history of the Latter-day Saints, as well as a selection of thirteen tenants that he saw as their core beliefs. While they have since become canonized scripture, these thirteen Articles of Faith—as they would later be known collectively—were originally intended for a non-Mormon audience. Even by 1842, Latter-day Saints had become accustomed to persecution—having been forced from upstate New York to Kirtland, OH; to Independence, MO; and, by this time, to Nauvoo, IL. The often violent expulsion of the Saints from state to state was surely not far from his mind when Joseph penned the Wentworth Letter, especially the eleventh statement of belief that declares that Latter-day Saints “claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of [their] conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” [1] [Read more…]

What’s the Buzz? #LyricJCS

Full disclosure: my history with Jesus Christ Superstar is pretty thin. The first time I remember experiencing it was after my wife and I got married, and she got a DVD of the 1973 film version.[fn1]

The second time was this last Easter on NBC.

The third time was Saturday at Chicago’s Lyric Opera. (Spoiler alert: if you’re in or near Chicago, or will be on or before May 20, get tickets to this show. Right now.) [Read more…]

Saint Mary the Protectress

Gold-plated spires of Lavra's main church.

Cathedral at Lavra

I recently returned from a business trip to Kyiv (Kiev) Ukraine, including two days of just being a tourist. My tour guide was Olga, a well-informed host overflowing with love for her city and country. One of the most impressive places I visited with Olga was Kyiv Pechersk Lavra (Києво-Печерська лавра in Ukrainian and Киeво-Печерская лавра in Russian). More like a small city than just a church, it is a historical center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and includes a magnificent cathedral, smaller (though still magnificent!) churches, an active seminary, monastery housing, and a historical underground cave monastery containing relics of saints.  [Read more…]

Mi Religión

R-20100610-0014.jpgJoshua Tanner is a full-time husband and father.  He is also a full-time high school Spanish teacher in Arizona.

Spanish philosopher and author Miguel de Unamuno, in response to the question of his religion, responded, “… my religion is to look for truth in life and life in truth, even knowing that I may never find them while I yet live. My religion is to struggle constantly and tirelessly with mystery; my religion is to wrestle with God from the break of day until the close of night, like they say that Jacob struggled with Him” (“Mi religión”, translation mine; image from National Gallery of Art). Unamuno’s perspective has given me a way to express in words my approach to Mormonism – The religion I was raised in and have been a part of, though never feeling that I belonged. [Read more…]

Certain Women: Zion Art Society exhibition in Salt Lake City and Provo, March 2 – May 5.

Today’s guest post comes from Eric Biggart of the Zion Art Society.
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Two years ago, the Zion Art Society launched as a way to bridge the gap between the thousands of inspiring LDS artists and potentially millions of LDS art collectors. We have all been consoled to beautify Zion, and we hoped to bring original art into the homes of members across the world. In the years since, we have held two art exhibitions, and international competition, and started a arts-focused podcast, Mormon Visual Culture.

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Movies Are Not Poop Cookies

Emma Croft grew up near Seattle and is currently studying English and creative writing at Brigham Young University. She enjoys traveling, cooking delicious things, hosting book club meetings, and brainstorming ways to make the LDS community more welcoming to those who struggle to find their place in the church. She spends much of her time writing personal essays, conducting research on early Book of Mormon usage, and helping students improve their writing.

I watched my first rated-R movie as a sophomore in high school. It all started when my World History teacher offered extra credit to any student who stayed after school to watch Defiance, a 2008 film about a group of Russian rebels who banded together to kill Nazis in the forest. It sounded great, but I figured out pretty quickly that choosing to watch it would mean ignoring what I had learned in church for as long as I could remember: no rated-R movies, at all, under any circumstances.bcc

I was torn. I needed the extra credit. I also made sure to carefully pore over the “parental advisory” section on IMDb and ultimately decided that the “5 uses of f—k” and several scenes of graphic wartime violence couldn’t mar my spirituality any more than an average day existing in a high school. After talking with my parents, I believed that watching the movie would provide an overall positive experience with valuable payoff, even if it felt immoral. Learning that any “ungodly” content would destroy a film’s value and cause the viewer irreparable harm left me with the impression that—on some level—I was sinning. [Read more…]

Mormon Art and Cultural Change

Guest post by Christian Frandsen, BYU student and Assistant Curator at Writ & Vision.

Exciting—even radical—things are happening in the world of Mormon art and aesthetics. Certainly this reflects the recent widening of cultural horizons in the way mainstream Mormonism considers social topics like feminism and race, but the work of Mormon artists even in Mormon-est of all Mormon havens—Utah valley—is digging out a foundation of progressive aesthetics that extends well beyond the plot of cultural square footage that we Mormons have staked out. This is important, especially considering that one of these artists is J Kirk Richards—perhaps the most respected creator of Mormon religious art. [Read more…]

The Adam and Eve Series: An Interview about Creativity and Spirituality

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I’ve spent a lot of my recent spiritual wandering thinking about the idea of creativity and what role it can play in a spiritual life, and how I can better implicate it into my everyday practices.  It’s a not a quandary with a quick answer, but one that is answered in endless and varied ways.   After watching a recently released series of short films, The Adam and Eve Series, I was inspired by the quality of the production, moved by the humor and realness of the characters, and reaffirmed in my notion that creativity within spirituality is most definitely worth pursuing.  I could say a lot about what I love about the Adam and Eve Series, but I would rather you spend your time reading through the well-articulated and thoughtful responses of its creators, Davey and Bianca Morrison Dillard.  This is the first in a series of spotlights and interviews with people who are pursuing creativity within their mormonhood.  The interview questions are in italics and I’ve bolded some of my favorite lines from Davey and Bianca, but the entire interview is most definitely worth your time.    [Read more…]

The God Eaters

Ronan’s post on transubstantiation (which fittingly identified a “bridge” that Mormonism, as the Restoration, can build between the Catholic and reformed perspectives on the meaning of John 6:51-58) got me thinking about one of Heinrich Heine‘s “historical” poems in his Romanzero, a collection of poems divided into three books, published in 1851. [Read more…]

Book Review: The Miracles of Jesus, by Eric D. Huntsman

A Book Review by Michael Austin*.

Miracles of Jesus, complete, 5-27-14.pdfThe Miracles of Jesus
Eric D. Huntsman**
Deseret Books, 2014
$25.99
Hardcover
164 pages
ISBN: 9781609079161
(Click on each spread to enlarge.)

OK, I’m just going to admit it: I was a little bit skeptical when I first got Eric D. Huntsman’s newest book, The Miracles of Jesus, and saw that it was a glossy, gorgeously illustrated book fit as much for framing as for reading. High production values in books make me nervous, as I always wonder what they are hiding. And then there is the fact that it is published by Deseret Book — the official publishing arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Official publishing arms make me even more nervous, as I usually have a pretty good idea what they are hiding. All I needed was a third strike to set it aside and move on to the next book in my pile. [Read more…]

A peculiar people

Guest post from Hannah J. Welcome, Hannah!

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In my first year of university I took a color film photography class where we were required to create a photo series. Every time I look at this series I made, I think about that element of childlike suburban peculiarity that exists within much of North American Mormon culture; carpeted walls and fake paintings, weddings taking place in basketball courts, and virginal 20-30 year olds playing games on a Friday night. [Read more…]

A MAD Man Fold-In

There is something different about Jon McNaughton’s latest painting. Sure it contains the basic elements of distasteful propaganda we’ve come to expect from him over the years, but when I first saw it, it reminded me of the kind of painting I am used to seeing in the pages of MAD Magazine (no offense to “the usual gang of idiots”). Then I saw that the artist himself described the piece as “parody” and I realized I was right. Maybe that is the best context to view “Liberalism Is A Disease”…

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Dead Serious

Round them up and ship them to a camp somewhere.

Over the last several years, a painter in Utah named Jon McNaughton has been trying to make a name for himself by using the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a prop in politically provocative pictures which attempt to communicate his apparent belief that only people who hold political views consistent with those of the current American political extreme right wing are in harmony with the Lord’s Gospel and, in fact, acceptable to God. [Read more…]

Jon McNaughton’s Idea Journal

For centuries artists and lovers of art alike have studied the masters, hoping for a glimpse into the process of creative genius. Now, an unprecedented find. A never before seen look into the mind of one of the greatest painters our generation has seen…

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Your Sunday Brunch (Before-After Church) Special (#4). Utah Artist James T. Harwood, 3: Painting, Marriage and Marriage.

So far (see parts 1, and 2) I’ve told some of the story of James T. Harwood’s parents and in particular his father, who played a rather large role in the way James T. saw the world, and particularly Mormonism both as institution and proximate realization.
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Religious Art: The Hand of God

Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), ‘The Hand of God’, marble, 1898. [Read more…]

Come Ye Poets of the Bloggernacle!

[Note: Due to the unforeseen martyrdom of Jon McNaughton’s art sales in the BYU Bookstore at the hands of Teh Godless Libruls, we feel the need to eugooglize this fine art, and thus we have resurrected this thread. Haiku only, please.]

Originally posted on September 29, 2009

Art inspires art.  This art, found on the sidebar, inspired me.

I choose to respond in haiku.  You may respond as well, but we will only accept comments in haiku.  (5-7-5 for those of you who don’t remember high school English….)  Here are some thoughts to get you started: [Read more…]

The Illuminated Matsby, Vol. 13

New picture of the Rome Temple just released…

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Religious Art: Sunflower Seeds

Ai WeiWei (1957-present). ‘Sunflower Seeds’, porcelain, 2010.

The Unilever Series is an ongoing commission that is displayed in the Turbine Hall at London’s Tate Modern.  The most recent addition to this series is Ai WeiWei’s ‘Sunflower Seeds’.  Each of the 100million porcelain seeds has been produced through traditional methods in a Chinese town famous for their porcelain.  This is a staggering effort, and one which has saved a town from financial ruin.  Ai WeiWei’s Sunflower Seeds are situated clearly within the conceptual art tradition and invoke a number of themes: mass-production, individualism, what does it mean to be ‘made in China?’,and, perhaps, most significantly, the lives of those who lived through the Cultural Revolution in China. [Read more…]

The Illuminated Matsby, Vol. 12

Another Image of Faith and Devotion

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Your Sunday Brunch Special (#2). Utah Artist James T. Harwood, 1: The Reluctant Pioneer.

If you have spent much time with Latter-day Saint illustrated literature you have probably seen images of this painting:

Come Follow Me

The artist was James Taylor Harwood (1860-1940). Harwood’s story is interesting and Mormon-related if for no other reason than his LDS commissions to produce religious works like the one above (Come Follow Me – commissioned by the Deseret Sunday School Union) but it’s more interesting than that. To understand Harwood’s story, it is necessary to understand his parent’s and so we begin with James Harwood, James Taylor’s father.
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BCC Zeitcast 65: What the Tribune Didn’t Tell You

In this episode, Scott B. and Matt Page continue the ominous & ghostly themes at BCC this week with a discussion of Bigfoot and UFOs in Mormon Folklore, evil music, a suspicious Culligan man, and all of the details of Matt’s life which–for various reasons–were missing from an article about Matt and his artwork in the Salt Lake Tribune a couple of weeks ago. Actually, they really just make fun of Brad Kramer for half an hour or so.

Links For Your Convenience:
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The Animated Matsby

Another Image of Faith and Devotion…

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Where Are the Great Mormon Artists?

I participated in a BYU-Idaho student documentary about Mormon art (probably because I wrote a blog post agreeing with a Slate blog post about the lack of great Mormon artists). It’s well done and it’s embedded below the fold…give it a view and a good rating.

The documentary starts with a famous quote from Orson F. Whitney, a leader in the church about a hundred years ago: “We shall yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.”

The question the Slate article addresses and that I address during my comments in the video is simply “Where are they? Why hasn’t our culture produced them yet?” [Read more…]

The Illuminated Matsby, Vol. 11

Another Image of Faith and Devotion

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The Illuminated Matsby, Vol. 9

Another Image of Faith and Devotion

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Thursday Afternoon Spiritual Artwork Poll

Feast your eyes upon the artwork below, and then tell us: Which one evokes the most powerful spiritual feelings.


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Religious Art: Judas’ Kiss

Paul Lisak (1967-present), ‘Judas’ Kiss’, Oil on Linen.

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Movies, Mormonism, and Meaning

I’m going to start this off with a couple of Nike commercials that I watch on Youtube when I am trying to motivate myself. No endorsement of Nike (or YouTube) is implied. [Read more…]

Religious Art: ‘Have Pity!’

Ernst Barlach (1870-1938), ‘Have Pity!’, 1919; private collection.

Ernst Barlach’s small wood-carving struck me deeply when I first saw a photo-print of the statue in Gombrich’s ‘The Story of Art’.  The old, bony hands of this woman extended beneath a seemingly coarse and debasing covering intensely expresses the suffering and pain of the lives of too many people on this earth.  [Read more…]