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…]

Prayer for the Day of Pentecost

O God of the nations,
you who speak to all in their own language,
you unto whom all are alike,
black and white, female and male, bond and free:
pour down your spirit upon us;
let its thunder ring in our hearts
as it calls us into your love,
which became flesh in the person of Jesus;
let it teach our tongues to name the wounds
that have long festered in our body,
until we know at last how to pray for their healing;
let it teach us to hear the sighs too deep for words,
the groanings in the hearts of our fellow saints;
let it teach us to speak the long-awaited word of comfort;
let it teach us to pray your kingdom into our midst
until, Great God Almighty, we are free at last.

#TaxDay 2018: For Ye Were Strangers

The foreigner who resides with you must be to you like a native citizen among you; so you must love him as yourself, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.   —Leviticus 19:34

My liturgical calendar tells me today is Tax Day,[fn1] and so it’s time for another installment of my annual Mormons and Taxes post.

This year’s has nothing to do with the income tax, and, in fact, very little to do with the United States. Instead, we’re going to look south of the border to the Mormon colonies in Mexico. [Read more…]

Prayer for Easter Morning

Praise be to the God of the dawn,
our God of the morning light,
whose Son this morning lives again,
dead in the tomb though he was!
Grant that we, too, might come forth
from the dark places of our own hearts
and find together the fullness of life,
in the rich vigor of the Holy Spirit
and the renewing presence of the Son;
in your strength may we rise together
as the living body of Christ,
proclaiming the message of peace
in all the world, until we become
one people as you are one God. Amen.

Prayer for Holy Saturday

Our God of the darkness,
who meets us this day in Jesus’ tomb:
grant us your Spirit
to show us the darkness
in our own hearts,
from which we long to rise. Amen.

Prayer for Good Friday

O God of our godforsakenness,
appearing this day to us
only as a broken man on a cross:
grant that we, in his cross,
might see ourselves,
might see the myriad ways
we find to crucify one another,
until the Spirit, rending our hearts
like its fierce wind
rent the temple veil,
reveals the face of God
in all the people we have forsaken,
that we may renounce forever
our daily crucifixions
and proclaim at last the Prince of Peace,
becoming one people as you are one God. Amen.

Prayer for Maundy Thursday

O God of our garden prayers,
to whom our souls cry out of the depths:
grant that we in our dark hours
might sense Jesus kneeling before us,
gently washing our feet,
and then find him feeding us
with the bread and wine,
his own body and blood,
and promising us another Comforter,
found when we love one another;
guide us, Father, in the works of love,
that through your Son and in the Spirit
we might become one people as you are One God.
Amen.

Prayer for Palm Sunday

O God of our ecstatic praises
and tumultuously shouted joys:
grant us the courage of rejoicing,
for although our hearts will soon
slip back into their stony selves,
wishing to cry out, but not,
and although everything we now celebrate
will soon go heartbreakingly wrong,
in this hour of Jesus’ triumph
let our hearts open wide with joy
and overflow with the Spirit’s power,
making us for this hour one people in the delight
that forever flows within you, the One God. Amen.

Prayer for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Our God, whose heart has become a wilderness
wide enough to receive our cries
and spacious enough to hold our suffering:
grant that our own wilderness journey
might teach our hearts to be more like yours,
so that as we prepare to remember your Son’s Passion,
we might open our hearts to the truth of his life
and the agonizing sorrow of his death,
until, thus stretched by the Holy Spirit,
we might turn in Jesus’ name to each other,
greeting one another in the Lord’s peace,
able at last to see and be seen in our truth
and to share together in the promised healing
that will make us one people as you are One God. Amen.

Prayer for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Mothering Sunday)

O God our blessed Mother, who gathers us under your wings
as a hen gathers her chicks with tender care:
as we return this day to our Mother Church,
grant that we may love her full kindly,
the chicks tending now to the hen
with a gentle loving care,
binding up the breaches in her body
and making the covert of her wings
once again safe for her wandering chicks
that we may welcome them in love and kinship
and become one people as you are one God. Amen.

Prayer for the Third Sunday in Lent

Almighty God, who by your powerful hand delivered Israel from Egypt and reigns forever over all creation:
grant that we, when our hearts entertain the temptations of power,
might remember the tender power that your Son exercised by coming to live as one of us.
Turn our hands, therefore, to the works of love, the works of kindness,
that we may nurture the life of the Spirit among ourselves
and gently welcome all we can into that life,
until we become one people as you are one God. Amen.

Prayer for the Second Sunday in Lent

O God, our constant support,
whose constancy often feels like absence:
in our long wilderness walk,
some days find you nearer
than our accustomed busyness allows,
but many days, instead of presence,
we carry heavy doubt,
apparently alone,
tempted to put you, our God,
to the test;
grant us, then, the patience
to walk in our darkness
and learn our own strength,
as Jesus learned his,
that when the darkness is past,
we might walk with you
and with Jesus
in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Prayer for the First Sunday in Lent

Blessed God, the bread of life,
who feeds us with the spiritual food of your Son:
grant that this our wilderness journey,
undertaken to remind us that our lives
draw nurture from more than bread alone,
may send our roots deep into the loam of your love,
that we, blossoming into abundant life
through the nourishment of the Holy Spirit,
might share the feast of love together,
one people as you are One God. Amen.

Prayer for Ash Wednesday

O God of abundance, Creator of all that nurtures us,
Giver of breath and Pulse of our hearts’-blood:
we come before you in a spirit of repentance
as we take the first steps of our Lenten journey,
not forsaking the things of life that you have given,
but leaving behind all that chokes your life in us.
Cleanse us, we pray, from whatever stops the flow of love
as it runs in eternal circuit from you to us and back again.
Fill, O Lord, these newly empty places in our lives
with the riches of the Holy Spirit,
that we may learn to love ourselves as you love us
and then learn to love others as you love them,
and, loving them, find that we at last love you.
May our fast so feed our souls with love for all people,
that we may be one as you also are one,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.

Holy Innocents: Grief

Today, as we remember Herod’s slaughter of the innocents, I want to think for a few minutes about grief and grieving. Will you sit with me?

This year has been hard enough that no litany is necessary—or, rather, no litany seems adequate. (Except maybe this one.) But the litany isn’t my point: I’m wrestling with how to live amidst the waves of shock and pain that just keep rolling in.

As I’ve thought on this, and felt with it, a grieving practice seems the only way. [Read more…]

Advent IV: Love

This Advent season, I’ve admittedly had a hard time feeling much hope or peace or joy. Political events are such that “depressing” has long since ceased to be an adequate word, this semester I’ve been overwhelmingly busy with everything except the projects that matter most to me, church has been hard rather than nourishing, and I could go on. All through the season I’ve had these words running through my mind:

Then in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on Earth,” I said,
“for hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on Earth, goodwill to men.”

Yet in all of this I’ve felt that love, improbably, would find a way. [Read more…]

Who’ll Be a Witness for My Lord?

This week the Church announced changes to the proxy-baptism liturgy, one of which I’d like to focus on: witnesses. Before last week, the baptismal liturgy included two Melchizedek priesthood officers standing by, observing, and certifying that the ritual was performed in accordance to the prescribed form. The introduction of formal witnesses to the liturgy is unclear, but my sense is that is related to Joseph Smith’s letters (now canonized in D&C 127 and 128): [Read more…]

Advent Sunday: Finding Hope at the End of 2017

advent-week-1.jpgToday is the First Sunday of Advent, and the candle lit today represents Hope—specifically, the hope we have in Christ, that He was born, that He lived, that He suffered, that He died and lived again, and that He prepared a way for us to follow Him. These musings are part of the Mormon Lectionary Project.

“A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man, did he become, from the night of that fearful dream. On the Sabbath-day, when the congregation were singing a holy psalm, he could not listen, because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon his ear, and drowned all the blessed strain. [Read more…]

What if Beehives Passed the Sacrament Too?

I can still remember turning 12. At least the church parts of it. After I turned 12, my dad ordained me to the Aaronic priesthood, and then I got to pass the sacrament.

And I continued to pass it for the next two years.[fn1]

Passing the sacrament was an important part of my development as a Mormon. It provided me with a tangible connection to the church. My participation in the church stopped being passive, the receipt of knowledge and culture, and started being, well, participatory. I felt a certain amount of pride, a certain amount of responsibility, and even a certain amount of ownership over my church experience. I remember intricately figuring out who would go where, negotiating the pews to make sure that everybody got the sacrament, watching the priests, waiting for them to stand up so I could return my tray.

And lately I’ve been thinking, what if Beehives passed the sacrament, too? [Read more…]

Snippets from Martin Luther’s Treatise On Christian Liberty

Years ago, I stumbled upon Martin Luther’s Treatise On Christian LibertyI still turn to it often, marveling at the insights regarding the intersection of faith and works.  Here are just a few of my favorite passages.

“Since, therefore, this faith can rule only in the inward man, as Romans X says, With the heart we believe unto righteousness; and since faith alone justifies, it is clear that the inward man cannot be justified, made free and be saved by any outward work or dealing whatsoever.”

“Although it is good to preach and write about penitence, confession, and satisfaction, our teaching is unquestionably deceitful and diabolical if we stop with that and do not go on to teach about faith.” [Read more…]

1309-1417: Avignon and the Papal Schism

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For two centuries before the official launch of the Protestant Reformation, corruption and strife in the papacy prompted calls for reform within the Catholic Church.  Back in the early 14th century, the Pope had fled Rome and set up the offices of the church in Avignon, France.  There, over the next 100 years, a series of Popes created ways to increase religious taxes and fiscal intakes, funding construction of a grand palace of opulence (pictured).  As one Italian poet described Avignon, it is “a receptacle of all that is most wicked and abominable…In this city there is no piety, no reverence or fear of God, no faith or charity, nothing that is holy, just, equitable, or humane.”

Two women, later canonized by the Catholic church, led the calls to repentance.  St. Bridget implored Pope Gregory XI to show humility — “Why in thy Court dost thou suffer unchecked the foulest pride, insatiable avarice, execrable wantonness, and all-devouring simony? … Arise and seek bravely to reform the Church which I have purchased with my blood, and it shall be restored to its former state, though now a brothel is more respected than it.”  [Read more…]

Protestant Oktoberfest 

Germany has a major celebration every October — but this year is special.  500 years ago, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of Wittenberg Church.  This symbolically launched what later historians would dub the Protestant Reformation.

As a lover of religious history — and appreciator of the LDS Church’s indebtedness to many things Protestant — I hereby proclaim October to be Protestant Reformation month at By Common Consent.  I hope you will enjoy and contribute to our celebration of Protestant hymns, quotes, churches, leaders, theologies, and other snippets of history.  I pray that through this celebration, we can all rediscover a love of scripture and delight in faith.

[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.

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:

[Read more…]

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”:

[Read more…]

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”: