Poverty in the scriptures: An introduction


D.T. Bell lives in Salt Lake with his wife and three kids. He works in technology, but used to work in international aid and development. He first developed an interest in issues relating to poverty while serving a mission in Argentina. He was into the Bloggernacle before it was cool. Just kidding, it will never be cool. 

I’ve jesus-and-the-poorbeen trying to read the Book of Mormon sequentially, which is something I don’t usually do as part of my scripture study. As I’ve read sequentially, I’ve been surprised by the amount of scriptures I’ve encountered that deal with how the disciples of Christ are to treat those who are poor, as well as by the intensity of the content of these scriptures.

 

Curious to see whether my impression of the frequency and intensity of poverty-related scriptures was borne out by a more analytical approach, I cracked open my old friend, the Topical Guide.

 

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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.

Prayer for the Third Thursday in Lent

O God, you who brood over the dark, roiling waters of our human failure to love: as Jesus came not to walk upon these waters, but to compass their depths, grant us the courage of your Spirit to face their fierce waves, that we might clasp hands in love with our sisters and brothers of the tempest, one people as you are One God. Amen.

For music, Leonard Cohen’s  “You Want It Darker”:

Prayer for the Third Wednesday in Lent

O God of judgment, before whose bar we must all appear: open our hearts with the grace of your Spirit to hear the stories of the people around us, that in them we might come to see Jesus incarnate and learn at last to love him by loving them. Amen.

For music, R.E.M.’s “New Test Leper”:

Prayer for the Third Tuesday in Lent

Our Creator God, you who breathed life into the clay from which we now make instruments of death: let the holy breath of your Spirit fall once more upon us, that in the brief space between our births and our deaths we might love one another in our beautiful fragility, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Iron and Wine’s “On Your Wings”:

Needing/Getting

I haven’t been able to shake Mike’s excellent post from Thursday. The identification of need with belief strikes me as an important one for our faith.

But I haven’t been able to shake it not just because of the insight it provides, but because I’m a step outside of the world Mike describes: frankly, I don’t need the church to be true.

That’s not to say I don’t believe, or that I don’t participate. I do both. But I don’t need the church to be true in a way that previous generations may have. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Monday in Lent

O God of our mysterious life, who through your Spirit and the scandal of your Son’s cross reveals wild and unknown landscapes within our souls: grant us the courage to open our hearts to these unexpected beauties, that we might discover new ways of love, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Björk’s “Jóga”:

 

LGBT Questions: An Essay

Bryce CookThis week, Bryce Cook published a new comprehensive essay on the church’s stance toward LGBT members. Bryce Cook is a founding member of ALL (Arizona LDS LGBT) Friends & Family and a co-director of the annual “ALL Are Alike Unto God” Conference held every April in Mesa, Arizona. He is married to Sara Spencer Cook and together they have six children, two of whom are gay. Since their oldest son came out publicly in 2012, Bryce and Sara have become public allies for LGBT people in and out of the church.

The essay is a long but fascinating read. I’ll cover a few highlights here, but I encourage you to read it in its entirety for yourself here[Read more…]

Prayer for the Third Sunday in Lent

O God of our Sabbath rest: as we now find ourselves deep in the wilderness of our fast, restless with wandering, fill us with hunger for your Spirit, that our hearts may not rest until they rest in you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, Greg Spero’s “No Rest for the Weary”:

 

Prayer for the Second Saturday in Lent

O God of our desert, where we have now long languished: in this valley of the shadow of death, may we yet commune with you in the Spirit, that, as our fast goes on and on and on, we might still be together with you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: Wilco’s “On and On and On.”

Prayer for the Second Friday in Lent

Our hearts sing out to you, O God, in praise of the sunlight that warms our wandering; grant us the music of your Spirit so that we, dancing in the footsteps of your Son, might come into harmony with your glorious beams, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: the eponymous concluding piece from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:
 

Prayer for the Second Thursday in Lent

O God of the silent darkness, in which we sometimes feel ourselves lost, hearing instead of your voice only the echoes of our own prayers: remember the garden in which your Son prayed, and let the wings of the Spirit bear the sweet scent of his orisons to your nostrils, that we, the substance of the savor he sent up, might find access to you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: “Love’s Echo,” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:

 

Prayer for the Second Wednesday in Lent

O God of my prayers, to whom I call hour by hour, longing for the touch of your Spirit: grant that my heart might never cease to be faint with love for your Son, my beloved, who teaches me the dance of the One God. Amen.

For music, “Faint with Love,” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite:

 

Prayer for the Second Tuesday in Lent

O God of our wilderness, in whose vastness we wander these forty days: as our fast fills us again and again with the baptism of your Spirit, let not those abundant waters quench our love for your Son, through whom our errant feet ever find you, our joy and our being. Amen.

For music, “Many Waters” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite.

 

My First Month as a Missionary: Dazed & Confused

Me, on the balcony of our piso overlooking Arrecife 28 years ago.

I recently blogged about my first day as a missionary and how it felt to return to that place after 27 years. Because we were on a cruise last month, stopping at 5 of the Canary Islands, I had a chance to revisit the island of Lanzarote where I started my mission, a place I hadn’t been in the 28 years since then. I surprised myself by being able to pick out my apartment by sight even though the city of Arrecife has changed quite a bit, and the apartment has been renovated. The exterior balconies have now been enclosed, probably to keep out the sands from Calima, an annual dust storm that happens in the Canary Islands, bringing sand from the Sahara, across the ocean, obscuring the sun. Calima can last for several days when it comes. While I was there, our balcony would sometimes fill with sand overnight. Lanzarote is a very windy island, the most eastward of the archipelago, the closest to the coast of Morocco.

The biggest obstacle to memory was that I only served there for 5 weeks, and then never returned to that island, and most of the time I was there I felt like I didn’t know what the heck was going on. I was the only missionary being sent to Lanzarote, and I had just arrived in the islands after a long flight. When I arrived in Arrecife, I was alarmed by the 18 year old men in military garb casually holding machine guns, standing around the airport looking bored. I remembered thinking “I could easily take away that gun, and I’m not that big or strong,” envisioning the possibilities for violence and mayhem if any random person were so inclined. That’s a sight I saw in all the airports in Spain, one that I never quite got comfortable with. [Read more…]

Prayer for the Second Monday in Lent

Our God of delicious anticipation: as the first buds stoke our hunger for the spring, so may your Spirit teach us to thirst for your Son, in whose name we rejoice. Amen.

For music, “Rhapsody” from Patrick Hawes’s “Song of Songs” suite.
 

Prayer for the Second Sunday in Lent

O God of abundant life, of feasts of fat things and wine upon the lees: unstop the richness of your Spirit as we approach the Lord’s Table this day, there to feast on the love you offer us through the great gift of your Son, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music this week, I’ll be using Patrick Hawes’s cycle “Song of Songs.” Here’s the first piece, “Love’s Promise”:

Prayer for the First Saturday in Lent

O God of pilgrims and all who wander: send us your spirit, which blows where it lists, that it may guide our feet into the unexpected paths where we never thought to seek the joy of your presence, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music: “God is Love,” by The Innocence Mission.

Prayer for the First Friday of Lent

Our vulnerable God, you who weep because we do not love our own flesh: send the Holy Spirit blowing into our souls until we learn to see ourselves in Jesus’ flesh and blood; and from his gift let love of God and our neighbor spring eternal in our hearts until we become One People, as you are One God. Amen.

For music, here is the “Lacrimosa” from Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, with Makvala Kasrashvili, soprano, and Anthony Rolfe Johnson, tenor:

Prayer for the First Thursday in Lent

Most merciful God, who sent your Son to meet our humanity through the abjection of the cross: grant your Holy Spirit to lift us up in our failures, as we try again (and again) to do as you would, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is Big Star’s “Try Again”:

Prayer for the First Wednesday in Lent

God of Gladness, whose very being is the circle dance of Father, Son, and Spirit: take us by the hand and lead our wayward feet as we learn the rhythms of your love, that we may move joyfully in the world as One people, through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

For the music, here’s Charles Mingus’s classic “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting”:

Prayer for the First Tuesday in Lent

Most longsuffering Father: as the wilderness of our fast carries us to the limits of our bodies and spirits, let the Holy Spirit lift us with the vision of our beloved Jesus’ body, wounded and stretched out for our sakes, that our memory of him may draw us into closer union with you, the One God, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is “Jesu Dulcis Amor Meus,” a chant text attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux:

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Prayer for the First Sunday of Lent

O God, first Gardener of the world: in the winter of our fast, nourish us with the Holy Spirit, that come spring the bulbs buried in our hearts might bloom, Easter lilies to herald the glories of the resurrection, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is John Crum’s text “Now the Green Blade Riseth” set to the 15th-century French carol “Noël Nouvelet,” sung by the Arnold Singers from the Rugby School:

Prayer for the Saturday after Ash Wednesday

Our Father, whose glory shines forth in the myriad beauties of creation: grant that we might rejoice in our fast, not sitting in sackcloth and ashes, but breaking the yokes of injustice, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry; that we may learn, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to see the face of Jesus in every human being and join our hearts with theirs until we become One People, as you are One God. Amen.

For music, here is David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter of the New York Dolls) singing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”:

Prayer for the Friday after Ash Wednesday

O God, the Giver of all good things: as Jesus emptied himself and took the form of a slave so that we might eat the bread of life, so may we, filled with the Holy Spirit in the emptiness of our fast, provide a feast for the hungry and freedom for the oppressed, until the One God might be incarnated in us as One People, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

For music, here is the Tabernacle Choir singing one of the greatest hymn texts ever: Charles Wesley’s “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”:

Prayers for the Beginning of Lent

I meant to start this yesterday, but I couldn’t get to it. I can’t manage full Lectionary posts this year, so instead I’ll write a series of prayers. I’ll aim for every day in Lent (including the Sundays). Music will be occasional. [Read more…]

Time Travel: Christian Identity Loss

perros-2I recently returned from a trip back to the Canary Islands, where I served my mission over 27 years ago. I’ve been back a couple times before, but this was my first time back to the island of Gran Canaria where the mission home was, where I spent my first day, and where I spent about half my mission. As we went to various places in Las Palmas, I kept having flashbacks to the emotions I felt on my first day as a missionary as well as on subsequent pivotal occasions. It was weird.

When I started my mission, I had some strange ideas about the need to slough off my identity, to leave behind the identifiable parts of myself in favor of a new, bland, passive Christian identity that was really no identity at all. I had the idea that I was entering a monastic order, similar to an abbey. I envisioned myself as a sort of Mormon nun, having transcended or at least forsaken my own interests and personality and ready to just be an empty vessel for the word of God, a conduit for a will other than my own. There was no room for defensiveness or for my need to be understood or known. Being misunderstood by others gave me a chance to let go of my identity, to kill the natural (wo)man.

Obviously this lasted about 5 minutes.[1]  [Read more…]

Preaching in the Provinces: Lorenzo Barnes and Early Mormon Missions

Lorenzo Barnes (1812-1842)—early Mormon convert and perennial missionary—left some record of his preaching efforts in two small journals. Barnes was schooled in early Mormon ideas and mission work, and his methods probably mirrored what many lay-minister Mormons did to spread the word. I’ve been thinking more about Barnes lately and I’ve written a bit about him in something that appears in the most recent issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (though that piece is altogether different from this blog entry). Barnes ends out with a chapter in the sermon book (Every Word Seasoned with Grace: A Textual Study of the Funeral Sermons of Joseph Smith) since Joseph Smith preached a sermon in honor of Barnes in April 1843—Barnes died in mission service (December 1842, Idle, England). Here I’m just going to quote from one of Barnes’s journals about his 1835 preaching travels Barnes was in the Camp of Israel — Zion’s Camp — and subsequently was called as one of the original Seventy whose special duty was mission work. Spelling and punctuation as in the original.
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Receiving Grace: Mozart’s Great Mass

51nbxoelzl-_ss500Becoming familiar with Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor (K.427) is a good way to both deepen one’s appreciation for WAM, especially his church music, but also to find a way into understanding the rich and ancient eucharistic liturgy of the western church. The Great Mass, composed in 1782/3, is unfinished* but the missing parts are often added for modern performances and recordings.

In the Great Mass we proceed in stages through music until we receive the grace of God in the Eucharist.

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Lesson 6: “I Will Tell You in Your Mind and in Your Heart” #DandC2017

This week’s lesson is a continuation of the aborted Oliver Cowdery translation attempt. Bummer for you teachers who rotate weeks with another teacher; there’s a BIG overlap in chapters here with both this week and last week’s lesson focusing on the same three sections of the Doctrine & Covenants: 6, 8, and 9. This one throws section 11 in the cart, but really, the majority of the lesson is still focused on the same material as last week. You’re the loser who drew the short straw because your rotating cohort got first dibs on the good stuff.

The first “attention activity” is the suggestion to bring a radio to class. Apparently, a radio is an old-timey electronic device that was used to receive transmitted sound waves from the air. People used to use these devices to listen to talk show programs as well as music, all interspersed with housewives gushing about the newest dish washing soap and doctors recommending their favorite brand of cigarette “for your health.” Radios were also used in the Netflix series Stranger Things to communicate with the Upside Down. Since it’s probably impractical to drive your car into the classroom, perhaps there are some functional portable radios at the Desert Industries or in your grandfather’s attic you could pick up for your object lesson. [1] [Read more…]