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.

[Read more…]

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…]

Why Require a Temple Recommend for Church Employment?

Image result for temple recommendWhy does the church currently require that its employees have a current Temple Recommend? It’s a question I’ve often heard my friends who work for the church ask, and over my lifetime, we’ve continually ratcheted up the requirement for a Temple Recommend to callings and ordinances also, even when one has not been historically required. A recently leaked handbook document details the church’s reasons. Some of these were surprising to me, as a person with decades of leadership experience in Fortune 500 companies. [Read more…]

Third Advent: Rejoicing and the Cross

2016 has been a hard year for many of us, bringing crises both personal and public, meaning that the tradition of rejoicing on the Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) may not come easy. The awaited redemption that we celebrate today, when God “gives justice to the oppressed, / And food to those who hunger,” and finally “sets the prisoners free” and “lifts up those who are bowed down,” can seem very far away. Indeed, we seem to languish ever more irredeemably.

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Second Advent Sunday: Prophecy of New Hearts

second-sunday-advent-wreath

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent, a day that recognizes the importance of God’s voice on earth, through prophecy and scripture. It is a Sunday that follows the first advent Sunday’s focus of hope in Christ.

As I seek to prepare my heart for this Christmas season, I’ve been thinking a lot about what a truly cruddy year 2016 has been, for a plethora of reasons (although Slate reminds me that 2016 actually hasn’t been nearly as bad as 1348, 1836, or 1919, so I should count my blessings), and I find 2017 approaching me simultaneously with the promise of a fresh slate and the dread of looming 2016 aftermath. [Read more…]

Mormon Lectionary Project: All Saints’ Day

Today we celebrate the heavenly rest of the saints—all of the saints. We celebrate rest because we all pass through life pursued by beasts, although they’re usually more like Sara Teasdale’s ordinary “wolves along the road” than Daniel’s apocalyptic allegories. Rest here comes only in fleeting moments, the occasional “evening of content” that opens our eyes as it were to the innumerable company in the world to come, leading us to sing God’s praise in the congregation of the faithful. [1] But most of life does not give us that rest, and we must accept such moments as down-payments for our future rest. [Read more…]

Pastoral Approaches to Sexual Violence

Among the recommendations in the recent BYU Title IX Advisory Council Report appears the following:

Share with officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the findings of the advisory council regarding ecclesiastical leaders’ varied responses to sexual-assault reports.

Mormon lay clergy, in other words, come to their pastoral obligations with wildly varying preparation to give the kinds of care that members of the Church might seek from them. Cases of sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence can prove especially difficult to handle well, and the Advisory Council has documented some of the resulting “varied responses.” The pastoral care that survivors receive from their ecclesiastical leaders thus appears to be a noted area of needed improvement.

My research has recently led me to a book that I believe might be a helpful resource for people in caregiving relationships with survivors of sexual assault. I recognize that recommending this book (or indeed any book on the subject) might run into concerns about professionalizing our clergy too much in ways that decrease reliance on the Spirit. In my view this dichotomy is false: professionalization can provide a toolkit, and the Spirit can provide guidance about which tools to use and when (and when not to use any of them). We should approach this subject, like any other, with a combination of study and faith. [Read more…]

When Church Is Boring

The church posted a message on Facebook on Sunday to help members focus their attention in church, quoting a talk by Bishop Dean Davies. This post has gotten a few people in online communities asking questions.
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Some of the questions I’ve heard in response to this post are:

  • Who’s responsible for boring talks and lessons?
  • Does this mean the church is acknowledging that our meetings are boring?
  • Is the onus entirely on the listener or is this blaming the victim for their bad attitude?
  • Is “shaming” people an appropriate tactic? [1]

Pres. Uchtdorf’s opening talk at the Saturday morning session of General Conference addressed this question also. He spoke of the spiritual experiences we’ve had that brought us to church in the first place and asked, quoting Alma 5:26: “Can ye feel so now?”

Thinking over my own church experience of nearly 50 years, my honest answer to that question is “Depends.” Sometimes I can “feel so,” but sometimes I simply don’t have it in me. Life is long. They wouldn’t call it “enduring” to the end if it was non-stop enjoyment. So yes, when a lesson or talk is boring, partly that’s because I’m just not feeling it right then.  [Read more…]

What We Didn’t Hear at #LDSConf

On Saturday and Sunday, we heard messages on a myriad of topics. Some resonated deeply with me; others, not so much. But (nearly) as interesting to me as what we heard was what we didn’t: nobody told us to vote for (or against) Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or even Evan McMullin.[fn1]

So what? you rightfully ask. Does the church ever endorse candidates?

No. But last Sunday was a special day:  [Read more…]

Nelson: “I Have Learned to Suffer With Joy” #LDSConf

During the winter of 1838, Mormons were forced to flee from Missouri’s infamous extermination order. On one freezing cold night, Eliza Snow and her family stayed in an overcrowded, underinsulated log cabin. In recalling that night, Pres. Snow wrote:

Not a complaint was heard—all were cheerful, and judging from appearances, strangers would have taken us to be pleasure excursionists rather than a band of gubernatorial exiles. That was a very merry night. None but saints can be happy under every circumstance.

We have a long history of our ancestors and/or church predecessors being happy in what were frankly horrendous circumstances; if they could be happy freezing in a log cabin in the Missouri winter, I should be happy in my modern comfortable situation, right? In fact, I may feel like I have a religious obligation to be happy.  [Read more…]

E. Cook: Get It In Gear, and Just Serve #ldsconf

Image result for just serveThis little gem of a talk was by E. Carl Cook, not the apostle E. Quentin Cook. He starts by talking about some obscure method of driving old-timey vehicles called “putting it in compound” that I admit was a bit confusing to me since all I have to do to give my car torque is hit the “torque” button in the mid-dash console (it’s a Juke), but the gist of his analogy was, as Paul said, that we are the body of Christ, and we all work together to do God’s will. When you have things (or people) working together, they are stronger than one working alone. Or at least that’s what I think he was saying.

He very humanely pointed out that serving in the church can be daunting for various reasons: [Read more…]

Elder Cornish’s Theology of Grace for a Diverse Church #LDSconf

Elder Cornish’s talk participates in the LDS turn toward grace that’s come in the wake of Stephen Robinson’s Believing Christ. So, I’m going to reflect briefly on how exactly he understands the theology of grace. He begins with what superficially seems like a classic Calvinist moment of redemption, where an external force lifts him from utter despair about the adequacy of his own capacity and efforts. He was a young medical intern, faced with a case of pediatric pneumonia he had no idea how to address, when a senior resident came along and believed in him even when he didn’t believe in himself. The manner of salvation isn’t quite Calvinist, though: instead of affirming the election of an omnipotent God, the resident affirmed Cornish’s own capacities. [Read more…]

General Women’s Meeting: ‘Cause you gotta have faith (and also charity)

Beknownst to some, and unbeknownst to others, Saturday was the first session of General Conference, the semi-annual General Women’s Meeting. Did you go? I did. I wouldn’t have, but I knew that if I didn’t, no one else would recap the meeting for BCC and its gentle readers. Once again, I am working from notes, not transcripts, so please forgive any inaccuracies, unattributed quotes, etc., usw. I am just trying to give you a general feel of this General Meeting. Interestingly enough, there were no special video presentations breaking up the talks this time. I wonder if they’ve completely given up on making the meeting eight-year-old-friendly. Or maybe the General A/V Guy was sick. Your guess is as good as mine. On to the meeting!

For those of you not already in the know (or the beknownstment), Linda K. Burton, General Relief Society President, was conducting. The First Presidency was in the house. (Like, the whole thing. All three guys.) A choir made up of women and teenage women (no “tween” women that I could see) dressed in various shades of pink that looked like a sea of Pepto Bismol from afar (but not in a bad way) graced us with a rousing rendition of “Arise, O Glorious Zion.” (Actually, I don’t recall if it was rousing or not, exactly. I just like to say “rousing rendition,” particularly for songs that begin with the word “Arise.” I am resisting the temptation to make further plays on words. You, of course, may do what you feel. It’s not like we’re in the chapel or anything.) Bonnie Goodliffe was at the organ. [1] [Read more…]

Early Morning Seminary and Sleep Deprivation

Is Early Morning Seminary worth it? This is a question I ask myself every year. At the kickoff for seminary, the seminary director explains each year that the reason we do Early Morning Seminary is to teach the kids they can do hard things. That’s the same reason we were told we do manufactured Trek reenactments, too. But is doing hard things a good justification in and of itself to do something? I have seen fairly severe impacts to my kids as they’ve gone through 4 years of seminary. The sleep deprivation at a crucial growing period when they are supposed to be achieving grades that enable them to get a good college education seems like a high price to pay for daily religious education from amateur volunteers. [Read more…]

Winter Quarters in Omaha #PioneerDay

MTCExterior4_DetailWe didn’t plan on being in Omaha on the day before Pioneer Day. To be frank, the approach of July 24 doesn’t generally trigger anything in my mind. I mean, the ward I went to when I was a kid usually had a picnic at Lake Poway sometime around the end of July that was loosely inspired by Pioneer Day, but it was mostly baseball and hamburgers and hot dogs, and rarely made any mention of 1847 or pioneers or anything.

But months ago, we’d decided that Omaha was a decent halfway(-ish) point between Rocky Mountain National Park[fn1] and Chicago, and so that was our stopping place on Friday night.  [Read more…]

Heaven’s Light

We’re pleased to feature this guest post from EOR.

Like many people, my relationship with The Church is a complicated one.  I converted from Catholicism at the age of 15 and despite over 20 years of membership there is nothing that necessarily ties me to The Church.  I come from a large family, none of which are LDS nor have any intention of becoming so.  So I have walked this road largely alone.

My faith in God and in the Gospel has never been in question, even sometimes at great aggravation to myself.  However, The Church and I have had what can aptly be described as a “love-not exactly hate” relationship.  I have gone through periods of inactivity for varying reasons which I won’t address here including one currently.  I also have a similarly complicated relationship with myself.

In Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo and Frollo have what is (in my opinion) the single greatest song in Disney history.  It succinctly sums up each character as well as compares and contrasts them with rich, spiritually infused vocals.  This 2-part song also serves to sum up my interactions with The Church and with my inner self.  Heaven’s Light/Hellfire sees Quasimodo and Frollo both relaying the story of their object, Esmeralda.  Both characters are profoundly impacted by her but in two very different ways.  The Church is my Esmeralda; my object for purposes of this analogy.

[Read more…]

Stop Skipping the Establishment Clause

For as much as we love religious freedom (BYU just finished its annual two-day conference on the topic), Mormons don’t pay much attention to the Establishment Clause.  Which, if you think about it, is astounding.  What else is Mormonism, if not the greatest Establishment Clause failure of the 19th Century?

Today’s guest post is from Carolyn Homer.  Carolyn Homer is an attorney and religion constitutional law enthusiast in California. She has represented the Anti-Defamation League and other religious organizations as amici before the U.S. Supreme Court, most recently in Zubik v. Burwell, which concerned religious exemptions to the Affordable Care Act. [Read more…]

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

e6b50358faa97c5f2c9a889a5d3ea8f5On the second of June, 1953, around 20.4 million people in the United Kingdom crowded around only 2.7 million television sets to watch the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Westminster Abbey. This was a watershed moment in the modern era, a day on which the ancient rituals of an ancient kingdom were open to the public in an unprecedented way. [Read more…]

Adam Miller’s Nothing New Under the Sun

I just finished reading Adam Miller’s latest modernization of ancient scripture: Nothing New Under the Sun.  This is a very quick read, a modern version of Ecclesiastes:

Because the modern language made the parallels to modern wisdom literature so clear, I was curious about the links to Buddhism. According to Wikipedia, Ecclesiastes was written between 450 and 350 BCE.

The presence of Persian loan-words and Aramaisms points to a date no earlier than about 450 BCE, while the latest possible date for its composition is 180 BCE, when another Jewish writer, Ben Sira, quotes from it. The dispute as to whether Ecclesiastes belongs to the Persian or the Hellenistic periods (i.e., the earlier or later part of this period) revolves around the degree of Hellenization (influence of Greek culture and thought) present in the book. Scholars arguing for a Persian date (c. 450–330 BCE) hold that there is a complete lack of Greek influence; those who argue for a Hellenistic date (c. 330–180 BCE) argue that it shows internal evidence of Greek thought and social setting.

Is Ecclesiastes Buddhism in the Bible?  Or is it simply the case that all wisdom is roughly the same and there is nothing new under the sun.  Buddha dates to 600 BC. Adam Miller’s book doesn’t dwell on these parallels, but merely hints at them.  Wisdom is wisdom, no matter the source. It’s an interesting question, though. His modernized take on Ecclesiastes also demonstrates that there really is nothing new under the sun, including Christian wisdom.

[Read more…]

Justice and Mercy: A Rape Survivor’s Perspective

Today’s guest post is from Rachael.

I was sexually abused as a child and later raped as a teenager and again as an adult. All of these horrific experiences were at the hands of LDS priesthood holders. Of course, those who did these things were sinning and were not true representatives of Christ or His priesthood. It was relatively easy for me to separate out in my mind these evil men from what I knew God wanted.  But it was much harder for me to figure out how to make sense of the good men, bishops and stake presidents, who counseled me to forgive, to bury the past, to not hold my perpetrators legally responsible.  Because I believed that these men were representatives of God, I believed them when they told me that it was God’s will that I let my rapists (and abusers) off the hook.  And so I did.  I earnestly practiced the forgiveness that I was taught to practice, burying any hint of anger the moment it tried to rise up in me, and consequently, I believe, that buried emotion took on a life of its own, to the detriment of my health. [Read more…]

If Jane Austen Wrote the Book of Mormon

Where are our marriage prospects in this godforsaken wilderness?

I was considering a post on the Book of Mormon & the Bechdel test when it occurred to me that Gospel Doctrine class is kind of like a book club.[1]  Which got me thinking how much better, and perhaps with more vocal women in it (as well as a few more humorously identified human foibles), the Book of Mormon would be if Jane Austen had written it. [Read more…]