What do you do to commemorate Christ’s resurrection? Modern culture, at least publicly, outside of Christian churches, doesn’t celebrate Easter as much as many other holidays or commemorations. Christmas, Halloween, Independence Day, Memorial Day and Valentines Day all seem to get more attention. I suspect that this is, at least in part, because they have become more commercial, and in doing so have captured the imagination of the public. And to a degree this happens for Easter also, but for some reason the commercialization is not nearly as strong as Christmas, for example. The Easter Bunny just isn’t as popular as Santa Claus.
Lesson 13 of this year’s Gospel Doctrine manual reviews some of the most important contributions of Joseph Smith—the scriptures he brought forth. Through Joseph Smith we have not only the Book of Mormon, but also the Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price and the inspired version of the Bible. In addition, Joseph Smith provided important clarifications of doctrine upon which much of Mormon doctrine is founded. The following poem addresses Smith’s inspired writings.
One of the most modified Mormon doctrines is the doctrine of the gathering—the idea that Church members should move to a central gathering spot to build up Zion in this dispensation. D&C lesson 12 teaches about this doctrine, the subject of many of the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants. Under this doctrine, Mormons have “gathered” to Kirtland, Ohio, Independence, Missouri and other areas in that state, Nauvoo, Illinois and Salt Lake City, Utah and perhaps other places. Other Mormon sects have likewise sought to gather members to central locations. Hundreds of thousands of converts have left their homes to travel thousands of miles as a result of the teaching that saints should be gathered in one place. And often after reaching the gathering place, they have suffered persecution there, and then moved to a new gathering place. In the following poem, Evan M. Greene expressed the feelings of the saints about this commandment.
One of the early focuses of the Doctrine and Covenants is missionary work. Repeatedly the Lord advises the Church in revelation that “the field is white, already to harvest,” and encourages missionaries to labor with “all your heart, might, mind and strength.” Church members are urged to prepare and to “open your mouths” to warn and convert neighbors. And these themes did appear in early Mormon poetry, including this work, which was written by the first Mormon missionary to die in the field outside of the United States, Lorenzo D. Barnes.
Chapter 6 of the Lorenzo Snow manual discusses President Snow’s teachings about perfection—his encouragement of gradual improvement, diligence and patience and the role of repentance in obtaining perfection. One of the concepts that stands out to me is the requirement for patience and endurance in reaching perfection. These themes can also be found in his sister’s poem that follows.
Lorenzo Snow’s teachings on man’s destiny and on the nature of God have often been met with both criticism from non-Mormons and wonder from members. His couplet about the past of God and the future of man (mentioned in the lesson), encapsulates an important part of Mormon theology, something that has been even encapsulated in our poetry, such as in his sister Eliza’s well-known poem, today sung as the hymn O My Father. But that hymn is not the only poetical expression of these teachings.
Lesson 10 of the Gospel Doctrine manual for the Doctrine and Covenants is one of those lessons that is a bit hard to characterize. It covers D&C 25, addressing subjects like “husbands and wives should support and comfort each other,” “meekness and pride,” and “rejoice and be of good cheer.” I found it hard to come up with a single subject that covers all of this, and the best I could do is a poem about friendship.
When I read Stephen Peck’s groundbreaking novella A Short Stay in Hell the idea that struck me more than any other was how little we know about the idea of eternity–and how unfamiliar we are with how long eternity is. We simply have no way of comprehending the time involved. We live in a world where we have limited time and must decide how we use the time we have.
The formal organization of the Church on April 6, 1830, subject of Gospel Doctrine lesson #9 this year, was the culmination of many preparatory steps that Joseph Smith and his fellow believers took. When the organization occurred, the group had new scripture, new authority from God and a new prophet at its head. In the ensuing years it added other key elements to its structure, beliefs and practices, some of which are described below in John Hardy’s hymn. In a real sense, at least most of these elements are what we are talking about when we speak of the restoration of “the only true and living church.”
The restoration of the priesthood, outlined in the D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson #8, is central to the Church’s claim to authority and to our understanding of the course of the plan of salvation. Following the atonement of Christ, the authority to administer the ordinances required for eternal life must be a very important element of the plan and central to the preparation for the millennium, at least in the view of the author of this poem, John Hardy.
When Lorenzo Snow speaks of the Holy Ghost in the material included in chapter 4 of the lesson book, it is clear that he sees the spirit as a great help to us. “It would be simply foolish indeed to expect the Latter-day Saints in these days to comply with the celestial law… except they were sustained by a supernatural power.” The idea that there is a power in the Holy Ghost is something that isn’t mentioned often. So when I saw the following poem, it resonated with me.
When discussing the first principles and ordinances of the gospel the focus is often on the details and less often on their purpose in the plan of salvation. The 7th D&C gospel doctrine lesson talks about faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the holy ghost. In teaching these principles and ordinances, the focus should remain on Christ.
What Mormon art projects are drawing attention? Does the Mormon community donate to worthy projects? What Mormon projects attract Mormons? Off and on I’ve been looking at Kickstarter, the crowd-funding website for artists of all kinds who are looking for seed money to get their projects completed. I’ve even funded a project and I’m looking forward to the results of my small contribution. When Kickstarter launched a few years ago it drew a lot of press because it promised to make raising money for small projects easier. A number of similar sites that have launched, and it looks like some good projects are getting funded.
The concept of enduring to the end can be somewhat vague. Much of what it requires depends on environment and circumstance — what is required for you to endure to the end is perhaps different than what will be required of me. But the underlying gospel principles are known, and the following poem by Eliza R. Snow talks about some of them.
The principle of personal revelation is a foundation of Mormonism, a key to our understanding of the gospel. And few places in the scriptures make this as clear as in D&C 8 and 9, which are discussed in Gospel Doctrine lesson 6. There we learn, among other things, that faith is a key aspect of personal revelation. Thus to receive personal revelation, we need to remember the Lord, as is described in the poem I selected for this lesson.
The spirit of revelation described in D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson #5 isn’t always credited with all that it deserves. During our lives, I think, we often receive inspiration that we don’t attribute to anything but our own decisions, while that inspiration makes subtle changes, pushing us towards the better. Other times personal revelation is very clear, appearing as the kind of direct communication whose source is all but undeniable. The following poem is an example of when and how personal revelation can appear, along with a meditation on nature and how it should turn our vision o the truth.
I think that we often think of witnesses as something outside of the event, added to fill a particular need or satisfy the desires of the world. But I wonder if this perception might not be incorrect, if witnesses are not, in fact, an important part of the process of communicating truth. A testimony is, after all, what a witness provides, and, at least in the church, it is hard to imagine communicating truth without testimony. In the fourth D&C Gospel Doctrine lesson witnesses to the Book of Mormon are an important part of the story of the scripture’s preparation. And the following poem provides, I think, an idea of the role of the witness, along with a lot about one of the three witnesses, David Whitmer.
[I am traveling for the 4th annual Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference — please excuse the delay in posting this.] From the beginning of Mormonism, Baptism has been a central focus of our preaching. Baptism must be done in the correct manner and by the correct authority, and should be followed by the gift of the Holy Ghost. And this is the focus of the second lesson in the Lorenzo Snow manual used in Priesthood and Relief Society. Of course, our baptisms have always been accompanied by hymns, and the following hymn appeared in Emma Smith’s first hymnal in 1835 and in subsequent hymnals through 1841, but disappeared thereafter. It was likely sung at baptisms during the first decade of Mormonism (perhaps even the baptism of Lorenzo Snow).
[I am traveling for the 4th annual Brazilian Mormon Studies Conference — please excuse the delay in posting this.] Of our mythic founding stories, the First Vision is surely the most important. It appears regularly in manuals and conference talks, as well as in the missionary lessons, where it is among the first things that converts to Mormonism learn. So naturally it is a frequent subject for Mormon poetry. But most of the poetical treatments of the First Vision that come to my mind are descriptive, tell what happened instead of the role of the First Vision in the ages. And even when that role is discussed, I haven’t seen a more unusual approach than the excerpt below, which brings rich imagery to its view of the initial event of the restoration.
Despite a heartfelt campaign led by his children, LDS baseball star and former Massachusetts Boston Mission President Dale Murphy was not inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, according to the results announced this afternoon. While that result was expected, the fact that fellow Mormon Jack Morris was also not selected was almost as suprising as the fact that the BBWAA selected none of the eligible players this year. The group last failed to add any players to the Hall of Fame in 1996.
The second Doctrine and Covenants lesson makes the point that this modern scripture talks and teaches of Christ. That focus was easy to find in many Mormon poems and hymns, but the following poem has the advantage of talking about the Lord for what He has done for the Latter-day Church. Eliza R. Snow probably needs no introduction for most members, as her poetry still appears frequently in our hymnals. And in this poem her combination of praise for the Lord with references to the latter-day work makes this a good match for the lesson.
I love the first lesson in the Lorenzo Snow manual. It seems like Snow’s love of learning is second to none among latter-day Prophets. And his statements about learning are wonderful: “Though we may now neglect to improve our time, to brighten up our intellectual faculties, we shall be obliged to improve them sometime. We have got so much ground to walk over, and if we fail to travel to-day, we shall have so much more to travel to-morrow.”
This post opens the voting for Mormon of the Year. Votes will be taken until midnight Eastern Time on Monday, January 7th, at which time the voting will close. The voting mechanism will attempt to restrict votes to one per person. The order of the choices is set at random, and is different each time the form is presented. THE WINNER OF THE ONLINE VOTE IS NOT NECESSARILY THE MORMON OF THE YEAR!!!
The initial lesson in the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History course of study points out that the revelations found in the text are meant for our time and cover our dispensation, while the history presented is the history of our people, as opposed to those who lived aeons ago. This course should, therefore, be relevant to us today in a way that the other Gospel Doctrine courses can’t hope to accomplish. The poem below discusses not only a few of the major events that opened our dispensation, but also follows the prediction often made; that our dispensation has a great destiny leading to the coming of our Lord.
Some time ago while singing Christmas carols at a non-Mormon event, I suggested that the group sing “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains.” I was greeted with blank stares and questions. “What song?” “Never heard of it.” It turns out I was so immersed in Mormon culture (I still am to a large degree) that I didn’t know that “Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains” is an LDS hymn by a 19th century Utah author, and is therefore unknown to most non-Mormon audiences, even though its doctrine is universal enough for most of them.
For the past year each Monday afternoon my “Literary BMGD” posts have appeared each Monday — perhaps confusing some readers who have wondered exactly what these posts were all about. And those who clicked on them to read what they had may have been surprised to find that they were… poetry. What exactly is BMGD and why poetry? If I am going to continue these posts, I should probably explain:
Its that time of year again. The media will soon start reviewing the important news stories of the year, Time will soon select its Person of the Year (Mitt Romney has been nominated); so we should get busy selecting the Mormon of the Year. For those who don’t remember, T&S selected Mitt Romney as the Mormon of the Year for 2008, Harry Reid for 2009, Elizabeth Smart for 2010 and Jimmer Fredette for 2011. As in the past, the choice does not mean that the person is a good Mormon or even a good person. This designation is solely about the impact the person has had. Note: Last year we changed the nomination procedure: Nominations must be seconded! In addition, we ask that when you nominate someone you use your real name, rather than an online nickname or pseudonym. We hope this will make sure that nominations are serious, and not in jest as some have been in the past. I…
The final lesson for the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine class covers Moroni 7-10, the final Book of Mormon prophet’s closing advice to readers, including teachings about faith, hope and charity, the conditions of salvation, spiritual gifts, the role of the Holy Ghost, and how to judge between good and evil. The motivation for this latter counsel is somewhat captured in this poem, which looks at the extremes to which our friends can sometimes push us, and the feeling of being lost or torn between opposites that can happen if we try to follow their advice.
Several weeks ago, a friend mentioned in a conversation about the gospel that after this life we would know the truth about all things. It then occurred to me that a lot of people are going to be, or already have been, shocked by how wrong they were about their views of life, the universe, and, well, everything. And, in among everything, we have to include ideas about religion. The Buddha must have been shocked. Mohammed, Martin Luther, Calvin, John Wesley, and even, I think, Joseph Smith.