The Patient Church

David bides his time

Bide thou thy time !

Watch with meek eyes the race of pride and crime,

Sit in the gate, and be the heathen’s jest

Smiling and self-possest.

O thou, to whom is pledged a victor’s sway,

Bide thou the victor’s day!

 

Think on the sin[1]

That reap’d the unripe seed, and toil’d to win

Foul history-marks at Bethel and at Dan ;

No blessing, but a ban ;

Whilst the wise Shepherd[2] hid his heaven-told fate,

Nor reck’d a tyrant’s hate.

 

Such loss is gain ;

Wait the bright Advent that shall loose thy chain !

E’en now the shadows break, and gleams the divine

Edge the dim distant line.

When thrones are trembling, and earth’s fat ones quail,

True Seed ! thou shalt prevail!

 

–John Henry Newman, Off Algiers, 20 December 1832

[1] Jeroboam

[2] David

Home

London-England-Temple

Where’er I roam in this fair English land,

The vision of a Temple meets my eyes:

Modest without; within, all glorious rise

Its love-encluster’d columns, and expand

Their slender arms. Like olive plants they stand,

Each answ’ring each, in home’s soft sympathies,

Sisters and brothers. At the altar sighs

Parental fondness, and with anxious hand

Tenders its offering of young vows and prayers.

The same, and not the same, go where I will,

The vision beams ! ten thousand shrines, all one.

Dear fertile soil ! what doreign culture bears

Such fruit ? And I through distant climes may run

My weary round, yet miss thy likeness still.

 

–John Henry Newman, Oxford, 16 November 1832

The Saint and the Hero

Saint Isodore

O aged Saint ! far off I heard

The praises of thy name;—

Thy deed of power, thy prudent word,

Thy zeal’s triumphant flame.

 

I came and saw ; and, having seen,

Weak heart, I drew offence

From thy prompt smile, thy simple mien,

Thy lowly diligence.

 

The Saint’s is not the Hero’s praise;—

This I have found, and learn

Nor malign Heaven’s humblest ways,

Nor its least book to spurn.

 

–John Henry Newman, Bay of Biscay, 10 December 1832

The Practice of Confession

Confession3-258x258

The scriptures are clear, ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). For Christians, this is not the end, for Christ died that man might be saved from death and redeemed from sin. In the Bible, Christ taught that those who have faith in Him and repent of their sins will be forgiven. At several points in the Bible, Christ forgave the repentant sinner his or her sins. When questioned about His ability to do so, Christ said ‘But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy), I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all’ (Matthew 9:10-12). Christ proved upon the impotent body of the paralytic His right to forgive sins. As Latter-day Saints, we are to turn to Christ for forgiveness; in faith and with a change of heart.

Sometimes, the sinner needs the help of the Church. Individual confession to God of sin and the reception of Christ’s absolution are available but sometimes the severity of sin scars the individual to the point where he or she needs the comforting aid of a Christ-appointed physician. When Jesus commissioned His Apostles, He gave them many spiritual gifts and powers to exercise on His behalf for the good of the Church. In St John’s Gospel, Christ spoke to His Apostles and said, ‘Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained’ (John 20:21-23). In this passage, the Bible recorded that the Apostles were ordained to a Vicarious, or ambassadorial, calling—that is, they were ordained to stand as vicars of Christ; acting in His Name and with His full authority. This was not of their own merit or worthiness; St Peter could not forgive sins as Peter the Galilean fisherman.  But as St Peter, Vicar of Christ, Apostle of the Lord, he could extend the Forgiveness and Absolution of Christ to the sinner.

Latter-day Saints believe that the Restoration of the Gospel conveyed all of the authority and the Apostolic Succession on Joseph Smith, not as an heir to the Apostles but as an Apostle of Christ. This same authority, which St Peter held, Joseph Smith extended to a new generation of Apostles, as called of God. The unbroken Apostolic Succession by which the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Prophet of the Church continue to hold their charge of Christ, grants them all of the same keys of the priesthood which God gave St Peter. Thus, acting as Vicar of Christ, Apostle of the Lord, Russell M. Nelson can extend the Forgiveness and Absolution of Christ to the sinner.

He is not the only ordained minister in this Church who holds that authority and exercises that responsibility. The Apostles have delegated localised authority to the various General Authorities, Stake Presidents, Bishops, Mission Presidents, and Branch Presidents to act as Judges in Israel (Handbook of the Church). This means that, within the confines of their Area, Stake, Ward, Mission, or Branch these men have the responsibility to act as vicars of Christ; bringing the Sacraments and blessings of the priesthood to their locality. One of those blessings is that of extending the Forgiveness and Absolution of Christ to the sinner.  The local bishop cannot forgive sins of himself, what man can forgive sins? But as bishop, he can represent Christ to the sinner and convey the love, forgiveness, and absolution that Christ offers.

Individual Latter-day Saints can and should, when the Spirit guides them, approach their local priesthood leader and confess to him. Traditionally, these confessions have occurred but only when the sins are particularly egregious. Culturally, Latter-day Saints might associate ‘seeing the Bishop’ with disciplinary action. This should not be. Sometimes disciplinary action is necessary and the local leader sits as a judge in this case; however, how many of these disciplinary actions could be avoided if Latter-day Saints sought out their local leaders in sincere repentance, confessing their sins, and seeking the guidance of Bishops in how to act out their penance?

Bishops are charged with the protecting their members from taking the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper unworthily. To eat of Christ’s Body and Blood unworthily is a blasphemy and a sacrilege which brings damnation on the sinner. The practice of confession allows members to confer with Christ, through the local priesthood leader, and receive from Christ, absolution; thereby entering a state of grace and preparedness for engaging in the Sacraments of the Church.

In an era marked by increasing mental health paralysis and guilt, the Saints are in great need of the spiritual advice available from Christ through the bishop in confession. Perhaps we ought to adjust our cultural reticence, born of protestant-inspired anti-clericalism, to see the opportunity for inner peace and inward grace which can be brought by Christ through confession.

The Anglo-Catholic Mormon Enters the Latter-day Saint Bloggernacle

bloggernaclehexmap

In 2013, By Common Consent published a brief and comic article called ‘A Map of the Bloggernacle’. It may be the Time and Season for this map to be revisited; The Anglo-Catholic Mormon has joined the Mormon Bloggernacle! In honour of this auspicious occasion, The Anglo-Catholic Mormon challenges By Common Consent’s map (posted above) and proposes an update to the map (below).

The New Mormon Bloggernacle Map

Furthermore, The Anglo-Catholic Mormon adds the following descriptor:

Keep of the Anglo-Catholic Mormon: Perched just within the Unwavering Wall, the Keep of the Anglo-Catholic Mormon is a newly discovered outpost of an ancient and universal kingdom. From this keep, paladins, mages, and scholars publish key theological tracts based upon the teachings of the (Restored Catholic) Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their premise is that the ancient Christian Church, the universal or catholic church as established by Christ and led by the Prince of the Apostles, St Peter, is continued under the guidance of the current heir to the Throne of St Peter, in Salt Lake. Only by uncovering the mysteries of the past can they bring unity to the Mormon Bloggernacle.

 

Zeal and Love

Oxford scholars

 

And would’st thou reach, rash scholar mine,

Love’s high unruffled state?

Awake! Thy easy dreams resign,

First learn thee how to hate:—

 

Hatred of sin, and Zeal, and Fear,

Lead up the Holy Hill;

Track them, till Charity appear

A self-denial still.

 

Dim is the philosophic flame,

By thoughts severe unfed:

Book-lore ne’er served, when trial came,

Nor gifts, when faith was dead.

 

–John Henry Newman, Oxford, 20 November 1832

The Education of the Local Priesthood

LDS Bishop

The Tensions within the Priesthood as understood within Mormonism

The nature of the priesthood in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints presents something of a paradox: the priesthood is for all men, regardless of their abilities or education, and it requires pastoral, leadership, administrative, and other skills. All men are called to the priesthood and most men will at some point serve in some sort of priesthood leadership capacity. The process by which men are selected for leadership roles does not generally include an assessment of their abilities—the prevailing attitude is that God will qualify whom He calls. While it is certainly true that God can, through spiritual gifts, aid the priesthood in discharging their duties, Latter-day Saints are not supposed to sit idly awaiting divine intervention. Instead, Latter-day Saints are encouraged to develop their talents and abilities to best serve the needs of the Church.

There is a lack of formalised training for the priesthood—particularly the priesthood leadership. There are also various factors which can inhibit priesthood leaders from being able to serve consistently at a high level. Latter-day Saints are particularly proud of having an unpaid “lay” clergy. The Book of Mormon is quite adamantly opposed to priestcraft—defined as ‘men preaching and setting themselves up for a light to the world that they may get gain and praise of the world’ Zion (2 NE. 26:29) and  ‘churches which are built up to get gain’ (1 Ne 22:23). Many Latter-day Saints interpret this to mean that any form of money attached to priesthood service is bad. However, various Latter-day Saint priesthood and ecclesiastical figures are given a stipend (in a manner not dissimilar to the way other churches take care of their clergy). Missionaries, General Authorities, Apostles, and the First Presidency all receive some sort of living stipend which allows them to focus their energies completely on their ministry.

 

The problems:

The Latter-day Saint approach to priesthood leadership leaves us vulnerable to certain obvious weaknesses. The first, and perhaps most disastrous, is the so-called leadership roulette. Leadership roulette exists everywhere leaders are able to make interpretive decisions; however, our ender-educated priesthood leadership has a wider degree of variance possible in their leadership roulette because they lack formalised training in ministerial, pastoral, theological, and administrative areas. This brings us to our second critique: variable interpretations of orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Again, so long as there is allowance for independent interpretation, there will always be priesthood leaders who differ in the way they handle various situations. The issue arises over an inconsistent standard about what sort of behaviour, belief, and practice are orthodox (orthopractic) for members and priesthood leaders. The Church Handbooks attempt to provide some indication as to how to handle various situations but they are not terribly detailed nor do they explain the principles in ways which would allow local leaders to adapt their processes to individual cases or areas. To solve this, the Church needs to not only make clear to all members, and particularly to priesthood leaders, which beliefs and practices are essential for Latter-day Saints and which are, for lack of a better word, “optional”, the Church also needs to teach leaders the principles which inform Church policy so that they can better enact Church policy at the local level.

A final concern is that priesthood leaders are frequently overworked (as they continue working a full-time secular job and gain a part-to-full-time ecclesiastical one). This means that they are tired, that fatigue allows them to miss signs and opportunities for engagement with their members. It also puts strain on their families, as families frequently sacrifice time at home to enable priesthood leaders to fulfil their functions.

 

A Tripart Solution

It should be stressed that this is not intended as a proscriptive “political” platform. These are academic suggestions which might help the Church resolve some of the tensions which are present in our attitudes towards the priesthood and also better enable priesthood leaders to serve their communities and families.

The first part does not involve structural changes. Latter-day Saint Sunday services already include a twice-monthly priesthood meeting in which they could learn more detailed and applied pastoral techniques, be more strictly catechised, be exposed to a range of orthodox theologies, and be equipped with the tools to be better priesthood leaders.

The Church has re-emphasised home-based learning, it would be worth offering a voluntary priesthood education programme which could be modelled on the new Come Follow Me programme. This priesthood study programme could include a range of study topics (theological, philosophical, pastoral, theoretical, and applied) with reading material and exercises which would improve the abilities of priesthood holders to exercise their priesthood, minister within their communities, and prepare them for service in the Church.

The final adjustment would involve significant structural changes but may be a way to improve the quality of leadership and simplify life for the priesthood leaders themselves. Certain callings within the Church, like stake president and bishop, require full-time service. Currently, the men in these positions are required to work a full-time secular job, or be financially independent, in addition to their ecclesiastical functions. If these men could be financially supported by the Church, in the form of a living stipend modelled on the stipends received by General Authorities, two things could occur: 1) these leaders could better devote their time and energies to the service of God and their local congregations; 2) it would open up these positions to men who might otherwise make good priesthood leaders but are currently unable to serve because of the time and financial constraints.

The goal of these changes is to increase the ability of the ordained Latter-day Saint to serve the Church and his local community. The solution proposed is practicable but would require significant changes to emphasis on priesthood education and the deployment of Church resources. The questions the Church needs to ask are simple, ‘is it worth the effort?’ and ‘is it the will of God?’.