We sometimes speak of the idea of a holy envy—meaning something that we admire in another a religion. For years, while remaining active in my ward, I spent a considerable amount of time at a Presbyterian Church ringing English handbells. Over time, one feature of their worship that I developed a bit of a holy envy for is their use of a liturgical calendar.
The liturgical calendar is an approach to remembering Christ’s life throughout the year. In Christian traditions that follow a calendar, the year is divided into a series of seasons with specific moods, theological emphases, and modes of prayer. Important holidays like Christmas and Easter are proceeded by periods of penitence, reflection, and preparation (Advent and Lent, respectively) and followed by several weeks of talking about the stories of Christ and Christianity that happened because of the events that the holidays focus on. Scripture readings and sermon subjects used in church are often based on the calendar, making the calendar the foundation of their worship services.
The reason I have holy envy for the calendar is because it helps people focus on Christ throughout the year—particularly around Christmas and Easter. I wanted to try it out in my personal life, so I have been developing my own version of the calendar that incorporates readings from all of our scriptural cannon to use in Sunday evening scripture study or family home evenings. Strictly speaking, of course, it’s not liturgical (I’m not suggesting it be used in our public services in the Church), but focused on use in the family. With the renewed emphasis on gospel instruction in the home, I thought I might share what I’ve been doing in case someone else finds it to be valuable and to hear what people’s thoughts on the idea are.
The series of readings that I have been using are divided into four main sections, spanning most of the year. There is a specific topic for each week, and I have written up an introduction to the scriptures being read that brings together important quotes from Church leaders on the topic and explains how that week’s reading fits into the larger picture. The first section is an introduction to the year through a discussion of the Plan of Salvation. The scriptures for this section are mostly focused on the experiences of Adam and Eve and take place from late September to mid-November. Following traditional Christian calendars, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost are all observed with readings for each Sunday of the respective seasons and daily during the week leading up to Easter. Finally, I’ve included a season celebrating the Restoration of the Gospel in late June through mid-August. Since my family has Utah pioneer ancestry and lives in the United States, I’ve based the time frame around both the United States Independence Day and Pioneer Day in July. Over the course of that season, I cover a basic outline of Latter-day Saint history and family history stories about the pioneer trek and settlement in Utah. The calendar is an ongoing work in progress, but it has helped keep Christ on my mind throughout the year.
Below is a table of the readings. It isn’t perfect yet—some holidays, like Pentecost, don’t line up exactly with the traditional Christian calendar, and if Easter is later (as it is this year), it throws off the timeline leading up to the Restoration history season. Some readings are also a bit long for reading with small children (though the Church’s Bible videos are another possibility there). That being acknowledged, this is what I have been using:
|Plan of Salvation||Last Sunday in September||Premortality||Abraham 3:19-28; Revelation 12:7-10|
|Plan of Salvation||First Sunday in October||The Creation||Genesis 1:1-2:3 OR Genesis 2:4-25 OR Moses 2:1-3:3 OR Abraham 4:1-5:5|
|Plan of Salvation||Second Sunday in October||The Fall of Adam and Eve||Genesis 3:1-24 OR Moses 4:1-31|
|Plan of Salvation||Third Sunday in October||The Atonement||Moses 5:1-15|
|Plan of Salvation||Fourth Sunday in October||The Gospel and Mortal Life||Moses 6:43-68|
|Plan of Salvation||First Sunday in November||Death and Resurrection||Alma 11:21-12:30|
|Plan of Salvation||Second Sunday in November||Enoch’s Vision||Moses 7:23-67|
|Plan of Salvation||Third Sunday in November||Abrahamic Covenant||Abraham 1:1-3; 2:1-13|
|Advent||Fourth Sunday before Christmas||Prophesies of Christ||Mosiah 3:1-13 OR Alma 7:7-13 OR Isaiah 53 OR Psalms 2 and 16|
|Advent||Third Sunday before Christmas||Samuel the Lamanite||Helaman 13:1-4; 14:2-19; 16:1-8|
|Advent||Second Sunday before Christmas||John the Baptist’s Birth||Luke 1:5-25, 57-80|
|Advent||Sunday before Christmas||The Annunciation||Luke 1:26-56; Matt. 1:18-24|
|Christmas||Christmas Eve||The Nativity||Luke 2:1-21; Matt. 2:1-15|
|Christmas||Christmas Day||The Nephite Christmas||3 Nephi 1:4-21|
|Christmas||First Sunday after Christmas||Childhood of Jesus||Matt. 2:19-23; Luke 2:40-52|
|Christmas||Second Sunday after Christmas||Baptism of Jesus||Matt. 3:1-17 OR Mark 1:1-11 OR Luke 3:1-22|
|Lent||Seventh Sunday before Easter||The Temptations||Matt. 4:1-11 OR Mark 1:12-13 OR Luke 4:1-15|
|Lent||Sixth Sunday before Easter||The Good Samaritan||Luke 10:25-37; I also used information from https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/2007/02/the-good-samaritan-forgotten-symbols?lang=eng to set up subsequent Lent readings|
|Lent||Fifth Sunday before Easter||Christ the Savior||John 4:1-42|
|Lent||Fourth Sunday before Easter||Miracles of Jesus||Matt. 8:23-9:8 OR Mark 5:1-43 OR Luke 8:22-56|
|Lent||Third Sunday before Easter||The Preparation of the Twelve||Matt. 4:18-22; 10:1-15, 40-42; 16:13-20; 17:1-8 OR Mark 1:14-20; 3:13-19; 6:7-13; 8:27-30; 9:2-8 OR Luke 5:1-11; 6:12-16; 9:1-6, 18-22, 28-36|
|Lent||Second Sunday before Easter||The Second Coming||JSM 1:1-55 OR Matt. 25:1-46 OR Mark 13:1-37 OR Luke 17:20-37|
|Holy Week||Sunday before Easter (Palm Sunday)||Triumphal Entry||Matt. 21:1-11 OR Mark 11:1-11 OR Luke 19:28-40 OR John 12:12-19|
|Holy Week||Monday before Easter||The Fig Tree||Matt. 21:18-22 OR Mark 11:12-26; I also used chapter 30 from Talmage’s Jesus the Christ to discuss the significance of this story|
|Holy Week||Tuesday before Easter||Plots Against Jesus||Matt. 21:23-46 OR Mark 11:27-33; 12:1-34 OR Luke 19:41-48; 20:9-26|
|Holy Week||Wednesday before Easter||The Anointing of Jesus||Matt. 26:1-16 OR Mark 14:1-11 OR Luke 7:36-50|
|Holy Week||Thursday before Easter||The Last Supper and Betrayal||Matt. 26:17-57 OR Mark 14:12-50 OR Luke 22:1-53 OR John 13:1-30; 18:1-12|
|Holy Week||Good Friday||The Trial and Crucifixion||Matt. 26:57-68; 27:1-61 OR Mark 14:53-65; 15:1-47 OR Luke 22:63-71; 23:1-56 OR John 18:19-24, 28-40; 19:1-42|
|Holy Week||Saturday before Easter||Ministry in the Spirit World||D&C 138:11-37|
|Easter||Easter Sunday||The Resurrection||Matt. 28:1-20 OR Mark 16:1-8 (Or 16:1-20) OR Luke 24:1-12, 36-53 OR John 20:1-23|
|Easter||Sunday after Easter||The Road to Emmaus||Luke 24:13-35|
|Easter||Second Sunday after Easter||Conversation with Peter||John 21:1-19|
|Easter||Third Sunday after Easter||The Forty Day Ministry||Acts 1:1-14|
|Easter||Fourth Sunday after Easter||Christ’s Visit to the Nephites, part 1||3 Nephi 11:1-41|
|Easter||Fifth Sunday after Easter||Christ’s Visit to the Nephites, part 2||3 Nephi 17:1-25; 19:1-3; 26:3, 6, 13-21|
|Early Church||Sixth Sunday after Easter||Day of Pentecost||Acts 2:1-42|
|Early Church||Seventh Sunday after Easter||Revelation to Peter||Acts 10:1-48|
|Early Church||Eighth Sunday after Easter||Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles||Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-22 OR Galatians 1:10-2:10 and 2 Cor. 11:22-28|
|Early Church||Ninth Sunday after Easter||The Apostasy||Dallin H. Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” CR April 1995. I also use Terryl L. Givens, “We Have Only the Old Thing” in shaping the discussion|
|Early Church||Tenth Sunday after Easter||The Reformation||Robert D. Hales, “Preparations for the Restoration and the Second Coming: ‘My Hand Shall Be over Thee”|
|Restoration||Sunday before Fourth of July||The Founding of the United States||1 Nephi 13:10-20|
|Restoration||Sunday after Fourth of July||Ministry of Joseph Smith||Selections from the Wentworth Letter|
|Restoration||Second Sunday after Fourth of July||The Martyrdom of Joseph Smith||D&C 135:1-7|
|Restoration||Third Sunday after Fourth of July||The Trek West||Summarize history, family stories; story of Come, Come, Ye Saints OR Our Heritage, 69-80|
|Restoration||Fourth Sunday after Fourth of July||Settling Deseret||Summarize history, family stories OR Our Heritage 81-91|
|Restoration||Fifth Sunday after Fourth of July||Continuing Revelation from the Living Christ||Summarize history of Church to today and read The Living Christ|
Chad, I like this. I would probably come up with a somewhat different list of seasons and alter other details — that would be a large part of the fun of such a plan — but I really like your emphasis on Christ (not, say, necessarily devoting the entire month of July to the pioneers), and your drawing on Restoration scripture, and your attention to our uniquely LDS view of Christ and his roles in the life and especially our dispensation.
I think perhaps one revision I might make in my own version of your calendar is designating one season to what I might label “The Millennial Day,” that would draw a little from your topics elsewhere in the year, like Resurrection, continuing revelation, the Second Coming, and other future events — in part because anticipating the future lends itself to the anticipation of a calendar season with preliminary weeks leading up to a grand emphasis on the Second Coming.
Thank you Ardis. Those are some good ideas. Leading up to anticipating the Millennial Day does make a lot of sense.
You do make a good point with the pioneers (and American history too, for that matter). Those are largely a tribute to my family heritage and my personal love of history that I want to pass on to my children, but I recognize they don’t have the same meaning to everyone. Another issue I ran into in presenting things succinctly here is that I couldn’t include a lot of nuance of how I present the texts. For example, the Joseph Smith weeks have some important quotes that set them up as showing what God has done through Joseph Smith to bring people to salvation via Christ.
Like you indicated, though, part of the fun of discussing this is that we each have perspectives and ideas we can bring to the table to make a calendar that is meaningful.
Chad, I think this is generally a good idea. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen something like it – there is a lot of talk about liturgical calendars on BCC.
Nevertheless, I think the distinctly Mormon observances could be handled better. The Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph should be observed on the exact day – 27 June – where it would form a sort of doublet with the Martyrdom of Peter and Paul two days later.
There should be a lot more emphasis on the Martyrdom in this church (centering celebrations of Joseph to his birthday on 23 Dec. is a bad idea, not least because it is buried in a much deeper holy season). Secular society has this problem too, i.e. remembering the Rev. Dr. M. L. King in January rather than 4 April as they ought. We do not mourn properly anymore – for the early saints it was an occaision of very deep mourning. Partly that is because of our view that, since we are gauranteed to always have a living prophet, nothing that serious was lost with Joseph’s death. It wasn’t seen that way at the time; Brigham Young was pretty clear about his belief that he was not Joseph’s equal.
Then there is the revelation of the Book of Mormon, which in my opinion should be a very major celebration, because we believe that book would bring all nations out of the awful state of blindness in which the apostasy had left them. So 22 Sep. would be the dominant holy day of the fall season, marked with by a reeducation of ourselves to studying the Book of Mormon and spreading its message.
Oops, that phrase in my last commend should read “marked by a rededication,” not “marked with by a reeducation.”
I like this, well done.