Robert L. Millet Blog Posts
Publications Director of BYU Religious Studies Center
POSTED BY: holzapfel
Recently, many Saints attended one of twelve dedication services for the Draper Utah Temple, the one hundred twenty-ninth operating temple, held March 20–22. Additionally, tens of thousands participated in the Sunday afternoon session through a satellite broadcast to meetinghouses and stake centers throughout Utah. For many, it was a red-letter day full of excitement, gratitude, and great spiritual renewal.
An important feature of temple dedications is the sacred Hosanna Shout, first given at the Kirtland Temple on March 27, 1836 (tomorrow is the anniversary of it’s dedication). This powerful expression of praise and worship has been repeated at all temple dedications, including the Draper temple.
Some years ago I did some research on the history the Salt Lake Temple. I discovered that the sacred Hosanna Shout was given first on April 6, 1892, at the capstone-laying ceremony, and second, at the many formal dedication services beginning on April 6, 1893.
At the capstone ceremony, President George Q. Cannon, a counselor in the First Presidency, said “that there may be no misunderstanding about the manner in which the shout of Hosanna should be given when the capstone should be laid, Pres. Lorenzo Snow would drill the congregation in the shout.” Then President Snow said, “This is no ordinary order, but is—and we wish it to be distinctly understood—a sacred shout, and employed only on extraordinary occasions like the one now before us.” He urged them with these words: “We wish the Saints to feel when they pronounce this shout that it comes from their hearts. Let your hearts be filled with thanksgiving,” adding, “Now when we go before the temple and this shout goes forth, we want every man and every woman to shout these words to the very extent of their voice, so that every house in this city may tremble, the people in every portion of this city hear it and it may reach to the eternal worlds.” He finally told the congregation that the sacred shout “was given in the heavens when ‘all the sons of God shouted for joy’ [Job 38:7].”
B. H. Roberts wrote concerning this shout, “When voiced by thousands and sometimes tens of thousands in unison, and at their utmost strength, it is most impressive and inspiring. It is impossible to stand unmoved on such an occasion. It seems to fill [the site] with mighty waves of sound; and the shout of men going into battle cannot be more stirring. It gives wonderful vent to religious emotions, and is followed by a feeling of reverential awe—a sense of oneness with God.”
Some fifty thousand people were reportedly in attendance at this special occasion on the Temple Block, with thousands more watching from adjoining rooftops, windows, and even power poles. The streets near the temple were filled with those seeking to witness the exercises of that day. “There was such a jam of humanity, however, that everyone was nearly crushed,” Joseph Dean noted. “The whole block was one mass of humanity. After the people had gotten in place as well as they could the ceremonies began.” It was the largest gathering in Utah history, a record unchallenged for several decades.
When this highest granite block of the temple was in place, President Snow led the Saints in shouting, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! to God and the Lamb! Amen! Amen! Amen!” This heartfelt thanksgiving praise was repeated three times with increasing force as the participants waved white handkerchiefs. “The spectacle and effect of this united demonstration,” wrote one witness, “was grand beyond description, the emotions of the multitude being stirred up by it to the greatest intensity of devotion and enthusiasm.”
John Lingren, a visitor from Idaho Falls, recalled, “The scene . . . [was] beyond the power of language to describe. . . . The eyes of thousands were moistened with tears in the fullness of their joy. The ground seemed to tremble with the volume of the sound which sent forth its echoes to the surrounding hills.” Another eyewitness wrote, “Everyone shouted as loud as they possibly could waving their handkerchiefs, the effect was indescribable.”
A year later, on April 6, 1893, the Church held the first of the formal dedication services. “When the great song, ‘The Spirit of God like a Fire Is Burning’ was sung by the united audience,” well-known Utah photographer and Tabernacle Choir member Charles R. Savage wrote, “a different feeling thrilled through me from any one I have ever experienced. The hosanna shout was something long to be remembered and one I never expect to hear again during my life.”
The service included the dedicatory prayer offered by President Woodruff, talks by the First Presidency, and the rendering of the awe-inspiring sacred Hosanna Shout with “the entire audience standing upon their feet and waving white handkerchiefs in concert,” Francis Hammond wrote. For Brother Hammond, “it seemed the heavenly host had come down to mingle with us.” Emmeline B. Wells noted: “This shout of Hosanna thrilled the hearts of the vast multitude, and echoed grandly through the magnificent building; so exultant and enraptured were the saints in their rejoicing that their faces beamed with gladness, and the whole place seemed glorified and sanctified in recognition of the consecration made on that momentous and never-to-be forgotten occasion.”
L. John Nuttal wrote that the shout was “rendered with a hearty good will, my heart and soul were so full of the spirit of the Lord, that I could scarcely contain myself.” At the conclusion of the soul-stirring shout, the choir immediately began singing a specially composed hymn. Choir member Thomas Griggs wrote, “Choir sang Brother Evan Stephen’s ‘Hosannah Chorus,’ the congregation joining in the latter part with the ‘Spirit of God Like a Fire Is Burning.’”
We’ll sing and we’ll shout with the armies of heaven,
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever, Amen and amen!
The combined effect of some twenty-five hundred people standing together in the upper assembly room of the temple, all joining together in the sacred shout and singing the dedication hymn, was overpowering. Many participants wept uncontrollably; others could not finish the hymn as they were so overcome by the spirit of the occasion.
James Bunting said, “It would be in vain for me to attempt a description of the interior of the Temple or to describe the heavenly feeling that pervaded all the exercises.” One account simply stated, “Each must see and hear and feel for himself.”
President Woodruff later told a congregation of Saints that “the Heavenly Host were in attendance at the [first] dedication [service] . . . and if the eyes of the congregation could be opened they would [have] seen Joseph and Hyrum [Smith], Brigham Young, John Taylor and all the good men who had lived in this dispensation assembled with us, as also Esaias, Jeremiah, and all the Holy Prophets and Apostles who had prophesied of the latter day work.” President Woodruff continued, “They were rejoicing with us in this building which had been accepted of the Lord and [when] the [Hosanna] shout had reached the throne of the Almighty,” they too had joined in the joyous shout.
As new temples are built, more and more Latter-day Saints will be in a position to participate in a temple dedication service, allowing them to shout praise to the Lord!
POSTED BY: holzapfel
We are now in our tenth year of publishing the Religious Educator (TRE). When Robert L. Millet (then dean of Religious Education at BYU) asked me to take the lead in this new venture, it forced me to think about the niche TRE might fill. Over the years, I found that it was important to recruit specific authors to prepare contributions to enhance the regular submissions.
Last year, as we approached our tenth year of publication, I decided it might be good to identify some of the best articles in TRE and republish them in a paperback volume. First, it could introduce a new audience to TRE, and second, it would allow those most-requested articles to see the light of day without people having to pay a lot of money to obtain out-of-print back issues of TRE.
Eventually I decided on two separate volumes, the first (Teach One Another Words of Wisdom: Selections from the Religious Educator; published February 2009) focusing on devotional and teaching articles, and the second (By Study and by Faith: Selections from the Religious Educator; published March 2009) focusing on doctrinal, historical, and scriptural content.
This second volume was released this past week. As is my tradition, I took the time to thumb through it, and when I was done about an hour later, I said out loud, “Wow! This is a great volume.” I was surprised at both the quality and quantity of excellent and thoughtful articles that had appeared in TRE over the years. Some of them have become classics, and this new publication will highlight others.
Elders David A. Bednar, D. Todd Christofferson, Jay E. Jensen, and Neil A. Maxwell have given us some things to consider. My colleagues Richard E. Bennett, Paul Y. Hoskisson, Kent P. Jackson, Frank F. Judd Jr., Joseph Fielding McConkie, Robert L. Millet, Kerry Muhlestein, Paul H. Peterson, Dana M. Pike, David R. Seely, and Thomas A. Wayment have given us some thoughtful things to think about that will certainly expand our understanding of the things of God.
I am going to use some of these articles in my classes. For example, Kent P. Jackson, Frank E. Judd Jr., and David R. Seely have provided us a wonderful resource that every person who reads the King James Bible will certainly want to read, “Chapters, Verses, Punctuation, Spelling, and Italics in the King James Version” (203–30). This may be one of the most important helps any student of the KJV could read to help them understand the printed word. In the end, entering into dialogue with these authors can help us appreciate the scriptures and Restoration in new ways and, more importantly, inspire us to greater discipleship.
POSTED BY: holzapfel
Recently the Department of Church history and doctrine at BYU hosted a guest lecture by Terryl L. Givens, professor of literature and religion and James A. Bostwick Chair of English, University of Richmond. Such opportunities allow BYU faculty to rub shoulders with well-known professors from around the world.
I was particularly interested in one lecture during his weeklong visit. It was a follow-up to his book People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). I recommend the book for its thoughtful insights about Mormonism and Mormons. It is certainly a tour de force!
You may recall that a paradox is “a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true” (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language). I have often been drawn to such tensions but have become very comfortable with the notion of paradoxes since I realized the greatest paradox is the truth that Jesus died that we might live.
Givens first discusses “the polarity of authoritarianism and individualism” (xiv), followed by the contrast in the Prophet’s teachings about what we already know and an ambitious “program of eternal learning” (xv).
Next he tackles the Prophet’s insight that “God [is] an exalted man, man a God in embryo.” Givens states, “The resulting paradox is manifest in the recurrent invasions of the banal into the realm of the holy and the infusion of the sacred into the realm of the quotidian” (xv). Then he discusses the “two related tensions in Mormonism: exile and integration, and a gospel viewed as both American and universal” (xv).
During his time with the faculty, Givens discussed yet another paradox—the Prophet’s “competing impulse of assimilation and innovation.” I believe he is correct on this point. Latter-day Saints tend to highlight the Prophet’s innovations (he restored doctrine that had been “kept hid from before the foundation of the world” (Doctrine and Covenants 124:41). Yet Joseph Smith also assimilated truth from the world around him, saying, “[If the] Presbyterians [have] a truth [we] embrace that. Baptist, Methodist etc. get all the good in the world [and] come out a pure Mormon” (The Words of Joseph Smith [Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980], 234). It would not hurt us to identify those truths he found in other faith traditions, paying attention to how he adopted and adapted them as part of the message he proclaimed. This does not in any way diminish the flood of revelation that constantly flowed down from heaven upon him as the Lord’s anointed.