Kristine is trying to get everyone reved up for Holy Week over at BCC. I wish her well, but I suspect that she isn’t going to succeed on this one. There is too much low-church Puritanism in the Mormon DNA, I suspect, for the kind of High Church pagentry that Anglican-envying Mormons like Kristine or Lutheran-envying Mormons like Russell would like to see. I have never really encountered much in the way of organized Mormon aping of Holy Week. On the other hand, I have seen lots of stake activity committees, Institute teachers, and BYU professors organize Passover feasts. Indeed, other than Kristine’s plea to the internet, I have recieved no Mormon invitations to Holy Week activities. I was asked, however, if I would be at the local Institute’s passover celebration.
There is, I think, a deep point about Mormonism lurking in this dicotomy. Holy Week is ultimately about participation in the ritual of the Church universal and catholic (small ‘c’). To be sure, Holy Week is about genuine devotion to Christ, but it is devotion mediated through the liturgical year of the Middle Ages and its after life in various forms of High Church christianity.
To the extent that one is looking for pre-Restoration spiritual ancestors for Mormonism, however, this is not the place to go looking. Rather, one should look to low church and Puritan movements in England, and even (if John Brookes is to be believed) among the radical, ultra-Puritan fringe of revolutionary England like the Ranters and the Quakers. There is much about the folks ways and worship habits of these groups that finds its way into Mormonism. Other than our willingness to celebrate Christmas, however, there just isn’t that much Anglicanism there.
The Puritans and other dissenting English sects, however, were more than simply “not High Church.” They were judiasizers. Rather than harking back to the integrated world of the universal medieval church, they looked to ancient Israel. Mormonism takes this strand of Reformation thinking and radicalizes it even further. The Seperatists who landed at Plymouth rock invoked the language of Israel and Exodus, but ultimately their theology was rooted in the Augustinianism of John Calvin, and in that sense they remained firmly within the grasp of the universal church of the Middle Ages.
The Mormons whose exodus carried them to the banks of the River Jordon, however, had left Calvinism behind, and embarked on judiazing project — polygamy, temples, prophets, and law over grace — that would have made Bradford or Winthrop blanche at the heresy. It is also the reason why — the aesthetic merits of High Church services aside — one is far more likely to find Mormons engaged in Passover rituals rather than Holy Week rituals this time of year.