Monday, March 19, 2012

Worship with Dance

One form of worship that took place anciently and in scriptures which we don't see hardly any of nowadays is worship involving dance.  I'm not usually one to think about dance, however the idea in context of worship and ceremonies has something interesting about it that caught my attention the past few days.

Doctrine and Covenants 136:28If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.

And this from the bible dictionary: "Dancing. A natural sign of rejoicing, and as such frequently formed part of religious ceremonies (Ex. 15:20; 32:19; Judg. 11:34; 2 Sam. 6:14–16; 1 Chr. 15:29). The dancing was often accompanied by a song with chorus, and instrumental music (Ps. 68:25; 149:3; 150:4)."

Dance frequently formed part of religious ceremonies?  Can you imagine?  With regard to song, I've seen plenty of singing in modern day worship, however what I haven't seen nearly as much of is singing that is praising God.  It's different than just following notes in a hymn book which we as LDS do freequently.  But when song is actual "worship" that speaks of something higher.  I wish it happened more.  

But back to dance. At one point in our own church's history dance was part of worship. Had Joseph Smith not been martyred, some believe that in time he may have revealed yet more of the Endowment, including inspired music, singing, and dancing as part of the prayer circle.  Can you imagine that?  Such elements appear anciently among God's people and it's not difficult to see how it would be included as part of the restoration of all things.  Many acts of worship and praise are said to mirror heaven.  So a ceremony can reveal a lot about heaven.      

One interesting comment from Brigham Young is worth mentioning.  Brigham encouraged appropriate dancing in the Nauvoo Temple following ordinance work; a form of joyous praise to God.  According to Heber C. Kimball, “Pres. Young called the attention of the whole company, and gave them a message . . . that this temple (Nauvoo) was a holy place, and that when we danced we danced unto the Lord, and that no person would be allowed to come on to this floor, and afterwards mingle with the wicked. . . . He strongly impressed upon the mind of those present the impropriety of mingling again with the wicked after having come in here, and taken upon them the covenants” (Heber C. Kimball Journal, cited in Elden J. Watson, Brigham Young Addresses 1836—1849)

Hugh Nibley adds, “The great celebrations of Israel as ordered by Moses always required rejoicing and dancing to the sound of the timbrel, the sackbut, and the drum. I have seen such happy ring dances of Jewish elders performed near the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem while members of our Latter-day Saint tour group expressed lively disapproval of such undignified goings-on." (Hugh Nibley, Promised Lands, in Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, FARMS-Deseret Book) My father-in-law recently traveled to Jerusalem and reported something very similar in Jerusalem.  A Jewish dance performed near the Wailing Wall.  He is a very fun and laid back person and wanted to join in, as I recall I think he did for a second.  I like that attitude. 

According to Nibley and others researchers, ancient prayer circles were described as a dance.  “The ancient sacred dance, whether known as the circle-dance, the ring-dance, or the prayer circle, is well attested in the early Christian sources. It is found not only in the New Testament, but the Old, and in other cultures, such as ancient Egypt. Dancing had its origin in the temple, and the circle-dance is a simulation of the dance of the angels in heaven, more specifically the orders of the angels which guard the heavenly spheres, as they move in their concentric circles, wheels within wheels. (Frederick M. Huchel, The Cosmic Ring Dance of the Angels, Frithurex Atheneum Press)

Dance as a form of worship is totally absent now days.  It's too bad.  From the current perspective of the church it's almost difficult to imagine what it would even be like or look like. It would probably strike us as too irreverent.  The closest we have is young single adult dances which promote socializing for the youth but have no intention of anything worship related.  Many youth will question any benefits of such social scenes :)

The scriptures speak of a different kind of dance.  

Alma 36:22 gives a glimpse of what we may mirror on earth with our ceremonies and worship. According to Alma and Lehi there is song and praising while surrounding God's throne.  So there is music there.  And music leads to dancing.   I would guess our ward choirs (and of course Mormon tab choir) are attempts to imitate or replicate some form of the worship that takes place around God's throne.  God does in fact try to reveal things to us through our ordinances and ceremonies.  It wasn't just "someones" random idea to have a choir at church.  It imitates the place we are all from.

I wonder if we have become almost too rigid to really entertain some of these ideas about worship.  It seems now we have taken on the view that such acts would be too undignified or sacrilegious. Our definition of reverent may not allow for what the Lord has in store.  We should maybe not be so religiously rigid.  

    No comments:

    Post a Comment