LDS Myths about Reorganized Latter Day Saints

January 27, 2008
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My uncle emailed me the other day. The bishop in his ward gave a talk about the Kirtland Temple and explained how the LDS church donated $100,000.00 per year to the Community of Christ for its upkeep. My uncle wanted to know, “is that true?”

I knew it wasn’t. My work with the John Whitmer Historical Association for the last few years has allowed me to form close connections with a number of Community of Christ leaders. But since this had been preached from the pulpit as a fact, I wanted to respond with definitive facts. So I talked to my friend Barbara Walden who is the director of the Kirtland Temple, and I put the question to her directly.

Of course the answer, unequivocally, was no. But it’s no surprise that she’d heard the question before. This particular canard has had a long enough shelf life that the Community of Christ probably could justify adding it to an FAQ list on their website. My friend Steve Shields who works at church headquarters in Independence, Missouri, loves to tell a much better variant of this Kirtland Temple story. One of his LDS friends had it on good authority that the LDS church was “in negotiations” to buy the Kirtland Temple for the sum of $40 million. Again, Steve knew this wasn’t the case, but he called the office of the First Presidency to confirm or deny the rumor. Grant McMurray, who was then one of the counselors conferred with his colleagues. President McMurray told Steve that he could tell his LDS friend that the answer was, quote: “hell, no!”

This is hardly the only faith-promoting LDS rumor that is frequently repeated about the RLDS/Community of Christ. LDS Mormons seem to know a lot of facts about their Reorganized Latter Day Saint cousins. The only problem is that most of these facts aren’t facts at all.

Let me cover a few more myths that I hear all the time:

* The RLDS church only gave women the priesthood because they ran out of male Smiths to lead the church. False. It’s true that the Prophet Wallace B. Smith, great grandson of Joseph Smith Jr. — who is still alive and serves as Emeritus (or retired) President of the church — had daughters, but no sons. However, there are plenty of male descendents of Joseph Smith Jr. who are members of the Community of Christ and who are even major figures in the church. It would have been very easy to continue to keep the presidency in the Smith family. However, President Smith did not feel called to do so; rather, he felt called to end the practice.

* The Community of Christ scrapped the Book of Mormon in order to join the World Council of Churches (WCC). False. The Community of Christ has not scrapped the Book of Mormon. I do think people who view the Book of Mormon as a literal history book are in the minority in the Community of Christ. However, these same believers have a generally more sophisticated view of scripture in general. Much of the events of the Bible are not literal histories, from Adam and Noah to the Judean kings. There doesn’t have to have been a real person named Job to make the scripture inspired. What the Community of Christ has scrapped is the exclusivist claim to be “the one and only true church.” The church now understands that while its own heritage has been inspired by God, other churches and individuals have also been inspired and are valid.

* The RLDS church changed its name because it wants to become another Protestant church. False. Charles D. Neff, who was one of the more important RLDS apostles in the later 20th century was actually a convert. He told the story that when he first heard the name of the church, “The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” his reaction was, “that is a terrible name for a church.” And he was right. Frankly, the LDS church has a terrible name too. The church was established in 1830 as the “Church of Christ.” That name was indistinct and was often confused with other churches of the same name, especially the Campbellite Church of Christ (Disciples of Christ). So, in 1834, the name of the church was changed to “Church of the Latter Day Saints.” That change upset members who had come to believe the Campbellite doctrine that God’s true church must have Christ’s name in it, so in 1838 the name was changed to “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” (The spelling “Latter-day Saints” was used occasionally in the early church, but LDS church only formalized that spelling in Utah.) “Reorganized” was legally added to the name in the late 19th century in order to protect church property from the Federal anti-polygamy legislation. The change in 2001 to “Community of Christ” was meant to evoke the church’s heritage (by returning close to the original name), while emphasizing one of the core values that Reorganized Latter Day Saints have always drawn from their organization: the special sense of community.

* The LDS church should not end priesthood discrimination on basis gender (or adopt any other progressive ideal); look at what happened to the RLDS church. Whereas the other myths are relatively harmless, I find this one to be pernicious. The problem with this comparison is that it assumes that at some point in the 1970s, the LDS and the RLDS church were in the same place and their different paths almost function like a controlled science experiment. The reality is that the organizations aren’t comparable and never were.

The two have always been composed of extremely different types of Mormons. RLDS members at their core are dissenters and free-thinkers — the Mormon value they have always put first is free agency. For the RLDS, William Law (the editor of the Nauvoo Expositor) is a hero because he fought against creeping theocracy and corruption in the church, even though it meant taking on Joseph Smith Jr. himself. The people who became LDS, by contrast, were the mass of movement’s obeyers. For the people who joined Brigham Young’s organization, William Law was a Judas. It doesn’t matter that he was exposing terrible abuses of authority because it is of paramount importance to obey the hierarchy, right or wrong: Enter into polygamy because the leader commands it; cease polygamy for the same reason.

The fact that the two groups have always had this fundamentally opposite market differentiation means that the LDS organization has nothing to learn whatsoever from the RLDS organization’s experience. It would be impossible for MicroSoft to emulate Apple’s business practices because Apple has always been a niche player, while MicroSoft is working as the broad-based establishment. Let’s say Apple successfully branded itself to a particular niche of young, trendy professionals. If MicroSoft attempted to ape that success with similar marketing schemes, it would most likely only succeed in alienating its much broader client base.

Does the Community of Christ’s experience (for good or ill) presage the results the LDS church can expect to reap when women are eventually ordained and welcomed into the leadership? In the words of the RLDS First Presidency, the true answer is: “hell, no!”

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93 Responses to LDS Myths about Reorganized Latter Day Saints

  1. Kevin Barney
    January 27, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Very interesting. When I was young I used to feel a sense of competition with the RLDS, with an almost antagonistic edge. But as I’ve grown older and participated in the MHA (and once attended JWHA when it was in Nauvoo), those feelings all evaporated, and now I simply view CoC as my brothers and sisters–and cousins–in the Gospel. I think to a great extent this is true institutionally as well; Bill Russell’s observation that these days the two churches are “better friends” strikes me as indeed accurate. Unfortunately, a lot of LDS are still living in the old days.

  2. January 27, 2008 at 9:01 am

    I heart John Hamer.

    I’m guilty (still) of perpetuating some of these stereotypes. May I (someday) really learn my lesson.

  3. Mark IV
    January 27, 2008 at 9:05 am

    John,

    Maybe you could address another rumor I have heard. Did the Salt Lake church make a large financial contribution towards the construction of the temple in Independence? I have heard that repeated among LDS people in three different time zones, but I have never heard anything definitive.

    • Kit
      January 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      The Community of Christ tended to refuse very large donations even from it’s own members for the building of the Temple.  They wanted the largest number of people to offer small donations so that the whole church took part in it’s financing.  It was a community effort.

      • February 9, 2013 at 3:59 pm

        this is correct,I was the temple chairman in my branch,to raise money for the temple.And worked hard for this cause ,active members,non active members as well as friends of the church donated to this cause.all branches in all dicrticts(at that time) worked very hard ,for this was a very exciting time for us.

    • Barry Needham
      September 14, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      They would not have turned down any money for the temple. The prostitution clubs of Amerca could send then a check and they would of raced to the bank to cash it… The RLDS fell into apostacy in the late 50′s and continue to slide they have the same divine authority as does tha LDS church zero.. Brigham Young Re-Ordained his priesthood and Re-baptised his members thus severing any authority there was..

  4. John Hamer
    January 27, 2008 at 9:21 am

    Kevin: I think you’re absolutely right. The two churches had been very antagonistic. I’ve talked to people who admit that a generation ago spoling LDS vacations was almost the primary goal of RLDS guides in Nauvoo and Kirtland. Occasionally I can sense some latent bad feelings from people on both sides, but I agree that this has mostly evaporated and the connections between the two groups are very positive.

    John: There’s hope for you, yet, ya’ big lug. :)

    Mark IV: The LDS church did not make a financial contribution toward the construction of the temple in Independence and the Community of Christ did not contribute financially to the construction of the new Nauvoo Temple. However, both churches swapped land in order to make both temples possible. The RLDS church owned some of the land that the Nauvoo Temple is on and the LDS church owned some of the land that the Independence Temple is on. My understanding is that it was a straight swap and that money didn’t change hands.

  5. Clark
    January 27, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Mark, wasn’t that the Community of Christ that owns the Temple lot? I think that’s a different faith. (And I feel for those guys since so many well meaning Mormon tourists say some pretty insensitive things to them)

    The big problem the RLDS had was basically the adoption by their equivalent of BYU and then most of their equivalent of GAs of fairly liberal Protestant thinking in the early 1960′s. I think the problems they’ve faced since are about on par with liberal Protestantism in general.

  6. John Hamer
    January 27, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Clark: The Independence Temple, the Auditorium and the LDS Visitor Center are all located on the “greater Temple Lot” — the parcel that Bishop Edward Partridge purchased for that purpose. However, the actual spot that Joseph Smith Jr. and others dedicated for building the first of the planned temples is owned by the Church of Christ (Temple Lot). As you say, it’s a separate Latter Day Saint denomination. The LDS church are Brighamites, the RLDS are Josephites and the Temple Lot church are Hedrickites, so named for an early leader, Granville Hedrick.

    In terms of having liberal professors at Graceland University — I don’t think this has been a problem for the RLDS church at all. I think it’s likely that if the RLDS church had tried to tack hard right in the 1970s, it would have lost more members on the left than it ultimately lost on the right.

  7. WestBerkeleyFlats
    January 27, 2008 at 10:36 am

    The Community of Christ and Grant McMurray have got it going on. Compare his speech on “Native Americans and the Dream of Zion” with its statement on the racist views and rhetoric of the Book of Mormon:

    “We cannot mask with theological apologetics or cultural acrobatics the inadequate and destructive consequences of language such as that”

    with the convoluted apologetics put forth by groups such as FARMS. Of course, McMurray had actual theological training and thus a greater sensitivity to these issues than LDS apologists, none of whom I would characterize as theologically sophisticated.

    Oh, and the RLDS church has always viewed William Law as a hero? Well, rock on, so have I.

  8. WestBerkeleyFlats
    January 27, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Oh, and this reminds me of how my deacon’s quorum advisor, who was director of seminaries and institutes, thought that it was hilarious that the RLDS church was moving in a more progressive direction in the mid-1980s. He characterized the ordination of women as the result of not having direct Smith descendants and the movement away from certain aspects of the Book of Mormon as a desperate bid to get WCC funding. I think that he said something along the lines of “Well, they might as well be liberal Protestants at this point!” with a clear element of disdain and denominational superiority in his voice.

  9. NM Tony
    January 27, 2008 at 11:38 am

    John Hamer,

    What a great post. These are the posts I really enjoy reading becuase it dispels the too often repeated rumors and gossip that tend to spread from LDS pulpits. You have solid support and firsthand knowledge of the evidence. Although I never disrepected or had any negative thoughts concerning the RLDS church (in fact, I was quite apathetic to them), I can honestly say that from this post I’ve developed a greater insight into who they are (coming from having no insight at all), and I genuinely respect their position. Thanks for the information, John.

  10. Mark IV
    January 27, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    John,

    Thanks for the informative reply.

  11. January 27, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    WBF,

    Please email me at mormonstories (at) gmail.com

  12. Ann
    January 27, 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Wonderful, wonderful post, John.

  13. Ann
    January 27, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I would love, love, love to see a Mormon Matters post with an interview of the president of the Kirtland temple. Hint, hint.

  14. John Hamer
    January 27, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    WBF: I find the old “Protestant” charge seems especially odd these days, given the new fervor that so many LDS Mormons have for being included under the “Christian” banner. Obviously, the entire Latter Day Saint movement is an off-shoot of (or a part of) Protestant Christianity.

    In its initial form, the movement had a lot in common with fellow Restorationists, like the Disciples of Christ (which is where Latter Day Saints get the idea of a Great Apostasy). By 1844, Latter Day Saint theology and practice had taken some radical turns, but most of these remained confined to an inner circle, sworn to secrecy. After the schism, Brigham Young expanded and standardized all of these practices for the general membership.

    Joseph Smith III, however, never emphasized them and gradually waited for them to die out. I’ve said elsewhere that it’s an academic argument whether the LDS church is a Protestant Christian denomination, whether it is part of a new branch of Christianity, or whether it is part of a new world religion altogether. However, because the RLDS church never embraced the King Follet discourse theology, it seems hard to argue that it ever strayed far enough away from the fold to have been anything other than Christian (and frankly Protestant). That’s not a recent change; that dates back to the 1860s.

  15. John Hamer
    January 27, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    NM Tony: You’re welcome & I’m pleased. I think these rumors are totally innocent, but I do hear them all the time. Concerning the RLDS “ran out of Smiths” rumor, I remember as a kid being told that the RLDS church had run out of Smiths and they did the genealogy and found out that President Kimball was the next appropriate heir and that they had been forced to offer the presidency to him, but that he had politely declined. Now that doesn’t even make sense, since Spencer W. Kimball wasn’t descended of Joseph Smith at all. But I think it highlights how these things are like a game of telephone. The rumor I heard must have originally been about Joseph Fielding Smith (actually a Hyrum Smith descendant) which got continued past its shelf life and applied to President Kimball.

    Mark: You’re quite welcome.

    Ann: Thanks & I like the idea of interviewing Barb. I’m sure she’d have a lot of interesting stories to share. :)

  16. January 27, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Again John Hamer…you have provided us with a brilliant post. I always enjoy the insight and objectivity you provide.

    Growing up in the UK and Saudi Arabia I never communed with the RLDS church much. And as I learn more I am growing to enjoy the changes they are making. I would like to see us adopt these, to some degree, in our church. I particularly like the name change.

  17. Dude
    January 27, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    I’ve heard that the LDS Church owns the mortgage on the RLDS sail shell in independence, as well as on the Kirtland Temple, because the COC needed an infusion of cash, and the LDS stepped up to provide it. Sounds like another myth not unlike the others that have been mentioned here. Does anybody know if any of these “LDS providing financing” type myths hold any water for anything?

  18. John Hamer
    January 27, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Thanks, Stephen. My personal feeling is that the most important changes the LDS church could make are: (1) introducing an emeritus system so that its apostles and presidency have 8-10 year terms, and (2) massively decentralizing to empower local members. (But that would be the topic of a different post…)

    Dude: The financing myths do not hold water. The LDS church does not give money or loan money to the Community of Christ. When the Community of Christ decided to build the Independence Temple, it had the experience of both the Kirtland Temple and the Auditorium. The Kirtland Temple bankrupted the 1830s church and the Auditorium nearly bankrupted the RLDS church in the Great Depression. Because of that, the Community of Christ raised twice as much money as they needed to build the temple; paid for the whole thing in cash; and used the extra money to invest in an endowment that pays for its upkeep w/o the need for any additional tithing revenue. The Kirtland Temple is likewise owned outright. The Community of Christ just built a $5 million Visitor Center in Kirtland, which again was bought outright.

  19. January 27, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Was there a technical glitch that deleted my comment, or was it unacceptable for some reason?

  20. John Hamer
    January 27, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Ardis: I didn’t see a post. I’m guessing the answer is technical glitch. Can you repost?

  21. January 27, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Don’t worry, Ardis. If we decided to put you on moderation, we’d give you an opportunity to get *out* of moderation. :-)

  22. Tony
    January 27, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Just curious…do CoC members observe the Word of Wisdom?

  23. John Hamer
    January 27, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Tony: Some do some don’t; it’s not a test of fellowship. My friend Ron Romig (who is church archivist) doesn’t smoke, drink or drink coffee. However, other Community of Christ friends of mine do drink and drink coffee. (I don’t know any who smoke.) A famous story Jan Shipps tells is that when she met Bob Flanders (a leading RLDS historian) in the 60s, he sat down with her at lunch, bringing a full mug of coffee. She had never seen such a thing among Latter Day Saints, and she was apparently staring. He told her, jokingly, “You’ll obvserve that I let it cool before drinking it.”

  24. January 27, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    John Hamer…amazing you should say that!! I completely agree on the emeritus status front…but I was thinking about the decentralization in the car on the way home!!! We have to have a chat about that as I was hoping to write an article in The Mormon Worker about the religious reforms and governmental reforms that brought about heavy centralization in King Hezekiah’s time and how this led to corruption and an apostasy from the earlier form of Royal Cult worship…the religion that Margaret Barker says is what Jews recognized as the orginial form of “Judaism” when Christ taught them. However, decentralization of religion can bring all sorts of problems and apostasy aswell. How do you think I should approach it so as to show that decentralization brings more autonomy and is generally something that can be good for the members and their spiritual worship…

    Do you think you would have time to do a collaborative effort on this? Maybe we could brainstorm…I could write it and then you could read it and say what you think we should improve or change so as not to impinge on too much on your time. I would like it to be pertinent to Mormon church worship in our day…as I too feel that the heavy corporatising of the church has been a ‘double edged sword’.

  25. hawkgrrrl
    January 27, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    Excellent post! I feel much more informed about CoC.

    I’ve been through the Kirtland Temple several times, and in my experience, the guides have changed their spiel over time. They used to be very focused on where Christ appeared in the temple and other spiritual events that were omitted in 2002 when I toured (the last time). In 2002, the focus was more on CoC’s mission and the historicity of the site as well as architectural features. The opposite was true at the nearby LDS-run sites where the focus was very much on the spiritual events that had taken place there and less on the history and features.

  26. January 27, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Great Q&A, John Hamer. This has a lot of helpful information.

    Can I ask a follow-up question: What’s your impression of the schism with Richard Price and the whole Restoration branch? How much of the membership ultimately broke away? Going forward, are both the CoC and the Restorationists going to remain viable religious bodies as separate entities? And is there much in the way of interaction between them?

    Also, to what extent does historically inaccurate anti-polygamy apologetics remain woven into general RLDS beliefs or perceptions? I’ve got a copy of Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy on my bookshelf. That’s just one argument, but of course it draws on a historical tradition that goes back to RLDS roots and the great missionary debates where Joseph Smith’s sons vigorously insisted that he had nothing to do with that pernicious Brighamite practice. Is it still the case that RLDS/CoC members tend to deny that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy?

    • Beyedoers
      January 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      I suggest taking your copy of JOSEPH SMITH FOUGHT POLYGAMY off the shelf and reading it.  Joseph Smith, Jr. clearly never taught nor practiced polygamy.

  27. John Hamer
    January 27, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Stephen W.: I’d love to talk about it with you. You have my email on the panel backend.

    Hawkgrrrl: I agree that the focus is very different. The Community of Christ historic sites are operated by the church’s heritage team, which is headed up by trained historians, and their tour guides are often history students (especially in the summer). The LDS sites are operated by the church’s missionary program and the guides are missionaries.

  28. John Hamer
    January 27, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Kaimi: I’m confident the Community of Christ will remain viable for the foreseeable future.

    According to historian David Howlett (who was raised Restorationist and converted to the Community of Christ), Restorationists have about 10,000 members worldwide. That compares to perhaps 200,000 Community of Christ members. Richard Price is now in very poor health. I personally don’t think that the Restorationists are viable in the long term (more than 3 or 4 generations), because they don’t have any organization; they’re just independent branches and what causes them to continue? I think there’s more potential in the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which comes from the same general group (RLDS conservatives) and is headed by a great great grandson of Joseph Smith Jr. They have maybe 3,000 members.

    In terms of who started polygamy: all of the Community of Christ leaders I know are aware that Joseph Smith Jr. is the originator of polygamy and that’s true for most of the membership I’ve talked to. However, there is a whole segment of members (especially the older generation) who don’t believe the evidence is there.

  29. Jeff
    January 27, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    My mission president told our whole mission several of the mentioned myths over and over. I remember being told that the LDS Church in SLC could get all of the RLDS land because if they were to ever change the church’s name the LDS church was entitled to the RLDS property, as part of the agreement where the LDS church gave the RLDS church money to bail them out of bankruptcy. Thanks for clearing all this up!

  30. January 27, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    I know this sounds like I’m uninformed, (but if the shoe fits….) Could you answer a few questions for me? Do CoC members like to be called Mormons, or some other nickname? Do you practice baptism for the dead?

    Thanks–I’ve always wondered, but never knew who to ask. (I’m a newbie to this site.)

  31. January 28, 2008 at 8:50 am

    John H., great post — I really enjoyed it.

    What is the typical Sunday meeting like in the CoC?

    Does the CoC preach from the Book of Mormon in its Sunday meetings and are there Sunday school curriculums that teach out of the Book of Mormon?

    Is there still an RLDS church on the hill above University Pkwy. in Provo near the University Mall — or was there ever one there?

  32. John Nilsson
    January 28, 2008 at 9:57 am

    John F.: There was an RLDS Church on the boundary of Provo/Orem in the spot you mention ten years ago. I attended a service there with a couple of my roommates from BYU for a class project on other denominations. It was a fascinating experience, and I interviewed the pastor, an older gentleman who preached from Moroni 9 on the gifts of the spirit. And we were served sparkling grape juice as part of the open communion by an older woman!

  33. January 28, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Thanks, John. I’ve heard all of these rumors many times over the years. It’s refreshing to get another perspective. Since you are now the official “RLDS/CoC Answer Man,” I have two follow-up questions:

    (1) I am intersted(and have been for quite some time) in reading more about the RLDS/CoC church history. What would you recommend as a good starting place? Is there a one-volume primer you would suggest?

    (2) Are local CoC leaders “professional” clergy (i.e., trained, paid ministers) or are they laypersons, as is the case in local LDS wards?

    Thanks.

  34. January 28, 2008 at 10:00 am

    The rumors about the LDS church helping to pay for the CofC Independence temple get even crazier. I was told at one point that the LDS church donated a significant sum to make the building possible, but only on the condition that the LDS church dictate the structure and design of the basement! The rumor monger speculated that the building would come into the hands of the LDS church (these stories always hinge on CofC bankruptcy somehow), and they would “need” to bulldoze everything above ground level, building anew from the LDS-specified basement.

    Of course, there are oddball rumors about the LDS too, even within the LDS church. One of my favorite was always the complex system of reinforced bunkers supposedly built by the LDS church throughout Adam-Ondi-Ahman. A common side-story was that fully-grown trees, etc., were being planted, because the LDS church had been directed (by deity?) to “restore” the site to exactly how it looked during the time of Adam. ;-)

  35. John Hamer
    January 28, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Rick: Community of Christ members use the term “Latter Day Saints” to refer to themselves, but they only rarely use the term “Mormon” to refer to themselves. Generally speaking, only LDS members, fundamentalist Mormons and Strangite Mormons use the term “Mormon” to refer to themselves. The reason for it is that members of the early church used almost always put quotes around the term and said “so-called Mormons” or emphasized that it was outsiders that called the Saints “Mormons.” Then, during the late 19th century, LDS Mormons were reviled nationally because of polygamy. RLDS people who were violently anti-polygamy wanted no share of that opprobrium, so they tended to say things like “we believe in the Book of Mormon but we’re not the Mormons.”

    The Community of Christ does not practice baptism for the dead, although it was not opposed as a practice with the same kind of vehemence as polygamy. The sections of the D&C on baptism for the dead were only removed in the 1970s.

  36. John Hamer
    January 28, 2008 at 11:07 am

    John F: There is a lot of local control, so meeting styles vary at the congregation level. Talks I’ve listened to seem just as likely to quote the Book of Mormon as any other scripture. Possibly they have the most emphasis on the New Testament, followed by the D&C, with the Book of Mormon and Old Testament taking up the rearguard.

    The services I’ve attended are somewhat like an LDS service: there is congregation business, hymns, musical numbers and prayers and there’s a main talk. They do sacrament/communion once a month and they use the same prayer that other Latter Day Saints use, so that’s familiar. Their offeratory is not familiar to LDS service. They can have a little bit of litergy, which is definitely unfamiliar to LDS ears.

    The congregation in Orem is very small, as is the one in Salt Lake. Odgen’s is the largest in Utah, but the church has never had a very strong presence in Utah.

  37. Jeff Spector
    January 28, 2008 at 11:09 am

    I want to thank John for his post. I am guilty of falling prey to the views of others with respect to the CofC. I am not very informed except for John’s posts.

    I was told by a young guide at the Kirtland Temple that while to RLDS/CofC don’t deny the appearance of Christ, Moses, etc in the Kirtland Temple, but they are “not sure” because the account was published after the death of Joseph Smith. The same, he said, was true from the doctrine Baptism for the Dead. While I didn’t really accept that explanation, that is what he told me, right or wrong. It seemed to be that the RLDS/CofC did not adopt certain practices of the LDS (Utah) Church simply to differentiate themselves. Much like the Jews abandoned their belief in resurrection because Christians embraced it.

    but, I could be all wet on this? John?

  38. John Hamer
    January 28, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Shawn: (1) The Community of Christ is currently publishing several new official histories and I’m actually involved in all the projects. The first is going to be a 1 volume, faithful, honest history entitled Zion the Beautiful Beckons Us On: A Story of Community of Christ. It will be published in April of this year. The second is a 3 volume detailed history of the church called From Restoration to Community: The Journey of a People. The first volume will be published this May, but it only covers 1820-1844, so there will not be a lot of information that you don’t know. In the meantime, the best 1 volume history is Paul Edwards, Our Legacy of Faith: A Brief History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The current larger study, also good, is Richard Howard, The Church through the Years (in two volumes).

    (2) The Community of Christ has the same general priesthood offices as the LDS church without the Utah-era practice of title inflation. It’s quite normal for adult men and women to be teachers or deacons. Bishops are financial officers at the Stake (“Misson Center”) level, rather than “ward” leaders. They have “Pastors” — a title that was also used in the early church — which is effectively “Branch President” or “Presiding Elder” of a congregation. Most Pastors are volunteer lay ministers. They do have some paid pastors in large congregations. Church headquarters has full-time paid employees like the LDS headquarters. The leadership includes the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve, the Presiding Bishopric, the Presiding Evangelist (patriarch), the Presidents of the Seventies, the presiding Quorum of High Priests and the Standing (presiding) High Council.

  39. January 28, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    Are there any early Mormon historical sites that the CoC has recently sold or given to the LDS church (aside from the swap of land in Nauvoo you reference above)? Or recently tried to sell or give the LDS church? I had lunch with a well-known BYU/FARMS guy at MHA in Vermont a few years ago and he mentioned recent hush-hush talks between CoC representatives and LDS representatives about properties for which the CoC could no longer afford the upkeep and for which the CoC were no longer interested in (due to their declining interest in their own history). He said CoC brass were conflicted because many of them had a “sell, but to anyone but the LDS” attitude. Actually, now that I think of it, the hush-hush part was that the CoC didn’t want to deal directly with the church, but instead had made some back-door inquiries with affiliated LDS organization like FARMS to broker a deal and keep it quiet. Probably another one to file in the rumor/innuendo files.

    Also, is there anything to the rumors of the CoC having financial difficulties? Haven’t many of the paid jobs (i.e. in the historical department) been elliminated due to lack of money? If so, do you see this as a temporary set back or a sign of things to come?

    And finally, on a lighter note, is Bruce Jenner Graceland College’s most famous graduate? Was he ever interested in the RLDS church? What is the enrollment at Graceland college today?

  40. John Hamer
    January 28, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Nick: There’s probably no part of my Mormon heritage that I’m more engaged with emotionally than the planning and building of new cities and of temples. I have great reverance for ecclesiastical architecture in general and I’ve been in awe of the dozens of cathedrals that I’ve visited in Europe and elsewhere. My partner Mike and I were among the frist members of the public to tour the new Nauvoo Temple during its pre-dedicatory open house, and we always go to see LDS temples when we’re traveling.

    I love the Independence Temple: it’s a magnificent, holy structure. I’m a fan of many of the temples: SLC, DC, Kirtland, Manti, Calgary, Mesa — but to me, the Independence Temple is the most perfect expression of our shared Latter Day Saint heritage of temple-building to date. I know it’s just thoughtless, but I find idle talk about seizing control of it and/or tearing it down to be quite rotten, arrogant behavior.

    Jeff Spector: I do think that the RLDS church adopted certain practices to be different from the LDS church and finally eliminating baptism for the dead may be one. Their history on that particular ordinance was mixed. One of Joseph Smith III’s brothers felt very strongly in favor of baptism for the dead. Joseph III was more circumspect and I think he implied that they church might do that again if there were a temple for it. I’ve heard that some congregations were performing the practice (unauthorized) as late as the early 20th century. And up until the building of the temple in Independence, there was some question whether or not it might be included. But when the temple was made without a font, the answer was no.

    Interpreting the sources on visions in the early restoration period is different. I think LDS members have a painting in their minds of luminous beings actually appearing outside of one’s body in such a way as to be visible with the natural eyes. This has become a traditional picture, like the picture of Joseph translating the Book of Mormon by actually pouring over golden plates in front of him. The guides in the Kirtland Temple are attempting to keep the discussion of the spiritual outpouring at Kirtland more grounded in history by following the primary sources more closely.

  41. John Hamer
    January 28, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Matt — While there is no truth to rumors of LDS involvement in RLDS finances, there is some basis for rumors of RLDS money troubles. The truth is that the RLDS church has always had more ambition and vision than they have had resources. The Auditorium is an enormous structure for them to have attempted in the 1920s and the onset of the Great Depression was very untimely for their finances.

    RLDS doctrine of tithing (10% of increase) has always been significantly less lucrative than the post-Lorenzo Snow LDS church’s practice. The Community of Christ initiated an ambitious plan to have more paid ministerial support in the late 1990s called “transformation 2000.” This increased expenses, but revenues did not increase to cover the costs. The result in the last few years has been a budget deficit, which resulted in downsizing a fair number of jobs at church headquarters. However, the church historian, the director of historic sites, the church archivist and most of the other heritage team positions were not affected. The restructuring had the long-term in mind. The fact is that a single Community of Christ donor gave the church $50 million just a couple years ago. They will not be reaching out to LDS Mormons for money in our lifetimes.

    There are no heritage sites that the Community of Christ has sold or is planning to sell to anyone, LDS or not. Your FARMS contact may have been refering to the fact that the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation (MHSF) has been in negotiations with the Community of Christ to build a monument at the Haun’s Mill site. The problem with the Haun’s Mill site is that it is in a very remote, rural location and the local high school students like to vandalize all the historical markers that the Community of Christ has put there over the years. MHSF has raised the money to build an indestructable concrete bunker of a monument, but the problem is that all of the archaeological surveys in the past years haven’t identified to mill site yet. We can’t build a bunker until we know we won’t be disrupting the site/graves. However, even if MHSF builds a monument, the site will continue to be owned by the Community of Christ.

    As far as Bruce Jenner goes, I don’t think he was ever tempted to convert. I think the most famous non-LDS Mormon is Alice Cooper — who was born and raised Bickertonite. :)

  42. January 28, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    John, I enjoyed your list of recommended CoC-related history books. I’m interested in what some of the best RLDS/CoC-penned books are in general. For example, I loved reading Bruce Flanders’ Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi. I’ve also enjoyed reading various essays by Roger Launius, but have not read anything of book length. I’ve been interested in reading Launius’s bio of JSIII, and wondered if you had read it and what you thought? Are there any other seminal RLDS/COC biographies or histories?

    By the way, I bought Scattering of Saints: Schism Within Mormonism for my Dad over Christmas and read several of the essays before wrapping it up, now slightly used, as an XMAS gift. Wonderful. Your map on the cover is worth the price of the book alone. Loved Launius’s closing essay. I’ll be picking it up for myself one of these days.

  43. January 28, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    The more I learn about the Community of Christ, the more I feel like I am much more RLDS than LDS in my heart.

  44. John Hamer
    January 28, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Matt: Hey, thanks for the book plug. :)

    Yes, Bob Flanders’ book on Nauvoo is seminal and there’s no doubt that Launius is a giant in the field in general. You should definitely read, Joseph Smith III: Pragmatic Prophet; it’s a must-read. Val Avery’s book on David Hyrum Smith is also very good (although she was not RLDS, the topic is RLDS). Since you’re asking about biographies, I’ll also put in a plug for Matt Bolton’s biography of late 20th century RLDS apostle Charles D. Neff: http://www.johnwhitmerbooks.com/books/details_AP.asp It’s an excellent read and it really helps explain the modern transformation of the church. Matt is a very bright, young scholar and he does a good job of explaining the story, even if you know nothing about RLDS history. Jan Shipps’ plug for Matt’s book: “I was blown away by the work”!

  45. John Hamer
    January 28, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Clay: Were you reacting to their concept of tithing? ;)

  46. GrahamW
    January 28, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I’ve been an LDS church member for over 30 years but I’ve recently been asking he question “if this is a church of revelation, where are all the revelations”? It seems the Utah church either doesn’t publish the revelations received by the prophet or there aren’t any these days. Or are they avoiding getting embroiled in media controversy? I listened to President Veasy’s addition to the CofC D&C recently and wondered what a revelation through President Monson would sound like and how it would be received by the LDS membership after so long a period since a revelation was last published.

    John H, how do the RLDS/CofC regard the revelations from their president? Do they regard their president as a prophet like the Utah LDS do? Are their apostles regarded as ‘special witnesses’ in the same way most LDS would regard their own Quorum of Twelve? BTW I’m all for the idea of emeritus status for LDS GA’s at even the highest levels.

  47. Jeff
    January 28, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    John,

    Since your so good at answer questions, LOL, I hope you dont mind one more that is slightly off topic. I searched the archives and did not see a comment on this. I am a gay Mormom – cultural like you – could you explain a little on how the RLDS church approaches the issue of GLBT persons in comparison to the LDS SLC church? Maybe that would be a great column as well.

  48. John Hamer
    January 28, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    GrahamW: President Veazey is the Prophet, yes, and the Council of the Twelve Apostles are special witnesses for Christ, yes. Community of Christ members often use the title “Prophet/President” with a slash to refer to their church presidents. All of their prophet/presidents have been inspired to give revelations to the church, which are included in the Doctrine and Covenants. In their version, the D&C has 163 sections, the most recent of which is only a year old.

    However, there is an intimacy with the leadership that would be very alien to LDS members. I know and work with several of the apostles and I’m on a first name basis with all of them. You don’t say Elder this or President that. It’s always Steve, Dale, Susan, Andrew, etc. The First Presidency and the Apostles are generally all in their 50s or 60s because they serve for a number of years and then they retire.

    Also, the governing body of the church is the membership, through the General Conference (which is now called World Conference). A revelation in the D&C explains that the members of the Community of Christ are called to be a “prophetic people” — thus they are all inspired and make that inspiration known through the medium of voting in Conference. If they vote to reject a revelation from the Prophet, it does not go into the D&C. So, the informal, intimate way Community of Christ members view their leadership is probably one of the biggest differences between them and their LDS cousins.

  49. John Hamer
    January 28, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Jeff: Funny you should ask. I have in my hands the proof copy of a new book, Homosexual Saints: The Community of Christ Experience, edited by William D. Russell with a preface by D. Michael Quinn. You may be interested in getting it: http://www.johnwhitmerbooks.com/books/details_HS.asp

    This is a book of 26 personal essays about the lives of gay, lesbian and transgendered RLDS members and their friends, relatives and allies. It also has a detailed historical overview of the evolution of RLDS thinking and practice on the issue.

    The back cover has an endorsement from retired Prophet/President Grant McMurray:

    “I have always believed that the pathway to understanding the issue of homosexuality is in the telling of personal stories. Decisions about policy and law, whether religious or secular, must first have a human face. Bill Russell’s compilation of personal essays — some courageous, some tragic — provides an excellent resource for the dialogue that has only just begun.”

    There is also an endorsement from Apostle Susan Skoor, Dr. Don Compier Dean of the Community of Christ Seminary, and one from Richard Howard, Historian Emeritus of the church. That’s a line up that you would be unlikely to replicate in an LDS context.

  50. January 29, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Thanks for this discussion, John. There’s lots of useful and interesting information here.

  51. Nick Literski
    January 29, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    #40:
    I know it’s just thoughtless, but I find idle talk about seizing control of it and/or tearing it down to be quite rotten, arrogant behavior.

    I’m so sorry, John. I didn’t mean to offend you. I was actually mocking the existence of these religiously-motivated rumors, not trying to perpetuate them. I’m sorry I didn’t communicate that better.

  52. Nick Literski
    January 29, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    I listened to President Veasy’s addition to the CofC D&C recently and wondered what a revelation through President Monson would sound like . . .

    It would contain at least one story from his childhood that you’ve heard in ten or more general conference talks, and it would be entirely in passive voice. ;-)

  53. Nick Literski
    January 29, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    Jeff: Funny you should ask. I have in my hands the proof copy of a new book, Homosexual Saints: The Community of Christ Experience, edited by William D. Russell with a preface by D. Michael Quinn.

    Sounds terrific, John! Thanks for the heads up on this!

  54. GrahamW
    January 29, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    John; Thanks for answering my questions regarding the relationship of the RLDS/CofC to their prophets and apostles. I read ‘An American Prophets Record’ a while ago and your description of the RLDS/CofC General Conference seems very much to be in the vein of the Kirtland model of church governance that I found in the book. What happens to rejected revelations? Do the members think that the prophet is in error? How does the conference decide what is authentic revelation and what is not? I want to add that I found President Veasy’s presentation of the revelation quite moving and felt it could speak to a wider audience than just the CofC. I also took a look at the current line up of CofC General Authorities. I was heartened to see a woman in the First Presidency and a black member of the Twelve. Maybe one day our LDS general leadership will reflect such diversity. Maybe not…

  55. January 29, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    GrahamW,

    Susan Skoor, an apostle in the CoC, participated in a wonderful session at a recent Sunstone Symposium called “SL06332, Women in the Ministry,” in which she tells her story of becoming an apostle. She’s an excellent speaker. I think her thoughts and opinions will resonate strongly with you. You can download it here:

    http://www.sunstoneonline.com/symposium/symp-mp3s.asp (Search for it in the 2006 Salt Lake symposium).

  56. John Hamer
    January 29, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Nick: I wasn’t offended by you — I understand you were just relaying that kind of talk. I knew you didn’t share that kind of thinking yourself.

    I’m just trying to tell the people who do carelessly say things like that to step back and get a little perspective. I hope I can urge them to put themselves in their cousins’ shoes for a second. (And Latter Day Saints of all stripes are all cousins by the way. A great scholar who was a member of the Community of Christ recently passed away. I listened to a presentation he made a few years ago about his great grandfather who had become one of James Strang’s apostles on Beaver Island. Well, it turns out that my great great great great grandfather was the missionary who converted and baptized his great great grandfather back in the 1830s. We are all related.) For people who idly talk about tearing down a Temple to the Lord — I ask them to put themselves in their cousins’ shoes for a second and think of how they would feel.

    That’s all. I apologize that I didn’t make myself clear and I led you to think that I was rebuking you personally, which I certainly had no intention of doing.

  57. John Hamer
    January 29, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    GrahamW: I agree — I think that D&C 163 is visionary and moving.

    How does rejected scripture work? There are a couple examples. The D&C sections on Baptism for the Dead were voted by a World Conference resolution which moved them to a “Historical Appendix.” Then a later Conference resolution removed the appendix.

    Another example is the doctrine which was called “Supreme Directional Control” — a controversial effort by Prophet/President Frederick M. Smith to centralize authority under the First Presidency. Although the membership approved the doctrine (causing a certain amount of schism), within a decade the policy had effectively been abandoned as the stresses of the Great Depression saw the return of financial power to the Presiding Bishopric.

  58. Jeremiah J.
    January 30, 2008 at 1:54 am

    Until this post I didn’t know many hard facts about the CoC either. But I have been to Kirkland, and I think they do a wonderful job of taking care of and presenting our temple (“our” in the sense that’s it’s theirs and ours together, a religious site of great meaning to both of our faiths). They didn’t say or do anything to indicate that they had abandoned a belief in the sacred history of that place.

  59. January 30, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    John Hamer,

    I picked up a CoC edition of the D&C in Kirtland several years ago and have found it to be an interesting contrast to the LDS version. Is there an online resource with with the text of the deleted passages?

    Also, to chime in with Kaimi, in my less than extensive travels, I’ve yet to meet a CoC tour guide that failed to make it clear that polygamy was a Utah innovation and that Joseph Smith Jr. had no part in it. I’ve often felt that this was pointed out to clearly LDS tourists in an effort to point out the them how wrong Brigham Young was. Other than that I’ve found the guides to be very informative and friendly. Certainly they are less preachy, as you pointed out in a blog entry some time ago. Is there any effort to educate college age guides about the history of polygamy and to ask them to not put forth provocative (or even contrary to historical fact) opinions on the matter?

    • February 9, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      according to Emma Smith,wife of Joseph,she was his one and only wife.I have found no reason to disbelieve her.

  60. GrahamW
    January 30, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Re#55 Matt: Thanks for the link to Susan Skoor’s Sunstone talk, I’ll load it onto my ipod and listen on my way to work. Sounds like Sister Skoor would make a great guest for a future Mormon Stories episode. How about it John Dehlin?

    Re#52 Nick, thats exactly what went through my mind too … :-) But you never know, there may be surprises ahead…

    Re#57 John H: Thanks for those examples. I guess one difference between the RLDS and LDS is that the RLDS/CofC membership through the World Conference can challenge and eventually drop doctrine using their system of checks and balances while the LDS just stop talking about some doctrines until they drop out of sight.

  61. John Hamer
    January 31, 2008 at 7:54 am

    ARJ (59): That’s unforunate. Yes, the site directors do attempt to train the guides in the actual history. You read the sources, the diary of William Clayton, the other evidence. Unfortunately, some members have their faith tied up with a historical interpretation that isn’t accurate. The main problem is that RLDS prophet/president Israel A. Smith made a number of very strong statements to the effect that his grandfather Joseph Smith Jr. was not involved. Of course, Israel was not a witness to those events, but he was a prophet, so some people still have trouble reconciling that testimony with the historical evidence.

    LDS people have a similar problem with all sorts of history, when a leader makes a statement that is contrary to the record. For example, because Joseph Jr. later denied involvement with the Danites and put the blame on Sampson Avard, many faithful believers actually believe that Joseph Smith had limited or even no involvement with the Danites. The problem arises when the prophet’s statements are contravened by the facts.

  62. luke
    April 26, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    does anybody know if they actually call themselves zions people church…I really dont thing they can really call themselves rlds or any lds. I now its not a big deal but they are not anypart of the latter day saints period but the newsmedia portrays different point of view sometimes. Like i said its not really important but really folks they are not reorganzied or a breakoff of the lds churh. I hope it will change soon

  63. May 3, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    In 1955 my Mormon day and non member mom got married in Ohio. I grew up all of my life close to the oldest branch of the RLDS church in Ohio (The Limerick Branch) and attended the local LDS branch in Chillicothe, Oh.
    I had many members of the RLDS on my mom’s side and they always treated my dad with respect; much better than our baptist friends and methodists. I liked them then and I like them now. I know of the differences but I also know of the commonalities. I happen to like the Independence Temple. I like our temples alot too. My personal revelation tells me we’re getting closer not drawing apart. Let us all hope so. The Book of Mormon is our common denominator and it is in fact true and divinely given to us. God Bless us all.

    Mahalo from Hawaii.

    Max Lawson

  64. DKL
    June 14, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    I can’t believe that I missed this post. Great post, John! In my mind, there are many ways in which the CoC church is a bigger church than the LDS church, insofar as it has left behind much of the mythology and folklore of the past. In the LDS church, we’re still trying to excise the pernicious folklore about blacks in the pre-existence. The CoC church has moved far beyond these sorts of issues, and there is a lot that we LDSers can learn from the CoC.

  65. June 18, 2008 at 2:08 am

    I stumbled across this post just by googling the CoC church because I was curious about what led to the major drop in membership.

    Going back to the topic of removing doctrines, I wonder if the LDS church can move D&C 132 and the BoA to a “historical appendix”.

  66. Jolene
    June 21, 2008 at 2:58 am

    Hi, Hope you are good? Reading all the comments. Have a few questions for you! I was raised Mormon LDS, I have been taking alot of time out to study relegions in general, I have been writting letters to some leaders of a reorganized church, and to one of the other branch offs for years. Like to know all taht I can to make an informed decision, and the study will be part of a paper I plan to write on the branches of LDS relegions. Questions want more detailon :Temle lot, RLDS, Restoration branch, Remenant LDS, Srangite Mormons, and what is Bickertonite? I have found this site to be very interesting and am linking it to my favs. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks!

  67. July 26, 2008 at 9:09 am

    What a great site, John. You have done a fantastic job of explaining the general beliefs of Community of Christ. One of the statements I really like from our
    “beliefs” area on the church’s web site is this statement.

    “Recognizing that the perception of truth is always qualified by human nature and experience, there is no official church creed that must be accepted by all members. However, through the years various statements, such as those listed below, have been developed to present the generally accepted beliefs of the church. All people are encouraged to study the scriptures, to participate in the life and mission of the church, and to examine their own experiences as they grow in understanding and response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

    I am extremely progressive in my beliefs and as you intimated earlier, the Bible is also a book that has been changed over and over again down through the centuries. It too is a testimony of men about their personal experience with God and not dictated or written by God as some tend to believe. Some passages changed as orthodox beliefs changed down through the centuries and some writers even added parts of chapters to the original.

  68. N Harker
    September 19, 2008 at 4:52 am

    I listened to President Veasy’s addition to the CofC D&C recently and wondered what a revelation through President Monson would sound like . . .

    It would contain at least one story from his childhood that you’ve heard in ten or more general conference talks, and it would be entirely in passive voice

    Such a comment is unkind, unnecessary and far from uplifting. I’m sure, if looked for, there could be found something to mock in each person’s style of speaking. I have a great love and respect for President Monson and find his conference talks to be of great value. One last thought, since when is charisma the yard stick by which revelation is measured?

  69. Kristen
    September 19, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    I found this article fascinating. I have been fascinated with the mormon church since I was a little girl, although not Mormon. I became aware of the RLDS a few years ago, and like reading the history of why and what people believe what they believe.
    Good article.
    Thank you.

  70. Kristen
    September 19, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Also, I read that CoC regards the Book of Mormon & the Doctrine of Covenants as being equal to the Bible….is this true?

  71. Alan
    October 2, 2008 at 5:35 am

    I was very pleased to see this website and to read accurate information about the CofC for once! I am LDS, but I joined the CofC a few years ago here in England. I have since returned to the LDS church and am very happy. It’s a long story.

    However, I am constantly amazed at the rumours which fly around among the LDS about the RLDS/CofC, and I take every opportunity to put people right when the chance presents itself. So congrats once again on this site – a splendid idea.

  72. DavidEOliver411
    October 5, 2008 at 6:20 am

    I have visited both RLDS and LDS churches and find them both to be good people. I love the book of mormon and I do not think that each of these churches is the one true church….I find that hard to swallow considering the thousands of churches and religions. I do respect the mormons and their faith; but I don’t share their belief that they are the one true church on the earth. God is too big for one religion or church. I just don’t see any reason to attend any church as of right now because it seems to pointless. I am close to God anywhere I am so why worship in a building. Granted we all need people; but I think organized religion divides people rather than unite them. But then again most members sincerely do not believe their non-church friends and relatives are really lost Rather that they will find God their own way. The only people who scream for “one way to God” are those who have a profit to be made in religion. I have yet to met a single person who didn’t have money involved that preached “one way to God”.

  73. Margie Miller
    January 18, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    John,

    Let me share another story with you. Many years ago, I worked in advertising. One of the books I read during that time was one called “Positioning”. It related to advertising and the names of successful products. It said there were thousands of very good products that failed to sell simply because of their names. That set me to thinking about the name of the church. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was a horrible long name that did not roll off the tongue easily. I couldn’t help but think it would not “sell”.

    I bought another copy of the book and sent it to President Sheehy. He wrote to me to tell me he was traveling to California that weekend and would read the book in flight.

    It was not long after that that the church decided to change it’s name. I always wondered how much that book had to do with that decision.

    When we built our new church building in 1999, we decided to call it Crossroads Community of Christ. A year later, the church changed it’s name.

  74. kristie
    March 8, 2009 at 9:05 am

    As a member (4th generation) of Coc (RLDS) I am saddened that rumors like those stated in the article even exsist. Just silly…thanks for stating the truth.

  75. Rob H
    March 31, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    I am a 4th generation member of the Community of Christ. As a 41-year-old Elder in the church I am coming to really value the history of the CofC (the good and bad). The journey is a remarkable story. I also admire and respect of our much larger cousin (the LDS church). I am very comfortable around my Mormon friends. Between us there is a quiet yet powerful connection.
    John, While your LDS readers may appreciate your posts I can assure you members of the CofC (who may have read them) are equally appreciative. Your work (and I think your passion) draws us closer together. Thanks!

  76. April 9, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    Thanks, I had heard all of these myths before, but being a Mormon who was raised hearing that story about so and so’s brother went on the same Mission as Alice Cooper did (most of the time it was to England) I always took all the stories I heard about the RLDS with a grain of Salt, thanks for clearing them up for me.

  77. Margie Miller
    April 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    John,

    You have done a wonderful job of clearing up myths of the Community of Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    By the way, you and Michael also did a fine job organizing the Restoration Studies Symposium a couple of weekends ago.

    George Smith sent me a box of books to further my education about the writings and Book of Mormon investigations of B. H. Roberts. I was delighted. I have B. H. Robert’s book but enjoyed the essay in American Apocrypha anyhow.

  78. A Tennuchi
    July 17, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    You said that:
    “What the Community of Christ has scrapped is the exclusivist claim to be “the one and only true church.” The church now understands that while its own heritage has been inspired by God, other churches and individuals have also been inspired and are valid.”

    Isn’t this in DIRECT opposition to what the Saviour told Joseph in Doctrine & Covenants section 1:5e

    ” And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—

  79. Jeremy Jensen
    July 20, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Am I the only one that thinks the tone in the last part of this piece is snide and dismissive? From the standard LDS perspective, William Law wasn’t just “exposing terrible abuses of authority,” and the people didn’t oppose him just because they were eager to obey. They thought he was wrong on the merits. Also, it’s not true to say that LDS supported polygamy because “the leader” commanded it. They support polygamy because they believed God commanded it. Then the way he phrased the bit about women in the priesthood, making it seem as if it were inevitable, just because the RLDS went that route? Lame. It’d be like if I went on an RLDS blog and said “When the RLDS change their policy on tithing, they’ll see that they’ll be financially solvent for generations to come.”

    The whole last few paragraphs of this piece are self-congratulatory, overly biased, and smug. And yet the LDS on this board are falling over themselves to praise the piece. John could have done a good job clarifying the myths without all the implicit criticism of the LDS position.

  80. Gershonite
    October 15, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    I see there is no answer to the posting of 17 July.

  81. AC
    May 8, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    I am a person who is curious, it is amaizing to me the shear weight of evidence that does not support Joseph Smith’s stories. The evidence is overwhelming in numbers. Physical evidence and evidence from the hand of the people telling the story and including Joseph Smith himself. How does anyone believe this story (Make it up as you go) of the Book of Mormon? Good people are being decieved by a story that is not true.

  82. Paula Stout
    July 17, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Does the Community of Christ own the temple lot outright?

  83. Barry Needham
    September 14, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    This guy asks questions from the COC authorities that have not shot straight for years the Apostacy started at the end of the fifties 1959 W W Smith did endorse using the Methodist seminary in Kansas City as the training grounds for church appointees. I am sure they learned lots about divine ministry and true authority from the Methodist. I am surprised they havent started sprinkling. Maybe next year would not surprise me at all..

  84. September 7, 2014 at 4:02 am

    For those that are curious, I thought I might share further as a 48 year member of Community of Christ regarding the evolving attitudes towards the role of prophet in the Community of Christ. The Community of Christ ordains a Prophet-President and two counselors. These three comprise “The First Presidency.” In almost all communications, the title used is President and not Prophet. President W. Grant McMurray (1996-2004) initiated and encouraged changed attitudes towards the prophetic office and the use of prophetic voice. In addition to requesting observance of the title President as opposed to Prophet, McMurray encouraged a waiting period of 1-2 years between introduction of an inspired document and its approval for inclusion in the Doctrine and Covenants (in the past this was almost always done in a matter of days). McMurray taught that the Community of Christ were a Prophetic People: “we have begun to move our identity as a people with a prophet to our calling as a prophetic people.” He asked for the hymn “We Thank thee O God for A Prophet” to be changed to “We Thank Thee O God for Our Prophets.” The text of inspired documents (revelations) no longer use the first person voice for God. President Steve Veazey has continued this practice (see D&C 163:4a for example:”God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world…” versus W. Wallace Smith (1958-1978) in D&C 151:9, for example: “You who are my disciples must be found continuing in the forefront of those organizations and movements which are recognizing the worth of persons and are committed to bringing the ministry of my Son to bear on their lives.” The change is more than stylistic, it reflects more clearly the belief that the prophet-presidents of the church are fallible and are writing documents that are inspired by revelatory experiences but in no way are purported to be the literal words of God. This has been acknowledged in various ways by all prophets in the Community of Christ tradition since President Joseph Smith III (1860-1914). The comments regarding accessibility are also true. Active members are likely to meet the President of the church, converse with them and even share meals with them at camps and other gatherings. They do however have a volunteer security team of church members that are peace officers who accompany the members of the First Presidency during World Conference week. They are still accessible, but of course this is limited to a great degree by the press of conference business. They can be seen greeting and hugging friends and carrying on friendly conversations all week long despite the busy schedule. McMurray went so far as to not name his successor. For McMurray, this represented a theological shift, but it seems unlikely to me that Veazey would leave office voluntarily without naming a successor. Time will tell.

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