LDS Myths about Reorganized Latter Day Saints

John Hamerbook of mormon, community of christ, feminism, historicity, history, LDS, Mormon, mormon, RLDS, women 132 Comments

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!”

Comments 132

  1. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. I am no longer a member of the Community of Christ church, but I highly respect how they think and practice. Kit’s comments about how the church funded the building of the Independence temple (a beauty!), doesn’t surprise me at all. The “Community” in their name speaks to how they view Zion, viz. it’s not a place, but a practice. The C of C is a very admirable group of people.

    2. 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..

  3. Post

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. Post

    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.

    1. The difficulty across the board has been an utter lack of sense and sensitivity to the Sacred. I have personally witnessed corrupt leaders who stole from the church, priesthood members who belittled the down and out to suicide, and policies/revelations set for political expedience rather than the actual will of God.

      The roots of these problems can be summed up by Kafka: Conservatives ritualize religion until it has no meaning, and liberals unable to find any meaning throw the religion away. Historical context is not sought for as an understanding of the weaknesses of those who failed to establish the Will of God and the matrix of the time in which God’s action was revealed to those who wrote it within their purview. Conservatives reject revealed principles of science because they limit their knowledge to the mythic interpretations of generations that did not do bring about Zion’s redemption. Liberals embrace behaviors that fail the Will of God for the warm fuzzies of group think as a substitute for the complex prophetic testimony for Christ in a ritually lived life. A ritual grounded in law whose higher meaning ought they to have done and not to have left the other undone.

      What I regret is that there is now possibly no Priesthood that is actually obedient to God, no one left to be graced by glories, no one who has not fenced themselves in and God out. For while He has chosen us while we were yet sinners in the flesh, few are they who abstain from sin for His sake and submit. Those who would are stumped by a world where free-agency derails temporal achievements. Those who don’t praise Him in the front of their mouths but with their whole throat shout condemnation of God because their plans did not come to fruition as they desired – they worship themselves more than they do God.

      The problem is the leaders and members are lost whether they are unseen or present in the pews.

    2. I attended Graceland University (then “College”) in the mid-1970s. I’m happy to say that the faculty kept whatever religious ideas to themselves when teaching. Not all faculty were RLDS, and I couldn’t tell the difference unless I attended the local church services. Instead, I credit Graceland with giving me an excellent beginning to my subsequent education. If “liberal” means I could ask them any question whatsoever, and expect a well-informed and balanced response, then I suppose they were liberal.

      1. Liberalism has been so synonymous with education for so many decades that those who think they were given a balanced approach have little to no barometer by which to measure the difference. In response to liberal ignorance of religious meaning and their willingness to make fanciful and indiscriminate changes attacking traditional values of both the religious and the species’ zoological norms, conservatives have embraced thoughtless adherence to the mythic interpretations of dark ages. While both are responsible for abandoning religious truth for golden cows as different in appearance as there are styles of art between the stone age and the present, liberalism by its nature wanders with the whims and fads of the moment embracing change as its god while failing to comprehend that Existence merely cycles the elements in an unchanging constant. In their own bailiwicks both express all the open mindedness of the myopic and provincial.

    3. Now, The Commity of Christ members lost alot people by the people who has passed on and hardly ever seen any new generations come forward. I was so thank ful saw this post. ITs been years since late in 1970s i had trouble to explained to deaf friends about the Mormon and Comminity of Christ whats the differents. I had to avoid it it was embrassed me. There was alot of argued between my ex and I about it. Its so shamed I could have showed this message to my friends to understand clear. I will not do that this time. Its past past and I let God deal with this. i missed going to church yes and people yes of course. Its sadness as for today.

  6. 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.

      1. William Law enthusiastically came to Nauvoo to help build Zion in that place. He invested in mills and a store and became counsellor to Joseph Smith Jr. in the First Presidency of the Church by revelation. With Smith mixing his prophetic calling with politics as he ran for President of the US, his economic and ethical failures (he borrowed money from Law to build a store to compete with him and apparently did not pay it back), and deviation from the original gospel in discussing doctrines of polygamy, plurality of gods, etc, Law and friends published the Nauvoo Expositor to expose Smith’s faults. Smith ordered the Expositor press destroyed. It was. Smith then was arrested and taken to Carthage where he was murdered. Law was accused of complicity in that murder. He became a doctor in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin for nearly 40 years, serving those communities as a good Christian.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Post

    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.

  10. Post

    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. 🙂

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. Post

    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.

  14. Post
    1. Members of the CoC and the Restoration both observe the Word of Wisdom as they individually see fit, their doctors allow, and based on individual interpretation. The idea that it must mean caffeinated drinks such as coffee is based on a clarification that appears outside of the actual revelation, and many do not study what is not expressly scripture. So for some a “mild drink made of barley” may mean light beer rather than barley tea. Then there are those of us that are more restrictive, following Pseudepigraphical writings such as the intents of the Letter of Aristeas where kosher practices have spiritual meanings which are more important than the physical observation.

  15. Post

    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.”

  16. 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’.

  17. 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.

  18. 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?

    1. 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.

  19. Post

    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.

  20. Post

    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.

    1. My great-grandmother told stories of escaping Utah and polygamy. She also shared Joseph Smith did not believe or partake in polygamy. Where is the offspring of such a union other than with Emma? As a 5th generation RLDS member now CofC, growing up in Independence, I had many close LDS school mates, no competition just wonderful discussions about church doctrine. I pray soon we will all “know” the truth of our gospel with our Lord’s return. In the mean time pray for one another and study the scriptures.

  21. 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!

  22. 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.)

  23. 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?

  24. 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!

  25. 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?


  26. 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. 😉

  27. Post

    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.

    1. I received my 3-n-1 in the early 1980’s. It contains the D&C section on baptism of the dead. The specific, justified in a statement by Paul and the practices of the early church in the Didache of the Greek Orthodoxy, purpose for baptizing in proxy for the deceased is in order to assist those they left behind in dealing with extreme grief – and only when given by direct revelation through prophecy to do so. It was a measure taken to prevent people from dying of grief when a loved one was killed before being able to join and this fear of their damnation was dangerously traumatic. In the early Christian church anyone who had used a weapon, such as a soldier or gladiator, was forbidden by law to join a Christian church – or all persons in that church would be hunted down and butchered by the state. In response, such men would forego baptism in order to protect the lives of their fellowship and be baptized in proxy after they were dead. Hence Paul’s question, “Wherefore why baptize ye for the dead?”

  28. Post

    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.

  29. 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?

  30. Post

    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.

  31. 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?

  32. Post

    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.

  33. Post

    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. 🙂

  34. 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.

  35. Post

    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: 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”!

  36. Post
  37. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. Post

    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.

  40. Post

    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:

    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.

  41. #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.

  42. 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. 😉

  43. 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!

  44. 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…

  45. Post

    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.

  46. Post

    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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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?

  49. 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.

  50. Post

    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.

  51. Pingback: By Common Consent » Journal of Mormon History 34 (Winter 2008)

  52. 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

  53. 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

  54. 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.

  55. 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”.

  56. 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!

  57. 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.

  58. 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?

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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”.

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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!

  65. 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.

  66. 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.

  67. Pingback: Mormon Heretic » Blog Archive » Interview with the Community of Christ

  68. Pingback: John Hamer returns (sort of)! A Look at the CoC at Mormon Matters

  69. 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—

  70. 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.

  71. 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.

  72. 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..

  73. 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.

  74. Pingback: Re-evaluating LDS Myths about Reorganized Latter Day Saints | Junior Ganymede

  75. The archaeology project at the Joseph Smith Historic Site involves volunteers from three branches of the Restoration movement as well as local and regional volunteers. While work on the site is archaeology and we avoid theology, friendships among the participants offers new insight into “sacred community.” Our quest to dig into our history has extended our understanding of the Mormon period of Nauvoo’s bend in the river to the trading post period, Historic aboriginal inhabitants, woodland peoples who built mounds, buried on our site and introduced pottery some 2500 years ago. They were preceded by 6,000 years of bison hunters. Our earliest occupants may well have seen the last of the mammoths some ten thousand years ago. Join us and help us find the artifactual remains of the residents of Nauvoo. You may also find a new sense of ‘sacred community.’

  76. Concerning women in the priesthood in the RLDS church, considering opinions above…they were NOT called for any reason except they were called to the priesthood. I was against women in the priesthood; I am a woman. But, God revealed to me I was called in a way I could not deny. I had an experience that I did not know at the time many women had. When my pastor came to visit to tell me about the priesthood call, and I accepted,(by the way, it took me 2 years of study and prayer to come to an understanding of this ) I literally felt and heard chains unlock on my wrist and fall to the ground. It stunned me and I asked the pastor, did you hear that? The pastor said, what? I was then told that, that had been the experience of many women. I NEVER felt chained and always felt fulfilled in my service to God in the church, but that day I fully realized that man had chained those whom God calls. In God, all are called to use their talents and abilities for him, and HE and HE alone decides who that is. Only man limits. AND above, there was a comment about Grant McMurray and racism in the Book of Mormon. Need to talk to the Native Americans about that, many who have received testimony of the spirit regarding this subject. Many have been shown that passages on white/delightsome, dark and loathsome is not referring to color of skin but the mark of which those that did not follow God put on themselves: tattoos. Read the passages carefully where it is explained about this mark. It tells what it is in plain language. I have read those passages many times and not until shared by a native to me, I had not noticed the plain explanation. Many theologians ignore this or are so caught up in their philosophies, they miss it. It has been told to people in high places in our church but they do not look into it or teach it, but it is very plain.

  77. John, I enjoy your writings. You are very gifted at it.

    I am LDS but want to ask about an ugly issue that keeps coming up.

    What does the CoC say about Joseph Smith having multiple wives AND “possibly” being sealed to women who were still married to living men, and having sexual relations with these women?

    This isn’t some trap. Again, this keeps coming up and I would like fresh perspective.

    I don’t trust Anti Mormons, but I also don’t know that they are always wrong either.

    Any information appreciated.


    1. I speak not for the church but as a life-long member with heritage to the first generation of converts. Growing evidence of Joseph Smith’s prophetic inspiration in names in the Book of Mormon now found in the Maya glyphs confirms for me that he did some things right. I think of him as a prophet. I see Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity anticipated in his assertion that “all truth is independent in the sphere of its creation.”

      For people to impugn his name with salacious claims of infidelity with him having no opportunity to face his accusers in the court of history indicates they believe he was a fallen prophet. That may be, but, sexual exploitation is contrary to the fundamental principles established in the D&C, the Book of Mormon and the Bible, and it merely offers an excuse for Mormons who corrupted the monogamy doctrine to justify their own self indulgence compounded by conspiracy theory.
      So, if he did the things alleged, he was wrong. If,as I believe, he made mistakes; He blundered in the Kirtland Bank. He mistakenly put trust in J.C. Bennet and others that were dishonest. He assumed too much power in Nauvoo, especially in running for President of the US. He may have made overtures to women who later exploited their memories to associate themselves with his greatness. His mistakes are being magnified by the lenses of history and mythology, I prefer to magnify the testimony of Emma, who assures us she was his only wife and that Joseph Smith Jr. was a prophet of God.

  78. Theologically the only difference between the two churches that matters is the keys of authority, and the Reorganites stubbornly refuse to accept that simple fact. The keys are fundamentally at the heart of what the church is and will be. Consider this scenario: Elder Ichabod Crane decides that, despite church policy, he should baptize, confer the Holy Spirit on and ordain Abbie Mills, a woman, to the higher priesthood. He, himself, was baptized and ordained a High Priest by Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, so there is no doubt as to his own authority. But does he have authority to perform the ordinances he wishes on Abbie Mills?

    The answer clearly is no, because while he may have the authority to baptize, confirm and ordain, he lacks the keys of authority to do so, for he must have the proper keys, and if his bishop does not approve the ordinances in advance, his labors will be in vain. But let’s say that Elder Crane is actually Bishop Crane. What then? He still must operate under the keys of authority of his superiors. No attempt to circumvent the laws and policies of the church for his own purposes will succeed no matter how far up the ladder he goes. The ways the keys work and are administered make it impossible. And these were the keys of the kingdom that Joseph conferred on the Twelve just months before his death. He then told the Twelve that he had sealed upon them every key ???? and power that the God of Heaven had conferred upon him. He then charged them to bear off the Kingdom of God, and that if they didn’t, they would be damned. The revelation on succession (D&C 42) was given when Joseph and Oliver we’re the only ones on Earth with the keys, and in 1836 more keys were conferred upon them. They were NEVER conferred upon Joseph III or anyone who ordained him. For this reason, Joseph III could NEVER have been the President of the High Priesthood. No other splinter group ever held these keys, either. So argue doctrine all you wish — the keys are what matter.

    1. This is of course assuming that doctrine from men who failed God is to be taken as more important than gospel and revelation. Interestingly enough, the real foundation of the Catholic Church was in denying gnosis or experience in a God of revelation through individual inquiry. The very fundamental truth of the Restoration was a return to that experience of God as God chooses to reveal Himself, not through the limitations of priesthoods and religions which have failed to observe His will or do as He commanded. Had the body of Christ obeyed God then Zion would have been redeemed before 1833. They did not. Nor since Zion is yet as yet not returned to us is there any evidence that any performance of the churches has been in obedience to God. Thus the evidence to date is that the priesthoods have not gotten it right. The utter discrepancy between biblical culture and the D&C often leads me to wonder. It may ultimately come down to this, that God will do His own work lest any man should boast he has done the work of God for Him. However, Joseph III was given authority twice under the administration of his father, once when he was 8 and again just before he was martyred. There is also research concerning Joseph Smith, Jr.s efforts against it at the Restoration Bookstore Website under Joseph fought against Polygamy. Accept or disregard it as you see fit.

      1. Oh, it was never in the cards that Zion be redeemed in the early 1800s — all these things are fed into the eternal computer long ago. The Lord knows the end from the beginning and even though man knows the possibilities, the Lord alone knows the actual eventualities.

        The Lord’s return happens when the prophetic forces of Gog and Magog take place. But Israel had not been regathered in the early 1830s and too many events had to play themselves out before Zion could actually be redeemed. Bottom line is, you can’t beat prophecy. Man truly has great potential, but only rarely avails himself of it.

        Joseph Smith III was never ordained by his father. Being set apart and being ordained are two different things, and Joseph III was set apart when he was very young, but he received no authority as did Mormon, who received not only his commission, but the priesthood, at a very early age. Reorganites belittle the priesthood because they have no legitimate claim to it, nor do they have the keys. And this makes all the difference. Priesthood is the authority to act in God’s name and the keys control how it’s used. Even though a man has the priesthood, he cannot defy God by ordaining a woman (if he desires to act in rebellion to God) because the keys keep him in check; neither can he baptize a warthog.

        The instant Joseph Smith died, Brigham Young became the controller of the keys of the kingdom, which is the priesthood. Then all the unauthorized ordinations and baptisms were of no effect. Joseph III had no keys nor had he any authority. The senior quorum became that of the Twelve because succession had already been settled. In fact, when Joseph Smith died, many of the Twelve who first arrived on the scene were called home by individual revelations and advised to not align themselves with any party, but to await the arrival of the rest of the Twelve.

        To think that Joseph Smith would restore the priesthood and the temple, not to mention the doctrines of the resurrection and the kingdoms of salvation in D&C 76, then to lose it all to a tiny, insignificant church that lacked the records, keys and the revelation of the original makes no sense. The Lord was very determined about temple work and temples, and work for the dead. Now to say none of that matters anymore is to deny the roots and branch of the Kingdom. Even the leaders of the RLDS are no longer comfortable with the term “prophet” and angelic ministrations are virtually unknown. Their testimonies are weak and uncertain. One thing that’s always impressed me about the LDS leaders is that uncertainty and doubt aren’t among their weaknesses. They beat around no bushes.

        And so the RLDS church can never prosper. It’s gone weak on the priesthood, on the keys, on temples, on LDS eschatology and its foundational beliefs. Its revelations are weak willed, and they lack the profound intelligence of Joseph Smith’s revelations and those given to the ancient prophets. But you’re right, each person has to draw his or her own determinations and conclusions. To me it’s obvious that only one church of the two values what the foundational church valued, and it’s not the RLDS/CofC.

        1. The position above, as a statement of faith, is sufficient to state a claim of faith. I fully understand that because conservative schools in theology would not permit or allow RLDS ministers to attend, they turned to liberal schools who warped their understanding. However, there are those, both Community of Christ and Restorationists, who suspect Brigham Young, and his cohorts, were complicit in the murder of the Prophet because he would not support and never supported polygamy. Baptism of the dead was to be done only by revelation through the First Prophet and then only in cases of extreme grief – cases where the grieving person might die of grief because of their uncertainty whether or not their loved one was saved before being able to complete their conversion.

          Was the ordination of women acceptable and consistent with the scripture? No. There were women, wives of priesthood members, who felt they had something to contribute to the ministry but lacked opportunity. This was the fault of their husbands for not including their “helpmate” in the ministry through which they were both ordained in their place as husband and wife, in that sanctity of union. If a woman feels excluded then it is her husband’s fault for not leading her as G-d leads the Church. G-d uses the Church, his bride, as a part of His ministry. What these women who felt excluded needed was marital counseling not ordination.

          Kafka wrote: “Conservatives ritualize religion until it has no meaning, and liberals unable to find the meaning throw the religion away. It takes both to destroy a religion.” I find substituting any institution in the place of religion works for this function to be true. There is revelation that there would be 7 leaders of the church in the last days and the 6th would falter. That revelation has come true in the Community of Christ. G-d will bring forth the tip of the spear in his own time. Some believe it will be another Smith. Some believe it will be a Lamanite. Some of us choose not to define expectations on what G-d can and will do, because such interpretations limit our openness to what He will actually do in His own time. His ways are not our ways. And generally speaking, it seems when G-d makes changes in leadership it is done specifically in a manner that condemns the hypocrisy people have institutionalized.

          1. President Young had zero to do with the death of Joseph Smith. And it was Joseph Smith who started the practice of plural marriage. We have the temple records and journal accounts that help establish that. We also have the journal accounts of those present when the revelation was written and read.

            In addition, there are other pieces of evidence, such as the very first printing of the first volume of the Saints Herald. Several people under oath admitted therein that Joseph Smith was directly involved in the practice of plural marriage before it became fashionable to deny it all in print as the RLDS, now CoC, would later do. It was, in fact, a part of their original argumentation for why the Reorganization was commenced. Joseph had fallen, they would claim, and they used his teaching and practice of plural marriage as part of that overall claim. You should get hold of a copy of the original, first edition of the first volume of the Saints Herald. It is interesting reading, to say the least. But, it also is hard to obtain except in reprints that issue from time to time.

            There is another piece of evidence that I found for myself out of curiosity. Some years back I did a Stylometric analysis on Section 132 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants (the plural marriage revelation). I had to know whether Brigham Young was responsible after confrontation from an RLDS acquaintance of mine. I ran the test, and I found that it clustered with the Book of Mormon Christ and away from Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. That means, statistically, that neither Joseph Smith nor Brigham Young were the authors of Section 132 in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants.

            Out of further curiosity, I also ran the same analysis on revelations of Joseph Smith III and a longer revelation of Brigham Young (Section 136 in LDS copies) plus other material. Brigham Young’s revelations postdating Joseph Smith clustered with Christ and away from the 19th century samples, whereas Joseph Smith III’s revelations did not. They clustered together with the 19th century samples.

            While I keep the hand drawn (I did not have a printer at that time) charts in my personal files for occasional reference, I one day shared that information with the above mentioned RLDS acquaintance of mine. She became visibly shaken when she looked it over. Terror would not do justice to what was in her eyes, and she could hardly hold the papers still after she realized what she was looking at. She shoved them into my hands and she never spoke with me again after that.

            And, there never was a doctrine of baptism of the dead. It always was referred to as baptism for the dead. Of course, the RLDS/CoC relegated those revelations to an appendix and later removed them all by vote. But in none of the revelations from Joseph Smith nor texts among his personal papers, nor personal journal accounts of those present when he taught on the subject, placed limitations on when it could be done or for the purpose of satisfying grieving people to facilitate their conversions, but only where it could and could not be done once there was a sacred place available for them to be done. Joseph Smith himself clearly taught that it was an important work of salvation for all of us.

            For those, however, there isn’t enough (have to have at least 600 words or more) material to test the revelatory parts of those removed Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants that still reside in LDS copies, but there was enough text purporting to be that of Joseph Smith’s writings to test, and all of those cluster with Joseph Smith, and also among the 19th century authors already mentioned. Brigham Young had nothing to do with those documents.

            The whole controversies of plurality of gods and of the Father having a body as tangible as man’s (which you do not mention but which also was part of the several reasons claimed for the Reorganization, wherein those founders of the movement denied that Joseph ever taught those things at all, but got all from Brigham) can also be put to rest because we have the manuscripts (some written at the time), and journal accounts (some written at the time), of those who heard Joseph and saw him teach it. All testify to the fact that Joseph Smith actually did teach it, and that the portions of what now are Section 121 and Section 130 in LDS editions of the Doctrine and Covenants are substantially what is in the manuscripts dating to the lifetime of Joseph Smith.

            The RLDS never had a foundation to begin with.

        2. Oh, and yes it was in the cards in the early 1800’s to redeem Zion. G-d stated through Joseph Smith, Jr. that had we done as instructed Zion would already have been redeemed. G-d said this through the Prophet in 1833.

          1. Redemption of the land, as in taking back what was being taken from them, yes. Redemption as in building up of Zion within their generation? Not so much. They failed to obey, and their obedience was upon what full redemption of the land was predicated. Two years previous to 1833 Joseph was told:

            And now, verily, I say concerning the residue of the elders of my church, the time has not yet come, for many years, for them to receive their inheritance in this land, except they desire it through the prayer of faith, only as it shall be appointed unto them of the Lord.
            * * * * *
            Let all these things be done in order; and let the privileges of the lands be made known from time to time, by the bishop or the agent of the church.
            And let the work of the gathering be not in haste, nor by flight; but let it be done as it shall be counseled by the elders of the church at the conferences, according to the knowledge which they receive from time to time.

            (Doctrine and Covenants 58:44, 55–56)

            But the building up of Zion in that gathering place, receiving of inheritances, they were told, would not be for many years. Their failure to do so in their lifetimes did not invalidate the priesthood. That is a leap in logic that Snufferites are using these days to try to shore up their very weak belief system that contradicts what Joseph Smith and the revelations have actually taught on a number of issues. And there still is much that must first be fulfilled before the full redemption of Zion and its building up. In any case, one cannot fix a definite frame of time when the phrase “many years” was used in one of the first revelations discussing the subject of the gathering.

  79. you can say anything.but when im going to rlds saite, im dont find ( in fist look) anythink about the book of mormon. why?

  80. Regardless of the myths, the issue must always be “authority in the priesthood” that makes or breaks the foundational claims of the Reorganization. It is a well established fact that Joseph Smith conferred the requisite “Keys of the Kingdom” (the same ones Jesus passed on to the Twelve in his day). Each of the apostles present received those keys of authority under the hands of Joseph Smith. Since none of these men went with the Reorganization, there’s no way it can claim to have them today.

    Joseph also gave the saints another figurative “key that will never rust.” If you follow the majority of the Quorum of the Twelve and the records of the church, he said, you will never be led astray. The authority resides in the apostles of Jesus Christ; meanwhile, the records are part of the essential books out of which we will be judged. For each baptism and ordination are duly witnessed and attested to, and each is done under the proper priesthood keys. Each baptism for the dead, each patriarchal blessing and every other ordinance is done in a house of order. If a bishop decides, on his own, that it’s time to begin calling and ordaining horses to the priesthood, he will not succeed because he will have cut the cords binding his authority to the Twelve himself! The RLDS can copy any aspect of priesthood authority they wish, but the leadership can never blaze the priesthood trail back to Jesus Christ, who is the author and arbiter of all authority to act in his name.

    Let that church explain how it got those keys. It can no more do it than any of the Protestant churches can — or Alexander Campbell, William Miller, Charles T. Russell or Herbert W. Armstrong (to name but a few). The priesthood keys (Keys of the Kingdom) cannot be given to two competing churches. It’s not possible. The LDS church can trace those keys back to Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow and others (and a majority of the Twelve may act as a functioning governing body when circumstances prevent a meeting of the entire quorum), and a majority followed Brigham Young. Not one of these men who were present that day ever took part in the ordination of Joseph Smith III.

    One final note: Oliver Cowdery later rejoined the saints in Utah. And those closest to the prophet also joined the saints that moved westward. They knew about plural marriage, the temple ceremonies and understood to a degree what Smith was teaching. Those who joined the Reorganization, on the other hand, were those further removed; they were not his greatest confidents, nor were they his closest friends.

  81. It is a curious thing to see talk about how terrible a name for a church the name of the Church was and is, particularly considering that the name “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” was given by the Lord himself. That can be found in what is now the LDS Doctrine and Covenants 115:3-4, but the revelation was published earlier, in 1838, in the early Church newspaper, the Elders’ Journal, on pages 52-53. It was also stated as the name of the Church in two Sections that in RLDS/CoC editions of the Doctrine and Covenants were relegated to an appendix, and then afterwards completely dropped from RLDS/CoC editions. Terrible or not, it still is the name the Lord himself said his Church would be called in the last days.

  82. It makes W. Grant McMurray uncomfortable being called a “prophet, seer, and revelator.” The title “creates within me unimagined turmoil,” said the recently elevated president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
    McMurray told the faithful at April’s General Conference that the RLDS church needs to move from being “a people with a prophet” to being a “prophetic people.”
    This fundamental shift is another move away from the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    Both religions trace their history to Joseph Smith. But the nearly 10-million-member Mormon church celebrates the concept of a prophet who talks with God as he directs the church. It was a title and task that Joseph Smith relished.
    McMurray says these times call for a new understanding of prophesy.
    “We are called to be a prophetic people, witnessing to the world that this small band of believers is ready to stand up and make a difference,” McMurray said.
    Bill Russell welcomes the change. The professor at the church’s Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, said this week: “It’s not for us to wait around for Gordon Hinckley or Grant McMurray to tell us what we need to do to combat racism or sexism.”
    McMurray, a lifelong church member, grew up in Ontario, Canada, where his family was deeply involved in the life of the church. He moved as a teen-ager to Independence, Mo., where his mother worked at church headquarters.
    At Graceland, McMurray majored in religion. He then decided to pursue a theological education. Because the church has no graduate theological schools, he got his master’s of divinity degree at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, a United Methodist seminary.
    McMurray, the first RLDS president to be seminary trained, sees theological education as invaluable to those who would lead the church at the top levels, called appointees. “I put a high value on that kind of training and education,” he said.
    “In this complex world, it is important that there be a foundational base of skilled people to convey the message in a theologically coherent manner.”
    At barely 26, McMurray went to work for the RLDS Church’s historical department. He was church archivist for a decade, focusing on church history.
    In 1982 he was appointed World Church secretary, where he was responsible for much of the church’s administration.
    In 1992, McMurray became a counselor to church President Wallace B. Smith, a direct descendant of Joseph Smith. Last fall, when the 66-year-old Smith announced his retirement, he named McMurray as his successor.
    McMurray is the first RLDS president who is not a direct descendant of Joseph Smith.
    The RLDS church split from the LDS church in 1844. The larger body followed Brigham Young to Utah. A small group remained in the Midwest and reorganized in 1860 under the leadership of Joseph Smith III.
    Since that day, leadership of the RLDS church has come through the Smith family.
    But McMurray said, “it is not an essential part of church doctrine.”
    From September through April, Smith circulated a pastoral letter regarding McMurray’s appointment, giving members a chance to comment on it. But few objected so McMurray was ordained in April.
    “The transition was seamless,” he said.

    1. McMurray is correct in that a study of theology as a science, and an understanding of what is available for us to know is our responsibility and one that has been failed. However, G-d does not grant miracles where we have the capacity to do for ourselves. When we seek knowledge that already exists, that is already present, through revelation instead of effort – G-d will not answer the lazy. G-d does not do miracles for those who do not try.

      And McMurray is also correct in that leadership of the church out to have those filled with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, but that revelation is not limited to the leadership of the Church. G-d will speak through whom He chooses when He chooses and in the manner He chooses. We are called to be a nation of priests and of kings. That everyone should contribute to the rule of the polity, as it was before Saul when the people chose a single king over being a democratic confederacy of tribes (states). That everyone should be fit to minister, a people prophetic in vision living the law as a testimonial prophecy of Christ; For both the law and the prophets testify of Him.

      There is a legitimate criticism of the church body in that it is rife with beliefs which have nothing to do with valid scripture or history and are in fact contrary to all physical evidence. But Truth does not stop claims of faith which choose to disregard it. And the Enemy of All has delighted in turning the learned and the zealous into warring camps through their ignorance of both legitimate science and legitimate scripture.

      However, the liberal actions which were executed under McMurray’s influence were not consistent with Scripture. They do not profess a prophetic testimony of Christ. Still, they do fulfill prophecy.

      One does not have to be president to be a prophet, but one should be open to revelation if they are president of the Body of Christ. Bishop Irenaeus had a legitimate criticism of the early church which in its zeal to receive revelation from G-d and the experience (gnossis) of the divine accepted as prophecy the disparate rantings of those through whom G-d did not speak. The backlash he initiated obliterated receptiveness to all revelation not made through a centralized authority – which led to the worship of the Bishop of Rome as the Vicarivs Filii Dei (the sum of which name is 666). The church has always had a problem with false prophets, prophets who misinterpret G-d’s revelation to them, and centralized authority making decisions which abuse that authority.

      The exceptional accomplishment of the LDS branch of the Mormon movement has been the organizational skills it effects with each thing it takes up as an endeavor. It very likely has the best management and efficiency development system in the world today. But as I occasionally remind priesthood members here: If they had gotten it right then Zion already be redeemed. It is not. Therefore, they do not have it right.

      1. The redemption of Zion, as in the return of the land to the Church, has precious little to do with whether or not the priesthood got it right, but rather is predicated upon the obedience of the people, priesthood holders and lay members alike. The law of consecration is required for all in order to redeem the land and to build up Zion. That is what the Lord decreed. Nowhere does he say that Zion cannot be redeemed because of the failure of the priesthood. He also stated that its building up would not occur “for many years.”

        1. The Redemption of Zion is the return of Zion from heaven to earth. It has nothing to do with the transfer of land. Zion cannot be built by us because Zion is already in existence and built. Zion will be redeemed when the people are of one heart and one mind – the heart and mind of G-d. As Zion is not redeemed then the Priesthood has not done their job.

          1. This would be so, if one were to do as you have and ignore the fuller context. But it is not so. So, if it were true that it doesn’t involve transfer of land, and that we cannot build up Zion, why does God say that Zion could only “be built up” (Doctrine and Covenants 105:5) by being united and living the law of the celestial kingdom? Why does God talk about redeeming the land as such and then qualify that by saying of Joseph’s brethren “even their restoration to the land of Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 103:13)?

            If Zion is “only the city Zion in heaven,” and “Zion cannot be built by us because it is already in existence and built” (as you claim), why does the Lord say so much regarding the restoration to the land, the building up of Zion, laying the foundation of Zion (Doctrine and Covenants 58:7; 84:2-3; 124:118 [yes, I know that the CoC removed this latter revelation to an appendix in 1970 and deleted it entirely by vote afterward]), and so forth, if it is already built in its entirety? And what does God mean by “The Lord hath brought down Zion from above” and “The Lord hath brought up Zion from beneath” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:100)?

            My understanding of the situation also has the agreement of Moses 7:62-64 (Inspired Version, Genesis 7:70-72) and the context of Book of Mormon, Ether 13, and so forth (in LDS editions).

            Your false interpretation and misunderstanding, on the other hand, makes little sense in light of the overall context of the scriptures as a whole. And your interpretation that the priesthood has not done its job stands or falls with the entire substructure of your interpretation. This, in spite of the fact that the Lord stated that “the time has not yet come, for many years,” to receive inheritances in the land and “except they desire it through the prayer of faith,” etc. What did he mean by “for many years”? Could he have already known what the Saints would do but still give them the chance to prove themselves earlier? Indeed.

            Thus, this is no real reflection on the priesthood. They were faithful, for much of the number, but not all. But in order for Zion to be built up on the land so that there is a city Zion that is beneath, with which Zion from above shall meet, all who dwell there must obey the law of the celestial kingdom. So long as the leaders of the Church continue to instruct members to work toward becoming better and closer toward the law of the celestial kingdom (they already have been for years putting people under covenant to consecrate everything and all that they are to the Church in preparation), the work of gathering shall continue until the time of fulfillment of the length of “many years.” And that is no failure of the priesthood. That is the failure of the individual members until the time that the Lord will cleanse his people and remove the wicked by force, by plague, and by fire–if they do not repent and work the works of righteousness on their own under the current guidance of the priesthood, which has not failed.

          2. Well first, not one of the scriptures you reference says anything you want it to say. In the actual scriptures of G-d, the Lord speaks through the prophets concerning the Redemption of Zion and through the restoration of the faith in these latter days.

            But let me tell you about false interpretation. During the years following the first prophet’s death my ancestors moved to Utah. They settled near Ogden next to their cousins, the Tracy Family. But they would not accept the false revelations of Brigham Young. So, the LDS church ordered them to marry their oldest daughter to one of the church leaders. She did not want to do this.

            They disassembled their wagon in the barn and moved it a piece at a time to their house, since they were being watched. The wagon was reassembled and packed while inside. With their cousins maintaining lights and a fire through the night to make it seem like they were still there, my great great grandfather Soloman knocked the lynch pins out of the end wall of the cabin, hooked up the oxen, and they left under cover of darkness.

            The next day it was discovered that they had left. And the Danites pursued my family to the Bear River. Praying for deliverence from their enemies my family entered the Bear River. A flash flood came up and swept them down stream. The women dumped all their heaviest goods out of the wagon to help stay afloat while the eldest son swam out between the two oxen and while holding on to their harness continually pushed their noses up above the rushing waters.

            The Danites declared them lost and dead. However, they came to land miles down river. There they met two Lamanites. One of these Lamanites spoke to them only twice. There at the side of the river he said, “The Great Spirit has sent me to lead you to your people.” Then my family was led through the hills and mountains to Oregon where the Lamanite spoke again. Pointing down to a town he said, “There are your people.” When my great great grandfather Soloman arrived in the town he found his brother living there. Not only was it our people, it was our blood family to which the G-d inspired the Lamanites to lead them.

            Since those from whom I am descended were not born before their parents were declared dead by the LDS history, I have reason to question the validity of any and all of the records they have ever kept. And I have reason to question the spirit that leads them in keeping to those things which are not true, which being untrue cannot be of G-d.

          3. If you say so. I know better, however. But if the mythos must be supported by claiming that they don’t say anything like what I stated, I suppose that is what you will do. I do know that CofC editions have differing verse numbering systems from LDS editions, so that also may well be why you might say that. Unfortunately, I do not have my CoC or RLDS editions available for reference at the moment, so I cannot provide referencing using that system.

            Interesting mythic/epic family history. Doesn’t fit the facts of the situation or the history of the period but interesting, nonetheless.

            And, nice moving of the goalposts. No way to get to the goalpost with your moving them around so much even before I really got started. And nice poisoning of the well at the same time. Cannot answer logical fallacies all that adequately

            No answer ever could be adequate using original sources because all sources automatically are called into doubt by mere waving of the hand, even if they are unaltered and date to the proper period. It, however, is a good way to protect ones fallacious views within a protective cocoon of logical fallacies and fables.

          4. Kenneth Slayor } …the Danites pursued my family to the Bear River. Praying for deliverence from their enemies my family entered the Bear River. A flash flood came up and swept them down stream. The women dumped all their heaviest goods out of the wagon to help stay afloat while the eldest son swam out between the two oxen and while holding on to their harness continually pushed their noses up above the rushing waters.

            It’s a good story, but if the daughter didn’t want to marry a church leader, she certainly couldn’t be compelled to. Neither could a family be compelled to turn over their daughter to the church in a forced marriage. In all the stories I’ve read, I’ve never heard of any about a band of men grabbing a woman by force and compelling them to marry anyone. As for the Danites, the mad rush to escape, the intervention of heaven delivering the family — it has all the elements of a good story. Certainly, those of us who believe that Brigham Young, Parley and Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, Lorenzo Snow, Wilford Woodruff and other good men were prophets would have problems with believing it.

            God was either with the saints or He wasn’t. I don’t view these men as a group, but as individuals. People who have asked me to reject Joseph Smith and Mormonism don’t understand that even if I could explain where the Book of Mormon came from, or the profound revelations in the Doctrine & Covenants — even if I could do that — I’d have to reject all the others. The RLDS and the polygamous cults aren’t options, so I’d have to reject the great accounts of our early leaders and accept the sordid accounts that fly in the face of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And that I can’t do. If there was gross wickedness on the part of some of the local leaders, that’s another thing, but whatever happened, perhaps God led your family to where they wished to be and that was that. I don’t see Brigham’s “revelations” as being false (that was your family’s views). When he left Nauvoo, he carried with him the keys to bind both in Heaven and Earth. He and Joseph Smith were a package deal, and one cannot be a prophet of God without the other one also being a prophet.

          5. I have revised my post to be referenced by RLDS referencing to facilitate your being able to look up and compare what I quoted in your own versions of the scriptures (assuming that you meant by “actual scriptures of G-d” your editions of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants). You will see that they say pretty much the same things that are said in LDS editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. Now, the revised response:

            This would be so, if one were to do as you have and ignore the fuller context. But it is not so. So, if it were true that it doesn’t involve transfer of land, and that we cannot build up Zion, why does God say that Zion could only “be built up” (Doctrine and Covenants 102:2c) by being united and living the law of the celestial kingdom? Why does God talk about redeeming the land as such and then qualify that by saying of Joseph’s brethren “even their restoration to the land of Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 100:3b)?

            If Zion is “only the city Zion in heaven,” and “Zion cannot be built by us because it is already in existence and built” (as you claim), why does the Lord say so much regarding the restoration to the land, the building up of Zion, laying the foundation of Zion (Doctrine and Covenants 58:3c; 83:1c-2a; 107:34c [yes, I know that the CoC removed this latter revelation to an appendix in 1970 and deleted it entirely by vote afterward]), and so forth, if it is already built in its entirety? And what does God mean by “The Lord hath brought down Zion from above” and “The Lord hath brought up Zion from beneath” (Doctrine and Covenants 83:17b)?

            My understanding of the situation also has the agreement of Inspired Version, Genesis 7:70-72 (Moses 7:62-64 is LDS scripture) and the context of Ether 6, and so forth. You can see that the Lord will gather out the elect, and that there in that place will be a tabernacle, and the place which the Lord shall prepare will be called Zion, the New Jerusalem. In verse 71 you can see that Enoch is told that he and his city would meet those people there in that place, and that this whole place would then be called Zion and the abode of the Lord. Ether 6 in your edition clearly states that the New Jerusalem will “be built.”

            Your false interpretation and misunderstanding, on the other hand, makes little sense in light of the overall context of the scriptures as a whole. And your interpretation that the priesthood has not done its job stands or falls with the entire substructure of your interpretation. This, in spite of the fact that the Lord stated that “the time has not yet come, for many years,” to receive inheritances in the land and “except they desire it through the prayer of faith,” etc. (Doctrine and Covenants 58:9e) What did he mean by “for many years”? Could he have already known what the Saints would do but still give them the chance to prove themselves earlier? Indeed.

            Thus, this is no real reflection on the priesthood. They were faithful, for much of the number, but not all. But in order for Zion to be built up on the land so that there is a city Zion that is beneath, with which Zion from above shall meet, all who dwell there must obey the law of the celestial kingdom. So long as the leaders of the Church continue to instruct members to work toward becoming better and closer toward the law of the celestial kingdom (they already have been for years putting people under covenant to consecrate everything and all that they are to the Church in preparation), the work of gathering shall continue until the time of fulfillment of the length of “many years.”

            And that is no failure of the priesthood. That is the failure of the individual members until the time that the Lord will cleanse his people and remove the wicked by force, by plague, and by fire–if they do not repent and work the works of righteousness on their own under the current guidance of the priesthood, which has not failed.

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