Canonizing Modern Revelation – A Tourist Guide

FireTag baptism, community of christ, doctrine, gay, history, Mormon, Priesthood, revelation, RLDS, scripture, theology 33 Comments

Over the past year or so, I’ve become blogging buddies with FireTag, a member of the Community of Christ.  He has his own blog at The Fire Still Burning.  Many of you should recognize FireTag, as he frequently comments here at Mormon Matters.  He was part of my panel for the Interview with the Community of Christ.

As some of you may know, the Community of Christ (formerly known as RLDS), canonizes revelations in their edition of the Doctrine and Covenants much more frequently than the LDS church does.  There is an upcoming World Conference (similar to General Conference) coming up in April, where they will discuss canonizing a new revelation.  I asked FireTag to write a series of guest posts discussing this process, and he has graciously agreed to do so.  Without further ado, here is his tourist guide to canonizing modern revelation:

Living prophets who add to the canon of scripture are a distinctive marker of the Mormon movement. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the most recent such formal canonization was Official Declaration 2, added in 1978. The Proclamation on the Family could conceivably be submitted “for common consent” at some future date, the last step in its addition to the Doctrine and Covenants.

The next largest Restoration Movement body, Community of Christ, has added to its version of the Doctrine and Covenants far more frequently. Eleven new D&C Sections (153-163 in CofChrist numbering) have been added since 1978 under three prophet/presidents, and a proposed Section 164 is expected to be announced to the church by webcast on January 17, 2010 for consideration at the CofChrist’s April 2010 World Conference. Since World Conferences during the period have been held only seventeen times (counting 2010), adoption of new scripture is almost a “normal” World Conference activity.

The document is expected to deal primarily with two topics: (1) conditions of membership, as applied to converts from other Christian faiths; and, (2) with the rights to participate in and administer sacraments and ordinances of the church, including ordination and marriage, for those in non-heterosexual monogamous relationships where civil law allows.

Because the latter issues involved in the 2010 document will be very recognizable points of discussion in the bloggernacle, this post is offered as background for those Mormons who want to watch the process unfold. A later post nearer the time of the conference will focus more on events during the conference itself.

The CofChrist holds week-long Conferences that are far more legislation-oriented than are LDS conferences. Most of The Apostles or First Presidency are given no time to address the conference, for example, since only Sunday mornings and evenings are set aside for worship. Mornings and afternoons are devoted to consideration of legislation, whether in full conference, or in various quorums, committees, or delegate caucuses. Consideration of a revelation takes priority over all other matters.

In recent years, our Prophets have become increasingly uncomfortable with “springing” revelations on the people at the beginning of Conference for, literally, overnight consideration and adoption as had been the practice in earlier decades. It now seems to be standard practice for the Presidency to initiate a formal “discernment process” shortly after a Conference to call the church to participate in prayerfully considering the issues which will be the subject of action (and prospective revelation) at the following Conference 3 years later. Often, these are the very same issues which were referred back to the First Presidency for further study or direction (often through a standing or special committee that the Presidency creates) by the previous Conference. Of course, the Apostles, the Presiding Bishopric (chief financial officers, not pastors, in the CofChrist), the Presidencies of the various quorums, and others are closely involved in these considerations behind the scenes.

As a result of these practices, the general membership of the church has acquired some expanded opportunities to influence the theological and policy issues that the leading quorums of the church will seek to address during the periods between conferences. This power is not as explicit as in earlier times when the Prophet was directed to “inquire of the Lord”, and the Prophet has his own impresses regardless of what the Conference says, but there is definitely a notion that “common consent” is involved both in framing which questions the Prophet asks and in accepting the answers the Prophet receives as inspired.

Both of the major expected topics of proposed Section 164 are the result of pressures by significant portions of the membership to address issues of personal importance to them. The CofChrist draws a much smaller proportion of its active membership from North America and Europe than does the LDS church. In fact, conventional wisdom in the CofChrist holds that North American membership will soon be a minority in the church, if it is not already. As a result, views of the membership in places like Africa, India, and Haiti have major and growing influence on the church’s agenda.

These nations are less individualistic than Americans. They often have experienced great tension between teachings of Christianity and other great world religions accepted by their families and friends, and they are less likely to see differences among Christian denominations that loom large in American discussions as important. They often participate in the CofChrist while knowing or caring little about such things as the Book of Mormon or the early history of the Restoration movement. As a result, many of them deeply question the need for rebaptism, which seems to imply a rejection of the sacrifices they made to become Christian in the first place, as well as of the Christian families and communities around them.

The second largest demographic bloc in the church consists of relatively aged, relatively conservative members still very committed to the uniqueness of the Restoration and uncomfortable with any suggestion that their sacrifices would have been just as meaningful in another denomination.

Consequently, following the 2007 Conference, the First Presidency was left with an “action item” to address the issue of the “conditions of membership”, and has been directing a formal discernment process intended to lead to the January 17 guidance to the church. This issue is considered sufficiently divisive that the leading quorums had clearly indicated a desire not to deal with other divisive matters until the church has proven it can work through the issue. The schism that resulted in the church in the 1980’s over extension of priesthood to women has clearly instilled caution in the church leadership.

However, there is another divisive issue, the roles which gays living in monogamous relationships are to have in the church, which a third important demographic bloc, progressives in the Western nations, has forced onto the agenda despite the wishes of the leadership to defer consideration. Field jurisdictions which are roughly equivalent to LDS stakes (though they sometimes extend over several countries) have rights to pass legislation at their own conferences which then come to the floor of the World Conference for action. Ten such “mission centers” in the United States, Canada, and Australia passed overlapping resolutions which ask the church to change policies in various ways toward allowing gays to marry where civil authority permits, allowing our priesthood to perform such marriages as sacraments of the church, and/or to remove such relationships as barriers to holding priesthood. In response, four mission centers, in the southern US, Central America, and Africa passed proposed legislation that would reaffirm (either permanently or until further study) current policy. All proposed legislation is available for  reading here.

The significance of bringing these resolutions up at all should be understood. Their existence eclipses the Leading Quorums’ agenda for 2010 in a way that has not happened in perhaps 80 years, when the quorums were divided among themselves on the direction of the church.

The Presidency has been publicly studying these gay-rights issues without resolution since 1992. While Americans tend to view the issue through the lens of domestic politics, there is a major international church component in the CofChrist consideration. It took special deliberations among the 12 and Presidency to even publicly announce that the specific legislative proposals for 2010 existed, because of fears that members in some third world nations would be subject to physical persecution because discussion of homosexuality was culturally taboo.

It is these potentially divisive issues which form the background for proposed Section 164. The proposed revelatory document should be published on the Community of Christ website within 24 hours of President Veazey’s address to the church on January 17, and a link will be added to the comments of this post as soon as the document appears.

Do you have any comments or questions?

Comments

comments

Comments 33

  1. I think it is refreshing to hear that there is actually a mechanism for input from the membership, while allowing the Prophet and Apostles to have final say. I think it makes for a much more dynamic body. I will be interested to see how things progress.

  2. wow, i’m surprised there are no comments yet. one of the things I find interesting about the CoC is that it is more theologically liberal than the LDS church. I would think that some on the bloggernacle would prefer this theological bent. it seems to me that the CoC is more friendly to gay members. I would think the CoC would be a nice alternative who accept most things from LDS church but don’t like the stance toward gay members. this upcoming revelation will be interesting to watch unfold to see what happens in the CoC with regard to gay members.

  3. Great post, Firetag! What do you think about the question of “instant canonization”? I know a lot of Community of Christ members who feel strongly that the membership should mull over an inspired document for a number of years (rather than months or sometimes just days) prior to voting to canonize it at World Conference. I can see that argument; on the other hand, I like D&C 163 so much that I wouldn’t have wanted to still be waiting now to be able to start calling it D&C 163.

    The next section and World Conference are going to take on some heavy topics. I am hopeful it will all work out, but the path ahead is not easy.

  4. John:

    One thing that I have tried to emphasize in my writings is the need to move from hierarchical decision-making to network decision-making within the church. We refer to the “hastening time” as we near the kingdom; the secular analogue is the “bottleneck” or “singularity”.

    In a global society, impacts can spread before we even understand the critical issues. And the redirection of those impacts has to be launched with uncertain knowledge and the possibility for error.

    I think time for reflection and study is always desirable. Not always practical, however, and becoming less practical as life becomes more complex.

    Life is what happens WHILE people make their plans.

  5. this idea of common consent is interesting. I like the idea that members are supposed to take part of a prophetic role in discerning a revelation. that doesn’t seem to happen in our church and I think some real personal, spiritual growth can come from such a process.

    however, a hierarchical model is much more efficient. a committee often has disputes. when a decision is 51-49, does this really indicate God’s will on a topic? probably not. but the hierarchical model has it’s own problems as well- the priesthood ban comes to mind. and I don’t think the Manifesto was unanimous either, despite what Official Declaration 1 says. when 2 apostles get excommunicated 14 years after the Manifesto was issued, that tells me the revelation was not unanimous in the quorum, let alone the general membership.

  6. I will certainly concur that hierarchies beat committees in efficiency any time. (I like Heinlein’s quip about committees as the only form of known life with multiple stomachs and no brain.)

    However, I am looking at the comparison between hierarchical decision-making versus the analogue of “distributed processing” in computing or good old fashioned “market intelligence”.

    It is interesting that a few of the legislative proposals to be considered would actually lead to differing policies (at least for the forseeable future) within different cultures.

  7. MH (#5) — “Efficiency” is only one single goal in an institution. Obviously, Mussolini was famously efficient, but there are also problems that go along with one-man rule (and also oligarchy). As in governments, in other institutions there are many other goals that are addressed better using the systems of constitutional democracy and separation of powers.

    Whereas it’s often believed in Mormonism that monarchy would be the best form of government, if only the monarch were truly inspired by God — this originates in a nostalgia for monarchy that still existed in the young United States of the 1830s — this is actually not true. It doesn’t matter if the monarch was perfect. The system of monarchy can do some things well, but it lacks the capacity to assure the rights and needs of the individual to the same extent these rights and needs are protected in a constitutional democracy with separated powers.

    A more important Mormon teaching is that although the spheres are separated by a veil, there are not separate laws for heaven and earth. From this we can know that Heaven is not a monarchy. Monarchy is an inferior form of government than what we have now. Heaven, we can safely assume, functions with a system that is at least as good as what we have now and, we might imagine, is almost certainly more advanced and better — not less advanced and worse. The only reason why we speak of heaven as a “Kingdom,” is because ancient prophets were aware of no other system when they spoke of Heaven. Today, we might instead refer to the “Commonwealth of Heaven.” Prophets living in 1,000 BCE could only say that “God is like a perfect King,” because no other model had been invented. As prophetic people today, we can say “God is like a perfect Commonwealth.” (Obviously, God is actually neither. For God to be infinite, God cannot actually be anything we can comprehend. However, the only way we can describe that which exceeds our comprehension is through models.) Unless we’re admitting that religion is a nostalgic relic, unfit for the present, we have reason to make use of every bit of our present-day understandings to keep religion meaningful.

    In my perspective, with our current level of understanding of human institutions, the best way to have a divinely led church is for God to inspire all the members who will together receive God’s revelation through a system of democracy with separated powers.

  8. I think the CofC model is actually reasonable. Why not let concerned members have some sort of input into the decisions? Whether or not the final results from the Prophet and Apostles, after careful prayer and consideration, is the same as what an individual member felt about a certain issue, at least that person has more of a sense of participation.

    My question: Given this, I would assume that while the CofC has a smaller total number of members than the LDS Church does, the activity rate would possibly be higher. Is there any data or numbers regarding activity rates between the two denominations?

  9. Mike:

    I think in the US it is actually the other way around. A quarter of our membership is “unknown”, and you wouldn’t believe the effort that it takes to administratively move someone to the unknown list.

    I think you personally commented somewhere on MM about the Mormon percentage rate of growth heading toward a peak in about 20 years. We reached that peak 40 years ago, and demographically, we would have to increase our baptismal rate by a factor of 6 simply to stabilize ourselves in North America.

    But our activity rates are much higher outside NA. Hence the conventional wisdom that we are shifting rapidly to being a church with more active members outside NA than inside it. I think I read somewhere this week that there are now more French speaking members than English speakers, though I can’t vouch for that.

    Nor can I vouch for the idea that the church is growing overseas as fast as it is shrinking in the US.

  10. John your points are well taken. Rather than the Kingdom of God, I guess we should start referring to the Democracy of God, where Jesus doesn’t come to rule as a king, but rather preside as a president, right?

    FireTag, I can think of another phrase from Mark Twain: a committee can make a decision dumber than any of its members.

    I must say with all the vocal proponents of Prop 8 that have come on this blog over the past, I’m shocked that there aren’t more people taking an interest in the “marriage, for those in non-heterosexual monogamous relationships where civil law allows.” I think that is an extraordinary issue the CoC is attempting to tackle.

  11. The upcoming discernment that the Community of Christ is going to do in regards to gay people is going to be huge news. That issue probably hasn’t caught people’s attention in this post because the title is talking about the canonization process in general. But I think we can predict this is something the bloggernacle will be abuzz with in the next few months.

  12. #2 – I really thought this was v. interesting but my ignorance made me fear to tread.

    #5 – I agree that this process, if taken serious could be a important move for the LDS Church. I wonder whow people in the CofC see it though. is it something that brings ‘real, personal, spiritual growth’ like you suggest? Within any organization, as the rules and rituals become normative the individuals have to work at making them fresh.

    Also, I wonder whether this would work in the LDS church as well. Because the Church is bigger numerically, perhaps the levels of power within the network would be unevenly distributed. Those less literate and less able to express their views might be marginalised. I am sure there are mechanisms to reduce in the CofC and I would wonder how they work and whether these could be succesfully applied to the LDS Church.

    #11 – Are there intimations at how the membership is going to deal ith this issue?

  13. Fire Tag, thanks for this post. I’m glad to see you guesting here! 🙂 Just yesterday, I was thinking about a friend of mine who is investigating CofC and how I’d really like to learn more myself. Apparently there are a handful of members in Oslo, but none in my immediate area. Otherwise I think it would be interesting to attend a meeting.

    In the LDS Church, even though we all give our “sustaining vote,” I’ve always looked at it as a purely symbolic gesture. If I were to voice concerns with a leader or a policy issue, it wouldn’t likely have any impact — especially coming from a woman. Outside of the Bloggernacle, I don’t really see much open discussion in the Church about anything. All the policies and decision-making seem to happen behind closed doors — with all the decisions being made by men — and whenever changes are made, we’re expected to follow the “prophets, seers and revelators.”

    I have a couple of questions:

    1.) Do you think that the average CofC member feels any more empowered than the average LDS? Since it seems that individual members are more involved and have input, is it done in the same sort of way that gov’t operates, in the sense that I can go to my bishop (like I would my member of parliament) and express my views about a certain issue, and then he/she will take it to the higher authorities for consideration?

    2.) When the CofC prophet declares new revelation or adds to the canon, how is it regarded by the general membership? Do you have that same belief that many LDS have that “the prophet will never lead you astray?”

  14. Thanks, FireTag! This has been one of the most fascinating posts I’ve read on the Bloggernacle in a while. I think it captures my imagination because the canonization process seems so logical and inclusive and _alive_. It also sounds refreshing given I have no real examples to compare the process to in the LDS Church (I wasn’t yet alive for the 1978 Official Declaration). I have to say I’m a bit wistful for the concept of active continuing additions to the canon the way the CoC has done, and I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I find it a bit disconcerting that whereas there seemed to be a glut of modern revelation all in the space of 20 years in the early days of JS’s church, and whereas JS himself tried to teach that revelation can and should continue, nevertheless after his death we’ve seen in the LDS branch of Mormonism a significant drop in canonized revelation. In the last 120 years, we have only one new section of the D&C, and 2 official declarations to show for it, both of which were brought about by extreme social and political pressure, and which correct wrongs that should have never needed correction. Looking to JS’s revelatory patterns as an example, and to Paul’s letters in the NT, it would seem natural, even vital to the life of the Church to have a prophet continually asking God and receiving revelations to address issues and problems affecting faith communities in contemporary society. I’m sure many LDS would say, “That’s exactly what General Conference and the Ensign accomplish” but we all can immediately tell the difference between a section of the D&C and a GC address filled with humorous or sentimental stories, poems, or aphorisms and absolutely no “new” or “expounded” doctrine. At the same time, however, I realize that the more the leaders of the church “speak for God” and canonize those words, the more vulnerable they become to shifts in social mores, as well as advances in science. It is a lot harder to remove revelations from a canon than it is to add, I’m sure.

    In the end, perhaps I’m make a bigger deal of revelation and canonization than I really need to. Despite JS’s wariness about the effects of codification of faith into a system of beliefs (continuing revelation through a prophet, personal relationship with the HG, and “no creeds”, right?), and Jesus himself never gave a directive to his disciples and apostles in Palestine to write down a series of beliefs to which one _must_ ascribe to be considered Christian, the Christian world (Mormons included) cannot seem to stop themselves from establishing such documents as benchmarks for personal assessment, and fences to exclude others not privy to the same spiritual privileges and rewards as another. In some ways, books of scriptures do just that, especially when they are perused not as a spiritual guide to aid the reader in the process of connecting him- or herself to the spiritual element in all of us, but as proof texts of the totality of God’s mind and will.

    On another note, I’m impressed by the CoC’s recognition that non-Western membership is going to have a profound influence on the future of the Church, and that based on what I understand from what you wrote, the CoC is seeking ways to give them a voice in matters that affect the church as a whole.

  15. rico, while the LDS church is much larger then the CoC, I think the CoC is large enough and some of the members are spiritually illiterate enough that the are probably marginalized. i’d be surprised if they had mechanisms in place that you mention. I think firetag’s choice of words ‘legislation’ over inspiration or revelation is interesting because it brings a political dimension to the canonization process that is probably inevitable in a distributed decision making process. these political aspects are much less visible in the LDS church because the 12 meet behind closed doors.

  16. John: Re 7&11

    I had not considered the idea of a political system in heaven at all, but its existence does kind of follow since I’m pretty sure there is an ecology of spirits on that side of the “veil”. In fact, I suspect the laws on each side are more closely related than even Mormon cosmology envisions. Oh, well — that’s another subject in and of itself.

    I’m not sure if much of the CofChrist itself knows what is about to hit it yet. I was amazed in traveling to Independence a few years ago for one of the big Theology Forums that most people in the local congregations didn’t even know it was happening. There are the two communities there, too — those with connections to the Temple and those whose connections are mostly at the local congregational level. Most of the resolutions didn’t make the press deadline for the January Saint’s Herald, and most church members aren’t web deniaens yet. January 17 is going to shock a lot of people. (We just have no idea which side will be most shocked yet.)

    Rico: Re 12 and 14

    We are still feeling our way through the decentralization of prophetic power from being a people who have a prophet to being prophetic people. So keeping it fresh isn’t a problem YET. More of a problem is people not WANTING the personal responsibility to step out of their comfort zones — and that applies to a greater or lesser extent to all of us. It is entirely possible that this will all blow up in our face in the next few months; we could individually or collectively hear the Spirit incorrectly. We might shrink from wanting to hear the Spirit at all. We could receive a great blessing, or experience schism — or the two ideas might even turn out to be one and the same.

    However, and this relates back to Mike’s comment as well, while these emerging procedures can have their own form of marginalization, the small size of our denomination compared to the LDS does mean that we have more opportunity for interaction with our top leadership than you can imagine. I’m not joking when I say that the 12 are known to make house calls. So the size difference may indeed be an obstacle to such procedures taking hold in the LDS.

    Ironically, a President of the Quorum of Seventy in charge of the British Isles was in my home a few months ago, along with the man who is taking charge of the West (continental) European Mission Center next month. I’m feeling mischievious. Want me to tattle about your call not being returned? 😀

    FD: Re 13

    Some of the above relates to your question about empowerment as well.

    The statement of the prophet will carry tremendous weight; I cannot see the collective decision of the conference going against him, although the potential for division from one or more groups is certainly there and explains the leadership’s clear hesitancy to deal with this issue at all.

    We do not hold that the prophet could never lead us astray. Both denominations’ versions of the D&C contain provisions for the other quorums to act if the prophet messes up. Those provisions would not be there if we could be sure the prophet could not mess up, unfortunately.

    More importantly, the idea is not terrifying in our formal theology. To us, believing the “right” things about God is a big help in finding your way to Him, but we don’t look at it as something that’s going to be on the “final exam”. 😀

    Steve S.: Someone once said that it isn’t the things we don’t know that are a problem, it is the things we’re sure we know that are dead wrong.

    MH: Once a revelation is accepted by common consent, the legislation obviously in non-compliance with it (on whatever side) will go away. Even attempts to keep the “common consent” from occurring will go nowhere, precisely because they will be seen as “political”.

    Individuals (and the demographic blocs I mentioned) will test the precepts against their consciences and personal testimonies, and will act accordingly. I have no idea what President Veazey will bring; I am only confident (from everything he’s been saying for months) that there will be a continued plea for the church to remain united and that the church in Africa and Latin America will NOT have gay rights forced upon them against their will. What happens in other jurisdictions and cultures is up in the air, IMO.

  17. Very interesting discussion thread happening here. Looking forward to seeing where it goes.

    I thought I would add that in addition to CofC church leaders asking the church body to prayerfully engage in a discernment process with the first presidency, various committees prepared discernment material that has been distributed through the church. There were several discernment formats offered, such as a series of small group discussions. The first presidency asked that a summary be sent to them from the small group discussions, for example.

    There is no way to tell if and how that input will really be used by the leaders in shaping the guidance that comes, but it is a good sign that there was a practical way to get information from the people who engaged in discernment to the leaders of the church and that such information was sought.

  18. #16 – My ignorance shines through. I have wanted to know more about the CofC but have also had a tough time finding my way to it. Thanks for you response. Your point about politics is interesting and is something I have noticed more and more in the LDS Church: WoW and Poygamy spring to mind. I wonder what cultural changes occurred to allow this sort of openness about politics. Moreover, I wonder how this view of political movements in defining new revelation relates to being a prophetic people rather than a people with a prophet.

    #17 – Thanks for the response. I can understand peoples hesistancy about taking that resonsibility, I imagine there would be a similar response in the LDS Church. I love the idea of the 12 making house calls. Moreover, as the Church grows outside of the US will representation be available for them among the twelve. I am usure how the 12 are called (although I know they only serve a short period of time).

    I have to say that regardless of the influence, I think involving the people more is inspired and it is somthing I have wanted to more on a local level at least among the LDS.

    I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, I jut wanted to come and thought it was interesting that they were not really keen to ‘come after’ me like they would in the LDS Church. Perhaps we ahve a different approach to conversion and proselyting that makes the response less direct.

  19. Fire Tag, thanks for answering our questions.

    In the LDS Church, we’re expected to respect our leaders and refrain from criticism. Was it Dallin H. Oaks who said that even if a leader is wrong, we shouldn’t critcize? Anyways, the expectation respecting authority is huge among LDS and even though we theoretically believe that our leaders can make mistakes, practically speaking we don’t, and that’s how we end up with “the prophet will never lead you astray,” etc. And that respect for authority tends to put a damper on constructive criticism, which in turn can potentially put a damper on spiritual progression and growth, IMO.

    I get the feeling (and correct me if I’m wrong) that involving the individual member more in the evolution of the Church and its doctrine makes it feel more like a democratic process. Not because a 50+1 vote would necessarily be all that’s needed to establish a new doctrine, but because the leaders are actually interested in hearing the insights and observations of individual members and because they may actually have an influence on the final decision of the leaders and, ultimately, the prophet in matters of doctrine and Church policy.

    Also, do you feel that this more “democratic” approach brings the office of prophet and leaders down from their “holy” pedestals? I would perhaps compare it to how I feel about my prime minister and members of parliament. I respect my PM and MP’s and their authority to make ultimate binding decisions, but their authority doesn’t mean that they aren’t responsible for listening to the voices of the people, taking them into account, and possibly being influenced by them in their decision-making. Would you say that CofC members have the same sort of reverence for their prophet as LDS do for theirs, or is it more subdued?

  20. Rico:

    In a church like ours everything seems to be triage. Individual congregations that are growing tend to be growing so fast that they can’t keep up. Congregation’s that are shrinking can’t keep up with the needs. Things just tend to fall in the cracks.

    I assure you no one will get in trouble; they might get help. Most of the focus in London these days was planned to build on connections in Africa to reach out to commonwealth immigrants into Britain, as I recall the President of Seventy mentioning in passing. So, depending on where you live, the meeting experience may be very different. We allow a lot of variation in local worship practices.

    Apostles and members of the presidency are called by revelation; its usually included in the D&C as part of a larger document, but more recently it is accepted separately and not canonized (since it will not usually be considered significant except as historical fact to subsequent generations). There is no seniority system; under usual circumstances the Prophet nemes his or her own successor. calls his or her own counselors, and calls members to vacancies in the other leading quorums. When the prophet’s own period of leadership ends, neither the Prophet nor the other members of the Pres will return to the 12. In fact, there is no FORMAL requirement that they come from the 12 in the first place.

    As a result, we are able to respond somewhat more rapidly to changing church demographics. One third of the Pres and one third of the 12 are already women, despite priesthood being extended to women only in the 1980’s. African and Latin American apostles have already moved into the quorum, and additional changes are certainly possible at this World Conference.

    FD:

    Our relationship with our leaders is a little less like the relationship with a PM and more like a relationship with a big brother. Ever feel free to criticize a big brother? Still love and respect him? Same thing.

    They will generally encourage you to speak to them on a first name basis. I refer to him as President Veazey above, but we all think of him among ourselves as “Steve”, just as his predecessor was “Grant” and his counselors are “Becky” and “Dave”.

    I don’t know if there is sufficient reverence for our leaders, but there is sufficient love.

  21. ‘I don’t know if there is sufficient reverence for our leaders, but there is sufficient love.’

    What a beautiful sentiment. I think this would a wonderful thing to incorporate into our wards and branches than has been.

  22. Wow. Thanks for a most interesting thread!

    The CofChrist website was thrilling reading for me, and I want to encourage others to partake. Everything under the “Our Faith” heading is a thrill to read. http://www.cofchrist.org

    From my perspective, the CofChrist very skillfully defines itself as a community of believers without drawing a boundary that makes those with differing ideas unwelcome, or infers anything about those outside the boundary. For example, “We experience salvation through Jesus Christ, but affirm that God’s grace has no bounds, and God’s love is greater than we can know.”

    I just love that. LOVE. IT.

  23. Hi Rio (re: post 12),

    I’m CofC, and the concept of discernment both excites me and scares me. It excites me because I think the process of trying to discern the mind and will of God can indeed result in spiritual growth.

    I’m a very conservative Cofc member, and so, at the same time as being excited by, and seeing the value in, a discernment process, it scares me because I don’t think it can replace the revelation process currently in place (a formal document being presented by the Prophet of the Church). I see merit in discernment because the process encourages people to perhaps open themselves up to God a little more than they might otherwise do – and, it really encourages us of course to really strive to work through these major doctrinal issues, but not just in a “by the book” kind of way, but in a very spiritual way.

    Yet, I really struggle with the direction where CofC may be going with this (and perhaps its too early to know what the intent of the church is on it). Will the church encourage discernment process on major issues, and then just go with what the majority says, in essence, altering the role of the prophet? I hope not. As another post said, what happens if you have a split? Its great to poll people, and its great to encourage people to discern these issues, but I don’t want people to also have a perhaps incorrect expectation that what they feel will in fact become policy, but I think that risk does in fact exist.

    I can’t see the church backing off on this concept of discernment, but I truly hope it will never replace or even be on par with the revelatory process currently in place. Unlike the LDS church, only the President of the Church in the CofC is regarded as an official prophet, seer and revelator, and he alone can present a revelation that is intended for the whole church, and I think that there is no basis for this to change. At least for now, as we see, this remains the process, since of course this whole thread focuses in large part on the revelation that has been announced (which is in itself somewhat unusual).

    Another reason I never wish to see our church abolish, or essentially ignore, our current custom is because (at least in my opinion), dealing with a revelation at our World Conferences is always very exciting. There is always a buzz of anticipation and it is very thrilling to be a part of the process by which a document becomes scripture. They are not just rubber stamped either. The day following the presentation of an “inspired document” (as they are often termed before being deemed valid), the delegates meet in various meetings, as do all the general officers of the church, to discus the document in detail. Eventually, during another legislative session (during the same conference), each council, order, and quorum deliver a report, as do all the various caucuses. At the reports are read, the delegates vote on the document. Yes, so far, every revelation presented has been accepted, but some have definitely provoked a lot of discussion before being sealed forever as scripture, and could truly have gone the other way if enough people voted not to approve it. Once approved, all the non-delegates in attendance are given a courtesy vote (the only occasion during the World Conference that such is permitted). From beginning to end its a wonderful and exciting process. You sort of feel a bit like you are part of history.

    Most of our recent revelations begin with the words “To the Councils, Quorums, and Orders, to the World Conference, and to the Church”. This is going to strike you I’m sure as very odd, but those words, not specific to any revelation, sometimes make me a little misty eyed. I remember many years ago when I was in college, I could not attend World Conference, but after it began, I heard a rumor that a revelation was going to be presented, and I went to my computer every day to see if today was the day, and sure enough, one day, there it was. A new revelation, and when I began to read those very familiar words, I had to fight back tears. Likewise, a few years after that, President Grant McMurray presented a document for our extended consideration, but not for action (i.e., not to be voted on). Four years later, I heard that the document was going to be expanded upon. In addition to those words that I cherish, there was another change it was now versified (whereas, before, it had not been). Again, that silly part of my heart got chocked up, because I knew, after a few years of a “revelation drought”, that this document was not simply expanded upon, but would be presented for official action.

    Anyhow, I can’t really put into words the joy I feel each time Community of Christ considers an inspired document presented by the prophet. Whether I am at conference, or not, it makes no difference for me. Its something I hope and pray my church will never move away from, because, despite the revelation going through another person, the collective process somehow makes me feel more connected to God than even individual discernment. I know God is always with me, but I feel that his presence is more fully felt in groups. Anyhow, this is just a very long way of saying that, yes, while I can see some benefit to discernment, it should never replace the current customs already in place.

  24. Pingback: A GUEST POST APPEARING ON MORMON MATTERS « The Fire Still Burning

  25. FireTag, did it strike you as odd that he was himself not “backfilled”? Perhaps they are saving that for World Conference, on the basis that they know (based on what was revealed yesterday) that the number of Presidents of Seventy might increase, and they have yet to finalize all the people who will serve in that position). I wonder if there will be a third letter at World Conference (possibly another “Patoral Letter” or “Words of Counsel”), to indicate who the new Presidents of Seventy will be.

    Very interesting stuff.

  26. For those who might wish to read the revelation, here is the link. There were actually two documents, one about changes in leadership (which will, if recent tradition is maintained, not be considered for inclusion in the D&C, but will simply be voted on at World Conference to assure it is authentic – after which, if the vote carries, the people called within it will be ordained during a worship service held during the conference itself).

    The other document is the “doctrinal” counsel, which will also be voted on, and, if deemed valid by the majority, will become Section 164 of the D&C as published by Community of Christ. Although there may be a tendency by some members of Community of Christ to use the doctrinal counsel as scripture even now, neither document is in any way authoritative at this stage, and can only become so if accepted at the World Conference coming up this April.

    Letter of Counsel about the Presiding Quorums
    http://www.cofchrist.org/wc2010/counsel/quorums.asp

    Counsel to the Church
    http://www.cofchrist.org/wc2010/counsel/

  27. Thank you, David. There has been some discussion on the “blogatorium” trying to remember if Presidents of the Quorums of Seventy are normally handled at this level, or simply called routinely. (In other words, whether Richard James would be mentioned if not going INTO the Quorum of Twelve) I haven’t had time to research it for myself, but others have said “routinely”.

    There has been some movement in the past 3 years toward pairing a quorum hierarchially with two apostles, so 12 works better with 6 than with seven.

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