Community of Christ Sets Conditions for Membership and Joins NCC

by: FireTag

November 27, 2010

National Council of Churches logo

During the first 10 days of November, the Community of Christ made two historic transitions that profoundly alter its relationship with both Mormonism and Protestantism. First, the church issued new guidance entitled “Baptism, Confirmation, and Church Membership”.

Then, a few days later. the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA — usually known simply as the National Council of Churches, or NCC — accepted the application of the Community of Christ to become its 37th denominational member. The NCC is probably the premier echumenical institution of the Christian left in the United States and includes most of the major Protestant denominations, as well as traditional peace churches, orthodox churches, African American churches, and progressive traditions with evangelical roots.

Although the CofChrist has been moving toward membership in the NCC for decades (having passed multiple World Conference Resolutions to that end), the timing of these two events so close together is hardly coincidental. Years ago, opponents of the move published information showing adoption of the new conditions of membership to be a prerequisite for acceptance in the NCC (and, eventually, into the World Council of Churches).

Nevertheless, the guidance was issued by the CofChrist’s Prophet with a strong personal testimony in his cover letter of his comfort with the theology behind the action defining the meaning of baptism and confirmation (and, by implication, priesthood authority) within the Community of Christ:

“While I was prayerfully considering this direction, I sought more confirmation. Like many others, for years I was taught that rebaptism was required to become a church member. On several occasions the Spirit impressed on me that the church should not unnecessarily ‘hinder’ those who had experienced the power of baptism through the grace and authority of Jesus Christ from responding to the Spirit guiding them to membership.

“An experience I had while traveling in Asia reinforced this understanding. I talked with a man who had been baptized secretly in a cave pool years before Community of Christ became accessible to him. He described the suffering and persecution he and others experienced because of their Christian commitment.  I sensed the witness of the Spirit that his baptism should ‘be respected’ and that his commitment far exceeded that of some church members who viewed their baptisms in casual terms.”

President Veazey thus places the Conditions of Membership as a continuation of the trend previously seen in opening Communion and ordaining women to the priesthood: personal relationships with and giftedness from Christ are to take precedence over the forms and roles we have used to uphold those relationships in particular times and cultures.

Under the guidance, a person can become a member of the CofChrist in one of three ways:

  • Baptism and confirmation by CofChrist priesthood in the traditional manner after the candidates reach the age of accountability.
  • Voluntarily chosen rebaptism and confirmation of previously baptized Christians by CofChrist priesthood in the traditional manner after the candidates reach the age of accountability
  • Confirmation of previously baptized Christians by CofChrist priesthood following certain procedural steps

The procedural steps include signing an affirmation that their baptism was of water (though immersion is expressly not required); occurred after the age of accountability; represented a personal expression of faith in Jesus Christ; and was performed by a Christian minister, clergyperson, or pastor. In addition, they must normally have been active in their local CofChrist congregation for approximately six months before becoming a candidate (with some exceptions for remote areas). They must also understand and embrace the principles of the church as expressed in church-provided resources. This includes — which is a new requirement for membership — embracing principles of financial contributions to both the World Church and local programs.

At the time I planned this post, I had intended to close with a smiley-face note to Restoration harmony that the Community of Christ was now at least acknowledging that baptisms by LDS priesthood were as valid as those performed by our own priesthood. After all, we trace our priesthoods through the same lines of authority and baptize at the same age and in using the same rite.

Then I read the NCC’s letter explaining their basis for accepting the membership application from the Community of Christ — and now I’m less certain about that interpretation. It seems we made some very important additional theological concessions, actively or by omission, in order to be accepted. The NCC report, published here, makes clear that the NCC is letting the CofChrist join because they believe the CofChrist is sufficiently far from its historical Restoration roots.

Specifically, the report states that the founder of the Community of Christ was Joseph Smith III, not — you know — that other Joseph Smith. This will come as a large surprise to a number of people, including Emma Hale Smith and Joseph Smith III himself, who never would have come to lead the Reorganization if not convinced he was taking up his father’s work. And it does make 100+ sections of our Doctrine and Covenants, including those that authorize the leadership structure itself, somewhat awkward. After all, it’s the other Joseph Smith who wrote those.

Another area of concern to the NCC was the Book of Mormon. Here, their opinion may be disturbingly factual:

“But it is not, in any sense, equivalent to the Bible in the life of their communion. Subscription to its teaching is not required for membership or ordination. While the Book of Mormon is sometimes used for worship, there are parts of the COC that seldom refer to it.”

And that impression was gained after an extensive conversation in October by the NCC membership committee with the Prophet, one of the Twelve in charge of ecumenical relations, and the Dean of the church’s Seminary, until a few months ago, a member of the Presidency of the Quorum of High Priests. So there was plenty of opportunity to correct any mistaken impressions.

As Rich Brown put it in a Saints Herald blog post:

“Clearly there are those who view this moment in the church’s long history as a leap into religious maturity while others see it as damning proof of apostasy.”

So what do you think? Did the Community of Christ just build a bridge between the Restoration and the other elements of Christianity? Or did it just rift the gap open wider? Did it narrow the differences between the LDS/RLDS traditions, or did those differences just grow?

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79 Responses to Community of Christ Sets Conditions for Membership and Joins NCC

  1. MH on November 27, 2010 at 8:51 AM

    So, are LDS baptisms acceptable for membership into the CoC?

    Do you think membership in the NCC is a good idea?

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  2. MH on November 27, 2010 at 9:05 AM

    I guess I should attempt to tackle some of you questions before asking my own. I know that the RLDS have tried to reconcile with various Mormon groups (such as the Temple Lot Mormons) with some success, and I know there have been attempts to “merge” with the LDS church in the early 20th century (and they were rebuffed.) I don’t know if there are any serious discussions to merge, but I would view such concessions by the CoC to the NCC as inhospitable to any type of closer relations with the LDS church.

    I do think there has been improved sharing of historical resources between the CoC and LDS churches, and I think that is a wonderful thing. I hope it continues. But it does seem that the liberalization of the CoC makes it very tough for closer ties between our churches.

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  3. FireTag on November 27, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    MH:

    By internal logic of the Conditions of Membership documents alone, LDS baptisms should be accepted. But I’m not able to see a lot of internal logic in the NCC acceptance, because that is the document that raises the questions of whether even traditional RLDS beliefs qualify as Christian. Do we have to give up the idea that Joseph Smith was a Christ-called prophet and that most of the 19th Century Scriptures forming the bulk of our canon were inspired by Christ in order to be taken in by Christianity? If so, I don’t think that’s MY community, even if the Community of Christ is becoming a great place for Restorationists who want to be Protestants.

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  4. Jeff Spector on November 27, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    Kind of sounds like you might be in a heap of trouble here. It sounds like quite a bit of bending and re-shaping going on in your Church to appease the NCC. Well above and beyond even what the LDS Church has always claimed about the RLDS.

    Throwing Joseph under the bus? I don’t get that. What is the point of being just another Protestant-style Christian denomination.?

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  5. Mike S on November 27, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    I look at this as somewhat of an outsider, but I see it as something churches do. There are pressures on the CofC to find their role in the society around them, and they made what appear to be some significant changes.

    But it happens to the LDS Church as well. We changed polygamy, which was seen as a fundamental and eternal way of marriage, merely because of outside pressures. The OD#1 changing things says as much.

    Around the time of civil rights, BYU protests, world expansion, etc., we also changed our attitude towards blacks and the priesthood, something which previous prophets and apostles also taught was an absolute and eternal principle. The change was couched in revelatory language, much like Pres Veazey’s statement, but the question was raised in response to outside influences.

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  6. FireTag on November 27, 2010 at 12:06 PM

    Jeff:

    Exactly. Apostle Luffman, in writing the announcement for the CofChrist, noted that we are a people who have been marginalized and so had something to contribute to the larger Christian Community about marginalization. I’m not finding it a very strong testimony if what we have to teach is that you solve the problem of marginalization by expecting people to give up the aspects of their identity for which they have been marginalized in order to conform to the community.

    “Do not even the publicans the same” comes to mind.

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  7. Ray on November 27, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    Acceptance as Christians by most groups like the NCC never has been logical, so I wouldn’t expect logic to rule the day with this decision and the attendant decisions regarding Joseph and his recorded revelations in your D&C.

    What I find interesting is the implication in the post that these issues were not reconciled prior to the decision to join the NCC. That, more than anything else, gives me pause – since it implies almost a desperation and a giving up of nearly all things unique.

    Did I read that incorrectly – or do you think the move was made with the understanding / belief that it was worth it no matter the historical or theological cost? In all honesty, if it means denying Joseph was a Christ-called prophet – and if it means accepting the stance that Joseph III was the actual founder of the CofC – and if it means accepting a formal declaration that the Book of Mormon really isn’t all that important, might not be “true scripture” and absolutely is secondary to the Bible, I would think the NCC has won a major victory and the CofC has sold its soul for a very small sum – especially since I just don’t see the membership upside to that. It’s not like thousands of NCC Christians are going to embrace the CofC now that it is a member denomination.

    What do you believe the root motivation was for this move – and do you think I’m reading way more into this than I should be doing?

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  8. Ray on November 27, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    I meant that I don’t see thousands of NCC Christians “joining” the CofC – not just embracing it as a legitimate Christian denomination.

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  9. FireTag on November 27, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    Ray:

    The original motivation goes back nearly a half-century. I believe it arose out of our attempts to take the Restored Gospel to non-European cultures and getting our heads handed to us theologically speaking. Many of our leading Apostles found those cultures did not care about the things differentiating the Restoration from other Christians (ironically). The Apostles also were stunned by the immediacy of the suffering they saw. Rewards in the Celestial Kingdom or a Zion in the indefinite future seemed inadequate to the needs.

    So there are potentially noble reasons for this move: trying to throw our weight behind organizations whose social policy positions match those of the leadership; trying to get our declining membership to safety inside Protestantism; the hope that if we are radical enough in our faith in building Zion, god will make it work out for the church.

    But each of those motives depend on some other assumptions being true that I’m not confident I’m seeing the evidence for.

    For example, we canonized a revelation some decades ago that stressed the importance of our being in the forefront of those organizations that are recognizing the worth of persons. I think it’s an open question whether the intent was for our LEADERS to associate with the LEADERS of other churches — particularly if we diminish the theological bases for our leaders’ authority in the process.

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  10. hawkgrrrl on November 27, 2010 at 6:07 PM

    I’m of the mind that I too question the benefit to the CoC in this move as it seems extremely unlikely that this will yield more converts, but I suppose time will tell. I would certainly think this adds substantial distance between CoC and the LDS church, probably forever. This also could open the CoC to other future mergers with small Protestant sects or to be subsumed by a larger one. At least that’s my outside perspective. Fascinating news, though.

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  11. Ray on November 27, 2010 at 8:09 PM

    Thanks for the additional input, Fire Tag. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out over time.

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  12. utahprincipal801 on November 28, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I am intrigued concerning the few similarities now between the Community of Christ and mainstream Mormonism. I find the differences monumental, especially the emphasis of each concerning the Book of Mormon, and now baptism by priesthood authority. I am wondering what makes one choose belonging to the Community of Christ over the other thirty-six sects that belong to the Churches of Christ group? I went to the web site of C of C and was shocked to see the similarities to all other mainstream protestant religions. What was the “restoration” according to the C of C that Christ had Joseph Smith restore? It appears to me that C of C is now just back to what Joseph went into the grove to find out was wrong.

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  13. FireTag on November 28, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    Utah:

    I think you get to the heart of the dilemma. This is a little like Joshua telling the children of Israel that the purpose of Moses leading their generation into the wilderness was so they’d realize Egypt wasn’t that bad and they were supposed to turn around. The mental gears freeze up.

    One of the implications of believing that there is not ONLY one church with a calling from Christ is that you have to ask the next, obvious question: to which calling does God call me? We seem to be studiously ignoring that question.

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  14. Jamal on November 28, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    FireTag: I’m hardly an expert on things CoC, but I’ve followed some of your posts and comments over time. I’m as curious about what this means to you and other like-minded CoC members as anything. Some of the comments above I thought you would have found extremely harsh and unkind. I certainly wouldn’t have made them. And yet I see you responding not just in a very calm manner, but it seems agreeing that at least many of the charges raised are in fact serious and worthy of consideration. Could I ask you to perhaps strip the caveats aside and make a blunt assessment of what you personally really think this all means, both for yourself and the general membership of the CoC? Of course, I understand that you might find doing so inappropriate and perhaps just an unnecessary burning of bridges, so no offense if you decline. But if you do feel it appropriate, I’d really be curious to hear your current view if you had to come down and declare what you think this really means.

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  15. FireTag on November 28, 2010 at 2:48 PM

    Jamal:

    I have found none of the comments to be disrespectful, although I suspect one (now removed) to be spam. :D

    I’ll answer as honestly as I can; it’s not like I can hide my thoughts from God anyway. I do not believe that BOTH of the following postulates can be true:

    1) Joseph Smith was NEVER called by Christ as a prophet;

    2)The current President of the church (either yours or mine) IS called as a prophet.

    If I assume, or if someone convinces me, that the first premise is true, I have little reason to consider any organization within the Restoration as the place for my proper response to Christ.

    But if JS was inspired at any point, then I have to view my personal testimony and covenant, as well as those of my family, my parents, and my grandparents, as remaining in force. And that covenant, for me, implies taking personal responsibility to respond to what I hear God saying. After all, if I can’t trust my own ability to hear the Spirit, why do I ultimately trust my ability to distinguish the claims of others that they hear?

    At important times in my life, when I was about to go down a path that was in serious error, God has intervened to show me directions to take. I have guidance as to what I think I should do; I’m simply allowing time to be corrected if I’ve misheard before I take steps down the path.

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  16. Leigh Sheppard on November 28, 2010 at 4:50 PM

    I must say I find the civility of this thread to be extremely refreshing and encouraging. This is a sensitive subject, and one that could easily expose yourself, the Community of Christ, the NCC, and even the LDS church to all kinds of abusive commentary from all sides.

    I also appreciate your willingness to put your heart-felt impressions, and some of the internal turmoil that this move has caused you, in writing. I appreciate your honest assessment of the situation and can also appreciate the difficulty of the questions that arise given the direction this is leading the church.

    You sound like an honest seeker of truth, and as such are in a similar situation that Joseph Smith Jr. found himself in 1820.

    “What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be aright, which is it, and how shall I know it?”

    Thanks to you and so many others for your thoughtful and considerate comments.

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  17. MarkG on November 29, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    As a member of the LDS Church, I remember growing up with a sense that the LDS and RLDS ( at the time ) churches were in competition as to which church truly represented the church and teachings established by Joseph Smith. It seems to me, from the outside looking in, that the CofC has in effect given up, taken the position that there never was a contest to begin with, and have gravitated to mainline Protestant beliefs. I mean no disrespect, but it is with a feeling of sadness that I see my CofC brothers and sisters apparently abandon the Restoration. Is my perception wrong ?

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  18. Arius on November 29, 2010 at 12:40 PM

    Firetag, I was transfixed by this post, torn by strong competing sympathies as I read.

    The liberalization of the CoC is appealing to me on many levels: steps toward affirming homosexuality, toned down emphasis on authority and “one true”-ness, a willingness to be frank about historical problems. Indeed John Hamer’s recent baptism has piqued my interest in the CoC considerably.

    On the other hand, I recognize with discomfort that much of this liberalization approaches rejecting the inspiration of Joseph Smith himself. And if Joseph wasn’t a prophet, there never was one. I can still hold in my hands the tangible miracle that is the Book of Mormon. No Bible prophet has given me anything comparable.

    I had hoped that the CoC would offer the best of both worlds: Joseph Smith’s Restoration and progressive Christianity. This post, however, indicated it may only offer me the second. And I think that’s largely because those two worlds are inherently in conflict, and always have been.

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  19. Clay Whipkey on November 29, 2010 at 1:48 PM

    The fact that they formally claim JS III as the founder does not mean they are disavowing JS jr. Also, one doesn’t have to claim that JS jr. is the founder in order to treat 100+ D&C sections as scripture, just as you don’t have to claim Moses, or Abraham, or Elijah, etc. as founders in order to treat the Bible as scripture.

    The original post is a cynical interpretation. And no, I’m not a member of the CofC. I’m simply stating the obvious.

    I’m not a believer, so I don’t really have a dog in the fight, but I think there is plenty of flexibility in a mature faith to take a healthy distance from Joseph Smith Jr. while still honoring the aspects of his life that were inspired, if you believe in that kind of inspiration. This action is just as plausibly a maturation of faith and theology.

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  20. Mike S on November 29, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    Utah: You stated: As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I am intrigued concerning the few similarities now between the Community of Christ and mainstream Mormonism. I find the differences monumental…

    I think that JS would say the same between the Church in his day and both churches. In my opinion, there are many areas in which the CofC is CLOSER to the church restored by JS than the LDS Church. In the early days of the restored Church, women gave blessings, church leaders drank wine including in the temple, members actually voted on various callings and revelations (as opposed to our current “sustaining vote”), sections continued to be added to the D&C by current prophets, etc. These things are all found in the CofC today, but have been jettisoned by the LDS Church to a large degree.

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  21. Rigel Hawthorne on November 29, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    I agree with Clay that proclaiming JS III as the founder doesn’t disavow JS Jr, but decanonizing the BoM seems to accomplish that. As I understand it, there has been no official decanonization, but the above contingency statement seems to imply just that. I’ve also read statements on the Saint’s Herald blog that some factions argue that it should be decanonized and minister as if it has already happened. For someone who was taught from youth that the BoM is the ‘keystone of our religion’, that creates an odd feeling. I can still respect and admire the accomplishments and strength of CoC members in spite of this. I look at our kinship as a loose one, but still having many common bonds. It’s kind of like being an LDS missionary in Japan, and after door after door of uninterested Buddhists, you meet a JW who has read and studied the bible and you might hope that the common ground there would continue. When it doesn’t (after some unfruitful debating) you simply learn to appreciate common strengths build friendships.

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  22. FireTag on November 29, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    Clay:

    I think the more problematic comparison of the BofM and the D&C is Luke-Acts. Since they are generally considered to be a continuation of the same story by the same writer, the question of who Luke was may be unimportant, but it is passing strange to regard Acts as Scripture but Luke as not.

    The early D&C is no more or less inspired or fantastical than the BofM.

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  23. Ray on November 29, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    Clay, If the decisions were being made entirely within the CofC as strictly internal considerations, I might agree with you. My “concern” is that everything seems to be happening in the context of joining the NCC – which has a not-hidden agenda of distancing from and diminishing the idea that Mormons are Christians.

    What better way to do that than to admit into its fold a church that has to downgrade the scriptural and prophetic standing of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith in order to enter that fold?

    In most ways, I couldn’t care less what the NCC thinks or wants – and I also have NO problem accepting that the CofC leadership can do whatever it wants “according to the dictates of their own conscience”. It’s just that part of me feels sorrow that it appears they are jettisoning their founding in order to join the NCC – just as I feel sorrow when the LDS Church softens some of the stances from its own past. (even thought I don’t feel sorrow over other changes in the slightest) It’s not so much the changing of views and practices and doctrines that bothers me; rather, it’s the seismic shift from a Restoration movement to a mainline Protestant church that troubles me.

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  24. FireTag on November 29, 2010 at 9:54 PM

    Jamal:

    I realize that I haven’t yet answered your question about what I think this all means for the Community of Christ as a whole — perhaps because I’m preoccupied with sorting out what it means for me as an individual, but also because I think the decision to deal with the issue of homosexuality in Section 164 through a culturally-specific framework is going to lead to a US/Canadian Community of Christ that is very different from its international components.

    There is a post written by a member of the CofChrist’s Standing High Council and a very broad discussion thread illustrating some of the complexities at:

    http://mattfrizzellonline.com/2010/11/17/what-is-the-future-of-the-community-of-christ-in-a-north-american-post-rlds-perspective/

    Arius, Mark G and Mike S.:

    I’d like to respond to you together by citing a geneological model. The LDS and RLDS traditions spent a lot of time debating who was closer to our common ancestor. Perhaps we need to think of ourselves as children of the same parents, but with very different individual personalities, like the twelve tribes descended from Jacob.

    In fact, if we look broadly enough, there are a great many tribes of Mormons, from those to the right of the LDS to those well to the left of the Community of Christ. There really is a spectrum of institutions within Mormonism, though the Mainstream LDS dominates.

    In nature, there are some creatures so close to the line between plant and animal that you can’t tell which they are, but not many. They tend to have to choose one way of life or the other, or they go extinct. It may be practical to evolve liberal Mormonism if that’s what tribe one’s suited for and that is the Divine intent — it certainly has proven possible to evolve very conservative (evangelical) Protestantism — but the division between Mormonism and Protestantism seems more decisive. I’m unconvinced we can straddle that line in the family tree of Christianity.

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  25. Robert William Robinson Jr on November 30, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    It saddens me that the CoC is rejecting their past for the “garlic and onions” of the world. I can see why they would, they want to be accepted as “true” Christians. But they are giving up everything that made them unique.

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  26. mh on December 1, 2010 at 3:44 PM

    firetag, do you get a sense that section 164 was more of a concession to the ncc than a revelation? do you think that other members view these recent developments with alarm?

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  27. FireTag on December 1, 2010 at 4:22 PM

    It was not a SUDDEN revelation insofar as the conditions of membership were concerned. There was a formal process of discernment about the questions, and that process itself was well documented as originating in long-term considerations by the leadership. Long contemplation, in and of itself, neither validates nor invalidates the content of the revelation.

    As to the “alarm” question, I think that was foreshadowed by a quote from the first post of this series back on Mormon Matters:

    “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.”

    The entire post was at:

    http://mormonmatters.org/2010/01/05/canonizing-modern-revelation-a-tourist-guide/

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  28. MH on December 1, 2010 at 7:22 PM

    This is such a conundrum for me, even as an outsider. I met the prophet Stephen Veazey this past summer and was impressed with his comments that he wanted to turn the members of the CoC into “a prophetic people”. I mean that’s a cool idea, and something I can whole heartedly endorse–even wish our church put forth an emphasis on becoming a prophetic people. (Because it sure seems like our church would rather have a bunch of sheep following the shepherd, not being shepherds.) So I watched the canonization process with great delight, and thought it was interesting.

    Now to look back on it as using “mormon” language of revelation to instead introduce protestant ideas–and this movement has been going on for probably decades–but clearly it seems the leadership has wanted to do this since at least 2007, well, that’s a new spin on things.

    I get the idea not to move too quickly. I guess the same analogy as Moses not entering the promised land but wandering for 40 years until all the conservative (idol-worshiping) old-timers die off so there won’t be a schism. But it sure looks like the NCC is pulling the strings at the CoC, and the people aren’t really the same sort of “prophetic people” that I envisioned when I first heard Veazey use the term.

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  29. FireTag on December 2, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    MH:

    The term “a prophetic people” was first emphasized by Brother Veazey’s predecessor, Grant McMurray, although a search of our D&C might turn up use of the phrase somewhere earlier.

    When the CofChrist presidency uses the term, however, they use the term in the sense of mainstream or leftist Christianity rather than anything having to do with end-times or foretelling the future. It means actualizing a set of lifestyles of peace and justice that reflect the highest ideals of the OT prophets. “Prophetic” becomes almost a synonym for “Zionic” or “Christ-like”.

    That’s obviously a wonderful thing, and in this context many are interpreting the Restoration as a new call to reengage in the pursuit of this eternal ideal.

    But I think the price we pay for that interpretation is effectively to allow ourselves to defer achievement of the ideal to an eternally far-off future.

    I think there is another sense in which we should view the prophetic: as interpreting what God is doing in history and helping people align their lives with those movements IN TIME TO MATTER. It is ultimately a view about whether God actively makes the “prophetic” future or whether God passively wants the “prophetic” future.

    The revelations of Joseph Smith, whether in the BofM or the D&C, stands as a direct challenge to the latter, more mainstream Christian view, and where we come down on that question ultimately influences the optimal way we align our lives with God’s purposes.

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  30. Bruce on December 2, 2010 at 4:10 PM

    “And I think that’s largely because those two worlds are inherently in conflict, and always have been.”

    It was always the case.

    “I’m not a believer, so I don’t really have a dog in the fight…”

    Hmm…

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  31. TH on December 3, 2010 at 6:16 AM

    Firetag,

    You wrote, “the NCC is letting the CofChrist join because they believe the CofChrist is sufficiently far from its historical Restoration roots.”

    I was a delegate at the last world conference where a head of NCC gave a welcome/speech to the conference. He stated in the speech that he “knew who the Community of Christ was…” and he “know who the Community of Christ was NOT…” It was clear that the “NOT” referred to Mormons. So, that supports what you have stated. I always tell our church that it’s a mistake to try to NOT be like Mormons…if the church stopped distancing itself, it might be more successful. :-)

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  32. Bruce on December 3, 2010 at 8:43 AM

    A good example of the logical end result of “Rejectionism”. i.e. disbelieving something rather than believing in something.

    Rejectionism never represents a logically coherent worldview. All religions have a sort of Rejectionist and Believing strain within it, of course. But some slide too far towards Rejectionism and either die or have to content themselves long term with harvesting discontents of some Believing religion that they have choose to define themselves as “not that religion.”

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  33. FireTag on December 3, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    TH:

    Rev. Dr. Kinnemon’s address to the Community of Christ World Conference as NCC head is linked here as a two-page pdf file

    http://www.cofchrist.org/wc2010/sermons/Kinnemon_address_041010.pdf

    Bruce:

    The Matt Frizzell post linked in comment 24 discusses in some detail the problem of the CofChrist defining its identity negatively as NOT-Motmon and NOT-Protestant.

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  34. Jamal on December 3, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    FireTag, thanks for all your thoughts here. I realize this post is getting long in the tooth, but I am genuinely interested in your thoughts. It sounds from what you say that a burning question between being a restoration embracing or rejecting denomination is coming to a head. Let us assume that this does come to a break point and the CoC decides to fully embrace the NCC view. That the CoC’s membership basically jettisons the idea of the restoration or so waters it down that it lacks the meaning that most CoC members have thought it to have for most of the church’s history. What do you think that means to CoC members who continue to hold to that belief? Is the implication a schism and the need for a rejuvenation movement? Even as mainstream LDS we talk of the ancient scriptures being a cycle of apostasy and restoration. Is that the implication you think? Is there a thought that perhaps the mainstream LDS church was right and it’s time to go back or is the historical evolution simply way too far gone for the vast majority to even consider that even if they don’t like where things are going in the CoC? Is there some means of meaningfully reconciling the two sides? Is there some other way I’m not even thinking about here? Genuinely interested in your thoughts.

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  35. FireTag on December 3, 2010 at 4:39 PM

    The number of CofChrist conservatives who go to the LDS over this, I predict, will be very small. We’ve been apart for almost as long as the US has been separate from Britain. Remember that our MOST conservative members left a long time ago unless there was something isolated about their local congregations.

    The RLDS has split off independent “Restoration Branches” to the right of the church (in the same way that there are fundamentalist LDS churches to the right of the LDS) since the late 60’s or early 70’s. Many do not even ordain women, so they’re 25 years divided from the CofChrist themselves. So any schism is likely to be like a comet shedding its tail than a break-up into two distinct churches.

    I think there is a better chance of the CofChrist forming a liberal North American church and an evangelical third-world church, like seems to be happening to the Anglicans over gay rights. Section 164 has some things in it that suggest that might be a future direction.

    Since the LDS is so much larger than the CofChrist, leakage of LDS liberals toward the CofChrist “comet tail” is likely to be large enough to dwarf any movement from the CofChrist to these conservative RLDS bodies — without the LDS even needing to take notice.

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  36. Jamal on December 4, 2010 at 3:32 AM

    Gotcha, thanks. If there’s a general trend towards North American Liberal and Developing World conservative splintering, which (or either) do you think will cling more to Restoration doctrine? I seem to recall past comments about Developing World parts of the CoC not necessarily being as connected to Restoration doctrines, while liberals in North America I would think would be fading from it anyways. Given that as you say most of the most conservative North Americans have already gone their own way, do you think this means CoC trend churches’ connection to the Restoration is essentially fading beyond a very few tiny sparks off the comet tail? Or am I misreading and you would think the Developing World CoC would keep its restoration links more?

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  37. John Hamer on December 4, 2010 at 7:29 AM

    Joining the NCC is not like merging and becoming part of the UCC. The UCC (United Church of Christ) is a denomination that is formed from historic churches that merged together and merged their past, individual historic identities together into a joined identity. The NCC, by contrast, is a just club of churches.

    Look for a second at the member list: http://www.ncccusa.org/members/index.html

    On the one hand you have UCC, the ELCA, the Episocopal Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, i.e., all the big, mainline liberal Protestant churches.

    On the other hand you have the Coptic, Ukrainian, Serbian, and Russian Orthodox Churches in North America, the Quakers, the Moravian church, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Swedenborgian Church, and now the Community of Christ.

    In other words, you got the big liberals + the diversity that liberals want to celebrate. The Swedenborgians are in the tent, folks. It’s not about giving up your identity — it’s about celebrating the diversity of identities.

    The Book of Mormon has not been decanonized, and the D&C not only remains canon, new sections of canon continue to be added. The Community of Christ is governed by World Conference Resolutions, not the NCC’s report. What’s happened here is that a group of liberal Christians has recognized that Community of Christ is Christian without requiring the Community of Christ to give up its Restoration scripture. In other words, it’s the mainline Christians who blinked or compromised. That’s the news here that’s remarkable.

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  38. John Hamer on December 4, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    There are a couple distinct issues around the question who “founded” the church. The church in 1830 was explicitly not “founded” by Joseph Smith Jr. It was explicitly “organized.” This is because JSJr and the other early Saints made the theological claim that Jesus Christ was the founder of their church, that it had merely been in a state of “disorganization” and it was now being “reorganized” by them. The same exact claim was made by JSIII and the other early RLDS members. The Latter Day Saint church was in a state of disorganization because of the Apostasy of the apostles who had led much of the membership away into a barren wilderness of sin (Utah polygamy). The church, which had still been founded by Christ and only reorganized by JSJr now needed to be reorganized again.

    These faith claims are not institutional history; they are theological. JSJr did found the church in 1830. From the standpoint of institutional history, it was not just the reorganization of Jesus Christ’s church. From this institutional historical vantage, there is no question that JSIII is the founder of Community of Christ (conceding that his foundation built on a tiny organizational precursor of the Gurley/Briggs church).

    My personal view is that Brigham Young was a usurper. I also don’t think he was a good person. But my personal beliefs aside, when I look at the history in an institutional sense, it must be conceded that one of the things Brigham “usurped” was the bulk of the existing corporate structure of the church that JSJr founded in 1830. That institutional historical analysis has zero bearing on the question of divine mandate, since traditional Restoration theology includes the idea that institutions can fall into Apostasy, i.e., the primary institutional heir of the early Christian church is the Catholic Church, but this hasn’t made Mormons accept the Catholic Church as “the true church.”

    The view that the Reorganization was the only true continuation of the original church was also a theological claim, held by early members of the Reorganization. Community of Christ abandoned this claim decades ago when it came to understand that the very act of making the claim to be “the one and only true church,” is a sign that you aren’t it (i.e., because there isn’t just one).

    Theologically early Mormons believed that they were the Restoration of the New Testament church in every sense, including recovering all the actual historical practices and institutional authority. This was a faith position that was zealously believed, but which cannot be shown to be possible in an actual historical sense. This is no shame on them; people regularly have these notions — the people of the Renaissance actually believed they had given birth anew to the Classical era. Of course they hadn’t. They created something new, because you can never go home again. Likewise the 1830 organization was something new. And the 1860 reorganization, although possessed of vast continuity of membership, belief, and practice with the 1830 organization, was (in fact) a new foundation in an institutional historical sense.

    This institutional historical analysis has no bearing on the canonical status of JSJr’s revelations, as Clay correctly notes (#19).

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  39. FireTag on December 4, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    John:

    Welcome to the discussion. The arguments you make here are essentially parallel to the long discussion regarding the Strangites at Mormonheretic,

    http://www.mormonheretic.org/2010/06/12/the-strangites-another-mormon-group/

    so I think I understand in detail what you are saying: founding and organization and theological authority all mean different things, and from an institutional-historical view nothing has changed, or has changed only minutely.

    But as you point out, these changes do add up and over time have produced profound changes in the Community of Christ, just as minute changes in the early Christian changes quickly produced something that was not the original. The Community of Christ is to the RLDS as the RLDS (or the LDS) is to the 1830 organization — a descendant that has evolved from the interbreeding of its church forbearer and its secular cultures. I have no problem with the notion that the church will change: no change –> we stay a non-Zionic people, and that idea would violate everything for which generations of my family have labored, and in some cases, suffered.

    However, in the case of the CofChrist, every question about whether the change was of God was first deflected by church leadership with a variation of the argument that “nothing had really changed”. (Church Historian Roger Launius documented this idea — and got in trouble with the Prophet for doing so — in an article published, I believe, in Restoration Studies VIII; I no longer have my copy.) Yet, somehow, we DID go from believing that the RLDS was the only true church to believing that the RLDS and then the Community of Christ was one of multiple true churches.

    I think the idea that there is more than one true church is correct, but we did not honestly address the question of truth by refusing to acknowledge that the idea was NEW in the church.

    You are correct that joining the NCC is not merging the church. The NCC is a church “club”, but it is a particular kind of club to which only a minority of those in the US who self-identify as Christians may apply. LDS can not qualify, which is why I noted that our acceptance was secured, as you can see by reading the NCC report linked in the OP, because the NCC committee stressed that we WERE NOT Mormons. By reading the report, people can come to their own conclusions as to whether the important distinctions to the NCC were institutional or theological.

    The NCC is not JUST a club, it espouses certain theological beliefs and lobbies for government policy, often in close coordination (meaning, for example, near simultaneous release of legislative positions and talking points) with non-religious political movements. Membership is extended on the basis of fidelity to those policy positions — which is why some Baptists are in, but most Baptists are not. So, again, this is not a simple institutional decision, but a movement of the church in a definite theological direction. It has implications for those who do not regard the policies of the political left as morally wise or effective.

    You are also right in saying that the BofM has not been decanonized. You are mistaken if you think it has not been deemphasized. Since I was first ordained to the priesthood, we’ve gone from a time when our services used to quote from the BofM as often as you’d hear today in a typical LDS General Conference address. Again, to deny that the change has been dramatic is to ignore the experience of those who lived through the change. The change HAS been dramatic, and justification for doing so that has been offered would apply with equal validity or invalidity to most of the D&C. It’s the EXISTENCE of the scriptural visions and our reliance on their authority to drive our lives as direction from God that bother our Protestant Brethren as much as the theological content of the visions.

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  40. FireTag on December 4, 2010 at 1:00 PM

    Jamal:

    There is an old cold war joke about a TV weathercaster giving the day’s weather report:

    “Radar shows a line of severe thunderstorms approaching the city from the west. However, radar also shows a line of Russian ICBMs approaching the city from the east, so don’t sweat the thunderstorms!”

    As I showed in the link in the third paragraph of my earlier post on “Middle Day Saints”,

    http://www.wheatandtares.org/2010/10/23/middle-day-saints-or-church-mortality/

    the Community of Christ is locked in a long-term decline in the United States and Canada which has not been affected by recent theological changes. Indeed, the longer article from which those graphics are taken demonstrates that our membership trajectory has been statistically INDEPENDENT of anything we do and has been that way for at least 130 years. Our theology and programs determine who joins us, but has no impact on how many join. The “how many” is determined by changes in the societal rather than the denominational level. So, the processes of schism/reorganization in our church are up against a ticking clock. The evolution of American society (which I certainly hope God is guiding) rather than our own plans are going to determine how far these membership trends advance before the mathematical regime changes.

    However, the trends suggest that both the North American and international portions of the CofChrist will look less and less like the Restoration and more like evangelical or liberal Protestantism if they continue, IMO

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  41. […] FireTag, who is a Believing member of the Community of Christ, wrote this article on the Community of Christ’s recent choice to join the NCC (National Council of the Churches of Christ) expressing at least some level of […]

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  42. […] FireTag, who is a Believing member of the Community of Christ, wrote this article on the Community of Christ’s recent choice to join the NCC (National Council of the Churches of Christ) expressing at least some level of […]

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  43. John Hamer on December 4, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    Firetag, I don’t think that nothing has changed. Things have changed profoundly. I applaud much of the change. I wouldn’t have joined the church in 1830 or 1860 or even 1980, (had I been me now in those eras); however, I’m proud to be a member of the church as it exists in the here and now.

    I’m responding here to the implication in the comments that the Community of Christ made an exchange with the NCC to the effect of: “we’ll disavow Joseph Smith and decanonize the Book of Mormon if you let us join the NCC.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

    My point is that the opposite is true. The NCC let the Community of Christ join with the Book of Mormon as canon; the change occured on their end; they blinked. Since Protestants (unlike Catholics and traditional Restoration believers) view the canon of scripture as the sole source of authority, inviting people with a weird and continually growing canon into the club is actually a big deal on their parts.

    I didn’t say that the Book of Mormon hasn’t been deemphasized; I’m sure it has. People in my congregation quote from pretty much every week, but I don’t imagine that’s universal. On the other hand, I do think the Community of Christ emphasizes the Doctrine and Covenants to a much greater degree than the LDS Church does.

    * * *

    As a club, does the NCC do things? Sure. Does it emphasize some core values, lobby, etc.? Yes. Sounds like a fine thing for a club to do.

    As far as I can see, it’s a liberal Christian group composed of the large, mainline liberal denominations + a bunch of little churches with weird backgrounds to provide diversity.

    I think that liberal Christians need to stand up and say that backwards fundamentalists aren’t Christians. If some Baptists are kept out of the NCC, I personally approve of that rare illustration of liberal backbone. I’m very happy to lobby against Christianist fundamentalists like the Southern Baptists; I believe they should be encouraged to reform or condemned for failing to reform.

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  44. FireTag on December 4, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    John:

    You may safely assume that I will not resolve my dilemma by converting to the Southern Baptists. :D

    I think Bruce does a very good job of comparing and contrasting our positions on this issue in the Millennial Star link at #42. We disagree on who gave what; we don’t seem to misunderstand each other.

    I find myself in a mirror position to that which you describe in your first paragraph. “Had I been me” now being introduced to the Community of Christ denomination NOW under the current conditions of membership, I would not find it reflected my understanding of God’s intent for the Restoration to a sufficient degree to invest the time to join or support it.

    The implications of what our RLDS/CofChrist tradition has taught ME is that the Community of Christ must be seen as nothing less (and maybe much more) than a planetary civilization in which we are to find our INDIVIDUAL places of service as called by Christ. If, as Section 164:2 says, some baptized Christians are called to “further focus their response through church membership”, the clear implication is also that SOME ARE NOT. It boils down to where one best has opportunity to use giftedness in promotion of the overall mission and cause of Christ.

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  45. John Hamer on December 4, 2010 at 9:35 PM

    Firetag — The implication you’re citing, that some people in life are called to things other than membership in Community of Christ, would seem to be self-evident? I totally agree with that implication of D&C 164:2. Many people have other good things to do than be members of this church. However, the church exists for a good purpose and many people are called to be a part of that purpose.

    Glad we’re not losing you to the Baptists ;).

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  46. FireTag on December 4, 2010 at 10:38 PM

    John:

    Thank you for the kind words, both here and on Millennial Star.

    I think the implications of what I’m saying are decidedly NOT self-evident to those, in both the LDS and the CofChrist, who hold to the “only true church” view. Even less clear is the idea that one doesn’t just have permission to stay outside a denomination, but may actively be called from inside to somewhere else, either because the denomination or the person evolves toward a new calling.

    The most stunning thing is that a true church might have to express its truthfulness by being faithful unto institutional death.

    One of the comforting things about believing oneself to be in the only true church is the notion that surely God will save the church from death, even if there are individual martyrs. If that was ever true (Jesus WAS crucified), there is no reason to believe God preserves ALL true churches when there is more than one.

    The comforting thing about that idea is that sometimes moral issues become clearer when you don’t feel compelled to preserve the institution.

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  47. Bruce on December 4, 2010 at 10:40 PM

    “I believe they should be encouraged to reform or condemned for failing to reform.”

    John, in all honesty, I applaud you for saying this. It is very clear to me that the position that there can in fact be more than one “true” religion is a logical impossibility. (I had thoughts on this subject in this post.)

    However, I am at a loss as to how you can make sense of this position you hold when you also say things like this:

    “Community of Christ abandoned this claim decades ago when it came to understand that the very act of making the claim to be “the one and only true church,” is a sign that you aren’t it (i.e., because there isn’t just one).”

    Granted “Church” and “Religion” are not always synonyms, though generally they are for LDS people.

    But you clearly do hold certain beliefs that you feel are God’s own truth and all other “churches / religions” must conform to that point of view to be God’s in your opinion.

    In short, when I say I see no alternative to the idea that there can be only one true religion, I mean it exactly as you practice it.

    So it seems to me that the only way to read your objection is as a more limited objection: you are not objecting to there being a certain set of beliefs that are God’s only truth, you are only objecting to there being only true ‘institution’ set up my God. Is that correct?

    If so, can you please explain how you justify such a position outside of pure revelation? Once you accept that there is in fact only one true ‘religion’ having ‘one institution setup directly by God’ is not a large hop, skip, and jump. So certainly there can be no ‘logical’ objection to that position.

    Oh, and please don’t tell me that the reason you can’t have “one true institution” is because its offensive to other institutions. Because I’m guessing Baptists are just as offended that you draw your circle of “churches that have the true beliefs” to exclude them.

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  48. Bruce on December 4, 2010 at 10:52 PM

    “John, in all honesty, I applaud you for saying this”

    I got off track and failed to explain this comment. What I meant was that I’m firmly of the opinion that it’s incredibly important for everyone to have a core set of beliefs and to hold to them. More to the point, we should all accept that, in so far as others believe something mutually exclusive to those beliefs, that they are wrong and we are right.

    I know some people try to get around this via many logical absurdities. I ‘applaud you’ for not falling into that trap.

    I’d be hypocritical if I choose to believe my beliefs but insisted others shouldn’t believe theirs. So I definitely applaud you for having a core set of beliefs that you feel God commands all religions to hold and that anyone that does not is more then merely mistaken — they should be condemned or reformed and you are going to actively work towards that goal to convert them to the truth as you believe it to be.

    In a world increasingly full of religious absurdities, this really is a refreshing position that should be celebrated even if it puts us religiously at odds with each other. But I think that is what ‘tolerance’ is all about: respectfully disagreeing and respectfully working to convert each other to what we think the truth really is. I think this is the only way for real truth to emerge in discourse and you seem to agree.

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  49. Bruce on December 4, 2010 at 11:15 PM

    Oh, I thought of another relevant question.

    From within your religious framework, in what sense do you believe that Brigham Young is a usurper?

    This seems dangerously close to me to insisting that God had institutional goals for the original Church and BY took the institution away from those goals.

    Admittedly you do not believe that there is more than one true religion in terms of your core beliefs, so I can see that you may have felt BY starting teaching falsehoods that made the LDS Church no longer one of God’s true religions.

    But still, doesn’t the fact that almost every member of the early Mormon Church (that stayed Mormon anyhow) chose to follow BY count at least a little against his status as a usurper?

    And even if that hadn’t been true — if, say, BY had merely captured say 5% of the early Mormon church and the RLDS had captured the rest — doesn’t the fact that that 5% choose to follow him basically make it impossible to count BY as a usurper?

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  50. FireTag on December 4, 2010 at 11:55 PM

    Bruce:

    I won’t try to interpret what John may mean by the comment that there is more than one true church — and I wouldn’t use the term usurper at all in this context. However, I’d suggest that the easiest reference to how there can be more than one true church is to look at the NT analogy of the “body of Christ.” The body dies if it ever “succeeds” in turning all of the liver cells into heart cells. There are organs that carry out individual functions for the health of the entire body.

    The CofChrist has come to see God’s work as vastly greater than the work of the church, in large part because we are more focused on building Zion than on our fates in the afterlife. We tend to believe that, at minimum, trusting in Christ allows us to focus on what we’re supposed to do and be here as the best preparation for what comes after.

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  51. AC on December 5, 2010 at 12:57 AM

    FireTag,
    thanks for posting this, it has been enlightening to read. I hope you don’t mind me butting in, but I’d like to share my kindred frustration with you.

    I’m nominally LDS but in reality a lost sheep of the Restoration, I was born in an unchurched Anti-Mormon family in Utah but as a college Freshman became LDS and a year later was a missionary in Chicago, as a result I estranged all but a couple of my family members, returning from my mission my faith in the LDS leadership was shattered by my negative mission experiences.

    I longed for a spiritual home and began looking at the CofC as a possibility, but hearing how far CofC has moved from the foundation of the Restoration literally made me weep.

    It seems there is no place for a moderate in the religious world, either you have Conservative authoritarians like the LDS or liberal authoritarians like the CofC; consider Armand Wijckman being locked out of his own meetinghouse and the CofC suing small Restoration Branches who used the RLDS Church name if you don’t agree that the CofC does have its own issues with ministerial heavy handedness.

    I pray for the day when God will give an organization that respects both Traditionalists and Modernists and allows each their expression and helps them to be reconciled and that the mentality of “backward fundamentalists must reform” and “liberal heretics must be cast out” will fade to memory. I don’t think Christ wants that for us.

    And its a tragedy that people like myself fall through the cracks as a result. I lost my entire extended family and have yet to heal the wounds with my immediate family, all in the name of the Restoration and yet I haven’t been actively attending LDS meetings for two years. My adventure in Restorationism has wrecked my life and all I have to show for it is a melancholy certainty that JS Jr was a Prophet and the the BoM is true (to what extent its literal history is irrelevant to me, that Book changed my heart and speaks to my inmost soul).

    At any case, I’m glad to see I’m not the only person with some frustration, a “long dark night of the Soul” as St. John of the Cross said.
    Cheers,
    AC.

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  52. AC on December 5, 2010 at 2:25 AM

    PS sorry if that sounds like a negative self pity tirade, but I think the Liberal/Traditionalist dichotomy and the questions of ministerial authority are very pertinent to present situation in the Community of Christ, particularly with reference to joining the NCC, and for the record I do accept the BoM to be historical. :D AC

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  53. John Hamer on December 5, 2010 at 7:18 AM

    Firetag — I believe God will save the church. You don’t have to be worried about it, if you’re called to worry about other things, but I do feel called and compelled to save the institution. I believe the institution has a value beyond what individuals can do on their own and I believe the church has an important calling still to fulfill, even if we do accept the idea that other important callings exist outside the church (which I do accept).

    Bruce — Your logic (in the essay you link to) is flawed because you’re proceeding from a false premise “all belief systems are equal,” which is distinct from the idea that “all belief systems have truth.” All belief systems are not equal. Simple black-and-white belief systems appear strong because they have simple answers to simple questions, which appear to some of their adherents to be eminently logical. Unfortunately those same belief systems are inferior as world-views to more sophisticated world-views from the standpoint of their capacity as models to predict results in the real world.

    In other words, all belief systems are not equal. Specifically, I believe that simplistic world-views or religions are inferior to sophisticated world-views or religions regarding such important goals as defining and predicting how the world actually operates. My religion is not the “one and only true church,” but — with all respect to adherents who believe otherwise and who have the right to believe otherwise — it has more truth than any unsophisticated religion which does make such a claim.

    As you say, this puts us at odds with each other. This doesn’t mean I think ill of you. I don’t want to make my point in a way that is attacking you, but I do want to answer the question you posed.

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  54. John Hamer on December 5, 2010 at 7:44 AM

    You write: “Admittedly you do not believe that there is more than one true religion in terms of your core beliefs, so I can see that you may have felt BY starting teaching falsehoods that made the LDS Church no longer one of God’s true religions.”

    I don’t think any such thing. Churches are not true or false. Churches are institutions, the same way banks, schools, or trade unions are institutions. Is General Motors a true car company? What value does that question even possess?

    GM, as an institution, performs its various roles and it can be judged according to how well it achieves various goals. As a result, depending on the goals you value, you can call it a success or you can call it a failure, but it’s meaningless to say it’s true or false. It’s not a proposition, it’s an institution.

    You ask: “But still, doesn’t the fact that almost every member of the early Mormon Church (that stayed Mormon anyhow) chose to follow BY count at least a little against his status as a usurper?”

    (1) This is a false statement; while a large majority of the members at church HQ moved west, the membership at church HQ represented a minority of the Saints baptized between 1830-44. (2) The answer is “No.”

    How are you defining “usurper,” Bruce? Are you saying that if somebody somewhere (or 5% of somebodies) follows a usurper, he was no usurper? Usurpers often win and almost everyone ends up following them.

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  55. John Hamer on December 5, 2010 at 8:17 AM

    AC: I didn’t say “backward fundamentalists must reform.” I said backward fundamentalists should be encouraged to reform or condemned for failing to reform. There’s a difference between me holding a carrot (encouragement) and a stick (condemnation), which refer to my own personal policies and actions, and the statement you ascribe to me: i.e., that someone other than me must do this or that.

    I’m not saying that anyone /must/ do anything; people are free to do what they want. However, I am saying that when they do things of which I disapprove, my response is to encourage them to modify that behavior, or to condemn them for failing to do so.

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  56. John Hamer on December 5, 2010 at 8:32 AM

    Bruce: I think I see the confusion. I wrote above if a church claims to be the one and only true church that’s a sign that it’s false. And then I later wrote that churches aren’t true or false.

    I stand by both statements. In my own paradigm, Churches aren’t actually true or false because they are institutions, not principles — (that’s the broader perspective).

    However, within the paradigm of a belief system that claims churches are true or false, the fact that you’re in such a false framework should indicate to you that such a church is false from the standpoint of the paradigm itself. (Why was that confusing? :P) In the end, the proposition is false and the world-view is less sophisticated and less good, but church advocating both is not actually “false” in the broader world-view. Outside its own limited and less useful paradigm, it is merely an institution that can be judged according to how well it performs or fails to perform various goals.

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  57. Bruce on December 5, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    @#50:
    FireTag,

    I am directly admiting that there is nothing logically inconsistent with accepting that God works through multiple institutions. Therefore I am in no way arguing with that position. (At least not at this time.)

    Indeed, my point is actually its logical corrallary: that if there are in fact truths worth having that are superior to their logical altenative (a point that even John agrees with and that seem to just logically follow from the very concept of “truth”) then there can’t be anything logically false about choosing (by revelation or by fiat) to believe that God *did* choose one institution to be His own. In other words, I’m arguing that *both positions are logically coherent.*

    In other words I’m arguing not against the idea that God has multiple institutions but only against John more limited point (articulated but not explained in #56) that it is somehow an irrational position that is self contradictory. John believes this, but I don’t see how he’s deriving it at all.

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  58. […] at Millennial Star wrote a post yesterday synthesizing two different members’ of the Community of Christ’s reactions to various events in the church’s (the […]

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  59. Bruce on December 5, 2010 at 11:09 AM

    John,

    I started writing a response to you and it got long. Give me a chance later to engage all of your points. I agree with you on many things, it seems, but somehow I see your conclusions as the opposite of what they should be from within your own world view.

    In the mean time, I wanted to clarify one point of mine you seem to have misunderstood.

    My point was that if God chooses to not have one institution — as you are asserting is the case — then there really isn’t any legitimate sense in which we can say BY is a usurper. Or at least I don’t yet see how that could ever logically follow.

    Again, if all you meant was that BY led the Church to believe in things you personally disagree with, and since you do believe your beliefs to be universally true for everyone (i.e. they are a sort of one true religion for you) then I suppose I can see you saying BY is a usurper in this very limited sense.

    But this isn’t the sense you originally indicated. It really seems to me that you directly contradicted yourself. You started out claiming that God intended the Church to be a certain way and that BY usurped the institution and took it a different direction. But that is literally impossible within your worldview. The most it would seem you could say is that BY started another institution for people with those sorts of interests and the old institution died out. But since God does not have ‘true’ or ‘false’ institutions, this is basically non problematic.

    In short, I’m pointing out what to me seem like a pretty nasty contradiction on your part and also subtly pointing out that both of your beliefs here really only have one thing in common — they are both anti-LDS Church. But they also don’t go together.

    I might be reading too much in here, so I look forward to your further explanation.

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  60. FireTag on December 5, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    AC:

    I had gone to bed here on the East Coast before you posted last night, but O wanted to respond to you before I read the later comments.

    In Section 164 there is a sort of epilogue that the prophet testified came after he thought the experience was done. I don’t want to get into the directions given, because that was CofChrist-specific, but I do want to note the salutation, because I’ve been impressed that it applies to all of us.

    “BELOVED CHILDREN OF THE RESTORATION, your continuing faith adventure with God has been divinely led, eventful, challenging, and sometimes surprising to you. By the grace of God, you are poised to fulfill God’s ultimate vision for the church.” (CofChrist D&C 164:9a)

    There are no lost sheep of the Restoration; there are only beloved children. No matter what we do to each other, we are still beloved. Maybe you did not so much fall through the cracks as escape between the bars to the place from which your own freedom and potential may best be found. That’s the job for all of us: find where God wants us to be and get there NOW.

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  61. John Hamer on December 5, 2010 at 5:36 PM

    Bruce, there is no contradiction in what I said — the contradiction is among all the baggage you attached to what I said.

    On the statement you’re plucking out, I specifically said, “My person view is…” I’m not sure how I can more explicitly indicate that this is a personal view of mine and not a theological principle.

    You write: “You started out claiming that God intended the Church to be a certain way and that BY usurped the institution and took it a different direction.” What? Where did I claim that? I don’t think that’s true at all. I don’t believe that God intended the church to be a certain way or that BY took it in a different direction. BY definitely took it in a different direction than it would have gone had any other person seized control — because history isn’t pre-determined and vast differences might have been possible if there had been tiny changes at different points. Not having BY in charge would not have been a tiny change. On my view about how little changes might produce big differences, cf. http://mormonmatters.org/2008/03/25/what-if-they%E2%80%99d-put-nauvoo-in-iowa/

    My personal view of Brigham Young is a personal judgment. At most it’s useful as a model for historical comparison and contrast.

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  62. AC on December 5, 2010 at 8:24 PM

    Firetag-
    Thanks for your kind words, I’m sure Pres. Veazey was influenced by the Holy Spirit to write that verse, they definitely ring true to me. I think the crux of the matter is while here on this site and this page one may academically discuss the ramifications of policy, such as the current action of the CofC in joining the NCC, but lets consider the practical application of what policy can cause; ie the LDS Church has a policy of asking those who dissent to remain silent or, to put it flatly, seek fellowship elsewhere. That policy hurts people. The Community of Christ has pursued policies which have led to liberalization and ecumensim. Its true that has hurt many of its members, and the org itself as it is in financial and numerical decline. Nominally the CofC stills upholds the BoM as canon, but it is disused to the point that its canonicity is meaningless, the BoM is not an important part in the life and ministry of the CofC, which is why the NCC isn’t concerned with it in CofC’s admission to membership. Nominally, CofC is a product of the Restoration, but practically I’d submit to you that the CofC is not very different than the United Church of Christ. I hope and pray the best for the CofC and I’m saddened that it can’t be the Spiritual Home I long for. Best wishes, AC.

    Mr. Hamer-
    I ascribed no words to you at all, I was making a general statement which I did not intend as directed toward you at all, and I apologize if you perceived it that way.

    However, since you felt the need to clarify with me, I will do so with you, what I ascribe to you is a world view that I feel is not productive to the building up of the Kingdom of God and is all to pervasive in our society today, the result of such a mentality is enmity between those who ought to be fellow laborers in the Cause of Zion. Whether liberal or fundamentalist, the mentality of “Think as I think or you are abominably wicked; you are a Toad” only serves to divide and weaken, we must remember the counsel of Paul “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided?” So why must there be those of the “Sophistication” and those of the “Simplicity”? Because Satan wants us to be divided and puts contention into man’s heart. RLDS Apsotle Arthur Oakman once said that the Church had the resources to build Zion, but that there was “too much sin in the Church.” I think this very issue was the “sin” of which he spoke. A True Church must able to be a Spiritual Home for both Fundamentalists and Liberals, where both can offer their talents to building up the Kingdom. Mr. Hamer you have demonstrated why I do not join the CofC even though I had desire to do so at one time. I have no further use for any condemnation for failing to accept what another “encourages” to me if the Holy Spirit does not commend it to me, and I think your attitude is definitely in tune with the prevailing attitudes in the CofC leadership (or membership for that matter).

    At any case, I will sir be a toad ;) best wishes to you and btw I enjoyed the interview you did with John Dehlin for “Mormon Stories.” AC

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  63. MH on December 5, 2010 at 9:17 PM

    John,

    “The UCC (United Church of Christ) is a denomination that is formed from historic churches that merged together and merged their past, individual historic identities together into a joined identity.”

    When I was on my mission in South Carolina, I attended a Wednesday evening session at the Church on Christ in Spartanburg, SC. The topic of the meeting was “the one true church”, which caught my attention. I remember being struck by the similarities of the principles being taught with our church, and had heard that the Church of Christ had ties to Mormon origins, but I have yet to learn anything confirmatory to these rumors.

    I know that there are many “Churches of Christ” in the Missouri area with Mormon origins, but was unclear if the SC Church of Christs had any ties to these Mormon Churches of Christ, or were more similar to the Alexander Cambpell/Baptists churches of Christ from the 1830’s. Are you saying that some of these groups have tied together Mormon/Campbellite histories together?

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  64. Bruce on December 6, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    John,

    Thanks for your responses and clarifications. Let me respond back. I’m going to do it in separate comments out of necessity at this point.

    First a few nits:

    @53 – “Your logic (in the essay you link to) is flawed because you’re proceeding from a false premise “all belief systems are equal,”

    The essay argued logically you can’t have all belief systems be equal. So I’m at a loss how you misunderstood it to mean the opposite.

    @54 -What I said: “But still, doesn’t the fact that almost every member of the early Mormon Church (that stayed Mormon anyhow) chose to follow BY count at least a little against his status as a usurper?”

    John’s response: “This is a false statement; while a large majority of the members at church HQ moved west, the membership at church HQ represented a minority of the Saints baptized between 1830-44.”

    It’s like two ships passing in the night. :) By “this statement is false” you apparently mean “this statement is true.” Since after all the membership that stayed behind didn’t “stay Mormon” just like I said. Are you claiming otherwise? Is there some hidden majority of Mormons that formed some unknown church?

    Let’s compromise on this one. I will admit that you were right and that I was too. I think you just read in more than I intended here.

    Neither of these seem like big deal, since we are really in agreement. As for the first, I think a key point is that we both believe that not all belief systems are equal. This is very important to what I’ll say next.

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  65. Bruce on December 6, 2010 at 8:07 AM

    In #54 you said some things that are clearly not true. But then I accept that you corrected yourself in #56 so I’ll pick up from there.

    A key point you make is that church’s are institutions not principles, so they can’t be “true.” Okay, fair enough. But I’m sure you’re smart enough to know that when LDS people say the Church is “true” that it’s a cultural short hand for “the beliefs taught by that institution are the correct (or most correct) ones.”

    So let’s dispense with this strawman. I’ll agree that the LDS is not “true” from within my own beliefs, but rather just the institution that happens to teach the most truth and let’s move on from there. Will this work for you?

    Also, I agree the LDS Church (and all Church and religions) must be judged by how well they perform. But the correct measure should be, in my opinion, how well they perform for their adherents. This should be obvious. The fact that the LDS Church brings little meaning to a Catholic just doesn’t matter to anyhow. And for my own life, it’s performed quite well, so that’s the judgment that should matter the most to me. And I’m hardly alone in feeling this way.

    For those that it did not work for, I wholly encourage them to pay the LDS Church no head and prayerfully follow there own path without becoming “Rejectionist” and feeling the need to try to make the LDS Church ineffective for those it is working for.

    I’m more curious about what you mean by this: “the fact that you’re in such a false framework should indicate to you that such a church is false from the standpoint of the paradigm itself”

    I am at a total loss here unless you were just still confused as to what “the Church is true” is short hand for.

    In fact, the logical behind why the LDS Church believes their religion is the “true” (or “most true”) one is so obvious that a child can do it. And it’s logic that applies to your own worldview. So here it is:

    1.You already accept that not all belief systems (religions) are equal.
    2.This implies some are “more and less true” compared to some (perhaps hidden) “standard of truth.”
    3.Therefore it logically follows that the existence of an ‘advantaged religion’ (i.e. one that clearly has more truth compared to others) is plausible and not contradictory. (One note here: that ‘advantaged religion’ could logically be atheism. But you already told me you are not an atheist.)
    4.In fact, it’s not just plausible, it’s probable. Or in any case, if you wish to assert there is no advantaged religion in terms of truth then you owe us an explanation of why that happens to be the case whe it seems so plausible that it should have been otherwise.
    5.Since there can be an advantaged religion, and probably is one, it would at a minimum make good sense for those that hold those ‘advantaged beliefs’ to get together (or have God get them together, if you believe in such things) to form an institution that teaches these truths. (And here I note that I see nothing wrong with you claiming the NCC is that institution made up of several denominations.)

    In any case, when it comes to logic, I have no idea why you think the idea of having a “most true believe system” is somehow a contradiction when it’s obvious that logic almost forces it upon us.

    My point here isn’t to try to convince you that the LDS Church is the keeper of that advantaged religion. My point is only that you are to the point of anger and condemnation over a belief the LDS Church holds that you apparently hold too. (And is probably unavoidable that everyone holds it in some way.)

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  66. Bruce on December 6, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    #61 – “On the statement you’re plucking out, I specifically said, “My person view is…” I’m not sure how I can more explicitly indicate that this is a personal view of mine and not a theological principle.”

    I need to also point out this quote from you in #55: “I’m not saying that anyone /must/ do anything; people are free to do what they want. However, I am saying that when they do things of which I disapprove, my response is to encourage them to modify that behavior, or to condemn them for failing to do so.”

    Here I think we get to the crux of AC’s concern and mine as well. The fact is that you somehow don’t see that you are one of the single strongest “there is only one true belief system in the world and it’s mine!” people around. Even as an LDS Church member, you make me blush.

    Your defense here is that your view is “not a theological principle” because apparently you are not saying people *must* do what you say and “people are free to do what they want.”

    Yet what you believe or don’t believe about God personally *is your theological principles.*

    Plus, you now need to allow all Churches you condemn the right to use your argument above. How many belief systems do you know of that claim an advantaged position that don’t believe people are free to do what they want?

    Which is why it’s so strange you use words like “usurper” for BY. Usurper of what exactly? You insist he “seized control.” But Churches are all voluntary. There is nothing to “seize control” of. What you apparently mean by “seize control” is that BY (and the 12) convinced people this was God’s will and they willingly decided they believed him.

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  67. Mike S on December 6, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    The premise of the LDS Church, as Hinckley talked about, is that it is true or it’s not. Joseph Smith either experienced what he did or he didn’t. And the fundamental LDS story is the First Vision (much like Mohammed’s first vision or Buddha’s awakening). In the official version: I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt

    And there it is, in black and white. If you truly accept JS’s story, you must also accept the “One True Church” thought.

    I’m not sure what this subsequently means:

    1) Does the converse apply: ie. If you believe that there is more than one correct church, does this necessarily imply that you cannot believe in JS’s story?

    2) Can divergent paths, all ultimately tracing back to JS, ALL be true? Or does the presence of multiple Restoration faiths mean that only ONE is true and the rest are apostate?

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  68. Adam Greenwood on December 6, 2010 at 11:04 AM

    As someone who has a soft spot for institutions of all kinds, even for institutions that are opposed in some sense to my own church, this is sad news. Yet another group with its own history and identity is dissolving into the general sludge, joining the throng who are resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity . . .

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  69. FireTag on December 6, 2010 at 11:22 AM

    Mike:

    There are a lot of unexamined assumptions in Hinckley’s statement. First, there is the LDS premise — which came years after the First Vision — that truth and apostasy follow institutional boundaries exactly. Second, that truth or apostacy are permanent conditions; note that JS built into the D&C provisions for dealing with a fallen prophet, indicating he thought it was a real possibility. Third, that institutional statements by God in 1820 apply to statements about individuals at all times; think of Alma as a priest of the perverted religion of King Noah and the call of the Spirit he then experienced, without the intervention of a church organization beforehand.

    So what the Community of Christ more precisely says is that we see the Spirit of God calling people to mission, including administration of sacraments God honors, on the Authority of the Spirit. The authenticity of the call is shown by the power and fruits of the Spirit it brings — and that is true inside or outside the church.

    I’ll leave it at that, because I start to have serious quibbles about how my own church has begun to interpret the relationship of the priesthood to the institution in recent years.

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  70. Mike S on December 6, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    FireTag: …we see the Spirit of God calling people to mission, including administration of sacraments God honors, on the Authority of the Spirit. The authenticity of the call is shown by the power and fruits of the Spirit it brings — and that is true inside or outside the church.

    I really like this as it reflects my feelings. It is much more organic and less hierarchal than what I have experienced in the LDS Church.

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  71. John Hamer on December 6, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    AC: Glad you enjoyed the podcast and I hope you find the spiritual home you seek! Good luck and be well!

    MH: I don’t know of any Restoration related Churches of Christ down there. The problem is that there are just too many churches of that name from such a wide variety of backgrounds that it’s often very hard to say without looking very closely at the fine print.

    Bruce: On your first nit — I said that backwards. I don’t mean you believe “all beliefs are equal.” What I’m saying was your argument presumes that finding truth in all traditions somehow suggests that “all beliefs are equal” — in other words, you create a straw man (as you like to say) and proceed to stab it.

    As far as “usurper” goes, you write: “But Churches are all voluntary. There is nothing to ‘seize control’ of.” I don’t agree. There’s plenty to seize control of: for example, the institution itself. Can individuals quit a church more easily than they can quit say, a country? Most likely in most all cases yes. Which is why it would be possible for someone to take control of something (like, say, the local Elks club) and have it immediately collapse, i.e., because everybody quits. But that doesn’t mean that the guy didn’t take control of something. A church is not nothing; it’s something.

    On the more truth and less truth business —

    I’ve explained my criterion for how we can judge whether a world-view is “more true” or “less true” — I define this as the degree to which the world-view is able to accurately describe the world that it is a view of, and the degree to which it can, as a result, accurately explain and predict outcomes in that world. In other words, how effectively reality-based is the world-view?

    The core problem for people who are LDS is not that they consider there church to be true or most true — I said above that’s a sign (or symptom) of the core problem. (Although in this case the sign itself does tend to promote hierarchical authoritarianism and leader-worship, which are real problems.) The core problem for many LDS people, and, indeed for all scriptural literalists, is that a scriptural literalist world-view describes reality with relatively less accuracy than certain other world-views which are not founded upon this type of reading of scripture.

    For example, if person believes that the text of the Book of Abraham was in some appreciable sense composed by the historic figure Abraham, this is a place where the world-view clearly contradicts reality (although obviously the person who believes it is able to deny the evidence to themselves). This is likewise the problem that I have with southern Baptists (that I mentioned above) and, indeed, that I also have with scriptural literalists who are Muslim or any other religion — these world-views have less truth (by my definition) because are not reality-based. This detachment from reality, in turn, leads people who are caught up in literalism and scriptural authorlitarianism to make all sorts of bad judgments, however logical and internally consistent they may be, because they are working from poor premises.

    That said, again I do not say that people must not retain these traditions — I have many friends and family members who view the world this way. Indeed, there are a number of people in my congregation who are scriptural literalists and who share their views in talks on Sunday. They are very free to, and I’m pleased they do and I listen to them respectfully and I engage them in dialogue as the friends they are. I value the institution I am a part of because it is non-credal and it values those exchanges.

    So, you and I have marked our boundaries. We’ve said why we think the other is wrong and — as usual when you and I get into this — I don’t know that we accomplished much else. You can certainly write and say why you think everything I’ve just said is illogical to you (and thereby have the last word as far as I’m concerned) or you can save yourself the effort and throw your arms up at me in exasperation now.

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  72. Ray on December 18, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    John: How would you address the earliest missionaries who left Jesus’ side to convert the world – or our own ancestors who left wives and children for extended periods of time to do the same? Was their belief that they were right and all others wrong a sign that they were wrong – and, if so, what does that say about the original Christian missionaries and their modern counterparts?

    Given those questions, if I am reading your meaning correctly, I renew my concern that the CofC is abandoning its Restoration roots and joining a group (NCC) that more accurately reflects its newer, decidedly Protestant orientation.

    (and, for the record, that comes from someone who believes deeply that there is truth all over the world, regardless of religion and denomination – that God inspires people who live and worship in radically different ways – that Jacob 5 says unequivocally that elements of apostasy (bitter fruit) will exist in God’s vineyard (and in “the true church”, whatever that might mean) until the very end – that women have the same right to spiritual gifts as men, including things like healing – etc. I’m rock solid, believing LDS – but I’m certainly not orthodox or fundamentalist.)

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  73. FireTag on December 18, 2010 at 8:35 PM

    Ray:

    I don’t know how long it will be before John will see this comment, and I don’t want to speak for him, but let me anticipate by replying the way I suspect the CofChrist leadership might reply.

    I think they would argue that early Christians thought that acceptance of Christ REQUIRED obedience to Jewish rituals, specifically circumcision, as well. In Acts we read of Peter being shown a vision in which he was commanded to eat food forbidden by Jewish law. When he protested, he was commanded to not call unclean that which God had made clean.

    The leadership has argued the situation with priesthood authority is analogous: they assert that they see legitimate acts of priesthood authority being manifested in others, AND THAT ONLY THE HOLY GHOST CAN HAVE PRODUCED THOSE ACTS.

    It’s up to us to decide, of course, whether we see that evidence, or buy that interpretation.

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  74. Ray on December 18, 2010 at 10:58 PM

    FireTag, I understand all of that – and I don’t even disagree with it as you’ve written it.

    My concern is that there is WAY more to the “true church” designation than just Priesthood authority to do marvelous things through the Holy Ghost – and, in fact, even more than having “God’s authority to act in His name”. For example, at the very least, every person who has been baptized in the LDS Church has covenanted to take his name upon them, so, in a very real sense, even rather young children can act in his name in some significant ways through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. I have NO problem extending that to those of other religions – even outside of Christianity, given the Mormon concept of the light of Christ and recognition that the Holy Ghost can inspire anyone of any faith tradition.

    My question simply is how John, or anyone else, can reconcile the obvious **conversion** aspect of early Christian missionary efforts and modern Mormon missionary efforts with the idea that there is nothing exclusively critical within the church that sends out those missionaries.

    If the CofC simply won’t try to convert other Christians (except, perhaps, Mormons and Catholics and Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who aren’t “really” Christians in the eyes of the NCC), believing that their declaration of faith in Jesus is enough, my question is answered – but isn’t that also a repudiation of everything the Restoration was and Joseph Smith as the Prophet of that Restoration? Isn’t that approach just another Protestant Reformation approach? If the CofC takes that approach, doesn’t that make them, de facto, a branch of the Protestant Reformation that just happened to originate outside it?

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  75. FireTag on December 18, 2010 at 11:51 PM

    Ray:

    Again, this is something I can’t answer for John, (or for the CofChrist, but only for myself, obviously.

    Several decades ago, now, the Presiding Quorums of the then RLDS church brought in a consultant from a seminary in the Kansas City (i.e., Independence) area to help them understand issues in which expertise in “mainstream” theology was important. (We had no seminary of our own at the time, simply a religion department at Graceland College.)

    His white papers have circulated around more conservative elements of the church ever since, and he made several public presentations about them. The most accessible was recently published in the epilogue of “Book of Mormon — An Inconvenient Truth” by Richard Rupe, which is probably still available from

    http://www.bofmtruth.com

    When I first saw the theologian’s conclusions several years ago, one struck me and stayed with me: “The world has absolutely no need for another Protestant denomination.”

    If that is where the CofChrist is headed — and I think you may well be right about that — then I can’t go there. I am a Restorationist Christian, not a Protestant Christian, and I have been given personal guidance that I take to mean there is no safety or mission-fulfillment for MY people in Protestantism, however wonderful a role Protestantism has in God’s plan.

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  76. gibson on January 4, 2011 at 3:14 AM

    I will have to share this with my older brothers who are still CofChrist while I converted to LDS in 1999. I doubt that they are even aware of these latest changes. Their tendency, like their congregations, is to have an isolationist attitude.

    I knew the church wouldn’t be able to implement open baptism without allowing methods other than immersion. It’s all about appeasement. My wife wondered how are they going to verify the baptism occured at age eight? If the candidate says seven I’m sure the response will be “Eh, close enough”

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  77. FireTag on January 7, 2011 at 6:08 PM

    I don’t know quite what to make of this, but the following was published this week in the Community of Christ’s Monthly “10 Minute News” report:

    “Membership preparation materials for baptism and confirmation are being produced. Community of Christ welcomes and accepts the baptism of other Christian denominations as a result of new policy established through Doctrine and Covenants 164. An interim policy will be effective January 1 and official policy will be effective September 2011…

    …Invite children, youth, and their families into the ministries and fellowship of the church, for their baptism in another Christian faith community is welcome here. Reach out and embrace them, for their presence enriches our lives and the church.”

    So, after stressing the change in our baptismal policies on lofty theological grounds of recognizing the spiritual validity of the baptismal covenant of others, the very first thing we do is try to get into our denomination people who either: a) are unchurched because they DID NOT take their recent baptismal covenants seriously, or b) who we’re trying to poach from their covenants rather than support them to their previous denominations?

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  78. […] was simply a step on the path to the other. But now that we only assert we are one true church and accept members from other denominations there’s a little sleight-of-hand required to go from “bringing good news to the […]

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  79. […] This quote from FireTag is suggestive of a relationship between the CoC and run off from the LDS Church: “Since the […]

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