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CA Steve

"Is Joseph Smith Relevant to the Community of Christ?"

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Recently I encountered this article 2006 from Dialogue by Roger Launius, a member of the Community of Christ,  that I thought might be of interest to that are interested in the RLDS and Community of Christ branches of Mormonism.

If you don't know, 

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Roger D. Launius (born May 15, 1954) is an American historian and author of Lithuanian descent, a former chief historian of NASA. He retired in 2016 as Associate Director for Collections and Curatorial Affairs for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C..[1] Launius is a consulting historian in air and space history. He has written many books on space flight, and also published on the history of the Latter Day Saint movement.

Here is a link to the full article.  Is Joseph Smith Relevant to the Community of Christ?

 

From the article:

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For the Community of Christ, Joseph Smith's place is far less assured and certainly much less triumphant. Indeed, I know of no one in the organization who would conclude that Joseph Smith "completed" his work of restoration, and I could poll many who would question the totality of what he accomplished. I would contend that Joseph Smith's activities represented a conflicting set of ideals for those identified with the Community of Christ. Such was the case from the time of Joseph Smith III, first president of the Reorganization, in the nineteenth century, and it has remained so until the present, becoming even more problematic in the last twenty-five years of so. Over the course of many years or so the church has cast aside any beliefs in the plurality of Gods, baptism for the dead, and temple ceremonies as understood by latter-Day Saints. From the beginnings of the Restoration movement it has rejected Celestial Marriage and the tendency toward militarisms and official involvement in most political activities that were prevalent in Nauvoo. While some in the Reorganized Church refused to believe that these had any place in the organization of Joseph Smith's day-and this has been a source of tension for those inside the church-the reality is that in a demythologization of history, many have come to accept that not everything Smith did was appropriate. At a fundamental level, the lifetime of contradictions that Joseph Smith lived represented both a triumph and a tragedy, the backlash of which the Community of Christs adherents have been seeking to understand and in some case to live down ever since.

Interesting perspective here. The short article is very good and later on he addresses three questions.

 

"1. How much progress has been made over the last forty years in terms of the most significant works produced?"

"2. What significant areas of Joseph Smith's life reman to be explored."

"3. Is a reasonably "definitive" portrait of Joseph Smith today more plausible than today that it was forty years ago? Why or Why not?

Edited by CA Steve

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I really believe that is a question that members of the Community of Christ will have to ask of themselves if they wish and and answer for themselves. When all is said and done, it still comes down to a spiritual confirmation or rejection rather than an intellectual exercise.

Glenn

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Easier access to the article is at https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V39N04_70.pdf .

Launius is one of the most important historians of the RLDS/Community of Christ tradition, so his comments should be taken very seriously.  At the same time, many of the most traditional members of that church have left and formed their own church organizations.

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I remember when the RLDS changed their name to Community of Christ. It sparked my interest a bit so I went to their website. The only thing I found about Joseph Smith at that time on their website was a 1 sentence statement that their "founder Joseph Smith had significant religious experiences".

I thought to myself; well, yes, yes he did.

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On 3/15/2019 at 12:01 AM, Robert F. Smith said:

Easier access to the article is at https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V39N04_70.pdf .

Launius is one of the most important historians of the RLDS/Community of Christ tradition, so his comments should be taken very seriously.  At the same time, many of the most traditional members of that church have left and formed their own church organizations.

Maybe you will excuse me for being lazy, but can I ask such as? Are you saying they formed yet new churches in the last 40 years? exs?

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They also have cast some doubt on the historicity of the Book and its importance to their faith:
"At the 2007 Community of Christ World Conference, church president Stephen M. Veazey ruled as out of order a resolution to "reaffirm the Book of Mormon as a divinely inspired record". In so doing he stated that "while the Church affirms the Book of Mormon as scripture, and makes it available for study and use in various languages, we do not attempt to mandate the degree of belief or use. This position is in keeping with our longstanding tradition that belief in the Book of Mormon is not to be used as a test of fellowship or membership in the church."  (Andrew M. Shields, "Official Minutes of Business Session, Wednesday March 28, 2007", in 2007 World Conference Thursday Bulletin, March 29, 2007. Community of Christ, 2007)

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The reformation of the last quarter century within the Reorganized church has produced a distinctly Protestant religion. Given the product of the this reformation, it was completely necessary to abandon the truth claims of the Book of Mormon and the claims of a restoration of by Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith. 

The obvious problem is if Joseph Smith's claims of a restoration or abandoned then the claims of Joseph Smith III, their church's founder, are necessarily false and without merit. If that is so, then what is the value of their new Protestant church? This reformation cost this church dearly in membership. They went from some 650,000 members to less than 250,000 members. 

My father's sister-in-law is a member of the Community of Christ. My uncle joined their church in the early 1980s. They maintain a relationship with their local congregations in southern Alabama, but have abandoned any interest in the workings of the church leadership in Independence. The actions of that group are viewed as having become contaminated and no longer are worthy of being followed. 

Launius's position is reflective of an individual that remains conflicted and see the dissonance in his church's position. 

Edited by Storm Rider

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I am surprised that more disaffected members don't turn to the Community of Christ for refuge.  It seems that they have made a perfect home for people who struggle with the common issues in the church.

Have problems with Joseph Smith?  So do they!

Gay marriage?  Temple marriages welcome!

Women and the Priesthood?  Not a problem!

Book of Mormon issues?  There is a home for you here. 

The question is, why don't people like Kate Kelly, Bill Reel and others take up membership over there?  It seems like all of their problems would be solved.

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10 hours ago, RevTestament said:

Maybe you will excuse me for being lazy, but can I ask such as? Are you saying they formed yet new churches in the last 40 years? exs?

Is this the info you are looking for?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restoration_branches

Edited by Calm

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5 minutes ago, RevTestament said:

That is certainly at least one. Thanks. I find it curious that to date the Church of Jesus Christ has suffered the same fate as the Protestant denominations and Orthodox such as the Roman Catholic.

Humanity is humanity.  I would be shocked if any group didn't have split offs.  It happens even with little kids' groups from what I have seen.

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2 hours ago, pogi said:

The question is, why don't people like Kate Kelly, Bill Reel and others take up membership over there? 

They want to be the saviors of the Church and force change from within.  And so they can become more famous and sell more books.

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9 hours ago, RevTestament said:

Maybe you will excuse me for being lazy, but can I ask such as? Are you saying they formed yet new churches in the last 40 years? exs?

More recently than that.  If you visit Independence, Missouri, the headquarters of the Community of Christ, just walking around town you will see a number of offshoots of the CoC which emphasize the Book of Mormon and inveigh against the Community of Christ.

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5 hours ago, pogi said:

I am surprised that more disaffected members don't turn to the Community of Christ for refuge.  It seems that they have made a perfect home for people who struggle with the common issues in the church.

From a friend who visited a CoC congregation recently, reposted with permission and a little editing for typos in case anyone is curious about how former members are merging into the CoC:

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These congregations are Community of Christ/RLDS, but have a focus designed to address their memberships which are, to some extent, made up of members who have their origins in the LDS Church.

 The style of worship reflected this with multiple congregational speakers and a form that would seem familiar to LDS adherences. Also unlike the usual RLDS practice sacrament is served at every Sunday.

 LDS Hymns and hymnbooks were in use along with the traditional Community of Christ Sings hymnbook.

 Perhaps most telling of all was the use of the Book of Mormon both in the sermons and in particular in the adult Sunday School class that my wife and I attended. This class is studying the Book of Mormon this year and focused quite a bit on Lehi's dream and how it is related to visions in the New Testament. Taught by a retired college professor from Graceland it was, to put it mildly, academically rigorous.

The Church itself continues to display the original RLDS name, and in fact the only direct reference to the Community of Christ name was the sign at the front of the building which features both names.

The whole experience was rather like going to a very traditional RLDS service from years ago with the addition of course of women priesthood holders.

I was able to speak to a few of the members who had their origins in the LDS Church not extensively.  None that I had spoken to had been re-baptised, but several had had their young children baptized at eight. I didn't feel that I was in a position to ask them how they came to be there.

The presiding elder said that today these "Latter-day Seekers" as they are known make up the largest inflow of new members and their influence is being felt across the church most notably in the way the Book of Mormon is being treated of late. 

 Like us their meetings are now running two hours except on the first Sunday of the month when there is a priesthood meeting. Handling the matter of priesthood and men with it from the LDS tradition is the most difficult issue they face. As a rule they have permitted LDS priesthood holders to continue to function as such in the home.  They can baptize their children and grand children, but may not, until granted priesthood authority for Independence, act in that capacity for the congregation. 

 This was a large, multi generational, congregation in suburban Kansas City.

 

Edited by Calm
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Having been born and raised in Indep. Mo (61 yrs old) I have witnessed first hand all of these changes within the RLDS/CoC/Restoration Branch movement/The Remnant Church of Jesus CoLDS/The Restored Church of Jesus Christ of LDS....and with many friends having been members of the various flavors....I feel I can say with a high degree of confidence, that within the liberal CoC  the Prophet Joseph is not looked upon with the same degree of reverence or I dare say "importance" as do we in the CoJCoLDS….or within the more fundamental Restoration Branches and the Remnant Church.   Having said that,  most if not all of my friends within the Restoration Branch movement and in the Remnant Church tell me they feel the Prophet Joseph during the Nauvoo period simply lost his "spiritual edge".  They try very hard not to characterize him as a "fallen prophet", yet when pressed to more fully articulate their position....that is in fact what they believe.

Most of the fundamental members of the Restoration Branch will simply tell you that they're waiting for the Lord to "set the church in order".   Members of the Remnant Church will tell you that the Lord "has" set his church in order again with the establishment of that church.

Interestingly enough...the current SP of the Indep. Mo stake is in fact a former member of the RLDS church, as well as a former member of a Restoration Branch congregration during the very first days when those fundamental members found themselves leaving the Institutional RLDS church.  

Suffice it to say,  ALL of the various Restoraton Branches as well as the Remnant Church are not growing at all, and are mostly comprised of the Elderly.   They are wonderful, sincere people who love the Lord...the do love Joseph Smith jr.  they do revere the BoM in every respect. That in addition to the Prophet Joseph losing his spiritual compass,  they also simply have not been able to get past the "Brigham bad" mentality ….that BY  was mostly responsible for all that "went off the rails in Nauvoo"  etc etc.   So, the Restoration Branches continue to wait and wait and wait for the Lord to set his Church in order once again...…… and so it goes

Edited by randy
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9 hours ago, Calm said:

From a friend who visited a CoC congregation recently, reposted with permission and a little editing for typos in case anyone is curious about how former members are merging into the CoC:

 

Thanks for sharing, that is interesting.  

Does anybody know if there are many congregations here in Utah? They would probably do well to have more of a presence here to capitalize on disenfranchised members here.  

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