The Book of Mormon musical swept the Tony awards last night. Newsweek’s cover this week says we are living in a “Mormon Moment”: “Mormon’s Rock!” they declare. Business Week has tried to figure out why so many Mormons do well in business. A recent Pew Research poll examined how the American public would feel about a Mormon presidential candidate.
In all this, the Community of Christ has been conspicuously absent from the discussion in the media. I am interested in what you all think. Is it better for the Community of Christ not to be associated with “The Mormon Moment” given their long attempt to distance themselves from their Utah cousins both doctrinally and in public perceptions? Is there a way for the Community of Christ to take advantage of the public interest in Mormonism to articulate the Community of Christ as a ‘liberal Mormon’ or ‘Protestant Latter Day Saints” alternative? Given that the American public’s perceptions are slowly becoming more tolerant of Mormons, does it make sense for the Community of Christ to continue to be sensitive about being mistaken for Mormons?
What do you all think?
I would like to comment on this much welcomed post by Matthew Bolton.
I’m a 58 year old LDS member from Las Vegas – an immigrant from The Netherlands – and author of the Interfaith blog “Restorations” which can be found at: http://mvgcontact.org/Restorations.htm
As I visited several Communities of Christ in Las Vegas and in California, I was always welcomed with open arms, but more greeted as a general guest than acknowledged as a mormon, even though I introduced myself as such.
I did get the impression that on the local level CofChr members distance themselves from ‘mormonism’ and it seems to me that because of historical reasons that will be a hard thing to change.
I also tried to contact CofChr members in The Netherlands at several occasions by email but never received a response as folks probably didn’t know what to do when approached by a mormon. An exception was an email from Christian Skoorsmith who was however just transferring back to the US at the time I believe.
At Sunstone Symposia in Salt Lake City I met CofChr Apostles and other members, who were very much aware and appreciative of mormonism and very open in their communication. So I get the impression that general CofChr. leaders are much more open to mutual contacts than members at the local level. What I learned was how badly informed and estranged both Utah-mormons and Missouri-mormons really are about each others faith traditions.
I would very much welcome a perception of the CofChr as Liberal Mormons, because I am one! I don’t think the term ‘Protestant Latter Day Saints’ will mean much to the general public. If all Latter Day Saints could see themselves as belonging to the historical movement that is known to the rest of the world as Mormonism, then there is much to be gained by both the CofChr as well as by liberal LDS members. There are mormon pioniers at both ends of the mormon trail. Brave pioniers in the 19th century as well as courageous pioniers in the 21st century. As a Liberal Mormon I claim the best of both worlds and am grateful for prophets in Independence and in Salt Lake City. When people tell me that mormons do not allow women in the priesthood, only have exclusive temples, I always tell them they are not fully informed and I tell them about the CofChr., portraying them as a liberal mormons, and folks are highly impressed. We are all sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, beneficiaries of Joseph and Emma, and I do not intend to let go of any blessings of that heritage wherever I find them!
Untill now however I sense an enormous gap in perception that seems impossible to bridge. I appreciate my LDS tradition while strongly identifying with the developments in the CofChr. Is it possible to be both LDS and Cof Chr as a Liberal Mormon? Perhaps an initiative should be considered to better accommodate Liberal Mormons in the CofChr ?
I realize this was not quite the intent of this post, but I think the Community of Christ would still be the Community of Christ within “Mormonism”, gain substantial support and membership from liberal LDS mormons, while being perceived by the outside world as remarkable modern day mormon pioniers on their way to Zion.
[…] free publicity go to waste (though they wish they had more control over the information flow). Even the Community of Christ is wondering how to get in on the action, and atheists are wondering why Mormons are better represented, […]
Excuse the cliche’ but the Cof C made their bed now have to sleep in it. I was a member for 40 years and watched the church slowly but surely eliminate as many connections to the “restoration” movement as possible. The encouragement was to be known as who we are rather than who we are not.
I can recall two events that put the RLDS into the national spotlight.
1. Mark Hoffman and his “Joseph Smith 3rd Blessing” document. The church membership was quite excited by this and authorized it to be included in the D&C. Of course later it was proven to be a forgery and Hoffman a murderer (he was an embittered LDS by the way)
2. Jeffrey Lundgren, a self-proclaimed prophet cut from the same cloth as Jim Jones and David Koresh. He was excommunicated from the RLDS before he became a liability, nevertheless the publicity generated by his murder trial was a great embarrassment. One member commented “NOW the media decides to distinguish us from the mormons”
I think it would be very awkward for the CofC to try to benefit from these current “mormon moments” .
What’s the problem with different strains of Mormonism? Just about every world religion has an historically developed number of different faith traditions. For anybody to assert that she no longer belongs to that group seems to me historically incorrect and increasingly hard to maintain with the kind of media attention generated by events like “The Book of Mormon Musical”. The general public becomes more and more aware of Mormonism, and any church which even remotely views The Book of Mormon as scripture, will be seen by them as part of Mormonism! No Conference, PR campaign, or even a new Section of the D&C (another “Mormon” canon) will ever be able to change that kind of justified perception, so let’s face that reality! In my opinion the Community of Christ has a specific responsibility within the framework of Mormonism to be true to herself and true to her relationship to that larger framework. I think there are millions of Latter Day Saints who are consciously or unconsciously yearning for diversity, liberal spirituality, and an continuing effort to search for Zion and to truly become a prophetic people. We shouldn’t be burning bridges, but building them!
I’m all for the bridge building, which usually means I’m going to be stretched out over the gorge, sometimes being walked over from both sides, but that’s just me trying to be faithful to the calling passed to me as my heritage in the RLDS.
Mark’s doing the same, but has found his calling to travel completely to the LDS side of the gorge. Matt’s on the Protestant Mormon side, perhaps.
Anyway, glad to meet you, Robert.
Likewise FireTag !
Bridges over gorges in the western deserts can be beautiful, just like bridges over beautiful rivers in green Missouri ! I’m with you in building them and commit myself with you in a willingness to lay me down like a brigde over troubled water.
Maybe you or MH might know how the dozens of other denominations tied to the restoration deal with the situation. I’m only marginally aware of the Church of Christ (temple lot) ‘s handling of mormon moments.
Being a Cofch, I will not deny my origins. That is to me the great heritage of my faith in Community of Christ. C’of C’as Christ centred Church, will always promote Jesus-Christ as the one who was presented in the grove to the prophet. He brought to the Saints, Christ, and Christ was the center of the Saints mouvement. We respect the prophet as we do trust the Heritage. A man turned us to Jesus and we focusly look at Him who generates the power of the mission in the Community of Christ. The Church has shown faithful to the Lord in the same way as the prophet had shown trustful to Him. It is not right to think we cut away from the mormons but we may perceive the vision with different perspectives. There are 2 alternatives: either you see Jesus through the prophet or you see the prophet through Jesus. C’of C’does not get away from… But is rather up at what matters the most: the MISSION