We’re Still Listening

I’m a believer in the Restoration. I do not subscribe to a conservative story that Joseph Smith Jr. restored an ancient church, but I’m a believer that many blessings, customs, and ordinances of the past were “restored.”

joseph-smith-first-visionI often find myself in dialogue with other believers of the Restoration; I listen intently to what they believe is the most significant blessing of the restoration. (Please feel free to share below what you believe is the most significant blessing) I enjoy the dialogue because to me the Restoration is a journey not an event. The principles of the Restoration are the same, but our understanding of those principles is ever changing.

Following the death of the apostles, there was a movement to canonize the apostolic writings. Many of the writings out there were not apostolic in origin, but drew upon the inspiration of their ministry. For centuries, debate and discussion took place on what should be considered scripture and what shouldn’t.  By the end of the 16th Century, most Christian communities had canonized their scriptures and closed their canons.

Essentially, the Christian world had found their scripture and believed that no further dialogue was needed.

The Restoration changed this thinking. The early church adopted the concept that God has revealed in the past and he has more to reveal. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon was significant. Not just because of the witness that it bore, but because it helped prepare the early saints for the coming of additional scripture.

I have found it to be a delight that the spirit of the Restoration is alive in Community of Christ. God continues to speak to us just as he did in Moses’ time, Christ’s time, and Joseph Smith’s time. Community of Christ has been blessed with the revelation that has been given. Over the last 180+ years the church has seen: Women ordained to the priesthood, two temples built, an open communion policy, an opening of the priesthood and sacrament of marriage to our gay brothers and sisters (this has only been accepted in some counties) and so many other blessings which have resulted from our continual dialogue with God.

President Grant McMurray in Section 161:1b counseled the church to “Be faithful to the spirit of the Restoration, mindful that it is a spirit of adventure, openness, and searching…”

I’m happy to testify that the Community of Christ is continuing to live the spirit of the Restoration. I believe that the biggest blessing from the Restoration is the opening up of the heavens and the continuing dialogue between us and our God. May we all continue to be faithful to the Restoration’s spirit!

A Year with Community of Christ

It was roughly a year ago that my journey began with Community of Christ. A little over a year ago, God was not a priority in my life. This is not to say I was a bad person or lived an unchristian lifestyle. It’s just to say after my voluntary departure from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2007 I really didn’t want or see myself being part of any group and I really didn’t give my relationship with Christ much thought.

In 2007, I contacted Community of Christ through their website, however, I wasn’t ready and I’ll be honest, I don’t believe they were ready for someone like me either. The response I received in 2007 was vastly different than the response I received one year ago. I now look back at that experience with relief. I believe that God knew it wasn’t time and that he would later manifest to me when the time was right.

A little over a year ago, I realized that something was missing in my life and I believed it was the presence of God. Naturally, I felt the need to return to the faith of my youth in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I attended for awhile, but it just never felt right. Although, I was an Elder and was celebrated as a prodigal son returned; I just didn’t feel part of that community anymore and soon realized that not only was it not going to work for myself it was also not the best fit for my family.

With the decision leaving the LDS church again, I soon fell back into the habit of staying away from church and God, but this time it was not permanent or lasting. I quickly realized there was still a deeper meaning why I went back and even-though that church wasn’t going to work for me there were things I loved and things I needed to share. Luckily, I soon realized the things I loved was not specific to the LDS church and were more specific to the restoration.

The history and spirit of the Restoration kept calling and I now felt it was time to pursue Community of Christ once again. My response as I mentioned in 2007 was very much different than the response I received in 2012. In 2007, I felt that the church was really unable to speak to me, however, in 2012 this church not only was able to speak to me it was ready to administer to me.

So, what has happened to me over this last year and how has it changed my life? First, Christ is in my life in away he hadn’t been since I was a teenager. I try daily to proclaim him and to share with others what it means to have a relationship with him. Second, I have a community that loves me and is ready to walk with me. Not only the community local to me in Cedar Rapids, IA, but a community that is world wide. I have met so many wonderful people through on-line ministries and local ministries. I have made friends that I believe will be with me for the journey ahead. I have seen a change in myself. The way I treat my family and friends has changed. I’ve become more patient, a little more merciful and less partisan.

A little over a year ago, if you told me I would be active in Community of Christ and be attending church regularly with my family; I would have chucked and laughed. Sadly, removing Community of Christ from the equation, if you told me that I would be proclaiming Christ I would have given a similar response. Truly, I believe I had an Alma the younger experience. I may not have been stricken and unable to speak, but I know that I was changed and I feel the call to share with others my story and experiences.

I’m a part of a great movement. I’m part of a church that affirms the spirit of the restoration. I’m part of a church that is still communing with God. I’m part of a diverse community that not only is local to me in Iowa, but expands the globe. I’m part of a community that affirms the worth of all people and I’m so humbled and excited for the journey ahead.

Over the last year, I have received the Evangelist Blessing (Patriarchal Blessing), I have bore my testimony in service, I have been confirmed a member, I have given time and money back to my local community, and most importantly I have provided ministry to others and have received it in return. All of these wonderful things would have never happened if I didn’t have faith and trust. What will the journey be like moving ahead? I can’t say for certain, but I welcome it and I welcome you to share it with me.Image

A Mormon’s Survival Guide

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This blog entry is specifically for my friends who are LDS and may be contemplating attending Community of Christ. I hope this also is able to bring a new perspective to my friends in Community of Christ, so that they may become better at reaching out to our LDS friends and truly making them feel welcomed at the table. I hope that both communities can use these tips and hopes that we can come together in “community” of Christ.

Survival Tip One: Don’t Trust Everything on the Internet.

My journey with Community Christ started with the internet. I had been vaguely aware of Community of Christ growing up, but I had heard lots of rumors. Rumors such as: “they no longer believe in the Book of Mormon, they believe Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet, and they no longer believe in the restoration.” There are many other things I’ve heard said, but these are the main falsehoods that are spread about Community of Christ. As you search the internet, you will find some Community of Christ members who may back up these claims, but keep in mind they only speak for themselves. The church’s official webpage acknowledges the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and The Restoration. All of them are seen as very important parts to the development of Community of Christ. There are countless of people who believe in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and The Restoration just as strongly as LDS members, but there are those who don’t. This at first can be very confusing to us who share an LDS background. It’s hard for us to understand how this can possibly work and at times it can be frustrating to Community of Christ members on both sides, but remember Community of Christ affirms the Worth of All People and all our welcome at the table. If you have an LDS background and you have a strong testimony of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the Restoration don’t be afraid to share that with others. There are plenty of Community of Christ members who feel just as strongly about it as you.

Survival Tip Two: Open Yourself to Receive God’s Message

When I first started attending my local CofC congregation I was listening for someone to reference the Book of Mormon. Week after week passed and I heard nothing. Then one Sunday someone spoke from 3rd Nephi and I was like “finally!” Looking back on it, I missed a lot of important messages because I was fixated on wanting a book referenced. Remember that Community of Christ does affirm the Bible as the scriptural foundation of the church. The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants serve as additional witnesses of Christ’s love and mercy, so don’t be surprised if the Book of Mormon is not mentioned the Sunday you attend or if you attend for awhile and don’t hear it. Be patient and allow yourself to receive God’s message. Remember scripture is not to be worshiped.

Survival Tip Three: Introduce Yourself

When you attend the LDS church for the first time everyone wants to talk to you and they want to know what they can do for you and if they can share with you the “gospel.” The Community of Christ does not proselytize, so it may be likely that no one will pressure you to sit down, so they can share the “gospel” with you. Don’t take this the wrong way. They’re just not that interested in converting you. However, you may want to speak to someone about the church in further detail especially the church in your local area. There are a few things you can do. Some congregations have slips that you can fill out with your information you can do that and wait for someone to contact you, or you can introduce yourself to the “pastor” or a person presiding. Tell them you want to know more, and they will share with you. So, don’t be shy and don’t wait for someone to actively pursue you. Pursue them first!

Survival Tip Four: Jesus Must Be Your Foundation

John 14:6 clearly states: “I’m the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the foundation. While there are many things and mediums in which we can communicate with God we must acknowledge that ultimately he is what he says he is. Joseph Smith when asked about his religion said: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it. But in connection with these, we believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost, the power of faith, the enjoyment of the spiritual gifts according to the will of God, the restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth.” (Elders’ Journal, July 1838, p. 44) We make things so difficult. Tip Four is simply have Jesus as your foundation.

Survival Tip Five: What would Joseph Smith Do?

By this time you probably have a lot of questions and you probably have been dealing with the questions “What Should I Do?” “Where should I Go?” “What is right for my family?” etc. Remember you’re not alone with these questions and great men and women have struggled with the questions for centuries. When Joseph Smith was faced with these same questions, he turned to James 1:5-6 “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting…” As we know Joseph went into the grove and he prayed. He had an experience that changed his life and forever changed the lives of those who would know him as prophet. Final Survival Tip: Pray.

A Blessing for Life?

Recently, I was reading an article about the life and death of the presiding patriarch in the LDS church Eldred G. Smith. He was quite an amazing individual and during his life it’s believed that he performed over 20,000 blessings for individuals. Quite an amazing thing. I’m sure that all 20,000 blessings were unique and specifically for the individual receiving it.

When I was a teenager roughly around the age of fifteen I prepared for my Patriarchal Blessing (Evangelist Blessing) in the LDS denomination. I had only met my Patriarch maybe twice. He was not a member of my particular ward (congregation). The blessing he gave me too this day still holds meaning. I often pull out the hard copy and read it from time to time. Occasionally, I read things that were not evident to me 10 years ago or even a year ago. This man who I barely knew shared with me things that only God himself knew. The blessing stands as one of the most significant events of my life.

About eight months ago I pulled out my patriarchal blessing and began reading it. Some of the promises that were given to me at age fifteen seems to have come to past, however, there were other aspects of it that did not seem to hold the same meaning as they once did. Andrew at the age of fifteen was a very different person than Andrew of twenty-seven years of age.

Over the last twelve years I had been married, had two beautiful children, graduated from college, and at this time of reflection I was going through one of the most significant events of my life. My relationship with Christ was changing and I was about to join another faith. I was discussing with my friend of how the blessing of my youth seemed to be a little dated and seemed to speak to a different person.My friend told me “why don’t you get it re-done?” This was something that I was a little skeptical of doing at first. Though I felt my blessing was for a young teenage boy; it still held promises that are dear to me and I believe they’re promises to be fulfilled later in life. My friend explained to me that the Evangelist Blessing would not be replacing my Patriarchal Blessing it would just be another opportunity to hear what message God has for me.

I decided I was to accept this invitation and prepare for my Evangelist Blessing. I met my Evangelist for the first time in a loud and noisy Chinese restaurant. It was extremely informal and it was nothing like my first meeting with the LDS Patriarch of my youth. Roger told me of his life and his experiences and I shared with him mine. I really didn’t know Roger. Roger is part of my congregation, but prior to our meeting I had only known Roger through his sermons. I was a little apprehensive about this meeting. My fear was that my understanding of the blessing was different than his. Roger had grown up in the Community of Christ where I had my experiences in the LDS church, but during our meeting I realized we had a lot in common. Our theologies were similar and our stories were similar. Meeting after meeting I began to trust Roger and not only did I see him as this man who was going to be used as a tool of God. I saw Roger as my friend.

Despite all this positive feeling; I was having a hard time of letting the spirit work with me. I really was fixated on how this was going to work in relation to my Patriarchal blessing. I also was fixated on what message might Roger share with me. I thought about what I wanted to hear.

I stumbled across a video made by Bryce Veazey entitled “Journey of a Blessing” the video touched upon many of the same things I was struggling with in my preparation. I was struggling with what I wanted the blessing to reveal to me instead of clearing my mind, so that God can reveal to me what I needed revealed. I decided to do as Bryce did clear my mind and await to hear the message that was intended for me.

At the end of my blessing I felt an overwhelming sense of peace come over me. I was joyful and I knew that God loved me. I had just received a sacrament that came from God. It is unique and in my case it meshes very well with my previous Patriarchal Blessing. Roger was someone who I barely knew prior to the blessing, but during the experience he shared with me a sacrament that will stay with me for the rest of my life and through the power of God he knew me better than I knew myself.

If you have never received an Evangelist Blessing I encourage you to do so. You do not have to be a member of Community of Christ (I was not a confirmed member at the time). If you have received one in the past and it doesn’t quite speak to you in the same way that it used too consider getting another one. If the one you received means everything to you and you have no need to get a new one or an update. I encourage you to read it often.

This sacrament is such a blessing that those of us in the Latter Day Saint tradition are able to partake of. Please feel free to write about your experiences below or share any thoughts that come to mind.

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Forever Mormon

In life, we often have things that define us. People are often defined by events, education, and contributions given to society. We are defined by the people we keep and the associations we make or have been apart.

I grew up in Iowa and in my opinion Iowa is much like the rest of the midwest in that it’s very average. It’s not bad, but it’s not stellar either. For the most part, people in Iowa have the same amount of education, income, and their faith’s are pretty close to one another. Most Iowans are either Catholic, Lutheran or Methodist. My faith was very unique I was a Mormon.

Growing up “Mormon” in a place like Iowa brings a lot of questions. Questions ranging from “Do we have electricity?” to “Do you drink Coke?” I have always been met with curiosity and amazement from those who find out that I’m a Mormon.

In the last ten years America’s awareness of Mormonism has been heightened. This is in large part to South Park, Sister Wives, Glenn Beck, and Mitt Romney. I used to get questions about electricity and now I’m getting questions like “how many wives do I have?” and “why do we hate homosexuals?” These perceptions are not only damaging to the larger LDS church, but I believe it’s damaging to all who are part of the restoration heritage.

Recently, I have undergone a transition in my life. I no longer attend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and now I attend Community of Christ. Although, the place where I worship has changed, I still see myself as a “Mormon.” I’ve always defined Mormon as one who believes in The Book of Mormon as scripture and is associated with a restoration heritage. Many of my Community of Christ friends do not see themselves as “Mormons” they see themselves as either Latter Day Saints or simply Christians.

Should we in Community of Christ, who are comfortable with the name, still refer to ourselves as “Mormons”? I believe we should continue to refer to ourselves as Mormons. Mormons should not be defined by the church in Salt Lake, Sister Wives, or Mitt Romney. I believe that we have an obligation to share with others what a “liberal” Mormon might mean. We may be surprised with the reaction we get. What an opportunity that we have to show that we are “Mormons” who believe women can have priesthood, accept homosexuals, and at the same time love the restoration as much as our LDS cousins. Mormonism is what attracted me to Community of Christ and although I’m very much a Christian, I cannot deny that I’m at heart by my definition a “Mormon” and will forever be.