Upcoming Retreat

The below is taken from: http://www.cofchrist.org/news/2010/july/councils.asp and page 4 of the September 2010 Herald.

“The World Church Leadership Council (general officers, presidents of World Church quorums, and directors) and the Standing High Council will meet in retreat September 18–19, 2010. The retreat’s purpose is to discuss the 1982 Standing High Council statement on “Homosexuality” and the 2002 World Church Leadership Council statement on “Community, Common Consent, and Homosexuality.”

This discussion is in response to confusion in some areas about which parts of the statements are official policy and which parts describe perspectives on homosexuality when the statements were written. In response to requests for clarification, the groups will work together to provide helpful information to the church as discussions about same-gender and sexual-orientation issues continue and plans are made for national or field conferences.

The Presidency invites members and friends to remember the World Church Leadership Council and the Standing High Council in your prayers as these leadership groups discuss extremely complex issues in the church’s life.

As a reminder, all church administrative policies prohibiting priesthood from performing same-gender/sex marriages and prohibiting the ordination of non-celibate homosexual people remain in place during this time of discussion and study.

THE FIRST PRESIDENCY”

The 1982 statement can be read here

The 2002 WCLC statement can be read here

Appalling…

The Quran

On September 11, 2010, the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida is hosting International Burn a Quran Day.

From 6-9pm “Christians” can burn the Quran at the local church.  The city of Gainesville has refused a burn permit for safety reasons, however the church has vowed, “BUT WE WILL STILL BURN KORANS.”

Dove World Outreach Center’s pastor Terry Jones is quoted by CNN as saying, “We believe that Islam is of the devil, that it’s causing billions of people to go to hell, it is a deceptive religion, it is a violent religion and that is proven many, many times.”

Dove World Outreach Center's Pastor Terry Jones

Some other local religious leaders have organized a Gathering for Peace, Understanding and Hope to occur near the same time to counter this book burning.  At least there is some attempt being made to counter the Quran burning.  This story is attracting some media attention, and likely moreso as the planned date approaches–assuming the Outreach Center sticks with the plan.

To me, this is appalling.  The very concept of this idea is contrary to everything I see the Community of Christ standing for, or atleast what it should stand for.  I see this as an attack to an entire religion of people, and just one day after the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan at that.  And worse yet, this is being done in the name of Jesus.  Shameful.

I’ve been blessed in my life to get to know many people intimately of very diverse religious backgrounds.  I have worshipped in Islamic mosques openly before, with no hesitation or concern.  I have celebrated Ramadan with Islamic friends three seperate years and endured the month-long fast, multiple times.  I know personally of three other Community of Christ members who engaged in Ramadan at least once as well.  It is a complete test of mind, body, and will.

I cannot believe that if Jesus Christ was with us at this moment that he would join in or approve of the burning.  Same as I do not believe, as others argue, he would join them holding up GOD HATES FAGS signs.  This is not the Christ that I’ve come to know.  And this is not the Jesus that the Community of Christ knows.  I pray this is not the Jesus known by most of Christianity.

We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.

We have a special calling, and the world needs to hear the “liberating truths of the gospel.”  Jesus is hope, not hate.

Blogging about Blogs

Blogs are everywhere now, and the number of people who have their own personal blog grows constantly. Its only logical that the subject matter on blogs should by now cover virtually every topic imaginable. Search any imaginable term in Google Blogs, or your search engine of preference, and undoubtedly someone’s blog will come up talking about it.

It is only fitting then that the amount of people blogging about the Community of Christ is growing. This site is merely just one example of people, some members/friends/associates/curious observers, blogging about their views and opinions on issues related to or involving the Community of Christ in some form or another. Many of the bloggers on Saints Herald blog elsewhere, too. Even Grant McMurray has his own blog:http://grantamused.blogspot.com/ Will it ever stop? Does it ever need to?

Community of Christ blogs are not only about the church from the inside, but growing more and more prevalent are blogs of others looking in on the church and examining it to varying degrees from their own set of life experiences. Personally, I see this most often in blogs from visitors to Community of Christ historic sites. People visit Nauvoo or Kirtland (mainly) then go home and blog about their experience with Community of Christ guides, or about their attempt to understand us. In a bizarre phenomenon, many of these visitors seem far more willing to pour their inner souls out to the entire world over the internet than they ever would on an anonymous comment card or simply to one volunteer.

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“I would present to you, my brethren, Joseph Smith”

Joseph Smith III

In traveling to Amboy, Illinois 6 April 1860, Joseph III shared these words (150 years ago today) with the gathered conference preceeding consideration of him to the prophetic office:

I would say to you, brethren, as I hope you may be, and in faith I trust you are, as a people that God has promised his blessings upon, I came not here of myself, but by the influence of the Spirit. For some time past I have received manifestations pointing to the position which I am about to assume.

I wish to say that I have come here not to be dictated by any men or set of men. I have come in obedience to a power not my own, and shall be dictated by the power that sent me.

God works by means best known to himself, and I feel that for some time past he has been pointing out a work for me to do.

For two or three years past deputations have been waiting on me, urging me to assume the responsibilities of the leadership of the church; but I have answered each and every one of them that I did not wish to trifle with the faith of the people.

I do not propose to assume this position in order to amass wealth out of it, neither have I sought it as a profit.

I know opinions are various in relation to these matters. I have conversed with those who told me they would not hesitate one moment in assuming the high and powerful position as the leader of this people. But I have been well aware of the motives which might be ascribed to me,—motives of various kinds, at the foundation of all which is selfishness,—should I come forth to stand in the place where my father stood.

I have believed that should I come without the guarantee of the people, I should be received in blindness, and would be liable to be accused of false motives. Neither would I come to you without receiving favor from my heavenly Father.

I have endeavored as far as possible to keep myself unbiased. I never conversed with J. J. Strang, for in those days I was but a boy, and in fact am now but a boy. I had not acquired a sufficient knowledge of men to be capable of leading myself, setting aside the leading of others.

There is but one principle taught by the leaders of any faction of this people that I hold in utter abhorrence; that is a principle taught by Brigham Young and those believing in him. I have been told that my father taught such doctrines. I have never believed it and never can believe it. If such things were done, then I believe they never were done by divine authority. I believe my father was a good man, and a good man never could have promulgated such doctrines.
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Prophet, Seer, and Revelator

The church website has recently put up a video interview of Steve Veazey conducted by Linda Booth.  The link to the video is on the bottom of the main page, www.CofChrist.org

Among other things, Steve discusses his experiences in bringing the Words of Counsel to the church.  He relates some of the revelatory process as he experienced it and personal insights into the decisions surrounding the document.

I was fortunate enough to be in the Independence area during the last weekend in January, two weeks after the document was presented to the church.  At a last minute decision, I went with my wife and brother-in-law to attend the January 31st Temple Event.  I had no clue what to expect as we went, but it was a very enjoyable and beneficial afternoon.  At the close of the event, the First Presidency held a short worship service to wrap the activities up and send us on our way.  My brother-in-law is quite a bit younger than both my wife and I and had never really been in the Temple before, though a life-long Independence resident.  As we sat in the closing worship service, he was very inquisitive about exactly what was going on and who different people were.  We tried to explain to him about the First Presidency and what they do, and who Steve Veazey was.  He really struggled with these concepts, but ultimately came away with a conclusion along the lines that Steve talks to God on behalf of the Church.  The question asked: “What is a prophet?” really got me thinking and scrambling to try and find a way to answer satisfactorily–but also quietly while the service continued.

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What if the Christmas Story Happened Today?

Thought a Christmas themed post might be appropriate this time of year.  Many people, it seems, wonder how the story of Christ’s birth would be different if it happened today.  Some write their thoughts.  I’ve heard a few different versions of how things might go, posted below is one person’s take.  (I didn’t write this, merely reprinting it)

INFANT DISCOVERED IN BARN, CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES LAUNCH PROBE
Nazareth Carpenter Being Held On Charges Involving Underage Mother

Bethlehem, Judea – Authorities were today alerted by a concerned citizen who noticed a family living in a barn. Upon arrival, Family Protective Service personnel, accompanied by police, took into protective care an infant child named Jesus, who had been wrapped in strips of cloth and placed in a feeding trough by his 14-year old mother, Mary of Nazareth. Continue reading

The Book of Mormon: Fact, fiction or fading away?

Last Wednesday, Rod Meldrum visited Nauvoo and gave a presentation on DNA and the Book of Mormon.  His attempt was to make the case that DNA studies do indeed prove the validity, accuracy, and historicity of the Book of Mormon.  The videos arguing that DNA disproves the Book of Mormon have been circulating for many years now, and he was offering his response.  The presentation was interesting, if tragically unorganized and disconnected, but he made some valid points.  I did not agree with all of his conclusions, nor did I disagree with them all.

If for no other reason, his presenation did get me thinking.  Meldrum’s claim, a part of which I’d never heard before, was that:

(1) The Book of Mormon is an historic document, detailing people, locations, and events which really took place

(2) The Hopewell moundbuilders are the closest descendants to the Lamanites

(3) DNA proves (through his understanding of Haplogroup X) that Native Americans have genetics from the Israel region

(4) Joseph Smith believed the Book of Mormon to have occurred in the United States

(5) The events and locations in the Book of Mormon are mostly throughout Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.  Particularly, he emphasized his belief that the city of Zarahemla was directly across the river from Nauvoo’s present location. Continue reading

What does the Community of Christ believe? Vol. II

“It only takes a spark to get a fire going.”  I grew up hearing that as a campfire song, and took a certain meaning from it through my own interpretation as something along the lines of the little things you do can have a big impact.  That has become clear with visitors at the CofC historic sites. 

Sometimes this “spark” lights a fire of tension between visitors and guides.  Starting off tours in Nauvoo, we traditionally show a 12 minute video before heading off to visit the homes.  In this video is a line, one which I had heard many times but never gave a second thought about, which seems to infuriate many visitors and leave them permanently annoyed throughout the visit.

Talking about Joseph Smith’s first vision: “In a quite grove of trees near his upstate New York home, Joseph prayed for guidance and there had an experience with the divine.”

Harmless to me, but borderline blasphemy to others.   In my experience, no single question has more often accompanied the start of the tour than a visitor asking for clarification about that point and why the Community of Christ chose that language to describe it. 

I’m well aware of the multiple versions of what happened out there in the grove, which is why I believe it is worded the way it is in the video. ( http://en.fairmormon.org/First_Vision/Accounts  This is the best website I could find with the different accounts in a quick search, I’m sure there must be a better option out there.) That’s the point I try to explain, but it rarely (if ever) makes it across the way I intended.  It usually just gets crossed arms and a glare, with an occasional nod of understanding, even if in disagreement.

My wondering is: why does this even matter?  Why is this such a big deal to some, and a seeming non-issue to others?  Does the Community of Christ even care about what did or did not happen in the grove, if anything happened at all?

Taking the tour through the Independence Temple sometime back, I remember the entrance to the worshipper’s path was designed to replicate the grove in New York.  Clearly it had some significance to somebody at that point.  It was chosen as the starting point for entrance to the sanctuary.

Does the “First Vision” matter in the present-day CofC?  What, if anything, might it mean?  Why’d we put it in the Temple?  Did this vision even happen at all?  Does any of this debate even matter or is it all a waste of time?  What does this event (in whatever understanding you may have of it) mean to the CofC in late-June 2009, or what did it used to mean to the Church or to you?

What does the Community of Christ believe?

I often wonder how much of a bubble I live in.  I found myself as a guide at the Kirtland Temple for the summers of 2006 and 2007.  From April 2008 to the present, I’ve been a guide in Nauvoo.  While by no means speaking ill of those experiences, both have been remarkable, I wonder what it has done to me and my perceptions of the Community of Christ.  Have I lost touch?

Through my brief tenure of guiding at the church’s sites, roughly two years total by now, I have become (as virtually every guide does) the very face of the CofC for visitors.  I’ve taken thousands of people through Kirtland Temple and Joseph Smith’s homes in Nauvoo telling them the stories and events of people long since gone, and at times still witnessing ongoing history as it unfolds in the present day.  But amongst those experiences, there are constant situations of visitors inquiring about the Community of Christ.  Who are we?  What do we believe? How do we explain this…?  What’s the church’s official statement on _____?  Do you still use _____?  In answering the questions, I’ve recently begun to ponder whether I am even aware of the answer to many of these.  Or have I been on my own too long, as the lone CofC representative many of these people will ever meet?  I believe I’ve been accurately answering their queries, but I wonder if I’ve used this forum as a chance to craft the church into the institution I wish it was, rather than what it is.

Maybe this’ll be a recurring thing, maybe not, but I want to toss out a few questions here and in later posts with no commentary on my part to see how CofC or other casual readers would answer them.  Comments would be loved, trying to figure out what exactly is the Community of Christ…if that is a question that can even have an answer.

Here’s one I’ve often heard, what are your thoughts or how would you explain this one:

Why’d the RLDS change its name?