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

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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?