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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Joseph Smith, Jr. as a Warrior Prophet: Messianic Warlordism in Times of State Fragmentation, Economic Disruption and Religious Upheaval

In 1986, in the midst of a violent conflict between the newly installed Museveni government and remnants of the former regime, Alice Auma, a spirit-diviner in northern Uganda believed she was commanded by a Christian spirit called ‘Lakwena’ to lead a military-religious rebellion on behalf of the northern Acholi people and bring about heaven on earth. She claimed:

The good Lord who had sent the Lakwena decided to change his work from that of a doctor to that of a military commander for one simple reason: it is useless to cure a man today only that he be killed the next. So it became an obligation on his part to stop the bloodshed before continuing his work as a doctor.

Alice Auma, assuming the name Alice Lakwena, led a insurgency against the new government, known as the Holy Spirit Movement, which had several early victories before being defeated by the new Ugandan Army. (For more information on Alice Auma/Lakwena and the Holy Spirit Movement, see this book or this article).

Alice Lakwena, as a religio-military commander, stands in a long tradition of Warrior Prophets that extend as far back as Joan of Arc, Guru Gobind SinghMohammed and King David. Warrior Prophets have been particularly prominant in modern Sub-Saharan Africa, associated with guerilla movements in, for example, Zimbabwe and Sudan. In areas of the world where political authority is fragmented and the state does not have a monopoly on the use of violence, savvy and consummate ‘political entrepreneurs’ take advantage of their ability to wield violence to rise to power (and often prosperity) by offering security to people willing to accept their authority and punishing those who are unwilling to do so (For further information, see this book on warlordism in Africa, or this one on Afghanistan). Likewise, Paul Gifford, a scholar of African Christianity, has argued that charismatic and dogmatic religion provides believers with a sense of stability as Africa faces great social, political and economic upheavals in its encounter with modernity.  Warrior Prophets are thus able to capitalize on the dual opportunities created by chaos — people’s perceived needs for 1) a powerful, paternalistic protector and 2) a charismatic diviner who is able to provide assurance of cosmic certainty. They offer the promise of both physical and spiritual security.

It may be enlightening to understand Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of both the Mormon and Community of Christ churches, as having played a similar role in mid-19th century America. His time was one of great political, social and economic upheaval.

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A Road Trip with Living History…

A few years ago, I was driving across the state of Wyoming with a friend. It was a long road trip from Casper to Cody and we were remembering the many trips we had taken across some of our “flatter states,” like Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Texas, etc. As one drives across the state of Nebraska you can’t help but count fence posts. Driving across the Mojave desert of California, one can see creosote bushes for hundreds of miles across the flat terrain and not much else. We both agreed that one’s traveling companion could either make or break the road trip.

Our conversation then drifted into a discussion of who we would prefer to have in the car with us. Since we began the trip at the Mormon History Association annual conference in Casper, our conversation naturally began with “who in Mormon history (living or deceased) would you like riding shotgun with you on a six hour car ride along 1-80 through Nebraska?”

What would it be like to speak to Emma Smith for six hours, listening to her memories of the early founding events of the church. What did she think of polygamy, Brigham Young, William Law, and others?  What was life like in Nauvoo after the majority travelled west? What questions would you ask Zenas Gurley and William Marks? I think about Sidney Rigdon’s daughter, Nancy, and her Nauvoo experience, Joseph Smith III and his battle to save his father’s legacy, and Alice Smith Edwards. So many incredible people that could easily consume a long ride across the Nebraska plains. 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?

The Spirit of God in Kirtland

This rendition of “The Spirit of God” was recorded during the Sunday morning hymn festival on September 30, 2007, in Kirtland Temple. The festival was the final event of the annual conference of the John Whitmer Historical Association (which was held that year in conjunction with CSA). I’ve added a slide show of images of Kirtland Temple.

This was a very remarkable event combining people from across the Latter Day Saint traditions, along with scholars and students of history. There was an incredible energy, which everyone present felt, when we sang that historic song in that holy place. It’s something that can’t be reproduced on YouTube, but I thought I’d share something of the experience with you here.

Bloggernacle: Meet the Blogitorium

The Auditorium in Independence is the Community of Christ equivalent of LDS Church's Salt Lake Tabernacle.

SaintsHerald.com hopes to create a hub that gathers together the many Community of Christ bloggers scattered across the internet.  LDS bloggers have a successful model, informally known as the “Bloggernacle” (in reference to the Salt Lake City Tabernacle, where LDS General Conferences were traditionally held).  Our goal is to create what we might name the “Blogitorium” after the Auditorium in Independence, Missouri, where Community of Christ World Conferences are held.

If successful, this hub will encourage and unite Community of Christ bloggers, and also connect them to each other and also to the Bloggernacle.