Early Mormonism Evolved Rapidly

You can find the roots for much of the rich diversity in the Latter Day Saint movement today in the experience of the early church period (late 1820s–1844).  Early believers, like Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, the Whitmer family, along with Emma Smith and Joseph Smith’s siblings and parents, had a very different initial encounter with the faith than those who joined after the publication of the Book of Mormon and the organization of the Church of Christ.  The church these first members later experienced in Kirtland and Missouri had evolved rapidly.  By 1835, the renamed “Church of the Latter Day Saints” looked radically different than the “Church of Christ” they had known in 1830.  These charts of priesthood offices are just one example of that change.

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MormonismEvolving2

Structural changes continued after the collapse of the church in Kirtland (1837–38) and during the events of the Missouri-Mormon war and its aftermath (1838–39).  In Nauvoo, Joseph Smith would go on to construct a kind of inner (secret) church within the church, by creating new groups such as the Anointed Quorum, and restoring the Kingdom (as separate from the priesthood and the church) and its living constitution, the Council of Fifty.  It is little wonder that the movement was continually throwing off members who had signed up for earlier incarnations of the faith.  David Whitmer, for example, could accurately make the argument that the church had left him (and not vice versa).

As different Latter Day Saint tradition churches have looked back to the early period, they have found a rich grab-bag of ideas and precedents.  No group can embrace them all; instead, each church has taken the part of the original experience that it finds most meaningful to its own experience.

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Remnant Church Announces Temple Plans

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In the latest edition of The Hastening Times on its website,[1] the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has published a timeline for constructing a temple in Jackson County, Missouri. First among the church’s one-year goals, beginning April 2013 is:

#1 Expand our understanding on Temple insights, a. Purpose of the temple, b. Operations within the temple, c. Design and structure of the Temple, d. Timeline for the location and completion of the Temple.

Ground-breaking for the temple is listed among the church’s three-year goals (to be accomplished by April 2016), and “the Temple completed and functioning in all aspects” is on the list of five-year goals (April 2018 deadline).  Given that the design is not slated to be finalized until April 2014, the early artists’ rendering attached to this post may not reflect the final plan.

The Remnant Church is one of the denominations that coalesced out of the “Restorationist” movement — a late 20th-century conservative split from Community of Christ. The proposed temple will be at the heart of the Remnant Church’s new zionic community, known as “Bountiful” (named for a city and land in the Book of Mormon).  Building zionic communities has been a core theme within the Latter Day Saint tradition dating back to the foundation of the movement.

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Implications of the ‘Mormon Moment’ for the Community of Christ

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?

 

What is the future of the Community of Christ in a North American post-RLDS perspective?

I just published a long-ish blog post that responds to the question, “What is the future of the Community of Christ in a North American post-RLDS perspective?” The post focuses on questions of Community of Christ identity in light of its North American heritage.

I share the link here to invite reactions and comments to my observations about the nature and limits of RLDS identity and how I believe Community of Christ logically fulfills essential non-sectarian strands of RLDS heritage in Restrationism and early American Christianity.   I welcome responses from Mormonites, ex-Mormons, Community of Christ members, Restorationists, historians, theologians, and others.

CLICK HERE to go directly to the post, or follow the links above to my blog.

Blessings,  Matt Frizzell

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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Community of Christ and the telos of the Restoration

I want to introduce a word: telos. Telos is a Greek word that means “aim” or “purpose.” However, the “aim” or “purpose” in the meaning of telos is not the goals and objectives that defines today’s business or organizational thinking. Telos refers to the purpose or aim unfolding,  guiding, and innate within a thing or an event.

Telos indicates the essential aim of purpose of a thing as it comes to fulfillment in a process of growth and change. It points to the deep, even divine, purpose that is unfolding and fulfilled in the outcome of its evolution. Considering something’s telos is a way to grasp or understand how the change at work in something works itself out and is fulfilled in its life.  This telos connects a thing to its true being, its fulfillment, and origins. Continue reading

Is Mormonism Christian?

I’d like to revisit the theme of the most recent Restoration Studies, while keeping my comments largely to the LDS Church (although with obvious implications for Community of Christ).

For most Mormons, to be “Christian” means being a believer in Christ.  But orthodox Christianity has higher standards, not unlike the standard of “the one true church” of the Latter-day Saints: Christian churches are true expressions of salvation through Christ; and to admit a church into this elite category requires recognition that it falls within the doctrinal, spiritual, and sacramental traditions of the universal church, handed down and preserved from Christ to the apostles, the apostles to the bishops, and the bishops to the present-day.  Before being recognized as part of this “one true church,” Christians are as exclusionary as Mormons, for, for both groups, salvation is on the line. Continue reading