Reminder: Plan to Attend Restoration Studies

The John Whitmer Historical Association would like to cordially invite you to attend the 2011 Restoration Studies Symposium / Sunstone Midwest, this Friday and Saturday, April 15-16, at Graceland University Independence Campus, 1401 W. Truman Rd., Independence, Missouri.

The registration table will open at 5:00 pm Friday, and the Wallace B. Smith Lecture will begin at 7:00 pm. Saturday sessions begin at 8:00 am.

The 2011 Wallace B. Smith Lecture will be “A Woman’s Place”, presented by Gail E. Mengel, retired Community of Christ apostle and former president of Church Women United. Continue reading


D&C 164: My Response to John-Charles Duffy

Concerning my interpretation of the compromise underlying D&C 164, I’ve found my understanding to be in keeping with the understandings of the delegates and leaders I’ve interviewed here at World Conference in Independence. However, I have found that many folks on the internet don’t share this interpretation for various reasons, as we’ve illustrated in discussions here at SaintsHerald. I want to address a very thoughtful response that John-Charles Duffy posted on his excellent blog, Liberal Mormon Spirituality. You can read his post here. Continue reading

Apostle Paul Thought Everybody Was Straight

This is the second part of a posting on what the Apostle Paul might have to say to Community of Christ as it gathers for World Conference. Part 1 concerned baptism.

Theologian Walter Wink put it this way in his much-lauded essay, “Homosexuality and the Bible.”

“He [Paul] seemed to assume that those whom he condemned were heterosexuals who were acting contrary to nature, ‘leaving,’ ‘giving up,’ or ‘exchanging’ their regular sexual orientation for that which was foreign to them. Paul knew nothing of the modern psychosexual understanding of homosexuals as persons whose orientation is fixed early in life, or perhaps even genetically in some cases. For such persons, having heterosexual relations would be acting contrary to nature, ‘leaving,’ ‘giving up,’ or ‘exchanging’ their natural sexual orientation for one that was unnatural to them. In other words, Paul really thought that those whose behavior he condemned were ‘straight,’ and that they were behaving in ways that were unnatural to them. Paul believed that everyone was straight. He had no concept of homosexual orientation. The idea was not available in his world.”

Wink goes on to say that the relationships Paul describes are “heavy with lust; they are not relationships between consenting adults who are committed to each other as faithfully and with as much integrity as any heterosexual couple. That was something Paul simply could not envision.” The crux of the matter, Wink explains, is simply this:

“…the Bible has no sexual ethic. There is no biblical sex ethic. Instead, it exhibits a variety of sexual mores, some of which changed over the thousand year span of biblical history. Mores are unreflective customs accepted by a given community. Many of the practices that the Bible prohibits, we allow, and many that it allows, we prohibit. The Bible knows only a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores are dominant in any given country, or culture, or period.”

The ancient worldview of all Bible writers and editors precluded any distinction between sexual orientation and sexual behavior, which many of us in the 21st century take for granted. Unfortunately, that worldview is still around and undergirds much of the often-heated opposition to full rights for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.

The perceived threat to church unity and even its survival (whether denominational or congregational) related to this issue in some cases is as great today as the issue of slavery was in the nineteenth-century church. Interestingly, slavery proponents had far more biblical passages supporting their viewpoint than opponents of LGBT rights do today.
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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,

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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Do you get it?

Awesome is the only word I can think of in describing a Christmas celebration I attended yesterday.  It was indeed a worship service (although some there might not have realized it) involving loud rock, long hair, and shooting jets of fire.  The enlightened readers will immediately perceive that I speak of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or “TSO.”

In the midst of the lasers and fireballs and dueling electric violins, I was struck by a verse from Ecclesiastes.  While The Preacher might not have intended it to be used this way, it was nonetheless compelling:

What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has already been,
in the ages before us.
Eccl. 1:9-11 (NRSV, emphasis mine)

While there is nothing new under the sun, many try to disguise the ways in which their creations are indebted to another. Continue reading

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)

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


I recently returned from a trip to Salt Lake City to attend the Sunstone Symposium.

Driving back on 1-70 across the seemingly never-ending fields of Kansas gave me plenty of time to reflect on my whirlwind week of experiences there. We were within walking distance of the epicenter of Mormonism, Temple Square, but the conversations and sessions at Sunstone were anything but mainstream Mormon topics.

I can’t claim to be an expert on Sunstone (for that, you’d have to ask Bill Russell, who has been attending faithfully for thirty years or so) but I came away from the symposium impressed by the openness and camaraderie of the participants and their willingness to unashamedly examine tough issues.

Although attended by many ex-Mormons and others with non-traditional views, Sunstone is not a place to simply bash all things Mormon. Session titles included “Why We Stay” and “Pillars of My Faith,” both examining the significant role the LDS church plays in various people’s lives. Sunstone is, though, a place to confront questions some may be uncomfortable asking.  Nothing’s safe. Homosexuality, women’s issues, perspectives on history—all of these are questioned, prodded, discussed. It’s an open forum, and the participants visibly thrive on it.

I was stunned at some of the heart-wrenching stories I heard there. I listened to stories of separation from a beloved church home (some forced, some voluntary), stories of hurt and genuine belief juxtaposed in one individual. Their courage to share impressed me.

A few months ago, when asked to participate in a session commemorating 25 years since Community of Christ extended priesthood to women by reflecting on my experiences as a young woman in the church, I realized that I didn’t have much to say. I had never seriously thought about these things because the possibility of priesthood has been a reality for me my entire lifetime. My mother is in the priesthood, and so many of the women I knew and respected growing up are also priesthood members. It was normal for me, taken for granted. It was not even an issue. I had been given the luxury to sit back and relax, and I enjoyed it.

I was swept away by a “pacifism” of a different sort—“passivism.”

I am lucky to be part of a church that meets dissent with dialogue instead of silence, where the worth of all persons is upheld. I find a profound comfort in this. But when considering issues that don’t seem to affect me directly, it’s all too easy to let the church’s promises of acceptance and justice speak for me instead of wrestling with hard questions myself. The church’s open approach may shield its members from direct confrontations, but this does not mean our members are immune to pain.

We cannot be passive observers. The kind of dialogue present at Sunstone, while sometimes uncomfortable, is necessary—especially now. I’m a long way from being able to call myself an activist, and I am all too guilty of being the quiet one at the back of the congregation, but I take inspiration from the examples of the people I encountered at Sunstone. These people feel a calling to point out injustices. They share personal, painful experiences. They don’t hesitate to goodheartedly poke fun at their faith’s idiosyncrasies.

I’m sure there are conversations like these going on right now in the Community of Christ, but I’m not exactly sure where to look. Any suggestions?

Wherever they are, I’m looking forward to participating.

(By the way, Community of Christ enjoyed quite the presence at Sunstone this year. Two of our apostles attended, and there was a classy reception sponsored by the Community of Christ. Other members presented papers or sat in on sessions. Props to the church!)

Go here for more information on Sunstone.

Call for Papers: 2010 Mormon History Association Conference in Independence, Missouri

MHA_2010 Call for Papers: The forty-fifth annual conference of the Mormon History Association will be held May 27-30, 2010, at the Kansas City Sports Complex Hotel in Kansas City, MO. It has been twenty-five years since the last MHA conference was held in Missouri. The 2010 theme, “The Home and the Homeland: Families in Diverse Mormon Traditions” recognizes the family as a central social and religious institution within Mormon traditions. Tanner Lecturer Catherine Brekus of the University of Chicago will address the topic of “Women in Early Mormonism.” Continue reading

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