A Message for my LDS Friends who are Considering Joining the Community of Christ

Image courtesy of cofchrist.org

Image courtesy of cofchrist.org

Through the tumult of the LDS Church’s recent policy updates regarding same-sex couples and families, I have seen many friends on social media express their determination to either resign their membership or look to the Community of Christ church as an alternative place to worship. For those who are considering the latter, I offer my brief thoughts (expanded from a response expressed on a friend’s Facebook wall) [1]:

 

That the Community of Christ has transcended the history of its origin is something to be admired.

We LDS are somewhat like the modern Orthodox Jew: participating in the world while clinging to every word of Moses. The Community of Christ is more like the Reformed Jew: respecting the spirit of their heritage, but focusing less on the Law and more on the message of shalom.

Image courtesy of LDS.org

Image courtesy of LDS.org

Temples remain an important aspect of both traditions, but where LDS temples are largely focused on ordinances relating to the hereafter (for both the living and the deceased), the Community of Christ temple is largely focused on instruction for the living; where Latter-day Saints practice proxy work in their temples with hope for the universal redemption of mankind, the Community of Christ offers in their temple a daily prayer for peace with hope that justice may be found on the earth today. The angel Moroni stoically stands atop LDS temples sounding his horn for the world to hear the everlasting gospel; and while too many of my LDS friends have mocked the “crooked spire” of the Community of Christ temple, their nautilus-inspired pinnacle gracefully ascends towards the heavens and is perhaps even more inspiring from the inside while gazing upward (both literally and metaphorically).

Image courtesy of sourceanddesign.com

 

As someone who is in the field of history, I do not believe that history helps us find “truth” as much as it helps us to understand change. If it is the truth you seek, you are better off looking to poetry, literature, the arts, and acts of devotion—expressions that transcend the limitations of our humanity. I agree with the Jewish scholar who taught that if it is God you seek, you will find Him in the faces of other people.

I think that the Community of Christ embraces this, and as someone who still considers myself on the orthodox side of Mormonism, I offer them my love, admiration, and friendship. Shabbat shalom—may peace be with you on this holy day.


 

[1] The Community of Christ church has created a website specifically for Latter-day Saints who wish to learn more about their history and beliefs. They do not actively proselytize to Latter-day Saints. For more information, see www.latter-dayseekers.org.

Comments

A Message for my LDS Friends who are Considering Joining the Community of Christ — 10 Comments

  1. As someone with both a Mormon and a Jewish heritage, I appreciated the way you l as someone with both a Mormon and a Jewish heritage, I appreciated your analogies. It’s too bad that there is nothing currently in Mormonism analogous to conservative Judaism who’s motto is “tradition and to change.” It preserves the beautiful and meaningful ancient and medieval forms of worship yet allows a spectrum of belief that includes everything from the very traditional to the radical. It would be interesting if there were a Mormonism that accepted the LDS temple theology and rituals as well as the unique Mormon cosmology, yet allowed for free thought along with intellectual analysis broad social freedom.

  2. Very good article. I was raised as a Reform Jew, joining the LDS Church when I was 18 in 1975. I am no longer an active member of any religious body or faith (I’m devoutly agnostic), but cannot help but feel a quiet satisfaction when I hear of former LDS joining the CofC. The latest ‘policy’ has only intensified my respect for the leadership of the CofC and their courage.

  3. That is not to say I have lost all affection for the LDS Church or for Mormons: I decidedly have not. I still hope for change within that Church and the culture it gave rise to.I’m currently less optimistic though, of real change in that Church than perhaps has ever previously been the case.

  4. By change what do you mean? Do you mean defining what has been a sin since times ancient, forever as far as I know, as being now not a sin?

  5. Glenn, perhaps I should have been more specific.I suspect you are aware of the kind of thing I’m on about. Your response is a predictable one, but nonetheless deserving of an answer. Since I am quite satisfied that the BoM was a 19th Century creation, and that Joseph was a fraud (at least initially–he may have come to believe much of his own rhetoric at some point), I do not feel bound by the usual strictures associated with Mormon doctrine or policy.That makes life (thankfully) a little more convenient.

  6. One of the things I admire about the Community of Christ is that they are not as dependent on the founding narratives as we LDS are. The Community of Christ seem to leave questions about Joseph Smith, the origin and nature of the Book of Mormon (they have never adopted the Book of Abraham as scripture), and the details of the early church up to historians and those interested in history. As a historian who studies Mormonism, I have been part of their historical association (The John Whitmer Historical Association) for the past two years and have come to truly love and admire the diverse cross-section of scholars and history buffs who attend from various Mormon traditions (LDS, CofC, Strangite, Bickertonite, Remnant, etc.). Many Latter-day Saints are completely unaware that there are scores of Mormon churches, some which go back to 1845-6, that are still thriving today. In their services, the Community of Christ tend to follow a traditional Christian liturgy, interspersed with some readings from Latter Day scripture, particularly the Doctrine & Covenants, which is an open canon for the Community of Christ. They are up to 164 sections at the present (The LDS D&C has 138 sections). Rather than focus on exclusive authority and saving ordinances, they focus on being a prophetic people, and this shows by their continued use of “common consent” whenever new policies and revelations are presented to the church. They have active debate over new policies and revelations, where the church acts as a body to receive the light of God, rather than simply sustaining the decisions that are being presented.

    Anyway, there is much to learn and admire from them. Likewise, we LDS have many strengths in many areas that they could benefit from as well. Many progressive Latter-day Saints decry correlation as the abomination of desolation, but the correlation programs of the LDS Church have, nonetheless, created a strong sense of unity and identity that, for a religion of 15+ million, is quite admirable.

  7. Like Brian Whitney, I too have been a member of Whitmer (JWHA) for only two years and have also been impressed with the mutual respect and congeniality. I come from the Community of Christ side. I am intrigued by Brian’s reference to the LDS concept of “correlation” and do not know what that is. Could someone please explain it to me? Thank you!

  8. Hi Alan. The closest approximation I can make to correlation within the Community of Christ/RLDS tradition is Fred M. Smith’s Supreme Directional Control during the 1920s. However, rather than resting all program/budget/printing control on one person, it rested on the Priesthood Committee, which was under the Quorum of the Twelve. Here is a short article on the topic from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Correlation_of_the_Church_Administration

    The critique of correlation is that, however well-intended and necessary it may have been for a rapidly-expanding, international church, it was quickly absorbed within the paradigm of social conservatism and fundamentalism. It was during this period (1960s), in particular, that any negative or critical portrayal of church history or leadership became highly discouraged and an emphasis was placed on conformity.