Episode 192: Myths Concerning the Community of Christ

38 comments on “Episode 192: Myths Concerning the Community of Christ”

  1. Roger Pope Reply

    With regards to the denial over whether or not the Kirtland temple was for sale- does that mean that people within the Community of Christ actually understand the linguistic purpose of profanity?  Because it seems like every LDS I’ve known abstains from popular profanity as a means to publicly profess moral superiority- then use simple substitutions with no modification to the core idea that the original phonetic sequence would have communicated. 

    • John Hamer Reply

       That’s a reasonable take away from the story, I think.  The implication should not be that the Community of Christ First Presidency is normally swearing up a storm, but that this response was meant to have a particular emphasis (presumably because of how often the question is asked).

    • Randy_Snyder Reply

      Roger, have u read the chapter on profanity in Pinker’s book The Stuff of Thought? It’s backed up by fMRI data that there is a difference in your brain when using “fuck” instead of “fetch”. Mythbusters supported this w a fun experiment too that had the longest profanity beep I think in TV history 🙂

      • Roger Pope Reply

         Interesting.  I’d be curious about what they have to say.  Just my initial reaction to that is, “Well, yeah.”

        To someone who overtly avoids profanity, emitting a stream of curses will show a certain type of brain activity because they are violating taboo.  One of my favorite movie scenes comes from “Saved” where a fundamentalist girl tries to cure her boyfriend of homosexuality by having sex with him.  After testing positive for pregnancy she walks outside, looks to the sky and says, “Shit… Fuck… God Damn.”  Now to most people, the third profane statement would be the weakest of the lot, but it showed a lot of her inner turmoil that she was driven to violate a stronger taboo.

        On the other hand, someone who uses profanity for normal situations like “I just stubbed my toe” or “I just lost the last 30min of video gameplay to a stupid death”- that person will feel like he is engaging in sillyness if asked to spew forth a stream of terminology from a cookbook.

        Of course, I’m not entirely dismissing what you’re saying- just conveying my initial thoughts.

        I think my main thought is that I think it is absurd to construct an artificial barrier in the language.  If tomorrow the profanity of today were completely removed from usage, we wouldn’t be in a world without profanity, we would simply find new words to assign that same meaning to them, or existing similar words would be ramped up in potency- and then the so called righteous would need to find yet a new set of profane substitutions.

    • Nathan R Kennard Reply

      I had to rack my brain to remember anything that might be considered profanity. I think I do, but to me it goes unnoticed. I think that often the Brighamite branch of restorationists cling to unhealthy customs and can improve by emulating the CoC.

  2. ChicagoOG Reply

    OK…so the Community of Christ Church lost about 20% of its membership when it made major doctrinal changes.  Anyone want to guess what the COJCOLDS will lose when they make their changes.  I realize that this is assumed….but the trip to the woodshed is inevitable….TSCC is getting spanked badly now by it’s losses.

  3. ChicagoOG Reply

    Thank you John and John for another great podcast.  The myths DO live on in Kirtland.  I get down there every couple of years. We had close friends serve a mission to that area…Kirtland and the Johnson farm.  The myths are perpetuated by some of these missionary couples who don’t know any better. I have heard on numerous visits from couple missionaries that the church (LDS) is going to bail out the Reorgs/Community of Christ by buying the temple – this is never on the record and is followed up with a wink and a nod.  Thank you John for translating pure adamic BS!  The Community of Christ does an excellent job in the Kirtland temple as well as the Nauvoo visitors center. We have always been treated warmly and with professionalism by those who serve.   

    • Nesa Nurphot Reply

       I’ve also had a good experience with the Community of Christ.  While in Nauvoo for a week recently, I took advantage of every historical site and tour that I could.  The first couple of days I went to the LDS owned sites; the last couple of days I went to the CoC sites.  The contrast was surprising.  I had expected that the LDS guides would have some kind of historical training, even if minimal; I had expected that the LDS guides themselves would have some interest in the sites and their respective histories, since senior missionaries are not usually the door knockers and discussion mongers; I had expected that the LDS guides would have some respect for the potential beliefs of all kinds of tourists and some awareness that not everyone might be a Mormon or interested in becoming one.  What I actually found were a mass of foppishly dressed retirees with barely any idea of what went on in Nauvoo, hardly any interest in talking about the history of the place on even a superficial level (it’s not like I was going to bring up polyandry or anything…), hardly any realization that not everyone might share their faith.  It wasn’t that they proselytized–it was that they were attempting to proselytize to the converted, since I don’t see how anyone who wasn’t a Utah Mormon could understand half of what they were talking about.  The classic moment for me was a carriage ride that went into some out of the way areas in the north part of Nauvoo: the guide felt prompted by the spirit–at least that’s what the script told him–to stop the wagon and bear his testimony of Dan Jones and to have everyone sing “I am a Child of God.”  I could barely keep myself from laughing when, mid way through the happy hymn, the horses started their digestive processes rather loudly.  Everyone kept singing, unphased by the incontinent horses, who were performing a musical duet of their own.  Endure to the end, I guess…

      But the the Community of Christ people were terrific.  Not only did they attempt to get some idea of their audience, not only did they give plenty of historical context, not only did they avoid devotional moralizing–they actually took questions and could answer them and enjoyed answering them.  And the bookstore at their center was amazing.  They were kind enough to let me sit there and read for a few hours; they had real conversations with me and felt like real people.  The Utah Mormon guides, however–well, in the end I just felt sorry for them.

      • John Hamer Reply

         Nesa, I’m glad you had such a good experience with the Community of Christ Historic Sites in Nauvoo.  My friend Lach, who is director of the site, is very committed to keeping a historical focus for the historical site, while attempting to be welcoming to all Latter Day Saint tradition visitors and other tourists.  I go to Nauvoo several times a year and I always enjoy going.

      • John Shaw Reply

        That has not been my experience Nesa…. living within 4 hours of Nauvoo in the KC Metro, with the Independence and Liberty history missionaries as well, the experience I have had with missionaries in all these places is that they are reading and understanding more about the history of those places than they ever did as ‘regular’ members of the church, and certainly more than anyone in the LDS faith typically does.  It may not be the type of history that I would prefer they read, but I sense a kind of ‘ownership’ of those areas by the missionaries and the desire to know about that time is great among many of them.  My experience with the COC out there was one of a bit more condescension, mostly it is great, but I get a bit of…. trying to show the LDS where they have gone astray… see the coffee pot in Joseph Smith’s house, it wasn’t until Utah…. etc… 

  4. Elder Vader Reply

    John Hamer I have one additional rumor that I have heard numerous times.  Maybe you can clear it up.  A few years back an individual burned down the temple lot church across the street from the Community of Christ temple. 

    I have heard that the COJCOLDS wrote a check for the temple lot church to rebuild the building.  I have heard this numerous times.  Do you know anything about that? 

    • John Hamer Reply

      I have to admit that I don’t have confirmed information about donations to the Church of Christ (Temple Lot) following that tragedy.  My understanding is that both the Community of Christ and the LDS Church donated toward building the new church; but I don’t have that information first-hand and I don’t want to perpetuate myths either.  So I’ll have to say I don’t know for certain.

  5. jackrodwell Reply

    i have an idea for a movie . im working on the screen play right now. 5 years from now david bednar , youngest member of the 12 is quietly having a personal faith crisis .  through a serious of unfortunate accidents he becomes prophet of the church.  he makes an announcement at general conference that surprises everyone and throws the church into dissaray 

  6. Larrin Thomas Reply

    I’m interested in the Latter-Day Seekers program. If I show up at a local Community of Christ Church, will they know what the Latter-Day Seekers program is, and what to do with me? 

    • John Hamer Reply

       It’s possible, but the answer is that most congregations probably would not be ready yet.  We’re still feeling things out. If you’re on facebook, I have a group there called Latter-day Seekers.  If you join that, we can try to connect you with someone in your area.

  7. Gail_F_Bartholomew Reply

    What is the Missouri Mormon’s history with blacks and the priesthood? 

    • John Hamer Reply

       The Community of Christ revelation confirming that there should not be a ban on priesthood ordination on the basis of race was added to the CoC D&C in the 1860s, a little over a century before the LDS revelation.

  8. ReaderMo Reply

    Please accept my apology on behalf of all Eastern Orthodox Christians for delaying the Mormon Apocalypse 🙂

    One question: When somebody who has already had a Trinitarian Christian baptism joins the Orthodox Church, they are not generally re-baptized. What about people switching from one restorationist sect to another? If a Strangite decides to join the RLDS/CoC, are they re-baptized? Are there some groups whose baptism is considered valid, while others are not?

    • John Hamer Reply

       For Community of Christ, we now a lot more open about accepting previous baptisms without re-baptism.  If you’ve been baptized in another church, you generally just need to be confirmed a member of Community of Christ to join.  I think Community of Christ is mostly unique among Restoration churches in this regard.  I think an LDS person who converted to being Strangite would have to be re-baptized into the Strangite Church, for example.

      P.S. Thanks for delaying the apocalypse for us!

  9. Randy_Snyder Reply

    John Hamer I always enjoy your thoughtful and well-informed takes (although I disagree w u on the BoM authorship). It was also cool to listen to this while sitting at lunch in a Wendy’s just blocks from the CoC headquarters (I drove by the temple on my way back to work just for fun).

    My question is how progressive a CoC congregation could be? I live near Independence so would have my pick but would an open atheist and his family be welcome? Would the youth programs be worth it?

    • John Hamer Reply

      Living near Independence, you’re in luck.  There’s enough congregations (all of which are quite different from each other), that you’ll be able to find the characteristics you’re looking for if you hunt around.  There are lots of congregations that wouldn’t have any problem with having atheists as members; I know some people in the congregation where I was baptized in Independence are non-theists.  They value the other aspects of the community; as long as we’re on the same page with respecting each other, unity in diversity, etc., that shouldn’t be a problem.  I have to admit that I don’t have a lot of experience with youth programs; again, I expect that Independence congregations will have a lot of variety.

    • Jean Bodie Reply

       Randy, if I still had some semblance of belief in the origins of the Mormon Church, I would look at the Community of Christ too. I’m afraid I threw out the baby with the bathwater and it feels good not to have to nurture it constantly.

      Really interesting podcast Johns, I learned a lot – what a fascinating history we share.

    • John Hamer Reply

       I’m speaking at a weekend-long seminar held by the Community of Christ’s Rocky Mountain Mission Center in Denver.  I believe it’s open to attend, but there is a registration fee.  You can find out information from Shandra Newcom:  snewcom@cofchrist.org or call the mission center office:  800.783.6760 or 303.426.5900.

  10. Christian J Reply

    John Hamer,

    Thanks for doing this. I’m also so fascinated by the various Restorationist movements. One huge thing I wish you would have discussed however (though not necessarily a rumor): How does the CoC understand the nature of Deity? From looking on the website, it appears that the church teaches Trinitarianism. I’ve tried to get some clarification on the development of this in the CoC but  – nothing. If you know of a source for some info on it, I would greatly appreciate it. I know little of the development of the Godhead (which obviously comes from one of various different accounts of the First Vision) in Utah Mormon thought, but am really curious how it played out in the other Mormon groups. From my interaction with various Protestants and Catholics, the Trinity is problem #1 with their inclusion of the LDS into Traditional Christianity. Did any of this play out as a result of the CoC being included in the Council of Churches?

    It would also be interesting to hear how other uniquely Joseph Smith/pre-Utah concepts are understood in the CoC.

    • John Hamer Reply


      The early Mormon conception of the Godhead as expressed in the Book of Mormon is not that far removed from Trinitarianism, at least relative to the Nauvoo-era theory of Divine Progression.  Divine Progression — the idea that God (specifically God the Father, sometimes “Elohim”) was once a human and is still in a condition where he is progressing in glory — is a rejection of monotheism.  You can’t have infinity +1.  If God can get more glorious tomorrow, that means God is not infinite now.  Such a God is not omnipotent and is therefore merely a “god” (small g).  That’s the primary problem that most Christians have with LDS theology.  Community of Christ has rejected this Nauvoo-era theological speculation since the early days of the Reorganization.  The doctrine of the trinity is pretty much a creation of theologians that, in my opinion, has rarely been widely understood outside of theologians.  As a church, Community of Christ’s official concept of the Godhead fits within Trinitarianism, which is why (as you speculated) other Christians are able to recognize the church as Christian. However, I would say that this falls under the fact that we don’t have a creed.  For example, I personally reject the concept that the Trinity has an actual existence.  I think it’s clear that the idea is a human construct whose historical evolution can be demonstrated and tracked.  Essentially, this is an attempt by humans to explain the unexplainable. 

  11. jasonmoore95 Reply

    Does anyone know why the Utah Mormon church has grown so much more than CoC?

    • John Hamer Reply

      The Apostles were in charge of missionary work.  When they took their church off to Utah, they kept the whole mission field structure, including the massive flow of converts coming in from Britain.  That’s why a lot of Utah Mormons are descended from British converts as opposed to old pre-Utah members.  The old RLDS core are primarily descendants of early Saints from the Midwest who didn’t go west or who went and came back.

    • MichaelPierce1 Reply

      Here is my take on the question for what it is worth. The LDS Church is more aggressive than CofC.. They have 50,000 missionaries. If each one gets one baptism, and they usually get more than that, there are at minimum 50,000 new members a year. Then there is the natural growth from new births etc.. They have a momentum going that CofC doesn’t have. The LDS actively seek out new members. CofC would like new members, but they don’t have the push for new members comparable to what the LDS Church has. One thing that is working against the LDS Church is that of the announced 14 million membership number as many as two thirds of that number is inactive. One thing that perplexes me about Community of Christ is that their announced membership register of 250,000 never changes or varies. Come on guys….there has got to be some who drop off the roles and some others added on.

  12. Tom Weber Reply
    • John Hamer Reply

      Yes, I was very aware of the pending property sale before we recorded this episode.  Since it was still being negotiated and was confidential, I didn’t mention it here.  However, everything I said in the interview absolutely stands.  When I was speaking about sites that will never be sold, I was speaking specifically about the Kirtland Temple and the Nauvoo sites, including Joseph & Emma Smith’s graves.  The sales of other undeveloped sites mentioned in the news article will help give us additional resources to focus on our primary historical and sacred sites.

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