Why I’m Thankful

It’s time to put aside my token devil’s advocate, negative, contrarian, apostate, [insert your own label here] self and tell what I’m thankful for in Mormonism, and why I love the Church.

I love so many Mormon doctrines. 1) Work for the dead. What a marvelous concept – everyone can be saved, everyone gets a fair shake. 2) We can actually be on the same level as God. It feels right, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t a perfect parent want their children to have access to the same things they have? 3) Eternal progression. The ability to always learn, always move forward. It’s far more interesting and impressive than angels worshipping an almighty God for all eternity. I’m never one to say “I know” about things in the Church, because I don’t know. But I sure believe, and the fruit of Mormonism tastes sweet – it tastes right. [Read more…]

Killing for Jesus

Aaron’s thoughtful post, and particularly the story of the discussions at the MTC, reminded me of similar discussions I’ve had–mostly on my own mission. We all of course asked whether or not we would die for Christ if forced to profess our beliefs, and we all (so far as I can remember) happily said we would, insisting (partly joking and partly serious) that if we died as missionaries insisting we believed in Christ, we were guaranteed a place in heaven and a hot wife in the hereafter.

But we also had another discussion from time to time. Would we kill for Christ?

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Happy Holidays? Dealing with Family Obligations

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…kinda. As Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, it’s time to face the same dilemma I’ve faced the last few years. I’ll admit up front, it isn’t the end of the world. Most people will tell me I’m being a big baby and that I need to grow up and face reality. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m sick of going to gargantuan family gatherings where I see people for the first (and last) time all year and am expected to exchange gifts with cousins who I’ve long since lost touch with.

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December 1, 1955

Just last week, I wondered if she’d make it. After all, December 1 is the 50th anniversary of Rosa Parks’ refusal to get up and yield her seat to a white man. As it turns out, the day will be celebrated and remembered without her.

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Why I Hate the American Protestant Work Tradition

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, plenty of fingers have been pointed, crying out that enough wasn’t done. On the far left, we have people saying FEMA didn’t respond quickly enough, blaming Bush cronyism for appointing unqualified friends to high positions. The far right has chimed in, insisting that the people of New Orleans didn’t do enough. More than one radio talk-show host has insisted our abysmal welfare state has created laziness, and people sat around waiting to be helped instead of taking matters into their own hands.

Regardless of which side of the debate one might fall on, both sides seem to agree, people should have been doing something. A key part of Americanism is the Protestant work tradition — the idea that people shouldn’t be idle, lazy, or couch potatoes. Mormons seem to have joined this tradition of hard work and take great pride in their industry. Whenever I tell people I’m working on a history degree, one of two inevitable questions immediately follows: “What are you going to do with that,” or “Are you going to teach?” We associate what people do with what job they have, and as a result, I think the Protestant work ethic sucks.

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Understanding Others: A Rant

When I was on my mission I encountered my fair share of anti-Mormonism. Upstate New York was largely Catholic, and those good folks almost entirely avoided the anti-Mormon scene. But there were also the Evangelicals, and they had all the pamphlets, the books, the same tired arguments ready to go. What bothered me the most about anti-Mormonism was the havoc a few sentences could wreak on your work. If you were talking to a group of people, and one person started spouting off about how Mormons are racist, how we believe Jesus and Satan are brothers, and that Adam and God are the same person, no one else wanted to listen to you. They could tear down our whole faith and claim to know what we believed with just a few choice words.

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Review of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling

I was fortunate to read an advanced readers copy of the highly anticipated Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman.

Put simply, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Bushman has a great deal to be proud of. In my estimation, his book exceeds all previous biographical attempts, including Donna Hill’s Joseph Smith: The First Mormon. Hill may have the upper hand in terms of prose (she is a marvelous writer), but she can’t match Bushman for his knowledge of history. Further, Hill’s book reads more like a general history of the Church from 1805–1844, while Bushman, as I discuss later, does more than any previous biographer to reveal *who* Joseph Smith was.

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What do Church Members Really Think?

One of the more fascinating aspects of my job at Sunstone was meeting the average Joe Mormon and chatting with him or her about the Church. Whether it was someone at the hotel we were booking for the symposium, an advertising rep, or even just someone on a plane on the way to an out-of-state conference, the Church inevitably came up when they learned what Sunstone was. What made it fascinating is what these Church members were willing to share when they started to grasp what it meant that we were “Sunstoners”. They’d reveal, sometimes with apprehension in their voice, sometimes even whispering as though worried someone might hear, their problems with the Church.

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Church Growth: Zero

Peggy Stack has a very interesting article in the Salt Lake Tribune today that confirms what some keen observers have been suggesting online for a few years now: The Mormon Church is being outstripped in growth by other faiths, and is struggling to maintain converts.

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It’s Baaaaack

The Sunstone Symposium preliminary program is available online here in pdf format. They’ve put together some real phenomenal sessions (kinda makes me wonder what I was doing in that job for three years!) Some of the highlights are a panel on the 20 year anniversary of the Hofmann bombings, with Mark Hofmann’s ex-wife Doralee and Gretchen Sheets McNees, a daughter of Hofmann victim Kathy Sheets.
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Become Part of the One

Tomorrow is a series of concerts called Live 8. They are being held to bring awareness to African poverty, disease, and overwhelming debt. You can watch them on MTV, VH1, and other stations. I know I’ve been accused of oversimplifying the dilemma of poverty around the world, and maybe I have. But when you strip away all the geopolitical constraints, the corrupt leaders of foreign nations, and the American excuses, there’s just no good reason why thousands of people should starve to death today. But they will. How is an eight-year old girl supposed to go to school when she has to walk five miles for clean water, then carry it back home? I believe with all my soul, with every fiber of my being, that we have the power to end this suffering. Go to www.one.org today and sign your name to the petition. Contribute generously to Mormon charities – they do a remarkable job of aiding those who need it most.

Stem Cells — What’s the Deal?

Why not continue the heated political topics by wading into stem-cell territory. I’m only really interested in the Church’s perspective and how Latter-day Saints might view the topic. I’ll say up front that I support more stem-cell research, but also admit to being fairly naïve on the topic and can be swayed if someone demonstrates why it’s a bad idea (hopefully with a little more than “it’s a slippery-slope”).

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The End of the World as We Know It

It seems like one of the rules of life is that each generation has to lament the next generation and its utter lack of morals and values. “These kids today!” is often the refrain. This also seems true in the Church, where we’re sometimes presented with a vision of how life used to be straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, and if only it could still be so. I frankly think this is largely nonsense. Here’s why.

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Are We Politically Correct Yet?

I’ll admit it: I’m a Bill Maher fan. Sure, he can oversimplify things in nicely packaged quips. But I’m a sucker for libertarian boilerplate. On his Friday night show, he was complaining about one of his favorite targets, religion. While discussing the differences between red states and blue states, he pointed out that he knows it’s politically correct to pretend like we’re supposed to respect everyone, regardless of their beliefs and not think less of them. But, he reasoned, this is foolish. You shouldn’t respect people who believe blatantly ridiculous things. Then, he pointed out that Mormons believe in magic underwear.

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What Mormonism Did You Grow Up In?

I’ll never forget a Sunday School lesson I had growing up. The teacher drew a straight line across the length of the chalk board, representing eternity. Then, somewhere on the line, he put a tiny dot, invisible unless you put your eye up to it and squinted to see it. This, he explained, represented earth life. Why, he asked us for most of the lesson, would we want to jeopardize all of eternity, which goes on forever, by screwing up in this tiny amount of time that is life on earth. We needed to be good, otherwise that dot could destroy that whole line of eternity.

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Joseph the Polygamist

I originally started this post as a look at the new correction on the Church’s website under the "Mistakes in the News" category. It’s one of the few places where we can see official Church reaction to how the Church is portrayed around the world. This month, after over a year without an update, a new correction appeared involving polygamy. After touching on a few subjects, only to erase what I’d written, I thought I’d focus on Joseph Smith as polygamist.

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And Bless Homer

A couple of posts in the bloggernacle have got me thinking about children and Mormonism. Currently at Times and Seasons, Russell Arben Fox has a beautiful post about his niece, a stillborn child. A few months ago BCC’s own Kristine Haglund Harris posted the topic "On Spiritual Education" at the same blog.

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Hugh Nibley

By now word has spread across the bloggernacle of Hugh Nibley’s passing. I’d just add that Sunstone has created a page with links to different articles, both in Sunstone and recent article on Hugh’s death. But the gem is a review of Martha Beck’s recent book by Tania Rands Lyon. This review essay is a really in-depth, fair and thoughtful look at Beck’s work. Check out the pdf file here.

The Stages of Faith

I highly recommend James Fowler’s book, The Stages of Faith. It’s an important book in faith development theory I learned about while at Sunstone. Like most people, however, when I first read it I simply didn’t have much of an appreciation for it. To understand why, you need a breakdown of the stages themselves.

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What Children Teach Us

I grew up in a conservative ward on the east side of Salt Lake City. It’s not the richest part of town, but it definitely qualifies as somewhere between middle- and upper-class. The houses run for several hundred-thousand dollars (in Salt Lake they’re a lot). There is one small apartment complex on the edge of the ward boundary, next to a busy street that’s pretty run-down. The neighbors are concerned about this and have been pressuring to have them torn down and rezoned for homes for a while now.

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The Temple – Secret or Sacred?

Disclaimer: I understand that there are many sensitivities surrounding any discussion of the temple. Please know that I avoid specifics and do my best to accord the LDS temple the respect I think it deserves. I hope others who may not be LDS or members will do the same, and I hope we as Latter-day Saints extend the same courtesy to other faiths.

It’s my understanding that the temple ceremony was changed again recently. I haven’t attended and so am unaware of many specifics. I do know that the washing and anointing ceremony is handled differently, though the wording is the same. I was also told that one change may "anger feminists" (a quote from my source).

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God Our Parent

One of the things I think Mormonism does best is cultivate the idea that God is literally our Father in Heaven; he’s our dad. We have several unique doctrines that seem to make such a belief easier for us. First, God has a body of flesh and bone. This immediately makes it easier to picture God. We’re created in His own image, therefore, it isn’t a stretch to get an idea of what He looks like. We might even picture ourselves giving him a hug or standing face to face with him.

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Mormons, Urban Legends, and the Need to Believe

Perhaps part of my skepticism about belief stems from my fascination with urban legends. I find the human need to believe that which will confirm our perspective on the world to speak volumes. We all do it – no one is immune. If you follow urban legends, even with just the occasional visit to www.snopes.com, you’re well aware that people believe things that simply aren’t true.

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A Thanks and a Plea

My last day as a Sunstone employee is Friday, December 10th. After calling myself a student for the past 10 years, I’ve decided it’s time to do more than just take the occasional night class. I don’t want to leave Sunstone, easily the best job a person could hope to have, but I feel like it’s the right thing to do for my family. It’s been a great, and altogether too-fast three years.

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Is There Any Value to Excommunication?

Sorry for two quick posts, but I’ve just learned my friend Grant Palmer has been summoned to a Church court a week from Sunday.

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What Should I Think?

I can’t make up my mind on this one. The University of Utah has released a draft of its new "accommodation policy" that professes to work with students when course requirements conflict with core beliefs.

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Madame Lydia Mary Olive Mamreov von Finkelstein Mountford and Interpreting the Past

Thanks to the wonders of genealogy (and the marvelous Family History Library in Salt Lake), more than a few Latter-day Saints scratched their heads when they researched ancestors and learned they had been married in a polygamous union after 1890 when the Manifesto was issued. Post-manifesto polygamy has since become a fascinating topic for researchers, and was well-explored by Ken Cannon, D. Michael Quinn, and B. Carmon Hardy.

Hardy and Quinn argue that one post-1890 marriage took place on ship off the coast of San Francisco. The couple? Wilford Woodruff and Madame Lydia Mountford, a colorful, if largely forgotten character from Mormonism’s past. Madame Mountford waltzed into Salt Lake City in early 1897 as part of her speaking tour on the Holy Land. She was Russian, had lived in Jerusalem, and her background lent credence to her showmanship; her lectures on the New Testament and Christ’s life included actors and larger-than-life costumes. She met with members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. Some of the Brethren were skeptical – Anthon Lund noted that she had no foreign accent (Lund would know, speaking five languages himself). But Woodruff was enchanted by the woman. He attended most (if not all) of her lectures in the Tabernacle, and after she left Salt Lake, he continued to correspond with her.

It turns out that after their initial meeting 5 February 1897, in the next eighteen months before Woodruff’s death, no other person was mentioned as many times in his diary as Madame Mountford. In fact, only his health received more attention in his daily journal. Woodruff started referring to her only as “M” and in one entry mentioned that he benefited from her “massage treatment.” In September 1897 Wilford Woodruff departed for a vacation to the west coast. He refused to let his wife and daughter join him (although they wanted to) and he and personal secretary L. John Nutall traveled under assumed names. They arrived in Portland, Oregon first. Then they traveled to San Francisco, stayed only two days, and took a ship back to Oregon. Who happened to be staying in San Francisco at the time of their journey? Madame Mountford.

Woodruff and Nutall returned back to Salt Lake a few days later. Hardy and Quinn theorize that Woodruff married Mountford (with Nutall officiating) on the ship – a common practice of post-manifesto marriages so as to create plausible deniability. After all, they weren’t married in the U.S. but on the ocean.

It’s a fascinating tale to be sure, and one that I’ve been doing a lot of reading on. Mountford was friends with Susa Young Gates, so I’m combing her papers for any kind of a hint in the correspondence between the two that suggests Woodruff and Mountford married. When one reads Quinn or Hardy, it’s next-to-impossible to not believe the marriage took place. But this raises the grand dilemma for all historians and our quest to understand the past.

We tend to view individuals as if their lives were a series of blips on the linear radar screen. In this case, a reference to Mountford pops up, then another, then more. The dots are easy to connect, giving us the evidence that we’re looking for. But then, we forget that the people in our story aren’t blips or just colorful characters. They’re humans, living day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.

Perhaps if Wilford Woodruff were here (and being totally candid, of course) I could ask him, and he might smile and say he did marry Mountford, and that she fascinated him. He might congratulate Quinn and Hardy on their detective work, putting two and two together. But what if he was stunned at the insinuation. What if, when questioned, he just said he doesn’t know why Mountford appeared in his diary so much. It certainly wasn’t intentional, he might insist. After, he probably wasn’t counting the number of times he referred to something, the way later historians would. And what if he said he isn’t sure why he decided to only stay two days in San Francisco, or why he doesn’t record anything about Mountford when he’s there (Quinn calls this, accurately, I suspect, a “deafening silence.”) Haven’t we all done things that, in retrospect, might not make sense to someone who views our behavior from the outside? We might have a perfectly logical explanation, or we might not even be sure ourselves. It’s human nature.

Thomas Alexander offers a nice alternate view to the Mountford-Woodruff connection. Were the two married? I don’t know. (Actually, even if they were, I’m not sure why it’s as important as others make it out to be; the two clearly never intended to share a life together or even reside in the same state, let alone act as husband and wife.) It can’t help but make me wonder, what if our visions of the past are off-base. Actually, it wouldn’t be all that bad. I’d love to sit down with Joseph Smith someday, see him smile, and tell me, “Here’s what really happened.”

Politics and “Moral Values”

The election is over, my man didn’t win. I liked John Kerry and I was ready to give him a shot for four years to see what he’d offer us. But, unlike some liberals, I’m not announcing my plans to move to Canada or predicting the end of the universe as we know it. George Bush strikes me as a likeable, nice fellow, even if I strenuously disagree with many of his policies.

But I am depressed after the election. It’s not over the leader we chose, but over why, apparently, he was chosen. In exit polls, more people said they were concerned about “moral values” than were concerned about the economy or terrorism. Lest anyone think I am opposed to moral values, let me reassure you. I like values just fine and I think they compose the backbone of a strong society.

What I despair over is conservative control over what is defined as values. One of the big surprises of the election was the Republican ability to match the Democrats in new registered voters. People were anxious to support George W. Bush for the first time. The question is, why? I’m sure there are a lot of reasons, but if the exit polls are right, moral values is a big one. I doubt people who voted for Bush were thinking, “I’m thrilled with how Iraq is going, or I love where unemployment is at.” They connected with him on the “value” issue.

So what does that mean? It means stem cell research, abortion, same sex marriage, and of course, religion. Perhaps this is why Utah Mormons overwhelmingly supported Bush again this year. What doesn’t it mean? Apparently morality has little to do with tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, 2,200 dead American soldiers, and tax cuts for the wealthy. (Within a few months, the number of dead soldiers will exceed the number of people killed on 9/11.) I’m not sure how or when it happened (and I don’t really care, frankly) but I’m utterly at a loss as to why conservatives get to decide what values are in America. Values don’t encompass helping the poor among conservatives, or fighting AIDS in Africa in a meaningful way. Yes, I know we gave some money, but to steal Bill Maher’s analogy, we’re like the millionaire who flips a quarter, or when we’re feeling really generous, a dollar, to the homeless guy and then thinks we made a real difference. We have the ability in this country to alleviate much of the suffering around the world, but we don’t. We’d rather drive tanks to work, shop with forklifts at Costco, watch TV on screens the size of movie theatres, and do whatever we want, whenever we want, the cost be damned. Apparently that’s what freedom means these days. We expletive and moan at paying $2 a gallon in gas to drive to the restaurant, but $5 for the valet is ok, and hey, who doesn’t pay $13 for a pear and gorgonzola salad?

What I’m suggesting is that our values are seriously screwed up in this country. Our outrage is reserved for Janet Jackson’s boob during the Super Bowl (where innocent children could’ve been watching!!!), for Bill Clinton’s marital infidelity, and for John Kerry’s “questionable” war record. We care about things that don’t matter and ignore the things that do. I hope we can stand up and let people know that we’re moral people, and that we stand for values, but that those values count. Sure, abortion’s an important moral issue, but if you’ve got such a myopic view that it’s what determines your vote, you’ve got no business calling yourself a person with values. What would Jesus do has to mean more than walking out of a movie where someone has the nerve to take their clothes off. We’ve got to stop letting conservatives control the discourse and tell us what counts and what doesn’t on the value-o-meter. Dying children in Africa matters. Genocide in Sudan matters. Iraqi civilians aren’t just collateral damage. What can we do to let our fellow Latter-day Saints know how we feel? What can we do to help combat this conservative control?

Finding Inspiration in “Unwholesome” Places

The R rated movie debate emerged recently at another blog, so I can thank them for inspiring this post. It goes without saying that what is offensive is highly subjective. Hopefully we as Latter-day Saints would have at least some consensus about some films. Try as you might, justifying a XXX movie is pretty tough to do (and that goes for either the porno kind or the abysmal Vin Diesel kind). But other things are tough to pin down. I had a friend (one who’d been to several R rated movies with me) strenuously object to showing Gone with the Wind at a ward movie night. He was appalled at the scene where Rhett Butler snatches up Scarlett in the middle of an argument, carries her upstairs amid her protests, and insists she needs to be loved. In the next scene, we see Bonnie, the product of the night’s passion. “He basically rapes her and it’s portrayed as romantic,” my friend argued. Those 10 seconds ruined the 4 hour movie for him.

I’ll confess right now, I’m tough to offend at films. Those who are easily offended are quick to label folks like me, “desensitized” (we don’t feel the same way they do, you see). I used to return the favor with labels like “sheltered” and “prude.” Now I just try and appreciate that we’re different.

With that in mind, I’d love to hear everyone’s most inspirational R rated films. The rules are: 1) Unless you are absolutely convinced you’ve got a brilliant, original new point to add to the “no R rated movie” debate, let’s just avoid that line of discussion altogether. Yes I’ve heard President Benson’s talk; yes, I know how crappy the rating system is; yes, I know about . . . yada yada yada. 2) Feel free to disagree with a film selection and tell us why, but please do so respectfully. In other words, don’t just say that you were offended at this film and you just can’t imagine why the rest of us haven’t seen the light like you. 3) Tell us your reasons. Don’t list Zombie Mutant Cannibals 4: Death Rides a Zombie without a little explanation as to why this inspired you. 4) Try and stick to movies that truly moved you – especially movies that changed the way you view life or enhanced your spirituality somehow. I love Stripes just as much as the next guy, but it didn’t exactly change my life. Finally, 5) You don’t have to list only R rated movies, but I am especially curious about movies that might not traditionally be considered inspirational.

I’ll kick it off with a very cliched one, but one that changed my view of war forever: Saving Private Ryan. I can’t explain why or how, but in the first 20 minutes of the film I was overcome with grief. I’d read about World War II, I’d studied it and watched veterans on TV. But that film made the sacrifice so real, so tangible. For the first time I was struck with the knowledge of what war means. I knew as I watched the camera pan across Omaha Beach after the battle, that if I were to go to war, I most likely wouldn’t be a rugged Tom Hanks-like hero. No, I’d be the guy lying face down in the sand in the corner of the screen, next to other nameless, faceless people. Hopefully I’d be lucky enough to still have my dog tags so my family could be notified properly.

Walking in Sacred Spaces

I returned late last night from the John Whitmer Historical Association meeting in Omaha, Nebraska (the RLDS equivalent of the Mormon History Association). It was a great conference and I always enjoy driving along the Mormon trail, looking out at the Platte River and imagining the columns of Saints making their way to their new home in the west. Meetings with our RLDS (now Community of Christ) counterparts make it difficult not to compare and see the distinctions between us. I’ll confess, the differences don’t always fall in the Rocky Mountain Saints’ favor.

At the MHA meeting in Kirtland two years ago, we walked through the sites owned by the Community of Christ, notably the Kirtland Temple, and were greeted by professional historians willing to answer all of our questions. They were knowledgeable and knew the history of the sites well. When we walked through the LDS-owned sites, we were greeted by young sister missionaries who repeated the same brief stories about the rooms and buildings for each group, and then bore the same testimony – word for word – at the end of each room. At the end of one tour, we asked the kind Korean sister who’d been giving the tour a question or two. She did her best to explain to us that she didn’t know English, and that she had memorized her tour spiel and testimony. I find no fault with this dear, faithful Korean sister doing her best in the assignment she was given. But I was stunned that the Church wouldn’t bother to provide historians, or even just a volunteer who spoke English, to staff these sites while MHA attendees, the vast majority of which are already Church members, tried to learn more about the buildings and grounds.

This time around, at John Whitmer, two other distinctions were very obvious. First, as we discussed the history of the early restoration and our common heritage, I noticed the lack of tension in the room and among the members. History was not used as a way to convert people to the Church or build faith; nor was it used to tear down or attack the Church. History simply was. When Klaus Hansen spoke of his journey writing the history of the Council of Fifty, he made some very matter-of-fact comments about difficulties with LDS Church archives, particularly with General Authority G. Homer Durham and his well-known tight grip on the archives. Hansen didn’t make the comments critically, but he didn’t present it as a positive development; it was just what happened. No one shifted uncomfortably in their seats, or stormed out offended that someone would dare say something not perfectly faithful about a Church leader.

I couldn’t help but think there’s something to not tying so much of our faith into our history. It’s a difficult thing in Mormonism, but it can be done. The historian of the Community of Christ can speak of Joseph Smith and his legacy without having to defend the prophet every five minutes. He can talk of Joseph’s polyandrous marriages to ten women without having to stop and assume an apologetic perspective for what he’s saying. Community of Christ historians treat Mormon history much the way American historians treat American history: They admire the men and women they write about, and you can see the fondness they feel as they speak. But they don’t have a crisis of identity or patriotism when they write about George Washington or Thomas Jefferson as slave owners. They write it because it’s true, so far as the evidence explains. Robert Dallek wrote of John F. Kennedy admiringly, but didn’t wonder if he could still like Kennedy when he wrote about his affairs with multiple women. This is the Community of Christ approach to history, and I wonder if we could learn from it.

Finally, the greatest distinction between the two movements comes whenever I hear Grant McMurray, president of the Community of Christ, speak. He approaches faith and history with the question of what they can do to help be good people today. While I think the LDS Church does the same, often we are slaves to our history, insisting that things be done a certain way because that’s how they’ve always been done. When you believe your past comes from God, it makes it tough to change the present, no matter how necessary.

President McMurray’s closing address Sunday morning was a masterpiece. He talked of going to the Nauvoo Temple to the open-house and walking through. He recalled being given booties (no, not that kind of booty!) to put over his shoes. He said he was not offended at this request, and completely understood it. But it did give him cause to pause and think about the divergent ways the two movements view sacred space. He humorously talked of Rocky Mountain Mormons standing in awe at a truck stop in the middle of Nebraska because Brigham Young may have walked there. He said that if you were to ask Community of Christ members what their most important sacred spaces are, most would respond that the campgrounds, where they went on youth camps, are sacred to them. This is where they ruminated over their faith with friends, where they experienced things that forever contributed to their faith journey. President McMurray pointed out that the youth stayed up past curfew, sneaking around to visit other youth. Minds would wander during the testimony meetings and church meetings, and young pranks would be pulled when serious minds ought to be prevailing.

But it is precisely because of these human foibles that makes the space sacred, because our humaness is mixed with spirituality, President McMurray insisted. He told of attending literally hundreds of meetings about the construction of the RLDS temple in Independence, where lengthy discussions would go on and on about what’s appropriate for the temple, and what should be allowed in different rooms, particularly the Sanctuary. A few months after the temple was built and dedicated, the youth had their first meeting. In the sanctuary, a large, inflated globe of the world (picture a beach ball) was symbolically passed around, showing that the youth are the future of the world. It took about two seconds before the ball was being batted around, as if the youth were at a baseball game. This went on while each hand tried to touch the ball. Was President McMurray shocked or outraged? No; this is what makes sacred spaces sacred. Our humanity, trying to become better, is what creates the sacred. A building is not sacred simply because we deem it as such. It is sacred because of what we experience there, and what it does to help build our faith. President McMurray closed by asking us to remove the booties from our shoes, and plant our very human feet on sacred ground.

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