Doctrines and Covenants

What are the Doctrines and Covenants?  The D&C is a book that is considered scripture by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Community of Christ.  A large portion of this book are writings that Joseph Smith, Jr. claimed that he received by prophecy. If you are looking for theological insight into these movements, you may be disappointed.  While there is some of this, much of it is about where a certain missionary would go or who would take a certain position in the organization.  Without trying to be offensive, it is one of the most boring books I have read.  At least the Book of Mormon is a narrative.  It is important to note that the LDS and the C of C use a different version of this book.  They overlap with the Joseph Smith, Jr. material but diverge after that.  The C of C version has sections given even within the last few years.  If you are interested in Mormonism or the Community of Christ, it is worth looking at.  Not so much for the details that are written but for how they understand revelation and of the spiritual authority of their organizations.  You can find the LDS version here.  You can find some recent sections of the C of C version here.

Mormons and the Community of Christ

I have been interested in the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) for some time.  One of the interesting things is the theological differences between the Community of Christ and the Utah Mormons.  I found an interesting podcast episode from a Mormon perspective looking at these differences.  You can find it here.  I found the discussion of the attitudes toward the Book of Mormon and the Trinity particularly interesting.

Considering the Community of Christ

I recently heard from a Community of Christ pastor who was receiving some opposition from his local ministerial.  If you are not familiar with the Community of Christ, they were formally known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  When people hear this, they automatically think of the Utah Mormons and the doctrines of polygamy and becoming gods and denying of the Trinity.  Many assume the Community of Christ believe the same things as the more famous Mormons.  The fact is that they do not.  In fact the Community of Christ have a very orthodox theology.  You can find their statement of faith here.  Please notice that they believe in the Trinity, the deity and incarnation of Christ and salvation by grace.

The main concerns people have once they get over their initial prejudice is their doctrine of Scripture.  They accept the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants as Scripture along side the Bible.  But a closer look will show that they do not see them on the same level and that the Bible is their primary foundation for theology.  From the protestant perspective, is an incorrect canon enough to lose orthodoxy?  If so, what do we do with Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans (to a certain extent) who accept more books than the protestant canon?  A correct canon was not one of the early tests for orthodoxy, especially considering our exact protestant canon was not found in any list until the end of the fourth century.

I am not suggesting that people should accept the Book of Mormon as truth.  What I am suggesting is that the Community of Christ explicitly seeks to follow Jesus and holds to almost all the same doctrines as protestants.  What would be the result of avoiding fellowship with them over what we disagree on?  Fellowship would draw us closer together, enabling us to be a positive influence.  Rejecting them as heretics or a cult will drive them away from the orthodox position they have taken.  I urge Christians to not judge before they look at the facts and that they respond with grace and humility.

Community of Christ and Salvation

Since my article on embracing the Community of Christ into orthodoxy came out, I have had a few people question me (respectfully) on this.  Their main concern, as was mine, was the fact that the Book of Mormon is still considered scripture by the Community of Christ.  I would like to respond to this.

Two things need to be understood with regard to the Book of Mormon.  First of all, the radical Mormon doctrines do not appear in the Book of Mormon.  In fact, there is very little theology in it.  While Jesus does appear, not much is said about his nature.  Secondly, in the Community of Christ, unlike the LDS, the Book of Mormon does not supersede  the Bible.  Their theology is very much based on the Bible.

More than this, however, we must ask what is the basis of salvation?  Is having the proper limits of biblical canon a requirement for salvation?  What do we say about our Roman Catholic and Orthodox friends?  What do we say about those early Christians who accepted books like the Gospel of Peter, Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas?  We may not agree with the Book of Mormon, but if the Community of Christ accepts the Trinity, incarnation, and salvation by grace, it is hard to say that they are not Christian.

Can Evangelicals Welcome the Community of Christ?

I have an article in the Jan./Feb. 2011 issue of Faith Today that looks at the Community of Christ.  The Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has made remarkable strides toward orthodoxy.  In fact, when one looks at their statement of faith, it is hard to find something unorthodox.  The question is: what will evangelicals do about this?  Will we reject them because of the Mormon connection or will we embrace them and welcome them to orthodoxy?

Rethinking the Community of Christ

I have recently been doing some research into the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).  Having examined their statement of faith, I find it quite orthodox.  You can find their statement of faith here.  One of the biggest barriers to protestants accepting the Church of Christ as orthodox is their continued use of the Book of Mormon.  That is a fair concern but we must be aware of the difference in belief in the Community of Christ as compared to the Utah Mormons.  Part of my research has been a discussion with Susan Skoor, who is one of the twelve apostles for the Community of Christ.  She had some things to say about the Book of Mormon that I believe Christians need to hear.

Concerning the Book of Mormon, we consider it scripture because, as stated above, it is a second witness of Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior. However, belief in the Book of Mormon is not a test of faith. There are many different stances members may take on the Book of Mormon. They range from embracing it for private devotionals and public preaching, to rejecting it entirely. In between are members who accept it as inspired writing, but do not claim that it is historical. Some believe it to be true in the same way a parable is true—that is, inspired stories that provide guidance and teach lessons, but are not factual. Some believe it is best understood in the context of the 1830’s in America, addressing prophetically many of the issues that were current in the society, political arena, and religious climate in which it was written.

I believe it is important for us to judge the Community of Christ, not based on our ignorance, but on the truth of what they actually believe.  Be watching for the article I recently wrote on the Community of Christ.