The following short article was published in the August 2003 Mormonism Research Ministry "Update" newsletter. Author's initials were posted at the end -- WJM. The article demonstrates the embarrassment of the Community of Christ and their connection to the LDS, all the while still accepting the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants as true and Joseph Smith as a prophet of God! The CofC wants to be more like the mainstream liberal churches, preaching a social gospel.
Community of Christ leader vows not to make his church's past "its theology"
Of the many groups that trace their roots to Joseph Smith, on would rather leave its past behind. The Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Independence, Missouri, has for years been trying to distance itself from its perceived connection to the Salt Lake City based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. CoC President W. Grant McMurray calls this an "identity crisis" that has always been "at the heart of our movement."
Like the Mormons, the Community of Christ uses the Book of Mormon, and for the most part both groups value the Doctrine and Covenants, although neither edition reads exactly the same. The Mormons have continually made corrections to their Book of Mormon while the Community of Christ has added more revelations to its Doctrine and Covenants. Doctrinally, the two groups are world apart.
The Community of Christ denounces any notion of a plurality of Gods and denies that men have the ability to become Gods. It also denies that God has a body of flesh and bones as the Utah Mormons believe and teach.
Whereas Mormon temples are places where only a select few can go to perform works for the dead, marriage for eternity, and participate in endowment ceremonies that they believe prepares members for godhood, the two temples owned by the CoC (one located in Kirtland, Ohio and the other in Independence, Missouri) are open to the public.
Still, the two groups can't seem to divorce themselves from each other -- at least from a public perspective. An article in the Deseret News ("Ex-RLDS church revising its image," 5/24/03) states that President McMurray has been "plagued" with this "identity crisis" ever since he took the position in 1996. According to the article, "the Community of Christ is going through a revision process that focuses not on founder Joseph Smith's history, but where a prophetic vision might take the faith in the future."
A very telling comment in the article read, "During his tenure as president, McMurray has purposely steered the church away from historical focus and toward a vision of peace, justice, ecumenism. he tells members that any group that believes in 'prophetic leadership ought to be very questioning and judicious about it.' Seeking God's will for the church today 'is a task for all, not one person locked alone in one closet." This is certainly not how the Mormons do things as it is definitely a "top down" organization.
Though not wishing to entirely dump his church's history, McMurray did say he hopes members will get away from what he calls "sappy sentimentality," and that members would "resist the temptation toward stifling literalism" that is much of its past. Much of the dissent regarding recent changes in the church he feels are the result of making their past their theology.
The article did not give any clear indication how McMurray's goals would be met.
As a sidebar, I have noticed in my personal dealing with members of the CofC that they are much more forthright in discussing troublesome issues regarding Joseph Smith and early LDS teachings. Tour guides at sites owned by the CofC are often very open to any type of question you may ask. Mormons, on the other hand, rarely admit to anything that may be even remotely negative about their faith. Canned answers are the rule of the day.
A good place to test my conclusion is Nauvoo, Illinois where the historic area (known as the "Flats") is divided up between sites run by the LDS and those operated by the Community of Christ.