Community of Christ Takes Its Own Road
INDEPENDENCE, MISSOURI -- While the Olympic world will be focusing on
Salt Lake City and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
members of the former Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints took on a new name last year and swapped the "RLDS"
moniker for the new "Community of Christ." Shifts at the
Independence-based church go deeper than the name change and some say
the focus is away from the Book of Mormon and more into the
"Our old name was definitely an impediment to us expressing who we
are rather than who we are not," said Linda Booth, a member of the
Community of Christ's Council of the Twelve Apostles. "Now we're not
being defensive about who we are not."
Jan Shipps, professor emeritus of religious studies and history at
Indiana University-Purdue University and author of the book
"Sojourner in the Promised Land: Forty Years Among the Mormons" views
the change as more than a name. "Members of the Community of Christ
have taken a very different path. They have always been more in the
pattern of creating themselves as a denomination than as a separate
religious tradition," Shipps said.
The futuristic appearance of the Community of Christ's church with
its towering conch shell of a temple is enough to convince a casual
visitor that this church is not from old-line denominations like the
Presbyterians or Episcopalians. Built in 1994 at a cost of $60
million, the asymmetrical glass spiral towers above the quiet town of
Kansas City like a science fiction fantasy.
Open to the public, church members hold a "Prayer for Peace"
dedicated to different countries. "We proclaim Jesus Christ and
promote communities of joy, hope, love and peace," a statement reads
as part of the mission statement. The group unites around two
principles: first, that Joseph Smith III was the church's true head;
and second, that polygamy had no place in the church doctrine. Many
members, according to Booth, don't believe that the Book of Mormon
should be taken literally. "You will find those who believe that it's
the most important scripture," she said. "That's the wonder of the
church: that so many people can have different beliefs and come
Today, as many as 50,000 members worldwide have left their names on
the Community of Christ's membership rolls. But some like Tim Davis,
an inactive member of Community of Christ in Independence feels
differently. "Unfortunately, I personally am friends with many others
like myself who have become disenchanted with the church," he said.
"The sense that we get is of a church that's becoming more like some
liberal Protestant denomination as opposed to a more conservative
"We went through a time when we were called to be a people
transformed," Booth said. "Often with those experiences you have a
new sense of identity. We do still honor our history, but it's a
calling forth from our history to always be aware of our mission."
Mormons' Cousins in Missouri on New Path
Salt Lake Tribune 19Jan02 N5
By Hannah Wolfson: Special to the Salt Lake Tribune