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Steve Shields own Divergent Path (Part 2)

Steve Shields describes his conversion from the LDS Church to RLDS Church, and we discuss RLDS Church hierarchy.

Steve Shields was raised in the LDS Church and attended BYU.  So why is he now a member of the Community of Christ?

Steve:  I was really interested in church history and I started reading these books and pamphlets that were not approved by the general authorities and my mother warned me that if I kept reading that kind of stuff, I would lose my testimony and leave the church. She wasn’t happy that she was right. I don’t see it as losing my testimony. Did I leave one organization for another? Yes, but I think my faith in Christ is stronger than it has ever been. I’m not saying that I didn’t have faith before. By going this different route, I began to focus more on what I think matters most.

Steve:  And history then, didn’t become the main focus of my faith, but became a main interest. That sort of–Oh, do I dare use the word tangent? Tangential to my faith.

GT:  We like that word.

Steve:  Yeah. It was a big deal to make that move. By the time I had been on my mission and, and done that, I had some pretty out of the box ideas about God.

Steve discusses his reasons for changing his religion, and we discuss the RLDS/Community of Christ hierarchy.  What are the similarities and differences with the LDS Church?

GT:  I know John Hamer was recently called to be a Seventy.

Steve: He’s a Seventy, right.

GT: He would be more like an Area Authority?

Steve:  He’s like an area authority. Yeah, that would be. Yeah. Our Seventies are more like Area Authorities. Now, there may be some official expenses that they’re provided for travel and things like that. And I don’t know. Every jurisdiction, every mission center of the church and mission centers for us are like areas for the LDS organization.

GT:  I’ve heard that they’ve been compared to a stake.

Steve:  Well, but stakes are different from LDS, have always been different from LDS stakes. It’s not been uncommon for us to have 30 or 40 congregations in a stake.

Steve:  And the stake presidents were full-time world church appointees. So, stake looks and feels like it might be the same in both, but it really wasn’t because of the size. So, I really think the mission centers replaced stakes, as we tried to reduce the number of levels, so we used to have the general officers and then the fields. Each apostle had a certain geographical area. Then we had stakes and regions and districts. And so, we tried to compress all of those stakes and regions and districts are now all mission centers and we reconfigured that.

Check out our conversation…

You may also want to check out our previous conversations with John Hamer and Community of Christ apostle Lach MacKay!

120:  Start of RLDS Church & Mormon Schisms Tour (MacKay & Hamer)

119:  Surprising Word of Wisdom Insights from an Apostle (MacKay & Hamer)

118:  Mormon Followers of the Prophet James Strang (MacKay & Hamer)

117: Alice Cooper’s Roots in Lively Mormon Schisms (MacKay & Hamer)

116: Different Succession Claims:  Other Mormon Groups (MacKay & Hamer)

115:  Strange Kirtland Temple Ownership Problems (MacKay & Hamer)

114:  Comparing LDS & RLDS Temple Worship (MacKay & Hamer)

113: A Seventy & Apostle discuss myths & Kirtland Temple (MacKay & Hamer)

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The F-Word: Feminism (Part 3)

Lisa Butterworth wrote a post titled the F-Word: Feminism.  Is feminism dangerous?  Many faithful Latter-day Saints may be concerned that Mormon feminism is a road to apostasy.  Is that true?

GT:  Do you have any ways to assuage that fear for people who are active LDS that are thinking, “I don’t know if I should listen to these two people. One is out of the church in one is barely hanging on.”

Sara: Yeah, right.

Nancy:  So one thing I’ve done is I’ve surveyed Mormon feminists and when I surveyed Mormon feminists, when we were experiencing that great big bubble of hope during 2012-2014. Yeah. That great big level of hope. I surveyed Mormon feminists in 2013, about 1800 Mormon feminists, and I think it was 70 something percent of that group was active. And most Mormon feminists at that time were active and it was a very exciting time to be active, you know? And, they were active and, overwhelmingly, not only were they active, but they had some kind of calling. And many of them had temple recommends. At that time, most people were saying that their participation in Mormon feminism was helping them to stay in the church because it was helping them to negotiate and navigate those difficult points and to give them resources and community and support where maybe they would’ve just left if they hadn’t had community and resources and support to stay in the church. And then at other times, Mormon feminists, in the example of people leaving has helped people leave. Mormon feminism both helps people to stay in the church if that is what their goal is and it helps people to leave if that is what their goal is. And I think that the community…

GT: Let me stop you for a second. Was that your goal?

Sara: To leave? No, but…

GT: Because the reason I’m asking that is because there are going to be people who will say, “Well, if I support it, then I’ve got one foot out the door.”

Sara: Right. It’s tricky. I’m trying to gather my thoughts and figure out the right starting point here. The whole idea of Mormon feminism, helping people to stay or to leave, I relate to that and I resonate with that. I think it didn’t so much–well from personal experience I’ll say this. My faith crisis or my big turning point was when I went to the temple when I was 21. I was about to get married and I went and received my endowment the week before my wedding. I had no idea but walking into the temple I felt completely clear and completely hundred percent all in with the church. And leaving the temple I felt like everything had changed and I didn’t know who God was anymore. And that was very uncomfortable and what I needed at that point, what I wanted more than anything was to see examples of people who had a difficult time with the church for whatever reason, and still stayed because I wanted to stay more than anything. But I didn’t know, you know, looking at my family and my ward. It seemed like everybody was just really comfortable. And so, I thought, “Well, how do I stay if I’m not comfortable and if I have questions? Right? And so Mormon feminism, the people I met, the stories I read, really did help me to stay for 10 years. And because of all these external events: excommunication, exclusion policy, Mormon #MeToo, and sexual abuse, and stuff. I think I have also seen examples that convinced me that there was also a way to leave in a healthy way. Not that that was what I wanted to do, but when I felt that spiritual prompting, that that’s what my next step was, I felt okay. I have seen from these people’s examples that I can do that, and I can still be a spiritual person.

Would the church split like the Community of Christ did over women’s ordination?  Check out our conversation, and don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2!

Feminism is about equality between men and women. But is is a road out of the LDS Church?
Feminism is about equality between men and women. But is is a road out of the LDS Church?
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Start of RLDS Church & Mormon Schisms Tour

We’re about ready to finish our conversation with John Hamer and Lachlan MacKay of the Community of Christ and do a Mormon Schisms Tour!  In this next conversation, we’ll talk about how confusing it must have been to live following the death of Joseph Smith.

John:  You might have a branch where at a certain point, you’ve heard Joseph Smith has been killed.  You are very sad.  Brighamite missionaries come through.  They say the Twelve are now in charge and things like that.  Everyone says, “Hey, now we got it.  We’ve read about that in the newspaper and this kind of thing.”  Then, a couple of months later, somebody from Voree comes with the Voree Herald and they explain how the Twelve are in apostasy, and this and that, and why all of the prophetic gifts that prove that Strang is the successor, and they are like, “Oh, we’re Strangites now.”

There isn’t anything in particular that necessarily happens for the branch.  So like I say for the Hedrickites, they are one of five, maybe, of these branches that are in a cluster around Bloomington, Illinois.  I think probably at some point or another, they will have been affiliated with Strang, but at a certain point, maybe when he “affiliated,” whatever it even means.  Strangite missionaries will come through there, and that’s one of the reasons why maybe they didn’t gather and go west.

We’ll talk about the founding of the RLDS Church.

John:  This is the origin of the Reorganization.  So the branches start to pray about it.  They fall back on individual personal revelations for the individual congregations, the pastors.  They start meeting together.  As they are thinking about it, William Smith has a church in the meantime and William Smith has been promoting the idea of lineal succession.  There has been, (I think I mentioned a while ago), there’s the sense that Joseph Smith’s posterity, somebody, one of his sons is going to be the successor or will emerge as the successor.  They start to regather these branches and the form a conference organization, which is a loose structure.  There’s no corporate entity here still.

So they pass resolutions together in conferences where they say they are going to wait for one of Joseph Smith’s sons, probably Joseph Smith III to emerge to receive the prophetic calling and to accept that mantle.  So when that happens in 1860, he comes to a conference of the New Organization, what becomes the Reorganization and what becomes Community of Christ, then that becomes something that all these little branches start to get really excited about.  Fairly quickly, then that Reorganization draws from all the different tradition churches, including people who had gone west who are dissatisfied with what was going on under Brigham Young in Utah.

It turns out that some other Mormon schismatic groups are contemporaries of Joseph Smith III.  John talks briefly about several of these churches, “There’s more –ites; that’s hardly an exhaustive group so I don’t mean to be leaving anybody out.  They are very interesting.”  He’ll briefly discuss founding of the Hedrickites, Williamites, Josephites, Cutlerites, Whitmerites, and their relationship to the RLDS Church.  Lachlan MacKay will also tell when and why the Kirtland Temple changed from a bluish-gray color to the current white color it is today.  It’s going to be a fun conversation. I hope you check out our Mormon Schisms Tour!