Saturday, October 13, 2007

“here am I, send me.”

Among my peers are folks with many years experience with the same firm, doing the same job until their eventual retirement. Their persistence is certainly laudable. They do, however, often point with pride that it demonstrates unchallengeable knowledge of their particular area of expertise. There may be some merit to their allegation. Personally, I prefer to believe they have actually had one year on the job repeated forty or more times. That’s great as far as it goes but in the end the prize is more likely a secure retirement package than acquired knowledge.

You have read here many times that I and others have been in the church for forty years. You have also read, in my case, that earlier, the orthodox church was not available to me for many of those years. This means then, that my experience was highly varied. I did not enjoy the comfort of years of consecutive repetition of our simple rituals. I could not count on seeing the same elders on the podium year in and year out. I could not rely on the same hymns being repeated annually. Although a delight, I couldn’t have the world’s best chicken and noodles (if you disbelieve this, you have never been to our branch) prepared by the same sister every second Sunday. One does not worship Almighty God from a “rut” so I shall refrain from using that analogy. However, one does tend to settle in to the routine and not pay as much attention to the sermon locally or the happenings in the church in general.

This repetitive cognizance is very limiting. It was in this atmosphere that the apostasy and ultimate breakup of the greater body was accomplished. The membership gave complete trust to the leadership, enjoyed the basket dinner, praised the sermon, bowed during the prayers and we were blissfully unaware of the momentous developments in Independence. We, in our blind and misplaced trust, allowed false prophets to dominate and destroy that which we held so dear. Friends, I am willing to accept the blame, as should you if you are described in the above paragraphs. If you are ever alert and fully aware of those things which our leadership proposes and disposes, then you are not the villains. Otherwise, join me on the blame train.

Does this mean we can continue blissfully on? Should we conclude our former behavior was right for the church and the Glory of God? I think not. We must be ever questioning, examining and be in a relentless pursuit of truth and His will. But, you plead, they are doing their best and only seek what God intends. That being the case, they will welcome any inquiry. They will happily explain their actions and intentions for the body of believers. We establish validity in men at the time of their ordination that they are truly called of God. We support them with congregational acceptance. We are not always rewarded with actions which match our confidence. Dare we say it? Not only do we dare, we are required to do so. We are required as Saints to be ever on the alert for false teachings, doctrines and actions which are not supported by our scriptures and our prayers.

We only have one leader in this church. The sign says it all, The Restored Church of Jesus Christ. Even He says He is a servant. People asked Him questions and received answers. Although occasionally chided for the attitudes inherent in the questions, they always got a response. I really don’t believe that He equivocated and left people in the dark as to where He stood on a multitude of issues. Are we so busy, so important that we cannot emulate the Master? One doesn’t have to be able to turn water into wine to do this. All one has to do is tell the truth.

When I asked a member of the Peace and Justice committee about the necessity of apology to members of the Community of Christ, he did not really address the question but rather accused me of a lack of forgiveness. Does forgiveness entail suddenly agreeing with their current doctrinal posture? What really offended me was the glib action of turning my legitimate inquiry into a personal accusation. Are these the men who would lead? I have met outstanding men among the Saints whom I know have wisdom, faith and devotion to their Savior which transcends all personal goals and ambitions. The great puzzle to me is how we manage to keep their light under the bushel in favor of the ones we currently have.

This brings us back to the original discussion. This Restoration is going to require that we move from our comfort zone and into the arena to fight for those things which His church deserves. This means we must challenge false doctrine when we hear it. We must be on the alert to prevent that ennui which sets in from pew warming. We must recover our voice and share our strengths and our voice. We must renew ourselves as Christians.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Of all the creations of man, the committee is possibly the worst on every level.

In government, it has a paralyzing effect on the deliberative bodies. When our elected leaders desire to promote a personal agenda in public, they establish an investigative committee. The only thing which is usually accomplished is defamation of character and posturing before the media searching for a sound bite.

In the bureaucracy of departments it provides yet another opportunity to waste time and money (yours) that would be much better spent on the projects they are assigned to accomplish. The national education establishment from the secretary on down to the most minor minions of the local school is hamstrung by one committee after another. I am not saying that this is the exclusive reason for the declining accomplishment of students at all levels but it obviously doesn’t help.

In the military years ago, I don’t seem to remember busy little bodies of men meeting over coffee and little cakes “dialoging.” As I recall, we really didn’t have time for it. In our branch, each man had an assigned, specific duty and he was expected to carry it out. If our mission failed there were no committee members to blame it on. We knew all to well who was responsible. Come to think of it, those two words, committee and responsible, really don’t fit well in a sentence.

I was selected to head the building committee at our church. We have not had a meeting all year. Nor will we. Each member has an assigned responsibility. One is responsible for inside cleaning, one for grounds maintenance, one for finance, and on and on. When a decision is to be made in general terms, I call three of the seven members, varying, depending on the issue, outline a solution to our problem, gain their acquiescence and “get ‘er done.” I scrupulously record the input for a record of consent. Even the damage from the ice storm, which was considerable, probably didn’t take more than an hour in total consultation time and, most of it on the phone. I claim no special talent in this area. Our congregation confirmed a committee of responsible adults who each understand the basics of getting temporal matters under control. We even managed to do all of this without bickering. God is good.

All this prompted me to wonder just how God feels about committees. I went to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to find some scripture that would guide me to the answer I sought. Not one reference to the word is in that wonderful reference book. I checked the “Good News” Concordance which includes the Inspired Version. There was nothing there either. Since I also have the one for the Book of Mormon, I checked it as well. Nothing. My last hope lay in the Doctrine and Covenants.

On May 6, 1833, in Kirtland, Ohio, in instruction given through Joseph Smith we have the first use of the word. In Section 91:4b Reynolds Cahoon and Jared Carter were tasked to be a committee to build specific buildings, including the temple on various lots in Kirtland. The balance of the references exists in sections consigned to the appendix or disavowed by the World Conference.

Given this history, how has today’s church become so enamored of committees? You can’t open a door in Independence without disturbing a committee. We have “our” committees, they have “their” committees, and if that isn’t enough, they have “joint” committees for the full ecumenical flavor. I would be easily convinced that there is a committee for the exclusive purpose of assigning people to committees. It’s not just the hierarchy, there are dual gender committees for women, music, church school materials, missions, and every aspect of Restoration life.

Can’t anyone make a decision? Isn’t anybody responsible? When the prophets and leaders of old required counsel, they went to the Lord in mighty prayer. These avenues are just as open for today’s leaders as they were in the days of Moses, Isaiah, Nephi, and Moroni. Granted their peoples had a bad case of attention deficit disorder and couldn’t wait for God to get out of sight to build yet one more idol, but would a committee have lessened that problem?

Imagine if you will, a fireman entering a burning building and glancing over his shoulder only to discover his buddies holding a committee meeting to figure out how to get the “wet stuff on the red stuff.” He would be as terrified as I am as I figuratively see our church burning down around our ears. We have pressure from the adversary and we have commandments from God. To effectively deal with both, strong righteous men are required and they must be capable of independent thought and action.

Years ago a comedian named Fred Allen (he died in ’56) made the following comment: “Committee – a group of men who individually can do nothing but as a group conclude nothing can be done”. Like most of the wisdom from humorists, it would be funnier if it were not true.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

Monday, October 8, 2007

Monday Morning Rant (8)

While browsing some material the other day I came across an old “lefty” statement which resonated very strongly. “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” As is my wont, I immediately substituted “faithful loyalty” for “patriotism.”

While involuntarily deprived of my opportunity to join with other members of “my” church for twenty-plus years, my faith in God grew stronger along with the conviction that my dedication to the RLDS, with which I came in fellowship in 1967, grew apace. It was, and continues to represent to me an organizational structure with goals I share and beliefs I treasure.

Real families, the Cleavers notwithstanding, experience real problems and often run from one crisis to the next. As members, we recognize that our church family is often subject to criticism and dissent. Not necessarily as individuals, but surely as a body. This then leads to questions about that which we seek. Our central figure is rightfully Jesus Christ. Do we actually believe that? Are we so concerned with our “managers” that we have forgotten who the “Boss” is? Some assert that the “managers” have forgotten. I’ll leave that for discussion on another day.

My main concern today is our love of our existent faith in the here and now. Are we comfortable loving one another as well as those who would thwart our humble efforts in pursuit of Kingdom building? Every group has problems inasmuch as every group is made up of individuals with their own opinions, interpretations, and selfish interests. Poll them and see for yourself. Ask each about their favorite scripture, hymn, Old Testament hero, preacher, parable of Jesus, and other matters which occupy the interest of a typical member. I am certain you will find a widely varying group of opinions and all reflect the inner response to Jesus Christ. We follow Him for very personal reasons, anticipating an even more personal result, our personal salvation.

So then, do we demonstrate love for our existing faith or are we seeking the “Faith of the Future?” Are we so fixated on what’s to come that we may ignore what we have here and now? How can we possibly live a faith which is “just around the corner?” The faith I have followed for over four decades (with or without a building full of Saints) has buoyed and strengthened me on a daily basis. It has guided me successfully past some of life’s worst barriers. It has provided warmth and comfort to a troubled soul. The healings have been continuous as well as the answers to prayers which have immeasurably enhanced my life.

I agree we have a fellowship which faces some immense problems. I react to those difficulties as strongly as anyone. In the meantime, I hope I never fail to recognize that, warts and all, the Restored Church of Jesus Christ is the answer to all my questions in the future. It is my rock in a storm tossed sea. I do not expect perfection from my priesthood and fellow worshipers, but rather, turn to God for that quality. What I do seek from them is acknowledgement of the glory of the Father and his immense works today. I expect to see resistance to those who would destroy our church to “make it better.” I desire nothing less than a celebration of the wondrous institution we have now and not what it should be. From that base we can continue to glorify our Maker and actually build the Kingdom here on earth.

Criticism, although sometimes warranted, is only justified in the context of love. Dissent for its own sake is in my opinion the work of the adversary in many cases. To gain the church body we all pray for will require discussion, reasoning, and prayerful consideration. Let us all faithfully and prayerfully build it up rather than tear it down.


I will confess to you faithful readers that I absolutely lost it after a sacrament service yesterday. Looking forward to that service as an opportunity for renewal and acknowledgment of my commitment had been very much on my mind prior to the service. When the speaker gave his remarks I did fine until he chose to identify Joseph Smith as the “author” of the Inspired Version of the Bible, The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. He did not say translator, writer, revelator, or recorder. His statement was unequivocal in identifying Joseph Smith as the author of those works.

My first reaction was shock and disbelief. I then lapsed into sadness over the perceived loss of a trusted mentor on spiritual matters. After my personal selfish attitudes registered I gave deeper thought to how the remarks were an affront to God. He who has taught us everything, He who has healed life’s ills, and He who has set the path to our eternal salvation had been ignored. I vowed to challenge, at an appropriate time, the “shaming” of Almighty God.

I have, to the best of my ability, defended the role of Joseph Smith as prophet, translator (using tools provided by God), rightful leader and martyr for our beloved faith for forty years. As I have written before, his role in the formation of the church is extremely important and I have always believed he has had the confidence of his Maker. Like Moses, Isaiah, John and other important leaders and prophets, he was a man. Did they all have an extra special relationship with God and as a result come to be picked as servants to carry out his will? Yes. Did they then lose their identity as men and attain perfection? No. To deny Joseph’s imperfections as a man is to ignore the content of tens of thousands of pages of documents written by him and others about his life from Palmyra to Carthage.

Through prayer and meditation, I have received that “burning in the bosom” to verify the truths about Joseph Smith. This has included many inquiries about the sacred canon of our church. The conclusions which accompanied these prayers have never left any doubt in my mind about the true authorship of these books. They reflect the revealed words of God Almighty and none other. To reject this premise, in my mind and heart, is to reject the foundation of the Faith. Have I always understood every word I read? Obviously not. Has my understanding increased through exposure and strengthened faith over the years? Of course it has and I rejoice in it. For my part, to ascribe the authorship of these marvelous works to anyone else other than God is blasphemy. There is no kinder word to insert for the sake of political correctness.

After the sermon, I remained in my seat and partook of the emblems, served by elders of the branch and renewed the covenant and acknowledged the sufferings of my Savior for the remission of my sins. This exercise is important to me and, I believe, especially to God, so I could not entertain the thought of leaving before it was complete. We closed the service singing “The Spirit of God like a Fire is Burning . . . ," a hymn which symbolizes to me all that is right about our movement. It states basic truths and always lifts me to strive for greater goals. Once my faith was fortified, I proceeded through the vestibule and shared my dismay with the party who uttered the words.

My return to that venue will be governed solely by the results of extensive prayer. I feel comforted to know that it is a decision I don’t have to make by myself.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon