In my living room, I have an oil painting of the grove in Palmyra where Mormonism’s First Vision occurred. It is a family heirloom painted by the wife of a well-known RLDS Seventy of my parents’ generation who befriended them when they retired to Independence. Since Joseph Smith is not shown in the picture, nor the picture labeled in any way except with the painter’s name, its religious significance is not apparent to any of the Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or other students that enter the home for piano lessons each week. That is so despite the fact that the painting is directly visible to them from their seat at the piano. To them it is simply a woodland scene.
They do not speak my religious language, and so my religious symbols are as meaningless to them as the religious symbols they may enter the house wearing — or the festivals they are absent to celebrate — have often been to me.
The ability to recognize common meanings in religious symbols without having to “translate” the concepts into words provides a good check on how closely religious communities remain related. If you see a symbol and can more or less intuitively understand much of what it means to the person beside you, you are both probably part of the same community, or at least closely related communities. However, if you hear that person offer an explanation of the meaning that would never occur to you in a million years, you can take it for granted that your two communities have diverged. Like someone famously said about the Americans and the British: “They are two peoples divided by a common language.”
The photo at the top of the post is of a “grove” behind the rostrum at the Community of Christ USA National Conference specifically built as a worship setting for the conference. (I previously wrote about the events of that conference that offered rights of ordination, marriage, and commitment ceremonies to LGBT members of the church in the United States here.) The symbolism of the “aspen grove” was one of the emphases in the early publicity releases of the church on the conference (which is why the photo got printed in local Kansas City media in the first place). It was also the emphasis in a “worship reflection” order of worship made available for use by congregations throughout the USA after the conference as part of the effort to minimize disunity following the results of the conference.
Traditional Restorationists — of either the LDS or RLDS variety — will easily connect the grove in the conference with the grove where the First Vision occurred (shown in a 20th Century photograph to the right). Of course, they might say, the Community of Christ is seeking wisdom from God in the sense of the New Testament Book of James! How appropriate to build the symbol of the grove into the worship setting of the conference!
However, that was not the symbolism of the “grove” that the leaders of the church wanted emphasized in either the media releases or the worship reflection. What they wanted emphasized was the “aspen-ness” of the grove. Quoting from the worship reflection:
“We gather for worship today in a grove of aspen. Aspen trees only grow in community; they cannot grow alone. Though they appear to be separate trees, they are connected by their roots and in fact an entire grove of aspen trees, though they appear many, is really one organism, one body. Their deep roots give them the strength to weather difficult times and to reach the full potential that the Creator intended. Connected this way, aspen groves endure for many thousands of years.
“And so, we find ourselves here in the grove – the place where we gather together to discover God’s will for the church. We have been here before, and know that God is faithful and will meet us here again. We know that every encounter with God, every touch of the Savior, every dance with the Holy Spirit leads us into the unfamiliar future. God will meet us there, too, as we are being rooted and grounded in love.”
The phrase “we have been here before” in the second paragraph can arguably refer to the First Vision — if you are familiar with the First Vision from some other source. Of course, if you wanted to interpret it solely in light of the first paragraph, you could do that as well and end up with only a generalized statement of God’s faithfulness to all peoples and all places.
It is the first paragraph that carries the main message — that is pretty standard training for marketing/communications professionals — and was the only part of the related press releases that was noted by local media. The nature of aspen trees is a fairly obscure aspect of botany for a main message, and so the intended symbolism had to be explained for the media and, indeed, for the church as a whole.
When the casual observer goes into a woods in the northeastern United States where Joseph Smith lived, he or she probably can’t tell whether the trees are aspen, birch, or oak, let alone whether any aspens present are generated by the fall of seeds like other trees (which, of course, is how every wild aspen grove starts originally) or as clonal communities from the root system. You have to stretch your thinking a lot to see the aspen grove as your best symbol of a community that is so interconnected that it endures through all things.
Perhaps that is what the Community of Christ means when it speaks of the need to “go deeper” into the meaning of our religious sacraments, scriptures, and symbols. “Going deeper” can always uncover greater theological insights, because we deal with a topic, God, that is inherently infinite. But the aspects of the infinite that we discover are also conditioned by the biases we bring to the decision of what we look to see first. In other words, preconceptions can cause Americans to wind up with “boot” being a symbol for a heavy-duty foot covering, while the British can conclude that a “boot” is a rear storage compartment in an automobile. To which the American will reply, no, the rear storage compartment of an automobile is a trunk, and the British will retort that a trunk is a large box for household goods. Too much of that, and the two peoples can no longer understand each other.
Let me “go deeper” into the meaning of an aspen grove, too, but along a different axis. Aspens can grow perfectly well by themselves. They are used in the Great Lakes area, for example, to line long driveways or provide shade in big lawns in new developments because they grow fast and do not leave lower branches alive as obstacles. Neither do they require high-quality soils. The only special care that is required to keep them exactly where you put them is the need to mow down the little aspens that sprout near the base of the original trees for a few years — until the shade of the original kills them itself.
Because that’s why the aspen evolved the trick of cloning little copies of itself from its roots, and why most of the root system grows almost horizontally, contrary to what the press release emphasizes. If you are aspen, you can’t behave like birch or oak or maple or hickory or evergreen. The aspen is so intolerant of shade, it must literally escape from its “parent” tree or die. An individual must grow straight skyward and not spread out, lest there is no sunlight left for its clones. And the seeds it generates must find open territory, not forest underbrush, to sprout successfully.
It is a tree that appears early in forest succession, only to eventually give way to hardwood species more tolerant of shade. Groves can indeed survive for thousands of years, but not because they are especially good at weathering hard conditions, or because of any special affinity for deep-rootedness. They survive for such time spans only where there is constant disruption by things like fire forcing the local forest to “start over”. (Such disruption has been provided in the Northeast during more recent US history by clearing or logging most of the earlier hardwood forests to meet the needs of European settlers or importers for wood.)
So what is the grove to symbolize to someone in the Restoration? Is it to be defined as the place we go when we lack wisdom and must ask of God? Is it to be the symbol of enduring as a single, connected community through all things on into times to come? Or is it to be a symbol of the need to constantly disrupt or escape the environment that gave us religious birth before the taller status of our predecessors cuts off our own access to the light?
What does seem clear to me is that if the Community of Christ has reached the point where any one of those meanings is intuitively obvious to some of us, while either of the other meanings strike others of us as requiring a Rosetta Stone to process, than the existence of separate communities within the body is a fait accompli, not merely a dread for the future. Then, our languages have been confounded.
And there is a Mormon scripture about the importance of avoiding that outcome, too, in Ether 1:34-37:
34 And the brother of Jared being a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord, Jared, his brother, said unto him: Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words.
35 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded.
36 Then Jared said unto his brother: Cry again unto the Lord, and it may be that he will turn away his anger from them who are our friends, that he confound not their language.
37 And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon their friends and their families also, that they were not confounded.
May it be so.
I love all the different meanings possible for the grove. In particular “the need to constantly disrupt or escape the environment that gave us religious birth before the taller status of our predecessors cuts off our own access to the light”, is appealing to my somewhat rebellious nature :-). I think actually it can be all of those. Since the escaping trees are still connected to the community, it would maybe be helpful for both sides to recognise that, maybe.
“May it be so.”
Indeed, so entirely tongue in cheek:
Boots can also be footwear in Britain. They aren’t safety shoes necessarily, since a boot is defined by covering the ankle and/or part of the leg as well as the foot, whereas a shoe only covers the foot.
A trunk would live in the attic space of a home, insofar as it stores household goods, they’ve been discarded. Really, a trunk is a piece of luggage of a bygone era such as would be taken onboard ship, or to boarding school (those books were full of trunks and tuck-boxes..). As a student I was mad enough to buy one, but had to half empty it and enlist a lot of help to get it up and down 5 flights of stairs… It’s living in the shed now, full of stuff I really need to sort out one day. The item actually in use for storing household goods that resembles a trunk, is a chest.
Very well done! What a wonderfully descriptive, nuanced and informative journey!
I’d like to hear more about how you see this. You seem to be saying common language is being confounded both within CoC and between CoC and LDS, is this correct? Are you lamenting the progressive direction? Seeing it as fragmenting?
And in America, a trunk is what we call the real storage area of an automobile — never a boot, and never a chest (although a chest is a synonym for trunk in the household storage application). I’ve never heard of the term tuck-box. We’re dividing faster than I thought. 😀
My “may it be so” really relates to my desire that the various forms that descend from that Grove experience do remember that common origin (and even earlier, less discernible connections with their common Christian origin). I think we are in an era, worldwide, in which individuals are reasserting their rights to formulate their religious interaction with God for themselves — without paying too much attention to established religious institutions as necessary intermediaries. I think that both the Reformation and the Restoration were times in which social and/or technological disruption allowed the question of where the authority to covenant with God resides. Interestingly, while I was drafting my post, RealClearReligion chose to print the following essay, that explains this worldwide phenomena in some detail, and shows how it cuts across evangelical and progressive religious lines.
Since my church has a “rebellious” history itself, I would like to be sure it does not become what the Restoration movement once rebelled against: the authority of an established church to stand between individuals and God as gatekeepers, when the church (at best) had been established to be a gateway. But if we don’t remember what we have in common, reformations can tend into long-term, emotionally brutal conflicts.
My answer to Hedgehog here also applies to your comment as well. The confounding of language is really an apt metric for how rapidly the division within the “red” and “blue” portions of the CofChrist is occurring. When I read the original descriptions of the grove’s significance in the media reports, I half wondered if it had been written by a mainstream denomination and cut-and-pasted by our PR department. It’s been a long time since I have been able to travel to the Auditorium in Independence, but outside those great doors at the entrances to the conference chamber, we used to have scriptures engraved that we interpreted as foretelling the Restoration (in much the same way that the Angel Moroni at the top of an LDS Temple symbolically does). Prominent among those engravings was James’ “if any of you lack wisdom…”
The language differences between LDS and RLDS were already farther advanced, of course.
I do not lament the progressive direction of my church so much as regard it warily because of the larger issue I raised in my response to Hedgehog above. I have had personal testimony that many steps in the “progressive direction” have been correct, which is why I can’t imagine myself joining one of the more traditionalists RLDS offshoots however comfortable and “homelike” their practices might feel. But I’ve also had too many pastoral and personal encounters with church leaders willing to consume people to preserve institutional privileges to be comfortable with a “just follow the Prophet” or “go with the majority” approach.
I think that a balance between progressive and conservative psychologies is necessary to keep the community viable, and the LDS and the CofChrist at the moment have opposing problems as to which side has to be kept in harmony. (You have a minority of progressives; we have a minority of conservatives, at least in North America.)
But I think the issue I raised with Hedgehog is MORE FUNDAMENTAL and transcends any denomination which does not claim to be the “one and only true church”, because such a church is perfectly comfortable following the trends of “true churches” that have come before, and I am convinced that the Restoration is supposed to be about leapfrogging that cycle. I wrote more extensively about my concerns here:
Thanks for the religion article link!
Well I think churches have lost their relevance because they now compete with broad based knowledge freely available just a mouse click away and with secular enlightenment such as the concepts of Maslow’s hierarchy and spirituality and with abundant multimedia entertainment. The appeal of a brokered institutional relationship with God probably began declining with the first printing of the Bible allowing common members an opinion of what it’s verses mean. A literal global flood and a talking snake lacks even entertainment value today and appeals literally to only the most closed minded fundamentalists who close their eyes and cover their ears to science. Sermon story telling (particularly LDS) falls way short of tribes sitting around the fire retelling the great myths that allowed one’s mind to wander and grow in many different personal philosophical directions without being corrected by pharisees. The newspaper has been replaced by TV and internet yet remaining newspapers continue struggling while they decline are churches different in this regard? To regain their relevance church must reinvent itself to counter it’s competition or regain it’s prophetic connection to God which would be a major game changer!
#4 A tuck-box is pretty much used only in boarding school. My husband attended boarding school here as a teen, and had one. It’s a much smaller version of a trunk, padlocked, and used for secure storage of snacks, crisps (potato chips?), sweets (candy?), chocolate etc. The most prevalent boarding school crime would seem to be breaking into a tuck-box.
Some schools (not necessarily boarding schools) have tuck shops selling those items. As a word tuck might be related to the Australian tucker (food).
FireTag #5: “My “may it be so” really relates to my desire that the various forms that descend from that Grove experience do remember that common origin (and even earlier, less discernible connections with their common Christian origin)”
Amen. It does bug me the way converts are brought to baptism, with read the Book of Mormon, pray a la Moroni 10, get a testimony of JS as well, and the next step is therefore baptism in the LDS church, because the church must be true. Really? What about the other groups who follow the BoM, JS? (Not to mention the ‘we are the only church with prophets and apostles’ line… ahem.)
I don’t like the way we (meaning LDS) are so isolationist. From the age 16 onwards, I have always tried to participate with interdenominational groups, CU at VI form, chaplaincy activities at University. They did seem to view me rather warily, but I don’t mind that.
My children are aware that there are other restorationist groups, though even CofChrist has a very tiny presence in this country, compared to LDS. I don’t think the rest have a presence at all. The city I grew up in has a very small RLDS/CofChrist congregation and building (I was aware of it growing up in the sense that we’d drive past, but I didn’t know anything much about it), and is apparently still the closest congregation to me, but over 40 miles away now. Whereas, there are 2 LDS wards where I am, and 4 in the city I grew up. It would be lovely if there were some interaction between us (that congregation probably covers the area of our stake or more), but the disparity in size might make it difficult for the CofChrist to make their voice heard perhaps? Though, on the other hand, you are much better at reaching out to the wider Christian community.
Attending a CofE cathedral school gives my children a wider religious experience, which I am immensely grateful for, with cathedral services to start and end the academic year, and for Christmas and Easter. I do like the way there are connections maintained between the RC and Anglican churches, inspite of their differences, such that the RC church will accept Anglican priests coverting to Catholicism (because they are against female ordination for example), and find them roles within the RC church. I believe there is also some kind of recent accord between the Anglican and Methodist churches.
It disturbs me that the LDS clergy don’t get together with other clergy in the community in the way clergy of other denomainations will, but a lot of that may well be down to having a lay clergy who just don’t have the time, even if the inclination was there.
“But I’ve also had too many pastoral and personal encounters with church leaders willing to consume people to preserve institutional privileges to be comfortable with a “just follow the Prophet” or “go with the majority” approach.”
Which reminds me of a conversation I was having with the eldest of my brothers, who is currently serving as Bishop in his ward. The discussion was about whether or not ordination would be necessary for women to be included in the governance structures of the church. He was saying, he didn’t feel the senior leaders were listening to him. One thing he said was the emphasis on not wasting the ‘widows mite’, and he finds himself frequently in the position of saying that’s fine but, we need to be sure that in the process we aren’t wasting the widow. The widow is more important than the widow’s mite.
I enjoyed the link. Still digesting.
And with the outcome of this conference the Community of Christ proves once again it is one of the most evil religions in the world, right behind Marxism And Islam.
Did it ever occur to you that God may like having branches on the restoration tree?
I’d prefer regaining prophetic relationship to God as the game changer.
The “brokered” institutional relationship with God remains a problem. When my colleagues in the physical sciences or government promise a kind of salvation from poverty, disease, age, or powerlessness — conditional on the “fees” we pay them for their services in money or power over us being sufficient, of course — the brokers are back in full force. It doesn’t matter whether we call priests kings or call kings priests if they function the same way as gatekeepers.
Interesting comparison, excellent point!
Ahh. Our schools have “lockers”.
Isolation was a necessary survival strategy for the LDS, and the institution would probably be far smaller than the Community of Christ (or more mainstream) if it hadn’t adopted such a strategy in the past. However, if its mission is to realized, it will still have to reengage with the rest of the world, and doing THAT is the trick.
The baptized membership of the CofChrist in the British Isles is only on the order of 1000 people. Its prospects for growth have been increasingly focused on immigrants from other nations of the Commonwealth, so it is undergoing something of a cultural transformation itself, but not the same transformation as in North America or Australia.
Glad to know you think we deserve the bronze in something.
Where is the dislike button for Jettboy’s comment #9?
I guess I’d have to agree on the helpfulness of isolation for growth.
I think there are signs at the top, that LDS leader are starting to build relations with leaders of the major faith groups, judging by the occasional news article online or in the Ensign. But the attitude to other restorationist groups, seems on the surface, to be an insistence that they don’t exist (ie. that they are not Mormons), basically a wish not to have to acknowledge them, a wish to be the only such group in that arena. That’s as viewed from Britain. It might look very different in the US, I suppose. It was of course several centuries before the RC and Anglican churches were able to be civil to each-other. I’d hope we can progress more quickly.
“The baptized membership of the CofChrist in the British Isles is only on the order of 1000 people. Its prospects for growth have been increasingly focused on immigrants from other nations of the Commonwealth, so it is undergoing something of a cultural transformation itself, but not the same transformation as in North America or Australia.”
Well, from what I gather, the LDS growth in Britain and much of Europe is also in the immigrant populations, there has been very little growth outside that for quite a lot of years. Quoting from Wilfried’s post (http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2012/09/the-blood-of-israel-in-europe/) “But since the 1990s the majority of converts in Europe are immigrants from other nations, mainly from Africa and Asia. Even with those immigrants, conversion numbers are very low compared to fields outside Europe. In 2011, two-thirds of new converts in Europe were born elsewhere. Chapels in Europe, in particular in the larger cities, now welcome a multicolored and multicultural population.”
Yes to what you’re saying that. I raised the point in the context of the GLBT policies in the CofChrist specifically, because any planning for a British Isles national conference like the ones in Canada, Australia, or the USA remains vague in part because of the more balanced First World / Third World make up of the CofChrist membership in that nation.
“Did it ever occur to you that God may like having branches on the restoration tree?”
Yes it has, and no I don’t believe He does. Assuming that He does, it wouldn’t be the liberalizing Community of Christ who each generation throws out fundamental moral and theological teachings, but the polygamist groups more in line with the spirit of the Restoration. That is why I find the CofC among the most evil of organizations; selling out Joseph Smith and the doctrines of the Gospel for the world’s mess of pottage and in effect sinning against the Holy Ghost. I supposed I could list them as a sub-set of Marxism and condemn them both together as they seem to follow the Communist Manifesto more than the Doctrine and Covenants and Book of Mormon.
Let me get this straight. Islam, which accepts polygamy, is the second most evil religion in the world according to your comment 9. But the polygamist fundamentalist groups are more in line with the spirit of the Restoration than are any of the churches of the American left — which is certainly where the Community of Christ philosophically resides at the moment — according to comment 18? Are you saying, then, that the entire Christian Left (but NOT the Christian Right) is evil.
Be clear. Evil? Not starry-eyed idealists deceived by evil. Not well-meaning people who “know not what they do”. Evil? If-you-replaced-them-with-actual-oath-swearing-Gadianton-robbers-you-wouldn’t-be-able-to-tell-the-difference evil?
I know a lot of idealists on the Christian left who I think can be clueless (I am equally aware that they may think I am the clueless one), and I have written elsewhere about the statistical improbability that sociopaths do not hide among them, but this blog is about trying to separate wheat from tares, not burn them all in the same fire.
Yes Firetag, because Islam is a suicide death cult and the polygamy they practice and teach has no foundation in God’s revelations. Marxism is the the first most evil religion as it rejects God in favor of political enslavement and class warfare, using “rights” as an excuse for debauchery with socialism as its little brother. Since churches of the American left are arms of Marxism and socialism, then they are agents of evil. They are evil for they know exactly what they are doing; destroying the foundation of family and morality to crush liberty and righteousness in the name of so-called social justice. One consolation is that once the Marxists and Muslims win the shared war against conservatives and Christians, then they will slaughter each other when there is no one else to destroy and enslave.
“.. the polygamy they practice and teach has no foundation in God’s revelations.”
Well, I might not like it, I might not like the way some of them interpret it, but it is covered in their scripture. You may believe it doesn’t some from God, but many Muslims do.
“Marxism is the the first most evil religion”
? Because those terrible gods requiring human sacrifice mentioned in the OT are sooo much better than an ideal of everyone getting a fair crack at life? Marxism may not have worked out too well in practice, but then neither did the united order…
Jettboy, from Joseph Smith: “If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon, I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better;”
It is possible to disagree respectfully, without being so horribly offensive. I’d recommend you give it a go.
Nope. Offensiveness is just fine by me. Things in this world are too far gone for respectful disagreement and too much at stake. The world is burning and few are awake enough to see or more likely have become part of the problem. If you think human sacrifice doesn’t happen today then you haven’t been paying attention or don’t care.
I found the Grove emphasis of the USA National Conference and the Sesquicentennial of the Reorganization emphasis of the 2010 World Conference both heartening as an intentional embrace of Restoration/Reorganization distinctives in a forum that was visible to overseas CofChrist members, whom I’ve been told often know little or nothing of that heritage.
Offensiveness is just fine by me.
Jettboy, in the past you have complained that your views aren’t welcome here. Well, when you defend your right to be offensive, then you have no room to complain when people are hostile to your views.
Many people use the same broad brushes you use to call Mormonism evil and use things like racism, sexism, the MMM, Masonic parts of the temple, authoritarian culture, and the trinity to defend their views.
If you want to be more welcome here, don’t be offensive. If you want to be offensive, then don’t complain when people pile on your offensive views of the gospel. You’re an unapologetic bigot. I expect that Christ will spew you out of his mouth as one that never knew him. Certainly you are no peacemaker. Learn a little humility.
Yeah, it’s unfortunate how Jettboy’s rampage has taken away from the post.
If we were to contrast Jesus’ words with Jettboy’s, we’d see some diametrically opposed views, all in the name of “too much at stake.” The vitriol and hatred is all too evident. What’s funny, though, is this is all done in the name of Christianity and righteousness. Attacking, villifying, name-calling and lambasting entire cultures and sub-cultures simply because you’re unable to view nuance and look at life in someone else’s shows.
If ever there were a confounded language, Jettboy has stumbled upon it, unable to persuade, to show love and unable to strike a conversation with anyone. It’s some of the most shocking language I’ve read in quite some time – maybe because I don’t listen to the conservative or christian right – and not in a good way because it’s altogether devoid of love, patience, long-suffering, peace and compassion. And, being so, it deserves to be confounded.
I have from time to time thought about the “yin and yang” of extremism on the left and right. I remember seeing Sartre’s play about the torments of hell (“No Exit”) in high school. The play has merely three people confined together in a hotel room. Person C can’t help tormenting Person A, but desperately needs something from person B. In turn, A can’t help tormenting B, but desperately needs something from C. And B can’t help tormenting C, but needs A. There is no exit because none of them will give up their need in order to walk away from their tormentor.
I’ve thought about a theological metaphor (like Dante’s Inferno) for Ms. Arias and Mr. Castro. Here would be hell: put Arias and Castro in a room with weapons and chains. Flip a coin. Put the loser in chains and give the winner the weapons. Let him/her have at it for a century. Then switch the roles, and let it go on for another century. Repeat over and over until one of them gets sick of what they are doing to the other one and puts down the weapons for a century. At that point, you let him or her out of hell and can start more gentle ministries of therapy so they could understand what led them to do what they have done.
I think hell for extremists of the right and left might be like that metaphor: let them war on each other for all of eternity that it takes for them to get sick of what they are doing to each other. Then let them out and start more gentle means of therapy.
I would like to think that most of us don’t have to experience it that bad before we can want to move back into the light.
I appreciate what others have said in response to you. Let me distinguish between your attitude and that of another very fundamentalist commentor, Jared, who also frequently comments on this site and also wants people to wake up because of the urgency of the situation. When Jared speaks, it comes across as concern that the people he speaks to might thereby be spared from disaster. When you speak, it comes across as a cry for divine revenge in the face of personal defeat. Try to distinguish between the two.
Dan Jeffers: #23
The point you raise suggests to me that the church thus missed a marvelous opportunity to unite first world and third world traditionalists (and thus keep more of the former in the church) by failing to more strongly emphasize the connection of the grove to inspiration rather than to community.
I thought that seeking for inspiration was already front and center at the USA Nat’l Conf (I admit I am largely equating group discernment with inspiration, with which others may differ) and that the community aspects needed emphasizing. Even the most iconoclastic first-world church member would catch the grove reference to inspiration, but the use and explanation of the aspens enlarged the grove symbol to stress the shift from parliamentary procedure/majority role toward deliberative consensus (although there was no mention of any 67% aspects of aspen trees.)
I do wonder how many international world conference delegates staying over to observe the USA conference know about the first vision in the grove (I don’t know if Joseph’s experience was retold as part of the conference — I don’t recall seeing it in the materials); if not, an opportunity, and a connection point for them w/American traditionalists, was missed.
I can ascertain from the media coverage that the discernment aspects were not connected to the grove in the mind of the public. I suspect, but have no data to prove, that many church traditionalists may have considered the use of the grove less an “expansion” than a hijacking (that is a common complaint regarding other changes in symbolism among some of the more fundamentalist RLDS groups in literature I’ve seen from them over the years).