I hope you’ve enjoyed the conversation with Jim Vun Cannon, of the First Presidency of the Remnant Church. This week, we finished up our conversation and talked about 3 main topics: whether Joseph Smith was a polygamist, the Law of Consecration, and whether the Remnant Church will build a temple.
Joseph was a Monogamist!
This is just a short piece of the interview.
GT: Do you believe that Joseph practiced polygamy first of all?
Jim: No I don’t believe he did. Here’s what I would say to that. Our position is what Joseph Smith III said which was he could find no evidence of it, but if there is, by some chance that he did, it was wrong. That’s the position of our church.
GT: Alright anyway, it seems like a lot of people involved in the Expositor became part of the RLDS Church. It does seem like William Law and his brother were really against polygamy which is why the RLDS Church/Community of Christ was virulently against it. I do know recently President Veazey, the prophet/president of the Community of Christ, to me made a pretty groundbreaking statement when he said, yeah I know we said we didn’t believe Joseph practiced polygamy but it seems like he did. That was pretty big surprise to me. How would you talk about William Law and the Expositor? You really still think that wasn’t true that Joseph Smith did polygamy?
Jim: I don’t believe he did. What I’m looking for is a smoking gun. You know what we really should do some time? I would love to do, is it would be really interesting for us to all have a mock trial, and put Joseph Smith up on the stand and see what we could do. It would be kind of fun just to see what we would come up with. It’s an interesting argument and it usually ends up in an argument.
No I honestly don’t believe Joseph was a polygamist for a number of reasons. One is that if anybody would have known. Emma would have known, and Emma would have said so. Emma was staunchly against polygamy. She had a lot of problems in Relief Society. If anybody would have borne the truth of that, Emma I believe was a strong-willed woman like Zipporah. If anybody was going to say something, she was going to happen, and I don’t think it would have been a mob that would have taken care of dear Joseph, it would have been Emma.
What are Remnant Church Beliefs about Temples?
In addition to temples, I also asked if he likes to be called a Mormon. (Check it out!)
Jim: Thank you. That’s fine. Please do. We don’t subscribe to the idea of being sealed for all time and eternity. We point back to the New Testament where the Lord is talking about there is neither giving nor in taking marriage in heaven, and we don’t believe that’s actually what’s going to happen in heaven. We believe we’ll probably know each other but that’s not actually what’s going to occur there.
Now that being said, when you factor in how we believe what the kingdom is, we don’t believe in just heaven and hell. We believe in Zion, a literal city where people are living in the perfect forms of their bodies. Would there be marriage there? We don’t know. We don’t have enough scriptures to tell us one way or the other to go any further than that. So I hope that helps you get a flavor of where we’re at.
GT: Yeah, that’s actually part of [D&C] 132 so that doesn’t surprise me that you wouldn’t subscribe to that. As far as temples, Joseph wanted to build a temple in Independence. Is that something you’d like to do as well in your church?
Jim: Yes absolutely. In fact we have a recent revelation that talks about beginning to prepare for the building of the temple, but we haven’t had a command to build a temple yet, but to prepare for that. We do believe in temples, absolutely.
GT: I know the RLDS Church/Community of Christ, I actually remember going to the temple, I was so excited. In the LDS Church, you can go to the open house but after that it’s hands off, and I was really excited to go to the Independence Temple. Even in Kirtland, that’s a temple that’s open to the public. Would you anticipate that would be the case as well? That it would be kind of a special meetinghouse?
Jim: As best as I can say, I would think it would be very similar to how we treat Kirtland: reverently but it’s still open. There’ s nothing anything in there that someone couldn’t see.
GT: Oh, ok. Joseph I believe said that baptisms for the dead should be done in the temple. I know that before the Nauvoo Temple was completed, they did some in the Mississippi River. Is that something that you guys would participate in the Remnant Church?
Jim: No. Here’s where we’re at with that revelation. We don’t deny that Joseph gave what we call section 107 which was talking about finishing the temple, otherwise you’ll be rejected with your dead. I’m not sure what section it is for you all.
GT: I don’t know off the top of my head either.
Jim: Oh you don’t either. The way we look at that is that we see that there was only two places that it was given instruction that it could be done. One was in the temple in Nauvoo, and the other was in Independence. The other part of that was, the other issue that we have with it is that we don’t have any instruction through Joseph from the Lord through Joseph on that particular instance—for instance like I was talking about your section 20 which is our section 17, the Lord was very specific in explaining how water baptism was to occur and what was to be said and so forth. We don’t have anything like that and so we find that kind of spurious that there wasn’t any instruction given that we can point the reference to and so forth that that was to occur.
At this point I don’t want to say we’re agnostic about it but we tend to just really say we’re not sure where we go with baptism for the dead at this point. There’s other things that I have researched personally about this, about it having to go through the Man of God, so in other words, needing revelation as to who would be baptized for the dead. It just seems like there’s a number of things that we don’t know and so it ends up being more conjecture and so we leave that alone.
Law of Consecration
This was kind of a fun conversation, as it seems Jim was interviewing me. (Get the full interview here.) Were you aware of the history of Consecration in the LDS Church?
We’ve made a few passing references to the “Order of Enoch.” What is that exactly?
Jim: That was something that was set about in the church. That was, oh goodness, I’d say the 1850s I believe was probably the first time that was there. Basically it was the idea of consecrating. I’m thinking that the LDS Church, you all don’t consecrate?
GT: Well, that’s an interesting thing.
Jim: You just tithe?
GT: We do tithe now. One of the interesting things, I’ll just give you a little bit of history and I’ll try to keep this short because it’s a big topic. In Kirtland they really believed in consecration. They tried to do that in Missouri, tried to do that in Nauvoo. When our churches split and Brigham took everybody out to Utah, consecration was a huge thing. But because of polygamy, the federal government in trying to stamp out polygamy, said “we’re going after the economic engine of Mormons,” which was Consecration. So they started confiscating—when they went after the temples that–
Jim interrupts: So they grabbed the surplus.
GT: Yeah. They went after the Perpetual Emigration Fund because they wanted to stop immigration from Europe to Utah.
Jim: Oh wow.
GT: So the U.S. government really targeted consecration and so a lot of the churches at the time—Congress passed a law that said anything over $50,000 we’re going to own. So in order to get around that, a lot of times the church would say, “ok bishop, you own this building.” They would try to distribute it out and that’s really—I know a lot of saints—this is kind of a big topic. Great Basin Kingdom by Leonard Arrington talks about this really well. It seems that the federal government was what actually stamped out consecration.
GT: The saints didn’t really want to abandon it; in replacement, yes tithing. Just to add to that, we’ll talk about temples in a little bit here in a minute. In the LDS temple ceremonies, one of the things that we covenant to is to obey the Law of Consecration. Now we don’t do that in the same ways that the saints in the 1800s did. It is pretty much just tithing, but we covenant that should that law come back, that’s something that we would do. It’s kind of still around but not in the same way.
Jim: But the importance is there. You see the importance.
GT: Right. Yes, absolutely. Those sections on consecration are very important to us as well. That’s interesting. So as you’re talking about gathering to Jackson County, is that in the same form of consecration? Are you consecrating all of your things together and giving them to the bishop and letting him disburse them?
Jim: So that’s an interesting part about that. Having seen some of these, what I would call them, “all things common”, kind of little groups that are out there, it’s not like that. We interpret “all things common” a little differently, and we interpret consecration differently in the respect that it’s not a common purse. Certainly we’re to go before the bishop and we’re to get counsel from him on how to spend our monies, but we are still the steward over those monies. Even when we live in community together, we don’t have that community purse.
Everybody has their own paycheck, has their own monies. It’s out of their own volition to do so that hey, so-and-so needs this or whatever. They consecrate that surplus to the bishop and the bishop then of course at a greater level look at who needs what and then provide that to them.
We also talked about a lay clergy, differences with high councils, and I discovered they don’t have stakes yet! I hope you enjoyed our discussions, and I hope you’ll check out parts 1–8 as well! Check out our conversation! Do you think we should let them borrow some stuff on baptism for the dead? Do you think Joseph was a monogamist? What are your thoughts regarding the Remnant Church?