Steven Shields has been studying various Mormon schismatic groups since he was in Seminary in the 1970s. We’ll get acquainted with him in this first episode, and learn more about his background, and why he got so interested in our Mormon cousins. What does he know about the temple lot? There are several sections in the Doctrine & Covenants where Joseph Smith received revelations on a temple in Missouri. That temple was never built. Who owns the original temple lot on Independence, Missouri? It turns out some of our Mormon cousins own it.
Steve: The Hedrickites is a name that people use. I don’t like to use -ites or schism or break off or offshoot or splinter. I’ve tried to avoid all of that language in my new addition because I don’t think it’s helpful. All that stuff started out as pejorative, and in some ways it’s still used as a pejorative.
And so I thought, let’s try and get away from that, you know? We don’t say Pope-ites or Luther-ites or those kinds of things. So maybe we can get out of that mode in the Latter Day saint movement, I don’t know.
GT: There’s too many -ites in the Book of Mormon.
Steve: That’s where it all probably comes from. I guess. I’ll let you keep Israelites. But yeah, to be honest, my paper on the earliest church was an anti-RLDS apologetic and my seminary teachers loved it.
We’ll talk more about how Steve got interested in our Mormon cousins. 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.
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?
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… Are you interested in these other Mormon groups? What do you know about them?