Liberty Hall invites everyone to gather online for their annual Joseph Smith III Peace Lecture and to celebrate Community of Christ Heritage Day.
Joseph Smith III, termed a "pragmatic prophet" by biographer Roger D. Launius, led the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for 64 years, promoting "moderate Mormonism." While adopting a balanced approach on most issues, his unwavering stance denying his father's initiation of polygamy deviated from this pragmatism. Despite ample evidence from various sources, Joseph III chose to protect his father's reputation over addressing the concerns of the Latter Day Saint community. This lecture explores Joseph III's tenure, his missions to Utah, and the ongoing ramifications of his stance on polygamy for Community of Christ.
Follow the lecture on YouTube or click the button below to join the Zoom meeting.
Joseph Smith III’s biographer Roger D. Launius famously labelled him a “pragmatic prophet.” This was borne out on countless occasions during his sixty-four year term as prophet and president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Joseph III resisted persistent calls to name a gathering place, and when one was established at Lamoni, the call to gather was optional. He rolled back the many excesses of Nauvoo and preferred to defer questions about practices like baptism for the dead and the canonical status of the Book of Abraham, waiting out older Saints who eventually passed from the scene as he lived on. In the end, Joseph III steered the “Prairie Saints” on a path of “moderate Mormonism” — in between their Protestant neighbours and their cousins in the West, the Rocky Mountain Saints.
The glaring exception to Joseph III’s pragmatism was his position on polygamy, specifically his denial of the fact that his father originated the practice. Faced with the accounts of a multitude of witnesses, from within the Reorganization, from the Utah church, and other Latter Day Saint factions, Joseph III preferred to maintained the nuanced position, “I believe that my father was a good man; a good man would not have engaged in polygamy; if it did happen, it was wrong, but I believe my father was a good man.” In so doing, Joseph III put defending his father’s reputation above the needs of the Latter Day Saint people. Had he found a more pragmatic (and more honest) position, Joseph III might have found much more success in his mission to free the people from Brigham Young’s tyranny.
In addition to reviewing the Joseph III and the early Reorganization missions to Utah, this lecture will survey the lingering consequences of this single failure of pragmatism, as some Community of Christ members continue to experience crises of faith when confronted with the historical consensus that Joseph Smith Jr. was the founder of Mormon polygamy, and as potential seekers who have left the Mormon church must overcome this troubled legacy.
About the Lecturer
John C. Hamer is the pastor of the Community of Christ Toronto Congregation, and leader of its Beyond the Walls program — the largest online ministry in Community of Christ. John is a past president of the John Whitmer Historical Association and is a co-author of Community of Christ: An Illustrated History. John lectures on a variety of topics related to Restoration and Christian history, scripture, and theology which can be viewed online at www.CentrePlace.ca/lectures. This year alone, viewers from around the world have spent more than a million hours watching John’s lectures.
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