Last night, Sept. 20th, 2017, Stephen M. Veazey, Prophet-President of Community of Christ announced that the church had, just a few days earlier, sold the Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon. What follows are some of my own preliminary thoughts.
In 2007, the Lord blessed Community of Christ with a new revelation. That revelation concluded with these words:
“There are many issues that could easily consume the time and energy of the church. However, the challenge before a prophetic people is to discern and pursue what matters most for the journey ahead.” –Doctrine & Covenants Section 163:11b
How did we do on discerning and/or pursuing what matters most? I cannot answer that. But eventually, the next revelation stated what the answer is. This might have been a confirmation of what the faithful had discerned.
Or, perhaps, we continued to be distracted by things that did not simply warrant the focus we were giving them. Perhaps some of us were too fixated on our history, on our “Restorationness”, or on various other things that we did not need to be consumed with. Or perhaps it was a combination. Perhaps we had correctly discerned what it is that matters most, but perhaps we were still too preoccupied on that which does not matter most. And/or perhaps these distractions prevented us from pursuing (because that was the other task given to us), to our fullest potential, what we correctly discerned what matters most.
Whatever the reason, in 2010, the Lord’s revelation to the Church ended with these words:
“The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead.”
–Doctrine & Covenants Section 164:9f
These words have been resounding throughout the Church ever since. They are powerful words that remind us of who we are, what our mission is, what we are called to do. They ground us. They are a sharp, bold and powerful reminder that we were not restored to promote Joseph Smith, or the Book of Mormon, etc., but to be the Church of Jesus Christ, and His mission comes first. And His mission is our mission. Everything else, regardless of how important, or significant, or deeply cherished they may be, are not primary.
This does not mean that I’m eager to see things sold. This does not mean I am happy that we sold the manuscript. I wish our situation did not require us to do that. My heart is very heavy today. My soul weeps. I feel crushed, and I’m still trying to come to terms with this news, and to sort out my own thoughts and feelings. And I truly hope nothing else will be sold. And some of the things that we do still own do, in my opinion, serve our mission. So I don’t expect us to sell the other things that are floating around out there in social media speculation land.
But the manuscript did not further the mission of Jesus Christ. Kirtland Temple does. Our properties in Navuoo do. But the manuscript did not. So, given our current situation and given what the real purpose of the Church is (to proclaim Jesus Christ, and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace, and to further the mission of Christ Himself), I understand it. I don’t like it. I don’t like being in the situation we are in. But we are called to not only be aware of what matters most, but to pursue it. And that means we are to pursue furthering the mission of Christ, which we have taken on as our own mission.
The sale of the manuscript helps with that. Some might say “but the money is going to pay for pensions”. But that still helps us with furthering the mission of Jesus Christ. Because, we have an obligation to pay those pensions. By having more money now from which to do so, we don’t need to take away as much money from elsewhere, that could more directly serve our mission. And as we achieve our goals for those pensions, then more money from future income can go directly towards mission. Furthermore, our retired staff members are also part of our mission. If they don’t get their pensions, they quite possibly would find themselves impoverished, and possibly even marginalized. Such conditions are contrary to our mission and God’s will.
We are taking steps to move forward. Many of these steps are very hard steps to take. The steps we took about 18 months ago were extremely difficult, causing a great deal of sorrow. And the step that we just took this week also gives us sorrow. But we are a determined people. We know what our calling is, and the action we take now, no matter how sad it may be, helps position us to move forward tomorrow with continuing on with our generations old calling to pursue the Cause of Zion.
“The Spirit of the One you follow is the spirit of love and peace. That Spirit seeks to abide in the hearts of those who would embrace its call and live its message. The path will not always be easy, the choices will not always be clear, but the cause is sure and the Spirit will bear witness to the truth, and those who live the truth will know the hope and the joy of discipleship in the community of Christ. Amen.” –Doctrine & Covenants Section 161:7
Some random thoughts I’ve had as I’ve been working through my own feelings:
“There had to have been another way!” –But I don’t know that. I don’t know the full extent of our financial situation. I don’t know what other viable options might exist, if any.
“It was wrong for the LDS church to buy something they know is sacred to us when they also know that the only reason we are selling it is because we have no choice. They are taking advantage of our own misfortune!” –But the church had already made the decision to sell the manuscript. As unfortunate as our current situation is, we have to face the reality that we are in this situation. We need income to sustain our retirees, and to move forward. We needed a buyer. Of all possible options, I tend to think the LDS church is the best choice.
“Some people might gloat that we no longer have it” –Perhaps. But that is on them.
President Veazey disclosed the sale of the Printer’s Manuscript during an address he delivered to the church in the evening of Sept. 20th, 2017. The text of his address can be read on this web page.
A Q&A on the sale can be reviewed on this web page.
Here is a press statement:
“On September 18, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints purchased the Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon from Community of Christ in Independence, Missouri. The sale price of $35 million was provided by generous donors. The manuscript has been owned by Community of Christ since 1903.
The manuscript now will be housed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ international headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. Plans are underway to display the manuscript to the public at the Church History Library in the coming months.” -Announcements (Sept. 20th 2017).