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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 18, 2002

Makiki church an offshoot of Mormons

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Faith Editor

About 50 to 60 members of the Community of Christ Church attend Sunday services in Makiki. The church has about 1,200 members in Hawai'i and is considered by some as a liberal version of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faith based in Utah.

Jeff Widener The Honolulu Advertiser

Name of church: Community of Christ.

Our denomination: Community of Christ, with headquarters in Independence, Mo.

Where we are: 1666 Mott-Smith Drive in Makiki.

Our numbers: 50-60 attend Sunday services here. There are about 1,200 members in Hawai'i.

Our pastor: Rev. Glenn Masui.

What's special about us: This denomination, formerly called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, could be called "the liberal Mormons," if indeed one accepts the term "Mormon" to describe a follower of the Book of Mormon. (Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often called "Mormon," though they prefer the lengthy "members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," or in shortened form, "LDS members.")

With many of the same spiritual texts and hierarchical structure as their Utah brethren, the main difference between the two is that Community of Christ followers do not follow Brigham Young's leadership and have always condemned poly-gamy.

Their liberal stances on social issues also distance the Community of Christ from the LDS: They are open to various types of family (such as same-sex couples) and allow women priests, for example.

Members also take a less literal interpretation of the "Word of Wisdom," a code of health and conduct issued in 1883 that disapproves of alcohol, tobacco and coffee.

"Ours is not a commandment, but rather a guide to people," said Ralph Aona, the church administrator, adding that they don't condemn those who drink or smoke. "We do things in moderation."

What we believe: Aona quoted from the mission statement: "(To) proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love and peace." They follow three texts: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants.

Community of Christ's hierarchy starts with a president (Grant McMurray of Independence, Mo.), 12 apostles, and three in the bishopric (leaders who handle financial and temporal needs).

Their priesthood structure (in order: deacons, teachers, priests, elders, the "seventy" or missionary leaders, bishops, high priests and evangelists, apostles, president) is similar to the Utah group, though they do not move into a higher group based on age, "but by our calling," Aona said.

Women can serve at any level of the priesthood. Currently, three women are apostles.

Our history: Community of Christ shares a beginning with LDS in Joseph Smith Jr., who organized the church on April 6, 1830. In 1844, Smith was killed. Followers led by Brigham Young headed to Utah, but more than 200 groups came out of the movement, Aona said.

In 1852, a group gathered members from the original church, and called upon Joseph Smith III, Smith's son, to lead the new organization. That grew into the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On April 6, 2001, the name was officially changed to Community of Christ.

Businessman Gilbert J. Waller of Yorkshire, England, came to Hawai'i in 1890. Later, on a trip to California, he joined the Reorganized Church and returned to Hawai'i to establish a church with a small group meeting in a downtown lawyer's office. Now there are four other branches on O'ahu and two on the Neighbor Islands, with a total membership of about 1,200.

What we're excited about: For the past 60 years, church members have gathered for an annual "reunion," — a family camp in Wai-'anae. This year's event takes place June 9-16.

Contact: On the Web: cofchrist.org, local phone: 536-6330, email: rkacof christ@hawaii.rr.com.