In the early 1800s, a young boy named Joseph Smith knelt in the woods near his family home in Manchester Township, New York. He felt separated from God; he also wanted to know how he could make his life count for good in a world full of confusion and sin. He wanted to join with God's people, but he had no idea how to do that. So, in response to the scripture from James, he prayed to God.
How long this first attempt at verbal prayer lasted is not known, but he came to a point of deep despair. At this point, a vision surrounded him with love and mercy. From that light came a voice as clear as his own. As the vision ebbed and the voice faded, Joseph felt that he knew the truth. He felt the healing presence of God within and the forgiving mercy of Christ. He knew that God would be with him.
He struggled through his teen years, trying to balance his experience with God with his desire to be accepted by others in his community. He continued to have significant spiritual experiences, one of which led to the Book of Mormon. He also felt called to establish a church, officially organizing it on April 6, 1830. The first Prophet-Presidents of the church were descendents of Joseph Smith, Jr., through 1996.
W. Grant McMurray was ordained at the 1996 World Conference, following Wallace B. Smith’s retirement. He became the first non-Smith family member to preside over the church in its 170-year history.
In 1997, Grant called the church to a new vision. He proclaimed five key goals that would transform both individuals and the church. The foundational one was to articulate a clear and compelling Christ-centered theology of peace and justice grounded in the scriptures, faith, and tradition of the Restoration movement. Others dealt with involving children and youth in life-changing ministries and looking at creative ways of outreach and witness.
The church continues to grow. There are still struggles and challenges as the leaders call members to new understandings of God's call. But the message remains the same. "We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace."
Stephen M. Veazey, new Prophet-President was named at the special World Conference in Independence, Missouri May 30-June 5. In response to his calling, an interview was held with Herald editor, Jim Hannah: "Trusting God for the Future."
For additional information regarding the church history, visit the Community of Christ web site: www.cofchrist.org