“Courage: A Journal of History, Thought, and Action” was a publication created and published by members of the RLDS church in the early 1970s. However, it was published independently of the church, meaning it wasn’t an official church publication.
Each edition came with this description as to the purpose of this publication:
“Courage: A Journal of History, Thought, and Action is published as a means of expression for independent thought. It is edited by individuals belonging to or associated with the Reorganized Latter Day Saint Church, who are convinced that free discussion of issues is necessary for the well-being of the church and its members. Courage has no official connection with either Graceland College or the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Articles published represent the views of the individual authors only, and not necessarily those of the editors.
A major purpose for Courage is to make possible a dialogue between people representing different backgrounds and persuasions. Courage welcomes articles, letters, and book reviews from any interested contributors. Such contributions are encouraged from those with different views. …“
However, the first edition gave a more long-form explanation as to the purpose of this publication. It can be read here:
“The Critical Function of ‘Courage'” by the Executive Editorial Committee
Controversy might upset people, but to avoid controversy because of the prospects of better health in the immediate future will be disastrous in the long run.
Latter Day Saints are heirs to the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Therefore our faith is an historical faith, as we conceive of God as acting in history. Most specifically, we see God as having acted in Israel and in the events surrounding the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth and in the creation of the Christian CHurch.
Latter Say Saints are also heirs to the Protestant tradition which has held that the Christian Church became perverted to such an extent that a basic alteration of the church was necessary. Probably most of the readers of this article would accept the contention that God was at work in the life of Martin Luther, whose theses on the door of the Wittenberg church touched off a revolution that tore the Church apart. Most Latter Day Saints would also accept the idea that God was at work in other reforming movements, such as the Calvinist, Anabaptist, and the English Reformation, as well as in the work of a young man from western New York in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. In short, Latter Day Saints believe that God as operated in history not only through Jesus of Nazareth but also through the lives of great patriarchs, prophets, apostles, saints, and reformers.
The editors of Courage would extend this concept to our present day by affirming that we need to discern the activity of God in events such as the struggle against the oppression of war, racism, poverty, and the pollution of his creation. Because of this, we must take history seriously. But while we do this, we must also recognize certain limitations.
As we study the Exodus from Egypt under Moses, we might try to learn how large the Hebrew slave community was, or whether they crossed the Red Sea or the Sea of Reeds. But no matter how accurately we might be able to recover the event, the larger question cannot be answered historically, that is, was God responsible for this successful escape or was this simply an emancipation achieved by human ingenuity? The Old Testament clearly credits God for this achievement (Deut. 26: 8, 9). This is also true in examining the conquest of Canaan. Did God will the Israelite conquest, or was it simply another struggle for a piece of land? Neither can historical study answer the question as to whether Joseph Smith was divinely led or whether he was simply a young man from western New York who had certain abilities and who lived at the right time and place to produce a movement that has over two million followers today. The answer to these larger questions has to be based on a faith assumption. So, even though ours is an historical faith, there are limits to what history can reveal.
Our study, however, can help us avoid making unsound faith assumptions. For example, if in our research we should find that there are at some points differences of viewpoint between the writers of Scripture, then we would be extremely unwise to hold Biblical infallibility as a tenet of our faith, just as we would certainly be quick to affirm that any contradictions in the dogmatic pronouncements of the Pope undermine a faith in the infallibility of the Pope.
If in our study of the Old Testament and in the literature written between the Old and New Testaments -like the Wisdom of Solomon and the Book of Enoch – we find that most of what Jesus taught was completely new, with no precedent in his Jewish heritage, then we might affirm that Christianity constituted a complete break from Judaism. We would say that Marcion (d.c. 160 A.D.) was right – Christianity is something apart quite from Judaism. If, on the other hand, we find that most of what Jesus taught was already found in the Old Testament, and in the intertestamental literature, then we ought not hold a blind faith in the idea that Christianity is radically different from Judaism. Christianity would be better seen as a continuation of Judaism.
If historical study should lead to the discovery that the New Testament Church was organized with deacons, teachers, and priests forming an Aaronic priesthood, while elders and high priests, with various sub-divisions in these ranks, formed a Melchisedec priesthood, then Latter Day Saints might be justified in holding the idea that our priesthood is a Restoration of the organizational pattern of the New Testament Church. But what if we should find that at the time of Jesus’ death and in the years immediately following, the Church had only apostles, prophets, and teachers, and that within a generation these officers gave way to the officers of bishop, elder, and deacon? And what if we find no New Testament basis for certain other officers, like priest or high priest? We would have to conclude that our system is not a Restoration of the New Testament pattern.
We must conclude that historical inquiry can only go so far. There are some things which must be held on the basis of faith. But at the same time, it is our conviction that scholarly activity can help us avoid making invalid faith assumptions. Unless we believe that a man’s reason is not at all a trustworthy tool to use, we must use our God-given ability to study and learn. Granted, there has been a strand of thought in Christianity which has regarded learning as incompatible with true faith. Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 220 A.D.) and certain modern Protestant sects represent this approach. Nevertheless, the predominant strain in Christian thought has held that man should use the intelligence that God gave him to understand truth as best his finite humanity will allow. One of the Catholic Epistles in the New Testament admonished the saints to give an intelligent explanation for their faith (I Peter 3:15)
In publishing Courage, we do so on the assumption that there is great need for scholarly study and thoughtful reflection on matters of importance to Latter Day Saints. We believe that this is not simply a luxury which the church could do without. Scholarly study and reflection are necessary in a world that is more highly educated. Because man’s knowledge is expanded, we are called upon eve more today to make sure that what claims we make can stand critical examination. An intelligent person will not respect an organization that does not recognize the value of its own self-scrutiny. Such an organization bases its beliefs on ignorance. Potential new members will have to be drawn almost entirely from those who are ignorant in areas related to the church’s doctrines, and youth raised in such a church can be expected to leave in larger numbers unless they are kept in ignorance.
We believe that any institution must eventually reach the point where either it becomes mature enough to engage in self-criticism, or that its heart will die – even though the outward form may endure long after death. The RLDS Church cannot expect to thrive if it ignores the historical thought of modern man. If the RLDS Church is to survive, its traditions will have to be subjected to the scrutiny of critical investigation. There must be no sacred cows that are not subject to re-examination. We need to recognize that because we are human, we have occasionally made claims that exceed the truth.
We feel the Church had been far too slow in developing sources of self-criticism. Graceland College, Herald House, the Department of Religious Education, and the History Department have occasionally helped meet this need. But too often they have not, and often the controversies they have engaged in were relatively safe controversies.
We feel that Courage can fill a real need for independent thought in the Church. Unrestrained by any official connection with the Church, with Graceland or any other institution of the Church, Courage can discuss issues that are not at this time discussed in the official organs of the Church. We intend to publish articles from all of the various viewpoints that exist in the church today.
We realize that some people believe that the wiser policy is to avoid controversy, to try and create unity of thought in the church by not raising the unpopular thought, be it more “conservative” or more “liberal” than the generally accepted view.
Controversy might upset people, but to avoid controversy because of the prospects of better health in the immediate future will be disastrous in the long run. The editors of Courage believe that the longer we refuse to question our half-truths, the more difficult it will be to correct our errors, and the more discredit we will bring upon the Church. The longer we do this, the more our strategy for holding the allegiance of the next generation will have to be a strategy for keeping our members ignorant.
We hope that in Courage, no belief – whether of the editors or someone else – will be too cherished to be subjected to careful scrutiny. Thus no one should write for Courage unless he is ready to have his views the subject of critical examination by other contributors to this journal.
Quality of scholarship and writing are naturally important considerations in the selection of articles. But no views will be off limits for Courage, whether to the left or to the right of the editors. The editors will naturally insist upon standards of good taste. Ideas, not personalities, should be subject of criticism.
We realize that we are expecting to accomplish a lot with the publication of Courage. Knowing our human limitations, we may well fall short of our goals. but if our objectives are only partially met, the effort will have been worthwhile.
– The Executive Editorial Committee.
This publication featured historians like Richard Howard, Feminists like Marge Troeh, and even future presidents of the church like W. Grant McMurray all speaking on topics that they believed were imperative to the future of the church. Many of them were directly asked to be on the advisory board, and they accepted. These magazines provide a wonderful glimpse into our past and how we came to where we are today.
It was unacceptable to me that this publication wasn’t digitized anywhere, so I bought a nearly-complete set, digitized the editions I had, organized them into .PDF files, and have now uploaded them. I reached out to the Temple Archivist, Rachel Killebrew, and she was able to scan the ones I was missing and also gave me an index for the publication. I now give them to everyone and anyone who wants to read our history.
I hope you enjoy them!