We had an unforgettable experience rolling down the highways of Missouri, getting to places whose names are familiar to us from our history books. We felt the twinge of disappointment that is inevitable when we descend from the historic imagination to the present reality, when we return to sites that had meaning in the past only to find them changed, lost perhaps in the grey smog of our own century. Thomas Wolfe was right: “You can’t go home again” to the scenes of your childhood, much less to the sites of significance a hundred years ago.
We live in a fascinating period of Christian history, a period largely informed, at least until recently, by the ecumenical spirit. Christians have been trying to emphasize their agreements and deemphasize their differences. In different ways they have been inspired by the old irenic ideal, “Unity in essentials, liberty in non–essentials, charity in all.” And in a modest way, it seems to me, this has been one of the finest by–products of the activities of the Mormon History Association. I refer to the spirit of friendship and cooperation between some of us in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints and some fine people in the Reorganized Church. We are discovering the relevance of the Prophet’s words not only to our troubled history but also to our challenging present: “Christians should cease wrangling and contending with each other, and cultivate the principles of union and friendship in their midst.” And again: “In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love.”