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President of Reorganized Mormons Visits

The precedent-setting president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will make his first official appearance Sunday before Southern California members of the denomination, which is a relatively small, ecclesiastical cousin to the Mormon Church.

W. Grant McMurray, 48, is the first man named president and prophet of the 250,000-member global church body headquartered in Independence, Mo., who is not a direct descendant of Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844), regarded as the founder of both denominations.

The RLDS Church, as it is commonly called, was formed in 1860--13 years after Brigham Young led followers away from persecution in the Midwest to form a new base for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City.

Joseph Smith III, the oldest living son of Joseph Smith Jr., led the RLDS Church from 1860 to 1914.

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In September, RLDS President Wallace B. Smith chose McMurray as his successor.

Although the denomination began ordaining women to the ministry in 1985 and Smith has three daughters with ministerial credentials, he cited a directive by Joseph Smith III stating that family succession to the presidency was important but “not an overriding consideration.”

McMurray, a counselor to Smith since 1992, was ordained as president during the RLDS World Conference in April, after delegates voted approval.

Smith, who retired at age 66 after 18 years in office, was designated the church’s president emeritus.

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McMurray will be the featured speaker at the Temple City RLDS Church during the semiannual conference of the Greater Los Angeles Stake, or diocese, which will start at 10 a.m. Sunday.

He will also preside over and speak at a 4:30 p.m. ordination service that will conclude the meeting at the church at 9468 Broadway.

The RLDS has about 4,000 members in the Greater Los Angeles Stake, which includes two dozen churches in Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties and the western halves of San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

CONFERENCES

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Three religion scholars will discuss “Jewish Quest for Spirituality” Wednesday night at UCLA Hillel: Barbara Holdrege of UC Santa Barbara, author of “Veda and Torah”; Moshe Idel, visiting professor of Sephardic studies at UCLA and author of books on Hasidism and the Kabbalah; and sociologist Wade Clark Roof of UC Santa Barbara, author of “A Generation of Seekers.”

The panel discussion, starting at 7:30 p.m. at the University Religious Conference Building, 900 Hilgard Ave., will be moderated by Rabbi Mordecai Finley. Tickets are free to students; otherwise, $12 at the door and $10 in advance. (310) 208-3081.

* “Arabs and Jews: A Quest for Coexistence” will begin a two-day seminar in the Sepulveda Pass on Sunday.

Hosted by organizations that promote Jewish-Arab coexistence and interfaith understanding, the seminar’s Sunday program will be at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., and a teacher-training workshop on Monday will be at the University of Judaism, 15600 Mulholland Drive.

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The programs will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. Registration is $70 for both days.

* The 10th annual National Small-Groups Conference will meet Wednesday through Friday at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, sponsored in part by Fuller Theological Seminary.

Speakers include Fuller’s Robert and Julia Banks and small-group leadership trainer Bill Donahue of the large Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago. Registration ranges between $50 and $150. (818) 584-5290.

MUSIC

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Rock will benefit Bach tonight at the architecturally imposing First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.

Dave Somerville, lead singer of the Diamonds, a late 1950s group whose biggest hit was “Little Darlin’,” will perform at 7 p.m. some of that group’s hits and other early rock tunes in the church at 540 S. Commonwealth Ave.

Invited to perform by First Congregational music minister Thomas Somerville, a distant cousin, Dave Somerville will be donating proceeds from sales of the $10 tickets to the annual Bach Festival at the church. (213) 385-1345.

* In a concert to aid a food program for the homeless on Los Angeles’ skid row, the Paradise Baptist Church Choir and the Beverly Hills High School Madrigal Singers will perform today from 4 to 6 p.m. at Beverly Hills’ Civic Center Plaza, at Santa Monica Boulevard and Rexford Drive.

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Paradise Baptist, whose pastor is the Rev. Aaron D. Iverson, feeds 700 to 800 people a week in the program. The concert is free, and all donations will go to the meal program.

* Mozart’s unfinished “Requiem” as reconstructed and interpreted by musicologist Richard Maunder will be performed for the first time on the West Coast at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the 1,200-seat Lake Hills Community Church, 23331 Moulton Parkway, Laguna Hills.

Carolyn Wilkinson will lead her 60-voice choir and a concert orchestra. An offering will be taken. (714) 837-2279.

* The Debussy Trio, which has given hundreds of classical music concerts for inner-city youngsters, will present a free concert at 3 p.m. Sunday at Grace Temple Baptist Church, 7017 S. Gramercy Place, in South-Central Los Angeles. (213) 756-7203.

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DATES

Dr. Maher Hathout, an Egyptian-born physician who is president of the Interreligious Council of Southern California and spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern California, will speak about Muslim perspectives on the Middle East at 10:15 a.m. Sunday in the weekly rector’s forum at All Saints Episcopal Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena.

At another All Saints forum on Monday at 7 p.m., the Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of the Rainbow Coalition, will talk about issues facing Californians in the upcoming election. (818) 796-1172.

* Alicia Appleman-Jurman, a Polish-born Jew who wrote of surviving the Holocaust in “Alicia: My Story,” published in 1988, will recount her wartime experiences at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whittier, which meets at the East Whittier YMCA, 15740 E. Starbuck Ave. (310) 693-5538.

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* Ruth Nussbaum of Sherman Oaks will be honored by the Assn. of Reform Zionists of America at a $150-a-plate dinner Sunday night at Temple Israel of Hollywood, where her late husband, Max Nussbaum, was rabbi for 32 years.

She is being cited for her dedication to Israel and Zionism. (213) 653-9962.

* Franciscan Father Emery Tang, former director of the Serra Retreat Center in Malibu, will speak at a Christian unity service at 3 p.m. Sunday at Grant African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1129 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach.

The service, organized by the South Coast Ecumenical Council, will also feature the choir of the host church, which is celebrating its 85th anniversary, and liturgical dancer Lee Carlisle of Redondo Beach First United Methodist Church.

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Tang recently retired as director of the Catholic retreat center after 14 years.

For more information, call the council at (310) 595-0268.

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Notices may be mailed to Southern California File, c/o John Dart, L.A. Times, 20000 Prairie St., Chatsworth, CA 91311; or faxed to Religion Writer (213) 237-4712. Items should arrive about three weeks before the event, except for spot news, and should include pertinent details about the people and organizations with address, phone number, date and time.

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