The Restorationist Movements:
Groups of unrelated denominations
The term "Restorationism" or "Restorationist Movement"
refers to a group of largely unrelated Christian denominations who share one
in common -- that Christianity went terribly astray early in its history. It
experienced the Great Apostasy during which Christians abandoned many of the original teachings
of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ), Paul and other apostles.
At least when it was founded, each Restorationist denomination taught that
their own faith group had recreated the original form of primitive Christianity (a.k.a.
"Christian Primitivism" or "Early Christianity"), just as
Yeshua and the others taught.
The Community of Christ has since abandoned the belief in Restorationism.
However, it is frequently cited as a Restorationist denomination because it
traces its history to The Church of Christ as
originally founded by Joseph Smith in 1830.
Other than the belief in Restorationism, these groups' beliefs and practices are quite diverse.
Unfortunately, there is no consensus on the meaning of the term "Restorationism."
||Some restrict its use to about 100 faith groups and denominations that trace their ancestry back to the original Mormon church
established by Joseph Smith in 1830. Today, these include:|
|The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormons, The Church of Jesus Christ, LDS),|
|The Community of Christ, formerly the Reorganized Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints|
|The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), and|
|Many dozens of other faith groups, all small.|
These groups believe that:
|The true Christian church died out early in the 2nd Century CE, when religious leaders abandoned
many of the original teachings of Jesus Christ, Paul, and the other apostles.|
|Jesus and God, as separate entities, visited Joseph Smith in 1820 and told
him to not join any of the existing Christian denominations because they were
all in serious error.|
|True Christianity was restored only after Smith founded
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830 CE.|
||Others use the term "Restorationists" also to refer to a number of
denominations, including the Church of Christ, the Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples), and the Disciples of Christ,
who trace their history back to the Campbellites or Stone-Campbell churches.|
||Still others use the term to refer to refer to a larger group of denominations as listed above.|
The concept of Restorationism is found in many other Christian faith groups. Past theological disputes often lead to a schism
within many denominations. Frequently, both sides believe that they were following the original teachings of the Christian Scriptures
(New Testament) and that the other side is engaged in some form of heresy. For example, Protestant denominations trace their history
back to the Protestant Reformation. Its founders viewed their their efforts as an attempt to return to the original beliefs and
practices of Christianity as taught by Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ), and further developed by Paul and other apostles. They
regarded the Roman Catholic Church as being in a state of apostasy.
When did the "Great Apostasy" begin?
The Restorationist churches differ on the timing of the descent of the
Christian church into heresy:
|Some feel that the writings of the early Church fathers indicate that
they have already deviated from the original teachings of Jesus and his
|Others feel that the early Church fathers followed the teachings of the
original church, but that the writings of the later fathers indicate that
they had started to go into apostasy.|
|The The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teach that
the apostasy began shortly after the last apostle died, circa 100
|The Sabbatarians -- the Restorationist churches who hold services
on the Sabbath (Saturday) link the start of the apostasy at about 135 CE.
They cite Justin Martyr's writing circa 160 CE which defended Sunday
services as evidence of a falling away from the original faith. They look on
the apostasy as a continuing process lasting until after the time of
Constantine when the Church stopped keeping the Sabbath.|
|The Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement |
"... also views the Great Apostasy as a gradual
process. Ignatius promoted obedience to the Bishop in about 100 AD ,
which is viewed by some as signaling the introduction of the idea of a
professional clergy, who began to elevate themselves over the people,
leading by a gradual process of corruption to the prophesied "man of
lawlessness." Infant baptism, which restorationists condemned as
coercive church membership, is considered a similar step toward apostasy. They
believe that only adult baptism was practiced at least to the time of
Tertullian, but that infant baptism was introduced locally around the
time of Irenaeus. "
Terminology used on this web site:
We have chosen to use the terms, from the many that are in use:
|Restorationism to refer to the denominations as listed above.|
|LDS Restorationism to refer to the Restorationist denominations that trace their history back to Joseph Smith's founding of
the Church of Christ in 1830.|
These definitions will probably not satisfy a lot of people.
However, any other choice would probably be equally unacceptable.
Schisms after Smith's death resulted in about a hundred
LDS Restorationist denominations today. Most regard themselves as being the
only true Christian church; they believe that other
Restorationist and other Christian denominations are in
significant error. By far, the largest is The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, centered in Salt Lake City, UT.
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- "Restorationism," Reference.com, at: http://www.reference.com/
- "Restorationism," Wikipedia, as on 2011-SEP-11, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
Copyright © 1995 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2006-NOV-06
Latest update: 2012-FEB-20
Author: B.A. Robinson