Denominations in the LDS Restorationist movement
The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite)
About the church:
There are at least 20 different religious bodies in the U.S. which have
adopted the name: "The Church of Jesus Christ." This essay describes the
which has its headquarters in Monongahela, near Pittsburgh, PA. It is a LDS restorationist church -- one of almost 100 surviving Mormon faith groups who
believe that the true
Christian church ended in the early 2nd Century CE when
the apostles had died and the church abandoned many of the teachings of Jesus
and the apostles. They believe that the true church was restored by
Joseph Smith when he established the Church of Jesus
Christ in 1830. Most
believe that they are the only true Christian church; they regard the other
restorationist denominations -- and particularly other wings of Christianity --
to be in error.
Alternative names for The Church of Jesus Christ are "The Church"
and "Bickertonites." They have churches in Monongahala, PA, Oak
Grove, MO, and elsewhere.
There are no recent data on the size of The Church of Jesus Christ.
1 Information from a
decade ago indicated a
world-wide membership of about 10,000, of which about 2,600 lived in the U.S.
According to Adherents.com they had 63 congregations in 1989. 2
A line of succession: Joseph Smith > Sidney Rigdon > William Bickerton:
The Church of Jesus Christ traces its origins to the original LDS
church from which it sprang by a rather circuitous route.
The story begins about 1820 with a teenager, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), a resident of Palmyra NY.
At the age of 14, he had experienced a vision in which God and Jesus Christ
appeared before him as separate entities. They told him that all of the existing Christian sects and denominations were
in error. During a later vision, the angel Moroni revealed to Joseph the location of golden
tablets on which was written the history of two early American tribes. They were
Israelites -- descendants of Joseph and his son Ephraim -- who had
migrated from Israel. In 1827,
he went to the site, found the tablets, translated the message into English with
the aid of some magical glasses, dictated it to trusted friends, and had the resultant
material printed as the Book of Mormon.
Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ
in 1830. it attracted 1,000 members during its first year of operation. It was a
controversial group, not well received by other Christian groups. Some of the
friction was caused by the LDS belief that God had revealed a third testament
-- the Book of Mormon -- in addition to the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and Christian Scriptures
(New Testament). There was also concern by non-Mormons that the LDS church was
attempting to install a theocracy.
Sidney Rigdon joined the LDS movement in 1831. He had a major influence on the
church until 1839, in
spite of a mental illness -- apparently bipolar affective disorder. He
became Joseph Smith's spokesperson and was responsible for a number of
policies and key portions of Mormon history like the current two-tiered
priesthood structure, moving [the church] to Kirtland, temple building, the belief of an
immanent [sic] second coming [of Jesus Christ] in early Mormonism, the Joseph Smith 'translation' of
the Bible and portions of the Pearl of Great Price, the Word of Wisdom, the
United Order, a First Presidency, a salary for some church leaders, the name
of the church and the term 'Latter-day Saint,' the Lectures on Faith, a new
Jerusalem and Zion in Jackson County, Zion's Camp, and settling in Nauvoo,"
IL. [All of these were] ... due in large part (or exclusively) to Sidney Rigdon.
It is very safe to say that Mormonism would be a very different religion
today were it not for Sidney Rigdon's influence. He delivered nearly every
significant Mormon sermon in the 1830s."
Mormons are familiar with Rigdon's massive contributions to the church
during its early years. 3
At the age of 38, Smith decided to run for the presidency of the US. He chose
Rigdon as his vice-presidential candidate. 3
Joseph Smith was assassinated in 1844 at Carthage, IL. Rigdon, as first counselor to
Smith, was one of the dozen or so logical successors. The LDS church entered a
state of major chaos as a power struggle within the church intensified. Many of
these potential but unsuccessful leaders left the LDS -- taking part of the membership with them
-- to found new restorationist churches. Rignon fell out of favor with
the LDS leaders, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
He was subsequently
excommunicated by the newly selected leader of the church, Brigham
Sidney Rigdon, left Nauvoo, IL, where the LDS church was temporarily located,
and moved to Pittsburgh, PA. About 500 dissident Mormons exited with him. He organized a
faith group which he called the "Church of Jesus Christ of the Children of
Zion." 4 In 1845 William Bickerton
joined this group. He was later ordained an elder and elevated to membership in
its Quorum of Seventies. The group dwindled
in size, and began to fall apart. Bickerton left the group and joined the "Utah
Mormon Church" for a while. After hearing the preaching of the Law of
Abraham (doctrine of polygamy), he left that group as well. For
many years he held meetings, baptized people, and healed them. Then, he felt called by
God to found a new group to "...promote 'the true doctrine of Christ,' that
is, Joseph Smith's version." 5
He did this in Greenock, PA, during 1862-JUL, calling it: "The Church of Jesus Christ (or Church
of Christ, Bickertonites)." 6
A modern-day member of The Church of Jesus Christ says that it
"...operates on authority via Sidney Rigdon and the
tenacity of William Bickerton who forged a re-birth of the original restoration
church." 7 It was officially
incorporated in Monongahela, PA almost 80 years later, on 1941-APR-05.
Beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ:
As implied in the name of their church, they regard themselves to be the
true successor to Joseph Smith's original LDS church, and believe that they are the only
legitimate, true Christian church. They also expect to play a major role at
TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World, as we Know it). According to
church member V. James Lovalvo: "...The
Church of Jesus Christ...claims to be the only church to follow and practice
the pure and unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness, as
established and taught by Him during His lifetime on earth."
Some of their beliefs:
God restored the original Christian Church by revealing the golden tablets
to Joseph Smith, translating the Book of Mormon, bestowing the priesthood, and,
finally, organizing The Church of Jesus Christ in 1830. But that church
later "adopted doctrines that cannot be substantiated by
either the Bible or Book of Mormon." God used William Bickerton to "again
establish the Church in its restored purity in 1862" in the form of The
Church of Jesus Christ.
The King James Version of the Bible is the foundation of their
faith. It is considered inerrant, as far as it has been translated
The Book of Mormon is an additional testimony, and is an integral part of the Word of God.
They do not use the Doctrines and Covenants. 9
Like most other Christian groups, they believe
that Jesus has existed with God the Father since creation. He is the Son of God,
was born of the Virgin Mary, preached in Palestine during the first century
CE, was crucified, was resurrected and ascended back to
Also like most Christian groups, The Church
teaches that the spirits of the dead will be judged by God and will receive the
reward of spending eternity in Heaven or be cast into a Hell of outer darkness.
||Like other Mormon groups, but unlike almost all
other Christian denominations, they believe that:|
God "has a form...[and] can speak, hear, see,
feel...[and] moves about freely."
||Having a body, God the Father can only be in one
location at a time. However, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent.
The Holy Spirit is not "the Third Personage of
the Godhead." Rather, the Spirit is "the invisible power and glory that
emanates from God."
||After Jesus' ascension into Heaven, he came to the
American continent, descended from the sky and visited the Nephites.
Native Americans are actually Israelites, "the Seed of Joseph,"
having descend from Joseph and his son Ephriam. A descendent, Lehi, led an
expedition of Israelites from the Middle East to America circa 600 BCE.
||There will be a time of peace on earth in the
future, to be
followed by Jesus' second coming.
A person is saved through faith and belief,
repentance, water baptism and good works. One's salvation can be lost by
disobeying the commandments of Jesus:
"...keeping His commandments not only
paves the way for salvation, but guarantees that we shall abide in His
love....This language is clear: keeping the commandments of Jesus Christ will
bring salvation; not obeying them will deprive a person of the kingdom of God."
III Nephi 12:19-20 of the Book of Mormon states: '...except ye shall keep my
commandments, which I have commanded you at this time, ye shall in no case enter
into the kingdom of heaven'."
When a believer is bitten by a poisonous snake, he
will not be harmed. This appears to be based on a passage at the end of the
Gospel of Mark, considered by many theologians to be a
||Many are healed of physical illnesses by
experiencing an anointing with oil and the laying-on-of-hands by members of the
Members of the church commonly receive gifts
from the Holy Ghost of
wisdom, knowledge, prophecy, discerning of spirits and speaking in
God will shortly use The Church of Jesus Christ
to spread the real Gospel to the rest of the human race.
God will raise up a mighty prophet at some time in
the future. He will have the title the "Choice Seer," and will be named
Joseph. He and will facilitate a major undertaking: the gathering of "...the
whole House of Israel: the Jews, the American Indian, and the ten lost tribes..."
into one "fold" in America.
God issues new revelations from time to time
through the Holy Ghost via dreams, visions, signs, gifts, and his Word. 8
Practices of The Church of Jesus Christ:
The Church is led by a Quorum of 12.
||Heading the Quorum is the president whose responsibility are purely
administrative. He is in no way considered a prophet as in the LDS.
||The priesthood is only open to males. In common with most other LDS
Restorationist faith groups, women, no matter how qualified and
talented, are not eligible for ordination.
Similar to the Amish, The Church practices
foot washing as a ritual, at least once every three months.
Members greet each other with a "holy kiss."
||Baptized members in good standing partake of the Lord's Supper weekly.
Baptism is by full immersion in an outside body of
water -- "...a river, lake, sea, ocean, creek or running stream." Baptism
is restricted to persons of an "accountable age."
||Following baptism, the Holy Ghost is bestowed through the laying on of hands
by one or more men having priesthood authority.
They do not permit polygamy. Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Divorce is permitted, but remarriage is only allowable for the survivor after
spouse dies. 9
The Church of Jesus Christ has an official web site at:
www.the-church.org with a mirror at:
1994 data quoted in Adherents.com web site at:
Richard S. Van Wagoner, "Sidney Rigdon:
A portrait of religious excess,"
Signature Books, (1994).
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"Hello Marina," Refiner's Fire Ministries Q&A, at:
Dale Morgan, "A Bibliography of the Church of Jesus Christ
Organized at Green Oak, Pennsylvania, July, 1862," Western Humanities Review 4 (Winter 1949/50),
Pages 1 to 28.
"Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,"
Watchman Fellowship, at:
"The Church of Jesus Christ," Beliefnet discussion forum, at:
http://www.beliefnet.com/ Posting 33
V. James Lovalvo, "A dissertation on the faith and doctrine of The
Church of Jesus Christ," at:
http://www.the-church.org/ You may need software to read this PDF file. It can be obtained free from:
A posting on the Letters to the Editor column of the Utah
Lighthouse Ministry, 2004-APR-20, at:
William Cadman, "A History of the Church of Jesus Christ,
Organized at Green Oak, Pennsylvania, U. S. A., in the Year 1862, Present
Headquarters at Monongahela, Pa," The Church, (1945).
Steven Shield, "Divergent Paths of the Restoration," Restoration
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Latest update: 2009-MAR-22
Author: B.A. Robinson