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THE LDS RESTORATIONIST MOVEMENT,
INCLUDING THE MORMON CHURCHES

Before you write an angry Email to us
about our LDS Restorationist essays.....

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Background:

We receive many complaint Emails from visitors to our website. The most common complaints involve our use of the CE/BCE date notation. Concerns about our Mormon essays rank second in frequency.

Many items perceived as "errors" are not actually mistakes. They are the result of looking at religion in a different way than the Emailer is familiar with.

We hope that the following might bring clarity.

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Definitions and abbreviations:

bullet "LDS" refers to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a specific religious denomination, and one of the fastest growing faith groups in the U.S.
bullet The term "LDS Restorationism" normally refers to a group of many dozens of denominations that:
bullet Teach Restorationism -- the belief that the Christian Church went seriously astray into apostasy during the early 2nd century CE and that Joseph Smith restored Christianity to its original state, and
bullet Trace their origins back to the church founded by Joseph Smith in the early 19th century.
bullet "Mormon" is a shorthand term by members of the LDS, by some other LDS Restorationist denominations, and by non-Mormons to refer to one of the faith groups who trace their history back to Joseph Smith.

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Sponsored link.

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Complaint 1. The LDS Restorationist groups are not Christian:

The LDS and the other LDS Restorationist faith groups either are or are not Christian denominations, depending upon the meaning that you assign to the word "Christian." There are probably hundreds of different definitions of the term "Christian" in common use today. Many people regard their own definition or their denomination's definition as true, and consider all others as false.

bullet Some people use a colloquial meaning of "Christian" to refer to  individuals "having the qualities demonstrated and taught by Jesus Christ, as love, kindness, humility, etc." 1 Many who meet this definition would personally identify themselves as Buddhists, Muslims, Unitarian Universalists, Wiccans, etc; they do consider themselves to be Christian. Many Mormons and other LDS Restorationists would certainly qualify under this definition. Some might feel that members of fundamentalist LDS Restorationist groups who practice polygyny cannot be considered followers of Jesus. However, they might point out that polygyny was mentioned extensively in the Hebrew Scriptures without condemnation, and was practiced by Jews in ancient times up to and beyond the time of Jesus' ministry on Earth. Jesus did not condemn it.

bullet Some people use the same definition as do polling organizations and government census offices. They simply accept the self-identification of the people they poll. If the individual sincerely regards themselves to be Christian, then they are counted as such. Using this definition, about 75% of American adults are currently Christian -- a number that is dropping about 8% a decade. Using this definition, the LDS Restorationist denominations are very definitely Christian. The LDS teach that they represent the only true form of Christianity.

bullet Some people believe that an individual or group is only Christian if they agree with certain specific historical doctrines of Christianity -- for example: The inerrancy of the Bible: that Jesus is one of three persons in the Trinity; the virgin birth; the atonement; the resurrection, certain criteria for salvation, etc. Some Christians have such a restrictive set of criteria that they would consider fewer than 1% of American adults to be Christian.

This web site uses the second definition. That is members of the Church of Christ, Scientist, Episcopal Church, USA; Orthodox churches; Jehovah's Witnesses; Presbyterian Church (USA); Roman Catholic Church; Southern Baptist Convention; United Church of Christ; United Pentecostal Church International; and over 1,000 other North American faith groups are Christian. Of course, the LDS and the other dozens of LDS Restorationist denominations are also Christian, within this definition.

We fully recognize that many sincere, devout, thoughtful Christians use another definition of "Christian" and thus firmly reject many denominations as Christian.

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Complaint 2. The LDS is the only Mormon church:

It is important to differentiate between the LDS Restorationist movement, which consists dozens of denominations, and the LDS church.

Members of sects and denominations that form the LDS Restorationist movement believe that:

bullet 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.

bullet The true Christian Church was restored by Joseph Smith in 1830 CE, when he founded The Church of Christ.

bullet Their own denomination traces its historical roots back to that church founded by Joseph Smith.

The word "LDS" generally refers to a single denomination: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose administrative center is in Salt Lake City, UT.

Smith's original denomination fragmented into many faith groups, mainly because of:

bullet Leadership conflicts during the 1840s, triggered by the assassination of Joseph Smith, and

bullet Additional conflicts during the 1890s over the suspension of polygyny, which had formed an important part of Joseph Smith's teachings.

Thus, the LDS is one denomination -- actually the largest by far -- within the LDS Restorationist movement. Other denominations include:

bullet The Community of Christ, (formerly called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) which is the second largest denomination in the Mormon movement and which is much more liberal than the LDS.

bullet The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a small denomination, which promotes and actively practices polygyny. The media often refer to them as "fundamentalist Mormons" or "Mormon sect" or "polygamous Mormons." They call themselves "Mormons."

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Sponsored link:
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Complaint 3: "Polygyny" should be spelled "polygamy:"

The word "polygyny" may look like a typo, but is not. "Polygyny" means a marriage between one man and multiple wives. This is what the essays discuss, and what the entire Mormon movement originally practiced, prior to the late 19th century.

Polygamy can mean:

bullet polygyny: a marriage among one man and multiple women;

bullet polyandry: a rare practice involving marriage among one woman and multiple men; or

bullet group marriage: a marriage among multiple men and multiple women.

Of these three practices, only polygyny is currently promoted by certain fundamentalist Mormon denominations. Only polygyny was promoted by Joseph Smith. Only polygyny was promoted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until it was at least temporarily suspended in the late 19th century.

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Complaint 4. A person cannot be a Mormon and practice polygyny:

That depends upon your definition of "Mormon:"

bullet If you only recognize LDS members as Mormon, then a person definitely cannot practice polygyny and remain a Mormon. The LDS automatically excommunicates any of its members who engage in this practice.

bullet If you define "Mormon" as including other Restorationist denominations, then one certainly can practice polygamy and remain a Mormon. In fact, some small denominations within the LDS Restorationist movement heavily promote polygyny as the expected lifestyle and call themselves Mormons.

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Complaint 5: Some of the material in your essays is not true:

If you are interested in the current official teachings of a particular LDS Restorationist denomination, we suggest that you look at the group's official web site(s). A handy directory of LDS web sites is maintained at http://www.ldspages.com.au/

In our essays, you will find material which occasionally deviates from various LDS Restorationist denominations' current teaching. That is because:

bullet We try to give an accurate picture of the faith group's current beliefs and practices, as well as how these have evolved over time. Some of their past practices and beliefs are not taught today by the churches.

bullet There have some beliefs that are or were widespread among the membership that have not been officially taught by the church.

bullet There are some topics, like Joseph Smith's many wives and the racism within the LDS that are not discussed extensively by the church today.

We are reasonably certain that the material presented in our essays is accurate. The essays were checked by three Mormon academics before being published. However, we are anxious that all of the material be accurate. If you spot any errors, please send them to via email to ocrtfeedback@gmail.com with subject "LDS Error"

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Why is there this confusion over the meaning of words?

There is almost a complete lack of standardization of definitions in the field of religion. For example, we have found seven different definitions of "pagan", nine different definitions of "cult", 19 different definition of "witch," and probably hundreds of definitions for the term "Christian" that have been used by the more than 20,000 Christian denominations, sects, and faith groups. This situation is entirely different in the fields of medicine and engineering where multiple meanings for the same terms could lead to patients dying or bridges falling down.

The lack of standardization among faith groups is caused by a number of factors:

bullet Religious beliefs tend to be based on the interpretation of revelation which differs from one faith group to another.

bullet Individual religions are often fragmented into many faith groups promoting different beliefs.

bullet There has been little cooperation among religions and among different denominations of the same religion. So, meanings of terms tend to drift with time.

bullet There is little need for standardization, because most books, sermons, web sites etc. promote a single denomination and are neither ecumenical nor inter-faith.

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Footnote:

  1. "Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition," Page 249.

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Christianity > Christian faith groups > LDS Restorationist > here

or Home page > Christianity > Denominational families > LDS Restorationist > here

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Copyright © 2005 TO 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-JUL-29
Latest update: 2016-FEB-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

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