THE LDS RESTORATIONIST MOVEMENT,
INCLUDING THE MORMON CHURCHES
Before you write an angry Email to us
about our LDS Restorationist essays.....
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
We hope that the following might bring clarity.
Definitions and abbreviations:
"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.
The term "LDS Restorationism" normally refers to a group of many
dozens of denominations that:
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
Trace their origins back to the church founded by Joseph Smith
in the early 19th century.
"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.
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.
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.
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
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.
We fully recognize that many sincere, devout, thoughtful
Christians use another definition of "Christian" and thus firmly reject
many denominations as Christian.
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:
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.
The true Christian Church was restored by Joseph Smith in 1830 CE, when he founded The Church of Christ.
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:
Leadership conflicts during the 1840s, triggered by the assassination of
Joseph Smith, and
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
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.
Complaint 3: "Polygyny" should be
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:
polygyny: a marriage among one man and multiple women;
polyandry: a rare practice involving marriage among one woman and multiple men; or
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.
Complaint 4. A person cannot be a Mormon and practice polygyny:
That depends upon your definition of "Mormon:"
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.
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.
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
denominations' current teaching. That is because:
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
There have some beliefs that are or were widespread among the
membership that have not been officially taught by the church.
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 [email protected] with subject "LDS Error"
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
Religious beliefs tend to be based on the interpretation
of revelation which differs from one faith group to another.
Individual religions are often fragmented into many
faith groups promoting different beliefs.
There has been little cooperation among religions and among
different denominations of the same religion. So, meanings of terms tend to
drift with time.
There is little need for standardization, because most books,
sermons, web sites etc. promote a single denomination and are neither ecumenical
"Webster's New World Dictionary, Third College Edition," Page 249.