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The LDS Restorationist movement, including Mormon Churches

Terms used in the LDS Restorationist movement

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There are almost 100 denominations and sects who trace their ancestry back to the original Church of Christ established by Joseph Smith in 1830. Most regard themselves as being the only true successor to Smith's church. Some refer to themselves as "Mormons." Most do not. Some practice polygyny, a form of polygamy. Others do not.

The largest of these denominations is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They call themselves Mormons and automatically excommunicate any member who practices polygyny. They refuse to recognize other denominations as being legitimate heirs to Joseph Smith's revelations or to the name "Mormon." Meanwhile, other denominations that trace their ancestry back to Joseph Smith and who revere the Book of Mormon regard themselves as the true Mormon church, and view The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as apostates.

In such an environment, the LDS Restorationist denominations and sects define religious terms very differently. The definitions that we use on this web site are listed below. We recognize that they will be acceptable to some, but not all, believer's in Joseph Smith's message.

Definitions used:

  • Restorationism: (a.k.a. "Restorationist Movement") This is a group of largely unrelated Christian denominations who share one important belief in common -- that Christianity went terribly astray early in its history. During the Great Apostasy, Christians abandoned many of the original teachings of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ), Paul, and other apostles. At least initially, Restorationist faith groups believe that they, and they alone, restored Christianity to its original form. They include denominations as diverse as:
  • LDS Restorationism: (a.k.a. "LDS Restorationist Movement") This consists of those Restorationist faith groups who trace their ancestry back to Joseph Smith's original movement, the Church of Christ which he established by in 1830 CE.

    These groups believe that:

    • The true Christian church died out circa 100 CE, when the apostles had died and the surviving 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 to the world only when Smith founded the Church of Christ.

    Today, LDS Restorationism includes:

    • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. Mormons, The Church of Jesus Christ, LDS); this is by far the largest LDS Restorationist denomination with over 12 million members;
    • The Community of Christ with about 250,000 members;
    • The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonites) with about 10,000 members;
    • The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) with about 10,000 members; and
    • Many dozens of other faith groups, all small.

The Community of Christ has since abandoned the belief in Restorationism. However, it is frequently cited as a LDS Restorationist denomination because it traces its history to Joseph Smith's original church.

  • "Prairie Saint" denominations and sects within LDS Restorationism: These are those faith groups who remained in the U.S. mid-west after Joseph Smith's assassination in 1844, and the successors to those groups. Those that still exist today include:
    • The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite)
    • The Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerite)
    • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite)
    • The Community of Christ
    • The Restored Church of Jesus Christ (Eugene O. Walton)
    • The Church of Christ (Temple Lot)
    • The Church of Christ with the Elijah Message
    • The Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
    • The Restoration Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  • "Rocky Mountain Saint" denominations and sects within LDS Restorationism: This group consists of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which followed Brigham Young to the Great Salt Lake in Utah, as well as schismatic groups that later split away. They include:
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: This is by far the largest denomination within the LDS Restoration movement with over 12 million members. They are referred to as Mormons, The Church of Jesus Christ, LDS, LDS Church, Mormon Church, Latter-day Saints, or the Church. In this web site, we often refer to them as the LDS Church.

    They believe that only the LDS Church should be called "Mormon."

    Edwin Slack of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) responded to a question posted in the Mormon Times on 2008-AUG: "What's wrong with calling the FLDS Mormon?

    He replied:

    What is the difference between the name "Mormon" and the name "Christian"?

    Well, for one thing "Mormon" is a registered trademark in many countries and belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To protect that trademark, the church is required to actively discourage its use elsewhere. This is similar to using the term "Scotch tape" to refer to any brand of cellophane tape or Xerox to refer to copying something. Those companies have to actively discourage such use of their name or they may lose the right to protect their name.

    "Christian" however is a broad category of religious belief and embraces many differing faiths and creeds. It is a widely accepted term to indicate a believer in the teachings of Jesus Christ. The term embraces all Catholic, Protestant, Reformist and, yes, even restorationist sects like the LDS Church. That there are other restorationist sects that claim Joseph Smith Jr. is not in doubt; but if they are not members of the LDS Church, then they are not officially "Mormon," but they are Christian.

    Now, does this stop people from calling people from these other sects "Mormon"? Of course not. No more than it stops people from calling any gelatin based dessert, Jell-O. But that doesn't make it correct, and the church is required by law to act to protect its trademark or lose it.

    During the recent news events surrounding the Texas roundup of FLDS children, my wife received an e-mail from a cousin in another country, berating us for being "Mormon" because she lumped our church together with the FLDS. After explaining the difference, she apologized and explained that the news she read didn't distinguish the two sects. This is the kind of misunderstanding the church wants to avoid by maintaining the consistency of the term "Mormon." It is not meant to be pejorative.

    On the other hand, attempts by some evangelical groups to deny us the term "Christian" is meant to be pejorative. They wish to deny us membership in the broader Christian community. They have no claim upon the term to limit its use, and, the use of the term to refer to LDS does not create any confusion.

    They do have proper labels that distinguish them from other Christians. Whether those labels are broad like Protestant or evangelical, or more narrow like Baptist, Methodist or Presbyterian, such labels allow them to identify themselves more narrowly.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints belongs under the broad umbrella of Christianity because we do believe in Jesus Christ, we do preach him crucified and resurrected, we do have faith in his Atonement, we do love him for his grace and mercy, and we do trust in his eventual return. 4

    For information:

    • FAIR's website can be found at They are an apologetic, information and research group independent of the LDS church, that supports LDS church teaching.

    • MormonThink presents both or all sides about Mormon controversies as presented by critics and defenders of the LDS church. They let the reader decide who is right. See:

    • Other viewpoints can be found at a website where "Ex-Mormon scholars testify" at: "This website is designed for ex-Mormon scholars, intellectuals, authors or anyone who has special knowledge of Mormonism by study, via authoring books or speaking at ex-Mormon related conferences." Most of its contributors feel that the LDS church has been less than honest in regards to Mormon history and how it is taught to its membership.

  • Mormons:
    • The original use of the term "Mormon" was derived from the Book of Mormon in the early 19th century by other Christians. It was considered a derogatory term at the time.
    • Since the 1970s, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has used the term to refer to their own membership. They regard their group as the only legitimate descendent of Joseph Smith's original Church of Christ, founded in 1830.
    • The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints refer to their members as "Original Mormons" or "Fundamentalist Mormons." 1
    • Most of the other denominations and sects in the LDS Restoration movement do not use the term "Mormon."
    • Our policy is to use the term "Mormon" only where the faith group being discussed also uses it.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Latter-day Saint movement," at:
  2. Suzan Mazur, "Seven brides for one brother: Plural marriage is rife in the western United States," Financial Times, 2000, at:
  3. "Do Mormons Practice Polygamy? NO. Mormons and polygamy -- here are the facts:" Intellectual Reserve, Inc., 2008, at:
  4. Edwin Slack, "Reader asks: What's wrong with calling the FLDS Mormon?" Mormon Times, 2008-AUG-28, at: 

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Copyright 2006 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-NOV-08
Latest update: 2008-AUG-31
Author: B.A. Robinson

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