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The LDS Restorationist movement, including Mormon Churches

Terms used by denominations 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." Others do not.

A major basis for the beliefs of the LDS Restorationist movement is the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith taught was written by a prophet named Mormon.

A few of these denominations continue the original church's practice of polygyny. This is a form of polygamy involving one man married to multiple women. Most do not.

The largest of the Mormon denominations, by far, is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They automatically excommunicate any members who practice polygyny.

The LDS Church refuses to recognize other denominations as being legitimate heirs to Joseph Smith's revelations or to the name "Mormon." Meanwhile, each of the other denominations that trace their ancestry back to Joseph Smith and who revere the Book of Mormon typically regard themselves as the true Mormon church, and view The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an apostate denomination.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints once referred to themselves simply as "Mormons," and "LDS Church." Non-Mormons almost universally called them by these two terms. To further complicate matters. during 2018, LDS President Russell M. Nelson, received a command from God. Nelson said:

"The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

Webmaster's note:

We do not have the staff power to convert all references in this web site to "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." So, for the time being, we will use the terms that almost everyone else: "LDS Church" and "Mormons."

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Definitions that we use:

Many 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 original message.

  • LDS Restorationism: (a.k.a. "Restorationist Movement") This is a group of largely unrelated Christian denominations who trace their immediate history back to Joseph Smith's original Church of Christ which he established circa 1830 CE. They share one important belief in common -- that Christianity itself went terribly astray early in its history. During what they call the "Great Apostasy," starting in the late 1st Century CE primitive Christianity started to deviate in their beliefs, teachings, and practices after the deaths of the original 12 Apostles. Restorationist faith groups believe that they, and they alone, restored Christianity to its original form.

    At the present time, there are tens of thousands of Christian denominations, including denominations as diverse as:
  • The LDS Restorationist denominations 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 about 19 decades ago, circa 1830 CE.

    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, a liberal denomination with about 250,000 members. It was formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints;

    • 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 (a.k.a. LDS Church), which followed Brigham Young to the Great Salt Lake in Utah, as well as schismatic groups that later split away. The latter include:

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  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is by far the largest denomination within the LDS Restoration movement with over 12 million members. They have been commonly 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. However, since mid-2018, they refer to themselves by their full name "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

    They believe that only their Church is the true Mormon denomination.

    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:

    • The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) 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 of ex-Mormon scholars 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.

    • Starting during the 1970s and continuing until 2018, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints used the term "Mormon" 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. As noted above, they have dropped this term and now use the full name of the denomination in spite of its awkwardness.

    • 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. The one exception is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which is now asking to be referred to by their full name.

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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 2018 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-NOV-08
Latest update: 2018-AUG-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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