Denominations in the LDS Restorationist movement
The Community of Christ
The Community of Christ was formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
-- the "RLDS Church". They were organized on 1860-APR-6 in Amboy, IL. Their head
office moved several times and finally settled in Independence MO in 1920.
They do not
refer to themselves as "Mormons" -- a term long associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and some other LDS
Restorationist denominations and sects -- because of the term's association with polygyny -- group marriage between one man and
multiple women. In addition, they believe the name was not part of the original church.
Their temple was dedicated in Independence MO in 1994. They also maintain the original
temple in Kirtland OH as a historical site. They have about 250,000 members in
congregations in almost 40 countries worldwide.
They changed their name to the "Community of Christ" in 2001-APR. Their official web site is at: http://CofChrist.org/
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS
Mormons) and the CofChrist are the two largest denominations in the "LDS Restorationist" movement.
Originally, these denominations believe that the true Christian church died out
at the start of the 2nd
Century CE. By this time, all the apostles had died and the
Christian movement allegedly abandoned many of the teachings of Jesus, Paul,
etc. The true church was restored by Joseph Smith's ordination and his subsequent founding of
the original LDS church. The CofChrist has since abandoned this belief; the LDS
The largest denomination is the LDS Church at about 10 million members; the
second largest is the CofChrist at about 1/40th of that size.
The CofChrist does not accept many of the beliefs and practices of the LDS:
||They do not baptize or marry by proxy their ancestors.
||They reject the "Eternal Progression" theory, which was
believed by some LDS membership in the 19th century: "As man now is, God once was; as
God now is, so man may become"
||They criticize the practice of "blood atonement" of Brigham Young that
if persons who commit very serious sins are executed so that their blood is spilled upon the
ground, they might obtain forgiveness for their sinful act(s) and achieve
salvation. The LDS
abandoned the doctrine in 1978.
||They reject the sexism of the LDS. Women have been ordained since 1986.
||The CofChrist has always rejected polygyny.
||The leadership of the CofChrist church has been gradually moving in a more liberal and
||The CofChrist do not use the term "Mormon" to refer to their group.
As described in the essay on the LDS Restorationism
movement, Joseph Smith (1805-1844) was a resident of Palmyra in upstate New
York. His family of origin were
affiliated with the
"Seekers" - a movement of Christians from the Quakers, Presbyterians,
Seventh Day Adventists, and others who were not affiliated with a church, but which
respected the teachings of all denominations. Joseph was deeply troubled by
the multiplicity of Christian sects and felt called by Jesus and God to found founded
the Latter-day Saints (LDS) church in Fayette, NY on 1830-APR-6. Suffering major persecution
from more orthodox Christians, he and his followers first
moved to Kirtland, OH, then to Independence, MO, which Smith called Zion, the
center of God's earthly kingdom. Next, the church moved to Nauvoo, IL where Joseph and his
brother were killed by a vigilante mob in 1844.
The death of the original leader often triggers a crisis in the faith group.
The LDS church was no exception. No consensus could be reached within the LDS church over a successor to Joseph Smith Jr.
The prophet's widow felt that authority should transfer to their son, Joseph Smith III.
But Brigham Young (1801-1877) felt that he should become the second president/prophet of
the church. Young later led about 19,000 followers to the Great Salt Lake in Utah, where they
established Salt Lake City and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A minority of members, totaling about 1,000
stayed behind. The son initially refused leadership of the church; he accepted it in 1859.
The "Reorganized" church was established in 1852 in Beloit WI. It became the
"Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" in 1860 with about 300
members. Both the Missouri and Utah groups used the same name, but with
different capitalization. The CofChrist church added the
word "Reorganized" to their name in 1869 in order to distance them from the Utah
denomination, and to signify their effort to reorganize the Seeker movement. Successive presidents / prophets of the Reorganized Church were descendants of Joseph Smith Jr., until recent years.
During the 1870s the LDS church initiated suits against the RLDS church, asking the courts for title to some of its land, personal property,
and a change of the RLDS name. The courts denied the LDS Church's claim of being the
original church. In 1880, an Ohio court declared
the CofChrist to be the legal owner of Joseph Smith's property, including the
Kirkland Temple and the Temple Lot.
The church is administered by a three-person First Presidency and a Quorum of
Twelve Apostles. Church beliefs, policies etc are approved by delegates to their world
conference, which is held in Independence every three years. They have been actively
spreading the gospel in non-Western countries since 1960. The church publishes a
periodical called "Saints Herald". An academic journal, "Restoration Studies" is also occasionally produced.
They originally recognize Joseph Smith Jr's "Inspired Version" of the Hebrew and
Christian scriptures as revelations from God. Increasingly, more modern English
translations, like the NRSV are being used in its place. They recognize additional texts as additional
witnesses of Jesus, which are secondary to the Bible:
||The Book of Mormon, allegedly translated from the original golden plates and published
||Doctrine and Covenants, a group of over 150 revelations given to Joseph Smith by God,
supplemented by a number of additional revelations, which have been revealed to the
prophet/president of the CofChrist church since Smith's death.
Unlike the LDS church, they do not recognize The Pearl of Great Price as part of
The CofChrist church has gradually become more liberal than the larger LDS organization. The
CofChrist does not have a formal creed that its members must accept. However, a consensus
exists on the following beliefs:
||God: They view God as the "eternal Creator, the source of love, life, and truth."
||Trinity: Although almost all modern Christians believe in the
Trinity, there exists a significant range of interpretations among present-day
Christian denominations. Among them are the following belief systems:
||Most Christians believe that the Father God, Jesus Christ and the Holy
Spirit are three persons in a single entity.
||The LDS teaches that God and Jesus have separate physical bodies, and that
the Holy Spirit is "pure spirit and has no body." Together they form the
Trinity. They are united in purpose. However, they exist as separate beings. 4
||The CoChrist teaches a form of Modalism: God is viewed as a single person
who at various times in history manifests himself as either God, or Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. Only one is present
at a time. A useful analogy is that a woman is a daughter when in the presence
of her mother, is a mother in the presence of her child, and is a wife in the
presence of her spouse. An even better analogy is that of water: it can exist
in solid form as ice, in liquid form as water and in gaseous form as water
vapor. Like all concepts of the Trinity these break down if examined too
closely and are only aids in understanding. The church has largely abandoned references to God the Father and now views God as gender-neutral.
|| Jesus Christ: They consider him to be the "living expression of God in the flesh."
They believe in Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection as actual historical events.
Salvation and eternal life in
Heaven: They believe that Jesus Christ is the means for salvation. In the past, the Church taught that after death,
a person goes either to Hell or Paradise. Hell was perceived as not a place of torture and
pain as is taught by many conservative Christian denominations. Rather, it was seen as
an educational facility where people can learn Jesus' ways. Later, at the
Final Judgment, those in Paradise and those in Hell who have learned and
followed The Way are received into Heaven. The church once taught that those who have rejected The
Way are thrown into the Fiery Pit for eternal torment.
Jews experience a different path because they remain God's chosen people.
However, in recent years, specific teachings about Heaven and Hell have received less stress in favor of general positive statements like:
- "... God's grace has no bounds, and God's love is greater than we can know."
- "... The Holy Spirit will transform all creation to share in the glory of God."
- "It matters supremely to God how we welcome the poor, the stranger, the sick, the imprisoned, and the rejected." 6
||Revelation: God's revelation is not static. It continues to expand in the present day
through the workings of the Holy Spirit.
||Sacraments: They have eight:
||Blessing of Children,
||Baptism by immersion and the laying on of hands. This is provided to
adults and to children as young as eight if they have grown up in the church.
||Confirmation of Membership,
||The Lord's Supper (Communion),
||Administration to the Sick,
||Ordination to the Priesthood, and
||The Evangelists' Blessing.
||Gender equality: Both women and men are eligible for ordination and assignment to all offices within the
||Donations: Members are "invited to share their tithes with a goal of 10 percent or more of annual income." 5
||The priesthood: There are two types of priesthood:
||Aaronic priesthood include the offices of Teacher, Deacon and Priest.
Each has specific duties within the church, usually at the congregational
level. Priests are the only Aaronic priesthood that may baptise (but not
confirm), serve communion and perform marriages and they can also ordain
other Aaronic priesthood (but may not do any other sacraments involving the
laying on of hands, such as administration or baby blessings), no other
Aaronic Priesthood may administer sacraments.
||Melchizedek priesthood include the offices of Elder, Seventy and High Priest.
(There are also different types of High Priests: The High Priest, Bishop and
Evangelist; each has specific duties). All Melchizdek priesthood may
administer all of the sacraments, except for the Evangelist Blessing which
is limited to the Evangelists.
Cutbacks at the CofChrist:
The denomination appears to have fallen on hard economic times. They
announced on 2006-JUN-14 that they have adopted a plan for downsizing their
organization during the following six months. Staff reductions will total about 80
persons "including early retirements, voluntary separations and involuntary
separations." The new plan will maintain over 400 ministers, in churches
around the world and in their international headquarters in Independence,
Church president Steve Veazey said:
"We are sad that it has become necessary to reduce and
re-deploy staff due to changing economic circumstances. The church is
extending every type of employment transition and pastoral support
within its ability to those whose lives are being disrupted by these
changes. The Community of Christ continues to remain faithful to God in
responding to leadership challenges as we passionately pursue our
mission to proclaim Jesus Christ and to promote communities of peace
throughout the world. We are grateful for all of our employees and the
vast number of volunteer ministers who do so much to support the
world-wide ministries of the church."
- The CofChrist church home page is at: http://CofChrist.org/
- Their postal address is: 1001 W. Walnut,
Independence, MO, 64050-3562, USA
- "New Organizational Design," at: http://www.CofChrist.org/ (This seems to be a broken link)
- "Holy Spirit," Religious Facts, at: http://www.religionfacts.com/
- "My Tithing Plan," Community of Christ, at: http://www.cofchrist.org/ (This also seems to be a broken link)
- "Basic beliefs," Community of Christ, at: http://www.cofchrist.org/
Copyright 1997 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2012-JUN-22
Author: B.A. Robinson