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Denominations in the LDS Restorationist movement

The Community of Christ

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Current status:

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/

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Comparisons between the CofChrist and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church, 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 maintains it.

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:

bullet They do not baptize or marry by proxy their ancestors.
 
bullet 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"
 
bullet 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.
 
bullet They reject the sexism of the LDS. Women have been ordained since 1986.
 
bullet The CofChrist has always rejected polygyny.
 
bullet The leadership of the CofChrist church has been gradually moving in a more liberal and ecumenical direction.
 
bullet The CofChrist do not use the term "Mormon" to refer to their group.
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History of the CofChrist Church:

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.

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CofChrist religious texts:

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:

bullet The Book of Mormon, allegedly translated from the original golden plates and published in 1830.
 
bullet 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 God's revelation.

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CofChrist beliefs and practices:

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:

bullet God: They view God as the "eternal Creator, the source of love, life, and truth."
 
bullet 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:
 
bullet Most Christians believe that the Father God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are three persons in a single entity.
 
bullet 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
 
bullet 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.
 
bullet 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.
 
bullet

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

bullet Revelation: God's revelation is not static. It continues to expand in the present day through the workings of the Holy Spirit.

bullet Sacraments: They have eight:
bullet Blessing of Children,
bullet 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.
bullet Confirmation of Membership,
bullet The Lord's Supper (Communion),
bullet Marriage,
bullet Administration to the Sick,
bullet Ordination to the Priesthood, and
bullet The Evangelists' Blessing.

bullet Gender equality: Both women and men are eligible for ordination and assignment to all offices within the denomination.
 
bullet Donations: Members are "invited to share their tithes with a goal of 10 percent or more of annual income." 5

bullet The priesthood: There are two types of priesthood:
bullet 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.
 
bullet 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.

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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, MO.

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."

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References:

  1. The CofChrist church home page is at: http://CofChrist.org/
  2. Their postal address is: 1001 W. Walnut, Independence, MO, 64050-3562, USA
  3. "New Organizational Design," at: http://www.CofChrist.org/ (This seems to be a broken link)
  4. "Holy Spirit," Religious Facts, at: http://www.religionfacts.com/
  5. "My Tithing Plan," Community of Christ, at: http://www.cofchrist.org/ (This also seems to be a broken link)
  6. "Basic beliefs," Community of Christ, at: http://www.cofchrist.org/

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Copyright 1997 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2012-JUN-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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