Is the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Mormon?
The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They came into being following the death of Joseph Smith at the hands of assassins.
The church’s structure, under Joseph, as it is today, was that he served as the prophet and the president of the church. He was assisted by counselors. There was also the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Joseph had previously explained that the First Presidency existed only as a unit; if the president died, the First Presidency was dissolved and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles would lead the church until the new president was put into position.
However, when he died, there was great confusion over what should happen next. Of the First Presidency, only Sidney Rigdon remained. Rigdon had already shown signs of weakness, and the members of the church, against Joseph’s desires, had sustained him into the First Presidency. The church was still young and God allows it to learn from experience. Today, the prophet alone selects his counselors and the sustaining vote is only a promise to support that choice.
At the time of the murder, Rigdon had gone to Pennsylvania, despite a revelation telling him not to go. He quickly returned to Nauvoo, Illinois, where the church was headquartered and began to campaign to take over the leadership of the church. He claimed to have received revelation saying that Joseph remained the president of the church and that all blessings came through Joseph-a clear violation of scriptural knowledge that all blessings come through the Savior Jesus Christ. He then said Joseph had appointed him to be the guardian of the church and that he would receive revelation from Joseph concerning how to run the church.
Brigham Young was the head of the Quorum. All but two members of that body were away, but Brigham said they would hold a meeting the next day to discuss Rigdon’s claims.
At the beginning of this meeting, Brigham explained that the Quorum held the keys to the church, meaning the official authority from God, and they only could lead the church. He told people they were free to follow whomever they chose, but the apostles would still lead God’s church, even if no one currently present chose to follow them. A number of people present testified later that as he spoke, they saw and heard not Brigham, but Joseph speaking.
Most members of the church already accepted this, and more were converted following Brigham’s speech. However, there were other groups that felt the leadership belonged to others, rejecting Joseph’s teachings that the keys of authority were held only by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
One such group was one that felt the church leadership should be inherited, as it sometimes was in the scriptures. The believed Joseph’s son should lead the church once he was old enough. This movement was led by Jason Briggs, Zenas Gurley, and William Marks. Briggs and Gurley claimed to have received revelation from God to this effect, and proceeded to organize a body of apostles-although not a complete one-to hold the position of prophet in guardianship for the child. Eight years later, Marks worked to convince Joseph Smith the Third to take over leadership of the church. Not all members of Joseph’s family accepted this decision. His mother, who could not go west due to health, supported the original church. The church continued for many years to be led by various descendants of Joseph’s family. However, in more recent years, men who were not direct descendants of Joseph have taken leadership and some have resigned rather than serving until death. This group became known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, formerly reorganizing in 1860, and adding the word Reorganized to their title in 1872. In 2001, they changed their name to the Community of Christ.
Since separating from the mainstream church, they have altered many of the doctrines of the church and progressed in their own way. While sharing a common beginning, and often working together to preserve historical sites they both have interest in, they are not at all the same church, and the doctrines and practices of the Community of Christ are now very different than they were when Joseph Smith was alive and are a breakaway, or protestant group, not a restoration church. They have adopted many traditional Protestant beliefs which were not among the teachings of Joseph Smith.
Some of Joseph’s descendents have begun to return to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in recent years.
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