Sunday, April 20, 2008

There's Mormon, and then there' Mormon

It should be emphasized that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the group from which Warren Jeffs sprang) is not formally affiliated with the much larger Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (although Orrin Hatch once said that the FLDS members were "very fine people").

In fact, identifies three groups outside of the LDS that can be categorized as "Restorationist" movements, or movements that are somehow based on Joseph Smith's work to restore the original church (which Smith believed had disappeared).

But does not identify these other groups as "Mormon":

Using the term "Mormon" without additional modifiers has come to represent members of the Salt Lake City based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is not appropriate to identify members of the Community or Christ or members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as "Mormon" as that would be confusing. It becomes especially objectionable to the LDS church members to identify members of the FLDS as Mormons because the founders of that denomination were excommunicated from the LDS church. Most members of these other groups have never been Mormons, so it is also inaccurate to call them "ex-Mormons" or "former Mormons."

While FLDS is the most notorious non-Mormon Restorationist group, the biggest group is the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Their major issue was that of succession. Here is their perspective on what happened in 1844:

Joseph’s death left the church without any clear leadership. Many believed that Joseph Smith Jr. had designated his son, Joseph Smith III, to be his successor; however, "Young Joseph" was only eleven years old when his father was killed.

Some decided to wait until "Young Joseph" grew old enough to take his rightful place in leadership. Others followed leaders with varying claims to leadership, scattering in all directions.

Eventually, Joseph Smith III was called to lead this church, and the rest is history.

Like the LDS Church, the Community of Christ recognizes books in addition to the Bible as Scripture:

The scriptures provide divine guidance and inspired insight for life when responsibly interpreted and faithfully applied. With other Christians, we affirm the Bible as scripture for the church. In our tradition, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants are additional scriptural witnesses of God’s love and Christ’s ministry.

But the versions of the Doctrine and Covenants used by the two churches are not identical:

Each church publishes their own version of the Doctrine and Covenants, with the two editions sharing roughly a hundred sections in common. Of note is the fact that the Community of Christ edition continues to include the 1835 authorized section on marriage, in which monogamy is affirmed as the standard of marriage within the church. The LDS edition of the Doctrine and Covenants does not include this section, and the church rarely chooses to add new sections.

By contrast, the Community of Christ has added a number of sections since 1844. At their 2007 World Conference, the Community of Christ authorized the inclusion of a new section that is understood to be inspired counsel given through their current president, designating the new addition as Section 163.

Additional information on the Community of Christ can be found in this David Howlett post.

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