Community of Christ

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Community of Christ Temple in Independence, Missouri, USA. Dedicated 1994
The Community of Christ, previously known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or RLDS church is a branch of Mormon Restorationism, and is the second largest denomination of the Latter Day Saint movement. Based in Independence, Missouri, the faith shares its origins with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS or Mormon Church).


The history of the two largest Latter Day Saint denominations began to diverge with assassination of the movement's founder, Joseph Smith Jr. on June 27, 1844 in Carthage, Illinois. Historians sometimes refer to the Midwestern branch of the movement as the Prairie Saints and the Western (or Utah) branch as the Rocky Mountain Saints.

The Community of Christ today has approximately 250,000 members in 50 countries. The church owns two temples, the original Latter Day Saint temple in Kirtland, Ohio (operated in part as a historic site as part of its educational ministry), and the relatively new temple which serves as the church's headquarters in Independence. The church operates Graceland University with campuses in Lamoni, Iowa and Independence. The church also owns and operates Latter Day Saint historic sites in Far West Mo., Lamoni, Plano, and Nauvoo, Illinois.

The Community of Christ is led by a First Presidency, consisting of a Prophet-President and two counselors. The church's ministry is overseen by a Council of Twelve Apostles and the temporal needs of the church are overseen by the Presiding Bishopric. Meeting together, these quorums are known as the Joint Council. Every two years, delegates from around the world meet together to vote on church business in World Conference.

Within the past several decades, the church has seemed by many to be moving in the direction of greater tolerance, emphasizing its role as a Peace and Justice Church. Some changes have occurred including the ordination of women to the priesthood, and the changing of the church's name. Some of these changes have resulted in new schisms, and conservatives in the movement have founded splinter denominations and branches they believe are more in keeping with the movement's traditional beliefs. (See Restoration RLDS branches and the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.)

History of the church

Early history

The early history of the Community of Christ is shared with other denominations in the Latter Day Saint movement, which originated in upstate New York under the leadership of Joseph Smith, Jr. With the assistance of Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon, Smith dictated and published works of scripture felt to have been inspired, and formed a new Church of Christ. This church grew rapidly. Their strong beliefs, including a revealing God and their close community often seemed peculiar or even threatening to outsiders. Regularly meeting opposition from their neighbors, the early Latter Day Saints established and were driven from several gathering places including Kirtland, Ohio, Independence, Missouri, Far West, Missouri and finally Nauvoo, Illinois. See History of the Latter Day Saint movement.

Period of "Disorganization"

After Smith's assassination in a prison at Carthage, Illinois, the movement fell into confusion and disorganization over the question of succession. Several leaders emerged with claims to the church's presidency and this led to the formation of several Latter Day Saint factions. The largest group of Mormons followed Brigham Young, who led them to the Great Basin area (in what is now Utah) as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (See History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) Other factional leaders included: Sidney Rigdon, James J. Strang, Lyman Wight, Alpheus Cutler, William Smith, and David Whitmer.

"Reorganization" of the church

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Kirtland Temple in Kirtland, Ohio, USA. Dedicated 1836
Many Latter Day Saints believed that Smith had designated his eldest son, Joseph Smith III, as successor and some of these waited for young Joseph to take up his father's mantle. However, young Joseph was only 11 years old at the time of his father's death—his mother Emma Hale Smith and their family remained in Nauvoo, rather than moving to join any of the factional leaders.

In the 1850s, groups of Midwestern Latter Day Saints who were unaffiliated with any of the factions (or who had left such affiliations) began to come together. Leaders including Jason W. Briggs and Zenos H. Gurley, Sr. began to call for the creation of a New Organization of the Latter Day Saint movement. They invited young Joseph III to lead their New Organization and he accepted only after he believed he received a personal spiritual confirmation that this was the appropriate course of action. At a conference on April 6, 1860 at Amboy, Illinois, Joseph III formally accepted the leadership of what became known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. William Marks, former Stake President of Nauvoo served as Joseph III's counselor in the reorganized First Presidency.

Presidency of Joseph Smith III

Initially, Joseph III continued to live in Nauvoo, but over time he determined its relative isolation hampered his administrative duties. He moved to Plano, Illinois where the church's print house was established and this served as the headquarters of the church. Joseph III and his brothers, Frederick G. W., Alexander Hale, and David Hyrum served many missions for the church, gathering old Latter Day Saints into the Reorganization.

As the church grew, many members were eager to "gather" together and live some of the teachings of the early church. Although Joseph III avoided calling for a new gathering place, he supported the efforts of members who founded a town called Lamoni in western Iowa. Smith III eventually relocated to Lamoni, which became the headquarters of the church.

During the late 19th century, Smith III and the church were involved in the Kirtland Temple Suit, which attempted to gain clear title for the church over Mormonism's original temple. In 1880, an Ohio court ruled that the Reorganized church was the legal successor to the original Mormon church, but title of the temple was gained by means of adverse possession. Smith III and the church also were involved in the Temple Lot Suit, which eventually resulted in clearing the title to the original Independence temple lot for the smaller Latter Day Saint denomination, the Church of Christ (Temple Lot).

Late in life, Smith III moved to Independence, Missouri, which his father had designated as the "centerplace" for the City of Zion. He died on December 10, 1914, having led the Reorganized church for 54 years.

Presidencies of Frederick M. Smith and Israel A. Smith

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Auditorium in Independence, Missouri, USA
Joseph Smith III's son, Frederick Madison Smith, was accepted in 1915 as his successor as president. During Frederick M.'s presidency, the faith moved its headquarters to Independence, Missouri. Frederick M's bold vision for the growing church included the construction of a massive World Headquarters building, known as the Auditorium. Frederick M. also attempted to impose a greater degree of centralization on the church's administration by issuing the controversial doctrine of Supreme Directional Control, which led some members to leave the church and join the Church of Christ (Temple Lot).

After Frederick Smith's death in 1946 he was succeeded by his brother Israel A. Smith, who presided over an optimistic era of post-War growth.

Presidencies of W. Wallace Smith and Wallace B. Smith

After Israel A. Smith's unexpected death in 1958, he was succeeded by his brother W. Wallace Smith, the third son of Joseph III to become church president. Soon after coming into office, W. Wallace appointed Graceland University professor Roy Cheville to be Presiding Patriarch of the church. This move was controversial because the office had previously been held within the Smith family according to the doctrine of Lineal Succession.

In 1976, W. Wallace Smith designated his son Wallace B. Smith as his successor. Wallace B. assumed the presidency in 1978 after a two-year "internship." W. Wallace then retired and became the church's first "president emeritus" until his death in 1989. In 1984, the church extended priesthood ordination to women for the first time. Wallace B. also announced that the church would build a temple, dedicated to peace, in Independence. When the temple was completed and dedicated on 17 April 1994, the headquarters of the church was transferred there from the Auditorium.

Presidency of W. Grant McMurray

While the pattern had previously been for the presidency to be carried along the Smith patriarchal line, Wallace B. Smith designated W. Grant McMurray as his successor. (See Lineal Succession.) McMurray had served in the Church's historical department since he was 26 years old, until his call as Church secretary in 1982. McMurray became the church's prophet/president in 1996 and Wallace B. became "president emeritus."

At a World Conference in 2000, the church voted to change its name from the "Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" to its present name, the "Community of Christ", which more clearly defines the purpose of the church. This change occurred on April 6, 2001. As with most corporate name changes, the legal name of the church did not officially change, and the entity is also legally recognized as the "Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."

On November 29, 2004, W. Grant McMurray resigned as Prophet/President without designating a successor. The two remaining members of the First Presidency, President Kenneth N. Robinson and President Peter A. Judd, continued to function in their council's leadership role.

Presidency of Steven M. Veazey

Presidents Robinson and Judd announced that the Council of Twelve Apostles, in conjunction with the church's other leadership quorums, would prayerfully consider who should succeed McMurray. On March 7 2005, the Twelve announced their conviction that Stephen M. Veazey is called by God to be the next prophet-president of Community of Christ. A special World Conference that was convened in June 2005 sustained this call of Steven M. Veazey to be president of the High Priesthood, prophet, and president of the church. On June 3 2005 he was ordained to this office and submitted a letter of council to the church regarding the leading quorums, orders, and councils of the church. On 4 June 2005 after the approval of the calls of Ken Robinson and David Schaal to the First Presidency and counselors to the President the First Presidendecy was reorganized by their ordinations to this office.

Steven M. Veazey's first conference sermon as President called the church to be active disciples and to share the fullness of the peace of Christ. He also offered his apologies and apologies on behalf of the church as a whole to all those who have been hurt by the actions of the church or members of it. He called on the membership to stop being divisive and calling each other names. He encouraged members to embrace their differences and call each other, no matter how different in theological and moral views and understandings, sisters and brothers in Christ.

Major doctrines

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Church seal on a set of doors to the Independence Temple
Latter Day Saints of the Community of Christ have been called "moderate Mormons" and Joseph Smith III's biographer referred to the first president of the Reorganization as a "pragmatic prophet." In this way, the Latter Day Saintism of the Prairie Saints has sometimes been seen as a bridge between the beliefs of their Rocky Mountain Saint cousins and those of mainstream Christianity.

In contrast to the Mormons in the LDS tradition whose cosmology includes a Godhead of three "distinct personages" progressing according to a "Plan of Salvation," Latter Day Saints of the Reorganization accept the doctrine of the Trinity.

Temple practices between the two largest Latter Day Saint denominations also differ. The Indepence and Kirtland Temples are places of education and worship for all people. In keeping with the Community of Christ's role as a "peace and justice church," the Independence temple was explicitly dedicated to the concept of "peace." Each day of the year at 12:30 pm local Central Standard Time a prayer for peace is held in the sanctuary of the Independence Temple.


The Community of Christ practices eight sacraments.:

For the Community of Christ baptism is a covenant entered into between the individual and God. It is an expression of their faith and trust in God. A Person is baptized into Community of Christ and becomes a member of that particular fellowship. Baptism also signifies commitment to the universal task of Christianity to which the contributions of other Christians are acknowledged and appreciated. Community of Christ requires that persons reach the "age of accountability" before becoming baptized. That age has been identified as at least eight years of age. The term "age of accountability" also suggests that a person is accountable to God for their decisions, their resources, and their whole lives. In the Community of Christ tradition a person is baptized by immersion. Emerging from the water symbolizes resurrection and the rising to a new life. The Sacrament of Baptism can be performed by members of the Melchisedec priesthood or by Aaronic priests.
Confirmation, otherwise known as baptism of the Holy Spirit, follows baptism by water and completes a person's initiation into the church. The only prerequisite for the rite of confirmation is that a person is baptized into Community of Christ. Normally several days or weeks elapse between baptism and confirmation. Sometimes this sacrament occurs immediately following baptism in the same service of worship. Confirmation is administered by the laying on of hands. Typically the candidate sits in a chair and two members of the Melchisedec priesthood lay their hands on the candidate's head, one offering the prayer of confirmation. There are no prescribed words that must be included in the prayer of confirmation.
Blessing of Children 
The blessing of children recognizes the entrance of a new life into the church community. It is based primarily on the Gospel accounts of Jesus receiving and blessing children and symbolizes and demonstrates God's love and concern for the child. Children from birth to the eighth birthday are eligible for blessing. Normally children of members of the church are brought for blessing some time during the first six months after birth. It is not unusual, however, for older children and children of friends of the church to be blessed. This sacrament can be performed by Melchisedec priesthood members.
The Lord's Supper 
It is the most frequently celebrated of the Sacraments. Normally celebrated on the first Sunday of each month. To various people it is seen in different ways. It is one of three sacraments with perscribed words in the Community of Christ. Tradtionally in grape juice and whole wheat bread have been used as the wine and bread, but various other items are used to celebrate the sacrament depending on location, culture, need, and availability. This sacrament is administered by Melchisedec priesthood members or by Aaronic priests
The Community of Christ recognizes that marriage is subject to legal provisions established by various nations and states making it unique among the church's sacraments. Marriages within the church are solemnized in public meeting of some kind. This usually occurs in the context of a service of worship. Marriages within the church are performed by members of the Melchisedec priesthood or by Aaronic priests. The church also recognizes the marriages of persons who choose to be married by authorities outside the church, such as civil authorities or ministers of other faiths.
Administration to the Sick 
This sacrament is available to all, member and non alike. A person who is physically ill, emotionally strained, or sick in any other way may request administration. The purpose of this sacrament is to provide assurance of God's care and concern and also of the church's interest in that person. Administration is usually done with just the presence of the administering priesthood members in the privacy of the church, a person's home, office, or hospital room. On occasion, however, administration may be performed while other persons are present or as part of a formal service of worship. This sacrament is administered by members of the Melchisedec priesthood
Is the rite by which priesthood authority and responsibilities are conferred. Ordination grants the authority to perform certain duties. This authority is given to the individual by God and also by the church. Although God's call is primary in the ordination process for the church, the individual's own sense of call is also important.
Evangelist's Blessing (formally known as "Patriarchal Blessing") 
Serves as a sacramental vehicle for God to affirm and support persons in their life ventures. It is an experience of laying on of hands and prayer focusing on Godís accepting and creative love in the life of the person, family, or congregation. The blessing is a defining experience to help persons know who they are, their value and giftedness, purpose and meanings of life. It helps persons to refocus their lives according to the purposes of God and Godís call to them. The sacrament is extended to individuals, families, or congregations. There are no age, race, gender, membership, or life conditions that restrict persons from sharing in this sacrament. Recording of the blessing is optional. The sacrament of the evangelistís blessing is not a one-time experience but is available at different junctures of a personís life. Sharing with the evangelist as a spiritual companion is an integral part of the total blessing experience. This sacrament is performed by members of the Order of Evangelists.


The Community of Christ considers the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants to be scripture.

In his lifetime, Joseph Smith, Jr. began a project to "re-translate" the or revise the King James Version of the Bible. Upon his death, the working manuscript was retained in Smith's family and came into the possession of the Community of Christ. The work was edited and is published by the church as the "Inspired Version" of the Bible. (see Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible.) Members of the Community of Christ also accept and make use other more recent translations of the Bible.
Book of Mormon 
(For a discussion of the book's contents, see Book of Mormon, and for a discussion of its origins, see Golden Plates.) The Community of Christ publishes two versions of the Book of Mormon. The Authorized Edition is based on the original printer's manuscript and the 1837 Second Edition (or Kirtland Edition) of the Book of Mormon. Its content is similar to the Book of Mormon published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the versification is different. The Community of Christ also publishes a Revised Authorized Edition which attempts to modernize some of the book's language.
Book of Doctrine and Covenants 
This continually growing and evolving work of scripture contains select revelation and other documents primarily given through the prophet-presidents of the Community of Christ. This edition varies significantly from the current LDS edition and both are much expanded from the original 1835 edition, (see Doctrine and Covenants). In contrast to the general post-1844 practice of the LDS church, the Community of Christ continues to add revelations given by its prophet-presidents. Former President W. Grant McMurray presented the most recent revelation to the church, which was accepted as Section 162, on 31 March 2004.


  • Richard P. Howard, The Church Through the Years, Herald House: 1992.
  • Roger D. Launius, Joseph III: Pragmatic Prophet, University of Illinois Press: 1995.
  • Inez Smith Davis, The Story of the Church: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and of Its Legal Successor, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 12th edition, Herald House: 1981.

Related articles

External links

no:Den Reorganiserte Jesu Kristi Kirke av Siste Dagers Hellige


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