Do The Reorganized Need to Reorganize?
As early as 1831, one year after Joseph Smith, Jr., and a handful of followers
organized the Church of Christ (later changed to the Latter Day Saints and
then still later to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints),
rival factions began to arise, each claiming to be the only "true" church.
Some quickly disbanded while others have survived and new off-shoots continue
to come into existence even today.
It is still argued whether Smith had indeed designated an heir to succeed
him as Prophet after his death. Upon Smith's demise in 1844, it appeared
that the church was left without leadership. But not for long. Several aspiring
prophets stepped forward claiming that God or some heavenly messenger had
told them that the mantle had fallen upon them.
Each of these new "prophets" gathered segments of Joseph's flock and many
dispersed to set up new Zions elsewhere. The largest group, even though it
was less than half of the Saints in Nauvoo, followed Brigham Young on the
migration headed to "the original destination was California" (Restoration, April 1987, p. 8), but stopped and settled what in now Utah, and are known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormons).
The second largest group, which is known as The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
(RLDS) did not officially organize until 1860 when Joseph Smith III grew
up and was ready to step in as his father's successor. Today their headquarters
are in Independence, Missouri.
Both church groups went under the same name until the second group added the word "Reorganized" in 1872 (Saints Herald,
19 March 1972, p. 6). They added the word, even though the proper name had
been given by "revelation." But, as David M. Price, and Elder in the Restorationist
movement explains it, "Note that none of the words in the Church's name,
which God had commanded, were removed - only a qualifying word was added"
(Vision #4, Spring 1990, p. 9).
Price also maintains that by adding the word "Reorganized," this protected the property of the RLDS
when the United States government seized all property of the Church in Utah
because of the issue of polygamy. Many people today are still unaware that
after the Utah Church issued the Manifesto prohibiting polygamy that the
Government did return all the properties to the Utah group.
What Is The Difference?
The two largest church groups, the LDS and the RLDS, differ on several issues such as prophet succession, their Doctrine and Covenants
(a book they both hold to be scripture) have variations, and the RLDS hold
to the Inspired Version of the Bible, which Joseph Smith supposedly "translated."
While the LDS sometimes quote from and use what they call "Joseph Smith's
Translation" (the same Inspired Version) they generally use the King James
Version of the Bible, even though they doubt that it is translated correctly.
Other divergent points between the two church groups is the conflicting
views of God. The RLDS do not hold to the belief that God was once a man,
as the LDS do. The RLDS dispute the idea that Adam was divine, where the
LDS (although they now disclaim it) did once teach the Adam-God doctrine.
The RLDS maintain, despite unrefuted documentation, that Joseph Smith
never taught or practiced polygamy. The Reorganized group claim that they
never believed or practiced secret temple rites as do the LDS. All of the
RLDS services have always been open to the public.
The interpretation of tithing is understood differently by both groups.
The LDS require a ten percent of gross earnings where the RLDS think ten
percent of one's net income after all obligations are met, is all that is
Both churches have different perceptions of the location of Zion. The
Utah church has designated Utah as such, where the RLDS hold to the position
that Zion is Missouri as was designated originally as "the gathering place."
Heresy in the Hierarchy
In the 1970's the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
began to experience what many lay members considered to be serious problems
with the hierarchy of the church trying to change the church. The main changes
were "a major shift in the General Church teachings a de-emphasis of the
Book of Mormon, the Second Advent and celestial life in favor of more conventional Protestant-like Christianity" (Saints Herald, January 1974, p. 52).
In 1974 the First Presidency began to allow open communion, which did
not set well with many members. The Church also began to use a more ecumenical
curriculum for their church schools, which did not teach about Joseph Smith
or their three Standards books.
Then in January 1979, at the RLDS Church Auditorium, what is known as
the "Presidential Papers" were presented to appointees, executives and their
wives. First President Wallace B. Smith asked those in attendance to "maintain
their confidentiality" of these papers because of the "sensitive topics"
which had been discussed" (Presidential Papers, introduction).
A letter went out dated January 22, 1979 from President Howard Sheeky
again asking that the materials be kept secret. However, some of the appointees
disagreed with this secrecy and gave a copy of the papers to some of those
opposing the hierarchy and they published them (Ibid).
These papers were supposed to be blueprints of the theology and actions
that the church would take in the 1980's. But they contain some very strange
statements. One man's summary of these papers states they included such heresies
as: "The apostasy and the Restoration were not events that happened" (Ibid, p. 28).
"It is demonic to insist that the Book of Mormon is true," (p.
29); "Other churches have as much authority as the RLDS Church" (p. 35);
"RLDS should not be isolated and should join the World Council of Churches"
Then in 1984 the hierarchy of the RLDS Church introduced the doctrine
of women holding the priesthood and began to ordain women. Some RLDS watchers
thought this was perhaps due to the fact that Wallace B. Smith, the current
president, did not have a male heir to succeed him as the next Prophet and
was assuring that the position would stay in the family. Most RLDS deny it,
Whatever the reasons, many of the faithful RLDS do not agree, and the
attendance in the worship services have dropped "seventy-five percent, and
financial contributions have become critically low" (Staying in the RLDS Church, p. 3).
Several men began to publish literature which defended the original beliefs
of the RLDS Church and were excommunicated. Some began to start what they
call "Restoration Branches." They claim they are still the "true church"
and that the RLDS hierarchy has apostatized and is leading the church astray.
They are calling all RLDS members to cling to their original teachings and
to not go the way of the liberals.
It is interesting that in some of the Restorationists' writings, they
showed that the U.S. courts found that the LDS Church wandered from the teachings
of the original church that Joseph Smith, Jr. founded. Consequently,, the
RLDS Church was awarded the properties in Kirtland, Ohio and was named by
the Courts to be, indeed, Joseph Smith's original church.
These Restorationist writers rather give the idea that sometime in the
future they will challenge the RLDS church with the same type of court suit
to regain control of the Church and its properties which they have contributed
to and have worked for for all their lives but have now no say in the direction
it is taking.
It will be interesting to watch the outcome.