In a previous blog, I mentioned how Joseph Smith Jr. founded a church called the Church of Christ. During Joseph's lifetime, the Church changed it's name several times finally settling on the name The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
After Joseph Smith died, there was a huge problem the community faced. Joseph had not appointed anyone to lead in his place, and there was no prophet to guide the people. A large number of Mormons believed God had chosen Brigham Young to lead the Church and followed him to what is now Utah. However, a number of Mormons stayed behind, not believing Brigham Young was a prophet. Two of these included Joseph Smith's widow, Emma Smith and their son Joseph Smith III. Many believed that Joseph had selected his son to be his successor, but Joseph Smith III was a child at the time. The Mormons who stayed behind were disorganized in several offshoot groups and individuals with no claim to any group.
In 1860, many of the disorganized entities came together and selected Joseph Smith III as their leader who accepted the position after feeling he had received revelation from God to do so. Consequently Emma joined as well. Originally the Church claimed the original name of the Church founded by Joseph Smith Jr., The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but they eventually changed their name to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to distinguish themselves from the Mormons in Utah.
The Church has continued on since then and currently has 250,000 members worldwide. In 2001, the Church officially renamed itself the Community of Christ in an effort to more clearly define the mission of the Church.
Though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ share the exact same origin, they are quite different churches today.
Differences between the LDS Church and the Community of Christ:
- The LDS Church believes in the Godhead, not the Trinity. That is that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct entities but one in purpose and each Divine. The Community of Christ on the other hand affirms belief in the Trinity like other mainstream Christian Churches.
- The Community of Christ never practiced polygamy nor believed that it was a divine institution as the LDS Church did until 1890.
- The Community of Christ is more socially liberal than the LDS Church. They ordain women, have an open dialogue on gay rights issues, including gay marriage which is allowed in certain areas where it's legal.
- The Community of Christ operates two temples, the first Mormon temple ever built, the Kirtland Temple, now mostly used as a historical site, and their main temple in Independence, Missouri. Unlike the LDS Church, the temples are open to the public and contain no secret ceremonies, but instead are used for common worship, and a prayer for world peace is said every day at their main temple.
- The Community of Christ doesn't believe in eternal marriage.
- The Community of Christ doesn't practice baptism for the dead.
- The Community of Christ uses the cross as a symbol of their faith. The LDS Church views the cross as a symbol of torture and death.
- There is no concept of exaltation (the belief that men will become gods in the afterlife if they are righteous) within the Community of Christ. Instead, they hold to traditional Christian beliefs of salvation. This also excludes the view of multiple kingdoms that people will go to after the Last Judgment like you see in the LDS Church.
- The Community of Christ has no official translation of the Bible it prefers to use like the LDS Church does with the King James Bible.
- The Community of Christ publishes a traditional language Book of Mormon as well as a contemporary language edition.
- The Community of Christ recognizes the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants (though a different edition than the LDS version) as scripture. However, they do not accept the Pearl of Great Price.
- The Community of Christ officially engages in ecumenicism and interfaith measures. The Church has abandoned the view that it is the One True Church like the LDS Church claims and instead believes it is a true church and one that receives revelation from God through prophets.
Differences between The Community of Christ and Mainstream Christianity:
- The Community of Christ shares a similar leadership structure to the LDS Church. The Church is run by a prophet who also acts as the president of the Church and assisted by two apostles who advise him, this group is known together as the First Presidency. Below them is the Council of Twelve Apostles, and below them are several other councils and groups.
- The Community of Christ acknowledges two other books as scripture outside of the Bible, The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. They view the Bible as the foundation of scripture and revelation, and The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants as additional testimonies of Christ.
- They believe in continuous revelation through prophets, but also personal revelation to members of the Church.
- The Community of Christ has a formal priesthood which they trace back to Joseph Smith and in turn Jesus Christ. This Priesthood is made up of two orders, the lower, Aaronic Priesthood, and the higher Melchesidek Priesthood. Both men and women may possess this priesthood and it is seen as essential to the life of the Church.
There are only three Community of Christ churches in Utah that I'm aware of, one in Salt Lake, one in St. George (at the very southern edge of the state) and one here in Ogden. The one in Ogden I'm certain is probably a small and humble church. I emailed the pastor about the times and they seemed happy that I am coming.
This should be an interesting experience for me, and I'm curious to see how different and how similar it is to the church services of my childhood.
Until next time, peace be with you.