Which Mormon group is the “Restored Church”?
We will study this question by first (in Part 1) looking at the various divergent Mormon sects, then (in Part 2) examining why this division constitutes further proof that Mormonism can in no way be considered a “restoration” of Christianity.
Part 1: How many Mormon sects are there?
The more important Mormon groups
1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah, USA)
2. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS)(Independence, Missouri, USA) now renamed to the Community of Christ, under president W. Grant McMurray,
This groups came into existence in the 1850s under the leadership of Joseph Smith’s son, Joseph Smith III. This group believes Joseph Smith II was nominated by the founding Joseph Smith as his successor. The Utah-based LDS group, however, disagrees.
Interestingly this group owns the historical Mormon properties in Kirtland, Ohio; this being the outcome of court case with the LDS group, the courts having decided the then RLDS had more claim (from a doctrinal standpoint) to be the church founded by Joseph Smith Jr. than the Utah–based LDS group.
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).
What Is The Difference between the LDS and the RLDS (now Community of Christ)?
Salt-Lake City based LDS uses KJV or Joseph Smith’s Translation (aka the “Inspired Version”); their second President, Brigham Young, taught God the Father was once a man (Adam), a doctrine which has never been revoked; teaches “eternal progression” to godhood; use secret temple rites; practises baptism for the dead; temple marriage is for eternity; God the Father Son and Holy Spirit are three separate “Gods”; accepts the Pearl of Great Price as Scripture.
Independence Missouri- based RLDS (now Community of Christ):uses “Inspired Version”; do not believe God was once a man; does not believe in “eternal progression” claim never to have used secret temple rites; claim Zion is Missouri; does not and never did, condone baptism for the dead; marriage only for earthly life; believes God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit exists in three different “modes” not Persons; rejects the Pearl of Great Price.
Both sects of course claim to be the “restored” church. When the LDS missionaries come knocking, they wil not tell you that the second largest Mormon group (the Community of Christ) believes very much differently from the Utah based LDS group.
3. Church of Christ -Temple Lot (Temple Lot, Independence, Missouri)- one early leader, Granville Hedrick, called Joseph Smith a “fallen prophet”. This group teaches that there has been apostasy from the restored gospel faith. This group was also involved in a lawsuit with the RLDS over ownership of the Temple Lot. By 1869 they purchased the original “temple lot” in Independence Missouri.
How does the Temple Lot church differ doctrinally from the LDS and RLDS?
In contrast to the LDS and RLDS, the Temple Lot group have no first presidency, high priests or patriarchs, and no prophet as leader (having 12 “apostles” instead). In common with the RLDS group, they reject the Pearl of Great Price, the doctrines of celestial marriage and eternal progression, and baptism for the dead.
Lesser known groups
The Restoration Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Independence, Missouri, USA) Founded 6 April 1991 at the Waldo Avenue Church in Independence, Missouri. The RLDS Church was declared “out of order” and the Restoration Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was founded in its place. In 1992 and 1994, two small schismatic groups, in their turn, left this group.
There also exist fundamentalist groups that do not accept the revelation which ended the practice of polygamy.
The Church of Christ With the Elijah Message (Blue Springs, Missouri, USA).
The Church of Jesus Christ (based in Pittsburgh, USA).
The Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times (Mexico) now defunct.
The Church of Jesus Christ (Cutlerites) (Independence, Missouri) founded by Alpheus Cutler, 1853 – distinguished between church and kingdom
The Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (based in Louisiana USA). Rejects the Doctrines and Covenants standard LDS work
The Restored Church of Jesus Christ (Independence, Missouri, USA) – also claims to be founded by Joseph Smith, Jr.
The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days (Manti, Utah, USA) these believe “that the fullness that Joseph Smith Jr. restored has been corrupted”. The Manti group split into two groups in late 1994.
Further information on several of these groups can be found at http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~dbowie/restore/restoration.html . For a comprehensive list of Mormon sects, please see the book “Divergent Paths of the Restoration” by Steven L. Shields (1990) which discusses more than a hundred different mormon sects.
So we see that there exist many Mormon sects, with even the main groups differing widely on doctrinal points.
Part 2: What do the divisions in Mormonism tell us?
Mormons will point to the apparent unity of their church and say it is proof theirs is the one true church. Mormon missionaries will not tell you, however, that the Utah-based LDS church is one of over a hundred mormon sects, or that there are numerous differences in doctrine between the Utah-based LDS group and the next largest group, the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS).
Do not for one moment, dear reader, believe that the Mormon religion resents a unified faith system that consists in some “restored gospel”. Mormon claims therefore to hold the true “restored” and “everlasting” gospel ring very shallow indeed when we discover that their doctrines are products of the 19th century, and that, like so many other religious sects, divided into multitudinous doctrinally divergent sects after the death of their first leader in 1844 and subsequent decades.
Is it not so much easier to simply conclude that there never was any “restoration” because there never was any apostasy?
This is the obvious answer, and the correct one. (Other pages on this website deal with this subject also.) None of the Mormon sects claiming to be the “restored” church are what they say, precisely because there was no “restoration”!
It is also of no value for LDS to counter that the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism are as great, if not greater, than the divisions betweent the Mormon sects.
(Important to remember: it is not necessary for a Catholic to defend the divisions of Protestantism; Protestantism, in the same way as Mormonism, is divided because it is in error.) This Mormon argument can be a bit confusing when first encountered: in witnessing to the truth, a Catholic only has to point to the unity of Catholicism, not the disunity of Protestantism.
Also, the authority of the Catholic Church had been accepted for the first 15 centuries; the authority of the sect of Joseph Smith’s followers was repudiated as soon as he was dead. The authority of 15 centuries will not be broken by the rebellion of a few Protestant leaders whose teachings themselves subeequently underwent countless divisions.
Remember, the Mormons claim to present the “restored gospel” so any divisions among them is automatic proof they do not have this. In contrast, the sects which left the Catholic Church over the centuries present no proof that the original teaching of the Church has been corrupted, a requirement for the Mormon “restoration” in the first place. (We will not even begin to discuss the glaring absence of Mormon doctrines from the early centuries of the Church)
It is also of no use for Mormons to claim one sect is true, and all other groups broke away from it. This view requires that the original sect be known. But both the RLDS and the LDS claim this title, as well as many other groups! Historically there were many sects after the death of Joseph Smith. The US courts ruled that the RLDS (now Community of Christ) was the closest to Smith’s original church. Where does that leave the Utah-based LDS group? Which was first?
Even more importantly, the Mormon sects cannot show that there was an “apostasy” in the early days of the Church. Without this evidence, of course, all their talk about “restoration of the gospel” is pointless.
So what do we see? The doctrine of the Catholic Church has been maintained a unified whole for 20 centuries, the doctrines of Mormonism split in every direction after the death of its founder Joseph Smith. The doctrines of Protestantism likewise split in every direction after the Protestant revolt established a foothold.
The one true Church has exhibited doctrinal unity through 2,000 years and now has over a billion adherents. That is the Holy Catholic Church. Her source of unity is not the empty boasting of some self-appointed prophet but the Holy Spirit. Those who seek the truth need look no further. Herein is unity as given by the Holy Spirit. Outside is chaos. The sincere Mormon reader is urged to look at the claims of the Catholic Church and to prayerfully seek the true Christ where He may be found.
Mormonism has split into a variety of sects since its foundation less than two centuries ago. Such division bears the hallmark of a religion invented by man. Mormon founder Joseph Smith once boasted:
“Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” Joseph Smith, Mormon founder, History of the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 408-409
The followers of the Latter – Day Saints did run away from him, into over a hundred different sects.
The Catholic Church, in contrast, has preserved a supernatural unity throughout 2000 years, a unity promised not by man, but by the Holy Spirit.
CLICK THE LOGOS ABOVE TO GO TO THE HOME PAGE AND LISTEN TO THE RADIO SHOW