Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Alphabet Soup: LDS, RLDS, and FLDS

Brigham Young,
Second Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

I was asked in response to Saturday's Neal's Yard Delights post what was the difference between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (now the Community of Christ).

It is a good question.  My faith is often confused with those that splintered off at one point or another, infamously the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the long-haired, stuck-in-the-eighteenth-century polygamists which have nothing to do with my faith but which the media love to report on and incorrectly associate with myself) and the largest break-off sect (250,000 compared to my faith's 14 million), the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I will answer by telling a story.  In the early days of the latter-day church (as opposed to that established by Christ during his mortal ministry - we see it all as one and the same), there were a few very strong personalities involved.  Very typical for any start-up (I say this because I founded one, www.ConSource.org).  Joseph Smith, his wife Emma, and Brigham Young, who was the "chief" apostle at the time and later became the 2nd president of the Church - the one that I recognize - were a few such strong personalities.

The short story is that when Joseph died, there were big question marks about what property, real and personal, was his and what was the Church's.  It all blurred, again typical for start-ups.  Joseph was largely cared for (payed would be strained - he often lived on nothing but the kindness of his followers until the Nauvoo period) by the Church.  Emma and Brigham had rowed before, but this was an all-out metaphysical brawl.  Their falling-out was accompanied by fireworks, displays, and behavior unbecoming to both of them.

There was a mass meeting after the martyrdom where a few contenders for leadership spoke, among them Brigham Young.  Many in the crowd reported that Brigham took on the voice and appearance of the dead prophet.  This convinced them that he and the quorum of the twelve apostles was to lead the Church.

And he lead them West where the Church is now headquartered in Salt Lake City.  Leadership and successive prophets and apostles have, we believe, been called of God called by prophecy and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority to preach the gospel and administer the ordinances thereof.

Due to the falling out, Emma stayed behind in Nauvoo, Illinois.  She created a "reorganized" church of her own wherein her son and his direct descendants lead as presidents, based upon a blessing Joseph gave to his son while living. We believe many of the same things, including Joseph Smith's first vision, the Book of Mormon, and share much of the Doctrine & Covenants.  They even follow parts of the same health code, the Word of Wisdom, and have built one temple.  But, due to financial difficulties, they reorganized again under "Community of Christ" and several changes were made, including accepting the cross as a symbol of worship and recognizing women pastors.   They have distanced themselves a bit from Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon as evidenced from their website, and tried to become a more mainstream Christian faith.  They do a lot of good, and I know Church leadership of my faith has reached out to them on a number of occasions.  There is no more hostility, but they are two separate and distinct religions.  To illustrate, I remember that in Mesa, Arizona, my first grade teacher was RLDS.  At the tender age of seven, I had a great deal of respect for her, but we both I think believed the other was misguided in following the present-day leadership of our faith and their ability to receive revelation for the world.

The FLDS are of a different breed altogether.  Perhaps I'll post on them later.
Reorganized Church's temple in Missouri.

Hope this helps!

An FLDS marriage.

Church of Jesus of Latter-day Saints London Temple.

An LDS marriage.


  1. good report. Were you at the Prince's when the former president of the Church of Christ spoke. SO interesting. I was most marked by his not so optimistic outlook on the future of their church.

  2. No - (I'm assuming you meant the Community of Christ president)? I wonder if Greg recorded it - would love to watch.