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), but does not use the term Mormon in self-reference.
The history of the two largest Latter Day Saint denominations began to diverge with the martyrdom 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.
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.
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 are percieved as a departure from the teachings of the scriptures, causing some members to question weather these changes are in accordance with God's will. This has resulted in the formation of offshoot organizations or independent branches similar in many ways to the early history of Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (See RLDS Restoration Branches ).
Those 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 gods" 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 Independence 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/Central Daylight Savings Time a prayer for peace is held in the sanctuary of the Independence Temple.
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" 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 of other more recent translations of the Bible. Book of Mormon
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. 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 Community of Christ. This edition varies significantly from the current LDS edition and both are much expanded from the original 1835 edition. In contrast to the general post-1844 practice of the LDS church, 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.
- Community of Christ, official website
- Church history and records
- Statement from First Presidency announcing Grant McMurray's resignation