Comparison of Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church)) and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) are two denominations that share a common heritage in the Church of Christ founded by Joseph Smith on April 6, 1830. Since Smith's death in 1844, they have evolved separately in belief and practices. The LDS Church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, and claims more than 15 million members worldwide; the Community of Christ is headquartered in Independence, Missouri, and reports a worldwide membership of approximately 250,000.
- 1 Community of Christ transformation since 1960
- 2 Historical differences between the churches
- 2.1 Scriptures
- 2.2 Presidential tenure and succession
- 2.3 Godhead
- 2.4 Priesthood eligibility
- 2.5 Temples
- 2.6 Use of cross and other symbols
- 2.7 Polygamy
- 2.8 Tithing
- 2.9 Apostasy and Restoration
- 3 Summary chart
- 4 Notes
- 5 External links
- 6 Denominational tree
Community of Christ transformation since 1960
Significant doctrinal, organizational, and attitudinal changes in the Community of Christ since 1960 have narrowed the similarities that remain between it and the LDS Church. While the doctrine and belief system of the LDS Church is highly centralized, systematic, and static, the Community of Christ has adopted an adaptive, decentralized, and progressive approach to doctrine. In 1997, the Community of Christ initiated a three-year period of transformation entitled “Transformation 2000,” that was seen by its president W. Grant McMurray as the culmination of a series of changes dating back to 1960. McMurray identified these changes as a movement away from a belief that the denomination was "the restored church" and towards a position within mainstream Christianity. At the World Conference of 2000, by vote of 1,979 to 561, the name of the church was changed from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to Community of Christ. In so doing, the church was attempting to distance itself from comparisons with the LDS Church and in the process transform itself into a unique body among mainstream Christian denominations.
McMurray was the first president of the Community of Christ who was not a direct descendant of Joseph Smith. He sought to formalize developments in thinking about prophetic leadership, the historical basis of the Book of Mormon, and the concept that priesthood authority had been restored in the 1820s and 1830s after centuries of apostasy. During his presidency, the church moved from a closed to an open communion and McMurray began to open the door to priesthood ordination for LGBT individuals, something which he acknowledged was already occurring. At the time, negative membership response to this issue forced McMurray to reaffirm the official policy prohibiting the ordination of sexually active gays and lesbians. The church allowed those who were ordained against policy to continue in their priesthood offices. Since 2010, gay rights have been formalized in Community of Christ doctrine.
Prior to 1960, the RLDS Church's identity was primarily tied to its differences with the larger LDS Church, which RLDS Church members usually referred to as the "Utah Church" or "Mormon Church". McMurray cited a 1960 world tour by former president W. Wallace Smith as a pivotal event impacting the evolution of RLDS Church beliefs. Leaders such as Roy Cheville had already been teaching a new generation of church members a more ecumenical and open-minded system of beliefs. But it was the church's proselytizing of cultures in countries outside North America that knew little about Christianity, much less Mormonism, that forced a reassessment of denominational practices and beliefs. RLDS apostle Charles Neff, a leading church missionary, pushed fellow leaders and field ministers towards a relativistic doctrinal viewpoint motivated by a combination of practical missionary concerns and an attitude of theological openness. These significant moves of the Community of Christ towards alignment with liberal Protestant doctrine were influenced in part by many in church leadership who pursued theological studies at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Missouri. While the RLDS Church had long been known for its strong anti-polygamy stance, its outreach efforts amongst the Sora people in India brought a re-examination even on this issue.
Church president Wallace B. Smith’s 1984 call for the ordination of women to the priesthood was a milestone in the doctrinal evolution of the church towards progressive Christianity. During his term in office, greater attention was brought to peace and justice issues. The call to dedicate the Independence Temple to the "pursuit of peace" is widely regarded as both symbolic and practical evidence of the differences between the two denominations. While the LDS Church has a set of highly standardized temple rituals and regards temples as sacred space for the creation of covenants, the Community of Christ understands temples to be a less formalized center for spirituality, ministerial education, and church administration.
These changes constituted a broad shift in theology of the Community of Christ from Restorationism to mainline Protestant Christianity. They also widened the scope of long-standing doctrinal differences between it and the LDS Church. Nearly all of the traditional differences between the two groups can be seen as aligning the Community of Christ more closely with traditional Christian teaching and neo-orthodoxy, which further isolates the LDS Church within Christianity as a whole.
Historical differences between the churches
The RLDS Church was founded by the confederation of a number of smaller groups that declined to migrate with Brigham Young to Utah Territory or follow any of the others vying to become the successor to Joseph Smith. Prior to the 1860 Amboy Conference, in which the church was formally "reorganized" into the RLDS Church, numerous doctrinal differences were espoused by the leaders of the various splinter groups. Following the reorganization, these differences were solidified into a litany of what might now be called "wedge issues" that would distinguish it from Young's LDS Church in Utah.
The differences enumerated below characterize the major differences between the Community of Christ and the LDS Church.
Both churches believe in an open canon of scripture founded upon the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the revelations of Joseph Smith.
The LDS Church has officially adopted the Authorized King James Version for English speakers, and has produced its own edition which is extensively footnoted with clarifications from the Inspired Version. The LDS Church refers to the Inspired Version as the "Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible." For Spanish-speaking members, the LDS Church publishes a slightly modified version of the Reina-Valera version, including footnotes and annotations comparable to those found in its official King James Version. For other languages, the LDS Church recommends usage of specific traditional translations that are selected based on doctrinal integrity with the other official standard works.
Book of Mormon
Both the Community of Christ and LDS Church accept the Book of Mormon as a second canon of scripture and views it as an additional witness of Jesus Christ that complements the Bible. The Community of Christ publishes two versions of the book through its official publishing arm, Herald House. 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 LDS Church, but the versification is different The Community of Christ also publishes a 1966 "Revised Authorized Edition", which attempts to modernize some of the language.
The LDS Church publishes a single version of the Book of Mormon, which is extensively footnoted to the church's other standard works. Its chapter and versification is based upon the 1879 edition edited by Orson Pratt.
At a 2007 World Conference, Community of Christ President Stephen M. Veazey ruled that a resolution to "reaffirm the Book of Mormon as a divinely inspired record" was out of order. He stated that "while the Church affirms the Book of Mormon as scripture, and makes it available for study and use in various languages, we do not attempt to mandate the degree of belief or use. This position is in keeping with our longstanding tradition that belief in the Book of Mormon is not to be used as a test of fellowship or membership in the church." The LDS Church regularly emphasizes the importance of the Book of Mormon and encourages its members to read from it daily.
Doctrine and Covenants
Both churches publish a book called the Doctrine and Covenants and accept it as scripture. The Community of Christ has removed several early sections and has regularly added new revelations and other inspired documents to the book. The LDS Church has added some material to the Doctrine and Covenants, but less than that of the Community of Christ. The Community of Christ version currently contains 166 documents, 51 of which were produced after the death of Joseph Smith. The LDS Church version currently contains 140 documents, five of which were produced after Smith's death.
Pearl of Great Price
The LDS Church includes the Pearl of Great Price as part of its standard works. The Community of Christ has never published or considered this book to be scripture. However, the Community of Christ does accept two portions of the Pearl of Great Price—the Book of Moses and Joseph Smith–Matthew—as scripture:
- Chapters 2–8 of the Book of Moses are included within the Book of Genesis in the Community of Christ's Inspired Version of the Bible;
- Chapter 1 of the Book of Moses is accepted as section 22 of the Community of Christ's Doctrine and Covenants;
- In addition to appearing in the Inspired Version of the Bible, chapter 7 of the Book of Moses is accepted as section 36 of the Community of Christ's Doctrine and Covenants; and
- Joseph Smith–Matthew is accepted as part of the Book of Matthew in the Inspired Version of the Bible.
Presidential tenure and succession
Both the Community of Christ and the LDS Church are headed by a President of the Church, a position created and held by Joseph Smith. In the LDS Church, succession to the presidency has been based on apostolic seniority. In the Community of Christ, the president has the power to appoint a successor; if the outgoing president does not appoint a successor, the Council of Twelve Apostles nominates a successor.
After Smith, the next three presidents of the Community of Christ served as President of the Church until their deaths. In 1978, W. Wallace Smith broke this tradition and retired from the presidency, designated himself as "president emeritus", and appointed Wallace B. Smith as his successor. Wallace B. Smith and his chosen successor—McMurray—also retired from the position. In the LDS Church, every President of the Church has served until his death and none have selected a successor prior to death.
The first five successors to Joseph Smith in the presidency of the Community of Christ were direct descendants Smith. McMurray was the first president of the church who was not a member of the Smith family. While never formally accepting a principle of lineal succession, the denomination teaches that Smith had designated his son, Joseph Smith III, as his successor. In 1996, the appointment of McMurray by retiring president Wallace B. Smith was the justification used by schismatic groups that abandoned the Community of Christ. This schism led to the creation of the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The president of the Remnant Church, Frederick Niels Larsen, is a maternal great-great-grandson of Joseph Smith.
The LDS Church determines its presidential successor by principles of apostolic seniority combined with inspiration from God. When a church president dies, the member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who has been an apostle the longest—the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—becomes the new president of the church. Prior to making the succession official, the apostles individually and collectively pray for divine guidance and confirmation of their proposed action.
While this is an area that marked a traditional difference between the two denominations, a 2004–05 succession crisis prompted the Council of Twelve Apostles of the Community of Christ to utilize an inspiration-seeking procedure similar to that adopted by the apostles of the LDS Church. When McMurray stepped down as president in 2004, he chose not to name a successor, as previous retirees from the position had done. In 2005, Stephen M. Veazey—who was president of the Twelve, but not the senior member—was selected as successor by the Council of Twelve.
According to Brigham Young, the Adam–God doctrine was first taught by Joseph Smith before his death in 1844. However, the evidence that Smith originated the doctrine consists only of Young's own assertions, an 1877 recollection of Anson Call, and some circumstantial evidence collected by Mormon fundamentalist writers. LDS Church President Spencer W. Kimball officially denounced the Adam–God doctrine in 1976.
Because the Community of Christ was founded by the confederation of a number of smaller groups that declined to accept Young's leadership, the Adam–God doctrine has never been a part of Community of Christ teachings, and it has maintained that the doctrine was first enunciated by Young, not Smith.
Both churches have a tradition of bestowing the priesthood on adult male members of the church. The priesthood of the Community of Christ has always been open to persons of all races, and was opened to women in 1984. The LDS Church's priesthood is open to males only and until 1978 was not open to people of black African descent, who were sometimes characterized as "descendants of Cain". The LDS Church routinely gives its Aaronic priesthood to boys 12 years of age and older, while the Community of Christ generally restricts its priesthood to adult men and women.
Both the Community of Christ and the LDS Church operate temples, which for both groups are separate and distinct from church chapels or meetinghouses. The Community of Christ operates two temples, the Kirtland Temple and the Independence Temple, while the LDS Church has more than 140.
The Community of Christ does not practice and has traditionally objected to the idea of sacraments or rituals being performed in its temples. The Community of Christ's temples are open to the public and are dedicated to the pursuit of peace, spiritual learning, and church history and administration. LDS Church temples are open only to approved members and are primarily used for the performance of rites such as the endowment, celestial marriage, and baptism for the dead; these ordinances have never been embraced by the Community of Christ.
Historically, the Community of Christ did include documents in its Doctrine and Covenants which sanctioned baptism for the dead and other temple rites. However, the Community of Christ considers that the institution of baptism for the dead was made conditional on the completion of the Nauvoo Temple in a reasonable amount of time. Because the membership of the church failed to complete the temple during Smith's lifetime, the Community of Christ teaches that the right to perform baptisms for the dead was withdrawn and has not been reinstituted.
The 1970 World Conference of the Community of Christ concluded that sections 107, 109, and 110 (regarding baptism for the dead and temple rites) had been added to the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants without proper approval of a church conference. Thus, the conference removed those sections to a historical appendix. The World Conference of 1990 subsequently removed the entire appendix from the Doctrine and Covenants.
Use of cross and other symbols
The Community of Christ utilizes the symbol of the Christian cross on its buildings and temples. The LDS Church currently does not use the cross on the grounds that "because the Savior lives, we do not use the symbol of His death as the symbol of our faith", although this aversion to the cross only became dominant in the 20th century.
Most temples of the LDS Church include a statue of the Angel Moroni on a spire, but the church does not consider Moroni to be an official symbol and "has no policy regarding the use of statues of the angel Moroni atop temples", but rather includes or excludes a statue from each temple based on local circumstances. The Community of Christ does not use the Angel Moroni as a symbol.
In the United States, the Veterans Affairs (VA) emblem for headstones for LDS Church members is a stylized Angel Moroni. For the Community of Christ, the VA emblem is a stylized representation of a child standing between a lion and a lamb, which is an official logo of the Community of Christ.
In the 19th century, the differences between the LDS Church and the RLDS Church regarding polygamy was the principal distinction between the two churches. The LDS Church openly practiced plural marriage from 1852 to 1890 and taught that the practice was instituted by Joseph Smith and taught in secret to members of the church before his death. For many years, the leaders of the RLDS Church were vocal critics of the LDS Church's polygamy and argued that the practice had been introduced by Brigham Young and falsely attributed to Smith after Smith's death. Polygamy was frequently denounced by RLDS leaders and the practice was never accepted by the church. Smith's son Joseph Smith III and widow Emma Smith repeatedly taught that Smith opposed the practice and was not a polygamist.
Today, although the Community of Christ has no official position on whether Smith was a polygamist, some members now accept the historical consensus that Smith had multiple wives. Some members have argued that Smith was wrong to introduce polygamy; in any case, most Community of Christ members continue to reject polygamy. Today, most members of the LDS Church also oppose the practice of polygamy, though the church retains a document in its Doctrine and Covenants that justifies the practice.
Traditionally, the Community of Christ taught that tithing should be calculated as one-tenth of a member’s discretionary income. The LDS Church teaches that it is ten percent of one's annual income, with it left to the member to determine how to calculate it (e.g., what constitutes "income" and whether it is ten percent of income after or before tax). Recently, the Community of Christ has adopted a program known as Disciples' Generous Response, which encourages financial generosity as a response to God rather than as a set calculated obligation.
Apostasy and Restoration
The LDS Church teaches that Joseph Smith restored the fullness of the gospel after a centuries long period known as the great apostasy. The LDS Church therefore characterizes itself as a restoration of fallen Christianity and the one true church that exists. In contrast, the Community of Christ has abandoned its traditional tenet that it is the one true church and has adopted a viewpoint that all faith traditions can offer a pathway to spiritual enlightenment. Barbara McFarlane Higdon has called the Community of Christ a "unique member of the body of Christ, the universal community of believers." Higdon also suggests that prior claims that the church had been "restored" were tantamount to idolatry. The Community of Christ has therefore moved towards ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue. Nevertheless, the Community of Christ "steadfastly affirms the primacy of continuing revelation instead of creedal rigidity". The Community of Christ's Doctrine and Covenants continues to contain documents that declare that the church is the one true church.
Today, the Community of Christ generally refers to Joseph Smith's First Vision as the "grove experience" and takes a flexible view about its historicity, emphasizing the healing presence of God and the forgiving mercy of Jesus Christ felt by Smith. In contrast, the LDS Church strongly affirms the reality of the First Vision and emphasizes its role as the beginning of the restoration of the gospel through God's chosen prophet.
|Community of Christ||LDS Church|
|Approximate membership||250,000||15 million|
|Headquarters||Independence, Missouri||Salt Lake City, Utah|
|Bible||Inspired Version||King James Version in LDS edition or other language-appropriate edition; Inspired Version is respected but not canonized|
|Book of Mormon||Accepts as scripture||Accepts as scripture|
|Doctrine and Covenants||166 documents
51 non–Joseph Smith documents
five non–Joseph Smith documents
|Pearl of Great Price||Rejects
Accepts as scripture only the parts the LDS Church refers to as the Book of Moses and Joseph Smith–Matthew
|Accepts as scripture, including the Book of Moses, Book of Abraham, Joseph Smith–Matthew, Joseph Smith–History, and the Articles of Faith|
|Presidential tenure and succession||President may choose to retire and may appoint successor
Succession traditionally based on lineal descent from Joseph Smith; now abandoned in favor of appointment by retiring president or apostolic selection by inspiration
|President serves in position until death and does not appoint a successor before death
Succession based on apostolic seniority combined with apostolic selection by inspiration
|Godhead||Trinitarian||Three distinct personage Gods united in purpose|
|Adam–God doctrine||Rejects||Traditionally accepted; now rejects|
|Polygamy||Rejects||Traditionally accepted; now rejects but retains scriptural basis in the Doctrine and Covenants|
|Priesthood||Open to all races
Open to women since 1984
Open to adults
|Open to all races since 1978 (previous black African descent prohibition)
Open to men only
Open to boys beginning at age 12
Open to the public
Dedicated to peace, spiritual learning, and church administration and history
Open only to members
Dedicated to performance of standardized ordinances and covenant-making
|Baptism for the dead||Rejects||Accepts|
|Celestial marriage and family sealing||Rejects||Accepts|
|Cross as a symbol||Accepts||Rejects|
|Angel Moroni as a symbol||Rejects||Accepts, but not as an official symbol|
|Tithing||One-tenth of discretionary income
More flexible "Disciples' Generous Response" has been introduced
|One-tenth of annual income (member decides how to calculate)|
|First Vision||Referred to as the "grove experience"
No position on historicity
Focus on the healing presence of God and the forgiving mercy of Jesus Christ for Joseph Smith
|Accepted as a foundational historical event
Smith's 1838 account is canonized as part of Joseph Smith–History
Focus on its role as the beginning of the restoration of the gospel through a prophet chosen by God
|Is it the one true church?||Traditionally, yes; more recently, no||Yes|
- "Statistical Report, 2013". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. April 2014. Retrieved April 21, 2014.
- "CofChrist General Denominational Information". Community of Christ. 2011. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
- W. Grant McMurray, "Transforming the Church", 1998.[dead link]
- Gay Rights Revelation added to Community of Christ D&C Retrieved April 26, 2015
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- McKeever, Bill, "LDS and RLDS (Community of Christ): Differences & Similarities", MRM.org (Mormonism Research Ministry), retrieved 2013-01-17[unreliable source?]
- Brown, Rich, Web site of The Community of Christ - Sacrament - A Sacrament of Blessing and Promise, Herald, retrieved 3 September 2009 Note: Paragraph 14 says “The unique teachings offered in the Inspired Version (Joseph Smith’s emendations of the King James translation of the Bible) add significantly to our theological understanding.”
- Euritt, Mark, Official Web site of The Community of Christ - Sacrament - The Sacrament of Ordination, Herald, retrieved 3 September 2009 Note: Paragraph 3 refers to the King James Version (referred to as the Authorized Version of the Bible), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and the New International Version (NIV) Bibles.
- Andrew M. Shields, "Official Minutes of Business Session, Wednesday March 28, 2007," in 2007 World Conference Thursday Bulletin, March 29, 2007. Community of Christ, 2007.
- 1966 "Revised Authorized Edition".
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- Collier (1999, p. 229 fn. 12) (citing minutes of meeting of the Quorum of Twelve, 4 April 1860, in which it was recorded: "It was Joseph's doctrine that Adam was God… God comes to earth and eats and partakes of fruit. Joseph could not reveal what was revealed to him, and if Joseph had it revealed, he was not told to reveal it."). Collier (1999, p. 360) (citing Wilford Woodruff Journal of 4 September 1860, in which George Q. Cannon said "that Adam is our Father [and] is a true doctrine revealed from God to Joseph & Brigham. For this same doctrine is taught in some of the old Jewish records which have never been in print...."). Collier (1999, p. 367) (citing Wilford Woodruff Journal of 16 December 1867, stating that "President Young said Adam was Michael the Archangel, & he was the Father of Jesus Christ & was our God & that Joseph taught this principle.")
- Collier (1999, p. 233) (citing an 1877 reminiscence of Anson Call, who said he heard Joseph Smith say: "now regarding Adam: He came here from another planet [as] an immortalized being and brought his wife, Eve, with him, and by eating of the fruits of the earth became subject to death and decay and he became of the earth, earthly, was made mortal and subject to death.").
- See, e.g., Collier (1999, pp. 228–42) (a fundamentalist author, arguing that Joseph Smith believed and taught the doctrine).
- Conference Report, p. 115 (October 1–3, 1976)
- Spencer W. Kimball, "Our Own Liahona", Ensign, November 1976, p. 77.
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- Charles R. Hield and Russell F. Ralston, "Baptism for the Dead".
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- Gaskill, Alonzo L. (2013), "Michael G. Reed's Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo [Book Review]", BYU Studies Quarterly 52 (4): 185,
What Reed shows, rather convincingly, is that Mormonism has not always been uncomfortable utilizing the cross as one of its symbols...
- Reed, Michael (2012). Banishing the Cross: The Emergence of a Mormon Taboo. Independence, Missouri: John Whitmer Books. pp. 67, 122. ISBN 978-1934901359. OCLC 844370293.
- Eight LDS temples do not have an angel Moroni (either in original design or added later). For list see LDSChurchTemples.com: Interesting Facts: Angel Moroni Statues #1
- Greenwood, Val D. (July 1994), "I Have a Question: How long have statues of the angel Moroni appeared atop Latter-day Saint temples? Is there a reason the statues don’t appear on top of all temples?", Ensign: 66–67, archived from the original on 2014-11-12
- Our Faith: Frequently Asked Questions: What position does Community of Christ take on Joseph Smith Jr.'s alleged involvement in polygamy?, Official Web site of The Community of Christ, retrieved 3 September 2009
- Whitmer 1887
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- Millennial Star 4:144 (January 1844).
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- Community of Christ, Doctrine and Covenants Section 1
- According to its website, the church "does not legislate or mandate positions on issues of history. We place confidence in sound historical methodology as it relates to our church story. We believe that historians and other researchers should be free to come to whatever conclusions they feel are appropriate after careful consideration of documents and artifacts to which they have access. We benefit greatly from the significant contributions of the historical discipline." Community of Christ website.
- Our History - Introduction
- Official Website of the Community of Christ
- Official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Herald House, official publishing arm of the Community of Christ
- John Whitmer Historical Association, a scholarly society focused on Community of Christ history