Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
REORGANIZED CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
REORGANIZED CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS (RLDS) was organized in April 1860 at Amboy, Illinois, under the leadership of Joseph Smith III. Its members had formerly belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), founded by the prophet Joseph Smith Jr. in 1830. After the murder of Joseph Smith Jr. in 1844, some church members refused to acknowledge the authority of Brigham Young as Smith's successor or join the migration to Utah Territory. Rejecting the claims of other dissenters, like
James Strang, the group appealed to the prophet's son to take on the leadership of the new denomination. The RLDS acknowledged more congregational autonomy than its parent church but accepted the authority of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the doctrine and covenants.
In 1860, Joseph Smith III attended the RLDS General Conference and accepted the leadership. During his early years in office, Smith exerted great influence through his editorship of the True Latter Day Saint Herald. He worked unceasingly to divorce the memory of his father from the doctrine of polygamy and to make his denomination conform more readily to American social norms than the LDS church. During the 1880s, he cooperated with federal authorities in their prosecutions of the LDS church in Utah for polygamy. The reorganization adopted an orthodox notion of the Trinity, and in the twentieth century abandoned the notion of baptisms for the dead.
In the early twentieth century, the RLDS moved to Independence, Missouri. There in 1909 the church created the United Order of Enoch, an attempt at cooperative living that stressed the community's responsibility for all its members. Before his death, Smith also established a strong executive leadership, sharply curtailing the right of administrators to report to the general conference. In 1914, when the leadership passed to Smith's son Frederick M. Smith, the church had seventy-one thousand members. Frederick Smith took an even more authoritarian course, which provoked some defections in 1925. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the church was forced to cut back sharply on expenditures and personnel. Smith, however, stressed the social aspects of faith, encouraging the RLDS to support industry in providing work for church members and to encourage culture and the arts.
After World War II, the church demonstrated a new interest in world mission. It acquired financial stability and placed a new emphasis on worship and the training of future leaders. Under William W. Smith, the church expressed limited support for the civil rights movement during the 1960s. During the 1970s, it began to stress the fellowship of those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as its guiding principle and adopted a more decentralized approach to mission work in Haiti and South America. In 1984, the church accepted female ordination, and by 1991, three thousand women had entered the ministry. By 1999 the church had 137,038 members. President W. Grant McMurray succeeded President Wallace B. Smith in 1995, and delegates to the church's 2000 World Conference changed its name to the Community of Christ.
Howard, Richard P. The Church through the Years. 2 vols. Independence, Mo.: Herald Publishing, 1992–1993.
Launius, Roger D. Joseph Smith III: Pragmatic Prophet. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988.