Many Irish-born Latter Day Saints didn’t go West with the main church in 1846. Others did, only to later migrate back to the Mid-West or to California. These Mormons often became associated with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS), now the Community of Christ: www.cofchrist.org (as of 2001). This denomination was organized in 1860. Their roots can be traced to Nauvoo, Illinois prior to 1844 as some Mormons rejected developing esoteric theology such as polygamy, temple rituals, and the plurality of gods. They sought a more practical religion. They would reorganize under Joseph Smith III (1832-1914) as their prophet-president. The lineal descent of the presidency from the founder remained intact until 1996.
Prior to its self-evaluation beginning in the 1960s, members tended to define themselves in opposition to the Utah Mormons. Today, the two churches have a good relationship and work together to preserve historical records. This is a boom for the family historian.
When the founding prophet Joseph Smith was murdered in 1844 many members did not know which of the many prophetic leadership claims to follow. To complicate this was the prophetic claims of James J. Strang (1813-1856) who in 1844 acquired a large membership with the goal of building the Kingdom of God on Beaver Island, Michigan. He was murdered in 1856, and his church scattered. Most of the future leadership of the RLDS Church was one time Strangites.
Others did not continue with the faith. This means scores of North Americans today trace back into a Mormon family during this tumultuous period from 1844-1860.
The church accepts the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants, with the last revelation added in the 2010. They claim the two traditional Latter Day Saint priesthoods, which blacks were granted in 1865 and women in 1985.
The Community of Christ built a huge temple complex on the portion of the Temple Lot they own. It serves as an educational and worship center dedicated to world peace and reconciliation. The contemporary view is that Zion, with its temple, can be thought of as a place, a condition, and as a process, not one exact location – Independence, Missouri.
Tomorrow’s blog will focus on the records generated by the Community of Christ.