The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The
Edition of 1920. See also Community of Christ on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

REORGANIZED CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS, The, organized 6 April 1860, at Amboy, Ill. On 27 June 1844 Joseph Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and his brother Hyrum, the Patriarch, were murdered by a mob at Carthage, Ill. Following this event several aspirants arose claiming the right to the presidency of the Church. The most prominent of these were Sidney Rigdon, William B. Smith and James J. Strang. Sidney Rigdon, who served as first counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith 1833-44, was the first to make the claim, stating that the Church should choose him as “Guardian” to stand for the martyred president. By appointment, a conference of the Church was held 8 Aug. 1844, in Nauvoo, Ill., at which Mr. Rigdon presented his claims at length and was rejected by the assembled members when the question was put to vote. At this same conference the Twelve Apostles were sustained by unanimous vote as the presiding quorum of the Church agreeable to the revelation which reads: “The Twelve traveling counselors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world; thus differing from other officers in the Church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum equal in authority and power to the three Presidents previously mentioned.” (Doctrine and Covenants 107; 23-24). After the rejection of his claims, Sidney Rigdon became disaffected and withdrew to Pittsburgh, Pa., with a small following, over which he presided for a few years, when the organization, for lack of members, ceased to exist. William B. Smith claimed the right to the presidency by virtue of being the only surviving brother of Joseph Smith. His following was always small and soon disbanded. James J. Strang declared that he had been appointed by the Prophet Joseph Smith to be his successor, in a letter written but a few days before the tragedy. He was a man of some ability and gathered about him a few prominent men who refused to remain with the Church under the leadership of Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles. For a time his organization appeared to flourish, but like the organizations of Sidney Rigdon and William B. Smith, soon fell into decay and was deserted by many members. In the year 1852 Jason W. Briggs, a resident of Beloit, Ill., and Zenas H. Gurley, gathered some of the scattered remnants from these organizations and formed branches at Beloit, Waukesha and Yellowstone, in what they called the “New Organization of the Church.” Jason W. Briggs, it is said, held the office of Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints previous to the death of Joseph Smith. Until 1846, the year of the exodus to the west, he remained a member of the Church. Later he joined the organization of James J. Strang, then that of William B. Smith in which he remained until 1851. Zenas H. Gurley, before the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, held the office of Seventy. He also accepted the leadership of Brigham Young and the Twelve Apostles until the exodus in 1846, when he withdrew and became a member of the Church under James J. Strang. In this organization he labored diligently until 1851. After Jason W. Briggs and Zenas H. Gurley joined their forces in 1852, they commenced to preach the doctrine of the “rejection” of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or the “original church” because they said the saints had failed to build the temple at Nauvoo within a given time, which expired at, or shortly following, the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. Because of this “rejection” they said it became necessary for the church to be newly organized that it might find favor with the Lord. They also promulgated the doctrine of “lineal priesthood” claiming that it was the right of the oldest son of Joseph Smith to succeed his father in the presidency of the Church. For a number of years they labored to induce Joseph Smith, son of the Prophet Joseph, to take the presidency of the new organization, but without success. Finally, at a conference held at Amboy, Ill., 6 April 1860, he consented and was installed as president of the new organization, which was later incorporated as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The Saints' Herald, the official publication of the Church, was begun 1 Jan. 1860, at Cincinnati, Ohio. It was removed to Piano, Ill., March 1863. Since 1881 it has been published at Lamoni, Iowa. Joseph Smith was its editor-in-chief from 1865 to 1914. The Church held annual and semi-annual conferences until and including 1882, when the semi-annual were discontinued. The headquarters were at Piano, Ill., from 1863 to 1881; since then at Lamoni, Iowa. The quorums of the reorganization are organized in the same order which existed at the death of Joseph Smith. The doctrines are as follows:

A belief in God the Eternal Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.

That men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.

That all men may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, namely, faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ; repentance; baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost; the resurrection of the body; that the dead in Christ will rise first; that men shall be judged, rewarded, or punished, according to the degree of good or evil they shall have done.

That a man must be called of God, and ordained by the laying on of hands of those who are in authority, to entitle him to preach the Gospel, and administer in the ordinances thereof.

In the same kind of organization that existed in the primitive Church.

That in the Bible is contained the word of God, so far as it is translated correctly. That the canon of Scripture is not full, but that God, by His Spirit, will continue to reveal His word.

In the powers and gifts of the everlasting gospel, namely, the gift of faith, discerning of spirits, prophecy, revelation, healing, visions, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues, wisdom, charity, brotherly love, etc.

That marriage is ordained of God; and that the law of God provides for but one companion in wedlock, for either man or woman, except where the contract is broken by death or transgression.

That the doctrines of a plurality and a community of wives are heresies. The Book of Mormon says: “Wherefore, my brethren, hear mc, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife, and concubines he shall have none.

That the religion of Jesus Christ, will, if its precepts are accepted and obeyed, make men and women better in the domestic circle, and better citizens, and consequently better fitted for the change that cometb at death.

That men should worship God in “Spirit and in truth;” and that such worship does not require a violation of the constitutional law of the land.

The Church has been more aggressive in its fight against polygamy than any other organization. The local work is divided into the following organizations according to latest reports: Two States, Lamoni, Iowa; and Independence, Mo.; both organized in 1901; 74 districts; 62 in the United States, two in Australia, five in England, two in Wales, two in Canada and one in Nova Scotia. The reorganization supports Graceland College and a home for the aged, both at Lamoni, Iowa. It is prosecuting missionary work throughout the United States, the Canadas, Australia, New Zealand, Society Islands, Sandwich Islands, the British Isles, Scandinavia and other countries. The membership is about 75,000.