We proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.
We proclaim Jesus Christ.
Who lived, died, and lives again.
Who acknowledged each person’s dignity and worth.
Who brought, for all people, the message of redemption and of God’s inexhaustible love.
Our mission is about sharing the peace of Jesus Christ in all its dimensions. “The peace of Jesus Christ” encompasses all of the promises, hopes, and blessings of the gospel as revealed by Christ and as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, his promised presence with us.
Worldwide, each of our congregations is a warm, participative community where we respect – and use – the gifts and talents of each person, from oldest to youngest in celebration of our mission. Here in the Los Angeles area – in neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and organizations – we share the peace of Jesus Christ by caring for each other, for all people, and for the earth itself.
We promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace.
Community: a place to belong.
Women, men, and children-all holding something in common.
A group working together toward a cherished purpose, and welcoming newcomers with joy.
Whether one labels it Zion, the kingdom of God on earth, shalom, the peaceable kingdom, or God’s beloved community, it starts right here, right now. This is the divine call to incarnate the gospel in community living, through which the physical and spiritual needs of people are to be met, and through which harmony, security, and peace can be realized. Together with God, we participate in building a world of peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit-an active, redemptive peace for all.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is at the center of the faith and beliefs of Community of Christ. We are a worldwide community and are committed to follow Jesus, bring forth the kingdom of God, and seek together the revealing, renewing presence of the Holy Spirit. We offer here our basic beliefs, not as the last word, but as an open invitation to all to embark on the adventure of discipleship. As we seek God’s continuing guidance, we encourage all people to study the scriptures and think about their experiences as they engage in the life of the church.
We believe in one living God who meets us in the testimony of Israel, is revealed in Jesus Christ, and moves through all creation as the Holy Spirit. We affirm the Trinity—God who is a community of three persons. All things that exist owe their being to God: mystery beyond understanding and love beyond imagination. This God alone is worthy of our worship.
We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the Word made flesh, the Savior of the world, fully human and fully divine. Through Jesus’ life and ministry, death and resurrection, God reconciles the world and breaks down the walls that divide. Christ is our peace.
For more, see We Proclaim Jesus Christ.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
We believe in the Holy Spirit, Giver of Life, holy Wisdom, true God. The Spirit moves through and sustains creation; endows the church for mission; frees the world from sin, injustice, and death; and transforms disciples. Wherever we find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control, there the Holy Spirit is working.
As an expression of Divine love, God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, and called them “good.” Everything belongs to God and should be cherished and used justly according to divine purposes. God sees creation as a whole without separation of spirit and element. God calls people of every generation to join with God as stewards in the loving care of creation.
Every human being is created in the image of God. In Jesus Christ, God took on the limits of human flesh and culture, and is known through them. We therefore affirm without exception the worth of every human being. We also affirm that God has blessed humankind with the gift of agency: the ability to choose whom or what we will serve within the circumstances of our lives.
God created us to be agents of love and goodness. Yet we misuse our agency individually and collectively. We take the gifts of creation and of self and turn them against God’s purposes with tragic results. Sin is the universal condition of separation and alienation from God and one another. We are in need of divine grace that alone reconciles us with God and one another.
The gospel is the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ: forgiveness of sin, and healing from separation, brokenness, and the power of violence and death. This healing is for individuals, human societies, and all of creation. This new life is the loving gift of God’s grace that becomes ours through faith and repentance. Baptism is how we initially express our commitment to lifelong discipleship. As we yield our lives to Christ in baptism we enter Christian community (the body of Christ) and have the promise of salvation. We experience salvation through Jesus Christ, but affirm that God’s grace has no bounds, and God’s love is greater than we can know.
God intends Christian faith to be lived in companionship with Jesus Christ and with other disciples in service to the world. The church of Jesus Christ is made of all those who respond to Jesus’ call. Community of Christ is part of the whole body of Christ. We are called to be a prophetic people, proclaiming the peace of Jesus Christ and creating communities where all will be welcomed and brought into renewed relationship with God, and where there will be no poor.
We affirm the Living God is ever self-revealing. God is revealed to the world in the testimony of Israel, and above all in Jesus Christ. By the Holy Spirit we continue to hear God speaking today. The church is called to listen together for what the Spirit is saying and then faithfully respond.
Scripture is writing inspired by God’s Spirit and accepted by the church as the normative expression of its identity, message, and mission. We affirm the Bible as the foundational scripture for the church. In addition, Community of Christ uses the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants—not to replace the witness of the Bible or improve on it, but because they confirm its message that Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God. When responsibly interpreted and faithfully applied, scripture provides divine guidance and inspired insight for our discipleship.
For more, see Scripture in the Community of Christ.
Sacraments are special ministries given to the church to convey the grace of Jesus Christ to his followers and all those he yearns to touch with his compassion. Sacraments are baptism, confirmation, the Lord’s Supper, marriage, blessing of children, laying on of hands for the sick, ordination to the priesthood, and the evangelist’s blessing. In these ministries, God sanctifies common elements of creation to bless human life and to renew and form the church to seek the peaceful kingdom of God.
For more, see The Sacraments.
Being a Christian is more than holding a list of right ideas; it is about radical obedience to Jesus in every part of life. God’s boundless love sets us free for lives of responsible stewardship in which we generously offer our lives in service to God’s reign. Discipleship is both an inward and outward journey. Jesus calls us to follow him and to invite others to experience the transforming power of his grace
Ministry is humble service offered according to the model of Jesus, who calls every disciple to share in ministry for the world. Some disciples are called by God and ordained to priesthood offices to serve the mission of the church in specialized ways. The Holy Spirit gives complementary gifts and abilities to all disciples to equip the body of Christ for its witness in the world.
THE REIGN OF GOD
The Reign of God is the coming triumph of love, justice, mercy and peace that one day will embrace all of creation. Jesus’ life and ministry were the living expression of this promise. He taught his disciples to pray for the kingdom’s full coming and sent them out into the world to be living emblems of that new creation. “Zion” expresses our commitment to herald God’s peaceable kingdom on earth by forming Christ-centered communities in families, congregations, neighborhoods, cities, and throughout the world.
Peace is God’s shalom: justice, righteousness, wholeness, and the well-being of the entire creation. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to preach the kingdom and to be our peace through the cross. The Holy Spirit empowers us for the costly pursuit of peace and justice for all people.
RESURRECTION AND ETERNAL LIFE
Christ is risen! Thus we believe that God is God of life, not of death. By faith we share in eternal life even now. In Christ, God’s love finally will overcome all that demeans and degrades the creation, even death itself. Easter also gives us hope that the tragic suffering and death of victims, throughout history, is not the last word. We believe the Holy Spirit will transform all creation to share in the glory of God.
The living God whom we serve is a God of justice and mercy. God cares about how we treat our neighbors and enemies and how we make use of creation’s gifts. It matters supremely to God how we welcome the poor, the stranger, the sick, the imprisoned, and the rejected. We affirm in Scripture’s light that Jesus Christ is advocate and judge of the living and the dead.
We press forward together in service to God, knowing that our labor is not in vain. The future of the creation belongs to the Prince of Peace, not to those who oppress, dominate, or destroy. As we anticipate that future, we devote ourselves to seek Christ’s peace and pursue it. We do not know the day or hour of Christ’s coming but know only that God is faithful. With faith in God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, we face the future in hopeful longing, and with the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray: “Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
- Grace and Generosity
- Sacredness of Creation
- Continuing Revelation
- Worth of All Persons
- All Are Called
- Responsible Choices
- Pursuit of Peace (Shalom)
- Unity in Diversity
- Blessings of Community
Each principle follows with statements that help explain its meaning. Each set of statements ends with “we” statements that emphasize calling and desired response. The statements following each principle are not meant to be limiting or comprehensive. They are provided as helps. Use phrases, illustrations, stories, testimonies, scripture passages, and additional points to provide clarity and understanding for those with whom you are sharing.
Grace and Generosity
- God’s grace, especially as revealed in Jesus Christ, is generous and unconditional.
- Having received God’s generous grace, we respond generously and graciously receive the generosity of others.
- We offer all we are and have to God’s purposes as revealed in Jesus Christ.
- We generously share our witness, resources, ministries, and sacraments according to our true capacity.
Sacredness of Creation
- In the beginning, God created and called it all good.
- Spirit and material, seen and unseen, are related.
- Creation’s power to create or destroy reminds us of our vulnerability in this life.
- God is still creating to fulfill divine purpose.
- We join with God as stewards of care and hope for all creation.
- Scripture is an inspired and indispensable witness of human response to God’s revelation of divine nature.
- God graciously reveals divine will today as in the past.
- The Holy Spirit inspires and provides witness to divine truth.
- In humility, individually and in community, we prayerfully listen to understand God’s will for our lives, the church, and creation more completely.
Worth of All Persons
- God views all people as having inestimable and equal worth.
- God wants all people to experience wholeness of body, mind, spirit, and relationships.
- We seek to uphold and restore the worth of all people individually and in community, challenging unjust systems that diminish human worth.
- We join with Jesus Christ in bringing good news to the poor, sick, captive, and oppressed.
All Are Called
- God graciously gives people gifts and opportunities to do good and to share in God’s purposes.
- Jesus Christ invites people to follow him by becoming disciples who share his life and ministry.
- Some disciples are called and ordained to particular priesthood responsibilities and ministries for the sake of the community, the congregation, and the world.
- We respond faithfully, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to our best understanding of God’s call.
- God gives humans the ability to make choices about whom or what they will serve. Some people experience conditions that diminish their ability to make choices.
- Human choices contribute to good or evil in our lives and in the world.
- Many aspects of creation need redemption because of irresponsible and sinful human choices.
- We are called to make responsible choices within the circumstances of our lives that contribute to the purposes of God.
Pursuit of Peace (Shalom)
- God wants shalom (justice, reconciliation, well-being, wholeness, and peace) for all of creation.
- Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s shalom (peace), reveals the meaning of God’s peace in all aspects of life.
- The vision of Zion is to promote God’s reign on earth, as proclaimed by Jesus Christ, through the leavening influence of just and peaceful communities.
- We courageously and generously share the peace of Jesus Christ with others.
- Led by the Holy Spirit, we work with God and others to restore peace (shalom) to creation.
- We celebrate God’s peace wherever it appears or is being pursued by people of good will.
Unity in Diversity
- The Community of Christ is a diverse, international family of disciples, seekers, and congregations.
- Local and worldwide ministries are interdependent and important to the church’s mission.
- The church embraces diversity and unity through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- We seek agreement or common consent in important matters. If we cannot achieve agreement, we commit to ongoing dialogue and lovingly uphold our common faith in Jesus Christ and the mission of the church.
- We confess that our lack of agreement on certain matters is hurtful to some of God’s beloved children and creation.
Blessings of Community
- The gospel of Jesus Christ is expressed best in community life where people become vulnerable to God’s grace and each other.
- True community includes compassion for and solidarity with the poor, marginalized, and oppressed.
- True community upholds the worth of persons while providing a healthy alternative to self-centeredness, isolation, and conformity.
- Sacred community provides nurture and growth opportunities for all people, especially those who can not fully care for themselves.
- We value our connections and share a strong sense of trust in and belonging with one another—even if we never have met.
- Some disciples are called and ordained to particular priesthood responsibilities and ministries for the sake of the community, the congregation, and the world.
- We are called to create communities of Christ’s peace in our families and congregations and across villages, tribes, nations, and throughout creation.
What is the relationship between enduring principles and basic beliefs?
When people try to understand the church’s identity, mission, and message, they bring different ways of perceiving reality, which leads to different questions.
What is the church like? Enduring principles are the underlying truths and affirmations that shape the personality of the church. Enduring principles guide how we live in our communities, families, workplaces, congregations, and cultures. They describe how we experience and share the gospel and the church with others.
What does the church believe? Basic beliefs are the more comprehensive, rational explanations of what the church holds to be true, arranged in categories that are part of the broader Christian tradition. Basic beliefs represent a deepening level of inquiry about the gospel and the church.
We need both ways of expressing the identity, mission, and message of the church, along with the others described in this document, to ensure that people can explore and experience the gospel in ways that are the most informing and transforming for them.
Perspectives on Church History
By President Stephen M. Veazey
The gavel Joseph Smith III used to preside over conferences of the Reorganization sits atop a credenza in my office at the Temple. I do not own it; it belongs to the church.
Occasionally, while mulling over thorny church issues, I walk over and pick up the gavel, respectfully examining its slightly cracked ivory head and beautifully carved wood handle. Cradling it in my hands, I feel that I have some tangible connection to the past. Thus engaged, my mind wanders back through time to ponder the personalities, events, and circumstances that shaped today’s church. Although I have read many church history books, I always want to know more about my religious ancestors and the historical contexts in which they expressed their faith.
While I was much more than casually aware of church history previously, since becoming president of the church I have engaged in an extensive study of our story. I have explored books and articles from a wide spectrum of scholars, authors, and publishers, ranging from the faithful to the skeptical and in between. Truth has nothing to fear from scrutiny.
During recent decades there has been a mounting wave of added information as religious historians have gained access to more source material and have written with increasing frankness about various topics. Also, in the past few years, the media spotlight—including several high-profile television series—has been turned on to Latter Day Saint history because of the Mitt Romney campaign for the U.S. Presidency and the disturbing activities of LDS fundamentalist groups.
Because of my exploration of various credible works, and probing discussions with historians, some of my previously held notions have been challenged and adjusted in the face of additional knowledge. The “apologetic” approach to church history—presenting our story in as favorable a light as possible—is not sufficient for the journey ahead. That approach does not evidence the integrity that must be fundamental to our witness and ministry.
While I have adjusted some personal perspectives, I have mainly found a deeper understanding of the many complex, interrelated factors that shaped the church over the years. I have come to see more clearly how God’s Spirit worked in the lives of imperfect, but highly dedicated people to shape a faith movement that continues to play a vital role in God’s unfolding purposes today. As a result, I have gained even greater confidence that the same Spirit that saw the church through seemingly insurmountable challenges in the past will continue to sustain and guide us in the future.
As the First Presidency has joined with others in exploring issues emerging from the ongoing study of Restoration history, we decided it would be timely to provide a set of “Church History Principles” to help guide the church’s reflections and discussions. These principles have been distilled from the insights of past and present World Church leaders, church historians, theologians, and others. We hope the statements will prove useful as the church continues to explore the personalities, events, and meanings of our church’s colorful, inspiring story.
Church History Principles
1. Continuing exploration of our history is part of identity formation. As a church we seek always to clarify our identity, message, and mission. In our faith story, we see clearly God’s Spirit giving this faith community tools, insights, and experiences for divine purposes. A people with a shared memory of their past, and an informed understanding of its meaning, are better prepared to chart their way into the future.
2. History informs but does not dictate our faith and beliefs. The foundation and continuing source for our faith is God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. Studying history is not about proving or disproving mystical, spiritual, or revelatory experiences that birth or transform religious movements. Sound history informs faith, and healthy faith leads to insights about history. Theology and faith, guided by the Holy Spirit, must play an important role in discovering the enduring meaning of such events as well as the deeper truths found in them. Our understanding of our history affects our faith and beliefs. However, our past does not limit our faith and beliefs to what they were historically.
3. The church encourages honest, responsible historical scholarship. Studying history involves related fields. Historians use academic research to get as many facts as they can; then, they interpret those facts to construct as clear a picture as possible of what was going on in the past. This includes analyzing human culture to see how it affected events. Historians try to understand patterns of meaning to interpret what the past means for our future. This process should avoid “presentism,” or interpreting the past based on a current worldview and culture instead of the culture of the time.
4. The study of church history is a continuing journey. If we say that a book on history is the only true telling of the story, we risk “canonizing” one version, a tendency we have shown in the past. This blocks further insights from continuing research. Good historical inquiry understands that conclusions are open to correction as new understanding and information comes from ongoing study.
5. Seeing both the faithfulness and human flaws in our history makes it more believable and realistic, not less. Our history has stories of great faith and courage that inspire us. Our history also includes human leaders who said and did things that can be shocking to us from our current perspective and culture. Historians try not to judge—instead, they try to understand by learning as much as possible about the context and the meaning of those words and actions at the time. The result is empathy instead of judgment. Our scriptures are consistent in pointing out that God, through grace, uses imperfect people for needed ministry and leadership.
6. The responsible study of church history involves learning, repentance, and transformation. A church with a mission focused on promoting communities of reconciliation, justice, and peace should be self-critical and honest about its history. It is important for us to confess when we have been less than what the gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to be. This honesty prompts us to repent, and it strengthens our integrity. Admitting past mistakes helps us avoid repeating them and frees us from the influences of past injustices and violence in our history. We must be humble and willing to repent, individually and as a community, to contribute as fully as possible to restoring God’s shalom on earth.
7. The church has a long-standing tradition that it does not legislate or mandate positions on matters of church history. Historians should be free to draw their own conclusions after thorough consideration of evidence. Through careful study and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the church is learning how to accept and responsibly interpret all of its history. This includes putting new information and changing understandings into proper perspective, while emphasizing the parts of our history that continue to play a role in guiding the church’s identity and mission today.
8. We need to create a respectful culture of dialogue about matters of history. We should not limit our faith story to one perspective. Diverse viewpoints bring richness to our understanding of God’s movement in our sacred story. Of course, historians will come to different conclusions as they study. Therefore, it is important for us to create and maintain a respectful culture that allows different points of view on history. Our conversation about history should be polite and focused on trying to understand others’ views. Most important, we should remain focused on what matters most for the message and mission of the church in this time.
9. Our faith is grounded in God’s revelation in Jesus Christ and the continuing guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must keep our hearts and minds centered on God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. As God’s Word alive in human history, Jesus Christ was and is the foundation of our faith and the focus of the church’s mission and message.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
Yes. Community of Christ believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.
What do you use for scriptures?
Community of Christ recognizes three books of scripture: The Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. We believe in continuing revelation and an open canon of scripture.
Who is eligible for priesthood membership?
All persons, male and female, are eligible for priesthood ordination. We believe God calls those chosen to serve in the ministry. Most of our ministers earn their living outside of church employment and serve in various offices according to their gifts and callings.
What is tithing?
The concept of tithing is deeply rooted in our scriptures and tradition. It is a disciple’s generous response, expressing love of God, neighbor, creation, and self.
Do you perform sacraments in your Temple in Independence?
The Community of Christ Temple in Independence, Misuri, is a house of public worship, and entrance into the Temple or participation in its ministries is open to all. Communion (the Lord’s Supper) is often served during special services in the Temple sanctuary. Other sacraments are provided in local congregations.
Do you plan to build other temples?
The church was instructed to build its Temple in Independence. Since its ministries can be shared anywhere the church is gathered, there is need for only one temple. The building of the Temple began in April 1990, and it was officially dedicated at the 1994 World Conference. Community of Christ maintains the Kirtland Temple in Kirtland, Ohio. This historic site continues to be used as a worship space of special significance.
The Mormons left Nauvoo in 1846. Joseph Smith III was only twelve. Who became prophet?
A large number of Saints made the journey to Utah in the 1840s under the direction of Brigham Young (the senior apostle at that time), but quite a number did not. Some joined other organizations led by a variety of individuals who had held various responsibilities in the church under Joseph Smith Jr. These organizations established different ways of dealing with the “succession to Joseph” issue and how leadership would be provided.
There are several historical indications that Joseph Smith Jr. designated that his son, Joseph Smith III, would someday follow him in office. Some of the leaders who arose initially indicated that they were only custodial leaders until Joseph III, who was born on November 7, 1832, in Kirtland, Ohio, came of age and could lead the church.
There were a number of congregations in the Midwest that chose not to affiliate with any of these organizations or their leaders. Some of these congregations began to form an association with each other in the early 1850s. They operated under the leadership of the ordained priesthood in each congregation. Some of these priesthood had spiritual experiences indicating that the congregations should prepare for the day when Joseph Smith III would become the next prophet-president of the church. Seeking divine direction and meeting together in conferences, they selected and ordained several apostles. This is the genesis of the “Reorganized Church” as we were sometimes called.
Eventually Joseph Smith III became a part of this organization and was ordained the prophet-president of the church on April 6, 1860, at Amboy, Illinois.
Is there any book regarding the history of the beginning of your church?
There are several. One excellent option is The Church through the Years, a two-volume history by Richard Howard, former church historian. Volume 1 covers the time period to 1860. Volume 2 is from 1860 to 1992.
Another option would be to read Community of Christ author Paul M. Edward’s book, Our Legacy of Faith. This is a one-volume summary of our church story. Howard’s and Edward’s books can both be ordered from Herald House at 1-800/767-8181. For more details, we have also published an eight-volume history of the church.
Another option is Jan Shipps’s book Mormonism: The Story of A New Religious Tradition, an interesting look from a professional historian who is unaffiliated with the restoration churches.
Was Emma Smith, wife of Joseph Smith Jr., a member of your organization?
Yes. Emma Smith Bidamon, who married Lewis Crum Bidamon three-and-a-half years after Joseph’s death, accompanied her son Joseph Smith III to the pivotal conference at Amboy, Illinois, on April 6, 1860. According to the conference minutes, she was received into fellowship by unanimous vote on the basis of her baptism in the early church, as was the custom then.
Emma’s son was chosen as “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ, and the successor of his father” at the same conference. According to the conference minutes, Joseph was ordained by Zenas H. Gurley Sr. and William Marks on April 6, 1860. (Some sources indicate that Samuel Powers and W. W. Blair were also involved in the ordination.)
There is not much published information on Emma. In 1954, Margaret Wilson Gibson wrote Emma Smith: The Elect Lady as a historical novel based on Emma’s life (Herald House). Roy A. Cheville wrote Joseph and Emma, Companions (Herald House, 1977), sharing the story of two people and their relationship.
A brief biography of Emma can be found in First Ladies of the Restoration by Frances Hartman Mulliken (Herald House, 1985).
A more recent book, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith (second edition) provides information on the beginning of our movement and Emma’s involvement with it. It was written by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippets Avery and published in 1994 by the University of Illinois Press.
Two articles dealing with her life and faith have been published in the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal: “The Faith of Emma Smith” by Don Compier (Volume 6, 1986), and “Emma’s Enduring Compassion: A Personal Reflection” by Joni Wilson (Volume 19, 1999).
Understanding that Joseph Smith III took over leadership in 1860, what happened from 1846 through 1860?
As indicated above, many “independent” congregations continued to function under the leadership of their priesthood until they affiliated with the movement that became our church.
What position does Community of Christ take on Joseph Smith Jr.’s alleged involvement in polygamy?
Our faith is grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ and not in the actions of any particular person. The Community of Christ affirms its long history of vigorous opposition to polygamy as a doctrine or practice, regardless of what historical research may ultimately conclude about its origins in the early Latter Day Saint movement. The church has consistently taught monogamy as the basic principle of Christian marriage (Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 111 and 150).
As a policy, the Community of Christ 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.
The issues of polygamy and whether Joseph Smith Jr. was connected with its inception at Nauvoo, Illinois, in the 1840s have been of considerable interest to Community of Christ members and others through the years. The early RLDS Church (1860-1960) consistently opposed the doctrine and fought against the assertion by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Mormon] that Joseph Smith Jr. advocated this practice as part of a divine plan. Joseph Smith III, son of the founding prophet and first prophet-president of the RLDS Church (1860-1914), spent much of his life trying to clear his father’s name from the stigma of polygamy and polygamous doctrine, even though there were leaders in the early RLDS Church who believed otherwise. While it is clear that Joseph Smith III sincerely believed that his father was innocent, he was heard to affirm on more than one occasion that even if his father was guilty, he was wrong.
Today the Community of Christ takes into account the growing body of scholarly research and publications depicting the polygamous teachings and practices of the Nauvoo period of church history (1840-1846). The context of these developments included a time of religious and cultural experimentation in the United States and the emergence of a system of secret temple ordinances in Nauvoo that accented the primacy of family connections, both in this life and the next. The practice of plural marriage emerged from that context and involved a select cadre of key leaders entering into polygamous marriage rituals and covenants. The research findings seem to increasingly point to Joseph Smith Jr. as a significant source for plural marriage teaching and practice at Nauvoo. However, several of Joseph Smith’s associates later wrote that he repudiated the plural marriage system and began to try to stop its practice shortly before his death in June 1844.
The Community of Christ, in its ongoing quest for truth, remains open to a more complete understanding of its history. Through careful study and the ongoing guidance of the Holy Spirit, the church is learning how to own and responsibly interpret all of its history. This process includes putting new information and changing understandings into proper perspective while emphasizing those parts that continue to play a vital role in guiding and shaping the church’s identity and mission today. In this way, we can genuinely affirm the prophetic vision of Joseph Smith Jr., while acknowledging the fallibility present in his life and in the lives of all prophetic leaders.
Over time the Community of Christ has moved away from an identity rooted in battling polygamy and charges that Joseph Smith Jr. was somehow involved in order to pursue a broader and more future-oriented focus for its resources and energies. Today, members and friends in many nations are finding blessings of meaning and hope in the church’s mission of promoting peace, reconciliation, and healing of the spirit through Christ-centered community.
The Community of Christ encourages its members and other interested parties to explore all issues pertaining to its history in an open atmosphere. Doing so allows people to draw their own conclusions based on how they weigh the evidence.