|Brief History of The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ....|
The church was organized on April 6, 1830, in Fayette, New York, by Joseph Smith and five others. It was the culmination of a series of divine manifestations in which the Savior restored to earth the same gifts, authority, and organization that attended the original Christian church. Since the earliest days of the Reformation, devout men and women had prayed and searched for a pristine church free from the political alliances and corrupt tenets that accompanied the Roman church and her Protestant but sister offshoots. The Puritans who came to America saw their colonization of the New World as an opportunity to complete the Reformation. John Robinson wrote, "All other Churches of Europe are brought to desolation . . . and who knows but that God hath provided this place to be a refuge for many whom He means to save out of the general calamity. And seeing the Church hath no place left to fly into but the wilderness, what better work can there be, than to go and provide tabernacles and food for her against [that time when] she comes thither."
In his Apocalypse, Apostle John saw the church flee into the wilderness (Rev 12:14), remaining there for 1260 years (Rev 12:6). That church came out of the wilderness on April 6, 1830, restoring again to earth Christ’s pure doctrines and the apostles’ divine power. Converts quickly enlarged the infant church. In 1831, the church moved its headquarters to Kirtland, Ohio. Meanwhile, members began gathering to Independence, Missouri, the site on which God promised to eventually build his holy city.
The rapid growth of the church brought prejudice and persecution. Many refused to believe that God spoke or otherwise revealed his will to Christians anymore. They taught that the spiritual manifestations so frequently recorded in the Bible ceased when Christianity prevailed over paganism. Considering Joseph a false prophet, they circulated false accusations against his character and mistreated church members, particularly those living in Independence. In November 1833 the saints, some of whom had lived in Independence for over two years, were forcibly driven from their homes and out of Jackson County.
The exiled saints congregated in the neighboring counties of Cass and Clay, but their continually increasing numbers showed officials that the best way to ease political and religious friction was to provide a separate county for church members. In 1836, Missouri created Caldwell County. Church members bought out its few inhabitants, platted the county seat, which they called Far West, and began settling the territory, but it proved too small an area. Once members moved into surrounding counties, friction increase until conflict erupted again. It started in Davies County when a group of local residents refused to let some church members vote in an election.
The ensuing conflict escalated until the state militia surrounded Far West and threatened its annihilation unless church leaders surrendered. Joseph Smith, who had recently migrated from Kirtland, and other leaders complied. They were jailed on the charge of treason. Meanwhile, Governor Boggs, who had help drive the saints out of Jackson county four years before, banned all church members from the state in his infamous extermination order. They fled to Illinois, finally purchasing a town on the banks of the Mississippi River, which they renamed Nauvoo. Joseph joined them there in 1839.
Nauvoo blossomed into the largest city in Illinois at the time. Converts arrived from every area of the nation and some came from as far away as England. The state granted the city a liberal charter and even allowed them to organize a militia, a particularly comforting provision for a people who had been driven from their homes at least twice. Unfortunately, the rapid growth of the church allowed unsavory elements to sprout and influence its members. Converts from Jacob Cochran’s religious sect in Maine had introduced their previous beliefs about spiritual wifery. found so many initiates that Nauvoo’s citizens completed the Masonic Temple at the neglect of the Nauvoo Temple. The result was that secret oaths, covenants, ordinances, and ceremonies -- the foremost perversion being polygamy -- attached themselves to the Restoration work.
Joseph learned about the growing deviations and finally decided to correct the mistakes. He told William Marks, president of the High Council, the church’s highest judicial body, that polygamy "eventually would prove the overthrow of the church, and we should be obliged to leave the United States, unless it could be speedily put down. He was satisfied that it was a cursed doctrine, and that there must be every exertion made to put it down. He said that he would go before the congregation and proclaim against it, and I must go into the High Council, and he would prefer charges against those in transgression, and I must sever them from the church, unless they made ample satisfaction." A few days later, on June 27, 1844, a mob attacked the jail at Carthage, Illinois, killing Joseph and his brother Hyrum. After his death, the church fragmented and its members scattered.
The Lord previously warned the church about the growing wickedness. As early as 1831 he said, "There were among you adulterers and adulteresses; some of whom have turned away from you, and others remain with you, that hereafter shall be revealed. Let such beware and repent speedily, lest judgment shall come on them as a snare, and their folly shall be made manifest, and their works shall follow them in the eyes of the people." Later, he commanded them to complete the Nauvoo Temple or "be rejected as a church." The saints failed to complete the Nauvoo Temple, abandoning it in as most citizens fled west to Utah, where polygamy manifest their adultery.
Only about 20,000 of the approximately 200,000 church members went to Utah. Several claimants to church leadership further scattered the saints into over 20 different factions that settled six other states. For sixteen years the church founded by Joseph Smith lay divided, confused, and leaderless.
On April 6, 1860, Joseph Smith III, son and designated successor of Joseph Smith, Jr., agreed to assume his father’s position. For eight years members scattered among different branches of the church repeatedly petitioned God to rescue his latter-day work, receiving divine assurances that "young Joseph," as they called him, would eventually come. After his ordination, Joseph III invited all church members who had "been wandering in by and forbidden paths, and have been led astray by wicked and designing men, to turn from their scenes of wickedness and sins of convenience, to turn from their servitude to Satan, in all his seductive devices . . . to the principles of the gospel of peace, to the paths of wisdom, to the homage of that God that brought the children of Israel out of bondage." Thousands accepted his invitation and the revitalized church grew as members from the various factions filled its ranks.
Utah Mormonism resisted young Joseph’s invitation, persisting in its polygamous activities until the Federal Government threatened action. In order to protect the church properties under his jurisdiction from federal seizure, Joseph III added the word "Reorganized" to the name of the church. Until then both bodies were known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints views polygamy as an abomination and secret oaths and ceremonies as depravities.
The first headquarters of the Reorganized Church was at Plano, Illinois. In 1867, the church moved them to Lamoni, Iowa, and finally settled in Independence, Missouri, in 1903. When early church members were driven out of Jackson County, Joseph, Jr., prophesied, "Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered, they that remain and are pure in heart shall return and come to their inheritances; they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy; to build up the waste places of Zion." Among those expelled from Missouri by Governor Boggs’ order were Emma Smith, wife of Joseph, and her children, Joseph III and Alexander. They and their children, David Smith, Elbert Smith, Vida Smith and Audentia Anderson returned to Independence and wrote hymns of joy, many of which are still sung by members of the Reorganized Church.
During Joseph III’s administration, the church developed branches throughout the United States and established missions in Europe, Mexico, and the South Sea Islands. It founded a college, a sanitarium/hospital, and a printing division. A federal court awarded it the Kirtland Temple, built and dedicated in 1836, deciding that the Reorganized Church was the legitimate and legal successor to the original church.
Joseph III died in 1914. Three of his sons presided over the church one after the other: Fred M. Smith, Israel A. Smith, and W. Wallace Smith. Wallace B. Smith succeeded his father W. Wallace. During their combined administrations, the Reorganized Church grew to over 200,000 members, established missions around the world in both Western and non-Western countries, expanded or created sister institutions like Graceland College, the Independence Sanitarium, now named Independence Regional Hospital, Herald House, Resthaven, and Park College. Church development was augmented, even nurtured, by it academic efforts, leading to an emphasis on formal education for members and priesthood alike.
As the church embraced academia, many members and leaders developed an attitude of suspended belief. Traditional teachings and practices were reviewed, reinterpreted, and revised. The changes separated church members into liberal and conservative parties that started separating after 1984 when the church decided to start ordaining women.
Zarahemla Branch preaches and teaches the gospel and observes the ordinances as were traditionally maintained by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We believe that the recent changes undertaken by the Reorganization will eventually prove unsatisfactory and that God will complete Restoration's purpose through members of the Reorganization who advocate and conform to the traditional tenets of the church.