“Other Latter Day Saint Movements,” Church History Topics
“Other Latter Day Saint Movements”
After the failure of the Kirtland Safety Society in 1837, a group of Latter-day Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, began to question Joseph Smith’s leadership.1 They felt they could no longer accept Joseph as a leader, though they still believed that Jesus Christ had restored His ancient gospel through the Prophet. Drawing on the Protestant tradition of forming new churches in protest over a grievance, they founded their own separate church.2
During Joseph Smith’s lifetime, several small groups left the Church and started their own movements, holding to a belief in the Book of Mormon but rejecting Joseph’s continued leadership. After Joseph Smith’s death in 1844, most Latter-day Saints sustained the leadership of the Twelve Apostles, but several movements were founded based on different ideas about succession of leadership.3 New churches continued to form occasionally, typically over specific disagreements about doctrine or policy. For example, movements were founded in opposition to Brigham Young’s efforts to promote consecration, to Wilford Woodruff’s revelation to discontinue plural marriage, and to mission leadership in Mexico in the 1930s.4
Some of these movements were short lived, but many have endured for generations, although most remain relatively small organizations. Aside from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the two largest groups that subsequently formed were a church founded by James J. Strang (sometimes called the Strangite Church) and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now called Community of Christ), which was founded in 1860 and led initially by Joseph Smith’s son Joseph III.
Historically, relationships between the Church and other groups have been strained. Feelings typically ran high in the period leading up to a schism, and afterward the different churches tended to emphasize their points of disagreement. In some cases, like William Law’s True Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1844 and William Godbe’s Church of Zion in the 1870s, the new movements became entangled with anti-Mormon groups. In the case of the Third Convention movement in Mexico, deep, early divisions gradually gave way to greater respect and cooperation, and the movement was eventually reconciled with the Church.5
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Church and the Reorganized Church clashed in media, in mission fields, and in courtrooms, with these conflicts overshadowing any attempts at better relations.6 By the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, the relationship between the two churches had improved dramatically. While each maintains its own identity and doctrinal distinctiveness, the two churches and their members have cooperated in preserving shared historic sites, promoting scholarship, and serving others.7