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Start of RLDS Church & Mormon Schisms Tour

We’re about ready to finish our conversation with John Hamer and Lachlan MacKay of the Community of Christ and do a Mormon Schisms Tour!  In this next conversation, we’ll talk about how confusing it must have been to live following the death of Joseph Smith.

John:  You might have a branch where at a certain point, you’ve heard Joseph Smith has been killed.  You are very sad.  Brighamite missionaries come through.  They say the Twelve are now in charge and things like that.  Everyone says, “Hey, now we got it.  We’ve read about that in the newspaper and this kind of thing.”  Then, a couple of months later, somebody from Voree comes with the Voree Herald and they explain how the Twelve are in apostasy, and this and that, and why all of the prophetic gifts that prove that Strang is the successor, and they are like, “Oh, we’re Strangites now.”

There isn’t anything in particular that necessarily happens for the branch.  So like I say for the Hedrickites, they are one of five, maybe, of these branches that are in a cluster around Bloomington, Illinois.  I think probably at some point or another, they will have been affiliated with Strang, but at a certain point, maybe when he “affiliated,” whatever it even means.  Strangite missionaries will come through there, and that’s one of the reasons why maybe they didn’t gather and go west.

We’ll talk about the founding of the RLDS Church.

John:  This is the origin of the Reorganization.  So the branches start to pray about it.  They fall back on individual personal revelations for the individual congregations, the pastors.  They start meeting together.  As they are thinking about it, William Smith has a church in the meantime and William Smith has been promoting the idea of lineal succession.  There has been, (I think I mentioned a while ago), there’s the sense that Joseph Smith’s posterity, somebody, one of his sons is going to be the successor or will emerge as the successor.  They start to regather these branches and the form a conference organization, which is a loose structure.  There’s no corporate entity here still.

So they pass resolutions together in conferences where they say they are going to wait for one of Joseph Smith’s sons, probably Joseph Smith III to emerge to receive the prophetic calling and to accept that mantle.  So when that happens in 1860, he comes to a conference of the New Organization, what becomes the Reorganization and what becomes Community of Christ, then that becomes something that all these little branches start to get really excited about.  Fairly quickly, then that Reorganization draws from all the different tradition churches, including people who had gone west who are dissatisfied with what was going on under Brigham Young in Utah.

It turns out that some other Mormon schismatic groups are contemporaries of Joseph Smith III.  John talks briefly about several of these churches, “There’s more –ites; that’s hardly an exhaustive group so I don’t mean to be leaving anybody out.  They are very interesting.”  He’ll briefly discuss founding of the Hedrickites, Williamites, Josephites, Cutlerites, Whitmerites, and their relationship to the RLDS Church.  Lachlan MacKay will also tell when and why the Kirtland Temple changed from a bluish-gray color to the current white color it is today.  It’s going to be a fun conversation. I hope you check out our Mormon Schisms Tour!

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The Strange Kirtland Temple Ownership Problems

Following the Kirtland Banking Crisis in 1838, Joseph Smith left town in the dead of the night.  The town of Kirtland was basically bankrupt.  Because of this, ownership of the temple was claimed by several people.  John Hamer and Lachlan MacKay will talk about Kirtland Temple ownership problems.  It’s a little bit like a soap-opera.   We’ll also hear an episode where people stormed the temple with guns and knives to try to take ownership of the temple.

Lachlan:  This is the one where Joseph Smith Sr. is at the pulpit on the west end.  The dissenters are concerned and hoping to take possession of the temple, and they stormed to the front with guns and knives drawn.  I think this is Oliver Huntington, one of the Huntington boys said, “Them that had chicken-hearts dove out the windows for safety.”

The police are called in to restore order.  They rush in and they knocked over a stove-pipe.  So I just imagine soot filling the room.  The best part is, after that chaos, they eject the belligerents and resume the services of the day.  {Everyone chuckles}

GT:  Really!  Wow.

Lachlan:  So I think that’s probably what you were referring to.

GT:  Yeah, it must have been quite a service!  {all chuckle}  We don’t talk about that in the LDS tradition very often.  I remember reading that somewhere and just going, “Wow!”

Lachlan:  I think one of them is even—they are walking from the front to the back, in some cases over the back of the pews, so stepping from pew-box to pew-box because the aisles are full of people, so they have to walk on the top of the pew-boxes to get up there.

We also talk about some other Mormon groups:  Strangites & Hedrickites and their involvement in Kirtland Temple ownership.  I also update our previous conversation with Dr. Richard Bennett about Brigham Young trying to sell the Kirtland Temple!  Was the Kirtland Temple turned into a sheep shed?  How did the Kirtland Banking Crisis affect ownership?  What else can we learn about the Kirtland Temple over the years?  Check out our conversation…..

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Comparing LDS and RLDS Temple Worship

In our next conversation, we’ll talk about differences in temple worship between the LDS Church and the RLDS Church.  (Note:  The Community of Christ has been historically known as the RLDS Church.)  Community of Christ Apostle, Lachlan MacKay and John Hamer (a Seventy) discuss the differences in temple worship between the two churches, and how the temple has evolved.

Lachlan:  Sure.  So Kirtland in the 1830s, it’s a house for public worship with a strong emphasis on empowerment, both spiritually and intellectually.  Two-thirds of Kirtland Temple was classroom space.  You would worship in the temple on Sundays, and you would go to school six days a week.  Kirtland High School met on the third floor.  Students ranged in age from six through adults, so it was the center of their community life.

My sense is that in Nauvoo the same was going to be true, but you did start to have to have, I believe, a receipt saying you were a tithe payer in order to gain access to the baptismal font, and they didn’t welcome non-members in the temple in Nauvoo while they were performing ordinances, but it was still a public building.  That receipt, I think, is what many generations later would become the idea of a temple recommend.

John:  This idea for the LDS tradition of having what constitutes temple work and everything like that, almost all of this is extremely different than what existed in Kirtland.  There’s no font, like you say, in the Kirtland Temple.  That’s something that begins in Nauvoo.  The same thing, the Endowment ceremony, and things like that is taking place after Joseph Smith had been exposed to Freemasonry and things like that so that also isn’t taking place, the whole liturgy and things like that in Kirtland.

I have a chart.  I’ll give it to you so you can splice it in if you want for the videos, but essentially where you take the spaces that exist, you’ve taken Kirtland, like what Lach is telling you about, the spaces of worship, the space for learning, the space for order, the church offices and things like that, you can see where they have that same major portion of the space is devoted to that in Nauvoo, but then there’s also the space for the baptism of the dead in the basement and there’s a space for endowments in the attic.

Then you go to Salt Lake, all of that is preserved so there’s a big solemn assembly hall and things like that in the Salt Lake Temple.  There are the offices for the apostles and things like that, but then when you get to the little temples that are in the LDS tradition, which might be what most Mormons in the Utah tradition are exposed to, they don’t have any of those things that are from the Kirtland period.  All they have is the basement and attic part of the Nauvoo Temple and that’s their whole experience.  So they go and that’s their temple experience.  They go to Kirtland and say, “What did these Reorganites do to the temple?  It’s not even—it’s so alien.”  That’s what Kirtland is!  But anyway, we’re each honoring different parts of the heritage.

We’ll also talk about baptism for the dead as well as vision of Elijah in 1836 in the Kirtland Temple.  It’s going to be a very interesting conversation.  I hope you check it out (as well as part 1 of our conversation)!