Historian Steve Shields tells us that Sidney’s unsung role in the early Church was larger than LDS or RLDS historians have acknowledged. When Sidney joined with Joseph, Sidney’s followers overwhelmed the small group of Smith followers. Should it be called the Smith-Ridgon movement?
Steve: But, eventually, the Rigdon followers outnumber the Smith followers five or six to one. And so, I argue it really ought to be called the Smith-Rigdon Movement rather than the Latter-day Saint movement. Because in the beginning the word “Latter-day Saint” wasn’t even there, and it was Rigdon who came up with that.
GT: Oh, it was?
Steve: Oh yeah.
GT: Oh really?
Steve: [In] 1834 Rigdon announces that the church will now be called the Church of the Latter-day Saints.
GT: I knew that they changed the name, but I didn’t know Rigdon was behind it.
Steve: Oh yeah.
Who else were highly influenced by Rigdon? Do you think Sidney’s role has been downplayed in the modern LDS and RLDS Churches? Check out our conversation….
Don’t forget to check out our other conversations with Steve!
Steve Shields was raised in the LDS Church and attended BYU. So why is he now a member of the Community of Christ?
Steve: I was really interested in church history and I started reading these books and pamphlets that were not approved by the general authorities and my mother warned me that if I kept reading that kind of stuff, I would lose my testimony and leave the church. She wasn’t happy that she was right. I don’t see it as losing my testimony. Did I leave one organization for another? Yes, but I think my faith in Christ is stronger than it has ever been. I’m not saying that I didn’t have faith before. By going this different route, I began to focus more on what I think matters most.
Steve: And history then, didn’t become the main focus of my faith, but became a main interest. That sort of–Oh, do I dare use the word tangent? Tangential to my faith.
GT: We like that word.
Steve: Yeah. It was a big deal to make that move. By the time I had been on my mission and, and done that, I had some pretty out of the box ideas about God.
Steve discusses his reasons for changing his religion, and we discuss the RLDS/Community of Christ hierarchy. What are the similarities and differences with the LDS Church?
Steve: He’s like an area authority. Yeah, that would be. Yeah. Our Seventies are more like Area Authorities. Now, there may be some official expenses that they’re provided for travel and things like that. And I don’t know. Every jurisdiction, every mission center of the church and mission centers for us are like areas for the LDS organization.
GT: I’ve heard that they’ve been compared to a stake.
Steve: Well, but stakes are different from LDS, have always been different from LDS stakes. It’s not been uncommon for us to have 30 or 40 congregations in a stake.
Steve: And the stake presidents were full-time world church appointees. So, stake looks and feels like it might be the same in both, but it really wasn’t because of the size. So, I really think the mission centers replaced stakes, as we tried to reduce the number of levels, so we used to have the general officers and then the fields. Each apostle had a certain geographical area. Then we had stakes and regions and districts. And so, we tried to compress all of those stakes and regions and districts are now all mission centers and we reconfigured that.
Check out our conversation…
You may also want to check out our previous conversations with John Hamer and Community of Christ apostle Lach MacKay!
Michael: I would disagree with John Hamer that Sidney Rigdon was the most likely. He was the first publicly proposed alternative to the Quorum of the Twelve and he was voted down by the congregation that met in August of 1844. When their choice was only Sidney Rigdon or the Quorum of the Twelve, they chose the Quorum of the Twelve to continue in the Twelve’s position in its place of having all this prior role administratively within Nauvoo, the headquarters of the church. And they rejected Sidney Rigdon. But the fact that he was the first publicly proposed doesn’t mean that either one of them was the most likely. That was the choice that the Quorum of the Twelve and Sidney Rigdon had advertised. And this had been advertised before the Twelve was even back in Nauvoo. Most of the apostles, members of the Quorum of the Twelve were in the eastern states, and there were only one or two members in Nauvoo and two of them were wounded in and the attack on Carthage Jail.
We’ll talk about several of the possibilities during the succession crisis. Check out our conversation, and don’t forget our previous episodes with Michael!