The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was formed in 1860 by followers who “dissented against the Nauvoo theology” of founder Joseph Smith, says a Community of Christ theologian.
The RLDS faith, as it was known until 2001, drew on Smith’s teachings “that seemed to continue to make sense,” says Tony Chvala-Smith, who teaches at the Community of Christ seminary in Independence, Mo. “We are so significantly different from Mormons that I don’t even use the term [theological] ‘cousins.’”
As the church evolved, he says, increasingly there were “parts of the Latter Day Saint past that did not square with our best understanding of Christian teachings.”
Here are some concepts that Chvala-Smith says the Community of Christ views differently than the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
Not embodied; holds to the ecumenical doctrine of the Trinity. “The essence of God is love as revealed in Christ and the experience of the Holy Spirit.”
One true church
No longer uses that language; believes the church has a “sacred place in the wider Christian circle.”
Keeps adding to the Doctrine and Covenants.
Book of Mormon
Members can view it as an ancient American text or a product of the 19th century. The official position is that belief in or use of the Book of Mormon is not a test of fellowship.
It relates to the transformation of the human community, rather than a “walled city of the righteous.” No effort to gather in one place but rather to seek to work for peace and justice wherever they are found.
Has the same offices, but they are interpreted differently. All priesthood offices are open to women and LGBTQ members. Sees priesthood not as elevating persons but as calling them to be “servants of the servants of God, to equip them for the ministry of the whole church.”
Is a “holistic concept always by grace, not something earned,” and “living out God’s love both now and in the future, whatever that future looks like.” It is about “the redemption of individuals and communities in the present, including social, communal and environmental dimensions.” Not much talk about hell or the hereafter.
Doesn’t talk about the atonement much but rather recognizes varieties of ways to understand what it means that “Christ died for us or for our sins.” Always thinks of God as “outreaching other affirming love, not in judicial terms of punishment.”
Baptizes by immersion at age 8 and older; accepts other Christian baptisms in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as legitimate. Confirms new members who come from other churches. Ongoing discussions about accepting baptisms of infants.
Does not interpret scripture in a literal way but reads it in its original context. Rejects uses of scripture that are “coercive, bullying, or denigrating of people … [since] that does not square with who Jesus was and what he did.”