The Universal Catholic Church
For fifteen centuries, there was one universal Catholic Church in Europe. If you were a Christian, you were affiliated with that church.
When men like Martin Luther and John Calvin launched the Protestant Reformation, different denominations were formed around a variety of doctrines. But simply put, the Reformation had three major planks:
- Salvation is attained by grace alone through faith alone (not by the works of men).
- The Bible is the only inspired word of God (not extra-biblical teaching of the papacy), and the biblical canon is closed.
- The priesthood of all believers replaced ministerial priesthoods at the cross (intended to abrogate the ministerial authority of the universal church).
It was in the cauldron of the various competing factions of Protestantism that, in 1830, God moved in power to restore the doctrine and governance of His church through his prophet Joseph Smith, Jr.. This was the first church established by revelation and the direct command of God, something many churches do not believe exists any longer. A few ideas that distinguish it from Protestantism:
- Salvation is by grace alone through Christ alone. However, faith is not enough. Believers must also repent and be willing to be baptized (an act of God, not of man). They must also endure to the end in that faith.
- The Bible is the inspired word of God, but we believe that God wishes to reveal his will to people today just as he did in times past. Thus, our belief in the Book of Mormon as a second witness of Christ and his gospel.
- Rather than being replaced, the ministry of Christ's church continue to have duties exclusive to their office and calling. Apostles, prophets evangelists, pastors and teachers will remain in Christ's church until, by God's grace, we are made perfect (Ephesians 4:11-13).
At the death of Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1844, several factions of the church departed from its original teachings and physically moved away from the church headquarters. The largest of these break-offs was led by Brigham Young. Today, it is called the Latter-day Saint church (or Mormons). Joseph's widow, Emma, refused to move west and denounced Brigham Young's doctrines, as did many friends and family members closest to the prophet. Prior to his death, Joseph had been directed by God to appoint his son, Joseph Smith III, as his successor, not Brigham Young. The Restoration arose from this group that remained and followed Joseph Smith III.
The Restoration, in 1844 and today, does not believe the following teachings of the LDS Church. We attribute these teachings primarily to Brigham Young and NOT to Joseph Smith. We love our LDS friends and live in the hope that they will one day recant their position on the following:
These are just a handful of the doctrines that divide us from the present-day LDS Church, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Polytheism - that there is more than one god in the universe.
- Adam-God Theory - that Adam is the god of this world.
- Becoming Gods - that men can become gods.
- Polygamy - a man marrying more than one wife (they do not practice this, but they believe it is proper).
- Eternal Marriage - that the marriage covenant is binding throughout eternity.
RLDS/Community of Christ Church
The RLDS Church, which followed Joseph Smith III, has had its headquarters at Independence, Missouri for many years. At one time in the past, it claimed a membership of 250,000 people (present membership is difficult to determine because they do not update their rolls as people leave the church unless there is a specific request).
In the 1980s, a large, liberal contingent of the RLDS Church wrested control of the church from its membership base and instituted a number of radical changes that were, in effect, a departure from the doctrines of the original Restored Church of 1830. Along with this resounding about-face, they also decided to change their name to the "Community of Christ." Distinctive teachings that separate the present-day Community of Christ (COC) from the original Restoration:
In its departure from the teaching of the original church, the changes were so far-reaching that it would require several pages to explain. The above are just a few examples. However, you could summarize the perspective of the present-day Community of Christ Church by saying that they believe in an "ever-evolving view." We love our COC friends and pray that they will abandon such teachings.
- Leaders embraced many of the views of men like Friederich Schleiermacher and Rudolph Bultmann, who attempted to "de-mythologize" scripture. Church leaders made an effort to gain credibility with the church's cultured despisers through a series of strategic retreats from previous doctrine. In effect, the original teachings of the Restored Church were turned on their ear. In fact, they would often take an exact opposite position to what had been taught in the 1830s and in the New Testament Church.
- The leadership of the COC Church departed from its original moorings in a second way. It altered the proper administration of holy ordinances as taught by the original church in 1830 and by Christ in the New Testament Church. For example, in an attempt to gain acceptance from other Christian denominations, "open communion" was instituted, not by a vote of the people, but by executive order of the leadership.
- The original church had taught that the Book of Mormon served to restore elements of Christ's gospel teaching that had been lost. In an effort to gain ecumenical acceptance from other Christian denominations, the Community of Christ Church has made every attempt to dissociate itself from any attachment to the Book of Mormon. In fact, today, when missionaries from the original Restoration contact COC church members in foreign lands, they often have never heard of the Book of Mormon.
Throughout nearly two centuries, the members of Christ's Restored Church have remained faithful to the original teachings of Christ as taught in the New Testament Church and as restored in 1830. The gospel has not evolved.
Christ made certain truth claims. Truth, by its nature, is necessarily exclusivistic - if certain doctrines are true, there are other teachings that cannot be true. Christ is the "author and finisher" of our faith. Rather than an ecumenical, evolving view of truth, Christ drew a bright line of distinction between his gospel and others. He even called those who were teaching false doctrine "vipers" and "whited sepulchers."
Yes, his New Testament followers were a small minority of the population, but they clung tenaciously to the truth of his gospel. Noah, a "righteous" man, waited 120 years for people to repent, and at the end of that time he only had seven converts. Yet he was faithful to the end.
Matthew 7:13-14 says:
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat;
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
Today, the Restoration is a group of independent congregations located throughout the United States and on every major continent. They have the common purpose of preserving the restored gospel until Christ shall return again to establish his kingdom on earth.
We look forward to a time in the latter days when God will move in great power to establish that kingdom and proclaim the unalterable truths of his restored gospel to the world!