BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WORLD CHURCH
In the early 1800s there was a tremendous amount of religious fervor in the new world. Many denominations campaigned zealously for converts. In December of the year 1805 a child was born who would become a major player in this struggle. He and his parents became enmeshed in the confusing battle for religious domination. So confused at this time that this lad, at the young age of fourteen, found it necessary to inquire of the Lord as to what sect he should join.
Later, in his own words, he wrote “Considering that all could not be right, and that God could not be the author of so much confusion, I determined to investigate the subject more fully, believing that if God had a church it would not be split up into factions, and that if He taught one society to worship one way, and administer in one set of ordinances, He would not teach another principles which were diametrically opposed. Believing the word of God, I had confidence in the declaration of James: ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him’ (James 1:5), I retired to a secret place in a grove and began to call upon the Lord; while fervently engaged in supplication, my mind was taken away from the objects with which I was surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features and likeness, surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noonday. They told me that all religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them were acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to ‘go not after them’, at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me.”.
This young man’s name was Joseph Smith Jr.. He reported that over the course of the next few years that he was repeatedly visited by angelic ministers and was informed that he would be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of God’s purposes in the glorious dispensation. Finally, in 1823, he was given directions for the location for a set of ancient golden plates on which was recorded the religious and social history of ancient Americans. With the help of divine instruments and two friends, Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery, he was able to translate these records. The translation began in 1827 and was not completed and ready for publication until 1830. The name of this book is the Book of Mormon.
After the completion of the book and its publication Joseph Smith organized what was to be called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. By the end of that year there were over 70 members enrolled in the movement. The church, because of much persecution and prejudice, was forced to seek new territories where they would be free to worship as directed by God. This movement led them eventually to create a new town at Nauvoo, Illinois. By 1844 the membership had swollen to over 200,000 worldwide and Nauvoo, alone, housed over 25,000 members. Troubles followed Joseph and the church where ever they went and culminated in the assassination of Joseph and his brother Hyrum in Carthage, Illinois. The church fell immediately into chaos and was threatened further by mobs of angry locals. The result was that, as many as could, packed what they could and followed a man by the name of Brigham Young. They eventually settled in Utah and are what most people refer to today as ‘the Mormons’. Many other groups of believers left the area with different leaders. To say that the church at that time was leaderless is both an understatement and an overstatement. There were many leaders but no one leader that all would follow.
However, Joseph’s wife, Emma, and their children remained in Nauvoo and lived a peaceful life there. One of Joseph’s sons, Joseph III, who was but only a young child at the time of his father’s death, eventually grew to age and in 1860 became the leader of the group that then called themselves the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS).
Through the many years that have followed and several generations of the Smith family the RLDS church peacefully settled in Independence, Missouri. Today the church is known as the Community of Christ and has members in all corners of the world.
For a more detailed history of our World Church go to www.cofchrist.org/history/default.asp.