Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, RLDS, RLDS Church, Reorganized Church, Reorganization

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  The Reorgtanization  

     The fragmentation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints caused anxiety and confusion among most of its scattered members, a condition that was heightened by the audacity of various contending claimants for leadership of the church.  By the 1850s, a number were disheartened.
     Jason Briggs, the pastor of a branch at Beloit, Wisconsin fervently prayed on the nearby prairies, asking what he and his branch should do.  God gave him specific revelation, commanding him to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, sever any and all relations with the pretended leaders and wait for the time when God would bring the son of Joseph Smith to lead the church.  Several branches received the revelation and joined together in common efforts to fulfill the divine instruction.
     In June 1853, the Lord told them as they met in conference how to reorganize the church so that they might better gather faithful members and branches, as well as preach the gospel wherever they could.  Almost seven years later, Joseph III, the son of Joseph Smith, received divine instruction telling him to unite with the church.  Both the Reorganization and the Utah church had sent ambassadors with invitations to take his fatherís place in their respective group.  Joseph III received the needed direction.  He presented himself on April 6, 1860 and was both immediately received and ordained as the president of the church.
     Under Joseph IIIís kind and pragmatic leadership, the quorums were reordered, proper church structure implemented, and the old Jerusalem gospel, as taught by the Saviorís apostles and restored in this last dispensation by the hand of angels, preached in purity and power.  The spiritual manifestations that always adorn the Saviorís church abundantly graced the Reorganization as it gathered the scattered saints and converted believing hearers.  Most members of the various factions, with the exception of the Utah faction, joined the Reorganization.
     When church members were forcibly expelled from the land of Zion, which is centered in Jackson County, the Lord promised that the faithful would return.  He said, ďThey that remain and are pure in heart shall return and come to their inheritances; they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy; to build up the waste places of ZionĒ (D&C 98:4g).  Joseph III, who, along with his mother and siblings, left Missouri after the extermination order of 1839, returned, along with their children and other faithful families from the early church and began building up the hoped-for kingdom, just as the prophecy foretold. Some of them, such as Joseph Smith III, his daughter Audentia Anderson, David Smith, Elbert Smith, and Vida Smith wrote hymns of joy that are still sung by the faithful.  In 1906, Joseph Smith III moved the churchís headquarters to Independence, MO, the county seat of Jackson County.
   During Joseph IIIís presidency, two separate civil court cases were filed by the Reorganization that helped verify its claim as the successor to the original church.  The first was the Kirtland Temple Lot suit, which was dismissed for lack of grounds, but was not opposed by the Utah Church, although its president, John Taylor, was a defendant in the case.  The second was the Temple Lot case in which the Reorganization sought legal title to the Temple Lot in Independence.  The Church of Christ (Hedrickites) occupied that parcel.  The Reorganization argued that it held the right to the property on the grounds that it was the successor to the original church and that it was prevented from asserting its claim because it had been expelled from the state.  The court agreed and awarded the lot to the Reorganized Church.  The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the verdict, disagreeing that the Reorganization was prevented from asserting it claim of ownership.  While the Reorganization could not possess the Temple Lot, it advertised the fact that the lower court had ruled that the Reorganized Church was the lawful successor to the original church.  The fulfillment of prophecies promising that the faithful would return and the fact that those faithful saints who once lived in Missouri returned under the governance of the Reorganized Church tended to put a divine stamp of approval on the claim.
     Under Joseph III the Reorganization grew in members and abilities, opening missions abroad, establishing branches across the US, and establishing service organizations in Independence.  By the 1960s, church membership exceeded 200,000, branches were vibrant and sufficiently coordinated to meet regional ministerial and evangel needs, a shared camaraderie bonded the membership and financial stability poised the church in a position to complete its divinely assigned task.
     Unfortunately, success proved a hindrance.  The ability to potentially complete its mission increased some saints' desire to use church capabilities for different purposes.  Its growing acceptance by other denominations, which had long viewed the Reorganized as a peculiar if not deviant religion, increased the hope of achieving complete respectability.  These and similar attitudes helped some mingle the goals, theology and mission popular in other denominations with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This development began a period of change in the church.
     In 1966, the First Presidency announced an objective to interpret some cherish distinctives ďfor our day in world terms.Ē  This announcement opened the door for re-examination and re-evaluation of the basic beliefs of the church and a search for a more contemporary theology, message and identity.  Some members clearly favored the adjustments, while others opposed them, maintaining that the churchís traditional teachings and positions were scripturally and intellectually superior to any alternative.  The resulting quarrel caused a rift in the church, dividing families, branches and, eventually, the entire church.   Similar to what happened at Nauvoo, church leadership consolidated support for the new viewpoint and marginalized any opposition, even though they lacked the support of a significant number of members  This impatient and rather heavy handed approach precipitated the Reorganizationís

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