In this 4 part series, John Hamer discusses the history of the Community of Christ (RLDS church).

Part 1 — Restoration Origins to the 1844 Succession Crisis: In Part 1, John Hamer briefly discusses the diversity within Latter Day Saint or Restoration heritage churches. He then walks us through the early history of the Restoration to explain how the seeds that have ultimately flowered with the Community of Christ and the LDS Church were planted even before Joseph Smith’s martyrdom. John talks about the rapid evolution in Mormonism from its origins to 1844, its inherent tensions, and the direct causes of the schism that emerged after Brigham Young’s showdown with Sidney Ridgon for church leadership in Nauvoo.

Part 2 — Aftermath of the Succession Crisis, 1844-1860: In Part 2, John Hamer talks about the pivotal period from 1844-1860, when different Latter Day Saints came up with different solutions for how to remain faithful to their religion in the wake of the founder’s death. John conceptually divides successor churches into three categories: (1) Those who sought to “purify” the church and go back to an earlier form of Mormonism, (2) those who sought to “preserve” the church as it existed in 1844, and (3) those who wanted to continue to “innovate” by having a new prophet ever revealing new doctrine and practices on the model of the founder. John describes how polygamy continued to be the main point of contention and how the organizations of most of Brigham Young’s rivals had faltered by 1860.

Part 3 — Regathering the Old Saints, the Reorganization 1860-1910In Part 3, John Hamer talks about how Latter Day Saints living in the Midwest who continued to oppose polygamy were able to regroup and come together as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  These members included Joseph Smith Jr.’s immediate family.  Joseph and Emma’s eldest surviving son, Joseph Smith III, led the RLDS Church as prophet for 54 years.  Described by his biographer as a “pragmatic prophet,” Joseph III was able to successfully weld diverse old Saints who had been Strangites, Cutlerites, Wightites, Whitermites, Rigdonites, Thompsonites, Brighamites, Morrisites, and more, into a Restoration tradition church that took the Kirtland era as its model.  The fact that Joseph III grew up in the ruins of Nauvoo and had learned to live with his neighbors influenced the Reorganization’s strong peace tradition.

Part 4 — The Transformation from Reorganization to Community of Christ: In Part 4, John Hamer tells the remarkable story of the RLDS Church’s transformation from a inward-looking sect with a negative, exclusive identity to a progressive denomination with a positive, inclusive identity. Although both the RLDS Church and the LDS Church were faced with the same basic challenges in the societal transformation in North America after World War 2, the churches had completely opposite responses. In the wake of the challenges posed by professional scholarship of the “New Mormon History,” RLDS leaders chose to “embrace truth and do what is right, let the consequence follow,” rather than to retrench, deny, and retreat into territory that is intellectually indefensible. The path has not been an easy one, but it has led Community of Christ to become a church whose values include “unity in diversity,” “the worth of all persons,” and the principle that “all are called.” Today, women serve at every level of church leadership, up to the First Presidency. Community of Christ has had apostles from Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Pacific Islands, in addition to North America. LGBT members have full priesthood participation in North America and Australia, and in states and countries where it is legal, priesthood members may perform same-sex marriages as a sacrament in Community of Christ.


  1. ZackT July 9, 2013 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    Although I am still listening intently, the early discussion how the differently and evolution from Palmyra to Nauvoo….I am very comfortable with the “process” through revelation…although I am traditional or conservative member, I still am ok with processes of change and revelation that may come our way. I believe there is a more open mind to change, than the more progressive forces now in the church gives individuals such as me, credit. It really comes down to which side does the change or revelation comes and how it effects your direction and thinking.

    • John Hamer July 10, 2013 at 5:52 am - Reply

      Zack — I don’t think that particular tension necessarily breaks down along the liberal/conservative divide. If you go to that image in the presentation, I’m suggesting that the tension is between the idea of the Ancient Order of Things and Continuing Revelation. In your case, you’re more committed to the Continuing Revelation side. Many of the earliest members, by contrast, were committed to the idea that every revelation was a “Restoration” of the ancient order — how things once were and how they always should be. They were therefore more disillusioned when new revelations contradicted earlier revelations than you have been.

  2. Glen Fullmer July 10, 2013 at 12:54 am - Reply

    Gentlemen, this podcast was fantastic! Thanks to you both. I learned a lot about both the history of the Community of Christ and my own tradition of the LDS (Utah) church that I didn’t know. Thank you.

    Found it interesting when John Dehlin learned that Frederick M. Smith had a PHD in Psychology, he almost seemed to have an “ah-ha” moment and to have jumped out of his seat. By the way, Dr. Smith got his PHD from Clark University. ;-)

    I had a couple of questions for John Hamer:

    This might sound a bit outrageous, but in the late 1960s, I attended a fireside and listened to a presentation by Joesph Fielding Smith before he became President of the LDS Church. I remember him gloating a bit about being one of the last successors of the direct linage of Joseph Smith Jr, and the only rightful heir to the President of the RLDS Church and actually had been contacted by the leadership of the RLDS Church in that regard. As I remember he said the RLDS Church would fail, unlike the LDS Church, because it had built its model on hierarchical succession. Did the RLDS Church leadership ever contact him as possible successor?

    Thanks for the information on the Temple Lot Church, as well. I visited there center in Independence, Missouri in the 90s and at that time learned that the Book of Commandments vs D&C Section 4 changes that had occurred that Joseph’s only gift was to translate the Book of Mormon. At the time their membership was very limited. I think less than a couple of hundred. What are the major doctrinal differences between their beliefs and the Community of Christ?

    Can one get an electronic copy of the CofC D&C online?

    It was very educational and enjoyable. Thanks again for a fantastic historical journey.

    • John Hamer July 10, 2013 at 6:05 am - Reply


      That’s not so outrageous, that is a fairly common LDS myth that you received from the source. What’s outrageous is that the first time I’d ever heard that story, it had been transferred to Spencer W. Kimball, somehow via lineage Kimball was the true RLDS heir and the poor Reorganites (who had run out of Smiths) had been forced to offer their presidency to him — only to be rebuffed.

      Joseph Fielding Smith is not a descendant of Joseph Jr. He’s a descendant of Hyrum. By strict lineal descent succession, if we were only considering male-to-male lines (Salic law), there would still be dozens of Smiths who actually are descendants of Joseph Jr. that the church could go through before having to go back to descendants of Joseph Sr. or Joseph Sr.’s brothers. Joseph Jr. and Emma do not lack descendants, and Community of Christ does not lack their active participation today. Plenty remain in current leadership roles in Community of Christ. Although Joseph Fielding Smith has died, Joseph Jr.’s actual direct male heir (by Salic law) Wallace B. Smith is alive and well and continues to serve as prophet emeritus of Community of Christ. This myth was clearly born of Joseph Fielding Smith’s desire to promote his own “Smithness” within an LDS audience that is relatively Smith-less.

    • John Hamer July 10, 2013 at 7:57 am - Reply

      Regarding an online Community of Christ D&C: you’d think that would be a top priority, but somehow it doesn’t seem to have been. You can get the most recent 5 sections on the church’s website:

    • John Hamer July 10, 2013 at 8:10 am - Reply

      Actually the Temple Lot church’s membership is less limited than you’d think. The church on the temple lot itself is not their only congregation; according to the current tally on Wikipedia, they have 32 active congregations and around 2,400 members.

      They are very interesting folks. In the models I mentioned in the lecture, they fit the “purifying” type of church — their name “Church of Christ” is a big clue to that. In their view, Joseph Smith Jr. became a fallen prophet and it happened back when he decided to massively edit his own revelations (i.e., prior to 1835). They therefore reject the D&C and most later Restoration innovations except for the creation of a Council of Twelve Apostles. So they are more of a New York/early Ohio style Restoration church, where Community of Christ’s roots are more late Kirtland with a dash of Missouri style. (The LDS Church being more mid-Nauvoo and fundamentalist Mormons being late-Nauvoo — although obviously these at best are impressionistic analogies and should not be taken strictly or literally.)

      I’d say the difference there between Community of Christ and the Temple Lot Church on the “fallen prophet” issue is a fundamental divide on what a prophet is: They share more the common LDS idea of what a prophet is and conclude from the evidence that there’s no denying Joseph Smith fell. In my view, by contrast, that definition of prophet describes no one who has ever existed in real life; and therefore that definition of a prophet must be rejected as false, not necessarily the prophet.

  3. Thom July 10, 2013 at 11:50 am - Reply

    Super interesting stuff. Thanks for all this work.

  4. Watcher July 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm - Reply

    John D thank you for doing this interview.

    John H I really enjoyed this interview and the research and the charts you have made.


    I have been studying LDS church history for many many years and it was fun to compare notes with what you have presented.

    I plan on putting links to this interview on my blog for my readers to enjoy.

    Interestingly I find very few things of huge significance to disagree with you on regarding the historical information you have presented, although my interpretation of the historical documentation is significantly different than yours.

    I did find the following things that you brought to light very interesting and informative:

    1- William exd by Strang for practicing polygamy

    2- John Taylors forced renunciation of his published denial of the practice of polygamy

    3- Strang attempted to get the flow of LDS British converts and sent “Martin Harris” to do missionary work.

    4- John Whitmer documented Strang as Joseph’s Successor in the official history and then crossed it off.

    5- I found your observation that joseph was more concerned about the secrets of the council of the 50 getting out than about being exposed on the polygamy issue.

    6- The Cutlerite Church of Christ wrote polygamy out of their history. LOL I remember years ago having a discussion with one of their leaders and how emphatic he was against polygamy.

    7- “a church without a prophet is not a church for me” in the hymnal.

    8- Joseph’s main concern during the confronation with William Law was not polygamy but the council of 50.

    Although I am not convinced that polygamy was all that well known by the majority of the membership at that time, aside from rumors flying around, I do find your suggestion very intriguing and credible.

    I vaguely recall that Joseph told his brethren to take off their garments and burn the council minutes.

    That would certainly imply that he was concerned about the antics of the council of 50 and the ordination to be king.

    I do have a number of questions or observations I would love a response to, if you have the time and inclination.

    I apologize for the length of my questions and observations and I understand if you don’t have time to respond:

    1- How well documented is it that Emma initially publicly or privately admitted that Joseph practiced polygamy in contrast to her denials in later years? (any refs?)

    2- You are clearly saying that from your research that you believe Joseph Smith practiced polygamy and yet, this contradicts what Richard and Pamela Price claim in their research.

    I had assumed that they are members of the Community of Christ or an offshoot of it. Am I mistaken about that?

    If they are members of the same tradition as you, which belief is the most prevalent among members and leaders of the Community of Christ church on that issue? Yours or theirs?

    Are you familiar with their arguments?

    Have you met them and conversed with them about their belief on this topic?

    My recollection is that in the early years of the RLDS movement leaders were in denial about Joseph’s involvement despite the testimony of some of their leaders like William Marks. Is that right?

    3- I have long wondered how Strang could get so many high profile original leaders of the restoration movement to follow him. I appreciated you pointing out why you think he was so successful by using Joseph’s model and how he focused on Kirtland for a period of time.

    Do you have any credible figures about how many people initially followed Brigham Young as apposed to how many followed Strang?

    Some historians from other traditions have said or implied that Strang had more followers initially. Is that true from your research?

    4- Why do you think the LDS church grew so much quicker than the RLDS, given the blatantly heretical belief system of the LDS Church? Didn’t the RLDS church do missionary work initially? I realize that the Modern Mormon church had a head start, but it still seems odd to me.

    5- I enjoyed your point about the tension between continuing revelation vs restoration of ancient order.

    The tension between these two concepts as I see it is that Modern Mormonism defines continuing revelation as the ability to change previous doctrines when in fact Joseph originally taught that a new revelation that is true will never contradict a previous revelation, that was true.

    I believe the original meaning behind “continuing revelation” simply had to do with continually receiving revelations that continue to be consistent with all previous revelations.

    Examples might be

    A- continually expanding knowledge on previously revealed ancient doctrines and

    B- simply continually revealing new things about the ancient order that doesn’t contradict previous revelation.

    6- I appreciated you pointing out that the Mechizedek priesthood was never mentioned in the early years of the church and that the office of elder did not originally belong to the Mechizedek priesthood and that there was originally no difference between being a high priest and holding the Melchizedek priesthood.

    I found it strange however that you never differentiated between the “higher” priesthood restored by Peter James and John in 1929 vs the “higher priesthood” that was restored by revelation at the Morley Farm in 1831.

    Is there a reason why you avoided that topic?

    7- You briefly mentioned that you could speak about cutlerites and Strangites… Could you comment on John Hajicek, have you met him and heard his story and claims and belief system?

    If so what is your take on his branch of the restoration movement?

    8- You made the statement that Hyrum would have been Joseph’s successor but he died.

    Are you aware of Joseph’s declaration at a conference that he (Joseph) would no longer prophesy for the church and that the church must recognize Hyrum as the prophet of the Church?

    That statement was followed by other comments in later month approaching the martyrdom that implied that Hyrum was the sole man in charge.

    -Are you open to the possibility that Hyrum was in fact the sole legal successor to Joseph for the last year or two prior to the martyrdom and that Hyrum was the literal fulfillment to the succession prophecy contained in section 43 of the LDS edition of the D&C?

    9- As you know, the Lord said in section 124 that he would reject the church with its dead if they failed to complete the temple in the sufficient time given. I have noticed that some Mormon revisionists have implied tat the temple was completed.

    My research shows otherwise.

    Would you agree that the temple was not finished?

    If so, doesn’t that create a problem for all restoration churches that take modern revelation literally?

    10- You mentioned how Apostlecentric the LDS church was. Would you agree that before the succession controversy that the central High Council in Nauvoo was considered to be a higher priesthood authority than the quorum of the Twelve and that the traveling quorum of the twelve had no right to officiate in an organized stake of Zion?

    11- You mentioned that you do not believe Joseph was correct in practicing polygamy.

    What is your take on his involvement in masonry?

    Was it inspired?

    12- I see some parallels between the belief system of Albert Pike and Brigham Young as well as the masonry link they had in common. Are you aware of any correspondence that may have taken place between them?

    13- I think some Mormon historians are now questioning whether Joseph really propositioned Sidney’s daughter. Are you convinced that the documentation on that is credible?

    14- At 54:50 on one of the videos you mentioned that the LDS church has now transcribed Sidney’s address to the saints during the succession crisis.

    For years I had the strange shorthand notes on that sermon posted on my blog hoping someone would translate the shorthand into english!!!!

    Can you tell me how I can get a copy of the translation (transcription)? links?

    15-I need some clarification on something you said that I probably misunderstood.

    I thought you said that Brigham Young and the twelve led the church with Brigham as the head of the quorum and the rest of the quorum functioning as his counselor until the RLDS made Joseph the 3rd the official president and prophet of their church and that Brigham did not become the official president of the LDS church until until that time.

    My research shows Brigham being ordained as the president of the church with two councilors as a separate quorum from the twelve in about 1853 and yet the RLDS church was not even officially organized as the RLDS church until 1860.

    Did I misunderstand what you were saying?

    16- You said “the LDS church is not polygamous today” I understand what you are saying, with regard to the fact that they are not currently allowing members in good standing to practice it with living wives, however, I would suggest that from a doctrinal viewpoint, they are currently a polygamous church since:

    A- they still continue to publish and believe section 132 which teaches the doctrine as being true.

    B-They have not officially acknowledged that the earlier brethren that practiced it were wrong in doing so and

    C- They allow living men to be sealed to additional wives for eternity when a previous wife has passed away

    17- You mentioned that the Modern LDS church did not begin calling the president of the church the prophet until Pres McKayt’s admin, I have heard that before but never found it documented. Can you refer me to that ref in Quinns book?

    18 You made it sound as if the name “Church of Christ” was changed because of confusion with other denominations like that of Alexander Campbells… “possibly in a way to combat this confusion… right before the Zion’s camp march”

    I have heard that same speculation from LDS apologists but have you ever seen any hard evidence to suggest that?

    The name “Church of Christ” seemed to work just fine during the previous four years.

    The historical documentation gives precious little information about what was said at the conference when the name change was voted on.

    It does not seem to be a coincidence to me that the name change took place just days after the Lord chastised the church for failing to live the law of consecration as contained in section 42 of the LDS D&C.

    Are you aware of any restoration offshoots that believe that the rejection of consecration and the 1835 name change of the church represented the fulfillment of the prophecy in 3rd Nephi 16:10- ?

    Such an interpretation seems to be supported by many of the charts and observations that you provided.

    Again, Thank you for taking the time to do the interview!


    • John Hamer July 11, 2013 at 10:45 am - Reply


      That is a crazy number of questions! Thank you for listening attentively.

      On the topic of Joseph, Emma, polygamy, the Community of Christ, and the Prices:

      1. Emma’s awareness of polygamy and her temporary attempts to tolerate it are pretty well documented, both in friendly and hostiles sources. Contemporarily we have William Clayton’s journal. We have all the later Brighamite insider testimony (like the Partridge’s testimony or Eliza Snow’s) collected to refute the 19th century RLDS position. Outside the Brighamites, we have the recollections of William Law, of William McLellin and others. The story is well-known and well-attested.

      2. The Prices are wrong about Joseph and polygamy. They are in the “Josephite” (RLDS) tradition, but they are not in Community of Christ. They are independent “Restorationists” (meaning conservatives who separated from the RLDS Church). I’m familiar with their arguments; I’ve read their book. Their book is entirely uninformed of the evidence; it’s not actual scholarship; it’s simply a repeat of old pre-scholarly RLDS polemics that have been discredited. I have not personally met them or conversed with them on the topic, although I have been to their book store in Independence.

      Regarding Strang:

      3. I’m not a big numbers guy; I’ll let other historians do the math and duke it out. The membership figures are almost always all wrong and they depend on what you mean by members. Strang never had as many people at his headquarters as Young; but there may have been more people total off in the branches considering Strang the leader than Young; if so, their “adherence” as Strangites, however, was ephemeral. There was a moment when Strang was at his height and things were looking pretty shaky for Young, when all the crops kept failing in Utah and it looked like the colony could fail. But then the gold rush happened, which totally saved Utah. And Strang ultimately got himself killed.

      Regarding RLDS/LDS growth:

      4. At the end of the day, Burger King was never going to be as big as McDonalds. I’m pretty amazed that the RLDS Church had the remarkable growth that it enjoyed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

      Regarding the tension in continuing revelation:

      5. I agree with you, that there are all kinds of ways people can rationalize these things. There are other religions who believe that the Bible is totally harmonious and not full of contradictions; they are completely wrong on the surface level, but that’s their belief.

      Regarding the evolution of the Melchisedec/Melchizedek priesthood.

      6. I didn’t mention the Peter, James, and John story; not for any reason in particular. What I would have said is that the story is entirely literary; there was no such contemporary event in 1829. The story was a later creation, composed after the development of the Melchisedec priesthood and retrojected into the past as if it had been an actual historical event. It does not figure into the contemporary record and it does not consonant with the actual events in the development of the idea of priesthood in the Restoration.

      Regarding John Hajicek and the Strangite Church:

      7. I’ve met John and been to his home; we’ve talked many times. He is among those Strangites who believe that the true church is disorganized — which is a long-standing belief among a portion of the Strangites since Strang’s martyrdom. He is therefore not in communion with the actual organized Strangite Church, which I believe that John does not consider to be the true Strangite church. John is the owner of the website, which is a personal website.

      I’m also very familiar with the Strangite Church. I’ve been to their headquarters many times in Wisconsin and been given total, unfettered access to their archives to research their history. I’ve visited and interviewed members of their church across the country. My take on them is that they are very earnest believers who have a wonderful Restoration tradition church.

      Regarding Hyrum and LDS Section 43:

      8. I’m aware of Joseph’s statement regarding Hyrum; it’s made in the political context of Joseph’s mucking around with making competing promises to the Whigs and Democrats and then only keeping the letter of his promise. An unfortunate trait of Joseph’s was his belief in what we sometimes call “Clintonian” lying. Joseph was telling the truth, he believed, even if he was consciously attempting to deceive his listeners. This is part of the kernel of the “lying for the Lord” problem within the Restoration. Even so, I do think that at the time, Joseph would have considered Hyrum his successor.

      I do not, however, think that Hyrum was remotely contemplated in LDS D&C 43, which was composed back in 1831. At that point, Joseph would have been contemplating Cowdery, Whitmer, or Rigdon as potentials he might appoint “in his stead.” To read Hyrum into that would be anachronistic.

      Regarding the completion of the Nauvoo Temple and Section 124:

      9. This is a question of technicalities. Depending on how you look at it, technically the Nauvoo Temple was never completed. On the other hand, if it was completed, it was only ever technically completed. I think both cases can be made. I agree with you that if you are a literalist and you agree that the temple was not actually completed, this is a major theological problem for those in the LDS Church. (Fortunately for them, LDS people get around this by deciding that the temple technically was finished.)

      It’s obviously not a problem for Community of Christ, since the World Conference deleted that section from the canon, meaning that it is no longer scripture at all. Other traditions have other strategies. Deciding that the church was rejected at Nauvoo in response to the failure to build the temple is actually a point that several of the churches make in their own favor — I think especially the Strangites and Cutlerites and maybe the Restorationists make this argument. (Hedrickites and Bickertonites don’t because they consider Joseph to have been a fallen prophet before this point.)

      10. Regarding the headquarters High Council vs. the Apostles:

      I would definitely agree that the headquarters High Council was functionally the superior authority in the Kirtland and Missouri period. However, in the Nauvoo period, the headquarters High Council was functionally declining, while the apostles were in ascendance. I agree that the spheres of influence were that the High Council was in charge of areas with organized stakes and the Twelve were in charge in the missionfield. There was a dispute about this in Nauvoo between a member of my family, Benjamin Winchester, who was leader of the church in Philadelphia and the Twelve. Winchester didn’t get along with Brigham Young, but it was judged that he was operating under their purview since it was the missionfield. Winchester later sided with Rigdon and became a Rigdonite apostle before ultimately becoming and ExMormon.

      11. Regarding Joseph and Masonry:

      I think Joseph involved himself with Masonry in large part because he was developing secret practices and he wanted people to take oaths of secrecy. While that’s a very exciting thing for people to do (and therefore has an energizing effect), I don’t think operating in secrecy is ultimately a good policy.

      I don’t know that it’s inspired. I don’t have anything against Masonry in general, except that I’m not in favor of gender-exclusive clubs. We should note that despite Joseph’s acceptance of Masonic mythology, the organization is not ancient or even Medieval.

      12. Regarding Albert Pike and Brigham Young:

      I don’t know anything about this.

      13. Regarding Joseph’s rebuffed proposition to Nancy Rigdon:

      I haven’t read the most recent arguments against. The case is made quite compellingly by Richard Van Wagoner in his biography of Sidney Rigdon, pp. 295-302. There is a lot evidence cited, including contemporary testimony; although I’d be open to the counter-argument, they face a serious hurdle to describe their way out of what seems pretty straight forward and obvious.

      14. Regarding Sidney’s failed speech at the showdown:

      I think it was Ben Park or Robin Jensen who told me this. I haven’t read it yet. It was somebody in the LDS Church history department, which is who you should ask.

      15. Regarding Brigham as Acting President, as President, and as Prophet:

      What I meant to say was, from 1844-47, the Twelve were acting as the First Presidency of the church. Brigham, as President of the Twelve, was Acting President of the church. That situation ended when Brigham re-organized a new First President in 1847; for my perspective, this is the date when he creates the Utah LDS Church. However, at this point, he was not generally thought of by his followers as “the prophet” in the way they thought of Joseph as “the prophet” or the way contemporary Strangites thought of Strang as “the prophet.” Rather, Brigham was the Church President, and he was also “a prophet, seer, and revelator” like the other apostles.

      Ultimately, when Joseph III became an actual rival, Brigham re-wrote his history to reflect the situation in the 1860s. But yes, he had an actual First Presidency as of 1847.

      16. Regarding Theological Polygamy in the Modern LDS Church:

      Yes, those are true points. My point was simply that the LDS Church does not practice earthly polygamy and, indeed, it desperately attempts to purge polygamy from the narrative; which is impossible, because polygamy is the narrative.

      17. Regarding the policy change of referring to the LDS President as “the Prophet”:

      I’m not an expert on modern Utah Mormon history. I’m just following Quinn here. He makes the case in Vol. 2 of the Mormon Hierarchy, beginning on page 363.

      18. Regarding changing the name of the “Church of Christ” to “Church of the Latter Day Saints”:

      Oliver Cowdery explicitly explained that the problem was that they didn’t like being called “Mormons” or “Mormonites” in an editorial in the May 3 issue of The Evening and the Morning Star. He wrote: “As the members of this church profess a belief in the truth of the book of Mormon, the world, either out of contempt or ridicule, or to distinguish us from others, have been very lavish in bestowing the title of ‘Mormonite.’ Others may call themselves by their own, or by other names, and have the privilege of wearing them without our changing them or attempting to do so; but we do not accept the above title, nor shall we wear it as our name, though it may be lavished upon us double to what it has heretofore been.”

      I think Michael Marquardt has argued that the name change may have been an attempt to get out of past debts. He’s suggested that this was also the time when the church’s actual organization location Manchester/Palmyra was deliberately mis-remembered as Fayette, thus the “Church of Christ organized in Manchester, NY” became the “Church of the Latter Day Saints organized in Fayette, NY”.

      It’s an interesting idea, that I’d have to look at more closely. I think Marquardt’s case that the church was actually organized in Manchester/Palmyra and not Fayette is convincing, but I’m not sure whether the mis-remembering was accidental or not.

      Regarding the Rejection of the Gentiles (LDS 3rd Nephi 16:10): yes, several of the churches believe that has happened; specifically the Bickertonites and some of the Strangites; possibly also the Hedrickites. Essentially, among the churches who believe that, there is a desire to focus on the Native Americans who, as Lamanites, are of the house of Israel. So the Bickertonites have a big, big focus on Indian missions.

      • John Hamer July 11, 2013 at 10:50 am - Reply

        Cowdery’s editorial referenced above is dated May 3, 1834.

      • Watcher July 11, 2013 at 12:19 pm - Reply


        Thank you for taking the time to respond to all the questions!

  5. George July 10, 2013 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    Great stuff. I have been a friend of the Independence headquartered church for decades and totally loved this window into their rich history. I do wish John could have expanded more on the resignation of Grant McMurran. I find it interesting that he did not appoint a successor and would have liked to understand the process which was followed to bring a new leader to the Community of Christ.

  6. George July 10, 2013 at 11:30 pm - Reply

    Correction: Make that Grant McMurray.

    • John Hamer July 11, 2013 at 11:00 am - Reply

      George: I think Grant was a wonderful, visionary leader and a brilliant thinker and a powerful speaker. I know him personally and I couldn’t be more impressed with him as a person.

      He resigned as Prophet/President for health and personal reasons. I know a lot about the health reasons: he has Parkinson’s, which is very serious and it has continued to be. I know absolutely nothing about the personal reasons, which were private, nor am I interested in them.

      When he resigned he elected not to designate a successor. Instead, Community of Christ as a denomination participated in what we call a discernment process — which is to say, praying and thinking and listening — discerning who God was calling to lead the church. This process then focused or delegated to the Council of Twelve who felt inspired that Steve Veazey was the person. It has proven to be an inspired choice.

      I think that this is an important transitional phase that is still ongoing in Community of Christ where eventually it will be worked out how the church membership, as a prophetic people, are ultimately responsible for determining who the prophet and other leaders will be. However, this needs to be prayerfully and in the mode of discernment, and not crassly in the mode of politics. So much thought still is needed to walk the path ahead.

  7. Jared Madden July 11, 2013 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    Hi John H – Thank you very much for putting this together and sharing it. It’s wonderful to hear about the history of all Restoration heritage churches. It makes me realize how little I know about it and how I really need to educate myself about this history.

    This year, the LDS church is studying in the Lorenzo Snow manual as part of the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church series. At the very beginning of Chapter 5: The Grand Destiny of the Faithful is the following quote from President Snow that is very famous:

    “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.”

    This teaching is also in the Joseph Smith Jr. manual from the same series. The King Follet discourse was published in the Ensign in Apr 1971 and the First Presidency published an article called “The Origin of Man” in the Feb 2002 issue where they reference the same teaching. Keith B. McMullin spoke about it at the Oct 2008 General Conference, but perhaps the best reference is when Gerald N. Lund wrote a thorough response to a question about this very topic in the Feb 1982 Ensign.

    I was able to find those references to the belief that God is an exalted man just by searching for “exalted man” on and taking 10 min to look at some of the results.

    All of this makes me question what sources there are that say otherwise. The only references I’ve heard is when President Hinckley is responding to the media such as the San Francisco Chronicle, TIME Magazine, or Larry King.

    Are there any other references saying that the LDS Church does not believe that God is an exalted man that I’m not aware of?

    Thanks for your time. – Jared

    • Glen Fullmer July 11, 2013 at 10:49 pm - Reply

      Question: “Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?”

      Hinckley: “I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.”
      – Interviewing Gordon B. Hinckley, Time Magazine, Aug 4, 1997

      The choices are pretty black and white. So was Hinckley:

      1. Was speaking truth?
      2. Was he “lying for the Lord”?
      3. Did he not know that Mormons teach it?
      (did I miss a choice?)

      Jared, which of three do you think is true?

      John H allows for a lot of leeway for the behavior of a prophet including “Lying for the Lord” and deception, but this type of lying, or obfuscation or ignorance is unacceptable to some and the reason that many people leave the LDS Church which they were taught that it is “God’s only true Church on Earth”.

      • Jared Madden July 12, 2013 at 5:46 pm - Reply

        Hi Glen – I would say that there is another possibility, and that one would be that he found himself in a sticky situation with a question he didn’t want to answer. He was hoping to get out of answering it, but instead it sounded like he was backing away from the doctrine altogether.

        It’s difficult to imagine the pressure that rests on someone who is at the head of a church with millions of members. Those interviews could very well be the reason that we don’t see President Monson doing the same kinds of interviews today.

  8. John Hamer July 11, 2013 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    Hi Jared,

    Thankyou for that information; you’ve changed my impression of that point. As you suspect, I presume my impression to the contrary had been formed by President Hinckley’s public relations statements. I also remember a very stirring presentation by Mike Quinn at Sunstone several years back where he suggested that he believed (presumably based on those same tea leaves) that the LDS Church was appearing to suppress that teaching — and it was clear from his presentation that he felt such a suppression (if it were, indeed, happening) was a mistake. I also seem to recall Hugo Olais making a similar point in a different Sunstone presentation a while back. This impression I’ve had, therefore, is probably out-of-date, and I appreciate your feedback. Thanks!

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  10. Larrin July 13, 2013 at 8:55 am - Reply

    I might be too late to ask this question. I didn’t hear much about the question of authority in the start of the Community of Christ. However, I was trying to clean the house while listening at the same time, so maybe I missed it. Authority is an important question in a Mormon context, and I know Mormons, and Joseph Fielding Smith in particular, criticized the Community of Christ for ordaining Joseph Smith III as prophet without the ability to do so. Of course the LDS church says that the apostles had all of the powers and authority that Joseph Smith had and so became the rightful successors. So my questions are this:

    1) How was the question of authority viewed at that time by the early members of the Community of Christ?

    2) How would you explain to Mormons that his “authority claims” were legitimate?

    • John Hamer July 14, 2013 at 5:14 pm - Reply


      In the first place, Community of Christ rejects this idea of Authority and Authoritarianism. Believing in exclusive Authority, in my opinion, requires an incredibly myopic picture of humanity, the world, and the universe. I think that the idea that one little church — be it a really little and headquartered in Independence, Missouri, or just little and based in Salt Lake City, Utah — has an exclusive monopoly to be God’s one and only true church on Earth is 100% as believable as it sounds. In my belief, this is a misunderstanding of God, priesthood, humanity, history, life, everything. To me, making such a claim as an institution, discredits you as an institution. Community of Christ used to make this claim and when we did, we were wrong. It wasn’t an easy thing to give up, but the church is better for having grown out of it.

      I also believe that Authoritarianism and this kind of belief in Authority writ large is a form of idolatry that leads to other serious errors and abuses. When you believe exclusive divine Authority is vested in a particular leader or group of leaders, you are guilty of leader worship. Likewise when you believe a particular text or set of texts (e.g., the Standard Works) are vested with exclusive divine Authority, you are guilty of scripture worship. In both cases, you are worshiping a proxy for God — (either a leader or a text) — rather than worshiping God. In my belief, this is a violation of the 1st great commandment taught by Jesus: love God. Only infinite God is worthy of worship; not human leaders and not human texts.

      Joseph Smith’s visionary experience in the grove was not a grant of exclusive authority — indeed, in its earliest and most historically defensible versions, Joseph remembered it for what it was: a wonderful feeling that his sins had been forgiven him. Our take away from Joseph’s experience is not that it was something exclusive to him that made him semi-divine; rather his experience is a model for all of us. We are all able to experience the Divine, if we seek it, and we are all able to envision God. To the extent that Joseph later believed and preached that he had exclusive divine authority on Earth, he was wrong, and guilty of the myopic, hubris-filled, self-focus that ultimately led to his undoing.

      Worshiping leaders demeans and dehumanizes the individual. It separates us off from our actual inheritance, which is to connect with God directly, without the mediation of would-be human Authorities who wish to usurp our birthright and set themselves over us. The Authority that you’re talking about is a claim that is not only false, it’s self-discrediting, it’s inherently bad from the standpoint of the individuals caught up in such a system, and it has broader bad consequences.

      That said, although I believe such claims to Authority are false and discredited, within the universe of someone who actually believes traditional Restoration authority claims, Community of Christ has claims to a line of Authority from Joseph Smith Jr. that is as good, or (I think) better than that of the LDS Church.

      In my opinion, the LDS Church lacks any legitimate claim to have inherited Joseph Smith’s authority other than on the say-so of Brigham Young who, after Joseph’s death, conveniently claimed that he possessed the priesthood keys to lead the church. And yet there is not one word in the LDS canon that apostles have the authority to ordain and set apart a First Presidency of the church or to ordain the Prophet of the church. If the last High Priest in the LDS Church were to die, does the President of the Elders Quorum have the authority to ordain new High Priests and, indeed, to be set apart himself as the president of a new High Priest’s quorum?

      Brigham Young’s self-serving claims that he and the apostles had been given these keys was not presented honestly: many of these things he claimed were given to the apostles were actually related to the Council of Fifty. The apostles happened to be members of the Fifty, but they were not the ranking members — Brigham was outranked by 20-some men in the Fifty, including William Marks. To the extent that any member of a quorum had the priesthood keys to create a new First Presidency and ordain a new church president, William Marks, who ordained Joseph Smith III as president and prophet of the church in 1860 had the same priesthood keys as Brigham Young.

      But the only scriptural procedure for choosing a successor in the canon is (LDS) D&C 43:1-4:
      “O hearken, ye elders of my church, and give ear to the words which I shall speak unto you. For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him [Joseph Smith Jr.] whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand. And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me. But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead.”

      In other words, the sole person appointed to be prophet in Joseph Smith’s lifetime is Joseph Smith and none else shall be appointed save it be through Joseph Smith. Therefore the question is not whether a person was a high priest like both Marks and Young or whether the person had been given esoteric keys in the Council of Fifty or done various secret rituals; the canonical or scriptural question for succession is “was the successor appointed as successor by Joseph Smith Jr.?” The answer, in Brigham Young’s case, is “no.” The answer in Joseph Smith III’s case, is “yes.” So, if one believes in this sort of thing, there is your answer.

      • Watcher July 14, 2013 at 6:59 pm - Reply

        “Therefore the question is not whether a person was a high priest like both Marks and Young”

        My recollection is the Young was never ordained to be a high priest prior to the succession crisis, which makes the Mormon claim all the more difficult.

        • Watcher July 14, 2013 at 7:17 pm - Reply

          I am basing that on the fact that BY and HC were two of the 12 that were not ordained prior to their call to be High Priests, several years after the High Priesthood was restored, and the fact that I am not aware of a time following that, that they were, however, if I am wrong I would love a reference showing where and when.

          “Now will it cause some of you to marvel that I was not ordained a High Priest before I was ordained an Apostle? Brother Kimball and myself were never ordained High Priests.”

          • Watcher July 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm

            I meant “prior to their call to be apostles”

  11. Paul M. July 13, 2013 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Hi John H.!

    I waited very anxiously for this latest installment, and you DID NOT DISAPPOINT, THANK YOU!!!

    I had a things I wanted to mention including a few questions I wanted to ask you.

    1. Comment: I went to Nauvoo last week and enjoyed the tour at the Community of Christ visitor center. Wanted to pick up the first volume of “Journey of a People,” but they didn’t have it. Will have to order it online. I did see your book though (An Illustrated History) on the shelves! A young Graceland student led our tour and did a nice job. The young students do a WAY BETTER JOB than the old LDS retired missionary couples do. Question: Why would they not let me take pictures inside the Joseph Smith houses? I took a tour of the Kirtland temple last October and understand why they did not let me take pictures there, but not allowing photos in a house seemed silly. Do they just want complete control of the images/photos published?

    2. Question: In your opinion why doesn’t the LDS church use the JST of the Bible? Comment: It seems to me that they don’t use it because the Community of Christ is in possession of the copyright/manuscript. The church publically says they don’t use it because Joseph Smith never finished the translation, but this is a lame excuse. Smith’s journal states that he finished translation of the Bible. Your thoughts or insights on why it isn’t used? I also think not using it helps the missionary efforts as investigators can use the familiar King James version of the Bible when missionaries teach them.

    3. Question: Does (or will they in the future) the Community of Christ use the newer versions/translations of the Bible or will the old King James language continue? Since questioning Mormonism I have enjoyed reading the ESV and NIV and wish the Mormon church would accept other versions than the KJV. Joseph Smith was pretty progressive, and I think he would use them today if he were alive.

    4. Questions: I find James Strang to be FASCINATING. What was his position (calling) in the early church prior to starting his own church? How exactly was he killed, what were the circumstances, who killed him?

    5. Comment: Growing up in the Mormon church, I remember when Wallace B. Smith named his successor. All the talk among Mormons was that it was not a descendent of Joseph Smith. People pointed fingers and said, “Look, they ran finally out of descendants of Joseph Smith and are left scrambling.” Question: Did Wallace B. Smith have sons that he could have named as prophet? If he did have sons, where they not interested in assuming the position? If they were interested in the position, did they publically support the decision to be skipped over for someone out of the family? I realize he also could have named another descendent that was not his son, but had this doubt.

    6. You mentioned that while temple work may not be necessary for salvation, you defended the practice if it helps members draw close to God or to their ancestors. Question: What kind of impact do you think the LDS church would have on the world if they took that money, and instead of building temples (or shopping malls) they built homeless shelters, places to serve battered women, or programs to dig wells for people to have drinking water in Africa? How would that change worldwide perception of the Mormon church? Instead of membership (inflated number but we will use it) of 14 million, what would that number look like today? I would rather see members give service at a homeless shelter or other community need rather than go and do temple ordinances, but I guess I am in a vast minority…

    7. What is the educational/professional background of the Community of Christ apostles today? What did they do for a living prior to being called? Did they attend divinity school? LDS leaders are generally affluent, highly educated, and successful people in their fields but are CHURCH BROKE, which means they will do what they are told and not ask questions…

    8. Do you see a LGBT apostle in the near future in the Community of Christ?

    Learning about the Community of Christ has been a lot of fun, thank you again for doing this!!!

    • Jeff July 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm - Reply

      Hi Paul,

      4. James Strang was a relatively new convert who was an elder in the church, nothing too special. Wikipedia gives a good summary of his death and circumstances. Basically, his story is similar in many ways to Joseph Smith. He angered a lot of people (internal and external), and was shot, dying a few days later.

      • Paul M. July 14, 2013 at 7:11 pm - Reply

        Thanks Jeff, I am always nervous about believing everything I read in Wikipedia, but if that is how it went down, there really are a lot of similarities between JS and Strang!

    • John Hamer July 14, 2013 at 11:03 pm - Reply

      Hi, Paul M.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed these installments.

      1. It’s sad they didn’t have a copy of “Journey of a People” — it’s definitely worth getting the set from Herald House. I’m glad that the student guide did a good job. I’m going to Kirtland this week and I’m going to teach a class for the student guides there on Thursday evening. Regarding the interior photos: I think this is an old policy that doesn’t make a lot of sense at this point; but yes, I think the original idea was concern about lack of control of the images.

      2. I recently wrote a 2 part essay on the Inspired Version for the Rational Faiths blog that answer your questions: Part 1 and Part 2

      3. People in Community of Christ use whatever translation suits them. By and large, it’s NRSV, but it can be anything. You can’t necessarily extrapolate about what Joseph would do in the 21st century, but staying stuck in 1844 doesn’t seem like his style.

      4. As Jeff mentioned, Strang didn’t have a lot of background with the church prior to announcing his calling. Ultimately the Kingdom on Beaver Island created the same enmity with local gentiles (in this case the population of Mackinac Island) that Nauvoo created with its neighbors. The assassins were disgruntled former members working in concert with the anti-Mormons of Mackinac and a US navy vessel in Lake Michigan.

      5. As I mentioned to Glen above, there were plenty of Smiths to choose from in the RLDS Church. There are plenty of Smiths in Community of Christ today. We have not run out of Smiths. Wallace B. Smith does not have sons, but he has many cousins who are direct male-male-male descendants of Joseph and Emma. (We should point out that the line had already passed laterally twice, since Fred. M was succeeded by his brother Israel A. and Israel A. was succeeded by his brother W. Wallace, who is Wallace B.’s father. Fred M. only had daughters, but Israel A. had sons. Likewise there were other sons of Joseph III, and Joseph III’s brothers had sons.) Wallace B. Smith didn’t designate a non-Smith as prophet because of lack of Smiths — he did so because God was calling a non-Smith to lead the church.

      6. This would only be speculation. I can’t tell you whether a focus on service and charity would be a more effective strategy for the LDS Church than its current strategy. It does seem that the current strategy isn’t working very well.

      7. Most of the apostles I know in Community of Christ have graduate degrees in theology and religious studies. I don’t think there are any CEO types like in the LDS Church, which is probably why we aren’t particularly great at running our church like a business.

      8. I think it’s quite likely, yes.

      Thank you!

      • Paul M. July 17, 2013 at 9:44 pm - Reply

        Thanks John, you answers are always well thought out, deep, and insightful. All the best to you!

  12. Paul B July 15, 2013 at 3:05 am - Reply

    Great podcast, just like all the others. I’ve been learning so much.

    Mr. Hamer — John — with regard to your statement: “Regarding the evolution of the Melchisedec/Melchizedek priesthood. 6. I didn’t mention the Peter, James, and John story; not for any reason in particular. What I would have said is that the story is entirely literary; there was no such contemporary event in 1829. The story was a later creation, composed after the development of the Melchisedec priesthood and retrojected into the past as if it had been an actual historical event. It does not figure into the contemporary record and it does not consonant with the actual events in the development of the idea of priesthood in the Restoration.” Wow, if that isn’t an earth mover, (or wrecking ball!), I don’t know what is as for the validity claims of the Utah LDS church to act exclusively in the name of God in the performance of all of its ordinances. Am I correct in that assumption? And what about the visitation of John the Baptist? Was that a fabrication, as well?

    In any event, in the Utah LDS church a priesthood (one of three, but usually just the two main ones — Aaronic and Melchizedek) is ‘conferred’ upon a male person, and then that person is ‘ordained’ to a specific office in that priesthood, i.e., a young lad of twelve has the Aaronic priesthood conferred upon him and is ordained to the office of a deacon, and of course you know this. My question, though, is if authority is not an issue or important (for the lack of a better way to put it), how would a typical prayer be worded when, say, as depicted on one of your slides, someone is has hands laid upon their head and is ‘ordained’ (again, for the lack of a better term) to a certain calling or office in the…if not priesthood, then what?

    Also, you mentioned that you live TO (Toronto, or ‘Toronah’ to some old-timer Canucks). I have had a long relationship with the LDS chapel on Ossington Avenue dedicated by Heber J. Grant (in 1934, if I remember correctly, but not suggesting that I was present during that dedication!). But hey, that’s my home town! I’ll be there sometime in September for a visit, so you never know, maybe we’ll get to meet sometime. You may even convert me! Anyway, it would be great to treat you for lunch.

    Again, great podcast.

    To John Dehlin: Hey, these are getting so good I was overcome with a heartfelt ‘Jesus’ moment of generosity to make a donation. Please keep up with the great work!

    • John Hamer July 15, 2013 at 8:20 am - Reply

      In terms of the baptism, the original story as known to early members was that Joseph and Oliver received the authority to baptize and they baptized each other. As Lucy Smith recalled, “one morning however they sat down to do their usual work [on the Book of Mormon project] when the first thing presented itself to Joseph was a commandment from God that he and Oliver should repair to the water each of them to be baptized[.] they immediately went down to the susquehanah river and obeyed the mandate…They had now received authority to baptize… After this they again went on with the translation as before —” Lucy’s Book, Lavina Fielding Anderson (ed.), p. 439.

      See also David Whitmer interview with Zenas Gurley, 1885. Whitmer says, “Oliver stated to me in Josephs presence that they had baptized each other seeking to fulfill the command—And after our arrival at fathers [Peter Whitmer Sr.’s house] sometime in June 1829. Joseph ordained Oliver to be an Elder, and Oliver ordained Joseph to be an Elder in the Church of Christ… I never heard that an Angel had ordained Joseph and Oliver to the Aaronic priesthood until the year 1834 5 or 6—in Ohio… I do not believe that John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver as stated and believed by some. I regard that as an error, a misconception.” See Early Mormon Documents Vol. 5, Dan Vogel (ed.), p. 137.

      The visitation stories are later literary additions to the narrative. It should not surprise us that they are not historical because there is no such thing as a visitation. There are visions and there are symbolic or theological stories, not history. The difference between the baptism story and the Melchisedec story is that there really was a baptism event in 1829 — Joseph and Oliver baptized each other — but the idea of the Restored Melchisedec priesthood did not exist in 1829. As Whitmer explained, it evolved later and was retrojected into the story.

    • John Hamer July 15, 2013 at 8:29 am - Reply

      Paul: I suspect the forms of ordination are approximately the same in both traditions, what’s different is the meaning attached to the symbolic ritual. I know the baptismal ritual is identical in forms in both churches as is the sacrament of communion (except that Mormons have substituted “water” for “wine”/grape juice).

      For me, these symbolic rituals are highly significant public declarations of your commitment to God and the community of the church in real life. Originally, the formal wedding ceremony had legal significance: in a largely non-literate society, a ceremony with witnesses was how you safely made something legal. If a husband later repudiated his wife and said he’d never really married her, all the witnesses to the ceremony would be on-hand to provide counter testimony. Now, the wedding ceremony has no legal significance. In our highly literate and legally documented, one can easily be married without any ceremony, simply by signing papers. Nevertheless, people getting married very often want to go through the symbolic ritual, because it has deep personal meaning and meaning to family and community.

      It should go without saying (but it obviously does not) that these symbolic rituals do not have some sort of cosmic significance — where effecting a particular ritual somehow transmutes your speculative spirit-matter from pre-baptized matter into post-baptized matter or something like that. What is the mechanism even supposed to do cosmically and how? The idea is a traditional one, but a dated one, coming from an era when people had a magic world-view; we no longer have that worldview, but we haven’t always thought through the ramifications to some of our traditional ideas.

      * * *
      I just looked up the Ossington chapel on Google streetview — looks like a beautiful building. Hopefully we’ll be able to get together when you visit.

      • Paul B July 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm - Reply

        John, thank you for that in-depth response — lots to think about.

        What I want to know, specifically, though, is whether in the CofC they ordain (set apart, confer, etc) with ‘the power and authority of the holy priesthood’, i.e., do they say something like this — making reference to priesthood, and be it authority, power, or whatever?

        And if they do use these similar phraseologies as in the Utah LDS church, then I thought they didn’t ascribe to notions of ‘authority’ or ‘power’. I’m just not quite clear (or getting it!) on these points.

        • John Hamer July 15, 2013 at 6:32 pm - Reply

          Paul: We do it by saying the word “authority” and then explaining why the word doesn’t mean that. So for example, Affirmation Four of the church’s Statement on Scripture is:

          “Scripture’s authority is derived from the model of Christ, who came to be a servant (Mark 10:45). Therefore, the authority of scripture is not the authority to oppress, control, or dominate. If Jesus came to serve, how much more should the books that point to him be treated as a servant of the saving purposes of God.”

          So the word authority is preserved, but only by making the point that the model of Christ turns “authority” on end — and scripture or priesthood have authority only as servants.

          And there is “power” in ritual and sacrament and baptism and administration. It’s not magic powers; it’s real-life power that you can feel when you’re participating, sharing together in blessings of community.

          • Paul B July 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm

            “. . . scripture or priesthood have authority only as servants. . . . it’s real-life power that you can feel when you’re participating, sharing together in blessings of community.”

            A lovely way to explain it. Much less sterile or phlegmatic (IMHO) than the Utah LDS concept of priesthood power and authority taught to me, i.e., ‘to act in the name of God for the salvation of mankind’. Thank you.

  13. Jeff July 15, 2013 at 9:03 am - Reply

    This has been a great series of podcasts. In fact, they were so engaging that I was able to get a family member to listen to them. I think she appreciated the fourth one about the Community of Christ.

    John H.-It looks like I will be at the JWHA conference in September.

    • John Hamer July 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm - Reply


      Thanks, much — I’m glad you’ve found these podcasts engaging and useful. Great news about being able to goto JWHA! I think it’s going to inevitably be a wonderful experience.

      — John

  14. Matt July 16, 2013 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    Would you be able to post the slides? I thought they were very well done and would love a copy to share with others.



  15. mark July 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Loved this series of podcasts, great job guys!

    So bunch of questions:

    * You say a big factor in the separation of different fractions in the early church was disagreement over polygamy. But then in the 1960’s the RLDS church finally admitted to Joseph Smith practicing polygamy, why didn’t they know about it from the early history of the church?

    * One of the rumours I heard as a TBM was that the name ‘Community of Christ’ also the lessening of the focus of the Book of Mormon was due to the RLDS doing deals or working closer with the wider mainstream Christian churches, and this was either a condition or influence from them. Any truth in that?

    * I am based in the UK, and have noticed that the CoC seems to have a few ‘clusters’ – South Wales, Midlands and the Manchester area. Is there a contemporary history of the RLDS in the British Isles, I am curious as to why these little clusters.


    • Jeff July 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm - Reply
    • David July 22, 2013 at 2:51 am - Reply

      In this Mormon Expression podcast John Hamer talks about myths about the Community of Christ.
      I remember one of them was that the Community of Christ is trying to be protestant so I think that would answer your second question. He also discussed all the myths about the Community of Christ being in financial difficulty.

    • John Hamer July 29, 2013 at 4:49 pm - Reply


      * A lot of early RLDS members did know about Joseph Smith and polygamy, and said as much in the 1st issue of the Saints Herald. Joseph Smith III, however, did not have first-hand experience and he preferred to approach the question with a lawyerly standard, requiring court-room style proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Although he would make ambiguous statements like “if my father were engaged in polygamy, it would still have been wrong, but I believe my father was a good man.” From that ambiguity, Joseph Smith III’s heirs had a lot less hair-splitting and ended up believing the fiction that John C. Bennett and Brigham Young were the originators.

      * I have an essay on the name of the church:

      * I don’t know the history of the RLDS Church in the UK that well. Usually, clusters indicate that there were some good early missionaries that founded congregations that have held on. That’s true from my neck of the woods in Michigan and Ontario where a great missionary J.J. Cornish planted lots of branches.

  16. chris July 22, 2013 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    On the picture of the “Smith Boys”, JosephIII is pointing at something, any idea what?

    • John Hamer July 29, 2013 at 4:38 pm - Reply

      The Smith boys are often pointing to things in photos. It looks like he’s holding a small book or a pamphlet on top of a book, but in the highest resolution scan I have I can’t make out what book it is.

  17. Lance M. July 25, 2013 at 9:09 pm - Reply


    I’ve just got to say, this has been one of the MOST ENLIGHTENING video series I’ve come across since my family left the LDS church in February, 2013!!!

    In doing some of my research, I began to wonder, why do Mormon’s believe we’re the “TRUE” church? And all the different factions of the original church are wrong?

    I grew up “knowing” the RLDS church was “false” because they’re changing so many doctrines, and the broken prophetic lineage, and they’re not rolling like the stone filling the whole earth.

    When I started to question and research, I couldn’t believe how many other versions of “Mormonism” there were (and still are). It was always my belief that Joseph Smith created just one more church that was soon going to bring all those heathens together in truth and gather them for the Lord in one big church of God! Yay! Well, I came to realize that all he did was help to create dozens and dozens more churches which completely muddies up “Mormonism”…and created HORRIFYING polygamist groups.

    So, I began to question why the LDS church claimed it had the complete true authority and the others didn’t. This question had just been really consuming me the past few weeks. THEN WHAM-O!! I watch these videos!!

    OH MY GOSH! The Community of Christ rocks! I’ve lost my testimony in all things having to do with Joseph Smith BUT, it seems like your church is the most real about it’s historical problems and looking toward the future in the most inspired and realistic way!

    My hat goes off to you, John Hamer! Your research is just amazing! I’ve really wanted to know what happened after Joseph was killed. The LDS church never talks about the complete chaos that happened when he died. We simply live in our little bubble that we’re the biggest cuz God is blessing his “true” church…niener, niener, niener. People forget that growth expansion takes money. By REQUIRING the “good” members to pay tithing in order to keep their eternal salvation (and be forgiven of sin) is a pretty easy way for God to “bless” the LDS church. ;)

    Thank you for bringing light and knowledge to so many people! God bless you and your efforts!

    And, THANK YOU John Dahlin! I hope this series doesn’t get too overshadowed by Hans Mattsson (incredible courage & integrity he has!). I think it would do many Mormons good to have a better understanding of their roots.

    • John Hamer July 29, 2013 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      Lance: I’m really glad you enjoyed these videos and I’m happy your finding them was so timely. I appreciate your kind words — hopefully, yes, Community of Christ will be walking forward realistically with eyes open, honoring our heritage while acknowledging (rather than excusing or explaining away) the problems of our inheritance.

  18. BO August 4, 2013 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the great podcast John and John.
    Quick question for John Hamer. Maybe you will discuss it on the next episode, if so you can disregard.
    I have a friend that is part of the Restoration branch. From his description to me, about 10 years ago, I remember him describing a particular meeting where a large group stood up and walked out in protest of some doctrine and that is how the Church of the Restoration was born. I remember he also said that whatever branch he belonged to broke off again from the main branch of the Restoration branch.
    Any chance of getting a quick recap of what happened with the schism groups that left the RLDS church and why?

  19. Marty Erickson August 11, 2013 at 10:37 am - Reply

    Thank you John Hamer and John Dehlin. Just fascinating! On many levels. Great comments here. Thanks much John Hamer for all the time you’ve put into these comments as well.
    If I’m understanding your view of scripture, religion, priesthood, restoration, BofM, etc. then I have two questions:
    1. I’m assuming your views of the literal resurrection of Jesus would be the same. Not actual, not supernatural. More grand spiritual cultural myth. People only resurrect in spiritualistic supernatural ways in literature/cultural stories not in real life. Is this your view?
    2. Is there anything necessary from God in terms of the Restoration? Was the restoration in any way necessary to the salvation of humanity? I’m assuming from your view it is beautiful and inspired and deeply meaningful but not necessary to some sort of salvation to humanity directly from God? Same with a coming millennial reign of Jesus Christ literally on the earth and the earth to become celestialized. Correct?
    3. Do you believe in some sort of life after death? Spirits in bodies and separated by death then reunited in resurrection?
    I’m just super curious. Thanks.

  20. […] I have. Unsurprisingly, a lot of my exposure has been because of John Hamer. I just finished this 5-part series on CoC history and loved it. I was particularly blown away by the last bit that brother Hamer […]

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