The governor signed an extermination order to get all of the Latter-day Saints out of Missouri. What are all of these splinter views that I’m seeing here in our attendance?
Hello Saints. My name is Jeff. I’m a Christian pastor exploring everything I can about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And in this exploration, sometimes it can be a little bit difficult because because there are so many things in Utah that are really helpful to explore. And I live in the St. Louis area. However, I actually live in an area where there is a lot of Latter-day Saint history. You might have seen a video I made in Nauvoo, Illinois, where Joseph Smith spent the last years of his life. But one place I haven’t gone to yet is Independence, Missouri, which is only a few hours away from me as well. And I don’t know the exact significance of that area, but I know that there’s some doctrines tied to that region, and I know that there’s some history there that got pretty wild, that there were some wars of some sort, I don’t know. But I’m going to hop in the car. I’m going to drive across state on I 70 and I’m going to check it out.
Let’s go. Done. I’m not entirely sure what this building is, but it is fascinating and beautiful. And it says temple on it, but it doesn’t look like any temple I’ve ever seen before. Welcome to Independence, Missouri. I will say first impressions that it is surprising me how many churches are everywhere. I know I say that a lot of my channel in Salt Lake City, there’s a lot of Latter-day St. Churches. In the Midwest, there’s a lot of Protestant and Catholic churches. There are churches everywhere I look here in Independence, there’s this temple back here which seems to be associated with the community of Christ. And that’s a name that I kind of recognize as part of an offshoot of the LDS Church. But there’s other names I’m not recognizing. Like the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And there are some just like regular Latter-day Saint churches. But it seems like everywhere I look there are churches. So I think what I’m going to do is I’m going to go across the street to the Latter-day St. Visitor center. I’m sure there’s some very nice senior missionaries who will help me piece this together and start making sense of it all.
So let’s go. Music video all right, so just got done talking to some senior missionaries in the Latter-day St. Visitor center, and as usual, they were super helpful. And what they told me was really fascinating. They essentially explained to me why this area right here, I’m not just talking about Independence. I’m talking about this grasp that I’m standing on is key. It is central to Latter-day Saint belief. Subsequent to Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon, he then had a revelation that said that this area of Missouri is significantly important. It is said that he claimed that this is potentially around this area where the Garden of Eden was not too far from here is actually where Adam and Eve lived after they were cast out of the garden. But more importantly than that, this specific area right here, this is not just a random lot in Independence, Missouri. He claimed that a temple is going to be built and that Jesus will reign when he returns, and that this is where the true Zion exists. Now, that is actually why the backdrop of this is this temple, which is a community of Christ’s temple.
I’m not going to get into all of those splinter groups yet. I’ll do that in just a little bit. It is because of this area that Joseph Smith sent missionaries and other saints out here to live and to dwell, which gets into a pretty dark period in LDS history that I want to explore a little bit more. So I’m actually going to travel to this next place that sort of summarizes the tension that was experienced when they first settled here in the early to mid 1830s. Go check it out.
I’m about 15 miles north of Independence, and this building behind me really represents sort of the book into the Latter-day Saints presence in Missouri, because within this building is another building. It’s a recreation of the jail where Joseph Smith spent five months. And it’s all because of the clashes that ensued when the Latter-day Saints came here and they began to grow. And the locals weren’t really comfortable with their religion. They weren’t really comfortable with their culture. They weren’t very comfortable with their relationships and beliefs as it pertained to slavery, as it pertained to Native Americans. And initially they were run out of Independence and came to a county north of them in Clay County. But they continued to grow. And the more they grew and the more they spilled into other counties, the more local Missourians just did not want them around. And it even reached the governor, Governor Boggs, who very much colored outside of legal lines and signed an extermination order to get all of the Latter-day Saints out of Missouri. And it’s when Joseph intervened that he was arrested, thrown in jail for five months. Eventually, when they were granted a change in venue in that process, they were released.
They fled to Nauvoo, Illinois, where Joseph spent the rest of his days. But the church at this point wasn’t just dealing with external duress. There were actually things taking place within the church. There were individuals who were trying to take control of the church and who weren’t fully trusting the leadership of Joseph Smith. That actually leads us to why there are so many different churches and so many splinter groups here in Independence. I want to explore that a little bit more, and I’ve actually solicited the help of somebody you might know, to help me sort through all that. Let’s go meet with them. All right, so I am now here with Stephen Pineker from Mormon book reviews. Thank you for being with me.
Oh, it’s always a pleasure, dude. Love talking with you.
And if you don’t know who Stephen is, he’s an evangelical, yet he has a lot of knowledge when it comes to the history of the church and also a lot of the beliefs. So I figured rather than talk to somebody from one of these splinter groups, I’ll ask somebody who’s kind of an outsider like me, but still is knowledgeable. So as I’m exploring Independence, I’m seeing all of these churches all over the place. And then as I’m peering into the history, I’m realizing that there are splinter groups around Independence. But it all sort of started internally, historically, in the church. So when was it in the history of the restoration, we’ll call it, that individuals started to question Joseph and maybe claiming their own authority.
Yeah, that’s great. So David Whitmer was one of the three witnesses to the plates, and so his name is written in the Book of Mormon, everything like that, as a witness. And he early on grew very skeptical of Joseph because he felt that Joseph wasn’t on the up and up at times and felt that he actually was a fallen prophet. Now, did he feel that at the moment these things are happening, or did he look back in life? But he kind of points to the early days of the church that Joseph Smith fell, and so that kind of serves as the impetus for a lot of these groups later on. Many of them actually will have different dates where they think the prophet fell and others think that he never fell or that he just fell into error, like, shortly before the end of his life.
As far as people officially splintering away, did any of that happen prior to Navu, or was that mainly after Joseph died?
Well, actually, one of the biggest splinters happened is when Sydney Rigdon and Joseph Smith sled Kirtland. After the collapse of the bank, there was a separate church that controlled everything there. And so they basically were claiming to be the church that Joseph fled from. And Joseph goes to Far West to kind of assert his authority over the second church out in Missouri. So you actually have an actual two churches at that time operating that were separate from each other, and that would have been around after 1830, 1839, right around in there.
So then help me understand then, what are all of these splinter groups that I’m seeing here in Independence? And maybe just name a few of them. And if you could just sort of, like, explain what some of the main distinctions are.
Okay, well, Mary, of them, almost all of them claim to be the true church that was found in April 6, 1830, and that they many claim, like the Temple Lot, which is right across the street, that they have an unbroken chain to the original church, and that they are indeed the heirs of the original church. You have the building we’re by is the Community Christ Building. And this is what was called the RLDS. The Reorganized Church. Jesus Christ Latterday Saints, founded by Emma’s Joseph Smith’s son, Joseph Smith III. And they believe that they’re the true claimants to the Restoration. Let’s say they say they were reorganized in 1860, but they were organized in April 6, 1860. And what happened was, where did all these sex come? Well, there’s a lot of them here on this intersection, but there were also a lot back in the day after the Martyrdom and Joseph Smith. So that’s the schism there. We have the Strangites. Okay. And then you have all these other groups that are breaking off.
And so who are the Strangites?
James Strang founded a group. He claimed that he was the true heir, that he had an letter of an appointment from Joseph Smith that claimed that he was to be his successor, even though he never was in NABU or wasn’t new. Joseph Smith directly, I don’t believe. And so he makes this claim, and this is interesting, because almost all a huge amount of people actually join up with him, and he becomes a major rival to bring him young, and he actually builds a bit of an empire on beaver island in lake Michigan, and it crowns himself. King gets elected to the state legislature, a state senator. So he actually was a legitimate rival to them. And then the other person that tried to start a church was Sydney Rigdon, who bring him young, beat out sydney goes and attempts to start a church in western Pennsylvania where he was originally from, and he fails. But then another church comes out of that called the Church of Jesus Christ, and they’re often known as the Bicker tonight. And they have their own separate history. So basically what happens? You do have all these schisms and groups that happen after after the the 1844 martyrdom, but Joseph Smith III is able to coalesce most of those groups under the banner of the rods and basically says, okay, let’s forget everything that happened in Navu, essentially, and let’s just go back to 1837 when we dedicated the temple in Kirtland.
And that’s where that’s going to be our starting point, where we can all agree theologically. So that’s how I was able to bring all those groups together. Now, not all those groups joined up with Joseph Smith III, and so many of those groups are here present to this day.
One of the most fascinating things about this two evangelicals talking here, right?
A lot of my LDS friends will kind of point to the fact that in Protestant Christianity, there are so many different denominations, and that’s usually drawn back to where Joseph was whenever he was in the sacred grove, and he was like, I see all these denominations. Which one is the true church? And it’s really interesting to me that within just a few years, there were factions starting to break off within a couple of years after the church was established.
Yeah, very early on.
So what are the beliefs out there as far as, like, the future for all these different sects? Could they ever unite or reunite, or are they kind of staying separate?
That’s the difference between us and the restoration, is that they have the issue where there can only be one true priesthood. And so I got the priesthood. And in order for us to be unified, you would have to give up your priesthood to have the legitimate priesthood conferred upon you. So that’s the big issue that you have there that’s different than us is we could have theological differences, but they’re talking about issues of authority.
And that’s a big thing that makes sense. And again, you go to Utah and you’ll find many different sects and break offs, including recently with Denver Snupper. And so are there many other groups out there? In other words, this restoration continues to also spawn off sex, just like Protestantism does.
Well, and that’s just it. That’s probably the most interesting thing about this to me. I thought there were two or three different sects, and then when I went into the Latterday St visitor center, they handed me a piece of paper, and it showed all of these different groups that have broken off and have broken off from who broke off. And it’s all very fascinating to me, and I wasn’t expecting to see that when I showed up here. You need to check out Mormon book reviews with Stephen Pineker. He’s a great friend. He’s very good at what he does. Super entertaining, super informative. So you’ve been a big help to me, and I appreciate that, and you need to check out his channel, but I have more to say to you. So in the meantime, why don’t we go in and check out the sanctuary?
Sounds great. Thanks to us.
So as I conclude my time here in Independence, Missouri, what is my takeaway as a Protestant pastor exploring all things LDS? As I sit here with the backdrop of the community of Christ temple behind me, I think that’s my main takeaway. It’s that I didn’t realize there were so many splinter groups, and I’ve had a lot of my latterday saint friends tell me that one of the reasons I have such a problem with Protestant Christianity is because of all the different denominations. And this is something I’m running into a lot with my Latterday Saint friends, and that is explaining that even though we might have disagreements between the different denominations within the Protestant Church, and even though we might passionately disagree about things, we for the most part agree on a central doctrine. And we don’t believe that the differences that we have on ancillary or secondary issues are going to in any way impact eternity. What Jesus did on the cross and what we believe about who Jesus is and why he came really is, at the end of the day, the most important thing. So Baptists aren’t going to be in a higher level of heaven than Methodists and so on and so forth.
But within the Restoration, I can see this strain. I can see these different silos of groups. And as I see all these splinter groups, I don’t look at it with judgment. I don’t look at it with any sort of criticism. In fact, I can relate to maybe some of the frustrations that come along with having these different splinter groups. The reality is, this is what humanity does. We pull against each other. This is what was happening historically in Missouri with the Missourians and the saints that we’re settling here is pulling against each other. And even within the church, whether headed with leadership or beliefs, we pull against each other regularly. And this isn’t a modern problem. Paul speaks in almost every single one of his letters to the issues of division and the need for unity. And he talks about how the main reason why we lose unity is when we put our eyes on the wrong things, even when we put our eyes on religious things, instead of keeping our eyes on Jesus Christ. He talked about this in one Corinthians, chapter one, to a group of very divided Christians in Corinth when he says, for it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarrelling among my brothers.
What I mean is, each one of you says, I follow Paul. I follow Apollo. I follow Sephist. I follow Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in the name of Paul? A little bit further down, he says, For Christ did not send me to Baptize, but to preach the Gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. In other words, guys, the reason why you’re so divided is because you’re putting the focus on the wrong thing. You’re putting it on who taught you, who you follow, who baptize you. All of those things take our eyes off of Jesus Christ. And Paul was there to preach the Gospel that pointed people to the cross, that pointed people to Christ on a regular basis. He hits his home a little bit further in Ephesians chapter two, when he’s speaking to a church that is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. He says, for he himself is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances that he might create in himself one new man in place of two.
So making peace and reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing hostility. He goes on to say so, then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone in whom the whole structure being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In Him, you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. So once again, Paul is saying, keep your eyes on the cross. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Don’t let all these disagreements about religion and these disagreements about context take your eyes off the thing that matters most. This is really what holds Protestant Christianity together, to resist the idea that various religious activities or even various leaders should trump who Jesus is in our lives. But these are the things that I find myself being drawn back to in the Word that allow me to maintain unity, not only between other denominations, but even in my relationship with other believers. Whenever there’s strain in relationships, don’t allow anything to eclipse the importance of who Jesus is.
So I want to say thank you to Stephen Pioneer for Mormon Book reviews. I want to say thank you to Rick Bennett, who’s behind the scenes, he’s from Gospel Tangents. Thank you to the community of Christ, the Latter day Saints and your missionaries I love you, you’re awesome. And all the other restoration groups that I encountered while I was here. So I’ll explore more of these in future videos. And until that time, I’ll see you later. Thanks.