Bill Russell on an RLDS Schismatic Group

I am pleased to introduce Bill Russell, whose article, "The Remnant Church: An RLDS Schismatic Group Finds a Prophet in the Seed of Joseph," appears in the fall 2005 issue of Dialogue (38, no 3:75-106). It has also been posted here on BCC. You will find the article an informative summary of the events preceding the RLDS church’s change of name to Community of Christ and of the subsequent confusion afflicting RLDS members who do not wish to associate with the new, liberal-leaning church. As the title indicates, the focus of the article is upon a group of disaffected saints who have reorganized The Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints under the leadership of a descendent of Joseph Smith through a female line.

I have asked Bill to respond to a few passages from his article. He will be happy to respond to your questions and comments.

Levi: Bill, you write that the schism in the RLDS church culminated with the ordination of women to the priesthood. Even before that, you say, it was clear "that some highly placed church leaders no longer regarded the Book of Mormon as history and didn’t believe the RLDS pattern of church organization and doctrines constituted a restoration of the forms and beliefs that Jesus had established during his mortal ministry" (79). You call these liberal leaders New School saints. In the LDS church, liberals have declined in their influence. How do you account for the New School saints having so much influence on the direction of the RLDS church?

Bill: One factor may be that the RLDS church originated as a dissenting church. We have always been fairly tolerant of those who express differing views on issues. Related to that, living in the Midwest, among neighbors who were of various Christian denominations, we interacted more with Protestant neighbors than did the LDS in Utah. Possibly that led to a greater willingness to attend Protestant seminaries and graduate schools of religion. And I think the significant change in the thinking of top leaders over the past 40 years resulted from RLDS members getting graduate degrees in religion and then being hired to staff significant departments of the church and teach at church sponsored Graceland College (Graceland University since 2000). I think the major factor was the growing numbers of members who attended graduate schools of religion, wherein they learned that some elements of our traditional story didn’t add up. So revisionism in our understanding of the nature of scripture, theology, and our historical story resulted. Also important was our missionary activity in Asia and Africa, beginning in the early 1960s, whereby our leaders came to the judgment that some of our traditional gospel story was really American culture and not gospel universals. So there was a search for universals which caused us to focus more on Jesus and less on Joseph. We came to see Joseph through the eyes of Jesus, where before we tended to see Jesus through the eyes of Joseph. Finally, as more of the membership of the church became middle class in their socioeconomic status, I think there was naturally less of a tendency to want to see our church as "the one true church." For people of lower socioeconomic status, it may be more attractive to see oneself as a member of the true church, but as you become more educated and acculturated, you are more likely to feel embarrassed by such a claim.

Levi: Do you see close parallels between the current formation of RLDS splinter groups and the formation of the polygamy oriented Fundamentalist groups among the LDS church?

Bill: As I understand it, LDS polygamy oriented Fundamentalists reacted against the Woodruff Manifesto, believing that God revealed "the principle" and wouldn’t be changing it 50 years later. Also, the fact that President Taylor, in about 1886 I believe, prophesied that polygamy would always be practiced by the saints gives them support for believing that President Woodruff merely caved in to the "teachings of men" rather than holding fast to the rod of iron. I understand that many Fundamentalists also reject President Kimball’s 1978 revelation, since it was contrary to Brigham Young’s position. I think the Old School saints who have split from the RLDS church (now the Community of Christ) have been in a similar situation. The New School saints in our church have often come to conclusions contrary to Joseph Smith. For example, to hold that Joseph Smith was the author of the Book of Mormon is quite contrary to Joseph’s explanation of the book. Conclusions about the apostasy and restoration, and many other questions of scripture, history, and theology run contrary to teachings that go back to Joseph Smith.

Levi: You warn that presently independent RLDS splinter groups need to unite. Otherwise, you say, they will be "in the position of being, in effect, Southern Baptists with two extra books of scripture to defend"(85). Would you clarify what you mean by this last remark?

Bill: My comment referred more to the "independent restoration branches," who constitute 80 to 90% of the formerly active RLDS people who now attend groups that have split off from the church. They have total autonomy in the local congregation, not answerable to any higher authority. This has freed them from the restraints that had been placed on them by the liberal leadership of the church, but it leaves them without the ability to call higher officers in the church. As local branches, they are able to call only elders, priests, teachers, and deacons, but not seventies, high priests, bishops, evangelists, apostles, or a prophet. So as independent local branches, they are like the Southern Baptists, with absolute local autonomy, but they have two more books to defend–the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. (The Pearl of Great Price is not in our canon of scripture.) So they are much like the Southern Baptists but they have three books to defend rather than just one, the Bible. My comment regarding Southern Baptists doesn’t apply to the Remnant Church because they have organized a new church with all of the officers from the Prophet on down.

Levi: I was impressed by the collective revelation by which some of the independent branches united as The Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Although individuals announced revelations, other persons confirmed these revelations. Am I correct in assuming that the RLDS tradition all along has relied on a collective searching for the will of the Lord that is foreign to LDS tradition?

Bill: Over the years it was very common for people to stand up in church meeting, often in a prayer and testimony meeting (traditionally held on Wednesday nights) and utter a prophecy or a gift of tongues. Prophecies were far more common than tongues. I was spoken to at a large prayer meeting at a church camp when I was 19: "Thus saith the spirit unto my servant Bill Russell…." I was called to the office of priest as a result of that prophecy. (We don’t "work up the ladder" from deacon to teacher to priest to elder. Most priesthood are called first to one of the Aaronic offices, and then if they are called again, it will very likely be to elder.) The dozen of so revelations that I have seen published by Remnant Church people came during the five years of so prior to the formation of the Remnant Church. These were by men who were in the various independent restoration branches whose prophecies seemed to point the way toward organizing a church with the higher officers, which became the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. People have often had revelations (prophecies, etc.) in our church, but only the revelations of the prophet have created church policy.


  1. I have several questions and comments, but would like to start with a couple and maybe add more as the conversation progresses.

    Russell assigns a fair amount of the liberalization of RLDS leaders to their geographical proximity to the Pentecostal heartland and their education in protestant seminaries. It seems to me that this same time period is onset of the New Mormon History. While this movement was challenging to many in the LDS tradition, I imagine that it was cataclysmic to the RDLS tradition. What role did the New Mormon History play in the institutional shift?

    Russell also briefly mentioned the Supreme Directional Control movement in the 1920’s. This corresponds to the LDS churches correlation in response to polygamous schismatic groups. Is this just a coincidence?

    And as one who grew up in Platte City, MO, I welcome Russell aboard.

  2. I have two comments and two questions.

    Your assessment of the difference in the influence liberals in the Utah and the Missouri churches interests me. I have two comments regarding this:

    First comment: What you say agrees with the opinion that I’ve formed while watching the RLDS/CoC church change, which is this (and I understand it to be a pretty common conception): Because of the isolation of the early Utah church and its tradition of founding schools, colleges, and universities, the Utah church developed a rich tradition of intellectualism, beginning with Orson Pratt (who obviously figures in RLDS/CoC history, too) and including Brigham Roberts, James Talmage, and John Widsoe. The RLDS/CoC church developed no such tradition, so that when members and top leaders over the past 40 years obtained a graduate education, they had no traditional basis for assimilating and understanding the new information in the context of faith. As a consequence, the post WWII democratization of the university and the accompanying rush to college left a generation of RLDS members detached from the basis of their religion. I’m curious to hear your reaction to this point of view (which is rather obviously biased in favor of the Utah church’s understanding).

    Second comment: I strenuously disagree with your assessment based on class. For some time, Utah Mormons been more affluent than average. But the gradual movement away from the insistence on seeing “our church as ‘the one true church.'” has been largely rhetorical, has been brought on by growth rather than income, and has drawn primarily on pre-existing similarities between Mormonism and other Christian denominations (rather than compromises).

    But I have two questions about the religious identity of the RLDS/CoC membership.

    First question: Since RLDS/CoC church has jettisoned the restoration and authority claims of Joseph Smith, why would someone want to join it? The church doesn’t seem much different from the Methodists, and if you’re going to be a methodist, why not just join a Methodist church? (After all, Methodists make better methodists than RLDS/CoC’ers.)

    Second question: Do RLDS/CoC’ers still call themselves Mormons? If not, what is the commonly used term for members (since I’m hoping that “member of the Community of Christ” is considered too cumbersome).

    Fascinating interview and great article, Bill. Great work.

  3. Okay…I can’t resist. In speaking with several of what I would classify as Old School RLDS schismatics (after reading the article), I’m interested by Bill’s brief comments regarding the Temple.

    These folks are intent on waiting specifically for two things. First they wait for God to reveal a new prophet and two for that prophet to receive the Temple ordinances. I really didn’t think about it that much until this article. Bill mentioned the temple’s mission briefly but at key points in his discussion. Was the fact that the new CoC Temple is devoid of the promised ordinances viewed as an apostasy of sorts?

    And I second DKL, this is a great article. I am moved by the restorationism of these folks.

  4. Bill, I quite enjoyed your article.
    At a Mormon History Association some time ago, you were my first serious introduction to RLDS thought.

    My question is whether the CoC gets many lateral transfers from the LDS community?
    As part of that question, I’m wondering if the CoC would feel “Mormon-without- the-polygamy/racial/conservative-baggage” to many LDS Saints.

    I’m active LDS. The rationale for the question is that the CoC is Mormon in background, but without 3 of our LDS-Mormon millstones:

    1. polygamy
    2. The race-based restriction of priesthood and temple privileges.
    3. The pride associated with construing one’s church (or nation) as the “only true” one.

    And, you’ve involved women in your priesthood structure more than we have.

    When I’m talking with formerly active LDS Saints who are now active in other churches, I wonder if the CoC turns out to be a good fit for many LDS people.

    Thanks for the interview, also.

  5. …and as per comment #1, I meant to say:

    This corresponds to the LDS church’s correlation in response to polygamous schismatic groups during the same time period.

  6. Bill Russell’s interview with Levi Peterson (above) strengthens my testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  7. Have you read Following the Wrong God Home, I think the author is Clive Scott Owen. I’ll check.

  8. John Mansfield says:

    One item that interested me in the article was that the RLDS/CoC temple was dedicated to the pursuit of peace. When I toured it in 1993, the message of peace was prominent. My friend who was with me suggested that peace would be an important value to a church reorganized in a place where the saints had known great conflict. It looks like our theorizing was a little off, though. I didn’t realize at the time that this was a new direction in that church’s mission.

  9. Thanks for this interview. The thing that struck me as I was reading along was Mr. Russell’s statement about how the RLDS church is more tolerant and progressive on social issues because “the RLDS church originated as a dissenting church”.

    Well, so did the LDS Church! I think Mr. Russell is right about the RLDS Church, but why did the LDS Church lose its “edge” and move from dissent into the mainstream? Setting aside polygamy, there are many innovative elements of the early LDS church that dissented from the mainstream – women giving blessings – and that the LDS church no longer tolerates. Why? Or is that another one of those obvious questions that everyone else knows but me? I guess this is a case by case analysis depending on what the issue is, but I’m just wondering.

  10. Bill Russell says:

    I’ll respond to many of the comments:

    Our intellectual tradition isn’t recent. The RLDS established Graceland College in 1895, and our second President, Frederick Madison Smith, earned the Ph.D. in sociology at Clarke University about 1912. Graceland faculty, early on, taught evolution and biblical criticism. Roy Cheville taught at Graceland about forty years — early 1920s until 1960. He had a Ph.D. in religion at the University of Chicago. Many of our church leaders studied under Cheville as undergrads. Cheville knew Sidney Sperry at Chicago. But the LDS Church shut down the encouragement to go Divinity Schools like Chicago (Sperry was not the only one to go in the early days). We have encouraged study at graduate schools of religion, while I don’t think the LDS general authorities have been encouraging LDS people to go to seminary. I realize that some have, but I think without encouragement from leaders. Our leaders have encouraged this for at least 45 years.

    We have not abandoned the Latter Day Saint heritage. The name Community of Christ reflects our emphasis on Zion and our commitment to make Christ the center of our religion. While we used to see Jesus through Joseph’s eyes, we now (at least our leaders and many of the saints) view Joseph through the eyes of Jesus. And we appreciate the Mormon tradition that holds that we are all capable of being touched by the divine. I prefer that language over “God speaks today” becuase too often we have thought that revelation comes in the form of a voice from heaven. I think most of us who have had spiritual experiences which we have found to be life transforming did not have a voice speak to us. Rather it came in other forms. In a biblical literalist day “God speaks today” was a natural way to put it but it has distorted the message overe the years, I believe.

    Regarding class: The LDS Church has been centered in a state where 70% are Mormon, and the leadership has been mainly drawn from the heavily LDS areas. And Mormons control the politics and are the leading business powers. The class argument fits better in the Midwest where we have been a small group in the midst of a larger society which is mainly Protestant. And our people were mainly of the working class.

    I don’t know a single, solitary Community of Christ person — nor any restorationists who split — who look for the temple ordinances of Nauvoo and Utah to be restored in our tradition. And I know many schismatic leaders well. I just last weekend was at a retreat with ten restorationist leaders, meeting with seven of us from the C of C, including a member of the First Presidency. I have interviewed well over 100 restorationists for my book, and I have attended about 50 worship services in restorationist branches. I’ve never heard a peep on temple ordinances.

    Grant McMurray said not long ago that we share 14 or so years of history together, and we have been separate since the martyrdom. So our two churches have developed along very different tracks since Jason Briggs’ experience of 1851.

    We have never embraced the name “Mormon.” Most of our people hate it when people think we’re Mormon. That was one of several reasons for embracing the name change. However, the historians among us recognize that we are part of the Mormon tradition and don’t turn up our noses when we are referred to as Mormon.

    We thought we were the “one true church of Jesus Christ on the face of the earth” when I was growing up. (I always wondered if there was a true church under the crust of the earth.) It was only as we began to shift in the 1960s that we began to drop the true church thing. I have joked at places like Sunstone that since you folks have always been closer to Joseph Smith than we (you accept Nauvoo; we ultimately rejected all of the Nauvoo innovations), we can only claim to be the second truest church. But now I’ll have to admit that the restorationists deserve that claim. Maybe we can claim the bronz medal.

    There have been a few hundred RLDS who joined the LDS Church since 1984. I knew some of them, and gave a paper at Sunstone about three years ago on this. But when you consider there are about 20,000 people in the restorationist groups, the number going LDS is very small. As far as we are concerned, you have too much baggage regarding polygamy, the plurality of gods and eternal progression, and secret temple rituals like baptism for the dead, sealings, etc. Most RLDS of all factions have regarded these things as abominable, and some RLDS have concluded regretfully that Joseph Smith “lost it” in Nauvoo. Some would say he was a fallen prophet in Nauvoo. Grant has said at World Conference that Joseph was a very flawed human being. Amen to that.

    I’m glad my interview with Levi strengtened J. Stapley’s faith in the LDS Church.I have always been fascinated by the many ways people get their faith strengthened. One time a Catholic scientist on our faculty was sitting with me in the faculty loung and a strong RLDS psychologist had just gotten through heart surgery on his teenage daughter. He told my Catholic friend Phil that the doctor at the Mayo clinic was Catholic. Then he told how the whole thing “strenghened his faith in the RLDS Church.” After he left and Phil and I were alone Phil asked me, “How the hell did he come to that conclusion. He goes to Mayo Clinic and has a Catholic doctor heal his daughter, and it strengthened his faith in the RLDS Church?” I was unable to explain it. Well, I didn’t try.

    Clive Scott Chisholm, author of Following the Wrong God Home, is a good friend of mine. We ran on the track team together at Graceland in the late 50s. I have visited him at home in Paradise, Utah several times. It seemed like paradise to me. I will have to read this book by the guy we called “Scotty” at Graceland.

    Scotty and I toured the Logan tabernacle on one of my visits. Scotty signed in as Catholic and I signed in as RLDS. The guide gave all of his attention to me and ignored Scotty. As we were leaving he said to me, “I hope you can come back to the church.” I instantly replied, “But “I was never in it.” Scotty got a big kick out of it.

    As a “peace church” our leadership didn’t treat the conservative schismatics very well in the 1980s. Many were run out of the church unnecessarily. Our leaders should have been much more patient.

    I realize that the LDS in Utah in the 19th century dissented greatly from society. But I think the RLDS tolerated dissent within the church — dissent with the leaders — more than our cousins in the west did, past or present.

    Elisabeth (#9) doesn’t show a comment on my screen.

    Thanks for reading my article and I’ve enjoyed responding.

    Bill Russell

  11. Steve Evans says:

    Bill, a quick followup, if you’re so inclined: many of us LDS people don’t know much about the RLDS paradigm. Can you explain the rejection of everything from Nauvoo on from Joseph Smith?

  12. Thank you for taking tht time to respond to some of our questions. You menitoned:

    I’m glad my interview with Levi strengtened J. Stapley’s faith in the LDS Church.

    I hope you just missed the “R”, for that is what I found moving.

    I think the folks that I spoke to (and it has been along time) where invisioning the Kirtlan endowment. Regardless, from what you say it is likely they were outliers.

  13. I thoroughly enjoyed Bill Russell’s article. A footnote also led me to another earlier excellent article in Dialogue, Roger Launius’ ‘The Reorganized Church, the Decade of Decision, and the Abilene Paradox’ in Dialogue (Spring 1998):47-65. It very poignantly asks DKL’s first question in comment #2 — without Joseph Smith, what is the raison d’etre of the CoC Church?

    I would appreciate Bill’s views on a few questions:

    (1) Is the CoC Church currently trying to salvage anything from Joseph Smith’s ministry, or is it pretty much committed to downplaying Joseph entirely? If they are trying to salvage something, how do you say that some things Joseph said and did were ‘prophetic’ (even in a loose sense) but so much else that is so fundamental was not? I understand that the RLDS tradition already had rationalized away Joseph’s late developments such as plural marriage, the endowment and eternal progression, but what do you have left if you feel that Joseph was ‘blowing smoke’ as early as 1830 with the BoM and claims of restoring the authentic ancient Christian Church?

    (2) Roger’s article says that the CoC Church risks dwindling into irrelevance unless it can come up with some rationale for its ministry that is at least somewhat distinct from standard liberal Protestantism. Otherwise, as DKL asks, why not just merge with the Methodists (I believe that the seminary training which so heavily influenced the New School folks was Methodist). I suppose a response to this is that the Church will not dwindle if the people support it. Many separate liberal Protestant denominations are surviving based on traditional historical allegiances of their members. Much attention has focused on the RLDS who have left. What is the state of those who have stayed? Are there enough in numbers and are they sufficiently engaged with the ‘New School’ CoC Church for it to continue?

    (3) Finally, just to get to the nitty-gritty, beside numbers, another big factor in the survival of the CoC Church is finances. Roger Launius’ article states that there has been a subtantial decline in the income of the CoC Church. I have heard several rumors about how it is surviving financially. One says that they received large grants from certain Protestant groups conditioned on the continued abandonment of Joseph Smith. Another is that a wealthy, still loyal CoC member made a $40 million donation to the denomination. Does he have any info on this that he could share?

    (4) Just to round it all out, does Bill have any info about the financial condition of the Remnant Church?

    (5) Finally, my impression is that Bill is an active supporter of the ‘New School’ trend in the CoC Church (in the same issue of Dialogue Bill favorably reviews Dan Vogel’s Joseph Smith biography and makes it clear that he rejects the historicity of the BoM). If it is not too personal, I would be curious to know if he and his fellow ‘New School’ activists have any feelings about the (I believe) indisputable fact that the schisms which he is studying are in large part the result of the ‘New Schoolers’ own actions in rejecting so much traditional RLDS teaching?

  14. There appears to be some confusion about who made which comment. The “strengthens my faith in the LDS church” comment was made by GreenEggz, not by J. Stapley. (The comment number and author’s name appear below, not above, the text.)

    Thus, Bill Russell’s comments in the paragraph beginning “I’m glad that my interview with Levi Peterson strengthened J. Stapley’s faith . . .” should have referred to GreenEggz’s faith instead.

    That being said, I’m wondering how he managed to go to graduate school, etc. while playing so effectively for the Boston Celtics.

  15. Bill,

    Enjoyed your article and your posting.

    Couple of quick ones for you.

    Does the RLDS accept the traditional Christian understanding of the Trinity?

    How is the RLDS birthrate holding up? Is it low like the liberal protestants?

    Where do you see the RLDS church in 2025?

  16. Thanks for the detailed reply, Bill Russell. I’m now convinced that this Dialogue/BCC partnership makes sense, and I’ll be buying your book.

  17. Yeah, Chisolm, I don’t know where I got owen, is he an actor or something?

    That is a very good book. It acquainted me with the history of our church more than I’d ever been before. He made a few mistakes, but only a few. I really enjoyed it.

  18. One more question about you Josephites, Bill Russell:

    Does the RLDS/CoC church practice the Kirtland Endowment in its temple?

  19. From the folks that I have spoken to, DKL, they do not.

  20. Glynette Patton says:

    Apparently you decided NOT to post my comment.
    I wonder why—-HUMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!

  21. Glynette Patton says:

    Bill–I am appalled that you would even consider
    the COC any part of the RLDS Church. It is NOT
    and its doctrine and practices are totally diff-
    erent. You cannot be of one church with a set of
    doctrines and still want to hang on to another
    church with a differentset of doctrines. The
    COC is what it is–a church that man has made to
    fit his comfort and life style–a church that has bent Gods will to mans will. I agree that it
    is much easier being COC. Just about anything
    goes, and the precious and important things that
    Christ put in his church has been removed, along
    with his word–Doctrine and Covenants and the
    Book of Morman. You want the world to love you.
    The Lord said–be ashamed of me and I will not
    know you. I would worry if I were you. You have
    become a lierally nothing church that has NO roots. We restorationists are the living RLDS
    church and are practicing the orthodox belief.
    This break has been prophesized and we are not
    shocked at what you are doing. We are holding
    onto the Rod of Iron (Christs word) not mans idea of what shoud be, and we will be the ones finding the path that leads to the kingdom. Woe
    be unto those that add to and take from Christs
    word. I pity you all. Also, to those that call
    us Josephites, Mormans etc. They all want to
    remember that some man started their churches,
    and they could be call Wesleyites, Lutherites
    Campbellites etc. That kind of retoric is very
    small minded and needs to be reexamined. WE DO

  22. kGlynette Patton says:

    The Remnant Church is NOT considered part of the
    Restoration Branches– AND there ARE 5 direct
    decendents (all male) from Joseph Smith. NO
    woman is to EVER hold the office of Prophet and
    when the time is right, and in Gods own due time,
    he will send one of these men to fill that office. We Restorationist will not RUN before the
    Lord, and those that do will pay for their own

  23. Bill Russell says:

    I’ll comment on the recent postings.

    Playing for the Boston Celtics and teaching at Graceland kept me busy!! It was fun having the real Bill Russell come to Graceland and introduce him and spend several hours with him.

    I think in my earlier postings I responded to the “why aren’t you Methodist?” and “Haven’t you rejected all of Joseph Smith? question. To downplay Joseph in focus more clearly on Jesus is not to throw Joseph Smith out. In fact, isn’t Gordon B. Hinckley doing exactly that, but on a much smaller scale?

    Glynette Patton really distorts what we are up to and doing. Her comments are kind people make when it is their goal to put the worst possible reading into a set of facts.

    When I say we rejected Nauvoo I mean we rejected the significant innovations of that period: polygamy, the plurality of gods, secret temple rituals like the endowment, baptism for the dead, sealings, etc.

    We have never practiced the Kirtland endowments, nor have we practiced the footwashing ordinance of the Kirtland Temple.

    Yes, certainly the recent (past 20 years or more) schism is a reaction to the New School revisioning that was going on, which I participated in since the 1960s. And our leaders overreacted and chased people out of the church who might not have left if we had treated them in a more pastoral and understanding way.

    Our understanding of the trinity would vary from member to member, but our leaders and the ones who publish would generally have a fairly typical Protestant theology of the Trinity.

    I am not at all up to speed on the finances of the church.

    I considered Roger Launius’ article, referred to above, as a good warning in the prophetic tradition. Call Roger “prophet” when you see him.

    I’ll be happy to get through this year OK and have no prophetic powers re: where we’ll be in 2025. One of the things that I have especially welcomed is the fact that not too many people in the Community of Christ, it seems, worry to much about life after death. Let’s try to be disciples of Jesus while we live here, and if there is another life (and I don’t have the foggiest idea whether there is or not) let it take care of itself when it comes. I am not into “pie in the sky by and by.”

    Bill Russell

  24. Bill thank you for your rejoinder. I wanted to reply to Glynette Patton’s comments, yet didn’t want to fracture the dialogue any further. There is no question that I, like many readers of BCC differ with your positions in large and profound ways; however, I have thoroughly enjoyed your perspective. I think Patton’s comments stand as a warning for us all to retain our civility.

  25. Ditto to J. Bill, it has been extremely interesting to read this post. I think we all are curious about other churches in the Book of Mormon tradition (is that the right reference?) but forums for open discussion are hard to find. Thanks for your time.

  26. I was planning a post on it, but it slipped through the cracks – there was a joint CoC/LDS hymn festival on the 18th of September to celebrate the anniversery of Joseph. I wish I could have gone, even more after this great insight into the current state of the church.

  27. After reading the Dialogue article, the post, and the comments, what is interesting to me is that the RLDS tradition is both closer to and more distant from Joseph Smith. It is closer in the sense that it initially organized itself around Joseph’s descendants and gave prominent leadership roles to Joseph and Emma’s sons. As Glynette’s strident comments illustrate, some Restorationists still cling to that line as a primary claim to legitimacy. But the RLDS tradition is more distant from Joseph in that it rather openly rejects his Nauvoo-period innovations.

  28. Re: CoC/LDS hymn singing. One of my fondest memories occurred during the MHA meeting in England in 1987. We were all in Liverpool, down at the docks, waiting for the buses to come return us to the hotel, and more or less spontaneously, we began singing hymns we had in common. A wonderful, warm, half hour or more of unity.

    Of course there’s the older MHA story of the devotional when the RLDS suggested the hymns be sung by LDS/RLDS in alternating verses and arranged things so that in singing “Redeemer of Israel,” the LDS members got the verse “How long we have wandered as strangers in sin…”

  29. Bill, many thanks for your article, your comments, and your integrity. I have learned a great deal from your writing and from this exchange on BCC. It is distressing to see religious differences interfere with a Christian approach to others. My background is that I am a convert to the LDS Church from the Southern Baptist tradition–I was studying to be a Baptist missionary at the time. I found Mormonism to be liberating in many ways, including that it did not consign people to Hell. Sterling McMurrin’s writings on the theological foundations and philosophical foundations of the Mormon religion captivated me then and they still do.
    Back to religious differences–I was dismayed to read in the _Kansas City Star_ this week where a Missouri Christian Schools Sports association now refuses to allow the Center Place Restoration School play in the league because the Restoration School believes in the Book of Mormon in addition to the Bible. The Christian association only allows those schools to participate which accept only the Bible. I am not surprised–given my Baptist background. But I wonder–besides this example, does the Community of Christ get labeled by Christian groups as nonchristian, as the LDS Church often does? Or is the Community of Christ more accepted into mainstream Christianity? What is your sense?

    I want to be clear that I have not totally rejected my Baptist background–I certainly do not wish to leave the impression that I consider all Baptists to be intolerant. Most of my close relatives are Baptists, after all, and I submit that our sacrament meetings would benefit by some good old fashioned Baptist hymn-singing! But I have to admit to still being caught by surprise by some of the hate and intolerance expressed in the name of Christ. I am at a loss as to how to foster tolerance in Christianity–and Jesus did that so well.

    Perhaps it is in the nature of western religions to exclude, to present themselves as having the corner on truth. Unfortunately the growing religions today seem to be those that exclude rather than include. In uncertain times, do you think that there is a human need to cling to things presented as certain?
    I am interested in the questions regarding the Community of Christ church and the Methodists. Sterling would frequently comment on how interesting the LDS religion is compared with the Methodists–we have polygamy, an extermination order, a rich and varied history, Sunstone, Dialogue, and issues to discuss–whereas what do the Methodists have by comparison? Not that he was denigrating the Methodists at all–its just that we are just very interesting because we have much more to deal with! Now I assumed each time he made that observation that he was including the RLDS Church in that; I make that assumption because of the respect he always expressed for the RLDS Church and Graceland College.

    Anyway thanks very much for letting us visit with you online!

  30. Glynette Patton says:

    Maybe it needs to be understood that the dissention that took place in Nauvoo was when
    the “Brighamites” secretly placed their agenda
    into their ministery and tried to place the blame
    on Joseph Smith as if it was his idea. As it says in Jeremiah 17:5-6. This took place with Brigham Young and all of those that followed him.
    Joseph was innocent of this deceit and the Lord
    told him his name was to be held for good and
    bad. How true this is. He was such a danger to
    those non-believers that he was murdered, as was
    Jesus. No amount of liberal spinning will change
    the scriptures. Yes, the RLDS–not the COC– is
    still very close to the teaching of Joseph Smith,
    which by the way was the teachings of Jesus. I’m
    sorry you have a hard time accepting this. I did
    not write it but apparently the Lord felt the
    people needed his word, and that it will continue
    as he wrote it FOREVER. We expect to be made fun
    of and denegrated. Jesus was also. I went to
    Graceland and seen so many things change for the
    worse. My Grandfather was an Elder and just
    couldn’t get over the rot that was being allowed
    in. I well remember the confusion among the foreign students after they come out of religion
    class. I and several others tried to calm them.
    It’s a shame what liberal(satanic) ideas do, but
    1/3 of Heaven believe them so I can see why
    those thoughts today will lead people astray.
    I will be a TRUE RLDS forever and as God predicted
    they will be few and far between. He also said
    if he didn’t come soon, there will be none left.
    We well know what he thought of the other churches. He said to join NONE of them, and
    attending their semanaries is dangerous. There
    were many churches here when Jesus was here, but
    he had NONE of them and established his own. We
    need to get away from the crazy liberal thinking
    and remember Christs teachings, for they stand
    till the end of time. Do these other churches
    have EVERYTHING that is to be in Christs Church??
    It’s like a cake without flour—-a flop. There
    are wonderful people being terribly misled, and
    as Christ said, we are responsible for them if
    we are guilty of misleading them. What a hugh
    responsibility. AGAIN to all of you out there–
    we Restorationists are not connected to the COC
    or the Mormans. We are our own separate church
    and our history is ours. Others have borrowed
    bits and pieces of it, which we cannot help. The
    Protestants have also borrowed from the Catholics
    bits and pieces, and they were ALL started by a

  31. What is a Morman?

    Can I have Morwoman?

  32. Or is Morwoman a Brighamite invention?

  33. Aaron Brown says:

    Me thinks Glynette Patton and Prudence McPrude should get together and duel it out over their respective truth claims. Guaranteed to increase Bloggernacle traffic!

    Aaron B

  34. Glynette wrote: “We well know what he thought of the other churches. He said to join NONE of them, and attending their semanaries is dangerous.”

    I must’ve missed that seminary part. I’m using the 1838 version which is the longest version of the four accounts of the 1820 (1823?) account, and it doesn’t say anything about attending their seminaries. If it does, then I guess I’m out.

    There’s something you ought to read, Glynette. It changed my life for good, and it changed the way I view priesthood. It’s hard to find, but if you get a copy of it, I invite you to read it. It’s called “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Priesthood Ordinances and the Mormon Succession Question” by Andrew F. Ehat. He illustrates that between 9/28/1843 and 3/27/1844 the twelve received “the fulness of the priesthood” and that Sydney Rigdon nor Joseph III did not. These final ordinances were planned since 1836 (D&C 110; and 1839–cf. D&C 124:28) and finally given out prior to the martyrdom. I’m not knocking anything or anyone by saying this, but the historical evidence is in Ehat’s master’s thesis: the succession question is resolved, and those who remained behind did not have enough priesthood to lead. That’s great if you stay RLDS, I’m sure you’re a better person for it, but please, please find a copy of Ehat’s thesis and at least give it a read. As I stated earlier, it changed my life for good.

  35. Aaron Brown says:


    For your information, a “Morman” is a half-human, half-“Morlock.” If this reference isn’t clear, be sure and check out H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” for clarification.

    In contrast, a “Mormon” is a half-human, half-Morlock from Jamaica.

    Hope that clears things up.

    Aaron B

  36. Glynette, my apologies for insulting you with the confusion over the relatonship of RLDS and Community of Christ. That’s pure ignorance on my part which is one reason why I appreciate this dialogue. I am grateful that you have straightened me out on this matter!

    I must disagree with your characterization of liberal ideas as satanic, and as influening the followers of the 1/3 who fell away. “Liberal” by definition is expansive and changing–which is precisely the role Jesus played when he walked the earth–the way he revealed truths to women (unheard of at the time), and how he fulfilled Mosiac Law. These changes are liberal. Refusal to change is “conservative.”

  37. Glynette, thanks for clearing things up for me, I always suspected that the 1/3 that fell away in the pre-existence were Democrats.

  38. Curiously, one possible rendering of the Greek text of the passage which most employ as their proof-text for the “1/3 who fell away” doctrine in the book of Revelation could be translated as “one-third part,” or “one of three parts.” This may not indicate 33.3%, as most believe (which, you have to admit, is a mighty fine round number), but rather “one of three groups.”

    Dr. Gaskill discusses this in his (very good) book called The Lost Language of Symbolism (not to be confused with the two volume set by Harold Bayley of the same name). I don’t have it in front of me, but it’s in there.

  39. Welcome, David, to commenting on blogs. Your life is now ours.

  40. Was the third group Amway salesmen?

  41. It seems that both Ehat’s and Bachmann’s theses are hard to swallow from Glynette’s perpective. It is evident that Bill and his cohorts accept the New Mormon History. They accept that Joseph was a polygamist and that he initiated the current Temple ordinances (or something similar to them).

    It seems that of all the Restorationist perspectives to maintain, Glynette’s is the most difficult. I imagine that we all struggle with certain aspects of Joseph Smith and the restoration; however, it seems that Glynette is simply declining to consider reality. I know how LDS react to say, In Sacred Lonliness. After this thread, I could guess how Bill and other New Schoolers would react, but I can’t even imagine how Glynette would react.

  42. To Ronan: Thanks, man. I felt that if I was to give my life for something, it ought to be a blog.

    For J. Stapley: I hear you, man. Ehat’s thesis was a real jaw-dropper for me; he even refuted (unbeknownst to him!) Mark Hoffman’s forgeries before Hoffman was found out. How’s that for prophetic? And if you ever get the chance, call Ehat up and go visit him about this stuff. Best three hours I’ve ever spent at the feet of a great man.

    Actually I’ve been dying to get ahold of Bachman’s thesis, but the University of Purdue is real stingy about sending out a copy, and Dissertation Services (which sometimes includes M.A. theses) doesn’t have it on file to buy ( Do you have one? If so, I’ll pay top dollar for you to copy it and mail it to me. E-mail me privately if you’re interested. My email is the hyperlink to my nickname.

    I have read really good arguments in the past from RLDS dudes regarding the introduction of polygamy. They say JS never taught it publicly, which is true as far as “official” church history goes, and that D&C 132 was an after-thought. The latter was added after JS’s death and “canonized” in Utah. So we are liable to it, but again, others like Bachman and Ehat have done the grunt-work.

    From my own viewpoint, D&C 124:28 should be the real crux for people like Glyn. At the time this section was given, JS had not yet “gone mad” with any of his “Nauvoo innovations.” Most members completely miss the verse and the date it was given, not asking themselves “how could there be more priesthood to restore if Peter, James and John (and John the Baptizer) had already come?” A cursory look at JS’s teachings on the coming of Elijah (after the 1836 revelation — a good source for this is Jackson’s Joseph Smith’s Commentary on the Bible pgs. 69-74) indicate that he indeed had not yet finished the restoration of the kingdom, and like I said before, his journal indicates that he began to do just that BY AND THROUGH these so-called “innovations.”

    God has always wanted his people to have weird ceremonies (read: “innovations”). The book of Leviticus is ample evidence to that, and you don’t have to be Jacob Milgrom to understand it.

  43. Talon wrote: “Was the third group Amway salesmen?”

    Actually Talon, I have a business proposition for you…

    The three groups is just a theory. The “third” one might be the rebellious angels from Genesis who intermingled (sexually) with the “daughters of men.” The Pseudepigrapha fleshes a lot of this out — groups of three, naughty angels, the irrationality of daylight savings time, etc.

  44. Bill,

    Thanks for posting here. A real live RLDS!!!!

    I really enjoyed your article…

  45. bill russell says:

    Thanks to you all — friend and foe alike — for commenting on my article.

  46. George Williams says:

    I find it odd that the Community of Christ leadership continues to insist that it is reforming the church to make it more “Christian,” i.e., more in keeping with the teachings of Jesus as found in the Bible.

    However, the liberal teachings that the leadership picked up in protestant seminaries has been their undoing.

    The protestant seminaries teach higher criticism, which believes that the Bible was written and compiled piecemeal, and that some of the material was added by venial folks with unChristian agendas. As such, any part of the Bible (such as its clear teaching against homosexuality) can be disregarded in favor of logic. Rather than being “mainline protestant,” this is more of a unitarian direction.

    Any protestant denomination may teach this and get away with it. However, the leadership of the RLDS claim an almost dictatorial power based on the fact that God himself spoke directly to Joseph Smith, and revealed the correct text of the RLDS scriptures to Joseph. As such, nothing in the Inspired Version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or RLDS D&C may be challenged, or altered by subsequent revelation.

    For example, teaching that Genesis is a myth and that the flood never occurred, nor the Tower of Babel may fly in a liberal protestant denomination, but it is impossible in a Latter Day Saint one. You see, the correct text of the BoM as revealed directly to Joseph Smith tells us that these events did occur, because Indians in the Western Hemisphere were aware of them before the English colonists brought records of these “myths” to the Americas.

    The RLDS clergyman who attends seminary and gets all excited about how the orthodox Christian faith can be manipulated to serve utopian ends shoots himself in the foot when he attempts to utilize that theoretical approach in rearranging a religion that is not Christian, at least in the orthodox sense.

    If there is no flood, then the Book of Mormon is false, and the Jesus of the Inspired Version is false for alluding to it.If the Book of Mormon is false, and the Jesus of the Inspired Version is as apocryphal as the Jesus of the medieval text of the Gospel of Thomas, and the RLDS priesthood holder has no authority. One cannot dispense with the teachings of the Inspired Version even with the all accumulated wisdom of higher criticism. A work that was divinely restored and edited has no mistakes, at least no doctrinal ones.

    The liberals in the CofChrist remind me of a cartoon I saw in the Saturday Evening Post. A robber was holding up a pawnbroker at gunpoint. The robber instructed the pawnbroker to “Give me all your money and one of those REAL guns.”

    The liberal attempts to inject liberal protestantism into the RLDS have NOT resulted in a gradual evolution of RLDSism into orthodoxy. What has resulted, however, is that the liberals have simply hijacked the church in order to use its financial resources to promote an elitist agenda that has nothing to do with either orthodox Christianity or Mormonism. The tacit admission of RLDS leaders that the Book of Mormon is not true (and thus their priesthood authority is nonexistent) is equivalent to the robber admitting that his gun is a plastic water pistol.

    RLDS Liberals who deny the truth of antihomosexual passages in the Bible also have known quite well since the 1920’s that the scriptural passages in D&C that establish their authoritarian hierarchy are of much more doubtful authority than the aforementioned Biblical passages. They simply want to have their cake and eat it too, for they wield their authority with a vengeance.

    To put it succinctly, I find it far easier to believe that the Book of Mormon is literal history than it is to believe that any member of the RLDS hierarchy has any authority if the book isn’t true.

    The liberals insistence on the acceptance of higher criticism AND on the maintenance of priesthood authority have set up a paradox that can only result in madness for the thinking person who tries to reason it out. Yet they are continually surprised when they see symptoms of that madness in those who complain to them about it.


  47. Glynette Patton says:

    You said it George. As in all things there is
    a leveler. Liberalism is evil in itself. It
    allows anything as long as it it pleasing to the
    person who embraces it. Its when things are taken
    out of contex and CHANGED to meet that persons
    needs and wants that liberalism flourishes. Just
    what was done to the TRUE RLDS church. Your
    statements are exactly what happened and the
    man made seminaries that teach protestant beliefs
    are just what the liberals want. They would
    rather be loved by worldly standards than those
    of Jesus. The CoC is so liberal and all they
    want is the land and buildings of the RLDS Church
    to perpetuate their evil plans of destructing
    Christs Church. I hope they are prepared to
    pay the price.

  48. Glynette Patton says:

    You said it George. As in all things there is
    a leveler. Liberalism is evil in itself. It
    allows anything as long as it it pleasing to the
    person who embraces it. Its when things are taken
    out of contex and CHANGED to meet that persons
    needs and wants that liberalism flourishes. Just
    what was done to the TRUE RLDS church. Your
    statements are exactly what happened and the
    man made seminaries that teach protestant beliefs
    are just what the liberals want. They would
    rather be loved by worldly standards than those
    of Jesus. The CoC is so liberal and all they
    want is the land and buildings of the RLDS Church
    to perpetuate their evil plans of destructing
    Christs Church. I hope they are prepared to
    pay the price.


  1. […] Bill Russell (see his BCC interview on reorganite schematics here) is an ardent progressive and cheers the transformation of the Community of Christ (formerly the RLDS Church), forsaking the pillars of presidential succession. […]

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