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RLDS Church Overwhelmingly Decides for Name Change


Source: Salt Lake Tribune, 9 April 2000
URL: http://www.sltrib.com:80/04092000/nation_w/40014.htm
By: Knight Ridder News Service

   KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- saying the full name of the Independence, Mo.-based church has always been quite a mouthful. Now take a smaller breath and say, "Community of Christ" -- that's the group's new name.
    After two hours of often emotional debate, delegates to the church's world conference Friday overwhelmingly agreed to change the name by which they will be identified. The vote of 1,979 to 561 was well over the required two-thirds. The longer name, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, will remain the legal name of the organization.
    "We are very gratified by the widespread support for what certainly was an emotional issue for many people," W. Grant McMurray, church president, said later.
    The new name will not take effect before Jan. 1, 2001, to give church leaders time to work on implementation plans for the change. McMurray said he believed many members felt that with the beginning of the new millennium the time was right for a change.
    "There is a strong sense of our mission as a church in the new era and to symbolize that with a name that more effectively communicates what we are about in the world," he said.
    Among the problems with the present name is that people often confuse it with the Salt Lake City-based Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Equally problematic has been the difficulties in translating the present name into some languages as the RLDS church expands into other countries.
    Some, like Timothy Hitchings of Newark, Del., who opposed the change, saw it as "a retreat from the church's original identity." The RLDS church, like the Mormon church, traces its history to Joseph Smith Jr., who believed he was chosen to restore Christ's true church.

RLDS church delegates choose new name: Community of Christ


Source: The Bergen Record (New Jersey), 9 April 2000
By: Helen T. Gray, Knight Ridder News Service

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints: The full name of the Independence, Mo.-based church has always been quite a mouthful. Now take a smaller breath and say, "Community of Christ" -- that's the group's new name.

After two hours of often emotional debate, delegates to the church's world conference on Friday overwhelmingly agreed to change the name by which they will be identified. The vote of 1,979 to 561 was well over the required two-thirds. The longer name, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, will remain the legal name of the organization.

"We are very gratified by the widespread support for what certainly was an emotional issue for many people," W. Grant McMurray, church president, said later.

The new name will not take effect before Jan. 1, 2001, to give church leaders time to work on implementation plans for the change. McMurray said he believed many members felt that with the beginning of the new millennium the time was right for a change.

"There is a strong sense of our mission as a church in the new era and to symbolize that with a name that more effectively communicates what we are about in the world," he said.

As brought out in the debate, among the problems with the present name is that people often confuse it with the Salt Lake City-based Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Equally problematic has been the difficulty in translating the present name into some languages as the RLDS church has expanded into other countries. Thus it is known by different names in several countries.

"The new name represents what we are seeking to become today and in the future, while at the same time preserving our heritage," said Wallace B. Smith, church president emeritus, speaking in favor of the new name.

Some, such as Timothy Hitchings of Newark, Del., who opposed the change, saw it as "a retreat from the church's original identity." The RLDS church, like the Mormon church, traces its history to Joseph Smith Jr., who believed he was chosen to restore the true church of Jesus Christ.

After Smith's death in 1844, the movement fragmented. The group that followed his son, Joseph Smith III, eventually became known in the mid-1860s as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints...

The vote Friday represented a long process that began as early as 1956 to adopt a new name. Among those that previous world conferences had considered were the Church of Jesus Christ Restored, the Restored Church of Jesus Christ, the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the World Church of Jesus Christ.

The weeklong conference that has attracted 7,000 people, including 2,800 delegates, to Independence ends today.


Reorganized' church changes name to 'Community of Christ'

By PATTI BROWN
Register Staff Writer
03/31/2001
URL: http://desmoinesregister.com/news/stories/c5351764/14253722.html

Tom Morain has a deep appreciation for history.

When the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints changes its name Friday to the Community of Christ, Morain, the administrator of the State Historical Society, will have his eyes on the future, not the past.

"The word "reorganized' looks back to an event in the 1800s and defines us in relationship to the Mormon Church, and we've moved beyond that," said Morain, a member of the church's Ames congregation.

Since the church was formed in 1860, its members have spent as much effort telling people who they aren't, as defining who they are, Morain said.

"We're trying to get away from the constant comparison to the Mormons," said Morain.

The Rev. Greg Page, president of 14 Reorganized churches in the Des Moines area, said, "The name Community of Christ honors our history and calls to the future."

Iowa has about 60 Reorganized congregations with a total membership of about 8,000. The church, whose international headquarters is in Independence, Mo., has about 250,000 members in 40 nations.

The decision to rename the church was made last year during the church's world conference in Independence. The longer name, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, will remain the group's legal name.

Because of a common heritage with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - commonly called the Mormons - Morain says the public confuses the two distinct faith groups.

"Historically, one of the big differences was the issue of polygamy in the 19th century. Those who didn't accept multiple wives didn't go west with those that went to Utah," said Morain.

Since breaking with the original Church of Jesus Christ, the smaller church has faced continued comparison, said Page.

"Our new name reflects who we are striving to become. It is not so much that we claim to be the community of Christ, but that we are claimed by this name to become such a community," said Page.

To prepare church members for the name change, a denomination-wide program of prayer, fasting and study was developed for individuals and families.

The 40-day program happens during Lent only because April 6 - the date the name change goes into effect - is the anniversary of the 1830 founding of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Page.

Congregations will need to put up new signs and get accustomed to a new moniker. "I don't know what others will call us, but a 70-year-old man in my congregation told me 'I will always be a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but my children will be members of the Community of Christ', " said Morain.

The church also has been making other changes, such as ordaining women and celebrating open communion with other Christian faiths, Page said.

"Our central focus as a church has not been on the end times or latter days, but on God's call to make a difference in the here and now and create a positive future."

Split with Mormons dates to middle of 19th century

The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will adopt a new name Friday primarily to end the confusion people have differentiating between the Missouri-based denomination and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The two denominations shared a 14-year history in the 19th century, but parted ways after the death of founder Joseph Smith Jr. in 1844.

Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1830, in Fayette, N.Y.

Smith said he had religious visions and said an angel revealed the secret location of ancient sacred writings. After the writings were translated into English, they were published as The Book of Mormon.

As Smith's church grew, its members - who came to be referred to as Mormons - suffered persecutions for their beliefs.

They were driven from New York and settled first in Kirtland, Ohio, then Independence, Mo., where they numbered nearly 2,000 by 1833.

Their commercial success, rapid land acquisition and increasing population threatened others who did not share their religious or political beliefs.

Smith's followers were abolitionists and many settlers in western Missouri owned slaves or had southern sympathies.

The relationship the Mormons developed with American Indians put them at odds with many on the frontier who viewed American Indian tribes as enemies.

The Mormons moved from Independence to other Missouri towns before the governor ordered the militia to either exterminate or evict them from the state in 1838.

The Mormons fled to Illinois where Smith and his brother were killed by a mob. Brigham Young took over and later led 19,000 Mormons west to the Great Salt Lake Valley.

Many of those who did not follow Young regrouped under the leadership of Smith's son, Joseph Smith III, and took the name Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has 11 million members in 160 countries.


[Here is the actual text announcing the presentation of this paper, from the offical Sunstone Symposium program, as taken from the online PDF file at http://www.sunstoneonline.com/whatsnew/next_symps/slc.asp :]

Paper: RLDS DEFECTIONS TO THE LDS CHURCH IN THE WAKE OF WOMEN'S ORDINATION, 1985
WILLIAM D. RUSSELL, professor of history, Graceland University

Abstract: After the RLDS World Conference in 1984 accepted Section 156 into its Doctrine and Covenants, which allowed for the ordination of women, approximately 20-25 percent of the active RLDS members in the U.S. departed from the church, mostly to participate in RLDS splinter groups that sought to reclaim the tradition that they felt was being lost. A small percentage of those who defected joined the LDS Church. The percentage was small--no doubt due tot he strong RLDS tradition of hostility to "Mormonism" with its polygamous history, baptism for the dead and other secret temple rituals, as well as what may have been the most "heretical" Mormon belief--the plurality of gods and accompanying doctrine of eternal progression. This paper will examine why these conservative RLDS believers found a new home in the LDS church.

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