The first organization of the church restored through Joseph Smith
fragmented after his murder. Over 20 factions emerged, each of
them claiming to be the continuation of the restored church.
Today, only four significant ones remain. The largest is the
LDS Church. The second is the Reorganization, which has
recently splintered. The Church of Jesus Christ, commonly
called Bickertonites, is third. Fourth is the Church of Christ,
Temple Lot, often called Hedrickites. A single branch of
Strangites and Cutlerites remain. Most active members of the
several factions of the original organization joined the
Reorganization during Joseph Smith III's presidency.
The Reorganization embraced the original teachings as
restored by Joseph Smith. After the Kirtland Temple's
completion and the arrival of the promised endowment, Joseph Smith
told the quorums on March 30, 1836, "I had now completed the
organization of the Church and we had passed through all the
necessary ceremonies" (Bushman, Joseph Smith Rough Stone
Rolling, p 318-9). The only
endowments practiced in the Kirtland Church were the baptism of
fire, or the endowment of the Holy Ghost, as administered by the first
apostles (Acts 8:17) and Patriarchal Blessings, such as Jacob gave
his sons (Gen 48:14-20; Gen 49:1-28) or as Moses blessed the Hebrew
tribes (Deut 33:1-29). The Holy Spirit regularly attended those
ordinances, adorning them with varied spiritual manifestations, such as the gift of
prophecy, tongues and interpretation of tongues.
One goal of the original church was to build a holy
city in Jackson County, Missouri. In July 1831, Joseph Smith
revealed, "This is the land of promise, and the place for the
city of Zion" (D&C 57:1b), adding, "The place which is now
called Independence, is the Center Place, and the spot for the
temple is lying westward upon a lot which is not far from the
courthouse" (D&C 57:1d). Joseph and other church officials
dedicated the spot for the Temple in August 1831. On August 1
another revelation acknowledged that this small group of saints were
"honored of laying the foundation, and of bearing record of the
land upon which the Zion of God shall stand" (D&C 58:3c).
Church members began gathering to the land of Zion, but
their interests centered on their personal goals instead of the Lord's
purposes. In September 1832, another revelation warned, "You have
treated lightly the things you have received, which vanity and
unbelief hath brought the whole church under condemnation. And
this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all; and
they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and
remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former
commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do
according to that which I have written, that they may bring forth
fruit meet for their Father's kingdom, otherwise there remaineth a
scourge and a judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion"
Friction grew between the newly arriving church members
and older citizens of the area. In early July 1833, hundreds
of old settlers signed a manifesto known as
the "secret constitution." It accused the saints of inviting free Negroes and
mulattoes to join the Church and immigrate to Missouri and declared
the intent of the signers to remove the Mormons “peaceably if we
can, forcibly if we must." On July 20, 1833, a mob stormed the
church's printing office, demolished the press and scattered its
publications into the streets. Hostilities began.
The Lord issued another warning to
the saints in Jackson County. In a revelation received August
6, 1833, the Lord told the saints to begin building the temple on the
consecrated spot or He would "visit her according to all her
works, with sore affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with
sword, with vengeance, with devouring fire" (D&C 94:5f).
On November 4, mobs began forcibly driving all church
members out of
Jackson County, burning the homes and crops and
scattering them into surrounding counties with nothing more than
items they could carry in their hurried escape. Parley P. Pratt,
leader of the Missouri church at that time, admitted, "This
revelation [cited above] was not complied with" (Autobiography,
Continuing trials plagued the church in Missouri.
Its members were ordered out of the state by Governor Lilburn Boggs
on October 27, 1838. Most fled to Illinois, including Joseph
Smith and his family. Well before the extermination order, the
Lord promised, "They that remain and are pure in heart shall
return and come to their inheritances; they and their children, with
songs of everlasting joy" (D&C 98:4g).
Numerous changes entered the church after the expulsion of
the saints from Jackson County. Perhaps, it remained under
condemnation because it failed to "repent and remember the new
covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments"
(D&C 83:8a). On June 27, 1844, a mob killed Joseph Smith and
the church soon thereafter splintered into over 20 factions.
Brigham Young led the majority of church members living in and
around Nauvoo, Illinois to Utah, while many who remained scattered
elsewhere joined the Reorganization, eventually returning their
church's headquarters to Independence, MO. The Church of
Christ, Temple Lot (Hedrickites) is also headquartered in
Independence, MO and owns the land on which Joseph Smith dedicated
the temple site. The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonites) is
headquartered in Monongahela, PA.
The Utah church continued the changes that developed
after its expulsion from Missouri, but the Reorganization accepted
the organization as it existed in Kirtland when Joseph said, "I
had now completed the organization of the Church." It
maintained original Mormonism, while the LDS Church instituted the
changes made at Nauvoo.