Community of Christ

Shenandoah Congregation (San Antonio, TX)

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

Yes. Community of Christ believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, our Lord and Savior.

What do you use for scriptures?

Community of Christ recognizes three books of scripture: The Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. We believe in continuing revelation and an open canon of scripture.

Who is eligible for priesthood membership?

All persons, male and female, are eligible for priesthood ordination. We believe God calls those chosen to serve in the ministry. Most of our ministers earn their living outside of church employment and serve in various offices according to their gifts and callings..

What is tithing?

The concept of tithing is deeply rooted in our scriptures and tradition. It is a disciple’s generous response, expressing love of God, neighbor, creation, and self.

Do you perform sacraments in your Temple in Independence?

The Community of Christ Temple in Independence, Missouri, is a house of public worship, and entrance into the Temple or participation in its ministries is open to all. Communion (the Lord’s Supper) is often served during special services in the Temple sanctuary. Other sacraments are provided in local congregations.

Do you plan to build other temples?

The church was instructed to build its Temple in Independence. Since its ministries can be shared anywhere the church is gathered, there is need for only one temple. The building of the Temple began in April 1990, and it was officially dedicated at the 1994 World Conference. Community of Christ maintains the Kirtland Temple in Kirtland, Ohio. This historic site continues to be used as a worship space of special significance.

The Mormons left Nauvoo in 1846.  Joseph Smith III was only twelve.  Who became prophet?

A large number of Saints made the journey to Utah in the 1840s under the direction of Brigham Young (the senior apostle at that time), but quite a number did not. Some joined other organizations led by a variety of individuals who had held various responsibilities in the church under Joseph Smith Jr. These organizations established different ways of dealing with the “succession to Joseph” issue and how leadership would be provided.

There are several historical indications that Joseph Smith Jr. designated that his son, Joseph Smith III, would someday follow him in office. Some of the leaders who arose initially indicated that they were only custodial leaders until Joseph III, who was born on November 7, 1832, in Kirtland, Ohio, came of age and could lead the church.

There were a number of congregations in the Midwest that chose not to affiliate with any of these organizations or their leaders. Some of these congregations began to form an association with each other in the early 1850s. They operated under the leadership of the ordained priesthood in each congregation. Some of these priesthood had spiritual experiences indicating that the congregations should prepare for the day when Joseph Smith III would become the next prophet-president of the church. Seeking divine direction and meeting together in conferences, they selected and ordained several apostles. This is the genesis of the “Reorganized Church” as we were sometimes called.

Eventually Joseph Smith III became a part of this organization and was ordained the prophet-president of the church on April 6, 1860, at Amboy, Illinois.

Is there any book regarding the history of the beginning of your church?

There are several. One excellent option is  The Church through the Years, a two-volume history by Richard Howard, former church historian. Volume 1 covers the time period to 1860. Volume 2 is from 1860 to 1992.

Another option would be to read Community of Christ author Paul M. Edward’s book,Our Legacy of Faith. This is a one-volume summary of our church story.

A different perspective can be found in The Story of the Church by Inez Smith Davis.

For more details, we have also published an eight-volume history of the church.

Another option is Jan Shipps’s book Mormonism: The Story of A New Religious Tradition, an interesting look from a professional historian who is unaffiliated with the restoration churches.

Was Emma Smith, wife of Joseph Smith Jr., a member of your organization?

Yes. Emma Smith Bidamon, who married Lewis Crum Bidamon three-and-a-half years after Joseph’s death,  accompanied her son Joseph Smith III to the pivotal conference at Amboy, Illinois, on April 6, 1860. According to the conference minutes, she was received into fellowship by unanimous vote on the basis of her baptism in the early church, as was the custom then.

Emma’s son was chosen as “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the Church of Jesus Christ, and the successor of his father” at the same conference. According to the conference minutes, Joseph was ordained by Zenas H. Gurley Sr. and William Marks on April 6, 1860. (Some sources indicate that Samuel Powers and W. W. Blair were also involved in the ordination.)

There is not much published information on Emma. In 1954, Margaret Wilson Gibson wrote Emma Smith: The Elect Lady as a historical novel based on Emma’s life (Herald House). Roy A. Cheville wrote Joseph and Emma, Companions (Herald House, 1977), sharing the story of two people and their relationship.

A brief biography of Emma can be found in First Ladies of the Restoration by Frances Hartman Mulliken (Herald House, 1985).

A more recent book, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith (second edition) provides information on the beginning of our movement and Emma’s involvement with it. It was written by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippets Avery and published in 1994 by the University of Illinois Press.

Two articles dealing with her life and faith have been published in the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal: “The Faith of Emma Smith” by Don Compier (Volume 6, 1986), and “Emma’s Enduring Compassion: A Personal Reflection” by Joni Wilson (Volume 19, 1999).

Understanding that Joseph Smith III took over leadership in 1860, what happened from 1846 through 1860?

As indicated above, many “independent” congregations continued to function under the leadership of their priesthood until they affiliated with the movement that became our church.

What position does Community of Christ take on Joseph Smith Jr.’s alleged involvement in polygamy?

Our faith is grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ and not in the actions of any particular person. Community of Christ affirms its long history of vigorous opposition to polygamy as a doctrine or practice, regardless of what historical research concludes about its origins in the early Latter Day Saint movement. The church has consistently taught monogamy as the basic principle of Christian marriage (Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 111 and 150).

As a policy, Community of Christ does not legislate or mandate positions on issues of history. The church encourages honest, responsible historical scholarship. Historians use academic research to get as many facts as they can; then, they interpret those facts to construct as clear a picture as possible of what was going on in the past.

The issues of polygamy and whether Joseph Smith Jr. was connected with its inception at Nauvoo, Illinois, in the 1840s have been of considerable interest to Community of Christ members and others through the years. The early RLDS Church (1860–1960) consistently opposed the doctrine and fought against the assertion by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Mormon] that Joseph Smith Jr. advocated this practice as part of a divine plan. Joseph Smith III, son of the founding prophet and first prophet-president of the RLDS Church (1860–1914), spent much of his life trying to clear his father’s name from the stigma of polygamy and polygamous doctrine, even though there were leaders in the early RLDS Church who believed otherwise. While it is clear Joseph Smith III sincerely believed his father was innocent, he affirmed on more than one occasion that even if his father was guilty, he was wrong.

Community of Christ takes into account the growing body of scholarly research and publications depicting the polygamous teachings and practices of the Nauvoo period of church history (1840–1846). The context of these developments included a time of religious and cultural experimentation in the United States and the emergence of a system of secret temple ordinances in Nauvoo that accented the primacy of family connections, in this life and the next. The practice of plural marriage emerged from that context and involved a small group of key leaders entering into polygamous marriage rituals and covenants. Research findings point to Joseph Smith Jr. as a significant source for plural marriage teaching and practice at Nauvoo. However, several of his associates later wrote that he repudiated the plural marriage system and began to try to stop its practice shortly before his death in June 1844.

Good historical inquiry understands that conclusions are open to correction as new understanding and information comes from ongoing study. Community of Christ, in its ongoing quest for truth, remains open to a more complete understanding of its history. Through careful study and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the church is learning how to own and responsibly interpret all of its history. This process includes putting new information and changing understandings into proper perspective while emphasizing those parts that continue to play a vital role in guiding and shaping the church’s identity and mission today. In this way, we can genuinely affirm the prophetic vision of Joseph Smith Jr., while acknowledging how God’s Spirit works in the lives of imperfect, but highly dedicated people to shape a faith movement that continues to play a vital role in God’s unfolding purposes today.

Over time Community of Christ has moved away from an identity rooted in battling polygamy and charges that Joseph Smith Jr. was somehow involved to focus on pursuing our mission to proclaim Jesus Christ and promote communities of joy, hope, love, and peace. Today, members and friends around the world live out the call to create communities of Christ’s peace in our families and congregations and across villages, tribes, nations, and throughout creation.

Community of Christ encourages its members and others to explore all issues pertaining to its history in an open atmosphere. We must keep our hearts and minds centered on God’s revelation in Jesus Christ. As God’s Word alive in human history, Jesus Christ was and is the foundation of our faith and the focus of the church’s mission and message

For more about Community of Christ perspectives on church history, see the Church History Principles.

For more information, please e-mail Missionary Ministriesor call 816-833-1000 or 1-800-825-2806, ext. 2244 or 2240; FAX 816-521-3098; or mail inquiries to Missionary Ministries, 1001 W. Walnut, Independence, MO 64050-3562 USA.