The Church of Jesus Christ is a Restorationist church and is historically part of the Latter Day Saint movement. The church is not officially affiliated with any other church, organization or denomination. The church has members in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa—for a membership total of 12,136. The Church of Jesus Christ is considered "the third largest Restoration church to have resulted from the 1844 succession crisis".
The Church of Jesus Christ claims to be the spiritual successor to the Church of Christ, organized by Joseph Smith, Jr. on April 6, 1830. The Church of Jesus Christ claims that Sidney Rigdon was Joseph Smith's rightful successor following the assassination of Smith because Rigdon was Smith's first counselor in the First Presidency.
The Church of Jesus Christ's stated purpose is "to share the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, His promises and His redeeming love with all nations and races throughout the world and to carry out God’s plans in the latter days." The Church of Jesus Christ has spread throughout many countries and is growing both in America and abroad.
The church teaches that it should be a place to:
The church believes that serving God and following Jesus is a "365 day per year activity", not just a Sunday activity. Chapels of the church contain neither altars nor crosses nor even pictures, as they believe scripture forbids any type of "graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth" ().
The Church of Jesus Christ claims to be a continuation of the Church of Christ, which was the original church organization established by Joseph Smith, Jr. informally in 1829 and then as a legal entity on April 6 1830 in northwestern New York state.On April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith, Jr., Oliver Cowdery, and a group of approximately 30 believers met to formally organize the Church of Christ into a legal institution. Traditionally, this is said to have occurred at the home of Peter Whitmer, Sr. in Fayette, New York, but early accounts place it in Manchester. Soon after this formal organization, small branches were formally established in Fayette, Manchester, and Colesville.
Smith and his associates intended that the Church of Christ would be a restoration of the 1st century Christian church, which Smith taught had fallen from God's favor and authority because of a Great Apostasy. In late 1830, Smith envisioned a "city of Zion" in Native American lands near Independence, Missouri. In October 1830 he sent his second-in-command Oliver Cowdery and others on a mission to the area. Passing through Kirtland, Ohio, the missionaries converted a congregation of Disciples of Christ led by Sidney Rigdon, and in 1831, Smith decided to temporarily move his followers to Kirtland until the Missouri area could be colonized. The church headquarters remained in Kirtland from 1831 to 1838.
Many of Smith's followers attempted to colonize Missouri throughout the 1830s, and Smith himself moved there in 1838, the church faced political and military opposition by other Missouri settlers. After a series of crises, the church then established its new headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois, a city they built on drained swampland by the Mississippi River, where Joseph Smith Jr. served as mayor. There, the church thrived until Smith and his brother Hyrum were killed by a mob in 1844. They were awaiting trial for crimes related to the destruction of the printing press of the Nauvoo Expositor. At the time, Joseph Smith was a minor candidate for President of the United States with Sidney Rigdon as his running mate.
When Joseph Smith was killed in 1844, there was confusion about who should succeed him in leading the church. Many of the leaders of the church were absent from Nauvoo at the time of his death, serving as missionaries or working on Joseph Smith's presidential campaign. Sidney Rigdon was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when he heard of Smith's death, and hurried back to Nauvoo, becoming one of the first church leaders to return. He quickly announced that he had the right to lead the church as its "guardian" until proper proceedings could decide the next church president, and that the Quorum of the Twelve did not have the right to lead the church. Rigdon had been ordained by Joseph Smith as a "Prophet, Seer and Revelator"
The Church of Jesus Christ maintains that the First Presidency had made nearly all the major decisions and led the Church of Christ prior to Smith's death, and as first counselor to Smith, Rigdon should naturally have been the leader of the church after Smith's death.
The Latter Day Saints who followed Rigdon separated themselves from the followers of Brigham Young. Rigdon and his followers settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On April 6, 1845, Rigdon presided over a conference of the Church of Christ, which he claimed was the rightful continuation of the church founded by Smith. William Bickerton was among those converted by Rigdon's preaching, and was baptized at Pittsburgh in 1845. Later that same year Bickerton was ordained an elder and shortly after an evangelist in the church.Rigdon’s organization disbanded shortly afterwards.
Bickerton continued to preach and by May 1851 a branch of the church was organized under Bickerton's leadership in West Elizabeth, Pennsylvania. At a conference in July 9, 1861, it was recorded that twelve of their number were chosen and called by the Holy Spirit to be apostles. The church was incorporated in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in June 1865 with the legal name, "Church of Jesus Christ of Green Oak, Pennsylvania." On 5 April, 1941, the church in Pennsylvania was granted the title of "The Church of Jesus Christ" by Washington County, Pennsylvania. The church today is legally registered as "The Church of Jesus Christ" in the corporate registry of the state of Pennsylvania.
The Church of Jesus Christ does not view the prophetic office as limited to a "prophet" or to the president of the church. Rather, members believe that it encompasses the Quorum of Twelve Apostles together and that revelations can be given to individual members of the church. The president of the church and his two counselors are elected by the general priesthood in conference and selected from amongst the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. The president of the church, while being an ordained apostle, functions as the chief operating officer, overseeing the general operations of the church. In contrast, the Quorum of Twelve Apostles has its own president and officers elected amongst themselves, independent of the general priesthood. The Quorum of Twelve are primarily responsible for guiding the spiritual growth and development of the church in general, acting as advisers to key operating committees. Other officers of the church include the Quorum of Seventy Evangelists.
The church records revelations that are deemed valid by the apostles, and publishes them where believed appropriate, but these are not bound together in a single volume. These revelations may come from the Quorum of the Twelve singly or together. They also may come from individual members of the church, and will only be published if they are approved by the Quorum.
Today, The Church of Jesus Christ has a total worldwide membership of 12,136, with nearly 3,000 located in the United States. The church continues to experience significant growth in comparison to some of the other smaller Latter Day Saint organizations. Within the last decade, it has been engaged in the construction of new church buildings in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, and Arizona, along with similar construction efforts in many foreign countries.
The Holy Ghost is considered to be the mind of the Father and the Son. It is the unseen power emanating from God and, at His will, manifests itself in various forms. It is a gift for mankind that is considered pure, holy, just, and full of discernment.
Both the Bible and Book of Mormon are considered the inspired word of God. All doctrines and faith of the church are referenced with these two books. Other books commonly associated with the Latter Day Saint movement such as the Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and others are considered to contain many false revelations and are not accepted by the church. The church believes in continuing revelation from God, but only when those revelations are supported by the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Although women may serve as deaconesses in the church, in accordance with the church's interpretation of the scriptures, only men may become elders. Deaconesses do not have priesthood authority but prepare the communion tables. Deacons set up chairs and prepare the chapel for meetings; they also care for the members of the church in general and visit the sick in particular. Elders are responsible for the spiritual well-being of the church. As with most Restoration denominations, elders are never referred to as "Father" or "Reverend", as the belief of the church is that scripture forbids this practice (Matthew 23:9). Likewise, elders and all church officials (including the Church Presidency and Quorum of Apostles) are volunteers and receive no financial remuneration for their activities. Elders perform administration to the sick through the laying on of hands, using oil if the illness is physical. According to the doctrine of the church, elders, evangelists, and apostles are called to their positions by revelation.
In worship services, members of the priesthood do not prepare written sermons prior to the meeting. Instead, the priesthood strives to speak under the inspiration of Jesus Christ, claiming that the Holy Spirit directs their words. Each week, church services begin with preaching from the priesthood and generally followed by a testimony portion of the meeting, during which time members of the congregation (and visitors) are given the opportunity to "praise God for what He has done for them."
The Church of Jesus Christ considers Joseph Smith, Jr. to have been a prophet and a seer, and an instrument in the hands of God in the restoration of the gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ believes that many revelations began to enter into the church through Smith that were contrary to the scriptures and the will of God. In contrast with other Latter Day Saint denominations, The Church of Jesus Christ does not believe Joseph Smith was the "Choice Seer" predicted by the Book of Mormon (). Its members are still awaiting the coming of the Choice Seer whom many in the organization believe will be of Native American heritage.
One of the key reasons why The Church of Jesus Christ believes Joseph Smith received many revelations contrary to the Word of God was described by one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, David Whitmer. A revelation received by Joseph to go to Toronto for business turned into a bankrupt expedition. Smith then was reportedly given a revelation clarifying that, "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil." Thus, in order to strictly adhere to God's will, The Church of Jesus Christ only accepts revelation as supported by the Bible and the Book of Mormon. William Cadman wrote on this matter:
"There has been much said about Joseph Smith...all people who manifest faith in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, which includes the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, do acknowledge him to be inspired of God when but a youth....He has been a much accused man, whether truly or falsely, eternity will reveal. If he taught plural marriage...plural Gods, baptism for the dead, the Book of Mormon does not sustain him, neither does the teachings of our Savior in the New Testament...The Church of Jesus Christ does not believe such teachings."
The Church of Jesus Christ believes that hymns are often revealed through divine inspiration for the edification of the church. They use many different songbooks, but mainly two: The Saints Hymnal and The Songs of Zion.
The Church of Jesus Christ has advocated full racial integration throughout all aspects of the church since its organization in 1862. While America disputed over civil liberties and racial segregation, the church claimed their message was for all races. In 1905, the church suspended an elder for opposing the full integration of all races.
Historian Dale Morgan wrote in 1949: "An interesting feature of the Church's doctrine is that it discriminates in no way against ... members of other racial groups, who are fully admitted to all the privileges of the priesthood. It has taken a strong stand for human rights, and was, for example, uncompromisingly against the Ku Klux Klan during that organization's period of ascendancy after the First World War."
At a time when racial segregation or discrimination was commonplace in most institutions throughout America, including the LDS Church, two of the most prominent leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ were African American. Apostle John Penn, member of the Quorum of Twelve from 1910 to 1955, conducted missionary work with many Italian Americans, and was often referred to as "The Italian's Doctor". Matthew Miller, an evangelist ordained in 1937, traveled throughout Canada establishing missions with Native Americans.
U.S. Regions of The Church of Jesus Christ
Youth Missionary Programs