Joseph Smith Jr.
Our history begins with a young man who prayed in a grove of trees and received God’s answer. We recognize Joseph Smith Jr. as our founding prophet, and resonate with the vision of Zion he shared. We hold fast to these core Restoration principles: God speaks today, and we are called to build Zion.
Joseph Smith Jr. led a movement to restore Christ’s church on earth. Many responded enthusiastically to Joseph’s teachings and leadership. Zion was in reach, the heaven’s were opened, and they understood theirs was an exclusive call as the one true church restored to the earth.
Known early on as the Church of Christ, they professed to hold the true authority of priesthood ordination. All had to be baptized into the church regardless of previous baptisms in other Christian faiths. We see things in a different light today as reflected in this Doctrine and Covenants scripture received and approved in 2010:
Instruction given previously about baptism was proper to ensure the rise and cohesiveness of the church during its early development and in following years. However, as a growing number have come to understand, the redemptive action of God in Christ—while uniquely and authoritatively expressed through the church—is not confined solely to the church. —Doctrine & Covenants 164:2a
The early Latter Day Saints struggled with many things, including their own arrogance. They experienced incredible difficulties with their neighbors, first in Missouri and later in Nauvoo. To avoid a repeat of Missouri and protect the Saints in Nauvoo, Smith and others started a massive militia, which created further tension with neighbors.
Smith also introduced controversial practices which upset many including key church leaders. These factors and others culminated in Joseph Smith Jr.’s death at the hands of an angry armed mob in June 1844.
The church did not reach full consensus on who should succeed Joseph Smith Jr. and lead the church. A large number followed Brigham Young, a significant number of others followed James Strang. Still others chose to stay where they were and await God's direction. The group that stayed behind included people who knew about, and disagreed with, the practice of polygamy.
Joseph Smith III
The founding figures of Community of Christ—including Emma Smith, Joseph Smith Jr.’s widow--upheld the principle of monogamy. Like young Joseph who prayed in a grove of trees, they humbly sought God's direction. Over time, area leaders and scattered branches of the church sensed the Holy Spirit’s confirmation that Joseph Smith III, the son of the Prophet, was called to be the next president of the church. Joseph III had not affiliated with any of the scattered groups since his father’s death. When members visited to invite him to serve as president-prophet of the Reorganization, he refused saying he would only do so if inspired by God to accept. Sometime later, and after repeated invitations to serve, he received divine confirmation that he was indeed called by God to serve as prophet-president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Joseph Smith III was ordained prophet and president at the April 1860 conference of the church
in Amboy, Illinois. He shared these words with the conference, "I have come in obedience to a power not my own, and I shall be dictated by the power that sent me."
Like his father, Joseph III sought the building of Zion. He prophetically counseled the church to cooperate with their "gentile" neighbors as the Saints endeavored to establish Zion. Relationships of trust were formed and in time Joseph III reestablished the church in Independence, Missouri.
Joseph Smith III embraced the theology and experiences of the Kirtland era placing emphasis on the teachings of Jesus and the call to be peacemakers. His successors stayed the course taking the church into deeper understandings of Christ’s message and the call of the Restoration to each generation, culture, and time to be a prophetic people who share Christ’s peace and invite all to participate in realizing the purposes of Zion.