Christianity is divined, in my opinion, into three main ideologies, Catholic, Protestant, and Mormons. There are two Catholic churches, divided centuries ago when the Roman church created the position of Pope, whom the Greek church refused to accept. When people started to read the Bible, the Protestant churches were born. There are literally hundreds of thousands of these and they are all based on the Bible, rather than the Apostles’ Creed. While some, like the Lutherans, still accept part of this creed, others, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, outright reject it. Last but not least, the Mormon churches all accept the Book of Mormon as a Holy Book, along with the Bible.
This gives Christians three questions, Apostles’ Creed, Bible, or Bible and Book of Mormon? From there things get more complicated, but if you chose the latter, here’s a list of options and their pros and cons.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints splintered in 1844 when Joseph Smith Jr. was killed. The bulk of the saints voted to make Brigham Young their leader, and later – in Utah – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was born from that democratic vote of the people. This was the name for the church Smith sent the apostles to England to create, and thus this name may have been used to help the influx of Europeans feel more welcome. At one point, Young had everyone in the Utah territory re-baptized into this church.
The LDS Church is the largest, the oldest, and – like the Catholics – claims to be the official church, though in this case founded by Smith rather than Peter. Of all of the splinter groups, the LDS Church kept with Smith’s ideologies of temple worship, plural marriage, etc, that many other groups rejected. This version of Mormonism focuses heavily on evangelism, bringing more souls to Christ than any of the others, both through work used to convert the living and baptisms on behalf of the dead that have become Christians in the next life.
Once this church splintered, the LDS Church followed the Lord’s command in the D&C to obey the laws of the land and reject polygamy until it became legal again. This has set a precedence of conforming with the laws of the land, creating a great deal of patriotism for members. With its zeal for patriotism, it is constantly looking for good works to improve ties to communities. It may well have one of the most comprehensive welfare systems in the world.
With over 70 percent of American members leaning Republican, this branch is the hardest for moderates and liberals to feel at home or, at times, even welcome. Young rejected Smith’s and the Lord’s will to give “blacks” the priesthood, which has lead to rampant racism and bigotry in the Church, making it hard for nonwhites or liberals to feel welcome. This may have been the spark that had Mormon leaders siding with Nazis before America joined the fight in WWII.
Due to its Sadducee-like ultraconservative views, it also makes people with sexual sins feel less than welcome. And, with it’s rather Pharisees-like extreme view of the Word of Wisdom (it is a commandment via the Church to obtain a temple recommend, though not a commandment of the Lord, according to Church doctrine), members that smoke or drink coffee often feel as unwelcome as those that publicly commit a real sin, though this is more likely their own sense of guilt from a false understanding of the Word of Wisdom. (In reality, all sinners should feel welcome at church as we are all sinners are fall short of the Glory of God – Romans 3: 10.)
Lastly, after decades of renouncing polygamy, it seems as though the Church may join the other Mormon splinter groups in rejecting the practice now that polygamy is legal in the US again. They have placed false information regarding the Lord’s will in the header of Official Declaration 1, pretending that the Lord limits polygamy, in spite of the evidence to the contrary. Also, the Church rarely receives revelation, and even now admits they are not receiving answers to important questions from the Lord. Issues left unaddressed in the doctrine, such as women and the priesthood, same sex marriage outside the faith, and the status of transgender members are still areas the Church left very in the dark as to the direction the Lord would have the organization take.
While the LDS branch is the church of choice for many Mormons, it is far from perfect and a real struggle for any that try to live the faith outside of the box of man-made ideologies that sit atop the true doctrine of the religion. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,
Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.” – Come, Join with Us
Break off groups:
There are a number of extreme break off groups that range from those that still attend LDS wards as excommunicated members for living the law of polygamy to those treat women as slaves and are even more racist than the average racist LDS Mormon. This article will not go over all of these groups.
If one wishes to join a polygamist branch of Mormonism, the Apostolic United Brethren, a break off from the Council of Friends, would likely be the best to look into, as the church has been made more public due to the Brown family on the program “Sister Wives.” This branch is very interesting as it claims its founder to be President John Taylor, successor of Brigham Young. They claim the LDS Church is still true, and that they were set apart to keep polygamy alive for this generation. One would presume that if this is in fact the case, then they would come back to the LDS fold once polygamy is reinstated.
Other known surviving fundamentalist groups include the Council of Friends, the Latter Day Church of Christ, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the most well know polygamist group due to their child brides), the Church of Jesus Christ in Solemn Assembly, the Church of the New Covenant in Christ, the Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, School of the Prophets, Centennial Park, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Kingdom of God, the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days, The Church of the Firstborn and the General Assembly of Heaven, and the Church of Jesus Christ (Original Doctrine) Inc.
Image: 1842 portrait of Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement by unknown, Public Domain.