What are the different branches of Mormonism?
Although the official LDS church doesn't recognize other sects of the religion, there are other groups that claim to be the true Mormon church. These congregations formed early in Mormon history. After the Succession Crisis, which followed the murder of Joseph Smith in 1844, a number of competing hierarchies were organized that fall into the two main branches of the movement, sometimes called the "Prairie Saints" and the "Rocky Mountain Saints."
Today, there are as many as 100 organizations claiming to be a part of the Latter-Day Saint religion, most are centered in places where important historical events in the religion occurred like Utah or Missouri. Most followers regard their particular group, however small, to be the only legitimate Christian church. Most of these organizations are small in number, but the second largest denomination, the Community of Christ, reports over 200,000 members. The largest of these groups are mentioned below along with a brief description.
Groups who claim to be the true LDS church
The Official LDS Church
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (a.k.a. The Church of Jesus Christ, and the LDS) is by far the largest Mormon denomination. It is a continuation of the "Rocky Mountain Saint" branch of Mormonism.
The Reorganized LDS Church
The more liberal Community of Christ (formerly called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) is second in size. It is a continuation of the "Prairie Saint" movement. Although generally referred to as "Mormons," they do not use the term themselves, because of its association with polygamy and because they believe the name was not part of the original church.
It was formed in 1860 by remnants of the original church who did not make the trek to Utah. They reject certain beliefs and practices of the LDS church, including marriage sealing for eternity; they allow both men and women into the priesthood; their services are open to the public. They have about 250,000 members.
Many additional small Mormon faith groups, including:
Aaronic Order: Unknown membership; 6 centers; 20 ministers
Apostolic United Brethren: About 7,000 members; they disagree with the LDS' decision to allow ordination of African-Americans and allowing women to assume leadership positions.
Church of Christ (Fetting/Bronson): Has about 2,000 members
Church of Christ (Temple Lot): Has about 2,400 members
The Church of Christ "With The Elijah Message," established anew in 1929: Has 12,500 members worldwide
Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite): Has about 2,700 members
United Order Effort: A polygamy practicing group, excommunicated by the main LDS church, of perhaps 10,000 members
The Restoration Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: It split from the Reorganized Church in 1991 because of the latter's liberal theology. It is centered in Independence, Missouri, and had an estimated membership of 2,500 in mid-1996. They publish a periodical "The Restoration Advocate" six times a year.References:
- An Address to All Believers in Christ, 1887.
- "Latter Day Saint movement," Wikipedia, accessed October 2005.