A Visual History of the Church of Christ

I recently got done listening to three Youtube parts of a podcast series that John Dehlin did with John Hamer on Mormon Stories.

It is titled “A Visual History of the Community of Christ (RLDS)

It was absolutely fantastic.

Those of you who are interested in the history of the LDS restoration movement from other perspectives will also find it fascinating.

Although I obviously interpret the events much differently than John Hamer does, I find him to be an honest and credible historian that has much to offer in the research he has done and his associated infographics.

Interestingly, much of the research he has done, in my opinion, supports many of the suppositions I have made.

Obviously, anyone can see what they want to see in a large body of data. I will leave it up to you to make whatever deductions you may from the presentation.

John was raised LDS, left the church, became an atheist and eventually found his way back into faith and into the Community of Christ with his husband. (RLDS)

Here is part of his bio from the BCC blogsite:

“John Hamer is the editor of John Whitmer Books and President of the John Whitmer Historical Association (the Community of Christ’s equivalent of MHA). In Mormon studies, John has produced maps for the LDS Church Historian’s Press, Herald Publishing House, Greg Kofford Books, the Journal of Mormon History, Mormon Historic Studies, the JWHA Journal, and Restoration Studies, among others.”

You can watch the post and youtube videos produced by MormonStories  here

I have copied the comments and questions I asked him below.

To see his responses, you will need to visit the post or click here for his specific responses in the comments section of the post.

Those of you who read “the return of Sidney Rigdon” and remember that I posted the shorthand notes of the Sidney Rigdon sermon, hoping someone would step forward and transcribe them, will be happy to know that according to Hamer, the LDS church is apparently doing that or has done it. If I can track the transcription down, I will do a post on it.

[Update as of 7-12-2013- A friend of mine contacted the church historical library and inquired as to whether the sermon has been transcribed and made available to the general public. I am informed that according to Robin Jensen (who works with the Joseph Smith Project) it has been transcribed!!!!

It is not yet available, however, it is going to be published soon in an upcoming issue of BYU Studies!]


July 10, 2013 at 7:42 pm

John D thank you for doing this interview.

John H I really enjoyed this interview and the research and the charts you have made.


I have been studying LDS church history for many many years and it was fun to compare notes with what you have presented.

I plan on putting links to this interview on my blog for my readers to enjoy.

Interestingly I find very few things of huge significance to disagree with you on regarding the historical information you have presented, although my interpretation of the historical documentation is significantly different than yours.

I did find the following things that you brought to light very interesting and informative:

1- William exd by Strang for practicing polygamy

2- John Taylors forced renunciation of his published denial of the practice of polygamy

3- Strang attempted to get the flow of LDS British converts and sent “Martin Harris” to do missionary work.

4- John Whitmer documented Strang as Joseph’s Successor in the official history and then crossed it off.

5- I found your observation that joseph was more concerned about the secrets of the council of the 50 getting out than about being exposed on the polygamy issue.

6- The Cutlerite Church of Christ wrote polygamy out of their history. LOL I remember years ago having a discussion with one of their leaders and how emphatic he was against polygamy.

7- “a church without a prophet is not a church for me” in the hymnal.

8- Joseph’s main concern during the confronation with William Law was not polygamy but the council of 50.

Although I am not convinced that polygamy was all that well known by the majority of the membership at that time, aside from rumors flying around, I do find your suggestion very intriguing and credible.

I vaguely recall that Joseph told his brethren to take off their garments and burn the council minutes.

That would certainly imply that he was concerned about the antics of the council of 50 and the ordination to be king.

I do have a number of questions or observations I would love a response to, if you have the time and inclination.

I apologize for the length of my questions and observations and I understand if you don’t have time to respond:

1- How well documented is it that Emma initially publicly or privately admitted that Joseph practiced polygamy in contrast to her denials in later years? (any refs?)

2- You are clearly saying that from your research that you believe Joseph Smith practiced polygamy and yet, this contradicts what Richard and Pamela Price claim in their research.

I had assumed that they are members of the Community of Christ or an offshoot of it. Am I mistaken about that?

If they are members of the same tradition as you, which belief is the most prevalent among members and leaders of the Community of Christ church on that issue? Yours or theirs?

Are you familiar with their arguments?

Have you met them and conversed with them about their belief on this topic?

My recollection is that in the early years of the RLDS movement leaders were in denial about Joseph’s involvement despite the testimony of some of their leaders like William Marks. Is that right?

3- I have long wondered how Strang could get so many high profile original leaders of the restoration movement to follow him. I appreciated you pointing out why you think he was so successful by using Joseph’s model and how he focused on Kirtland for a period of time.

Do you have any credible figures about how many people initially followed Brigham Young as apposed to how many followed Strang?

Some historians from other traditions have said or implied that Strang had more followers initially. Is that true from your research?

4- Why do you think the LDS church grew so much quicker than the RLDS, given the blatantly heretical belief system of the LDS Church? Didn’t the RLDS church do missionary work initially? I realize that the Modern Mormon church had a head start, but it still seems odd to me.

5- I enjoyed your point about the tension between continuing revelation vs restoration of ancient order.

The tension between these two concepts as I see it is that Modern Mormonism defines continuing revelation as the ability to change previous doctrines when in fact Joseph originally taught that a new revelation that is true will never contradict a previous revelation, that was true.

I believe the original meaning behind “continuing revelation” simply had to do with continually receiving revelations that continue to be consistent with all previous revelations.

Examples might be

A- continually expanding knowledge on previously revealed ancient doctrines and

B- simply continually revealing new things about the ancient order that doesn’t contradict previous revelation.

6- I appreciated you pointing out that the Mechizedek priesthood was never mentioned in the early years of the church and that the office of elder did not originally belong to the Mechizedek priesthood and that there was originally no difference between being a high priest and holding the Melchizedek priesthood.

I found it strange however that you never differentiated between the “higher” priesthood restored by Peter James and John in 1929 vs the “higher priesthood” that was restored by revelation at the Morley Farm in 1831.

Is there a reason why you avoided that topic?

7- You briefly mentioned that you could speak about cutlerites and Strangites… Could you comment on John Hajicek, have you met him and heard his story and claims and belief system?

If so what is your take on his branch of the restoration movement?

8- You made the statement that Hyrum would have been Joseph’s successor but he died.

Are you aware of Joseph’s declaration at a conference that he (Joseph) would no longer prophesy for the church and that the church must recognize Hyrum as the prophet of the Church?

That statement was followed by other comments in later month approaching the martyrdom that implied that Hyrum was the sole man in charge.

-Are you open to the possibility that Hyrum was in fact the sole legal successor to Joseph for the last year or two prior to the martyrdom and that Hyrum was the literal fulfillment to the succession prophecy contained in section 43 of the LDS edition of the D&C?

9- As you know, the Lord said in section 124 that he would reject the church with its dead if they failed to complete the temple in the sufficient time given. I have noticed that some Mormon revisionists have implied tat the temple was completed.

My research shows otherwise.

Would you agree that the temple was not finished?

If so, doesn’t that create a problem for all restoration churches that take modern revelation literally?

10- You mentioned how Apostlecentric the LDS church was. Would you agree that before the succession controversy that the central High Council in Nauvoo was considered to be a higher priesthood authority than the quorum of the Twelve and that the traveling quorum of the twelve had no right to officiate in an organized stake of Zion?

11- You mentioned that you do not believe Joseph was correct in practicing polygamy.

What is your take on his involvement in masonry?

Was it inspired?

12- I see some parallels between the belief system of Albert Pike and Brigham Young as well as the masonry link they had in common. Are you aware of any correspondence that may have taken place between them?

13- I think some Mormon historians are now questioning whether Joseph really propositioned Sidney’s daughter. Are you convinced that the documentation on that is credible?

14- At 54:50 on one of the videos you mentioned that the LDS church has now transcribed Sidney’s address to the saints during the succession crisis.

For years I had the strange shorthand notes on that sermon posted on my blog hoping someone would translate the shorthand into english!!!!

Can you tell me how I can get a copy of the translation (transcription)? links?

15-I need some clarification on something you said that I probably misunderstood.

I thought you said that Brigham Young and the twelve led the church with Brigham as the head of the quorum and the rest of the quorum functioning as his counselor until the RLDS made Joseph the 3rd the official president and prophet of their church and that Brigham did not become the official president of the LDS church until until that time.

My research shows Brigham being ordained as the president of the church with two councilors as a separate quorum from the twelve in about 1853 and yet the RLDS church was not even officially organized as the RLDS church until 1860.

Did I misunderstand what you were saying?

16- You said “the LDS church is not polygamous today” I understand what you are saying, with regard to the fact that they are not currently allowing members in good standing to practice it with living wives, however, I would suggest that from a doctrinal viewpoint, they are currently a polygamous church since:

A- they still continue to publish and believe section 132 which teaches the doctrine as being true.

B-They have not officially acknowledged that the earlier brethren that practiced it were wrong in doing so and

C- They allow living men to be sealed to additional wives for eternity when a previous wife has passed away

17- You mentioned that the Modern LDS church did not begin calling the president of the church the prophet until Pres McKayt’s admin, I have heard that before but never found it documented. Can you refer me to that ref in Quinns book?

18 You made it sound as if the name “Church of Christ” was changed because of confusion with other denominations like that of Alexander Campbells… “possibly in a way to combat this confusion… right before the Zion’s camp march”

I have heard that same speculation from LDS apologists but have you ever seen any hard evidence to suggest that?

The name “Church of Christ” seemed to work just fine during the previous four years.

The historical documentation gives precious little information about what was said at the conference when the name change was voted on.

It does not seem to be a coincidence to me that the name change took place just days after the Lord chastised the church for failing to live the law of consecration as contained in section 42 of the LDS D&C.

Are you aware of any restoration offshoots that believe that the rejection of consecration and the 1835 name change of the church represented the fulfillment of the prophecy in 3rd Nephi 16:10- ?

Such an interpretation seems to be supported by many of the charts and observations that you provided.

Again, Thank you for taking the time to do the interview!


2 Responses to A Visual History of the Church of Christ

  1. Ryan says:

    No comment back from him?

    Did you ever find the transcript?

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