History of the Church of Christ
A publication of the Church of Christ, P.O. Box 472, Independence, Missouri 64051
We are a remnant of the original church established by Jesus Christ during His days on Earth and restored, April 6, 1830, by Joseph Smith and five others in Manchester, New York, as directed by God.
There are four things of special significance connected with the organization of the Church of Christ:
1. Translation of the Book of Mormon from ancient plates by Joseph Smith through the gift and power of the Holy Ghost. This is an ancient record of the "American Indians", a "second" witness for Christ. The Bible is the "first" witness, and these two books ("sticks") were to be "one" in the Lord's hand. See Ezek. 37:19. This book was revealed through angelic visitation to Smith, but he was not permitted to obtain the records for three years, until he had truly realized that the real value was not in the gold plates, but in the record itself.
2. A recognition of the apostasy, or falling away, from the pure gospel of Christ and the ancient order of the New Testament Church. See 2 Thess. 2:1-4.
3. A "restoration" of that gospel and church order through angelic ministry according to Rev.14:6,7. Another angel came to Smith and told him he would be an instrument in God's hand for this purpose. This was in 1829, a year before the Church was organized, while he and Oliver Cowdery were in the translation process.
4. A "restoration" of priesthood or ministerial authority because of that ancient apostasy and by the grace of God. This was begun through Joseph Smith and others by the spirit of revelation (see Heb.5:4). The holy priesthood was imparted by the above angel upon him and Cowdery at that time, which did not include the power to bestow the Holy Ghost upon believers; this greater power was given later by the revelation of God, and under which authority the Church was organized on April 6, 1830. There is no other author- ity to represent the Kingdom of God on the earth in modern times, nor had there been in the churches for 1260 years prior to 1830 (the apostasy alluded to in Rev. 12).
Reluctantly, we admit there has been apostasy from the restored gospel faith, through the introduction of human doctrine and by divisions having occured.
Among the branches of this early church there were four which developed in Illinois during Joseph's life-time, viz., at Bloomington, Crow Creek, Half Moon Prairie and Eagle Creek; also one at Vermillion, Indiana.
Elder David Judy was ordained in 1831, Jedidiah Owen in 1832, Zebulon Adams in 1833. These with many others became identified with those branches, which, in 1863 amalgamated under the leadership of Elder Granville Hedrick. Hedrick was baptized and ordained by Elder Hervey Green in 1843, and was set apart as the presiding elder of the Crow Creek branch in April 1857.
In June following, John E. Page, one of the Twelve during Joseph's life-time, attended that conference held by these scattered groups, investigating their claims. He had become disaffected with the Church as it had been in Nauvoo, Illinois, even as had many others, including Emma Smith, the widow of Joseph Smith, and his eldest son, Joseph.
The reasons for this disaffection by Page and those branches (which became known as the Woodford County saints), were principally the doctrines of baptism for the dead, and polygamy.
In a conference held at Crow Creek (Hedrick's home) in Nov. 1862, Page united with that body. At the next conference in May 1863 he ordained Hedrick, Judy, Owen and Adna C. Haldeman to the office of Apostle; this made a total of five apostles.
It was proposed to ordain someone as president of the High Priesthood at a July 1863 conference, and Page nominated Hedrick. After a general agreement, Page, in company with the other apostles, ordained Hedrick to the office of the first Presidency over the high priesthood and the Church, "to be a prophet, seer, revelator and translator to the Church of Christ".
As we view it now, this was in keeping with an accepted error within the Church, introduced as early as 1832, without any revealment from God to do so, together with the ordained office of High Priest, which developed in 1831.
This body had accepted the 1835 edition of the Doctrine & Covenants together with the Bible then in use (King James authorized edition) and the Book of Mormon. It was the changed revelations in the D&C (as compared with the original Book of Commandments published in 1833) which made provision for these unscriptural offices, and in which this body concurred through ignorance until repudiated in the 1920s.
However, the doctrine of lineal descent in the presidency was rejected by Hedrick, et al, in their conferences held in 1857 - first with this group in Crow Creek, Illinois and later with those, such as W. W. Blair and others of the "New Organization" at Zarahemla, Wisconsin. Nevertheless, good mutual feelings existed, and as a result of these conferences, a conclusion was reached by some in the New Organization that Hedrick had united with that body; it was later recognized as an error.
Hedrick was given to know in revelation from God that a spirit of self-exaltation in Joseph Smith produced revelations(?) and introduced doctrines inconsistent with the word of God as found in the Bible and Book of Mormon. As a result, Hedrick declared Smith to be a "fallen prophet". It was later that this Church found the changes in the revelations providing for High Priests and a First Presidency of the High Priesthood.
The true spirit of revelation from God diminished and was supplanted by human imagination leading to such doctrinal deviation as previously mentioned, as well as: God once a man, exaltation of men as gods, Adam-God and eternal marriage. Because of such, the Church has, in later years, declared the Bible and Book of Mormon as our standard of faith, and only such latter day revelation as may harmonize therewith.
This body was isolated from developments at Nauvoo, and so were shielded from the doctrinal deviations which occured there, but when they heard in 1852 of the practice of by the body at Salt Lake City, they were alarmed. Therefore, in 1857 they published "A Declaration Of Independence And Separation" from them "or any such person or persons who teach or practice the doctrine of under any system whatever, or anything like unto it..."
Many saints had gathered to Independence, Missouri as the center place of Zion, or a "New Jerusalem", because of revelation through Joseph Smith, but were driven out in 1833; and later, in 1838, the whole body of the church was driven from the state of Missouri. On Aug. 3, 1831, Smith and others had dedicated a "spot" for the Lord's temple, placing a stone to mark the northeast corner.
Much of the reason for this intolerance was due to prejudice, the slavery issue and fear that the saints would dominate the political scene. However, Church members were not without fault, declaring that God had given them this land as an inheritance, and would drive out their enemies before them. However, according to a warning revelation to them, they did in fact "pollute my holy land" (given Sept. 22, 1832). As a result, and because some had taken up arms, contrary to previous revelation, many were "scourged from city to city, and from synagogue to synagogue" (Book of Commandments 64:30-32).
In 1864, a revelation through Hedrick directed this people to return to Independence and Jackson County, Missouri in 1867, to initiate a re-gathering of saints; that the Lord would prepare the way before them. In consideration that the Civil War was still in progress, that Independence became a battlefield, and that the saints had only been driven out of Independence 31 years before, they exercised much faith through their obedience. About 60 returned in the winter of 1867 by covered wagons, the first to do so of any "latter day saint" body. Their primary objective was to obtain the "spot" dedicated by Joseph Smith, and by 1877 they had purchased eight lots which included that spot.
In 1891, the RLDS Church sued this Church for the "temple lot". It resulted favorably toward that Church, but being appealed to a federal circuit court, the decision was overturned in favor of the Church of Christ. We have occupied it since as our world headquarters site.
For a number of years in the early 1900s there was a "working harmony agreement" engaged with the RLDS Church, but it was broken off when they became aware we favored the Book of Commandments over the Doctrine & Covenant, in respect to the same revelations. While renewed efforts have been made, there is no longer such communication on an institutional level.
In the 1920s, principally because of the doctrine of "supreme directional control" introduced by the presidency of the RLDS Church, many became spiritually depressed and found a haven in the Church of Christ.
In 1929 the Church undertook the building of the temple, and excavated the basement area. Some who had returned in 1867 were among those driven from Independence in 1833, and so they knew where the "spot" was located. In this excavation, the laborers turned up the stone placed by Joseph in marking the northeast corner of the temple, having thereupon an original inscription. About a month later, they turned up a second stone approximately 90 feet to the south, also inscribed, indicating the southeast corner. Revelation to at least three in the Church gave the length of the temple as twice the width. Work was halted because of the depression, and eventually the hole was filled.
In retrospect, we feel the spiritual status of the church in general was less than required for this holy project; but at least the spot is definitely fixed. We will wait for further revelation from God in this, with the continued gathering of the pure in heart.
The thought has developed that we are custodians of the Temple Lot. We feel, as an extension to this, that it is not simply a physical custody, but that the Church of Christ has a spiritual custody of the Kingdom of God, and that this is implied in the revelation which states: "...the city New Jerusalem shall be built, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple..."
For this purpose, and especially because of the fundamentally scriptural stance we have assumed, even by discarding innovations mentioned, the Lord saw fit to give us this custody. We hope and pray to yet qualify more fully as a nucleus for the gathering of the saints in the establishment of Zion. Additionally, as stated before: we are a remnant of the Church as it was in 1830, having the same name, the same doctrine, and the apostolic form of government as originally intended; and we have been neither disorganized nor reorganized.