Latter Day Saint movement

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The Latter Day Saint movement (also called the Mormonism movement or the Mormon movement) is a religious movement beginning in the early 19th century that led to the set of doctrines, practices, and cultures called Mormonism and to the existence of numerous churches whose members call themselves Latter Day Saints. It is one of a number of movements within Restorationism, which includes the Restoration Movement and the Millerite movement. These group of early 19th century religions attempted to transcend Protestant denominationalism, and to restore what they considered a form of Christianity truer to their interpretation of the New Testament.

The driving force behind the Latter Day Saint movement was Joseph Smith, Jr., and to a lesser extent Oliver Cowdery, who both claimed to have seen angels who restored to them various "keys" to organize and lead the true Church of Christ. In addition, the Latter Day Saint movement was greatly influenced by Sidney Rigdon, a minister within the Restoration Movement who had been associated with the Disciples of Christ before becoming Mormonism's first great theologian.

Latter Day Saint denominations

The original Latter Day Saint church was organized on April 6, 1830 as the "Church of Christ." In 1834, it became known as the Church of Latter Day Saints, and in 1838 the name was changed to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

After the Succession Crisis which followed Smith's death 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 hundreds of active organizations claiming to be a part of the Latter Day Saint movement. Most of these organizations are very small, but overall, there are possibly more Latter Day Saints world-wide than Jews. Most Latter Day Saints belong to the largest denomination, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which reports more than 12 million members, although census figures and religious adherent polling indicate around 8 million self-identified adherents).

Denominations through 1844

Denominations which formed prior to the death of the movement's founder, Joseph Smith, Jr. include:

  • The Pure Church of Christ -- organized by Wycam Clark -- 1831 (defunct).
  • The Church of Christ (Parrishite) -- organized by Warren Parrish -- 1837 (defunct).
  • The Church of Jesus Christ, the Bride, the Lamb's Wife -- organized by George M. Hinkle -- 1840 (defunct).
  • The True Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- organized by William Law -- 1844 (defunct).

"Prairie Saint" denominations

Prairie Saint denominations include:

  • The Church of Christ, later called the Church of Jesus Christ of the Children of Zion -- organized by Sidney Rigdon -- 1844. The original organization of this church dissolved by 1847 (defunct).
    • The Church of Jesus Christ (Bickertonite) -- a reorganization of the Rigdonites under William Bickerton -- 1862 (defunct).
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) -- organized by James J. Strang -- 1844. Today this denomination has a following of approximately 50,000 members in 500 congregations, mostly in the western parts of the NAL. It is headquartered in the NAL's extraterritorial Kingdom of Beaver Island.
    • The Church of Christ -- a schism in the Strangite church organized by Aaron Smith -- 1846 (defunct).
  • The Church of Christ (Whitmerite) -- organized by David Whitmer -- 1847 and 1871. Extant until around 1925 (defunct).
  • The Church of Christ (Cutlerite) -- organized by Alpheus Cutler -- 1853. Survived until the turn of the millenium with a handful of members in Les Plaines (defunct).
  • The Community of Christ -- organized by Joseph Smith III -- 1860. This movement gathered together many followers of other Latter Day Saint denominations. It was based in Liberty, Les Plaines (defunct).

"Rocky Mountain Saint" denominations

Rocky Mountain Saint denominations include:

  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- organized by Joseph Smith, Jr. -- 1830. This organization is by far the largest Latter Day Saint denomination.
    • The Church of the First Born -- organized by Joseph Morris -- 1861. Probably defunct, remnants of this organization survived into the mid-20th century.
    • The Church of Zion -- organized by William S. Godbe -- 1868 (defunct).
    • The Kingston clan -- organized by Thomas R. King -- 1926. A large group of Latter Day Saints who practice plural marriage.
    • The New and Living Ministry of Jesus Christ of Modern Saints -- organized by John Y. Barlow -- 1935. Headquartered in Salt City, Deseret, this is the largest group of Latter Day Saints who practice plural marriage. They are reputed to be one of the largest instigators in the region.
    • The New Covenant Church of God -- organized by Christopher C. Warren -- 1986.
    • The True & Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days -- organized by James D. Harmston -- 1994. Headquartered in Manti, Alpes-Rocheuses, this is a relatively small group that practices plural marriage.