Remnant Church emerges as bearer of Mormon restoration

With its headquarters close to the Independence Temple and the headquarters of the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or RLDS), the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has emerged as the most organized of the groups born out of opposition to developments within the RLDS church and hopes to lead the cause “to revitalize and renew the early tenets of Mormonism,” writes historian Casey Paul Griffiths (Brigham Young University) in the Journal of Mormon History (July). Since the 1970s and 1980s, a number of RLDS faithful became suspicious of what they saw as a liberal and ecumenical turn of their church, sacrificing the distinctive teachings and beliefs of their religious tradition. The 1984 revelation allowing women to be ordained to the priesthood was seen as a clear break—“as a culminating symbol of all the changes initiated by the RLDS leadership over a decade.” The RLDS renamed itself and subsequently moved closer to mainline Protestantism. After years of meeting in small, loosely organized groups, the would-be founders of the Remnant Church faced their inability to reverse the course taken by the Community of Christ. Concluding that the RLDS leaders had lost authority, in 1999 twelve church leaders issued a proclamation that would eventually lead to the Remnant Church, seen not as a new church, but as a continuation of the movement started by Joseph Smith, Jr. A descendant of Smith, Frederick N. Larsen, was accepted as a prophet in 2002 and has led the Remnant Church since.

The presence of a prophet has allowed the Remnant Church to add several sections of revelations to the Doctrine and Covenants, one of the LDS sacred texts (partly different in the LDS and RLDS traditions). Its claim to the shared historical legacy of Mormonism has also been made clear by the acquisition of a building next to the Temple lot in Independence, where three LDS denominations have a physical presence, the largest one there being the Community of Christ. Griffiths describes the Remnant Church as “both a revitalization and retrenchment movement” holding conservative family values. Along with other early Mormon principles, such as the “law of consecration,” the building of a temple in Jackson County (MO) is emphasized, although the understanding of what temple worship should be is still evolving. In 2015, the Remnant Church had nearly 3,000 members worldwide. Beside it, there are several other RLDS offshoots, such as the Conference of Restoration Elders and the Joint Conference of Restoration Branches, but efforts to bring them together have failed. According to Griffiths’ assessment, with aging leaders (the current prophet was born in 1932), a main challenge for the Remnant Church will be to find new leadership.

(Journal of Mormon History, Mormon History Association,