The Conspiracy Theme and the Late Twentieth Century RLDS Church

The Reorganized Church peace seal.

The Reorganized Church peace seal.

The conspiracy theme is still present in the modern Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS), which was renamed the Community of Christ (CofC)in 2000. This time it can be seen most frequently among some RLDS fundamentalists who charge that the highest leaders of the church are “liberal heretics” who launched a devilish plot to subvert the Restoration and to make it into another Protestant church. As a result of several key controversies in the 1960s and early 1970s many fundamentalists began to speak in terms of a conspiracy of insiders who want to destroy the gospel. This has been a persistent theme every since.

In one of the most detailed and eloquent of the works detailing the conspiracy leitmotif, The Saints at the Crossroads (1974 with many editions thereafter), Richard Price asserted that the church’s hierarchy was conspiring to reject distinctive Restoration beliefs, making the church’s theology consistent with the liberal Protestant theology held in the leading ecumenical churches, His rationale for taking this action: so that the RLDS could be admitted into the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. He asked in a true conspiracy challenging fashion:

Do you know that the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Inspired Version of the Bible are being discarded, and that the Church is being changed into a Protestant denomination? Do you know that the New Curriculum actually teaches vulgar, profane, and Communistic material to our children? Have you noticed that Joseph Smith is no longer really upheld as a true prophet?

He added that “the leaders had been a decade in the process of secretly abandoning the Three Standard Books and other distinctives of the Church’s heritage—and taking the Church into the ecumenical movement.” Price concluded, harkening back to the century-old conspiracy leitmotif against Utah Mormonism voiced by the Reorganization, that “This big change has caused a problem which is greater than the one created by Brigham Young. He set aside the Three Standard Books and led the Saints into the heresies of polygamy, the Adam‑God theory, and blood atonement, causing a split in the Church from which it is still suffering. Today’s problem is greater because the leaders are not just setting the Three Books aside, but they are discarding them.”

Even more pointed was a 1986 pamphlet that outlines the conspiracy thesis in exceptionally clear language:

During the past quarter of a century, the highest officials of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have introduced liberalism, humanism, and ecumenism into the Church. They have also conspired to gradually remove all traces of the Restoration Movement of 1830 from the Church’s beliefs. After women’s ordination was officially adopted by the World Conference of 1984, it became apparent that the Liberal Faction had permanently departed from the Faith and entered into complete apostasy. It also became apparent that the Church (the saints as a body) is now divided, and that the only part of it that shall survive this apostasy is that part which shall reject the liberal officials and their paid appointees, and shall cling to the original beliefs of the Church as they are found in the Three Standard Books of Scripture.

Those accepting this theory have moved to the barricades to fight a determined, resourceful, and merciless enemy made all the more sinister because the conspirators had once been considered friends. For those who accept the conspiracy theme, the fight against the forces of evil continues.

At present there are estimated to be more than 150 fundamentalist congregations in the United States, all trying to make a place for themselves in the nether-world between the RLDS/CofC and Mormonism, convinced that conspirators in both groups have altered the gospel and led the church into apostasy.

Wallace B. Smith, RLDS President between 1978 and 1996.

Wallace B. Smith, RLDS President between 1978 and 1996.

For those holding tight to such conspiracy theories, the total condemnation of the conspirator is paramount. There is no room for admission that perhaps the other side might have valid points. Such revelation opens the door for discussion and perhaps compromise. The opponents, therefore, are the most heartless of rogues having not just bad intentions in the situation under consideration but lacking in total moral character. When truth is at stake, of course, there can be no bargaining over it. It is also a defense mechanism. The opponent’s flaws are highlighted, and those holding to the theory are always judged to be sound, opponents themselves are defective. Conspirators are conspirators because of personal weakness and sin. They can not be tolerated.

An example is the recent, and hilarious, suggestion by Richard Price that he found a photograph of Alger Hiss, a supposed communist spy of the McCarthy era in the early 1950s, standing with Wallace B. Smith during a recent photograph taken in Washington. Although it turned out that the person standing with Smith was another RLDS member, the implication was clear, Smith—the senior conspirator of the RLDS’s apostasy—was a communist and deserving of Cold War scorn.

This entry was posted in Community of Christ, History, Mormonism, Religion, Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Conspiracy Theme and the Late Twentieth Century RLDS Church

  1. Richard says:

    There are several besides Price who have written about the “conspiracy theory” in the RLDS Church. How does one compromise with an “existentialist” view of scripture that the Community of Christ leadership currently espouses?


    • launiusr says:

      I’d really like to know more about some of the other conspiracy motifs in the recent CofC past.


      • Richard says:

        Mr. Launius, if you could contact me privately via email I would like to prepare a detailed response for you.


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