RLDS Church

Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church)) and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) are two denominations that share a common heritage in the Church of Christ founded by Joseph Smith on April 6, 1830. Since Smith’s death in 1844, they have evolved separately in belief and practices. The LDS Church is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, and claims more than 17 million members worldwide; Community of Christ is headquartered in Independence, Missouri, and reports a worldwide membership of approximately 250,000.

The RLDS Church was founded by the confederation of a number of smaller groups that declined to migrate with Brigham Young to Utah Territory or follow any of the others vying to become the successor to Joseph Smith. Prior to the 1860 Amboy Conference, in which the church was formally “reorganized” into the RLDS Church, numerous doctrinal differences were espoused by the leaders of the various splinter groups. Following the reorganization, these differences were solidified into a litany of what might now be called “wedge issues” that would distinguish it from Young’s LDS Church in Utah.

Comparison of the Community of Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints

Taken from “Roots of the Reorganized Latter Day Saints in Southern Iowa” by Pearl Wilcox

On May 18, 1862, the Council Bluffs Branch was organized by Charles Derry with eight members.  There were three elders, Thomas Revel, John Clark and Hans Hansen, and a teacher, James Stuart.  The other members were Elizabeth Revel, Margaret Stuart, Rachel Clark and Hans S. Michelson.  Chosen as the first president was Thomas Revel, an Englishman who commanded the respect and confidence of the members.   His counselors were John Clark and Hans Hansen.

Shortly after the organization, there arose a division which, for a time, threatened to disorganize the branch. John Clark claimed, by his rank in priesthood, he should have been the presiding elder with the right to set in order the branch and its officers.  His desire was contrary to the wishes of the branch.   However, Revel did resign, and Clark took charge of the branch, but only for a short time.  Later, Clark united with the Rigdonites and still water with the Whitmerites, with whom he remained until his death.*

James M. Judkins succeeded John Clark as president, September 27, 1864, with David Evans as clerk.  Judkins served until 1865, when he moved to Indiana.  He was succeeded by Hugh Lytle, who served only a short time.  Henry Kemp followed Lytle as presiding elder.

With friction ceasing and unity prevailing, Charles Derry was able to write in July, 1866, that “the work in Council Bluffs is now prospering.  The Saints are few in number, and poor, and hall rent is high, so they are struggling under difficulties.”

The Council Bluffs meetings for those first charter members were held in the home of James and Margaret Stuart on Pierce Street between Park Avenue and First Street.  The Stuarts contributed much to the success of the branch when they opened their home for services, saving the rent on a hall.

James Stuart was born July 7, 1813, at Lancaster, England, and came to Council Bluffs in 1850.  He was baptized in 1862 in the Reorganization, and it was said of him he lived a life of noble and Godlike deeds.  He served the Council Bluffs Branch as a book steward for a number of years, and the Saints’ Herald subscriptions greatly increased.  At his death, April 28, 1879, he was survived by two sons and one daughter.  Presumably his wife must have preceded him in death.

Thomas and Elizabeth Revel:  This first branch president was born November 4, 1813, at Radford, near Nottingham, England.  He married Elizabeth Brierley January 28, 1833 in England.  They joined the church in 1847, came to America in 1851 and went to Utah in 1853.  They found only disappointment in Utah and moved to St. Louis where they remained until 1861.  They then came to Council   Bluffs where they were among the first to be baptized in the Reorganized Church.   On May 1, 1862, Thomas was ordained an elder; in 1864 he was ordained a seventy and sent on a mission to England.  On his return, the Revels made their home in Nauvoo, where they resided until 1890.  Thomas died April 24, 1896, while living with a grandson, B. R. Rollet, in Dekalb County, Missouri.

Hans and Mary Hansen had accepted the gospel in 1851 in their native Denmark and came to the United States in 1857, going directly to Winter Quarters in Nebraska.  Here they repudiated the leadership of Brigham Young and after three weeks recrossed the Missouri River to the Iowa side in Pottawattamie County.  They found a welcome with the elders of the Reorganization and, in 1861, joined that group of Saints.   Hans was born July 15, 1811, later ordained an elder and faithfully performed his duties as a minister of the gospel.  Mary (Madison) Hansen was born February 16, 1822, and died January 3, 1897.

*Sidney Rigdon organized the Rigdonites.  David Whitmer organized the Whiterites.

Taken from “Pottawattamie County, Iowa: A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories,” 1978

The “West Mission” of the reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was organized at 2601 Avenue C, Council Bluffs, Iowa, on December 7, 1958. Elder Emil J. Severyn was appointed to be the first pastor. At the same time of the organization a ladies’ chorus, a Zion’s League (a young people’s group), and the women’s department were organized. The building was formerly a grocery store owned by Ben Passer. On May 22, 1960, the name “West Mission” was changed to Riverside Mission. Elder Paul Harding was appointed Elder in Charge to succeed Elder E. J. Severyn. Robert R. Butler was appointed to be Elder in Charge succeeding Paul Harding on August 13, 1961. Chester Fryer was elected as the first treasurer and Mrs. Helen Parks was sustained as church secretary and historian.

The congregation voted and approved to purchase property at 29th and Avenue G for the future building site for the church building on February 25, 1962. On August 5, 1962, a consecration service was held at our newly acquired church property with 190 people present. The property was formerly a junk yard owned by Harry Yates. Fund raising projects such as dinners, auction sales, bake sales, fairs, and special offerings were some of the ways money was raised to purchase the property.

On November 24,1963, the Riverside Mission was organized into a branch with congregational status with Elder Robert R. Butler in charge. The church building was consecrated on March 6,1966, with W. Wallace Smith as the guest speaker. Mr. Smith is the president of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with the headquarters located at Independence, Missouri.

Through these past few years the following men have served as pastors of Riverside congregation: Emil J. Severyn, Paul J. Harding, Robert R. Butler, R. Marvin Debar, Richard J. Harding, Raymond Holloway, Bernard Vlieg, and Robert Moser. Thomas Arnold is the present presiding Elder. The membership at present is 350 members.

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