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The History of the Saints in the United States of America


LDS Splinter Groups

Joseph Smith’s death in June 1844 created a need for a new Church leader. Brigham Young led the main body of Church members and a majority of the Apostles to what became Utah. The diaspora from Nauvoo created “would be” leaders such as Sidney Rigdon in Pennsylvania, Lyman Wight in Texas, James J. Strang in Wisconsin and later in Michigan, William Smith in Illinois and Kentucky, Alpheus Cutler in Iowa, and Joseph Smith III in Illinois who later moved to Iowa and Missouri. Additional splinter groups of the LDS Church were led by Granville Hedrick and William Bickerton. One thing all those who did not go to Utah apparently had in common was a desire to avoid the long and difficult trip that involved burying family members, the sacrifices necessary to create a civilized society in a wilderness and the missionary services required after being settled. Some were even willing to declare Joseph Smith a fallen prophet to justify their decision although history shows there have been very few, if any, fallen prophets. Those who labeled Joseph Smith a fallen prophet did it so flippantly that they were seemingly unaware of the consequences to themselves and to their future generations. To call Joseph Smith a fallen prophet would imply God was negligent in calling someone who would fail at such an important task as opening the last dispensation and restoring the gospel prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ.

There was a great need for the influence of the Holy Ghost at this time because faith was severely tested. 1.) James J. Strang had been baptized in Nauvoo by Joseph Smith on 25 February 1844, ordained an Elder and instructed to create a Stake of the 15 Church in Voree Wisconsin located near present day Burlington in extreme southeastern Wisconsin. After Joseph’s death in June 1844 he claimed to be Joseph’s successor and continued leading his group in Voree until 1848 when he re-established the group on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. James J. Strang produced a letter supposedly written and signed by Joseph Smith designating him as Joseph’s successor after his death. One individual who thought the letter might be legitimate, for a time, was Joseph’s mother Lucy Mack Smith. Brigham Young ignored James J. Strang and his letter. James J. Strang was shot by dissidents of his group on 16 June 1856 and died 9 July 1856. At one time it was said he had as many as 12,000 followers. Some small remnants of this group still exist today (2008). 2.) Alpheus Cutler was the original leader of the Wisconsin Pineries project intended to supply wood during the construction boom in Nauvoo Illinois. He failed to recognize the leadership of Brigham Young and follow him to Utah. His group first settled in the area of Fremont County Iowa during 1852. Some of his followers then joined the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when it was organized 6 April 1860 in Amboy Illinois.

Cutler’s plans to move his followers to Minnesota were derailed during 1864 when Cutler died. However his counselor Chauncey Whiting and Cutler’s wife led a portion of the group to Otter Tail County in west central Minnesota during 1865. Some others of their group arrived the next year. This group believed in the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon but did not accept polygamy. By 1900 it had essentially disappeared. 3.) Joseph Smith III was born 6 November 1832 and died during 1914 while living in Independence Missouri. An initial meeting of those promoting Joseph III as the Church President was held during June 1852 but 19 years old Joseph refused to lead the group at that time. However during 1859 he accepted his calling as Prophet and President and the group that would later become the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formed on 6 April 1860 at Amboy Illinois. During 1882 Church headquarters was moved to Lamoni Iowa. Joseph III moved to Independence during 1904 but it was after his death that Church headquarters was officially moved to Independence, Jackson County Missouri during 1920. A major attempt was made by Joseph Smith III to obtain the New Jerusalem Temple Lot in Independence for the RLDS Church during the early 1890s. The RLDS group had obtained a quit claim for the entire 63 acres of land from Maria Louise Johnson who was Oliver Cowdery’s daughter. They also felt that they would be 16 recognized in any legal proceeding as the true successors to the original Church and filed for a legal hearing to justify their claims in August 1891 to take the property from a group that had obtained it earlier led by Granville Hedrick. Their legal attempt was denied by the courts. 4.) William Smith was born 13 March 1811 and died 13 November 1893 in Osterdock, Clayton County, Iowa. He had served the Church as an Apostle while his brother Joseph was alive but was disfellowshipped on 6 October 1845 and excommunicated on 19 October 1845.

During 1845 he declared Brigham to be a Pontius Pilate and himself as Church President. William also accused Brigham of poisoning his brother Samuel so it would be easier for Brigham to proclaim himself Church President. He called for a gathering of the Saints at Lee County Illinois where the RLDS Church would be founded on 6 April 1860. However during 1860 he wrote to Brigham Young and proposed coming to Utah and joining the Saints there. Shortly he became caught up in the Civil War and seemingly lost interest in going to Utah. His warming up to Brigham may have been a result of his not being called into a leadership position in the RLDS Church. He joined the RLDS Church during 1878. 5.) Sidney Rigdon was born 19 February 1793 and died in Friendship New York on 14 July 1876. At Joseph’s death he proclaimed that no one could take Joseph’s place as President and that he should become “Protector” or “Guardian” of the Church. He was supported in his stand by Nauvoo Stake President William Marks. Sidney Rigdon had been Joseph’s first Counselor at the time of Joseph’s death but was essentially uninvolved in Church leadership. After his proposal was not accepted by the membership of the Church he left Nauvoo “for his safety” and was excommunicated by the Church on 8 September 1844. He went back to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania where he had been living and reorganized the First Presidency and Apostles of the Church among his followers during April 1845. By 1847 most of his followers had deserted him likely because he seemed mentally unbalanced. As this group dissolved one of his followers named William Bickerton reorganized the Church into what became known as the Bickertonite group of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sidney Rigdon moved to Friendship New York and later started “The Church of Jesus Christ of the Children of Zion” after communicating with former James J. Strang followers and had spokesman Stephen Post read his messages to his followers but the Church soon dissolved after his death. 6.)

Granville Hedrick was baptized during 1843 and became Presiding Elder of the Branch at Crow Creek Illinois in April 1857. On 18 July 17 1863 under the direction of disaffected Apostle John E. Page he became leader of 4 Branches in Woodford County Illinois northeast of Peoria. John E. Page ordained him a Prophet, Seer and Revelator and joined the group himself. Thus they became known as the Hedrickites. The name of the Church was “The Church of Christ” and they consider themselves a continuation of the original restoration from 1830. Granville Hedrick declared Joseph Smith a fallen prophet and claimed revelation from God during 1864 to lead his group to Independence Missouri to reclaim the Temple Lot. There was also influence exerted by David Whitmer’s claim that Joseph was a fallen prophet. Approximately 60 members of the group arrived in Independence in 1867 and by 1877 had purchased 8 lots which included the northeast cornerstone of the Temple that was laid by Joseph Smith. In 1891-1894 they successfully defended their title to the property in a civil suit brought by the RLDS Church. During 1929 an attempt was made to construct the Temple but it was abandoned because of economic constraints. They now consider themselves custodians of the property awaiting instruction from God. Since its inception this group has had approximately 4 splinter groups break from it. 7.) William Bickerton took the lead of the Rigdon group as Sidney Rigdon relinquished it. Bickerton established a Branch of the Church during May 1851 at West Elizabeth Pennsylvania south of Pittsburgh. At a conference on 9 July 1861 twelve members were called as Apostles of the Church. The Church was incorporated during June 1865 as the “Church of Jesus Christ of Green Oak Pennsylvania.” It is now incorporated in all of Pennsylvania as the “Church of Christ.” Membership today (2008) is claimed to be 12,136 with nearly 3,000 living in the United States. There is a publishing house in Bridgewater Michigan that publishes copies of the Book of Mormon.

The Church accepts the Book of Mormon and Bible as scripture but does not accept the Doctrine and Covenants or the Pearl of Great Price. There is no paid ministry. Joseph Smith is not thought to be the choice seer predicted to come in the Book of Mormon but that seer is thought to likely be a person of Native American heritage that will come later. The Church does not accept plural marriage, plural Gods or baptism of the dead. Deaconesses (women) in the Church may prepare the Sacrament and revelation may be received by any individual member. They believe Sidney Rigdon was the rightful heir to leadership of the Church and Restoration after Joseph Smith’s death. The glaring irony of this organization is their basing their existence and priesthood authority on a man (Sidney Rigdon) whom they would not follow. 18 8.) Jason Briggs founded Branches of the Church in Eastern Wisconsin at Beloit and Waukesha. He initially followed James J. Strang but during the 1850s established his “New Organization” Church. 9.) Zenos Gurley did not follow the Saints to Utah and in 1850 established a church he called the Yellowstone Branch in Lafayette County Wisconsin.

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21 March 1975

Elder (Jack) Jorgensen is a trickster. He started to feel ill in Caracas yesterday, and didn't tell anybody. But after breakfast, it was very apparent that he was hiding something. We got 2 blocks from the hotel when he decided he just couldn't do it. He drank only one glass of orange juice for breakfast, and it didn't stay down very long.

So we headed home. Elder Jorgensen went straight to bed, and I went about organizing the references. I looked them all up on the maps and marked as many as I thought I could.

Elder Jorgensen continued ill throughout the day. I studied I Samuel and rested. We both skipped lunch and dinner.

That evening, we got to bed early--and both got quite a lot of sleep.

22 March 1975

We got off quite early this morning. We had a lot to do, and that was what we set out to do--a LOT. We looked for Chan Wan, a member, and found out that he had moved about 5-6 years ago from the address we had. We tried everything we could think of, but never found him. We then spent the rest of the day trying to find references. Most were people of black descent, as is the majority of the country. We did move from the Pelican Inn to a guest house more to the center of town, and were on a more friendly basis with the staff. The lady of the house is very congenial and friendly. We were served lunch--a huge one, too--and paid a smaller price than at the Pelican Inn. Our expenses are not low yet, but are to the level where we must watch what we spend.

We found Mrs. Evelyn Harris at home and gave her a First Discussion. She's divorced, with no children at home. The reception was fair, but she demanded that we should not "Push" her, but rather let her take the initiative to do things. She would not commit herself to read the Book of Mormon, nor to do anything else. But we did bear strong testimony.

We found some other references at home, but nothing we felt that we could teach to. The results so far are not very promising.

23 March 1975

pres. Marsh with Pres. Kimball. Pres. Marsh was the Caracas Venezuela Mission President. We had a very enjoyable morning. First of all, I called home (Collect, of course) to inform my parents that our stay would be lengthened by 2 days at least. Dad and Mom (And Rusty) were all still in bed when I called, and I think they all had a bit of a shock at 6:00 AM. Mom sounded worried, Dad confused and Rusty was just sleepy. But it was great to hear them once again. I can't wait to see them, and put my arms around them.

Then off to hunt references. First one just arrived while we were there, and really wanted nothing to do with us. Number 2 wasn't home. But then we struck it lucky. The Dorothy Phillips reference. We were writing a short message, because they weren't home, on the back of a pamphlet. As we finished, the entire family drove up, and they were very, very friendly. They had just come home from Church--the Church of Scotland--and were about to go out on a service errand. We talked with them, and soon became friends. We talked about their church, churches in general, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The discussion (3rd) was great. The family was wonderful, and should we writing us in the near future. They gave us a ride home, and were most friendly as they wished us happy traveling and "God speed." I hope they take to heart our message, and remember how great they felt.

We then ate another big lunch, and took off for the bus depot to go out to St. Augustine, where another member is reported to live.

The busses were full, but we caught a taxi who took us to the street where this member was supposed to live. After asking around and making a phone call, we had some success. We got a hold of his mother, who invited us over--but in another part of town. So we walked a great deal, and finally arrived at the Imam home. That's when the surprises began. Hayden, the member, was in Canada for study, but we did get to visit his father, Wilfred, his mother, Cynthia, and Wanda, his younger sister. Apparently, there are two other brothers in the family--one on Trinidad who wasn't home yet, and another, Rocky, who is in the Dakota-Winnipeg Mission--serving his own mission! He has to be the only missionary from Trinidad. Boy, were we surprised! We decided to write to them from the US and let them know of the visit. Should be interesting.

Then we looked up another ten year old reference, left them a Book of Mormon. Another reference, one more, and then home. A but would not take us aboard ("... There is no room on this bus… "though it was half empty), but we soon caught a taxi for 75 cents that took us to downtown, and then home to Woodbrook.

We had a light dinner, and then held a short Testimony/Sacrament Meeting. Elder Jorgensen directed. We sang one verse of "Oid El Toque del Clarin" and Elder Jorgensen offered the opening prayer. We then partook of the Sacrament. Elder Jorgensen blessed the bread; I blessed the water. After that, Elder Jorgensen bore his testimony, followed by my own. We then sang "We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet" (1st verse only) and knelt in closing prayer. It was a very beautiful experience, and shall not be forgotten for a long, long time.

24 March 1975

Happy Anniversary! Two years ago today I was in the Mission Home in Salt Lake City! Congratulations to me.

This morning was great. We left before 9:00 AM for Pan Am's downtown office to straighten up our ticket problem--and now it's no problem. We stay until Wednesday morning.

Headed up to Belmont for a reference that wasn't there, and walked way up in Cascade to find another that wasn't there. But on our way out, we started walking towards Queens Park Savannah, and ran into Hermano Julio Cesar Perez from Barquisimeto (Venezuela)--the one we met in Cachamay in Puerto Ordaz about 2 months ago. He was then en route to Trinidad. I almost died. We went up to his "Flat" and talked for awhile. He's doing fine but would like to have more information or missionaries on hand to help teach the people here. It was sure a surprise and a privilege to meet Hermano Perez there.

After lunch, we headed downtown to catch a taxi down to San Fernando, about an hour away. We got to San Fernando at about 4:00 or 4:30 PM, which didn't give us very much time to look up all of the references. We went to one who had since moved to another part of town, but who worked downtown. So we made a couple of other contacts--one very special one where they really felt great… and grateful. We then returned to the first house and got directions on how to get to Mr. Muradale's work. Walked down, found him there and made a good contact. Turns out he's a radio station owner, and has contact with most of the city. We, therefore, asked him to contact several others for us, and we looked for two more. One was a Hindu family who also gave us their "Bible" or the basis of their religion. One other and we were out of time.

Caught a taxi home and made it by 9:45 PM. So, with 15 minutes left, we went looking for some root beer, which we did not find. But we had already had 2 cans earlier in the day, so we weren't too let down.

25 March 1975

Slow morning. We got out and looked up 3 references, from one end of Port of Spain to the other. One old man was on another island, and family set up a visit for tonight and one didn't exist. The Fernandes Family moved a few months ago and didn't leave a forwarding address. We tried to find some more root beer, but were again unsuccessful in our attempt. Bought some postcards to send to the USA and Venezuela. Typical cards that show what Trinidad is like. It's hot today.

We left in the afternoon and went straight to the city of St. Joseph. There we found the parents of a reference that was a few years old, and he had married and lived in some other part of the world. More on that later.

Then we went to Barataria, then to Morvant--finding either moved or otherwise not-there references. Then we headed back to give a C Discussion to the Majabir Family, and it went very well. They offered to help us financially, but we told them to bless the building fund in the future, when we build our chapel there.

We left there about 8:45 PM, heading for another quick visit--the one we heard about at the start of the afternoon, the one that was now married and lived across the world. When we got there, the lights were out, and it was an impoverished-looking house. We weren't too enthusiastic about it. But we knocked downstairs--no answer. So we walked up these side stairs, knocked and "Who's there?" was the reply. About 2 minutes later, a man standing in a towel answered the door, and, after a brief explanation, he invited us inside. He excused his appearance and the condition of the house--it was quite messy, and asked us to explain more about who we were and what we were doing there at such a late hour (9:00 PM). His wife was still in bed, which took up most of the "House" and the four children were spread throughout the rest of the house. We talked and soon became friends. I felt very, very comfortable and happy, despite the surrounding circumstances. I hope to hear from that family before too long.

My final thoughts before leaving our "Tropical paradise" are these: I am eternally grateful for the privilege of going to Trinidad. I'll never forget the people or the work done here in these last 5 days. The type of work we did was quick, but very satisfying. I pray that these people may take to heart our message and do something for their salvation.

The people are great. I love the (British) accent, the life and the law and order here, the attitude of the people in general. I hope that Trinidad may one day find herself among the stalwart stakes of Zion, led by a Trinidadian of true conviction. I am thankful for the testimony no only gained, but the testimony we have left with these very fine sons and daughters of God… my Trinidadian brothers and sisters.

26 March 1975

Piarco Airport, 9:40 AM. We're really leaving! We've checked our bags, stamped our tickets and have really done all those preparations… we're going home! Oh, that dreadful day has come. We are REALLY on our way home. Maybe the plane will be delayed--there's always hope.

Got out no problem. Just getting to JFK International Airport and those darned Customs… "

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Books written by Jean Borde are Copyrighted under the laws of Trinidad & Tobago. No reproduction in digital or print form should be made of his works without referencing this site as the source. Commercial reproduction prohibited. Members of the Church are free to copy for non-profit use in lessons, talks, etc.


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