Community of Christ
The Community of Christ is the second-largest of the factions arising from the Latter Day Saint movement started by Joseph Smith, Jr.. in 1830. Headquartered in Independence, Missouri, this church counts approximately 250,000 adherents worldwide.
The Community of Christ and Polygamy
While the mainline Utah Mormon church (which holds the allegiance of most of the world's Mormons) is known for its practice of polygamy, the Community of Christ never accepted that doctrine. Originally insisting that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with it, the Community of Christ leadership in recent years has come to recognize that Smith was indeed behind its inception. This has not changed their basic opposition to polygamy, however.
Comparison to Orthodoxy and to Utah Mormonism
Whereas the Utah Mormons hold to their "Eternal Progression" doctrine that says that God the Father was once a man, and that man can become a "god," the Community of Christ has always rejected this principle. Although traditionally affirming that God is indeed eternal, and the only God in existence, Community of Christ doctrine formerly tended to emphasize the complete separateness of the three Persons (while never going so far as to refer to Them as three separate "gods," like the Utah LDS Mormons do). This is in opposition to the Orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity. However, in recent years the Community of Christ has gradually shifted to a more orthodox Trinitarian viewpoint.
The Community of Christ emphatically rejects the "Book of Abraham" (with its concept of multiple "gods"), together with all Mormon temple rituals (Baptism for the Dead, "Endowment" and Eternal Marriage). Its temple in Independence is open to the public (unlike Utah Mormon temples), dedicated to the fostering of world peace and "healing of the spirit." Though its outward organizational structure is similar to Utah Mormonism, it held until very recently to the concept that its prophet-president should be a direct lineal descendant of Joseph Smith. Unlike the LDS church, the Community of Christ ordains women to all of its "priesthood" offices. Women's ordination is traditionally opposed by the Orthodox Church.
Unlike the Utah Mormons, the Community of Christ has no problem with the wearing or display of the Cross.
Affirming the basic Mormon belief in an "open canon" of Holy Scripture (a concept rejected by the Orthodox Church), the Community of Christ accepts Joseph Smith's "Inspired Version" of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and its own edition of the Doctrine & Covenants-- but not the Pearl of Great Price. Substantial controversy emerged in the 1960's and 70's as major leaders of the Community of Christ were accused of not truly believing in the Book of Mormon, and in general seeking to liberalize their faith. This ultimately led to a split in their organization in 1984, with its decision to ordain women. The mainline Community of Christ church has emerged in the early twenty-first century as a comparatively liberal version of Joseph Smith's spurious cult.
The Community of Christ and the Word "Mormon"
Interestingly enough, the Community of Christ has traditionally rejected the word "Mormon" to refer to itself or its members; many members of this church regard its use to be an insult. For them, the term "Mormon" refers to polygamists, and thus is a perjorative term applying to Utah Mormons only.