Saturday, January 12, 19
To the membership of the Church of Christ,
As many are aware, a group in Brazil led by a man named Mauricio Berger has caused a stir among various groups of the Restoration. We, the Apostles of the Church of Christ were contacted by him several years ago, but we have never felt led to engage in a dialogue with him. We adopted a wait and see attitude because Mr. Berger’s claims are extraordinary in nature and he is asking all to accept his interpretations of scripture which teach doctrines that we have considered false for many years. It was our desire to no judge these matters too quickly, but after recent actions taken by their leaders it is now proper for us to comment and make definite statements.
We submit the following document to all the members of the Church of Christ and any others who are concerned. This document will give the reasons for out stand to not accept this effort as being led by the Lord, provide some brief history regarding this effort and clearly state our position concerning the organization of the Church.
There are four primary historical reasons that The Church of Christ has not accepted the invitation of this group. They are:
1. We have no working harmony with the other two churches specifically mentioned.
2. There are significant doctrinal differences which remain between the churches mentioned.
3. There is an attempt by this group to reintroduce priesthood offices that the Church of Christ has removed in the past because they are not supported by scripture.
4. The call for a “Paradigm Shift” which implies rebaptism, new callings, new ordinations and a new church.
These will be elaborated on later, but perhaps most importantly, after much prayer and fasting, no spiritual manifestation has been received and accepted by the Church of Christ that this movement is truly the work of the Lord. In fact, the initial experience of Brother Placido K. Matu that these were “distractors” seems to be accurately coming to pass.
A Brief History
First, we want everyone to know the Council of Apostles is not involved in any way with this movement nor have we or the General Church recommended or authorized anyone else to become involved in this movement originating in Brazil through Mauricio Berger.
Mauricio Berger, a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, first wrote to us in 2010 claiming that the angel Moroni had called him to uify the three restoration churches known as the Utah LDS, RLDS and Church of Christ in the land of Missouri. He also claimed that he had received the sealed plates of gold which were once delivered to Joseph Smith Jr. We were told that perhaps someone from the Church of Christ might participate in this work as Witness of the plates, and as a witness for the work coming through Mauricio in Brazil. It was later suggested that perhaps two could possibly be chosen from the Church of Christ to be these witnesses.
There was another letter received by us in 2013 that suggested there could be an even greater participation by the Church of Christ in this work coming from Brazil, but would depend on us accepting Mr. Berger as our new leader. It has now further been commanded through him that a complete restructuring of the church must take place through a “second invitation” to restore the Restoration.
We were admonished to become one with the Utah LDS and the RLDS by putting away our differences or be rejected by the Lord. The means for accomplishing this unification was through exercising love and acceptance of the priesthood of the other two groups. Then we must follow him (Mr. Berger) as the inspired leader from the outside of all three groups and build a temple together on the temple lot in Independence, Missouri. Mr. Berger promised that if this unity was achieved then the work which he described in his letters would go forth resulting in the coming of Jesus to the temple.
According to Mr. Berger the angel gave him the plates of gold, the interpreters and the sword of Laban. In one of the first letters he sent to us he included photos taken secretly of angels on a mountain top in Brazil and a picture of the sword of Laban for our consideration. No scriptures from these plates were supplied to us for consideration, even though our late departed Brother William Sheldon requested a copy to study after receiving Mr. Berger’s first letter.
The Apostles considered these letters and judged them to appear to be like so many others we have received in the past from outside the Church. Many have offered to save us, have been willing to help us properly dispose of our property and are willing to solve what they believe to be our problems. The Council sent out a letter to the ministry on November 29, 2017 advising great caution and expressing our doubts at that time.
We declined any follow-up to the group in Brazil based on several reasons, In the following paragraphs, we now want to share some of these reason in greater detail for the edification of the members of the Church of Christ. We have chosen not to put the differences between the referenced churches in the “shadows of the past” but to continue in the course God’s Holy Spirithas placed us on. We have chosen not to let our beliefs be added to by outside sources. Instead we have chosen to shine a light on a few of these differences and why they exist. To some this may appear as pride, however our sincere attitude is one of humility and to speak the “truth in love”.
Reasons for our position.
1. WE have no Working Harmony with the other two churches.
In 1918 the Church of Christ had a committee to explore a “Working Harmony” with what was then called the RLDS Church. The RLDS Church rescinded the 1918 Working Harmony in 1926. The Church of Christ then declared that the RLDS Church had become apostatized in 1927 through a manifestation given through James E. Yates prior to his joining the Church of Christ. To our knowledge we have never had any significant agreements with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints based in Utah since shortly after the death of Joseph Smith, Jr. We have never been able to unite with these two groups based on doctrinal differences. Even though we have beloved friends in both these groups whom we have never ceased to pray for, nothing has changed to unify us to these two factions of the restoration. In fact, in 2001 the RLDS Church change it’s name to “Community of Christ “ although they kept the rights to the original name.
2. There are significant doctrinal differences which remain between the churches mentioned.
As early as the winter of 1852 the following historical actions were recorded in early Church of Christ minutes (Crow Creek Record). After word reached us of great changes taking place in the group that migrated to Utah:
“…it was concluded upon by those Elders who assembled in said meeting to withdraw their fellowship from all such as departed from the principles of righteousness and truth, and to maintain a firm position upon God’s own revealed plan of salvation.
In the Spring of A.D. 1853, several of the Brethren and members of Christ’s Church met at Bloomington, at the house of Brother Adna C. Haldeman’s and in council there, declaring themselves free from all wicked factions and united upon the pure principles…”
During another conference meeting in October, 1853, “Much was said concerning the iniquities of the Salt Lake party and also of the other wicked factions of which every member present renounced and declared themselves free from all such, and resolved to take the Bible, Book of Mormon and Book of Doctrine and Covenants and build upon the same as a foundation for the faith of the saints.”
The members of the Church in Illinois were at that time receiving reports from other members who were returning from Utah who witnessed the practices of Polygamy. Some even reported that they had to escape in secret because they were not permitted to leave openly. It should also be noted, at that time the members of the Church of Christ did not know that many of the revelations had been changed in the Doctrine and Covenants. The years have passed and now leave us with these legislative actions concerning our standards of faith.
Conference: October 6, 1925
“Resolved that this Church of Christ accept nothing purporting to be a revelation from God, past, present or future, as a revelation from God, save that which is in harmony with both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Be it further resolved that if there be any ruling, understanding or resolution conflicting herewith, that it be hereby rescinded” Carried unanimously.
(History of the Church of Christ Volume 1, p. 161)
On March 17, 1867 a resolution was unanimously adopted by the Conference of the Church of Christ, which stated as follows:
“Resolved, that polygamy, baptism for the dead, (by proxy), lineal priesthood in the office of the presidency of the Church, and the plurality of gods iwht the doctrines of the exaltation of man to that of a god, are all false and basely wicked and we denounce them as such”.
Mauricio Berger has put forth the notion that three churches of the restoration can come together by just love alone without convictions to the truth of Christ’s doctrine. This can never be and has been tried in the past. The two paths of the other churches have taken each to a completely different place. The path which led to Utah guided by their president has taken them far away from those who remained behind. The path which led to lineal priesthood in the presidency has also led the other group far away from where we now stand. Although we can see each other and touch each others hands, those paths have taken us all to far different hilltops.
The path of the Church of Christ is a path of return. We follow this path to this day. We continue seeking for the original threads of our existence from the beginning of the restoration. Our path leads us to the two years in history of 1829-1830. We arrived there by being guided by two books, the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon. Our belief in those books is founded on the idea that God does not change as it is clearly taught in those books. The assumption that we can unite simply by getting along together is absurd. That would be like a bride trying to wear three wedding garments at the same time for a single ceremony. We can not wear the garment of the Utah church and they can not wear outs. Mauricio and Joseph have picked a form of the second garment and are no clothed with lineal priesthood and have two prophets at the head. That is a strange garment to wear in our opinion. We shall not try to fit ourselves into that garment.
Today the claim is made by the movement originating in Brazil, that the royal lineage has been restored through Joseph F. Smith who is a direct descendant of Joseph Smith, Jr. and a former member of the Church of Christ. This is contrary to our standing beliefs of more than 150 years. We do not accept a lineal priesthood, believeing that this was fulfilled when Christ arose as the final High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, a non-lineal High Priest. We accept no other royalty in our Church other than Jesus the Christ. (See Hebrews 7:22-28)
3. There is an attempt to reintroduce priesthood offices that the Church of Christ has removed in the past because they are not supported by Scripture.
The offices of the Presidency and High Priest have been abolished by the Church of Christ.
Conference: October 8, 1925, Carried
“Motion as amended: Moved, That as a Church we abolish the office of Presideing Elder over the Church of Christ in general and that we proceed according to the information contained in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.”
Conference: April 6, 1928, Carried, (Zion’s Advocate, May, 1928, p 65) “Whereas there is an increasing desire on the part of many in the Church, that this conference of the Church of Christ on the Temple Lot go definitely on record on the High Priest question, therefore,be it Resolved that the Church of Christ on the Temple Lot declare unalterable (sic) against the office of High Priest in the church, and that we look with disfavor on the ministry who teach this in public or in private. Carried”
These Conference actions removed these offices from the Church. Shortly after abolishing the office of Presiding Elder, the Lord began to call Apostles again in the Church of Christ. The church of Christ does not and will not accept the office of President nor High Priest. The movement from Brazil has formally accepted both of these offices.
The Church of Christ has observed through our own history, as written and witnessed by Joseph Smith jr. and the early leaders of the Chruch, that the Lord’s plan was for His Church to be organized with Himself as the head and apostles subject directly to Him. The Lord gave this understanding of His plan through the earliest commandments to the Church. In March, May and June of 1829, the Lord made it clear to Joseph Smith Jr., Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer the blueprint to organized the Church would be found in His words which they already had; i.e. the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
In March of 1829, prior to beginning the translating for the second time, Joseph and Martin were told the will of the Lord concerning the establishment of the Church:
“And thus, if the people of this generation harden not their hearts, I will work a reformation among them, and I will put down all lyings, and deceivings, and priestcrafts, and envyings, and strifes, and idolatries, and sorceries, and all manner of iniquities, and I will establish my church, like unto the church which was taught by my disciples in the days of old.” (Book of Commandments 4:5)
Two months later when Joseph and Oliver were in the middle of translating from the plates, Hyrum was given instruction on how to prepare for the work; by studying the Bible and Book of Mormon as it was being translated.
“…but now hold your peace; study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men; and also study my word which shall come forth among the children of men; or that which you are translating; …” Book of Commandments 10:10
The Lord understood what happened to the original Church established by Himself when He walked upon the earth. He began to prepare them and protect them from falling into the same errors that led to the Apostasy (added doctrines and concepts which changed the gospel and included the precepts of men such as that of priestcrafts.) Christ chose to declare by the early commandments to those first brothers in the Church the measuring stick of truth which was found in His written word, which had already gone forth and which was about to go forth. We believe that word to be the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon.
The 15th chapter of the Book of Commandments gives the following instructions.
“A Revelation to Joseph, Oliver and David, making known the calling of twelve disciples in these last days, and also, instructions relative to building up the church of Christ, according to the fullness of the gospel: given in Fayette, New York, June, 1829
1 Now behold, because of the thing which you have desired to know of me, I give unto you these words:
2 Behold I have manifested nto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written are true:
3 Wherefore you know that they are true; and if you know that they are true, behold I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written; for in the are all things written, concerning my church, my gospel, and my rock.
11 For behold I command all men everywhere to repent, and I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are called even with the same calling with which he was called.
27 And now behold, there are others which are called to declare my gospel, both unto Gentile and unto Jew: Yea, even unto twelve: And the twelve shall be my disciples, and they shall take upon them my name:
36 And I Jesus Christ , your Lord and your God, have spoken it.
37 These words are not of men, nor of man, but of me:”
Take note it was recorded that it was Jesus Christ giving the church this commandment. He who changes not. (See Hebrews 13:8)
The original commandment to the Church was to rely on the things which were written, i.e. the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon, for in them all things were written concerning His church, gospel and rock. These two standards were to form the blueprint of the restoration of the Church of Christ, later when the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835 three words were added (“for in them are all tings written concerning the foundation of my church…”). These three words added to the revelation changed the original meaning of the commandment and altered the direction of the church by permitting them to build strange doctrines which began the elevation of men to such things as presidents, an ordained prophet above all others, high priests, high councils and the exaltation of man in the afterlife to worlds without end.
The scriptures clearly teach that the raising of men one above the other is an invention of worldly men and should not be found among God’s People. “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto , but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28)
Here we would like to enter a scripture from the Book of Mormon that we feel expresses the great danger of having a president and prophet at the head of the Church.
“He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain, and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.” 2nd Nephi 11:106
Even though this group claims to seek the welfare of Zion they are reopening a closed door and setting up two men above others to be a light in their church. This is priestcraft which the Lord had in the earlier commandments said that if we will repent and accept that which was written by March of 1829 then the Lord woud remove such priestcrafts.
It is the generally accepted belief in the church of Christ that we are the ones who repented of that divisive office (first president) and it is through that exalted position (president) the vast majority of divisions have arisen and continue to arise in restoration groups. We have experienced the frailties of men in our own history which shows how one of the Apostles (1920’s Fetting) created a great division in our Church. We shudder to think what would have happened had he been ordained prophet, seer and president over the Church.
4. The call for a “Paradigm Shift” which implies rebaptism, new callings, new ordinations and a new church.
We now hear that the president of the high priesthood of this new church (Joseph F Smith) is requiring rebaptism and then perhaps re-calling and re-ordination of the priesthood, because the Melchizedek priesthood in all the restoration churches has lost authority. A complete break from the 1829-1830 foundation is being accomplished. This is a grave error which may result in even more division. We have been through this already in the Church of Christ. In the late 1920’s a man (Otto Fetting) rose up and claimed to be receiving revelations from John the Baptist. They began with instructions and prophecies about building the temple but ended with the commandment to be rebaptized. The revelations were challenged then and defeated resulting in many people leaving our Church, but the Church remains preserved by the grace of God.
In regard to the re-baptisms now being commanded by the prophet in Brazil as well as the president in Missouri we offer our previous experiences with such heresy when that practice was halted by the Apostles and their decision upheld by the Church at large:
April 8th, 1938
Bill No. 6.
A few of our members of the church of Christ have received illegal baptism at Denver, Colorado, giving heed to the council of former brethren in the Church, T.B.Nerren and E.E. Long, et al, and some have affiliated themselves with church activities there which are out of harmony with the church.
Therefore, we, the Church of Christ (Temple Lot), declare that from that date of those unauthentic baptisms, we cannot and will not in any manner be compromised by their action, nor by their subsequent official ministrations.
The Church of Christ, by its official acts and ministry, kindly invites all such misled persons, who have thus withdrawn from the church, to renounce their unanthentic baptisms which are assumed to be for “the cleansing of their garments,” and that they renounce any nembership affiliations with those whose ministry cannot be recognized while they continue to act without the authority of the Church of Christ.
Those who will renounce their errors and turn from them, are entreated to do so, that they may take their places in the fellowship of the Chruch. The Church will welcome such gladly, and they themselves will tghereby be made to rejoice in the Lord and in the fellowship of His people.
We still pray for those who depart from the Gospel of Christ , and will be helpful to them if we can.
By the action of the Quorum of Twelve, this day and date, March 31, 1938, Independence, Missouri.
Leon A. Gould, Secretary.
It is also important that every member know that rebaptisms will result in the names of those rebaptized being removed from our official records.
April, 1992 Bill No. 1
RESOLUTION RE: MEMBERSHIP IN THE CHURCH CHRIST
Whereas, it has come to attention recently that there have been at least several individuals in the past who were baptized in this Church of Christ (Temple Lot) and have subsequently joined another church without notice to this Church of Christ; and,
Whereas it has been the policy and practice of this Church of Christ from the beginning of it’s existence to not allow membership in another church at the same time, because there is only “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism” of authority (Ephesians 4:5);
Be it Resolved that: This policy, practice and adherence to the Holy Scriptures of the Bible and Book of Mormon be designated as a standing rule of this Church, and;
Be it Resolved that: When it has been verified that a member has joined another church without notification to this church, that the pastor or the missionary in charge will give proper notice to the General Church recorder and then the said member be notified by the General Church Recorder of the withdrawal of their membership and their status.
Scriptural Position of the Council of Apostles Concerning Church Organization
It is our firm belief that Jesus is the last high priest, and that he abides there still in the Holy of Holies on the right hand of our Father in heaven. We offer for support of this fact the scriptures found in Hebrews 10:16-22 “…And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…”, in Hebrews 7:16-17 “…but after the power of an endless life. 17 For he testifieth, thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” And in Hebrews 7:22-28 “…And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 but this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.”
We further declare that there cannot be just one prophet at the head of the Church as the New Testament clearly states that there were and must now be “prophets” or more than one at a time in support of this we offer these scriptures:
1 Corinthians 14:29 “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge”, Ephesians 4:11-12 “Ad he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, fo
R the edifying of the body of Christ” and 1 corinthians 12:28 “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets…”
The Council of Apostles wishes to state its position
In the positive light of Christ which is found in the Scriptures of the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon. The historical path the Church of Christ has taken is firmly based on the Word of God as we understand it. We choose to believe that God has blessed us greatly through the years with the Church’s efforts to walk in that light of Christ, in whom there is no darkness nor shadow of changing. We also choose to believe that we are not bound by every shadow of the past. The Church of Christ has long held that Jesus Christ is our only Head, King, High Priest and Mediator for the souls of all men, women and children everywhere. We give our allegiance to Him alone who is blessed forever and we acknowledge that through His teachings we can be a blessing to those around us.
“…I perceive that it hath been made known unto you by the testimony of his word, that he can not walk in crooked paths; Neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round.” (Alma 5:34-35)
“For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing.” (Mormon 4:68)
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
The Church of Christ has observed through our own history and the history of other Restoration groups the effects of the office of First President. It is through this office that the seeds of division were first planted and the struggle for first place in the early church ensued. Nothing in recent history has proven otherwise. The data clearly show that at the death of Joseph Smith Jr. a struggle began for supremem domination over the newly organized church. We believe that by the providence of God, what is now known as the Church of Christ with headquarters on the Temple Lot was spared that struggle to a great extent. The blessing ofa merciful Creator helped us to rid ourselves of this great cloud over the church when that office of President of First Elder was abolished and Apostles became the highest office in the church subject to Jesus Christ the Head and to the Church itself. May God be praised for this wonderful deliverance. We will not now or ever subjugate our wills, this Church nor its property to any groups or movements who claim rights to these sacred trusts. We know that this belief is a stumbling block to many other groups who claim the Restoration , but we accept this as one of God’s purposes in us and for this world.
We do not believe that we are the only ones that God speaks to or loves or that He sets His mighty hand to protect and guide. We know that He is King and moves in every heart that will listen to His divine Word revealed and sends His Spirit to influence the affairs of nations. We also know that He uses small means to accomplish His Divine purposes.
We offer this short quote from Daniel chapter 2 and verse 44: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of Heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom, and it shall stand for ever.” We believe this prophecy in Daniel speaks of only one restoration and was fulfilled on april 6, 1830. We will not accept an additional second invitation and restructuring of the Church. May God bless us all in that kingdom! We also know that we cannot participate in any type of ecumenical Restoration movement that would betray our deeply held beliefs by diluting the original restored Gospel.
The Church of Christ does not claim to know everything that will happen in the future nor do we know all of His purposes in preserving us to this day. We do not know how or when the building of brick and mortar, stone and wood, walls and doors and other temporal materials will influence the history of the world, but we do know that God will provide in His own time. We also know that we are God’s Spiritual House and dwelling upon the earth. The Lord sent us back to Independence arriving in the dead of winter and crossing the mighty Missouri river on ice in covered wagons. We were commanded to gather and permitted to purchase the lots which were consecrated by Joseph Smith Jr. the Lord has a plan and purpose in us and there is a reason why we own the Temple Lot. We shall in this dwelling place strive to serve Him by holding up the Light of Christ in meeting together often and by witnessing when we are given the opportunity so that this spiritual temple will always have members until Jesus comes. We will retain that property for the Lord as our inheritance and will not implement any plans unless the Church of Christ is convinced the Lord has directly commanded us to do so.
“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” John 14:23
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaen and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all tings; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, … and find him, though he be not far from everyone of us; For in him we live, and move, and have our being; … Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art an man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winded at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent;” (Acts 17:24-30)
“And this I know, because the Lord hath said, he dwelleth not in unholy temples, but in the hearts of the righteous doth he dwell;” (alma 16:235)
We are commanded to persuade all men to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus the Christ.
“For the fullness of ine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved. Wherefore, the things which are pleasing unto the world, I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto them which are not of the world.” (1 Nephi 2:4-5)
“Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men unto repentance.” (2 Nephi 11:102-103)
Council of Apostles, Church of Christ
Duane Ely, Secretary