The first prophet of the RLDS church was the son of Joseph Smith, Jr. named Joseph Smith III.
Joseph Smith III had a style of leadership much different than his father's. He also was a leader, but his ideas took the RLDS church in a path that seemed more like the mainstream Christian denominations. The RLDS church initially carried out an active missionary program to recruit LDS members over to their organization. It was believed that the credentials of authority of their organization which were superior to the LDS would draw Mormons in Utah into their organization. Because the RLDS church was opposed to polygamy (while the LDS church practiced it), and was opposed to other unscriptural practices that the LDS church practiced, many non-Mormons and Christians have cooperated with them. Likewise, the cordial relationship between Christians and members of the RLDS church continue. For instance, a R.L.D. Saint works with Saints Alive, a Christian ministry to Mormons and Masons.
Joseph Smith III was initially interested in Spiritism, but gave it up, before he became the RLDS prophet.
"Smith took part in the seances in Nauvoo for some time, but by at least 1852 his interest in Spiritism began to wane. Two significant events turned him against the cult and in so doing, may have paved the way for his eventual return to a form of Mormonism."5
Joseph Smith III spoke of his rejection of spiritism, "I feel it is not a part of the divine plan to allow spirits to communicate with mortals, and I can scarcely see how we can have tangible intercourse with departed spirits..."6
Since Joseph Smith, III, the leadership of the RLDS church has been passed down the line of his decendents. (See appendix for list.)
THE RLDS CHURCH IS OPEN TO THE OCCULT & SECRET SOCIETIES
Although Joseph Smith III sincerely rejected spiritism, the RLDS church itself has never taken a stand against the Masons or other occultic powers. That pattern was established by the General Conference Resolution 175 in 1874. Joseph Smith III said, "If they [church members] choose to belong to the Masons, or Odd Fellows, or any other secret organization, they are at liberty to do so as far as the church is concerned."
According to various Mason historians, many of the RLDS members have been Masons. The Mason Haywood states, "After the Mormons split, the mother group remained in Illinois, and later made its capital in Independence, Mo.; many of its members have been Masons ever since."9 Joseph Smith Ill's successor reaffirmed the church's open attitude toward Freemasonry when he rebuked in 1906 the editor of the Saints Herald for an editorial the editor had written. The editorial is very revealing in itself. It said, "that members of the United States Senate who were members of the Masonic Order might feel sympathetic toward Mr. Smoot [an LDS senator under investigation] in regards to the secret oaths by which he was said to be bound to the Mormon hierarchy, since they themselves took such oaths on becoming Masons."10 (Emphasis added.) This comment helps substantiate the Masonic references which state that legally and morally the Masonic Lodge and the LDS church are the same. Here the editor of the Saints Herald. Leon A. Gould, is equating the oaths of the Mormon hierarchy and the Masonic Lodge's oaths.
While the RLDS church gives some good advice against the occult to its members such as an article in the Saints Herald entitled "Magic and Religion",11 it has always given members the latitude to explore and participate in such activity. This has been an open door to subversion by the Masons and the New Age. It appears that the lack of safeguards has indeed permitted the
RLDS church leaders to shift their denomination in the direction of participating with the One-World-Religion that is has been established.
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