KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Leaders of three churches that trace their origins to Joseph Smith's revelations beginning in 1830 broke bread together Saturday evening at the Presidential Banquet, the traditional closing event of the annual Mormon History Association Conference.
The non-denominational group of Mormon history enthusiasts, founded in 1965 by Leonard J. Arrington, then LDS Church Historian, has been meeting for three days near Independence, Mo., scene of a violent chapter in Mormon history, as mobs drove church members from the city and ultimately from the state in 1838.
Seated at the head table of Saturday's event was Elder Marlin K. Jensen, church historian and general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Also at the table were Andrew Bolton and Susan D. Skoor, two apostles of the Community of Christ, formerly called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Richard P. Howard, the church's historian emeritus.
Seated near Elder Jensen was Frederick N. Larsen, president and prophet of the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
"It's a group that has special meaning for me in terms of the individuals involved and the institutions from which they come," said William P. MacKinnon, president-elect of the association, in introducing those seated at the head table.
If the seating lineup can be viewed as remarkable, it is because the leaders at the table represent churches that historically have had turbulent relations.
The RLDS Church emerged in the years following the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1844 from a loosely formed group of Joseph Smith's followers who did not choose to follow Brigham Young. Their hopes were fulfilled when Joseph Smith's son grew old enough to assume leadership of the group.
In 2000, the Remnant Church was formed after a schism in the Community of Christ resulted from dissension over developments in the church.
While the three churches have their differences, they do share a historical heritage. Hence, they are apt to associate in such organizations as the Mormon History Association and the more locally based Missouri Mormon Frontier Foundation.
Ronald E. Romig, outgoing Mormon History Association president was the Community of Christ archivist at the church headquarters in Independence until last year and now directs the church's visitors center at the Kirtland Temple in Ohio.
In the traditional presidential address, Romig gave an illustrated lecture about the life of Alexander Hale Smith, a lesser-known son of Joseph Smith, who, like his more famous brother Joseph III, became a leader in the RLDS church.
The conference next year will be in St. George, Utah, May 26-29.
— R. Scott Lloyd