OT SS Lesson #27

“Take an old piece of clothing,” our Sunday School lesson advises, “or a piece of paper that is cut in the shape of a piece of clothing and tear it into 12 pieces. Explain that toward the end of Solomon’s life, the prophet Ahijah prophesied that Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s 12 superintendents over taxes and labor, would take over much of the Israelite nation. To illustrate this, Ahijah seized the garment from the back of Jeroboam, tore it into 12 pieces, and gave 10 of the pieces to Jeroboam.”  The lesson teaches that the influence of wicked leaders was instrumental in dividing the kingdom of Israel after Solomon’s death.

The Savior taught that “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation” (Matthew 12:25).

I read this with some consternation, because lately I have been perusing a very interesting website.  It is a wiki collection of groups belonging to the Latter-day Saint movement put together by Alan Unsworth.  Does it surprise you to learn that there are at least 116 active groups and denominations which trace their history back to Joseph Smith, as well as 204 “Restoration Branches” and 154 defunct denominational groups?  And because many of these are secretive and insular, I don’t believe that this list includes them all.

One of the things that impressed me about the Mormon Church when I joined as a young adult was that Joseph Smith had received an answer and provided a solution to the tumult of opinions and the multiplicity of church organizations which surrounded him in nineteenth-century America.  I didn’t realize at the time of my baptism that beginning with his death, there have been serious divisions in the Church which continue to this day.  The more I have delved into the succession situation which faced the Church in 1844, the more I realize that several of the contenders for President of the Church at that time had legitimate claims.  The “main body” of the Church followed Brigham Young to the intermountain West, but those who gave their allegiance to Sidney Rigdon, William Bickerton, Granville Hedrick, or James Strang (and later Joseph Smith III) had good reasons for doing so.  The major movements can be easily viewed in the following visual:

Another major schism took place in the years immediately preceeding the Manifesto issued by Wilford Woodruff halting the practice of polygamy.  Many of the Mormon fundamentalist groups trace their history to an 1886 revelation given to John Taylor authorizing five men to carry on the work of the New and Everlasting Covenant of Plural Marriage and to ordain others to do so.  Other fundamentalist groups claim an apostasy in the LDS church and a restoration similar to that of Joseph Smith.  They ask their adherents to pray and receive revelation regarding the truthfulness of their claims, just as does the main body of the Saints.  A helpful chart of the major branches of the fundamentalist movement was produced by Brian Hales (click on image for clearer view):

When reading of the Divided Kingdom of Israel in the Old Testament, there is nothing which so reminds me of the situation the covenant people faced as the division among Restoration churches today.  Do you view the LDS Church as part of a divided kingdom?  Do you think it is justifiable to compare our situation today with that of Israel in the Old Testament?