Patrick McKay is an apostle for the Joint Conference of Restoration Branches (JCRB.) He’ll discuss breaking away from the RLDS Church, and his attempts to unify the Restoration Movement. We’ll talk about how he uses the Book of Mormon to do that. I’ll also ask him about archaeological, DNA, and other problems with the Book of Mormon, and whether he thinks he could unify with polygamist groups.  Check out our conversation…

Who is Patrick McKay?


GT  00:48  Welcome to Gospel Tangents. I’m excited to have apostle from the Joint Conference of Restoration Branches. Is that right?

Patrick  00:57  That’s correct.

GT  00:57  All right. So, tell us your name. And we want to learn a little bit more about the JCRB.

Patrick  01:02  Okay, my name is Patrick McKay. And I am an apostle in the Joint Conference of Restoration Branches. You know, there’s apostles in all the restoration groups and people worry, there’s 12, 24, 48. I’m not concerned. It’s more about function, than it is form. And every branch the restoration has some divine inspiration, or at least belief in a divine inspiration of what God’s planned for them. And we come out of the Reorganization. We’re trying to remain faithful to what we originally embraced as a church, and we do a lot of missionary work. And we have Seventies. Seventies, according to latter day revelation, are to labor under at the direction of the apostles. So that’s why we have them.

GT  01:47  Okay, so do you have 12 apostles?

Patrick  01:49  We have eight.

GT  01:50  Eight, okay. I’ve always wondered, it sounds like the JCRB, did they start in about 1984, after the revelation on women in the priesthood in–well, now Community of Christ? It used to be the RLDS Church.

Patrick  02:06  No, in 1984, there was one independent branch that was formed. It was called the Independence Branch, and I happened to be one of the charter members. We had studied for a couple of years. We had had our licenses removed in the church, what they call a silencing.

GT  02:23  Oh.

Patrick  02:24  Because we had met in some alternative settings on non-scripted Sundays, or whatever. And as a result of that, the church silenced people who met in these alternative settings. So, for a couple of years, we had nowhere to go to church. So, we simply met and studied and looked at the early history of the reorganization and felt that we could form branches that work continue through that avenue. If there was an elder, then a branch could be raised up. And we did that. So, a lot of years went by before we believed that we could create a conference. And that happened in 2005. There was initial effort to gather people to talk about a conference. We met in the historic Stone Church. Then later that year, we held our first conference, and we invited as many people in the restoration branch movement as we could possibly contact. We had 76 branches attend the first conference.

GT  03:20  Wow.

Patrick  03:21  That was national and international. So, it was it was a Branch conference, the way we designed it, was a branch would have one delegate vote. And every 25 members would get another delegate vote. That way, people that didn’t live in [the] Independence area could have representation at the conference. So, in 2005, in 2008, we had a group of Restoration 70 that had petitioned the conference for three years, asking, “Could they regenerate the Quorum of Seventy.” It’s an interesting office. It’s self-perpetuating, but they need conference approval. So, in 2008, the conference had what they felt was some inspiration to accept that and they authorized that and 10 men were chosen to be Seventies, in addition to the four they had. So, as a result of that, the conference began to take on a little bit of size and so forth. It continued to expand and we’re busy in about 23 countries. So, we have a bunch of Seventy that are laboring for several years. In 2016, there was a revelation that was presented. It was never written or never codified, as far as being placed in the Doctrine and Covenants. It was kind of like, in our church, a presiding elder has a revelation about a call to the ministry, and the congregation votes on it. But it’s not a revelation that’s considered a document that’s worthy of being placed in a book volume of Scripture. And so, the Conference accepted that testimony. A couple of names were presented. They were voted on, and they were ordained. And those two apostles, then, over a period of time, began selecting others. And so that’s where we are today.

Who Has Authority? “One True Church”

GT  07:35  Yeah, well, that’s great. I mean, one of the things I loved about the book was you really tried to get a lot of testimonies. In fact, I think it should be called the Book of Miracles, because every time somebody bore their testimony, it was about a miracle that happened, which I thought was great. But I loved how you tried to get different voices of the Restoration, throughout. I guess one of the things that I’ve been struck by is the Strangites. I believe you had some Strangites in there, is that right? {Patrick nods.} The reason I asked that is one of their beliefs–they don’t have any apostles anymore, or prophet, and they believe–I’m trying to remember how they say it. “The lesser cannot ordain the greater.” And that you basically need an angelic ordination in order to become an apostle or a prophet, as the case might be. And since James Strang didn’t ordain any new apostles, once the apostles died out, then there were no more. So, it’s interesting as you’ve gone to all these, there’s those different beliefs. If a Strangite came to you and say, “Well, how could you be an apostle? Did you have an angel ordain you?” How would you respond to that?

Patrick  08:54  Well, I wouldn’t be able to say that. But what I would say is, “There was a time when the Reorganized Church and the Mormon Church debated this vociferously. And the criticism to the Reorganization that the stream can’t rise higher than its source. So, the Utah Church says, we have the apostles. We have the keys, and so you couldn’t ordain Joseph [III] and so forth in the Reorganization.

GT  09:21  Right, yeah.

Patrick  09:22  But our position was, is that the source of stream is God and if God commands, there’s [not] anything you can’t do and so we believe Joseph, the third taught, that God could regenerate the church from a single elder, if he was commanded to do so. And so, within the Melchizedek priesthood is that power to regenerate, to reorganize, to recombine the church, whatever term we might want to use.  And that was the position of the Reorganization. It’s interesting, you brought Strang into this, because the two principal elders in the early days of the Reorganization, were both ordained in Strang’s movement.

GT  09:59  Right.

Patrick  10:00   In fact, Jason Briggs, who was chosen to preside over the formation of the Reorganization in 1853, on the strength of his office of a High Priest. On April 6, 1846, he was ordained to high priests under the hands of James J. Strang. And he became the first apostle chosen and then he, in turn, ordained the next six.

GT  10:22  For Strang?

Patrick  10:23  No, for the Reorganization.

GT  10:25  Oh, the Reorganization.

Patrick  10:25  So that became an interesting thing. And, he was never re-ordained, or he never had to set that down. Strang had been ordained by Hyrum Smith. He had been ordained a high priest. Strang claims he was ordained by an angel at the hour that Joseph was killed. But going back to just his priesthood, and William Marks, and let’s see. I’m trying to think, Zenas Gurley, as well as Jason Briggs, had all been in that movement in one way or another. So, it’s interesting. We’re of the persuasion and not everyone shares this, that when Joseph died, the church fractured. There were men in the ministry in all of these groups. And that begged the question, did they all lose their authority as soon as Joseph died, if they didn’t go one way or another? And we’ve been persuaded over time and witnessing and experiencing what we’ve seen, miracles that have been demonstrated in their testimony, that God is in the matter. He’s been involved in all of these branches of the restoration. And this book isn’t designed to say that one group is better than the other. I’m in the reorganization. That’s where God planted me. I have a testimony that the teachings that we have, I believe are scripturally based. But that doesn’t mean if I have authority that you wouldn’t have authority, Rick. We assume, because I have authority, you can’t. But it’s very hard to prove a negative. We can all say, “We have authority, but you must not.” And I simply believe that there’s a new day dawning for the Restoration, where there are people that God has planted in all of these groups, and it’s his intention to weave us back together.

Restoration Testimonies

GT  14:05  So, talk a little bit more about your book, because it kind of sounds like a Unity movement, Healing the Breach. Is that what you’re trying to do is get all the, I don’t know if I should say Mormon. I probably should say Restoration, rather than Mormon. Right? [You’re trying to get] all the restoration groups back together. Is that what you’re trying to do?

Patrick  14:25  Well, I believe ultimately, God says, “If you’re not one, you’re not mine.” And I think that’s an indictment on all of us to one degree or another. There’s a story in the Book of Mormon. I believe it’s more than a story. I believe it’s a true prophecy. It’s the parable that Jacob gives in the Book of Zenos, He talks about Zenos’ prophecy from brass plates. And it’s interesting he talks about how the children of Israel were removed from places and put in different parts of the vineyard, some in a good spot, some in a poor, some in a better, some in choice spot. But they all bore fruit. And Nephi, explaining the vision that he and his father had to his brothers, they didn’t understand. He said, “I can liken all scripture unto us,” referring to Isaiah. So, we can liken all scripture unto us, Rick, in our day. So, I think the various fractions of the Restoration are very much like the scattering of Israel. And all were blessed, regardless of where they went, some in a good spot, some in a poor spot, but they all bore fruit. And I think that’s true of the Restoration. All of the groups of the Restoration have been able to bear fruit to a greater or lesser degree. So, I see the day will come when we’ll be all grafted back into the same body.

Patrick  15:44  Now I like to give a little, I have a lot of metaphors in my book. And I like to think of it this way. All of these organizations have kept the Saints alive. They’ve stirred us and fed us and nourished us to whatever degree you think, like a mother does when she carries a child. But after nine months, and the baby’s born, what happens to the placenta? It’s cast aside. And I actually see all of the organizations of the Restoration, like a placenta. Eventually, they’ll be cast aside, and we’ll have a living, breathing body of Christ. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some organization. But we’ve become so institutionalized and there’s so much bureaucracy and maintaining each of our organizations, that we’ve lost sight of the real message of Christ, which is the Restoration of the House of Israel, preparing and gathering us and preparing us for the return of Christ. So, that’s kind of, in a nutshell, what I think about all the organizations. I think they’re all useful. And you can say one’s better than the other, whatever you want. But I believe God’s finger has been on all of them, to a greater or lesser degree, to keep the Saints alive until He moves to reunite us.

GT  16:59  Yeah. You talked a little bit about, in your book, about genetic diversity. Can you tell us that story a little bit better?

Patrick  17:09  Well, sure. In nature, if you marry within a certain family, all of a sudden you start having mutations develop. And so, if you have a wider circle, whether it’s with animals or plants or people, the chance of surviving is a lot better. You have a diverse field. And if you marry within the same structure over and over again, that manifests itself after time. And so, in the Restoration, what we’ve done, we’ve tried to remain pure, and we don’t want any wrong influences coming into our church. So, we don’t want anything to do with the Mormons, let’s say for RLDS or the Bickertonites don’t want anything to do with the other branches. They even say, “We’re not a part of any other Restoration branch.” And that’s their identity. And what happens is, it’s just like in nature. Certain elements come along, and we’re not able to deal with the disease or the shortcomings in life. And what we have is criticism against Mormonism in general. In the constellation of Mormonism, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Bickertonite or a Hedrickite, or a Josephite. The world sees us all as Mormons. In fact, if I tell people I believe in the Book of Mormon, they’ll say, “Oh, you’re a Mormon.”

Patrick  18:30   And I like to respond and say, “Do you believe in the Bible?”

Patrick  18:32   And they say, “Well, yeah.”

Patrick  18:33   I say, “Are you a Bible?” And so, they understand, but the world see us, really, Rick, more clearly than we see ourselves.

Patrick  18:42  We are in that same banner of Mormonism, because we’re not Catholic, and we’re not Protestant. Now, we may not be Utah Mormons, or we may not be Prairie Saints Mormons, but we’re all kind of in that same basket. At least, that’s how the world sees us. We would say, “Well, we’re not Mormons, or we’re not this,” but we do have a common identity, we go back to the same origin, we share many of the same concepts: the restored priesthood, the divinity of the Book of Mormon, the gathering of Israel. We believe in angelic visitations. We believe in the gifts of the Spirit, the fruits of the Spirit. We really have a lot in common, but we spent all of our time defining ourselves by who we’re not. “Are you Mormon?”

Patrick  19:29  “No,  I believe in Book of Mormon, but I’m not a Utah Mormon.” And that’s how we’ve defined ourselves. And that’s a negative approach. I don’t think you build success with a negative message. I think you’ve got to be positive.

GT  19:41  Yeah, very good. I mean, because that does bring up another thing. President Nelson, in the LDS Church, has just said that we shouldn’t call ourselves Mormons anymore. And it sounds like you get that quite a bit. Would you consider yourself part of Mormonism or Restoration? Or how would you prefer to call yourself?

Patrick  20:05  We’d probably say we’re part of the Restoration. If the world refers to me as a part of Mormonism, that’s just an opportunity to discuss and talk about it. President Nelson did say we’d like to be called, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or we could just be called The Church of Jesus Christ.” Do you know how many Churches of Jesus Christ there are?

GT  20:26  I do know!

Patrick  20:27  Within the Restoration. In the Restoration Branch Movement, we refer to ourselves as the Church of Jesus Christ, this restoration branch or that restoration branch. There was a time when some of us thought we could reclaim the name, the Reorganized Church, and the Community of Christ sued us. And so, they trademarked the name. They don’t use it, but they warehouse it, no one else can use it. So, we call ourselves the Church of Jesus Christ-Restoration Branch, whichever one we happen to attend.

The Polygamy Breach

GT  36:01  So I think that’s great. One thing I will say, and this does point to the divisions a little bit, which I’m not trying to do. But, it does seem like the LDS Church, especially with the Community of Christ and Restoration branches is pretty open to these kinds of interfaith councils. I remember speaking with Benjamin Shaffer. He’s a part one of these polygamist groups. It does seem like the polygamist groups, especially, still get excluded. And I know there’s a big issue, theologically, with that. But can you speak to that? Are you open to what we would call fundamentalist Mormons joining these kinds of things as long as they’re talking about the Book of Mormon?

Patrick  36:52  That’s an interesting question. And of course, that’s a significant issue with most of Mormonism, except Utah Mormonism has accepted it as part of their history. The Reorganization not only doesn’t believe in polygamy, they don’t believe Joseph authored it. So, it’s on the horns of those dilemmas that we’ve had this opposition all these years. I’m open to having dialogue with anyone. But you don’t want to cut your nose off to spite your face. And that’s a step that’s pretty hard for most people to accept, not someone who says [that] we believed in polygamy in the past, but to say that we practice polygamy today. It’s a little bit difficult. But I’d be willing to talk to anybody, whether they’re a polygamist or not. But that’s a big step to take. And you realize that you could scuttle something that you’re trying to do, if you get so wide that people feel that that’s too far a reach for us. It’s a pretty far reach for people to open their church up and let a Mormon come and speak behind their pulpit. So, that’s just how, pragmatically, how it works, Rick.

GT  38:06  Okay, so it is still pretty hard to accept the polygamous groups in there, just because of polygamy is such a controversial topic?

Patrick  38:17  Yeah, I think it’s, I think, for most Christians, and for most Latter Day Saints, if we exclude the Utah church for a moment, I think all of them would have a problem with the idea of a practicing polygamist, of having compatibility. What we’ve tried to do in our gatherings together, we’ve tried to come together on what we agree on, what our commonality is, and that’s the Book of Mormon. And, of course, the Book of Mormon is much stronger than the Bible is. It says David and Solomon had many wives and concubines, which thing was an abomination. Now, the Utah Church has interpreted that, “Except I command you,” and so forth. But the rest of the Restoration doesn’t view that chapter that way. Anyway, the Book of Mormon does condemn polygamy, at least from our vantage point. So that’s a wide stretch to include a polygamist in our fellowship like that. They’d certainly be welcome to come, and I’d be willing to talk to anybody. But I think on a larger platform, to invite people to come, I think that’s a big stretch. I mean, that’s just my opinion.

GT  39:26  Well, it’s funny because, I don’t know how familiar you are with polygamist groups. I know Lindsay Hansen Park. She has a podcast called Year of Polygamy. She’s really been instrumental, recently. I think within the last couple of years, Utah has decriminalized polygamy. She was part of that legislative effort to do that. She says part of the problem is when we exclude people, it allows people like one Warren Jeffs to thrive. Because they’ve been excluded, they can’t get any help from the LDS Church, which obviously here in Utah is a big deal. And it’s [the exclusion has] allowed a lot of abuses to happen. Warren has been marrying underage women and all sorts of things. And she says, “It’s because of this exclusion, that it allows a lot of criminals [to thrive.]” Warren Jeffs is in a Texas jail, and should be for the rest of his life, as far as I’m concerned because of the abuses that have been brought to light. So, she thinks it’s better to allow them to be open, and she’s really tried to make a lot of friendships with a lot of fundamentalists to stop these abuses. I mean, I understand the theological [issues.] I mean, I have my own issues with polygamy, anyway. You and I have talked a little bit about that. I even have a problem with Abraham and David. For heaven’s sake, the Bible’s full of polygamy. So, I can see both sides. I can understand the polygamist argument that it’s a biblical [practice.] But by excluding them, doesn’t it allow some of these abuses to happen?

Patrick  41:36  Well, I don’t know. I haven’t really thought a lot about that in light of how you’ve just projected this. But look. Anybody that’s a believer in the Restoration, the Book of Mormon, I think that they’re valuable. I think their testimony should be heard. Now, there’s ways in which we can’t go.

We learn more about his movement, disagreements with the Community of Christ, and his personal beliefs, including British Israelism. Do you think we should try to get Restoration churches back in harmony? Would you support a unity movement?