- Updated May 2, 2013
Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons, or LDS Church, originally known as the Church of Christ, and, for several years in the 1830s, as The Church of Latter-day Saints) was able to attract followers by his claims of supernatural visions of God, Christ, and various angels - dozens of such "visitations" are recorded in Mormon history and scripture - and by his production of additional scripture to supplement the Bible. He produced three books of scripture, which Mormons treat as equal or superior to the Bible: The Book of Mormon (allegedly a translation, made with divine power, from ancient golden plates that he obtained from an angel), the Doctrine And Covenants (a collection of the revelations he received from God, with a few additional documents added more recently), and the Pearl of Great Price (a short collection consisting of a divinely revealed portion of Genesis, called the Book of Moses, a translation made by Smith of some Egyptian papyri called the Book of Abraham, and a few chapters of Smith's autobiography).
Smith had not been dead long (killed by a mob in 1844) when successors to his prophetic calling appeared, likewise claiming divine visitations, revelations, and producing additional scripture.
Mainstream Mormons naturally consider that the succeeding presidents of their church (from Brigham Young to the present president Thomas S. Monson) are the legitimate successor prophets to Joseph Smith. They tend to overlook the fact that Brigham Young became president only after an intense power struggle with other Mormon leaders who asserted their right to succeed Smith (James Strang, Sidney Rigdon, David Whitmer, and, later, Smith's son Joseph Smith III).
But those mainstream Mormons should be aware that there have been others - many others - who have claimed Smith's mantle of prophetic calling, and with what would seem to be a story much like Smith's: visions, heavenly visitations, and the production of scriptures, both "translations" of ancient documents and direct revelations from God.
What must be embarrassing somewhat to mainstream Mormons is that with few exceptions, their own "prophets", from Brigham Young on, have rarely claimed to have had angelic visitations or produced the "word of God" in the form of new scripture, even though they pride themselves on being in a church which has "continuing revelation." What revelation they get from God is filtered through the words of the leaders, and not the exact words that God supposedly said to their leaders. For example, the wording of the supposed revelation ending polygamy in the mainstream Mormon church is unknown - it appears only as a report that a revelation had been received. (D&C O-D 1) The same is true of the supposed revelation allowing blacks to hold the priesthood and be endowed. (D&C O-D 2)
No president of the mainstream LDS church since Joseph Smith has attempted to exercise his office as divine "translator." Only two revelations of presidents since Smith have been added to their scripture (D&C 136, from Brigham Young, and 138, from Joseph F. Smith, dated 1918). No prophecies by any of them have been included in scripture; although many have prophesied, they are not included in Mormon scripture.
Unlike the prophets of the mainstream Mormon church, however, a number of Mormon men have claimed that God or angels have visited them, that they have received specific revelations which they have recorded, that they have translated additional ancient sacred records with divine help, and produced many volumes of additional scripture, dictated by God himself. And they have found followers, who fervently testify to the truths that their prophet has revealed, as confirmed by the Holy Ghost.
In othe words, their stories are practically identical to the story of Joseph Smith. The Mormons accept and believe Smith's story. Why would they reject the similar claims of these subsequent Mormon prophets? As one of them (Matthew Gill) commented, it is a difficult problem for mainstream Mormons: they will believe Smith, but not someone who makes similar claims and who produces similar evidences of divine calling.
Following is a summary of the claims of the most prominent of these Mormon prophets, with their websites. Almost all recognize Joseph Smith as having been a true prophet, although some claim that he "fell." Almost all have produced revelations and scriptures. Almost all were at one time devout members of the Mormon church, but have established churches of their own, believing that the main church is in apostasy.
And each one, of course, claims that all the others are false and deluded.
They are listed in no particular order below.
JAMES J. STRANG - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite)
Divine Call: Strang (1813-1856) had a letter from Joseph Smith appointing him Smith's successor, confirmed by angelic visitors at the moment of Smith's death
Scriptures: translation of the Voree Plates, an ancient record on metal plates discoverd buried in Voree, Wisconsin, written by an ancient prophet Rajah Manchou of Vorito http://www.strangite.org/Plates.htm, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voree_Plates
The Book of the Law of the Lord, translated by divine power from the Plates of Laban mentioned in the Book of Mormon http://www.strangite.org/Law.htm
Distinctive Doctrines: Strangites believe in the Gathering, in seventh-day worship, sacrificial ordinances, include women in some offices of the priesthood, practice baptism for the dead, an endowment ceremony similar to that practiced by pre-Nauvoo Mormons, and believe in Eternal Marriage. Historically, some members of the church practiced plural marriage, including James Strang himself. More on doctrine: http://www.mormonbeliefs.com/doctrine.htm
Official Websites: http://www.strangite.org/,
Other Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strangites
KEN ASAY - Church of Jesus Christ in Zion
Divine Call: established 1984; Asay claimed to be the reincarnation of Joseph Smith.
Distinctive Doctrines: There is no organization; each family is a "church": anyone who can testify of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Ghost is a "prophet".
Official Websites: http://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/
Other Links:: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Jesus_Christ_in_Zion
CHRISTOPHER MARK NEMELKA - Worldwide United Foundation
Divine Call: appearance to him (1987) in the Salt Lake Temple of Joseph Smith and Nemelka's deceased grandfather; later given the gold plates and the Urim and Thummim
Scriptures: The Sealed Portion: The Final Testament of Jesus Christ (includes The Lost Book of Lehi, i.e. the 116 pages of the original Book of Mormon manuscript, lost by Martin Harris) at http://www.marvelousworkandawonder.com/tsp/download/LEHI.pdf
Distinctive Doctrines: Nemelka is the reincarnation of Hyrum Smith; he possesses the Gold Plates and the Urim and Thummim.
Official Website: http://www.marvelousworkandawonder.com
Other Links: http://www.rickross.com/reference/mormon/mormon241.html
Notes: Nemelka has been accused of admitting that his story is false, and has been involved in litigation over his claims.
GOKER HARIM III - Brotherhood of Christ Church
Divine Call: formerly RLDS; after forming the BoC community, God appeared to him in 1997 with the Urim and Thummim (story at http://sealedportion.com/book/SP1intro.pdf , pp 14-15)
Scriptures: The Sealed Portion of the Brother of Jared http://sealedportion.com/book/index.htm, The Book of Remembrance of Enoch (translated with the Urim and Thummim) http://www.thebookofremembranceofenoch.com/, the Dead Sea Scrolls, RLDS scriptures
Distinctive Doctrines: follow Essene-like community pattern, use the Enochian calendar, use the Dead Sea Scrolls as guidelines.
Official Website: http://sealedportion.com
MATTHEW GILL - The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ
Divine Call: received 24 brass plates from God in 2006, which he translated as the Book of Jeraneck; accepted by his followers as a prophet, seer and revelator
Scriptures: Book of Jeraneck (not available online, only for purchase), Gill's revelations in Book of Prophecy and Revelation
Official websites: http://www.bookofjeraneck.co.uk, thelatterdaychurchofchrist.blogspot.com , (click here for video interviews)
Other Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Latter_Day_Church_of_Jesus_Christ
Distinctive Doctrines: accepts the Book of Mormon (1830 edition), Joseph Smith Translation of Bible, many apocryphal books of early Christianity; Joseph Smith was the last true prophet; Gill is his successor; Stonehenge was a Christian temple; early Britons were Christian
Notes:Church is based in England, organized 2007
AZRAEL ONDI-AHMAN (born Archie Dean Wood - no formal church organization)
Divine Call: Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother appeared to him in 1979 over four days and three nights
Scriptures: Song of God (not available online; more information and brief excerpts at http://www.thesongofgod.com/songofgod_page1.html)
Official websites: http://www.thesongofgod.com, (click here for videos of sermons)
Distinctive Doctrines: Gnostic, feminist
Notes: preaches in public parks in Boise, Idaho
DAVIED ISRAEL (born Gilbert Clark) - Order of the Nazorean Essenes, Sons Aumen Israel
Divine Call: appearance of God the Father and God the Son in 1974 in Anchorage, Alaska; Joseph Smith appeared to him in 1979; founded 1981 in Utah; Clark and followers were Mormons
Scriptures: The Oracles of Mahonri: An account written by the hand of Mahonri Moriancumer upon the gold plates taken from the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, translated by Davied Israel http://www.absalom.com/mormon/mohonri/index.html; Order of the Sons of Zadok; also accept the Bible, Book of Mormon, some Biblical apocrypha, Kabbalistic writings, the Nag Hammadi library
Official websites: http://www.essenes.net, http://www.absalom.com/mormon/mohonri/index.html
Distinctive Doctrines: vegan, monastic, weekly fasting, participation in "School of the Prophets"; Gnostic and Manichean basis; view Jesus and Mary Magdalene ("Yeshu and Miryai") as "messiahs"; many Buddhist ideas; ultimate goal: deification
Other Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Manichaeism, http://www.nccg.org/occult/Occult003-SAI.html (very critical)
Notes: structure similar to organization of the Mormon church: first presidency, twelve apostles, etc.
CHRISTOPHER C. WARREN - The Olive Branch, New Covenant Church of God, Mishpachah Lev-Tsiyon
Divine Call: 1996 vision of a menorah of olive branches, and the voice of Elohim
Scriptures: The Olive Branch (1000+ revelations and visions) http://www.nccg.org/olive.html
Distinctive Doctrines: Joseph Smith was misled by "fallen angels." Ahman, an Egyptian demon, impersonated Elohim. Observe the Jewish festivals. Strong Judaic influence. Polygamist.
Official Website: http://www.nccg.org/LDS-Page.html, http://www.nccg.info/
Other Links: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/New-Covenant-Church-of-God
Notes: Originated in England, moved to a compound in Sweden. Other names: Restoration Christian Fellowship, Independent Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Independent Church of Jesus Christ, and New Covenant Christian Fellowship
JAMES HARMSTON - The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days - Manti
Divine call: visitation by Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses in 1990 in Manti, Utah, who conferred on him the keys to restore all things. He is the reincarnation of Joseph Smith
Scriptures: Manti Revelation Book (Harmston's revelations)
Distinctive Doctrines: polygamy, all personal property consecrated to the church, multiple mortal probationss (reincarnation), use of "true order of prayer" to receive revelation, gathering of Zion to Manti, Adam is God, all original teachings of Joseph Smith
Official Website (archived): http://tinyurl.com/3n5m57
Other Links: http://www.rickross.com/groups/tlc.html , http://www.rickross.com/reference/tlc/tlc6.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_True_and_Living_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Saints_of_the_Last_Days , Becky Johns Sunstone article https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/102-30-36.pdf
TERRILL R. DALTON and GEODY M. HARMAN - The Church of the Firstborn and the General Assembly of Heaven
Divine call: Christ appeared personally to two founders and ordained them
Scriptures Book of Terrill, several dozen others, translated from ancient documents (list at http://thefirstborn.org/Firstborn/Scriptures.html ), plus all Mormon scriptures, Apocrypha
Distinctive Doctrines Dalton is the "Holy Ghost in the flesh", Gabriel and Elijah; Harman is Adam; polygamy, gathering of Zion
Official website: http://thefirstborn.org/Firstborn/
Other Links: http://www.talkaboutreligion.com/group/alt.religion.new/messages/3561.html
Notes: In 2010, Dalton and Harman were accused by law enforcement authorities of raping Dalton's daughter, having told her that it was God's will (www.ksl.com)
CORKY RA (born Claude Nowell) - Summum
Divine Call: 1975 appearance to Nowell in Salt Lake City of extra-terrestrial beings and a large pyramid. Nowell was a Mormon elder at the time.
Scriptures: Summum: Sealed Except To the Open Mind
Distinctive Doctrines: Some Gnostic influence; "Seven Aphorisms" (the original Ten Commandments), stress on sexuality, mummification, use of special alcoholic drinks in worship
Official Website: http://www.summum.us/
Other Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summum
Notes: No formal membership; maintains a large pyramid in Salt Lake City where the group manufactures its sacred "nectars" and performs mummifications. The group has been involved in litigation attempting to post its "Seven Aphorisms" next to public displays of the Ten Commandments.
GEORGE WILLIAMS, LELAND JENSEN - Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant (BUPC).
Divine Call: Williams' vision in 1862 that Deer Lodge, Montana, would be the New Zion
Distinctive Doctrines: Bahai and Morrisite influence; gathering place for Zion is Deer Lodge, Montana; Montana state prison is a temple because Jensen's incarceration there (convicted of sexual molestation) in 1969 fulfilled a prophecy.
Official website: http://www.entrybytroops.org/new-jerusalem.html
Notes: Williams was a Mormon, as were most Morrisites originally; Jensen was a third-generation Bahai. Jensen founded the BUPC. Present leader is Neal Chase (http://tripatlas.com/Neal Chase
GEORGE WILLIAMS, CHARLES FILLMORE - Unity Church of the Firstborn
Divine Call:see previous entry re Williams. Charles Fillmore (1854-1948) claimed to be the reincarnation of Joseph Smith. Present prophet (2008) is Douglas Wallace, who was called as a prophet by an appearance of the Archangel Michael.
Scriptures: The Spirit Prevails, by Joseph Morris, 1886 (668 pages; not available online)
Distinctive Doctrines: James J. Strang was proper successor to Joseph Smith; Morrisite, non-polygamous, believe in reincarnation; Jesus returned in 1909; Joseph Smith is a reincarnation of Mormon, who was a reincarnation of Paul
Official Website: http://www.angelfire.com/planet/unitychurch/
Notes: Wallace was excommunicated from the Mormon church for ordaining a black man to the priesthood in 1976, two years before the church allowed that.
Update 12/8/08! This church is apparently a hoax by a religious maverick named Darrick Evenson. Douglas Wallace denies having anything to do with this church, and the men whose photos appear as "apostles" on the church website are actually apostles of a different group and not connected in any way with the "Unity Church."
JOHN W. BRYANT (1946 - ) - Evangelical Church of Christ
Divine Call: 1974 visitation from John the Beloved; 1976 transported to the City of Enoch, where he was ordained by Joseph Smith and Joseph W. Musser to be president of the church
Distinctive Doctrines: polygamous, with practically unlimited sex partners
Official Website: (none)
Other Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_W._Bryant, http://www.nccg.org/occult/Occult003B-Ch1.html
Notes: Bryant was a convert to the main Mormon church and served a mission for it. His church, now centered in Salem, Oregon, has had various names: Church of Christ Patriarchal, Church of the New Covenant in Christ.
Philip R. Landis (aka PeoPeo and Cloudpiler) - Nemenhah People
Divine Call: Ancient records of Native American descendants of Book of Mormon character Hagoth discovered in Sanpete County, Utah, written in Egyptian-like characters, now being translated; Landis does not claim to be a prophet, or that the records are scripture.
Scriptures: Mentinah Archives, including the Book of Hagoth, many others
Distinctive Doctrines: Not formally organized, no distinctive doctrines
Official Website: www.mentinah.com/main/
Other Links: http://www.provopulse.com/?q=node/1538 - lengthy discussion pro and con, with long statement from PeoPeo
Notes: Landis is the same person who was convicted in the 1990s in Montana of a scheme involving selling training to grow reishi mushrooms
Francis Gladden Bishop - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Gladdenite)
Divine Call: claimed ordination to Melchizedek Priesthood by Jesus Christ; visitation by one of the Three Nephites, who gave him the gold plates, the Urim and Thummim, Moroni's breastplate, the Liahona, and other sacred artifacts; claimed to be the legitimate successor to Joseph Smith.
Scriptures: Mormon scriptures; claimed to have the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon manuscript
Distinctive Doctrines: Bishop is the "David" to rule over united Israel; anti-polygamy; Joseph Smith a "fallen prophet"
Official Website: none - the church no longer exists
Other Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gladden_Bishop, Google links
Notes: Bishop led his followers to Utah to take over the church there from Brigham Young, but was unsuccessful; Martin Harris was briefly a Gladdenite.
Divine Call: Divine appearance to him in 1969
Scriptures: Several volumes titled The Revelations of Jesus Christ
Distinctive Doctrines: Joseph Smith was a true prophet, but modern LDS church is in apostasy; blacks should not have been given the priesthood; Bulla has the "keys" of the restoration; claims to have disproved evolution
Official Website: www.artbulla.com
Other Links: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/artbulla
Notes: Bulla hosts a regular radio talk show and sometimes appears as a guest on religious talk shows.
Leland Freeborn, the "Parowan Prophet"
Divine Call: Saw a vision of World War III while in a coma in 1975, spending three weeks in the "spirit world"
Scriptures: None published; many prophecies on his website
Distinctive Doctrines: Nuclear war is coming
Official Websites: parowanprophet.com
Notes: Excommunicated by LDS church, divorced by his wife; no official organization
Samuel Warren Shaffer - Patriarchal Order of the Church of Christ
Divine Call: Multiple heavenly visions, beginning in 2004 while on an LDS mission voiceofzion.webs.com/myhistoryandtestimony.htm
Scriptures: numerous, at counciloftheseers.webs.com
Distinctive Doctrines: Racist, polygamous (for both men and women),heavy Jewish emphasis re ritual. patriarchalchurch.webs.com/beliefs.htm
Official Website: counciloftheseers.webs.com, samuelwshaffer.webs.com
Other Links: Numerous sites maintained by Shaffer (search the Internet for "samuel warren shaffer"
Notes: Originally a follower of Leland Freeborn (above). Also uses the name "Hans Woodman." Also calls his religion "Sanheddism" and "Veritanism."
Patrick R. Saucer - Nephite Church of Christ
Divine Call: Alma the Elder appeared to Saucer in 2008
Scriptures: The Founding Visions and Prophecies; The Nephite Order: The Code of Doctrine & Discipline of the Nephite Church of Christ
Distinctive Doctrines: Saucer's priestly authority goes back to the Three Nephites who established the Nephite Priesthood among the Tarish during the reign of King Henry VIII. Alma the Elder declared that the Dispensation of the Fullness of Time has begun and that Patriarch Saucer, the leader of the Nephite Church of Christ, was the Second Prophet of the Restoration (The One Mighty and Strong).
Official Website: nephitechurchofchrist.org, Church FAQ
Other Links: http://is.gd/cp6hf
Notes: Church is an offshoot of the Tarish Rite Apostolic Church; Saucer is also author of The Crimson Path a children's book. The church is apparently only an "online" church."
For an extensive list of other Mormon splinter groups, see http://www.4mormon.org/mormon-splinter-groups.php, based on Steven Shields' book Divergent Paths of the Restoration. Shields and his colleagues have a webpage with up-to-date information on the many sects of Mormonism at http://ldsmovement.pbwiki.com/.
See also the extensive listing on Wikipedia.
Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie suggested that traditional Christianity was false because of its many differing and conflicting denominations:Division and dissension, contention, confusion and discord - these are among the prevailing characteristics of the kingdom of the devil; and they are nowhere better illustrated than in the sects of Christendom. ... Existence of the sects of Christendom is proof positive of the universal apostasy. - Mormon Doctrine, article "Sects"
One could substitute "Mormonism" for "Christianity" in the above quote and come to a similar conclusion about Mormonism.
© 2008, 2009 Richard Packham
Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included
"...they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof'..."
- God speaking to Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith's History