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Splinter Group Bickertonites Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever
The Truth Network Radio
September 25, 2020 6:44 pm

Splinter Group Bickertonites Part 2

Viewpoint on Mormonism / Bill McKeever

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September 25, 2020 6:44 pm

This is a 3-part series featuring our final splinter group, the Church of Jesus Christ, also known as the Bickertonites. To read more about this group, visit

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Viewpoint on Mormonism, the program that examines the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from a Biblical perspective. Viewpoint on Mormonism is sponsored by Mormonism Research Ministry. Since 1979, Mormonism Research Ministry has been dedicated to equipping the body of Christ with answers regarding the Christian faith in a manner that expresses gentleness and respect. And now your host for today's Viewpoint on Mormonism. The Church of Jesus Christ, Bickertonites. Who are they and what do they believe? Welcome to this edition of Viewpoint on Mormonism. I'm your host, Bill McKeever, founder and director of Mormonism Research Ministry, and with me today is Eric Johnson, my colleague at MRM. The Church of Jesus Christ, otherwise known as the Bickertonite movement, not to be confused with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints headquartered in Salt Lake City.

As we were mentioning in yesterday's show when we first introduced this group, it goes back to the time of Sidney Rigdon. Sidney Rigdon was really the right-hand man of Joseph Smith, the founder of the whole movement. But after Joseph Smith was killed, there was a power struggle between Rigdon and Brigham Young.

Brigham Young won the day. Rigdon kind of goes off into obscurity, but he stops in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and starts a new church. It was known as the Church of Christ, known also as the Rigdonite movement. Later, another man by the name of William Bickerton would be associated with Sidney Rigdon. When Rigdon's church ends in 1847, Bickerton becomes a member of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he attends a congregation in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania. But as we also mentioned yesterday, in 1852, Brigham Young sent representatives back east and told Bickerton that he had to teach plural marriage.

Bickerton refused to do that. He did not believe in the doctrine of plural marriage, so he disassociates himself with the LDS church. Later, he would start his own organization. This would be in July of 1862, and so this is how the name Bickerton gets associated with this group. Now, we're going to look at some of the teachings of this group, but where are most of the members located? This, again, is a smaller group, but it's not the smallest.

This one is the second largest splinter group of those that are a part of the Restoration movement. 27,000 members is what I was able to find out, and of the 27,000, fewer than 3,000 live in North America. The rest live in foreign countries, mainly in Africa, where they first started a church in 1954 in Nigeria, and they have nine different African nations. We also have Asia, including the Philippines and India. Central America, very big for them, because they believe that the ancestors of the Lamanites from the Book of Mormon were located, and they first started in Mexico in 1959. Also, Europe. In fact, many of the leaders of the church have Italian surnames. That's interesting, because Italy is a big deal.

1947 is when it started, and then South America. Now, in the United States, again, not very big. 2,700 members. Most of them are going to be where this church was founded, in Pennsylvania. Twelve congregations.

We also have Florida, Ohio, New Jersey. They actually have six congregations on the West Coast in California, three in Arizona, and two in New Mexico. So we have them spread all over the United States, but they are very small churches.

Most of the congregations are going to have fewer than 50 members, and in fact, I could find none that had more than 125 members, and they call their church a branch. Now, the church says it's supposed to bring the restored gospel to the Native Americans of the House of Israel. They call these people the Tribe of Joseph, which is one of the twelve tribes of Israel scattered, they said, throughout the Americas. And so they have a special emphasis on missionary programs that are directed to Native Americans, and they also say, besides the Native Americans, that Hispanics from Mexico, Central and South America are also possible descendants of the Lamanites. What does the DNA evidence prove? That's an interesting question, because DNA evidence has not been kind to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Let me give you an example. In the introduction to the Book of Mormon, in the second paragraph, it used to say that the Lamanites were the principal ancestors of the American Indians. DNA evidence didn't support that, so they had to change this, and they took the word principal out, so where now it only says that the Lamanites are among the ancestors of the American Indians.

In my opinion, both statements are still false, but that's what the statement says today. As far as the Native Americans, they have had congregations in the Apache and Navajo tribes in New Mexico and Arizona. In fact, they established this in Arizona in 1961. I had a chance to talk to the widow of the missionary who started that movement in 1961 and had a very cordial conversation. She probably was in her 80s, and I just called to see if I could talk to somebody from that church, and the only people who belonged to that church were members of the Apache tribe, and also New Mexico was in 1971. So if you're thinking about this church, they're very big on planting any new churches, which I did not see they were doing in the last 30 years. But when they do plant, they want to be near a Native American tribal location, because they believe that these people are Lamanites who need the gospel. The purpose of this church, according to their website, and this is one of the splinter groups that does in fact have its own website, so you can find out a lot of information on this organization, but it says the purpose of the church is to fulfill the plan of God by bringing salvation through Christ to all people.

Again, you have to ask yourself, salvation through Christ to all people, what does that entail? And many times when you look at some of these groups, they don't give you a lot of those details that are necessary to really know where the church stands on this position. But it says also on the website that the Church of Jesus Christ will teach the gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things commanded by Jesus Christ. Now that sounds very similar to what the LDS Church headquartered in Salt Lake City has to say. And then they say that they are to draw Israel to Christ through an effort focused on the Native Americans of North and South America. So they do hold a position that was very much prominent in the LDS Church that Israel can be represented through the American Indians because they can trace, they believe, their ancestry back to Israel even though the DNA does not support that. The Native Americans are from what they call the tribe of Joseph.

So this is why they make the Native Americans a focal point of their missionary work. Now before we look at some of the doctrines of this organization, Eric, there was an interesting little controversy when Russell M. Nelson became the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in early 2018. Later that year, Russell M. Nelson came out with this decision to no longer have members refer to themselves as Mormons and to no longer ever refer to the Church as the Mormon Church. They even changed their website address from, because you can't use LDS either. And And to

Now here's where the controversy lies. That website address belonged to this group, the Bickertonites. And not just, but they also own I'm sure they were offered a lot of money by the Latter-day Saint Church to buy that website domain, and they don't have a real friendly relationship with the LDS Church, so they did not sell it to them.

I mean, let's just be honest, though. I'm sure that the great majority of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still go to their website by typing in the shorter version, And that, we know, redirects to, which is the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I've often wondered, does that make Jesus mad when they do that? Because remember, Russell M. Nelson said that you actually upset Jesus when you don't use the proper name of the Church, and Satan gets a victory when you do that. Yeah, it's kind of an interesting idea that they even think about that with their tech department.

Did they say, okay, what are we going to use for our website? is much simpler. To remember, is going to take a little bit more memory, and it's laborious, which is our complaint. We'll refer to it on the first time as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but we will not, in our writing, refer to it that way all the time, because it's 47 keystrokes.

It's just too laborious to write out every single time. Now, when it comes to the doctrines of this group, they definitely do not believe in the Trinity. Their website says, we believe in God, colon, the Father, Jesus Christ, hyphen, his Son, comma, and the Holy Spirit. But they don't believe in the Trinity, so I have to ask the question, does this mean, are they modalists? Well, this is, and this, by the way, is the first of 12 Articles of Faith, and we're going to continue to talk about this tomorrow, because I think these 12 Articles of Faith tell us as much as we need to know about this group, but they believe they're monotheistic, and yet they believe that God the Father and Jesus are two separate personages.

Well, so does the LDS Church believe this, and, quote-unquote, they are one in spirit, purpose, and accord. So right there, that's telling you that they're not holding to a Trinitarian view of God, but modalistic, I think you're right, is probably more closely aligned with what they're teaching. But if they don't believe that Jesus is God, and only God the Father is God, that would make them Unitarian. If they do not believe that Jesus is God, then only God the Father is God. So they could say that they're monotheistic, but they certainly, as they say, are not going to claim to be Trinitarian at all.

So, all right, so they don't believe that the three are one in essence. Now remember, they do not hold to all of the things that the LDS Church teaches. For instance, the LDS Church is that God has a body of flesh and bones. They say, no, God is a personage of glory. He does not have this body of flesh and bones, and as far as Jesus, they think he's the image of the Father, they believe that he was with the Father from the beginning, and born of the Virgin Mary, conceived of the Holy Ghost, which is not something the LDS Church would say, that he became man, established a church, then suffered and died for sins, rose three days after his death, resides at the right hand of God, and will return in a second coming.

But they don't hold that he is God in the flesh as Evangelical Christians believe. And what's also interesting is on their website, they claim that the Holy Spirit is the mind of the Father and of the Son. Well, that comes right out of Lecture 5 of the Lectures on Faith, which was decanonized by the LDS Church in 1921. But this was back when the church, the LDS Church, taught that there are only two personages in the Godhead, the Father and the Son.

In that same lecture, Lecture 5, it reads this way, And he, being the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fullness of the glory of the Father, possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit. It sounds as if this article from the 12 Articles of Faith came right out of Lecture 5 of the Lectures on Faith, that was once a part of the Mormon canon. As with most Christian organizations, Mormonism Research Ministry depends on the generous financial support of friends like you. If you like what we do and how we do it, would you consider helping MRM meet its financial obligations? Merely go to our website, At the right, you'll see a donate button. Click there and follow the instructions. MRM is a Christian nonprofit 501c3 organization, and your gifts are tax deductible. Not only that, they are greatly appreciated. Thank you for your support of this ministry.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-27 11:37:08 / 2024-02-27 11:42:57 / 6

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