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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Strangite) is a separate denomination from the much larger Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but both claim to be the original body as established by Joseph Smith in 1830.

When Joseph Smith was killed in 1844, several people fought for the leadership of the LDS Church. The larger portion of the church voted to place the leadership in the hands of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, led by Brigham Young. However, in the years that followed, thousands of Saints rejected the leadership of Young and joined a new organization that was formed by James J. Strang.

Opponents of the new group labeled them Strangites. Although Strang had been newly converted to Mormonism, he had devised an effective missionary program that resulted in the Strangites being the largest of the breakaway groups in the aftermath of the 1844 schism.

To the leadership of the larger LDS Church, the Strangites were apostates but, in the perspective of the Strangites and some non-affiliated church historians, Strang's followers were faithful to those components of Mormonism that they believed to be essential to the faith.

Followers of Strang wanted to maintain their identity as Mormons. They felt that they understood, and lived by the teachings of Joseph Smith about the evolution of religion. They believed that it was necessary to have, at the head of the church, a prophet with direct access to God, one who could potentially disregard yesterday's policies, doctrines, and leaders. They did not view Brigham Young as such a leader.

From the time that Smith formed the Church of Christ in 1844, Mormonism had gone through several theological and administrative changes.

Baptized by Smith himself, Strang was ordained as an elder in the church only days after his baptism and appointed to return to Wisconsin to determine the advantages that might be offered to the Saints there. Strang wrote a glowing report to Smith, which was received a few weeks before his death.

Strang received a response from Smith, which has since become controversial, recommending Strang to succeed Smith as the next prophet of the church. On the day that Smith is supposed to have written the letter, Strang reporting having had a vision of a future Mormon city near Burlington, Wisconsin, on land that Strang and his law partner owned. On the day of Smith's death, Strang received another vision. An angel appeared to him, anointing him, and gave him instructions for the future.

To Mormons who were disaffected by the leadership of Young, Strang offered something else. Having been visited by angels, he could claim divine appointment. He also discovered what became known as the Voree Plates, which his followers believed to contain the last testament of an ancient Native American, which was reminiscent of the golden plates found by Smith.

At least initially, many prominent Saints accepted Strang's letter of appointment as the second LDS prophet, seer, revelator, and translator. These included William Smith, Joseph Smith's only surviving brother, the LDS Presiding Patriarch. Smith's mother and other members of the Smith family also joined Strang.

Strang found support among the various Mormon breakaway groups.

Strang moved the church headquarters from the Voree area to Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, where he founded a town known as Saint James. The Strangite publishing arm printed the Northern Islander, the first real newspaper in northern Michigan.

The Strangites operated a shipping company that competed with the commercial port on Mackinac Island, leading to tensions. Simultaneously there was discontent within the Strangite community on Beaver Island, as well. In 1856, two Strangites shot Strang in the back, leading to his death a few weeks later. Vigilantes from Mackinac Island rounded up the Strangites on Beaver Island, forced them into steamships, and dumped them off onto docks in Chicago and Green Bay, deprived of all of their possessions.

Most of his followers joined a new Mormon group that later became the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which soon became the largest of the breakaway groups.

Some Strangite congregations remained loyal, however. Today, there are two factions of Strangites. Both are small.

As part of their canon, Strangites include the Joseph Smith's translation of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, early editions of the Doctrine and Covenants, and Strang's Book of the Law of the Lord.

Animal sacrifices, instituted under Strang's leadership, are no longer practiced by the Strangites.

Strangites reject the Mormon doctrine of plurality of gods, and hold that there is only one God the Father and that Jesus was the natural born son of Mary and Joseph, who was adopted as God's son.



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