Community of Christ, Remnant Church histories recounted at Mormon History Association conference
Expansion of the church into east Asia, rather than transforming the society, forced the church to rethink its foundational ideals, "which later proved to be a very painful process that went on for about 50 years," Shields explained.
"The church was beginning to discover that the God in whom it believed, on whom they thought they had a controlling monopoly, was bigger and broader and more awesome than they had ever imagined, and that God through the Holy Spirit had been and continues to be at work in all kinds of places around the world."
A re-thinking in the 1960s of doctrinal foundations, combined with expansion into East Asia, India and other emerging places during the 1960s and 1970s "fostered a new spirit of reflection in the church on every facet of our doctrine, our polity and how we use the history of the church," he said.
Following Shields' remarks, President Larsen of the Remnant Church said that as president he has an intense desire to understand the history of what some call the Restoration movement that traces its origins from Joseph Smith, his great-great-grandfather.
He explained the background of the Remnant Church.
"It goes back to the role in the RLDS Church, which in 1984 came out with a revelation, Section 156, which introduced the ordination of women, dedication of a temple to peace rather than to the Lord, and there were a number of other things that many of us who were members of the RLDS Church didn't accept."
An estimated 30,000 members withdrew from the church as a result, he said, and essentially formed independent branches around the center place, Jackson County.
Larsen said he and his wife withdrew but did not participate in any of the independent branches for five or six years.
"Out of that group, the Remnant Church was organized on April 6, 2000," he said.
He cited a revelation given to Joseph Smith III in 1894 to the effect that if the church should fall into disorder, it is the duty of its quorums to correct the disorder through the advice and direction of the First Presidency, the Twelve and the Seventy, or in case of emergency, through a council of high priests.
Motivated by that understanding, Larsen and other high priests acted. He said three ordained patriarchs of that group selected seven men to be apostles and administer the affairs of the church from 2000 to 2002.
"It was at that time that I came into the presidency," Larsen said. "I won't go into the experience that I had. My background is in chemistry for 55 years, and if I wasn't doing this, I would still be working in that field because I loved it so much."
He said he was ordained to the office of president of the high priesthood "and along with that office goes the responsibility of prophet, seer and revelator to the church."
The Remnant Church has the full organization that is in the RLDS Church or the LDS Church, he said. "Yes, we do believe in the Book of Mormon. We teach it. We use the New Translation or the Inspired Version (of the Bible) in our mission and preaching and teaching."
The church's membership is about 2,600, of whom 1,500 live in the United States, he said.
The headquarters building is a converted schoolhouse in Independence, Mo., near the Community of Christ temple and auditorium and the LDS Visitors Center.
The Remnant Church still believes Jackson County is the eventual center place of Zion, Larsen said.
Much of the church's budget is devoted to missionary work.
The Remnant Church, he said, finds itself somewhat in the position today of the RLDS Church in the 1880s, lacking the resources to do a great deal of missionary outreach.
"Our current approach is to curtail foreign and international efforts and emphasize the domestic outreach," Larsen said.