A couple months ago at the Mormon History Association conference in Salt Lake City, I had the privilege of meeting the prophet Frederick Neils Larson, the president of the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

By way of background: in the 1970s the RLDS church began moving toward a more liberal doctrinal outlook. Starting with the ordination of women and continuing through the change of the RLDS’s church’s name to Community of Christ, conservative groups within the RLDS church began breaking away and accusing church leaders of apostasy.

These dissenting groups broke away from the RLDS church and began worshiping as independent branches of the church, known as Restoration Branches. Many of these branches participate in the Conference of Restoration Elders, a pan-congregational post-RLDS organization that provides support to Restoration Branches and leverages the shared knowledge and policy resources among the different branches.

In 1999, a group of Restoration-minded Elders, including the past chairman of the Conference of Restoration Elders, began organizing the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on roughly the same model that the original RLDS church had used more than a century before. In April 2000, they organized their re-embodiment of Joseph’s true organization. Frederick Neils Larsen, a descendant of Joseph Smith, received a revelation calling him to be Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. He presented this in the Remnant Church’s General Conference in April 2002, which unanimously accepted it.

The Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints accepts the relevations in the RLDS/CoC Doctrine and Covenants up through 1959. This period covers the revelations received up to RLDS President Israel Alexander Smith, but excludes those starting with Israel’s son and successor, William Wallace Smith.

Frederick Neils Larson is the great-great-grandson of Joseph Smith, along the following lines:

Joseph Smith, Jr.
Joseph Smith, III
Frederick Madison Smith
Louis Smith Larson
Frederick Niels Larson

I first read of Frederick Larson in William D. Russell’s article “The Remnant Church: An RLDS Schismatic Group Finds a Prophet in the Seed of Joseph” in the Fall 2005 issue of Dialogue (38, no 3:75-106). I was fortunate to meet William Russell at this year’s MHA conference. Russell has an energetic mind and an infectious smile, and he glows with enthusiasm for almost every topic that he discusses. William Russell told me that the prophet, Frederick Larson was at the conference, and I resolved to meet him.

On the last day of the conference, just before lunch, I passed Frederick Larson in the hallway. I was in a hurry so that I wouldn’t be late for lunch, but I feared that if I didn’t take the opportunity to greet him at that point, I may not see him again at all. So I stopped him, introduced myself, and explained very briefly that I’d simply wanted to meet him. He responded politely and with a firm handshake. To my delight, he seemed to realize that I was interested in more than simply shaking hands, and he asked me if I wanted to talk to him further. I asked him if I could take a raincheck on that, since I was in a hurry to make it to lunch.

So I ended up catching up with him in the reception at the very end of the conference. I didn’t ask him anything on the record, so I won’t discuss the substance of our conversation here. Suffice it to say that he left me with a powerful impression, and that is what I’d like to share with you.

Frederick Niels Larson, or Fred Larson as he preferred to be called, is a humble man. We sat down together on a bench in the hotel reception room and talked, just the two of us. There is no pomp surrounding him, and there is no distance — imagine a general authority in our church asking a complete stranger if they wanted to talk further. In our conversation, I found him to be an articulate, forthright, and candid speaker as well as a perceptive listener. He has a penetrating and clear gaze.

Most of all, I was impressed with the basic strength of his faith in his prophetic mission, which he expressed as matter-of-factly as I might tell you the time of day.

In an earlier post, I commented on the grounds that we have for considering the revelations received by Stephen Veazy, the president of the Community of Christ church as genuine. I think the same goes for Fred Larson. Plus, though God is no respecter of persons, I have a belief in my heart (perhaps it’s just a superstition) that He smiles on Joseph’s descendants.

The Old Testament records the words of multiple prophets prophesying at the same time to different peoples with different needs. For some time now, our prophets have lead our church to become a force of good among the larger non-Mormon and non-Christian world, and not just among Mormons. It’s my belief that a Zion society requires boundaries large enough to include worshipers in many faiths.