The Price Preamble
Since members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have found it necessary to establish independent Restoration branches in order to maintain the original Restoration Gospel, a number of efforts are being made to develop organizations which would govern the branches and provide interbranch activities. Fearing that some of these organizations, such as districts and quorums, might exercise dictatorial dominion over the branch, and/or that the said organizations may not be permitted to exist by the Scriptures under the present circumstances, the Buckner Branch developed a pamphlet entitled “General Epistle of the Buckner Priesthood and the Buckner Declaration”, and ordered it to be printed. The purpose of the pamphlet was to be a “statement of intent in order to help clarify a number of issues … and help guide the branch through the Church’s present crisis.” The second and shortest portion of this pamphlet, entitled, “The Buckner Declaration”, is reprinted here for other branches to consider also. The Declaration is intended to protect the rights of the branch and ensure that democracy will prevail.
The Buckner Declaration
The following set of principles is adopted as a statement of intent in order to help clarify a number of issues which confront the branch. The principles are intended to help guide the branch through the Church’s present crisis until the Lord shall set the Church in order again.
Part 1: Relationship to the Institutional Church
1. The Branch is the Highest Authority.
Inasmuch as the leaders of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have abandoned the original doctrines of the Church, which has caused the world headquarters, stakes, and districts of the Church to be in apostasy, we declare that the highest remaining authority in the Church today is the individual branch. It is also important to notice that “the branch is the primary unity of the church” according to the Rules of Order and Debate (page 9), which Joseph Smith III helped write in 1891.
2. A Branch of the RLDS Church
This branch considers itself to be a branch of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, even though it is not recognized as such by the Church officials, and cannot use the name of the Church on its official documents.
3. A Clarifying Nomenclature
In order to clarify the branch’s relationship to the RLDS church, the name of the branch shall be followed by the words “proclaiming (or which proclaims) the original doctrines of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” on its official documents.
4. Independent of the Church Officials
Even though the branch considers itself a part of the RLDS Church, it is entirely independent of the Church officials or Hierarchy, and intends to remain independent until the Lord cleanses the Church (see Doctrine and Covenants 105:9-10)
5. The Reestablishing of the General Church
The branch believes that since the higher quorums of the Church are in disorder, they cannot be reorganized without a Divine command through a true revelation. The branch believes that this will happen in due time, but that the individual branch is in the meantime, and must remain until then, the highest authority in the Church.
Part 2: The Internal Government of the Branch
1. Incorporation Status
The branch shall maintain its own incorporation status.
2. Sovereignty of the Branch Bylaws
The branch shall maintain its own bylaws and be governed by the same. It shall not be controlled by the laws of an outside organization.
3. Ownership of Property
This branch shall own its own property and hold the title to the same.
4. Choice of Officers
This branch shall choose its own officers and conduct its own business meetings without any outside authority being present or exerting any influence.
5. Maintaining Records
The branch shall maintain its own records (though it may give copies to other organizations).
6. Confirming New Members
When elders confirm newly baptized members in the branch, they are to bestow the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and they may indicate that as far as the branch and God are concerned, the candidates are confirmed members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints with all the rights and responsibilities thereof. Persons baptized in the branch are automatically to be considered members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
7. Administering the Sacrament
The branch shall serve the Sacrament to those who are considered by the branch to be members in good standing of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and who have been baptized by priesthood having Divine authority.
8. Choice of Curriculum
The branch shall choose its own curriculum and teaching programs without dictation from outside organizations.
9. Paying of Tithing
Stewardship is an individual response to the commandment of Jesus Christ and His Restored Church, with respect to the paying of tithes and offerings. Until His Church is set in order, tithes cannot be paid to the World Church as directed by Doctrine and Covenants 106:1, and tithes and offerings should be made as the Saints feel led by the Spirit.
10. Calling of Priesthood
The branch shall control the calling of priesthood in the branch, but it shall not have authority to call priesthood to the offices of prophet, apostle, seventy, high priest, bishop, or patriarch (see D&C 17:17).
11. Control of Priesthood
The branch shall have the sole authority to determine which priesthood shall function within the branch without interference from, nor appeal to, outside authorities.
Part 3: The Branch’s Relationship to Associations of Branches
1. Association With Other Branches
This branch believes in cooperating with other Restoration branches – but in all cases the cooperative endeavor must have the approval of the branch. The branch shall always reserve the right to separate itself from the said cooperative endeavors by a vote of its membership, which vote carries by simple majority.
2. No Interference in Branch Affairs
The branch shall not be a part of any association of branches which shall have the authority to interfere, in any manner, in the internal affairs of its member branches.
3. No Affiliation with Other Churches
The branch is a Restoration branch and shall not associate itself with those groups or organizations which have formed new churches, and which attempt to fill the higher quorums of the Church by ordaining a prophet, apostles, bishops, patriarchs, high priests, or seventies.
4. Priesthood Quorums are Out of Order
Priesthood quorums are to be established only under the authority of apostles and the First Presidency (even bishops are unauthorized to form quorums – RLDS History 4:529). Therefore, such quorums are not proper under present conditions. In addition, they are for educational purposes only (D&C 104:31, 38-41). They do not have the authority to call, ordain, nor silence priesthood – nor to direct their activities. These are functions of the branch. We believe, however, that priesthood from the several branches should be encouraged to meet regularly for study, fellowship, and cooperative endeavors – but these should be directed by the branches, and not by quorums.
6. Districts are Out of Order
Since districts are a jurisdictional level of the General Church and have more recently been formed by apostolic authority, they cannot be formed, nor can they function, while the Church is in disorder. Therefore, any association of independent branches should not use the name “district”, or any other term that would imply an organized authority above the level of the independent branch. Further, districts as they currently function under the Hierarchy, and as they have been proposed by some Restorationists, are too dictatorial to operate among Restoration branches.
6. Reserving the Rights of the Branch
If the branch becomes a member of any other organization, it shall always reserve to itself all the rights listed in this declaration.
An organization of independent branches where any legislation, jurisdiction, authority, or autonomy is lost or ceded, implies that the highest organization of the Church is not the independent branch, but the newly formed organization. The formation of such an organization provides a precedent for further organization, which might result in attempts to fill the higher quorums or reorganize the Church. Such efforts are out of order until God commands it. The formation of such an organization also provides a ripe opportunity for usurpation of authority over the branches by one individual, or a small group, as frequently happened after the Church was scattered from Nauvoo. It allows for political intrigue that would undermine and circumvent any branch, causing some or all of its liberties and independence to be lost.
During the time of disorganization, the primary role of the Church as represented in its several independent branches is to invite and lead all to Christ, nourish and sustain the Saints committed to the Restoration work, and prepare the repentant for the establishment of Zion and the return of their Savior, Jesus Christ. Organization is not as important as preparation, and may be the means, certainly in the hands of unscrupulous and ambitious men, of further scattering and misleading the Saints. For this reason, any attempt at organizing independent branches into associations should be very cautiously undertaken, so that the rights, privileges, and spiritual welfare of each branch and each Saint are guaranteed.