Two weeks ago, just after the completion of the Easter holiday, Elder Philip Gill, a Presiding Elder in the Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ, delivered the new church’s first Easter message to the world on YouTube. For those not familiar with this organization, it was established in England in 2006, and recognizes Matthew Gill as a prophet and Joseph Smith’s rightful successor. Gill translated a record delivered to him by an angel that contains the record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the British Isles who left the Middle East and journeyed to present day England. The translated work has been published as the Book of Jeraneck.
Elder Philip Gill, who is Matthew Gill’s father, sounded a voice of apocalyptic warning in his Easter message. Here are a few excerpts from his testimony.
What people forget is that the Lord never designed the world to last forever. … We don’t need [natural resources] to last forever. . . .
People don’t have to worry [about running out of natural resources or environmental problems] if they stay true to the gospel. The things that were put on the earth were put there for a finite time, and if the world were still in tune with the gospel, they would know this. We are on the verge, within a few years … maybe 5, 6, maybe less … certainly not much more, of the Saviour coming upon the earth again, reigning upon the earth for a thousand years, and taking care of all these difficulties. We will be living a priesthood life-living by the priesthood, living by the spirit. We won’t have to worry about if we’re going to run out of coal, gas, iron ore … whether you’ve got a big house, whether its being paid for, worrying about debts. That doesn’t mean that these things are going to come to us free. We’ve got a lot of things to do. For instance, before the Saviour comes again, the world will have to go through an enormous tribulation-we have to go through famine, pestilence, war, rumors of wars. . . .
What we need to live is a more Christlike-centered life, and a simpler life, and that’s what’s coming around the corner. It’s going to be forced on us in some instances because there won’t be the resources to have. . . .
We don’t want to live like that … we want to live a more Christlike life, we want to live by the spirit, we want to be able to … if you like … live a more family-centered existence, and for most of us, that’s enough. But when you see what’s happening in the world — pornography, pollution, degradation, family life breaking down … there has to be something that’s going to motivate the vast majority of people to want to live this Christlike life, and at the moment that motivation isn’t being provided by the government. . . .
The world is crying out for the Saviour to come back to earth again, and to take charge, and to stop petty rivalries and petty squabbling. Now here in the Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ, we have a wealth of learning to give out to the world. We have been given scriptures-we have the Bible like most Christian churches do-and we are a Christian church; we believe fundamentally that the head of the church is Jesus Christ-but we also have the Book of Mormon, which tells of the dealings on the American continent; of those people and their dealings with Jesus Christ. We also have the Book of Jeraneck, which tells of another people, that left the plains of Shinah, which was in the Middle East, and traveled towards Europe, through Europe, and eventually landed on British shores, and set up cities and villages here, written at the time of Stonehenge, and that tells of those people’s dealings with Jesus Christ. And don’t be fooled; Christianity goes back a long, long, long way before mainstream Christian scholars will tell you that Christianity happened in Europe. We also have the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and that gives us another insight into what the Lord wants for his people. So we’re constantly being led and inspired by our Saviour, and I encourage you to reach out to these books of scripture. … Remember, we are a proselyting church that is being led by a living prophet and a Saviour that talks to us on a regular basis and leads and directs His church on the earth. We only have everyone’s interest at heart. We want to gang together as a large group of people and prepare ourselves for the Second Coming of our Saviour. It is imminent, it is just around the corner, and keep your family on the straight and narrow in the future years. And I leave these words with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
I am struck not only by the sense of immediacy of the Second Coming (5 or 6 years from now!) expressed by Elder Gill, but also by the interesting combination of 19th-century Mormon discourse and more recent emphases of Latter-day Saint leaders, and what this possibly illustrates about this new religious organization that is trying to establish an identity that is clearly “Mormon,” but uniquely unlike other brands of Mormonism. A group like this faces a difficult task, as they not only have to establish an identity to separate it from the world, but also from the religious tradition from which it springs.
I’m intrigued by the emphasis on Christ and the stress placed upon clarifying that the Latter Day Church is, indeed, a Christian organization. I’m even more intrigued that the evidence provided for that claim is much the same as any given member of the Latter-day Saint church would give — “we believe fundamentally that the head of the church is Jesus Christ,” and that He leads the church via revelation to prophetic figures. Other similarities are evident, too. The denouncing of pornography and the secular assault on the family, the admonition to “live by the spirit”, and the counsel to simplify one’s life.
There are also some clear examples, though, of efforts to establish difference between the Latter Day Church and the Latter-day Saints. The prophecy that the Second Coming is “not any longer” than five or six years away is a sentiment Saints might have heard from Parley Pratt or Heber C. Kimball, but wouldn’t expect from Thomas Monson or M. Russell Ballard. The addition of an entire book of scripture is something modern Mormons might be open to, but probably don’t expect any time soon. The Latter Day Church, however, stresses the Book of Jeraneck as evidence of prophecy and revelation being alive and well today. Thus much like 19th-century Saints longed for the primitive church of the ancients, the Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ appeals to a longing for the primitive church of Joseph Smith.
*For those interested, Matt Bowman and Jacob Baker will be presenting papers on Matthew Gill and the Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ at the Mormon History Association’s annual conference in Sacramento this year.