The restoration took a dramatic departure in 1844 from the trajectory it was on in the years 1830-1844. Beginning in 1830, there was a church being formed. There followed structural development. Offices were being added. There was overlapping jurisdictions, common consent, and other parts in constant motion throughout that time. In March 1844, the church was left out of something new called “the kingdom of God.” Membership in the church was not necessary for participation in the “kingdom of God.” (See JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 97.) The “kingdom of God” is not the LDS Church and the LDS Church is not the “kingdom of God.” They are separate:
There is a distinction between the Church of God and kingdom of God. The laws of the kingdom are not designed to affect our salvation hereafter. It is an entire, distinct and separate government. (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 128.)
Joseph died three months after introducing the idea of a separate “kingdom of God.” Therefore, how it would have developed, what it would have accomplished, and whether it would be acceptable to God are questions left unanswered. What is very clear from the scraps of its beginning is that the purpose of the endeavor was to fulfill a prophecy from Daniel. This fulfillment would NOT be through a church established by Joseph Smith, but would instead come through another organization, whose beginning was separate from, and outside of the church.
The prophecy that this other organization (to be known as the “kingdom of God”) would fulfill is:
This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:31-35.)
Daniel related the foregoing dream, and then gave its interpretation:
Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. (Daniel 2:38-45.)
The interpretation makes Nebuchadnezzar the “head of gold” or the first kingdom of man whose influence would last throughout history until God reclaims rule over the earth. The project begun in March 1844 was intended to develop into the “kingdom of God.” Joseph explained the purpose and identity of the newly begun, but still poorly defined endeavor:
[T]he kingdom which Daniel saw was not a spiritual kingdom, but was designed to be got up for the safety and salvation of the saints by protecting them in their religious rights and worship. ..The literal kingdom of God, and the church of God are two distinct things. (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 128.)
At the incipient stage, a committee began a draft to set out the contours of the kingdom. It was never finished, and ultimately was abandoned, but the beginning of their draft work was approved, and the committee was given more time to work to completion. Unfortunately, events quickly changed and the draft was never finished. In their draft they explained the state of the world:
[T]here is not an original kingdom on earth that holds the rightful authority from the king of Kings and Lord of Lords, to govern his subjects: but that all the nations have obtained their power, rule and authority by usurpation, rebellion, bloodshed, tyranny and fraud; (JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 111.)
The document laments the state of the world under man’s rule and explained that,
the cruelty, oppression, bondage, slavery, rapine, bloodshed, murder, carnage, desolation, and all the evils that blast the peace, exaltation, and glory of the universe, exist in consequence of unrighteous rule, and unlawful dominion, by which the pure, the patriotic, the noble, the virtuous, the philanthropic, the righteous and wise servants of God have been persecuted, hunted, whipped, scourged, exiled, massacreed, sawn asunder, crucified and slain in all ages of the world, under all earthly authorities, and by every form of government, from murderous Cain, to the days of the exterminating [Lilburn W.] Boggs of Missouri; And that all the pride, corruption, impurity, intrigue, spiritual wickedness in high places, party spirit, faction, perplexity and distress of nations, are the natural results of these illegitimate governments; (Id., pp. 111-112.)
The problem remains still today. There is no government of God, and therefore no existing kingdom of God, and the first attempt by Joseph did not produce even enough groundwork to permit it to continue past the 1880s. (See JS Papers Administrative Records, p. 6.) It was abandoned, because without God’s directing hand there was nothing well-defined enough to preserve.
The LDS church has incorrectly taken the habit of calling itself “the Church and Kingdom of God.” For example, D. Todd Christofferson said in the October 2015 general conference, “the Church is, after all, the kingdom of God on the earth.” (Why the Church.) It isn’t.
The kingdom was not properly established during Joseph’s lifetime, but it belongs to the last dispensation. The kingdom of God, the New Jerusalem and Zion, are yet to be established.