Nothing upsets Christians of other faiths more than the LDS doctrine of the Apostasy! One of the commonest scriptures they quote to argue against it is Matthew 16:18 “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” They say that that means that God would not allow the church to apostatize!
But that scripture is misunderstood. If it is analyzed a bit more carefully, it will be seen that it doesn’t mean what they assume it means. The first thing to note is that God did not build His Church on Peter. God does not build His church on a mortal man. If the Church had been built on Peter, then when Peter died the church must have died with him, because there has been no Peter on earth for the past nearly 2,000 years for him to be the rock on which the church is built. If the church was built on Peter, then where there is no Peter, there could be no church. So the first thing to understand is what the Lord meant when He told Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church”.
The Lord made that comment to Peter after He had asked His disciples the question, “Who do you think I am” (Matthew 16:15); to which Peter had replied, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). In other words, he bore his testimony that he knew that Jesus was the Son of God. This is confirmed by the fact that Jesus afterwards told him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). In other words, he had gained a testimony of the Holy Ghost that Jesus was the Son of God. When the Lord told Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” the “rock” He was referring to was the rock of testimony, meaning the testimony of the Holy Ghost, which is a personal revelation that Jesus is the Christ. The Lord was saying to Peter that He would build His church on the solid rock of personal revelation—the testimony of the Holy Ghost; and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. That is of course entirely true. That is why the
The second point is what the Lord meant by “church”. The word “church” has more than one definition or meaning. It can mean just a house of worship, the place where people get together to worship God. It can mean a local branch of a particular church or denomination; or all of that denomination. Or it can mean the complete body of the saints or believers in Christ, which constitute His church in the widest sense of the term—His spiritual Church. It can also mean the organizational structure of the church. The true
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:
27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?
When the Lord told Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” He was using the word in the wider sense of “the body of His true believers,” or His saints. And that is of course entirely correct. When we say that the church apostatized, we don’t mean that there were no more true believers in Christ left in the world. What we mean is that the organizational structure (as originally devised) was destroyed. The priesthood authority, hence the ability to lead and guide the church by revelation from the Lord was lost. The power to perform valid sacraments acceptable before God was lost. That is what we mean by the Apostasy of the church. We don’t mean that there were no more good Christians left in the world. On the contrary, modern scripture clearly states that there were many good, believing Christians left in the world, who had the Holy Ghost and a testimony of Jesus:
6 And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father.
7 Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of
What the Lord is saying in this passage is that in the last days (our day), He is going to restore His gospel (the
53 And for this cause have I said: If this generation harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them.
54 Now I do not say this to destroy my church (i.e. the church which already exists in the world, before the organization of the
55 Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my church (which already existed) need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.
56 But it is they who do not fear me, neither keep my commandments but build up churches unto themselves to get gain, yea, and all those that do wickedly and build up the kingdom of the devil—yea, verily, verily, I say unto you, that it is they that I will disturb, and cause to tremble and shake to the center.
This revelation was received at a time when the
Revelation 14:6 confirms the Apostasy: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people”.
If the fullness of the gospel was already on earth (i.e. if there had been no Apostasy) why would there be a need for an angel to come down from heaven to restore it in the latter days? Therefore it must have been lost from the earth at some point through an apostasy for a restoration to be made necessary.