Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Do Mormons Think of Evolution?

I have not come across an official statement from the LDS Church that attempts to directly answer that question. The nearest thing that I have found is this statement from the First Presidency, which does not tackle the question head on: Is Evolution true or false? But I think it is fair to say that officially the LDS Church does not accept Evolution. I think it is equally fair to say that the vast majority of LDS do not accept Evolution. Those who might would be a very small minority. Modern LDS scripture also affirms that Adam and Eve were real individuals who were created by God in the Garden of Eden. The only part of the story that may be considered figurative is the teaching that God made Eve out of Adam’s rib.

Of course the theory of Evolution has several aspects some of which may be true. For example, “natural selection” is something that can be observed in nature. It enables various species to adapt to changes in their environment. If you spray a population of mosquitoes with a given pesticide, for example, a small percentage of them that have a natural resistance to it will survive, and will then reproduce to create a genre that is resistant to that pesticide. But observable natural selection will always take place within a given species. There are no known instances, as far as I know, that through natural selection one species has “jumped” to become a different species. If anybody knows of such examples, I would be interested to hear it.

But Evolution, meaning the development of one species into another, and the development of higher life forms from lower ones, is a false theory that has no support either in science or in scripture. I believe that the LDS Church rejects that theory. This is in contrast with the Catholic position which appears to be conciliatory towards Evolution. Here is a quote from the Pope:

The Pope . . . also said that while there is much scientific proof to support evolution, the theory could not exclude a role by God.

* * *

In his talk with the priests, the Pope spoke of the current debate raging in some countries, particularly the United States and his native Germany, between creationism and evolution.

“They are presented as alternatives that exclude each other,” the Pope said. “This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favour of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.” Source: newsmax.com

I believe that the LDS Church would reject that teaching. There is in fact no scientific proof for the theory of Evolution. There may be proof for natural selection, as explained above; but that is not the same thing as Evolution. There are also many fossilized remains around which scientists can build a theory. But that remains only a theory. That is not the same thing as scientific proof.

The question of how you define a species also becomes relevant here. Interestingly, the scientific definition of species is identical scriptural one! In science, a species is defined as a class of living organisms with identifiable characteristics that can interbreed among themselves and produce fertile offspring. That is the key requirement. For example, a Bulldog and an Alsatian look quite different in appearance; but they are identified as belonging to the same species because they can mate and produce a fertile offspring. On the other hand, there are certain types of woodlice that look identical in appearance, but classed as belonging to different species, because the two cannot interbreed. Some animals of different species can interbreed, but produce an infertile offspring. A horse and a donkey, and a lion and a tiger are two examples. The following are some scientific definitions of species that I found on the Internet:

(biology) taxonomic group whose members can interbreed

A classification of related organisms that can freely interbreed

A reproductively isolated aggregate of interbreeding organisms.

A group of organisms that can reproduce with each other.

the taxonomic division of freely interbreeding population of wild or naturally occurring individuals below genus.

a group of interbreeding individuals in a population that is reproductively isolated from other groups of organisms

a group of organisms that share similar characteristics and can interbreed with one another to produce fertile offspring.

In the scriptures a species is defined in the same terms:

Genesis 1:

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

* * *

24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Thus both science and scripture define a species on the same terms; and there are no known examples in nature, as far as I know, that one species has jumped to become a different species (mutation of viruses perhaps excluded). God has determined the boundaries, and they are impassable. Scientific “theories” are not sufficient to overturn the decrees of God.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Theology of the Sacrament in the LDS Church

The main passages of scripture (apart from the Bible) expounding the LDS doctrine of the Sacrament are in the Book of Mormon, with smaller passages in the Doctrine and Covenants. I will quote the passages, with the most significant verses highlighted, and briefly comment on them afterwards. Jesus instituted the Sacrament among the Nephites in the Book of Mormon when He visited them after His resurrection. Here is the account:

3 Nephi 18:

1 And it came to pass that Jesus commanded his Disciples that they should bring forth some bread and wine unto him.
2 And while they were gone for bread and wine, he commanded the multitude that they should sit themselves down upon the earth.
3 And when the Disciples had come with bread and wine, he took of the bread and brake and blessed it; and he gave unto the Disciples and commanded that they should eat.
4 And when they had eaten and were filled, he commanded that they should give unto the multitude.
5 And when the multitude had eaten and were filled, he said unto the Disciples: Behold there shall one be ordained among you, and to him will I give power that he shall break bread and bless it and give it unto the people of my church, unto all those who shall believe and be baptized in my name.
6 And this shall ye always observe to do, even as I have done, even as I have broken bread and blessed it and given it unto you.
7 And this shall ye do in remembrance of my body, which I have shown unto you. And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
8 And it came to pass that when he said these words, he commanded his Disciples that they should take of the wine of the cup and drink of it, and that they should also give unto the multitude that they might drink of it.
9 And it came to pass that they did so, and did drink of it and were filled; and they gave unto the multitude, and they did drink, and they were filled.
10 And when the Disciples had done this, Jesus said unto them: Blessed are ye for this thing which ye have done, for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you.
11 And this shall ye always do to those who repent and are baptized in my name; and ye shall do it in remembrance of my blood, which I have shed for you, that ye may witness unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you.
12 And I give unto you a commandment that ye shall do these things. And if ye shall always do these things blessed are ye, for ye are built upon my rock.
13 But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.
14 Therefore blessed are ye if ye shall keep my commandments, which the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you.

The first theologically significant clause occurs in verse 5, where it says, “there shall one be ordained among you, . . .” This suggests that the Eucharist is a true sacrament. It requires priesthood authority to be administered. The next significant clause occurs in verse 7, where we are taught that it is done “in remembrance of my body, . . .”. The first part of that clause, “in remembrance of my body . . .” also occurs in the Bible:

Luke 22:

19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

1 Corinthians 11:

24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

The significant bits that the Book of Mormon passage adds, that is not found in the Bible, is “And it shall be a testimony unto the Father that ye do always remember me. And if ye do always remember me ye shall have my Spirit to be with you”. This adds clarification. It informs us that the Sacrament is indeed a memorial of the sufferings of Christ; not that we will eat or drink His flesh or blood literally. It also informs us how we are blessed spiritually when we partake of the Sacrament worthily. That happens when we are promised that we should have His Spirit to be with us.

The next significant passage occurs in verse 10: “for this is fulfilling my commandments, and this doth witness unto the Father that ye are willing to do that which I have commanded you”. Participation in the Sacrament, like baptism, is not a difficult or demanding requirement; nevertheless, like baptism, it is a token of our willingness to obey God’s commandments.

The next theologically significant passage is verse 11, which is a repeat of what was said in verse 7, except that this time it is in relation to the wine rather than the bread. And the last significant verse is 13, which states, “But whoso among you shall do more or less than these are not built upon my rock, but are built upon a sandy foundation; and when the rain descends, and the floods come, and the winds blow, and beat upon them, they shall fall, and the gates of hell are ready open to receive them.” This is a warning to those who add or remove unauthorized material to the Sacrament, either doctrinally or procedurally. They are building their house on sand; and when the winds blow and rains descend, it shall fall, and “great shall be the fall of it”.

In the continuation to the same chapter, the Lord then proceeds to give the warning to those who partake of the Sacrament unworthily:

3 Nephi 18:

27 Behold verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you another commandment, and then I must go unto my Father that I may fulfil other commandments which he hath given me.
28 And now behold, this is the commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily, when ye shall minister it;
29 For whoso eateth and drinketh my flesh and blood unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to his soul; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy to eat and drink of my flesh and blood ye shall forbid him.
30 Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out from among you, but ye shall minister unto him and shall pray for him unto the Father, in my name; and if it so be that he repenteth and is baptized in my name, then shall ye receive him, and shall minister unto him of my flesh and blood.

The interesting thing about this passage is that it uses the same language that Catholics like to associate with Real Presence. Well, since every church seems to have its own definition of Real Presence, I am willing to accept that term provided that I can define the conditions of it myself—although I would rather not use those theological terms at all, because they carry connotations and nuances that do not sit well with the theology of the Restoration. LDS is a new dispensation of the gospel. It is not dependent on those archaic terminologies developed in historical Christianity. It uses its own. Nevertheless, I will accept Real Presence if I can define the terms of it myself. My definition of it (if I have to use that term) is that the administration of the Sacrament makes Jesus “Present” with us when the promise is fulfilled that we will “always have His Spirit to be with us”. That is how Jesus promised His disciples that He would always be present with them:

John 14:

16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Ephesians 3:

16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love.

That is how Jesus has promised that He will always be “Present” with His disciples—by giving them of His Spirit to always be with them, and dwell in them by faith. The idea that we must literally eat His flesh and drink His blood is not scriptural. That is not what the scriptures really mean.

Chapter 18 of 3 Nephi gives a description of how Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper among the Nephites. The day after that event, Jesus visits them again, and administers the Sacrament to them the second time. This is a shorter passage, but still contains theologically significant verses that are worth discussing:

3 Nephi 20:

1 And it came to pass that he commanded the multitude that they should cease to pray, and also his disciples. And he commanded them that they should not cease to pray in their hearts.
2 And he commanded them that they should arise and stand up upon their feet. And they arose up and stood upon their feet.
3 And it came to pass that he brake bread again and blessed it, and gave to the disciples to eat.
4 And when they had eaten he commanded them that they should break bread, and give unto the multitude.
5 And when they had given unto the multitude he also gave them wine to drink, and commanded them that they should give unto the multitude.
6 Now, there had been no bread, neither wine, brought by the disciples, neither by the multitude;
7 But he truly gave unto them bread to eat, and also wine to drink.
8 And he said unto them: He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.
9 Now, when the multitude had all eaten and drunk, behold, they were filled with the Spirit; and they did cry out with one voice, and gave glory to Jesus, whom they both saw and heard.

Verse 8 again uses a language that the Catholics would tend to identify with their understanding of Real Presence; although it uses it to suggest a kind of “spiritual feeding”. Verse 9 describes how that “feeding” takes place: it is done, again, by being filled with His Spirit. The idea of physically eating Jesus Christ is not a theologically valid doctrine. The scriptures that are cited to support that are not correctly understood.

The theology of the Sacrament in the LDS Church is even more completely and comprehensively, but in a highly condensed form, taught in the actual Sacramental prayers themselves, which were given by revelation. Here are the two Sacramental prayers for bread and wine:

D&C 20:

77 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

79 O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this wine to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of thy Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

There are many theologically significant phrases in these prayers. First, note that the emblems are “blessed and sanctified”. To “sanctify” means to consecrate or make holy. This does not mean that actual emblems in themselves are made holy; rather, they are sanctified “to the souls of all those who partake of it”. The sanctification rebounds on those who partake of it by faith and in worthiness. In the early Christian church, all church members were called “saints”. That did not mean that they were sinless. It means that they had undergone the sanctifying experience of receiving the ordinances of the gospel, such as baptism and confirmation, but most importantly, of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. That is what makes us holy, or turns us into saints. If we wanted to express that in Catholic terminology, I suppose it would translate into “receiving grace”. But I don’t like using those old terms, because they tend to be ambiguous. “Becoming sanctified” is a more meaningful expression for me than “receiving grace,” which seems to defy a clear definition. This process of sanctification as we participate in the life of the Church is referred to in several places in the modern LDS scripture:

D&C 43:

9 And thus ye shall become instructed in the law of my church, and be sanctified by that which ye have received, and ye shall bind yourselves to act in all holiness before me.

D&C 59:

9 And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;

D&C 60:

7 And in this place let them lift up their voice and declare my word with loud voices, without wrath or doubting, lifting up holy hands upon them. For I am able to make you holy, and your sins are forgiven you.

The Bible also teaches that it is required of us to become holy:

Exodus 19:

6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.

Leviticus 11:

44 For I am the Lord your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: . . .
45 For I am the Lord that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

1 Peter 1:

15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

1 Peter 2:

9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light
We achieve this holiness primarily through regular participation in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, while observing to fulfil all the conditions laid down therein.

Returning to the sacramental prayers, there are other significant phrases that need to be discussed. Note first that the words “remember” and “remembrance” occur frequently in both prayers. That is the key word. “Always remember him” means what it says: always! It means remembering Him in every waking moment of our lives. Some may think that is impossible. I don’t think so. God has commanded it. It is through this constant, ceaseless, incessant remembering that we are guaranteed to have His Spirit to always be with us.

Other covenants we make are to declare our willingness to “take upon us His name,” and also to “keep His commandments which He has given us”. To “take upon us His name” means to be willing to be identified by His name, in other words, to become true Christians.

Latter-day Saints often describe the Sacrament as a “renewal of our baptismal covenant”. That is because there is a striking resemblance between the covenants we make at baptism (Mosiah 18:8–10; D&C 20:37); and those we make as we partake of the Sacrament.

The only other thing that needs to be added to this brief summary is that we currently do not use wine for the administration of the Sacrament, but water. This is because of a commandment we received from the Lord owing to the circumstances that prevailed at that time, as recorded in the following revelation:

D&C 27:

1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God, and your Redeemer, whose word is quick and powerful.
2 For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.
3 Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies;
4 Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.

Verse 2 in this passage contains more doctrinal insights into the theology of the Sacrament. It teaches that we partake of the Sacrament correctly when we do so “with an eye single to the glory of God;” and it reemphasizes once again the centrality of “remembering” Jesus Christ as the most important element in the Sacrament.

Such is the simplicity and beauty of the theology of the Sacrament in LDS scripture. Everything is plain, clear, meaningful, and dovetails perfectly with what is taught in the Bible. There are no dark shadows and mysterious ideas to fathom. That is the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concerning the Eucharist, or the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Transubstantiation vs. Real Presence

My previous post on Transubstantiation led to a lively and interesting discussion on the Catholic Answers Forums. The argument was made in that thread that although Transubstantiation is not biblical, the doctrine of Real Presence is; and Transubstantiation is only an attempt to explain how Real Presence takes place when the Sacrament is consecrated. The implication of that statement is that the real doctrine is in fact Real Presence, not Transubstantiation; and therefore it is not necessary for Transubstantiation to be true for Real Presence to be true. Transubstantiation could be false; but Real Presence would be true!

There are two answers to that: Firstly, Real Presence is understood differently in different churches; but as defined in Catholicism, Real Presence is no more biblical than is Transubstantiation. The way in which Real Presence is understood in the Catholic Church is far from being scripturally provable. Secondly, in Catholic theology Real Presence and Transubstantiation are so intricately intertwined that it is not possible to separate them. Real Presence takes place by means of Transubstantiation, so that to all intents and purposes one could say they are the same. Here are some interesting Quotes:

The doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is literally and wholly present [i.e. through Transubstantiation]—body and blood, soul and divinity—under the appearances of bread and wine. Source: Catholic Answers

The Catholic Church teaches that when a priest repeats the words of Christ at the Last Supper over bread and wine that these become [i.e. through Transubstantiation] truly the Body and Blood of the Lord, even though the appearance of the bread and wine remain. In addition, the Catholic Church teaches that the celebration of the Eucharist renews in an unbloody manner the Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary, forming a unity with it. Source: Apologetics Toolkit

The next lengthy quote comes from the definitions of the Council of Trent, Session xiii, the whole of which is devoted to the Sacrament of the Eucharist; so they are as authoritative as you can get:

CHAPTER I.

On the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist.

In the first place, the holy Synod teaches, and openly and simply professes, that, in the august sacrament of the holy Eucharist, after the consecration of the bread and wine, our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and man, is truly, really, and substantially contained under the species of those sensible things [i.e. bread and wine]. . . .

CHAPTER III.

On the excellency of the most holy Eucharist over the rest of the Sacraments.

. . . And this faith has ever been in the Church of God, that, immediately after the consecration, the veritable Body of our Lord, and His veritable Blood, together with His soul and divinity, are under the species of bread and wine; . . .

CHAPTER IV.

On Transubstantiation.

And because that Christ, our Redeemer, declared that which He offered under the species of bread to be truly His own body, therefore has it ever been a firm belief in the Church of God, and this holy Synod doth now declare it anew, that, by the consecration of the bread and of the wine, a conversion is made of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which conversion is, by the holy Catholic Church, suitably and properly called Transubstantiation.

CANON I.–If any one denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue; let him be anathema.

CANON II.–If any one saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood—the species Only of the bread and wine remaining—which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema.

CANON III.–If any one denieth, that, in the venerable sacrament of the Eucharist, the whole Christ is contained under each species, and under every part of each species, when separated; let him be anathema. Source: The Council of Trent Session XIII

On Real Presence the passage clearly states that the whole body, blood, and divinity of Christ is contained in the substance of the Sacrament (i.e. in the bread and wine); and it goes on to categorically state that that substance undergoes a change, or a transmutation, so as to make that Presence within it possible—that change being dubbed Transubstantiation. It defines Transubstantiation as an integral part of Real Presence.

The purpose of the paragraphs on Transubstantiation are not to explain how the change takes place; but to assert that a change does take place—and coins the name “Transubstantiation” for it. Transubstantiation becomes the integral part of Real Presence. There is no Real Presence without Transubstantiation; and there is no Transubstantiation without Real Presence. The two are inseparably intertwined—one cannot exist without the other.

The passage raises other puzzling questions. I understand what “Body and Blood” means (i.e. Transubstantiation). But what is “His whole Divinity” and “the whole Christ”? How are “His whole Divinity” and the “whole of Christ” present in the bread and wine? And how does one actually eat the “whole of Christ” together with the “whole of His Divinity” all in one go? How do Catholics go about exactly doing that? And how is that doctrine in any way biblical?

The next quote is from the Wikipedia article on Real Presence. It takes a broader look at the subject, and tries to explain how Real Presence is understood in other Christian churches, not just Catholic. The Catholic version is plain Transubstantiation; but other churches seem to understand it differently.

Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians see the Real Presence in terms not of a physical or “carnal” presence, but of transubstantiation/metousiosis [metousiosis is Greek derived, and means the same thing as Transubstantiation which is Latin derived]. Anglicans argue for contentment with the mode of objective presence to remain a mystery. Lutherans expound a presence “in, with and under the forms” of bread and wine. Methodists postulate the par excellence presence as being a “Holy Mystery.” Reformed Protestant views instead speak of a “spiritual” real presence and stress that Holy Communion is a “spiritual feeding.” Certain other Protestant traditions (for instance, Baptists and contemporary evangelicals) simply reject outright the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Source: Wikipedia

The Methodists appear to have been the wisest of them all. They have covered their backs by calling it a “Holy Mystery”! I agree. It is a mystery to me! Well, since every church seems to have its own definition of Real Presence, I am willing to accept Real Presence in LDS theology provided that I can define the terms of it myself—but defined in terms of Transubstantiation, I am afraid it is not a scripturally valid doctrine.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Apostasy and Restoration

The LDS Church claims that the early Christian church apostatized, and that itself is a restoration of the original and true church of Christ. An obvious corollary to that is that it must also be the only true Church of Christ in the world today. That claim is usually challenged by non-LDS Christians and LDS critics by asking two main questions:

1. When did the Apostasy occur?

2. What evidence is there for the apostasy?

Before attempting to answer either of those two questions, it is important that we define exactly what we mean by the Apostasy. By that we do not mean that the entire church became wicked, or that there were no more true Christians left in the world who had a saving faith in the Christ. Rather, by that we mean the loss of the priesthood and Apostolic authority of the Church, which resulted in the loss of the ability to communicate directly with God, and to lead the church by revelation, as it used to be while the Twelve Apostles were still on the earth. It also means that valid sacraments could no longer be performed by the church, and the appointment of unworthy or unrighteous persons to high positions in the church could not be prevented. It also meant that the gradual degradation of the doctrinal, structural, and organizational integrity of the church could not be avoided. The following extract from the LDS Church History summarises the LDS theology of the Apostasy:

Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints … there was no possible excuse for the introduction of a new Christian sect. But if men through apostasy had corrupted the Christian religion and lost divine authority to administer the ordinances of the gospel, it was of utmost importance that a new dispensation of the true Christian religion should be given to the world. (History of the Church, Vol. 1. p. XL) [Emphasis added.]

In answering the above two questions, it is important that we bear this definition in mind.

Q1. When did the Apostasy occur?

Those who ask that question seem to think that that is a trump card. They appear to believe that unless one can put an exact date to the Apostasy, it invalidates the claim. That in itself is based on a false assumption, because there are many historical events which we know have occurred, but which we are not able to put an exact date to—or at least, one that all historians will agree with. For example, when did the Roman Empire fall? Ask two different historians that question, and you may get two different answers. But there is one thing that no one will argue about: the Roman Empire did fall! We know that it fell because we can see that it is not around any more. But ask two different people for a date, and you are likely to get two different answers. The same applies to the early Christian church. We know that it apostatized because we can see that the same church, with its original doctrinal and organizational characteristics, no longer exists in the world; but putting an exact date on it will not be possible for obvious reasons.

The Apostasy was more of a process than an event. That can be illustrated with an analogy. If you cut someone’s head off, he still has his limbs and torso, but they are lifeless and he cannot use them. It takes time for the rest of his body to decompose and crumble to the earth. The same is true of the church. When the head was cut off, the organizational structure that the Apostles had left behind still existed, and it took time for it to degenerate into something completely alien to it. Paul in fact compares the church to a human body, where every limb is necessary for it to function properly.

1 Corinthians 12:

18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?

20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.

21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

So although all members are necessary for the functioning of the body, the head is the most important part. If the head is cut off, then everything else dies, and that is what happened to the Christian church. The head was cut off, but the rest of the body was still around, giving the impression that it was still alive, while in reality it was dead, and in process of time it degenerated, doctrinally as well as structurally, into something alien to what the Apostles had originally established.

However, since the critics often insist that we should put a date on the Apostasy, that is also possible by coming to an intelligent approximation—just as historians attempt to put an intelligent date on the fall of the Roman Empire. If I had to put a date on the Apostasy, I would say that it occurred when the last Apostle died, or when his ministry in the church was terminated. That is when the priesthood authority was lost. That is when the keys of the kingdom were taken away, and the line of communication between the heavens and the earth was cut off. That is the point at which the church could no longer be led by revelation from the Lord, and began to drift away doctrinally and structurally from that which Jesus and the Apostles had left it with. Equally important, that is the point at which valid sacraments could not longer be performed in the church.

Bearing in mind that we define the Apostasy as the loss of the priesthood authority of the church, and that John the Revelator (the last Apostle) is believed to have continued in the church until around 90 AD, I would put the date of the Apostasy at the close of the first century. By the end of the first century the Apostasy was complete. This does not mean that there were no more good Christians left. It means that at that time the authority was lost. It means that the church could no longer be led by revelation, which in turn means that the ministry could not be kept pure. People were called to high positions in the church who were not worthy of it, as Jesus foresaw in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24–30). It meant that the doctrinal and organizational purity of the church could no longer be maintained.

Q2. What evidence is there for the Apostasy?

There are plenty, both in scripture as well as in history. The apostasy was prophesied of in the Bible. The Prophet Isaiah spoke of a day when “darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Isaiah 60:2). He also spoke of a time when The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5). The prophet Amos wrote of a time when God will “send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). Again he writes: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

In the New Testament too there are numerous predictions of the Apostasy. Paul wrote of the Second Coming of the Lord that “that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed” (2 Thes. 2:3). To Timothy he wrote: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1–3). And again: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4–3). In the book of Acts he states: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). Peter wrote of the “false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways . . .” (2 Peter 2:1–2).

There are many passages which suggest that the Apostasy had already begun in the days of the Apostles. For example, to Timothy Paul again writes: “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me” (2 Tim 1:15). To the Galatians he writes: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel . . . O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth . . . ?” (Galatians 1:6; 3:1). Jud writes of “certain men crept in unawares . . . ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:4). Paul writes to Titus of those who “profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable . . .” (Titus 1:16). To the Corinthians he writes: “I hear that there be divisions among you . . .” (1 Cor. 11:18). To Timothy again Paul writes of those who “concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:18). John the Beloved writes of those who “went out from us, but they were not of us . . .” (1 John 2:19); and in the Revelation he writes of those who “say they are Apostles, and are not . . .” (Revelation 2:2).

But of all the scriptural proofs of the Apostasy, the one that I like best, and quote most often is in Paul’s second epistle to Timothy. He gave a prophecy about the condition of religion in the last days, and to me provides the clearest evidence of the Apostasy:

2 Timothy 3:

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud,

* * *

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Nothing describes the apostate condition of the Christian world today more accurately than this verse does. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” means that they look like the real thing, without actually being such. They have the looks, shape, form, and appearance of the genuine article; and make all the claim and pretence to be such; but lack the necessarily divine power that must go with it to be the real thing—i.e. the priesthood authority to communicate directly with God, and lead the Church by revelation from God, as the ancient church used to be able to do. The “power thereof” is the ability to receive revelation, and to communicate directly with God. It is the ability to lead the church by revelation from God, instead of by the wisdom of men. Well, this is an accurate description of the state of the Christian world today—not just of Catholic, but Protestant and Orthodox and all the rest. That is the “power thereof” which is lacking in the Christian churches today. They have lost the direct communion with the heavens that ancient church used to have, when the Apostles were still alive. They are not led by revelation any more, as they used to be. They cannot add to the canon of scripture, as they used to be able to do when they were led by prophets and Apostles. Their leaders truly have “a form of godliness,” but “deny the power thereof”. That is what we mean by the Apostasy of the early Christian church.

Common Objections to the LDS Doctrine of the Apostasy

LDS Critics have raised a number of objections to the LDS doctrine of the Apostasy, of which the following main point may be mentioned:

Objection 1. The scriptures cited imply that only certain individuals apostatized form the church, not that the entire church became apostate.

That is partly true; but the same scriptures also suggest that in the early church, the apostasy of the “individuals” became so pervasive, and was on such a scale that the entire ecclesiastical establishment became corrupted. Shortly before he died, Paul called together all the elders and leaders of the church at Ephesus, and gave them these parting instructions:

Acts 20:

28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

30 Also of your own selves {i.e. the church officers and elders} shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

Paul here is addressing these remarks not just to ordinary church members, but to those who were made “oversees” of the church—i.e. its leadership. He is saying that he knows that after his death (implying the death of the Apostles in general) “grievous wolves” shall arise from among the leadership of the church; and that they will not spare the flock (i.e. the church). That is another way of saying that they will destroy the church. That does not mean that there will not be any true Christians left in the world; it means that the ecclesiastical structure of the church will be destroyed. The authority will be lost. It means that the church will no longer be able to be guided by revelation as it used to be when the Apostles were alive.

Another important passage indicating the scale of the Apostasy comes from the last letter Paul wrote to Timothy, shortly before his death:

2 Timothy 1:

15 This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.

Asia was that part of the world in which Paul had done most of his teaching, preaching, and converting. All the cities and churches to which he wrote his letters (Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossi, Thessalonica) were in Asia. Now he is saying that all of those people had “turned away form him,” meaning that they had apostatized. Obviously this does not mean every single one of them had; but it means that a great majority, including many in the leadership positions had. In modern LDS scripture the Lord has explained this extraordinary phenomenon in these words:

D&C 86:

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servants, concerning the parable of the wheat and of the tares:

2 Behold, verily I say, the field was the world, and the apostles were the sowers of the seed;

3 And after they have fallen asleep the great persecutor of the church, the apostate, the whore, even Babylon, that maketh all nations to drink of her cup, in whose hearts the enemy, even Satan, sitteth to reign—behold he soweth the tares; wherefore, the tares choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness.

“Drive the church into the wilderness” means that they did not kill off the true church completely. The true church (consisting of the true believers in Christ) continued to survive; but it was “driven into the wilderness;” which means that it became “invisible” to the superficial eye. The true church continued to live on in the hearts of the true believers in Christ. The “wheat” and the “tares” were mingled together in such a way that it was not possible, by looking at the whole bunch, to know who was of the true church and who was not. Only God, who knew what was in the hearts of men, would know.

So in answer to the objection that not every single Christian had apostatized, that is true; but those who had apostatized were sufficiently numerous and influential that they had usurped the ecclesiastical authority over the church, and thus the ecclesiastical structure of the church was destroyed. It could no longer establish direct contact with the heavens. That is what we mean by the Apostasy.

Objection 2. The Twelve Apostles were not meant to continue in the church. The bishops were the successors of the Twelve Apostles.

There is absolutely no biblical support for that claim. It was never intended that the institution of the Twelve Apostles should be done away with. That is demonstrated by the fact that when Judas died, Matthias was ordained to succeed him (Acts 1:15–26). Similarly, Paul was also ordained an Apostle, probably to succeed James who had been beheaded by Herod (Acts 12:1–2), although he had not been one of the original disciples of Jesus. The Twelve were always intended to remain Twelve. To the Ephesians Paul wrote:

Ephesians 4:

11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

All these offices are necessary for the “perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” not just some of them; and All of them are necessary in order that “we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,” not just some of them. That obviously includes the offices of “Apostles” and “prophets”. They were meant to continue, just as the offices of “evangelists,” “pastors,” and “teachers” were meant to continue. The institution of the Twelve Apostles was meant to last forever. The individual Apostles would have died, and others would have been appointed to succeed them. The Apostasy had prevented that institution from being perpetuated in the church.

Jesus had many disciples; but He only chose 12 men whom He called Apostles. Later on He called seventy others to go and preach the gospel; but they were not ordained Apostles. The Apostles remained twelve at all times, even after His death. They are the ones to whom He had given special authority to go and preach the gospel to the inhabitants of the world, and to build up His kingdom on earth. Hence Paul wrote: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, . . .” (1 Corinthians 12:28). He also said: “And [you] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). This, coupled with the fact that whenever one member of that group died, someone else was called to replace him, to maintain the number always at Twelve, proves that they were meant to always be Twelve. It was to them that Jesus had said: “Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, . . . shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28). So, if they were not meant to be Twelve, why were they always Twelve?

By the same token, the bishops were never intended to be successors to the Apostles. The bishops had only localized jurisdiction over their own local areas, not over the whole church. The bishop of Rome had jurisdiction over Rome, and the bishop of Antioch had jurisdiction over Antioch, and the bishop of Jerusalem had jurisdiction over Jerusalem. The bishop of Rome could not go to Antioch and tell the bishop of Antioch what to do; and the bishop of Antioch could not go to Jerusalem and tell the bishop of Jerusalem what to do. It is only after the Apostasy had set in that bishops began to compete with each other for supremacy, and the bishops of larger metropolitan sees assumed supremacy over the smaller provinces, and the bishop of Rome gained supremacy over the whole church (for political reasons).

For three hundred years until the time of Constantine in fact the Christian church did not have a central governing authority at all. That central governing authority had been the Twelve Apostles, which had disappeared from the face of the earth. Each bishop did what he liked, which is why there grew such diversity of practices throughout the church. The churches in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire (the Greek speaking part, where the majority of the Christians lived) did not recognize Rome as their governing authority. Rome’s influence extended only to the Latin speaking part of the Empire, which had a smaller and much less influential concentration of Christians. All the great centers of Christian learning (Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem), as well as concentrations of Christians (such as Asia Minor), were all in the East (Greek speaking) part of the Empire; and these did not accept any authority over them from the bishop of Rome.

If the bishop of Rome was the governing authority at the time of Constantine, why did Constantine convene the council of Nicaea and not the bishop of Rome? Why did Constantine preside over the council and not the bishop of Rome? It is only in the time of Constantine that the Christian church for the first time acquired a central figurehead—and that figurehead was none other than Constantine himself. That is why I sometimes facetiously say that Constantine was the first Pope! He was the one who called church councils, and issued decrees on behalf of the Church. Later on as the political influence of Rome declined, the bishop of Rome acquired the mantle of the Constantine, and became the central figurehead of the Christian church. But it had not been so prior to that time.

Objection 3. Even though the Apostles had died, the bishops and elders of the church could pass on their priesthood to their successors by the laying on of hands; therefore the priesthood authority of the church was not lost.

This is a clever objection that requires a somewhat technical theological explanation. With the death of the Apostles, the keys of the authority of the whole church were taken away. In the LDS Church, we make a distinction between the priesthood, and the keys of the priesthood. The priesthood itself is something that when it is conferred on someone (assuming it is done by proper authority), it cannot be taken away. He that receives it remains a priest forever (unless he loses it through some very serious transgressions). But the keys of the priesthood is something else, and it can be taken away. An office in the priesthood is something that confers certain keys on the individual, which he can then exercise as long as he holds that office in the Church; and when he is released, those keys are revoked. For example, a bishop has to be a high priest in the Melchizedek priesthood to be ordained a bishop. When he is ordained, he is given the keys to function in that capacity in his own ward (and not in any other). That gives him the right and authority to do certain things pertaining to his calling in his ward. When he is released from that position, those keys are revoked; but his priesthood still remains. Those keys always have clearly defined limits and boundaries, and are always delegated and function under the authority of a higher officer. The bishop holds the keys of his office under the authority of the stake president, and he in turn holds the keys of his office under the authority of the President of the Church. The President of the Church is the only one who holds all the keys of all the offices in the Church, and he delegates those keys to others to exercise in their respective callings. He holds those keys in conjunction with his two counselors who form the First Presidency of the Church. In the absence of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles exercise those keys over the Church. Now suppose that through some catastrophic event, all the general leadership of the Church was wiped out. What would happen to all the keys of priesthood offices delegated to the rest of the Church? The answer is that they would become dysfunctional. Nobody would hold any keys, until the authority was restored again by divine intervention and angelic ministration to the Church. That is how the priesthood works in the Church. In the early Christian church, with the death of the Twelve Apostles, the keys of authority of the whole church was taken away; and the “laying on of hands” of the ministers of the church could not have conferred any keys, priesthood, or indelible authority to another. Those who held the priesthood would remain priests; but they would not be able to exercise their priesthoods legally as officers in the church, until the proper authority at the head of the church was restored.

Objection 4. It is not necessary for the church to receive revelation, or be able to add to the scriptural canon, because Jesus has completed the work of the Atonement, and given us all we need in the Bible to govern the church.

Whenever God has had a true church on earth, it has always been in direct communication with Him through His chosen agents whom He had appointed as overseers of that church. It is only when it has apostatized that it has ceased to be able to do so. It is not worthy to be called God’s Church if it is not in direct communion with Him, and cannot receive revelation directly from Him. Amos wrote: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). And Paul wrote: “And [ye] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:20). Prophets, Apostles, and revelation from God are the very life blood and foundation of the true church of God in any age of the world. If a church is incapable of receiving revelation from God, and add to the scriptural canon, that means that God has turned His back on that church, and is no longer in communion with it; therefore it can no longer be rightly called God’s true church.

Objection 5. Apostasy means the total renunciation of Christianity. The Catholic Church has not done that, therefore it cannot be apostate.

This is an objection that I have only heard from Catholics; but there is an answer to it. Do not Catholics consider Protestantism to be an apostasy from Catholicism? Well, the Protestants haven’t “totally renounced Christianity” either—or at least, they wouldn’t say that they have. On the contrary, they claim to be the true form of Christianity, and Catholicism the false version. So how can they be apostates, without having “totally renounced Christianity”?

Was not the Jewish church or religion at the time of Christ in a state of apostasy? Did they not, en-mass, institutionally, as a religious establishment, after witnessing all the signs and wonders, reject Jesus who was their God and Savior? Does not that amount to an apostasy, not just of individuals, but of the entire religious establishment? But the Pharisees would not have said that they have “totally renounced” true religion. They would have said that they had the true form of the religion, and Jesus and His followers were outcasts!

So it seems it is possible for a church or religion to claim or pretend to be genuine, and even act and look like one, but without actually being such. Jesus explained it to the Jews in this way:

Mark 7:

6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.

Therefore it is possible for a church to outwardly make a show of piety, and “honor God with their lips,” and pretend to be the real thing; but inwardly to be apostate. The Apostle Paul’s prophecy about the condition of religion in the last days is practically identical to what Jesus said about the Jews. I have quoted it once before; but it is worth quoting again:

2 Timothy 3:

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud,

* * *

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

This is a perfect description of the state of Christendom in the world today; and it matches precisely the apostate condition in which the Jews were at the time of Christ. Amos’s famous prophecy puts the final nail in the coffin of apostate Christendom:

Amos 3:

7. Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets”.

How can God “reveal his secret to His servants the prophets,” if there are no “prophets” for Him to reveal His secret to? The answer is that He can’t—and He hasn’t been—until the Restoration took place through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Objection 6. The church could not have apostatized because Jesus promised that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18); and that “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).

The church did not apostatize in that sense of the term, and the “gates of hell” did not “prevail” against it. There is more than one way of defining a church. If you define the church sacramentally and ecclesiastically, then yes, it did apostatize, because the priesthood authority in it was lost. But if you define the church as the body of true believers in Christ (which is the literal meaning of it), then no, in that sense it did not apostatize, because as explained earlier, there were many true believers in Christ in the Christian world throughout its history, which constituted God’s true “church”. The “wheat” and the “tares” were mingled together, so that it was not possible to distinguish between them (Matthew 13:28–29). The “wheat” constituted God’s true church. But only God knew what was in their heats, and who were the “wheat” and who were the “tares”.

The Restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith is further evidence that the gates of hell did not prevail against the church. The purpose of this Restoration has been precisely to “gather together the wheat” to keep them safe; while the “tares” are bound in bundles ready to be burned (Matthew 13:30). This is actually taught in modern LDS scripture:

D&C 101:

65 Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be;

66 While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire.

Jesus did not build His church on Peter. Peter was a mere mortal. If the church had been built on Peter, then when Peter died the church should have gone with him. Where there was no Peter, there would be no church. The “rock” refers to the testimony of the Holy Ghost which Peter had of the divinity of Jesus Christ:

Matthew 16:

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of C├Žsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

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.

The “rock” was the testimony of the Holy Ghost that Peter had expressed. God’s true church are ultimately those who have that testimony ingrained in their hearts by the indelible witness of the Holy Spirit, regardless of what church they belong to. Those who have that testimony will recognise the truth of the Restoration, and will join the LDS Church. Thus the “wheat” are gathered together for safety, while the “tares” are bound up for burning. The system is in fact so perfect that it is retroactive. It not only affects the living but also the dead. Through the keys of the priesthood that have been restored, and vicarious baptisms for the dead, not only the living are saved but also the dead. It is a perfect plan. It is a divine organization. The early church certainly did apostatize, but the “gates of hell” did not prevail against it. Those are two different principles.

Objection 7. If the early church apostatized, then Jesus failed. His mission to establish His church and kingdom on earth was a failure.

Apostasy is always a failure of man, not of God. It was not a failure of God that Judas apostatized and betrayed Jesus; it was the failure of Judas. It was not the failure of God that Adam fell; but a failure of Adam. It was not the failure of God that Cain killed Able; but the failure of Cain. It was not the failure of God that the inhabitants of the world before the Flood became so wicked that they all had to be destroyed; but the failure of those antediluvian sinners. It was not the failure of God that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone; it was their own failures. It was not the failure of God that the Jews had become apostate from their own religion, and rejected Jesus; but a failure of the Jews.

Apostasy and restoration has been the pattern of God’s dealing with mankind since creation. Whenever one religion has apostatized and died, God has intervened at some point in history to restore His true religion on earth by a new dispensation of the gospel. An equally recurring pattern has been that old, dead, and apostate religions have always opposed and fought against the new dispensations, until they have been overwhelmed by them.

God has given man an agency, a freewill, and made him responsible for his actions. God will not override man’s freewill to stop him from sinning. He will only warn him of the consequences of his actions, and punish him when he sins. But He will not intervene to stop him sinning (and suffer the consequences) if that is what he is determined to do.

The fallacy of that objection is like the fallacy of those who ask, “If there is a God, and He is good, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? Why does He not intervene to stop it?” The answer is that God has given man an agency, and made him free. Good an evil are presented to all men, and they are free to choose for themselves which way they want to go. A law has been given, and a punishment affixed to those who break the law and choose to do evil. This is a period of trial and testing to see who will choose the good, and who will choose the evil. Unfortunately, those who choose evil do not just injure themselves, but inflict pain on innocent victims. The good news is that this period of test and trial lasts for a very short time. At the end of it there is a day of judgement, when those who have done good will enter into an eternal world in which there is no evil; and those who have done evil will enter into an eternal state in which there is no good. In the mean time, the momentary pains and sufferings of this world is something that needs to be patiently endured in faith, as Paul said, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). And again, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Jesus’ mission was not to prevent His church from apostatizing—if that is what they were minded to do. His mission was to atone for the sins of the world, and to “bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37). His church was made of men who had the freewill to apostatize if they chose to. But contingency plans were made to Restore that true church at an appropriate time in history by means of a new dispensation of the gospel, as has been done numerous times in the past. That is what God has now done, as Paul again prophesied: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:10). That “dispensation of the fullness of times” has now commenced with the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Objection 8. If Christianity Apostatized in the early centuries, why did God abandon mankind for 1800 years, and wait until now to Restore the Church?

There are two answers to that question: Firstly, God does things in His own time and way. We cannot determine God’s timing for Him. If He had done it at any other time, the critics could still ask the same question: Why at that time and not at some other time? God does things when He determines in His wisdom the time is right for it to be done. He obviously couldn’t have done it in the first or second centuries, because if that was the right time, the church would not have apostatized at that time in the first place. So when should He have done it? In the third, forth, or fifth centuries, with all the persecution of the Christians, and the later upheavals that was going on, and the eventual fall of the Roman Empire under the weight of its own corruption and the barbarian invasions? Should He have done it during the Middle Ages, with all the ignorance and prejudice, and the dictatorships that existed then? I think those who ask that question should be prepared to suggest a suitable time when in their opinion God should have affected the Restoration, and explain why? If they can’t, then God’s timing will always be the correct one.

The second answer to that question is that Christ did not “abandon mankind for 1800 years”. The church of God continued to survive in the hearts of the true believers in Him, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew13:24–30). The purpose of this Restoration is to gather together the “wheat” to safety; while the “tares” are “bound in bundles” ready to be “burned”. The timing (and the place) of the Restoration was right according to God’s plan.

Below are references to some additional articles by LDS writers on the doctrine of the Apostasy, for those who may be interested:

Apostasy and Restoration Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign May 1995:

The Restoration of All Things James E. Faust, Ensign May 2006

The Great Apostasy as Seen by Eusebius Hyde M. Merrill, Ensign November 1972

Whither the Early Church? S. Kent Brown, Ensign October 1988

What Happened to Christ’s Church? Shanna Butler, Liahona February 2005

Apostasy, Restoration, and Lessons in Faith Andrew C. Skinner, Ensign December 1995

Early Signs of the Apostasy Kent P. Jackson, Ensign December 1984