Lesson 3: The Great Apostasy

Oh boy, here we go.  Actually verifiable information that we can look up, post information about, and get into detail with.

“The Apostles, after the Ascension of Christ, continued to exercise the keys He left with them. But because of disobedience and loss of faith by the members, the Apostles died without the keys being passed on to successors. We call that tragic episode ‘the Apostasy’” (Henry B. Eyring,“The True and Living Church,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2008, 21).

The great question that needs to be asked is “When”.  When did this apostasy take place? When Peter went to Rome and became the first pope according to the Catholic historical record, had the apostasy already occurred?   When did the apostles die and who were the replacements that didn’t have authority?

The bible doesn’t tell us about any except for Judas ( Acts 12:2) and gives hints that John the Revelator (beloved) was the last alive.  But the 7 churches mentioned in revelations had not by that point, fallen into apostasy.

Eusebius, “the father of Church history”, whose Ecclesiastical History was written in the early fourth century gives the best historical accounts.  Bishops traced their lines of succession back to individual apostles, who were said to have dispersed from Jerusalem and established churches across great territories. Christian bishops have traditionally claimed authority deriving, by apostolic succession, from the Twelve (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostle_(Christian))

So how does Mr. Eyring have an insight into the apostasy?  What Joseph Smith said Jesus said is the best I’ve got.  I’d love to know if he actually used any other source, but I find no evidence for it.  Appeals to authority, all the way up.

The Object lesson

Bring to class a mechanical part that is necessary for a machine or piece of equipment to work (such as a power cord from an appliance or computer, a chain or wheel from a bicycle, or spark plugs from a car). Show students the part and ask them what it belongs to and what it does. (If you don’t have access to a mechanical part, draw one on the board.)

This is a fascinating object lesson, because it implies that the church would stop without this essential component.  Perhaps most LDS mormons don’t know that the some of the seven early churches existed into the 4th century (such as the church of Corinth, destroyed in 375 a.d.) and Thessalonica survived to the modern day.

Further many of the early christian writings still exist and were there in and around the 1st and 2nd century BC. These mention subjects such as infant baptism (~100 a.d.) and female bishops/deacons (~2oo a.d.) only a few years after the book of Revelation was written (~80 a.d), and certainly taking place during the life span of people who knew and spoke with apostles.  It is very difficult to imagine such ideas springing up without the bishops/apostles knowing.

Apostles and prophets form the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ.

To help students identify another essential element of Jesus Christ’s Church, display the picture Christ Ordaining the Apostles (Gospel Art Book, no. 38)

It is interesting to note that in the bible it actually states that Jesus “Breathed on them” and never mentions the laying on of hands, something pretty key in the LDS church-commissioned drawing that is shown to the students.  Other churches state that the washing of the feet is the “ordination” of the apostles.  To be clear, the LDS faith shows a picture depicting the way they think it happened to the students to help the students “think clearer”.

in the Church today, just as anciently, establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority” (“The Doctrine of Christ,” Ensignor Liahona, May 2012, 86).

I propose a challenge to students and teachers of seminary alike:  Please write down what is and is not doctrine of the church.  Discuss how doctrine is defined, and whether the church has released any new doctrine in the latest 100 years.  Is the word of wisdom as given by Heber J. Grant (Weak drinks of barley -beer “forbidden” as opposed to “good” as stated in D&C 89)?  Is the proclamation on the family doctrine?  Is the manifesto doctrine?  What about the recent PR reports about homosexuality, or essays published on LDS.org.  Are they doctrine?

Show students the Basic Doctrines list found in the appendix of this manual or in students’ scripture study journals. Explain that seminary students are encouraged to gain a deeper understanding of the Basic Doctrines throughout their time in seminary.

Point out that this “Basic doctrines” list was not put together by prophets and apostles, and does not include key things that prophets and apostles taught such as the Adam-God doctrine taught by Brigham Young for over 37 years.  Point out the humor in that the “basic doctrines” list is, in fact, not doctrinal as a list of basic doctrines.

Discuss questions that are frequently asked (Evolution as the origin of life, the big bang theory vs. 6 day creation, etc.) and ask the children or teacher why prophets have not made statements of doctrine about these questions.

Further, point out these scriptures that define “doctrine” quite differently from “Whatever LDS apostles say”:

3 Nephi 11: 31, 40

Testify that in the Church of Jesus Christ we can receive ordinances that are necessary for our salvation.

What is interesting here, is that the lesson manual has, in fact, not gone into the LDS church history about the priesthood authority at all.  The fact that there is no date recorded for the Melchizedek priesthood, no mention that Elders used to be part of the Aaronic priesthood, and other questionable moments in mormon history is not covered weakens the supposition that the LDS prophets and apostles can be so precise as to know that all apostolic power was lost before, when they don’t even know the date they got it back.

 Jesus Christ leads and guides His Apostles through revelation.

This is problematic to leave this statement out there without definition.  There is no description of the process.  It makes one feel as though the Apostles make decisions day to day by interacting with a divine being.  However; there seems to be little evidence that this is so.  Even friends and family of apostles make no claims that the apostles have seen Christ since Lorenzo Snow made the claim in 1890.

As the students or teacher how they could identify a second apostasy today.  If apostolic priesthood power were lost, what changes would we expect to see in the church.  Might it refocus its efforts from salvation to building malls?  Would it perhaps be reflected in reduced charitable works to the poor and the needy (Today, only about $3-$4 per member per year of money given to the church for humanitarian works ever makes it to assist the poor and the needy).

 Apostasy occurs when people turn away from the true doctrine of the gospel and reject the Lord’s authorized servants.

Quotes that indicate the church is already in apostasy:

I would be surprised if ten percent of those who claim to hold the Melchizedek priesthood will remain faithful to the gospel at the time of the seventh president and that there would be thousands that think they hold the priesthood at that time, but would not have it properly conferred upon them. (Minutes of a meeting, September 7, 1886- probably the first presidency meeting.)

Brethren, this church will be led onto the very brink of hell by the leaders of this people, then God will send the one mighty and strong spoken of in the 85th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, to save and redeem this church. (Brigham Young quoted about D&C 85:7, Truth, March 1, 1936, 1:10, p. 135)

“The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves “in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith Pg. 205) (If anyone gives the argument that the church is big, and ergo the true church, this is a good counter argument)

“If we were to do away with polygamy, it would only be one feather in the bird, one ordinance in the Church and kingdom. Do away with that, then we must do away with prophets and Apostles, with revelation and the gifts and graces of the Gospel, and finally give up our religion altogether and turn sectarians and do as the world does” Wilford Woodruff JOD 13:165 – p.166

“I understand the law of celestial marriage to mean that every man in this Church, who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness and will not, shall be damned, I say I understand it to mean this and nothing less, and I testify in the name of Jesus that it does mean that.” (Joseph F. Smith Journal of Discourses, vol. 20, pp. 28-31)

Ask the students or teacher, why, if there are so many indications that the LDS faith would be considered as “apostate” does the manual give the student no firm set of guidelines for testing for apostasy in the church other than “Follow the leaders”?

“James was killed in Jerusalem by Herod. Peter and Paul died in Rome. Tradition holds that Philip went to the East. Much more than this we do not know.

“They scattered; they taught, testified, and established the Church. And they died for their beliefs, and with their deaths came the dark centuries of apostasy” (“The Twelve,” Ensign orLiahona, May 2008, 84).

I know that SOME of you probably wondered about me quoting Eusebius, and listing it as as source.  But here we have Boyd Packer quoting Eusebius as though it were solid history and perhaps even doctrine.  But Esebius mentions Peter going to Rome to become Pope, which means that Boyd K. Packer has read the history and agrees with it, I guess, right up until the line “And Peter became the first pope”, and then he tosses it out?  Or maybe he has some secret source other than what the rest of the world has.  It’s a pity that apostles and prophets never cite original sources.

As the centuries passed, the flame flickered and dimmed. Ordinances were changed or abandoned. The line was broken, and the authority to confer the Holy Ghost as a gift was gone. The Dark Ages of apostasy settled over the world” (“The Cloven Tongues of Fire,” Ensign, May 2000, 8).

[CITATION NEEDED].  When did it flicker?  Was it 300 a.d. as Orson Hyde said? because then women bishops and infant baptism would be pre-apostasy.  Was it the day John the Revelation died/was translated/left the isle of patmos?  This quote seems to imply that false doctrines entered slowly over time, that the priesthood withered over generations.

Why do you think it is important to understand the Great Apostasy and its consequences?

Because it is important to question everything.  Even the very thought of the Great Apostasy.  If the great apostasy didn’t happen, then there was no need for a restoration, and Joseph Smith is a con-man, plain and simple.  The entirety of the set of mormon claims, including the LDS depend upon a rock-solid explanation of a great apostasy.  But here we are given no dates, no deaths, no explanation of what was lost when.  No details no citations, no history.

In fact, the entire lesson could be summed up as “The great apostasy happened because we say so, and priesthood authority was lost because we say it exists and only we have it now even though we give no dates or details.”  A very poor argument indeed.

You may think me harsh, but consider for a moment what this lesson is claiming.  That everyone, everywhere since about 300 a.d. (or earlier) has been absolutely wrong about God, except for the LDS since about 1830.  This is an extraordinary claim, and no where is discussed why God wouldn’t have restored the church before Joseph Smith.  No where is discussed why God would condemn so many individuals who patiently and respectfully worshiped him even giving their lives for their beliefs with Him refusing to give them so much as a shred of priesthood light.  William Tyndale, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther.  Martyr after martyr was insufficient for God to give them priesthood, when even the original apostles failed, according to this lesson, to hold together priesthood power for at most 400 years.

In the supplemental reading, Elder M. Russel Ballard states about the great apostasy:

Our Heavenly Father loves all of His children, and He wants them all to have the blessings of the gospel in their lives. Spiritual light is not lost because God turns His back on His children. Rather, spiritual darkness results when His children turn their collective backs on Him.  (“Learning the Lessons of the Past,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 32).

This is blaming the victims.  It is callous to write off every show of devotion to the christian god throughout history as mankind turning their backs on God.  As the fires burned under the martyrs who stood for what they believed and sealed their beliefs for their deaths, we are to understand they were still turning their backs on God.

This lesson has no sources, citations or history, while making auspicious claims that mankind was all fallen except for the LDS faith.  It is packed with hubris.  It ignores even the church’s own definitions of “apostasy” in order to turn children to redefine it as “anyone who doesn’t follow the dear leaders”.  It provides no tools for identifying systematic apostasy and blames individuals for guilt and sin (also defined as not following what the leaders say.

This lesson is a pure F.  It has little redeeming value and should be demanded to be re-written in its entirety by historical scholars and those who care about not using thought-control to generate devotion in the youth, rather than safeguard against actual “apostasy” as defined by previous church leadership.

This entry was posted in Seminary Manuals and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
Last edited by Mithryn on March 20, 2014 at 9:05 pm

4 Responses to Lesson 3: The Great Apostasy

  1. Even from _within_ the point of view that the Christian New Testament is completely historically accurate we have a fractured movement with no clear leadership. Even before Peter is “authorized” to preach to the Gentiles, we have Jesus commanding them to go into “all the word” making Christians with no exception given — we have to read Peter’s hesitation about Gentiles backwards as implying an exception. After Peter and the Apostles are tired of dealing with issues like consecration they call seven elders to assist them so the Twelve will be free to preach. And what do these seven then begin doing? They go out and preach: Philip preaches to and baptizes a foreign visitor from Etheopia (again, we are left to assume what the text leaves silent: was he a Gentile or Jewish), and Stephen (who himself bears a Greek name; is he a pre-Peter Gentile convert?) preaches a revision of Jewish history so antagonistic that he ends up being killed by the town leaders (wait, I thought that only the Romans were allowed to perform capital punishments?). Paul, in his own letter to the Galatians, spends the first few years of his ministry after his conversion by himself and only then meets the leaders in Jerusalem. We don’t even know who is in charge in Jerusalem: Peter and James, sure, but which one is the more in charge? Both Paul’s letters and Acts give the impression that James is the one with final say in matters regarding the movement: James’s men convince Peter to avoid contact with Gentiles while Paul is visiting (causing Paul to rebuke Peter), and James seems to be in charge of the final decision regarding Torah and Gentile converts during the Jerusalem Council described in Acts. We tend to assume that Peter is the leader of the movement because he gets all the fun stories in Acts, but ever time he appears associated with James he’s playing second fiddle. And Paul himself, in his own letters, has to deal with other Christians who preach adherence to Torah and do so using their positions of authority, which Paul responds to by asserting that he is not under any man’s authority and then proceeds to mocks his opponents by calling them “super-apostles”. Who are these characters who are trying to “fix” Paul’s converts by apostolic authority?

    And that’s all even assuming that all of the texts are historically accurate (which they almost certainly are not).

    • Mithryn says:

      You are going to do the new testament seminary lessons right?


      Love your input as always

      • I should, but to be honest the amount of typing is daunting. I think that’s why I keep dreaming about a podcast: speaking is so much faster than typing though it is obviously a lot harder to provide sources and you can’t easily fix mistakes with careful revision before “going to press”, so to speak.

        But yeah, it’s been on my mind to go through the Seminary and/or Institute Instructors manuals.

      • If the Church follows the pattern of the BoM and D&C manuals, the new New Testament Seminary Manuals won’t be released until sometime next year. I guess I have enough time to get started using the old (2002) ones… I’ll get to work on that! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.