Mormonism and the Question of Authority

February 7, 2014 | 14 comments

Catholics and members of “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” the Mormons, can agree on at least one very important principle. Both Catholics and the LDS believe in an authoritative, hierarchical Church that speaks with the authority of Christ. The problem with the Mormon attempt to claim apostolic authority is the obvious fact that there was no such Mormon "church” until less than 200 years ago. The informed Catholic need only ask the question: “Why would I leave the Catholic Church which was, as a matter of history, founded by Jesus Christ, and received apostolic authority directly from Christ and the apostles to join the LDS? The bishops in union with the Pope are the true successors of the apostles and possess apostolic authority.”

The Great Apostasy That Could Never Be

The Mormon response to this Catholic question is to claim the Church Jesus Christ established fell into, not just an apostasy, but a total and complete apostasy after the death of the last apostle. Moreover, they maintain biblical texts like Amos 8:11-14 and II Thessalonians 2:1-4 (which we will examine below), among others, positively teach this to be so. Thus, the contention is made that the true Church of Christ did not exist at all for some 1,800 years. It has been re-established through another Testament given to Joseph Smith and “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”

A great place to begin a discussion on this point is with the biblical texts used by Mormons in an attempt to demonstrate their position. Let’s begin with the Prophet Amos who prophesied in Israel ca. 785 BC. Among other things, he warned of the coming destruction of Israel that would, in fact, occur in 721 BC because of her idolatry (see chapters six and seven). Amos 8:11-14 reads:

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.”

This text speaks of an apostasy in ancient Israel, not after the death of the last apostle in the New Testament. But even this apostasy was not total; it does not qualify to be the apostasy Mormons claim it to be. In the very next chapter—9:8-10—Amos makes this very clear.

"Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the surface of the ground; except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” says the Lord. “For lo, I will command, and shake the house of Israel among all the nations as one shakes with a sieve, but no pebble shall fall to the ground. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Evil shall not overtake or meet us.’”

There were many times in Old Testament salvation history when priests and prophets were corrupt (cf. Lam. 4:13, Ez. 22:22-26, Zeph. 1:4, Mic. 3:5), prophets had no vision from the Lord, prophesied falsely (cf. Lam. 2:14, Jer. 23:26-31), or at times there were no prophets at all (cf. Ps.74:9). Apostasies were frequent in the Old Testament, but never total. There was always a faithful remnant.

Even When God’s People Are Faithless – God Remains Faithful

When one examines the entire Old Testament, one can readily see that in the midst of good times and bad—times of faithlessness and faithfulness—there was one constant: The existence of the High Priesthood and a God-ordained hierarchy as detailed in Exodus 28 and Deuteronomy 17. It was God himself who established and gave authority to this hierarchy in order to guide the children of Israel. The High Priest, or those to whom the High Priest delegated authority, had the power to deliver the oracle of God to His people. Deuteronomy 17:8-12 is an example of the divine origin of this historical fact:

If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another any case… which is too difficult for you, then you shall… go up to… the Levitical priests, and to the judge who is in office in those days, you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. Then you shall do according to what they declare… you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you… The man who acts presumptuously, by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge… shall die.

According to Exodus 28:30, the High Priest had what was called the “Urim and the Thummim” on the breastplate of his vestments whereby he would bear the sins of the people of Israel when he went before the Lord in the temple. Through this gift of God the High Priest would also hear the word of God and proclaim divine oracles from God.

Even during such a corrupt time as we find in the book of Judges, we see this gift in operation in Israel. This was a time characterized by these words from Judges 17:6: “…every man did what was right in his own eyes.” It was a time of rebellion and disobedience; yet, even then the ministry of the High Priest and the gift of “the Urim and the Thummim” was alive and functioning. We see one example of this in Judges 20:18-28. Israel is recorded to have consulted God through “Phineas the son of Eleazar the son of Aaron” who was High Priest at the time and they received the oracle of God through him. They may not have always consulted the Lord, nor did they always obey him when they did, but God was always there for them through the ministry of his priests.

In fact, Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself acknowledged the existence of this hierarchy and its authority during his earthly sojourn. In Matthew 23:2-3, Jesus commanded his apostles: “The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.” Even the apostles had to obey the scribes and Pharisees who spoke in an official capacity as God’s authority in Israel. Moreover, St. John the Apostle acknowledged the authority of the High Priest to be valid and effective even though the person occupying the office at the time was personally corrupt (see John 11:47-52).

A New Covenant Apostasy?

A sharp Mormon missionary may contend that even if the Old Testament People of God didn’t completely apostatize, St. Paul prophesied the New Covenant People of God would in II Thessalonians 2:1-3:

Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition.

St. Paul used the Greek word apostasia in verse three—translated as “the rebellion”—to describe it. He declared this apostasy must first come before Jesus would come again. And after all, did not the Jews themselves reject the Messiah and apostatize?  Does this not at least demonstrate that an apostasy is possible?

First of all, not all of Israel apostatized. The apostles, Mary and the earliest disciples were mostly Jews so obviously not all in Israel fell away from God. And II Thessalonians never says, nor is there one shred of biblical evidence elsewhere to say, a total apostasy would ever happen. Apostasy, yes! But total apostasy, no! But even more important to the point is this: A total apostasy as taught by the LDS is not only never mentioned in Scripture, but it is impossible according to Scripture for at least three reasons.

1. Old Testament prophecies concerning the New Covenant and the then future coming of the kingdom of God, the Church, describe it as perpetual and indefectible. For example, Daniel 7:13-14:

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man (Jesus), and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (emphasis added, see also Isaiah 9:6-7 and Daniel 2:44).

 2. The New Testament describes the Church as indefectible as well.

 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20, emphasis added).

…and of his kingdom there will be no end (Lk. 1:33).

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. 16:18-19, emphasis added).

The LDS claim these quoted texts merely speak of the ultimate triumph of the Church, but that they do not mean there could not be a total apostasy in the centuries between the time of the apostles and that final triumph through the LDS. This contention leads us to my third and perhaps most definitive reason to say a total apostasy is impossible:

3. St. Paul uses most explicit terms in his letter to the Ephesians eliminating the possibility of a total apostasy. In Ephesians 1:22, he describes the Church as “[Christ’s] body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” This Church, he goes on, is “built upon the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone” (2:20). Indeed, Paul describes the Church as being the instrument God has chosen so that “through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places” (3:10). Paul then reminds us, as we have already seen, this Church must have apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists and teachers (cf. 4:11). Why? “For the equipment of the saints… for building up the body of Christ… so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine…” (4:12-14)

According to St. Paul, God gave us the Church so that we may know with certainty the truths of the Faith. This is by no means the only reason for the existence of the Church, but it is a central reason. But most important to our purpose here, we need to consider Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This Church that St. Paul is describing in Ephesians will be here to all generations (pasas tas geneas, “all the generations”) forever and ever. This biblical text eliminates the possibility of a total apostasy for even one generation, much less 1,800 years!

A Final Question and Comment

According to Matthew 18:15-18, Jesus gave us a definitive commandment: He said:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you… If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Mormons and Catholics agree that Christ was here directing the faithful to obey the Church that he established and that we can be confident to do so because the true Church to which Jesus was leading us would never steer us away from God. The question is: what Church is being referred to here? Mormons say it is the LDS “church.” Catholics say it is the Catholic Church. How do we know which is true?

One way to know is to ask another simple question: What if you were living in, let’s say, 1785, and you were to read this very passage from St. Matthew. You could know that Jesus would never lead you to a “church” with no one who could speak for him. In obedience to Jesus, where would you go? The LDS did not exist yet. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He would never lead us astray or command us to follow error. If the true church did not exist on this earth for 1,800 years, then Jesus misguided millions into obeying an error-filled church with no apostolic authority. That would be unthinkable.

 

 


Tim Staples is Director of Apologetics and Evangelization here at Catholic Answers, but he was not always Catholic. Tim was raised a Southern Baptist. Although he fell away from the faith of his childhood, Tim came back to faith in Christ during his late teen years through the witness of Christian...

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"Tim Staples, a former Assemblies of God youth pastor, is a convert to the Catholic Church. During his days as a Protestant, he was convinced that the Catholic Church and most of its teachings were ""unbiblical,"" and he used many biblical arguments trying to demonstrate that. Now, as a Catholic, he is a leading defender of the Catholic Church and in this book he gives you step-by-step answers to fourteen of the most common arguments thrown at Catholics."

Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  Tyler Cheney - Salt Lake City, Utah

I grew up in the LDS church, and went on an LDS mission (to convert others to the faith). In honduras where I served my mission I found most catholics did not know much about their faith, and often I would try to find out information about the catholic church so I could better understand what they believed but many missionaries would just tell catholics there what they believed and then convince them that the LDS church was true. I have been to a couple of different catholic masses, one at a Dominican center near the university I attend, and the other at a large cathedral in Salt Lake City. I have even gone to RCIA once. However it is difficult wanting to join the Catholic church when everyone I know is LDS. I am hopeful with time I can begin to feel comfortable when I attend mass, and learn more about the history of the church to be able to better defend it to all the LDS people who question why I want to be catholic. Just wanted to leave my thoughts here because I found this article very helpful.

February 10, 2014 at 10:02 pm PST
#2  Lewelyn Fidler - Lehi, Utah

How can I know if it is true? James 5:6-7

Both Churches Authoritative Structure?

God is a House in order, does not all the least degree of sin and also I cannot to the least degree point a finger at Jesus Christ and find any fault or flaw that I can use to so-call justify any excuses for my behaviors, Christ was the most perfect role model and example that can be.

Christ transferred the "keys" of the Priesthood to Peter and gave him instructions to further the Gospel , what was the process that Christ used and instructed for Peter to do at the end of his time (Peter) God is order thus there has to be a "process" that carries the legal authority for the transfer of "keys" down the line.

What I know of God he will not allow his Church to become corrupted? notice the question, tow ways, make sure nobody screws up or "remove the authority to act in His Name" once Man become corrupted (God is Order)

The one place in and of his Church is the "Chief Apostle or Head Seat of his Church, For once this Office becomes tainted then the whole body is corrupted. Good present day example, just Look the the Presidency of the United States for when the top become rotten the whole organization states to tumble thus opens the door for the laymen to start wondering also.

I look to Jesus Christ if He is Perfect then his church also has to be (at least the top for the example is them to show) 2000 years, yes many have served as Pope but spoilage in this line also. This carry's many concerns.

Yes Peter was given Charge but where did Peter pass this to...can anyone just "step in" and who has the "authority" ordain up-to the position

February 11, 2014 at 3:34 am PST
#3  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Staff

Tyler,
Thanks for writing. I really appreciate what you say. Many LDS have difficulty leaving such a close-knit community for the Catholic Church. You might want to get in touch with Thomas Smith of "Why I'm Catholic" at http://whyimcatholic.com/index.php/conversion-stories/mormon-converts/76-mormon-convert-thomas-smith
He's a convert from the LDS that may be able to help you.
Stay in touch. I would love to hear how things go in your life. Be assured of my prayers. And if there is anything I can ever do for you just drop me an email at [email protected]

February 11, 2014 at 8:04 am PST
#4  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Staff

Lewelyn,
Thank you for writing. These are very good questions.
One correction. Jesus did not pass on the "keys of the priesthood" to Peter. That is an LDS teaching, but it is not what Jesus taught. The Scripture says Jesus communicated "the keys of the kingdom" to Peter. The priesthood was communicated via ordination to all of the apostles. For example, they were all given the power to forgive sins in John 20:21-23. This is why all of the apostles also have the power to ordain as we see with St. Paul ordaining Timothy in II Tim. 1:6. "Apostolic succession," as we call it in the Catholic Church is based upon this principle. Only an apostle could ordain a successor of the apostles, which the New Testament calls "bishops" in Acts 1:20 and I Tim. 3:1. And then only a bishop can ordain another bishop. And this continues down through the centuries. "How shall they preach unless they be sent" by proper authority, as St. Paul says it in Romans 10:15 (see also Acts 15:24-28).
The key to answer your specific question of how "the keys" were passed forward is to note that when it comes to choosing a successor of Judas (or replacement in this case), it was Peter who made the rules in Acts 1:15-22. And so it is for the successors of St. Peter. The Pope makes the rules for how his successor will be chosen. The Church has followed this principle for 2,000 years resulting in the miracle of 2,000 years of Popes who have never contradicted each other on matters of faith and morals taught to the Universal Church definitively. There is no human explanation for this.
As far as the "bad Popes" goes. There will always be "Judases" in the Church. That is just they way it is. "Judas" was one of the 12. There have even been a relatively few immoral Popes down through the centuries (though our Popes have been remarkable over the last ca. 500 years). The key here is to understand that the power of the keys is not based on the personal holiness of the Pope. Peter himself denied Christ three times, and later, had to be rebuked by St. Paul (Gal. 2:9). But that did not mean he was not Pope. He was. The power of the keys is rooted in the power and promise of Jesus Christ as indicated in Matt. 16:18-19. Jesus said "I will build my church and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." In Luke 22:29-32, Jesus said he would pray specifically for Peter (and his successors, we believe) that his "faith would never fail." Again, this is not based on Peter's works, but on Christ's power. That is why "the faith of Peter" (the Catholic Faith) has not, and cannot fail. That is why kingdoms have risen and fallen and will rise and fall, but the Catholic Church will be here until the end of time (Matt. 28:18-20).

February 11, 2014 at 8:36 am PST
#5  Michael Koeth - Lancaster, New York

Dear Tyler Cheney: Thank you for your post. I encourage you to follow your heart and can tell that you have great strength within you. You are not turning your back on your faith.

In a nutshell, I am a convert and also left a close-knit Protestant community. My Father was our Congregation's pastor for the first 20 years of my life. I am 40 now (converted 5 years ago after 10 years of attending mass). My Dad and I are closer then ever, and all "denominational" differences between my Dad and I are small and few between. We are closer together in Christ than we have ever been. Tyler, keep coming back to the fact that God made ONE church. All of these man-made delineations are indeed man-made. The fact is that the Catholic church continues to be the ONE church that God established. If God is leading you there harden not your heart!

February 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm PST
#6  theresa thmpson - edmonton, Alberta

I am a ordinary catholic not a learned theologian or apologist. BUT like many Catholics I get Mormon missionaries to my door. I am now armed and ready with charity to defend my catholic faith with them. I have provided a link to a wonderful book written by a former member of the Mormon faith. Yes, they are now non catholic Christians but this will give you the insiders edge on what goes on within Mormonism.
"unveiling Grace" By Lynn Wilder

February 12, 2014 at 6:30 am PST
#7  John Becknell - San Diego, California

Thanks Tim for your great article.  I've had an interest in the Mormon church ever since the missionaries came to my door roughly two years ago.  Since then, I've sat down with as many as fifty different Mormons, ranging from lawyers, successful entrepreneurs and businessmen, even a Stanford trained laboratory scientist.  I've read much of the Book of Mormon, and even sat in on one of their Sacrament meetings on Sunday morning.

The total apostasy has been brought up several times, and there's three verses I like to go to when the subject is broached.  In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus gives the parable of the wise man who builds his house upon a solid foundation, of rock, and all manner of adversity could not destroy his house, while the foolish man builds his house on sand, and when adversity strikes, his house falls and his lament is great.  Then in 1 Timothy 3:15,  Paul calls Christ's church, the Church of the living God--His house, and then of course in Matthew 16:18, Christ says that His church was built upon a rock.  So, I ask, if Christ's house really fell, doesn't that mean that Jesus was really a foolish man? 

There's usually a paused moment of confusion by the question.  The answer that usually comes back is that the free agency of man caused the apostasy outside of Christ's good intentions, ignoring the question.  My response is if Joseph Smith was able to keep a church in arguably a time of greater evil, then why wasn't Christ able to in a lesser?  Joseph Smith had the same free agency to contend with, and yet the LDS church exists while Christ's original church, according to the Mormon theology, lay in ruins.  It seems to me then that the greater of these two men is Joseph Smith. 

This is an untenable choice for members of the LDS Church. 

But this point is clear, either Christ didn't keep His Church from falling into a total apostasy for only one of two reasons:  He either couldn't keep it, or He wouldn't keep it.  If He couldn't keep it, then Christ is not great, and if He wouldn't keep it, then Christ is not good.  In either case,  having a church that preaches a total apostasy and then putting the name of that person into the name of your church is a contradiction, because that church only exists then to correct the faults of its namesake.

Even more than that, I think that there is an inherent contradiction in believing that an apostasy occurred, especially if you're on this side of it in history.  Namely, if the break with truth, and knowledge of the truth was complete and entire, then how could you  know that it had ever happened?  By excepting the bible in any capacity (translated correctly or no), is simply an admission that if an apostasy took place, then it couldn't have been a total one.  

This leads to the only question left.  Then why aren't you Catholic?

February 12, 2014 at 3:57 pm PST
#8  Tim Paul - Baldwinville, Massachusetts

Hello Mr Staples, thank you for your article and all the work you do. I read and listen to you, Patrick Madrid, Scott Hahn, Steve Ray, and other Catholic Apologist, Theologians, Deacons and Priests as often as I can. I am a cradle Catholic, but must admit that I have not always paid attention to my faith in my younger years, but by God's Grace and Love, I have been woken up and I am absolutely in love with the TRUE Church established by Jesus Christ. I have been blessed to make the Sacrament of Confirmation just a few years ago at the age of 50, and suspect and hope that I will continue to learn and grow in my faith for the rest of my life. It is a blessing to have folks like you bringing the truth to all that are fortunate enough to read and listen to your work.

I also have an interest in the Mormon faith because I have two older brothers that have left the Catholic Church many years ago for the LDS Church. They both have children and grand children being brought up in the Mormon faith. I love my brothers and their families, and I am very saddened that they have been deceived into following this ficticious religion.

I recently wrote the following in a letter to one of my brothers as a follow up to a 2 hour telephone conversation that we had one evening. Much of the information came from various sources I have read and saved over the last several months, so you may even find some of your own work in my letter.

I apologize for the length of this post, but I wanted to ask you what else can I possibly do to help my brothers see the truth about Joseph Smith and the LDS Church and to re discover the beauty of the Catholic Church?

¬Hi Gerry,
It was nice speaking to you a few weeks ago over the telephone. I know it turned into a rather long conversation, and I do apologize if I made you eat a cold dinner…Please don’t read this letter when it is close to dinner time, as I do not want you to eat another cold meal on my account.
On the telephone you stated that I could not say anything that would offend you. So, I am going to assume and hope that will be the case as you read through this letter. I will state it one more time before I begin. I do not mean to offend you in any way with what you will read below. If anything does offend you, please accept my apologies in advance.
I must say that I am rather glad the conversation got into a discussion concerning our faiths. I am not sure how it evolved to that point, as I did not intentionally try to sway it that way, but I am actually glad it did because it is something I constantly think about for the reasons I mentioned over the telephone.

Regarding our conversation concerning which church is the true church founded by Jesus Christ; I would like to offer some points for you to consider and would absolutely welcome any points you may have for me to consider regarding the subject.
Gerry, I am not necessary looking for an official debate, nor am I interested in trying to prove me right and you wrong to satisfy my personal ego. Pride is something that we all need to guard against. Rather, as I continue to try to grow in my faith, I do feel a sense of obligation to not only defend the Catholic faith whenever and wherever possible, but because you are my brother, I also want you to hopefully see or in your case possibly re discover the beauty and TRUTH of the Catholic Faith.
I know, you are older than me, and you actually attended Catholic School during the 60’s so you may be thinking there is nothing I can bring to your attention that you don’t already know or previously thought about. Well, in my heart I feel like I need to try.
First, I would like to start out by stating that I am not into Mormon bashing nor do I in any way question you and your family’s devotion to God. In fact, I am quite impressed by your personal devotion.
It is obvious to me that you are a firm believer in what your church teaches and are very much committed to following the precepts and teachings of your church. I would point out to any Catholic that your devotion as well as that of many other Mormon’s is something that many Catholics and people of all faiths could learn from. However, with that said, I very much question what it is that you are so faithful to.
On the surface, the Mormon faith appears to profess and teach many of the same Christian ideology as the Catholic and even the various Protestant faiths. The Mormon website depicts all the right things with good wholesome families shown doing loving and caring deeds.
However, when we peel back the onion to get at the core, I am not so sure that the God and Son of God that you worship, is the same God and Son of God that I worship as a Catholic. I do not believe the LDS Church is the true restored church that it claims to be.
I also believe there are many people of all faiths (including Catholics) that also have the same level of devotion to their faith as you and many other Mormons have to the LDS Church.
I would think we can agree that there are devout and not so devout people of ALL faiths.
So for me and hopefully for you, it really comes down to a question of what faith teaches the TRUTH. The TRUTH as revealed and taught by Jesus Christ and what faith has the true Apostolic Succession and Priesthood Authority.

So, as I stated, I do not believe the LDS Church is the true restored church that it claims to be. I do not believe this because I do not believe that the original Christian church needed to be restored in the first place. Not by the 33,000 or so denominations of Protestantism that emerged since the so called Reformation, not by the Jehovah Witness faith and not by Joseph Smith and the LDS Church…
Sure, the Catholic Church has had its issues and problems throughout the centuries. After all it is comprised of imperfect men and woman. Jesus didn't promise that the Church would be free of sinners, and scandal. Rather, he promised that the wheat and the chaff (good and evil) would be side by side in the Church until the end (Matt 13:24-43, 47-50).
The Catholic Church, as the Bride of Christ, has never crumbled. This is because Jesus promised "I will ask the Father and he will send you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of the truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans" (John 14:16-18).
Gerry, the Catholic Church is still here, 2,000 years after being established by our Lord, Jesus Christ.
The LDS Church claims that the early Church (The Catholic Church) fell into a Great and Total Apostasy. To me, this is simply false, and has yet to be proven by the LDS Church, nor could it ever be proven since Jesus gave his word to Peter and the Apostle that he would be with the church always, to the end of time.
According to the Mormon religion, the Catholic Church became completely corrupted shortly after the death of the last apostle (around 100 AD) and began teaching false doctrines. This apostasy was complete by 200 AD and there was no presence of Christ's true Church on the earth for over 1700 years until it was restored by Joseph Smith in 1829.
Again, this is what the LDS Church claims, but has yet to prove. In our telephone conversation, you cited something about Constantine declaring himself Pope. Tom, cited this same thing during a Facebook chat we had one evening. Gerry, if you research the history of the Papacy, you will find that Constantine was never a Pope. Yes, he was very influential in spreading Christianity by relaxing and eliminating the laws that prohibited Christianity, but he was never commissioned to the position of Bishop of Rome. During this time, many Christians were being persecuted and martyred because of their strong belief and dedication to Christianity. Constantine helped to break and weaken this practice.
Gerry, please consider these additional promises that Jesus made regarding his Church.
"And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" “I will give to you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt 16:18-19);
"Behold, I will be with you always, even until the end of the world" (Matt 28:20);
"The Father will give you another Advocate to be with you always" (John 14:16);
"The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name, he will teach you everything and remind you of all I have told you" (John 14:26);
"But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth" (John 16:13).
Why would Jesus say and promise these things if there was going to be a complete apostasy within a couple hundred years after his death. Wouldn’t this mean Jesus lied to the Apostles or that he failed in the establishment of his church? Do you really think that it is possible for Jesus, the Son of God to fail?

If the LDS Church is right about a complete apostasy, then Jesus did leave us as orphans — for 1700 years! If the LDS Church is right and Catholicism is wrong and corrupt as you apparently believe, then Jesus did fail in establishing his Church. I cannot bring myself to believe this… It was Jesus who said the following:
"Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, 'This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish'" (Luke 15:28-30)
I read that as a Mormon, you are likely to cite the following passages as a response to support the Great Apostasy theory.
Scripture does indeed mention an apostasy in Matthew 24:4- 12; Mark 13:21-23; Luke 21:7-8; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 2 Timothy 3:1-7, 4:1-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3; and Jude 17-19.
Not one of these passages mentions a complete apostasy of the Church. Also, please note that these verses say the apostasy will take place at the end times, the "latter days". The second and third centuries were not the "latter days."
Also, as we discussed on the telephone, but is worth repeating. In Matthew 18: 15-18, Jesus tells us the following:
15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
What Church is Jesus talking about? I don’t think it can be the LDS Church, if a person living any time before the year 1829 was reading this passage, as the LDS church did not yet exist. I do not believe Jesus would send this message if there was no Church to go to.
He was talking about the Church that he himself established, not one that would be established 17 centuries later.
Gerry, during our conversation you stated that you have not really thought about this stuff for a long time. This got me to thinking... When you entered the LDS Church over 30 years ago, I do not believe information was readily available as it is today. (I am not calling you old, just conveying a thought about what information may or may not have been readily available to you at the time you left the Catholic Church).
I am wondering if you ever read any writings by the Early Church Fathers. The Church Fathers that were personally taught by the Apostles and continued on with their teachings and “laying of the hands” to others through Apostolic Succession.
The writings of the Early Church Fathers (Apostolic Fathers such as Clement and Polycarp) and later Iraenus, Ignatius, and Justin Martyr give us a clear indication of what they believed and what was taught during the so called Great Apostasy period claimed by the LDS Church.
It was the Catholic Church that compiled the canon of Sacred Scripture around the year 400 AD. This is after the period of the so-called apostasy – how could an apostate Church produce the correct canon of the Bible? Why would the LDS Church use and reference Holy Scripture that was canonized by a so called corrupt, apostate church?
I think Archbishop Fulton Sheen summed it up perfectly, with the following quote regarding many people’s perception of the Catholic Church.
“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
Gerry, I can’t help but wonder what is it about the Catholic Church that you object to? Actually, the more appropriate question is what did you object to at the time, 30 years ago, when you chose to leave the Catholic Church? I would assume that you have developed additional objections since leaving 30 years ago.
Is it the doctrine and dogma of the Church?
Is it the Office or position of the Pope?
Is it the Eucharist?
Is it Mary?
Is it the communion of Saints?
In our telephone conversation, you mentioned repetitious prayer. (I hope this is not the only reason you left the Church, because this can be explained, justified and connected to scripture and Apostolic teachings).
Is it your observance of people that you associated with the Catholic Church living immoral and sinful lives?
Is it your experiences with grumpy Priest, or not so patient Nuns during your grade school years?
Is it bad catechism that you may have been subjected to as a younger person, through no fault of your own?
Something obviously made you leave the Church, and I often wonder if it was a deliberate, conscientious objection to the true teachings of the Catholic Church, or were you possibly swayed and influenced by an Evangelist of the LDS Church at a crucial and vulnerable time in your life?
You obviously don’t owe me an answer to the above questions. I am asking because I am sincerely interested in understanding how you and many other, good, honest, God loving people can reject the true beauty and TRUTH of the Catholic Church and fall prey to the idea that Jesus Christ failed. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
Jesus Christ gave his earthly life for the salvation of mankind, and the early Christians (members of the Catholic Church) followed his command, followed in his steps, took up their cross, and gave their life to teach and spread Christianity.
Take a closer look at the life of Pope John Paul II. Look into his life and all he endured and achieved to spread the word of Jesus Christ. Can you really claim this man practiced the false teachings of a corrupt and apostate church?
I understand that you may not think of it this way. I understand that you may not see yourself as proclaiming that Jesus Christ failed, but in my view, by practicing the Mormon faith, especially a faith with a theology that in my opinion is so far off base, that in effect, this is what you and all Mormons are proclaiming.
I do take exception to what I read on the LDS websites when it states and proclaims how the LDS Church is the true, restored Church of Jesus Christ.
Gerry, without The Great Apostasy Theory, and without the Mormon faith refuting the unbroken Apostolic Succession Priesthood Authority held by the Catholic Church, there is no LDS Church.
Gerry, I ask this with absolutely no disrespect to you, but have you ever considered the possibility that Joseph Smith is not who you and the Mormon faithful think he is? Have you ever considered that he simply made up the Mormon religion?
There is a lot of information out there on line challenging and questioning the character of the man, Joseph Smith and about the true theology of Mormonism. I am sure some or much of it may be exaggerated, maybe even false, depending on the source, but I also have to consider that much of it is true and valid. The information is out there and available to everyone, Mormons and Non Mormons. Some of it claims to be directly from the official documents of the church.
I have read many articles on devout Mormons coming into information about Joseph Smith and the original teachings of the Mormon Church that they were not previously aware of. Information that is not forthcoming and in some cases hidden and ignored by the elders of the LDS Church and members of the various local ward leadership. Maybe this is not really news to you, but if it is, maybe you would want to investigate with an open mind as to who Joseph Smith really was and what he really taught and practiced in the early days of the church. Maybe you would want to check out some of the many charges against the Book of Mormon.
There are countless questions and charges against Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon questioning its origin, accuracy, contradictions, lack of archeological evidence to support the existence of the ancient civilizations mentioned, animals mentioned not being indigenous to the Americas, being plagiarized from the King James Version of the Bible, even the known errors contained in the KJV are present in the Book of Mormon. Questions pertaining to Joseph Smith’s false prophecies, and the church changing its teachings on the practice of polygamy only after being pressured by the US Government.
Gerry you, yourself told me over the telephone that Mormons purposely are not forthcoming when evangelizing to potential new members and converts to the church. This is consistent with many articles I have read from former Mormons whom were in leadership and missionary positions within the church.
I get this, and I understand why the Mormons would follow this practice. If the church revealed many of its true belief’s beyond what most Christians already believe, (love, faith, good works, helping others, repentance of sins etc.) there is no doubt in my mind, you would scare half of them away. I believe your church understands this as well. To me, this non transparency is consistent with that of a Secret Society.
During our telephone conversation you cited a saying from the Free Masons… I forget what the saying was, and I did not want to get down a rat hole regarding the Free Masons. I myself, don’t know enough about the Free Masons yet, but I do know that one of the charges against the LDS Church is that the Temple Ceremonies derived from Free Mason ceremonies, in which Joseph Smith was reportedly a member of.

I came across the following quote, which is reportedly a direct quote from Joseph Smith, and I can’t help but think that if Joseph Smith was truly a Prophet and someone that God and/or Jesus appeared to, do you really think such words would come from his mouth and heart. Even Jesus, did not boast in this manner. To me, this does not sound like a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, and certainly not like a Prophet sent from God.
Smith boasted that he did more than Jesus to keep a church together.
"God is in the still small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil--all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet . . . " (History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 408-409).
So Gerry, by now you may be wondering what the actual point of this letter is. What am I hoping to achieve? Well, I am not naïve enough to think that after reading this letter you and Angie are going to run out and purchase some Rosary Beads. In fact, information I read states that the vast majority of devout Mormons who come to the same conclusion that many of us have about the LDS Church, sadly give up on practicing any faith at all. To me, this is very sad, because many loving, caring, God fearing, devoted people come to feel betrayed and disheartened, and don’t feel they can trust any organized religion. On the positive side, many former Mormons whom do not give up on having a faith, and do their research, do indeed end up back home to the original, TRUE Church of Jesus Christ.
I understand that you may simply ignore everything I wrote, crumble this letter up in a ball and simply dismiss it all as ill willed Mormon bashing. I will ask you to please take my word on it, it is not about me being right and you being wrong nor is it about me bashing your faith. As I mentioned previously, I absolutely admire your personal devotion and dedication to your faith. I just believe that your sincere love and devotion is directed towards an incorrect teaching of who God and Jesus really is.
In our telephone conversation, we discussed whether I should worry about you as a practicing Mormon and whether you should worry about me as a practicing Catholic. You gave an interesting response in saying that if I truly believe that the Catholic Church is the TRUE church on this earth, then you thought that yes, I should be concerned about you. So, by you answering my question with that response, I am assuming that because you believe the LDS Church is the one true church, that you are indeed concerned about me.
I guess the purpose of this letter is due to my concern about who it is that you worship. The Mormon faith appears to be a polytheist religion, started by a false prophet believing in multiple Gods. I understand that you may not be necessarily worshipping multiple Gods, like the early Roman Pagans did (unless you count the fact that Mormons believe God and Jesus are two separate personages). So, while I admire your devotion, I am concerned that by believing in multiple Gods when the Bible tells us that there is only one God, and by believing that you yourself can become a God, you are practicing a faith that is extremely contrary to the Bible and contrary to what Jesus taught.

Gerry, you’re my brother whom I love. It is not my desire or intention to bash you or your faith. I do not believe that sharing my beliefs regarding the LDS Church qualifies as bashing.
Attending public schools, I didn’t grow up with any formal religious education. I certainly do not now claim that I got it all figured out and am now living an exemplary life. What I do believe is that as a Catholic, the TRUTH is available, right in front of me and it is up to me to accept it and live it. I freely admit that I have been “sleep walking” much of my life in terms of understanding and truly practicing my Catholic faith. Heck, my first marriage was in a Presbyterian Church. However, I truly do believe the Lord has given me a second chance and placed me where I belong, back home in his Church, the one true “Holy Catholic and Apostolic” Church.
Gerry, below is a long list of questions and challenges to the Mormon faith. As I mentioned previously, maybe not all of these concerns and challenges are warranted, but in reading through the list, I think many are valid questions. I am including them simply as information for you to consider.
With all my love,
Tim

February 12, 2014 at 6:34 pm PST
#9  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Staff

Hello Tim,

I think you did a good job in pointing out some of the problems with the LDS' theology and history. I would just make two observations. First, when you said, "... please note that these verses say the apostasy will take place at the end times, the "latter days". The second and third centuries were not the "latter days.""
This is incorrect. St. Peter tells us the "last days" began at Pentecost in Acts 2:15ff. Check it out.
Also, you mention Clement and Polycarp as Apostolic Fathers, but then you list St. Ignatius of Antioch as not being an Apostolic Father. He was.
Stay in touch. I would love to hear how things go as you continue to share the Faith with your brother.

February 16, 2014 at 10:51 am PST
#10  Tim Paul - Baldwinville, Massachusetts

Hello Mr. Staples,
Thank you very much for taking the time to read and respond to my long post.

Thanks for the correction on St. Ignatius and my comment on the "latter days".

Does this mean we have been and continue to live in the "latter days" for the last 2,000+ years? Just want to make sure I understand you correctly.. (As I stated, I believe I will spend the rest of my life, learning my faith).

Also, is there anything else that I could offer my brothers to help them see (in a loving way) the TRUTH of the Catholic Faith and the errors of the LDS Church.. Maybe CD's, books, etc..

Thanks again, and God Bless you..
Tim

February 18, 2014 at 12:27 pm PST
#11  Kathy Muller - Dublin, Georgia

I an a former Protestant, who converted to Catholicism. Even after a couple years, I had this "guilt", that I had done something wrong..That Catholicism is wrong. It took much prayer, and much seeking, to see that I am where I am supposed to be. I had to let myself live my faith..and I am so happy. I am sure that leaving an organization like the LDS, would cause confusion..but just keep seeking, and praying..God truely honors that.

February 19, 2014 at 7:34 am PST
#12  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Staff

Hello Tim,

The end times in the New Testament are usually referred to as a time approaching "the day of the Lord," for example, in II Thess. 2:2. As I said above, the "last days" began with Pentecost. We are in the "last days" and have been for 2,000 years.

I recommend you get a hold of Isaiah Bennett's book, "Inside Mormonism" that we published here at Catholic Answers. That book is loaded with great information.

February 19, 2014 at 2:20 pm PST
#13  Jim Gissy - Manchester, Missouri

Question for Mormons. If the apostacy did occur, how did the Bible come to be and what authority put it together? What authority decided what books to include? It was put together in the late 4th century and early 5th. How can we trust anything in it if there was no church or authority?

March 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm PST
#14  Tim Staples - El Cajon, California - Catholic Answers Staff

Great point, Jim!

March 25, 2014 at 10:21 pm PST

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