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Are Mormons (And Protestants) Right about the “Great Apostasy”?

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The single BIGGEST doctrine to know for Catholic / LDS discussions is the so-called “Great Apostasy.” If LDS are right about it, it disproves the Catholic Church. But if Catholics are right about it, it disproves the LDS church. So what does Scripture and history say: did the Church founded by Jesus Christ really go into apostasy right away?


You are listening to Shameless Popery with Joe Heschmeyer, a production of Catholic Answers.

Joe Heschmeyer:

Welcome back to Shameless Popery. I’m Joe Heschmeyer. Today, I want to cover a continuation of last week’s theme. Last week, I looked at how do you reply if LDS or Mormon missionaries come to the door? This week, I want to really drill down on one of the most important issues, which is the idea of did the church fall into an apostasy? The short answer is Catholics say Jesus founded the church, it’s still here, whereas the Mormon claim is Jesus founded the church, the church died out, and that’s why it was necessary for Joseph Smith to come along in the 19th century to refound it with the help of God.

We’ll get into all the details of that in a minute. But before I get there, I actually want to take a moment just to say thank you to Zach Maxwell in the video department and to Mercy Works Foundation for giving the money to do this incredible renovation. Zach was actually out here in Kansas City for four days working on the studio here, and he did I think a tremendous job. I love the way it looks. Before this, I was just another YouTube talking head in front of a bookshelf. Hopefully this gives you at least a little something else to look at if you start to zone out.

With that said, I want to look at the core claims. What should we as Catholics do when Mormons or LDS present their theology? I think we should talk about The Great Apostasy. I think we should proactively bring it up if they don’t and there’s a good chance they will. The first thing you should do is establish the stakes. What I mean by that is exactly what I said before, the Catholic claim is that the church didn’t die out because it was founded by Jesus Christ. The Mormon claim is that it did, but that the church founded by Joseph Smith or restored by Joseph Smith won’t die out.

The Catholic claim in a nutshell, Jesus establishes a visible church on earth. That’s the Catholic Church. This is the Body of Christ and personal apostasy is possible, meaning I can break off. Individuals, groups, even entire nations can break away from the church. That’s perfectly possible. In fact, we’re going to say scripture even points to that being a real reality we have to grapple with. But universal apostasy, meaning the entire church being destroyed, is impossible. A segment of the Body of Christ can break off, but the body of Christ itself will never die.

That’s the important distinction. This is not a difference of degree. This is a really important distinction between personal and universal apostasy, and as we’re going to see, a distinction that the LDS grant, that they realize there’s a difference. Because the LDS claim is that Jesus establishes a visible church on earth, we agree there, but then they say that the church Jesus founded went into a universal apostasy almost immediately. Now, because they believe that Jesus actually founds the church both in Israel and in the Americas somewhere, they have two different timelines for this.

But for our purposes, the church that really did exist. I’m sorry if that’s too blunt, but the church in Israel, the church everyone knows, the church that historians will grant existed, that is known to us apart from the writings of Joseph Smith and the testimony he claims to have recovered. That church they’re going to say dies out within a very short time from the death of the apostles. This is the period they call The Great Apostasy and this continues until the 19th century, so the 1800s with Joseph Smith.

That’s the claim. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s restoration of the church. Now, if you find a non-LDS Mormon, there are a lot of different offshoots, they might say their particular sect is God’s restoration of the church, but the idea is that somewhere, somehow using Joseph Smith as the instrument, God restores the church that had died out. They, like us, would now say personal apostasy is possible, but universal apostasy is impossible.

They would just say that about their own church, that because God has restored it and because he’s promised it won’t die out, that therefore we don’t have to worry about universal apostasy. There’s not going to be another Joseph Smith who has to re-restore the church, in other words. We can see this in writings both by Mormons and about Mormonism.

In the Journal of Mormon History, Eric Dursteler, which I don’t know if he’s Mormon or not, I’m inclined to think that he is based on his writings, he has an essay entitled Inheriting the “Great Apostasy”: The Evolution of Mormon Views on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, where it kind of looks at over the years how Mormons have maybe changed their views a little bit on early Christianity and medieval Christianity.

But he begins by pointing out that this idea of a universal apostasy is one of the foundational elements of Mormonism, and that for this reason it’s often Great Apostasy with a capital A. This is because Mormons perceive the falling away from Christ’s original church and his teachings in the centuries immediately following his crucifixion as kind of this pivotal moment. He says, it is no exaggeration to say that the concept of an apostasy is one of the linchpins of the Mormon faith.

Without an apostasy, there would’ve been no need for Joseph Smith or for the restoration. That’s the idea, and I think we would do well to take that idea very seriously. For the LDS to have a plausible colorable claim to be the true church, to be desired and appointed by God, they have to first be able to show, well, we needed a restoration because there was a Great Apostasy. This is a historical issue. Now, last week you’ll remember I talked a lot about how LDS missionaries do a lot of focus on personal witness and personal testimony.

That they will feel convicted that God has called them to be Mormon. They’ll feel convicted that the Book of Mormon is inspired by God. But when we’re dealing with the historical claim here about the restoration of the church, before we get into the question of is Joseph Smith the true prophet to restore the church, we have to first establish a really basic historical fact. Did the church founded by Jesus Christ die out? That’s the question of The Great Apostasy. Hopefully you can see why that actually is the linchpin.

I don’t need to take seriously the claim of Joseph Smith as a prophet unless I first know that the church on Earth had died out and needs to be restored somehow. Joseph Smith actually makes this pretty clear in his first vision. Now, this vision changes in content a little bit over the years. This is one of the areas people point to contradictions within Mormonism, but I’m not going to focus on that, just the official version of it.

Joseph Smith says that he went out to pray to the Lord to know which of all the different sects, meaning like denominations, was right so he’d know what to join, because he’s dealing, quite reasonably, with the fact that in the 19th century, you have all of these different Protestant denominations that are preaching these really contrary things. This is obviously not willed by God. Denominationalism is not of God. In John 17, Jesus calls for the church to be won.

Joseph Smith claims that he then sees either two or three personages, it kind of depends when you ask him, and they tell him that he wasn’t to join any church on earth because all of them were wrong and all of their creeds were an abomination and that all of those who were professing those creeds were all corrupt, that they drew near to him with their lips, but their hearts were far from him. Joseph Smith is allegedly told by God that all forms of Christianity are evil and wrong.

This is a big claim because Mormons now downplay it. Remember I mentioned that this essay is looking at the evolution in views of earlier history? But in the earliest writings of Joseph Smith and others, there’s this very clear sense that all existing forms of Christianity are evil. I mean, that’s what it means to say the creeds were an abomination. That you can say, well, some of the people were innocently caught up in this evil abominable cult or evil denomination that’s only pretending to follow God, but this is at the heart of the Mormon claim.

That as friendly as Mormons are, you have to grapple with the fact that the claim about The Great Apostasy is Catholicism, Protestantism, Orthodoxy, Coptic Christianity, you name it. Every form of Christianity on earth between pretty much the death of the apostles and the time of Joseph Smith, all of them are evil and abominable. Those early Christians being martyred by the Romans for being Christians, those guys were only pretending to be Christians. They only thought they were. They weren’t true Christians. That’s the heart of Joseph Smith’s claim.

Now, on the LDS website, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they have a topics in questions section, which is very helpful. In their section on apostasy, they give the basic argument. They say, we live in a time when the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored. Excuse me. But unlike the church in times past, the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will not be overcome by general apostasy. The scriptures teach that the church will never again be destroyed. Now, they point to two sources here. One of those is doctrines and covenants, which only they have.

The other is Daniel 2:44. We are going to get to Daniel 2 and look at how this is either telling us about Jesus or about Joseph Smith, and we’ll look at which of those two it’s telling us about. In the article on apostasy, they also say that while there won’t be another general apostasy, there can still be personal apostasy. They recognized, someone could be Mormon and then break away from Mormonism, just like someone can be Catholic and break away from Catholicism. No one is denying personal apostasy or at least neither Mormons nor Catholics deny personal apostasy.

Neither of us believe that our own churches will fall into general or universal apostasy. Hopefully this distinction makes sense. I think it’s an important one, but the idea is we can fall away, but the church, because it’s founded by Christ, won’t. There’s an LDS pamphlet called The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It looks at this same theme, and it says that some inspired people such as Martin Luther and John Calvin recognized practices and doctrines had been changed or lost. They tried to reform the churches to which they belonged without priesthood authority.

However, Christ gospel could not be returned to its original form, a restoration was needed. Now, this is a really interesting part of LDS theology and one that I wanted to focus in on, because the LDS are taking the Protestant argument in some ways to its illogical conclusion. I mean, look, you’re going to find a wide variety. I don’t mean to speak univocally of all Protestants here, but Protestants historically have said the Catholic Church became apostate, that it became a false church, that even they sometimes will say the Pope is the antichrist and all of these things.

The Mormon argument is, okay, let’s assume all that’s true. If that’s true, you are not going to be able to reform it because you’re simply a man. You would need to be a prophet inspired by God to reform it. And hey, guess what? We happen to have one, Joseph Smith. It’s actually a really interesting argument, because they’re looking at a strength in Protestantism. They’re making all these attacks on the Catholic Church and then looking at a weakness that if those attacks are true, that doesn’t just undermine Catholicism, that undermines all forms of Christianity.

Because to say Jesus founded a church, that church went bad, but I can found it by my own authority, as Luther or Calvin or whoever, it doesn’t make sense. Mormons recognize that it doesn’t make sense, and so their solution is to say, well, our founder isn’t just a reformer. Our founder actually is a prophet inspired by God. B. H. Roberts, he is a Mormon historian who is going to be pretty influential in this, has a book called The “Falling Away” of The World’s Loss of the Christian Religion and Church. Remember when I said they believe that all forms of visible Christianity were abominable?

That’s not just me putting those words. In the book title, he’s saying that the Christian religion was lost. Robert says the Protestant writers need to set forth the theory that the Christian religion survived all the abuses and corruptions of it through ages of apostasy or else they would have no logical ground for the 16th century reformation to stand on. He’s making the same point that, okay, Protestants, you have to figure out what is your claim about the true church then.

If you’re saying the Roman Catholic Church is evil, are you saying either A, it’s evil but still the true church, or B, it’s the apostate church but there is some true church somewhere else we just can’t find, or C, the entire church disappeared? Because if you say C, you don’t really have any legs to stand on. If you say A, the Catholic Church is the true church, then don’t break away. If you say C, there is no true church on earth, Jesus found it and it was destroyed. Well, it’s of divine origin so you can’t hope to recreate it.

You have to claim something like B that there’s some form of true church that survives somewhere, somehow and that historical claim is pretty weak. Roberts goes on to say that Protestants seem not oblivious to the fact that if the Christian religion was displaced by a paganized religion, a false religion, then the only possible way in which the true religion and the Church of Christ could be restored would be by a reopening of the heavens. And that makes sense.

If you say the church on Earth was not created by the apostles on their own manmade authority, it was created by Jesus Christ directly, Matthew 16, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” Jesus promises to personally build the church. If you say that church was replaced by a pagan one, which is the claim many Protestants we’re making, some Protestants still make, and the claim Mormons are making, then the logical conclusion of that is not we can fix it, it’s that you need something like Mormonism. These are the stakes. You’ll see that there’s a lot there implicitly about Protestantism.

I’m going to actually ignore how would Protestantism fit into this because I think those arguments against it are strong ones to consider if you’re a Protestant watching this. But otherwise, we’ll just leave it like this. If a Great Apostasy happened, Catholicism is false, right? Because we say The Great Apostasy didn’t happen. If The Great Apostasy didn’t happen, Mormonism is false because they say one did happen and that’s why you need Mormonism as a restoration. These are not just, in other words, historical claims that are interesting. These are foundational knockout punches.

If either of us is wrong about this, it disproves our entire church. It disproves our entire religion. We don’t have to actually look at a thousand other issues we might disagree on or might have maybe nuanced disagreements on. That’s step one. When I say lay out the stakes, I mean just that. Understand that the Mormon claim requires a Great Apostasy and the Catholic claim requires that there’s not a Great Apostasy. Now, someone who’s not Mormon or Catholic could say, “Well, even if you guys get this one right, that doesn’t prove you’re the true church.”

Fair enough. But between Catholics and Mormons, this is a make or break issue. Each side has to be right on The Great Apostasy and we take opposite views. Step two, distinguish personal from universal apostasy. I’ve already alluded to this fact, but let’s look at a little bit of a biblical evidence. One of the most important texts about apostasy is in 2 Thessalonians 2 where St. Paul is writing into the Thessalonians who are really looking forward to the end times. He warns him that the day, meaning the Day of Judgment, won’t come until the rebellion, apostasia, comes first.

And then he describes what this is going to be like. The man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exults himself against every so-called God or object of worship so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. This is pretty explicitly an end times prediction. You’ll notice two things. Number one, the apostasy St. Paul warns against is not a universal apostasy, it’s a rebellion. There’s a reason it’s translated that way.

Number two, it’s at the end of time. It’s right before the Day of Judgment. It’s not immediately after the death of the apostles. Protestants and Mormons will point to this passage to say, “Aha! Look, there was a Great Apostasy, therefore the Catholic Church is false.” But the apostasy they’re claiming happened happened like 2,000 years ago rather than at the end of time or right before the end of time. That’s an important difference. They’re taking the concept out of the actual timeline St. Paul gives, which is that this is going to happen before the Day of Judgment.

But second, apostasia, that word, which is where we get the English word apostasy, means renunciation or abandonment or neglect of organized religion in the modern English form. But in the original Greek, it actually means something like rebellion or revolt. It literally means to stand away or to stand apart. Apostasia. Standing apart. You’re saying, “Well, standing apart from what?” Well, standing apart from the church. That if you are part of the church and you say, “I’m going to go my own way. I’m going to stand over here by myself,” that is what apostasia originally means.

The meaning now has changed over the years. But when we’re reading the New Testament and you’re seeing this word apostasy, it’s referring to this, which is why it’s sometimes translated as rebellion. You’re breaking away from the group. Now, this is why that matters because that only makes sense if this is something an individual does breaking away from the group. To say that the group universally breaks away from itself is meaningless. You can say that a person lost a limb.

But to say a person lost their whole body, what does that mean? Your whole body was cut off? What could that mean? The most you could maybe claim then is that the entire body was cut off from the head, Jesus Christ, but notice then that you’re claiming that the body of Christ fails, not that someone broke away from the body. I hope this makes sense. The problem with apostasy is the church is good and you going away from the church is bad. The idea of a universal apostasy is the church is no longer good.

It’s actually opposite claims. It may not seem like it because you’re saying, “Well, in both cases somebody’s breaking away.” But in one case, apostasy is sinful because you are breaking away from the good church, which is the Body of Christ. You’re breaking away from union with Christ. The other claim, universal apostasy, which is not found anywhere in the Bible, the body itself is the problem, not the people breaking away from the body. That’s the critical, crucial distinction.

Is the problem somebody breaking away from the body, or is the problem the body itself? FAIR. Fair is like the Catholic Answers to Mormonism. It’s a apologetics website. I don’t think it has any official connection to the church, but they’re like the go-to place for finding good Mormon arguments. They examine this question, was the apostasy after Christ complete? They say, well, some Christians charge that although the apostasy is predicted in scripture, it’s not a universal apostasy.

That there will be a band of faithful Christians who kept the true faith. Again, they’re thinking more of Protestants here, but they say the realization that no Christian Church has continuity of the church established by Jesus in divine authority or doctrine is not an idea that originated with the LSD Christians. Many Protestant clergymen and others have long realized that if the Catholic Church’s claim to be the true continuation of Christ’s Church are false, then a universal apostasy must have occurred.

If Protestantism is true, then you would seemingly need something like a universal apostasy because Mormons and Protestants and Catholics can all basically agree, prior to the reformation, the form of Christianity that existed on earth, it was not Mormon, it was not Protestant, it was Catholic. Now, it’s also Orthodox. There’s a much more complicated question that these writers are overlooking. But at the very least, you can’t believe that this is…

Like what Catholics and Orthodox agree on, at least, things like transubstantiation and sacrifice of the mass and the priesthood and all of these things. If you say those things are false and evil, then you have to affirm something like a universal apostasy. FAIR is completely fair about that. That is quite right. And then it goes on to say, well, if there wasn’t this belief in a complete apostasy, there would’ve been no motivation for the founders of various denominations to start their own churches.

They would’ve simply joined the true denomination or the true church. Fair enough. Again, it’s like, okay, it makes sense. It defies reason for a non-Catholic to claim that Mormons were the first to separate themselves from what they considered apostate Christianity. In other words, FAIR is just pointing out Mormonism is the logical endpoint of Protestant theology about church history. But notice what this doesn’t do, it doesn’t answer the question whether scripture points to a complete or a total apostasy, excuse me, a complete or partial apostasy.

It just says, well, yeah, Protestants have been making the complete apostasy argument for a long time. Sure they have. But as a Catholic I’d say, and they were wrong and Mormonism shows why they were wrong. Quick summary of the claim from a Catholic perspective. Individual apostasy is possible and predicted in scripture. Total apostasy is impossible as promised by scripture. We haven’t really gotten into what those promises are yet, but we’ll get there.

The LDS claim is that individual apostasy is possible, and that total apostasy is not only possible, but actually happened to the church founded by Christ almost immediately after the death of the apostles, and that’s why you need Joseph Smith. But that now total apostasy is impossible. Jesus’s church could fail, but Joseph Smith’s church can’t. That’s not the way they would put it, but that’s the way… They would say, “Oh, this is still Jesus’ church.” But the church founded on earth by Jesus Christ they’ll say failed.

The church founded on earth by Joseph Smith they’ll say won’t fail. That raises some serious problems. One of the reasons you can’t have a total apostasy is because of the nature of the church. Ephesians 1, St. Paul says of the church that God has put all things under his, meaning Christ’s feet, and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. That the church is the Body of Christ and the church is the fullness of Christ.

That the full Christ is not just Jesus the head, it’s Jesus the head with his body, the church. They’re inseparable. In Ephesians, St. Paul goes on to say… Ephesians 5 is really famous for what it says about men and women, but Paul is actually talking about this in the context of the church. He says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body and is himself its savior. Then he quotes Genesis, that for this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

You might think, oh, that’s a really beautiful passage about marriage, and sure it is, but Paul says, this is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church. That Christ and the church are mystically united. That’s what he’s saying. That is actually what he is saying here. They’re united, the two become one flesh. For a total apostasy to be true, the bride of Christ has to die, the Body of Christ has to die, the fullness of Christ has to die. And that is impossible without a direct assault on Christ. That’s why as a Catholic we would point to that and say, no, no, no.

Total apostasy isn’t just impossible because it’s promised the gates of hell won’t overcome. Total apostasy is impossible if you understand what the church is as promised in scripture. That you can’t say Christ the bridegroom is a widower because his bride is dead. That totally misunderstands the whole biblical image from start to finish, literally from Genesis 2 with the prefigurement, with Adam and Eve of Christ in the church, all the way to Revelation with the wedding feast of the lamb between Christ and the church.

That story makes no sense if you believe in a total apostasy. You have to believe that everything predicted about the church is ultimately false. That’s a serious problem theologically. Romans 11, nevertheless, predicts that there can be individual apostasy. Paul points out, he uses the image of the church as an olive tree, the people of God as an olive tree. That you’ve got Israel and some branches are broken off, those who don’t keep the faith, and then the Gentiles are grafted in.

But notice the plant is still alive. You can lose a branch. You can have another branch get added, but the plant itself is still alive. Paul says that those branches were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. But notice that there’s no form of this where Paul suggests maybe the entire tree will just die. Maybe it’ll just go dormant and then for 1,800 years there won’t be a tree, 1,700 years, whatever. And then someone else will have to go and start a new tree.

No, there’s nothing like that. That is not the biblical depiction of apostasy. The biblical depiction is that we can individually be broken off like faithless branches, but the church itself won’t be destroyed because the church is the fullness of Christ, because it’s the Body of Christ, because it’s the bride of Christ. It is so united with Christ that the two have become one flesh. To say the church is dead is to say that Christ is dead, and we know Christ is alive. That’s distinguishing personal from universal apostasy.

The third step establish that the early church was the Catholic Church. Now, that sounds like a tall order. You think, you could write an entire book on that, and I did. It’s called The Early Church Was the Catholic Church. But actually this is really easy in Mormon Catholic conversation, because you can just point to the fact that Mormon’s in official documents grant that the early church was the Catholic Church. I know that sounds really wild, but there’s a fellow by the name of James Talmage. He was one of the apostles in The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

That’s part of the governing structure within LDS Mormonism. In the year 1909, he wrote a book called The Great Apostasy. I bet you can guess what it was about. In that book, he goes in… I’m going to skip around a little bit in the book, but he says, “Our review of The Great Apostasy as presented in the treatise does not call for any detailed or critical study of the Roman Catholic Church as it exists in modern times, nor of any of the numerous Protestant denominations which have come into existence as dissenting children of the so-called Mother Church.

The apostasy was complete as far as actual loss of priesthood and cessation of spiritual power in the church are concerned long prior to the 16th century revolt, known in history as the Reformation.” That’s his claim, that sometime long prior to the Reformation there was a loss of priesthood and the loss of spiritual power, and therefore the Reformation doesn’t work and therefore the Catholic Church today doesn’t work. That’s the heart of the claim. But again, I want to just point out, they make interesting arguments against Protestantism.

He says, “It is instructive to observe, however, that the weakness of the Protestant sect as to any claim to divine appointment and authority is recognized by those churches themselves.” He gives the example of the Church of England. It originates in revolt against ceramic Catholic Church in its pope, and it’s without foundation of claim to divine authority and priestly orders. In other words, the Church of England does not claim that in Matthew 16 when Jesus founds the church, he was founding the Anglican Church with the king as the head of it. That’s not the claim.

Talmage points out, it’s pointless to assert the absurdity that kings and parliaments can create and take under themselves heavenly authority by enactment of earthly statutes. That the Catholic claim is Jesus founded this church directly in Matthew 16. The Mormon claim is that Joseph Smith guided by God and by numerous saints and everything else, angels, refound the church. The Anglican claim is that an act of parliament creates their church. Talmage is just like, that’s kind of crazy. I think it’s worth chewing on if you’re a Protestant. Again, not the point of the video.

I just give that because I think one of the interesting things in The Great Apostasy arguments, the Mormons are assuming, excuse me, the Protestant critiques of Catholicism are true and they’re assuming therefore there must have been a Great Apostasy and that’s why Mormonism is needed. But as a Catholic I can say, look, you guys are right that the Protestant critiques frequently would require something like a Great Apostasy, but you’re wrong that there was a Great Apostasy. Therefore, both Protestantism and Mormonism fail if The Great Apostasy didn’t happen.

Talmage admits that the Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church, is at least consistent in its claim that a line of succession in the priesthood has been maintained from the apostolic age to the present. But he claims that this claim is utterly untenable in the light of a rational interpretation of history. But the fact remains that the Catholic Church is the only organization venturing to assert the present possession of the holy priesthood by unbroken dissent from the apostles of our Lord, whereas all the others are manmade institutions by their own account without a semblance of claim to the powers and authority of the holy priesthood.

Now, Talmage is wrong about this. There are Coptic and Orthodox Churches that would also claim this kind of unbroken lineage, but certainly in the West in terms of the conversation actually being had for the vast majority of professing Christians in Europe and America, this was true, that the only player in town who could possibly be in this unbroken line was the Catholic Church. But then Talmage goes on, this is later in the book, and he looks at the history of transubstantiation.

He’d already looked at infant baptism and he says, you got all these Protestants who claim this is a much later development. They’ll claim, oh, the earliest Christians didn’t believe in transubstantiation. But then later on down the road, that’s when this doctrine crept in. Talmage looks at the evidence and he’s like, that’s not at all true, because he looked specifically at those who claim it started in the 8th century. He points them to the fact that St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, believed in it.

He quotes from the letter to the Sumerians where he very clearly professes that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ. Then he looks at St. Justin Martyr who’s written about 160 in The First Apology, and he describes how the Eucharistized bread and wine are no longer ordinary food or ordinary drink, but become the flesh of Christ and the blood of Christ. You’re like, wow, that’s incredible. You’re doing great work, Talmage, in showing that the Catholic Church dates back at earliest to the 100s, because again, Justin is writing about 160, but Ignatius is writing about 107.

He’s believed to be a student of the Apostle John. Talmage goes on to say that after Justin Martyr, the testimony of the Father is abundant. They clearly believe in transubstantiation. Talmage says there can be no doubt as to the antiquity of the idea of the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. But then he says something really remarkable. But that proves, as we said, of infant baptism, not that the doctrine is true, but that soon after the apostles had passed away, a simplicity of the gospel was corrupted or else entirely departed from.

Again, I think you can see that there are forms of evangelicalism that lean in this direction where they’ll say, yep, you’re right. The church fathers in the second century and the third century and the fourth century all clearly are Catholic, long before Constantine even. But then instead of saying, okay, I guess that means the church was Catholic, they’ll say, therefore the church must have apostatized. But let’s focus on the common ground and then we’ll look at where we disagree.

In terms of the common ground, four major areas. Number one, the early church was thoroughly Catholic, at least as far back as the disciples of the apostles. Now, we’ll get into whether the apostles believed in this stuff. But at least in their first students, we find them clearly teaching these Catholic things like transubstantiation, real presence, infant baptism and the like. Number two, these early Christians baptized infants. They believe in transubstantiation. Number three, we actually both agree, remember, that Jesus established a visible church on Earth.

And number four, that if Christ’s visible church somehow failed, it would be absurd to imagine it being fixed or restored by merely human authority like Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII. Catholics and Mormons actually have a kind of common shared framework, which can be really helpful for the conversation. But that leaves basically two possibilities. Number one, the early church looks this Catholic because Jesus started the Catholic Church, or number two, the early church looks this Catholic because all of Jesus’ followers fell away almost immediately.

That gives us a way to frame the question, did Jesus’ church immediately fail? We’ve got really good reason to believe that it didn’t, so that leaves us to the fourth step, did the apostles fail? Here I just say, remember the claim here. I like the way Talmage, who we just heard from, is quoted in an LDS manual called Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual. It claims that the period of apostolic ministry on the Eastern continent, that means Europe, Asia, Africa, in other words, everywhere but the Americas, probably terminated before the dawn of the second century of the Christian era.

The passing of the apostles was followed by the rapid development of a universal apostasy as had been foreseen and predicted. We’ll get into that alleged prediction, but notice the claim is that there’s an almost immediate destruction of Christianity. Is that what we find depicted in the New Testament? The answer is obviously not. The Book of Acts would be the place to go for a lot of this. I’ll give you just a few examples. In Acts 5, we hear about the many signs and wonders being done at the hands of the apostles.

This is in Jerusalem. In Solomon’s Portico, a lot of them are afraid to join, but the people still held them in high honor and more than ever we’re told believers were added to the Lord multitudes, both of men and women. They even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and pallets. That is Peter Kim, by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. That you’d find multitudes of people joining. You see this originally Acts 2 and 3,000 people converted on the Day of Pentecost.

You have just hordes of people, droves of people becoming faithful Christians, even when it’s something that could really cost a lot to become a Christian. This isn’t just true in Jerusalem either in Acts 16, after the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. Paul, Silas, and Timothy going their way through the different cities, they’re going into these Gentile towns, and we’re told the churches were strengthened in the faith and they increased in numbers daily. St. Paul refers to one of these churches in Thessalonians.

Remember, this is one of The Great Apostasy passages or books, excuse me. In 2 Thessalonians, Paul is not saying you’re about to go into a total universal apostasy. He says something quite the opposite. He says, “Your faith is growing abundantly and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore, we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring.” There it is, this church in 2 Thessalonians, the Thessalonian Church, is not about to go into apostasy.

It’s growing. It’s strong. It’s doing well. In Romans, he talks about another church, the Church of Rome. He tells the Romans, your faith is proclaimed in all the world. They are famously faithful Christians. You get this in the writings of Ignatius of Antioch. He mentions this as well. We know that both in general Christianity is growing during the time of the apostles, and we know particular churches that are doing extremely well, that are doing well. Now, we know from the Book of Revelation, for instance, there are churches that are struggling.

There are churches that are dealing with serious sin. There are churches that are even dying, local churches, right? This is that partial or individual apostasy. But we also know the church writ large seems like it’s very healthy and doing very well. And of course, this is exactly what we would expect given the numerous promises Jesus makes in what are called the kingdom parables. Let me look at just a few. In Matthew 13, he compares the kingdom to a field where he has gone out and sowed good seed, and then the enemy, the devil, has put weeds in the field.

And so then the servants say, “Well, what are we going to do? Do you want us to go and uproot the weeds?” He says, “No, lest in gathering the weeds, you root up the weed along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At the harvest time, I will tell the reapers, gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” Now, this is a pretty clear description explicitly of the kingdom of heaven. Now, obviously not the kingdom of heaven in heaven, the kingdom of heaven on earth that has both the elect and the wicked.

They’re going to, we’re told, until when, until the close of the age. This becomes very clear in Jesus’ commentary on this past, because he explains what this parable means to the apostles. He says the harvest is the close of the age and the reapers are the angels. We know the church is going to survive until the close of the age, meaning until the end of the world. It’ll have both the saved and some of the wicked in it.

And then at the close of the age, at the harvest time, the angels will come, the Son of Man will sin his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers and throw them into the furnace of fire. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Notice there’s no prediction here that there’s going to be a wheat field and the wheat field’s going to be lost. And then 1,800 years later, someone else is going to make another wheat field and that one’s going to flourish.

That’s not it at all. The kingdom is the field and it’s got wheat and it grows until the harvest. It’ll have weed. It’ll have struggles. You bet. But the true kingdom established by Christ is going to last until the harvest. That’s very clearly what’s going on in Matthew 13. Going on from Matthew 13:47, he then compares the kingdom to a net containing good and bad fish. When it’s full, men draw to shore and they sort through the fish. What does that represent? Well, it represents the close of the age in which the angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous.

Again, this doesn’t make any sense with the universal apostasy in which the net gets lost or gets broken or gets ripped open and there’s no longer any fish in it. But no, clearly you have an unbroken lineage of the kingdom all the way to the shore, and the shore represents the shores of eternity. The ones who are going to sort it out are not Joseph Smith, the Mormons, anything like this. It’s angels at the bidding of our Lord dividing the righteous from the unrighteous at the end of time, which clearly has not happened yet.

That’s Matthew 13. Go over to Mark 4 for more kingdom parables. Jesus describes the kingdom of God as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground and then the seed grows he knows not how. The earth produces of itself. First the blade, then ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe at once, he puts in the sickle because the harvest has come. That actually shows you the whole trajectory of the church from now until the harvest, which again is the end of time.

That is a grain of wheat, which is like a tiny grain that seems to die. It goes into the earth. It seems to be dead, but in fact it’s still alive. That’s really critical. It grows unbroken until the harvest. That is inconsistent, needless to say, with the universal apostasy. The universal apostasy claim is that Jesus plants some seeds and then it dies and it doesn’t grow to the harvest. Centuries later, Joseph Smith plants some seeds and those ones are going to grow to the harvest. But that’s not what Jesus promised.

He promised that the seeds he was planting, the kingdom, are going to grow until the harvest and the harvest is the close of the age. And then he gives the famous comparison of the church, the kingdom, to a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth, and yet it will grow to be the largest or the greatest of all shrubs. In other words, you’ve got the smallest body. You’ve got Jesus with just a handful of followers, and he’s promising this is going to become the largest church on earth. It’s going to become the largest body on earth.

That’s the point of the parable of the mustard seed. That we’re not looking for… Talmage points out that some Protestant histories are like, there’s this tiny band of true Christians amidst his mass of the evil apostate church. That’s not what Jesus promises. He promises the church is going to get really big, like the mustard seed gets really big. That’s it. Not just really big, the biggest, the greatest. That’s the promise. If you understand what the Parable of the Mustard Seed is about, it’s not just have faith and your faith will grow. No. He tells us with what can we compare the kingdom of God.

He’s telling us about the church on earth and saying it’s going to become huge. The Catholic Church is like, yeah, look, you can literally trace the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church growing like a mustard seed into a mustard tree. That’s not true if you take the LDS claim where you have to say, well, it started out and then that one died, and now there’s going to be a new mustard seed. Again, none of that makes any sense with the kingdom parables. That was step four. Step five, what happened to prophecy then?

Because I can imagine LDS viewers, listeners taking this all in and saying, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but why don’t you have prophets the way we do?” And there’s an answer to that. But for those of you who are Catholic or not LDS and aren’t maybe familiar with the reason this matters, in the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the LDS manual, it points to this as a really critical point. It says, following the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted and killed many church members. Other church members drifted from the principles taught by Jesus Christ and his apostles.

The apostles were killed in priesthood authority, including the keys to direct and receive revelation for the church was taken from the earth. That’s a critical historical claim that the priesthood was lost, specifically the ability to receive revelation. And then because the church was no longer led by priesthood authority, error crept into church teachings, good people and much truth remain, but the gospels established by Jesus Christ was lost. This period is called The Great Apostasy. That’s the claim. There are a couple major problems with this.

One, the idea that this authority was lost because of the wickedness of the people or because of persecution, either of those are false. I mean, all you have to do is read the Old Testament. The prophets were not a reward to Israel for doing such a good job of staying faithful to God. Just literally read basically any story of the prophets. And as Israel screwed up, they turned against God, and so God sent them prophets to get them back on course over and over and over and over again.

The idea that we lost the priesthood authority and the ability to receive prophetic revelation because we were wicked makes no sense of the whole history of the Old and frankly New Testament in which God responds to our infidelity with his fidelity. But there’s a deeper problem here too. Besides just that this contradicts everything we know about God from the Bible, it also conflates the priesthood and prophecy. Now, I want to be careful here because there’s one sense in which we actually agree. The word Christ from the Hebrew Messiah means anointed.

There are three offices in the Old Testament that are associated with anointing: priesthood, prophecy, and kingship. Priest, prophet, king, Jesus is all of those. We through our baptism and priests through their ordination as well share in some sense in this. Nevertheless, we don’t claim to be prophets in the sense that like Elijah was a prophet. Why? Well, let’s get into the difference between a priest and a prophet, because you’ll notice this manual just treats priesthood and prophet as the same thing, and biblically they’re not.

We get this, for instance, in Ezekiel 7, where it says disaster comes upon disaster. Things are not going well. Remember, prophets often come when things are not going well. Rumor follows rumor. They seek a vision from the prophet, but the law perishes from the priest and counsel from the elder. The king mourns, the prince is wrapped in despair, and the hands of the people of the land are palsied by terror. The important thing for our purposes is just that priests and prophets were clearly two different offices or roles in Israel.

This is a point that nobody’s going to disagree with if they actually read the text. I mean, they’re two different words. Navi or Nabi is how you say prophet. It’s someone who prophesies. It’s someone who tells you what God has to say. The Hebrew word for priest is kohen, and that is actually going to come from a really interesting verb form kahane, but we’ll get into that in a second. But I mention all of that just to say these are obviously different things that have different words and there are different offices and are described as such.

What do they each do? A prophet is one, as I kind of alluded to, who prophesies, who speaks the words of God. In Deuteronomy 18:18, there’s this promise, I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren. Now put my words in his mouth and he shall speak to them all that I command him. That’s what a prophet does. He speaks on behalf of God. The reason we don’t still have that in the same way we did before is because that has been fulfilled in Christ.

The promise of Deuteronomy 18 was fulfilled in Jesus. This becomes really clear in Hebrews 1. Now, I know there’s a lot here, but bear with me. The point of a prophet is revelation. Revelation in Greek, apocalypses, is the unveiling. Revealing is where revelation comes from. Unveiling is where apocalypse or apocalypses comes from. It’s the revealing or unveiling of God. Hebrews 1 points out that God has revealed himself in many different ways. In various ways, God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets.

But in these last days, he’s spoken to us by a son, and this son, we’re told, reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature upholding the universe by his word of power. There’s all these different ways, mostly through scripture, but other ways as well in which God has revealed himself of old. In Romans 1, St. Paul talks about how God has revealed even elements of his attributes to the pagans. Through creation, through conscience, there’s all these different ways that God has revealed himself.

You get this partial revelation in the Old Testament as well. The fullness of revelation is in Jesus, because now he’s spoken to us by the son. What makes the son special? As St. Paul says in Colossians 1, Jesus is the image of the invisible God. And in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Jesus is the full revelation of God. That’s why we don’t have any more prophets, because we’re not looking for any further revelation because God has fully revealed himself in Jesus Christ.

That’s the idea. We’re not looking for another testament. We’re not looking for another prophet. In the words of the Apostle Jude in Jude 1:3, we’re called to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. That in Christ we got it all. And now we just have to fight for that. We are not looking for some new theology, new progressive thing, new revelation, none of that, because we have it all in Christ. This is not a punishment for our wickedness. This is the greatest gift of all time.

That’s why we’re not looking for any new prophecy. Now, you might say, okay, so what about that thing you just said about sharing in the priest, prophet, king nature of Christ? That we are called to speak on behalf of God. Not to give some new information, but to proclaim the gospel. And that’s a lot of what prophecy is. If you actually look at the role of the prophets, they were often not telling the people things they didn’t already know. They were calling the people to repentance to what they did know and what they should have already known.

We are so called to do that. We do share in the prophetic ministry in that sense. We’re not expecting some new revelation. That’s the critical thing. What the LDS church is presenting as some sort of loss of the priesthood authority is, A, not really about priesthood in the first place, and B, not actually a negative. It’s the fulfillment. In the same way that we didn’t lose the Mosaic Law because we were so wicked, the Mosaic Law was fulfilled. Likewise, this whole prophetic thing that had been going on in many and various ways up to Christ is fulfilled in its fullness in Jesus.

Now, I don’t have to just rely on I see a sunset and it looks like there must be a creator, so I believe there must be a creator God somewhere, because the creator God has come and met me in Christ. Now I can just believe in him without having to do all the hard work that you would’ve had to do with partial revelation. Hopefully that’s clear that we’re seeing not the abandonment of the people, but the perfection of the people. That then leads us to what then about priesthood, because I mentioned there’s this Greek word kahane.

That if you look at kohen, the root of it etymologically is kahane or kahane, and it means something like to be a priest, which is not very helpful. Kohen, the priest is one who does the priestly thing. What is the priestly thing? Well, we’re told in Hebrews 8 that every priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices. At the heart of what a priest does is he offers sacrifice, he offers gifts, he makes offerings. That’s what a priest is. That’s the priestly thing. Strikingly, Joseph Smith actually acknowledges this.

This is recorded in a book called The Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, where he says, it’s generally supposed that sacrifice is entirely done away with with the grave sacrifice, meaning Christ. But that’s not true. He says, those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges, and authority of the priesthood or with the prophets. Now, he’s still conflating priest and prophet, but he’s right about the priest part. He says, the offering of sacrifice has ever been corrected, excuse me, connected and forms a part of the duties of the priesthood.

He’s dead on, that a priest is one who offers sacrifice. The sacrifice of the mass is where we see this most especially. In Jeremiah 33, there’s this prophecy of the New Covenant that there will be a righteous branch who springs forth for David. That’s Jesus pretty clearly. I think we both agree on this. And then the promise is made that David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel. That’s Christ. The Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn serial offerings, and to make sacrifices forever. Now, notice that this is priests plural.

This is not just talking about the fact that Christ is our eternal high priest. It’s also saying he’s going to have priests continuing this ministry. This is the thing, Jeremiah 33 says, this is going to happen perpetually, and it will be in an unbroken thing, right? They’re going to have this forever. The LDS reciprocity claim is no, they didn’t. They had it for a generation, and then it went away for 1,800 years, and then it had to be restored. But notice that Jeremiah 33 is promising that unlike prophecy, which comes to its fulfillment in Christ, the priesthood continues.

In Isaiah 66, you have another one of these prophecies. It’s about the gathering of the Gentiles and how they’ll come and see the glory of the Lord. He’ll set his sign among them. He’ll bring the brethren from all the nations, and then he says they’re going to offer their serial offering to the house of the Lord and some of them I will take for priests and for Levites, says the Lord. Now, the Levitical priesthood is like the ironic priesthood, but the Levites are not priests themselves, meaning some Levites are priests.

But if you just hear Levites, that means the people who are from the tribe who help the priests. This is a prefigurement of what we now call deacons. Some deacons are priests. All priests are deacons. Not all deacons are priests. All Old Testament priests are Levites. Not all Levites are priests. Hopefully that’s clear. First Clement written in 96 talks about this and compares the Christian Church to this and says that basically everybody should know their role.

For his own particular services are assigned to the high priest and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests and their own special administrations devolve in the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to layman. Now, Clement isn’t actually literally talking about Old Testament Israel here. Because remember, this is 26 years after the temple has been destroyed. You don’t have those priestly sacrifices still being offered. He’s making very clear that he thinks that all of these prophecies are fulfilled in the ongoing priesthood of the church founded by Christ.

Now, I don’t know what someone believing in the Great Apostasy is going to say because Clement is so early and he’s arguing that there’s still a priesthood in 96 with this high priest, priest, Levite, layman structure. That’s where we get bishop, priest, deacon, layman, and he’s showing you this trifold structure. I haven’t even talked about Malachi 1. I’m obsessed with Malachi 1:11. Apologies in advance. This is another of these promises in the Old Testament. There will be this ongoing sacrifice offered by the Gentiles.

From the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is great among the nations. Now the nations are the Gentiles if that’s not 100% clear. That Israel regularly referred to all the other peoples the Gentiles simply as the nations. In every place incenses offered to my name in a pure offering, that is a sacrifice, for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts. And then God rebukes those in Israel offering impure sacrifice at the table of the Lord. It says, curse be the cheat who has a male in his flock and vows it and yet sacrifices to the Lord with blemish.

For I’m a great king, says the Lord of Hosts, and my name is feared among the nations. There’s even in Malachi 1 this description of the table of the Lord, the altar of the Lord. All of this is pointing to a sacrificial kind of meal at the table of the Lord. Early Christians, like in the dedicate, which is probably from the first century, maybe from the early second century, like early 100s, but probably from the first century at the time the New Testament is being written, talks about the mass in this way.

That every Lord’s day we come together and we break bread and we give thanksgiving. The word Eucharist in Greek is Thanksgiving. After having confessed our transgressions that our sacrifice may be pure. And then it explains that this is why we make amends with one another before we bring our gifts to the altar. And then it quotes Malachi 1 in the part that you just heard. Very clearly the earliest Christians understood what they were doing to be a fulfillment of these Old.

Testament prophecies, that there was going to be this unbroken lineage of what had begun in the Old Testament priesthood. It was not going to be abolished, it was going to be transformed in Christ. But notice one of the ways it’s transformed. The Levites of old were literally from the tribe of Levi. But if you notice those promises, that some of the Gentiles will become Levites. Now, that’s obviously not literally. They’re not going to literally be from the tribe of Levi because they’re not.

They’re from different nations. But there will be a fulfillment, in other words, of what the Levitical priesthood was doing, which was offering gifts and sacrifice. That this is going to be perfected rather than abandoned. That’s why we believe there’s still a priesthood. You have this position where the LDS is arguing, oh, priesthood authority had been lost, but we find a 2,000-year unbroken lineage of priests in the Catholic Church. That doesn’t work very well if you’re claiming that had gone away.

The better argument is that prophecy had gone away in terms of big public binding revelation. But even there, there’s a pretty obvious explanation given in the New Testament for why that is. I give all of that just to say you’re likely to be asked something about this. And for many Catholics, you’ve never maybe given any thought to why don’t we have a prophet anymore? Well, because the prophets are pointing us towards Christ and now Christ has come. Don’t worry, there’s only like three more steps. I know this is a super long episode.

Step six though, you got to be ready for the standard LDS proof text, which is Amos 8:11-12. I mentioned this as a standard one because almost everything I read on The Great Apostasy always pointed to this one passage that allegedly proved The Great Apostasy. For instance, in the pamphlet, The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we’re told God knew there’d be an apostasy. And then it quotes Amos 8:11-12, which says, behold the days are coming, says the Lord God, when I’ll 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. Now, the first thing to notice about this is this is not a prediction of a Great Apostasy. Notice the claim before was that we’d lost priesthood authority, but the idea of the famine of the word of the Lord, well, we still have Revelation in the Old Testament and the New Testament. They’re going to say there’s a famine of the word of the Lord because there’s not a newer New Testament, that we don’t have ongoing prophets, and that is just not really a good description A of what an apostasy is like.

There are plenty of periods in Israel’s history where there wasn’t a prophet at a particular time. That wasn’t an apostasy. But they’re going to say once you don’t have the prophets, then that somehow triggers the apostasy. It’s not a very well fleshed out theory. Needless to say, the point here is even if you read Amos 8 to say prophecy is going to go away, that is not a prediction of an apostasy. But nevertheless, this is also total butchering of Amos 8 and its context, and Amos 8 is really beautiful and fascinating.

Amos 8 as we see in verse three says, the end has come upon my people Israel. I will never again pass by them. Now that actually sounds much more like an apostasy, but here’s the thing to know. When we’re talking about that, we don’t mean Israel in the sense that you may be thinking of Israel. This is written at a time when there’s a divided kingdom. The 12 tribes after King Solomon divide. The two southern kingdoms remain faithful or two southern tribes, excuse me, remain faithful.

They formed the Kingdom of Judah, which is where we get the word Jew. The northern tribes take the name Israel at first, but we come to know them as Samaria. When it’s talking in Amos 8 about Israel, it’s talking about the Samaritans not about Israel as we may be thinking in terms of Judea, the Jews, as confusing as that is. This is just one of those things where when you’re reading the Bible, it helps to know that historical context. Because otherwise you’re like, wait, I thought Israel was good?

Yes, Israel is good. Amos is a southern prophet from down in Judah warning Israel that because of their faithlessness, the Samaritans are going to be destroyed. And they were. Now, this becomes really important. Shalom Paul, who is a Jewish, I believe Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he’s a Jewish commentator on Amos, describes this passage and explains what’s actually going on here. He describes that they’re going from sea to sea and from north to east. He says the description of sea to sea is from west to east or vice versa, from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea.

If you’re looking at the map, you can actually see you got the Mediterranean on one side and then you’ve got the Dead Sea on the other, also the Sea of Galilee. But he argues that it’s the Dead Sea that’s being referred to here. Either way, we know that Israel and Judah as well were kind of bordered between two seas. In the same way that as an American we say from sea to shining sea, everyone knows you mean the Pacific and the Atlantic. Just contextually that’s what that means. It means from east to west.

Well, same here. It means from east to west. He gives some examples in Joel 2:20. It says, I will remove the Northerner far from you, again, the Northerner is the Samaritans, what was briefly called Israel, and drive him into a parched and desolate land. His front into the Eastern Sea and his rear into the Western Sea. Again, you got that sea to sea, clearly east and west.

Now that makes this very confusing, because go back to Amos 12, this passage allegedly about The Great Apostasy, about how the people, these Samaritans, are going to be wandering from sea to sea, so from east to west and from north to east. Now, what direction is missing? The south is missing. Why does that matter? Because they’re refusing to be united with the south, which is where the word of God still is. It’s not just some weird figure of speech to say from north to east. No. Nobody says from north to east.

The reason they’re saying from sea to sea, from north to east instead of from sea to sea, north to south is because they’re refusing to look south. They’re they’re lost. They’re wandering. They’re hungry for the word of the Lord, but the one place they won’t look is where prophets like Amos are. Shalom Paul points out this does not seem to be an accidental omission of the word south. It’s precisely where Judah is located and Amos is a southern prophet who surely believes that in Judah at least one can find the words of God. This is a self-induced famine.

In other words, they’re hungry and thirsty for the word of God, but they refuse to actually receive the word of God. You can also see one more in Zachariah 14 that on that day living water shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. You, again, the sea to sea as east to west, but you also get this sense using some of the same language that something good might happen. That Amos 8 is not the end of the story. Yes, things are pretty bad for the Samaritans.

They’re refusing to be united with God. Their situation gets worse and worse. We know all this historically. But then something really crazy happens. You go to John 6 and you’ve got one of the two possible eastern seas, the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus goes the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. The multitude follows him. They see the signs. Then they follow him back across the sea on the next day. This is a part in John 6 that people have been really struck by.

There’s a lot of moving around here. They’re going from the sea and then they’re going back across the sea. What are they doing? Mark Kiley in a 1995 article entitled The Geography of Famine, John 6:22-25, argues that this is a sort of fulfillment or reversal maybe even of Amos 8. That you have people who are hungry for the word. If you look at the context of John 6, it’s really beautiful. It’s really fasting. They’re hungry for the word, meaning they want the bread from heaven, they want the manna.

They’re hungry for this. And then Jesus points them twofold to his teaching as word, but then to himself and his flesh as the word. It’s really a beautiful and profound thing that Amos 8 where the people are hungry for the word is an actual historical prediction of what’s going to happen to the Samaritans, and did, but then is also fulfilled in a certain way where now the hunger of the people for the word of God is being met. That we see them going from sea to sea, going across the Sea of Galilee and then back to follow Jesus.

But now they’re not pointlessly wandering around. Now a true prophet is up here in the north around Galilee fulfilling their hunger and thirst. I think that’s a really beautiful reflection and recognition of Amos 8 is not about, oh, the true church founded by Christ is going to fall into apostasy. It’s not saying anything about that. It’s about Samaria. It was fulfilled in history. And then Jesus actually meets the famine for the word in the twofold way of the words that he speaks and the word himself. The word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Just be right with Amos 8.

It doesn’t mean what Mormons have been taught. If you read the context or read any Jewish commentary on it, you’ll see it’s being wildly taken out of context. Okay, I want to look at a few other proof texts the question you should be asking all of these is, is this promising a partial apostasy or a universal apostasy? Remember that distinction? It was in step two. Acts 20, St. Paul warns the elders of Ephesus to take heed to yourselves and all the flock because Paul says, I know after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock.

And from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them. Now, notice from among yourselves is not saying all of you will become evil apostates. Some of you, there will be some bad elders. Anyone who’s followed the history of the church for 2,000 years knows that. There’ll be some heretics who lead people away from the truth. Nobody denies that. That’s a partial apostasy. That is not a universal apostasy.

Next, 2 Timothy 4, there’s this foretelling that the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears. They will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander in the mist. This is a foretelling of something future arising, that sounds much more like Mormonism than Catholicism, that’s going to be a bunch of mist, that also sounds much more like Mormonism than Catholicism with these old Western stories of Indians and Jesus.

I mean, all this stuff. But nevertheless, you’ll notice this is still a partial apostasy. You wouldn’t know that from just the part I read, but a few verses prior. In verse one, St. Paul tells Timothy, I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is the judge of the living and the dead by his appearing in his kingdom to preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort be in patience and in teaching. In other words, Paul is not saying Timothy, you and the others are just doomed. No. Timothy is obviously part of this next generation of faithful Christians.

He still has priesthood authority. This is what Mormonism can’t account for. How do you have people like Timothy who are the clear successors of the apostles who have been entrusted with this authority? They’re warned there will be some apostates. Yes, but they’re not told they’re going to become apostates or that everyone will become an apostate. This is a partial apostasy. Next, we’ve got 2 Peter 2 where peter says false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.

But notice again that language of among you, that doesn’t mean everybody, that means some. In all of this, it’s one more prediction of a partial apostasy. I mentioned that to say, those are all the ones I could really find in terms of texts that Mormons would point to that allegedly taught a general apostasy and none of them do. They teach partial apostasy, which is something we both agree on. I mean, here is how I would put it, and I would put this to any LDS listeners. I think you would agree that 2 Peter 2, 2 Timothy 4 and Acts 20 apply to your own church.

That LDS members can fall into all of these things. You can have bad leaders, you can have bad followers, and yet none of that remotely means the general apostasy of the LDS. That would be the LDS view, because you recognize all of these are about partial apostasy. You can’t then turn around and apply them to the Catholic Church and say, “Aha! There must have been a universal apostasy,” because they don’t mean that, unless you say that Acts 20, 2 Timothy 4 and 2 Peter 2 don’t apply to Mormons.

But that would be a ridiculous claim. All that’s to say, there are no verses in the New Testament that describe the general apostasy that so many Protestants and Mormons claim happened. Those verses do not exist. I want to look at a couple final verses. Step seven, I mentioned we’d get to Daniel 2, we’re finally getting there. Does Daniel 2 foretell Jesus Christ or Joseph Smith? If you don’t remember Daniel 2, this is Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. He is asleep. He’s dreaming. He dreams of a statue.

It’s gold on top, and then silver, and then bronze, and then iron. The feet of the statue are iron mixed with clay. Daniel interprets it for him that he, Nebuchadnezzar, meaning the Babylonian empire, that’s the head of gold. The second level is the kingdom inferior to you. This is the silver. Then you have a third kingdom, which is bronze, which will rule over all the earth. And a fourth kingdom strong is iron, which will break to pieces and shatter all the other ones, but it shall be a divided kingdom.

We know historically what these four kingdoms are. Oh, sorry, before I get there, in verse 44, the reason this prophecy matters is that in the days of the fourth kingdom, in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end and it shall stand forever. There’s going to be an unbroken kingdom at the end of this four kingdom prophecy.

What is a four kingdom prophecy? Well, the first one, gold is Babylon. Daniel’s pretty clear about that. The second one is a Media Persian empire. This is kind of a mixed empire. That is the one that we know historically and from Daniel himself is going to replace Babylon. We know from Daniel that he considers these to be one empire. Some historians now would call it two empires, but Daniel refers to them as one empire. We know after them, the next one to come in and conquer Israel is Greece with Alexander the Great. And then you get the fourth empire, which is the Roman Empire.

What happens in the Roman Empire? Well, Jesus of Nazareth builds a church upon a rock and it doesn’t go away. This rock not formed by human hands that was prophesied in Daniel is fulfilled in Matthew 16 with the words of Jesus. The church lasts forever. Now, I’m going to someday do an episode just on Daniel 2, but I want to address it here because this is a promise that there won’t be an apostasy. This church founded by Christ won’t go away. You might say, what on earth do Mormons do in response to this? The answer is they misinterpret it. Now, you see this in several places.

The LDS President Rudger Clawson claims… Well, he calls it the Macedonian Kingdom, but he acknowledges the same four. First, you’ve got Babylonians, then you’ve got the Medes and Persians, then you’ve got the Greeks or Macedonians, then you’ve got the Romans. But then he says for Mark later on, the kingdom or empire of Rome was divided. The head of government in one division was at Rome and the head of the government in another division was at Constantinople. All that’s true.

That’s like the divided nature of the fourth kingdom is a pretty clear indication that this is the Roman Empire that’s being prophesied. These two great divisions represented the legs of iron. Finally, the Roman Empire was broken up into smaller kingdoms represented by the feet and toes of iron and clay. There’s a little movie he did there that he’s added a fifth kingdom, the later post Roman Empire. The LDS President Spencer Kimball does the same thing in 1976. He says Rome would be replaced by a group of nations of Europe represented by the toes of the image.

And then he says, and it was in the days of these kingdoms that power would not be given to men, but the God of heaven was set up a kingdom, the kingdom of God upon the earth, which should never be destroyed nor left to other people. Now, that part’s true. The question is, where does that happen? Does it happen during the Roman Empire with Jesus Christ? He says, no. He says, the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored in 1830 after numerous revelations from the divine source.

This is the kingdom set up by the God of heaven that would never be destroyed nor superseded. The stone cut out of the mountain without hands, that would become a great mountain and would fill the whole earth. You’ve got this prophecy that God himself is going to come and set up a church and it’s going to fill the whole earth, and it’s going to be during the time of the Roman Empire. That sounds like the Catholic claim, but he says, no, no, no, because the toes of the statue are partially clay and partially iron.

What he’s done and what they’ve both done is created a fifth kingdom. They’ve said, you’ve got Babylon. You’ve got the Medes and Persians. You’ve got the Greeks. You’ve got the Romans, and then you have the toes, which is where it really matters, which are the later European powers. There are other groups that did this around the same time, the 19th century in America. The Seventh Day Adventists have a similar kind of schema. All I want to say is this is wrong.

You’ve made a four kingdom prophecy into a five Kingdom prophecy, but not even really five kingdoms because you don’t just have one kingdom that comes after the Roman Empire. You’ve got all these different ones, and now it’s no longer about the four kingdoms that have ruled Israel up until the time of Christ. From Nebuchadnezzar to Christ, you’ve got four kingdoms ruling in Israel, one through four. Now, you’ve turned the attention away from Jesus and away from Israel and put it for some reason on Europe, but it’s still bizarre because the LDS church doesn’t start in Europe.

There’s not really any coherent way to get from there to… And then you’ve got Joseph Smith in the US of A. He’s just not connected to Daniel 2 at all. There’s no way to get from there to there. The other thing I’d say is just in the prophecy it’s very explicitly during the fourth kingdom. There’s no fifth kingdom. Daniel 2:40-43 says there shall be a fourth kingdom strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron which crushes, it shall break and crush all these.

And as you saw the feet and toes partly of clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom. In other words, there’s not a fifth kingdom. It’s just a recognition the fourth kingdom is going to be divided, which as we saw it is. It even splits into Roman-Constantinople. Long before it was officially divided, it was divided even before the famous split between Roman and Constantinople. That you have all sorts of different divisions within the Roman Empire to constantly try to keep the whole thing afloat because it’s so big that it has these brittle parts.

You have these periods of Roman civil war where Romans are conquering Romans. This is all the fourth kingdom. Why does that matter? Because it gives us a timeline. If the four kingdoms are true, Daniel 2 says the coming kingdom of God will arrive during the time of the Roman Empire. But if you take the reinterpretation that the LDS presidents have given, it’s sometime later. And then the prophecy is not really of anything. Why have the four kingdoms if nothing happens during those four kingdoms?

It’s just, well, after those four kingdoms, then you get a bunch of other countries, and then those other countries have other countries, and then eventually some puritans break away and they form some colonies in the new world, and then those colonies become owned by the British, and then they break away and form America, and sometime in America… What in the world? That has nothing to do with the Daniel 2 prophecy. There’s no way you can get from Daniel 2 to a timeline that says, aha, 1830s, America.

But there is a way to read Daniel two and say, aha, during the Roman Empire, Christ himself came into the world and then promised to build a church upon rock, much like the unformed by human hands rock prophesied in Daniel 2. And this church would spread throughout the entire world in an unbroken succession. All of this is a total defeater for the idea of Great Apostasy because it’s promising there won’t be. That all these other kingdoms fall. The Babylonians fell. The Medes fell. The Persians fell. The Greeks fell. The Romans fell, but the kingdom of God didn’t fall.

That is explicitly the promise of Daniel 2. It’s a reason we have good reason to know there’s never going to be a Great Apostasy because we’re promised that. That leads me to the final, final, final point, does Jesus preserve his church from apostasy? You may be like, how in the world have you not cited Matthew 16 yet? And yeah, we’re going to go there. Matthew 16, Jesus promises that the gates of Hades or gates of hell, someone’s rendered as the powers of death, won’t prevail against the church.

Notice he says, on this rock, I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. There’s a Greek word there used for prevail, and we’re going to get to it. Because you might say, “Oh, this looks like a pretty clear prophecy. There’s not going to be an apostasy.” I would say you’re right. The LDS would say, “Oh, no, no, it doesn’t mean that.” The LDS New Testament student manual says in the scriptures the phrase the gates of hell can refer to the powers of death or the powers of evil.

Thus, the savior’s promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail means that death and evil will not permanently overpower the church. Hmm, notice that word permanently there. It’s doing a lot of work. This means in their reinterpretation that the gates of hell could totally prevail for a long time, for 1,800 years, as long as for the next 200 years, then the gates of hell don’t win completely. Does that sound like what Jesus is promising? Because it’s not at all.

And to say that with the death of the apostles, you pretty much had the end of Jesus’ church means that the powers of death literally win. That the apostles failed to bring another generation of Christians into the world. Priesthood authority is lost. Error wins. The reason their students are such Catholics is because they were such bad teachers. That is not any form of the gates of hell not prevailing. The gates of hell totally stomped the church in that vision. But that’s not what Jesus promised.

The LDS student manual goes on to say the restoration of the church in the latter days is one way this promise has been fulfilled. That’s a strange kind of claim because you don’t need a restoration. Now, let me just prove this pretty easily. I mentioned there’s a Greek verb that’s being used, cateschiso and cateschio. I’m bad at Greek pronunciation. In the Greek version of Judges 6, we find this word used. There’s a bunch of examples, but I give this one because it’s very clear. The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years.

And the hand of Midian prevailed over Israel. And because of Midian, the people of Israel made for themselves the dens which are in the mountains and in the caves and the strongholds. They had to go into hiding. For seven years, Midian prevailed. The promise Jesus makes is the gates of hell won’t prevail. The reinterpretation is that the gates of hell will prevail for like 1,800 years and then they won’t. But notice that Midian prevailed for seven years. The gates of hell won’t prevail.

In other words, you can’t have a period where there’s a Great Apostasy or else the gates of hell prevail. That’s what it means. Same Greek word is used in the Greek version of Judges 6 and in Matthew 16. That what it means to prevail over the church is even temporarily destroying the church. And that’s what Jesus is saying isn’t going to happen. If the Great Apostasy is true, then that promise is false. Either Jesus or Joseph Smith is not telling us the truth. Remember again that the LDS church claims that it won’t fall into a general apostasy, and then just ask yourself which one makes more sense.

Here’s what we know historically, Joseph Smith has no succession plan. Upon his death, there’s major infighting between his son, his wife, Brigham Young, and a bunch of others. There’s tons of schism in early Mormonism. There’s fascinating history about this. There’s nothing like this in early Christianity. When Jesus leaves the Earth, the apostles didn’t then start their own denominations. They stay one. They build a visible church that’s recognizable, and it continues to have a clear, recognizable organization where even Mormons can say, “Look at how Catholic they are.”

That looks like the gate of hell not prevailing. That looks like, unlike LDS Mormonism or unlike Mormonism, the church is one and undivided and clearly teaching one thing and not contradicting itself. All that’s to say, I think the historical evidence, which is what you actually need to be Mormon, you have to say historically, here’s when the church went into apostasy and here’s why. All the evidence points away from that. That the biblical evidence says the church is strong, not on the verge of death in the New Testament.

That Jesus’ promises that the gates of hell won’t overcome, not that they’ll overcome for a long time and then they’ll be unovercome. That the kingdom of heaven is going to grow from a seed into a mustard seed until the harvest at the end of the age, not that the seed’s going to die and have to be replanted by Joseph Smith or a new seed is going to have to be planted by Joseph Smith. There’s no promises of restoration.

Amos 8, the usual go-to verse, means nothing of the sort about the Samaritans being destroyed, and we see it fulfilled first historically with the Samaritans, and then in kind of a reversal way by Jesus in John 6. The idea that we’ve lost priesthood authority is contradicted by 2,000 years of priesthood and conflates what a prophet does with what a priest does, a priest offers sacrifice. It’s much easier to see where that sacrificial dimension is in the life of a Catholic priest than it is in an LDS priest.

All that’s to say, all of the evidence points away from a general apostasy and towards the fact that there has been an unbroken 2,000-year lineage of the church of Jesus Christ on Earth and it’s the Roman Catholic Church. For Shameless Popery, Joe Heschmeyer. Hope you enjoy. Please comment and like, subscribe, do all that jazz. God bless you.


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