LDS Church puts a date on the Great Apostasy

On the new mormon.org, there is a timeline indicating the major dates in Church history, which puts the Great Apostasy right at the death of the Apostles around 70 a.d. While that has been the dominant opinion among Mormons for a long time, this is the first time I know of that a strictly Church-controlled media has been that specific. The text reads:

Because of intense persecution, the Apostles were all martyred except for John, who was taken away by the Lord. The churches were left without the leadership of the apostles and this authority to govern His church and conduct needed ordinances were lost. This “falling away” as prophesied by Paul to the Thessalonian saints (2 Thes 2:3) is called the Great Apostasy.

They surely don’t mean 70 a.d. as a strict date, but they have clearly gone with the view that no successors followed the original Apostles. The persecutors of the early Church won.

it sure will be interesting to read our Mormon friends responses to this. because if this is true, then we are all following a liar. because if Jesus claimed the gates of hell would not prevail, and then there was no leadership after about ad 70, then he lied. or he was not God. either way, i could not follow, a Messiah, who failed so miserably and couldnt even keep his Church for 1 century. thankfully, we have a Messiah,who has faithfully kept his promise, and a succession. this is easily found with just a cursory reading of the early Church fathers. they set it up that way. this ought to be good. Peace :slight_smile:

Mormons do not see the gates of hell verse as a problem, and have alternative ways to read it. For instance, they say that hell (“Hades” in Greek) is the underworld, and so the Church members in Sheol, when they are released by Christ, break out through the gates. Moreover, by baptism for the dead, the LDS Church can gen even more souls out of Hades. Others will argue that verses like this refer only to the ultimate triumph of the Church. The problem with both of these readings, is that gates are a defensive weapon: Jesus is saying that hell is under seige by the Church and the seige will not be raised: victory is ours in the present military action.

In a better world, the correct exegesis of “gates of hades” verse would not even be controversial, but it is hard to convince Mormons of it as long as they think they have even a semi-plausible alternative. A more proper way to respond is to only use texts whose applicability is directly evident to them. One tragically overlooked example is Jeremiah’s prophesy that following the coming of the Messiah, who inherits the throne of David, the priesthood remains on earth permanently on the basis of God’s own oath to his Son. (See all of Jer 33.) I do not know of a single LDS apologist who has even attempted to rebut this text, and if you read it, you can see why.

thank you. my bible is back at my C.H.U. will read jer. 33 tonight. also very good points. i didnt know they felt this way about the gates of hell verse. appreciate it. Peace :slight_smile:

Hello soren,

This date seems to be in line with what many LDS folks have shared with me on another board (MADB) concerning the time of the claimed Great Apostasy.

What I have often wondered (and am still puzzled by) is what is the LDS view of what happened to all the people who lived between approx 70AD and the early 1800’s?

Peace,
Ceeboo

I dont understand how they can view (what they percieve to be error in the church) to be Apostasy, that is Heresy. Apostasy is the wholesale leaving of the faith and God. (right?)

Hi, Ceeboo!

It has long been a common opinion, but never given this kind of Church-sanctioned expression. Normally, official LDS literature will say something more open-ended like “After the death of the Apostles,” whereas the new version tells it it happened right then and there, with a estimated date provided. If more statements like this start emerging from the LDS Church, it will effect they way we discuss the Great Apostasy with them.

What I have often wondered (and am still puzzled by) is what is the LDS view of what happened to all the people who lived between approx 70AD and the early 1800’s?

Peace,
Ceeboo

First of all, none of them must have read James 1:5.

The most common view is that good men who sought Christ lived in that time, but without authority they could not receive the proper ordinances of salvation or be guided in correct doctrine. Mormons who are intent on softpedalling the Satanic nature of the apostate churches taught in 1 Nephi 13, or who want to resolve the serious conflict of their teachings with Biblical ecclesiology, will often point out the the “Light of Christ” remains perpetually in the world at all times. The problem with this is that Moroni defines the light of Christ as the ability to tell good from evil (Moro 7:18-19), so this response really just amounts to saying that men have always had consciences. This has little bearing on a discussion specifically about Church authority.

The apostasy for them is not primarily about doctrine, but about authority. The early Christians rejected the legitimate authority in the Church, which was necessary for valid baptisms, ordinations, etc, and thereby fell into doctrinal errors. But the main thing that was lost in the apostasy was not true doctrine, but authority itself. No more apostles, no more priesthood. From that loss, everything else proceeded apace. What they call apostasy might, in Catholic terms, be described as schism, except for them the schismatic sects outlived the true Church - and schism is a form of apostasy, which literally means “moving away.”

The importance of priesthood authority in the doctrine of the Great Apostasy is why I advocate presenting Mormons with texts like Jer 33, which deal directly with priesthood, and not the more common proof-texts like Matt 16:18, which Catholics have been taught to use in dialogue with Protestants, which do not, to Mormons, seem obviously applicable to their position.

My response to this would be; How could a church that had lost all inspiration compile the New Testament in 419 AD? There were dozens of books left out (more than went in). The LDS believe the New Testament is inspired scripture and do not claim other early writings are. If the Catholic Church was not led by the Holy Spirit how could it possibly compile the New Testament? Did it just get extremely lucky?

Actually, LDS believe the loss of truth (correct doctrine) led to the loss of the priesthood. From mormon.org:
After the Apostles and many righteous Church members were killed and other members departed from the truth, the Lord took the priesthood authority and His Church from the earth. Without God’s priesthood authority, the Church no longer functioned as Christ had established it. **The ordinances were changed and many plain and simple truths were lost. **While many good people and some truth remained, the original Church was lost.

There is simply no basis for the claim that doctrines were changed. This is a great argument because without proof that the doctrines were changed the only “proof” Mormons have is the claims of Joseph Smith. And that’s where it all begins for Mormons. They begin with the assumption that since the restoration happened, there must have been an apostasy. They come at it in a backwards way. They believe in the restoration first. Once they have a testimony about that, facts about the history of the early church cease to matter.

Mormons believe that Luther was “inspired,” not in the sense that he was a prophet speaking for God, but because he recognized that distance between the state of the Church and the original teachings of Jesus. He, as the assert, brought in an era of religious liberty that paved the way for Joseph Smith. That the Protestants got the cannon right, is part of Luther’s providential role. (Of course, it is preposterous to ascribe to Luther an inception of “religious liberty,” as he was himself as authoritarian as the most pompous medieval popes.)

In any case, Mormons accept their scriptures on the authority of Joseph Smith. So what if other people accept the same books? What matters to them is not the books we accept but the ones we do not: the modern-day scriptures. They do not credit us with defining the cannon so much as they criticize us for closing the canon. I have many times been told by Mormons that the closing of the canon is the clearest evidence of the Great Apostasy there is, because it shows that the Church admits that God cannot speak to man any more - but their God is not so limited. Although a single reading of Dei Verbum would disabuse them of this interpretation of the closed canon, most of them view it as a kind of gag-rule on God, and have never heard that egregiously false assumption challenged. Their apologetic literature certainly promotes no other interpretation.

But they also think that the Scriptures were corrupted, because of "plain and precious things which have been taken away” (1 Nephi 13:40). On that score they do not think the Church got it all right. In fact, I have heard LDS authorities thanks God for preserving the Bible during the dark times of apostasy when its existence was seriously threatened.

I agree with all of this. What I should have made more explicit is that the loss of authority is what defines the apostasy for them. I should have said that rejection of truth is a cause and consequence of lost authority. After, why did the early Church reject true authorities except because they rejected their teachings? But what makes the Great and Abominable Church formally apostate, at root, is the disappearance of priesthood. In fact, when they say “change the ordinance” (derived from a very bad exegesis of Is 24:5) they mean principally that a new sacramental theology, essentially a Catholic one, became dominant. Among the principle errors of that theology is that it does not require special authority to baptize, does not require immersion and commits solemn mockery of God by baptizing infants. The false administration of ordinances goes hand in hand with the loss of properly constituted authority.

There is simply no basis for the claim that doctrines were changed. This is a great argument because without proof that the doctrines were changed the only “proof” Mormons have is the claims of Joseph Smith. And that’s where it all begins for Mormons. They begin with the assumption that since the restoration happened, there must have been an apostasy. They come at it in a backwards way. They believe in the restoration first. Once they have a testimony about that, facts about the history of the early church cease to matter.

This is entirely true, and indeed, circular reasoning of that kind of a hallmark of LDS historical texts dealing with Great Apostasy. In fact, there is an example of that kind of thinking in the text from mormon.org I quoted above. On what grounds to they say that the persecution of the Church was among the causes of the Apostasy? Apart from the presupposition that the apostasy happened, zilch. The argument runs like this: The Apostasy happened. There were persecutions. Therefore, the persecutions contributed to the Apostasy. Therefore, the Apostasy happened. QED.

For anyone who considers this a caricature of the LDS position, I refer you to Chapter VI of Talmage’s The Great Apostasy, the most widely published Mormon text on the subject.

**Jesus warned us about these false prophets;

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt 7:15)

Pray for our poor, misguided & generally well meaning LDS brothers & sisters who have been deceived by the teachings of a mere man (Mr. Smith) that are in direct opposition to the Truth taught to us by Jesus Christ & His Apostles & their successors, the Bishops.
**
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!

mark

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One thing we have to consider is that some posters on here have said that it was a “total” apostasy, and others have said it wasn’t.

Couple that with no archeology, of the BoM, unfilled, and false prophesies, etc. etc., it all adds up to absolutely “nothing”.

And oddly enough, there is no historical proof of the “Great Apostacy”, or any proof that the pre-Apostacy Church shared any modern LDS beliefs, even among the Gnostic Gospels or New Testament apocrypha.

What hogwash! Look as though they are merely interjecting their own biased views into available text (2 Thes 2:3) without any historical evidence. Here is my question:

If a Great Apostasy happened as Mormons believe,then why is it not ONE Christian writer or pagan writer even wrote extensively on the subject? Something so huge against Christ Church goes unwritten with little to no information?

2 Thes 2:3 is one of the most common proof-texts the Mormons use, I think because they view it as one of the strongest passages they have … which reflects very badly on their overall case. Your post indicates that you understand already how they are misusing it, but for the record, I will give a flushed-out refutation. The text in question and its immediate context read:

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

The texts deals with a man who presents himself as God and asks to be worshipped. When, pray tell, has a such a person taken power over the Christian Church? This is obviously a reference to the Antichrist, who will appear in the end times before the “day of Christ.” Moreover, Paul presupposes that faithful Christina will be arond as witness when the prophecy comes to pass. He tells the Thessalonians not to be concerned about the endtimes until a particular sign becomes apparent; hence it will be a recognizable event that Christians will be able to see and interpret - otherwise it would not be a sign. Thus for the prophecy to be fulfilled, true believers will be there to interpret it. Even more problematic for the Mormon position is that Paul is sharing this information with the Thessalonians, in order to strengthen them in resisting the man of sin’s deception. Only a few verses later, Paul says this about the Thessalonian Church:

But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

If Paul knew that the Church was going to fall away three to four years after his death, how much sense would this statement make? Paul is confident, because of God’s election of the Church, that the true believers will be able to stand fast in times of apostasy, and he gives an exhortation to encourage them. If Paul were predicting a total apostasy, then this would be a false hope. Thus to read a total apostasy into Paul’s words is to demand of the prophecy something that Paul himself does not see as following from it. For this reason, the Mormon reading is not only unlikely but impossible. It is not at all the doom-and-gloom prediction that mormon.org takes it to be.

This kind of shabby, opportunistic exegesis reflects a grave disrespect for Scripture on the part of the Mormon leadership. This in itself is a significant evidence against their divine authority or mere moral leadership.

Here is my question:

If a Great Apostasy happened as Mormons believe,then why is it not ONE Christian writer or pagan writer even wrote extensively on the subject? Something so huge against Christ Church goes unwritten with little to no information?

Mormons will answer this by asking us: Why, if authority was passed down, do we have no record of it? To whom did Philip pass his authority? Or James? Of course, this misunderstands the whole point of Catholic teaching here: we don’t believe that authority was successfully passed on because we have notarized records of each transmission, as demanded by the skeptical standard that Mormonism applies to every religion but itself, but because we believe the unambiguous teachings of Scripture about the perpetual victory of the Church. The unanimous opinion held by the Fathers that Apostolic authority was passed on through the episcopacy corroborates but is not the primary basis for our position.

Quote:
Here is my question:

If a Great Apostasy happened as Mormons believe,then why is it not ONE Christian writer or pagan writer even wrote extensively on the subject? Something so huge against Christ Church goes unwritten with little to no information?

Mormons will answer this by asking us: Why, if authority was passed down, do we have no record of it? To whom did Philip pass his authority? Or James? Of course, this misunderstands the whole point of Catholic teaching here: we don’t believe that authority was successfully passed on because we have notarized records of each transmission, as demanded by the skeptical standard that Mormonism applies to every religion but itself, but because we believe the unambiguous teachings of Scripture about the perpetual victory of the Church. The unanimous opinion held by the Fathers that Apostolic authority was passed on through the episcopacy corroborates but is not the primary basis for our position.

Easy. Because the first Christians were very oral in practice and belief. Nothing was written about Christ for about 30 years. However,their argument can also be refuted because the case of Apostolic Succession was already being mentioned by men such as Clement in the late 1st century and by other church fathers. Did Clement fabricate a lie which has continued for next 2,000 years?

Exactly. And that is why mormon.org is dating the Great Apostasy around 70 a.d. The presence of Catholic theology in the Early Church is so immediate, that the apostasy must be placed as early as is conceivable. 70 a.d. is a reasonble, but certainly early hypothesis as to when the Apostles died. Why not 80? Why not 90? Surely because 70 is the earliest date that any scholar thinks the New Testament was completed (and certainly far too early). In order to avoid historical problems, defenders of Joseph Smith must date the apostasy prior to 1 Clement, prior to The Didache, prior to The Shepherd of Hermas, prior to all the Apostolic Fathers. They have no historical case, they know it, so they accept only a scenario that allows them to impeach the historical sources.

Did Clement fabricate a lie which has continued for next 2,000 years?

Amazingly, I have encountered Mormons who argued almost exactly that, although they always say something more gentle, suggesting that the Roman presbyters were mistaken rather than that Clement made up a direct lie. One Mormon told me that 1 Clement is a good source to see how the Great Apostasy flourished: by accepting a false rumor that Apostolic authority had been transmitted, the presbyters created a pretext for installing false authority in its place, thus perpetuating the apostasy by institutionalizing it. We have already seen the circularity of this kind of argument.

Soren, you are correct: “gates of hell” IS a defensive position. “prevail” means to ultimately win. “prevail” doesn’t preclude a period of time where the defense seem to be successful; it’s about the ultimate position; that is, Hell won’t win, no matter what it SEEMS like at any particular time point. It is, in fact, a prediction and statement of hope/prophecy fulfillment.

Using the same metaphor of 'gates," the only way such gates can even be seen as 'gates ’ to be overcome is if they can be closed…in fact, that they actually WORK, for however short a time it takes to open them again.

So we claim that the gates of hell have not prevailed, because, well…here we are. The priesthood authority is back.

No prevailing, in other words.

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