LDS theory of the "great apostasy"

I was talking to an LDS friend yesterday about how one of the reasons I left the church (LDS) was because Joseph Smiths claim that God told him not to join any church because they had all fallen into the Great Apostasy contradicted the Bible passage where Jesus states to Peter that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church.

She quoted 2 Thessalonians 2:3 where the Bible talks about the day not coming until the rebellion occurs or in her reading of the passage - the apostasy that JS talks about.

Am I right in thinking that the difference here is that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is talking about people and not the Church itself? We are living in an increasing secular world which would fit with Thessalonians without contradicting Jesus’ statement?

Would appreciate any help! Thanks

2 Thes 2:3-4 says “the lawless one is revealed, the one doomed to perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is a god” (NAB). The question is, does that refer to events that have already occurred, or will occur in the future? Haydock’s Commentary states:

By all these words is described to us the great antichrist, about the end of the world, according to the unexceptionable authority and consent of the ancient fathers… It may suffice to observe here that antichrist, the man of sin, the son of perdition, the wicked one, according to all the ancients, is to be one particular man, not so many different men. That he is to come a little while before the day of judgment. That he will make himself be adored, and pretend to be God

So, if the answer is “in the future”, then surely the apostasy mentioned in 2 Thes 2:3 is in the future too? Haydock suggest that the “apostasy” of which the passage speaks, is the apostasy of the antichrist himself (i.e. that the antichrist will be an apostate.) Also, while I’ve quoted a Catholic commentary here saying that this passage refers to the antichrist, all the Protestant commentaries I’ve looked at say the same thing. I’m not suggesting anyone should dwell excessively on these matters (people who spend too much time thinking or talking about the antichrist tend to go off in cultish directions), but the most sensible reading of this passage contradicts your LDS friend’s position that the apostasy of 2 Thes 2:3 has already happened.

The LDS doctrine of “Great Apostasy” is just taking Protestantism to its logical conclusion. Protestants believe that the Church at some undefined point went off in the wrong direction. LDS take this Protestant belief, and wind back the clock, siting this alleged apostasy earlier, even just slightly after the completion of the New Testament.


First, the context of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 indicates that the Antichrist will cause the apostasy: “the lawless one…[will bring] all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess. 2:9-12)

Based on all of this, I think it is quite obvious that we don’t have to worry about the Great Apostasy until “the lawless one is revealed.”

Therefore, if LDS believe the Great Apostasy has already happened, I think they ought to point out who the Antichrist was and explain why Jesus didn’t return at that time. Because, at least to me, that’s what 2 Thess. 2 indicates will happen when the Antichrist and the Great Apostasy happen.

Thank you both :slight_smile:

They cannot even name when this great apostasy happened…some think when the last apostle died.

And they contradict themselves…the Quorum can pick successors but the apostles chosen by Christ who witnessed Him were unable to choose successors. They continue to use the same words we use but with different meanings…this I heard a while back as I don’t participate much any more in Mormon threads but hear there is a movement within Mormonism to become part of standardized Christianity.

They are finally coming straight with their own people that their founder Joseph Smith was a polygamist. And they have changed their doctrines over 3,000 times…not a belief system with much constancy of belief…but again…they are changing.

So God the Father withdraws the priesthood and his blessings from the church for 1500 years (around about) and then restores it through Joseph Smith.

So Jesus sets up His church, but it fails and falls shortly after His death, but the church as Joseph Smith restores will last through the Millennium? Does not sound quite right.

God takes His authority from the earth for what reason? Anger because His Son was killed - though that was prophesized in the OT, so He knew it was coming. Was that God’s punishment to the people who lived during those dark years up to the First Vision of Joseph Smith in 1820?

Reason does not support the Mormon claim.

And then Joseph Smith sees the Father and the Son, and does not tremble, but sits back and listens to them. Not sure that I see that pattern in Scripture.

There are so many arguments against the Great Apostasy.


There are a few others that also believe in the Great Apostasy…like Christ failed to establish His Church, and none can either really define when it happened.

It seems it is not so much about when it occurred but rather the complete rejection of His Church.

Actually the “great apostasy” is not at all Mormon at all. That was a theology common with several sects at the time <19th century>.

It seems to be held by several sects.
Accapella “church of Christ”. SDAs, JWs…

The cs of c and the Mormons shared one theologian. He started out campbellite and ended up Mormon.

They share some trait both baptize adult belivers for forgiveness of sin. Both "observe the Lord’s supper every Sunday and no other day.

And both do not ordain no clergy.

The c of C is nearest to orthodox Christianity.

This is correct. I was raised Church of Christ, albeit a pretty liberal one. So even though they are fairly orthodox and are genuinely Christians, it just goes to show how dangerous heresies like this can be. Even though it didn’t take the Churches of Christ and Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) off the deep end, it provided fertile ground for the Mormons and others to follow like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. There are many who have been brought into Christ in the CoC and DoC traditions, but that number probably pales in comparison to those who have been lost in the LDS and JW churches.

It seems to me that as far as the Bible is concerned, “apostasy” is the rejection of Jesus, not the rejection of a bunch of people even if those people belong to a “church”.

1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,
2 with instruction about ablutions, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.
3 And this we will do if God permits.
4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,
5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,
6 if they then commit apostasy, since they crucify the Son of God on their own account and hold him up to contempt. - Hebrews, chapter 6

You might be tardy or absent or undecided or still thinking about it or having doubts or not getting along well with the people if you live a particular church or denomination. But that is not apostasy. That’s just leaving a church or changing churches or whatever. Apostasy is rejecting JESUS Christ himself, not some religious institution. In my opinion, and I am quite aware that some believe it is apostasy simply to disagree with the Church or to leave the Church. I don’t.

Last paragraph bolding mine.

This would fit in with LDS theology. They reject the truth of Jesus Christ, instead believing Him to be less than who He is.

In that case, it couldn’t have happened yet. The LDS teach (in D&C 7) that John the Beloved will live until the Lord comes in his glory. Since the Second Coming hasn’t happened yet, John the Beloved must still be alive somewhere.

Lutheran Satire has a humorous take on this point…

St John the Evangelist died in the early 90s, and there was a delay by the Church because of its concern to verify that indeed St. John did write the gospels, letters and book of Revelation.

A good read that addresses some of the problems people of mid 1800’s America had regarding the apostasy is addressed in, ‘Catholics are Ecclesial Deists’,, August 2009.

‘Called To Communion’ is an excellent website, they have been on EWTN. Many articles describe former ministers of divinity discuss their differences with the Catholic Church, and after further study of the Early Church Fathers and other documents, came to see the Church truly that instituted by Christ. So it is somewhat scholarly, but excellent and very insightful.

The catch of the Catholic is to know where to keep one’s focus: the full deposit of Christ given us in Scripture through the apostles, the tradition of faith in how it is practiced through worship, hierarchy, and profession of common faith in the Creed.

The Church is both divine and human, we all fail, but it is our communion in Christ through the Church, that holds us together and leads us to Christ together.

I am reading The End if the World by David Currie, an apologist. He suggests that the apostasy and anti Christs that Jesus spoke about concerned the early Church and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. There were apostasies then, in one instance a Church in an area Paul named. Also individuals that proclaimed to be an anti Christ such as Simon the Magician that is spoken about in Acts. Jesus’ concern was that the Church that was based in Jerusalem would diminish if early Christans weren’t taught to flee when they saw the signs he was talking about that weren’t literal, but were associated with Judaic beliefs. I believe also that a great earthquake occurred at that time. This makes sense as Jesus said he would come suddenly when we least expect it. So, this throws holes in the LDS claim of a great apostasy. Remember too, that Jesus himself was the last prophet, so Joseph Smith and others can’t claim this. As Venerable Bishop Sheen once stated that Jesus was born to die. And He as the founder of His church was the only one who was raised from the dead. None of the Protestant sects or non Christian sects can claim this about their founders. The book by David Currie is very interesting and makes sense.

It is amazing how people can concoct things…but this is the trial of many Christians in our country who have lost all the roots of their faith.

Christ had the empty tomb, St. John did not.

Likewise, we hold on to the imagery as well of Sacred Scripture and its living salvation history where we attend Mass, and re-witness again the history of faith in the Old Testament, and how this journey of faith is fulfilled in the Gospel and lives of the apostles. The Book Revelations is the base of witness of the earliest churches, as well as those among the communion of saints who encourage us to persevere, and know that in the end good triumphs over evil.

So in our faith tradition, we tend not to look at Scripture to place ourselves one against the other, but focus on Christ as the Living Word of God.

These sects coming out of the Stone Campbell movement of the 1800’s America tend to be condemning of universal Christianity, and when members want to leave them, there is this shunning they have to endure, not in every case, fortunately, but shunning exists.

How does this differ from the Protestant view that God allowed his people to be in error for 1500 years i

That’s not the Protestant view.

You will have to explain the Protestant view, then, in a way that accounts for why Protestants would begin their own numerous and splintered churches instead of attempting to reform or renew the one existing Church from within by healing and repairing abuses or errant practices. Why did they leave the Church and not stay with it to bring it back on course if it was determinably the true Church for 1500 years?

Given the thousands of different Protestant denominations that have sprung up in the last 500 years I would say the difference between the Mormon view and the Protestant view is negligible

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