Very interesting article. It is somewhat of a miracle to recount what happened
after the apostasy i.e.scriptures were gathered together undoubtedly with some
interpolations. As the centuries unwound, many efforts were made to translate
the old and new testament into usable everyday languages. Eventually, these
efforts were crowned with success. The book of Judah carried forth to America
and many other countries became a bastion of faith and a great defender of faith
(as is stated of King James in the preface). Indeed, were it not for the Bible
and its commonality of use, the verses which led Joseph Smith to reflect, ponder
and pray would not have existed at all. The accomplishments of the first quorum
of the twelve '... to go into all the world and..... preach the gospel to
every creature ...' has to be one of the greatest success stories of all
I had been saying a similar thing for years. I'm glad someone more
articulate than myself put these thoughts down in print.
Except that Jesus' church did survive, as He said it would (And I will
build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Mt 16:18).
On this, all orthodox Christianinity agrees. It is one of the basic truths about
Christianity. Mormon theology denies this basic truth, one of the many
deviations of Mormonism from Biblical Christianity. Yet LDS folks are offended
when we (Biblical Christians) point out that this is one of the many reasons we
cite when concluding that Mormonism can not be "Christian".
Thanks Dr. Peterson.
I think this article needs to be more clearly identified as LDS apology for a
predominately LDS audience. As someone who is LDS myself, but who has read
widely on the evolution of Christiainity, and as someone with Christian friends
from other denominations, I would no more presume to publically discuss the
"inevitable fall" of their early Christian churches anymore than I would
appreciate them publically discussing the "inevitable fall" of Joseph
Smith. I don't blame Dr. Peterson, but the website editors should be more
careful to identify this as a faith-based LDS discussion of our own doctrine of
apostasy and not a scholarly or even public opinion commentary on early
Christianity. President Monson and others are constantly being recognized for
their work to build bridges of understanding between ourselves and those of
other faiths, but the presentation of this article does not help those noble
Dr. Peterson seems to contradict himself right out of the gate when he says (in
the 1st sentence) “the Church founded by… Christ” but then
goes on to suggest that what makes the Christian Church a church is its
scriptures (i.e., instructional doctrines). Since Christ did not write the
scriptures, how could he have founded a church?Also, his entire
premise (festering heresies, false apostles, etc…) suggests that in the
decades it took to get the complete New Testament, errors would inevitably been
included. If that is so, why is the NT still considered canonical?
To savedsinner: The Bible was not compiled until about 300 AD. So the Christians
before that time could not be called Biblical Christians. But I think they were
true Christians, don't you? The Christians described in Bible
times had living prophets and apostles. They had the priesthood, which could
only be received by ordination by one holding it. They added to existing
scripture. They had a lay ministry, and their leaders did not attend divinity
school. All the branches of the early church were part of one organization.
These things are all apparent when you carefully read the Bible. My point is
that Latter-day Saints, who also have living prophets and apostles, profess an
open cannon, have a lay ministry, and have a similar priesthood structure and
general leadership which is at the head of local congregations are today's
real "Biblical Christians." Although they have done a lot of good for a
lot of people, today's Protestant churches are quite different from the
church, described in the Bible, that Jesus organized.
Thank you for addressing one of the most fascinating aspects in all of history.
What is truly remarkable is the fact that Christianity survived at all. Examine
these crazy facts:1. Christianity spread far, wide and deep despite all
the logistical problems pointed out in the article.2. There was the
equivalent of the "extermination order" against Christians throughout
the Roman Empire yet people remained committed. 3. Constantin's
"Vision", in this sign you will conquer. Was it really a vision?The more one looks at early Christianity, the more one is amazed.
Non-Catholic historians admit, it can be demonstrated easily that early Church
writers, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Eusebius, Clement of Rome, and Polycarp,
had no conception of Mormon doctrine, and they knew nothing of a "great
apostasy." Nowhere in their writings can one find references to Christians
embracing any of the peculiarly Mormon doctrines, such as polytheism, polygamy,
celestial marriage, and temple ceremonies. If the Church of the apostolic
age was the prototype of today’s Mormon church, it must have had all these
beliefs and practices. But why is there no evidence of them in the early
centuries, before the alleged apostasy began? Catholic Answers JS History
All their creeds were abomination? Early creed Used at Baptisms;
”If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is LORD(YHWH),” and
believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be
saved.” ( Romans 10:9)(cf. 1Cor 12:3. Paul is ascribing deity to Jesus.
I.e, Joel 2:32. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD(YHWH) will
"The church founded anciently by Christ not only didn’t survive intact
but probably couldn’t have. Ancient means of communication weren’t
up to the task...."______________________________Jesus
announced the arrival of the Kingdom of God. The church came instead. I agree
with Daniel Peterson that communication was not up to the task of preserving the
original thrust of what Jesus tried to bring forth. That’s partly why
disunity tore at the movement right from the outset.I say partly
because the larger cause of internal conflict was the Hellenistic world into
which the movement spread very rapidly led by a maverick self-proclaimed
apostle, Saul of Tarsus.Joseph Smith used the term apostasy to
describe what happened. Martin Luther spoke of a paganized church of Rome. I
find neither of those terms helpful to modern understanding that we today might
more accurately call cultural assimilation.
It seems confusing that if there is a god who was capable of organizing and
establishing such a complex religion and church that he had no plan for its
preservation, delivery and application so as to leave it to politics to make of
it what ever best serves and profits different interest and organizations.
@Craig Clark – “Jesus announced the arrival of the Kingdom of
God”And the real irony (and tragedy) of this is had he been
born in India and later made this pronouncement, rather than being killed for it
the response would have been something like “good job Jesus, glad you
figured it out. Now go build an ashram (or wonder the countryside) and spend the
rest of your life teaching people how to realize the same.”
Sneaky Jimmy,"....What is truly remarkable is the fact that
Christianity survived at all...."______________________________Indeed. Had Christianity remained a localized group of dissident Jews in
Judea, it might have died out by the end of the first century. That it survived
and flourished is due in large measure to the radical efforts of Saul of Tarsus.
Taking interpretive liberties, Saul (or Paul) forged an advocacy of
Jesus that was adaptable and appealing to the larger Mediterranean world. The
result was a rising Gentile church that came to eclipse its Judean forerunner.
But it also made Christianity incompatible with its Jewish roots and made the
schism with Judaism inevitable.
To savedsinner: As a Biblical Christian, you will be able to show us the
Bible verses where Jesus taught us to pray to Him, not to Heavenly Father. It
seems that in my Bible, Jesus taught us to pray to the Father in His
(Jesus') name. Thanks for helping us!
To Sharrona:Once again you comment without reading ALL the scriptures,
especially the Bible. Look up the word, "perfect". Also, try helping
us understand the historical use of temples. Even Jesus himself frequently
taught in the temple.Also, you conclude that if one uses only a
subset of scripture and history, it mandates the conclusion that Mormon
doctrines didn't exist. Every time I read your posts, I see how limited
your resources are. And for sure, the Holy Ghost is not part of your life. But
I invite you to read John 16 to learn of the importance the Holy Ghost is, even
sharrona,Non-Catholic historians admit, it can be demonstrated
easily that early Church writers, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Eusebius, Clement
of Rome, and Polycarp, had no conception of Mormon doctrine, and they knew
nothing of a "great apostasy."______________________________They also knew nothing of the Protestant Reformation. That doesn’t
stop Lutherans, Calvinists, Wesleyans and the many denominational spinoffs from
selectively using the Bible to support their respective theologies and
doctrines. Are you sure it matters to God?“My sheep hear my
voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” - John 10:17
Along with everything else Mr. Peterson listed, there was also the fact that
early Christians never knew when the Apostle was speaking for god or merely
stating his personal opinion. Much like today; even though we have
instantaneous communication today.
If you define "fall" in the way the LDS Church does which equals
changing doctrine, ending certain rituals and ordinances, eliminating other key
principles of the Church, then doesn't that mean too that the LDS Church
itself has also, "fallen."
Thinkman,No religion is as static as it makes out to be. If it were,
it would soon die out.The trick to making change is to spin it as
continuity with eternal truths. I know that sounds cynical but for 2,000 years
Christianity has held that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever even
though we all know that human understanding is perpetually in a state of
RE: Cinci Man,, "perfect". “be ye therefore perfect( teleios),
even as your Father in Heaven is perfect' (Mt5:48) Christs’ high
ideal of perfect love(see vv 43-47). Love is an communicable moral attribute
like, grace, mercy; holiness, righteousness.RE: ,historical use of
temples, *Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ
Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined
together and rises to become a holy Temple in the Lord. And in him you too are
being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.(Eph
2:20-22) *past tense.The Temple for Christians is Jesus,
“destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John
2:19). After Christ’s resurrection the meaning of these words became
plain, when Jesus spoke of the destruction of the temple, he was speaking of his
own body (John 2:22).@ John 16 to learn of the importance the Holy
Ghost . John 16:7,” comforter” =(G 3875 G paraklētos)
=”advocate” In 1John 2:1. Like ( Holy Spirit/Ghost=(pneuma) same
Rational and good people can look at the same evidence and facts and come to
different conclusions. The answer is, of course, to go to God and ask Him where
the truth is. That's what Joseph Smith did. That's what I have done
and have come to the conclusion that there was an apostasy and a restoration. I
would have trouble debating with scholars on any position.
I think Brother Peterson's remarks overlook the powerful influence that the
Holy Spirit can have to guide individuals and that the same Holy Spirit was
available to guide the members and leaders of the original church. Based on
that power the original church could have survived if they had strengthened
themselves to withstand cultural assimilation. At the time of the
restoration the people had the printing press which allowed a printed Bible and
printing of the Book of Mormon, but otherwise they did not have advanced
communication technology. Trains, telegraphs, all came later on.But
I agree that survival of the church would have been a very difficult task for
the reasons Brother Peterson mentions.
Denominationalism, creedalism and doctrinal division is proof that the original
Christian church did not survive in tact. Otherwise there would be "one
faith, one Lord and one baptism". We are left to take our pick among the
thousands of options of Christianity on the earth! Which church should I join?
Interesting answer a 14 year old farm boy received when he asked THAT question,
@JSBApostasy like conversion is a individual action not a church or
society action. Therefore, every living Christian would have had to quite the
church of Christ and dropped their priesthood to require a restoration. There is
no good reason to believe that has happened.
@Moutainman,The Mormon church in its short history has not survived
intact, there are several independent different Mormon churches including: the
Shortsighted to put the failure of the early church on communication, things
were not much better until a state sponsored church grew. There is no doubt
that communication advances have allowed a more consistent flow of doctrine but
there's little to say the lack of communication caused the demise of the
I'm reluctant to talk about a "great apostasy," because the more I
study, the less I am convinced that Jesus (or his apostles) founded anything we
could call a church. There is no record of Jesus setting up an organization
beyond sending a few messengers out to teach and baptize and heal. He was an
itinerant preacher who went about doing good. After his death, the apostles and
others went far and wide, baptizing and establishing "churches," which
we would probably call congregations (or "branches" in current LDS
vernacular). But these small groups had constant problems and were not really
tied together by any sort of central hierarchy until long after the death of the
apostles. Christ certainly started a movement. But whether we can call it a
"church" is questionable. And as Dr. Peterson points out, this movement
was full of disarray right out of the gate. So what is this apostasy? How can
you apostatize from something that is already falling apart?
Mountanman says;"Interesting answer a 14 year old farm boy
received when he asked THAT question, wasn't it?"Assuming,
of course, that the farm boy wasn't lying about the whole thing...
@RanchHand"Assuming, of course, that the farm boy wasn't
lying about the whole thing..."And if he wasn’t….
We have no indication that Jesus ever told any of His followers to write down
what He said or did. The 4 gospels that were canonized centuries later were
written by anonymous authors, decades after His resurrection. Do we know how
Jesus intended for the gospel to be spread without corruption? It appears He
intended His Apostles to do this, in person. The fact that there was such
dramatic variance in core doctrines in the proto-orthodox communities in the
centuries after the death of the Apostles validates Dr. Peterson's
Something to remember when reading this article is that there were Jews at the
time of Christ who had the Septuagint...the Greek version of the Old
Testament...you had a people group who valued the passing down of God's
message by way of revelation, then passed down a in the past orally and in
writing. So was the case for Christianity. After approx. 4000 years the Jewish
beliefs were still intact even though the people of Israel had many seasons of
rebellion against God and times of corruption. Jews became slaves of other
countries...However, many Jews became Christians and carried on their high value
of preserving God's Word, plus Jesus said he would be with his people
always...and the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth.
So God set up his church in an era where it was destined to fail for lack of
RE: Defending the faith(in JS).The true church is made up of individuals,
not four walls. Any church organization that claims to be the only true church
to a person that knows the scriptures that they are a false church.Now
you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.(1 Cor
12:27). Christ said he was coming for a Church=(ekklesia/elect)
without a spot or a wrinkle(Eph 5:27). He was not saying He was coming for a
church building or some organization recognized by the federal government.
Those who put their trust in Jesus Christ are the true [invisible]church.A total apostasy would make Jesus a liar. “… Peter, and
upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower
it. (Mt 16:18). Not the rock of revelation but Jesus Christ.See,(Mt 18:20)RE: A history buff, write down what He said or did? “The Holy
Spirit, … will teach you(disciples), and remind you of all that I have
said to you. ”John 14:26) . The writing of the N.T..
I have to agree with a couple of posters on here.First, the Holy
Spirit is the ultimate resource given to the church for its edification. Dr.
Peterson neglects this in his article. I'll take the Holy Spirit over the
steam engine any day.Second, it's perpetually interesting to me
that Mormons have such a low view of their god. He's powerless to preserve
the church for trivial reasons like a lack of printing presses and telephones.
You've got the Creator as your leader, and yet he's not able to
operate without modern technologies.Third, the Gospel came when the
time was exactly right (the fullness of time; Gal 4:4; Eph 1:10), as judged by
God. If Christianity needed cell phones to survive, maybe he should have waited
a couple more millennia to send his Son. One might wonder about the wisdom and
foresight involved in such a decision.
How interesting that this mans articles always bring out so many comments.
To BrokenClay, I don't understand your logic with you question about the
Mormon god being so underwhelming. Let me ask a couple of question using, I
hope, the same logic you used in the second bullet point of your post. Please
inform me if the logic is wrong and how it is wrong.Question 1: Is
the typical Christian god so powerless that he cannot save everybody? If he can
save everybody, then why doesn't he?Question 2: If the typical
Christian god is so powerful that he created everything from nothing, then why
did he create a universe that has so much evil in it?I don't
understand the laser beam focused logic you demonstrated with the question about
the Mormon god being so underwhelming when the same type of logic, when not so
focused in on another's view, can also be extremely likely used to
question your own view of god. Of course, if you are atheist,
please disregard what I have posted.
skeptic said "The Mormon church in its short history has not survived
intact, there are several independent different Mormon churches including: the
FLDS, etc."Is there a question in there somewhere? If there
isn't, what is the point you are trying to make?
It appears to me that Peterson has taken an historians view. Historical
perspective is troublesome for some who proclaim to be solely in posession of
true Christian thought and practice and that Mormons are excluded from their
club for one reason or another. But history has a way of getting in the way of
such things. It boil's down to the sum total of the evidence and the good
professor always seems to have the lion's share in that department.
Have you ever noticed that the folks who make the nastiest of anti-Mormon
comments always seem to mix a nickel's worth of rumor, two cents worth of
misunderstnading, aa dime's worth of laziness and claim it to be a
dollar's worth of fact?
@sharrona "The Temple for Christians is Jesus" 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.
2Thes2:1-4How can Jesus be the temple for Christians and the son of
perdition occupy the temple? Also Christ is supposed to be part of the trinity
according to mainstream beliefs so technically how can the son of perdition
occupy the trinity? That passage of scripture also states there will
be a falling away. The very presence of numerous Christian denominations is the
evidence for that prophesied falling away.
The forces arrayed against early Christianity were indeed formidable. The
hardest things to convey forward required person to person contact, namely, the
offices of the priesthood conveyed by the laying on of hands. And the hardest
things to prevent would be the cultural syncretism that seeped in from the
ubiquitous Greek philosophy of the day. But the basic tenets of the faith--that
Jesus died for our sins on the cross and rose the third day--survived and were
carried forward. I do not believe Bro. Peterson means to denigrate early
Christians who did all in their power without telephones and fax machines to
ensure the survival of Christianity. I know from talking to him that he greatly
admires the faithful Christians of the early centuries. God didn't fail
when he planted His church in the sometimes hostile soil of the first and second
centuries. He guaranteed that the seeds would survive and grow, especially in
American soil, providing a perfect nursery for a latter-day work. Roman,
Orthodox, Reformation and Restorationist Christians have much in common, should
admire one another's strengths, and combine forces for the important moral
battles of the day.
Saved sinner suggests the primitive church succeeded. Mormons agree although
with the caveat that it did not succeed intact. The dominant Christian authority
lost some important elements but the fact that the Church survived is proved by
its continued growth and the millions who continued to be taught of Christ, God
the Father and the Holy Ghost. In that sense, truly, the gates of hell have not