LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks once delivered a speech titled, “Have you been saved?” In his speech were heard phrases like, “Good Christian people” and “servant of the Lord” in reference to believers in the Christian faith. While this is consistent with the image that the Mormon Church is now attempting to project, it is absolutely not true to the actual message of Mormonism. The teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints openly deny the possibility of any form of legitimate faith outside of the Mormon Church. A few examples:
- “he that confesseth not that Jesus has come in the flesh and sent Joseph Smith with the fulness of the Gospel to this generation, is not of God, but is antichrist.” (Brigham Young - Journal of Discourses, volume 9, discourse 64)
- "those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints] and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased," (D&C 1:30)
- "What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.270)
- "There is no salvation outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Doctrine, p.670)
So, how do Mormons actually feel about Christianity? Well, practically most Mormons would probably agree with Dallin H. Oaks’ speech - ‘Christians’ are good people serving the same Lord, they just don’t have the whole gospel. But if confronted, they would also have to agree with the words of Joseph Smith and the other early Church leaders (as quoted above). You can see how that would create some confusion...
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teaches that there was a TOTAL apostasy in the Church shortly after the ascension of Christ. This apostasy took place around the same time as the death of the original 12 Apostles. John was the last to die, and he died somewhere between 96 – 100 AD. So, the Mormon Church’s claim is that by the year 100 AD, there were no genuine Christians left on earth.
On a personal note...
In some ways, I can really sympathize with that view. Certain Christian churches that I have attended, especially in my growing up years, seemed to have a great distrust for anything ‘Catholic’. (Even though the Roman Catholic Church was not established until the end of the 4th century). I put very little effort into studying history, because I thought that Church History was corrupt. My view was one that would say: after Acts 28, the Church almost completely collapsed until the advent of Martin Luther, and then the great Methodist revivals, and finally the Azusa street revivals – and now we’re just about back to where we should be. There are even churches and ministries that call themselves “Acts 29” ministries. While I am confident that I would not have any major contentions with such ministries; the name implies that there was very little good between Acts 28 and now – but don’t worry, we’ve got it all figured out, and we’ll take it from here.
What does that view of Church history say about God? About the success (or failure) of Jesus’ mission? His model of discipleship? What does it say about the promises of Christ – ‘I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it’, and ‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age’? It seems arrogant to claim that through hundreds of years of Church history, nobody has gotten it right until now; even if that were true, is there not a more humble – a more Christ-like – approach?
And so, I began (and am still ‘beginning’) to study the history of the Early Church. I didn’t feel like I could continue to reject all that had happened between Acts 28 and the present without at least investigating it. If I’m going to accuse anyone of being ‘apostate’ – I should probably understand why I believe that; because that’s a pretty serious accusation to be throwing around.
A lot of what I had believed, and indirectly been taught to believe simply is not true. Yes, there has been much apostasy over the years. There have been innumerable accounts of abuses of authority. Heresy has crept in to the Church seemingly in almost every corner. But there is also a lot of good. There are treasures that God has given and preserved in his Church through the ages. Countless numbers of people gave their lives to ‘safeguard’ the message of the gospel. And, just like in the Old Testament with the people of Israel – God has always kept a remnant for himself. No matter how apostate the nation of Israel was, there was always a remnant of people that were faithful to the Lord. It is the same with his Church – the people of God in the new covenant. True to his promise, He has never left us, nor forsaken us.
I am not ignorant to the fact that this kind of information has potential to be a bit jarring to the system. Researching these things has certainly been an eye opening experience for me; and a journey that has required me to lay down any prejudices or pre-conceived notions that I had in order to look at things in as unbiased a way as possible. Even in that, I must always remember my humanity – I am as prone to error as anyone, and it could be that my conclusions are still in need of correction or revision.
And so, I leave you with an invitation to join in this journey, and with a question that requires a bit of humility to consider. Before you accuse someone of apostasy – the most serious charge imaginable – would you be willing to first take the time to understand what it is that makes them apostate? Where exactly have they departed from the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? Would you be willing to study for yourself and discover what actually took place in the years following the original 12 Apostles?
Please take a moment to pray for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Thank you.