Good Morning Brother and sisters.
When I first received the call from Brother Liddicott, asking me to speak my Dad asked me what I had been asked to speak about. The apostasy, I responded. Oh that’s easy he replied, I can help you with that, there was 12 of them.
Apostasy I corrected, not apostles. Oh, was the response, you’re on your own with that one.
So what does Apostasy mean? The English word "apostasy" derives from the Greek apostasía or apóstasis ("defection, revolt") It can mean "to stand away from," and Thus an apostasy can be an active, collective rebellion or a "falling away
Teach my gospel further defines apostasy as
“Whenever people choose to disregard, disobey, or distort any gospel principle or ordinance, whenever they reject the Lord’s prophets, or whenever they fail to endure in faith, they distance themselves from God and begin to live in spiritual darkness. Eventually this leads to a condition called apostasy. When widespread apostasy occurs, God withdraws His priesthood authority to teach and administer the ordinances of the gospel.”
The old testament lists a pattern of prophetic dispensations through it’s recorded history, detailing prophets who are called by God to start a new dispensation of the gospel and were granted priesthood authority and had eternal truths revealed to them. However in each of these dispensations the people used their agency to choose to reject the gospel and fall into apostasy.
The apostasy I will be speaking about today is referred to as the Great apostasy and occurred after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But why do we focus so much attention on this one instant of apostasy among others. Well I found it is summed up best by Kent P Jackson in his article from the December 1984 ensign.
““The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has proclaimed to the world consistently since its beginning that there was an apostasy of the church founded by Jesus during his Palestinian ministry and led by his Apostles following his ascension.This is a fundamental belief of the Latter-day Saints. If there had not been an apostasy, there would have been no need for a restoration.”
As the church grew strongly and flourished with thousands of jews and tens of thousands of gentiles converting to Christianity following the ministry of Jesus It gave testament to the great zeal with which the apostles worked to spread the church through the world, for example in Acts 5:14 it states
““believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.”
but even by this point there were several statements made by Jesus and his apostles about the future of their work.
In Matthew 24 9-11 Jesus Prophesied
“Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
“And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.”
This verse alongside others indicates that the apostasy was not a sudden event that occurred with the death of the apostles and the authority they held. It was a process that began from within, a internal wound caused by the rejection of true doctrine by members of the church. What must have it been like for these early apostles to know from their own prophetic utterances that the end results of their efforts foretold tragedy. In short they knew the church would fall into apostasy after their time.
We also see reference to this internal wounding in Acts 20: 29-31 when Paul made the following prophecy to the Elders of Ephesus.
“ For I know this, that after my departing shall grevious wolves enter in among you, not sparing this flock, also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them”
In Andrew C Skinner’s article from the December 1995 ensign he refers to this passage of scripture as a chilling warning by Paul of things to come to a growing body of disciples that he had grown to love so deeply. He also refers to this passage of scripture as
“This may be the most pointed and succinct description in all scripture of how the great apostasy of the early Church came about. “
This passage also makes it clear that apostasy was an internal phenomenon and was born of certain members desires to exalt themselves. Brother Skinner also states that
“ Nephi may have labeled it something else (that is, priestcraft), but he outlined the same basic ingredient of apostasy—pride.”
As it states in 2nd Nephi, 26:29
““He [the Lord] commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion”
In the second Thessalonian letter, Paul taught that the day of Christ’s coming would not take place until the “falling away” and the revelation of the “man of sin,” “the son of perdition.” (.)
The term “falling away” may give the incorrect impression of a process of drifting or gradually losing ground. The original Greek term, (from which we have the English word “apostasy”), means something much more drastic. Ancient sources use the term to describe political rebellion and revolution.
And in 1 Timothy 4:1-3 Paul prophesied concerning the departure of some of the saints from the faith
““Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” (.)
Paul’ final prophecy can befound in 2nd Timothy 4 3-4
“For the time will come when they will not sound; but after their own shall they heap to themselves, having itching ears;
But it was not just Paul who prophesied of the forthcoming apostasy, in 2nd Peter 2: 1-3 Peter prophesied
“ But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the lord that bought them and bring upon themselves swift destruction
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoke of”
However of all the apostles it is Paul who is perhaps the best witness of the eroding forces working on the foundations of the church, as stated by S Kent Brown in his article from the October 1988 ensign
“One impression that his letters give is that he and his companions spent considerable energy trying to smother the flames of apostasy.”
The death of the last of the apostles and the authority they held did not mean an end to Christianity. However their death did meant the loss of Paul had called the foundation of the church in Eph 2.20
Many early Christians worked in the face of horrifying oppression and persecution and by the end of the 2nd century Christianity was truly a prominent force.
However this early saints did not have the same apostolic Authority, that John, paul and their breathern had and in their quest for doctrinal understanding their turned to other sources, which lead to the loss of many plain and precious truths.
In his article in the November 1994 ensign, Elder M Russell Ballard states that
History tells us, for example, of a great council held in 325 in Nicaea. By this time Christianity had emerged from the dank dungeons of Rome to become the state religion of the Roman Empire, but the church still had problems—chiefly the inability of Christians to agree among themselves on basic points of doctrine. To resolve differences, Emperor Constantine called together a group of Christian bishops to establish once and for all the official doctrines of the church.
Consensus did not come easily. Opinions on such basic subjects as the nature of God were diverse and deeply felt, and debate was spirited. Decisions were not made by inspiration or revelation, but by majority vote, and some disagreeing factions split off and formed new churches. Similar doctrinal councils were held later in 451, 787, and 1545, with similarly divisive results.
This passage gave me Pause Brothers and sisters, we often express our thanks for the priesthood and the blessings that its authority can bring into our lives as well as our families. But do we always realise just how far those blessings reach? We have the scriptures and we receive revelation through a living prophet on the earth today but do we also realise the blessings that come from our lesson manuals? Can you imagine what it would be like trying to hold a meeting influenced by the majority?
During the first several centuries of apostasy, the major doctrinal disputes centered on the Savior’s resurrection and the exact nature of his mission—the very points on which the Apostles were charged to testify. (See .) We can see how serious the absence of the Apostles became, since such issues continued as centers of controversy among Christians until the fifth century
As Christianity moved into the time referred to as the Dark Ages , the beautiful simplicity of Christ’s gospel had been lost behind doctrine that was more popular opinion then revelation
However in 1517 a german Priest named Martin Luther was moved by the spirit, after being disturbed at how far the church had moved from the teachings of Christ, to start a work that would lead to a reformation that was taken up by other visionaries such as John Calvin.
Their work would begin to bring about a religious climate that would inspire early explorers and the founders of America, to ready a land where a young 14 year old boy after reading a passage in james would retire to a grove of tree’s one beautiful spring morning to receive a vision that would herald the restoration of the gospel , the formation of the only true and living church on the earth today, and let us know a significant and eternal truth. The heavens are not sealed and god still communicates with mortals as he did in ancient times.
Elder M Russell Ballard stated about the following about the apostasy and restoration;
I taught my new friends in Orlando, as I teach here this morning, that either the gospel has been restored or it has not. Either the Savior’s original church and its doctrine were lost or they were not. Either Joseph Smith had that remarkable vision or he did not. The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ or it is not. Either the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to earth through God’s chosen latter-day prophet or it was not.
The truth really is not any more complicated than that. Either these things happened just as I have testified or they did not. As a latter-day Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, my testimony, and the testimony of millions of faithful members of the Church the world over, is that what I have told you this morning is true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been restored to the earth through Joseph Smith and is administered today by a living prophet. These things I know!
I am thankful for this opportunity to have spoken to you today Brother and Sisters, I have to admit when I first got the assignment and looked at it, I was certain I would find difficulty in finding enough to speak about. But I was wrong and was once again taught their lesson that when it comes to things in the gospel, there is always something new to learn.
Bear testimony etc J
And I say this things in the nameof Jesus Christ Amen.