Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101/Chapter 6

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 6: Apostasy"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101, a work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson

Response to claims made in Mormonism 101, "Chapter 6: Apostasy"

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Response to claim: 81 - "While some apostasies were certainly predicted, a complete apostasy where God's authority fully left the earth was never predicted or implied"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors acknowledge that the Bible predicts major apostasy, but they go on to assert,

While some apostasies were certainly predicted, a complete apostasy where God's authority fully left the earth was never predicted or implied. In 1 Timothy 4:1-3, Paul said a time would come when some would depart from the faith. Paul explained to his protégé that this would take place in the latter times. Peter told his readers in 2 Peter 2:1-3 that many would follow the pernicious ways of false prophets, but nowhere does he say that all would do so.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The New Testament is absolutely clear that a major apostasy was already underway at that time, and was to culminate after the passing of the apostles.

Logical Fallacy: Strawman—The author sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The author then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.

The authors appear to be using a straw man argument. When Latter-day Saints say there was a "complete" apostasy, we do not mean that every single Christian personally rebelled against God. Rather, the rebellion, along with outside persecution, was extensive enough that the earthly Church organization was in a shambles, and was taken over by hostile forces. God allowed this because the culture was not prepared to allow the pure Gospel message to flourish in its midst, so God allowed a somewhat watered-down version to be substituted. Consider what happened to the Church of Jesus Christ in modern times. After being mobbed and forced out of four states, the Saints relocated to the Great Basin desert, where no one but a few native American tribes lived. Why was such relocation necessary? Because the "civilized" portions of the United States presented such a hostile environment. And this all happened in the land that was supposedly a new beacon of hope for religious freedom! God, in His wisdom, preserved the wheat (His righteous elect) among the tares until the last days, when the righteous were to be gathered together, and the Earth cleansed. (Matthew 13:24-42)

Question: Does the Bible predict an apostasy?

The New Testament is absolutely clear that a major apostasy was already underway at that time

The New Testament is absolutely clear that a major apostasy was already underway at that time, and was to culminate after the passing of the apostles. Paul told the Ephesian elders, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30) Paul chastised the Galatian Christians for turning away "unto another gospel," (Galatians 1:6-8) and warned the Corinthians against "false Apostles" who were among them. (2 Corinthians 11:13)Just prior to the end of his life, he complained to Timothy that "all they which are in Asia be turned away from me." (2 Timothy 1:15 The seriousness of the situation can only be appreciated when one realizes that Asia Minor was where most of the Christian converts had been made during this early period.[1]

Paul told the Thessalonians not to worry about Jesus returning immediately, because an apostasy had to occur first

Some evangelical critics of Mormonism complain that Paul said an apostasy was to occur in the "latter time," but both Jude and John, a few decades later, called their own day "the last time" specifically because "ungodly men and "antichrists" were everywhere in the Church.

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ…. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. (Jude 3-4, 17-18)

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18)

Obviously it was not "the last time" because the world was about to end. Paul told the Thessalonians not to worry about Jesus returning immediately, because an apostasy had to occur first. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3) Peter warned Christians not to worry if Jesus didn't return soon, because "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 Peter 3:8) Could it be that the flooding of antichrists into Christianity signaled the end of the Church of that age? This interpretation is strongly supported by Paul's prediction of the apostasy in 2 Thessalonians:

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…. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [will let], until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: [Even him], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12)

John noted that it had been predicted that "antichrist shall come," and that this prediction had been fulfilled by the appearance of "many antichrists" in the Church

Remember that John noted that it had been predicted that "antichrist shall come," and that this prediction had been fulfilled by the appearance of "many antichrists" in the Church. Most commentators link Paul's "son of perdition" with the antichrist. There is ample reason, from Paul's own use of the Temple as a symbol of the Church organization, that this prophecy predicted the takeover of the earthly Church organization by enemies. Richard L. Anderson explained:

Paul's central symbol of the apostasy is the man of sin or lawlessness sitting "in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Thes. 2:4). Pounds of pages have been written about this being the Jerusalem temple, but that would be destroyed within two decades and would have no one sitting in it. And what did that temple mean to the Greek Gentiles or even to apostles in terms of their own religion without Mosaic sacrifices? The real question is how Paul used the word temple in his writing Almost always he used it figuratively - occasionally the body is a temple for God's Spirit, but usually the Church is the temple of God. The members ("ye," older plural English for the plural Greek) are "God's building" (1 Cor. 3:9), with Christ its foundation (1 Cor 3:11), or, in summary, "the temple of God" (1 Cor. 3:16). Elswhere Paul teaches about Christ as cornerstone, apostles as foundation, and members fitting into their places as a "holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:21). And in one of his last letters, Paul still spoke of "the house of God, which is the church of the living God" (1 Tim. 3:15). Paul must define Paul, and his own words show that he was here referring to the Church.[2]


Question: Was the apostasy predicted by the Bible not complete?

There are clear Biblical teachings of a complete apostasy

It is claimed that if the Bible predicts an apostasy from the church founded by Jesus Christ, it is nevertheless not a "complete" apostasy.

There are clear Biblical teachings of an apostasy. Attempts to argue otherwise must disregard a great deal of Biblical data.

Main article: No complete apostasy?

The Greek word translated as "apostasy" (αποστασία) meaning a defection or revolt, from απο, apo, "away, apart", στασις, stasis, "standing". Thus, an "apostasy" is not a failure of the Church due to persecution from without, but is fundamentally about the betrayal of the Church from within.

The Bible predicts an apostasy before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ:

1 NOW we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

2 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.

3 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... (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3)(emphasis added)

The Greek word translated "falling away" in the King James Version is αποστασία, apostasy.

Other translations render it:

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3Don't let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. (NIV) off-site

1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him,

2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.

3Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction... (New American Standard Version) off-site

Paul also taught that after his departure, people from within and without the Church would change doctrine and lead the members astray

28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30)

Paul warned Timonthy:

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4} (emphasis added)

Peter also taught that false teachers would be present in the Church and would seek to deceive members

1 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.

2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.(2 Peter 2:1-2)


Response to claim: 82 - The stock argument used by the authors against the LDS case for a complete apostasy appeals to a single verse in Matthew: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The stock argument used by the authors against the LDS case for a complete apostasy appeals to a single verse in Matthew: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) The authors assert, "Because the literal meaning would eliminate the 'loss of keys' for the primitive Christian church, many Mormons choose to spiritualize this otherwise straightforward verse." They go on to quote former LDS president, Harold B. Lee, and following passage from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

The Savior's reference to the "gates of hell" (Hades, or the spirit world; Matt. 16:18) indicates, among other things, that God's priesthood power will penetrate hell and redeem the repentant spirits there. Many have been, and many more will yet be, delivered from hell through hearing, repenting, and obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ in the spirit world after the death of the body.[3]

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The problem with the authors' analysis of LDS exegesis of this passage is that they are the ones spiritualizing the meaning of the passage, and the LDS are taking it quite literally. The Greek word translated as "hell" in this passage is a form of "Hades." The entry on "Hell" in the Oxford Companion to the Bible has this explanation of the meaning of the word.

Question: What are the "gates of hell" or "gates of Hades?"

Postexilic Judaism reserved a particular section of hell for the punishment of sinners

Both Sheol and Hades refer to a general dwelling place of souls after death (Gen. 37:35; Acts 2:27)…. Postexilic Judaism reserved a particular section of hell for the punishment of sinners (emphasized in 1 Enoch 22:10-11). In the New Testament, the synoptic Gospels and James in twelve places name this place of pain Gehenna (Matt. 5:22; James 3:6). Among the New Testament examples of Hades, there are three in which punishment is the point, so that Hades corresponds to Gehenna (Matt. 11:23; Luke 10:15; 16:23). In the other passages where Hades occurs, however, it is used in the neutral sense of a space where all dead are kept (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14; also the variant reading in 1 Cor. 15:55 [cf. Hos. 13:14]).[4]

"Hades" was not the place of final punishment: It corresponds to what Latter-day Saints call the Spirit World

So "Hades" was not the place of final punishment, the domain of Satan. It corresponds to what Latter-day Saints call the Spirit World-a place where the spirits of both the righteous and wicked dead are kept until the Resurrection. Tertullian (ca. AD 200) explained the early Christian concept of Hades when he wrote,

All souls, therefore; are shut up within Hades: do you admit this? (It is true, whether) you say yes or no…. Why, then, cannot you suppose that the soul undergoes punishment and consolation in Hades in the interval, while it awaits its alternative of judgment?[5]

Roman Catholics are even more interested than Evangelicals in demonstrating the continuity of the Church from New Testament times, but after reviewing various usages of "Hades" around the time of the New Testament writers, Catholic apologist and scholar Michael M. Winter had to admit that "although some writers have applied the idea of immortality to the survival of the church, it seems preferable to see it as a promise of triumph over evil."[6]

Christ "burst open" the gates of Hades

What did the "gates of Hades" do? Saint Athanasius (fourth century AD), the famous proponent of the Nicene Creed, gave the following rendition of Christ's visit to Hades during the three days between His death and resurrection. "He burst open the gates of brass, He broke through the bolts of iron, and He took the souls which were in Amente [the Coptic equivalent of the Greek Hades] and carried them to His Father…. Now the souls He brought out of Amente, but the bodies He raised up on the earth."[7] A first-century Christian collection of poems, the Odes of Solomon, described Jesus' visit to Hades in the following way.

And those who had died ran towards me: and they cried and said, Son of God, have pity on us, and do with us according to thy kindness, and bring us out from the bonds of darkness: and open to us the door by which we shall come out to thee. For we see that our death has not touched thee. Let us also be redeemed with thee: for thou art our Redeemer. And I heard their voice; and my name I sealed upon their heads: For they are free men, and they are mine.[8]

According to the early Christians, the "gates of Hades" kept everyone, including the Church, inside Hades until Jesus would come and release them into a glorious resurrection

Therefore, according to the early Christians, the "gates of Hades" kept everyone, including the Church, inside Hades until Jesus would come and release them into a glorious resurrection. So when Latter-day Saints apply Matthew 16:18 to the release of Spirits from the Spirit World rather than to the survival of the earthly Church, they are taking the passage quite literally.


Question: Does the fact that Jesus said, "upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" mean that universal apostasy was impossible?

Jesus' teaching about the rock is not a reference to any individual church or group of believers, since even well-intentioned mortals must fail

Some Christians argue that a universal apostasy is impossible, because Jesus told Peter, "upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) It is claimed that this means the Church organized by Jesus would never suffer apostasy and loss.

Jesus' teaching about the rock is not a reference to any individual church or group of believers, since even well-intentioned mortals must fail. Christ is the only sure foundation upon which a church can be built, and the knowledge of Christ must come as it always has, as it came to Peter—by direct revelation from the Father. Christ's Church will then be built upon those who have such revelation of Christ, including prophets and apostles.

The gates of hell prevailing against the church must refer to keeping the church in or out of the Hades, the dwelling place of departed spirits

The gates of hell prevailing against the church must refer to keeping the church in or out of the Hades, the dwelling place of departed spirits. Gates do not force people to enter or leave, but they do keep people from going in or out. Therefore, the Catholic and Protestant interpretations are not very intelligible whereas the Latter-day Saints can interpret the passage in at least two logical, Biblically sound ways.

It is not surprising that this issue revolves around how one interprets Jesus' remark. There are several options. Key to understanding the passage, however, is figuring out what the final "it" refers to: the church or the rock. Does the passage mean "the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church," or does the passage mean "the gates of hell shall not prevail against this rock?" If it refers to the "rock," then one must determine what "the rock" refers to. Similarly, the word "prevail" can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Catholic perspective: "this rock" is literally Peter

The Catholic church, of course, thinks that "this rock" is literally Peter, and have based their claims to apostolic succession on the unbroken succession of bishops of Rome back to Peter. Other churches must necessarily define a different meaning, because they cannot claim apostolic succession in this way.

Churches (such as the Protestants) who believe that the Church of Rome is somehow flawed or in apostasy from the pure truth must adopt a different reading.

Protestant perspective: "the rock" refers to the Christian Church

Protestant readers have generally interpreted "the rock" to refer to the Christian Church. Under this reading, Jesus is promising that the church will never be entirely overcome by death and/or the forces of Satan.

Latter-day Saint perspective: the only true, unmovable rock that exists is revelation from God

Latter-day Saints have generally read this verse as referring to the only true, unmovable rock that exists--revelation from God. That is the rock upon which any Church must be built, and it is evidenced by the verses just before this one. In Matthew 16:13-17, the subject is literally revelation given to Peter as to who Jesus Christ really is. This knowledge came by revelation from God (Matthew 16:17), and Christ taught Peter that this revelation is the rock upon which He would build His Church. This is confirmed by Joseph Smith's teachings.

Jesus in His teaching says, “upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” What rock? Revelation.[9]

Both the Protestant and Catholic versions must contend with the fact that other Biblical authors taught an inevitable apostasy. It would seem strange for such Biblical authors, including Peter, to teach something which Jesus here denies.

One must also notice that gates only prevail against something by keeping it out or by holding it in. It makes little sense for gates, which by nature keep inhabitants in or out of a place, to "prevail" by forcing something to enter is completely illogical. The Catholic and Protestant interpretations force an interpretation that isn't logical, namely, that gates prevail by forcing someone to enter or someone to leave. Gates, of course, serve no such function. Gates keep things in or out, but they do not force things to go in or to go out.

"Prevail" meaning "to keep out"

The word translated as "hell" in the KJV is actually Hades, the dwelling place of all departed spirits. For the gates of Hades to not prevail against them could mean that the gates would not be able to stop the church from entering therein. (By comparison, in The Gospel of Nicodemus the "gates" mentioned in Psalm 24 refer to the gates of Hades and the attempt made there to keep out Jesus in the period between his death and resurrection.[10] In other words, Christ’s Church, his disciples, would preach the gospel not only among the living, but also among the dead—not even the gates of Hades could keep them out.

In this context, Jesus gives Peter the sealing power to bind on earth and have it bound in heaven. For Latter-day Saints the word "bind" in Matthew 16:19 is synonymous with "seal." This passage has reference to priesthood authority to perform ordinances or sacraments, such as baptism, echoing the Shepherd of Hermas’ usage of the word "seal."[11] When a baptism (seal) is performed vicariously for the dead by proper priesthood authority, the seal (baptism) is recognized in heaven. Thus, Joseph Smith explained, "there is a way to release the spirit of the dead; that is, by the power and authority of the Priesthood—by binding and loosing on earth."[12]

As extreme as this interpretation may seem, this was not a foreign concept to early Christians. Clement of Alexandria (AD 160-215), among others, believed that the apostles of Christ preached the gospel to the departed spirits in Hades. "And it has been shown also…that the apostles, following the Lord, preached the Gospel to those in Hades. For it was requisite, in my opinion, that as here, so also there, the best of the disciples should be imitators of the master..."[13]

"Prevail" meaning "to keep in"

Another interpretation is that "prevail" has reference to keeping inhabitants inside. In this thought, gates could only prevail against something that is already inside of them and not external to them. This interpretation would be that Christ was saying that His Church would soon be inside the gates of the spirit world alone because of apostasy on earth, but that the Church would later come out from the world of the dead and back to earth—that His Church would shortly be confined to the spirit world, held back by its gates, but that later, members of Christ's Ancient Church (such as Peter, James, and John) would come, by revelation, out from behind the gates of Hades to restore the gospel to the earth.

Both of the above readings are distinct possibilities. Both reconcile all the Biblical data.

"Prevail" meaning "shut up against"

A literal translation of the passage reads as follows:

"You are Peter or a small stone broken from a larger rock and upon the original larger rock I will establish my church and the gates of the world of spirts, or sheol, will not be shut up against my church or overpower the dead saints."[14]

In this context the passage could be Christ teaching that the spirits of the departed will have the chance to hear the gospel. This is supported by Peter's teaching about Christ's ministry to the world of spirits just prior to his resurrection in 2 Peter 3:18-22 through 2 Peter 4:1-6).

Latter-day Saints believe that this sealing power given to Peter is the same power and keys that can seal families on both sides of the veil.

Jesus is also the Rock

It is not just revelation, however, that is key, but the revelation of Christ by God the Father.

The image of a rock is found throughout scripture, and bears directly on Jesus' remark to Peter:

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:13-22)

Paul argues that the Church is built on a foundation of, among others, apostles and prophets, who were grounded in Christ as the cornerstone. Thus, Christ is the rock, as are those who receive revelation of Christ (such as the apostles and prophets) and His mission as part of their calling. Significantly, the apostasy resulted in the loss of apostolic authority (unless one accepts the apostolic succession of Rome).

Paul cautioned the Corinthian saints against presuming they could build on anyone or thing besides Christ:

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's. (1 Corinthians 3:9-23) (emphasis added)

Paul tells the saints that they are building the Church; but the Church cannot be built on man or men, even great men like Paul, Apollos, or Peter. (Of course, one cannot reject the testimony of the prophets and apostles either. But, relying on a mortal, fallible man alone will not suffice.)

Only Christ is a sufficiently firm basis for faith, practice, and belief. And, Christ cannot be found through the "wisdom of this world," but only through on-going revelation.

Paul noted the use of the same symbol later in the epistle, tying the Christians to covenant Israel:

MOREOVER, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-4) (emphasis added)

One must ask again, How was Israel guided? By a prophet, who provided knowledge by revelation of the Rock of Israel. This symbol was a common one, of course, for the Israelites:

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner [stone], a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. (Isaiah 28:16-17)


Response to claim: 83 - "The 'apostles and prophets' do not necessarily mean offices, as the LDS Church implies"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors state the following:

In Ephesians 2:20, Paul states that Christ Himself is the cornerstone, a rock or stone placed in the corner of a proposed building on which all the other stones must align. The "apostles and prophets" do not necessarily mean offices, as the LDS Church implies; rather this phrase encompasses the teachings of the prophets (Old Testament) and the apostles (New Testament).

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Perhaps the authors are correct that this alternate meaning is possible for Ephesians 2:20, but what of Ephesians 4:11-14? All the categories mentioned there seem to be "offices," and lest the authors forget, there were New Testament prophets. (See Acts 11:27-28, Acts 13:1, Acts 15:32, Acts 21:10, 1 Corinthians 12:28 and 1 Corinthians 14:29)

Question: Does the Biblical reference by Paul to "apostles and prophets" refer to Church offices?

With regard to Paul's reference in Ephesians 4:11-14, all the categories mentioned there seem to be "offices"

With regard to Paul's reference in Ephesians 4:11-14, all the categories mentioned there seem to be "offices," and, it should be noted, there were New Testament prophets. (See Acts 11:27-28, Acts 13:1, Acts 15:32, Acts 21:10, 1 Corinthians 12:28 and 1 Corinthians 14:29) In fact, in the same letter, Paul wrote, "Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." (Ephesians 3:4-5) Obviously these were New Testament apostles and prophets. In 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul wrote, "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." Therefore, it appears that when Paul spoke of "apostles and prophets" he was using some kind of formulaic construction to denote certain people who were part of the New Testament Church.

With that established, one need only look to the reasons Paul gave for God's establishment of these offices in the Church, which include "That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive…." Christianity not fulfilled these conditions, which would result in negating the need for divinely appointed individuals serving as apostles, prophets, etc.


Response to claim: 84-85 - Since John the Apostle and the three Nephites did not die, then there could not have been a "complete apostasy"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors argue that since the LDS scriptures teach that John the Apostle (DC 7:) and three Nephite apostles (3 Nephi 28:7) were told they would not die, but remain on Earth to bring souls to Christ until the Second Coming, there could not have been a "complete apostasy."

The thought of a complete apostasy becomes a problem in light of the fact that these men were promised success in making converts. If John and the Nephites did successfully gain converts to their message this would seem to deny any such apostasy. In other words, the church really didn't cease to exist. If the word complete has any meaning when combined with apostasy in the English language, then there should not have been even one of these four individuals who remained through this dark period of history.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Has there ever been a Latter-day Saint who claimed that John and the Three Nephites did not and will not make any converts during their long ministries? And even if they had been promised that they would "bring souls unto Christ" (DC 7:2-4) every single day they lived, Latter-day Saints have no trouble believing that these four men brought "souls unto Christ" without baptizing them into the earthly Church, as has already been explained.

Question: Since John the Apostle and the three Nephites did not die, then how could there have been a "complete apostasy" on the earth?

Latter-day Saints believe these men were "translated," meaning that their bodies were changed to a higher state, preliminary to the resurrection, and now "they are as the angels of God"

Does the existence of these four men on the earth, Paul and the Three Nephites, who were obviously "church members," contradict the notion of a "complete apostasy?" The fact is that Latter-day Saints believe these men were "translated," meaning that their bodies were changed to a higher state, preliminary to the resurrection, and now "they are as the angels of God." (3 Nephi 28:30) If, as Joseph Smith said, translated beings are "held in reserve to be ministering angels,"[15] how could the fact that God left priesthood-holding angels on the Earth (who did not transmit their priesthood to others) have any bearing on the question of whether the apostasy was "total?" Rather, this illustrates the LDS belief in God's loving concern for His children even during periods of apostasy.


Question: Was the priesthood on earth during the apostasy?

There is a difference between someone holding the priesthood, and someone being authorized to exercise the priesthood

It is argued by some that the LDS doctrine of the apostasy is incoherent, since the apostasy teaches that God's authority was lost. Critics then ask about John the Revelator, or the Three Nephites, and ask whether they had the priesthood. However, they fail to distinguish between someone holding the priesthood, and someone being authorized to exercise the priesthood in forming the Church, conferring blessings, ordinations, and spiritual gifts.

The apostasy refers to a lack of the latter, not the former.

The apostasy refers to the absence of the kingdom (i.e, Church) of Jesus Christ on the earth

The apostasy refers to the absence of the kingdom (i.e, Church) of Jesus Christ on the earth. This is not to say that there may not be some who hold the priesthood, but they have no authority or authorization to establish the Church or perform its ordinances.

Presidents J. Reuben Clark, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee went so far as to teach that the presence of such priesthood holders during periods of apostasy were, in their opinion, a necessity:

President [J. Reuben] Clark said something that startled some folks years ago. He said, "It is my faith that the gospel plan has always been here, that his priesthood has always been here on the earth, and that it will continue to be so until the end comes" (in Conference Report, October 1953, p. 39). When that conference session was over there were many who said, "My goodness, doesn't President Clark realize that there have been periods of apostasy following each dispensation of the gospel?"

I walked over to the Church Office Building with President Joseph Fielding Smith and he said, "I believe there has never been a moment of time since the creation that God has abandoned the earth to Satan. There has always been someone holding the priesthood on the earth to hold Satan in check." And then I thought of Enoch's city with perhaps thousands who were taken into heaven and were translated. They must have been translated for a purpose and may have sojourned with those living on the earth ever since that time. I have thought of Elijah—and perhaps Moses; for all we know they were translated beings, as was John the Revelator. I have thought of the Three Nephites. Why were they translated and permitted to tarry? For what purpose? An answer was suggested when I heard President Smith make the above statement. Now, that doesn't mean that the kingdom of God has always been present, because these men did not have the authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel to the world. But these individuals were translated for a purpose known to the Lord. There is no question but what they were here.[16]


Response to claim: 293 n14 - Jesus did not say that John would not die, or that he would stay on Earth until Jesus returned

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors tell us,

Jesus did tell Peter in John 21:22, "If I will that he [John] tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me." John gave a personal note in the next verse to head off any faulty interpretation of Jesus' statement: "Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die; yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" This contradicts Joseph Smith's interpretation.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

In fact, the authors are correct that Jesus did not say that John would not die, or that he would stay on Earth until Jesus returned. He asked the disciples a rhetorical question that implied that such a thing might happen. John's note that Jesus didn't specifically make such a prediction, written to quell the rumors, does not contradict Joseph Smith's claim that John nevertheless did not die. And if Joseph Smith's interpretation was incorrect, why did Jesus ask such a bizarre question to His disciples?

The passage itself is ambiguous, although suggestive, but a certain tradition reported by St. Hippolytus (ca. 200 AD) seems consistent with the LDS view. "John, again, in Asia, was banished by Domitian the king to the isle of Patmos, in which also he wrote his Gospel and saw the apocalyptic vision; and in Trajan's time he fell asleep at Ephesus, where his remains were sought for, but could not be found."[17] Indeed, the doctrine that some would be thus "translated" was reported by early Christians such as Papias (ca. 100 AD) and the Jewish Christian writers of the Clementine Recognitions.[18]



Response to claim: 86-87 - The authors proffer a series of arguments against the LDS belief that Apostles are a necessity in the Lord's Church

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors proffer a series of arguments against the LDS belief that Apostles are a necessity in the Lord's Church.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

Surprisingly, the authors never mention the Bible passage most often quoted by Latter-day Saints in this regard.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. (Ephesians 4:11-14)

Response to claim: 87 - "In the strictest sense, apostle means 'one sent forth.' With this being the case, numerous people could have rightly held this designation"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors acknowledge that "the New Testament does speak of others who had the title of apostle." However, they go on to say,

In the strictest sense, apostle means "one sent forth." With this being the case, numerous people could have rightly held this designation. However, when it came to replacing Judas, the eleven felt that one of the requirements to be an apostle was that the individual had personally seen Christ. It never seemed to be a priority in the Christian church to replace deceased disciples after the account of Matthias in Acts 1:23-26.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

What the authors fail to disclose is that when a replacement for Judas was being sought, the requirement was not just that the candidate must have seen Christ personally, but that he be one who had followed Christ since the beginning of His ministry. (Acts 1:21-22) However, this was not presented as a general requirement for all future apostles, obviously, since the Apostle Paul would have failed the test.

Question: Was Paul a "real" apostle, with authority over the Church like the original Twelve?

Paul evidently considered his calling an office

Was Paul a "real" apostle, with general authority over the Church like the original Twelve, or was he just some guy with no particular ecclesiastical authority, who was "sent forth" to preach? Paul evidently considered his calling an office. "For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office." (Romans 11:13) When Paul mentioned other apostles, he did not seem to distinguish his office from theirs. "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?" (1 Corinthians 9:5) "For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles." (2 Corinthians 11:5) The only sense in which he seems to have thought himself less than the other apostles is that he had formerly persecuted the Church. "For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God." (1 Corinthians 15:9) And just as the original Twelve apostles were "ordained" as such by Jesus, (John 15:16) Paul claimed, "I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle." (1 Timothy 2:7) Obviously, given the number of authoritative letters he wrote to various local churches, he considered himself to have jurisdiction over a wide area.

The presence of apostles in the New Testament Church beyond the original Twelve and Matthias supports the LDS interpretation

Others called "apostles" in the New Testament include Barnabas (Acts 14 14:{{{4}}}) and James the Lord's brother. (Galatians 1:19) Were they ordained apostles like Paul and the Twelve? The question is not answered in the New Testament, but the presence of apostles in the New Testament Church beyond the original Twelve and Matthias supports the LDS interpretation of Ephesians 4:11-14. Apostles should continue in the Church to, among other things, keep the faithful from being tossed about by every wind of doctrine. And even if the calling of original Twelve was somehow different than that of the other apostles like Paul, all of them seem to have had general jurisdiction over the local churches. Can the authors produce modern apostles with general jurisdiction over local Protestant churches? No wonder there are thousands of Protestant sects.


Response to claim: 87 - "it seems strange that God would have allowed the leaders of His church in Palestine to be so ignorant as to stop replacing martyred apostles"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors bring up an interesting question related to the topic of replacing apostles. If the apostles were replaced for a time when a vacancy came up, "it seems strange that God would have allowed the leaders of His church in Palestine to be so ignorant as to stop replacing martyred apostles."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

It must be kept in mind that the LDS "believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof" (A+of+F 1:5). Many of the prophecies coming from the apostles in New Testament times were about the impending apostasy. They knew a rebellion was in the works. So if God told them not to ordain new apostles because of the rebellion that was underway, that is what would have happened. The apostasy was not an accident. It was a purposeful rebellion on the part of many Christians, tearing the Church apart. When this rebellion was combined with massive persecutions that wiped out a large number of faithful Christian leaders, God undoubtedly thought it wise to remove His priesthood.



Response to claim: 89 - "The Aaronic priesthood was for the priests of the temple, as defined in the books of Moses known as the Pentateuch"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

Against the LDS claim that God has restored the Aaronic and Mechizedek priesthoods to the Church, the authors write,

The Aaronic priesthood was for the priests of the temple, as defined in the books of Moses known as the Pentateuch. The New Testament shows no need for such a priesthood for Christian believers. As far as the Melchizedek priesthood, Hebrews 6:20 says Jesus is the "high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." Hebrews 7:24 says that because Jesus lives forever, He holds His priesthood permanently.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

The authors give no evidence that the Aaronic priesthood was not to be perpetuated in the New Testament Church, but we need not defend such a proposition. The revelations of God to Joseph Smith state that this dispensation is a "welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories." (DC 128 18:{{{4}}})

Therefore, we would expect to find things in the Restored Church pertaining to the Mosaic dispensation, but not that of the New Testament Church. In any case, we see the Aaronic priesthood as a subset of the Melchizedek priesthood, (DC 107 13-14:{{{4}}}) so the point is moot.

First, what kind of priesthood did Melchizedek hold? Was his priesthood "after the order of Melchizedek?" If so, then obviously people other than Christ can belong to this order.

Second, recently I showed that all the earliest Christian writers taught that the Church was inseparably tied to the ordained priesthood. The only ones preaching a "priesthood of all believers" were Gnostics and pseudo-prophetic sects like the Montanists.[19] Given this fact, it seems obvious that the earliest Church had some kind of priesthood order. Could it not have been the Melchizedek priesthood?

Third, there are statements in the early Christian literature in the third century AD that speak of "the Apostles also and their successors, priests according to the great High Priest."[20] Of course, the "great High Priest" was Christ, and He was High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.

As for the Melchizedek priesthood, nobody disputes the fact that Jesus holds His priesthood permanently, so it is difficult to discern the authors' reason for pointing this out. However, while it is true that the New Testament offers no further information on the Melchizedek priesthood, a number of points can be made in favor of the proposition that others can hold the Melchizedek priesthood.

Question: Why do Mormons use the Aaronic Priesthood, since Hebrews 7 states that the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood was "changed" to the unique priesthood "after the order of Melchizedek" held by Jesus Christ?

The idea that the Melchizedek Priesthood superseded the Aaronic Priesthood is a correct one, but this does not necessarily imply that there is no Aaronic Priesthood

As other Christians see it, the Aaronic Priesthood is like a small glass of water that is replaced by a fruit juice (the Melchizedek Priesthood). They are distinguished from each other, in most Christians' eyes, as quite separate things.

The LDS would use a different metaphor to explain things: they might compare the Aaronic Priesthood to a glass of water that is filled only part way. Instead of being replaced by an entirely different drink, more water is poured into it until it is a full glass (the Melchizedek Priesthood).

From a Mormon perspective, the two priesthoods are really the same substance: the power of God delegated to man

From whence do the two priesthoods originate? The same source—God. What is the purpose of the two priesthoods? They bring mortals to the Lord (note that only the Melchizedek Priesthood can do so entirely—see Hebrews 7:11—but the Aaronic Priesthood was instrumental in keeping ancient Israel holy and pure). The Aaronic Priesthood is merely a limited form of the Melchizedek Priesthood, or (as LDS scriptures call it) an "appendage" to it (D&C 107:13–14).

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles illustrated the doctrine clearly:

Since all priesthood is Melchizedek, the Aaronic Priesthood being a portion of it, one does not lose the Aaronic Priesthood when he is ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood [...][21]

Why does the Aaronic Priesthood persist in the Church?

So, if the Church possesses the Melchizedek priesthood, then why would the Aaronic Priesthood persist today? The Aaronic priesthood serves as a 'preparatory priesthood' (see D&C 84:26.) Just as the Levitical authority in ancient Israel acted as a "schoolmaster" to prepare Israel to receive Christ (see Galatians 3:24–25), in the modern Church the Aaronic priesthood serves to school young men for service in God's kingdom on earth.

The modern Aaronic priesthood's organizational structure follows the pattern established by the New Testament Church, and consists of Deacons (see Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8,10,12–13), Teachers (Acts 13:1,1 Corinthians 12:28–29), and Priests (see Acts 6:7), and countless references in the Old Testament to Levitical/Aaronic 'priests').

Each Aaronic priesthood office is trusted with more responsibility, providing LDS young men with the opportunity to progress and mature until they are ready to receive the priesthood in full—the Melchizedek Priesthood.

Aaronic priesthood duties and function similar to ancient Israel

Despite some modern differences from ancient Israel, the Aaronic Priesthood is not much different compared to ancient times.

The Aaronic priesthood performs two ordinances (some Christian groups would call these 'sacraments').

  1. Baptism: John the Baptist held the Aaronic Priesthood, which holds the keys of baptism, and baptism is of course a fundamental part of salvation through Christ (see Acts 2:38).
  2. Sacrifice: The modern Church does not, of course, sacrifice animals because Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us, giving us the last great sacrifice (see Ephesians 5:2). Yet, the Church rejoices in and recalls His sacrifice for us by partaking of the sacrament ("communion" or "the Lord's supper" in other denominations) Matthew 26:26-29). Thus, the modern priest repeats a ceremony of atonement and sacrifice through the sacrament of the Lord's supper; this plays a similar theological role to the animal sacrifices offered by Aaronic priests anticipation of Christ's atonement and resurrection.

Separation of priesthood duties in the New Testament Church

It should be noted that all priesthood was not equivalent in the New Testament Church either. For example, many members had been baptized with water (an ordinance of the Aaronic priesthood) but had not yet received the Holy Ghost until one of the apostles laid hands upon them (a Melchizedek priesthood function). (See Acts 8:15–19, Acts 19:2–6).


Question: Do we do not need a mediating priesthood since it has been "fulfilled in Christ?"

The Bible repeatedly speaks of a priesthood authority outside of Jesus both before and after His resurrection

Some sectarian Protestants claim that Christians do not need a mediating priesthood. Is a priesthood not needed since it has been "fulfilled in Christ?"

The Bible repeatedly speaks of a priesthood authority outside of Jesus both before and after His resurrection, with John describing such callings just prior to the second coming.

Early Christian authors insisted too that high priests, prophets, bishops, elders, priests, and deacons with authority persisted among the Christians.

Efforts to deny the need for a formal priesthood seem to arise mostly out of theological necessity, rather than historical or biblical evidence.

This criticism usually comes from Protestant circles and usually involves an argument for some form of "the priesthood of all believers."

The critics' theological need to dispense with priesthood authority—since Protestantism cannot claim authority from either a restoration (which they deny) or a continuation (having broken with Catholicism)—leads them to ignore the clear evidence from the early Church.

As William Hamblin pointed out:

Why, if Christ has removed all need for human priesthood authority, did Christ order the lepers he healed to go to the Jewish priests for purification (Mark 1:44, Luke 17:14)? Apparently Christ believed that his miraculous powers of healing did not negate or supercede the priesthood authority of the Jewish priests. Possibly Protestants could argue that Christ had not yet ascended into heaven and replaced the Jewish High Priest. If so, why does Peter speak of a post ascension "holy priesthood" (1 Peter 2:5) and "royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9) among Christians? Likewise John in Revelation speaks of the saints as "priests to his [Christ's] God and Father" (Revelation 1:6), and "priests to our God" (Revelation 5:10); in the resurrection there "shall be priests of God and of Christ" (Revelation 20:6). What odd statements for an infallible book to make if [the critics'] understanding of priesthood is correct.

Some of the earliest Christians also explicitly disagree with White's claims. The author of the Didache, (one of the earliest post-New Testament Christian documents, late first to early second century), states explicitly that "the prophets ... are your high priests" (13.1). Note the plural here: the prophets (profetais) are the Christians' high priests (archiereis). So, early post-New Testament Christians had prophets (a thing [James] White believes Christians shouldn't have) who were high priests (a thing [James] White believes Christians shouldn't have); and there were apparently simultaneously more than one high priest. [22]

Evidence after the New Testament

Wrote another author:

While there are few New Testament references to priests, other than Jesus Christ and converted Levite priests (Acts 6:7), Protestants should not assume that this office was abolished. The early church had priests along with bishops and deacons. Origen (ca. 240 A.D.) spoke of the church hierarchy in the 2nd century describing the priest's office as being between that of the deacon and bishop (Jean Danielou, "Origen", p.44-45, 49-50; Cel. 5,3,1; De Princ. 3,2,4; Hom. Luc., 35; Hom. Ez. 1,7) and Eusebius (ca. 300 A.D.) clearly distinguished between those holding the priesthood (i.e. bishops, presbyters or elders, priests, deacons, etc.) and the lay members both men and women. (Eusebius, History of the Church, 6:19, 23, 43; 7:30; 10:3, 4) Eugene Seaich observes that "documents from the early Church show that the Aaronic Priesthood did not immediately disappear from Christianity. 1 Clement (ca. 96 A.D.) divides the priesthood into High Priests, Priests and Levites. The latter were also called "Deacons" and according to Justin's First Apology (ca. 150 A.D.) were responsible for passing the bread and wine to those attending service" (Ancient Texts and Mormonism, p. 59). Though the title priest was rarely used in the New Testament, so also were similar priesthood titles such as pastor (Ephesians 4:11), evangelist (Acts 21:8); (2 Timothy 4:5), presbytery (1 Timothy 4:14), and seventy (Luke 10:1),(Luke 10:17). [23]


Response to claim: 89 - The authors claim that there is a "priesthood of all believers"

The author(s) of Mormonism 101 make(s) the following claim:

The authors claims about a "priesthood of all believers" essentially rest on a single verse in the Bible. "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." (1 Peter 2:9)

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains mistakes and/or errors - The author has stated erroneous or incorrect information or misinterpreted their sources

According to Protestants like the authors, this verse means that every believer is a priest of God. However, it is easy to see that Peter was here paraphrasing a passage from the Old Testament spoken by the Lord to Israel through Moses. "And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." (Exodus 19:6) Although Israel is referred to as a "kingdom of priests," in some sense, obviously there was still an ordained priesthood in Old Testament times, which did not include every Israelite. Therefore, the authors claims to authority based on a "priesthood of all believers" appear to be groundless.

Question: Is there a "Priesthood of All Believers" which eliminates the need for unbroken lines of priesthood authority?

Peter's reference to the priesthood was drawn from the ancient Israelite views of the priesthood, a view in which only a select group hold the priesthood

It is claimed that there is no need for unbroken lines of priesthood authority since the Bible teaches that all believers hold the priesthood. However, Peter's reference to the priesthood was drawn from the ancient Israelite views of the priesthood, a view in which only a select group hold the priesthood. Neither the Bible nor other early Christian writings support the idea that all Christians hold priesthood authority to govern the Church or administer its ordinances. Instead, this doctrine is a novelty necessitated by the protestant break with Rome.

Here, we examine some of the scriptural passages cited in defense of the concept of a priesthood of all believers.[24]

"A royal priesthood"

  • "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

This was the principal passage cited by Martin Luther in defense of a priesthood of all believers. What Luther failed to note is that Peter was actually referring to an Old Testament passage, in which the Lord told the Israelites through Moses,

  • "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exodus 19:5-6).

Yet of the Israelites present at the mount of revelation, only the Levites were chosen for priesthood service.

The Gospels and Acts

Based on the belief in the "priesthood of all believers," a Protestant minister often feels that the Bible (or God) has called him to work. But Christ made it clear that this is not the way it works. He said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:21-24).

Only a believer would prophecy in the name of Christ or, in his name, cast out devils. Yet the Savior said that he would cast out those he never knew. It is wrong to profess to do something in the name of Christ when one does not have the authority to do so. Note that Christ said that there would be "many" who would claim to have performed good works in his name who would be rejected, so this is not just an occasional person.

That specific authority was required to perform ordinances in the early Church is made clear by the story found in chapter 8 of Acts: "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money" (Acts 8:14-20). Simon was not trying to buy the Spirit, but the "power" to "lay hands" on people so they could receive the Holy Ghost. This power is what we call "priesthood." Simon had already been baptized in the name of Christ, but this did not authorize him to lay on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

At the last supper, Christ told his apostles, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you" (John 15:16). This ordination did not take place because they were baptized, but came after they had chosen to follow Christ. In Luke 6:13, we read that "when it was day, he [Jesus] called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles." So only twelve of Christ's followers were chosen to be apostles. Mark gives more details concerning this event: "And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils" (Mark 3:13-15). From this, it is clear that the apostles received, at that time, "power" that other followers of Christ did not have. He later gave that same power or priesthood to seventy others (Luke 10:1-20).

The account in Acts 19:1-6 is also instructive on the concept of authority to baptize and confer the gift of the Holy Ghost: "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied."

These men (twelve in number according to verse 7), said they had been baptized "unto John's baptism," probably meaning by someone claiming authority from the John the Baptist, who had been killed by Herod Antipas long before the time of Paul. But Paul doubted the truth of this statement, knowing that John had told people of Christ who, coming after him, would baptize them with the Holy Ghost (Matthew 3:11; John 1:29-34). So Paul taught them about Jesus, after which "they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" and Paul "laid his hands upon them" for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Early Christian history

Christians in the first centuries do not seem to have endorsed the idea of a priesthood of all believers either—instead, this was a later idea developed by Luther to justify his break with Roman Catholicism, which claimed priesthood inheritance from the apostles.


Notes

  1. John G. Davies, The Early Christian Church (New York: Anchor Books, 1965), 86.
  2. Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 86.
  3. M. Catherine Thomas, "Hell," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 2:586.
  4. The Oxford Companion to the Bible, edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 277.
  5. Tertullian, On the Soul 58, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 volumes, edited by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Buffalo: The Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1885-1896), 3:234-235. Hereafter cited as ANF.
  6. Michael M. Winter, Saint Peter and the Popes (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1960), 17.
  7. Discourse of Apa Athanasius Concerning the Soul and the Body, in E.A.W. Budge, Coptic Homilies (London: Longmans and Company, 1910), 271-272.
  8. The Odes of Solomon 42:15-26, in The Forgotten Books of Eden, edited by Rutherford H. Platt, Jr. (New York: Random House, 1980), 140.
  9. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of Joseph Smith, 2nd Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 156–158.; Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 5:258. Volume 5 link; Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 274. off-site
  10. See The Gospel of Nicodemus, Part II, 6 in ANF 8:436-437.
  11. The Pastor of Hermas, ANF 2:49. See also, Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 615-616. GL direct link and D&C 128:.
  12. Joseph Smith in The Essential Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1995), 151-152.
  13. Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, or Miscellanies VI. in ANF, 2:490.
  14. Personal translation taken from Blueletter Bible and BYU Professor Wilf Griggs.
  15. Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 170. off-site
  16. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 486. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  17. Hippolytus, On the Twelve Apostles, ANF 5:254-255.
  18. Papias, quoted in Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:5:1, ANF 1:531; Peter in Clementine Recognitions 1:52, ANF 8:91.
  19. Barry R. Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity (Ben Lomond, California: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 1999), 251-259.
  20. Origen, On Prayer 28:9, translated by John J. O'Meara (New York: Newman Press, 1954), 112. This work is part of the Ancient Christian Writers series, volume 19. For a number of similar statements, and an LDS interpretation, see Bickmore, Restoring the Ancient Church, 268-269.
  21. M. Russell Ballard, cited in Priesthood (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1981), 72.
  22. Dr. William Hamblin, "Tract Made Without Evidence". Hamblin responds to James White's (of Alpha & Omega Ministry) e-tract, "Temples Made Without Hands" (22 September 1999). off-site
  23. Michael Hickenbotham, "Answering Challenging Mormon Questions," Horizon Publishers, 1995. off-site
  24. Part of this wiki article originally derived from John A. Tvedtnes, "Is There a Priesthood of All Believers?" FairMormon link. Due to the nature of a wiki project, it has since diverged from the source material, due to other editors' additions or alterations.