Scott Gordon: We’re very pleased to have Scott Petersen speak. Scott is the Executive Director of the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at BYU. Under his leadership the program has been ranked in the top five of all collegiate entrepreneurship programs for each of the past seven years, ranking #2 in 2016. He is also the Founder and Chairman of Omadi, Inc., a venture backed SaaS mobile CRM platform for workforce management, serving the towing/transportation markets. Scott is a long-time entrepreneur, having co-founded or partnered in building seven companies (harvesting four), including several current ventures. Additionally, he serves on several business and private foundation boards. In 2005, Scott published a significant work, titled Where Have All The Prophets Gone?, a historical, theological book on early Christianity using the Bible, the Pseudepigrapha, the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Library, and extant early Christian writings. In 2014 Scott published his second book, Do the Mormons Have a Leg to Stand On?: A Critical Look at LDS Doctrines in the Light of the Bible and the Teachings of the Early Christian Church. Scott and his wife Marilyn are the parents of 5 married children and have 15 grandchildren. He serves as Stake President in the Provo Utah YSA 4th Stake. With that, Scott Petersen.
Scott Petersen: Thank you very much. It is a privilege to be here today. I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to you.
I was thinking about the genesis of my interest in early Christianity and how it ties into Mormonism, and it goes all the way back to my mission. I had an experience on my mission that changed me. Really, everything about my mission, as perhaps for all of you, changed me. But I was teaching a young man who was about 24 years of age, and I went to his home one day in the morning to pick him up for church one Sabbath morning, and he said, “I can’t wait for my wife. I need to be baptized. I know the church is true, and I simply cannot wait any longer.” So we arranged for him to be baptized. And then about four days later his uncle came up from Virginia and talked to him about the belief that Mormons have that we can become like God, and it really challenged his faith. And even though I was a missionary that understood the scriptures probably as well as any other missionary, it was insufficient and his faith dwindled and he left.
So it set me on a track of lifelong learning. For my scholarly friends, I always recognize to them that I am simply no more than a pseudo-scholar, but I do love the early Christian roots and the things that I have learned from them, and hope that some of the things that I’m going to share with you today will be of benefit to you as you think about your families, your children, grandchildren, or those around you who sometimes struggle with faith.
The reason for this title that Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday, and forever is, it is truly important in the day where we have individuals that seem to want to challenge the living prophets.
I want to read directly from the scriptures, in just a few scriptures to show that it’s in all of the standard works.
If you go to Hebrews, it states that “Jesus Christ the same yesterday,  to day, and for ever.” And then Paul said this, giving us context, he said, “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines.” So even at that early stage he wanted the members of the church to keep the doctrine pure.
Then Nephi taught the same principle: “For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever…”
And in the Doctrine and Covenants it says, “Thereby showing that he is the same…yesterday, today, and forever.” It’s a very important doctrine.
In this current faith crisis that we see today in the church because of the Internet and other things, I would like to just submit that it’s not as current as sometimes we would like to believe, because every other generation has had this same faith crisis. This one is just a little more public.
We have the scriptures in the Book of Mormon that warn us: “at that day [he shall] rage in the hearts of…men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” And similarly, “Wo unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”
One of the things that I learned from my studies of early Christianity is that man is no different then than they are today. They have always tried to improve on God’s teachings, going back to the teaching of Paul where he said, keep the doctrine pure. Only we seem to want to improve it.
To give you an example, if you were to take a look at how we like to do, sometimes, baptism in the church. A lot of us would like to invite David Archuleta to come sing at the baptism, or we’d like to have 25 people around laying our hands on this poor young person’s head so that their neck is crushed.
When we think of the simplicity of the doctrine of Christ, we recognize that there is no reason for overlaying it, but it has been something that we have been wont to do since man came upon the earth. So J.G. Davies, who was a respected early Christian writer of a number of books, he said this: “…the tendency throughout the Empire was to ‘overlay the primitive pattern with elaborations, consisting of prayers and litanies.’ ” And this was speaking specifically about the sacrament. But it didn’t stop there. It continued.
However, one of the teachings of the Savior to the Nephites clarified some things that are important for us to remember when he said—and this is one of the very first teachings that he gave to the Nephites, it’s still in chapter 11—he said, “And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock….” We have such a tendency to want to be able to improve, and we want to have gospel hobbies, and we want to think about things in a way that are more than what our Heavenly Father has revealed to us; which is why he gave us living prophets; which is why it’s so important for us to stay close to the prophetic roots.
So then we entered this age of enlightenment and reason, and we have this funny saying from Thomas Paine: “To argue with a person who has renounced the use … of reason … is like administering medicine to the dead.” So it isn’t that I believe everything that Thomas Paine said, and in the conference you’ve heard lots of things relating to the fact that communication is difficult, or we have friends all across the world in every church. They all have truth and they all are good people.
I remember writing my first book, and I sort of wrote it in the beginning, the first draft, a little bit after the order of James Talmage, a little bit fiery. But as I had read everything that was there to read in the Pseudepigrapha, and the Apocrypha, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Nag Hammadi Library, and all the early Christian writings, it became very clear to me that without living prophets, these people were just doing the best that they could. Why would I judge them and speak of them harshly, when they were simply trying to do the best that they knew how to do?
And today we live in another age of enlightenment, the age of the Internet, so to speak, and the Internet has given rise to some things that are difficult. We’ve seen the CES papers, or distortions about the Book of Abraham, or distortions regarding Joseph Smith and the founding of Mormonism. Clearly, when we think about the nineteenth century and we’re trying to interpret it through a twenty-first-century lens, it’s just not possible to do that. And so we could say that the beginnings of the church were a little bit messy. But if anyone thinks that the beginnings of Mormonism were a little bit messy, I invite you to look deeply at early Christianity and you’ll find it is 10 or 20 or 30 times more messy.
And so because of the gift of agency that God has given to each one of us, and his non-interference with our agency, it makes the world an interesting place to be in and to receive truth and interpret or synthesize truth.
So what began just a couple of years ago as the LGBT movement, in terms of being accepted, gay marriage and so forth, imagine how quickly now it has gone to gender neutrality. When I was a missionary and reading the Book of Mormon often—and I’ve read it over 100 times—I used to think to myself, “This just seems a little bit unrealistic that they could lose their way in such a short period of time, in five years or ten years.” And then in my own lifetime I have witnessed it before my eyes, and recognize how quickly we can go from truth to error. But these forces, combined with the failure, in some cases, to erect adequate defenses, have weakened or destroyed faith in some.
I’d like to share with you an experience that I had many years ago. I was living in Overland Park, Kansas, at the time, in the late ’90s. I was serving in a stake presidency in the Lenexa Kansas Stake, and I was invited to speak in the Saturday session of stake conference. And I was young and concerned a little bit about the talk. And the general authority who was coming was a seasoned Fortune 500 previous CEO, and I knew a little bit about him, so I was just a little bit nervous. I fasted and prayed and thought a great deal about this talk, and it was kind of a topic that I thought, “Well, this could be boring if this doesn’t happen right,” because it was on, How do we use ward councils? You understand what I mean. Yeah.
So as I was reading the Book of Mormon as I did each day, I came to Alma chapter 50, and it impacted me in a way that I had never understood it before. And I had an epiphany; I had a personal revelation that day that helped me to understand why wars were placed in the Book of Mormon. Because that had always concerned me—why was there so much in the Book of Mormon about wars? However, when we think about the war in heaven, and that that war simply transferred here to the earth, [and that] that war continues to today—not a war of weapons, but a war of ideas… I always ask the young people, I will say: “What would be more difficult—to have a physical death or a spiritual death?” And, of course, they all get it, and they will say, of course, spiritual death is much worse.
And then I would say to them: “Why, then, did Captain Moroni spend so much time defending them against their physical lives, and we do so little, seemingly, to preserve our spiritual lives?” And so I thought about the ward council very differently, and I thought before a young man or young woman falters, they have to slip through the hands of parents, of siblings, of a home teacher or a visiting teacher, of primary teachers, of young men and young women leaders, of bishops, of bishops’ counselors, and so forth. The list is long. And then I thought about Captain Moroni and the line of defenses that he put on—the thick armor, and head plate, and breast plate, and thick clothing, and swords, and cimeters, and so forth, and bows and arrows. But he didn’t stop there. Then he put a mound of dirt around the city. And he didn’t stop there. He put and erected a great wall of timber. And he didn’t stop there. He put sharp pickets on top of it. And then from there he built towers and had watchmen. And I thought to myself, what if Captain Moroni had hired some watchmen to be in the tower and they decided to take a two- or three-day vacation? How would that work out?
And I thought to myself, how many that we know take a vacation from scripture study and from personal prayer and going to the temple and those are just basic things. There is so much more that we can do to erect these defenses. And this is exactly what Captain Moroni was [doing] there and why I believe those words were included in the Book of Mormon.
And then I had this significant experience a couple of years ago in November. It was the day before the bombing in France that we left and went home and then the day after we went home the bombing took place. But during that week, across the Internet came the word that the church had a position that the children of gay families could not be baptized until they were 18. And they misunderstood, of course, and misrepresented the finer details of the policy. But at the end of the day, social media was going, and it was just on fire.
And I remember being in a beautiful land, in a beautiful city with a lot of history, and I love history, and I was just sad. In fact, it was hard to enjoy parts of the vacation. And I went home that night from our sightseeing, and I lay awake in bed. And in a moment, the words came to me as clearly as anything that I had ever heard: “Wilt thou leave me also?” And I knew that the words were not directed towards me. And I was familiar with the verses, a little too tired to get up and look them up, so I waited until morning and then opened John chapter 6, which is the parable or the message of the good shepherd.
And Jesus said to the people, he said, “your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and they’re dead, but he who eats my body and drinks my blood will never die.” And they said, “That is a hard saying; who can hear it?” And in that moment the spirit spoke to me and said, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?”
We do not understand everything, but we understand that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And we understand his plan for families, and why we were born into families, and how important families are.
There are a lot of questions that happen around science and religion, and we have a lot of scholars here today and tomorrow that talk about some of those things. And as I said, I don’t pretend to be a scholar, but I do read about it a great deal, as a lot of you do. I’ve never been concerned much about evolution. I know that it simply is. But I know that it also doesn’t explain how Adam and Eve and the rest of creation actually got here.
One of these magazines or journals that I was reading from was talking about one of the problems with evolution as how Adam and Eve came to be. So Dr. Muller said that phenotypic complexity—or the origin of eyes, ears, body plans, and so forth—could not be explained by evolution.
And there are others here, the phenotypic novelty—the origin of new forms—or the non-gradual forms or modes of transition, where you see abrupt discontinuation in the fossil record between different types.
Well, I don’t think that this gives us a lot of evidence to go around and claim, you know, that intelligent design is the answer, nor do I believe that evolution, that random evolution, creates individuals and species either.
And so we can let these facts of science—as we understand them today—and religion, we don’t have to get too caught up with them, because we know that in a future day, we’ll have all things made known to us.
I love this quote from Henry J. Eyring, President Eyring’s father, where he said that “There are all kinds of contradictions that I don’t understand, but I find the same contradictions in science, and I haven’t decided to apostatize from science.”
I just love that, I mean, what a humble man. If you really study about this man and you see the number of individual papers that he brought to bear—he was an Einstein! He was an Einstein! 900 different papers that he published, that changed everything about the way we view science. This was a truly remarkable man that never let his science interfere with his faith in God. And yet one of the other things that he said that I absolutely love—and, of course, he’s already passed—but he said, “When I pass, the first thing that I’m going to do is I’m going to go to my family and say a quick hello, and the second thing that I’m going to do is I’m going to go straight to the top, because I got a bunch of questions.” Me too.
One of my favorite Bible scholars is Margaret Barker. She made this important insight—she said, “One thing has become quite clear: the original gospel message was about the temple, not the corrupted temple of Jesus’ own time, but the original temple which had been destroyed some six hundred years earlier. All that remained were [the] memories, and the hope that one day the true temple and all it represented would be restored.” And then she said: “The Book of Revelation is the key to understanding early Christianity. Because it is steeped in temple imagery….” And if you, yourself, will go through the Book of Revelation, you will find temple imagery throughout it.
One of the things that I learned in my own studies of early Christianity is just how much contributed … the body of literature that contributed to our understanding.
And so we have the Old Testament, which we’re all familiar with, which came about, I think, in about 70 A.D., in terms of when it was first configured.
The Pseudepigrapha, which is basically Old Testament-era writings that were not accepted into the Old Testament canon.
The Dead Sea Scrolls, which were found at Qumran in about 1947-48.
And then we have the New Testament Apocrypha, which there’s the Catholic Apocrypha, but there are other New Testament-era writings. Joseph said, “There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; There are many things…that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men.” Again, the importance of having living prophets.
Then, of course, we have the New Testament.
And we have the Nag Hammadi Library, which was found in Upper Egypt in about 1945, and is part of what they call the Gnostic writings.
And we have all of the early Christian records. So we have the pre-Nicene, the ante-Nicene, the Nicene, and the post-Nicene writers. There’s about 38 volumes in the original works that were translated in 1895—something certainly that Joseph Smith didn’t have access to, and didn’t have the capacity for languages or anything else, but these are very important to our understanding of early Christianity.
In the limited time that we have today I want to compare four key early Christian doctrines to current LDS doctrines. The first one is agency, second one would be the Godhead, third would be baptism for the dead, and the fourth would be deification.
Going to agency, it’s important for us to understand that this may be really the central doctrine of Mormonism, but of all of Christianity and religious history. It’s so important. And I’ve heard it explained by Elder Holland that God is a perfect gentleman, and that he will not move us in any way, one way or the other, but once we choose, then God will help us to accomplish the things that we uniquely are here to do in mortality.
So in this early text in 2 Enoch—which was discarded, pretty much, by Augustine because it was so big and unwieldy and because it was of such ancient sources that they couldn’t verify—it states: “And I [God] assigned him to be a King, to reign on the earth, and to have my wisdom,… and called his name Adam. And I gave him his free will; and I pointed out to him the two ways—light and darkness … so that it might be plain who among his race loves me.” Very clear to us as Latter-day Saints, but in a minute I’ll share with you where it became very foggy.
In A.D. 177, one of the great early bishops of the church in Lyon, France, Irenaeus, he said “Our Lord’s expression, ‘How often I would have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not,’ set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion.”
The problem is that beginning with about Augustine, this began to change as the doctrine of predestination began to dominate a little bit through him, which basically said that there are some few select who God will choose and the rest are damned. John Calvin in the fifteenth century extrapolated so much more out of that and came up with the TULIP doctrine, and basically came up with the aphorism that “once saved, always saved.” And, of course, that does away with agency, and doesn’t account for the fact that all the early Christian writers—100% of them through the fourth century—all taught the doctrine of agency.
And it would not surprise any of you, then, today, that the Book of Mormon re-introduced this very important doctrine, and this is perhaps the most well-known: “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life,”—they are free to choose liberty and eternal life—“through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”
There was an early Christian manuscript, purportedly in about A.D. 170, called the Didache that presented this early Christian doctrine of life and death, and they called it the two ways—that we have the opportunity to choose between life and death.
So the divine nature of the Godhead—would it be the Trinity or would it be harmony of will?
So in the early Christian teaching, we have to understand that according to all the early Christian writers, but William Rush said it as well as anyone, and he’s a Catholic scholar … he’s a big proponent of the Trinity, but he himself recognized that there was no reference to the Trinity in the Bible or by the early Christian Fathers—they called them the Apostolic Fathers. There was absolutely no mention about the Trinity.
And an early Christian writer—the most prolific, in fact, that we have record of, Origen—writing prolifically in the early 200s A.D., Origen was writing to Celsus, and it was called … the name of the treatise is Against Celsus. And so they are having this lively debate back-and-forth—Celsus the Jew—and he said to him, “if any should from these words be afraid of our going  to the side of those who deny that the Father and the Son are two personages, let him weigh this passage,” and then he quotes from our New Testament in Acts chapter 4, where it says, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul,” commenting further, “that he may understand the meaning of the saying, ‘I and my Father are one.’ … We worship, therefore, the Father of truth, and the Son, who is the truth; and these, while they are two, considered as persons or subsistences, are one in unity of thought, in harmony and in identity of will.”
In the early Christian church about the time of Nicaea, there were three camps: there was the Arian camp, and there was the Athanasian camp, and then there was the larger, by far, that straddled the middle and said there are three separate and distinct beings, separate in rank and glory, but they are united in harmony of will.
However, in the great debates that followed, as we have seen today and witnessed in our own time, that it can be a small minority where the tail begins wagging the dog. And this is exactly what happened at the Council of Nicaea. In fact, there was a word that was “iota,” that was supposed to be put in, which would have allowed them to be able to sort of interpret the language at Nicaea the way that they wanted to, but it was then left out, and later scholars would say, well, it was left out by inspiration.
And thus we had the evolution that took us over to the Trinity. But God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and the Restoration helped us to understand that.
Baptism for the dead is something that the church has been criticized for a lot. There is a phenomenal book called the Shepherd of Hermas. Now the Shepherd of Hermas has been misunderstood and in some circles maligned a little bit, but for those who really understand and know about the Shepherd of Hermas, it was probably the most popular book in all of Christianity through the fourth century … ahead of the gospels. It was a widely read book, well understood.
And in this book it says, “[Before] … a man bears the name of the Son of God he is dead. But when he receives the seal he puts away mortality and receives life. The seal, then, is the water…. This seal … was preached to them also, and they made use of it ‘to enter into the kingdom of God.’ These apostles and teachers, who preached the name of the Son of God, having fallen asleep in the power and faith of the Son of God, preached also to those who had fallen asleep before them, and themselves gave to them the seal of the preaching.”
And then, and this is a turn of the first century record, so we don’t know exactly who the author was, but we know that it’s turn of the first century from the recent scholarship that has been done on it. For years, decades, it was thought that perhaps this was dated to be about 148 [A.D.], but the dating of A.D. 100 is significant, because John the Revelator, of course, we have him on the Isle of Patmos in the middle 90s. And he then comes out from Patmos and gives us the Book of Revelation, and then we see him go out of circulation towards the end of the century there, in the late 90s, and there is no … With all the other apostles, there is, absolutely, traditions about how they died. There are zero traditions about how John the Revelator passed away. Of course, we believe that he did not, in the sense that we understand it.
And then he said, “These apostles and teachers, … went down therefore with them into the water and came up again, but the latter went down alive and came up alive, while the former, who had fallen asleep before, went down dead but came up alive. Through them, therefore, they were made alive, and received the knowledge of the Son of God.” God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
So this early teaching that I was telling you about from my mission, of where this young man left the church, I did everything that I could. I sobbed, literally sobbed, leaving his home that day, knowing that his faith had been so harmed. And I knew … I know now that if I had known then what I know now, and the proper context of all of these verses, that I would be able to have saved him. So I think knowledge helps us, which is an important aspect of what FAIR is trying to do.
So I’m going to start with the scriptures: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if [it] so be that we suffer with him.…”
So there’s two words in there in the Greek—the word “sons” in verse 14 is actually huios, which means “sons” by adoption, and then we get into verses 16 and 17 and it uses a different Greek word, teknon, which means “fruit from seed” or literally “by birth.”
So we, all of us, after the fall of mankind were cut off from the presence of God, but Christ was not. Therefore, we had to be adopted back into the family of God, by baptism and by the laying on of hands, through the doctrine of Christ, in order to come back into the family of God. And Jesus Christ himself is the gate keeper, “the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there.” And these are important scriptures that help us to understand who we will become later.
He said, Paul said, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”
So imagine, now, how Paul is teaching here, and how the Jews understood these things, because the Jews were absolutely slaying the Savior and the apostles because Jesus was trying to compare himself to the Father.
The Savior testified, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” and “To him that overcometh [I will] grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Do you see that only from the scriptures—we need no other record—only from the scriptures, we can see that we will be just like Jesus, and we know that Jesus is just like the Father. Therefore, this is not the big stretch that people have wanted us to believe it to be.
And then the psalmist said, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” Well, that sounds good, and I’m sure that you have quoted that to your Christian friends before, but they have misunderstood it. But the Savior didn’t. We only have to go to the New Testament, and he explains the interpretation of it.
[Slide: The Bible Teaches … fifth bullet]
Jesus answered them and said, “Is it not written in your law,”—your law—“I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;”—isn’t that a great phrase: “and the scripture cannot be broken,” you cannot change this—“Say ye of him,”—speaking of me (Jesus)—“whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” So you can see how incredulous and how logical the Savior really was in his explanation.
So what did, in fact, the early church teach about this?
There was the great early Christian writer Justin Martyr, writing in A.D. 150, and he said, “’Ye are gods, and [all are] children of the most High’;” and then he says, “let the interpretation of the Psalm be held just as you wish, yet thereby it is demonstrated that all men are deemed worthy of becoming ‘gods,’ and of having power to become sons of the Highest.” This seems pretty clear that he has now taken a scripture from the New Testament and from the Old Testament and interpreted it in that early Christian era, when there hadn’t had a chance to go down so many hand-me-downs.
But it gets better. Hippolytus, speaking in about 220 [A.D.], he said, “This Man we know to have been made out of the same compound of our humanity. For if he were not of the same nature with ourselves, in vain does He ordain that we should imitate the Teacher…. Now in all these acts He offered up, as the first fruits, His own manhood, in order that thou, when thou art in tribulation, mayest not be disheartened, but, confessing thyself to be a man (of like nature with the Redeemer), mayest dwell in expectation of also receiving what the Father has granted unto this Son.”
And even stronger, he said, “…thou shalt become a companion of the Deity, and a co-heir with Christ, no longer enslaved by lusts or passions, and never again wasted by disease. For thou hast become God: … thou hast been deified, and begotten to immortality. This constitutes the import of the proverb, ‘Know thyself,’ ”—harkening back to Plato—“discover God within thyself, for He has formed thee after his own image…. For the Deity, (by condescension), does not diminish aught of the dignity of his divine perfection; having made thee even God unto His glory!” So Lorenzo Snow wasn’t so far off after all, I guess, was he?
And, of course, we know the teaching of the Prophet Joseph in the 132nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants.
So what, then, were the beginnings of apostasy? And you would be interested, for those who haven’t looked at this very far, is that in A.D. 95 there was a man, a bishop of Rome, by the name of Clement, who wrote and was speaking to the church in [Corinth] about how they had removed a bishop out of this place—a good man, he said—and replaced him with someone that they thought would be better. And he was chiding them for that.
So Ignatius writes this in about A.D. 108: “For though some would have deceived me according to the flesh, yet my spirit is not deceived; for I received it from God…. having learned beforehand the division caused by some among you, [God] is my witness,… the Spirit made an announcement to me, saying as follows: Do nothing without the bishop.”
He wrote seven letters to the various churches, and he uses this in each one of those, which is very interesting.
He then said, “Now it becomes you  not to despise the age of your bishop, but to yield to him all reverence…. It is right then, that we should be really Christians, and not merely have the name; even as there are some who recognize the bishop in their words, but disregard him in their actions. Such men seem to me not to act in good faith, since they do not hold valid meetings according to the commandment.”
And then we just ask ourselves the question: What was lost as a result of these things?
Knowledge of the pre-mortal existence and of our true relationship to God—really, loss of the plan of happiness.
The knowledge of the true nature of God. If John 17 says, “And this is life eternal, that [we must] know [him] the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”—that that is life eternal—how could we possibly hope to understand those two beings in the context of what we see from the Nicene Creed?
Full knowledge of the salvation doctrine (or the doctrine of Christ) to both the living and the dead.
Priesthood keys and authority to act in the name of God.
So there is this brief history from Nicaea to the Great Awakening that I’d like to just briefly go over. As we know, that event took place in June of 325 A.D. There were approximately 300 bishops from the eastern provinces that attended. And they had this big dispute about the nature of God, of which we’ve already said, they never did come to an actual resolution.
They said they did, but then there was a war about it again with Constantine’s sons, and then later with the emperors that followed who supported the Arians. And then in 380 [A.D.] there was another council in Rome where they all got together once again, and they tried to reconstitute it and bring it back up again. And then again in 451 [A.D.] at the Council of Chalcedon, and then again there was another in about 680 [A.D.]. I mean, they fought about this for centuries.
What is interesting to me, and a witness to me that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, if you go to Doctrine and Covenants section 20, verses about 17 through 35 … They struggled with this for centuries. And if you take 300 bishops, all intelligent individuals, and they gather together for months and try to beat this out amongst themselves, and Joseph Smith quietly writes this out in a night, and it’s never changed again. And you’ll see that those verses—from about 17 to 35—basically is the Mormon answer to the Nicene Creed, and it’s clear and concise and beautiful and complete.
Big changes in doctrine: We’ve talked about the Trinity instead of the Godhead, the establishment of monks and celibacy. I could go into a lot about this, but there isn’t time. Baptizing infants, as that started much later. The first baptism other than immersion happened in 250 [A.D.], approximately, and it just got a little bit worse from there. They altered the sacrament; they took away the sacred meaning of it.
[Slide: A Brief History from Nicea, third bullet]
When I say that leadership became wicked, this is during the Middle Ages, and I’m not here to denigrate any church, in fact, it’s really important that you not take away from my message … I actually love all of these churches, and I love the people that I have met in them, but it is clear that during the Middle Ages these leaders were indeed wicked, and they were no longer called by God. They didn’t have the keys.
And then, of course, we have the Renaissance period. And starting with Martin Luther in about 1519, we have Lutherans, and then Presbyterians shortly after that, Baptists, Methodists, and so forth. It’s interesting though, of course, how all of this is preparatory to the Restoration, and important and critical to the Restoration. Imagine Joseph going to the grove of trees and asking, in one of his versions of the Restoration, which church is right? When Joseph first went to the grove, he was interested in, more than anything, getting forgiveness of his own sins, but he also had that question because of the Reverend Lane’s discourse on James 1:5. But without the Great Awakening, and without the proliferation of these denominations, Joseph never would have said, which church is right? So it’s interesting to me to watch the evolution of this.
And then John Wesley, who really I have a lot of love and respect for—can’t wait to meet him on the other side—he said, “Soon after the pouring out of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, in the infancy of the Christian Church, there was indeed a glorious change. ‘Great grace was … upon them all,’ Ministers as well as [the] people. ‘The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul.’ ” I just want you to look at the language that he’s using as he quotes Acts chapter 4. He said, “But how short a time did this continue! How soon did the fine gold become dim!”—showing his eloquence and his understanding of the Old Testament. “Long before even [this] apostolic age expired, St. Paul himself had grounds to complain that some of his fellow laborers had forsaken him, having ‘loved the present world.’ ” Can we see this today, that there are some that have loved the present world?
Then he compared … it’s important to see how he compares first century Christianity with ancient Israel. He says, “How is the [fine] gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!… The precious sons of Zion, [were] comparable to fine gold,… Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk.” And if it doesn’t bring tears to your eyes—it does to me—now “their visage is blacker than…coal.”
This is in our own Bible, the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and we could say this today. How our hearts break, and how we must do more, and erect more of those defenses.
John Wesley said, “Such is the authentic account of ‘the mystery of iniquity’ working even in the apostolic Churches!—an account given, not by the Jews or [the] Heathens, but by the Apostles themselves. To this we may add the account which is given by the Head and Founder of the Church; Him ‘who holds the stars in his right hand’ ” …
“…and our Lord then threatened, what he has long since performed, to ‘remove the candlestick’ from them.” And for those of you who are well-acquainted with Revelation chapter 1, this is profound.
So the epilogue is that the original church didn’t survive the first century, and the successor to primitive Christianity—the universal church—became a deeply divided and corrupt version of the original. The Protestant movement, when it arose, it didn’t follow the pattern of revelation and restoration that was evident with Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, or the special dispensation ushered in by the Savior and his apostles. And remember we have said that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
So I don’t look at Christopher Columbus as a saint—I know he’s a complex figure—but there is a lot that is said about him. I don’t have time to read this, but I’ll leave this.
And then, also, Perry Westbrook, who was the biographer of William Bradford, wrote how important to William Bradford their trip was, and that they thought it was an important part of the restoration of Christianity.
We know some of the things that Roger Williams has said.
Interestingly with Joseph Smith and the rise of Mormonism, it follows identically, showing that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, how it happened with Enoch and so forth.
And Harold Bloom made this great statement: “I do not find it possible to doubt that Joseph Smith was an authentic prophet. Where in all of American history can we find his match?… I can only attribute to his genius or daemon his uncanny recovery of elements in ancient Jewish theurgy that had ceased to be available either to normative Judaism or to Christianity, and that survived only in esoteric traditions unlikely to have touched Smith directly…. As an unbeliever, I marvel at his intuitive understanding of the permanent religious dilemmas of our [time].”
And finally, God’s words that he gave to Joseph are still true today: “The standard of truth has been erected” and “no unhallowed hand [will] stop the work.”
I’m grateful to be with you today, and share this witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
There’s a lot of questions. I don’t know how much time I have, and as I said, I’m a pseudo-scholar, so I may or may not have the answer to all of your questions, but I know some scholars here that probably could answer your questions.
Question: Did Christ have any power before God the Father blessed him with power?
Answer: I believe that because he was God the Son before the world was that he came with power, but there’s probably more to be talked about this.
Question: Following the apostasy … in the dark ages … does this not make Joseph Smith one of the great religious prophets ever, and the Latter-day Saints should reflect deeply on this?
Answer: Absolutely. I wish that it were possible for me to share in my heart how I feel about the great hymn, “[Praise] to the man who communed with Jehovah.”
Question: What do you think is Satan’s most effective tool?
Answer: The media. Media is his biggest tool, and pornography today is a great part of that media, and the fact that young people go to the Internet, which is media, for their answers and, unfortunately, much of the time truth cannot be found there.
Question: Is it fair to assume early Christian doctrine of theosis is the same as our understanding?
Answer: Yes, particulary … for me, yes. Now I know that there are scholars who will say that starting with Origen in 220 [A.D.] and so forth, because Origen definitely believed that God was a spirit and did not understand … he understood them to be three separate beings but he did not understand them to have bodies of flesh and bones. Although I would love to share with you what Clement said about that, who clearly testified that they did have bodies of flesh and bone, and used the scriptures when they were in the upper room to talk about that.
Question: Where is the LDS doctrine “as man is, God once was” found in ancient Christianity?
Answer: It’s not clearly stated in early Christian … nothing that I have read, where it says that God was in the same state as we are. It’s easy to extrapolate when you see all the rest of it, and in light of the Restoration, of course, but what is clear and not very ambiguous is that we will become like our Father, and have all that he is, that we indeed will be gods. Theosis is a huge doctrine of the first four centuries of the early Christian church.
Thank you very much.
 Hebrews 13:8-9.
 1 Nephi 10:18.
 Doctrine & Covenants 20:12.
 2 Nephi 28:20 (“shall he” in original).
 2 Nephi 15:20; Isaiah 5:20.
 J.G. Davies, The Early Christian Church (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965), 268, quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 186 (emphasis in original).
 3 Nephi 11:40.
 Thomas Paine, The American Crisis (1776–1783).
 John 6:49-58.
 John 6:60.
 Quoted in Henry B. Eyring, Reflections of a Scientist (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1983), 47.
 Margaret Barker, Temple Theology: An Introduction (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 1, excerpts available at http://www.margaretbarker.com/Publications/Extracts/TempleTheologyIntro.htm (bracketed “the” not in original).
 Doctrine & Covenants 91:1-2.
 2 Enoch 30:12-15, quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville,Utah: CFI, 2005), 24.
 Quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 214 (emphasis in original).
 2 Nephi 2:27.
 Irenaeus, “Against Heresies” 5, preface, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1:526, quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 156.
 Shepherd of Herman, sim. 9:16, in Apostolic Fathers, 2:263, quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 96.
 Shepherd of Herman, sim. 9:5-7, in Apostolic Fathers, 2:263, quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 97.
 Romans 8:16-17 (bracketed “it” not in original).
 2 Nephi 9:41.
 Philippians 2:5-6.
 Revelation 21:7.
 Revelation 3:21 (“will I” in original).
 Psalm 82:6.
 John 10:34-36.
 Quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 91 (“are all” in original).
 Quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 91 (emphasis in original).
 Ibid. (emphasis in original).
 Ignatius, Epistles to the Philadelphians 7, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1:83, quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 122.
 Ignatius, Epistle to the Magnesians 3-4, in Apostolic Fathers, 1:199-201, quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 122 (emphasis in original).
 John 17:3 (“they might know thee” in original).
 Quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 125-26 (bracketed “the” not in original).
 Quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 126.
 Ibid. (“the” in original).
 Quoting Lamentations 4:1-7 (bracketed “fine” and “were” not in original).
 Quoting Lamentations 4:8.
 Quoted in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 126 (bracketed “the” not in original).
 Harold Bloom, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 101, quoted in in Scott R. Petersen, Where Have All the Prophets Gone? (Springville, Utah: CFI, 2005), 335 (“country” in original).
 History of the Church, 4:540 (“can” in original).