« PreviousContinue »
preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following." (See Mark 16:15-20).
The Apostles clearly understood that though the Master had passed from earth He had left with them authority and commandment to build up the Church as an established organization. One of their early official acts was to fill the vacancy in their own body, which had been created by the apostasy and death of Judas Iscariot. It is evident that they considered the apostolic body to comprise twelve members and that the needs of the Church required the organization to be made complete. By official action Matthias was added to the eleven. (See Acts 1:21-26).
Under the administration of the Apostles and others who officiated by their direction in positions of lesser authority, the Church of Jesus Christ grew in membership and influence. For ten years or more following our Lord's ascension, Jerusalem was the headquarters of the Church, but branches were established in the outlying provinces, and these branches, or local "churches," were officered by bishops, deacons, and other ministers, who were chosen and ordained by apostolic authority.
We find, operating in their sacred callings in the Primitive Church, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders, bishops, priests and deacons. The purpose of these several offices is declared to be "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." (Eph. 4:12).
Every office so established is necessary to the development of the Church, which has been aptly compared to a perfect body with its several members, each adapted to particular function and all coordinated for the common good. In an organization planned and established through Divine
wisdom, there are neither superfluities nor parts wanting. Eye, ear, hand, and foot, each is essential to the symmetry and physical perfection of the body; in the Church no one in authority can rightly say to his fellow: "I have no need of thee." (See 1 Cor. 12:12-21).
The Primitive Church was of comparatively short duration. The world fell into spiritual darkness, and a restoration of power and commission from the Heavens became necessary to the reestablishment of the Church with its ancient blessings and privileges. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims the imperative need of "the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church," and solemnly avers that through the ministration of heavenly beings the Church of Jesus Christ is restored to earth, for the salvation of mankind both living and dead.
WHEN DARKNESS COVERED THE EARTH
The Long Night of Apostasy
E accept as fact the belief common to Christendom that the Church of Christ was established under our Lord's personal direction and that during the early period of apostolic administration the Church was blessed with rapid growth and marvelous development. A question of profound importance confronts us: Has the Church of Jesus Christ maintained an organized existence upon the earth from the apostolic age to the present?
We affirm that with the passing of the apostolic period the Church drifted into a condition of apostasy, whereby succession in the Holy Priesthood was broken; and that
the Church as an earthly organization operating under Divine direction and having authority to officiate in spiritual ordinances ceased to exist among men.*
We affirm that this great apostasy, whereby the world was enshrouded in spiritual darkness, was foretold by the Savior Himself while He lived as a Man among men, and by His prophets both before and after the period of His life in mortality.
The apostolic ministry continued in the Primitive Church for about sixty years after the death of Christ, or nearly to the end of the first century of the Christian Era. For some time thereafter the Church existed as a unified body, officered by men duly invested by ordination in the Holy Priesthood, though, even during the lifetime of some of the Apostles, the leaven of apostasy and disintegration had been working. Indeed, hardly had the Gospel seed been sown before the enemy of all righteousness had started assiduously to sow tares in the field; and so intimate was the growth of the two that any forcible attempt to extirpate the tares would have imperiled the wheat. The evidences of spiritual decline were observed with anguish by the Apostles who, however, recognized the fulfilment of earlier prophecy in the declension, and added their own inspired testimony to the effect that even a greater falling away was imminent.
The apostasy progressed rapidly, in consequence of a cooperation of disrupting forces without and within the Church. The dreadful persecution to which the early Christians were subjected drove great numbers of Christians to renounce their allegiance to Christianity, thus causing a widespread apostasy from the Church. But far more
* See the author's "The Great Apostasy," 170 pp., The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah.
destructive was the contagion of evil that spread within the body, manifesting its effects mainly in the following developments:
(1) The corrupting of the simple principles of the Gospel of Christ by admixture with the so-called philosophical systems of the times.
(2) Unauthorized additions to the rites of the Church, and the introduction of vital changes in essential ordinances. (3) Unauthorized changes in Church organization and government.
The result of the degeneracy so produced was to bring about an actual apostasy of the entire Church.
The Apostasy Predicted
Isaiah beheld in vision the condition of mankind during the darkness of the spiritual night; and he pictures the earth as languishing in desolation: "The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant." (Isa. 24:1-6).
That the general transgression meant something more than a violation of Mosaic statutes is evident from the fact that nowhere in Scripture is the Law of Moses called an "everlasting covenant," but to the contrary, the covenant of the Gospel is clearly differentiated from the Law.
The prophet Amos foresaw the time of famine and thirst, the day of futile search for the Word of God. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it." (Amos 8:11-12).
Christ specifically warned the disciples against the impending departure from the truth: "Take heed that no man deceive you" said He, "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many." (Matt. 24:4, 5). And further: "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not." (Verses 23-26).
The Apostles bore warning testimony to the same awful certainty. Paul admonished the elders at Ephesus to be on their guard against the wolves that would invade the fold, and against false teachers who would assert themselves "speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them." (See Acts 20:28-30). The same Apostle thus wrote to Timothy: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron." (1 Tim. 4:1, 2; see also 2 Tim. 4:1-4; and 2 Thess. 2:3, 4).
Peter prophesied, in language so plain that all may comprehend, of the heresies that would be preached as doctrine: "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." (2 Peter 2:1, 2).