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Successive Apostasies from the Gospel
HE kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field; But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat." (Matt. 13:24-25.)
So hath it been from the beginning; so will it be until the end.
The Lord God gave commandment unto Adam, and straightway Satan countered with sophistry and falsehood disguised as half the truth. Adam preached the Gospel and administered its essential ordinances amongst his posterity; "And Satan came among them, saying: I am also a son of God; and he commanded them, saying: Believe it not; and they believed it not, and they loved Satan more than God. And men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish." (Pearl of Great Price, p. 21.)
Thus, even during the lifetime of the first patriarch, many of his descendants fell into apostasy and denied the God with whom their great progenitor had talked face to face.
From Adam to Noah righteous men taught and testified of the truth, denounced sin and warned sinners; yet all the while Satan sowed assiduously the tares of wickedness in the hearts of men, and with such evil success that, excepting Noah and his household, the whole human family became corrupt. So awful was the condition that the floods came and swept the ungodly race from the earth; and their rebellious spirits passed into the state of duress, in which they re
mained until the way of repentance was opened to them anew by the ministry of the disembodied Christ over twentythree centuries later. See 1 Peter 3:18-20.
As the children of men multiplied and nations developed after the Deluge, the wholesome plants of Divine truth struggled against the rank growth of error; therefore the Lord commanded Abraham to leave his idolatrous country and kindred, that through him and his posterity the saving powers of the Priesthood might be preserved among men. The tares of idolatry and its inseparable abominations grew apace. Even the harrowing experiences of Egyptian bondage failed to extirpate the weeds from Israel, though the fertilizing effect of humility under suffering did much to nurture and sustain the precious grain of the covenant.
At the time of the Exodus the Israelites constituted the few whom the Lord could call His own; and they had to undergo a disciplinary probation—a course of intensive and purifying cultivation, covering four decades in the wilderness-before they were deemed fit to enter the land of their inheritance. They were distinguished as Jehovah-worshipers, and as such stood apart from the more thoroughly apostate and degenerate world.
But even Israel's fields were full of tares; and the Lord mercifully suspended the fulness of the Gospel requirements, which, because of violation, would have been a means of condemnation; and the law of carnal commandments, generalized as the Mosaic Code, was given instead—as a schoolmaster, whose rigid insistence and compelling restraint, whose rod of correction would, in the course of centuries, prepare the covenant though recreant people for the reestablishment of the Gospel-as was effected through the personal ministry of the Redeemer. See Gal. 3:23-26.
Following the Messianic ministry and apostolic dispensa
tion, another cloud of apostasy enveloped the world, and for well-nigh sixteen centuries held the race befogged in its clammy mists. In this murky and fetid atmosphere the weeds of superstition, unbelief and human dogma flourished as a dank tropical jungle, while belief in revealed truth survived only as a wilted growth amidst the prevalent insalubrity.
The last apostasy was general, alike on both hemispheres. For nearly two centuries after its establishment on the Western Continent, the Church of Jesus Christ flourished to the blessing of its members. Then followed disruption and apostasy, the bitter fruitage of sin; and so was fulfilled the saddening prophecy of Alma concerning the Nephites:
"Yea, and then shall they see wars and pestilences, yea, famines and bloodshed, even until the people of Nephi shall become extinct. Yea, and this because they shall dwindle in unbelief, and fall into the works of darkness, and lasciviousness, and all manner of iniquities. Yea, I say unto you, that because they shall sin against so great light and knowledge, yea, I say unto you, that from that day, even the fourth generation shall not all pass away, before this great iniquity shall come." (Book of Mormon, Alma 45.)
Following each of these epoch-marking declensions, from the Adamic to the current dispensation, there has come a period of revival, rejuvenescence, or as now witnessed, a definite restoration and reestablishment of the Church of Jesus Christ, by which the tares, though not yet rooted up to be burned, have been at least prevented from choking out the wheat.
The application of our Lord's parable of the wheat and the tares to the great falling away, or the last general apostasy, is thus shown in latter-day Scripture: "And after
they [the Apostles of old] have fallen asleep, the great persecutor of the church, the apostate, the whore, even Babylon, that maketh all nations to drink of her cup, in whose hearts the enemy, even Satan, sitteth to reign, behold he soweth the tares; wherefore the tares choke the wheat and drive the church into the wilderness." (Doctrine & Covenants 86:3; compare Rev. 12:6, 14.)
But the day of the Church's exile is ended. In unostentatious triumph she has returned after enforced absence, and is established anew for the blessing of all who make themselves fit to be partakers of her bounty.
Authority by Restoration Not Through Succession NO act officially in affairs of government, to administer public laws and ordinances, a man must have been duly elected or appointed and must have qualified as the law provides. If there be but the shadow of doubt as to his legal competency, his acts, say as president, senator, governor, judge or mayor, are almost sure to be challenged; and, if his claims to authority be invalid, his so-called official acts are justly pronounced null and void, while the quondam pretender may be liable to severe penalty.
In like manner authority to administer the ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ must be definitely vested through personal conferment as the law of God prescribes.
"And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." (Heb. 5:4).
Aaron was called and set apart to the priestly office by
revelation from God through Moses, and retributive punishment fell upon all who essayed to minister without authority in the priest's office. Consider the awful fate of Korah and his associates (Num. 16), the instance of Uzziah king of Judah (2 Chron. 26), and, in New Testament times, that of Sceva's sons (Acts 19), all of whom brought upon themselves condign penalty for blasphemously arrogating the right to officiate in the name of the Lord.
How great a lesson is writ for warning and guidance in the history of Saul, king of Israel. He had received his anointing under the hand of Samuel the prophet. On the eve of battle, when Samuel delayed his coming to offer sacrifices for victory, Saul presumptuously officiated at the altar, failing to realize that, king though he was, his royal authority did not empower him to serve even as a deacon in the household of God. His sacrilege was one of the principal causes that led to his rejection by the Lord.
While in the flesh Christ chose His Apostles and ordained them, bestowing upon them specific authority. Those who were afterward called through revelation, e. g., Matthias, Saul of Tarsus who came to be known as Paul the Apostle, Barnabas, and others, were ordained by those previously invested with the Holy Priesthood.
Elders, priests, bishops, teachers and deacons in the Primitive Church on the Eastern hemisphere were all similarly ordained; and so a succession was maintained until the Church, corrupted and apostate, was no longer worthy to be called the Church of Jesus Christ, because it was not; and the real Church, characterized by investiture of the Holy Priesthood, was lost to mankind.
When the Resurrected Lord established His Church on the Western Continent, He called and personally commissioned Twelve Disciples; and later, others were with equal