In order for there to be a need for Joseph Smith, the church’s doctrine of the apostasy has to be true. Otherwise, there’s no need for a restoration. I was instructed to teach about the apostasy on my mission. It was the lead-in for the discussion of Joseph Smith.
If the apostasy were a true concept defining the 1,800 years prior to Joseph Smith, then none of the characteristics of the apostasy would be present in the restored church. I think it’s only fitting to examine the church based upon its own reason for existing. A typical human problem is that we often assume that our position is correct in such a way that we do not apply the same standards of reasoning to it as we do to things that challenge it.
The apostasy was characterized by a loss of “priesthood authority,” the teaching of “false doctrine” and “changing of the essential ordinances and scriptures.”
“The ordinances were changed and many plain and simple truths were lost. While many good people and some truth remained, the original Church was lost.” (http://www.mormon.org/learn/0,8672,844-1,00.html)
Shouldn’t we examine the church with the same critical eye that we use to examine the original church? If it is true, it will pass the test.
“The gospel as the Mormons know it sprang full grown from the words of Joseph Smith. It has never been worked over or touched up in any way, and is free of revisions and alterations” (Hugh Nibley, No Ma’am, That’s Not History)
The LDS church has changed many ordinances over the course of its history. For example:
Christ himself instituted the sacrament to symbolize his gift to us. Wine represented his blood and was apparently very symbolic of the olivepress, or the Garden of Gethsemane where he would suffer. Just any liquid does not carry the same symbolism. The process of winemaking was clearly a symbolic reason Christ chose wine. Water, while still a liquid, loses this symbolism when used in the Lord’s Supper. Of course, LDS prophets can change ordinances by revelation. So how do we know the leaders of the ancient church couldn’t have received the same revelation to change the ordinance of baptism to sprinkling? Both were changed for apparently the same reason: fear and self-protection (Joseph Smith switched to water when he feared wine used in the Sacrament would be poisoned. In about 250 A.D a man named Novation, was baptized on his deathbed. He had never been immersed. His friends laid around him many bed sheets and poured water all over him, trying to immerse him in his bed. He was afraid that immersing in the water would cause his death. This type of baptism was later allowed in such cases of necessity and later became common practice).
The D&C 20:76-79 also instructs us how to perform the Sacrament. It says that the congregation kneels and the prayer is recited. I once asked my mission president why we don’t kneel like the modern scriptures tell us to. I was essentially told to stop asking silly questions – we do it the way the brethren tell us to. Why can the modern brethren change things but the ancient brethren supposedly lost their authority for doing so?
When Joseph Smith restored the temple ceremony, it was taught that it was the same ceremony that was performed anciently and he merely restored it. Here’s a quote from the LDS Ensign Magazine (From Page 22 of the August 2001 Ensign):
“The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed.””
That ceremony, however, has been changed significantly since its inception in the 1800’s. I witnessed one of those changes myself in 1990. No matter what anyone says, when I went through the temple in 1984 it was a different ceremony than it is now. Parts that were explained to me in 1984 as essential were removed. The washing and anointing ordinance was further changed in 2005 so that the naked touching was removed and patrons are now only “symbolically” anointed on the head. Isn’t that what happened in the apostasy? I understand the ability of the current prophet to receive revelation but why can he change saving ordinances as circumstances warrant when leaders of the ancient church are assailed for doing the same thing?
I think Mormons will say that there is continuing revelation and we receive truth “line upon line,” but the paradox is that leaders of the ancient church were also receiving knowledge line upon line. Why aren’t they afforded the same leeway as the LDS General Authorities? If Joseph Smith received the temple ceremony from God, why couldn’t God get it right the first time?
The changes are all probably good, but doesn’t any reason for the change reek of the church’s own doctrine of apostasy?
“We explained briefly the Apostasy and the Restoration: that there is vast evidence and history of an apostasy from the doctrine taught by Jesus and his Apostles, that the organization of the original Church became corrupted, and sacred ordinances were changed to suit the convenience of men…” – Apostle David B. Haight, “Joseph Smith the Prophet,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 22
“As temple work progresses, some members wonder if the ordinances can be changed or adjusted. These ordinances have been provided by revelation, and are in the hands of the First Presidency. Thus, the temple is protected from tampering.” – W. Grant Bangerter, executive director of the Temple Department and a member of the First Quorum of Seventy, Deseret News, Church Section, January 16, 1982
“Now the purpose in Himself in the winding up scene of the last dispensation is that all things pertaining to that dispensation should be conducted precisely in accordance with the preceding dispensations…. He set the temple ordinances to be the same forever and ever and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man, or to send angels to reveal them.” – The Prophet Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol.4, p. 208
The church claims essential doctrine was changed during the apostasy. A lot of the early doctrine of the LDS church has changed too.
Infant baptism is the most common type of sprinkling and is condemned in the book of Mormon. The error in baptizing infants is that it follows the doctrine of “original sin.” This doctrine holds children of Adam accountable for his original sin thereby rejecting the concept that Christ died for all our sins.
If that is such an evil concept, why then were people of African descent denied their saving ordinances in the LDS temple based solely on the supposed sins of their forefathers? Wasn’t Christ’s sacrifice powerful enough for them? It seems just as blasphemous as the concept of original sin. Wouldn’t the LDS denial of saving ordinances to Negroes for over 140 years be as much an affront to Christ’s saving grace as the assumption by Catholics that infants need baptism?
The church apparently flip-flopped on this doctrine twice. Joseph Smith is reported to have given the priesthood to a black man, but under Brigham Young’s leadership this was changed. Blacks were then allowed the priesthood once again in 1978 under Spencer W. Kimball.
Why didn’t LDS leaders lose their priesthood over the false policy of racism that permeated the church for generations? The following quotes are just a few examples:
“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African Race? If the White man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.” Brigham Young (Journal of Discourses 10:110)
“Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them… Negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned…” Bruce R. McConkie (Mormon Doctrine, p. 343)
“I would be willing to let every Negro drive a Cadillac if they could afford it. I would be willing that they have all the advantages they can get out of life in the world. But let them enjoy these things among themselves. I think the Lord segregated the Negro and who is man to change that segregation? It reminds me of the scripture on marriage, ‘what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’ Only here we have the reverse of the thing – what God hath separated, let not man bring together again.
“Think of the Negro, cursed as to the priesthood…This Negro, who, in the pre-existence lived the type of life which justified the Lord in sending him to the earth in their lineage of Cain with a black skin, and possibly being born in darkest Africa–if that Negro is willing when he hears the gospel to accept it, he may have many of the blessings of the gospel. In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.” (Apostle Mark E. Peterson, Race Problems – As They Affect The Church, Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, August 27, 1954)
Part of the apostasy included the selling of “indulgences” to believers. In its most corrupt form, “indulgences” meant that people had to pay money in order to receive ordinances or to receive remission from their sins. This was one of Martin Luther’s points of contentions when he started his opposition and reformation of the church. Is it wrong to demand money before saving ordinances are performed? Why then is it OK for the church to require a full payment of tithes before a person can receive their saving ordinances in the temple? I know tithing is seen as a commandment of God. So why was it so bad for the ancient church to require obedience to the commandments (collect tithes in the form of indulgences) before they allowed saving ordinances to be performed? It seems to me that the LDS church is doing the same thing. I was shocked to discover that a full payment of tithes hasn’t always been a requirement for a temple recommend. In other words, Joseph Smith didn’t restore it. Why doesn’t this teaching propel the church into apostasy?
Money is also uniquely secret in the LDS faith. While most other faiths and other non-profit organizations publish their financial statements, the LDS church fails to live up to it’s fiduciary responsibility and reveal to followers what their money is being spent on. There is no reason this shouldn’t be done in the form of public financial statements as it is done in other religions and as it was done in the church’s past.
Brigham Young clearly and repeatedly taught that Adam is our God. He claimed that Adam is the father of our spirits as well as the father of Jesus Christ.
In a discourse delivered April 9, 1852, Brigham Young stated:
I have told you the truth as far as I have gone…. Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven. Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, pp. 50-51)
Heber C. Kimball, first counselor to Brigham Young, declared that:
“There is but one God that pertains to this people, and he is the God that pertains to this earth–the first man. That first man sent his own Son to redeem the world…” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, p. 1)
Yet these statements can’t be dismissed as Brigham Young (and others) speaking as a man and not a prophet. Brigham Young pronounced:
“I have never yet preached a sermon and sent It out to the children of men, that they may not call Scripture.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 95)
In an interview with The New Yorker on January 21, 2002 President Gordon B. Hinckley had this to say about Brigham’s doctrine:
“But Hinckley did not seem interested in discussing matters of theology. When I asked him to characterize God’s connubial relationship, he replied, “We don’t speculate on that a lot. Brigham Young said if you went to Heaven and saw God it would be Adam and Eve. I don’t know what he meant by that.” Pointing to a grim-faced portrait of the Lion of the Lord, as Young was called, he said, “There he is, right there. I’m not going to worry about what he said about those things.” (Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker, January 21, 2002)
Why didn’t this clearly false doctrine propel the church into apostasy? We clearly don’t hold our own leaders as accountable for their teachings as we do others’. Why can’t Catholics point to their past and say “I’m not going to worry about that?” Mormons instead believe that the very fact that those false doctrines were once taught means that those leaders lost their priesthood authority and direct line to God.
Joseph taught the doctrine of blood atonement, as indicated by Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. (10th prophet):
“But man may commit certain grievous sins — according to his light and knowledge — that will place him beyond the reach of the atoning blood of Christ. If then he would be saved he must make sacrifice of his own life to atone — so far as in his power lies — for that sin, for the blood of Christ alone under certain circumstances will not avail.
This is the doctrine of Joseph Smith, and I accept it.” (McConkie, Bruce R., ed. Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 1, pp. 133 – 135, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1955)
Brigham Young clearly explained the doctrine of blood atonement in a sermon given on September 21, 1856:
“There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground, that the smoke thereof might ascend to heaven as an offering for their sins.
“I know, when you hear my brethren telling about cutting people off from the earth, that you consider it is strong doctrine; but it is to save them, not to destroy them…
“I have had men come to me and offer their lives to atone for their sins. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, pp. 53-54); also published in Deseret News, 1856, p. 235)
In a public discourse President Young acknowledged that the church had use for some very mean devils who resided in early Utah:
“Suppose you found your brother in bed with your wife, and put a javelin through both of them, you would be justified, and they would atone for their sins, and be received into the kingdom of God. I would at once do so in such a case; under such circumstances. I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 247)
In his book, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, Dr. Quinn presented compelling evidence showing that “blood atonement” was endorsed by church leaders and actually practiced by the Mormon people. Quinn gave the names of a number of violent men who served as “enforcers” for Brigham Young. In addition Quinn wrote:
“During this period Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders also repeatedly preached about specific sins for which it was necessary to shed the blood of men and women. Blood-atonement sins included adultery, apostasy, ‘covenant breaking,’ counterfeiting, ‘many men who left this Church,’ murder, not being ‘heartily on the Lord’s side,’ profaning ‘the name of the Lord,’ sexual intercourse between a ‘white’ person and an African-American, stealing, and telling lies…
“When informed that a black Mormon in Massachusetts had married a white woman, Brigham Young told the apostles in December 1847 that he would have both of them killed ‘if they were far away from the Gentiles.'”(The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, Vol. 2, pp. 246-247)
Whether these things actually happened or not is irrelevant. We can clearly see that these were teachings of the leaders of the church. So, if individual members actually “followed the prophet,” the church bears some responsibility for that.
The fact that the current prophets have tried to distance themselves from these teachings is further evidence that they are false doctrine. Doesn’t teaching false doctrine make one a false prophet?
Clearly Mormonism has a good long history of teaching false doctrine and changing ordinances, which are the hallmarks of an apostate religion by its own definition.