Chapter 22: The Apostasy

“Chapter 22: The Apostasy,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 59–60

“22: Apostasy,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 59–60

Chapter 22

The Apostasy


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms to the world that after the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the subsequent death of His Apostles, there was a falling away—an altering or a rejecting of His revealed word. The long night of apostasy lasted well over a millennium. During this period, man-made creeds and practices were substituted for the plan of salvation that Jesus had taught.

Doctrinal Outline

  1. The Savior organized His Church and taught saving principles and ordinances during His earthly ministry.

    See Ephesians 2:19–21; 4:11–14; John 3:5; Acts 2:37–38; 1 Corinthians 12:28.

  2. A great apostasy from the Savior’s Church was foretold.

    1. Old Testament prophets predicted an apostasy (see Isaiah 24:5–6; Amos 8:11–12).

    2. New Testament prophets warned that mankind would turn away from the gospel (see Acts 20:29–30; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–4; 2 Timothy 4:3–4; 2 Peter 2:1–3).

  3. A universal apostasy occurred after the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.

    1. Early Apostles warned of growing apostasy within the Church (see Galatians 1:6–8; 2 Peter 2:1–3; 1 Corinthians 1:10–12; 11:18–19; 2 Timothy 1:15; Revelation 3:14–16).

    2. Latter-day revelation confirms the reality of the Apostasy as foretold by Christ and His Apostles (see Joseph Smith—History 1:19).

Supporting Statements

  1. The Savior organized His Church and taught saving principles and ordinances during His earthly ministry.

    • “In the dispensation of the meridian of time Jesus Christ established His Church upon the earth, appointing therein the officers necessary for the carrying out of the Father’s purposes. Every person so appointed was divinely commissioned with authority to officiate in the ordinances of his calling; and, after Christ’s ascension, the same organization was continued, those who had received authority ordaining others to the various offices in the Priesthood. In this way were given unto the Church, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, high priests, seventies, elders, bishops, priests, teachers, and deacons” (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, 198).

    • “[Jesus Christ] made provision for the establishment of his Church in the Meridian of Time, and he instructed his Apostles to complete the organization of the Church and to carry its message to all the world” (Hugh B. Brown, in Conference Report, Apr. 1965, 40).

    • “The Church was first organized on earth in the days of Adam, with that great patriarch standing as its first president, the presiding high priest over God’s earthly kingdom. The common sectarian notion that the day of Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian Church is a false heresy. Whenever the gospel has been on earth, it has been taught and administered in and through Christ’s Church. The Church or kingdom as organized in the meridian of time by our Lord and his apostolic ministers was a restored Church” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 133).

  2. A great apostasy from the Savior’s Church was foretold.

    • “We affirm that the great apostasy was foretold by the Savior Himself while He lived as a Man among men, and by His inspired prophets both before and after the period of His earthly probation” (James E. Talmage, The Great Apostasy, 19).

    • “The foreknowledge of God made plain to Him even from the beginning this falling away from the truth; and, through inspiration the prophets of old uttered solemn warnings of the approaching dangers” (Talmage, Articles of Faith, 202).

    • “Prophecy and history predict and record a great and universal apostasy which was to be followed by a restoration as predicted by John in Revelation. The fact of the great apostasy is attested by both sacred and secular writ, and history bears witness that it became universal” (Hugh B. Brown, in Conference Report, Oct. 1964, 102).

  3. A universal apostasy occurred after the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.

    • “For over seventeen hundred years on the eastern hemisphere, and for more than fourteen centuries on the western, there appears to have been silence between the heavens and the earth. Of direct revelation from God to man during this long interval, we have no authentic record. As already shown, the period of apostolic ministry on the eastern continent probably terminated before the dawn of the second century of the Christian era. The passing of the apostles was followed by the rapid development of a universal apostasy as had been foreseen and predicted.

      “In the accomplishment of this great falling away, external and internal causes cooperated. Among the disintegrating forces acting from without, the most effective was the persistent persecution to which the saints were subjected, incident to both Judaistic and pagan opposition. Vast numbers who had professed membership and many who had been officers in the ministry deserted the Church; while a few were stimulated to greater zeal under the scourge of persecution. The general effect of opposition from the outside—of external causes of decline in faith and works considered as a whole—was the defection of individuals, resulting in a widespread apostasy from the Church. But immeasurably more serious was the result of internal dissension, schism and disruption, whereby an absolute apostasy of the Church from the way and word of God was brought about” (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 745).

    • “The most important of the internal causes by which the apostasy of the Primitive Church was brought about may be thus summarized: (1) The corrupting of the simple doctrines of the gospel of Christ by admixture with so-called philosophic systems. (2) Unauthorized additions to the prescribed rites of the Church and the introduction of vital alterations in essential ordinances. (3) Unauthorized changes in Church organization and government” (Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 748–49).

    • “If the Savior had come back to earth at the beginning of the fifth century A.D., I doubt whether he would have recognized the Christian Church as the one that claimed descent from that which he had established, so far had it gone astray. Christianity had actually become a composite of Christian beliefs, practices, and doctrines; Jewish teachings and rituals; Greek, Roman, and Egyptian pagan philosophies; and pagan religions of various brands. The Holy Priesthood had been withdrawn from the earth. The power of godliness was no longer present in the Christian Church. Thus there was a complete falling away from the gospel which had been established by the Son of Man. The Church lay in darkness, and the darkness enveloped the earth. This spiritual darkness continued for hundreds and hundreds of years” (Milton R. Hunter, “The Missionary Assignment,” Improvement Era, Dec. 1951, 920).

    • “This is not a continuous church, nor is it one that has been reformed or redeemed. It has been restored after it was lost. It was lost—the gospel with its powers and blessings—sometime after the Savior’s crucifixion and the loss of his apostles. The laws were changed, the ordinances were changed, and the everlasting covenant was broken that the Lord Jesus Christ gave to his people in those days. There was a long period of centuries when the gospel was not available to people on this earth, because it had been changed” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 423).

    • “In the early centuries of the Christian era, the apostasy came not through persecution, but by relinquishment of faith caused by the superimposing of a man-made structure upon and over the divine program. Many men with no pretense nor claim to revelation, speaking without divine authority or revelation, depending only upon their own brilliant minds, but representing as they claim the congregations of the Christians and in long conference and erudite councils, sought the creation process to make a God which all could accept.

      “The brilliant minds with their philosophies, knowing much about the Christian traditions and the pagan philosophies, would combine all elements to please everybody. They replaced the simple ways and program of the Christ with spectacular rituals, colorful display, impressive pageantry, and limitless pomposity, and called it Christianity. They had replaced the glorious, divine plan of exaltation of Christ with an elaborate, colorful, man-made system. They seemed to have little idea of totally dethroning the Christ, nor terminating the life of God, as in our own day, but they put together an incomprehensible God idea” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 425).

Roman soldier striking a Saint