The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes mistakenly referred to as the Mormon Church) is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the same gospel and church that Christ established when He was on the earth over 2000 years ago. When the Church was established in 1830, there were hundreds of Christian churches on earth, each professing to have the truth. Joseph Smith, a young man living in New York in the early 1800s, was also puzzled by the number of churches. He decided to pray to God to know which church was true. When his prayer was answered, he was told to “join none of them, for they were all wrong” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19). How could so many churches all be wrong, and all profess to be right? The answer is the Great Apostasy.
The Apostasy is an event foretold by both Old and New Testament prophets. Paul spoke of the Apostasy in more than one of his epistles. In 2 Timothy, Paul states that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers . . . they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned into fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Here, Paul is speaking to the church members about what will happen to the gospel and the members of Jesus Christ’s church in the future.
Later, Paul states that before the second coming of Jesus Christ, there will “come a falling away first” from the true doctrines (2 Thessalonians 2:3). This falling away from the doctrines and teachings of Jesus Christ is known as the Apostasy.
What exactly does “falling away” mean?
The Church of Jesus Christ teaches that the Apostasy was a falling away, which means that with the death of all of Jesus’ original twelve Apostles, the priesthood authority, or power to act in God’s name, was taken from the earth. There weren’t any prophets or apostles on earth who had the authority to establish or run the true church of Jesus Christ. Because the authority was gone, people who had become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ had no one to lead them. Church members were left to interpret the doctrine and scriptures alone, and this resulted in many doctrines and ideas changing and straying from the truth. There were many interpretations of the scriptures, leading to the emergence of numerous churches, each claiming to have the truth.
Heavenly Father Loves All His Children
Even though the truth was no longer fully on the earth, each of these churches had pieces of truth. People who belonged to these churches sincerely believed what they were taught, sincerely prayed to God, and received answers to their prayers. Heavenly Father did not stop listening to or inspiring His children when the Apostasy happened; He continued to listen to and answer their prayers. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ (Mormons) believe that historical religious figures, including John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, and others, were inspired by God and accomplished many great and important works.
The Book of Mormon, a book of ancient scripture similar to the Bible, describes what happened during the Apostasy. Nephi, one of the writers of the Book of Mormon, explains that many “plain and precious things” were taken out of the Bible, sometimes by cunning men who tried to distort the truth. Because these plain and precious parts of the gospel were lost, “a great many do stumble” (1 Nephi 13:29). However, Nephi continues to say that these people who stumbled were “lifted up by the power of God” (1 Nephi 13:30).
Even though the people who lived during the Apostasy did not have all of the truth, and were sometimes confused about what the gospel of Jesus Christ was supposed to be, Heavenly Father still loved them and heard their sincere prayers.
The End of the Apostasy
Because the Apostasy resulted in many churches, none of which were completely true, Jesus Christ needed to restore His gospel to the earth again. He did this through Joseph Smith, the young man who was confused about which church to join. Joseph Smith became the first prophet and leader of the restored church of Jesus Christ, which has all of the power and authority that the church of Jesus Christ had when He was alive. The Apostasy ended when the true church of Jesus Christ was set up on the earth again, with proper priesthood authority and living prophets to guide its members.
To learn more about the restoration of Jesus Christ’s true church, Joseph Smith, or the Book of Mormon, please visit: Mormon.org
Megan is a graduate of BYU-Idaho and recently married member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is a writer and avid reader, and loves music, hiking, and her family.