Chapter 22: The Apostasy

Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual, (2011), 77–81


Introduction

  1. What is meant by apostasy? Write on the chalkboard the students’ definitions. Point out that the Greek word apostasia means a revolt or defection, in this case from the Church. Apostasy is either rejection of the authority of the Church and the Lord’s legitimate representatives, or rejection of the doctrines and ordinances accepted by the Church as binding upon its members, or both. In any case the apostate often stands in opposition to the Church and is in confrontation with it. (See Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 42–46.)

  2. Refer to Chalkboard 1, which illustrates Catholic, Protestant, and Latter-day Saint views about the continuity of the church that Jesus organized.

Ideas for Teaching

  1. A.

    The Savior organized his church and taught saving principles and ordinances during his earthly ministry.

    1. What evidence do we have that Jesus organized a church during his lifetime? Point out that church is defined as a religious organization with some form of administrative authority. Church is also defined as a body of believers having common beliefs, teachings, creeds, and rites. (See Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, s.v. “church.”) With these definitions in mind, examine the evidence that Jesus organized a church. Two Apostles wrote anciently that in the meridian of time, Jesus chose Apostles (see Matthew 10:1–10) and Seventies (see Luke 10:1, 17). Apostles in the latter days have also written about Jesus’ organizing his church in his own day (see Supporting Statements A on p. 59 of the student manual).

      Along with an elemental church structure, Jesus also emphasized certain teachings and ordinances that would mark discipleship in his Church. On the day of Pentecost, Peter declared that faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost are necessary steps in joining the Savior’s church and receiving the promised blessings (see Acts 2:37–38). The Savior taught during his ministry that certain ethical and moral requirements are also marks of discipleship (see Luke 14:26; John 8:31; John 13:35).

    2. Steady growth led to rapid expansion of Church organization. But growth was not the only factor: revelation unquestionably led to the structural growth of the Church.

      Refer to Chalkboard 2, which illustrates the Church organization as a perfectly formed building. Point out that each Church office is mentioned in a scriptural passage. Have the students read 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:19–21; 4:11–14. What office in the priesthood appears central in each of these references? (Apostle.) Why was this office, as well as the others, so critical? Paul taught that the Church’s structure existed to bring perfection to the Saints, for the work of the ministry, and to bring unity to the Church (see Ephesians 4:12–13).

  2. B.

    A great apostasy from the Savior’s church was foretold.

    1. Study Isaiah 24:5 and Amos 8:11–12. What do these two Old Testament scriptures teach about the Apostasy? Show how they are classic definitions of apostasy. They prophesy that the ordinances will be changed and the covenants broken and that the people will experience a famine of hearing the word of the Lord (see Supporting Statements B on p. 59 of the student manual).

    2. Many evidences suggest that while the Apostles continued preaching and testifying of Jesus, they knew a general apostasy would take place. Write on the chalkboard the following references, and allow the students time to read them silently:

      • Acts 20:29–30. “Grievous wolves” will enter the Church, and men will speak “perverse things.”

      • 2 Thessalonians 2:1–4. A “falling away” will precede Christ’s second coming.

      • 2 Timothy 4:3–4. “They will not endure sound doctrine,” and “they shall turn away their ears from the truth … unto fables.”

      • 2 Peter 2:1–3. “False prophets” and “false teachers … shall bring in damnable heresies,” and “many shall follow their pernicious ways.”

      Discuss the warnings of the coming apostasy as Paul spoke of them.

  3. C.

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

    1. Point out that a great burden to the Apostles was their knowledge that the Apostasy was occurring even as they ministered. As Paul traveled from city to city preaching the gospel, he occasionally communicated with members he had previously taught. In his epistles he lamented over those who were removed from the truth and had turned away from his teachings. Where there had been unity, there was division and contention. Paul constantly faced challenges from false leaders who denied his apostolic calling and the legitimacy of his teachings and advice. Read Galatians 1:6–8; 1 Corinthians 1:10–12; 11:18–19; 2 Timothy 1:15.

      The apostasy that Paul saw attacking the stability of the Church gradually became universal and complete. For further evidence of the universal nature of the Apostasy, read several statements from Supporting Statements C on pages 59–60 of the student manual.

Conclusion

The foretold apostasy that enveloped the world in darkness ended when the Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820. Now once again Apostles walk the earth, having a divine commission to take the gospel to all nations.