Chapter 8: Prophets and Apostasy

Missionary Preparation Teacher Manual Religion 130, (2005), 53–59


Missionaries often have only a few moments to declare their important message. They must be prepared to present the message of the glorious Restoration effectively yet profoundly, testifying of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s role as the latter-day prophet through whom the Savior restored His gospel. Missionaries help people understand why we need a prophet today. The pattern is: Heavenly Father speaks through His prophets; the people reject the message; apostasy occurs. Heavenly Father speaks through His prophets again. As investigators understand this pattern, they will be more prepared to consider the importance of the latter-day prophet Joseph Smith, through whom the Lord restored His Church.

Joseph Smith portrait

Doctrines and Principles to Understand

  • The Lord provides truth, priesthood authority, ordinances, and organization through His prophets.

  • Throughout history there has been a recurring pattern of apostasy and restoration.

  • The rejection of the Savior, His teachings, and priesthood authority resulted in the Apostasy of the New Testament Church.

  • The European Reformation helped prepare the way for the final Restoration.

Teaching Suggestions

The Lord provides truth, priesthood authority, ordinances, and organization through His prophets.

Hold up a picture of an ancient prophet, and write the word prophet on the board. Share the following hypothetical situation with the class:

You are on an airplane, and the person sitting next to you learns that you are a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This person says he heard that the church you belong to is lead by a prophet. You have several minutes to explain the role of a modern prophet and why you feel confident following him.

Ask all the students to share with someone sitting near them how they would respond.

Have students read about prophets in the Bible Dictionary (“Prophet,” 754) or in the Guide to the Scriptures (“Prophet,” 201). Have a student act as scribe and list the roles of a prophet on the board. You could also read the statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the student manual (p. 64).

  • What blessings come from following a prophet? In your opinion, which blessings are the most important and why?

If there is time, you may want to further explain the words discussed above in association with the role of a prophet. For example, refer to the word authority on the board. Show a blank check, and tell students that you would like to financially reward one of them for attending class. Hand the check to a student and ask him or her to write a check for a student sitting nearby. Remind the student to sign his or her name to the check before giving it to the recipient. After the check is written, show it to the class and ask if the student who received it will have any problems lawfully cashing it.

  • Legally, how important is the proper signature on a check?

  • Why must one have proper authority to perform a legal transaction, such as writing a check?

  • How might this relate to the need for proper priesthood authority?

  • Why is authority necessary in dealing with the things of God?

Share the following definition, and ask students what it describes: “The authority and power that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of man” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Priesthood,” 199). Write the word priesthood next to authority on the board. Discuss why we need priesthood authority in the Lord’s Church.

DVD Track 13 Read the following statement by Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Presidency of the Seventy, or you may prefer to play DVD track 13 (0:46). Then discuss the question that follows.

“The priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man. Priesthood keys are the right to direct the use of that power. The President of the Church holds the keys necessary for governing the entire Church. His counselors in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also hold the keys of the kingdom and operate under the President’s direction. Stake presidents, bishops, and temple, mission, and quorum presidents are given keys to guide the Church in their jurisdictions. Their counselors do not hold keys but ‘receive delegated authority by calling and assignment.’ [Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders (1998), 161.]” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2003, 54; or Ensign, Nov. 2003, 50).

  • What is meant by the keys of the priesthood?

Explain that in the early days of the Restoration, a question arose concerning the necessity of baptism in the restored Church if a person had already been baptized in another church. Have a student read the Lord’s answer in Doctrine and Covenants 22.

Have one student recite the fourth article of faith, followed by another student reciting the fifth article of faith.

  • What connections do you see between these two articles of faith?

Explain that when the Lord needs to restore His priesthood authority and its keys to the earth, He does so through His prophets. Have students name some blessings that have come to them personally because the priesthood has been restored through a prophet.

Share the following definition with students, and ask them to suggest what word it defines: a sacred act that is performed by the authority of the priesthood. Ask students to give examples of ordinances performed in the Church today. List their responses on the board.

  • According to Doctrine and Covenants 84:19–21, why are ordinances crucial to us?

  • Why do you think the Lord puts so much emphasis on sacred ordinances for salvation?

  • How is the urgent need to build temples related to ordinances?

Share the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer:

“In the Church we hold sufficient authority to perform all of the ordinances necessary to redeem and to exalt the whole human family. And because we have the keys to the sealing power, what we bind in proper order here will be bound in heaven. …

“Thirteen years after Moroni appeared, a temple had been built … , and the Lord again appeared and Elijah came with Him and bestowed the keys of the sealing power. Thereafter ordinances were not tentative, but permanent” (“Ordinances,” in 1980 Devotional Speeches of the Year [1981], 15–16).

When the Lord, Elijah, and other prophets appeared in the Kirtland Temple, who were the first to receive the priesthood authority and keys? (see D&C 110 section heading). (Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.)

Have students read Doctrine and Covenants 1:14–17.

  • According to verses 15–16, what effects did the Apostasy have on the Lord’s Church?

Testify that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has the authority to perform ordinances that allow us to return to God and live with Him in the celestial kingdom. Invite students to share how a sacred ordinance has had impact on their lives.

Display the accompanying illustration. Ask students to find a scripture in the New Testament that would serve as an appropriate title for this illustration. (If students need help, have them look in the student manual on page 64 under the scriptures to study.)

Foundation of Apostles and Prophets
  • How can the Church organization be compared to a building?

  • According to Ephesians 2:20, what is the foundation of Christ’s Church?

  • Why do you think prophets and apostles are the foundation of the Church and Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone? (see Ephesians 2:20).

Throughout history there has been a recurring pattern of apostasy and restoration.

Have a student read the introductory paragraph for this principle from the student manual (pp. 64–65). Encourage students to notice what is lost with apostasy and restored with new gospel dispensations. List their observations on the board.

List the following scriptures on the board, and have students read the verses aloud, illustrating this pattern of apostasy and restoration:

  • Moses 5:12. Adam taught his children about God’s eternal plan.

  • Moses 5:13; 6:15. Many of Adam’s children rejected his teachings and followed Satan.

  • Moses 8:19. The “Lord ordained Noah” to declare His gospel and restore the gospel taught by Enoch. Only Noah’s family obeyed, and eventually worldwide apostasy lead to the Flood.

  • Abraham 1:18–19. Like Noah, Abraham was called by God to restore the gospel and minister to the people.

  • Moses 1:3, 6. After Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the children of Israel eventually fell into general apostasy, and Moses was called to restore the gospel again.

Have students get in groups of two or three. Ask each group to read through “Apostasy” in True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference (2004; pp. 13–14). Then have them combine the information in this entry with the information in the student manual and make notes about the important points. Ask for two or three groups to use their notes and role-play to the class how they would teach an investigator the events that occur in an apostasy and what the Lord does to help His children overcome an apostasy. Take a moment following each role play to have the class point out what went well and how each presentation could be improved. (Note: This focus is primarily on the pattern of apostasy. Restoration will be addressed in later teaching suggestions.)

Discuss the following questions with students:

  • In what ways is knowledge of the Apostasy good preparation for learning about Joseph Smith and the First Vision?

  • In what ways is it helpful to understand the recurring pattern of apostasy and restoration throughout the dispensations?

  • How does the pattern of restoration show God’s love for His children?

The rejection of the Savior, His teachings, and priesthood authority resulted in the Apostasy of the New Testament Church.

Refer to the illustration of the church building used in a previous teaching suggestion. Have a student read the introductory paragraphs to this section in the student manual (p. 66), and invite the class to listen for what was lost from the Savior’s Church.

  • What actions led to the removal of apostles, prophets, and Jesus Christ as the foundation of the early Church?

  • How was the Church affected when this foundation was removed?

  • What are some ways people reject prophets?

Write the following scripture chain on the board: Acts 20:29–31; 1 Corinthians 11:18; Galatians 1:6–8; 1 Timothy 1:5–7; 1 John 2:18. Assign one of these references to each student. Have students read their assigned scripture and determine the dangers the early Apostles cautioned Church members against. Ask students to share with the rest of the class what they learned from their assignment.

Have students group together in pairs during class and study the paragraphs under this principle (see student manual, 66–67) and the previous one (see student manual, 64–66). Allow each pair to create a lesson plan on one of the principles regarding apostasy and restoration. Have each pair use their lesson plan to teach another pair of students about apostasy. Both students in each pair should contribute to the teaching experience. Then reverse roles, giving the other students a chance to teach. At the conclusion of the practice exercise, allow students to make observations about the experience by asking questions such as, “What did you learn from this experience?” “What did the other group do that you liked?” and, “What would you do differently next time?”

Explain that many churches have some truth and bring a degree of happiness to people. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, has the fulness of the plan of happiness.

  • If you were teaching the concept of apostasy to an investigator, how could you determine whether or not the investigator understood your teaching?

The European Reformation helped prepare the way for the final Restoration.

Display pictures of the following individuals if you have them, or write their names on the board: John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Jan Hus, Huldrych Zwingli, John Knox, John Calvin, and William Tyndale. Ask what these men have in common. (They were some of the religious reformers who helped prepare the world for the Restoration.) Invite students to briefly share what they know about any of these reformers. You could refer students to the statements of Elder M. Russell Ballard and Presidents Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson in the student manual (pp. 68–69).

Read and discuss the other statements in the student manual regarding the importance of the religious reformers (see p. 67). Share the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:

“God, the Father of us all, uses the men of the earth, especially good men, to accomplish his purposes. It has been true in the past, it is true today, it will be true in the future” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 49; or Ensign, July 1972, 59).

  • How was the Reformation a forerunner to the Restoration?

  • How does knowing that many of the reformers were divinely inspired and helped prepare the way for the Restoration impact your view of other churches and their members? (see D&C 123:12).

DVD Track 14 Share President Gordon B. Hinckley’s summary, which should help prepare students for next week’s lesson, or show DVD track 14 (2:22):

“Before His death, [the Savior] had ordained His Apostles. They carried on for a period. His Church was set in place.

“The centuries rolled on. A cloud of darkness settled over the earth. …

“It was a season of plunder and suffering, marked by long and bloody conflict. …

“The first thousand years passed, and the second millennium dawned. Its earlier centuries were a continuation of the former. It was a time fraught with fear and suffering. …

“… As the years continued their relentless march, the sunlight of a new day began to break over the earth. It was the Renaissance, a magnificent flowering of art, architecture, and literature. …

“Reformers worked to change the church. … These were men of great courage, some of whom suffered cruel deaths because of their beliefs. … Their one desire was to find a niche in which they might worship God as they felt He should be worshiped.

“While this great ferment was stirring across the Christian world, political forces were also at work. Then came the American Revolutionary War, resulting in the birth of a nation whose constitution declared that government should not reach its grasping hand into matters of religion. A new day had dawned, a glorious day. Here there was no longer a state church. No one faith was favored above another.

“After centuries of darkness and pain and struggle, the time was ripe for the restoration of the gospel. Ancient prophets had spoken of this long-awaited day. …

“That glorious day dawned in the year 1820, when a boy, earnest and with faith, walked into a grove of trees and lifted his voice in prayer, seeking that wisdom which he felt he so much needed” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1999, 92–94; or Ensign, Nov. 1999, 73–74).

Suggested Assignments for Students