ARTICLE 6-We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, viz., apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, etc.
Mormon History and The Church of Jesus Christ in Former and Latter Days
The Primitive Church
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 of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called the Mormon Church by those of other faiths), apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, high priests, seventies, elders, bishops, priests, teachers, and deacons. Mormon history shows that this is true.
Besides these specific offices in the Priesthood, there were other callings of a more temporal nature, to which men were also set apart by authority; such for instance was the case of the seven men of honest report who, in the days of the apostles, were appointed to minister to the poor, thus leaving the Twelve freer to attend to the particular duties of their office. This special appointment illustrates the nature of the helps and governments set in the “Mormon Church,” to assist in the work under the direction of the regular officers of the Priesthood.
The ministers so appointed and the members among whom they labor constitute the Church of Christ, which has been impressively compared to a perfect body, the individuals typifying the separate members, each with its own functions, all cooperating for the welfare of the whole. Every office so established, every officer so commissioned, is necessary to the development of the Church and to the accomplishment of its work. An organization established of God comprises no superfluities; the eye, the ear, the hand, the foot, every organ of the body, is essential to the symmetry and perfection of the physical structure; in the Church no officer can rightly say to another: “I have no need of thee.”
The existence of these officers, and particularly their operation with accompaniments of divine assistance and power, may be taken as a distinguishing characteristic of the Church in any age of the world—a crucial test, whereby the validity or falsity of any claim to divine authority may be determined. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the everlasting Gospel; its principles, laws and ordinances, and The Church of Jesus Christ’s organization founded thereon must be ever the same. In searching for the true Church, therefore, one must look for an organization comprising the offices established of old, the callings of apostles, prophets, evangelists, high priests, seventies, pastors, bishops, elders, priests, teachers, deacons-not men bearing these names merely, but ministers able to vindicate their claim to position as officers in the Lord’s service, through the evidences of power and authority accompanying their ministry. Mormon history shows that all these things were restored by Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith and that they exist in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with divine authority and power.
Apostasy from the Primitive Church
Questions may arise in the mind of the earnest investigator, as to whether these authorities, together with the attesting gifts of the Holy Spirit, have remained with men from the apostolic age to the present; in short, as to the existence of the Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth during this long interval. In answer, let the facts following be considered. Since the period immediately succeeding that of the ministrations of the apostles of old, and until the nineteenth century, no organization had maintained a claim to direct revelation from God; in fact, the teachings of professed ministers of the Gospel for centuries have been to the effect that such gifts of God have ceased, that the days of miracles have gone, and that the present depends for its guiding code wholly upon the past. A self-suggesting interpretation of history indicates that there has been a great departure from the way of salvation as laid down by the Savior, a universal apostasy from the Church of Christ. Scarcely had the Church been organized by the Savior, whose name it bears, before the powers of darkness arrayed themselves for conflict with the organized body. Even in the days of our Lord’s personal ministry in the flesh persecution was waged against Him and the disciples. Commencing with the Jews, and directed first against the Master and His few immediate associates, this tide of opposition soon enveloped every known follower of the Savior, so that the very name Christian was used as an epithet of derision.
In the first quarter of the fourth century, however, a change in the attitude of paganism toward Christianity was marked by the so-called conversion of Constantine the Great, under whose patronage the Christian profession grew in favor and became in fact the religion of State. But what a profession, what a religion it was by this time! Its simplicity had departed; earnest devotion and self-sacrificing sincerity were no longer characteristic of the ministers of the Church. Those professed followers of the humble Prophet of Nazareth, those self-styled representatives of the Lord whose kingdom was not of earth earthy, those loudly proclaimed lovers of the Man of Sorrows acquainted with grief, lived amidst conditions strangely inconsistent with the life of their divine Exemplar. Church offices were sought after for the distinction of honor and wealth accompanying them; ministers of the Gospel affected the state of secular dignitaries; bishops exhibited the pomp of princes, archbishops lived as kings and popes like emperors. With these innovations came many changes in the ordinances of the so-called church-the rites of baptism were perverted; the sacrament was altered; public worship became an exhibition of art; men were canonized, martyrs were made subjects of adoration; blasphemy grew apace, in that men without authority essayed to exercise the prerogatives of God. Ages of darkness came upon the earth; the power of Satan seemed almost supreme.
For a special consideration of the evidence of a general apostasy from the Church of Jesus Christ, the student must consult authorities on ecclesiastical history. While the fact of the apostasy is admitted by but few such writers, the historical events they chronicle reveal the awful truth. We may trace, from the days of the apostles down to near the close of the tenth century, a constantly changing form of Church organization, which at the later time named bore but little semblance to the Church established by the Savior. This falling away is admitted by some historians, and as we shall presently see, was definitely foretold by authoritative prophecy.
John Wesley, founder of an influential sect, declared that the distinctive gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer with the Church, having been taken away on account of the unworthiness of professing Christians, whom he characterized indeed as heathen, with only a dead form of worship. In the Church of England Homily Against Peril of Idolatry we read: “So that laity and clergy, learned and unlearned, all ages, sects, and degrees of men, women, and children of whole Christendom-an horrible and most dreadful thing to think-have been at once drowned in abominable idolatry; of all other vices most detested by God, and most damnable to man; and that by the space of eight hundred years and more.” The Book of Homilies dates from about the middle of the sixteenth century; and in it is thus officially affirmed that the so-called Church and the whole religious world had been utterly apostate for eight centuries or more prior to the establishment of the Church of England.
This Great Apostasy Was Foretold
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. Isaiah was contemplating the era of spiritual darkness when he declared: “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” Deeply impressive are the words of the Lord through Jeremiah: “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
The prophecies of the apostles relative to the false teachers then soon to trouble the flock show that the apostasy was at that early time approaching rapidly. Paul warned the saints of Thessalonica that they be not deceived by those who cried that the second coming of Christ was then at hand-“For,” said the apostle, “that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” This falling away had begun even in the days of the apostles: “Even now,” says John, “are there many anti-Christs.” And Paul, in addressing the Galatians, declared, “There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”
Not less conclusive are the prophecies contained in the Book of Mormon relating to this great falling away. Nephi, son of Lehi, predicted the oppression of the North American Indians at the hands of the Gentiles, and declared that at that time the people will be lifted up in self-pride, having departed from the ordinances of God’s house; they will build to themselves many churches, but in these they will preach their own wisdom, with envyings, and strife, and malice, denying, however, the power and miracles of God. Records from Mormon history show that the Book of Mormon, which is another testament that Jesus is the Christ, was brought forth through the power of God to call men to repentance.
Restoration of the Church
From the facts already stated it is evident that the Church was literally driven from the earth; in the first ten centuries immediately following the ministry of Christ the authority of the Holy Priesthood was lost from among men, and no human power could restore it. But the Lord in His mercy provided for the reestablishment of His Church in the last days, and for the last time; and prophets of olden time foresaw this era of renewed enlightenment, and sang in joyous tones of its coming. This restoration was effected by the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith, who, together with Oliver Cowdery, in 1829, received the Aaronic Priesthood under the hands of John the Baptist; and later the Melchizedek Priesthood under the hands of the former-day apostles, Peter, James, and John. By the authority thus bestowed, The Church of Jesus Christ has been again organized with all its former completeness, and mankind once more rejoices in the priceless privileges of the counsels of God. The Latter-day Saints declare their high claim to the true Church organization, through the Mormon history which has been so carefully recorded, similar in all essentials to the organization effected by Christ among the Jews. This people of the last days profess to have the Priesthood of the Almighty, the power to act in the name of God, which power commands respect both on earth and in heaven.