Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: The fall of the early Christian church was almost inevitable’

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Published: Thursday, April 25 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Phil Kitchen
UK, 00

Very interesting article. It is somewhat of a miracle to recount what happened after the apostasy i.e.scriptures were gathered together undoubtedly with some interpolations. As the centuries unwound, many efforts were made to translate the old and new testament into usable everyday languages. Eventually, these efforts were crowned with success. The book of Judah carried forth to America and many other countries became a bastion of faith and a great defender of faith (as is stated of King James in the preface). Indeed, were it not for the Bible and its commonality of use, the verses which led Joseph Smith to reflect, ponder and pray would not have existed at all. The accomplishments of the first quorum of the twelve '... to go into all the world and..... preach the gospel to every creature ...' has to be one of the greatest success stories of all time.

Palmetto Bug
Columbia, SC

I had been saying a similar thing for years. I'm glad someone more articulate than myself put these thoughts down in print.

ferron, UT

Except that Jesus' church did survive, as He said it would (And I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Mt 16:18). On this, all orthodox Christianinity agrees. It is one of the basic truths about Christianity. Mormon theology denies this basic truth, one of the many deviations of Mormonism from Biblical Christianity. Yet LDS folks are offended when we (Biblical Christians) point out that this is one of the many reasons we cite when concluding that Mormonism can not be "Christian".

Somewhere in Time, UT

Thanks Dr. Peterson.

NC Diaspora
Chapel Hill, NC

I think this article needs to be more clearly identified as LDS apology for a predominately LDS audience. As someone who is LDS myself, but who has read widely on the evolution of Christiainity, and as someone with Christian friends from other denominations, I would no more presume to publically discuss the "inevitable fall" of their early Christian churches anymore than I would appreciate them publically discussing the "inevitable fall" of Joseph Smith. I don't blame Dr. Peterson, but the website editors should be more careful to identify this as a faith-based LDS discussion of our own doctrine of apostasy and not a scholarly or even public opinion commentary on early Christianity. President Monson and others are constantly being recognized for their work to build bridges of understanding between ourselves and those of other faiths, but the presentation of this article does not help those noble aims.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

Dr. Peterson seems to contradict himself right out of the gate when he says (in the 1st sentence) “the Church founded by… Christ” but then goes on to suggest that what makes the Christian Church a church is its scriptures (i.e., instructional doctrines). Since Christ did not write the scriptures, how could he have founded a church?

Also, his entire premise (festering heresies, false apostles, etc…) suggests that in the decades it took to get the complete New Testament, errors would inevitably been included. If that is so, why is the NT still considered canonical?

Buena Vista, VA

To savedsinner: The Bible was not compiled until about 300 AD. So the Christians before that time could not be called Biblical Christians. But I think they were true Christians, don't you?

The Christians described in Bible times had living prophets and apostles. They had the priesthood, which could only be received by ordination by one holding it. They added to existing scripture. They had a lay ministry, and their leaders did not attend divinity school. All the branches of the early church were part of one organization. These things are all apparent when you carefully read the Bible. My point is that Latter-day Saints, who also have living prophets and apostles, profess an open cannon, have a lay ministry, and have a similar priesthood structure and general leadership which is at the head of local congregations are today's real "Biblical Christians." Although they have done a lot of good for a lot of people, today's Protestant churches are quite different from the church, described in the Bible, that Jesus organized.

Sneaky Jimmy
Bay Area, CA

Thank you for addressing one of the most fascinating aspects in all of history. What is truly remarkable is the fact that Christianity survived at all. Examine these crazy facts:
1. Christianity spread far, wide and deep despite all the logistical problems pointed out in the article.
2. There was the equivalent of the "extermination order" against Christians throughout the Roman Empire yet people remained committed.
3. Constantin's "Vision", in this sign you will conquer. Was it really a vision?
The more one looks at early Christianity, the more one is amazed.

layton, UT

Non-Catholic historians admit, it can be demonstrated easily that early Church writers, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Eusebius, Clement of Rome, and Polycarp, had no conception of Mormon doctrine, and they knew nothing of a "great apostasy." Nowhere in their writings can one find references to Christians embracing any of the peculiarly Mormon doctrines, such as polytheism, polygamy, celestial marriage, and temple ceremonies.
If the Church of the apostolic age was the prototype of today’s Mormon church, it must have had all these beliefs and practices. But why is there no evidence of them in the early centuries, before the alleged apostasy began? Catholic Answers
JS History All their creeds were abomination?
Early creed Used at Baptisms; ”If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is LORD(YHWH),” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” ( Romans 10:9)(cf. 1Cor 12:3. Paul is ascribing deity to Jesus.
I.e, Joel 2:32. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD(YHWH) will be saved

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

"The church founded anciently by Christ not only didn’t survive intact but probably couldn’t have. Ancient means of communication weren’t up to the task...."

Jesus announced the arrival of the Kingdom of God. The church came instead. I agree with Daniel Peterson that communication was not up to the task of preserving the original thrust of what Jesus tried to bring forth. That’s partly why disunity tore at the movement right from the outset.

I say partly because the larger cause of internal conflict was the Hellenistic world into which the movement spread very rapidly led by a maverick self-proclaimed apostle, Saul of Tarsus.

Joseph Smith used the term apostasy to describe what happened. Martin Luther spoke of a paganized church of Rome. I find neither of those terms helpful to modern understanding that we today might more accurately call cultural assimilation.

Phoenix, AZ

It seems confusing that if there is a god who was capable of organizing and establishing such a complex religion and church that he had no plan for its preservation, delivery and application so as to leave it to politics to make of it what ever best serves and profits different interest and organizations.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@Craig Clark – “Jesus announced the arrival of the Kingdom of God”

And the real irony (and tragedy) of this is had he been born in India and later made this pronouncement, rather than being killed for it the response would have been something like “good job Jesus, glad you figured it out. Now go build an ashram (or wonder the countryside) and spend the rest of your life teaching people how to realize the same.”

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO

Sneaky Jimmy,

"....What is truly remarkable is the fact that Christianity survived at all...."

Indeed. Had Christianity remained a localized group of dissident Jews in Judea, it might have died out by the end of the first century. That it survived and flourished is due in large measure to the radical efforts of Saul of Tarsus.

Taking interpretive liberties, Saul (or Paul) forged an advocacy of Jesus that was adaptable and appealing to the larger Mediterranean world. The result was a rising Gentile church that came to eclipse its Judean forerunner. But it also made Christianity incompatible with its Jewish roots and made the schism with Judaism inevitable.

Cinci Man

To savedsinner:
As a Biblical Christian, you will be able to show us the Bible verses where Jesus taught us to pray to Him, not to Heavenly Father. It seems that in my Bible, Jesus taught us to pray to the Father in His (Jesus') name. Thanks for helping us!

Cinci Man

To Sharrona:
Once again you comment without reading ALL the scriptures, especially the Bible. Look up the word, "perfect". Also, try helping us understand the historical use of temples. Even Jesus himself frequently taught in the temple.

Also, you conclude that if one uses only a subset of scripture and history, it mandates the conclusion that Mormon doctrines didn't exist. Every time I read your posts, I see how limited your resources are. And for sure, the Holy Ghost is not part of your life. But I invite you to read John 16 to learn of the importance the Holy Ghost is, even to Jesus.

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO


Non-Catholic historians admit, it can be demonstrated easily that early Church writers, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Eusebius, Clement of Rome, and Polycarp, had no conception of Mormon doctrine, and they knew nothing of a "great apostasy."

They also knew nothing of the Protestant Reformation. That doesn’t stop Lutherans, Calvinists, Wesleyans and the many denominational spinoffs from selectively using the Bible to support their respective theologies and doctrines. Are you sure it matters to God?

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” - John 10:17

Huntsville, UT

Along with everything else Mr. Peterson listed, there was also the fact that early Christians never knew when the Apostle was speaking for god or merely stating his personal opinion. Much like today; even though we have instantaneous communication today.

Provo, UT

If you define "fall" in the way the LDS Church does which equals changing doctrine, ending certain rituals and ordinances, eliminating other key principles of the Church, then doesn't that mean too that the LDS Church itself has also, "fallen."

Craig Clark
Boulder, CO


No religion is as static as it makes out to be. If it were, it would soon die out.

The trick to making change is to spin it as continuity with eternal truths. I know that sounds cynical but for 2,000 years Christianity has held that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever even though we all know that human understanding is perpetually in a state of development.

layton, UT

RE: Cinci Man,, "perfect". “be ye therefore perfect( teleios), even as your Father in Heaven is perfect' (Mt5:48) Christs’ high ideal of perfect love(see vv 43-47). Love is an communicable moral attribute like, grace, mercy; holiness, righteousness.

RE: ,historical use of temples, *Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy Temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.(Eph 2:20-22) *past tense.

The Temple for Christians is Jesus, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). After Christ’s resurrection the meaning of these words became plain, when Jesus spoke of the destruction of the temple, he was speaking of his own body (John 2:22).

@ John 16 to learn of the importance the Holy Ghost . John 16:7,” comforter” =(G 3875 G paraklētos) =”advocate” In 1John 2:1. Like ( Holy Spirit/Ghost=(pneuma) same Greek Word.

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