Apostasy/Members didn't notice

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Authority: and Priesthood

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This page is based on an answer to a question submitted to the FAIR web site, or a frequently asked question.


Since members of the Church believe that divine authority was lost during the apostasy, wouldn't some Christian author or members have noted this problem?


See also: Apostasy: predicted, Apostasy: biblical evidence, Apostasy: patristic evidence, and Apostasy: Members didn't notice?

The Bible establishes the fact that there was an official, unchangeable (Heb. 7:24) and everlasting (Ex. 40:15; Num. 25:13) priesthood in the early church which was given to those called and ordained (John 15:16; Acts 1:22; 15:4, 6, 22-23, 32; Eph. 2:20; 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; 5:17; 2 Tim. 1:9; 4:5; Titus 1:5) by the laying on of hands (Acts 6:1-6; 13:1-3) by those having authority (Ex. 28:1; Num. 27:15; Heb. 5:4). These priesthood holders, referred to as elders (Acts 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4; 20:17, etc.), bishops (1 Tim. 3:1, 2; Titus 1:7; 1 Pet. 2:20), deacons (1 Tim. 3:8, 10, 12, 13; Phil. 1:1), the presbytery (1 Tim. 4:14), and other titles, accomplished healings (Jam. 5:14-15) and other miracles (Mark 16:17-18) and led the church (Acts 15:2-6).[1]

Some Christians have noted the loss of this authority; others had their own reasons for downplaying the issue of authority.

Noting the lack

Kirk Holland Vestal and Arthur Wallace in The Firm Foundation of Mormonism discuss authority in the early church citing the following:

The early Church father, Cyprian, discussed this vital doctrine in his 69th Letter, written about 255 A.D., when he was questioned about authority to baptize and to preside in a congregation without having been ordained to the priesthood through the proper channels. Cyprian summarized that "one who was not ordained in the Church cannot conceivably have or maintain any authority over the Church."[2]

Michael T. Griffith observed:

The necessity of baptism by the proper authority was a firmly established doctrine of the early church. For example, Ignatius stated that no baptism was valid without the bishop's approval: "It is not right either to baptize or to celebrate the agape apart from the bishop; but whatever he approves is also pleasing to God, so that everything you do may be secure and valid."[3] Cyprian, bishop of Carthage in the middle part of the third century, stated that no one outside of the church could administer a valid baptism.[4]

As proof of the fact that the Christians eventually lost the gift of prophecy, Hugh Nibley cites John Chrysostom as saying that members of the church were always and everywhere asking him:

"What has happened to the spiritual gifts? Why do we no longer have the gift of tongues? Where are the prophets? Why are men not chosen for office as they were anciently by direct revelation from above?"[5]

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, observed:

It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian...From this time they almost totally ceased....The Christians had no more the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens...,This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned heathen again, and had only a dead form left.[6]

Roger Williams, the founder of the Baptist Church of America, declared:

"There is no regularly constituted church on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there e until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking."[7]

On another occasion he also proclaimed:

"The apostasy... hath so far corrupted all, that there can be no recovery out of that apostasy until Christ shall send forth new apostles to plant churches anew.[8]

The above Reformers recognized a loss of spiritual gifts and qualified leadership but didn't seem to associate this directly with priesthood authority. Latter-day Saints were able to connected the dots and identify this critical loss of priesthood power and authority, and some other restorationist faiths agreed. Modern protestants and Catholics have not, however, drawn the same conclusions.

Ignoring the lack

One can understand why a more robust discussion of the loss of authority has not surivived from, say, the second century—such a discussion might have been suppressed by later generations. Despite this, a little does leak through. There is the early 2nd-century writing of Ignatius, in which this early bishop says to the church in Rome, “I do not, like Peter and Paul, issue orders unto you. They are apostles, but I am one condemned; they indeed are free, but I am a slave.”[9]

Furthermore, a disturbing fraction of the church seems to have rejected (or simply ignored) the apostles and tried to assume for themselves the authority to direct matters in the churches. This is attested even in the lifetimes of the apostles. You have Paul pointing out "... that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me;" (2  Tim. 1:15) and John's experience recorded in 3 John 1:9-10:

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

These rebels would not be worried about the loss of apostolic authority; they had been fomenting it.


There is evidence that early and later Christians realized that something vital had been lost, which the Christian churches no longer possessed. That more evidence does not exist is unsurprising, given the motivation which those arrogating or ignoring priesthood authority would have had for suppression of this unpleasant reality.


  1. [note]  Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1995), 64. ISBN 0882905368. ISBN 0882907786.
  2. [note]  The Firm Foundation of Mormonism, Kirk Holland and Arthur Wallace, (LL Company, 1981), 225-6.; citing Cyprian, 69th Letter, iii.
  3. [note]  The Apostolic Fathers, 113; cited in Michael T. Griffith, Signs of the True Church of Christ (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1989), 94–95.
  4. [note]  Jeffrey Burton Russell, Satan: The early Christian Tradition (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University, Press, 1981), 106.
  5. [note]  Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 3rd edition, (Vol. 3 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), 221. ISBN 087579078X. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.) Citing John Chrysostom, Patrologia Graec. 50:453; 455f, 459, 488, 51:81f, 85; 55:402; 58:479; 61:269ff, 279f; 62:526f; 63:623; etc. See also Mic. 3:6-7.
  6. [note]  Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1995), 24. ISBN 0882905368. ISBN 0882907786. Citing The More Excellent Way, Wesley's Works, Vol 7, Sermon 89, 26-27.
  7. [note]  Michael Hickenbotham, Answering Challenging Mormon Questions: Replies to 130 Queries by Friends and Critics of the LDS Church (Horizon Publishers & Distributors, 1995), 24. ISBN 0882905368. ISBN 0882907786. Citing Picturesque America, edited by William Cullen Bryant, (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1872), 1:500–502.
  8. [note]  Struggles and Triumphs of Religious Liberty, cited in William F. Anderson, "Apostasy or Succession, Which?" pp. 238-9. [citation needed]
  9. [note]  Ignatius, "Romans, Chap. IV," in Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:103. ANF ToC off-site This volume

Further reading

FAIR wiki articles

Apostasy FAIR wiki articles
FAIR Priesthood wiki articles

FAIR web site

Apostasy FAIR articles on-line
  • FAIR Topical Guide: Apostasy and restoration FAIR link
  • FAIR Topical Guide: Priesthood restoration FAIR link
  • Roger Keller, "The Apostasy," FAIR 2004 conference. FAIR link
    Dr. Keller is a former Presbyterian minister.


The Apostasy, Roger Keller (Former Presbyterian minister), 2004 FAIR Conference

External links

Apostasy on-line articles
  • Richard L. Anderson, "Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp: Three Bishops between the Apostles and Apostasy," Ensign (August 1976), 51. off-site
  • Hoyt W. Brewster Jr., "I Have A Question: What Was There in the Creeds of Men that the Lord Found Abominable, as He Stated in the First Vision?”," Ensign (July 1987), 65–67. off-site
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Early Signs of the Apostasy," Ensign (December 1984), 8. off-site
  • Roger D. Cook, "How Deep the Platonism? A Review of Owen and Mosser's Appendix: Hellenism, Greek Philosophy, and the Creedal "Straightjacket" of Christian Orthodoxy," FARMS Review of Books 11/2 (1999): 265–299. off-site PDF link
  • William J. Hamblin and Daniel C. Peterson, "The Evangelical Is Our Brother (Review of How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation)," FARMS Review of Books 11/2 (1999): 178–209. off-site PDF link
  • Kent P. Jackson, "Early Signs of the Apostasy," Ensign (December 1984), 8. off-site
  • Hyde M. Merrill, "The Great Apostasy as Seen by Eusebius," Ensign (November 1972), 34. off-site
  • Hugh W. Nibley, "Evangelium Quadraginta Dierum," Vigiliae Christianae 20 (1966):1-24; reprinted in Hugh W. Nibley, Mormonism and Early Christianity (Vol. 4 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by Todd Compton and Stephen D. Ricks, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987),10–44. ISBN 0875791271. off-site direct off-site
  • Dallin H. Oaks, "Apostasy and Restoration," Ensign (May 1995), 84. off-site
  • David Stewart, Jr., "The Christian Apostasy," cumorah.com off-site

Printed material

Apostasy printed materials
  • Matthew B. Brown, "Evidences of Apostasy," in All Things Restored, 2d ed. (American Fork, UT: Covenant, 2006),1–32. AISN B000R4LXSM. ISBN 1577347129.
  • Noel B. Reynolds (editor), Early Christians in Disarray: Contemporary LDS Perspectives on the Christian Apostasy (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2005), 1. ISBN 0934893020. off-site  (Key source)

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