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Did the original church of Christ really ‘fall away’, as the Mormons claim? — Section 44

Surely Christ would not organize a church, just to see it ‘fall away’ within a few years!

Representative of a Christian church:
Gentlemen, we have been in this Trial for quite some time now, and we have discussed many topics.  The time has arrived, however, to address the very core issue of this debate.  I contend, as do many here, that Christ would not have established his gospel and his church during his lifetime, only to see it ‘fall away’, as these missionaries claim.  In Matthew 28:19-20 the Lord promised “…to be with his Church always, even unto the end of the world.”  In Ephesians 3:21 we read, “Unto him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end”.  Thus we see that the Church was to last throughout all ages.  It is not rational or practical to suppose or imagine that the Lord would come to the earth and bring his church, only to have it promptly fall away.  In the Catholic Church, the Papacy can be traced right back to Saint Peter and the Church of Rome.  We have the traditions and writings of the apostolic fathers for the past 1800 years.  All modern Christians have their Bibles today due to the valiant monks who preserved the sacred writings of the apostles.  Paul said in Hebrews 12:28, “Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace”.  In Hebrews 13:5 the Lord said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”  Christ said to Peter, “Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  You young missionaries claim that the gates of hell DID prevail against it.  The apostles gave their authority to the Bishops, and the Church today has the four marks of the Bishopric: 1) UNITY — united and one in doctrine, authority, worship, with holy and perfect observance of Christ’s teachings, leading inevitably to sanctification; 2) CATHOLIC — it is unchanging in its essential teachings and it preaches the same gospel and administers the same sacraments to men of all times and in all places;  3) APOSTOLIC — it traces its ancestry back to the apostles;  4) UNIVERSAL — like the early apostles, the church carries the message of Christ to all, regardless of race, nationality, station, or class.  All this being said, can anyone possibly imagine that Christ would put his church on the earth, only to see it then be destroyed and torn asunder?

Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
The scriptures and the conditions that we live under in this present day prove that there was truly an apostasy from the divine church.  Amos, along with many of the great prophets of the Old Testament foresaw this apostasy when he said there would be a “famine over the land, and not of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord.”  Isaiah foresaw that the Church of Jesus Christ would break the everlasting covenant (Isaiah 24:5) established by Christ (see Hebrews 13:20).  The Law of Moses was never referred to as the Everlasting Covenant, so it had to be Christ’s church.  Micah saw the day when the sun would go down over the prophets, there would be no more visions, or guidance from on high, and he then gave the reassuring hope that “in the last days” God’s church would be set up “in the tops of the mountains”.  See Micah 3:5-11 and Micah 4:1-3.  Daniel foresaw a kingdom “which would never be destroyed nor given to another people”, yet Christ’s kingdom was “given to another people”.  See Matthew 21:43.  The church was later destroyed and taken from the earth.  There were two causes of the apostasy, internal and external.  The external came due to the death of the Lord’s chosen early apostles.  Fox, in his ‘Book of the Martyrs’, records the fate of this chosen group:  1) Peter was crucified in Rome in A.D. 66  2) James was beheaded in A.D. 44  3) John was banished to Patmos in A.D. 96  4) Andrew was crucified in 96 A.D.  5) Philip was crucified in 54 A.D.  6) Thomas was run through with a lance in 52 A.D.  7) Matthew was battle axed to death in 60 A.D.  8) James the Lesser was beaten to death in 60 A.D.  9) Paul was beheaded at Rome in 66 A.D.  10) Thaddeus was crucified in 72 A.D.  11) Simeon was crucified in 81 A.D.  12) Mark was dragged to death in 74 A.D.  13) Barnabas was stoned to death in 73 A.D.  14) Judas committed suicide in 33 A.D.  15) Timothy was beaten by clubs in 73 A.D.  16) Luke was hanged to death in an olive tree in 73 A.D.  17) Bartholomew was dragged and then flailed in 73 A.D.   With the death of the apostles, who were the foundation of the church, the church began its collapse.  However, this collapse was not complete until internal apostasy had begun.  Paul, fearing this, said, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”  (Acts 20:29-30)   Paul also told the saints at Thessalonica that before Christ’s second coming, there would come a “falling away first” and the man of sinn had to be revealed.  The Catholic Bible even uses the word ‘apostasy’ in place of ‘falling away’.  Many scriptures pointed to the times of this falling away.  Examples are 2 Timothy 4:3-4, 2 Timothy 3:1-7, and 2 Peter 3:3.  Also, in 1 Timothy 4:1-3 Paul taught that a sign of the apostate church would be that of ‘forbidding to marry’ and ‘commanding to abstain from meats’.  Paul said teachings such as these were of devils.  The internal collapse of the Church came through three main channels: 1) The corrupting of the simple principles of the gospel by the admixture of philosophic systems of the time;  2) Unauthorized additions to the ceremonies of the church, and the introduction of vital changes in essential ordinances; and 3) Unauthorized changes in church organization and government.  It was the subsequent ‘councils’ where those diverse and strange doctrines were often presented and adopted.  Thus, God was declared to be ‘incomprehensible’, transubstantiation was accepted as doctrine, and the understanding of the nature of the Godhead was significantly altered.  An ‘incomprehensible’ God runs contrary to the Savior’s teaching that, “And this is life eternal, that they might KNOW THEE, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”  (John 17:3)  There was the elevation of the Virgin Mary’s status to that of near-Godhood, without scriptural backing.  Mary was faithful and devoted, but Jesus gives us his perspective on his mother in Luke 11:27-28.  The concept of her continued and continuing virginity is brought into question by Matthew 1:25.  Some Christian churches propose that Jesus declared Peter to be the cornerstone his church, but Christ is declared to be the chief cornerstone in the book of Ephesians.  Regarding your question regarding Matthew 28:19-20, verse 16 in that chapter points out that this message was only to the apostles.  Also, Ephesians 3:21 has no reference to the Church of Jesus Christ in ancient times, because that church referred to there was in a “world without end” and this world definitely has an end (Matthew 28:19-20).  In answer to the rock mentioned in Matthew 16:15-17, it could not have been Peter because the gates of hell did prevail against it (Matthew 26:69-75).  The rock was revelation, and the gates of hell have never prevailed against revelation.  In answer to the question regarding Hebrews 12:28, Paul probably had reference to the Kingdom of Heaven because the kingdom of earth could be moved (Matthew 21: 43).  As for Hebrews 13:5, it was an identical promise given to Joshua which merely points out that the Lord will be with “all them that obey him”.  That the church was to be restored is verified in Acts 3:19-21, Matthew 17:11-13, Revelation 14:6-7, and many other places.  A question for you, my friends, is this:  It is claimed that Clement was serving as pope in 96 A.D.  Why did he not receive the revelation given to John on the Isle of Patmos at that very time?  Why was not Clement or the Church of Rome mentioned or referred to?  Why are the scriptures completely void of any “transfer of authority” when the apostles were to guide us into “all truth and unity”?  Why haven’t the signs nor the power followed? (Mark 16:17-18 and Matthew 10:8)  Why do we find seemingly “divers and strange doctrines” among the various Christian churches, as predicted in 1 Corinthians 11:2 and Hebrews 13:9, such as the virginity of Mary after the birth of Christ, the Triune God, transubstantiation, lack of ongoing revelation, papal infallibility.  We must also ask about the authority of the Protestant churches.  If they claim that the church of Rome fell, then they cannot be true, because Christ taught that a live branch cannot grow off a dead tree (Matthew 7:18).  And if the church of Rome did indeed have the power and authority, then they have separated from the living tree.  It was Roger William, considered by many to be the founder of the Baptist Church, that stated that there “was no regularly constituted Church of Christ on earth, nor any person authorized to administer any church ordinance, nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the great head of the church, for whose coming I am seeking.”  (Picturesque America, page 503)  We bear solemn testimony that there are now living apostles and prophets on the earth, as we have established today, and that the restored Church of Christ in here upon the earth in its fulness.

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