Post Author: Darrell
One of the foundational teachings of Mormonism is that shortly after the death of the Apostles, the bulk of mankind rejected the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, and the world fell away from the plain and precious truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result, the Church and the authority to act in God’s name were taken from the earth, and the world entered into a period known as the Great Apostasy. It was not until God’s appearance to Joseph Smith in 1820, and his subsequent call to be a Prophet, that the Fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s Church were once again restored to the earth. Today, this fullness is known and taught only in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
During my last few years as a Mormon, I struggled with this teaching as I came to realize that it does not line up with what Christ promised us. In Matthew 16:18, Christ says, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Mormonism teaches that with the restoration of the Gospel, Temples have been reestablished upon the earth. Within these Temples, Mormons perform various Ordinances that are believed to be binding not only on earth, but also in heaven. Two of these Ordinances are known as Baptism for the Dead and Endowment for the Dead. They are performed vicariously for and in behalf of individuals who did not receive them in this life.
LDS doctrine teaches that when a person who is either an unfaithful Mormon or a non-Mormon dies, they go to a place known as Spirit Prison. According to LDS.org, Spirit Prison is another name for Hell or Hades. It is contrasted with Paradise, the place where righteous Mormons go upon their death. Those who reside in Spirit Prison have the opportunity to hear the teachings of the LDS Gospel. If they accept them and their Temple Work (Ordinances of Baptism and Endowment) has been performed vicariously on their behalf, they can leave Hell and enter Paradise.
This is where I found the LDS teaching to be problematic, for what does this mean for those individuals who lived and died during the Great Apostasy? If Christ’s Church was really taken from the earth, and it was not restored until after Joseph Smith, what, according to Mormonism, has happened to all those individuals who lived and died during the period of the Great Apostasy? Well, the reality of the fact is that they are in Hell. Even if they accepted Christ, believed in Him, and strove to live by His teachings, they are still in Hell. It is not until their Temple Work has been done that they can be released from Hell. Even worse is the fact that the Temple Work for the majority of the Earth’s past population has not been done and will not be done for many years to come because we do not have their names. Our records don’t go back that far.
In my opinion, this teaching does not line up at all with Christ’s promise. He told us that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church He established. However, if LDS teaching is true, the Gates of Hell are prevailing against Christ’s Church and have been doing so since shortly after Christ’s ascension. His Church was taken from the earth and those who lived lives seeking Him and living by His commandments are suffering in Hell as a result. Not only is this teaching demeaning to the power of God, it also makes a complete mockery of Christ’s redeeming work. He came to earth to unite humanity with divinity, bridging the gap between fallen mankind and the Creator of all. However, according to Mormonism, many of those who have sought to follow Him are suffering in Hell for no other reason than they were born at the wrong time.
To be fair to Mormons, I must submit that Christ’s promise does not present a problem to their teachings alone. Those who hold to strong fundamentalist Protestantism also encounter problems when comparing their beliefs to Christ’s promise. I have spoken to many Protestants who believe that one cannot be a “faithful Catholic” or a “faithful Eastern Orthodox Christian” and still be saved. They believe that the teachings of both of these great Churches are a corruption of what Christ taught and that if one holds to their teachings they are “non-Christian.” However, the truth is that many of the core teachings of these Churches date back to the earliest times in Christianity, so if they are corruptions, they are corruptions that instilled themselves in the Church from virtually the very beginning of Christendom. For example, the teaching that the Eucharist contains the Real Presence of Christ was a fundamental teaching of the Church from around the year 100, and the veneration of Mary can be dated to at least the middle 100′s. By default then, stating that those who hold these beliefs are non-Christian is to state that the Church, from the earliest of times, apostatized in some of its key doctrines very early and remained that way until after the reformation. Therefore, at its heart, this is to believe that the Gates of Hell prevailed against the Church for nearly 1500 years, dooming those who held to its key teachings to Hell. Do we really believe that?
Think about it.