Members for years have sustained General Authorities without question. It makes you wonder sometimes if the alternative is too scary to consider: living during an apostasy. We have all heard the horror stories of the Catholic Church and the Inquisition, and as Americans, our blood boils when we think of the American Revolution and what might have been were we not successful in casting off the shackles of kingdoms and their oppressors, but when it comes to the LDS Church, ironically we are often like lemmings walking off of the cliff as we follow the leader.
Is it possible to live to God if there is no formal Church institution that God recognizes as His own? That is the very question righteous souls would’ve faced during what the LDS have called “The Great Apostasy”, defined roughly as some period after the death of Christ’s apostles all the way until Joseph Smith was called on the scene to restore the Gospel. “The Great Apostasy” is a theme that is central to the concept of the Restoration, since there would be nothing to restore had there not first been an apostasy from the truth. We are very keen to not want something like that to reoccur.
However, in our fervor to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again, have we added teachings to the Gospel that actually come from evil (3 Nephi 11:40)? Have we assured ourselves that such a terrible event is impossible this time around; especially since we are now so painfully aware of the great one that we think we’ve fully recovered from? In our franticness, have we resurrected the very beast we have feared (Rev. 13:3)?
As painful as it might seem, the natural man always has been and always will be an enemy to God (Mosiah 3:19), and his addictions resurface time and again. We are not immune from the problems of the past.
So, assuming that an apostasy is possible again, and hypothetically accepting the idea that one has happened again (and that it’s the Church that is doing the apostatizing this time, and not individuals, just like in the Great Apostasy), how does one live in such circumstances? How does one cope with realizing that all chapels, temples, programs, leaders, and efforts, on the large scale are vain and slated for being discarded by the Lord, if not already rejected by Him? (In contrast, the “small scale” would be defined as limited usefulness to programs where virtue is still to be found…some of the Reformers actually remained Catholic, for instance). What about all of that effort building those pyramids today, if they are destined to be ancient artifacts tomorrow? How does one get married for time and eternity, and not just until death do you part, if there is no sealing commission in the LDS Church anymore? How does one receive or perform any authoritative ordinances? How does one worship God? Some of these posts have or will tackle these issues, but in general, what do you do?
What has John the Beloved, who has tarried since Christ’s time, done all these years (see D&C 7)? Especially when there were no congregations for him to attend?
The Lord gave the answer to John when he said his mission would be sweet to his taste (free from the pains and sicknesses of this life), but bitter in his belly (sorrow for the sins of the world; anciently the belly was considered the area from which compassion sprung, because we all can relate to the pangs of hunger) (Rev. 10:9-10). In this description lies the key and answer: it is to mourn for the sins of the world. That is all we can do sometimes. Let it break your heart, and don’t harden your heart (Alma 12:10-13). Cry a little, unto the Lord (Ether 1:37). (Maybe they should make that into a t-shirt at Deseret Book).
In all candor, we hope you will see a pattern throughout these posts, that all of these answers are found within the scriptures. And, not just in catch-phrases from them, but in the real context to be found from diligent labor and searching. We can’t provide all of the answers, and don’t intend to try, but we intend to at least point to the Lord’s words and call attention to some important questions and the fact that there are answers and there is hope.