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Apostasy is a departure from core religious beliefs or doctrines. Christianity experienced a widespread apostasy (sometimes called the Great Apostasy) after the death of Jesus Christ and His Apostles.

Over time, many of the foundational teachings of Jesus were changed or abandoned at the discretion of religious reformers or political leaders. Bible prophets foretold this apostasy but also anticipated a restoration of pure doctrinal principles through Christ’s Church.

What is the Great Apostasy?

Withdrawal of God’s authority

God established His gospel and commandments with Adam and Eve. Throughout the history of the world, people showed varying degrees of apostasy—from individuals who renounced God to whole civilizations that rejected the truth, such as the people at the time of Noah. The Great Apostasy, however, was the first time that key principles, and the authority to lead Christ’s Church were completely lost. God did not reinstate His authority for hundreds of years. During that time, the organization of Christ’s original Church was changed, doctrines were reinterpreted, and certain truths recorded in the holy scriptures were altered or lost. As a result, many manmade factions of Christianity arose, each claiming its own leadership and doctrinal interpretations.

Prophets foretold the Great Apostasy

In the Old Testament, Amos spoke of the time we now call the Great Apostasy. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11–12).

The Apostle Paul also knew that Jesus would not return to the earth until after such an apostasy had occurred. Speaking of Christ’s return, Paul said, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). He further warned of the time following his own death: “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).

God’s promised restoration

A restoration of truth was required

God’s plan is for all His children to experience mortality, learn and grow, and return to Him. To do that, all people need salvation through Jesus Christ and the ordinances of His Church such as baptism. Because a correct understanding of the pure gospel and the authority to administer it had become lost over many centuries, a restoration of both became necessary. 

Prophets also foretold a restoration

In the Old Testament, Isaiah knew people would proclaim religion but would be led astray by leaders who taught uninspired principles. However, Isaiah also knew that God promised to return essential truths to the earth. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me…Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:13–14). That marvelous work was the restoration of a knowledge of God’s plan for humankind.

God has restored Christ’s Church today

The Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ began with the humble prayer of a young man. In 1820, Joseph Smith knelt in prayer, asking God which church he should join. God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph in a glorious vision and directed him to not join any of the existing churches. Over time, Joseph was given divine guidance that led to the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

What Christ’s restored Church means

God again granted authority to people to have and use His priesthood to administer ordinances that all people need for salvation. Through the translation of the Book of Mormon and through continued revelation, God has clarified truths that previously were corrupted or lost. God continues to speak through living prophets just as He did during biblical times.

Christ’s Church is here to stay

God has promised that His Church will never again experience a widespread apostasy by which His truth and authority will be removed. As the Old Testament prophet Daniel foretold, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (Daniel 2:44). The truths that were lost during the Great Apostasy are now available to all who earnestly seek them. 

Avoiding personal apostasy

Personal apostasy occurs when an individual rejects or strays from God’s pure doctrine. Unfortunately, sometimes a single apostate can affect the faith of the people around him or her; this is often how larger apostasies begin. But God loves and values all His children (see Luke 12:7) and wants each one to be part of His kingdom. Praying, studying scripture, and keeping the commandments can help you understand God’s will, have faith in true doctrines, and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Constant communication with God

Through prayer and the Holy Ghost, your Heavenly Father will help you recognize and follow truth. The Bible teaches, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).

Seek answers in the scriptures

By consistently studying the word of God, you can build a steady foundation in the gospel of Christ so you won’t be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).

Be obedient

When you practice your religion by keeping the commandments, you are more likely to feel the truth of the gospel of Christ. The scriptures counsel that after you meditate on the scriptures, you should “observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).

Learn more about Jesus Christ’s Church. 

Read what the Book of Mormon says about apostasy and the Restoration of Christ’s Church.

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Joseph Smith’s prayer to God is a remarkable story. Have the missionaries tell you more. Schedule a time to meet with them in your home.