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The Book of Mormon on Apostasy

By Mormon.org

The Book of Mormon on Apostasy

Apostasy is the departure from core religious beliefs or doctrines. Individuals can experience a personal apostasy by turning away from their religious background. Christianity experienced widespread apostasy, called the Great Apostasy, after the death of Jesus and His Apostles. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon foretold this apostasy but also anticipated a restoration of Christ’s original Church. Indeed, the Book of Mormon was part of this restoration of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.

Apostasy Defined

God withdrew His authority

From the time of Adam and Eve, God has established His gospel and covenant with people. Unfortunately, throughout history, people have also often renounced God and fallen into varying degrees of apostasy—from the people who lived at the time of Noah to the Nephite civilization spoken of in the Book of Mormon.

The Great Apostasy, however, was the first time that pure gospel principles were corrupted and, in some instances, completely abandoned by the world. Essential truths were lost as Christ’s apostles and leaders were martyred, and the authority of God’s priesthood disappeared with their deaths. For many centuries God did not reestablish His authority. During that time the organization of Christ’s original Church was changed, doctrines were reinterpreted, and the holy scriptures were altered or lost. As a result, many Christian factions arose, each claiming different 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).

Book of Mormon prophets also warned of apostasy. The Lamanite prophet Samuel cautioned the Nephite people of what was to come if they did not repent and stay true to their God: “Yea, heavy destruction awaiteth this people, . . . and nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Helaman 13:6). The Nephites did not return to God, and their civilization was eventually destroyed.

Dangers of Apostasy

The Book of Mormon frequently warns of and demonstrates the dangers of apostasy, both to individuals and to society as a whole. It records the stories of several nations that renounced God and were ultimately destroyed.

Apostasy leads to unhappiness

Separating yourself from God and His teachings leads to unhappiness. As the Book of Mormon prophet Alma taught his wayward son Corianton, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). Alma knew this from personal experience because he had “rebelled against [his] God, and . . . had not kept his holy commandments” (Alma 36:13). He described himself as being “racked with eternal torment” (Alma 36:12) before he repented and followed God.

Apostasy stops progression

The Book of Mormon teaches that as you obey, God will give you more truth and understanding. In other words, He will help you progress when you accept and act on the truths you have already received. “For unto him that receiveth I will give more” (2 Nephi 28:30). When you reject or stray from the teachings of His gospel, “from [you] shall be taken away even that which [you] have” (2 Nephi 28:30). Personal apostasy stunts your spiritual growth and keeps you away from God.

Apostasy can happen to anyone

Even people who are dedicated followers of Jesus Christ can fall into apostasy. Because “Satan desireth to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (3 Nephi 18:18), he will try to lead you away from Jesus’s true doctrine. In the Book of Mormon, King Benjamin admonished his people, “If ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish” (Mosiah 4:30). But if you have faith in Jesus and are faithful to His teachings, “ye shall in nowise be cast out” (2 Nephi 25:29).

God Has Promised a Restoration

God’s plan is for all His children to experience mortality, learn and grow, and return to His presence. To do that, all people need salvation through Jesus Christ and the saving ordinances of His Church, such as baptism. These ordinances were unavailable in times of apostasy, so a restoration of God’s pure gospel and an organized way to administer it became necessary.

Prophets foretold the Restoration of Jesus Christ’s Church

The prophet Isaiah knew people would be led astray by false teachings. 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, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:13–14). These words are repeated in the Book of Mormon (see 2 Nephi 27:25–26).

Jesus Christ has restored His Church

The marvelous work God spoke of was the restoration of His gospel, which began with the humble prayer of a young man. In 1820, Joseph Smith knelt to pray and ask God which of all the Christian churches he should join. In answer to his prayer, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the young man and directed Joseph not to join an existing church. Instead, Joseph was chosen to organize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph’s simple prayer led to the beginning of God’s restoration of lost truths, direct communication again through a prophet, and the translation of additional scripture called the Book of Mormon.  

Christ’s Church offers necessary gospel ordinances

As part of the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ, God again authorized people to have and use His priesthood to administer ordinances like baptism, which all people need for salvation. Through the translation of the Book of Mormon and through continuing revelation, God clarified truths that were corrupted and reinstated truths that were lost. These truths teach us what we need to know to return one day to God’s presence. God continues to speak through living prophets today, just as He did during biblical times.

Jesus Christ’s Church will remain

God has promised that His Church will never again experience widespread apostasy. His truth and authority will never again be removed from the earth. “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 lost during the Great Apostasy have been restored and are now available to all who earnestly seek them. 

You can avoid personal apostasy

The Book of Mormon ends with the widespread apostasy and destruction of the Nephite nation. The book records how that apostasy began with the disbelief of a few individuals and explains how you can avoid personal apostasy.

Repent

You can avoid personal apostasy when you repent of your sins. “The way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him” (1 Nephi 10:18).

Be obedient

When you strive to keep the commandments, God will help you recognize truth. “blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more” (2 Nephi 28:30).

Pray

When you are trying to understand God’s truth and hold fast to His doctrine, pray for guidance. “If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you” (1 Nephi 15:11).

Attend church

When Jesus visited the people of the ancient Americas, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, He counseled them to “meet together oft” (3 Nephi 18:22) that they might “feel and see” His true doctrine and not “be led into temptation” (3 Nephi 18:25; see also 3 Nephi 22–25). By attending church regularly, you can learn Jesus’s true doctrine. As you commit to live by it, you can avoid personal apostasy.

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