Friday, December 4, 2009

Introducing and Teaching "The Apostasy"

I have taught our ward's Priesthood Preparation class in the past, and one of the lessons in that class is "The Apostasy". I think that designation is a bit misleading, as I believe "The Apostasy" was not a one-time event that lasted for hundreds of years.

When I discuss "The Apostasy", I try to address the foundation concept of apostasy as a historical process and condition of every culture since Adam, then position "The Great Christian Apostasy" as just one of many throughout time. If I'm talking to a Priesthood Prep class, for example, I start with the Great Spirit Apostasy (the War in Heaven), move to the Edenic Apostasy (The Fall), discuss the First Great Mortal Apostasy (from the early patriarchs to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and detail at length the Great Jewish Apostasy of the extended silent heavens (Malachi to John, the Baptist) - before even beginning to address the Great Christian Apostasy. I then move to the concept of "short term apostasy" so prevalent in the Book of Mormon and individual apostasy that always is current - and talk about how easily such "individual and institutional apostasy" can rear its head even in the Restored Church. I point out that the Book of Mormon explicitly describes the on-going effects of apostasy (both the lingering effects of the "incorrect traditions of our fathers" and of the doctrinal misunderstandings new converts bring with them when they are baptized) within the LDS Church itself in the final stages of the allegory of the Lord's vineyard in Jacob 5.

I think this approach is the best way to frame apostasy for those outside our church, since Protestants and Catholics and those of other religions usually understand the basic, historical concept - even if they don't accept our specific view or the solution of The Restoration.

(*Note*: The names of specific historical apostasies are mine and intended only to make broad distinctions. I don't worry in a setting like that about trying to find "the perfect title" for each example of apostasy.)

Also, it is fascinating to compare the criticisms leveled against Jesus and his followers by the Jewish leadership and the criticisms leveled against Joseph Smith and his followers by modern Protestants. The similarities in criticism are incredible - from a closed canon, to blasphemy, to exclusive predestination, to cult charges, to political fears, etc. That foundation (the Jewish reaction to Jesus) provides another good launching pad from which to discuss "The Great Christian Apostasy".


ellen said...

very interesting, ray. there is so much about this church that would be better understood if we had a decent grasp on history -- just plain, old history. creating an accurate historical setting goes a long way toward eliminating skepticism about what was common in the past but looks odd today.

ricke said...

I realize that this is a threadjack, but I'm wondering what approach you take in your classes when people ask why Jesus would establish a church that he knew would fail.

Papa D said...

Thanks, ellen.

ricke, probably just that He respects and honors agency - and that, fundamentally, it didn't fail. When you step back and try to see things from an eternal perspective, the establishment of the early Church was a necessary part of what we have now - which includes the concept of a universally accessible salvation and exaltation. That's not a small thing, and any attempt to organize into a group of believers is a good thing - regardless of how long it lasts. After all, the same criticism could be leveled at the congregations established in the Book of Mormon, as well - but I'm glad they gathered together and left a record of their beliefs and worship.

We tend to measure success AND failure differently than God does, in my opinion.