I plan on doing a series of posts on the apostasy of the early Christian church the next few days. In order to start the series I would like to pose the question: Why study the apostasy of the early Christian church?
It’s been remarked that a person can’t appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice for sin until he realizes how much he needs to be saved. Likewise, I don’t think a person can begin to appreciate the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith until he recognizes there was an apostasy and what the apostasy really entailed.
Further, it is difficult to teach individuals about the restored gospel if we don’t understand why it was needed or what it sought to restore. I think this may be what Joseph Fielding Smith had in mind when he wrote,
All the men holding the priesthood should have a thorough understanding of the development of false doctrine and the gradual change which took place, after the death of the apostles, which transformed the Church of Jesus Christ into a system as far removed from the primitive Church as are the poles of our hemispheres (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:268)
Also, I believe that there is a power in understanding doctrine. Boyd K. Packer taught,
True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. (Boyd K. Packer, “Little Children.” Ensign, November 1986.)
So, the next few days I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned about the apostasy and I’d love to hear from each of you what you have learned. I’m certainly no expert.