Many years ago I had an interesting conversation with a man who was a member of the Roman Catholic church. He was a great scholar; he must have had a dozen languages at his tongue’s end, and seemed to know all about history, science, law, philosophy, and all the rest of it. We were frank and friendly with each other, and one day he said to me:
“You ‘Mormons’ are all ignoramuses. You don’t even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other position tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Roman Catholic church. The issue is between ‘Mormonism’ and Catholicism. If you are right, we are wrong. If we are right, you are wrong, and that’s all there is to it. These Protestant sects haven’t a leg to stand on; for if we are right, we cut them off long ago, as apostates; and if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, for they were a part of us and came out of us. If we have the apostolic succession from St. Peter, as we claim, there was no need of Joseph Smith and ‘Mormonism;’ but if we have not that apostolic succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary, and ‘Mormonism’s position is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the Gospel from ancient times or the restoration of the Gospel in latter days.”
“Doctor,” said I, “that is a very clear and concise statement, and I agree with it in almost every particular. But don’t deceive yourself with the notion that we ‘Mormons’ don’t know the strength of our own position. We know it better than you do. We know it better than any other people can know it. We haven’t all been to been college, we can’t all speak the dead languages, and we may be ignoramuses as you say; but we know we are right, and we know you are wrong.” I was just as frank with him as he had been with me (Elder Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, April 1928, 60.).
The idea of priesthood authority is vital to the concept of the apostasy and the restoration. If priesthood authority is necessary to perform saving ordinances as LDS claim, then there are only a few possible places that such authority could be found.
I recognize that today Catholicism denies the necessity of priesthood for salvatioon. I recognize that Protestantism largely has always denied such, but the necessity for priesthood to perform saving ordinances is absolutely clear in the scriptures, not to mention that it is logical and reasonable. I think the following explanation is very appealing and rational:
Is it to be wondered at, that from the sixteenth century onward, churches of man’s contriving have multiplied with phenomenal rapidity? Churches and churchly organizations professing Christianity as their creed have come to be numbered by hundreds. On every side is heard in this day, “Lo, here is Christ” or “Lo, there.” There are sects named from the circumstances of their origin-as the Church of England; others after their famous founders or promoters-as Lutheran, Calvinist, Wesleyan; some are known by peculiarities of doctrine or plan of administration-as Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregationalist; but down to the third decade of the nineteenth century there was no church on earth affirming name or title as the Church of Jesus Christ. The only organization called a church existing at that time and venturing to assert claim to authority by succession was the Catholic church, which for centuries had been apostate and wholly bereft of divine authority or recognition. If the “mother church” be without a valid priesthood, and devoid of spiritual power, how can her offspring derive from her the right to officiate in the things of God? Who would dare to affirm that man can originate a priesthood which God is bound to honor and acknowledge? Granted that men may and do create among themselves societies, associations, sects, and even “churches” if they choose so to designate their organizations; granted that they may prescribe rules, formulate laws, and devise plans of operation, discipline, and government, and that all such laws, rules, and schemes of administration are binding upon those who assume membership-granted all these rights and powers-whence can such human institutions derive the authority of the Holy Priesthood, without which there can be no Church of Christ (James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 698.)?
If you accept this as even a possibility, it should give you reason to consider carefully the idea of the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith.