What Is Apostasy?
In order to grasp the implications of what has and is taking place within the Church, it is crucial to understand what apostasy truly is. Without this grounding awareness, we may be vulnerable to being, like an airborne kite, “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”1 without even knowing it. Furthermore, without the recognition of apostasy where it has occurred, it will be very difficult—perhaps even impossible—to recognize the Lord’s marvelous work and wonder as it unfolds.
It is important to become familiar with the patterns of apostasy in the scriptures in the past because if we don’t, then it could be happening around us without us any recognition that it’s going on. Then, without any idea of what it looks like we would be unaware, and therefore, vulnerable to be participating in the apostasy ourselves. We would lack the scriptural understanding that would capacitate us to see things as they really are, and as they really will be.2 The scriptures contain types and shadows that help us to recognize what will be repeated in the endtime, and unfortunately, what is taking place now. Equipped with this knowledge we can then remain true and faithful to the Lord without participating in the apostasy.
To demonstrate this with a visual analogy, imagine that you were hunting in the woods without any prior understanding or knowledge of bears, mountain lions, or other physical threats to your safety. You had no idea what these animals were, how they attack their prey, or any understanding of signs that you are being followed or tracked. Without any awareness of a threat you could suddenly be attacked and you’d be dead. It is very similar spiritually with apostasy. We must know what the signs are so that we recognize it and avoid participating in it. First, we must wrap our minds around the possibility of the idea. Concerning the inevitability of apostasy, even in the latter-days, H. Verlan Andersen wrote:
“Religious history testifies that, with the single exception of the inhabitants of the City of Enoch, no people to whom the gospel has been given have remained faithful to their covenants for more than a few generations. Time after time the Lord has established his Church among a group who have lived his commandments for a few years and then fallen away thus bringing upon themselves his judgments. This cycle of human folly which so many prophets have noted, has repeated itself with such consistent regularity, that any group which finds itself to be the favored recipients of the gospel would do well to assume that their own apostasy is certain and the only question about it is how long it will take. . .
People who regard themselves as members of the only true Church have the fatal tendency to consider themselves immune from the disease of deception. Knowing that they belong to the Lord’s Church and have his scriptures and his prophet to guide them, they blindly assume that this adequately protects them against false beliefs. All history teaches the folly of such an assumption, and the scriptures specifically deny its validity.”3
The Lord has never said there wouldn’t be a latter-day apostasy. While many will quote statements by leaders within the Church stating that the Church would never fall, it is important to recognize two things: (1) those words are coming from individuals who you would expect to say that, and (2) this is not the Lord speaking. Jesus Christ is the spirit of truth4, and the keys He has given for avoiding deception are His words in the scriptures, and His words to us directly through the Holy Spirit.5 Unsurprisingly, these two keys work in tandem. When we analyze things according to His words in the scriptures, we then allow ourselves to be guided accordingly by His voice through the Holy Spirit. Analysis with these two keys as our foundation allows us to observe these statements by the Lord with eyes to see and ears to hear:
“For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire.”6
“Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me.”7
“But they receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men. And in that generation shall the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”8
“Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord. And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord; First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.”9
What would cause statements like this other than apostasy? As, when, not if now becomes the concern, we must prepare ourselves to correctly perceive what brings about the prophesied results of division, denial, and judgment being poured out.
Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines apostasy as simply “an abandonment of what one has professed; a total desertion, or departure from one’s faith or religion.” Abandonment, desertion, and departure are very accurate terms to describe this phenomenon. Apostasy can occur on different levels ranging from individuals and small groups to nations and entire organizations of the Lord’s covenant people.
While many actions may accurately be described as apostate, it is important to note, as one Latter-day Saint author wrote, that “if there is one thing that we should understand about apostasy, it is that apostasy is not an event, it is a process. If we study the apostasy that occurred after the time of Christ we will never be able to find a single event or date that “flipped the switch,” so to speak, and changed Christ’s church from true to false. Rather, what we find is that it was slowly dismantled and corrupted over a long period of time. This is true of most apostasies.”10 Hugh Nibley provided insight concerning the apostasy described in the New Testament, stating that it was “not desertion of the cause, but perversion of it, a process by which ‘the righteous are removed, and none perceives it.’ The Christian masses do not realize what is happening to them; they are ‘bewitched’ by a thing that comes as softly and insidiously as the slinging of a noose.”11 Because this process occurs subtly, it can be hard to notice the gradual descent. Serious study coupled with eyes to see and ears to hear are required. Unfortunately, however, even when the severity of the downward departure is pointed out to many, they disregard it. As Christ said, “they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.”12 Like Amulek, many will later acknowledge “I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know.”13
While there are many observable components, the central element at the heart of all apostasy is idolatry. It is a fundamental misplacement of priorities and trust that leads to turning away from the Lord, His laws, and His words. The invitation to have “no other gods before me”14 is brushed aside as “the only true God”15 is replaced, among many other things, by self, others, religious and political leaders, money, and vain things of the world. This diversion is often difficult to distinguish because it occurs as we are progressively pacified and lulled away into carnal security. “And thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leaders them carefully down to hell.”16 To make matters worse, those entangled in the apostasy rarely acknowledge what is taking place. Hugh Nibley keenly observed:
“Important in the record of the dispensations is that when men depart from God’s way and substitute their own ways in its place they usually do not admit that that is what they are doing; often they do not deliberately or even consciously substitute their ways for God’s ways; on the contrary, they easily and largely convince themselves that their way is God’s way.”17
Avraham Gileadi expressed very similar sentiments:
“In pointing to parallels of idolatry between the Lord’s people anciently and today, we must not presume that people worship only false gods. Among the Lord’s people, worship of the true God is rarely done away with. Rather, they often worship the true God alongside the false gods. They maintain a careful equilibrium in order to preserve an identity with…the God of Israel… At the same time, the people follow their own gods as they please. This compromise enables people to satisfy both their carnal instincts and their spiritual aspirations.”18
H. Verlan Andersen additionally wrote:
“In the great majority of cases where apostasy has occurred, it appears that the people became wicked while believing themselves righteous. This happened time and time again to the Children of Israel, and the Nephites, and was plainly evident in the case of the Jews at the time of Christ.”19
Paul wrote of people in the last days he described as “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers…without natural affection [homosexuals], truce breakers, false accusers..despisers of those that are good…lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” still outwardly maintaining a “form of godliness.”20 He likewise spoke of the gentiles in his day walking naively “in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.”21 Clearly, idolatry brings spiritual blindness, enabling the devil to flatter us away “until he grasps [us] with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.”22
While Avraham Gileadi observed that “idolatry—the worship of false gods—constitutes apostasy,” he also noted that “so do other kinds of wickedness” and that idolatry doesn’t “cover the whole field of apostasy.”23 It is comprised of many features, and I have chosen here to only briefly include some of the major ones so the concept can be understood.24
Elements that Make Up the Pattern of Apostasy
In a state of apostasy, there is a severe departure from the ways of God. Rote religious activities replace true worship.25 A gradual dilution of doctrine26 and the lowering of doctrinal expectations occurs because what the scriptures promise is not actually being experienced.27 Meanwhile, those few who do have miraculous spiritual experiences such as dreams, visions, visitations, etc. are persecuted and ostracized for it because of envy and pride.28 People are watched and spied on by leaders,29 and speaking the truth becomes a dangerous practice which causes many to falter and capitulate.30
In a state of apostasy, many profess to know and serve God while living in wickedness,31 whereas others engage in religious behaviors while omitting the weightier matters;32 the actions of neither are in line with what they proclaim, each qualifying for the label of hypocrite.33 The meetings and worship that take place become pious and rote,34 so much so they become a detestable burden to the Lord, and He is “weary of putting up with them.”35
In a state of apostasy, the Lord’s words are perverted36 and false teachings and precepts of men become established as the norm,37 causing many to err,38 deny the power of God,39 and even reject more truth when it is brought forth.40 All manner of wickedness and immorality, including homosexuality41 are practiced, embraced, and supported.42 True love of God is replaced with widespread disobedience43 of His commands and counsels.
In a state of apostasy, people’s hearts are set upon riches and the vain things of the world.44 Their hearts are puffed up with pride and they wear costly apparel45, the people are divided into classes and distinguished by ranks.46 The truth of Nibley’s statement that “the more important wealth is, the less important it is how one gets it,”47 is then directly manifest with sins such as being scornful, persecuting others, murder, plunder, stealing, and bearing false witness against neighbors.48 This condition culminates with a sin the Lord has little tolerance for—the neglect of the poor and needy.49
In a state of apostasy, political pressure and expediency take precedence over God’s will for His people, and the religious policies begin to mirror the civic policies of Babylon. Men are feared more than God, and approval from worldly governments, organizations, and institutions is sought for. “‘What will men think of [us]?’ weighs heavier than “What will God think of [us]?’”50 Every effort is then made to become popular with the world rather than remaining a peculiar people. Eventually, the effort to please men begins to take the form of following men, and trusting in the arm of flesh.51
In a state of apostasy, the political and ecclesiastical leaders not only continue to stay on par with each other in their downward spiral, but eventually they collude and conspire together in their wickedness.52 Secret combinations that commit secret murders and atrocities are built up and supported, even within the church.53 Prophets and seers blunder in their decisions and prophesy falsely, speaking peace, flattery, and lies, causing many to err.54 The temple is polluted, corrupted, and ordinances are changed.55 Without these ordinances in their pure form, the power of Godliness begins to significantly decline56. That which is sacred, including ordinances and priesthood,57 is then administered to those whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness.58 Covenants are then rendered void, and of no effect.
In a state of apostasy, blind compliance to wicked religious and civic authorities abounds while anyone who questions what is being taught, changed, or instituted is immediately labeled as a “doubter,” “conspiracy theorist,” or ‘heretic,” and is ostracized accordingly. Some who inwardly can sense what is taking place follow along in shame because they are too afraid to outwardly take a stand. These colluding political and ecclesiastical forces combine to persecute, and even kill the humble followers of Christ, all the while thinking they are doing God a service.59 Covenants with death are formed60, as money and security are promised with the pushing of the Satanic agenda as collateral. Meanwhile, those guilty of murder are delivered from the grasp of justice,61 and the liberty of the people is destroyed.
Just as a conspiracy is most effective when nobody believes it is real, an apostasy is most dangerous when nobody thinks it’s taking place—when the theme is consistent flattery that “All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well.”62 The pattern of apostasy presented above is given for a baseline understanding of the topic with the hope that the reader will prayerfully consider the elements presented and thereby recognize the inevitable apostasy of God’s people in the endtime.
The content for this post is taken from chapter 4 of my book Upon My House Shall It Begin. Available in paperback and ebook.
1 Ephesians 4:14
2 D&C 93:24
3 H. Verlan Andersen, The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 178, 186
4 D&C 93:26
5 JST Matt.1:37; D&C 45:57
6 2 Nephi 30:10
7 2 Nephi 28:32
8 D&C 45:29-30
9 D&C 112:24-26
10 The Apostasy of the LDS Church, Curtis Porritt, p. 48-49
11 Hugh Nibley, When the Lights Went Out, 1; Early Christian View p. 6
12 Matthew 13:13
13 Alma 10:6
14 Exodus 20:3
15 John 17:3
16 2 Nephi 28:21
17 Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless, p. 288
18 Gileadi, The Last Days: Types and Shadows from the Bible and The Book of Mormon, p. 12-13
19 H. Verlan Andersen, The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, p. 184
20 2 Timothy 3:2-5
21 Ephesians 4:18
22 2 Nephi 28:22
23 Gileadi, Types & Shadows, p. 10
24 For an in depth study of patterns of idolatry and apostasy the reader is directed to chapter 1 of Avraham Gileadi’s book The Last Days: Types and Shadows from the Bible and the Book of Mormon titled “Twelve Diatribes of Modern Israel” and Hugh Nibley’s article “The Passing of the Primitive Church: Forty Variations on an Unpopular Theme” which can be found in his books When the Lights Went Out or Mormonism and Early Christianity.
25 Alma 31:11-23
26 Isaiah 28:7-10, Gileadi Translation
27 Mor. 7:37, 10:24
28 4 Nephi 1:29
29 Mosiah 11:12-13, 18:3-5
30 John 12:42-43
31 Titus 1:16
32 Matt. 23:23
33 More. 8:38; D&C 50:6; D&C 104:55
34 Alma 31:20-24
35 Isaiah 1:13-14
36 Jer. 3:21, 23:36; 1 Nephi 22:14; Mosiah 12:26
37 2 Nephi 27:25
38 2 Nephi 28:14
39 2 Nephi 28:26
40 D&C 45:29
41 Isa. 3:9; Rom. 1:24-27; 2 Ne. 13:9
42 Rom. 1:29-32; Mos. 11:2; Alma 1:32
43 Eph. 2:2
44 Alma 1:16; Alma 5:37; Alma 31:27; Hel. 12:4; 3 Ne. 6:15
45 Alma 5:53; 4 Nephi 1:24
46 3 Nephi 6:12; 4 Nephi 1:26
47 Since Cumorah, Hugh Nibley [Insert page]
48 Alma 4:8; Hel. 7:21
49 Isaiah 3:14-15; Ezek. 22:29; 2 Nephi 28:13; Alma 5:55
50 Ezra Taft Benson, Beware of Pride, April 1989
51 2 Ne. 4:34
52 Isaiah 1:23, 3:12-14, 9:14, 19:13-14; Matt. 26:3-5, 57-66; Mosiah 11:5-7, 17:11-12; 3 Ne. 6:27
53 Hel. 6:38
54 Isaiah 3:129:14-16, 28:7, 29:9; 4 Nephi 1:34
55 Ezek. 8:3-16; Jer. 7:30, 23:11; 1 Macc. 1:54; Mal. 3:7; 3 Nephi 24:7; D&C 1:15; D&C 124:46
56 D&C 84:20-21
57 1Kings 12:31
58 4 Nephi 1:27
59 John 16:2
60 3 Ne. 6:27-30; Isaiah 28:14-15
61 Hel. 7:4-6; 3 Ne. 6:30
62 2 Nephi 28:21