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Apostasy/Priesthood on earth during the apostasy
Priesthood on the earth during the apostasy
Question: Was the priesthood on earth during the apostasy?
It is argued by some that the LDS doctrine of the apostasy is incoherent, since the apostasy teaches that God's authority was lost. Critics then ask about John the Revelator, or the Three Nephites, and ask whether they had the priesthood. However, they fail to distinguish between someone holding the priesthood, and someone being authorized to exercise the priesthood in forming the Church, conferring blessings, ordinations, and spiritual gifts.
The apostasy refers to a lack of the latter, not the former.
The apostasy refers to the absence of the kingdom (i.e, Church) of Jesus Christ on the earth
The apostasy refers to the absence of the kingdom (i.e, Church) of Jesus Christ on the earth. This is not to say that there may not be some who hold the priesthood, but they have no authority or authorization to establish the Church or perform its ordinances.
Presidents J. Reuben Clark, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee went so far as to teach that the presence of such priesthood holders during periods of apostasy were, in their opinion, a necessity:
President [J. Reuben] Clark said something that startled some folks years ago. He said, "It is my faith that the gospel plan has always been here, that his priesthood has always been here on the earth, and that it will continue to be so until the end comes" (in Conference Report, October 1953, p. 39). When that conference session was over there were many who said, "My goodness, doesn't President Clark realize that there have been periods of apostasy following each dispensation of the gospel?"
I walked over to the Church Office Building with President Joseph Fielding Smith and he said, "I believe there has never been a moment of time since the creation that God has abandoned the earth to Satan. There has always been someone holding the priesthood on the earth to hold Satan in check." And then I thought of Enoch's city with perhaps thousands who were taken into heaven and were translated. They must have been translated for a purpose and may have sojourned with those living on the earth ever since that time. I have thought of Elijah—and perhaps Moses; for all we know they were translated beings, as was John the Revelator. I have thought of the Three Nephites. Why were they translated and permitted to tarry? For what purpose? An answer was suggested when I heard President Smith make the above statement. Now, that doesn't mean that the kingdom of God has always been present, because these men did not have the authority to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel to the world. But these individuals were translated for a purpose known to the Lord. There is no question but what they were here.
Question: Since John the Apostle and the three Nephites did not die, then how could there have been a "complete apostasy" on the earth?
Latter-day Saints believe these men were "translated," meaning that their bodies were changed to a higher state, preliminary to the resurrection, and now "they are as the angels of God"
Does the existence of these four men on the earth, Paul and the Three Nephites, who were obviously "church members," contradict the notion of a "complete apostasy?" The fact is that Latter-day Saints believe these men were "translated," meaning that their bodies were changed to a higher state, preliminary to the resurrection, and now "they are as the angels of God." (3 Nephi 28:30) If, as Joseph Smith said, translated beings are "held in reserve to be ministering angels," how could the fact that God left priesthood-holding angels on the Earth (who did not transmit their priesthood to others) have any bearing on the question of whether the apostasy was "total?" Rather, this illustrates the LDS belief in God's loving concern for His children even during periods of apostasy.
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here