Thank you for responding. My purpose is to come to an understanding of others, and their way of worship. If I offend you, I apologize. This is not my intent. It’s interesting to see how others interpret the scripture. I would like to continue with this discussion, and again thank you for taking the time to respond. I know that you’re a man of faith, and that you are doing a great work. I would like to address some things in your message, as of course, the way a crazy Mormon would. I hope you find it interesting, if not entertaining at the same time. Let’s start with the ‘early Christian writers.’
Just as Jesus prepared for His ministry during a forty day fast (Matthew 4:1-2) so were the Apostles tutored for forty days before being sent forth to preach the gospel to the world. As we read in Luke, the Apostles were shown “many infallible proofs” of which we have no written record of in the Bible. Jesus used this time to teach the Apostles sacred things “pertaining to the kingdom of God.” In turn, the Apostles taught these men (the Apostolic Fathers) many of these sacred things, of which their writings contain.
The Apostolic Fathers received their authority from the Apostles and Jesus Christ Himself. “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock (Authority) I will build my church….And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven;( Priesthood) and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19) The highlighted part of the passage refers to Temple work; that is, why we do work for the dead, but that’s another subject.
The Apostolic Fathers were very much inspired, by the Spirit and inspired to record the gospel that they had learned, and been made the charge of by the Apostles.
“The church continued until then as a pure and uncorrupt virgin; whilst if there were any at all that attempted to pervert the sound doctrine of the saving Gospel, they were yet skulking in dark retreats; but when the sacred choir of Apostles became extinct, and the generation of those that had been privileged to hear their inspired wisdom had passed away, then also the combinations of impious error arose by the fraud and delusions of the false teachers. These also, as there were none Apostles left, henceforth attempted, without shame to preach their false doctrine against the Gospel of truth.” (Hegesippus-Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History)
Of course, I don’t know your thoughts on the ‘apostasy.’ Mormons believe that there was an apostasy and that is why the gospel needed to be restored. Why did God work through prophets anciently, through Christ when he was on earth, and though the apostles after His death but then suddenly ends the prophetic voice? And with so many avenues available for worship, it’s clear in my Mormon mind that an apostasy occurred. Your interpretation of Jude was interesting, pertaining to revelation. This is how my Mormon mind interprets Jude. First, your statement:
As Jude stated, "Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). Our salvation was delivered once, for all people for all times. Jude makes it clear that there would not be further revelations, so yes, the closing was by Divine decree several centuries before various councils met
(This is not in the King James version of the Bible, which I use.)
Paul and Peter wrote in the 50’s and 60’s as a witness to the problems within the Church. Paul told the Elders at Ephesus that as soon as he was gone false teachers would arise and deceive many. The later writings of Jude and John, 80’s and 90’s tell us that the “apostasy” had gotten much worse. Jude wrote his epistle to warn of the false teachers who were in the Church. “It was needful for me to….exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our god into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:3-4) Jude explains that this warning was from the Apostles and that this was the ‘apostasy’ foretold in the earlier New Testament writings. “But beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the Apostles of our lord Jesus Christ: how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lust” (Jude 1: 17-18) why did Jude refer to his day as ‘the last time’? John wrote, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”(1 John 2:18) did John and Jude think that it was the ‘last time ‘because Christ was about to come back, or because they knew that the Church was full of antichrists, and would not survive? Paul and Peter told the Church not to worry yet about the Lords return saying “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition”(2 Thess 2:3) “one day is with the lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years one day” (2 Peter 3:8). So it was not the ‘last time’ because the Lord was going to return (obviously not), but because the Antichrist had come and the church was soon to be taken from the earth. Now, let’s look at ‘the restitution of all things.’ Here is your statement:
Since Peter's emphasis is on listening and obeying the teachings of Christ that were given to these people, the time of restoration of all things does not imply that the gospel itself would need to be restored. Such a reading would not even match Mormon doctrine since the statement is that Jesus would return when it was time for the restoration of all things. Since Mormons do not believe the return has happened yet, it follows that the restoration of all things has not happened yet.
Peter said the heavens must receive Jesus “until the times of the restitution of all things” (Acts 3:20-21) Was this a reference to the millennial reign of Christ, or a reference to the fact that the gospel would have to be restored before that reign. Peter gives us a clue where he announced that “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7) He also warned of the “fiery trail” which was coming to them, for “judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:12, 17) “All things” was a reference to pure gospel teaching. “according to his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness though the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3) unless Peter was mistaken about the timing of the Lords second advent, which he was not (see 2 Peter 3:8) what was the end of all things, but the loss of pure gospel teaching? And what could a ‘restitution of all things’ be but the restoration of the gospel?
This point is supported by the LDS doctrine of Elias. “Elias” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Elijah” In the last verses of the Old testament the promise is made: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord…” (Malachi 4:5) After Elijah himself appeared before Jesus, Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus told his disciples to tell no one of the vision until after His resurrection from the dead. But then the Apostles asked: “Why say the scribes that Elias must come first? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall the Son of Man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:3-13) what did Jesus mean when He said that John the Baptist was Elias, even though Elijah and Moses had just appeared? The angel Gabriel told John’s father that he would “go before him (Christ) in the spirit of Elias...”(Luke 1:17) therefore, it must be that certain people who are called of God to be forerunners of the kingdom, as John was, act in “the spirit and power of Elias” this must apply to other prophets as well as John, for Jesus not only said that “Elias has come already,” but also that “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” So a restoration would still be needed in the future. Noting the many persons the revelations of Joseph Smith identify as “Elias,” Bruce R. McConkie sums up the LDS doctrine: “Elias is a composite personage. The expression must be understood to be a name and a title for those whose mission it was to commit keys and powers to men in this final dispensation” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine) As with the Lords first advent, LDS believe that Elijah himself was one of the heavenly visitors who appeared to Joseph Smith to restore the original “keys and powers” (see D&C 110) I will send to you another response about the Book of Mormon and the Three Degrees.
P.S.” The Savior is to be manifested again at the end of the world as Judge, It is a matter of course that His forerunners must appear first, as He says by Malachi and the angel,(Malachi 4:5-6) these, then, shall come proclaim the manifestation of Christ that is to be from heaven; and they shall also perform signs and wonders, in order that men may be put to shame and turned to repentance for their surpassing wickedness and impiety” (Hippolytus 170-236 A.D.)
You bring up a large number of points. I listed out the main ones below, though I doubt I came close to addressing every issue raised.
Were the infallible proofs not recorded?
"The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:1-3).
Luke begins his second book by giving a summary of what he discussed in his first book. The first book, Luke, covered what Jesus did and taught up until his ascension. His ascension came after he spent time with the apostles teaching them and proving to them that he was alive.
You state that these proofs were not recorded, but that is a claim that Luke did not make. The last few chapters of each of the gospel account list out many proofs that Jesus was alive. Paul also makes a list of witnesses to the resurrection at the beginning of I Corinthians 15. Many infallible proofs were recorded, and it is upon these proofs that Christianity rests; that is the theme of I Corinthians 15. "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain" (I Corinthians 15:1-2).
Were there traditions passed on not recorded in the Bible?
You suggest that the early Christian writers were taught things that the apostles learned which were not recorded.
Jesus told the apostles they would receive inspiration from the Holy Spirit. "These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" (John 14:25-26). Thus, with the Spirit's aid, the apostles had perfect memory of everything Jesus taught them. The Spirit would also teach them some additional things Jesus wanted them to know, but which things they were not at the time ready to understand. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:12-15). Notice that this disclosure would not be partial; the Spirit would guide the apostles into all truth.
The apostles were not reluctant to reveal what they were taught. God revealed Himself to them and they, in turn, taught that revelation. "However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him." But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual" (I Corinthians 2:6-13).
They did not just verbally give this revelation. It was written down so that all Christians would know it. "For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles-- if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets: that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel" (Ephesians 3:1-6). By reading what Paul wrote, we understand the things which in past ages was a mystery to mankind. The purpose of writing was to share what the apostles knew. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life-- the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us-- that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full" (I John 1:1-4).
Along with this revelation came confirmation from God that the things being taught were in fact God's words. "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (II Peter 1:16-21). Peter is stating that what was written wasn't their own personal spin on what they thought. The claim is that these are God's own words, confirmed by the miracles that accompanied the teachers. "And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen" (Mark 16:20).
This then leaves the question, how complete were their records? "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (II Timothy 3:16-17). The record is complete enough that a man following them is equipped for every good work -- that doesn't leave much of a gap, does it? "As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue" (II Peter 1:3). God's power has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness. Where? Through the knowledge of Him; that is, though the record of what He taught.
Were the early Christian writers inspired?
Unlike the apostles and prophets recorded in the Bible, the early Christian writers did not claim to be inspired. For example, Origin disproves the claim of one false prophet by pointing out that there hasn't been prophets in the church for a while. "Celsus is not to be believed when he says that he has heard such men prophesy. For no prophets bearing any resemblance to the ancient prophets have appeared in the time of Celsus [i.e. the second century]" [Origin, c. 248 A.D.] Rather, what you find is strong adherence to the inspiration of what was already given in the Scriptures.
"It is impossible to learn anything true about religion from your [pagan] teachers. For, by their mutual disagreement, they have furnished you with sufficient proof of their own ignorance. Therefore, I think it is reasonable to return to our forefathers. For they have precedence over your teachers in a great way. First, they precede them in time. Second, they have taught us nothing from their own private opinions. They have not differed with one another, nor have they attempted to overturn each other's position. Rather, without any wrangling or contention, they received from God the knowledge that they also taught to us. For neither by nature nor by human conception is it possible to know things that are so great and divine. It is possible only by the gift that descended from above upon the holy men. These men had no need of the rhetorical arts, nor of uttering anything in a contentious or quarrelsome manner. Rather, they presented themselves in a pure manner to the energy of the Divine Spirit, so that the divine plectrum itself could descend from heaven and use these righteous men as an instrument like a harp or lyre. Thereby, the Divine Spirit could reveal to us the knowledge of things divine and heavenly. Accordingly, they have taught us in succession as though with one mouth and one tongue. They have taught us in harmony with each other concerning God, the creation of the world, the formation of man, the immortality of the human soul, and the judgment that is to be after this life." [Justin Martyr, c. 160].
These men did not claim inspiration. They stood in defense of the inspired word already given. Justin Martyr gives a good definition of prophecy that would do you well to learn: A prophet speaks in harmony with the prophetic words given before -- something that Joseph Smith's writings do not accomplish. Instead, he resorted to claiming that the prior writings were corrupted to explain away why his writings did not agree.
Did the predicted apostasy mean the Bible was corrupted?
The Bible states that there would be a falling away or an apostasy from the truth. No one contends that the apostasy did not happen. But what you do is assume that the apostasy caused the very word of God to become corrupt.
First, there is no evidence of any major alterations in the Scriptures. We have nearly 6,000 manuscripts. Some date back to the first and second century, yet they show no changes. The early Christian writers, some who personally remembered the apostles talking about people trying to introduce changes, but they laughed at the very audacity of people attempting to change what God gave.
Second, that is to be expected because God stated repeatedly that He protects His word. Jesus was able to prove His point from the Old Testament because "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). But Joseph Smith calls Jesus a liar when he claims that the Scriptures were supposedly broken and altered to suit men of depraved minds. Jesus stated that his words would outlast the world: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away" (Matthew 24:35).
God has always preserved His word. "Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides. They continue this day according to Your ordinances, for all are Your servants" (Psalms 119:89-91). And that preserving power continues with the New Testament:
"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because "All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the LORD endures forever." Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you" (I Peter 1:22-25).
The permanent word was the gospel that was already preached, not a promise of a future restoration. The word of God is enduring; a fact that has been proven by 2,000 years of Christian history.
The apostasy referred to the false teachings people made in the name of God. "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth" (I Timothy 4:1-3). But there is no statement that the truth itself would be corrupted. Rather people are urged to be on guard against corruption by comparing the false teachings against the enduring word of God. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1).
When is the end of all things?
"But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers" (I Peter 4:7).
The phrase "is at hand" means that it is close and typically referred to events within a person's lifetime. For example, "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"" (Matthew 4:17). When would it happen? "And He said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power"" (Mark 9:1). Therefore, "the end of all things" must refer to something close to the time when Peter wrote these words. It obviously does not refer, in this case to the second coming of Christ, since 2,000 years is not "at hand." Nor would it be legitimate to apply it to Mormonism which didn't start until 1,800 years after it was written.
The answer is within the context. "They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" (I Peter 4:5-9). Peter is warning Christians to behave properly because each person must given an account of himself before God. It is for the change in the person that the gospel is taught to those who are currently lost (dead in a spiritual sense) so that they might be saved. There is a urgency to the teaching because "the end of all things is at hand." What Peter is referring to is on a individual basis. There is an urgency to teaching the gospel to the lost and a need for people to be righteous because the end of their life is ever close. Paul gives the same thoughts: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences" (II Corinthians 5:10-11).
Just because Peter states that gospel contains "all things pertaining to life and godliness" it does not follow that every use of the words "all things" refers to the gospel. In the very next verse, "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins"" (I Peter 4:8). Are you willing to say that Peter means "above the gospel?" Obviously that doesn't make sense. Or in the verse, "For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted" (I Corinthians 15:27), are you willing to say that the Father only put the gospel under Jesus' feet?
What did the "restitution of all things" refer to?
The last verse brings us to Peter's sermon. "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-21). Peter is stating the Jesus must remain in heaven until "the times of restoration of all things." Rather than guessing what Peter meant or arbitrarily assigning meaning to phrases by pulling other verses out of context, lets find other passages that also talk about when Jesus will return.
"Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For "He has put all things under His feet." But when He says "all things are put under Him," it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all" (I Corinthians 15:24-28).
What is interesting is that Paul also talks about "all things" in this passage and it is obviously not a discussion of the gospel being restored. Paul's point is that Christ will reign in heaven until all things are made subject to him -- there is the restoration that Peter was talking about because when the world was made all things were subject to God. The very last thing to be destroyed will be death. That too makes sense because when Jesus comes again, all the dead shall rise. "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth --those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:28-29). Or as Paul put it, "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"" (I Corinthians 15:52-55).
Could Joseph Smith be Elijah?
"And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist" (Matthew 17:10-13).
The question arose because God announced that Jesus was the Son of God, but Jesus had just talked about his death. The disciples were confused because they remembered the prophecy that stated Elijah was to come first and restore all things. Jesus stated that Elijah did come first and the disciples realized that Jesus was referring to John the Baptist. Jesus' second coming is not under discussion in this passage. There has been no promise of yet another Elijah coming before Jesus' second coming.
The "restore all things" is parallel to the prophecy under discussion. "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6). Restoring "all things" is equivalent to turning the people's hearts back to where they belonged. That is what John did and had accomplished. As the angel prophesied, "He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). And that is what John did, "And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'"" (Luke 3:3-6). As Jesus stated, "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come" (Matthew 11:13-14).
The prophecy was fulfilled in John. That is what Jesus stated. There is no promise of another to prepare the way for the Lord.