Lesson 13 in this year’s Gospel Doctrine class is on Jacob 5-7 from the Book of Mormon. These chapters mainly deal with an allegory of the olive tree. Part of this allegory describes what the LDS Church calls the Great Apostasy – the centuries from around 100 AD, the death of the last apostle, to 1820 AD when Joseph Smith is claimed to have seen Heavenly Father and Jesus. During these many centuries, the LDS Church claims that the true church was removed from the earth. No longer, according to it, was true doctrine taught. It states that this was a fulfillment of Amos 8:11-12 which prophesied a famine of God’s Word.
As a corollary to this, the LDS Church now claims to be “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased.” (D&C 1:30). Some Mormons have tried to explain this by saying that this doesn’t mean that the LDS Church is the only true and living church – it’s the only true and living church with which the Lord is pleased. I don’t know how many LDS members hold to that explanation, but it really puts the Lord into a bad light. If that is true that means there are some true and living churches with whom the Lord is not pleased. Is that fair on the part of the Lord? And that really doesn’t fit in with the teaching of the Great Apostasy either. As Gospel Principles states, “The true Church was no longer on the earth” (p. 95). That also doesn’t fit in with the LDS position that the Apostasy was in fulfillment of Amos 8:11-12 which talks about a time when the word of the Lord was not just corrupted but could not be found.
In other words, Mormonism itself draws a sharp distinction between it and all other churches. Why then are Christians often lambasted when they draw the same distinction?
But even more important is the reason why Christians make this distinction. I will be the first to admit that not every Christian’s motive for doing so is good. But most Christians I know repeatedly come back and make this distinction because they want to impress upon their Mormon acquaintances that Mormonism is completely different from the teachings of biblical Christianity. As such, it is our heartfelt belief, that it is not leading people to eternally living with Heavenly Father but rather to an eternity in outer darkness. That is something we don’t want anybody to experience. Therefore we highlight the differences in an attempt to have people examine them more closely – with the hope and prayer that many Mormons will come to know that living with Heavenly Father doesn’t depend on their own worthiness or their receiving temple ordinances, but depends entirely on the worthiness that Christ freely and fully gives us.