We frequently hear that in 1820, Joseph Smith restored the true Church. Most members of the LDS church will say that the true church was removed from the earth after the death of the apostles, and that those churches that existed in Joseph Smith's time had apostatized. Naturally, those churches that continue in the doctrines and creeds of the churches of that time would be included in the general apostasy that Joseph Smith claims was present on the earth at that time.
The claim that Joseph Smith restored the true church of Jesus Christ to the earth implies that no other church is a true church. When our LDS friends make this claim, they should be aware of what they are saying. They believe that every other church is an apostate church. Although our LDS friends will frequently complement our church and the work that we are doing, and although they will admit that we have some degree of truth, they will always say that we do not go far enough, that we are missing a part of the truth.
Before delving further into this issue, It should be stated that on an individual level, most members of the LDS church make a very strong effort to be congenial and nice. In fact, we believe that most of the members of that church would not go so far as to say that we are an apostate church. But all members of the LDS church must acknowledge that the founder of the LDS church was not himself so kind and agreeable.
For example, in Joseph Smith's account of his first vision, he says that God Himself railed against all other churches, in particular the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches:
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight: that those professors were all corrupt; that "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they teach for doctrines the commandments of men: having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof." He again forbade me to join with any of them: and mmany other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time.
In another account, Joseph Smith says "I found that mankind did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the Gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament..."
These are, of course, serious charges. If this claim is true, if every church in that day was full of apostasy, and all their creeds an abomination in God's sight, then most certainly those churches who continue in those same doctrines and hold to those same creeds in this day are equally abominable and apostate.
Members of the LDS church believe Joseph Smith to be a true prophet, so this claim of Joseph's is believed as true. True, in other words, that God really said this, true that this general apostasy really had afflicted all churches at that time (and from the time that the original apostles were killed), and true that this assessment applies equally in our day. But is it true?
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