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Sunday Sermon: Patterns of Apostasy and Dispensations
Dispensations: What are they?
A Dispensation is usually marked with the calling of a new prophet. Adam was the first prophet, and began the first dispensation. Other commonly known prophet dispensations would be Noah, Abraham, and Moses, however these are not all, there are several prophets all throughout the scriptures, each in their own time, and each to their own dispensation.
Dispensations also seem to be very unique to their time. Some offer more insights to areas of gospel truths than others, and some play a very important role in History. For example, Moses guiding the Children of Israel from Egypt, or Isaiah’s many prophecies.
Prophets held authority
Also known as the Priesthood. What exactly is the Priesthood? Its the God-Given power to act in his name. Much like a policeman is given authority to act for the law, the Priesthood is that same authority to act for God. So, why does a person need to have an authority to act in God’s name? Think of it this way:
You are a regular pedestrian, and you see someone speeding through a neighborhood. You know this person has broken the law and decide to do the right thing. You manage to catch up to this person and inform them they’ve broken the law, and you are going to write them a ticket and fine them. Can you do this? Heck no! You don’t have the authority. However, if you trained to be a policeman, and hold a badge, and you pull over this same person for speeding and write them a ticket, then it’s legal.
Now you’d probably be asking something like “Having power to act for God is a huge responsibility. Whats to stop a person from committing a crime because ‘God told me to do it’?” The wonderful thing about Priesthood, is that its not monitored by man. Having authority for the law on earth is monitored by men, but acting for God speaks for itself.
“Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen? Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson- That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” -Doctrine and Covenants 121:34-37
While it may appear that a person can do whatsoever they please in the name of God, it means nothing without that authority
What does it mean to have the priesthood?
Having priesthood power allows any worthy male to perform baptism, bless the sacrament, heal the sick, cast out devils, give blessings of comfort, and for a prophet, receive direct and personal revelation for those of us here on earth. One of the biggest discernment about Priesthood power, is that it is meant to be used for the benefit of others. For example, a person holding the priesthood cannot place his hands upon his own head and give himself a blessing. When blessing the sacrament, or performing a baptism, is for other people.
Another thing about the Priesthood, is that it can only be passed by the laying on of hands from one person who holds it, to another who doesn’t. “And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro; And Jethro received it under the hand of Caleb; And Caleb received it under the hand of Elihu; And Elihu under the hand of Jeremy; And Jeremy under the hand of Gad; And Gad under the hand of Esaias; And Esaias received it under the hand of God. Esaias also lived in the days of Abraham, and was blessed of him-Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah; And from Noah till Enoch, through the lineage of their fathers; And from Enoch to Abel, who was slain by the conspiracy of his brother, who received the priesthood by the commandments of God, by the hand of his father Adam, who was the first man-Which priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years.” -Doctorine & Covenants 84:6-17
Mormonism Fact “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.” – Article of Faith 5
What is an Apostasy?
Now that we've covered what a Dispensation is, its time to discuss Apostasy. God loves us all so much, he’s always called a prophet to teach us of truth, to warn of us dangers, and guide his children throughout time. However, despite this love and mercy, people are people, and we have agency. Not all the time did people choose to follow a prophet, or to believe their teachings. This leads to a little condition called Apostasy. An apostasy is when people reject a prophet, or doctrinal truths. Sometimes apostasy can lead to the death of a prophet, though in most cases we see a lot of rejection and persecution. This pattern of apostasy continues all the way up to just a little while after the resurrection of Jesus Christ himself, when whats known as the Great Apostasy happens, foretold in Amos 8:11-12
After the Apostles
Up to the point of Christ’s assention to heaven, and the sending forth of the apostles to preach in the world, there had always been an unbroken chain of priesthood power, and a prophet holding that power, on the earth. Whether or not the people decided to listen or take advantage of that opportunity is a different story.
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” - 2 Timothy 4:2-4
And just as happened in the past, happened with the Apostles: people rejected them and the gospel they taught. After so many years, people began to persecute and kill the prophets. Steven was stoned, Peter was crucified upside down, and John, who was given power over death, was taken up to heaven for a time. Before you know it, there was no one on the earth who held that priesthood. There was no one who could teach the doctrines purely, no one to bless and administer sacraments, no one with the authority to baptize, and no one to receive revelation and insights for the benefit of man.
Just How GREAT was the Great Apostasy?
The exact time of the death of the last apostle is unknown, so I’ll rough and round off at 100 AD. Since this time a lot of original truths had been lost, because there was no one who could interpret the scriptures properly. People began to form ideas over the desires of their hearts, they changed doctrines and created rules and governed for their own gain. Pretty soon the formation of several different churches began, and as the years passed the doctrines continued to change all over the world.
If God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, would he just stop sending prophets to help the people of the earth? Did faith cease? NO! However, the world was so corrupted it wasn’t ready for a prophet just yet. In the early years of the Christian movement, a lot of the belief system was forced and imposed on people with a “You’re either Christian, or you’re dead!” dictative role. There were many revolts and wars that broke out because of this, and a lot of people were innocently killed.
One of the biggest factors that helped to pave the way for the restoration of the gospel, and the calling of a prophet back to the earth again, was the American Revolution. The fact that the Pilgrims came to America, colonized, and established a free country, and perhaps the biggest and most important freedom of all was Freedom of Religion. The fact that a person could choose to believe and worship how they wanted to was huge! And we can’t forget other great men who also helped to pave the way for the restoration. Men like Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, John Calvin, and others who tried to restore forgotten or mis-interpretted truths back to the world. However, they lacked that Priesthood authority, but because of their actions, they helped prepare the way and readied the world for a prophet once again
The Unbroken Chain
Just as since the time of Adam to the Apostles, from Joseph Smith to now there is an unbroken chain of prophets called, and an unbroken chain of Priesthood Authority restored to the earth
Mormonism Fact: “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.” -Article of Faith 6
The Twelve Apostles of Today
"God's revelations to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore, the most important prophet, so far as you and I are concerned, is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us." - Ezra Taft Benson
With the calling of a prophet, came the assembly of 12 apostles, just as in Jesus’ time. Together they lead, direct, and minister in the restored Church of Jesus Christ, in these the Latter Days