Recently I've had the opportunity to discuss and debate various points of theology and belief with a handful of Latter-Day Saints. In particular, I've had the pleasure of a very thorough (and on-going) discussion with a new friend, Nathaniel. His background in philosophy, logic and math make for a challenging debate, and he certainly keeps me on my toes.
But I've managed to pick up another discussion with a Mormon named Crystal over in the Facebook group called "LDS and RCC Dialogue." You can read all of it here if you like (free membership required).
I'd like to just post two of my comments here, on Ab Opposito, for your own reading -- and hopefully for your benefit, should you find yourself in a discussion of your own with a well-intentioned Mormon Missionary.
The Great Apostasy. This is the crux of our discussion/debate.
Both of our churches hang in the balance. Whether or not there was a Great Apostasy determines whether or not the Catholic Church is right. Clearly, Mormons believe there was a total apostasy some time shortly after Christ's death until God restored his church through Joseph Smith in 1820.
My hope is that in this thread we can discuss reasons to believe or disbelieve in the Great Apostasy.
For starters, I submit this reason to reject the notion of a great apostasy:
Mormonism stands or falls on the premise that Christ was a failure, that his attempts at building a Church flopped. But in Luke 14:28-30 (KJV) Our Lord tells us,
"For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish."
What are we to make of this, but that Christ was a wonderful teacher -- that he had excellent advice to offer -- yet in the end, lacked the ability to take his own advice.
For after laying the foundation of his Church (his apostles), the LDS Church explains that Our Lord was unable to finish it, and the Church immediately devolved into apostasy for eighteen centuries.
"This man (Jesus Christ) began to build, and was not able to finish."
"My point is that there's no way to documentally prove whether or not there was a Great Apostasy." -Crystal
Crystal, thanks for your patience...But if there's no way to document the Great Apostasy, then I'm afraid there is little to convince me of Mormonism. The Great Apostasy is reduced to merely an assertion on your Church's part.
I could just as well say to you, Crystal, I want you to join my Church -- let's call it the Vadis Church [note to Ab Opposito readers: my screen name on Facebook is Quo Vadis] -- because sometime in the 12th century there was a 'Grand Apostasy' and the Church that Christ had originally established collapsed. Unfortunately, you're just going to have to take my word for it that this collapse did, in fact, take place because there's no way to documentally prove whether or not there ever was a Grand Apostasy in the 12th century.
But it happened...just believe me.
Do you see where this leaves us, Crystal? If there is no evidence of the Great Apostasy, then I'm going to have to take *that* as evidence that there *never was* a Great Apostasy.
As John Robinson once wrote (about something entirely different), "The silence is...as significant as the silence for Sherlock Holmes of the dog that did not bark."
Faith (religion) and reason (science) ought to be complimentary, not contradictory. And scientists tend to be ruthlessly self-critical, rejecting hypotheses that fail to stand up to tests to which they have been subjected. The problem I see with the LDS Church is that it persists in holding to this hypothesis of the Great Apostasy in favor of which solid and satisfactory evidence has never been adduced.