Starting to quote and comment as salient passage from their introduction:
Volume 1 Introduction
Antiquity of the Gospel
"The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is also the history of the opening and progress of the Dispensation of the fulness of Times;" - so, yes, it is a Mormon Church History. The passage I find most interesting comes after Biblical warnings against apostasy, false teachers and so on.
I have not given this review of the condition of the Church of Christ in the Apostolic age with the view of establishing the idea that the Church at that time was in a complete state of apostasy: nor have I dwelt upon the weaknesses and sins of the early saints for the purpose of holding them up for contempt. My only purpose has been to dispel, first of all, the extravagant ideas that obtain in many minds concerning the absolute sanctity of the early Christians; and secondly, and mainly, to show that there were elements and tendencies existing in the early Church, even in the days of the Apostles, that would, when unrestrained by Apostolic authority and power, lead to its entire over throw.
Note the key words "when unrestrained by Apostolic authority and power" - it would be better to say "if".
We have no good reason to believe that there occurred any change for the better in the affairs of the Church after the demise of the Apostles, no reason to believe that there were fewer heresies or fewer false teachers, or false prophets to lead away the people with their vain philosophies, their foolish babblings, and opposition of science falsely so called.
On the contrary, one is forced to believe the prediction of Paul, viz., that evil men and seducers would wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived; 66 for who, after the Apostles were fallen asleep, would stand up and correct the heresies, that were brought into the Church, rebuke the schismatics, the false teachers and false prophets that arose to draw away disciples after them?
Who? The successors of the Apostles, the successors first and foremost of St Peter - in each diocese, insofar as ordinary bishop over chorepiscopoi mirrors Peter over the other 11 in Jerusalem, in the patriarchal dioceses, chronologically speaking by Petrinity, Jerusalem where he resided first (except continuity was interrupted at Jerusalem, year 70), Antioch, where he resided after Jerusalem, Rome, where he came to oppose Simon Magus and defeat his self divinising magic and where he as well as St Paul died as martyrs, and Alexandria, whither he sent St Mark. Later the parish of Byzantion took over eastern part of Patriarchy of Rome, when it became the Patriarchal Diocese of Constantinople. And of these cities, first and foremost the successors of Peter in Rome. Or, of Rome (Avignon being an undisputed past and Topeka a disputed present exile location for such).
If false teachers insinuated themselves into the Church, brought in damnable heresies by reason of which the way of truth was evil spoken of, and the pure religion of Jesus Christ corrupted even while inspired Apostles were still in the Church, it is not unreasonable to conclude that all these evils would increase and revel unchecked after the death of the Apostles.
If God had not told the Apostles to give themselves and each other successors, that would indeed have followed. But He did. He told them in Matthew 28 He was with them EVERY day until the consummation of all time. That must include their successors. Nor does this apply to all faithful as successors of all faithful at the moment, for He said it to the Eleven, not to all who were His disciples and believed the Resurrection. It does not mean He relinquishes the rest of the disciples and is only with Bishops, it means He is, usually, with the rest of the disciples THROUGH the action, both in providing valid sacraments and in condemning damnable errors, of Bishops, as successors of the Twelve and of Peter among the Twelve.
I cannot, of course, in this introduction, enter into even a brief history of false teachers in the early Christian centuries. That of itself would be matter for a volume.
An easy cop out for avoiding to see that the truth was in fact preserved, and preserved precisely through Bishops, against errors.
I shall therefore content myself with making quotations from reliable authorities that will directly establish the fact of the rapid increase in the number of false teachers, and the Pernicious effects of their doctrines upon the Christian religion.
We'll see which these "reliable authorities" are. In advance, I suspect Mormonism is relying on Protestantism and therefore ascribing error to infallible Catholicism.
It should be said before making these quotations, however, that Protestant writers ...
Ah, so the reliable authorities are in fact Protestant Church Historians?
... that Protestant writers are interested in maintaining that the Christian religion was perpetuated, even through the ages of apostasy, and given back to mankind by the agency of the so-called "Reformation" of the sixteenth century.
This is indeed a paradox in Protestant view of Church History. Mormonism is more logical than Protestantism, just as the most logical Mormonism there is, is Islam, insofar as Islam says we Christians, that is we Catholics, corrupted even the texts. That way THEY don't feel the need to bother about Matthew 28, I suppose. Or some of them at least.
Hence in their writings, when stating the corruptions of the early Church, they are especially guarded, lest too strong a statement would lead to the belief that the Christian religion had been utterly subverted.
Yep, Protestants tend to hedge in all their sayings about Church in Late Antiquity and Middle Ages. On the one hand, they must not approve so much that they or their readers can find it licit to become Catholics, and on the other hand they must not approve so little as to suggest Christianity was lost except for a sole uncomprehended text until Luther and some more started comprehending it.
That is why I don't tend to think of them as great intellectuals on this issue. Oh, they can be excellent when it comes to Hebrew history during Old Testament, or such and such an aspect of Genesis, but Church History? Not. Their. Forte. At. All.
Indeed, it is well known that Milner wrote his Church History—which should be regarded not so much as the history of the Church as the history of piety—to counteract the influence of Mosheim's Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, which work Milner considered too frank in its statements of perversions and abuses of religion. The Protestant writers must need set forth the theory that the Christian religion survived all the abuses and corruptions of it through ages of apostasy, else they would have no logical ground for the sixteenth century "Reformation" to stand upon.
Excellent analysis of why Reformation was wrong in theory as well as bloody and cruel and greedy and sacrilegious in practise.
They seem not oblivious to the fact, though never mentioning it, that if the Christian religion was displaced by a paganized religion—a false religion—as is fully predicted, as we shall see later, in the New Testament prophecies, and of which the works of Protestant writers go far towards proving—then the only possible way in which the true Christian religion and the Church of Christ could be restored would be by re-opening of the heavens, and the giving forth of a new dispensation of the Gospel, together with a renewal of divine authority to preach it, and administer its ordinances of salvation.
Excellent analysis of the claims of Muslims and Mormons.
One little problem with these claims. IF the Christian religion was displaced by a paganized religion, and IF this displacement was overall - no remnant with undisputable continuity beside, like St Nicolas du Chardonnet or Palmar de Troya or Vatican in Exile - I currently adher to Vatican in Exile - beside the Vatican II Counter Church. As there is neither a clear Lutheran nor - obviously - a clear Mormon continuity from Gospel to Reformation or from Gospel to Joseph Smith, their claim would mean there was such a displacement and it was universal.
A GREAT apostasy has been prophecied, but NOT a universal one.
So, they would need to demonstrate there was in fact a Universal apostasy - that the traits which Church history anno 300 or 400 or 500 or 600 show to be universal are traits which are apostatic.
This is a very daring claim - I have not seen one back it up.
Catholics hold that there has been no great apostasy in the Church. Their theory is, that there has been a constant, unbroken, perpetuation of the Christian Church from the days of the Messiah and His Apostles until now; and that the Roman Catholic church is that very Church so perpetuated through the ages. Catholic writers admit that there have been very corrupt periods in the church and many wicked prelates, and some vile popes; yet they hold that the church has persisted, that the Christian religion has been preserved in the earth.
Some Catholics by now hold that meanwhile there has been a very great, though not a universal apostasy. Vatican II is a key word. To some Vatican II is the beginning of apostasy formal, to others Vatican II in the bare texts was fine (have they read Gaudium et Spes?) but the spirit of some Council Fathers prevailed through intrigue beside and after council through a culpable but not apostatic lack of vigilance by some real though bad Popes (that is the position of SSPX), some say election of John XXIII was invalid by usurpation of a papacy belonging to thitherto Cardinal Siri, some say Paul VI was drugged and his public documents partially forged, others say he was a clear Apostate and Antichrist. But all Catholic "Trads" agree that there was also opposition to this even if this opposition has tended to disunity and disorganisation.
Others see in this disunity the sign that Rad Trad Catholicism is mistaken and Vatican II with the most official parts of aftermath are obliging.
And on this some reply that being adherent of Vatican II does not result in unity. Between Paul VI and Benedict XVI there were beside the official four "eucharistic prayers" (one of which is a canon of St Hippolytus, sometimes considered as fragmentary, sometimes also as being from his time as schismatic Antipope, one of which is a shortened version or perversion of Roman Canon, these being II and I, while III is a new production, most common, and IV has been nicknamed "Arian canon") a plethora of half official rites, including the near Protestant ones of the Neocatechumenate. A French priest or deacon told me he considered Polish Catholicism (and I converted before a Polish priest) as "nearly Integrist", that is in English terms, "nearly Rad Trad". Which neatly confirms how Vatican in Exile / Pope Michael considered Catholicism survived behind Iron Curtain where most opposed to Communism, even despite some implementation of Vatican II.
Either way, all agree the "great apostasy" if at all happening, has not been a "universal apostasy". Such as Matthew 28 says cannot happen.
Hans Georg Lundahl
* In Bethlehem Judae depositio sancti Hieronymi Presbyteri, Confessoris et Ecclesiae Doctoris, qui, omnium studia litterarum adeptus ac probatorum Monachorum imitator factus, multa haeresum monstra gladio suae doctrinae confodit; demum, cum ad decrepitam usque vixisset aetatem, in pace quievit, sepultusque est ad Praesepe Domini. Ejus corpus, postea Romam delatum, in Basilica sanctae Mariae Majoris conditum fuit.