TWELVE SIGNS THAT THE LDS CHURCH

IS THE TRUE CHURCH

 

Michael T. Griffith

2003

@All Rights Reserved

 

I first became interested in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS or Mormon Church) when an LDS friend of mine asked me, "If the same church that Jesus founded in the New Testament were on the planet today, with a living prophet and twelve apostles at its head, and with all the same gifts and powers of old, would you want to join it?"I replied that of course I would want to join it! He then shared with me his testimony that the LDS Church was in fact the Savior's ancient church restored to the earth.

 

He explained that this great restoration began when God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820. After being introduced by the Father,the Savior explained to young Joseph that he would be the instrument through which the true church would be restored to the earth. With this restoration came additional scripture, namely, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

 

In my study of the Bible and ancient texts, I have found forty-one "signs" of the true church.Only the LDS Church possesses all of these signs.Allow me to briefly present twelve of the forty-one signs that the Mormon Church is the Savior's ancient church restored to the earth:

 

1. The LDS Church has a prophet and twelve apostles, as did the Savior's ancient church. When the Lord established his church in Israel, he called twelve apostles. Peter became the earthly head of the church after Jesus died. The LDS Church is led by a living prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, and under him there are twelve apostles, all of whom have been called of God by revelation and all of whom possess the same power and authority that Christ gave to his twelve apostles.The apostles of the New Testament church "had the prophetic spirit, and were prophets and teachers" and "as men of prophecy, they pronounced the word God spoke."1 In the early church, notes Protestant scholar Eberhard Arnold, "teachers" were "subordinate . . . to the highest orders of the prophets and apostles."2

 

2. LDS priesthood holders can trace their authority directly back to Jesus Christ. When the Lord restored his church in our day, he sent Peter, James, and John to ordain Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is the same priesthood that worthy men held in the ancient church. Joseph and Oliver then ordained others. Men are ordained to the priesthood by the laying on of hands.This divine authority is held by every Melchizedek priesthood holder in the Mormon Church today, each of whom can trace his authority back to Joseph Smith, and through Joseph Smith to Peter, James, and John, and through Peter, James, and John to the Lord himself.In the ancient church it was considered crucial for church leaders to be able to trace their authority back to the apostles.Irenaeus, a second-century early Christian bishop, noted that church leaders possessed "succession from the apostles"3--he even declared that key doctrinal questions could be settled by consulting with those churches "with which the apostles held constant intercourse."4†† Indeed, Irenaeus regarded every bishop of his day as "appointed by the apostles through the successive laying on of hands."5

 

3. The LDS Church is guided by continuous revelation through its prophet, as was the New Testament church. Current revelation has always been vital to the Lord's true covenant people. The prophet and the apostles receive continuous revelation from the Lord, just as did the Savior's ancient disciples after his death.

 

4. The LDS Church understands and teaches the biblical doctrine that God and Jesus are separate and distinct divine beings, who communicate with each other, who are aware of each other's existence, and who work in perfect harmony with each other. God is the supreme member of the Godhead. Jesus is subordinate to the Father and does the Father's will in all things. The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. The Godhead is not an incomprehensible three-in-one trinity. Rather, it is a trinity composed of three separate divine persons, each of whom is a deity in his own right. Their unity is one of works, will, and devotion, not one of substance, mind, and essence. Mormons reject the traditional teaching that the Father and the Son are "two persons yet one God of one undivided substance." If Jesus and the Father are separate divine persons who communicate with each other and who are aware of each other's existence, as the New Testament plainly teaches, then they are two separate deities. Jesus even referred to the Father as "my God" (John 20:17; Matthew 27:46). Similarly, the apostle Paul referred to the Father as "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" and "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:31; Ephesians 1:3, 17).Ancient Christian documents also refer to the Father as Christ's "God."For example, in the Apostolic Constitutions, we read a hymn to the "God and father of Jesus Christ."6

 

5. The LDS Church affirms that the Savior was literally resurrected, and that he lives today. When Jesus was resurrected, his spirit was reunited with his body, which was glorified and perfected in the resurrection process. He is a real person, a real tangible person, with a glorified physical body, just as the New Testament teaches.

 

6. The LDS Church obeys the law of tithing. The Bible teaches us that the true church will practice this divine principle, whereby members donate a tenth of their earnings to the church for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth. The Bible promises great blessings in reward for obedience to this commandment, and millions of Latter-day Saints can testify that they have been greatly blessed as a result of obeying the law of tithing.

 

7. The LDS Church possesses the additional scripture prophesied in the Bible. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon was predicted by ancient Israelite prophets. The Bible speaks of the coming forth of an Ephraimite record, also called "the stick of Joseph." Elsewhere the Bible refers to this record as a sealed book that would come forth at a time when the Lord would perform a marvelous work and a wonder. The Book of Mormon is that record, which came forth as the Lord restored his church in all its original splendor and glory. The Book of Mormon is a history of God's dealings with peoples in the ancient Americas, specifically, in ancient Mesoamerica. The Bible tells us about God's dealings with his covenant people in the Old World. The Book of Mormon tells us about his dealings with his ancient covenant people in the New World. The Book of Mormon records that the resurrected Christ visited the people of ancient Mesoamerica and that he established his church among them.

 

8. The LDS Church is a missionary church, as was the Savior's ancient church. It has thousands of missionaries working in virtually every part of the world. It has been said that the Mormon Church is the most missionary-oriented church on the earth.

 

9. The LDS Church has a lay local clergy. Local leaders, i.e., bishops and stake presidents, etc., are not salaried. They do their church work on their own time, and hold normal jobs like everyone else. The Savior's church likewise had an unsalaried local clergy. It was only after the true gospel began to be removed from the earth that the practice of paying local leaders was instituted. But in the New Testament church local leaders were not salaried, and as late as A.D. 200 "the idea of fixed clerical salaries was considered an outrage . . . in both Rome and Asia."7

 

Protestant Bible scholar Eberhard Arnold notes that the character of Hermas in the revered ancient Christian text the Shepherd of Hermas "speaks publicly whenever God wills it while exposing as false prophets those who accept payment and wait to be consulted."8Arnold is referring to the eleventh command in the Shepherd of Hermas:

 

The man who only imagines that he has the Spirit exalts himself.He wants to have the place of honor, and he straight away becomes impudent, shameless, and talkative, given to excessive eating and drinking, and well versed in all kinds of trickery.He accepts payment for his prophesying, and if he does not get it he does not prophesy.9

 

Other early Christian statements against preaching for money include the following:

 

The Word that was freely given must not be sold.10

 

Every apostle visiting you shall be received as the Lord. . . .But if asks for money he is a false prophet.11

 

Noted historian Paul Johnson points out that the ancient Christians criticized the heretic Montanus "for paying stipends to his chief followers."12Johnson also observes that church father John Chrysostom attacked certain bishops for "collecting large fees for preaching in the metropolis."13And, notes Johnson, church father Jerome criticized certain bishops because, among other things, they took money for their visits.Jerome lamented,

 

The clergy, who ought to inspire awe with their teaching and authority, kiss these ladies [widows] on the forehead and, putting forth their hands as though to bless, take money for their visits.14

 

10. The LDS Church teaches that baptism is essential for salvation. The New Testament and the writings of early Christian elders and theologians leave no doubt the ancient church taught that baptism was a requirement for salvation.Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell observes that in the ancient church "it was universally believed that . . . we obtain the benefits of Christ's sacrifice by baptism."15 The ancient Christian theologian Tertullian taught that "without baptism, salvation is attainable by none."16An accepted, orthodox ancient Christian saying attributed to Jesus says, "Everybody who believes and is baptized shall have his past sins forgiven."17

 

11. The LDS Church teaches that our thoughts and actions play a role in our salvation. The Mormon Church agrees with the Catholic Church and with the Orthodox Church that we are not saved strictly by grace alone through faith, but that our thoughts and deeds also count toward salvation. In other words, belief and confession of faith are not enough. We must do more. We must strive to keep the commandments to the best of our ability.We understand that no one could be saved if Christ had not atoned for our sins, but the Savior also taught that we must live righteous lives to the best of our ability in order to return to live in the kingdom of heaven. Among other things, he said, "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21, Revised Standard Version [RSV]). The Lord also taught that "he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:22, RSV). The New Testament teaches over and over again that our actions count and that those who do not keep the commandments will not return to live with Heavenly Father.This same teaching is literally plastered throughout the writings of early Christian bishops, elders, and theologians. For instance, mid-second-century Christian theologian Justin Martyr, who is still referred to as one of the ancient church's "ablest defenders," said the following:

 

Anyone who is not found living in accordance with his [Christ's] teachings should not be regarded as a Christian even if he confesses to Christ's teaching with his lips.For he [Christ] said that only those shall be saved who do not just talk, but who also do the corresponding works [see Matthew 7:21].18

 

12. The LDS Church can answer the three great questions of life: "Where did I come from?" "Why am I here?" "Where am I going after death?" Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed once again the divine truth that we did not suddenly spring into existence at birth, but that we lived with God the Father as spirits in a pre-mortal life prior to coming to earth.There is scriptural evidence, and also ancient Jewish and early Christian evidence, of the LDS doctrine of a pre-mortal life.19Members of the Lord's true church know that we are on the earth to gain experience, to be tried and tested, to live the best lives that we can possibly live according to the light and knowledge that we possess, and to receive physical bodies.

 

After death we go to the spirit world. Those who die without having the opportunity to learn of the gospel will have that opportunity in the spirit world, where they will be free to either accept or reject the message. Then, at the resurrection, our spirits are reunited with our bodies--our bodies will be glorified and perfected. All mankind will be raised from the dead, and then judged, and each will receive according to his works in relation to the light and knowledge that he possessed. We will go to one of three kingdoms, the celestial, the terrestrial, and the telestial, while sons of perdition will be cast into outer darkness.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Michael T. Griffith holds a Masterís degree in Theology from The Catholic Distance University, a Graduate Certificate in Ancient and Classical History from American Military University, a Bachelorís degree in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College, and two Associate in Applied Science degrees from the Community College of the Air Force.He also holds an Advanced Certificate of Civil War Studies and a Certificate of Civil War Studies from Carroll College.He is a graduate in Arabic and Hebrew of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School, San Angelo, Texas.In addition, he has completed an Advanced Hebrew program at Haifa University in Israel.He is the author of five books on Mormonism and ancient texts, including How Firm A Foundation, A Ready Reply, and One Lord, One Faith.

 

 

ENDNOTES

 

1.Eberhard Arnold, The Early Christians In Their Own Words, Fourth Edition (Farmington, PA: The Plough Publishing Company, 1997), p. 24.

 

2.Arnold, The Early Christians In Their Own Words, p. 25.

 

3.Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors, The Ante-Nicene Fathers [ANF] (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985, reprint), vol. 1, p. 497.

 

4ANF 1:417

 

5Arnold, The Early Christians In Their Own Words, p. 38.

 

6. Apostolic Constitutions, VII.47-48, in Arnold, The Early Christians In Their Own Words, p. 265.

 

7.Robin Lane Fox, Pagans And Christians (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1987), p. 505.

 

8.Arnold, The Early Christians In Their Own Words, p. 342.

 

9. The Shepherd of Hermas, 11th Command, in Arnold, The Early Christians In Their Own Words, p. 315, emphasis added.

 

10.Clementine Homilies, III.71.3, in Arnold, The Early Christians In Their Own Words, p. 194.

 

11. The Didache, XI:6, in Arnold, The Early Christians In Their Own Words, p. 202.This document is also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles and Constitutions of the Holy Apostles.

 

12. Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity (New York: Penguin Books, 1978), p. 49.

 

13. Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 100.

 

14.Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 100.

 

15. Jeffrey Burton Russell, Satan: The Early Christian Tradition (New York: Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 100.

 

16. ANF 3:674.

 

17. Didascalia XX, in Arnold, The Early Christians In Their Own Words, p. 232.

 

18. First Apology 16, in Arnold, The Early Christians In Their Own Words, p. 104.

 

19. Joseph Fielding McConkie, "Premortal Existence, Foreordinations, and Heavenly Councils," in C. Wilfred Griggs, editor, Apocryphal Writings and the Latter-day Saints (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, Religious Studies Center, 1986), pp. 173-198;LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and A Wonder (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1976), pp. 272-306; Eugene Seaich, Mormonism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Nag Hammadi Texts (Murray, Utah: Sounds of Zion Publishing, 1980), pp. 4-17.

 

NOTE: This article is an edited version of chapter 1 of the authorís book How Firm A Foundation.

 

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