Twilight in the Early Church

By W. Jeffrey Marsh

W. Jeffrey Marsh, “Twilight in the Early Church,” in Go Ye into All the World: Messages of the New Testament Apostles, 31st Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002), 319–334.

Twilight in the Early Church

W. Jeffrey Marsh

 

W. Jeffery Marsh is an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.

 

By the time the epistles of John were written (about A.D. 100), the apostasy was well under way. The flame of faith initially lit by the Savior flickered and dimmed, and the long night of darkness foreknown and foretold by the Savior and His Apostles began to engulf the early Church (see Matthew 24:24; Acts 20:29; Galatians 1:6; Jude 1:4; Revelation 2:2). Apostles were slain, “ordinances were changed or abandoned. The line was broken, and the authority to confer the Holy Ghost as a gift was gone. The Dark Ages of apostasy settled over the world.” [1]

Many in modern Christianity deny that a universal apostasy from the early Church ever occurred. [2] Yet “the church founded by Jesus and the apostles did not survive and was not expected to. . . . Jesus himself insisted that the Light was to be taken away. . . . [He] announced in no uncertain terms that his message would be rejected by all men, as the message of the prophets had been before, and that he would soon leave the world to die in its sins and seek after him in vain.” [3]

The Greek word apostasía, from which we derived the English word apostasy, “is constructed from two Greek roots: the verb híst?mi, ‘to stand,’ and the preposition ap?, ‘away from.’ The word means ‘rebellion,’ ‘mutiny,’ ‘revolt,’ or ‘revolution,’ and it is used in ancient contexts with reference to uprisings against established authority.” [4] False teachers rebelled against Church authority, and their heretical ideologies were used to renounce the original doctrines established by Jesus Christ. Evidence for the apostasy is found in the New Testament record itself. The writings of the ancient Apostles, including those of John, predicted the mutinous falling away (see Acts 20:29; 2 Timothy 4:4; and 1 John 2:18–19) and declared that it was already upon them (see 1 Timothy 1:6; 1 John 2:18; 4:1). The scriptures also foretold of a future restoration, an event to occur in the latter days (see Matthew 17:11; 24:14; Acts 3:21; Revelation 14:6). Perhaps the best evidence an apostasy occurred is the fact that there was a Restoration (see D&C 1:14–17, 30). By 1820, Joseph Smith was told in his First Vision that God no longer acknowledged any church on earth as resembling the one He had established (see Joseph Smith—History 1:18–20).

The epistles of John were the last letters written by the sole-surviving leader of the early Church. They were penned to counter the apostate heresies which had already appeared in the Church by the end of the first century. What do we know about the author of these epistles? Which distinct heresies were addressed? What warnings do these epistles offer to prevent personal apostasy in our own day?

Historical Setting and Authorship of the Epistles Of John

“In none of these three epistles does the writer mention himself by name; but tradition assigns them to John” (Bible Dictionary, 715, “John, Epistles of)—that same John who labored with his brother James in their father’s fishing business. He was a devoted follower of John the Baptist and was called by the Savior to become an Apostle. He is variously known as the author of the Gospel of John, John the Revelator, and John who, with Peter and James, was called to preside over the early Church. He also is often referred to as John the “beloved” because he was so loved by the Master.

Polycarp (bishop of Smyrna c. 69–155), knew John and regarded him as the author of 1 John. Athanasius accepts the epistles of John as canon in his festal letter of A.D. 367. All three letters were formally canonized at the Council of Carthage, A.D. 397. The first letter is to Church membership at large (a group referred to as “brethren,” “children,” and “beloved”). The second and third epistles are personal letters to the people mentioned (the “elect lady” in 2 John; and Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius in 3 John).

This same Apostle is the traditional author of five books in our New Testament (Gospel of John, First, Second, and Third John; and Revelation). According to biblical scholars, these books were written in a different order than they appear in the New Testament. John apparently wrote the book of Revelation first (before A.D. 90–95), in which he described his call from the Lord to preside over the Church (see Revelation 1). Next, he wrote the Gospel of John (about A.D. 90), containing his testimony of Jesus Christ’s life, mission, and ministry. Lastly, he penned the epistles First, Second and Third John (about A.D. 100) to correct the false doctrines which were already prevalent. Thus, the epistles of John are important letters because they provide a view of the early Church from its president—and the only surviving Apostle—at the time the apostasy had overwhelmed early Christianity.

John’s Ministry

The New Testament record makes it clear that Peter was given the keys of the kingdom and called to lead the early Church after the death of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 16:19). Who, then, succeeded Peter? Modern Christianity is at a loss to explain. None of the charts showing succession in the early Church lists any of the Twelve as presiding after Peter’s death—based on the assumption that all of them were killed. Tradition holds that Peter was arrested in Rome and crucified during the reign of Nero (the Roman leader who mercilessly persecuted Christians and blamed them for the burning of Rome in A.D. 64). It is said that at his own request Peter was crucified upside down because he considered himself unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as was the Savior (see John 21:18–19). [5] One by one the original Apostles called by Jesus were similarly slain. In Foxes Christian Martyrs of the World, the deaths of all the original Apostles are chronicled except for John’s. [6] Early records are mostly silent about what happened to him.

Interestingly, there are a few traditions claiming that John could not be killed. One claims that John was thrown into a cauldron of boiling oil, from which he miraculously escaped unharmed. [7] He was then exiled to Patmos (about A.D. 96). John stated that he was banished to Patmos for his “testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9). Following his imprisonment, he returned to Ephesus in A.D. 97. [8] It is assumed that this is where his epistles were written, though no place is mentioned in the letters.

What happened to the Apostle John after his move to Ephesus? In a revelation received in April 1829, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned the answer. John had such great love for his Lord and his fellowmen that he asked the Savior for power over death and permission to continue ministering on earth to bring more souls unto Christ (see John 21:20–23; D&C 7:1–8). The Savior granted his desires, saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desirest this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory and shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people”(D&C 7:3). He referred to John as “flaming fire and a ministering angel” who would continue to minister “for those who shall be heirs of salvation” (D&C 7:6). Thus, John is still on the earth performing a great and important mission to prepare “nations, kindreds, tongues and people” for the time when the Savior will return in His glory. [9]

John was apparently the only surviving Apostle in the Church after A.D. 100. None of the early Christian bishops nor early Church historians point to any other leader.

John the Beloved presided over the early Church from the death of Peter to the apostasy. He continued to minister on earth for the Lord until the time of the Restoration in the latter days.

Thus, John witnessed the birth, loss, and restoration of the gospel over a of two millennia.

Dangers Besetting True Faith

Early Church members began adopting the methodologies of Greek philosophy, believing, as Clement of Alexandria later explained, that those who desired to be partakers of the power of God, could only do so by “philosophizing.” [10] Greek philosophy began to infiltrate Christian theology so that “by the fourth century, Christian theologians had [completely] rearticulated Christian belief and understanding using the content and methods of philosophy.” [11]

In his epistles, John specifically addressed four doctrinal challenges to the faith of the early Saints arising from “philosophizing”: gnosticism, docetism, rebellion against authority, and gross misunderstanding about God’s true nature and character.

Gnosticism. The term “gnosticism” comes from the Greek gnosis, meaning knowledge. [12] Gnostics claimed they had “special revelations from God about mysteries unknown by everyone else. They maintained that they had a special knowledge which was not available to all.” [13] There was precedent for such claims (see 1 Corinthians 2:6–7), but with gnosticism, man’s reasoning became more important than revelation, knowledge more important than Spirit and testimony. This is precisely the description the ancient prophet Nephi gave of apostate Christianity: “For it shall come to pass in that day that the churches which are built up, and not unto the Lord. . . . shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost. . . . And they deny the power of God (2 Nephi 28:3–5, emphasis added).

With gnosticism, there was no need for an atoning Savior but only for one who taught the secret knowledge. Good works were of little value. The proper function of religion was to teach a knowledge (gnosis) of secret mysteries. Salvation was achieved by the release of the spirit from the flesh and from the bondage of the material world into a heavenly realm. Gnostics claimed that the secret knowledge they had would allow an individual to ascend through multi-layered spheres of heaven until he or she could ascend into the presence of the divine substance, the unknowable God.

Gnostics claimed to have the very knowledge imparted by the Lord to the Apostles after His Resurrection. [14] Although gnostics varied in their practices and beliefs, a relatively common theme among them was “that human souls . . . do not belong in this material world (which is often described as evil and ignorant), and they can be saved only by receiving the revelation that they belong in a heavenly realm of light (the pl?roma or ‘fulness’). . . . Ascent to this realm is sometimes through baptism, sometimes through elaborate cultic rituals (often involving anointing), sometimes more through philosophical reflection. Some gnostic groups had their own hierarchy and virtually constituted a counterchurch.” [15] The charges of the early Christian fathers (Irenaeus and Polycarp) against gnostics were “not that they invent new absurdities, but that they misrepresent true and familiar doctrines. . . . They use genuine logia, but give them a false twist. . . . Their teachings look perfectly orthodox, . . . their fault is not in appealing to noncanonical writings, but in counterfeiting such, . . . they imitate the sacrament, . . . they fake prophecy, . . . They counterfeit revelation with potions and drugs, . . . they parody marriage rites, . . . baptism, . . . and anointing . . . . They feign miraculous healings, . . . They do not (except for Marcus) change the scriptures but misinterpret them. . . . they are bad interpreters of the good word, mixing poison with good wine. . . . They mix chalk with milk.” [16] One wonders how much of the true doctrine was left by the time these observations were made.

John’s response to such doctrinal nonsense was pointed. The gospel of Jesus Christ was not veiled with darkness but had been proclaimed openly so that all might have an opportunity for eternal life:

“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

“And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:3–5.) The Apostle Paul also made a point of countering gnostic heresies in his letter to Colossae, declaring that the “mysteries” of God were revealed to all through Christ and that Christians should not feel inferior to those who came preaching any other doctrine (see Colossians 1:26–27; 2:2–3).

John indicated that gnostics who taught with esoteric insight, ignoring the Spirit, were not of God: “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

“We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:5–6).

The gnostic tradition continued to eat away at the plain and precious doctrines established by Jesus Christ, until not only the doctrines disappeared, but the fundamental meaning of those doctrines was also lost: “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9).

Docetism. Another heresy contemporary with Gnosticism was a belief which denied Christ’s humanity, denied His virgin birth, His suffering in Gethsemane, His Crucifixion and Resurrection. Docetism falsely assumed that all matter was evil and concluded therefore that Christ could not have been a material being. “They deny that the Son assumed anything material. For [according to them] matter is indeed incapable of salvation.” [17] If matter was evil, God had to be nonphysical. “They regarded any Creator God as wicked.” [18]

Thus “the first major test to faith . . . was not denial of Jesus Christ’s deity, it was rejection of his humanity.” [19] Docetists claimed that Christ did not come in the flesh upon the earth but only “seemed” (from the Greek dokei) to have appeared in the flesh. They taught that Christ did not suffer for mankind in Gethsemane and on the cross but only seemed to. He did not resurrect with a physical body, but only seemed to have done so. Such teachings, if accepted, would totally undermine the reality of the gospel as declared by Jesus Christ Himself:

“Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross;. . . that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works” (3 Nephi 27:13–14; emphasis added).

John’s testimony was similarly forthright: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . .

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). Christ had come in the flesh as the divine Son of the Father, and John was an eyewitness who had known Him personally:

“Brethren, this is the testimony which we give of that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;

“(For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you” (JST l John 1:1–3).

John warned that there were already many “antichrists” among them whose heretical teachings betrayed their lack of faith (see 1 John 2:18–19). Christians living in the second century attempted to repudiate docetism with a baptismal confession known as the Apostle’s creed:

We believe in God Almighty

And in Christ Jesus, his only Son, our Lord

Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary

Who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried

And the third day arose from the dead

Who ascended into heaven

And sits on the right hand of the Father

Whence he comes to judge the living and the dead. [20]

John assured the Saints that it was possible for them to have a certain knowledge of the Lord’s reality without having seen the Lord personally. They could trust in the testimony of those who had seen Him (see 1 John 2:14; see also D&C 46:13–14). He reminded them that the spiritual witness from the Holy Ghost (the “unction” or anointing of the Spirit) confirmed that Jesus is the Christ, the divine Son of God, the Redeemer of all mankind: “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. . . .

“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him” (1 John 2:20, 27). He further testified that these witnesses—intelligent assurances from the Spirit—were greater than any “witness of men” to the contrary (1 John 5:9). John’s testimony about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the very foundation upon which eternal life rests.

To deny Christ’s humanity undermines the Atonement. If Christ had not really suffered for our sins, our sins would remain eternally unremitted, and all expectations for eternal life would be shattered (see 2 Nephi 9:8–9). Without Christ’s sacrifice, there would be no “gospel”—no “good news.” John’s fervent testimony in his writings is that he was an eyewitness of the Saviors mortal ministry, had been in the Garden of Gethsemane with Him, and later saw the resurrected Lord. Almost half of his Gospel deals exclusively with the events of Christ’s passion (see John 12–20).

Docetists also denied the reality of Christ’s death and Resurrection, reasoning that if matter was evil, how could Christ be anything but a spirit? John declared plainly that anyone who denied the truth of Christ’s actual life and suffering in the flesh was anti-Christ:

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

“Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now it is already in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (John 4:1–4).

“As C. S. Lewis put it, “There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.” [21]

To deny Christ’s reality and divinity was to deny God the Father: “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also” (see 1 John 2:23). “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9).

John implored the Saints to cling to the truth they had already received, reminding them of the ultimate promise accompanying it:

“Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye shall continue in the Son, and also in the Father.

“And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life” (1 John 2:24–25).

Rebellion against Authority. A third heresy John condemned was that of rebellion. The apostasy of the early Church was the result of an internal dissension—a mutiny, a hostile takeover from shareholders—wolves who masqueraded as sheep. In his third letter, John described how some local leaders, blinded by pride and arrogance, even refused to acknowledge the authority of the Apostles:

“I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.

“Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

“Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God” (3 John 1:9–11).

John’s letters were a refutation of this brazen belligerence. He warned that to give credence to such apostates would be to countenance their cause:

“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine [true doctrine], receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:

“For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 1:10–11).

The phrase “God speed” meant to welcome one into the home, to accept him as a guest. It was this kind of help that enabled itinerant heretics to aspire to Church leadership and to carry on their deceptive work of darkness. John’s warning to the Saints was that to commit the sin of assisting and upholding those who preached false doctrine was to become a partaker of their evil deeds.

Misunderstandings about God’s Nature. One of the first things to be jettisoned during any apostasy is a correct understanding of God’s true nature and character because God can only be known by revelation. He either reveals Himself or remains forever unknown (see Jacob 4:8). When revelation ceases, so does the true knowledge of God—what He is like, who He is, and how we can become like Him.

The word John used more than any other to describe God was love. “God is love” is the central and most dominant theme in his epistles (see 1 John 4:8, 16). Divine love is the enabling power to overcome the world and lay hold on eternal life. “That love,” Elder Bruce R. McConkie observed, “is the foundation upon which all personal righteousness rests. . . . All the purposes and plans of Deity are based on his infinite and eternal love; and . . . if men will personify that love in their lives, they will become like the Lord himself and have eternal life with him.” [22]

God loves us, John testified, because:

• He has invited us to have fellowship with Him and His Son (1 John 1:3).

• He provided a way for us to be born again, enabling us to experience His divine love, to come to know Him, and to become like Him (see 1 John 2:29; 1 John 3:8–10; 1 John 4:7).

• He has created us as His sons and daughters, and will bestow upon those who accept Christ and His gospel—by taking upon themselves the name of Christ through baptism, honoring His name through faith and righteousness, and becoming sanctified through the Spirit—unfathomable blessings, and make them joint-heirs with Christ in a glorified and exalted state (see 1 John 3:1–2).

• He answers our prayers (see 1 John 3:22–23; 1 John 5:14–15).

• He gives us His Spirit (1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13).

• He perfects His love in us (see Joseph Smith Translation l John 4:12).

• The greatest manifestation of God’s love is the gift of His Eternal Son (see 1 John 3:16).

“In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9–10). Propitiation means to pay the price for, to bring comfort, to bring about reconciliation. Christ’s voluntary atonement is the ultimate expression of true love and is the source of our adoration for Him: “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

John also declared that Jesus Christ’s love for us has also been manifest in specific ways:

• He is the advocate with the Father for all mankind (see Joseph Smith Translation, 1 John 2:1–2).

• He is our only hope for eternal life because there is no other Savior, no other philosophy or way or means to attain it:

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:11–13).

• If we will confess our sins and repent of them, His atonement will cleanse us (see 1 John 1:7–9). Through faith, obedience, and love, we can be born of God and, because of Christ, we can achieve victory over the world.

• He willingly laid down his life for us (see 1 John 3:16). He had to will to die because His life could not be taken from Him (see John 10:17–18).

• His atoning sacrifice is the enabling power of our spiritual rebirth, giving us power over sin (see JST 1 John 3:5–9).

There were a few individuals in John’s day who taught that church members could deny the doctrine of Jesus Christ and still have fellowship with the Father. John’s letters to the Church correct this false thinking. He pointed out that one cannot deny a testimony of Jesus and be one with the Father (see 1 John 2:23). John wrote to teach the Saints “how to gain fellowship with God; how to know God and Christ; how to become the sons of God; how to abide in the light and love the brethren; how to dwell in God and have him dwell in us; how to be born again and gain eternal life.” [23] As President David O. McKay described, “next to the affection we have for our home and loved ones, we prize the loyalty of friends, but even more precious is the true feeling of brotherhood in Christ.” [24]

How can we show our love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? We do so by keeping the commandments and avoiding sin (see 1 John 3:1–24), by walking in the light (1 John 1:6–7), by walking in truth and abiding in true doctrine (2 John 1:4; 2 John 1:9; 3 John 1:4), and by showing greater love to one another (1 John 2:9–11; 1 John 3:5,11,14–18, 22–23; 1 John 4:7–8,11–12,19–21).

John’s Counsel on Avoiding Personal Apostasy

The epistles of John are filled with counsel about avoiding personal apostasy:

• He cautioned that it is impossible to claim to be in the light, and hate other church members: “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him” (1 John 2:9–10).

• He warned about being deceived by false spirits and gave counsel about the need to discern truth from error (see 1 John 4:1–3).

• He noted how pride can lead to self-deception: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). But “if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God” (1 John 3:21).

• He further testified that when we are filled with Christ’s perfect love (or charity), that we may “have boldness [spiritual confidence] in the day of judgment. . . . There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:17–18). The Prophet Joseph Smith similarly taught that “until we have perfect love we are liable to fall and when we have. . . . perfect love . . . then it is impossible for false Christ’s to deceive us.” [25]

• John also had compassion on those who had not yet fallen away, but whose faith was weak. He noted that they need our prayers: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death” (1 John 5:16). The Prophet Joseph Smith also said: “I charged the Saints not to follow the example of the adversary in accusing the brethren, and said, I f you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. . . . If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins. What many people call sin is not sin.” [26]

Witness for the Truth

John wrote to counteract the apostasy that was already under way at the end of the first Christian century. His epistles describe the rebellion against true priesthood authority and the rise of false teachings that drove the Church into obscurity and darkness. The fact that the Lord described His restored gospel as having come “out of obscurity and out of darkness” indicates how complete the apostate darkness was (see D&C 1:30). John’s letters denounced the apostate heresies being taught, made declarations about God’s love, and testified that God’s plan for our salvation is based on that infinite love.

John bore testimony that he was an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ. He challenged us to stand as witnesses of Jesus Christ ourselves and reminded us that “whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15). John’s greatest joy was to know that those he loved lived by the truth: “I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father” (2 John 1:4). “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 1:4).

Notes

[1] Boyd K. Packer, in Conference Report, April 2000, 7.

[2] Some notable exceptions of Christian writers who agree that significant changes occurred, and that modern Christianity no longer resembles the early Church, include David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing, 1989); and Mark A. Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity (Leicester, England: Baker Books, 1997).

[3] Hugh W. Nibley, “The Passing of the Primitive Church,” in When the Lights Went Out—Three Studies on the Ancient Apostasy (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2001), 2–3.

[4] Kent P. Jackson, From Apostasy to Restoration (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 9.

[5] See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1956), 3:151–52.

[6] Foxe’s Christian Martyrs of the World (Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Publishing, 1989), 5–10.

[7] Tertullian has an intriguing description of Rome in his book, The Prescription Against Heretics (written about A.D. 200), “where the Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island exile” on the isle of Patmos (see chapter 36). Another source for this tradition comes from the bishop of Lyons, France, Irenaeus (A.D. 135–200) who had listened to Polycarp describe having heard personally from the Apostle John. (See Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5:20; 4–7, and Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5:30.3; See also Richard L. Anderson, “What Do We Know of the Life of John the Apostle after the Day of Pentecost?” Ensign, January 1984, 50–51.

[8] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.20.8–3.23.6. Irenaeus states that John wrote his Gospel “during his residence at Ephesus in Asia” (Against Heresies III, 1, 1).

[9] See Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1972), 3:371.

[10] See Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1991), 55.

[11] Noel B. Reynolds, “Why Early Christianity Adopted Greek Philosophy,” Insights (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2001), 21, no. 10 (2001): 2.

[12] An extension of the word gnosis is “diagnosis” (meaning “to know thoroughly,” from dia, “through or thorough;” and gnosis, “to know”).

[13] Zondervan Handbook to the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing, 1999), 725.

[14] Nibley, “The Forty-Day Mission of Christ,” in When the Lights Went Out, 55.

[15] Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 92.

[16] See Nibley, “Forty-Day Mission,” 75–76, footnote 61, where original sources to all the above statements are given.

[17] David W. Bercot, ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998), 305.

[18] The Age of Catholic Christianity (n.d., n.p.), 66.

[19] The Age of Catholic Christianity, 68.

[20] The Age of Catholic Christianity, 69.

[21] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1952), 65.

[22] Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1973), 3:371.

[23] McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:371.

[24] David O. McKay, in Conference Report, April 1956, 123.

[25] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 9.

[26] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 193.