When my older brother was serving his LDS mission in Taiwan, I got to talk to him on the phone on Christmas day. I asked, “So what are the other religions like over there?” He replied, “You know how we like to say that all religions are good? Well that’s a bunch of bull. The entire world is utterly apostate.” Of course, this was a bit tongue-in-cheek.
One of the fundamental beliefs of Mormonism is in a “Great Apostasy,” which is that beginning around 100 AD and following the deaths of the apostles, the Church, as established by Jesus Christ, was corrupted. Truths were lost. Authority was revoked. Doctrines were distorted. The philosophies of men were mingled with scripture. There was a universal famine on the earth of hearing the words of God.
Hence, God himself said to Joseph Smith, referring to the churches of the nineteenth century, that “Their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith History 1:19).
This declaration is a little less than ecumenical, and I don’t think God was being tongue-in-cheek. If I were to go around announcing these words to the religions of the world, I doubt I’d win many friends. And yet, as politically incorrect as it is, God himself seems to agree: “the entire world is utterly apostate.”
What I want to explore is whether or not this principle of a “Great Apostasy” can and should be taken further than the subject of which church to join.
When the Lord revealed his code of health to Joseph Smith, (the “Word of Wisdom”), he prefaced it by saying that he was “showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days” and that this revelation was “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints, who are or can be called saints” (Doctrine & Covenants 89:2-3). I find two important takeaways from this: (1) The Lord is interested in more than just our spiritual salvation. (2) He hasn’t told us everything. In fact, he’s told us the bear minimum of what he’d like to, because he feels a need to adapt his revelations to the “weak.”
The existence of this revelation infers that not only had their been an apostasy in the subject of religion but in the subject of diet. In large, the world was and is abusing substances that aren’t meant for the body. Our addiction to meat is not pleasing to God, who informed us that the killing and eating of animals is for “only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine” (D&C 89:13).
In church, you’re allowed to talk about the Lord’s words on substance abuse, but if you bring up his words on meat consumption (unless you use the supposedly ambiguous phrase “eat meat sparingly”), you’ll be viewed as an extremist, if not an apostate. Yet to the honest reader, the popular interpretation of what the Lord has said is simply at odds with what the Lord actually said. My point: while a few steps above the rest of the world, on the subject of diet, the general body of the Church is still in a state of apostasy. Does it matter? Well … yeah, if you value the Lord’s opinion … and don’t want to die of a heart attack.
If the Lord is interested in not only our religion but our diet, surely he’s interested in other facets of our well-being, such as our lifestyles. Could it be that our American habits of commuting for an hour a day, working for eight to ten hours, then crashing in front of the television and spending our last few hours in mindless recuperation are less than ideal in the sight of God? What if the forty-hour-work-week is another “abomination in his sight?” What if he hates the way we burn up our precious lives in cubicles, call centers, and fast food kitchens instead of climbing mountains, canoeing rivers, and writing poetry? Now I’m the one in danger of apostasy here, because I have no scriptural backings. However, would it be wise to assume that what God has officially spoken is our only basis for judgment? Or would it be wiser to ask ourselves, “If this earth were the Celestial Kingdom, how would things be different?” What’s stopping us from being like God in everything we do?
What if there’s been a great apostasy in education? What if the way we turn our children over to the government for seven to eight hours a day is backwards, inefficient, irresponsible, and one of the biggest sources of human degradation?
What if there’s been a great apostasy in music, and the sounds we beat our heads to contribute to depression and base desires instead of ennobling and enlivening us?
What if there’s been a great apostasy in fashion, and our plain white T’s and jeans contribute to our lackadaisical airs instead of the majesty the human race was meant for as sewn by the enlightened tailors of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries?
What if there’s been a great apostasy in politics, and the Democrats and Republicans are both wrong? What if the principles of limited government, citizenship, and free enterprise have been shortchanged by greed and entitlement?
What if there’s been a great apostasy in dance, and the way we meander back and forth amid the ear-splitting insanity of school dances is a sheer perversion of the glory our grandparents knew during the swinging 30’s and 40’s?
What if there’s been a great apostasy in attitude, demeanor, conversation, and sense of humor, and the self-doubting, needlessly-limiting, depressed, sarcastic, and irreverent mentalities too common in our world are diametrically opposed to human happiness?
What if there’s been a great apostasy in entertainment, and instead of creating our own fun and fantasies, we’ve become addicted to watching others play pretend?
What if we’ve forgotten how to live, how to love, and how to be, and thus, whether we’re Mormon, Buddhist, or Atheist, chances are we fit among the rank and file of earth’s inhabitants who, in so many ways, are utterly apostate?