The entire weight of the LDS Church hangs on a single historical claim — the Great Apostasy. What is the Great Apostasy? A pamphlet entitled The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ1 explains it like this:
Following the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted and killed many Church members. Other Church members drifted from the principles taught by Jesus Christ and His Apostles. The Apostles were killed, and priesthood authority—including the keys to direct and receive revelation for the Church—was taken from the earth. Because the Church was no longer led by priesthood authority, error crept into Church teachings. Good people and much truth remained, but the gospel as established by Jesus Christ was lost. This period is called the Great Apostasy.
This apostasy, according to LDS teaching, had disastrous effects worldwide for over 15 centuries. Yet, according to the LDS church, Heavenly Father commissioned Joseph Smith to restore that which the Great Apostasy lost.
What’s more, the LDS Church teaches that the Bible itself predicts the Great Apostasy with the words of Amos 8:11–12:
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.
Now, these are some serious truth claims that demand careful thought. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to limit ourselves to biblical arguments. And we’ll do so under three headings: (1) Consistency; (2) Context; and (3) Contradiction.
1. Consistency: Can the LDS Church argue consistently from Amos 8?
The Book of Mormon teaches that the Bible was negatively affected by the Great Apostasy. 1 Nephi 13:28 says, “Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God.”
By arguing this way, the LDS Church is attempting to use the Bible’s authority to discredit the Bible’s authority. Allow me to put the argument into my own words: The Bible (corrupted by 15 centuries of error and, thus, no longer authoritative) authoritatively predicts its own demise. Either the Bible is authoritative (see 2 Timothy 3:16) or it is not (see 1 Nephi 13:25–29). The LDS Church cannot discount the Bible’s authority then turn around and claim it as an authority — at least, not consistently.
2. Context: Does the LDS argument understand Amos 8 correctly?
Now let’s tackle the passage in question. Amos was written to Israel’s Northern Kingdom in the 8th Century BC during the prosperous reign of King Jeroboam II. Despite the bounty, true religion suffered. So corrupt was Israel’s worship that Amos predicts multiple judgments from the Lord should they fail to repent. One of those predictions is 8:11–12, most specifically, a famine of Divine revelation.
This prediction was fulfilled in 732 BC when Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and deported the survivors all about her empire. Those who refused to listen to the voice of God through prophets like Amos would suddenly long for fresh encouragement from God but find none.
Amos 8, however, is not the end of the story, for Amos 9:11 predicts a restoration: “In that day, I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen.” God would not remain silent; He does not always chide (Psalm 103:9). In fact, Acts 15:15–18 reports that the predicted restoration of Amos 9 had already begun. Although Christian theologians debate exactly when the full restoration of Amos 9 takes place, Gentile inclusion into the Church (Ephesians 2:14–22), at the very least, initiates it.
To summarize, the predictions of Amos 8–9 were both made and fulfilled within the Biblical era. Amos 8 predicts a famine of revelation for the Northern Kingdom of Israel, not for the Church. Amos 9 predicts how the Church will reverse the famine and restore the nation, not perpetuate God’s silence. In other words, when the LDS Church attempts to use Amos 8 to prove the Great Apostasy, they not only ignore Amos 9 and Acts 15, but interpret Amos 8 backwards.
3. Contradiction: Does the LDS interpretation contradict other Biblical statements?
Talk of logic and Assyrian deportation is, admittedly, complicated. To a much more obvious degree, the doctrine of the Great Apostasy plainly contradicts other Biblical statements.
Consider the following Biblical statements:
- “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
- “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
- “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:3)
- “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Jesus Christ throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21).
The Bible promises an unconquerable church, an eternal word, a true salvation, and an everlasting hope. The Christian has great confidence that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Our God finishes what He starts and nowhere does the Bible say otherwise.