Mormonism declares that it is the only God-authorized, authentically apostolic, revelation-receiving, keys-of the-kingdom church on the face of the earth today. The LDS Church's central message is that it is the single organized expression of the true New Testament church and the only earthly vehicle of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in all its fullness. This is how the official Web site of the LDS Church defines the restoration of the gospel (notice its emphasis on being the true church of Jesus Christ on earth today):
When Jesus Christ was on the earth, He established His Church among His followers. After His Crucifixion and the deaths of His Apostles, the fulness of the gospel was taken from the earth because of widespread apostasy. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ restored the fulness of the gospel. The true Church of Jesus Christ is on the earth again. Because of the Restoration, the teachings and ordinances necessary for salvation are available to all people.
Mormons claim that the LDS Church is the kingdom of God on earth. All Christian churches are excluded. The foundational LDS passage for this exclusive and elite teaching is found in their scriptural book Doctrine and Covenants 1:30:
And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth. . . .
Mormon systematic theologian Bruce McConkie makes these very revealing assertions in his prominent and best-selling book Mormon Doctrine:
If it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration, there would be no salvation. There is no salvation outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . . . This Church is the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, the only organization authorized by the Almighty to preach his gospel and administer the ordinances of salvation, the only Church which has power to save and exalt men in the hereafter.
Since Joseph Smith's First Vision experience in AD 1820, Christian churches have been understood to be an abomination to God, and Mormonism has rejected the divine authority and the historical doctrinal creeds of Christianity. The LDS Church believes that every major branch of global Christianity- Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox-is unsound and incomplete in its teaching and practices.
Since the LDS Church continually accuses Christians of wrongly and unjustly excluding it from being Christian and strongly publicizes its dismay and disgust toward Christians who identify it as a major cult, the Mormons' exclusive assertion that they are the earth's only true church is not only bold, but to many Christians also offensive, prideful, and very disingenuous.
And so, we must ask the following question: On what authoritative basis can Mormons make such an exclusive and universal claim that they are the only church that possesses divine authority to act on God's behalf today? The answer is found here.
Mormonism bases its absolute exclusive status on its belief that a complete and universal Christian apostasy-a falling away from God-took place immediately following the death of the New Testament apostles. As a result of this so-called destructive Christian apostasy, Mormons propagate the doctrine that the genuine apostolic New Testament church totally disappeared from the face of God's globe. According to LDS teaching, since the second and third centuries AD, the entire world had floundered in spiritual and salvation darkness until God supernaturally restored the fullness of the gospel back to the earth through the fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith in AD 1820. This would mean that for approximately seventeen hundred years, there was no Christian or church existing on the entire planet that could act with effective salvation authority on behalf of God.
The universal Christian apostasy in early church history is a cornerstone doctrine of the LDS Church. It is a crucial teaching because without it Mormonism would cease to exist. The logic is straightforward. Unless a complete Christian apostasy-a universal rebellious onslaught against God's truth-actually caused the New Testament church to collapse and disappear, then there would be no need for a comprehensive restoration of New Testament Christianity, supposedly represented today by the LDS Church. Consequently, Mormonism would be irrelevant, unsubstantiated, and simply untrue.
Satan's Great and Abominable Church
The Book of Mormon teaches that two distinct churches exist in the world today: the true church of the Lamb of God-the LDS Church-and Satan's great apostate and abominable Babylon church of Revelation. This is how the Book of Mormon's 1 Nephi 14:10 reads:
And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil. And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, who so belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.
Although not all Mormons would necessarily embrace this definition, Bruce McConkie defines Satan's apostate church this way:
The church of the devil . . . is every false religion, every supposed system of salvation which does not actually save and exalt man in the highest heaven of the Celestial world. It is every church except the true church, whether parading under a Christian or a pagan banner.
Based on McConkie's definition, since no Christian church- whether Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Ortho dox-advocates a Mormon system of salvation that offers humankind exaltation into godhood in the highest Celestial kingdom, then we can conclude that all Christian churches today can be generally categorized within Satan's apostate church.
The Great Christian Apostasy in the Bible
Mormonism carefully isolates certain Bible passages in its effort to prove that an overwhelming Christian falling away and apostasy against God's truth of salvation was already growing and overcoming the New Testament church before the death of Jesus' authorized apostles.
Yet a careful contextual and chronological examination of these handpicked Bible passages used by Mormons reveals that they simply fall short of interpretative accuracy. The Bible does not teach the Mormon apostasy thesis that God's kingdom truth and authority in the New Testament church was in the process of being significantly lost and overcome. This is simply interpretative exaggeration at its best.
Christians accept the fact that we will always live within the history-long conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness until the second coming of Jesus Christ. So New Testament passages warning against and exhorting us to confront false teaching, false christs, and false apostles and prophets are normative and not extraordinary.
We all know that apostasy and rebellion against God began in the garden of Eden, continued through the Old and New Testaments, and will continue on throughout human history. Christians are not naive about Satan's active work against the kingdom of God within and without the church. Yet we have an unwavering trust that God is in total control of his church and world.
Again, the topic of apostasy and false teaching exists in the Bible, but the interpretative issue that divides Christianity and Mormonism is the depth and extensiveness of apostasy that was actually experienced in the New Testament church. Although apostasy was present, the Bible does not teach that it was widespread during New Testament times, much less that it was overcoming the church's very existence.
Christians have no need to entertain or become apostasy alarmists. Throughout history, even when Christians have been unfaithful, God has always remained faithful to continue to build and renew his church.