Some believe the Church understands and teaches the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as manifested in the ordinances of the temple. Some also believe that Church leaders cannot lead the Church astray, implying uninterrupted Church integrity and rule until the millennium, when Christ will reign. This group tends to believe that belief and activity in the Church, combined with obedience to the guidance of the brethren, are generally sufficient to secure a place in Zion.
In contrast, others believe the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ involves seeking and finding God face-to-face during mortality, and that the ordinances of the temple are a symbol of the sublime personal encounter possible between God and man, not a replacement for that encounter. Some believe the modern-day scriptures revealed through Joseph Smith predict an apostasy of the restored Church. This group tends to believe that learning to perceive and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit in all things is required to know God face-to-face, and that knowing God is required to secure a place in Zion.
I don’t think it’s possible to belong to both groups at the same time.
What do the scriptures say about a latter-day loss of the greater gospel teachings? First, we need to be clear that we, particularly members of the Church in the United States through whom the gospel was restored, are identified by the Lord in scripture as the Gentiles: “Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles.” (D&C 109:60)
With that in mind, consider what Jesus taught the Nephites:
“And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.” (3 Nephi 16:10)
Can you reject something you haven’t been presented with or given? Could rejecting the fulness mean changing its meaning to be something far less significant than what was originally intended? What did the Lord mean when He said He would “bring the fulness of [His] gospel from among [us]”? Could that mean allowing the adoption of a different definition of the fulness due to our collective wickedness (i.e. “when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel”)?
When discussing the condition of latter-day churches, what is Moroni’s assessment?
“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.” (Mormon 8:35-36)
Moroni does not exempt the restored church in his assessment that all latter-day churches would become polluted because of pride. In case we might be confused, Moroni proceeds to clarify what we, through wickedness, would do to the holy church of God:
“O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world?” (Mormon 8:38)
There is only one group that Moroni could be talking to, as there is only one group that could have possibly polluted the holy church of God in the latter days. We are that group.
How can (we) the Gentiles know when we’ve repented of the iniquity the scriptures predict? One sign is the revealing of the prophecies given to the brother of Jared.
“Behold, I have written upon these plates the very things which the brother of Jared saw; and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared. Wherefore the Lord hath commanded me to write them; and I have written them. And he commanded me that I should seal them up; and he also hath commanded that I should seal up the interpretation thereof; wherefore I have sealed up the interpreters, according to the commandment of the Lord. For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.” (Ether 4:4-6)
Can we really consider ourselves God’s chosen people, headed practically on autopilot for the celestial kingdom, when we still clearly need to repent of iniquity and become clean before the Lord? We haven’t yet been given the contents of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, which include the things which were made manifest to the brother of Jared, which is the sign the Lord promised to indicate we’d repented of our iniquity. What is required to overcome our iniquity?
“And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.” (Ether 4:7)
When one musters faith like the brother of Jared, he/she will be invited beyond the veil, will be redeemed by Jesus (as was the brother of Jared), and will see the same things he saw (i.e. the vision of all). This is how man is saved in the celestial kingdom–this is the fulness of the gospel. Not until this doctrine is believed and lived will (we) the Gentiles repent of our iniquity. The fulness is the missing piece.
“And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said:
Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you.” (Ether 3:13)
The latter-day apostasy prophesied in our modern-day scriptures entails the loss of the true meaning of the doctrine of the fulness of the Gospel. Understanding, believing, and ultimately realizing the blessings of the fulness in our lives is the only way to escape the sins of our generation. Apostasy does not seem too strong a word to describe those who have lost, either through misunderstanding or willfully abandonment, the pinnacle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.