Definition of “apostasy”
“When Latter-day Saints are asked for a definition of apostasy, they frequently turn to 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and cite the King James Version phrase ‘a falling away.’ Unfortunately, the translation of this word is inadequate, and it has been the cause of some historical misinformation in the Church that has made it difficult to understand the nature of the Apostasy and how it happened. The intent of the original word is much more dramatic and points to something much more profound than ‘a falling away.’
“The Greek word used by Paul in 2 Thess. 2:3 is apostasia, from which we have the English word ‘apostasy.’ It is constructed from two Greek roots: the verb histeni, ‘to stand,’ and the preposition apo, ‘away from.’ The word means ‘rebellion,’ ‘mutiny,’ ‘revolt’ or ‘revolution,’ and it is used in ancient contexts with reference to uprisings against established authority. The idea of a gentle drifting that comes to mind with the term ‘a falling away’ is not one of apostasy’s meanings.
“In a revolution or rebellion, the objective is to remove the leaders and replace them with others whose views are more compatible with one’s own. This results not only in new leadership but also in new policies of state and new national objectives. Similarly, in a mutiny the mutineers throw the captain and his loyal crew overboard, take control of the steering of the ship, and set course in a new direction for a new destination.” 1
Proper attitude towards apostasy
“In going the rounds in Far West, we called on Elder Thomas B. Marsh, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve. I think at that time he was indulging a spirit of apostasy, which, not long after, culminated in his severance from the Church. In our conversation with him, our spirits and his did not intermingle, and he seemed utterly blind in relation to the condition of things and the spirit of the times. He expressed unbounded charity for our enemies said he did not think they intended us much harm they were not naturally inclined to wickedness, etc. It is a noticeable feature in those who cherish a spirit of apostasy from the light of the Gospel, that they adopt the doctrine of Universalism and think none too wicked for a complete salvation.” 2
“My son, fear thou the Lord and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change: For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both? These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment. He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him: But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon them.”
Consequences of Apostasy
Taken from Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith, The Juvenile Instructor, Vol. XXVIII, No. 16
“Elder Daniel Tyler, of Beaver, Utah, adds the following recollections of Joseph the Prophet to what he has already related:
“Soon after the Prophet’s arrival in Commerce (afterwards Nauvoo) from Missouri prison, Brother Isaac Behunnin and myself made him a visit at his residence. His persecutions was the topic of conversation. He repeated many false, inconsistent and contradictory statements made by apostates, frightened members of the Church and outsiders. He also told how most of the officials who would fain have taken his life when he was arrested turned in his favor on forming his acquaintance. He laid the burden of the blame on false brethren. . . Those who testified through fear subsequently returned to the Church. Some of them weeping and expressing a willingness that the Lord would remove them by death if that would remove the stain they had brought upon themselves by swearing falsely to shield themselves from the threatened death if they said aught in the Prophet’s favor.
”One scene. as I was informed soon after it occurred, was particularly touching, and showed the goodness of the good man’s heart. A man who had stood high in the (church while in Far West, was taken down with chills or ague and fever. While his mind as well as body was weak, disaffected parties soured his mind and persuaded him to leave the Saints and go with them. He gave some testimony against the Prophet while the Saints were settling in Commerce. having recovered from his illness, he removed from Missouri to Quincy, Illinois. There he went to work chopping cordwood to obtain means to take himself and family to Nauvoo as a present to the Injured man of God if, peradventure, he would forgive and permit him to return to the fold as a private member. He felt that there was salvation nowhere else for him and if that was denied him all was lost as far as be was concerned. He started with sorrowful heart and downcast look. While on the way the Lord told Brother Joseph he was coming. The Prophet looked out of the window and saw him coming up the street. As soon as he turned to open the gate the Prophet sprang up from his chair and ran and set him in the yard, exclaiming:
“O Brother —, how glad l am to see you!’ he caught him around the neck and both wept like children. Suffice it to say that proper restitution was made and the fallen man again entered the Church by the door, received his Priesthood again, went upon several Important missions, gathered with the Saints in Zion and died in full faith.
“Several others returned, two of whose sorrow for their wrong doing was so great that they refused, or could not be comforted, and both died partially insane. Others have lived and died without effort to return or hope of future happiness.
“Let us, my young brothers and sisters, shun the evils of apostasy, bearing false witness and betraying any of the Lord’s anointed into the hands of the wicked, lest our future be like theirs.
“When the Prophet had ended telling how he had been treated, Brother Behunnin remarked: ‘If I should leave this Church I would not do as those men have done: I would go to one remote place where Mormonism had never been heard of settle down, and no one would ever learn that I knew anything about it.”
“The great Seer immediately replied: ‘Brother Behunnin, you don’t know what you would do. No doubt these men once thought as you do. Before you joined this Church you stood on neutral ground. When the gospel was preached good and evil were set before you. You could choose either of neither. There were two opposite masters inviting you to serve them. When you joined this Church you enlisted to serve God. When you did that you left the neutral ground, and you never can get back on to it. Should you forsake the Master you enlisted to serve it will be by the instigation of the evil one, and you will follow his dictation and be his servant.”
“He emphasized the fact that a man or woman who had not taken sides either with Christ or belial could maintain a neutral I position, but when they enlisted under either the one or the other, they left the neutral ground forever.” 3