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1 Nephi 14:9 – The Great and Abominable Church- Which One Is It?

Posted by JLFuller on January 24, 2009

Is there one evil and corrupt church that is the church of the devil and which one do Mormons think it is? The Book of Mormon passage (1st Nephi 14: 9) that many misunderstand and from which many people (a few Mormons too) think seperates Mormons from everyone else really provides a clearer understanding of this doctrine.  It says Behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil.” Some cite comments made by a few very early church members and leaders, right after the church was founded, as supporting the notion that this is one particular church. They were in error. The LDS Church does not teach and does not believe that any other established church as we know them is the Great and Abominable Church.  Rather we believe the “church” spoken of is all the people who fight against God. The next verse helps to clarify. 

Verse 10 continues. ” 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, whoso 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.I suppose some used this verse to suggest that there are only two players – Mormons and everyone else. But that just isn’t so and never has been.  

Verse 12 further identifies who the players are. “I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.” 

Just as is said, the number of the people in God’s church is few and they are on all the face of the earth. We interpret that as meaning members of God’s Church are all those that seek after Him and seek to have Him guide their lives. They are many good people who abide by and seek to live their lives according to God’s will in whatever light that has been given them. These can be and are people in every religious denomination. The others, members of the Great and Abominable Church, are those who corrupt, persecute, defame, malign and abuse people with whom they disagree and over whom they seek advantage or dominion. They fight against godliness. They seek to destroy and enslave. In short, they seek the things of this world and reject God.  

We believe  the gospel has always been on the earth, But it was only in its fullness for certain periods of time and then only according to how much the people could accept and live. We believe that to hear, know and understand the gospel but not live it, or abide by it, results in condemnation. In many cases, giving the people everything would just set them up to fail. So as an act of a loving father, God only allowed as much as the people could live.  But it would have been available if the people were ready for it. 

The advent of Jesus Christ restored the full gospel to the earth once again. But because of the wickedness of the people, and the Great and Abominable church, it was lost when the last apostle died. The record of the entire gospel – which we know was under attack even during the time of Christ and the Apostles – was further attacked afterward. Eventually, much of the record of the Gospel was removed or distorted and only a part of it remains in the traditional canon today. God had said it would happen but that He would restore it in the end times. The Book of Mormon is that restored Gospel. It was being kept by a separate group of God’s people on the American continent.   

Within the group of people identified in Nephi as those who are not members of the Great and Abominable Church, you find the Mormons. While we were still in our pre-mortal life, we took upon ourselves the obligation to take this message to the rest of the world. We understand and accept that some will find a certain resonance with what we claim and will want to learn more. Others, for various reasons, will not.  That doesn’t make them part of the other group though. They may have hardened their hearts and been swayed by the craftiness of men. It is expected.

All people learn and are ready to receive in their own time. It may mean those who reject the message in this life will learn of the fullness of the gospel after they pass over to the other side where they will be taught by Christ’s missionaries as it says in John 5:25. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.”

So, we Mormons are very much a part of the Church of the Lamb of God just as Methodists, Pentecostals, Baptists, Catholics and Jews and all the other good and godly people of the earth. We also accept that membership in any one church or religious group does not exclude a person from membership in the Great and Abominable Church too. Now I understand some people are going say this is too black and white and that there are many shades of gray. That is true. There are many interpretations of scripture that lead to long and deep discussions. But for a short hand version of who Mormons are and how we see ourselves fitting into the world, this I think works – for now.  I invite others to put a finer point on my comments if they wish to do so. I am coachable. 

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6 Responses to “1 Nephi 14:9 – The Great and Abominable Church- Which One Is It?”

  1. jackg said

    JLF,

    I have a question regarding the following:

    Verse 10 continues. ” 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, whoso 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.” I suppose some used this verse to suggest that there are only two players – Mormons and everyone else. But that just isn’t so and never has been.

    Question: Is the position you’re taking the official Church position? I have always heard the General Authorities presenting this passage as if it is only two players involved, LDS and all the others. I know you maintain that this is not true; hence, my question. Thank you, JLF.

    Also, I know that some people believe the “whore of all the earth” is the Catholic Church, which then takes into its scope all Protestant churches. I have never heard any one particular church singled out as the church this LDS writing is referring to. Am I correct in that?

    Peace and Grace!

    • JLFuller said

      jack
      The whore of all the earth is not an organized religion. It is everyone who fights against God. I don’t recall if I said it here or somewhere else, but I think some Mormons may be as big a plague to understanding Mormonism as those who deliberately distort our beliefs.

  2. JLFuller said

    The 1996 version of The Gospel Doctrine instructors manual says:“Emphasize that the great and abominable church is a symbol of apostasy in all its forms. It is a representation of all false doctrine, false worship, and irreligious attitudes. It does not represent any specific church in the world today.” That is the official doctrine.

    In support of that, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “The titles church of the devil and great and abominable church are used to identify all churches or organizations of whatever name or nature—whether political, philosophical, educational, economic, social, fraternal, civic, or religious—which are designed to take men on a course that leads away from God and his laws and thus from salvation in the kingdom of God” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 137–38.

    I draw your attention to the fact that this is the 2nd edition of Gospel Doctrine. It was reviewed by the brethern before being published. The first edition was not and it is the one that contains errors. But getting into what doctrine is and isn’t is a study in its self.

    I suppose some could say that McConkie’s inclusion of the word Church must mean there are organized churches he is referring to. I don’t think he is saying that. First McConkie specifically says it is not and the Gospel Doctrine manual also states that and both have been reviewed and passed on by the first presidency and the twelve. The only other possible reason for including /em>churches is McConkie knew of something we all don’t. Or may be he means the Church of Satan or Wickenism.

    Are there some churches and groups who claim to be Christian who are organized with the intent to damage or destroy the LDS Church? I think we know there are. Those must surely be included too. But just merely taking exception to our doctrine is not a sure sign of membership in the Great and Abominable Church. I have to think they must be actively campaigning to that end. It has to be a fundamental element in their make up and constitution. In my opinion MRM is one of the them. But it does not mean Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals or other churches are. None of these are specifically out to destroy the Church.

    Bu

  3. jackg said

    JLF,

    Thanks for giving me the information I asked for. I now have an understanding that the Church’s position is not US against THEM, but more in the line of truth against all forms of apostasy, etc. I think too many non-Mormons perhaps charge Mormons with believing in something they don’t really believe in. I am troubled by this at times, however, because of what I remember being taught. But, I’m not going to get all bent out of shape over it. The authoritative quotes you furnished have provided me with a better picture of what you’re talking about.

    Grace and Peace!

    • JLFuller said

      I have acknowledged the problems I see with the history of the Church and our theology being hard to keep straight given the membership doesn’t always get it right either. Some folks think that the BofM etc are just made up and so when they find inconsistencies they attribute them to a phony text or secret beliefs that are never acknowledged. That cynical thinking bothers me more than just plain old misunderstanding because it implies deliberate deceitfulness which it isn’t. It is genuine lack of understanding.

      It is safe to say that this is a work in progress and often the general understanding of something is allowed to continue because there is no reason to take it to the Lord for confirmation. But if it becomes an issue the brethren make it a point to ask for clarification just like any of the rest of us. The problem I see in non-Mormons coming from a perspective of a long standing general understanding of a subject, say biblical interpretation, is that all their contemporaries have had the benefit of centuries of consensus to draw upon.

      Some things they just never question like Trinitarianism. They just take it for granted without ever really thinking about it. But when challenged, they get defensive. To go against something that has been long held tradition is almost as bad as heresy. But, in the case of my example, most people acknowledge that the LDS view has merit. They may not agree with our conclusions but when they get real honest they agree it isn’t with out foundation.

      In the case of Mormon theology, all ttraditional Christian theology is being questioned. Everything is open to doubt until someone in authority and by acclamation agree. Just like the notion that all the American Indians were Lamanites. Not so. That was just an accepted myth because no one had every challenged it. But when someone took it upon themselves to see how and where it originated and that it was just some individual’s opinion, they re-thought the whole thing and, by consensus, the brethren agreed it was inaccurate or at least had no basis in doctrine.

      Now some of our detractors claim that because there is a change it must be confirmation that the president is a false prophet. After all, aren’t prophets supposed to know everything? But these people don’t understand that revelation is based on need and timeliness. You have to ask the question in order to receive an answer. As I understand it, that is how most personal revelation happens. If you don’t have a need to know why would you think to ask? If you are on the Lord’s errand you may not need to know until faced with the question. You may not know the question exists until it arises and you have to respond. That is the way personal revelation works – at least some/most of the time. Someone else will have to put a finer point on it than I am capable of doing right now.

      Another myth that has gone unchallenged is that Joseph Smith used the plates as reference when translating the Book of Mormon. Again, not so. He used nothing as an aid. He had no notes, or books of any type and did all his translating in an open room often with multiple witnesses looking on. This comes from his wife Emma who often was his scribe as well as Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdry and others. According to the witnesses, Joseph used the seer stones otherwise known as the Urim and Thummim or interpreters. One thing Emma said was that Joseph could not put a cohesive sentence together in English let alone do as he dictated without aid from another sphere and all in 61 or so translating days.

      “In 1856, Emma recalled that Joseph dictated the translation to her word for word, spelled out the proper names, and would correct her scribal errors even though he could not see what she had written.” Book of Mormon Translation By Joseph Smith (Welch and Rathbone)From the surviving portions of the Original Manuscript it appears that Joseph dictated about a dozen words at a time. Oliver would read those words back for verification, and then they would go on. Emma later added that after a meal or a night’s rest, Joseph would begin, without prompting, where he had previously left off (The Saints’ Herald 26 [Oct. 1, 1879]:290). No time was taken for research, internal cross-checking, or editorial rewriting. In 1834 Oliver wrote: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth as he translated” (Messenger and Advocate 1 [Oct. 1834]:14)

      • JLFuller said

        In revelation, just a thought is received. It is up to the receiver to give voice to it. If it doesn’t come out right then the receiver gets that vacuous feeling and feels prompted to go back and see if he can’t put it a little better. Sometimes it takes several re-writes before the thought is expressed correctly. With the really spiritually minded people, I would expect a clearer message and few re-writes.

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