Early Christianity and Mormonism Page

Awarded for outstanding doctrinal research contribution tothe Latter-day Saint community...Presented by Prophetic References to the Signsof the Last Days

Table of Contents


This page is dedicated to the comparison of Early Christianity and Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). The LDS Church claims to be neither Protestant nor Catholic, but a restoration of the early Christian Church, as it existed under the direction of the Apostles. We believe this restoration was necessary because the original Church lapsed into apostasy - Christians rebelled against the Apostles and other authorities established by Christ, so God's authority was taken from the earth for a time.

The Prophet Joseph Smith is the one through whom God chose to restore His Church. However, the historical study of early Christianity was really in its infancy at the time Smith claimed to receive his revelations, so merely copying what was known about the early Church at that time to set up his own church would have been pointless. The purpose of the information presented here is to make the case that Joseph Smith restored many doctrines and practices now known to have been part of the early Church, and that at a time when not much was known about it. This, I believe, is valuable evidence for his calling as a prophet.

Disclaimer: This site is not officially connected with the LDS Church or any other organization in any way. The views presented here are those of the site owner, and anyone else he chooses to publish here.

New Book! 

It's Here! My new book, Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity, is now available for purchase. It is being published by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented evidence for the faith, and solid responses to anti-Mormon charges. You can order your copy RIGHT NOW from FAIR for $19.95. Click hereto visit FAIR's Online Store - my book is in the Publications/Books section. The Online Store is a secure site, so nobody can steal your credit card info when you order via the web. Remember also that by ordering directly from FAIR, you allow them to keep the 40% cut bookstores usually take.

The book is approximately 400 pages with over 1000 footnotes in addition to a few hundred scripture citations. Click here to view a slightly outdated outline. Several of the articles on this page are either early rough drafts or condensations of some of the sections of the book, so if this page leaves you wanting more, this book is for you! A number of people have asked me for background information on myself, so if you're one of the curious ones, Click here to read a short bio.

Back Cover Endorsements

"Barry Bickmore makes a clear case for the proposition that, in the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we really do, as claimed, have a restoration of ancient Christian teachings lost from the churches of the so-called 'mainstream.' This is an admirable book, based upon extensive reading in both the early Christian sources and secondary scholarship. I wish for it wide circulation among Latter-day Saints and beyond. I also wish I had written it."

Daniel C. Peterson, Ph.D., Brigham Young University

  • Director, Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts
  • Editor, FARMS Review of Books
  • co-author of Offenders for a Word
"An excellent and much needed study of the apostasy, I highly recommend it for accuracy, clarity and easy reading."No. I would go further. This is truly the quintessential book on the Apostasy. I could not recommend a better book for gaining a complete understanding of that monumental event in Christian history, as well as the next monumental event--the restoration of all things."

Richard R. Hopkins

  • author of Biblical Mormonism and How Greek Philosophy Corrupted the Christian Concept of God
"I have been interested in the comparison of Mormonism and early Christianity for many years, and I've been waiting for a book like this for just as long. This is by far the best book out there on the subject; in fact, nothing else even comes close! Barry Bickmore has done a superb job, giving literally hundreds of quotes from early Christian sources, meticulously documenting each and every subject."

Dr. Kenneth R. Taylor

  • Doctor of Chiropractic
  • Certified Clinical Nutritionist
"Studying early Christianity has clarified my understanding of the apostasy and deepened my appreciation for the latter-day restoration. Anyone wishing to undertake such a study will find Restoring the Ancient Church to be a tremendous resource. I look forward to owning this book and wearing out its pages, and I look forward to reading more from Barry Bickmore."

Mark Ellison

  • CES Coordinator, Tampa, FL
"This book will undoubtedly cause major heartburn among the many detractors of the LDS faith. It provides documented, unimpeachable evidence of the Early Christian roots of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I consider this book a 'must-read.'"

D.L. Barksdale

  • President, Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research


  • Who Holds the Keys? (Pope or Prophet?) - Here I take on Steve Clifford, a Roman Catholic (and former Latter-day Saint), on the issue of the apostasy. Did the authority of the Apostles continue in Catholicism or did a total apostasy occur, necessitating a Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith? You can also access this debate at Steve Clifford's Catholic Apologetics website, by clicking here. Both LDS and Roman Catholic readers will be encouraged by the friendly tone of the debate. Note: I have put up my closing statement, and Steve hopes to complete his soon.

Early Christianity/Mormonism Articles

This site will be steadily growing, so don't despair if you can't find something here that you want to know. If you have a burning question, go ahead and e-mail me and tell me about it. If I have any answers, maybe your subject will be the next one I post! Also, I will post submissions from others if I like them.


Hey! Check out my debate with Roman Catholic apologist Steve Clifford, posted above. Almost all of my best stuff is in there (even more than is in the articles below,) and you can judge the issue after weighing arguments from both sides!

  • The Apostasy Foretold - The apostles and prophets predicted a total apostasy from the truth.
  • The Apostasy: A History of Rebellion - The apostles indicated that the predicted apostasy was happening even as they wrote!
    • The Apostasy - from the Book of Abraham Project. This is a good summary article on evidence for the apostasy.
  • Upon This Rock... - Did Jesus ever claim His earthly Church would survive?
    • The Gates of Hell - A mainstream Christian takes issue with my interpretations in the above article and I respond.
  • The Loss of Apostolic Authority - A defining characteristic of the true Church of Christ was lost by the end of the first century.
  • The Rebellion Continues - Even after the apostles were gone, the rebellion against established authority continued. Eventually, the Church came under secular control.
    • The Need for the Restoration - by the late LDS apostle Mark E. Peterson, and put online by Gene Robbins.
    • The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture - Review of Bart Ehrman's book by Kerry Shirts. Shows how Christological controversies in early Christianity shaped the present form of the New Testament canon. Presents various deletions, additions, glosses, etc.
    • The Canonical or Biblical Exclusion - by Stephen E. Robinson. Shows the fallacy of excluding Mormonism from Christendom because we accept more books of scripture than are in the Bible. This is a chapter from Robinson's Are Mormons Christians, put on the web by the "All About Mormons" site.


Hey! I have some fantastic information on the doctrine of God and the nature of man in my debate with Roman Catholic apologist Steve Clifford, posted above. Don't miss it!

  • The Nature of God and the Origin and Destiny of Man - This is a 10 page essay showing that various LDS beliefs about the nature of God and the nature of mankind show up in the earliest forms of Christianity, while the corresponding doctrines in mainstream Christianity were later developments based on the wholesale adoption of pagan Greek philosophical tenets. Subjects covered include the Trinity, creation ex nihilo, pre-mortal existence, and deification.
    • Why We Already Believe in the Trinity - But Not Your Trinity!: A reader asked me to respond to an article entitled "Why You Should Believe in the Trinity". Here it is, hot off the presses.
    • The Trinity and the Nature of God - by Stephen E. Robinson. This is a chapter out of Robinson's book, Are Mormons Christians? Put on the web by the "All About Mormons" site.
    • Trinity and the Bible - by Marc Schindler. Discusses whether the mainstream "Trinity" doctrine can be found in the Bible. Put on the net by Kerry Shirts.
    • Tertullian on the Trinity - A reader asked me to respond to the charge that the mainstream doctrine of the Trinity was believed as early as Tertullian (ca. 200 A.D.) Well, it wasn't.
    • Theophilus on the Trinity - Jeff Lindsay asked about Theophilus of Antioch's (ca. 181 A.D.) early use of the word "trias" which some translate as "trinity". I explain exactly what Theophilus did and didn't believe on this issue.
    • More on Distinctions Within the Trinity - A reader wanted more sources for the early belief in the separateness of the members of the Godhead. He also had some misconceptions about what the real difference is between the LDS and mainstream Christian concepts of the Trinity. I try to clear that up here.
    • The God of the Philosophers - Look at the ideas various Greek philosophers had about the nature of God, and then compare them with the mainstream Christian creeds!
    • God's Material Body - by Kerry Shirts. My pal Kerry summarizes some early Christian evidence for God's material body in human form. Most of the information is from an article by BYU Philosophy professor David Paulsen in Harvard Theological Review.
    • The Anthropomorphic, Passionate God - by Kerry Shirts. Suffice it to say that the God of the Bible is not "without body, parts, or passions".
    • The Angel of God's Presence in Abraham 1:15-16 - This article talks about the early Christian identification of Jesus with Yahweh, as well as the belief that Jesus was both a God and the "chief angel".
    • Grandfather in Heaven? - Is there any early Christian support for Joseph Smith's teaching that God was once a man, and that our Father in Heaven has a Father, as well?
    • No, Really - Gods!: A reader wanted me to respond to anti-Mormon charges that the early Christian Doctrine of deification was nothing like our doctrine. Refer also to Gerald Smith's article below.
    • The Doctrinal Exclusion - by Stephen E. Robinson. Covers deification and the plurality of Gods. This is a chapter from Robinson's Are Mormons Christians?, put on the web by the "All About Mormons" site.
    • The Divine Potential of Human Beings - by Jeff Lindsay. This is an essay on the LDS concept of God, and the potential of humans to become gods. Passages from the Bible and other early Christian sources are discussed.
    • Deification - by Gerald Smith. Some critics of Mormonism have suggested that even though the early Christians did believe in deification, it didn't mean that we would really become like God. While this is true of the later Fathers, Gerald gives evidence to the contrary from earlier sources.
    • Trinity Joke - This was posted on the Free-Saints mailing list while we were discussing the Trinity. I almost died!
    • Recommended Reading - Margaret Barker's The Great Angel: A Study of Israel's Second God. Click here to read a short summary.

Salvation History and Requirements

  • Faith, Grace, and Works - This article sets out exactly what the main similarities and differences are between the LDS doctrine and that believed by most Protestants. Then it shows that the earliest Christian writers unanimously supported the LDS view.
    • Faith, Grace, and Works - by Jeff Lindsay. This is a longer article contrasting the LDS view with that of Luther, and comparing both to the Bible.
    • "Works" and "Salvation" - by Wade Englund. This is a very thorough Biblical treatment of the LDS view of the relationship between works and salvation.
  • Baptism - A Requirement For Salvation- This article shows that baptism was considered absolutely necessary by the early Church. Also, the mode of baptism, infant baptism, and the Laying on of hands are discussed.
  • The Nature of the Spirit World - Joseph Smith preached some strange things about the spirit world for his day, but these doctrines would have been right at home in the early Christian Church!
  • The Preaching Mission to the Dead - This was an important, if not essential, doctrine in the early Church.
  • Baptism for the Dead - Here's a quick review of some of the best evidence for the practice in the early Church.
    • Baptism for the Dead and the Book of Mormon - Critics of the LDS Church often ask why baptism for the dead isn't mentioned in the Book of Mormon, if it is supposed to contain the "fulness of the gospel". Also, they sometimes try to show that the Book of Mormon actually contradicts the concept of baptism for the dead. Here's why they're wrong.
    • Baptism for the Dead - by Jeff Lindsay. Here's another defense of the LDS practice.
    • Some Notes on Baptism for the Dead in 1 Cor. 15:29 - by Michael Griffith. Loads of translations of and commentaries on this controversial verse.
  • The Three Degrees of Glory and Outer Darkness - Joseph Smith provided many more details about the degrees of glory than are in the Bible, and we can find many of those same details in the writings of early Christians.

The Temple

  • The LDS Temple Endowment - A short introduction to this sacred LDS rite, using public statements of LDS general authorities.
    • Why These Temples? - by Gordon B. Hinckley. They current president of the LDS Church explains.
    • Mormonism and Masonry FAQ - by Jeff Lindsay. This essay shows how and why the LDS Temple is much more than "warmed over Masonry."
  • Esoteric Doctrines and Rites - Did the early Christian Church have esoteric (secret) doctrines and rites? The answer is here!
    • Recommended Reading - Guy G. Stroumsa, Hidden Wisdom: Esoteric Traditions and the Roots of Christian Mysticism. This is an excellent new book, and you can read a review of it in The Journal of Early Christian Studies by clicking here.
  • "Orthodox" Christian Esoteric Rites - Find out what these esoteric rites were like in the "orthodox" branches of early Christianity.
  • Gnostic Christian Esoteric Rites - Such rituals also survived for a time in various branches of "gnostic" Christianity. This article also has a brief introduction to gnosticism.


  • The Word of Wisdom in Early Christianity? - A reader asked whether anything resembling the Word of Wisdom be found in early Christianity. The answer is no, so don't get your hopes up, but click here to find out why this doesn't matter!
  • The Narrative of Zosimus - This is a third century apocryphal document that presents a familiar story to anyone who has read the Book of Mormon. Check it out and play "find the parallels"!
  • Biblical Evidences for LDS Beliefs - Do the "17 Points of the True Church" make you want to hurl? Same here. Anyway, with the help of a couple other people I made up this list, which is hopefully not as pathetically infantile as the other one. (Can you tell I don't like the "17 Points"?) We tried to use only references that support LDS positions fairly solidly.
  • The Hymn of the Pearl - This early Christian or Gnostic Christian hymn has been called an ancient version of "Oh My Father". Trust me, you will LOVE this!
  • The Doctrinal Exclusion: Lesser Arguments - by Stephen E. Robinson. Discusses polygamy, the esoteric teaching of early Christianity vs. the LDS Temple, premortal existence, and faith-grace-works. This is a chapter out of Robinson's Are Mormons Christians?, put on the web by the "All About Mormons" site.

Reference Info for this Site

Check My Sources!

  • Early Christian Fathers at Wheaton College - Most of my quotations of early Christian writings are from the English Translation series, The Ante-Nicene Fathers and The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Now you can get all 38 vols. (except the index) online! (Sometimes in my source notes I abbreviate these series as ANF and NPNF.)
  • The Ecole Initiative - A hypertext catalog of online Christian documents down to 1500 A.D. listed alphabetically by author and title. This is a must see!
  • The Church Fathers - More early Christian documents.
  • Early Christian Documents - Collection of online early Christian documents and other resources at BYU. Includes some gnostic works and the writings of Plotinus (the Neoplatonist), as well as some "orthodox" Christian writings.
  • Guide to Early Church Documents - Quite a bit of information here about early Christian documents, including the New Testament. Also contains online text of some early Church Fathers and various Greek philosophical works influential to them.
  • The Gnostic Society Virtual Library - Various Gnostic texts, as well as some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Old and New Testament Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha, Kabbalah, etc.
  • The Nag Hammadi Library - The entire ancient Gnostic library now online in English!
  • The Books of the Savior - The two books of Jeu, as well as a few other Gnostic texts.
  • The Pistis Sophia - translated by Violet MacDermott. Another important Gnostic text.
  • Religious and Sacred Texts - Maintained by David Wiley. If anyone ever thought some book was sacred, it's probably here.
  • The Canonical Prayerbook of the Mandaeans - Jewish Gnostics who have survived into modern times.

Related Links

Early Christianity and Mormonism

  • Michael Griffith's "Real Issues" Homepage - His LDS information page has some articles about Mormonism and early Christianity.
  • Background for the Testaments - by Stephen E. Robinson. An LDS scholar explains the apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Nag Hammadi texts from a Mormon perspective. This article first appeared in the Ensign, Dec. 1982.
  • Kerry A. Shirts' "Mormonism Researched" - Kerry has articles about early Christianity, the Book of Abraham, and much more.
  • FAIR - The "Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research" is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to anti-Mormon criticisms. Many of these answers appeal to early Christian sources.
  • Are Mormons Christians? - by Stephen E. Robinson. This book discusses whether there is any valid reason for critics to say the LDS are not Christians using many early Christian sources. It was put online by the "All About Mormons" website.
  • DAS - Rene Krywult. This is a German-speaking LDS site with information about early Christianity. Rene even has some of my material translated into German. (At least that's what he tells me. I can't read German very well.)
Mormonism and the Ancient World Early Christianity (General)
  • Christian History Institute - Lots of interesting stuff about Christian History.
  • Ecole Initiative - Online hypertext encyclopedia of early Christianity! It's not that big now, but it's always growing.
  • - Now, this is an interesting one. These guys have basically started a religious movement in which they have tried to recapture the faith of the early Christians by interpreting the Bible through the lens of the early Christian Fathers. I think you'll find that they have many similarities to Mormonism. They have links to various online resources, and they also have an online catalog for Scroll Publishing Co., which has some phenomenal bargains on books and tapes by early Christians or about early Christianity. Although I don't agree with everything they have to say, I highly recommend this site.
  • ChurchRodent: R.A. Tatum's Glossary of Church History - A valuable resource if you want to look someone up.
  • A History of the Church to the Eve of the Reformation - by Philip Hughes. This is a complete three-volume history of Christianity online! This page just got a whole lot better just by having this link.
  • Sketches of Church History: From AD 33 to the Reformation - by J. A. Robertson. Another online Christian history book.
  • Journal of Early Christian Studies - Get the latest scholarly input about early Christianity in this full-text e-journal! Some of the biggest names in the game are published here, and I especially like the book reviews.
  • A History of Christianity in Egypt - From the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism.
  • Goshen Net - Bible study resource site that includes searchable versions of several Bible translations, concordances, commentaries, and Greek and Hebrew lexicons. Don't miss this one, folks.
  • Arden Eby's Religious Studies Center - Lots of links for early Christianity, Mormonism, and many more.
  • Augustine on the Internet - Translations of his writings as well as commentary and historical information. If you want to see the culmination of the Apostasy, read Augustine!
  • Interpreting Ancient Manuscripts Web - Lots of info about New Testament manuscripts and their history.
  • The Works of Flavius Josephus - The complete works of the great Jewish historian, a contemporary of the apostles, are right here in hypertext format.
  • Philo of Alexandria Homepage - Philo was a Jewish leader and theologian who wrote about the time of Christ. He was thoroughly Hellenized, but he seems to have inherited a Jewish theological tradition very similar to the one from which Christianity sprang. Mormons might also be interested to know that he believed in the Word as a "second god" and that the Word had a mother.
  • The Society for the Advancement of Nazarene Judaism - "Jewish Christianity" was the most primitive form of ancient Christianity. Click here to get some boffo information on this ancient movement and its modern counterparts.
  • ELENCHUS Archives - This is a new mailing list for people interested in the study of Christianity in late antiquity (roughly 100-500 A.D.) You can also find out how to join by clicking here, but be warned that this is an academic discussion group. They probably wouldn't appreciate a bunch of Mormon trolls, spams, etc.
  • Canadian Society of Patristic Studies - Click here and see what the professionals are interested in.
  • University of Fribourg, Switzerland, Patristic Studies - Quite a few interesting links posted here by more professionals.
  • Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit - Find out all about these Jews, who in many ways seem like pre-Christian Christians!

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If you have comments or suggestions, e-mail Barry Bickmore at