Early Christianity and Mormonism Page
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.
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here to view a slightly outdated outline.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
"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."
Director, Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts
Editor, FARMS Review of Books
co-author of Offenders for a Word
Richard R. Hopkins
"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."
author of Biblical Mormonism and How Greek Philosophy Corrupted
the Christian Concept of God
Dr. Kenneth R. Taylor
"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
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."
Doctor of Chiropractic
Certified Clinical Nutritionist
"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.'"
CES Coordinator, Tampa, FL
President, Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research
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.
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!
Apostasy Foretold - The apostles and prophets predicted a total
apostasy from the truth.
Apostasy: A History of Rebellion - The apostles indicated that
the predicted apostasy was happening even as they wrote!
Apostasy - from the Book of Abraham Project. This is a good summary
article on evidence for the apostasy.
This Rock... - Did Jesus ever claim His earthly Church would
Gates of Hell - A mainstream Christian takes issue with my interpretations
in the above article and I respond.
Loss of Apostolic Authority - A defining characteristic of
the true Church of Christ was lost by the end of the first century.
Rebellion Continues - Even after the apostles were gone, the
rebellion against established authority continued. Eventually, the Church
came under secular control.
Need for the Restoration - by the late LDS apostle Mark E. Peterson,
and put online by Gene Robbins.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
the Bible - by Marc Schindler. Discusses whether the mainstream
"Trinity" doctrine can be found in the Bible. Put on the net by Kerry Shirts.
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.
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.
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.
God of the Philosophers - Look at the ideas various Greek philosophers
had about the nature of God, and then compare them with the mainstream
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
Passionate God - by Kerry Shirts. Suffice it to say that the God
of the Bible is not "without body, parts, or passions".
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".
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,
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
Joke - This was posted on the Free-Saints mailing list while we
were discussing the Trinity. I almost died!
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
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.
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.
- 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.
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!
Preaching Mission to the Dead - This was an important, if not
essential, doctrine in the early Church.
for the Dead - Here's a quick review of some of the best evidence
for the practice in the early Church.
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.
for the Dead - by Jeff Lindsay. Here's another defense of the LDS
Notes on Baptism for the Dead in 1 Cor. 15:29 - by Michael Griffith.
Loads of translations of and commentaries on this controversial verse.
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.
LDS Temple Endowment - A short introduction to this sacred
LDS rite, using public statements of LDS general authorities.
Temples? - by Gordon B. Hinckley. They current president of the
LDS Church explains.
and Masonry FAQ - by Jeff Lindsay. This essay shows how and why
the LDS Temple is much more than "warmed over Masonry."
Doctrines and Rites - Did the early Christian Church have esoteric
(secret) doctrines and rites? The answer is here!
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.
Christian Esoteric Rites - Find out what these esoteric rites
were like in the "orthodox" branches of early Christianity.
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.
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!
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"!
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.
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!
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.
for this Site
- 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.)
Initiative - A hypertext catalog of online Christian documents
down to 1500 A.D. listed alphabetically by author and title. This is a
The Church Fathers
- More early Christian documents.
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.
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,
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.
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
Early Christianity and Mormonism
Mormonism and the Ancient World
Early Christianity (General)
Griffith's "Real Issues" Homepage - His LDS information page has
some articles about Mormonism and early Christianity.
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.
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.
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
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.)
Christian History Institute
- Lots of interesting stuff about Christian History.
- Online hypertext encyclopedia of early Christianity! It's not that big
now, but it's always growing.
EarlyChurch.com - 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.
R.A. Tatum's Glossary of Church History - A valuable resource if
you want to look someone up.
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.
of Church History: From AD 33 to the Reformation - by J. A. Robertson.
Another online Christian history book.
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
Arden Eby's Religious
Studies Center - Lots of links for early Christianity, Mormonism,
and many more.
the Internet - Translations of his writings as well as commentary
and historical information. If you want to see the culmination of the Apostasy,
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.
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.
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!
an Introduction to the LDS Church?
If you have comments or suggestions, e-mail Barry
Bickmore at firstname.lastname@example.org