A reader asks: I was wondering...I believe the LDS teach that the church became apostate or basically dormant after the death of the last apostle.
My question is this: Had the 'apostate' church not existed, how would have the prophet Joseph Smith known about the Christian faith or even Jesus Christ? There are a few tangents off of that question, but that is the basic question that confuses me about the LDS faith...that the work of Christians for 1700 or so years was in vain.
Answer: Dear Randy --
Thank you for your question.
As a point of doctrine, Latter-day Saints do not place a precise end-point to the time when the priesthood keys were taken back into the heavens. Furthermore, we believe in apostolic succession, so the 'last apostle' has perhaps a different meaning to Latter-day Saints than it has for others.
That the Church lost its priesthood keys, and thus its authority, DOES NOT MEAN, though, that Christianity ceased to exist. Only that the authority to perform the saving ordinances of the gospel was lost.
No matter. Those keys have been restored, and every person who ever lived on earth will have those ordinances available through the temple work being performed now and throughout the millenium.
The church that the Savior established is held by the Saints in high esteem because it (in its various forms) compiled and protected the record of the Savior -- the Bible -- for two millenia.
The Protestant church is also held in high esteem because it created the conditions that allowed the reorganized Church to be established and to thrive.
We do NOT believe God hid Himself from humanity for 2000 years. Only that humanity lost its way over time, and that a restoration -- prophesied in the very scripture that Catholicism gathered and protected -- re-established truths set forth by the Savior during His earthly sojourn.
I hope this answers your question. If you have others, or would like to discuss this one further, please feel free to write again.
-- The Practical Mormon