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A Dilemma A few weeks after I graduated from seminary, some Mormon missionaries came to our door. But we were just getting into the important questions when we ran out of time. They ended up coming weekly for the rest of the summer.

So our conversation at some point reached fundamental questions such as: “Why should we believe the Book of Mormon over the early Church fathers?

That was because in their view the early Church Fathers had corrupted Christ’s teaching by incorporating into it both Greek philosophy and pagan rites in syncretistic fashion.

Clement of Alexandria, who both lived during the second century, tell us that after the Apostle John returned from exile on Patmos, he remained at Ephesus “till Trajan’s time.” Trajan became emperor in AD 98. Taddeo Gaddi (1348-1353) Collezione Vittorio Cini, Venice Contents: I. For that reason, according to the Mormons, the Bible had to be interpreted and understood in light of this additional revelation that Joseph Smith had recovered, and not according to the teachings and practices of the early Church fathers.

When the angels carried his soul into Heaven, was the Church then left to fall into heresy and apostasy? They claimed that very shortly after the death of the Apostles (or maybe even before the death of the last Apostle) the Church fell into utter apostasy, and that the true Gospel had been preserved in North America where Jesus had come to preach to certain peoples living here at that time.

But they viewed Scripture the Book of Mormon, that is, in light of the Book of Mormon.

So the whole hierarchical organization of the early Catholic Church seemed to me to be a corruption, a departure from what was taught in the New Testament.

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Since I had just completed four years of training in biblical theology, Greek and Hebrew, I was quite confident that I could persuade these teenage missionaries by exegetical arguments from Scripture that Mormonism is false and that the Gospel, as we understood it then, is true.

Of course, at that time I agreed with Nicene Trinitarianism and Chalcedonian Christology, but like the Mormons I too believed that shortly after the death of the Apostles the Church had begun to fall into various errors, minor at first but progressively more serious.

So in my mind, everything any Church father said had to be tested against [my own interpretation of] Scripture. I agreed with the Mormons that the early Church had been influenced by Greek philosophy.

This was a method, in my mind, that was at least in part responsible for the Church’s departure from the Gospel, and the subsequent need for the Reformation.

From my point of view, there was no difference between bishop and elder, no basis for the papacy or even Roman primacy, not even a real distinction between clergy and laymen.

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