Thursday, November 8, 2018

Unity and the Christian Church: Part 6 - identifying the unnamed lecturer


As promised in Part 1 of this series, the time has come to reveal the unnamed lecturer quoted in that post—B. H. (Brigham Henry) Roberts.

B. H. Roberts is probably the most prolific author that has emerged from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Back in 2011, Deseret News published a list of the "Top 10 LDS 'Intellectuals'" (link), and B. H. Roberts was #1 in that list, attesting to the high level of his contributions.

Truman G. Madsen, in his biography Defender of the Faith - The B. H. Roberts Story, had the following to say concerning Roberts massive, literary output:

Roberts total literary output included well over thirty books, three hundred articles in such publications as the Improvement Era, the Millennial Star, the Juvenile Instructor and the Contributor, and over a thousand sermons and discourses. Not included in this count are numerous tracts, pamphlets, and sermons published in various newspapers and magazines. (Page 441)

To my knowledge, I have in my possession all of Roberts published books; plus a good portion of his "three hundred articles", dozens of his discourses/lectures and sermons, and some of his tracts and pamphlets. Included in my collection of Roberts' contributions was the discourse which is the source of the excerpt I provided in Part 1 of this series. Titled, Mormonism and Christianity,  the discourse was delivered by Roberts at Salt Lake City, Utah, January 23rd, 1898. This discourse is included in volume 5, of the 5 volume Collected Discourses Delivered By President Wilfred Woodruff, His Two Counselors, The Twelve Apostles and Others—Compiled and Edited by Brian H. Stuy, First Edition, 1992—pages 376-388 (the excerpt being from the opening of the discourse, pp. 376, 377).

The selection published in Part 1 ended with the following:

This was the great question [i.e. Is Christ divided?] which the Apostle of the Gentiles propounded to those Saints in Corinth, among whom divisions began to appear. These divisions, however, were incipient as compared with those which exist in Christendom today; and if those divisions existing in the primitive Church at Corinth called forth this stern reproof from the great Apostle of the Gentiles, I sometimes wonder what he would say to torn, distracted Christendom of today! Would he not with increased emphasis demand of this Babel that exists now in Christendom, an answer to the question, Is Christ divided?

The plain inference of this Scripture, of course, is that Christ is not to be divided; that men are under condemnation who say that they are of Paul, or of Cephas, or of Apollos. It plainly declares that the Church of Christ is to be one.

Roberts then continued with:

Yet, as men look upon Christendom in its divided condition today, they very naturally find themselves somewhat perplexed with this confusion that exists concerning the Christian religion...(Page 377)

Now, the "divided condition" that Roberts correctly discerned 120 years ago, was more pervasive in his day than in Paul's; and the "divided condition" in our day, is significantly greater than in Roberts'. (Does not reason demand that Paul's "great question" has even more relevance in our day?)

The rest of Roberts' discourse is devoted to what he believes is the most consistent solution to Christendom's "divided condition"—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Roberts' support for his view begins with the affirmation of a Great Apostasy. Though all non-Apostolic See churches—i.e. churches which are not direct descendants of those great churches founded by Christ's apostles and historically perpetuated via apostolic/episcopal succession—hold to some variant of a Great Apostasy, Roberts' understanding is one of a TOTAL APOSTASY, which in turn demands a restoration rather than a mere reformation to correct.

After affirming this TOTAL APOSTASY, Roberts provides his interpretation of the four marks/notes which have been used throughout the history of Christianity to identify the Church that Jesus Christ founded—apostolic, one, holy, universal. Roberts' interpretation of what constitutes a church as 'apostolic' is unique, in that he believes his church actually has living apostles. He then goes on to link the issue of 'oneness' with those who follow the direction and guidance of those living apostles.

And so, though some commonality exists between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints view of 'unity and the Christian Church', with other interpretations, ultimately, their view remains unique.


Grace and peace,

David