Who Holds the Keys?
(Pope or Prophet)
A Web Debate
In a pamphlet entitled The Strength of the Mormon Position,
the late Elder Orson F. Whitney, of the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, related the following incident under
the heading "A Catholic Utterance":
Many years ago a learned man, a member of the Roman Catholic
Church, came to Utah and spoke from the stand of the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
I became well-acquainted with him, and we conversed freely and frankly. A great
scholar, with perhaps a dozen languages at his tongue's end, he seemed to know
all about theology, law, literature, science and philosophy. One day he said
to me: "You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don't even know the strength
of your own position. It is so strong that there is only one other tenable
in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Catholic Church.
The issue is between Catholicism and Mormonism. If we are right, you are wrong;
if you are right, we are wrong; and that's all there is to it. The Protestants
haven't a leg to stand on. For, if we are wrong, they are wrong with us, since
they were a part of us and went out from us; while if we are right, they are
apostates whom we cut off long ago. If we have the apostolic succession from
St. Peter, as we claim, there is no need of Joseph Smith and Mormonism; but
if we have not that succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary,
and Mormonism's attitude is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation
of the gospel from ancient times, or the restoration of the gospel in latter
The purpose of this debate is to present our respective positions
on whether we believe the "keys to the kingdom of heaven" were preserved and protected by the Catholic Church through "Apostolic Succession" or
lost by the early Christian church and later restored to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
- RCC Position (Steve Clifford): The Catholic Church is the one holy
catholic and apostolic Church established by Jesus Christ. It has been in existence
for almost 2,000 years through an unbroken chain of successors to the apostles.
The Catholic Church has always taught that the bishops are the successors of
the apostles and that the Pope is the successor to Peter, the first Bishop
of Rome. This line of succession has been unbroken from the Apostle Peter to
Pope Benedict XVI, the current Bishop of Rome. Christ commissioned the Twelve
to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. They appointed
successors who continued in that tradition. Initially these teachings were
passed on orally. The first written word of the New Testament dates to around
the year 50 A.D. (1 Thess) and the last between 90-100 A.D (Rev). The official
canon of the books of the Bible was authoritatively determined by Catholic
councils and Catholic popes in the fourth century. Oral Tradition and Sacred
Scripture have been preserved throughout the centuries by the Catholic Church.
For more information about the teachings and practices of the Catholic
Church, see the Hot Links to other Catholic web
- LDS Position (Barry Bickmore): The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or "Mormon") claims to be a
restoration of the original Church of Jesus Christ. In the 1820's a young
man named Joseph Smith, Jr. received a series of heavenly visitations in
which he was told that all the sects of Christendom had fallen away from
the truth, and none of them still retained the authority of God. He and
an associate, Oliver Cowdery, were ordained to the Holy Priesthood and
the Apostleship by heavenly messengers in 1829, and they organized the
Church of Jesus Christ on April 6, 1830. Prophets and Apostles, as well
as the Apostolic authority, have continued in the LDS Church from that
time. For more information about the teachings and practices of the LDS
Church, see the official LDS website.
Both Mr. Clifford and Mr. Bickmore officially represent only themselves acting as private believers in Jesus Christ, and do not speak authoritatively for any church, organization, or other entity.
Mr. Clifford will present an argument which to the best of his knowledge and ability is in complete conformance to orthodox Catholic Christian teaching, but as an amateur layman he has no ecclesiastical teaching authority.
Mr. Bickmore will present an argument which he believes conforms to the essentials
of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as taught by the "Four Standard Works" and
other official LDS church documents. He too, is a layman and cannot claim to
be in any way authoritative.
1. LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and A Wonder (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 3.
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This debate is being mirrored on an LDS web site located at
Early Christianity and Mormonism Page
Please give us your Comments on our debate.
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