Who Holds the Keys?
(Pope or Prophet)
A Web Debate

LDS Temple

Catholic Church
Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints
Brief Bio -
Round 1 -
Round 2 -
Round 3 -
Round 4 -

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 days." 1
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 sites.
  • 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
Barry's Early Christianity and Mormonism Page

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