Who Holds the Keys?
(Pope or Prophet)
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":
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 John Paul II, 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 Roman 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
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
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
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.
This debate is being mirrored on a Roman Catholic site.
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comment on our debate at the Catholic Apologetics site (Steve Clifford).
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e-mail to Barry Bickmore.
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