The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that an unrighteous course God’s children tend to follow is to reject the gospel when His servants are sent to teach it.
It always has been when a man was sent of God with the priesthood and he began to preach the fullness of the gospel, that he was thrust out by his friends, who are ready to butcher him if he teach things which they imagine to be wrong; and Jesus was crucified upon this principle. – History of the Church, 5:423–25
In fact, as has been noted by Seventy H. Verlan Andersen, apostasy, with one exception, has followed every single gospel dispensation. Because it has followed every dispensation, we should only expect that we, too, are heading towards an apostasy.
Religious history testifies that, with the single exception of the inhabitants of the City of Enoch, no people to whom the gospel has been given have remained faithful to their covenants for more than a few generations. Time after time the Lord has established his Church among a group who have lived his commandments for a few years and then fallen away thus bringing upon themselves his judgments. This cycle of human folly which so many prophets have noted, has repeated itself with such consistent regularity, that any group which finds itself to be the favored recipients of the gospel would do well to assume that their own apostasy is certain and the only question about it is how long it will take. . . . The fact that the Lord has found it necessary to restore his gospel so many times is in itself evidence of the regularity with which apostasy has occurred because the only thing which will cause the destruction of his Church is the wickedness of its members. – The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil
Apostle Orson F. Whitney explained that the Great Apostasy resulted because the members of the church were willing to give up principles of the gospel in order to become popular with the world.
[The ancient church] had been torn asunder; it had apostatized from the truth; they who were faithful had been put to death, and in their place sprang up a race of compromisers, who were willing to barter away to the world the principles of truth, being too weak and cowardly to stand and die for their convictions as their fellow laborers had done. They were willing to give up this principle, and concede that point, to amalgamate for the purpose of making them popular and palatable the doctrines of the pure Christian faith with the pagan ideas of ancient Rome. – JD 26:262
It is often believed that because of this apostasy, the Priesthood was taken from the church. However, President Brigham Young teaches us that it was actually the church that departed from the Priesthood.
It is said the Priesthood was taken from the Church, but it is not so, the Church went from the Priesthood. – Discourses of Brigham Young, pg 107
Church leaders have noted that we, too, are following along the same course of apostasy that ultimately destroyed the ancient church.
It is a very apparent fact that we have traveled far and wide in the past 20 years. What the future will bring I do not know. But if we drift as far afield from fundamental things in the next 20 years, what will be left of the foundation laid by the Prophet Joseph Smith? It is easy for one who observes to see how the apostasy came about in the primitive church of Christ. Are we not traveling the same road? – Joseph Fielding Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith Journal, Dec 28, 1938
I tell you we are beginning to follow along the course of the early Christian church. So long as that church was persecuted from without, it prospered, but when it began to be polluted from within, the church began to wither. There is creeping into our midst, and I warn you brethren about it, and I urge you to meet it, a great host of sectarian doctrines that have no place amongst us. The gospel in its simplicity, is to be found in the revelations, the teachings of the Prophet and the early leaders of the Church. We shall make no mistake if we follow them. – J. Reuben Clark, Jr., 1944 General Conference
Read your books. There is a startling parallel between the course that is coming in to us today and the course that was in the early Church, so startling that one becomes fearful. – J. Reuben Clark, Jr., General Conference April 1952
In recent years I have felt, and I think I am not alone, that we were losing the ability to correct the course of the Church… Both Alma and Helaman told of the church in their day. They warned about fast growth, the desire to be accepted by the world, to be popular, and particularly they warned about prosperity. Each time those conditions existed in combination, the Church drifted off course. All of those conditions are present in the Church today. – Boyd K. Packer, Let Them Govern Themselves, Reg. Rep. Seminar, March 30, 1990
Because of this apostasy we are heading into, apostate doctrines have been creeping into our teachings so much so that it has become unpopular to teach the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Not only are there apostates within our midst, but there are also apostate doctrines that are sometimes taught in our classes and from our pulpits and that appear in our publications. And these apostate precepts of men cause our people to stumble. – Ezra Taft Benson, 1969 General Conference
It has become unpopular to preach the unadulterated gospel in the stakes of Zion. – Life of Joseph Fielding Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith & John J. Stewart, page 211
By ignoring this coming apostasy, we only endanger our own salvation.
To fail to consider the possibility that the members of the Church are again “falling away” would be to ignore one of the most thoroughly documented lessons of history. Especially is this true in light of the fact that the cultural, political, and educational life of Church members has become so deeply and thoroughly involved with that of non-members that they are being overwhelmingly influenced by the “ways of the world.” Through newspapers and magazines, motion pictures and television, schools and lecture halls, and a thoroughly integrated economic system, Church members come into close and continuous contact with those not of their faith… Some may assume that a “Gentile apostasy” in these latter days cannot occur because Christ’s Church is here to stay this time. They may assume that widespread departure from gospel principles by Church members is contrary to prophecy. While the scriptures do assure us that the Church will continue to exist and be divinely led by prophets of the Lord right up until his Second Coming, they do not state that all, or even a majority of its members will follow those prophets. On the contrary, they foretell extensive, and in some cases, almost total defection from true principles. – H. Verlan Andersen, The Great and Abominable Church of the Devil
These findings are scary considering the judgments of God have always followed those who have rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In consequence of rejecting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Prophets whom God hath sent, the judgments of God have rested upon people, cities, and nations, in various ages of the world, which was the case with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, that were destroyed for rejecting the Prophets. – Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:256–57