“For the Praise of the World”

George Reynolds, Janne M. Sjodahl

(5) He notes, finally, that this church occupies such a position relative to the world, that, by destroying the Saints of God and bringing them into captivity, she gains the praise of the world.

Saints.” This refers, probably, to the Jews. The Jews, as a people, chosen by God and consecrated to his service, are called “saints.” (See 27.) The word has the same meaning of men and women consecrated to the service of the Lord, in the New Testament and the revelations given in our day, and is, therefore, applied to the members of the Church of our Lord. The persecuting church in the vision was to be the enemy of all the Saints of God, beginning with the children of Israel.

This persecuting church is identical with the “woman” in the Revelation by John (18:14), which is arrayed in purple and scarlet, and keeping a golden cup full of filthiness. She is also called “Babylon,” from an inscription on her forehead.

It is an organization characterized by that condition of spiritual degeneracy described by St. Paul as a “falling away,” the “man of sin,” “perilous times,” or, the reign of antichrist. (2 Tim. 3:1-5)

From the early days of the Christian church, these prophecies have been understood to refer to the Roman Catholic church and papacy.

The reformers generally so understood them. In the dedication of the authorized version of King James, the translators say that the writings of that monarch “in defense of the Truth” “hath given such a blow unto that man of sin, as will not be healed,” and in the Westminster Confession it is expressly stated that, the head of the Roman church is “that antichrist, that man of sin and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ and all that is called god.” This is the view of Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Hooper, Luther, Calvin, Melancthon, Beza and many others; and of later writers, Hooker, Newton, Bengal, Doddridge, Michaelis, and others.

According to this school of interpreters of the prophecies, all the marks of the apostasy, all the characteristics of the man of sin, are found in the Roman church and the papal institution. The man of sin is represented as opposing and exalting himself above all that is called god, and this is considered fulfilled in the papal office, the incumbents of which exalt themselves above all authority, human and divine, claiming the title of “king of kings and lord of lords,” and applying to themselves the words of the psalm: “All kings shall bow down before thee.” The man of sin is seated in the “temple of God,” showing himself as God, and this, they claim, is fulfilled in the papal office, where the popes assume divine attributes and prerogatives, such as infallibility and authority to forgive sins.

Even some Catholic writers agree with the interpretation here outlined. Hear, for instance Abbot Joachim, founder of a Catholic monastery, Giovanni del Fiore, in Calabria. He wrote toward the end of the 12th century:

“The church of Peter, the church of Christ which was full, is now empty. For, although she now seems full of people, yet they are not her people but strangers. They are not her sons, the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, but the sons of Babylon. What profits the name of Christ, where the power is wanting? The church is, as it were, widowed; there are but few or no bishops, who, to save the flock, expose themselves a prey to the wolves. Every man seeks his own, and not the things of Jesus Christ.”...

“Where is there more contention, more fraud, more vice and ambition than among the clergy of our Lord? Therefore must judgment begin from the house of the Lord, and the fire go forth from his sanctuary, to consume it, in order that others may perceive what will be done with them, when he spares not even his sinning children.”...

The abbot characterizes Pope Pascal II as a traitor of the church, who has reduced her to servitude. He says:

“Although the secular princes have wrested many things by violence from the church, as for example, the kingdoms of the Sicilies ... yet, even the popes themselves have wrested many things from the princes ... and the pope will not only long after temporal things, as belonging to him, but also after spiritual things [such] as do not belong to him, Thus will it come to pass, that he will seat himself in the temple of God, and, as a god, exalt himself above all that is called god, that is, above the authority of all prelates.”

“Gold was brought to Christ, that he might have the means of fleeing to Egypt; myrrh, was offered him as if in allusion to his death; incense, that he might praise God; not that he might rise up against Herod, or fall as a burden upon Pharaoh; not that he might give himself up to sensual delights, or reward benefits received with gratitude. The vicegerents of Christ in these latter times care nothing for the incense; they seek only the gold, in order that they, with great Babylon, may mingle the goblets, and pollute their followers with their own uncleanliness.”

Abbot Joachim held the view that antichrist would be a king in alliance with a pope. Such a pope, he thought, might come from the heretics and, armed seemingly, with power to perform miracles, ally himself with the antichristian secular power and stir up persecution, as Simon Magus is said to have incited Nero to kindle the fires of hatred against the Christians.

Robert Grosshead, an English, Catholic bishop, in 1250, A.D., wrote:

“To be sure, the pope, being the vicegerent of Christ, must be obeyed. But when a pope allows himself to be moved by motives of consanguinity, or any other secular interest, to do anything contrary to the precepts and will of Christ, then he who obeys him, manifestly separates himself from Christ and his body, the church, and from him who fills the apostolic chair as the representative of Christ. But, whenever universal obedience is paid him in such things, then comes the true, and complete apostasy—the time of antichrist.” (See the History of the Church by Neander, vol. 4, pp. 185 and 222-26)

Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1