Some Mormons have used 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 14-15 and 4:3-4 as a support of the Great Apostasy and a prediction that all authority would be lost soon after the deaths of the apostles (including the author of this book, the apostle Paul). These verses have been taken out of context to support this teaching. These verses say:
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
14 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
This is certainly talking about many (but not everyone) who would apostatize in the last days–a time even Paul believed he was living in. As one commentator explains,
By “last days” he means the New Testament age ushered in by Jesus Christ (Acts 2:14-17; Heb. 1:1-2). He then describes in nineteen vivid terms the sins and sinners that will characterize this age (vv. 2-5). John Stott gives a helpful analysis. Notice first the misdirected love: :lovers of themselves,” “lovers of money” (v. 2) and “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (v. 4). Being self-centered they are “boastful, proud, abusive” (v. 2). The next five speak of the degeneration of family attitudes and relationships with words that depict the absence of what one would expect (“disobedient to parents . . . unforgiving,” v. 2). This listens widens with the next seven words indicating the terrible antisocial behavior of those who do not have “self-control” (v. 3) but are “conceited” (v. 4). Such sinners also profess to be religious and so they are. But it is only “form”; there is not “power” because there is no reality. Timothy and the church are exhorted to “have nothing to do with them” (v. 5; see 1 Cor. 5:2, 11, 13). (Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, p. 1113).
While the Mormon has to assume that this passage is teaching all divine authority was lost on the earth, these verses explain very clearly that all authority was not lost. Notice verse 15 that reference the holy scriptures, “which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” There have been believers throughout the centuries who have used the Bible to teach about “faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Of course, some would claim that even this authority was lost because the words of the Bible have been changed by corrupt priests and other handlers of the ancient manuscripts. Article 8 reads that “the Bible is true only as far as it is translated correctly.” As time has moved on, however, the evidence has become even more clear that we have an accurate rendering of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. For more detail on this, see here:
While there have been many who have fallen away over the years, these verses in 2 Timothy are not teaching that all authority was lost. In fact, what Paul wrote 2,000 years ago can perhaps help us better understand the situation we live in today during this decadent 21st century!
For more information, see The Great Apostasy.
For other passages discussing common passages used by Latter-day Saints, click here.