Encyclopedia of Mormonism
…[A]postasy refers to members who:
- Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
- Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
- Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
- Are in a same-gender marriage.
- Formally join another church and advocate its teachings.
Members of the Church vary in their levels of participation or belief (see Activity in the Church). Latter-day Saints who have seriously contravened or ignored cardinal Church teachings (publicly or privately) are considered apostates, whether or not they have officially left the Church or affiliated with another religion. By not participating in Church meetings one is not considered apostate. However, when individuals ask to have their names removed from Church records, policy requires such requests to be honored. A Church disciplinary procedure may be held for any member who violates important commandments and "will not repent" (Mosiah 26:32; D&C 42:28). Open repudiation of the Church, its leaders, and teachings is one ground for excommunication.
The steps to apostasy are usually gradual. All members are counseled to guard against all manifestations of personal apostasy (DS 3:293-312; Asay, pp. 67-68). The most frequent causes of apostasy are failure to maintain strict standards of morality, taking personal offense (real or perceived), marrying someone who is of another faith or who is irreligious, neglecting to pray and maintain spirituality, or misunderstanding of the teachings of the Church.
Apostasy may be accelerated by a faulty assumption that scripture or Church leaders are infallible. Joseph Smith taught that "a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such" (HC 5:265). He also declared he "was but a man, and [people] must not expect me to be perfect" (HC 5:181). Neither the Church nor its leaders and members claim infallibility.
Above all, the Church affirms that its members should seek personal revelation to know the truth and live in tune with the spirit of God. Those who have not done this may drop by the wayside when their faith is challenged or when difficulties arise.
"Apostate," entry in Encyclopedia of Mormonism , 1:59
From the Gospel Topics on LDS.org:
When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy.
"Apostasy," Gosepl Topics, LDS.org website.
…[T]he repeated, clear and open public opposition to the Church, its leaders and its doctrine. If someone seeks to teach as doctrine something that is contrary to the Church’s beliefs, attempts to persuade other Church members to their point of view or publicly insists the Church change its doctrine to align with their personal views, they would be counseled by a local Church leader and asked to cease that practice. If they fail to do so, Church discipline may follow.
"Church Discipline," LDS Newsroom.
Apostasy is a term hardly used in modern times by most churches. However, LDS members are still occasionally put on trial in church courts for apostasy when the Church feels that someone is teaching false doctrine or trying to lead others astray. Church historian Marlin Jensen actually used the term apostasy in 2012 when describing members leaving the Church:
Church historian, Elder Marlin Jensen held a Q&A session at Utah State University on January 18, 2012. Elder Jensen has been a general authority of the church since 1989. He currently is a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Since 2005, he also has been the Church Historian and Recorder of the church [released in 2012].
A questioner asked, “Has the church seen the effects of Google on membership? It seems like the people who I talk to about church history are people who find out and leave quickly. Is the church aware of that problem? What about the people who are already leaving in droves?”
“The fifteen men really do know, and they really care. And they realize that maybe since Kirtland, we never have had a period of, I'll call it apostasy, like we're having right now; largely over these issues. We do have another initiative that we have called, “Answers to Gospel Questions”. We are trying to figure out exactly what channels to deliver it in and exactly what format to put it in. But we want to have a place where people can go. We have hired someone that's in charge of search engine optimization. We realize that people get their information basically from Google. They don't come to LDS.org. If they get there, it's through Google. So, we are trying to create an offering that will address these issues and be available for the public at large and to the church leaders, because many of them don't have answers either. It can be very disappointing to church members. And, for people who are losing their faith, or who have lost it, we hope to regain to the church.”
Simple Mormon Spectator. The synopsis of the session has been removed from the blog. However, the audio of Marlin's response is available here.
The Great Apostasy:
…[O]ccurred after the Savior established His Church. After the deaths of the Savior and His Apostles, men corrupted the principles of the gospel and made unauthorized changes in Church organization and priesthood ordinances. Because of this widespread apostasy, the Lord withdrew the authority of the priesthood from the earth. This apostasy lasted until Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820 and initiated the restoration of the fullness of the gospel.
"Apostasy," Gosepl Topics, LDS.org website.
As noted by Jensen, the Church has recently seen a sizeable increase in members leaving the Church, typically of their own accord. Sometimes, however, they are asked to leave through a disciplinary council that excommunicates them for "apostasy." Such has been the case with such members as Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, Rock Waterman, Lyndon Lamborn, David Twede (who chose to resign instead of face excommunication), Jeremy Runnels, etc..
Some of those cases are pretty clear, such as Kate Kelly's desire for women to have the priesthood, which would be a huge change in LDS doctrine. And she started a group specifically for beating the drum of ordaining women. Rock Waterman accused the leadership of the Church of themselves being in apostasy. Other cases are a bit harder to explain and are more troubling for the regular devout Mormon: those who have questions about the historical narrative of the LDS Church. This website is entirely about that historical narrative.
There seems to be two narratives: the narrative as told by the LDS Church itself, which is often incomplete, skewed or changed from the historical record; then there is the narrative that relies only on the historical record. Where those two narratives diverge is the chasm of "aostasy" that some people have fallen in. But it really doesn't make sense.
It is a matter of historical fact that Joseph Smith married 14 year olds and other men's wives. The LDS Church now admits that. But for years they denied it. And even today, they exactly trumpet the information to their members. (See MormonThink's response to those who say members should have known more about Joseph Smith's polygamy.) The entire premise of this website is to shed light on all of the historical information that most members are unaware of, but are factually correct. However, the Church somehow sees this as a form of apostasy. It is not a disagreement about doctrine, but about the accuracy and validity of the historical record. How can someone be accused of apostasy for trying to bring this information to light?