Who Holds the Keys?
(Pope or Prophet)
A Web Debate

LDS Temple



Catholic Church




Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints

Brief Bio - 

Steve Clifford




Barry Bickmore

Round 1 - 

Opening Statement




Opening Statement

Round 2 - 






Round 3 - 






Round 4 - 

Closing Statement



Closing Statement

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":

Many 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.


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 other entity.

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 teaching authority.

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.

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This debate is being mirrored on a Roman Catholic site.

Click Here to comment on our debate at the Catholic Apologetics site (Steve Clifford).

Click Here to comment on our debate via e-mail to Barry Bickmore.


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