A key passage in understanding the Great & Abominable Church which Nephi introduces in Chapter 13 is 1 Nephi 14:9-10. This passage sets up a division between the two churches, making it plain that one must belong to one or the other.
And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look, and behold that great and abominable church, which is the mother of abominations, whose founder is the devil. And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.
Frequent use of the words “in that day” throughout the chapter signal that the division of mankind into two “churches” will occur at the end times, or in our day. Nephi preaches that the wars which come to pass among the nations occur because the wrath of God is beginning to be poured out upon the Great & Abominable Church. This signals the beginning of the Restoration. The G & A, as described here, is over-the-top horrible. It is founded by the devil. Its members are those who work wickedness and abomination. Its specific purpose is to lead men to hell and to destroy their very souls. This description might lead one to believe that the Church of the Lamb of God is fairly comprehensive. If you must belong to one or the other, and you are not actively trying to lead people to hell, then what will your placement be?
On the other hand, the numbers contained in the Church of the Devil are many. This organization is worldwide, having great dominion over the earth and every nation and people. The numbers belonging to the Church of the Lamb of God, although also found worldwide, are few. In verse 14, the members of the Church of the Lamb are identified as “the saints of the church of the Lamb” and “the covenant people of the Lord.” Many members interpret this to mean solely those who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Others are uncomfortable with such a severe cut-off point.
In chapter 14 Nephi is introduced to “one of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb” whom we assume to be John the Revelator. This Apostle has been given the commission to write about the Last Days. Many of his writings deal with what Nephi has just seen. John also writes about the Church of the Devil. In the Book of Revelation, John calls this church “Babylon.” In the past, LDS Church leaders have identified this with the Catholic church. Remnants of this school of thought persist even in our Bible Dictionary (see BD “Babylon”) which opines: “In Revelation [14-21] Babylon probably denotes Rome, the great antagonist of Messiah’s kingdom; or possibly, apostate Jerusalem.” Recently leaders have steered away from linking the Church of the Devil with any specific religion or organization.
Some of you might think that exact identification of the Church of the Devil is unnecessary. I disagree. If we accept the premise that every human is either a member of Christ’s church or Satan’s, I would think it might be important to identify allies and foes in the war against Satan. Are members of the Catholic church, for example, for us, or against us? Should we embrace that friendly Methodist as a fellow Christian, or beware of his beliefs as though they have the potential to damage our souls and lead us to hell? Should we give the benefit of the doubt in these cases, or are members of the Church of the Lamb of God few and far between?