When I was on my mission, many of the missionaries used an object lesson for the apostasy which I fell in love with. It gave the investigator a good visual idea of the apostasy and the need for the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I asked the Elders for some sacrament cups but you could use blocks, small paper cups or any other type of small, stackable object. The idea of this object lesson is to create a "tower" and it is not necessarily important what you use to create it.
Creating your tower:
The bottom layer (first layer) had twelve cups, each one representing one of the apostles when Jesus Christ was here upon the earth (i.e. Peter, James, John, etc.) I've also heard of putting little pictures of the Latter-Day prophets on the other side of the cups. You can either cut out pictures from your Conference Ensign or you can print pictures from www.lds.org.
The next layer represented principles upon which the gospel was founded and which these apostles taught us about during their ministries. I made ten cups. There are so many different ones, just choose some (i.e. sacrament, revelation, atonement, priesthood, repentance, etc.)
The next layer were ordinances upon which are necessary and essential for us to return to live with our Heavenly Father (i.e. baptism, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, temple ordinances, marriage, etc.)
The next layer represented the three fold mission of the church (therefore, three cups). Proclaim the gospel, redeem the dead and endure to the end.
The final and last layer has just one cup. It represents our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is at the head of this church.
Setup: I usually would stack the cups up as I spoke about each layer.
Analogy: Then, once my "tower" was complete, I would tell them that as each apostle died, less authority existed upon the earth. One by one I would take away one of the apostles. There was no way the church could remain on the earth without the apostles and the authority they held to perform and run the church. Teachings that were not true were added to the gospel during the apostasy and teachings that were true were taken away. After a certain point, your "tower" or "gospel upon the earth" fell without the apostles and Jesus Christ leading the church. Therefore, during the Apostasy the Priesthood and it's authority left the earth.
Paper Cup Apostasy lesson from Treasures in Heaven:
Here are some of my thoughts for what they are worth. The bottom layer is where we all start. We are exposed and taught the gospel and learn about it's message, the second layer. Then we choose whether we are going to follow it's message by entering into the ordinances necessary for salvation. We work hard to complete our work and participate in the mission of the church, the next layer. Our ultimate goal is to be with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again. How is that possible if we are given a ladder without any steps? The apostasy was lifted when Jesus Christ completely restored the gospel through Joseph Smith. He put the steps back in the ladder in the exact same way as before. (You could even rebuild your "tower" and explain that many other churches have tried to follow how Jesus had his church set up but Jesus Christ is the only one that could give the authority to have His church re-built upon the earth.)
Another version by Kelly Buchanan:
I used clear cocktail cups, but small bathroom cups would work as well. The bottom layer of the pyramid had 6 glasses. I typed up the names of the 12 original apostles and glued them to the cup (2 names per glass). On the opposite side of the glass, I glued the names of the current 12 apostles. The next layer had 5 glasses. I labeled them with 5 important principles of the gospel (sacrament, revelation, priesthood, repentance, atonement). I explained how these were all things that Christ taught about. The next layer had 4 glasses (baptism, gift of Holy Ghost, endowment, temple marriage). These were ordinances that are essential to return to our Heavenly Father. The next layer had 3 glasses for the 3-fold mission of the church (redeem the dead, proclaim the gospel, endure to the end). I then put a ruler on top and added one cup at the top of the pyramid for Jesus Christ.
I told them the story of the apostasy, and how the apostles were killed off one by one, and were not replaced. If you pull one bottom cup out slowly, only a few of the cups will fall from the upper layers, the entire pyramid does not collapse immediately. The gospel was changed slowly throughout time, until all of the apostles were killed. More and more upper cups fall as you pull the apostle base layer out.
We spoke about how important Joseph Smith was and his role in the Restoration. We talked about how our church is organized, and I put the apostle layer down again, with the current apostles showing. Then we build up the principles, ordinances, 3-fold mission, Christ at the top. We saw that our church has the same organization that existed in Christ’s church.
Scriptures About The Apostasy:
You might be able to use these as a scripture chase? Not really sure. I’m sure you can come up with an interesting way to incorporate these.
Isa. 29: 10, 13 – This people draw near me with their mouth.
Isa. 60: 2 – Darkness shall cover the earth.
Amos 8: 11 – The Lord will send a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
Matt. 24: 24 – There shall arise false Christs and false prophets.
Acts 20: 29 – Grievous wolves shall enter in among you.
Gal. 1: 6 – I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him.
2 Thes. 2: 3 – There will be a falling away before the Second Coming.
2 Tim. 2: 18 – Some people err concerning the truth.
2 Tim. 3: 5 – Some people have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.
2 Tim. 4: 3-4 – The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.
2 Pet. 2: 1 – There will be false prophets and false teachers among the people.
Jude 1: 4 – Certain men crept in denying the only Lord God.
Rev. 2: 2 – Some men said they were Apostles and were not.
1 Ne. 13: 26 – Nephi saw the formation of a great and abominable church.
2 Ne. 26: 20 – The Gentiles have stumbled and built up many churches.
D&C 1: 15 – They have strayed from mine ordinances and have broken mine everlasting covenant.
D&C 112: 23 – Darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the minds of the people.
JS-H 1: 19 – Joseph was told that the churches were all wrong; their hearts were far from God.