Restoration of All Things

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Restoration is the process of bringing something back to its former glory. For there to be a restoration, something must first be lost, corrupted, damaged or taken away. There are several popular television shows dedicated to taking rusty old cars, fridges and other items and restoring them to their original, “mint” condition—stripping them down to their bare bones and then replacing missing parts, repairing broken pieces and putting everything back together. It is the same concept with Christ’s Church. Jesus Christ organized His Church when he walked on the earth. But after the death of His Apostles, some doctrines were lost, some were corrupted, and eventually the fullness of His gospel was no longer on the earth. There were parts of doctrines and some truth, but the Church of Jesus Christ was no longer in “mint” condition, so to speak.

Mormon Church restoration

Prophets and apostles prophesied that this would happen. The prophet Amos said, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). But they also foretold of the “restoration of all things.” The Apostle Peter said:

Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:19-21).

This Restoration began in the spring of 1820, when a young boy named Joseph Smith knelt in a grove of trees and asked God which church he should join. In answer to his prayers, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to the boy Joseph and told him that none of the churches was right. Through Joseph Smith, the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored and Christ’s Church— The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church—was once again on the earth. All of the doctrines, laws, ordinances, covenants, teachings and offices of Christ’s true Church were restored.

The Ancient Church of Jesus Christ

When Jesus Christ walked on the earth, He organized His Church, with apostles, prophets, pastors, seventies, elders, teachers, and so forth (Ephesians 4:11). This was the Lord’s true Church, with His name and His laws, governed by Him through His chosen representatives. But this was not the first time Christ’s Church was found on the earth. The true church of Jesus Christ is an organized body of believers who have taken upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ by baptism and confirmation. The true Church is led by prophets who are called of God, receive instruction and revelation from Him and have been given the priesthood keys. The priesthood [1] is the power that God gives to man to act in all things for the salvation of His children, and the keys are the authority to direct God’s work. In this sense, Christ’s Church began in the days of Adam and Eve and has been on the earth anytime there was a group of believers organized in the manner directed by God. [2]

Jesus Christ established His Church on the earth in the meridian of time (and in a very real sense, His was a restoration of lost truth), calling and ordaining Twelve Apostles to help Him (Luke 9:1-2). Like the prophets who came before Him and testified of Him, Jesus Christ also received His instruction and priesthood power from God—who is our Heavenly Father. (See also Hebrews 1:1-2; 5:4-6.) He appointed Peter to be the chief Apostle—the one who would replace Him in administering the kingdom of God on earth — after His death. [3]

The Apostasy

Following His death and resurrection, the Savior appeared to His Apostles and gave them final instructions. After tarrying with them for a while, the Resurrected Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, leaving His Twelve Apostles to continue His ministry. Under the direction of Peter, the Apostles and other Church leaders preached the gospel and directed the affairs of the organization. But even as the gospel of Jesus Christ spread throughout the ancient world, confusion and false doctrines were creeping into the teachings of the Church. Paul wrote to the Galatians: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He then warned them of false prophets and teachers, saying, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9).

Kent P. Jackson, then an assistant professor of ancient study at Brigham Young University, wrote of this apostasy, or turning away from the teachings of God. He wrote:

Possibly the best single witness of the apostasy of New Testament Christianity is the New Testament itself. The New Testament writers prophesied that apostasy would take place in the Church and that the Church in fact would be overcome by it. Just as significantly, the New Testament actually records apostasy happening as the book was being written. As time progressed, the heresies against which the Apostles contended became increasingly virulent and increasingly successful, as the record attests. [4]

By the end of the Apostolic era, there were false prophets and doctrines, and even a rejection of the Apostles themselves. Because of this, priesthood authority and keys were taken from the earth. Without revelation from God and leadership from His prophets, the heavens were closed to church leadership, and the Great Apostasy was begun. To fully appreciate the need for a Restoration, one must understand what was lost.

A Light Shines Through the Darkness

The Apostasy ushered in what became known as the Dark Ages. The late Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, then-president of The Church of Jesus Christ, said of this time:

Ignorance and evil enveloped the world, resulting in what is known as the Dark Ages. Isaiah had predicted: “Darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Isaiah 60:2). For centuries, disease was rampant and poverty reigned. The Black Death killed some 50 million people during the 14th century. Was not this a season of terrible peril? I wonder how humanity survived.
But somehow, in that long season of darkness, a candle was lighted. The age of Renaissance brought with it a flowering of learning, art, and science. There came a movement of bold and courageous men and women who looked heavenward in acknowledgment of God and His divine Son. We speak of it as the Reformation. [5]

During the period of the Reformation, the foundation was laid for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. President Thomas S. Monson, prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ, said:

The reformers were pioneers, blazing wilderness trails in a desperate search for those lost points of reference which, they felt, when found would lead mankind back to the truth Jesus taught. John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, Jan Hus, Zwingli, Knox, Calvin, and Tyndale all pioneered the period of the Reformation. Significant was the declaration of Tyndale to his critics: “I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou doest.” [6]

Through the sacrifices and work of the Reformers, the Bible was translated into the common vernacular of the day. Each person had access to the word of God. As President Monson said:

The Holy Bible was now within the grasp of the people. Each person could better find his or her way. Oh, if only all could read and all could understand! But some could read, and others could hear, and all had access to God through prayer. [7]

The Restoration of All Things

The time had come for the Restoration of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. President Hinckley said:

And then, after many generations had walked the earth—so many of them in conflict, hatred, darkness, and evil—there arrived the great, new day of the Restoration. This glorious gospel was ushered in with the appearance of the Father and the Son to the boy Joseph. The dawn of the dispensation of the fulness of times rose upon the world. All of the good, the beautiful, the divine of all previous dispensations was restored in this most remarkable season. [8]

The Restoration began in the spring of 1820, when 14-year-old Joseph Smith, caught up in the religious excitement of the day, wanted to know which church he should join. He read in the Bible James 1:5, “If any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” So he decided that he needed wisdom, so he would ask God. He retired to a grove of trees, knelt down and offered a sincere prayer. The young boy’s petition was answered—but not in the way he expected. Two heavenly Personages appeared to him—Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father, calling Joseph by name, said, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17). Joseph Smith was then told that none of the sects was correct, and he was not to join any of them. Thus the heavens were again opened, knowledge of the true gospel of Jesus Christ was returned to the earth and His Church was again established.

The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ

The next step in the Restoration of the fullness of the gospel was the translation of the Book of Mormon. Elder L. Tom Perry, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—with the First Presidency, the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ—said:

Knowing that doubt, disbelief, and misinformation would immediately follow the Prophet as he recounted the First Vision, the Lord brought forth the Book of Mormon, another testament of our Lord Jesus Christ. This ancient volume of holy scriptures is a sacred companion to the Bible, containing the fulness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. It also provides convincing evidence to the world that Joseph Smith is truly a prophet of God. [9]

Several years after what has come to be known as the First Vision, the angel Moroni also appeared to Joseph Smith. Moroni— an ancient prophet who was the last to write on the Book of Mormon records— directed Joseph to a hill wherein he had hidden gold plates, upon which were engraven a record of God’s dealings with the inhabitants of the ancient Americas. Joseph was instructed to retrieve the plates and then translate them, using the tools provided by God. The Doctrine and Covenants—a book of scripture containing revelations from modern prophets and apostles—says this of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon:

[God] gave unto [Joseph Smith] commandments which inspired him; And gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon; Which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also; Which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them—
Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old (Doctrine & Covenants 20:7–11).

Elder Perry said:

The translation of the Book of Mormon is a miracle in itself and gives further proof of the book’s divine origin. When Oliver Cowdery arrived in Harmony, Pennsylvania, on April 5, 1829, to serve as the Prophet’s scribe, only a few pages of the final text had been translated. That evening Joseph and Oliver sat down together and discussed the Prophet’s experiences long into the night. Two days later, on April 7, they commenced the translation of the work. Over the next three months, Joseph translated at an amazing rate—approximately 500 printed pages in about 60 working days. [10]

The Priesthood is Returned to the Earth

Through the translation of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, came to the Lord with questions about baptism and confirmation. In response to their sincere prayer, an angel who identified himself as John the Baptist came down and taught them the doctrine of repentance and baptism by immersion. He then conferred upon them the Aaronic Priesthood, which is the lesser of the two priesthoods of God. It is a preparatory priesthood and holds the keys of the ministering of angels, repentance, and baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. A short time later, Joseph and Oliver received the Melchizedek Priesthood—which is the greater priesthood and includes the keys of the spiritual blessings of the Church— from Peter, James and John, who were three of the disciples from the time of Jesus Christ. Since the priesthood had been taken from the earth nearly two thousand years earlier, only heavenly messengers who held the authority could restore those keys.

Elder Perry said:

Now that the power to act in the name of the Lord was again on the earth, Joseph was commanded to formally organize the Church. On April 6, 1830, at the home of Peter Whitmer Sr. in Fayette, New York, six men who had previously been baptized voted unanimously to organize, according to the commandments of God, the Church of Jesus Christ. At this meeting a revelation was received:
“Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou [Joseph Smith] shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ (Doctrine & Covenants 21:1). …
Thus the Church of Jesus Christ was again in existence on the earth to bless mankind with the doctrines and teachings of the Savior. This Church was organized according to the plan the Lord had established anciently. [11]

The restoration of all things did not end there. Through His prophets, God has commanded the building of temples. Within the holy walls of the temple, members of The Church of Jesus Christ are instructed from on high, make sacred covenants with God and perform sacred, saving ordinances for themselves and those who have already passed on.

Elder Perry concluded:

Our message is unique. We declare to the world that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. We declare with boldness that the keys of the priesthood have been restored to man, with the power to seal on earth and in the heavens. The saving ordinances pronounced by the Lord as requirements for entering into eternal life with Him can now be performed with binding authority by those who worthily exercise the power of His holy priesthood. We declare to the world that this is the day referred to by biblical prophets as the latter days. It is the final time, before the coming of Jesus Christ to rule and reign over the earth. [12]

And, as the ancient prophets have foretold, The Church of Jesus Christ will remain on the earth until He comes again.