The great majority of what this blog entry will be about is based on the words of Gordon B Hinckley. Jesus Christ was and is the great central figure of human history, the zenith of the times and seasons of all people. Before His death He had ordained Apostles, special witnesses of him, carrying his Priesthood, that carried on for a period after his death. His church was set in place.
Following our Savior’s death, the Church He established drifted into Apostasy. The influence of pagan religions surrounding the region (e.g. Greek philosophical traditions) not to mention the increasing persecution from the Romans and others, added to the general waywardness of so many members of the Church. The killing or banishment of the Apostles was the nail in the coffin. Priesthood authority was taken from the earth, and Isaiah’s words were fulfilled: “The earth is also defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isa 24:5). This was not just a people turning away prophets, who were messengers of God, but a turning away from the great Message Himself. This great Apostasy–meaning a turning away from the gospel, its truths, and Priesthood being taken from the earth–had been prophesied by other prophets, including Amos (Amos 8:11-12) and the Apostles themselves (2 Thess 2:2-3; Timothy 4:2-4).
Centuries passed. Constantine assembled scholars of various factions at Nicaea in the year 325. After two months of bitter debate, they compromised on a definition which changed the nature of God Himself. This creed was then amended, 56 years later, which did nothing to fix things. Isaiah described this time and centuries following as well: “For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Isa 60:2). The earth was under a season of plunder and suffering, marked by long and bloody conflict. It was an age of hopelessness, a time of masters and serfs. A time of the preaching of the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.
Well over a thousand years later the age of the Renaissance brought with it a flowering of learning, art, and science. There came an attempt at a Reformation, a movement by bold men and women who saw problems with the Christian church and did what they could to reconcile it with the truths taught as they understood them in the Bible. Men such as Luther, Melanchthon, Hus, Zwingli and Tyndale stepped forward, many of whom were killed for doing so. Protestantism was born with its cry for reformation. When that reformation was not realized, reformers organized churches of their own, doing so without priesthood authority as it did not exist on the earth anymore. Their overriding desire, however, was to find a niche in which they might worship God as they felt He should be worshiped.
Centuries later came the American Revolutionary War, which resulted in the birth of a nation whose Constitution declared governments ought not extend its hand into matters of religion–perhaps the first time this has ever occurred. At long last there was no state church! No one faith was favored above another. After a multitude of long, dark centuries, at last the time was ripe for a restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it was not to be found on the earth the way the prophets and Apostles had delivered it, and its Priesthood authority had long been absent. Ancient prophets had spoken of this day; they had looked forward to this day, Daniel among them. He spoke of it directly in his prophecy of the “latter days”, when the stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands rolled forth and filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:28,31-45).
The Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ was ushered in with the appearance of the Father and the Son to the boy Joseph Smith. How truly remarkable was that vision in 1820 when Joseph prayed in the woods and there appeared before him our Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. One of these spoke to him, calling him by name, and, pointing to the other, said “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
This event was also prophesied by ancient prophets. In Isaiah’s words, “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder…and in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness” (Isa 29: 13-14, 18). Peter refers to this as the “times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21), Paul calls it the “fulness of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:25) then later refers to it formally as the “dispensation of the fulness of times” (Ephesians 1:10). John refers to the events of the Restoration somewhat symbolically in Revelations when he says “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Rev 14:6).
Beginning with the First Vision in modern times, the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth had begun. In my next post I will discuss what exactly has been restored.