This post can be considered a sort-of “part two” from my previous entry. As with that entry, the bulk of this text will be based on the words of Gordon B Hinckley, previous prophet and 15th President of the restored church of Jesus Christ.
Following the First Vision in modern times, many things began to occur, not the least of which was the fulfilling of prophecy. In addition to those previously quoted was another by an ancient prophet on this continent, regarding the circumstances surrounding the vision of Joseph Smith: “..and it shall come in a day when it shall be said that miracles are done away… Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and lifted up in the pride of their hearts” (Mormon 8:26, 28).
While many people in the 1800’s professed to believe in miracles, there was quite a dramatic change in attitude when Joseph began telling others a miracle had happened to him. He wrote about the persecution from friends as well as all of the local churches that began against him from that day forward.
Joseph goes on to confirm, however, “it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a vision…I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true… I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation.” He had found the testimony of James 1:4-5 to be true–that a man who lacked wisdom might ask of God, and obtain, and not be upbraided.
During this great vision, what did the Lord say to Joseph? He had gone to pray to ask which of the churches was right, and which he should join as so many taught contradictory doctrine. He was told to join none of them, for they were all wrong; that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight; that those professors were all corrupt. Then He quoted scripture (Isa 29:13, Ezek 33:31), saying “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” This was the beginning of the restoration of His true church to the earth. What doctrine was restored? Many things were restored that had been lost. I’ll briefly comment on each.
Joseph could see God and hear Him. He was in form like a man, a being of substance, affirming that taught in Genesis 1:26-27: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Beside Him was the resurrected Lord, a separate being, whom He introduced and with whom Joseph also spoke. It’s possible that within the short time of that vision Joseph learned more about Deity than all of the scholars and clerics of the past, confirming the reality of Stephen’s vision in Acts 7:55-56: “Behold I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man (Jesus) standing on the right hand of God.” This restoration of the knowledge of Deity was the first and great thing God revealed to His chosen servant.
The Book of Mormon as a companion witness with the Bible
The Christian world accepts the Bible as the word of God. Most, though, have no idea how it came to us. It’s apparent from reading many Biblical scholars that the various books of the Bible were brought together in a non-systematic fashion. In some cases, the writings were not produced until long after the events they describe. The verses of the Bible have been translated, re-translated, edited, etc by various men down through the centuries. One is led to ask, “Is the Bible true? Is it really the word of God?” I testify that it is, insofar as it is translated correctly.
Scripture declares that “in the mouth of two of three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Cor 13:1). The Book of Mormon has come forth by the gift and power of God, and is convincing evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It speaks as a voice from the dust in testimony of the Son of God. It speaks of His birth, of His ministry, of His Crucifixion and Resurrection, and His appearance to the righteous on the American continent; these are the “other sheep” Jesus speaks of in John 10:16. As the Bible is the testament of the Old World, the Book of Mormon is the testament of the New. This sacred book, which came forth as a revelation of the Almighty, is indeed another testament of the divinity of our Lord.
Priesthood authority and Church organization
Priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God. If the authority of the ancient Church of Christ was lost, how was it to be replaced?
Priesthood authority came from the only place it could come: from heaven. It was bestowed under the hands of those who held it when the Savior walked the earth, including John the Baptist and Peter, James and John. As we learn in revelation “and this…priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh” (D&C 84:19-20). Priesthood authority is what gives any ordinance (such as baptism) its validity, that it is acknowledged in heaven.
Even the name of the church was given by revelation. At the time these events were occurring there was not one church on the earth that was bore the name Jesus Christ. As the Lord says, “… how be it my church save it be called in my name? For if a church be called in Moses’ name then it be Moses’ church; or if it be called in the name of a man then it be the church of a man; but if it be called in my name then it is my church, if it so be that they are built upon my gospel” (3 Ne 27:8).
Another great and singular revelation given was the plan for the eternal life of the family. The family is the creation of the Almighty, and is the fundamental organization of society. Through the revelations of God to His Prophet came the doctrine and authority under which families are sealed together not only for this life but for all eternity.
The innocence of little children
The innocence of little children is another revelation given of God through Joseph Smith. The general practice is the baptism of infants to take away the effects of what is described as the sin of Adam and Eve. Under the doctrine of the Restoration, however, baptism is for the remission of one’s individual and personal sins. It becomes a covenant between God and man. It is performed not at birth–for infants and little children cannot sin–but at the age of accountability, when people are old enough to recognize right from wrong. It is by immersion, in symbolism of the death and burial of Jesus Christ and His coming forth in the Resurrection.
Salvation for the dead
We are told that God is no respecter of persons, but in no other church I’m aware of is provision made for those who have died to receive every blessing which is afforded the living. The great doctrine of salvation for the dead is unique to this Church… The dead are given the same opportunity as the living. This is what Paul refers to when he says “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” (1 Cor 15:29) There is much more doctrine here, but sufficeth to say all who have lived, and died, will be given the opportunity to hear and accept or reject the gospel of Jesus Christ and enter into saving ordinances such as baptism.
The nature, purpose, and potential of God’s children
Some of the greatest doctrine ever revealed or restored is that we lived before we came here, to earth. We had personality. We were born into this life under a divine plan. We are here to test our worthiness, acting in the agency which God has given to us. When we die we shall go on living. Our eternal life is comprised of three phases: one, our premortal existence; two, our mortal existence; and three, our postmortal existence. In death we die to this world and step through the veil into the sphere we are worthy to enter. Only through the restoration of the fulness of the gospel can we make sense of Paul’s writings when he says “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory” (1 Cor 15:40-41). This is a unique, singular and precious doctrine of this Church which has come through revelation.
Speaking of revelation, an article of our faith states: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” The heavens are again open, revelation from the Lord Himself continues and is present in the only true and living Church on the earth today. Direct revelation from God is the only principle on which a Christian church should operate. A church based on the interpretations and direction of men alone will, sooner or later, go astray. The “rock” the Lord refers to in Matthew 16:17-18 is not merely a reference to Peter, but to revelation itself that He builds his church on. Make no mistake, the Church of Jesus Christ is not based on the Bible, or any private interpretation of it. It is based on what the Bible is based on, which is revelation.
I testify of the truthfulness of what I’ve written here. Anyone can know it is true also, more than it simply making sense; we too can receive revelation from God. We can ask Him directly if these things are true, the way is open. Feel free to ask me questions, visit mormon.org, or contact friends of yours that are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.