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Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
by R. Wayne Shute
When Latter-day Saints speak of the "restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ" they refer primarily to the restoration that has occurred in the latter days, establishing the dispensation of the fulness of times (Eph. 1:10; D&C 27:13). However, there have been a number of restorations of the gospel over the history of the earth.
"Restoration" means to bring back that which was once present but which has been lost. The introduction of the gospel of Jesus Christ on this earth began with Adam and Eve. In the Garden of Eden they partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Moses 4:12), and as a result they became fallen and mortal and were expelled from the garden. God then revealed to them that they could be redeemed through the Only Begotten (Moses 5:1-12) and gave Adam the priesthood after the Order of the Son of God (cf. Abr. 1:3; Fac. 3, Fig. 3, Book of Abraham). Thereafter, they received the various ordinances of the gospel, including a ceremonial Endowment, and entered into covenants of obedience to all of God's commandments (Fac. 3, Fig. 3, Book of Abraham).
After Adam and Eve became parents, they taught their children the gospel of Jesus Christ. But many of their posterity loved Satan more than God and from that time forth began to be "carnal, sensual, and devilish" (Moses 5:12-13). Eventually mankind substituted worldly interests in place of the commandments of God, and in time the gospel was distorted, fragmented, and lost from the earth.
Prophets have been called by God from time to time to restore the true covenants and gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the prophets was Abraham (Abr. 3:22-25), who, having proved his faithfulness in numerous ways, was given a special covenant for himself, his descendants, and all who accept the gospel. This covenant extended to all future generations and nations of the earth (see Abrahamic Covenant). Another was Moses, through whom the Lord restored the gospel for a short time, but because of the unwillingness of the people, the Lord instituted a preparatory law to help the people turn their hearts from idolatry to God (see Law of Moses). Later God revealed his gospel to Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, among others, who urged the people to repentance and faithfulness. Many ancient prophets testified of a coming Messiah and of his crucifixion and resurrection. They also spoke of a subsequent long period of apostasy, but promised that there would be a restoration in the latter days, prior to the second coming of the Lord (cf. Amos 8-9).
The same gospel, covenants, and ordinances that had once been given to Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and the other ancient prophets, were restored to the earth during the meridian of time when Jesus Christ lived on the earth. However, the Church that Jesus established in New Testament times was short-lived because of apostasy, which resulted in part from persecution and the eventual dispersion and death of the apostles. Hence, the authority of the priesthood, much of the gospel of Christ, and the ordinances and covenants were again lost to the earth. Peter, John, and Paul each spoke of this apostasy, which was already starting in their day, and prophesied that there would also be a restoration.
In the spring of 1820 a vision was given to Joseph Smith, near Palmyra, New York, in response to his fervent prayer to know the truth concerning religion. In this experience, Joseph Smith was visited by God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ (JSH 1:17; see also First Vision). In subsequent visits, holy angels instructed, ordained, and prepared him to become a latter-day prophet and an instrument in God's hands in restoring the gospel of Jesus Christ for the last time and setting up the kingdom spoken of by Daniel (Dan. 2; D&C 27:13; 65:1-6).
As part of this restoration, THE CHURCH of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints was organized by revelation on April 6, 1830, "it being regularly organized and established agreeable to the laws of our country, by the will and commandments of God" (D&C 20:1). It has the same priesthood, doctrines, and ordinances, and the same "organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, Evangelists, and so forth" (A of F 6). Eventually, all of the keys of the priesthood, which had been given to man from Adam's time onward, were restored. Prophets who held priesthood keys anciently came to Joseph Smith and conferred those keys upon him (D&C 128:18). These included John the Baptist (D&C 13), Peter, James, and John (D&C 27:12), and Moses, Elias, and Elijah (D&C 110:11-16).
Thus, through the latter-day Prophet there has been a restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth with the powers, authority, and ordinances as in ancient times. Other aspects of the restoration to occur are the gathering of Israel, the second coming of Christ, and the Millennium.
Smith, Joseph Fielding. The Restoration of All Things. Salt Lake City, 1945.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 3, Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
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