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Dispensation of the Fullness of Times
by Rand H. Packer
The Dispensation of the Fulness of Times is the final dispensation for this earth. Dispensations are periods of time in which the gospel of Jesus Christ is administered by holy prophets called and ordained by God to deliver his message to the inhabitants of the world. The central work of the "dispensation of the fulness of times" consists of bringing together all gospel ordinances and truths of past dispensations and some items unique to the last days. Paul spoke of a future time when all things that are in heaven and on earth would at last be gathered together, and he called it the "dispensation of the fulness of times" (Eph. 1:10).
This dispensation began with the Prophet Joseph Smith's first vision, and all revelations and divine gifts of former dispensations continually flow into it. Concerning this, Joseph Smith wrote on September 6, 1842: "It is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time" (D&C 128:18).
David W. Patten, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said in 1838: "The dispensation of the fullness of times is made up of all the dispensations that ever have been since the world began, until this time . All [the prophets] received in their time a dispensation by revelation from God, to accomplish the great scheme of restoration, the end of which is the dispensation of the fulness of times, in the which all things shall be fulfilled that have been spoken of since the earth was made" (HC 3:51).
Revelation and restoration characterize the fulness of times. Priesthood, keys (authorization to act), ordinances, covenants, and teachings of past dispensations have been, or will yet be, restored, and this can occur only by revelation. Heavenly messengers ministered to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, giving them authority, keys, doctrines, and ordinances of past dispensations that had been lost to the world because of fragmentation, abuse, and apostasy. The Doctrine and Covenants records several instances in which these two men saw, talked with, and received authority from resurrected ancient prophets. On May 15, 1829, John the Baptist ordained them to the Aaronic Priesthood (D&C 13). Shortly thereafter, Peter, James, and John, three of Christ's original apostles, conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood on them (D&C 27:12). On April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple, Moses gave them "the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north" (D&C 110:11); Elias committed the keys of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham (D&C 110:12); and Elijah fulfilled the promise of Malachi 4:5-6 by bestowing on them the sealing power to "turn the hearts of the children to the fathers" and make available the saving gospel ordinances to all who have lived on earth (D&C 110:13-15). As part of the restoration, the Book of Mormon, a scriptural witness of Jesus Christ and his dealings with ancient people of the Western Hemisphere, was translated by Joseph Smith by divine power. These events were part of the gathering "together in one all things in Christ" (Eph. 1:10; D&C 27:7-13; see also Restoration of All Things). The priesthood has been revealed "for the last time," and those who now hold the keys do so "in connection with all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation" (D&C 112:30-31).
Of things unique to the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote, "Those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times" (D&C 128:18). Although the Plan of Salvation is the same in every dispensation, the fulness of times will see the accomplishment of specific and unique events, including the rebuilding of the old Jerusalem; building the New Jerusalem; preaching the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; the gathering of Israel; and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Everything necessary to usher in the Millennium comes under the purview of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which will continue until Christ has subdued all his enemies and has perfected his work (D&C 76:106; TPJS, pp. 231-32).
(See Basic Beliefs; The Gospel of Jesus Christ home page; The Last Days home page)
Matthews, Robert J. "The Fulness of Times." Ensign 19 (Dec. 1989):46-51.
McConkie, Bruce R. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pp. 137, 320. Salt Lake City, 1985.
Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Dispensation of the Fullness of Times
Copyright © 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company
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