April 26th 2015

Apostasy and Revelation

Our lesson in a nutshell is this:

During His mortal ministry, Jesus Christ established His church with priesthood authority. It was led by prophets and apostles who taught true doctrine and received revelation that was recorded as scripture. With the death of the apostles, priesthood authority was taken from the earth, revelation ceased and essential doctrines were lost or corrupted. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Church that Jesus Christ established was restored.

First lets learn a bit about apostasy: Lets read in True to the Faith

when individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy.

Periods of general apostasy have occurred throughout the history of the world. After times of righteousness, people have often turned to wickedness. One example is the Great Apostasy, which occurred after the Savior established His Church. After the deaths of the Savior and His Apostles, men corrupted the principles of the gospel and made unauthorized changes in Church organization and priesthood ordinances. Because of this widespread wickedness, the Lord withdrew the authority of the priesthood from the earth.

During the Great Apostasy, people were without divine direction from living prophets. Many churches were established, but they did not have priesthood power to lead people to the true knowledge of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Parts of the holy scriptures were corrupted or lost, and no one had the authority to confer the gift of the Holy Ghost or perform other priesthood ordinances. This apostasy lasted until Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820 and initiated the restoration of the fullness of the gospel.

When Jesus Christ was on the earth, He established His Church among His followers. After His crucifixion and the deaths of His apostles, the fullness of the gospel was taken from the earth because of widespread apostasy. Many men and women sought the fullness of gospel truth during the centuries of the Great Apostasy, but they were unable to find it. Although many preached with sincerity about the Savior and His teachings, none had the fullness of the truth or priesthood authority from God.

The Apostasy and the Restoration were foretold, lets read

Isaiah 29:13-14

wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people drew 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: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.

The Apostasy was a time of spiritual darkness and we know that when the spirit is dark, everything else is dark too. So lets move on to happier times of the Restoration!

In True to the Faith, lets read the definition of Restoration

The Great Apostasy was a time of spiritual darkness, but we now live in a time when we can partake of the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. The fulness of the gospel has been restored, and the true Church of Jesus Christ is on the earth again. No other organization can compare to it. It is not the result of a reformation, with well meaning men and women doing all in their power to bring about change. It is a restoration of the Church established by Jesus Christ. It is the work of Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you can receive blessings that were absent from the earth for almost 2,000 years. Through the ordinances of baptism and confirmation, you can receive the remission of your sins and enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. You can live the gospel in its fulness and simplicity. You can gain an understanding of the nature of the Godhead, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the purpose of life on earth, and the reality of life after death. You have the privilege of being guided by living prophets, who teach God's will in our day. Temple ordinances enable you to receive guidance and peace, prepare for eternal life, be sealed to you family for eternity, and provide saving ordinances for your deceased ancestors.

Elder Russell M Nelsen in his talk titled Catch the Wave gets quite excited about the restoration.

He says, this wave of truth and righteousness is wondrous! It is not man made! It comes from the Lord, who said, I will hasten my work in its time. This wave is empowered by a divine announcement made 193 years ago. It consisted of only seven words: This is My beloved son, hear him! Uttered by Almighty God, that announcement introduced a young Joseph Smith to the Lord Jesus Christ. Those seven words launched the restoration of his gospel. Why? Because our living God is a loving God! He wants his children to know him and Jesus Christ whom he has sent! And he wants his children to gain immortality and eternal life.

This is why we send out missionaries, this is why we pray for our families to return to the gospel, this is why we invite our neighbors to family home evening and open houses. We want them all with us, we want them to know they have a loving Father in heaven.

Elder Nelsen goes on to say that this fact of history is absolutely stunning, incredible, breath taking. How amazing is it that messengers from heaven came to give authority and power to this work?

A brief summary of the restoration

Early Spring 1820 – Joseph Smith prays in a grove of tree's and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ visit him and tell him not to join any of the churches on the earth at that time.

September 1823 – Moroni visits Joseph Smith, tells him of the gold plates and Joseph is allowed to see them

September 1827 – Joseph receives the gold plates from Moroni.

May 1829 – Having learned about baptism as they work on the plates translation, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey pray about it. John the Baptist appears to them and confers upon them the Aaronic priesthood. Joseph and Oliver baptize each other

May 1829 – Peter, James and John confer the Melchizedek priesthood upon Joseph and Oliver.

June 1829 – Joseph completes the translation of the plates

March 1830 – The first printed copies of the Book of Mormon are available

April 1830 – the Church is organized in Fayette Township, New York

March 1836 – Kirtland Temple is dedicated

April 1836 – The Savior appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple. Moses, Elias, and Elijah also appeared and gave priesthood keys to Joseph and Oliver. The sealing power is restored.

The restoration fulfills many biblical prophecies. For example, Isaiah prophesied that the Lords' house shall be established in the top of the mountain. The exodus of Mormon pioneers to the mountains of western America is a fulfilling saga of sacrifice and faith. Isaiah also fortold that God will do a marvelous work and a wonder. That is now being fulfilled by the sacred work of our growing army of missionaries.

Old Testament teachings about tithing have been restored. As a result, more tithe payers are blessed because of their obedience. I am one of those!

Prophecies that the stick of Joseph ( the Book of Mormon) and the stick of Judah ( the bible) would be as one, have been fulfilled

The restoration clarifies some things in the new testament like the references to baptism for the dead. So now we understand how it's done and why.

The Book of Mormon is the centerpiece of the restoration. It was written, preserved and transmitted under the Lords direction. It was translated by the gift and power of God.

The Doctrine and Covenants contains many additional revelations given to the prophet Joseph. Through him we have received more pages of scripture than we have from any other prophet. Joseph once said, I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.

Why was the first Vision important?

David O McKay tells us

in the spring of 1820, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith. This vision, which marked the beginning of the Restoration of the gospel, is the most important event since the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith's humble prayer led to the restoration of gospel truths, priesthood authority, and saving ordinances. That one revelation answer all the questions regarding God and his divine personality. His interest in humanity through authority delegated to man is apparent. The future of the work is assured. These and other glorious truths are clarified by that glorious first vision.

The vision tells us what? What do we learn from it?

God and Jesus have a body of flesh and bone. They speak to man in our day. They desire us to be with them therefore they gave us truth. Families are important. Etc.........

Why do we need the Book of Mormon?

What is the Books full title? The Book of Mormon, Another testament of Jesus Christ

Exactly, the book is the most correct book that we know of and it testifies of Christ and clarifies some things for us. It also shows us that God speaks to all of his children, no matter the nation or language.

Lets read

2Nephi 25: 23, 26

23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

And 2Nephi 33: 10-11

10 And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

We often hear that someone believes the Book of Mormon to be true but cannot decide to be baptized because they don't believe the Joseph Smith story. Here is what I know: If the book is true and we can know for ourselves if it is true by the holy spirit, if the book is true, then Joseph was a prophet, if Joseph was a prophet, then the book is true. This book isn't just a history book, it is powerful scripture and testimonies of prophets. This book had to be translated by the power of God, no man could do this on his own! If the book is true, how would Joseph know where to find it or how to translate it except having been visited by angels and resurrected beings just as his history tells us?

You don't have to know and understand all that the book contains today or even tomorrow. You just have to keep trying. And if you struggle to believe everything, do what I always told my kids, don't focus on the words today, focus on the feelings in your heart as you read. Let the spirit teach you truth.

Lets go back just a bit and take a closer look at the restoration of the priesthood. I believe this blessing is yet another way that we can know that our Father loves us. He has given us his power to use here on earth, not only in sacred ordinances, but to bless our lives every single day.

Lets read Joseph Smith History 1:66-72

66 On the 5th day of April, 1829, Oliver Cowdery came to my house, until which time I had never seen him. He stated to me that having been teaching school in the neighborhood where my father resided, and my father being one of those who sent to the school, he went to board for a season at his house, and while there the family related to him the circumstances of my having received the plates, and accordingly he had come to make inquiries of me.

67 Two days after the arrival of Mr. Cowdery (being the 7th of April) I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me.

· · · · · · ·

68 We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:

69 Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

70 He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me.

71 Accordingly we went and were baptized. I baptized him first, and afterwards he baptized me—after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood, and afterwards he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the same Priesthood—for so we were commanded.*

72 The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second. It was on the fifteenth day of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger, and baptized.

And then the Melchizedek priesthood was later conferred upon them as was promised

D&C: 12-13

12 And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them;

13 Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fullness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth;

Because of the restoration we refer to the church as the only true and living church on the earth today. Elder Dallin H Oaks helps explain this to us

In D&C 1:30 the lord referred to the church as the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased.

Because of this declaration of the Lord, we refer to this, His Church, our Church as the only true church. Sometimes we do this in a way that gives great offense to people who belong to other churches or who subscribe to other philosophies. But God has not taught us anything that should cause us to feel superior to other people. Certainly all churches and philosophies have elements of truth in them, some more than others. Certainly God loves all of his children. And certainly his gospel plan is for all of his children, all according to his own timetable.

So what does it mean that the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints is the only true church?

There are 3 features

1 we have the fullness of the gospel

2 we have the power of the priesthood

3 we have the testimony of Jesus Christ

we are not grounded in the wisdom of the world or the philosophies of men, however traditional or respected they may be. A testimony of Jesus Christ is based on the revelations of God to his prophets and to us individually.

I want to show you a quick video, seems like a good place to end our lesson.

Show video – Because of Him

We love the Prophet Joseph Smith, we are grateful for the blessings that his faithful service bring into our lives on a daily basis. But we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ, we worship him, we love him. It is because of him that the we have the gospel and it has been restored to the earth. It is because of him we have hope. Because of him we have knowledge, we can make sacred covenants, we can save our ancestors. Because of him we have evidence that our Father in Heaven loves us. Father gave us his son, the son gave his life, it was all for us, there is no greater gift! And we know all of this because the fullness of the gospel has been restored.