Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints share many beliefs with other Christians. We solemnly declare that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who lived among men, atoned for the sins of the world and, after dying, came back to life as a glorified and resurrected being. We further declare that He lives today, and that He will come to the earth again one day.
While many of our beliefs are the same, some are different. And understanding those differences can provide important perspective that will fortify our faith and provide direction in our lives. One of those differences is our belief that the church established by Jesus Christ was, for a period, lost from the earth and needed to be restored prior to His return.
Ancient prophets predicted these events. The Old Testament prophet Amos said: “Behold, the days come … that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord… [and] they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.” 1 Later, the Apostle Paul warned the saints in Thessalonica that the Savior would not return “except there come a falling away first.”2
Following the death of Jesus Christ, many Church members were persecuted while others drifted from the principles taught by Jesus Christ and His Apostles. One by one, the Apostles were killed, and priesthood authority—including the keys to direct and receive revelation for the Church—was lost from the earth. Without the guidance of revelation, error crept into Church teachings. While good people and much truth remained, the gospel as established by Jesus Christ was lost.
'Please be assured that revelation continues in the Church and will continue under the Lord’s direction until ‘the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.'President Russell M. Nelson
This period is called the Great Apostasy. During this time, many men and women sought the truth, but they were not able to find it. Good people tried to understand and teach truth, but they did not have the full gospel or priesthood authority. As a result, each generation was influenced by what previous generations passed on, including unauthorized changes to Christ’s gospel.
Inspired reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, recognized that practices and doctrines had been changed or lost; they tried to reform the churches to which they belonged. However, without priesthood authority, Christ’s gospel and Church could not be returned to their original form. A restoration was needed.
Then, two hundred years ago, in the early part of the year 1820, Father in Heaven chose a prophet through whom the original gospel, Church and priesthood authority would be restored. That prophet’s name was Joseph Smith. As a young man, Joseph was confused by the differences taught among the many churches in his area and wanted to know which of them was right. Knowing he lacked wisdom, he followed counsel found in the Bible, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”3
When Joseph prayed to know the truth, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. Jesus told Joseph not to join any of the churches, for “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.”4 This miraculous experience began a period in which all of God’s truths, ordinances and blessings would be made available to members of Christ’s church on both sides of the veil.
Angels brought divine authority by which the prophet Joseph restored the Church of Jesus Christ, complete with its original pattern, keys and priesthood offices. As directed by inspiration, he translated the Book of Mormon. Additional revelations were later published in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price to the enrichment of all who receive them. Other prophets and inspired directions followed until President Russell M. Nelson became the prophet of our day.
President Nelson has frequently commented that the Restoration was not an event, but rather a process which continues. He recently said, “please be assured that revelation continues in the Church and will continue under the Lord’s direction until ‘the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.’”5
No serious student of Church history could look at the rate of change in recent years and conclude differently. I bear my witness of the ongoing nature of the Restoration of the gospel and Church of Jesus Christ and the existence of a prophet in our day. ■
1. Amos 8:11-12
3. James 1:5
5. Russell M. Nelson, “Closing Remarks”, General Conference, October 2019