Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lecture given to a University on April 10, 2014

The Restoration

Jacob K.  Dick

This talk was delivered on April 10, 2014.   Quoting extensively from the talk “Restored Truth” given by M.  Russell Ballard in the October 1994 General Conference, many references are omitted.

The mortal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was comparatively brief.  He lived only thirty-three years, and His ministry was only three years.  But in those three years He taught the human family everything that is necessary to receive all of the blessings our Father in Heaven has in store for His children.  He concluded His mortal ministry with the single most compassionate and significant service in the history of the world: the Atonement.
One of the most important accomplishments of the Savior was the establishment of His church upon the earth.  Paul taught that Christ “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11–12).
Paul, speaking to members of this newly established church, taught them that the church was built  “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20).
When Jesus called His twelve Apostles, He laid His hands upon them, ordained them, and conferred upon them the authority to act in His name and govern His church.  Peter is commonly understood to have become the chief Apostle, or the President of the Church, afterOn April 10, 2014, my companion and I were able to speak at the Nairobi Aviation College.  There are approximately 90% girls in the college.  So basically, we preached to about 120 pretty, 20-something year old religious girls who fly planes. *arm flex*   It went really well and I felt led by the Spirit as to what needed to be said.  It was wonderful! Here is a copy of my talk:

 the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.  Early Christians endured the challenges of persecution and hardship.  Peter and his brethren had a difficult time holding the Church together and keeping the doctrine pure.  They traveled extensively and wrote to one another about the problems they were facing, but information moved so slowly and the Church and its teachings were so new that correcting false teachings before they became firmly entrenched was difficult.

There is no group in history for which I have more sympathy than the eleven remaining apostles after the resurrection of Jesus.  As a group of new converts, baptized into the church less than three years ago, they were called to administer and lead a church that was intended to change the whole world, which indeed, it did.  
The New Testament indicates that the early Apostles worked hard to preserve the church that Jesus Christ left to their care and keeping, but they knew their efforts would ultimately be in vain.  Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Saints, who were anxiously anticipating the second coming of Christ, that “that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first” (2 Thes. 2:3).  He also warned Timothy that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; … And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3–4).

And Peter presupposed the falling away, or the Apostasy, when he spoke of “the times of refreshing” that would come before God would again send Jesus Christ, who “before was preached unto you:
“Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:19–21).

Eventually, with the known exception of John the Beloved, Peter and his fellow Apostles were martyred.  The Apostle John and members of the Church struggled for survival in the face of horrifying oppression.  To their everlasting credit, Christianity did survive and was truly a prominent force by the end of the second century A.D.  Many valiant Saints were instrumental in helping Christianity to endure.
Despite the significance of the ministries of these Saints, they did not hold the same apostolic authority Peter and the other Apostles had received through ordination under the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  When that authority was lost, men began looking to other sources for doctrinal understanding.  As a result, many plain and precious truths were lost.

Let me share a simple story before I proceed.  A group of children, none more than seven years old, were in a classroom in one of our churches.  They found a cat!  This, of course, excited these children beyond all reason.  Shaking with excitement, one small girl asked “Is the cat a boy or a girl?”  A boy responded “I don’t know!  How can we tell?”  The smartest of the children quickly and boldly exclaimed “Let’s vote on it!”  
We can see how naive it is to vote on something that we cannot choose, such as the gender of a cat.  Why then would anyone try to decide the doctrines given of God by the same method?  Well that is exactly how Christianity went.

When the emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity, he became aware of the divisiveness among the clergy concerning the nature of Deity.  In an attempt to overcome this he gathered the church leaders of the day to Nicaea in the year 325.  Each participant was given opportunity to state his views.  The argument only grew more heated.  Consensus did not come easily.  Opinions on such basic subjects as the nature of God were diverse and deeply felt, and debate was spirited.  Decisions were not made by inspiration or revelation, but by majority vote, and some disagreeing factions split off and formed new churches.  When a definition could not be reached, a compromise was made.  It came to be known as the Nicene Creed, and its basic elements are recited by most of the Christian faithful.  Similar doctrinal councils were held later in 451, 787, and 1545, with similarly divisive results.

The beautiful simplicity of Christ’s gospel was under attack from an enemy that was even more destructive than the scourges and the crosses of early Rome, that is, the philosophical meanderings of uninspired men.  The doctrine became based more on popular opinion than on revelation.  This period of time was called the Dark Ages.  They were dark largely because the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ had been lost.
Then in 1517, the Spirit moved Martin Luther, a German priest who was disturbed at how far the church had strayed from the gospel as taught by Christ.  His work led to a reformation, a movement that was taken up by such other visionaries as John Calvin, William Tyndale, John Wesley, and John Smith.
I believe these reformers were inspired to create a religious climate in which God could restore lost truths and priesthood authority.  Similarly, God inspired the earlier explorers and colonizers of America and the framers of the Constitution of the United States to develop a land and governing principles to which the gospel could be restored.  By 1820 the world was ready for the “restitution of all things” spoken of by Peter and “all [God’s] holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).

At this time religious excitement was sweeping across the countryside in upstate New York.  Ministers from different denominations vied zealously for the loyalty of the faithful in villages and towns, including Palmyra, the home of the family of Joseph Smith, Sr., and Lucy Mack Smith.

The Smith family followed this religious excitement, and members of the family were “proselyted” to various faiths.  Mother Smith and three of the children—Hyrum, Samuel, and Sophronia—joined one church (see JS—H 1:7), while Father Smith and his eldest son, Alvin, affiliated with another.

When fourteen-year-old Joseph, Jr., considered which church to join, he investigated each denomination carefully, listening to the respective ministers and trying to sort out the truth.  He knew there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph.  4:5), but which was the one he did not know.

“In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions,” Joseph Smith, Jr., wrote later, “I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (JS—H 1:10.)

Young Joseph looked for answers to his questions in the scriptures.  While reading in the Bible, he came upon a simple, direct admonition in the epistle of James: “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” (James 1:5).

Joseph reflected: “Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine.  It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart.  I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know” (JS—H 1:12).

With the simple faith of youth and motivated by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Joseph decided to go into a grove of trees near his home and put the promise in James to the test. On a beautiful, clear spring morning, Joseph retired to the woods.  He paused when he arrived at a quiet, secluded spot.  He looked around to make sure he was alone.  Then he knelt and began to pray.

Reading from Joseph’s account:

“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.  …
“When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air.  One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son.  Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:16–17).
I testify those Beings were God, our Heavenly Father, and His resurrected Son, Jesus Christ, in one of the most supernal spiritual manifestations of all time!

They told Joseph he should join none of the existing churches.  While some of the churches were set up to gratify the preachers and to gain wealth and popularity and power, others were led by honest, truth-seeking individuals trying to draw nearer to God.  Despite any good intentions, all of the churches at that time lacked the authority of the Priesthood to minister and administer in the name of Jesus Christ.  None of the churches were the church of Jesus Christ for He had not given His authority to any of them.  The Father and the Son explained all of this to Joseph Smith, and repeated the injunction to join none of the churches.

Their mission accomplished, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, departed, leaving young Joseph physically drained but spiritually enriched with exciting restored truth.  He knew with certainty that God, our Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, are real, for he had seen them.  He knew they are two separate, distinct individuals.  He knew that no church on the face of the earth had the authority of the priesthood to act in the name of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the most important lesson young Joseph learned in the Sacred Grove is this significant eternal truth: the heavens arenot sealed.  God does communicate with mortals.  He loves us today just as much as He loved those who lived anciently.  What comfort that sweet assurance provides in a world filled with confusion and discouragement.  Whatpeace and security come to the heart that understands that God in heaven knows us and cares about us, individually and collectively, and that He communicates with us, either directly or through His living prophets, according to our needs.

Through subsequent, equally miraculous experiences, Joseph Smith was God’s instrument in—
·         Translating from ancient records a book of scripture, the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ,
·         Restoring priesthood authority,
·         Restoring sealing keys to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers,
·         Establishing the restored church of Jesus Christ in these latter days with the fulness of the gospel as taught in the meridian of time by the Savior and His Apostles,
·         Fulfilling biblical prophecy,
·         Preparing for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

My friends, either the gospel has been restored or it has not.  Either the Savior’s original church and its doctrine were lost or they were not.  Either Joseph Smith had that remarkable vision or he did not.  The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ or it is not.  Either the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to earth through God’s chosen latter-day prophet or it was not.

The truth really is not any more complicated than that.  Either these things happened just as I have testified or they did not.  As one called of God and set apart by His ordained servants, my testimony, and the testimony of millions of faithful members of the Church the world over, is that what I have told you this afternoon is true.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been restored to the earth through Joseph Smith and is administered today by a living prophet.  These things I know!

This information is valuable to each of us only if we know for ourselves that it is true.  Thankfully we have a simple but certain way to know.  It requires some effort and sincere prayer.  But it is worth it!

In the last chapter of the Book of Mormon, an ancient prophet named Moroni gave a significant promise to those who would one day read this sacred book of scripture.  His promise applies to every sincere seeker of truth.  He wrote:

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moro. 10:4–5).

Moroni urges us to go directly to the Source of Truth for answers to our questions.  If we seek Him humbly and sincerely, He will help us discern truth from error.  As the Savior Himself assured His disciples: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

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