Truman Madsen has noted, that in the History of Religion since the time of Abraham it seems as though that every 600 years there is an individual who works affect his whole posterity and those around him and beyond. 600 years after Abraham was Moses on mount Sinai who received the law. 600 years later we reach the time of Buda, Confucius and Isaiah. 600 years later in the meridian of time, the most central figure of all, Jesus the Christ.
600 years later Mohammed comes on the scene and in another 600 years we reach St. Francis, Aquinas, Maimonides each in their own tradition a powerful figure. 600 years later brings us to 1800, then what? Who is the figure to come in that century? Who will influence the future and be called of God to bring forth a dispensation in preparation for the second coming of Christ. The answer comes from one of the most unlikely of places in a small mountain village of Vermont and the individual a young boy named Joseph Smith Jr.
I’m talking about the restoration. At age 13 and 14 Joseph Smith Jr. was a pure minded boy. Busy farming and clearing land and hiring out to others for work to help provide for the needs of a big family. There was an immense unity in the Smith Home where spiritual things did not take a back seat to the physical necessities of life. In this new land one could practice religion how they desired. Joseph’s grand father had fought in the revolutionary war and the privilege of peace and freedom was something not taken lightly. Bible study and prayer were daily events in the Smith home and there was much discussion about doctrine and salvation. They were a faithful people trying to do their best as citizens of a nation and loving their God.
Around this time there was of course much excitement about religion in and around Palmyra New York. Religious revivals had swept New England and had caused quite a stir of people and talk. At this time the Smith Family became somewhat divided in thought and belief. Some in the family believed in Presbyterianism others Methodism and others stayed away from organized religion all together but yet kept God in their hearts so to speak. Throughout all his family and extended family Joseph had at least one member of them in every religion in the area. So we see the beginning of the division of thoughts and beliefs even within his own family.
Joseph being young took advice from older brother’s, father and mother but could not decide for himself being only confused and yet worried in the divisions of his family. He attended some churches in the area in hopes to find the one he liked or the one he felt was true. A search for the truth seemed to him to be of the up most importance and he held a desire and belief that somehow he could be the one to unify his family in belief.
Around this time Joseph was introduced to a Scripture found in James 1:5
5 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.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
This scripture left quite an impression upon him so much that he pondered about it again and again. After some time over the winter months he finally was determined to follow the scripture and do as James directs. In his pure mind and heart he truly believed he could receive an answer about where he could find the truth. I t had seemed to weigh on him so much that he had to know.
One spring morning he entered the woods nearby to say the first vocal prayer of his life, ready to ask the Eternal God his question of wither is truth. He had the faith, the trust, a pureness about him and a strong desire and with that he received his answer. This was also an answer to many millions of previous prayers given down through the centuries from individuals seeking God and truth.
As he prayed God the Father and Jesus Christ descended in Heavenly light. Before him stood two glorious personages. The Father and the Son together ushering in a new day, a new dispensation, and a restoration of truth and light. This visitation was the first part of the restoration. The true nature and character of God and His Son again revealed to the world and a declaration that the true church was not yet found on the earth but had been lost and yet would be restored in due time once more. In this first of many visions Joseph learned that if he was faithful he would play a part in the commencement of the restoration of the fullness of times.
And so it began, the curtains unveiled and revelation again on the earth.
Joseph in due time was instrumental in bringing forth the restoration of scripture, priesthood and saving ordinances.
This restoration was long prophesied by Joseph of old, Isaiah and Daniel, Paul and Jesus Christ himself. This was to be the final restoration of all things a restoration of the fullness of times. Everything that ever had been given and revealed to the children of men down through the centuries was promised to be restored once more. Promised blessings of priesthood and ordinances crucial for salvation. The Lord again had seen fit to set up his church upon the earth.
The Lord has declared this restoration in these latter days. We read in the doctrine and covenants section1:
17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;
18 And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—
19 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—
20 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;
21 That faith also might increase in the earth;
22 That mine everlasting covenant might be established;
23 That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.
24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.
25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.
29 And after having received the record of the Nephites, yea, even my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., might have power to translate through the mercy of God, by the power of God, the Book of Mormon.
30 And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—
Joseph was called to do a great work. The first of these great responsibilities was to restore ancient scripture, The Book of Mormon. In time He received the gold plates from the angel Moroni and was instructed to begin translating them. In 1829 a year before the church was organized, 5000 copies of the book of Mormon went to print. This scripture another testament of Jesus Christ more fully clarifies the doctrines of Creation, the Fall, Atonement and salvation, the Character of God and the importance of authority. It speaks of the personal ministry of our savior on the American Continent. It speaks of temple worship, prophesy and revelations and the second coming of Christ. The book of Mormon is the keystone to our religion and the validity of this church and this work hangs and rest upon the truthfulness of it. We declare the book of Mormon is true. These are the words of the Prophet himself:
Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
We all can come to a knowledge that the Book of Mormon is true as we study its pages and ponder its teachings. As we go to the Lord in prayer and ask him for a witness if it is true, he we manifest the truth of it unto us by the power of the Holy Ghost.
We read in Moroni 10:3-5
3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
4 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.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
On April 6 1830 in Fayette New York the Church of Jesus Christ was reorganized in its true form. In that meeting Joseph received a revelation about how it was to be organized. He received revelation about the priesthood , faith, repentance, baptism and the ordinance of the sacrament. He was previously called and ordained as a prophet and apostle and first elder of the church and Oliver Cowdery a Prophet and apostle and second elder of the church. Six members comprised the beginning of this great work. After the meeting many followers went down to the river to be baptized for a remission of sins and to accept membership into Christ’s church.
Although the Church was very small in the beginning, Joseph Smith had a prophetic sense of its grand destiny. Wilford Woodruff recalled that during a priesthood meeting at Kirtland, Ohio, in April 1834, the Prophet tried to awaken the brethren to a realization of the future state of God’s kingdom on earth: I quote:
“The Prophet called on all who held the Priesthood to gather into the little log school house they had there. It was a small house, perhaps 14 feet square. But it held the whole of the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were then in the town of Kirtland. … When we got together the Prophet called upon the Elders of Israel with him to bear testimony of this work. … When they got through the Prophet said, ‘Brethren, I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. ‘It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but brethren this Church will fill North and South America, brethren, this church will fill the world.’ No body not even Brigham Young or Heber C. Kimball could have predicted that, and they were a bit surprised. Joseph had the vision and had received instructions on what was to be done and how it would be accomplished.
He sent out missionaries starting with his brother Samuel. He himself went on a mission and even came to Canada and converted many in Ontario and throughout New England. The Church grew rapidly and the noise of a restored church and of new scripture, prophets and apostles and revelation excited many, yet angered many more. In 1835 the twelve apostles were called and also sent on missions. A temple was built by sweat and sacrifice and dedicated to the Lord in 1836. Temple ordinances of baptism for the dead, endowments and marriage for time and all eternity were revealed and set forth. Line by line and precept upon precept the lord revealed and restored to his holy prophets the commandments and principles of this gospel and some are still yet to be revealed in the last days. In our articles of faith 9 and 10 we read:
9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
Christ’s church is again upon the earth. Light has again parted darkness and the devil wants nothing to with it. In all his ways and subtleties he has tried to thwart and bring down this work. But it still stands and truth prevails. Today we stand more than 13 million strong. We have filled the nations of the world, temples now dot the earth and scriptures translated in many languages. We are a rough stone rolling. This work will not end it will not fail but it will continue to grow and succeed until the voice of the lord and his church has been sounded in every ear and on every clime and isles of the sea and until every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ and the Great Jehovah says the work is done. Brothers and sister there is no question whether this work will go on. The only question is will you and I be a part of it. The church is true Brothers and Sisters, we have received the word, the Holy Ghost and prophesies have been fulfilled and are coming to pass still. We have the knowledge of the everlasting gospel and our eternal destiny as a child of God. May we stay true to it and be more committed to it. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.