In the Latter Day Saint movement, the restoration refers to a return to the earth of the authentic priesthood power, spiritual gifts, ordinances, living prophets and revelation of the primitive Church of Christ after a long period of apostasy. While in some contexts the term may also refer to the early history of the Latter-day Saint religion, in other contexts the term is used in a way to include the time that has elapsed from the church's earliest beginnings until the present day. Especially in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) "the restoration" is often used also as a term to encompass the corpus of religious messages from its general leaders down to the present.
The restoration is associated with a number of events that occurred which are understood to have been necessary to re-establish the early Christian church found in the New Testament, and to prepare the earth for the Second Coming of Jesus. In particular, Latter Day Saints believe that angels appeared to Joseph Smith and others and bestowed various priesthood authorities on them.
According to the LDS Church, the Great Apostasy in Christianity began not long after the ascension of Jesus Christ. It was marked with the corruption of Christian doctrine by Greek and other philosophies, with followers dividing into different ideological groups, and the martyrdom of the Apostles which led to a loss of priesthood authority to administer the church and its ordinances.
With all priesthood authorities either martyred, taken from the earth, or teaching impure doctrines, there was a break in apostolic succession, and what remained was a mere fragment of the church established by Jesus. The Christian believers who survived the persecutions took it upon themselves to speak for God, interpret, amend or add to his doctrines and ordinances, and carry out his work without proper authority and divine direction from God. During this time, important doctrines and rites were lost or corrupted. Latter-day Saints specifically reject the early ecumenical councils for what they see as misguided human attempts to decide matters of doctrine without divine assistance, substituting debate and politics for divine revelation.
Latter-day Saints have said that various Old Testament and New Testament scriptures, including teachings of Christ himself, prophesy of this "falling away" or "apostasy." Thus, Latter-day Saints refer to the "restitution of all things" mentioned in Acts 3:20-21 and claim that a restoration of all the original and primary doctrines and rites of Christianity was necessary. Adherents believe that important historical events such as the Protestant Reformation and the establishment of the United States Constitution, which explicitly allows for freedom of religion in its First Amendment, were necessary antecedents to the restoration.
Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, originally prayed about which church to join. In a vision in 1820 near Palmyra, New York, two personages (generally believed to be God the Father and Jesus Christ) instructed him not to join any churches, for "all their creeds were an abomination." Smith described another vision in 1823 as being visited in his bedroom by an "angel Moroni", who told him of a record of an ancient people written in an ancient language on golden plates. After repeated visits by this angel in successive years, Smith described receiving and translating this ancient record and publishing the translation as the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon provided many teachings about the atonement of Christ that were not as clear in the Bible, as also teachings about the House of Israel and the baptismal covenant. When Smith prayed in May 1829 about the need for baptism, he and Oliver Cowdery were visited by the resurrected John the Baptist, who by the laying on of hands gave them priesthood authority to baptize.
Coinciding with the restoration of the priesthood, Mormons believe that Smith received many revelations, visions, and visitations of heavenly messengers to instruct him in order to enable him to fulfill his responsibilities in propounding doctrine and re-establishing ordinances and temple covenants. These instructions came to Smith often in response to specific questions he asked in prayer. The majority of this history is recorded in one of the standard works, the Doctrine and Covenants. Additional details and background of the church in Smith's era is presented in the LDS Church's seven volume History of the Church.
In regard to the restoration of priesthood authority, Smith dictated the following passage found in Doctrine and Covenants 128:20–21:
|“||And again, what do we hear?...The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times! And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope!||”|
In reflecting upon the responsibilities of teaching the constant revelations he received, Smith stated:
|“||It is my meditation all the day, and more than my meat and drink, to know how I shall make the Saints of God comprehend the visions that roll like an overflowing surge before my mind.||”|
Personages who appeared to Joseph Smith
As part of the process of the restoration, Joseph Smith stated that a number of personages appeared to him to deliver messages, priesthood authority, or other instruction from God. These personages appeared either as resurrected beings or as translated beings. According to H. Donl Peterson, the following 50 personages appeared to Smith:
|1||God the Father||JS–H 1:17; HC 1:5; D&C 76:20|
|2||Jesus Christ||JS–H 1:17; HC 1:5–6; D&C 76:20–24, 110:2–10|
|3||Moroni||JS–H 1:30–49; JD 17:374|
|4||Elijah||D&C 110:13–16; JD 23:48|
|5||John the Baptist||D&C 13; HC 1:39–40|
|6–8||Peter, James, John||D&C 128:20; HC 1:40–42; JD 18:326|
|9||Adam (Michael)||HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57, 128:21; HC 2:380; JD 9:41, 18:326, 21:94, 23:48|
|10||Noah (Gabriel)||D&C 128:21; JD 21:94, 23:48|
|12||Moses||D&C 110:11; JD 21:65, 23:48|
|13||Elias||D&C 110:12; JD 23:48|
|14||Abraham||JD 21:94, 23:48|
|17||Enoch||JD 21:65, 94; HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57|
|18–26||The Twelve Jewish Apostles (Peter, James, and John counted above)||JD 21:94|
|27–38||The Twelve Nephite Disciples (including the Three Nephites)||JD 21:94|
|40||Seth||JD 21:94; HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57|
|41||Methuselah||JD 18:325; HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57|
|42||Enos||JD 18:325; HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57|
|43||Mahalaleel||JD 18:325; HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57|
|44||Jared||HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57|
|46||Abel||JD 18:325; HC 3:388|
|47||Cainan||HC 3:388; D&C 107:53–57|
|48||Zelph the Lamanite||TS 6:788|
|49||Alvin Smith||HC 2:380|
Significance and impact
According to the LDS Church, all priesthood keys necessary to administer Jesus' church were given to Joseph Smith, who re-organized that church, which will continue in perpetuity. Hence, members refer to their church as "The Church of Jesus Christ." The term "latter-day saints" refers to the fact that members of early Christianity were originally called "saints", and the church reestablished by Smith is believed to be Christ's church in the last days prior to the second coming of Jesus.
Members of the LDS Church believe that their church is the "only true and living church upon the face of the earth" because of the divine authority restored through Smith. They say that the LDS Church is the restoration of Jesus' original church, has the authentic Priesthood authority, and all doctrines and ordinances of the Gospel, fulfilling many of the prophecies of Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Malachi in the Old Testament and also the prophesies of Peter, Jesus, and John the Revelator in the New Testament.
Latter-day Saints maintain that other religions have a portion of the truth, mingled with inaccuracies. They also maintain that many other religions advance many good causes and do much good among the people insofar as they are led by the light of Christ, "which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (John 1:9).
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- "The Restoration of the Truth" at Mormon.org - Official LDS Church website explaining Mormon belief