I love studying the scriptures, and this year in my Church we are studying the Old Testament. I love the Old Testament, and that it points me to my Savior Jesus Christ. I also love seeing how the Lord works in the lives of individuals as well as seeing his hand in all people’s lives. Today as I studied, I was thinking about restoration, so I thought I would share my thoughts on how that applies to my Church.
First, it is important to understand how much our Heavenly Father loves each one of us individually, and all of us as His children. As I have talked about before, He is interested in each one of us, and is a part of the details of our lives if we allow Him to be so. We were sent here to learn and to grow, to become like Him, and to return to Him. We have the opportunity here to either accept His invitation to return through obedience or reject that invitation through disobedience. He sent our Savior Jesus Christ to Atone for our sins so that we could come and learn. Learning often happens as we make mistakes and try to correct those mistakes. Because of the Savior we can correct mistakes, we can repent, and we can become clean once again.
We are all part of a family here on earth, but more importantly, we are all part of God’s family in the eternities. We are literal children of our Heavenly Father. We are blessed to be a part of families here on earth because the home is the best place to learn, to make mistakes, and to learn how to do better. Loving parents lead and guide us as we grow, helping us become better all along the way. No home is perfect, but as we strive to teach and raise our kids well, we can be guided and helped on our journey and theirs.
Because our Heavenly Father loves us, He gave us prophets. We see this from the beginning of time, Adam being the first prophet. Other great prophets of the Old Testament are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Elijah and many more. Many of these prophets were prophets of dispensations because they were called because of apostasy among the people. As the people rejected the Lord through choices to follow other gods, they lost their connection with Him. They distanced themselves from the Lord. But as they became humble, or were humbled, the Lord again called prophets to teach and restore the gospel. These prophets were called of God in various ways. Moses’ call came when he saw a burning bush and turned aside to see why it wasn’t consumed. Samuel was called multiple times as he slept. Jesus Christ came in the meridian of time to again restore His gospel on the earth, but also to perform the Atonement so that every living creature could repent if they desired and would then have the opportunity to return to our Heavenly Father. After Jesus was crucified and resurrected, He gave authority once again to men on earth through His apostles. But just as with other dispensations the people again started choosing to turn away from the Lord. The apostles were killed, and the word of God and His doctrine were corrupted. Unauthorized changes were made to the scriptures, whether intentional or through mistranslations and priesthood authority was lost because of apostasy and distortions of gospel truths. Because of apostasy, many different churches were formed. After centuries of spiritual darkness, many people started to recognize that there were many doctrines and ordinances missing from the various Churches and they attempted to reform those teachings and practices, attempting to get back to the pure doctrine and truth. However, because so much had been lost, and there was no longer priesthood authority on the earth, just as in all other dispensations of apostasy, a restoration had to be made through a new prophet being called directly from God, just as Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and all the other prophets of the various dispensations had been called by God.
This happened in the Spring of 1820 as a young boy, Joseph Smith, only 14 years old at the time, sought to know which church was the correct church. He had studied the Bible, attended the various different religious sects as often as he could. He was seeking, as were many others, to know where to find the Lord’s complete truth. The Bible teaches that there is one Lord and one faith (Ephesians 4:5), so why so many different sects that contradicted each other. Not knowing how to settle on any particular sect without some guidance, he determined to ask the giver of truth, God. He went to a nearby grove of trees and determined to pray. As he records – “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!” God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, a new dispensation of the gospel had begun, not just any, but the last dispensation before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In the Bible this dispensation is referred to as the dispensation of the fulness of times. Since Joseph Smith, there has been a succession of prophets called of God to direct His work on the earth, today the prophet is Russell M. Nelson
Through the prophet Joseph Smith, as well as through subsequent prophets, the Lord’s Church, in its purity, is once again being restored upon the earth. I am grateful for the testimony I have gained, not only of the prophets in times of old, but my testimony that Joseph Smith was called of God, that he restored God’s Church once again upon the earth, and that Russell M. Nelson is God’s prophet today. I am grateful to know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, that He speaks to His children in all dispensations that people are obedient, and that He will always help and direct our lives as long as we strive to follow Him. I love my Heavenly Father, I love my Savior Jesus Christ, and I love our current prophet Pres. Russell M. Nelson.