Here is a copy of the farewell address I gave at my home ward in Kirkland before leaving for my mission.
The Restoration of the Gospel
In a 1939 quotation, President Joseph F. Smith said: “The greatest event that has ever occurred in the world, since the resurrection of the Son of God from the tomb and his ascension on high, was the coming of the Father and of the Son to that boy Joseph Smith, to prepare the way for the laying of the foundation of his kingdom—not the kingdom of man—never more to cease nor to be overturned.” As president Joseph F. Smith says in that quote, the restoration of the gospel in the Latter Days is the greatest event since the resurrection and atonement of Christ. Starting with the First Vision, Heavenly Father began a restoration of truth, authority, scripture, sacred ordinances, and the organization of His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith. This restoration established the fullness of the Gospel on the earth and is what allows all of us to come together today as members of God’s church. Without the restoration we would not have priesthood authority, the Book of Mormon, modern day revelation through a living prophet, temple ordinances, or the church organization we all enjoy. The restoration of the Lord’s gospel gives us the opportunity to achieve happiness in our lives today and salvation in our lives to come. For this very reason it is important that we as Latter Day Saints understand the significance of the restoration to not only us in our day to day lives, but to God and his eternal plan of Salvation.
As the restoration is so fundamental to our beliefs, the word restoration is one that we use quite frequently in the Church. According to the dictionary, restoration is defined as “the act or process of returning something to its original condition or state it existed before.” If this is the case, our use of the term restoration begs the question, what exactly was restored? Referred to as the restoration of the priesthood, the restoration of the church, or just the restoration, our use of restoration signifies the return of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. While on the earth, Jesus Christ taught gospel principles, performed ordinances and miracles, and established God’s one true church on the earth. In this establishment of the Church, Christ and his 12 apostles set forth the teachings, ordinances, practices, and general organization of His church. Following his crucifixion and the death of his apostles, the gospel that Christ established was taken from the earth and the Great apostasy began, which was ended by the restoration and work of God and his servant Joseph Smith. Because of this, Christ and his church are pivotal to our knowledge of the restoration. It is imperative that we understand that the gospel which was brought back by Joseph Smith was first established by Christ during his earthly ministry and made possible through his atonement and resurrection. Joseph Smith did not establish a new church on the earth, but rather restored the Church Christ had established long before him. Because of this great work, the teachings and ordinances necessary for salvation are available to all people.
In an April 2006 general conference address by James E Faust titled The Restoration of All Things, elder Faust writes of the importance of Christ and emphasizes that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of the original Church established by Jesus Christ. After outlining the process of the great apostasty and restoration by Joseph Smith elder Faust writes:
“We believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of the original Church established by Jesus Christ, which was built “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” It is not a breakoff from any other church.
We believe that the fullness of the gospel of Christ has been restored, but this is no reason for anyone to feel superior in any way toward others of God’s children. Rather, it requires a greater obligation to invoke the essence of the gospel of Christ in our lives—to love, serve, and bless others. Indeed, as the First Presidency stated in 1978, we believe that “the great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.” Thus, we have respect for the sincere religious beliefs of others and appreciate others extending the same courtesy and respect for the tenets we hold dear.”
In this excerpt from his conference address elder Faust asserts that our church, which was restored in these latter days, is not a breakoff of any other church but is centered on Christ. He says that our church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets of old, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. This is a great testament of the authority of our church and the importance of Christ in the restoration. The gospel is not a new idea, but rather one which was taken from the earth for a great number of years. Despite this truth, elder Faust adds that it is important that we do not feel superior to other churches and instead recognize our authority as an obligation to live the gospel in our lives. We have a great blessing to know the truth and enjoy the fullness of the gospel and it is important that we reflect that in our conduct as Latter Day Saints.
We learn more about this relationship between Christ and Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 135: 3 which says:
“Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fullness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood.”
In this scripture we learn that Joseph Smith has done great things for the salvation of men in this world that can only be exceeded by the works of the Savior. The work of Joseph Smith and the Savior are tied together in that they are important to all of us today and influential to our salvation.
Encompassed within the restoration of the Gospel, God and Joseph Smith brought back many specific elements of Christ’s church. Following Joseph Smith’s search for the truth, God the Father and his son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in the sacred grove and told him that none of the churches he inquired of were true and that he must restore God’s true church. Combined with further revelation, this First Vision instructed Joseph on what he must do to begin and carry out the restoration. From this point, Joseph Smith went on to translate the Book of Mormon with guidance from the angel Moroni, was given the Aaronic priesthood from John the Baptist, was baptized by his scribe Oliver Cowdery, received the Melchizedek priesthood by Peter, James, and John, built and dedicated the Kirtland temple, and received priesthood keys and the sealing power from Moses, Elias, and Elijah within the temple. Within all of these acts it is important to recognize the influence of the priesthood on Joseph Smith’s acts of restoration. It was only after Joseph Smith received the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood that he could work to restore the ordinances and organization of Christ’s church. It is for this very reason that the Restoration is often referred to as The Restoration of the Priesthood. The priesthood, being the power and authority of god delegated to man, was taken from the earth during the great apostasy and was returned to Joseph Smith by John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John. It was only once Joseph Smith received the priesthood from these messengers that he could use this power and authority of God to carry out the other components of the restoration. For example, once Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the Aaronic priesthood from John the Baptist they were able to baptize one another and baptize other new members. Similarly, once Joseph Smith received the Melchizedek priesthood from Peter James and John and the priesthood keys and sealing power from Moses, Elias, and Elijah, he was able to dedicate the temple and perform temple ordinances. In this way, it is the restoration of the priesthood or the restoration of God’s power that allowed Joseph to bring forth the restoration of the fullness of the gospel.
Merrill J Bateman of the Presidency of the seventy gave an address which discussed this restoration of the priesthood in an October 2003 address titled Priesthood, Keys, and The Power to Bless. Elder Bateman says:
“One of the remarkable evidences of the Restoration is the testimony of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery regarding the manner in which the priesthood and its directing powers were returned to earth. In each case, priesthood and priesthood keys were restored by divine messengers who had held them in earlier times. John the Baptist brought back the Aaronic Priesthood with the keys of repentance and baptism. Peter, James, and John restored not only the Melchizedek Priesthood but also “the keys of [the] kingdom.” Moses and Elijah returned with the “gathering” and “sealing” keys. The events describing the return of the priesthood are remarkable in that they conform precisely with the biblical pattern of priesthood restoration in earlier dispensations.”
In this elder Bateman shows how important the priesthood was to Joseph Smith’s work in restoring the church. He says that one of the greatest evidences of the restoration is the manner in which Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the priesthood and exercised it. In this way it is clear that the restoration of the priesthood was incredibly significant to the return of the gospel. The priesthood gave Joseph Smith the power he needed to bring back the church and reestablish its organization and ordinances. It is a true blessing that we have the priesthood on the earth and that worthy holders of the priesthood Joseph Smith restored can perform ordinances for us today.
The significance of the priesthood in the restoration can teach us a lot about how we should act. Just as Joseph Smith exercised his priesthood and used it to restore the church, we should appreciate and take advantage of the priesthood in our own lives. The priesthood allows for baptism, blessings, temple work, and ordinances that we must utilize to achieve salvation. Because of this we should appreciate the priesthood and recognize its importance to our doctrine.
This idea is often reminded to us through modern day revelation in general conference. In the priesthood session of the recent April 2014 General Conference, President Uchtdorf gave the brethren of the church a message regarding the relationship of the priesthood and the restoration that is applicable to all of us in our day to day lives. In his talk titled “Are You Sleeping Through the Restoration?” President Uchtdorf encourages us to be an active force in restoring the fullness of the Gospel, just as Joseph Smith was years ago.
President Uchtdorf begins his message with an analogy to the American Short Story “Rip Van Winkle.” He uses this story as a metaphor in that just as Rip Van Winkle avoided his responsibilities and slept through the American Revolution, by avoiding our own responsibilities we can sleep through The Restoration of the Gospel. President Uchdorf says:
“Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.” Brethren, the exciting developments of today are part of that long-foretold period of preparation that will culminate in the glorious Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
This is one of the most remarkable periods of the world’s history! Ancient prophets yearned to see our day.
When our time in mortality is complete, what experiences will we be able to share about our own contribution to this significant period of our lives and to the furthering of the Lord’s work? Will we be able to say that we rolled up our sleeves and labored with all our heart, might, mind, and strength? Or will we have to admit that our role was mostly that of an observer?
Don’t allow selfishness! Don’t allow habits that could lead to addiction! Don’t allow competing priorities to lull you into indifference or detachment from blessed discipleship and ennobling priesthood service!
There is too much at stake for us as individuals, as families, and as Christ’s Church to give only a halfhearted effort to this sacred work.
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not an effort of once a week or once a day. It is an effort of once and for all.”
In this message president Uchtdorf gives us a lot to think about. He begins by saying that although Joseph Smith restored the fullness of the gospel, that restoration is not over. Our actions today help to further develop the restoration and prepare the way for Christ’s second coming. From this point President Uchtdorf goes on to outline three reasons which might cause us to “sleep through the restoration”: selfishness, addictions, and competing priorities. If we focus on ourselves instead of others, become crippled by addiction, or do not maintain an eternal perspective, we can become distracted and sleep through the restoration. However he provides counsel by teaching that if we can forget ourselves and turn ourselves toward the savior, avoid addiction and work appropriately to overcome it, and develop love for God and our neighbors we can keep the right priorities and do the Lord’s work. President Uchtdorf ends his message by calling us to awake and go to work and promises us blessings if we help to prepare for the return of Christ.
President Uchtdorf’s message is a great testament of the importance of the restoration. Not only was the restoration great and influential to all of us, but is something that we can help influence today. Along with staying awake and avoiding problems which can cause us to sleep through our responsibilities as President Uchdorf discusses, I think one of the best ways to further the restoration is through missionary work. Missionary work allows us to spread the truth that Joseph Smith worked so hard to restore. By sharing our doctrine and teaching about the restoration we show respect to the restoration of the gospel and take advantage of the work of Joseph Smith and the Lord. This topic is especially important to me as I prepare to go on my own 2 year mission to South Korea in June. Just as I plan to help spread the gospel, when we perform missionary work we all can develop the work of God on earth and carry on the restoration began by joseph smith. We should all look for opportunities to spread the gospel to those around us and prepare the way for Christ to come to the earth once again.
In closing I would like to emphasize that the restoration is a key doctrine of our church and is something that is important to us all today. Joseph Smith restored Christ’s church on the earth in the latter days and utilized the priesthood to do so. Because of this we enjoy great blessings in our own lives and should utilize the priesthood and perform missionary work to help prepare the way for Christ to come once more.
I testify that Joseph Smith was a true prophet who restored the gospel on the earth in these latter days. I know that this church is true and that it is the same church Christ established during his earthly ministry. Joseph Smith really did translate the word of God as the Book of Mormon and received revelation just as Thomas S. Monson does today. We are truly blessed to be members of God’s true church and should be grateful for the work of the restoration as we receive blessings in our lives as Latter Day Saints. Through the priesthood and missionary work we can grow closer to God and return to live with him once more. I am thankful for my family, my ward family, and all those who have helped me in my own life. I bear my testimony that as we express our gratitude and act on the word of God he will bless us.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.