Why Do Mormons Believe in A Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ?
One of the fundamental differences between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other Christian Churches is we believe that the Church of Jesus Christ as established by the Savior during his mortal ministry did not survive after the Apostles were all killed. After the Apostles died, the priesthood authority they held died with them and no one was left that was “authorized” to administer the saving ordinances and lead the church. The Church of Jesus Christ had ceased to exist; an apostasy had occurred.
With the loss of the priesthood authority, changes in doctrine began and as the Apostle Paul had warned that they would be “removed from the grace of Christ unto another gospel . . . and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7). Paul also warned that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
Some of the perversions that those teachers with “itching ears” brought in were the concept of the trinity, the purpose and manner of baptism, the doctrine of predestination, the idea of selling indulgences to absolve sin, and the idea that revelation had ceased and the heavens were sealed. It took hundreds of years for the teachings of Jesus Christ to be totally perverted and unrecognizable. There were many who professed differing teaching on these principles and in 325 AD, Constantine convened the Nicaean Council to try to come up with some agreement on what teachings were accepted and which ones were rejected. This council was not based on revelation from heaven but on the philosophies espoused by leaders of the church at the time.
President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote of the affect this apostasy:
“Following the Savior’s death, the Church He had established drifted into apostasy. Fulfilled were the words of Isaiah, who said, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant” ().
“Paul’s letters cried out for strength among the followers of Christ, lest they fall into the ways of the wicked one. But a spirit of apostasy ultimately prevailed.
“The centuries rolled on. A cloud of darkness settled over the earth. Isaiah described it: “For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” ().
“It was a season of plunder and suffering, marked by long and bloody conflict. … It was an age of hopelessness, a time of masters and serfs.
“The first thousand years passed, and the second millennium dawned. Its earlier centuries were a continuation of the former. It was a time fraught with fear and suffering.” (Teachings of the Presidents: Gordon B. Hinckley Chapter 1)
Then President Hinckley writes of the reformation and finally the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
“Somehow, in that long season of darkness, a candle was lighted. The age of Renaissance brought with it a flowering of learning, art, and science. There came a movement of bold and courageous men and women who looked heavenward in acknowledgment of God and His divine Son. We speak of it as the Reformation.
“Reformers worked to change the [Christian] church, notably such men as Luther, Melanchthon, Hus, Zwingli, and Tyndale. These were men of great courage, some of whom suffered cruel deaths because of their beliefs. Protestantism was born with its cry for reformation. When that reformation was not realized, the reformers organized churches of their own. They did so without priesthood authority. Their one desire was to find a niche in which they might worship God as they felt He should be worshiped.
“After centuries of darkness and pain and struggle, the time was ripe for the restoration of the gospel. Ancient prophets had spoken of this long-awaited day.
“All of the history of the past had pointed to this season. The centuries with all of their suffering and all their hope had come and gone. The Almighty Judge of the nations, the Living God, determined that the times of which the prophets had spoken had arrived. Daniel had foreseen a stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands and which became a great mountain and filled the whole earth [see ].” (Teachings of the Presidents: Gordon B. Hinckley Chapter 1)
An important principle that we need to understand is that the Church that Christ established when he was on the earth was not the first time it had been established. Another name for the Church of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it has existed from the beginning of time.
Fundamental to the beliefs of the LDS faith is that prior to being born on this earth we lived with Heavenly Father as his spirit children. The Lord tells Jeremiah “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. “ (Jeremiah 1:5). We read in the Book of Abraham of a council that was held in heaven prior to the earth even being created that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was taught and understood be everyone there:
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.
And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.
And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him. (Abraham 3:22-28)
These scriptures show that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has always existed. It was taught to Adam and Eve after they were driven out of the Garden of Eden (Moses 5:5-16), and again to Enoch (Moses 7:7-11), to Noah (Moses 8:19), to Abraham (Abraham 2:8-11), and to Moses (Moses 8:19). The Lord ushered in a new dispensation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by calling a new prophet to lead his church and each dispensation eventually experienced an apostasy and lost the priesthood authority to administer the gospel ordinances. Jesus Christ established his Gospel in the meridian times and that Gospel was lost through apostasy when the Apostles died.
Because the priesthood, the authority from God to act in his name, was lost no reformer would have been able to establish the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. None of the reformers ever claimed authority from God to establish his church. In the spring of 1820 a fourteen year old boy named Joseph Smith decided to ask God which church he should join and went to pray. That day ushered in a new dispensation when Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph and told him that none of the existing churches were true and that he should join none of them. The Lord Jesus Christ told Joseph further that all the existing churches “draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach the doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith History).
For the first time in 1800 years the heavens were opened and a new prophet was called and given the authority to establish the true Church of Jesus Christ again on the earth. On May 18, 1829 John the Baptist appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and gave them the Aaronic Priesthood and the power to baptize. John the Baptist said he was under the direction of Peter, James, and John who held the keys to the higher priesthood and that that priesthood would also be given to them (Doctrine and Covenants 13). Later that same month, Peter, James and John did appear to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and ordained them to the Melchizedek Priesthood (Doctrine and Covenants 128:20)
The Prophet Joseph Smith was commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ to officially establish his true church again on the earth and on April 6, 1830 was organized according to the laws of the state of New York. (see Doctrine and Covenants Introduction and Doctrine and Covenants 20:1). The Lord Jesus Christ has declared that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30)
The Apostle Peter told the people in temple in Jerusalem to “repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out” and that they should accept Christ “whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:19-21). That time of restitution of all things is here and so is the Church of Jesus Christ.
Why do Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) believe in a restored gospel of Jesus Christ? The answer to that question is because the Church of Jesus Christ that the Savior established when he was on the earth was lost after all the Apostles were killed and the priesthood authority that they held was taken from the earth. The only way to re-establish the true church would be through a new dispensation of the gospel and the calling of a new prophet and restoring the priesthood to act in God’s name again. Members of Christ’s church again have the mandate to take his Gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people and to prepare the earth for the second coming of the Savior Jesus Christ.
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