How to Restore a Gospel…

I remember the day like it was 10 minutes ago. It was a hot, sunny day in August, right before the start of my senior year in high school. A mechanical roar echoed throughout the neighborhood.

Something was rolling up our driveway.

I turned the corner of the house and there it was, a 1968 Ford Mustang coup with my dad behind the wheel. The thing was covered in rust and multiple colors–a victim of abandonment and several botched paint jobs. My stepped out of the Mustang with a smile on his face.

“What do you think?” he said.

“It’s awesome! But also the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.”

He patted my shoulder, walked by, and said, “One man’s trash…”

My dad, like most dads, is sneaky. He told us he bought it to restore it and make a few bucks, but the man never touched the car. It sat in the driveway and quietly waited for some TLC. My dad waited too. One day, I went out the to that decrepid Mustang and started tinkering under the hood. It was the first move of a long relationship.

I played around with the Mustang more and more through the fall of that year until one day I asked my dad, “Hey, what do you think about me giving the Weather Map (that’s what we called it because it had so many colors) a paint job?”

My dad grinned and said, “If you can pull it off, the Mustang is yours.”

Long story short, I spent every spare moment working on the car. Turned out, the local community college was hosting a body work class in its garage. Me and my high school best friend were there every week pouring our sweat, blood, and treasure the Weather Map into a deep, shimmering blue.

I don't have any pics of my Mustang, however it looked similar to this.

When the Elders of my local Latter-day Saints branch (my Mentors) taught me about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, I immediately thought of the Weather Map. I know that sounds pretty irreverent, but hey, the analogy works to some degree.

Here’s the concept:

Heavenly Father pre-ordains and sends prophets to mankind who teach us the gospel and about God’s way. Every once in a while, the people reject the prophets and their teachings–often killing them–and subsequently fall into a state called “apostacy.” Due to apostacy, the people lose most if not all knowledge about the gospel. In addition, the “priesthood keys,” or the authority to act and teach in the name of God, is taken from man. Without these teachings and authority, man cannot stand rightly with God.

It’s like sailing without a spiritual compass.

This apostacy happens throughout history. In the Book of Mormon, the Nephites (descendents of the Jewish prophet who led his people to “the land of promise” from Cannan to the Americas) fell into apostacy and were thereafter overrun and destroyed by neighboring people (Lamanites). All of this occurred after the resurrected Jesus showed himself to them and handed them the priesthood keys.

The same happened after Jesus’ ministry in 1st century Palestine. Jesus established his church with apostles and prophets as the foundation and himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2: 20). He also ordained said apostles, chief among them Peter, to carry out his work and the will of God on earth (Mark 3: 14). In addition to the apostles, Jesus set up additional personnel to the body of the priesthood for leadership and guidance among the faithful.

But, just as before when mankind is given the priesthood keys, we often drive the vehicle of salvation like a teenage boy and wreck the whole thing. The apostles were killed, one by one, until the line of priesthood authority vanished from the earth. Paul of Tarsus, a recent convert, did well to spread the message of Christ, however he was not hold the priesthood authority or keys to act in God’s name and continue the line of apostles and prophets. Starting with the church in Rome, the church spent the next 1800 years in a constant state of flux and division.

We were in a new state of apostacy.

 Enter Joseph Smith. As we learned in a previous post, Joseph Smith received a vision and instruction from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in 1820 to restore the church to its original and intended form. This included the priesthood authority, ordaining apostles and a living prophet. Thus, Joseph Smith received ordination into the lesser priesthood (Aaronic) by John the Baptist, and later to the higher priesthood (Melchizedek) by the original apostles, Peter, John, and James. Joseph Smith then spread the message of the restored gospel and with the newly appointed authority bestowed upon him, reestablished the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

God had returned the keys to our Weather Map gospel and asked us to use this new authority and blessing to maintain Christ’s church on this earth until the final return of Jesus Christ. With this new, shiny paint job, dual exhaust, and cherried out engine, we are called to teach the restored gospel to everyone. Heavenly Father is trusting us with the keys to his most precious vehicle once again.

Let’s not wreck our pimped out ride.

Question: if you are a Christian of another denomination, how do you feel about a church that claims to have the correct or restored gospel? I challenge you to read the scripture passages I reference above and see if the church Jesus set up during his time on earth resembles the one you attend.

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  • Tina

    “Joseph Smith received ordination into the lesser priesthood (Aaronic) by John the Baptist, and later to the higher priesthood (Melchizedek) by the original apostles, Peter, John, and James. Joseph Smith then spread the message of the restored gospel and with the newly appointed authority bestowed upon him, reestablished the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

    How did Joseph Smith recieve ordination? Who bestowed on him “newly appointed authority”?

    • Anonymous

      Hey there Tina,

      According to LDS histort, Joseph Smith was visited by John the Baptist, who laid hands on Joseph Smith and thus by his authority, passed on that priesthood role. Later on, Peter, John, and James did the same for the higher priesthood. Thus, the priesthood chain reemerged and Joseph Smith was called upon to organize the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth again.

  • Richard Gene Grove

    Brother Bowen is correct.  Latter-day Saints believe that only through “the laying on of hands by those who are in authority” can the lesser priesthood (called the preparatory or Aaronic priesthood) or greater priesthood (Melchizedek) be bestowed.  “Those in authority” are men who have Heavenly Father’s permission to lay hands on another worthy male’s head and who have, themselves, had hands laid on their own heads.  This line of authority must trace back the the Son of God, Jesus Christ, himself.  We believe John the Baptist got his authority from Christ and we know from the New Testament that Christ laid hands on Peter, James and John.  So, first John the Baptist and then Peter, James and John came to Joseph Smith as resurrected ministers and gave him and a man named Oliver Cowdry these priesthoods.  Fun fact: the Aaronic priesthood is named for the tribe of Aaron who had the temple duties in both Solomon’s and the Herod’s temples.  The Melchizedek is the name of the man that Father Abraham paid this tithes to in the Old Testament.

  • Tina

    Wow, did not know this at all. Was anyone else present with him when he was visited or is it an article of faith? Really interesting!

    • Anonymous

      My understanding is that Joseph Smith was alone when he was visited by Heavenly Father and Jesus, however both Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery received the preisthood keys and authority.

    • Jenni

      Joseph had many visions over the course of two and a half decades. The “First Vision” or initial visit of God to him was just him alone. Several of his visions or visitations were shared though.  Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants is a fabulous vision of heaven and Christ on His throne, but there were also visits from John th eBaptist, Peter, James, and John, Elijah, Moroni, and others. (By the way, we consider Moroni to be the angel referenced in Revelation as carrying a trumpet and having the everlasting gospel–that is the statue that is on our temples is Moroni with the trump and book.)

      There are several ‘versions’ of the First Vision, written accounts that he gave different people at different times. They don’t all exactly align. This is a substantial stumbling block for a lot of people, because they feel that if he couldn’t even tell the story the same way, then he must have been making it up. (The biggest differences are that some accounts say he was 14 and others say he was 16, and one says he was visited by Christ but another says it was both Father and Son). An alternate explanation is that he ‘updated’ later tellings to reflect his growing theological concepts. For example, a protestant-raised teenager would have probably been most receptive to a single visitor, however 20 years later he had learned that the Father and Son are separate corporal beings, so he then told the story with two personages, sortof as a parable to reinforce the theology. This sort of issue is deeply troubleing for some mormons, and unknown to many others. There are a lot of things about early church leaders/history that are troubling (or unknown) for a lot of mormons. I think a certain amount of that is inevitable in most groups/faiths, but we definitely have our share.

      • Anonymous

        We always get in trouble when we try to explain everything, don’t we?

  • Art Sherwood

    There is a 2 minute video put out by the LDS church that talks about the restoration of the priesthood.  You can view it here:

    There is also a 20 minute video which covers the whole story of Joseph as a young boy when he was searching for the truth and ended up receiving his first vision.

    Hope you enjoy them.

  • Tina

    Art, thank you for your response. I watched both of the videos and hoave more questions.What convinced the early followers of Joseph Smith that he had received such visions and authority? Many have claimed to have revelations and encounters with the Divine, so what set Joseph apart? 

    Thank you, Tina

    • Anonymous

      Good questions…

    • Art Sherwood

      The same thing that convinces 14 million people around the world today that Joseph Smith was a true prophet and restored the Church of Christ on the earth in these latter days.  Matthew 7:15-20 gives great instruction for how a person can know whether someone claiming to be a prophet is, in fact, a prophet.  “By their fruits ye shall know them.” 

      One of the principal works or “fruits” that Joseph Smith brings to the world is the Book of Mormon. Several years after Smith received his first vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ, he was visited by an angel named Moroni.  Moroni told Joseph of a set of plates made of gold that was buried in a hill not far from his home.  On these plates was engraved the history of a civilization that lived on the American continent many hundreds of years ago.  They tell of a man named Lehi, a prophet of God, who lived in Jerusalem around the time of Jeremiah of the Old Testament, about 600 years B.C.  Lehi and his family were commanded by God to leave Jerusalem, travel through the wilderness and cross the ocean, finally arriving somewhere in the Americas.  There, the grew into a large civilization and had many dealings with God just as their cousins did back in Jerusalem.  This record even tells of a visit that Jesus Christ himself made to this people, shortly after His death and resurrection.  The civilization continued for another 400 years after Christ’s coming until they were finally destroyed in a massive civil war.  Moroni, who revealed this to Joseph Smith, was the last prophet of that civilization and it was he who buried the record in the hill.  4 years after Moroni’s visit, God allowed Joseph Smith to obtain those plates and by the power of God he translated them into English before returning them to the angel Moroni.

      This book that Joseph Smith translated, The Book of Mormon, is the principal “fruit” that we can use measure the authenticity of Joseph Smith as a prophet.  Joseph Smith is either a true prophet or he was a con man.  The Book of Mormon either is true or it is a complete work of fiction.  If the Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith was a true prophet and the church that he restored is the true Church of Christ.  If the Book of Mormon is false, then Joseph Smith was a sham and the church he established is a fake.  Either all three are true, or all three are false.  There can be no middle ground.

      So, how does one find out whether the Book of Mormon is true?  Moroni himself left a challenge and a promise in the final chapter of this book.  It goes like this…

      “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.
      “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.
      “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”  (Moroni 10:3-5)

      The recipe is simple: Read, Ponder and Pray

      A person who reads the Book of Mormon (it is not necessary to read the whole thing, a portion will do), who spends a little time thinking about what they have read, and then asks God in prayer, sincerely wanting to know the truth will receive an answer through the power of the Holy Ghost.  It may not come right away, sometimes it takes a little time, but it will come.  Many people describe as a powerful but peaceful feeling in their heart that gives them an assurance that it is true.

      That is how I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true.  I have taken this challenge personally and it was confirmed to me.  I don’t have to take anyone’s word on these things, I received my answer from God himself and it has been reconfirmed to me time and time again as I have learned and grown in this gospel.

      I now encourage you, Tina, to also take this challenge.  Don’t believe me or anyone else for that matter, but search, ponder and pray for yourself, trusting that God will answer.  I testify that He does.

  • Michelle

     ”let’s not wreck our pimped out ride.”

    LOL. I LOVE it. Great post.

  • Laura Bradbury

    An interesting sidenote also is that any Latter-day Saint priesthood holder today can trace his “priesthood line of authority” (ie: who bestowed the priesthood on him, and who bestowed it on that person, and so on) back to the Prophet Joseph Smith, and, as such, back to Peter, James, and John, and to Jesus Christ. It is kind of interesting. Ask the elders to see their line of authority. 

    Of course I am biased, because I am a practicing Latter-day Saint, not a “Christian of another denomination,” and I will go into this a little bit more as one of your guest posters this month, but the idea that there was a need for a restoration was what cemented my testimony in the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  When I learned about early Christian reformers in my European history class as a college freshman (by a professor who had less than friendly opinions of the LDS church), it actually deepened my faith even more. Old Testament history teaches us that God is fairly predictable with what He does when the world gets too confused. He assigns someone to speak on His behalf. 
    If one has a belief in the Old Testament, it is clear that God’s church has always had a foundation of apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. Anyway, my point is that above all, the knowledge that we have a prophet and apostles, exactly as Jesus Christ organized His church 2000 years ago, is what keeps me glued to this faith. I may occasionally disagree with the majority of members politically or socially, and I certainly don’t pretend to understand the whys behind the questionable moments in church history, but I am grateful to be a part of a religion that teaches us that God loves us enough to continue to reveal His word even after the Bible was completed.

  • Tina

    Art, thank you again for taking the time to answer my questions. I have others, but I will save some for the rest of this month. :)

    Peace to all this beautiful morning, Tina