Joseph Smith and the Mormon Restoration
We have learned that after Jesus Christ died, and the apostles were killed or died, there was no one to lead the church. People began to disagree about what was true, and as a result, there were eventually many churches, all teaching different things. This was prophesied in the Bible, but God also promised to return the gospel to us someday.
19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3)
Verse 21 tells us there will be a restitution of all things, and that God has said this through his prophets since time began. This makes it very clear there would be a time when the world no longer knew all the truth, since truth must be forgotten or altered in order to be restored. It also assures us we will someday receive the truth again.
These are the very last days. Just as the fulness of the gospel was very much needed in the beginning days, to get things off to a good start, complete truth is also needed to bring things to a proper close. God loves us too much to leave us to face the challenges of the last days without direct guidance from a prophet.
This restoration was prepared for by many religious leaders, particularly during the reformation, and through the creation of the United States of America as a nation that was supposed to respect the right of people to worship in their own ways.
In 1820, a fourteen-year-old boy named Joseph Smith found himself in the midst of a period of religious excitement. All those around him were attending revivals and choosing which church to join. Joseph visited the various churches with his family, but could not decide how to make his choice. He wanted to join a church, but he wanted to join the right one, and he knew the decision mattered.
One day he was reading the Bible when he came across James 1:5:
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
Ask God-of course! God knew exactly which church was true, and in this verse, He promised to give the answer. Joseph went into the woods near his home and began to pray. God and Jesus came personally to answer His question, because it was the first step to the restoration. It would prepare Joseph for events to come. He was told not to join any of the churches, because none of them had the complete truth.
In time, when Joseph was an adult, he would be visited by an angel named Moroni. Moroni had lived in ancient times and his story is contained in the Book of Mormon. Moroni was the last prophet of the Book of Mormon and it was he who hid the records containing what is now called the Book of Mormon in the ground, to be preserved for the restoration. Now he had come to prepare Joseph to receive those records.
It would take several more years of tutoring and maturing before Moroni felt Joseph was worthy and ready to receive them. Once in hand, he was able to begin translating them through inspiration, and then to organize the restored church under direction from God.
Today, each of us is given the same instruction Joseph found in James 1:5-to ask God whether or not this restored church is true. While it’s unlikely God and Jesus will come in person to answer, He has promised us He will answer us, and in a way we can recognize as coming from Him.