Summary: Early in the Spring of 1820 Joseph Smith offered up a prayer to God to know which of all the many churches taught the correct way to be saved. In answer to that prayer, Jesus appeared to Joseph and explained that none of the churches preached the doctrines that Christ had taught when he lived among men, but he promised that the time would shortly come when that which had been lost would be restored. This event was the beginning of the “restitution of all things” spoken of by Peter (Acts 3:21), but what significance does this have for us today? This article explains the answer to that question.
Joseph Smith wrote: “While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: 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. Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine” (Joseph Smith history 1:11,12).
One Spring morning, Joseph rose early and went to a secluded place on his father’s farm to do as James had said, and offered up a prayer to God to know which of all the many churches who preached about Christ was teaching the correct way to be saved. As Joseph began his prayer, a pillar of light appeared directly over him and when he looked up he saw two personages standing in the air in the midst of the light. One of them, pointing to the other said, “This is my beloved Son. Hear him.”
In answer to Joseph’s prayer, Jesus told him that none of the churches preached the doctrines that Christ had taught when he lived among men, but he promised that the time would shortly come when that which had been lost would be restored,
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints describes this event as the beginning of the “restitution of all things” spoken of by Peter (Acts 3:21). But what significance does this have for us today? With so many Christians churches all over the world preaching the importance of being saved through faith in Jesus Christ, why do we need yet another church proclaiming this same message? There are several vitally important reasons why.
When Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith in the Spring of 1820, he was told that all the churches “draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith History 1:19).
If we are saved into the kingdom of heaven because of our faith in Jesus Christ, then it is crucial that we have faith in what Jesus taught. If what we believe about Jesus is wrong, then we are placing our faith in something that is false, and a false faith will never save us. Therefore, what Jesus came to restore was the correct doctrines that are necessary for us to know if we want to live in heaven with God.
Jesus told his disciples, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:10). If we want to abide with Christ in heaven, then we have to love him, and the way we show that love is by keeping the commandments he gives us. But what are the commandments that are necessary in order for us to be save?
As we look at what Christian churches teach, we see them preaching many different ways to gain salvation. For example, Jesus taught, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5), but what does that mean? Some say Jesus is referring to baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit, which is what happened when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan. Therefore, they say that baptism is absolutely necessary in order to become saved. However, other says that being “born” of water” merely refers to our physical birth, not baptism.
There are those who say baptism is to be performed by immersing a person’s entire body in water, while others say that sprinkling a little water over the crown of a person’s head counts as being baptized. Some say that we are saved simply by confessing with our mouth that Jesus is the Christ without having to do any outwards acts, such as being baptized, while others say that God expects us to show our faith in him by doing the things he asks. These different doctrines can’t all be right, but they can all be wrong. If our faith in Jesus is based on a wrong belief about what Jesus taught then our faith in him doesn’t have the power to save us.
If no one can enter into heaven unless they’ve been baptized, then it’s crucial that we have a correct understanding of how baptism is to be performed. If it’s not done the right way or by the right person, then it’s not valid, in which case, Jesus says they cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
And what about being born of the Spirit? What does that mean? In the New Testament we read that the Holy Ghost was given “through the laying on of the apostles’ hand” (Acts 8:18), while others say that being born “of the Spirit” simply means becoming spiritually born the moment we accept Christ as our Savior, much like what happened to the disciples on the day of Pentecost. But, if the Holy Ghost is given to someone by the laying on of an apostle’s hand, what happens when there are no more apostles? Did they pass that authority onto others, and if so, who is authorized to give the Holy Ghost?
And why must we have the Holy Ghost in order to enter into heaven? Again, there are many differing opinions offered to answer these questions, but they all can’t be right. The apostle Paul taught that there is only “one faith” (Ephesians 4:5), not thousands. If we place our faith in the wrong doctrine then, according to Jesus, we will not have a place in heaven.
It is these kinds of doctrines that Christ came to restore the correct understanding of what he once plainly taught. If God did appear to Joseph Smith, as he claims, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the church which teaches the correct doctrines of salvation because it was established by direct command from Jesus Christ himself. On the other hand, if the teachings of this church are not correct, then Joseph’s question about who is, still remains unanswered.
One of the things that Christ has restored is the knowledge of why baptism is essential to being saved because it involves more than just being dunked under water. It represents our commitment to taking upon ourselves the name of Christ and our promise to keep the commandments he gives us. Christ has also restored the knowledge that a person cannot be baptized by just anyone but that ordinance must be performed by someone who has been duly authorized by God’s divinely appointed priesthood servants. This is what Christians always believed until just a few hundred years ago.
The same is true with receiving the Holy Ghost. The Lord has restored the knowledge that it must be given by the laying on of hands by someone who is authorized to give it. But why is this ordinance so necessary in order for someone to be saved?
The Holy Ghost has many duties or responsibilities pertaining to our salvation, such as bringing to our remembrance things we’ve learned, giving us guidance, comfort, and peace, but there is one role of his that often gets overlooked but is the most important one of all, which is that of sanctification ( Romans 15:16; 2 Thessalonians; 2:13 1 Peter 1:2).
To sanctify something means to make it holy, and the primary role of the Holy Ghost is to make us holy. In fact, without him we cannot become holy. Christians of all faiths can experience the other blessings of the Holy Ghost in their life, but the one thing he can’t do for them is help them to become holy until they’ve first entered into a covenant with God which is made at the time of their baptism. This is why the gift of the Holy Ghost is always given after a person has been baptized. And it is this sanctifying power that makes us worthy to enter into heaven. Therefore, without properly being baptized and given the Holy Ghost, no one can become saved. This is what Jesus taught Nicodemus. As such, the Holy Ghost is given to us as a gift from God.
But why is this gift so important? With the opening of the heavens once more, the Lord has restored the knowledge of what the early saints once knew. He has said, “Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power [from on high]” (D&C 43:16). When we make a covenant with God – any covenant – he blesses us immediately for our willingness to align ourselves with him, to serve him, and to obey him. And as we continue to faithfully keep those covenants, he continues to bless us with all sorts of heavenly powers that include such things as strengthening us spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually, and in many other ways. It was because of the divine power of the Holy Ghost that the earliest saints were able to endure horrific persecution at the hands of the Roman government. Without his aid, it is doubtful they could have remained as strong in their faith as they did.
However, as important as it is to be baptized by someone having the proper authority, and being given the gift of the Holy Ghost, our salvation isn’t complete until we are confirmed a member of Christ’s church by an ordinance. It is clear from the documents we have that were written by the early Christians that they fully understood this principle. As the apostle Paul wrote, it is by belonging to the church of Christ that a person becomes a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and a fellow citizen with the saints of God and becomes part of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19).
It is when this step has been completed that we are no more foreigners or strangers but have become adopted in the family of God and have truly become a son and daughter of his. It’s only after we’ve become children of God that we are entitled to “an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:32), where “ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance” for your service to the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:24), which reward is to “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34), and there enjoy “the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18).
But this isn’t all God has restored. He has also revealed the ordinances necessary for us to inherit eternal life. Paul taught, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11). The early saints knew what Paul meant by this, but the knowledge of the doctrine he was teaching has been lost.
In nearly all marriage ceremonies, the person performing the marriage uses the phrase, “till death do you part.” When a man and a woman are married to each other, their union lasts only until they die, even though their love for one another may (or can) last forever. However, Jesus has restored the knowledge that husbands and wives can remain married to each other for all eternity if sealed to each other by someone holding the proper authority to perform such a marriage.
No other church except the Restored Church of Jesus Christ, even believes that marriage and family ties will even exist in heaven. According to what many Christians believe, once we get to heaven, our love, devotion, and fidelity will be centered exclusively on Christ. Many churches teach that in heaven each of us will be “married” to Jesus.
But there is more to a man and a woman being married to one another out of love. When God created Adam and Eve, he told them to become “one flesh.” In saying that, God united them as husband and wife in marriage, and he confirmed that when he commanded them to “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Thus, one of the important purposes of marriage is to have children.
We refer to God as “our Father which art in heaven,” and he refers to us as his children. That’s a parent/child relationship. Since God has children while living in heaven, then what is the purpose of a man and wife being married to each other for all eternity while living in heaven? The Lord has restored the knowledge of what “eternal life” really means. It doesn’t mean to live eternally, because the devil and his angel will also live forever, but they certainly don’t enjoy eternal life. Rather, that phrase means that husbands and wives can become eternal parents, capable of begetting life eternally, just like our Father in heaven is able to do. Thus, the only way for righteous believers in Christ to inherit eternal life is to be eternally married to a worthy spouse.
And there is yet another doctrine that Christ has restored that has been lost. In the parable of the talents, when the master of the household returns and takes account of how his servants have handled his money, to the first two he said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23, emphasis added).
The scriptures also talk about entering into the “rest” of the Lord, and many Christians interpret that to mean that when we get to heaven, all we will do is “rest.” The picture they paint is that of us sitting on clouds, doing nothing but singing praises to God for all of eternity. However, Jesus is known as the King of kings and all kings sit on a throne and rule over a kingdom. Jesus taught, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21). Does that mean we will become kings as well? The scriptures clearly state that he “hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father…and we shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 1:5; 5:10).
All kings wear a crown as a symbol of their power and authority, and the scriptures tell us that those who endure temptation and show by their actions that they love Christ, shall receive an incorruptible crown, a crown of life, a crown of glory and honor, and a crown of righteousness. The clear picture that the scriptures paint is that when we get to heaven, we will not just be servants to Christ but will be made kings to rule and reign along with him. There are many who have speculated about the meaning of these verses, but God has restored the knowledge of what they really mean.
These are just a few of the great and marvelous doctrines that are meant to bless our life both here on earth and in the eternities that have been lost over the centuries until God has open the heavens once more to usher in what has come to be known as the Restoration.
Related topics can be found at The Nature of Salvation