As I mentioned in a post last week, my wife and I have been reading through Preach My Gospel: A guide for missionary service. This is the handbook that full-time missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints use as they find and teach those who are looking to know more about Jesus Christ and his gospel. It contains the doctrines, principles, and commandments that one must know and keep. These are organized in lessons that present the material in a logical progression to help one who is unfamiliar with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
I thought I would take the next couple installments of my Mormon Monday posts to discuss these lessons and talk a little more in-depth about what I believe as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Lesson One: The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
God is our loving Heavenly Father
There is a God and He is the father of our spirits. It is as simple as that. There is a God, a divine supreme Creator, but the title that he chooses to use is Father. He loves us as His children, and because he loves us he has a plan for our happiness that is centered in Jesus Christ as the Atoner for the sins of the world.
The Gospel blesses families
The family is the basic unit of society and of the kingdom of God. God has established and ordained families as a place where His children can grow and learn and support each other in loving relationships. As families strive to follow God’s plan they will find more happiness and peace and love in their lives. “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).
Heavenly Father reveals his gospel in every dispensation
Because God loves us and wants us to be happy he wants us to follow his plan, so he has revealed this plan to His children in all ages of this earth. He calls prophets as righteous men and reveals His will to them with the instruction that they teach others. Prophets like Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses spoke with God and then taught the people what God wanted.
People don’t always choose to listen to prophets, however, and often they reject the message. When the people do not want to listen to or obey the prophets, God removes his prophets. But because God does love His children, He is always willing to call new prophets. That is the pattern He follows.
The Savior’s earthly ministry
Jesus Christ came to earth to once again restore the Gospel and teach the people God’s plan of happiness. Christ also came to fulfill his diving mission as Savior and Redeemer; through his atoning sacrifice it is now possible for all of us to repent and receive forgiveness of our sins. He called twelve Apostles and ordained them to the priesthood to lead and govern his Church after he returned to the Father. They received the call to take the gospel to all the world, teaching all people about Jesus Christ and God’s plan.
The Great Apostasy
Apostasy is a time when people fall away from God and turn away from his plan. After Christ’s death his Apostles went into the whole world to spread the good news of the gospel of Christ. They ran into great persecution and eventually all were killed. Once again, God removed his prophets and his priesthood from the earth due to the wickedness of the people. Throughout the centuries, though, there were many great men and women who sought God’s will and tried to learn what He would have them do. They sought to reform the church that currently existed, but none claimed that God had called them as prophets to restore what was lost.
The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith
In the early 1800s Joseph Smith was a young boy living in New England who was confused by the many different churches and religions who all claimed to be the church of Jesus Christ. Joseph wanted to “know which of all the sects was right … and which I should join” (Joseph Smith History 1:18). He was an honest seeker of truth who turned to the word of God to find answers. He read in the Bible, in the Book of 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.”
With this verse in mind, he went to a quiet place in the woods near his farm, where he could be alone to pray to God and ask the question of his heart. He wrote of this experience, “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (Joseph Smith—History 1:16-17).
God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. They spoke with him, telling him that there was no church yet on the earth that had the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but that through him this church would soon be restored.
In following years, Joseph Smith had other visions and heavenly messengers; John the Baptist appeared and ordained him to the priesthood; Peter, James, and John (the Lord’s ancient Apostles) appeared and conferred further priesthood keys; Moroni (a prophet who lived and taught the people living in ancient America) appeared and told him of the Book of Mormon, a record of the teachings of prophets who had been called among the ancient peoples living on the American continent.
Joseph Smith was called as a prophet for our day and age, continuing the pattern which God has always followed by calling and ordaining men to teach and preach in all ages of this world. He called other men as Apostles, restoring the order and organization of the church established by Jesus Christ during his earthly ministry.
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
The Book of Mormon is a record of scripture similar to the Bible and contains the teachings of holy prophets who testified of Jesus Christ. As prophets in Israel wrote down what they taught and the revelations they had received in what became the Bible, so did prophets in other parts of the world. The Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ and proves that God loves all of His children everywhere. He calls prophets to teach them, wherever they live.
Joseph Smith was guided to buried plates of gold with writing engraved on them by the angel Moroni, who was the last prophet who wrote in the record and hid them up in the earth. Joseph Smith translated this record by the power of God, and published it to be sent forth into the whole world as another testament of Jesus Christ, alongside the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Pray to know the truth through the Holy Ghost
The message of the Restoration is either true or it is not. Joseph Smith is either a prophet or he is not. the book of Mormon is either a true record testifying of Jesus Christ or it is not. It is that simple. One can know the truth by following the example of Joseph Smith. He read in the scriptures, pondered the words that he read, then prayed to the Father to know the truth. Just as he obeyed the verse in the Book of James, we can lay hold of the promise at the end of the Book of Mormon. In Moroni 10″3-5 it states,
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)
This is the promise of God: read and pray with a sincere heart and real intent and you will know through the power of the Holy Ghost. Prayer is a wonderful blessing given us by a loving Father in Heaven. He wants us to talk with him and he will respond in His own way and in His own time. We can have open and honest communication with our Father through prayer. I am so thankful to my God for this opportunity we have of developing a personal relationship with him, and of the promise he has given of his Holy Ghost.
I have taken the opportunity to avail myself of the promise of Moroni. I have read the Book of Mormon, compared it to the teachings of the Bible, and I have prayed about it. I have asked if the Book of Mormon were true and I received an answer through the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is a true record of a people striving to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ. It testifies of his divinity and of his role as the Savior and Redeemer of the world.
If you would like more information about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is a lot of information on the internet, but the best resources would be those authorized and produced by the Church. LDS.org and Mormon.org are wonderful resources.