The Need For A Restoration
Have you ever wondered, what happened to Christ Church? Where is it now? Was it lost? If so, how could it come back?
We pick up the story of Christianity during the Apostolic era, Jesus Christ has been crucified, resurrected, and has ascended into heaven. His Apostles are teaching the Gospel to people throughout all the land. They are having much success, but they are also experiencing a growing resistance from the Gnostics. The Gnostics are teaching false doctrines, namely that God does not have a body of flesh. And people sadly are rejecting the truth and priesthood authority of the Apostles, in favor of the popular idea. To combat this apostasy, the Apostles start writing “epistles” that address these false doctrines. Including this line from 2 John 1:7:
For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.
Sadly even the epistles from John failed; the people reject him. And just like ancient Israel when they reject the Priesthood authority, God removes it. As the Apostles were rejected and murdered, new ones were not called, history and legends teach us what followed: Peter was crucified upside down in Rome; a sword mortally wounded Matthew in Ethiopia. James was beheaded in Jerusalem. Bartholomew was whipped to death in Armenia, Andrew was crucified in Greece, Matthias was stoned, and then beheaded, Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India, and Nero beheaded Paul. With the death of the Apostles, the apostasy was unchecked, and it led to the loss of 3 key things.
- Knowledge of the Godhead.
- Knowledge of the Priesthood.
- Knowledge of God’s plan for us.
These things were utterly lost in the apostasy. There was a need for a restoration to the truth.
The knowledge of the Godhead
- What Happened
When the people rejected the Apostles, they lost the first-hand knowledge of Jesus Christ that the Apostles held. The false doctrine that the Gnostics were pushing was that Jesus Christ did not have a body of flesh. The Apostles had kept the Gnostics at bay, but now they were unchecked. Satan took advantage to reshape the understanding of the Godhead.
Satan, who was denied a body by God for rebellion, was pushing a concept that God where God did not have a body and was not the Father of Jesus Christ. He pushed a monotheistic deity, a deity that did not have a body of flesh, and instead was solely a spirit.
- What Was Lost
This view that God did not have a body was popular at the time because the Gnostics believed that anything flesh was inferior to Spirit; they gladly embraced this doctrine that God is a spirit without a body. This Gnostic belief that God is a “spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions” is the foundation that the Christian Creed was based on.
Christianity had been changed! As Thomas Jefferson put it: “I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by Himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man. I adhere to the principles of the first age; and consider all subsequent innovations as corruptions of His religion, having no foundation in what came from Him.”
~Thomas Jefferson November 4, 1820
- The Effect
Two problems quickly arose.
- If God did not have a body, He could not have a Son?
- If there is only one Deity, then what about the Son?
To address these problems, they adopted creeds that taught of the “Trinity” that the Father and Jesus Christ and Holy Ghost were the same God. Without a body, parts, or passions. Ignoring the Scriptures like when Christ prays to the Father, or when Christ says “my Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28) and the fact that the resurrected Christ had a body of Flesh and Bone!
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Luke 24:39
The Trinity was in direct opposition to Scripture and Apostolic testimony, but it lined up with the secular belief of the day. The founder of First Baptist Church in America left it and declared the corruption and apostasy of Christianity. He said: “The Apostasy… hath so far corrupted all, that there can be no recovery out of that apostasy until Christ shall send forth new apostles to plant churches anew.” ~Roger Williams
Actual knowledge was so drastically removed and distorted, and the Trinitarian Creeds were entrenched in the halls of secular religion, that there was only one way to restore the truth about the God the Father and Jesus Christ. And that was for them to appear together in person. That restoration took place in the spring of 1820 when a boy named Joseph Smith knelt in prayer. His words describe it perfectly.
“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).
With the appearance of the Father and the Son, the false doctrine of the Gnostics was once again dispelled, and with it went the trinity. The true principles of the Father and Son were restored. They were separate personages yet united in purpose, they had bodies of flesh, but they were immortal and glorified bodies. It restored the knowledge that God is a loving Father, and He knows our names! And that we are all His children!
- What Happened
The Apostolic priesthood was lost as wicked men killed and rejected The Apostles. False priests sprung up seeking power, and affluence in the world, claiming that Apostles are no longer needed. The practice of having ordained ministers who were common men gave way to the idea that preachers should be chosen because of their education at Greek universities.
These universities taught many Hellenistic (Greek) ideas that while the apostles were alive they fought against (read any of the epistles in the New Testament), but without the Apostles to stop them, these ideas were weaved into Christianity. Instead of Priesthood being authority from God, as with Apostles and Prophets, the priesthood was changed to authority derived from power, influence, and educational status. Still, to this day, in many churches, it is required for pastors to have “a degree” in order to have authority.
- What Was Lost
Soon the clergy was overpowered by King’s and Emperors who claimed to be called by God to lead the Church, they had power, affluence, and education, so the masses accepted this as a sign of their authority. And because of this, a difference in religious ideas (heresy) was declared treason. Soon genocide took place, all those who disagreed with the King, Emperor, or Pope were labeled a heretic and burned, murdered, or imprisoned for questioning this false priesthood. Without the Apostolic Priesthood to guide the church, and keep it pure, the church fell into complete apostasy.
- The Effect
People sought the truth and authority from God. They felt something was wrong, so they protested. The early reformers did NOT attempt to start their churches; they knew they lacked authority; they reformed what was already there, trying to get closer to the Bible. They protested the Pope, claiming his authority was false. Naturally, people gathered into like-minded bodies and founded churches. The atmosphere of the day was dangerous, wars were fought over religion, and there was not freedom to practice what you believed to be true. But only what the Pope, King, or Emperor told you was true. People still stood up and protested; thousands were tortured and burned alive. But it did not stop seedlings of the restoration. A new land had been discovered, and land which held the potential to be a land of liberty where you could practice your faith far away from Popes, Kings, and Emperors. Thousands set sail for this land called America.
Back before the revolutionary war, there was a man named Roger Williams, and he lived in Massachusetts. He believed in the Baptist faith, at the time “Freedom of Religion” was not a right in Massachusetts. He was persecuted for his beliefs; he and his followers left the Puritan-controlled colonies heading south looking for freedom, so start the Baptist church in America. After founding the state of Rhode Island they declared freedom of religion in their colony, Roger Williams then started the first Baptist Church in the new world. But shortly after starting the first Baptist church, the father of American Baptistery left the faith and proclaimed:
He was seeking for someone who had Authority; he was seeking for the priesthood! Rogers’s efforts helped establish the idea that we now call the freedom of religion. Without his effort, America would not have freedom of religion. Roger Williams died in 1683 still seeking for the restoration of Apostles.
- The Restoration
The knowledge of the Godhead was restored in 1820 with the appearance of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Nine years later in May of 1829, Joseph Smith who was called to be a Prophet by Jesus Christ, still had not received the Apostolic authority to start a church, the time was drawing near to restore the church and its organization. But Joseph did not have the authority to do it yet.
On May 15th of 1829 Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey knelt in prayer seeking the priesthood, they were visited by John the Baptist had given them the Aaronic Priesthood, or the preparatory Priesthood to prepare them for the Apostolic Priesthood. Later in May of 1829, Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph and Oliver. They had been sent by Jesus Christ to restore the Priesthood Authority. With hands placed upon their heads by Peter, James and John, Joseph Smith and then Oliver Cowdrey were given the Apostolic Priesthood also known as the Melchizedek Priesthood. Once again, priesthood authority from God was held by a man, and there were apostles on earth. Brigham Young testified: “I know that Joseph received his Apostleship from Peter, James, and John, before a revelation on the subject was printed, and he never had a right to organize a Church before he was an Apostle.”
The Plan of Salvation
With all the ordinances and covenants of salvation and exaltation.
- What happened
With the loss of priesthood to stabilize and maintain the doctrines, and with Kings, Emperors, and Popes leading churches, doctrines changed. When a man named Augustine came to power he had led a wicked life, to rationalize his sins he taught a new doctrine “abject depravity” In a nutshell, men are evil, and that it is only expectable for men to be evil. Our only hope is in Jesus Christ to take us evil, filthy men, and cover us with his grace.
- What was lost
With this new doctrine being taught man went from being a child of God to evil creatures. Instead of our potential being that we could become like our Father. With man leading their own churches, doctrines changed like the winds with popular belief, or with stately needs. Instead of the fundamental pure principles of Faith in Jesus Christ, Repentance, Baptism by immersion, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end, they began to incorporate the doctrines of men. The plan of salvation, including the gospel and doctrines of Jesus Christ, was corrupted. Repenting required money, the words of Christ were tossed out of the churches that drew near unto Him with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. False doctrines about sin and grace abound everywhere. Man and his potential were limited. Indeed it was a dark age.
- The Effect
On Oct, 31st, 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 point theses to the door of the local Catholic Church, listing all problems he saw with the Catholic Church, his actions started Protestantism. His efforts led to wars and freedoms. Other men and inventions helped; Columbus discovering the New World, Gutenberg inventing the printing press. Tyndale and his translations of the Bible, Huss, Wycliffe, and others played their roles in setting up a framework of ideology that made the minds of men ready for a Restoration.
Many of these men looked forward to a restoration, Just like Roger Williams, Thomas Jefferson also believed that with the fertile grounds of the Americas and with the protection of the freedom of Religion truth could be restored, in 1820 Thomas Jefferson said: “If the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by law in theory, can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by His pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind, but too late for me to witness it.” ~Thomas Jefferson November 4, 1820
- The Restoration
In 1830, the gospel was restored, only two short years after the death of Thomas Jefferson who died in 1826. It started when the Angel Moroni appeared to Joseph on September 21st, 1823 and told him of another testament of Jesus Christ, a record written on golden plates that contained the fullness of the gospel.
Moroni instructed Joseph Smith for four years, preparing him for the translation. On September 22nd, 1827, Joseph Smith was given the golden plates that the Book of Mormon was written on. Once translated, it was published as “the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” The Book of Mormon restored the plain and precious doctrines of the plan of salvation. The Book of Mormon provided a framework to restore the gospel in its fullness. Including the knowledge, we are sons and daughters of God, and we truly can become like Him!
With the restoration of the knowledge of the Godhead, the priesthood authority, and the “Plan of Salvation”, God commanded a temple to be built to worship him, and on Sunday, April 3rd, Moses, Elias, and Elijah, and others appeared unto the Prophet Joseph Smith to fulfill prophecies and to give unto him the different keys of the kingdom. Jesus Christ also appeared to accept His house:
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
With the knowledge of our birthright and of our Savior restored, and the authority and understanding of all the ordinances required for salvation, and exaltation in the kingdom of God once again on earth the restoration had started. This is the start, not the end. The restoration is still taking place. How might you ask? As we accept Jesus Christ, His priesthood, and the gospel, we are restored unto Him. It takes place as we share the restored gospel with our friends and family and restore to them this knowledge.
When we do these things, we have taken our place in the restoration. The need to share this message is genuinely as urgent as the need to restore it. Take hold of God, and He will bless our lives as we engage in the work of proclaiming the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.