THE CHURCH OF
JESUS CHRIST TODAY
C h a p t e r 1 7
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When Jesus lived on the earth, he established his Church, the only true Church. He organized his Church so the truths of the gospel could be taught to all people and the ordinances of the gospel could be administered correctly with authority. Through this organization, Christ could bring the blessings of salvation to mankind.
After the Savior ascended into heaven, men changed the ordinances and doctrines that he and his Apostles had established. Because of apostasy, there was no direct revelation from God. The true Church was no longer on the earth. Men organized different churches that claimed to be true but taught conflicting doctrines. There was much confusion and contention over religion. The Lord had foreseen these conditions, saying there would be "a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. . . . They shall . . . seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it" (Amos 8:11-12).
The Lord Promised to Restore His True Church
- What does it feel like to go without food or water?
- Read Amos 8:11-12. What kind of famine is spoken of in this scripture? Compare the famine to the period of time before the Restoration.
The Savior promised to restore his Church in the latter days. He said, "I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder" (Isaiah 29:14).
For many years people lived in spiritual darkness. About 1700 years after Christ, people were becoming more and more interested in knowing the truth about God and religion. Some of them could see that the gospel Jesus taught was no longer on the earth. Some recognized that there was no revelation and no true authority and that the church that Christ organized did not exist on the earth. The time had arrived for the Church of Jesus Christ to be restored to the earth.
New Revelation from God
- Read Isaiah 29:14. What is the "marvellous work" spoken of in Isaiah?
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In the spring of 1820, one of the most important events in the history of the world occurred. The time had come for the marvelous work and wonder of which the Lord had spoken. As a young boy, Joseph Smith wanted to know which of all the churches was the true Church of Christ. He went into the woods near his home and prayed humbly and intently to his Heavenly Father, asking which church he should join. On that morning a miraculous thing happened. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. The Savior told him not to join any church because the true Church was not on the earth. He also said that the teachings of present churches were "an abomination in his sight" (Joseph Smith--History 1:19; see also 1:7-20). Beginning with this event, there was again direct revelation from the heavens. The Lord had chosen a new prophet. Since that time the heavens have not been closed. Revelation continues to this day through each of his chosen prophets. Joseph was to be the one to help restore the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Authority from God Was Restored
- Have a class member read Joseph Smith--History 1:7-21 or tell the Joseph Smith story.
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Then Peter, James, and John, the presidency of the Church in ancient times, came
and gave Joseph and Oliver the Melchizedek Priesthood and the keys of the kingdom
of God (see D&C 27:12-13). Later, additional keys of the priesthood
were restored by heavenly messengers such as Moses, Elias, and Elijah (see D&C
110:11-16). Through the Restoration the priesthood was returned to the
earth. Those who hold this priesthood today have the authority to perform ordinances
such as baptism. They also have the authority to direct the Lord's kingdom on
restoring the gospel, God again gave the priesthood to men. John the Baptist
came in 1829 to ordain Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Aaronic Priesthood
(see D&C 13; 27:8).
Christ's Church Was Organized Again
- Have a class member tell about the restoration of the priesthood. Include the following: the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, the restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and the effect of these restorations on the Lord's work.
On 6 April 1830, the Savior again directed the organization of his Church on the earth (see D&C 20:1). His Church is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see D&C 115:4). Christ is the head of his Church today, just as he was in ancient times. The Lord has said that it is "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased" (D&C 1:30).
Joseph Smith was sustained as prophet and "first elder" of the Church (see D&C 20:2-4). Later the First Presidency was organized, and he was sustained as President. When the Church was first organized, only the framework was set up. The organization was completed during the next several years.
The Church was organized with the same offices as were in the ancient Church. That organization included Apostles, prophets, seventies, evangelists (patriarchs), pastors (presiding officers), high priests, elders, bishops, priests, teachers, and deacons. These same offices are in his Church today (see Articles of Faith 1:6).
A prophet, acting under the direction of the Lord, leads the Church. This prophet is also the President of the Church. He holds all the authority necessary to direct the Lord's work on earth (see D&C 107:65, 91). Two counselors assist the President. Twelve Apostles, who are special witnesses of Jesus Christ, teach the gospel in all parts of the world. Other general officers of the Church with special assignments include the Presiding Bishopric and the Quorums of the Seventy.
The offices of the priesthood include Apostles, seventies, patriarchs, high priests, elders, priests, teachers, and deacons. These are the same offices that existed in the original Church.
The Church has grown much larger than it was in the days of Jesus. As it has grown, the Lord has revealed additional units of organization within the Church. When the Church is fully organized in an area, it has local divisions called stakes. A stake president and his two counselors preside over each stake. The stake has twelve high councilors who help do the Lord's work in the stake. Melchizedek Priesthood quorums are organized in the stake under the direction of the stake president (see chapter 14, "Priesthood Organization").
Each stake is divided into smaller areas called wards. A bishop and his two counselors preside over each ward. In areas of the world where the Church is developing, there are missions, which are divided into the smaller units of districts, branches, small branches, groups, and families.
First Principles and Ordinances Were Restored
- Read the testimony of Joseph Smith contained in the preface to Doctrine and Covenants 20.
The Church today teaches the same principles and performs the same ordinances as were performed in the days of Jesus. The first principles and ordinances of the gospel are faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost (see Articles of Faith 1:4). These precious truths were returned in their fulness when the Church was restored.
Through the gift and power of God, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, which contains the plain and precious truths of the gospel. Many other revelations followed and have been recorded as scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price (see chapter 10, "Scriptures").
Other Important Truths Were Restored
- Read the fourth article of faith and discuss what it means to Church members.
Other important truths that the Lord restored include the following:
1. Our Heavenly Father is a real person with a tangible, perfected body of flesh and bones.
2. We existed in premortal life as spirit children of God.
3. The priesthood is necessary to administer the ordinances of the gospel.
4. We will be punished for our own sins and not for Adam's transgression.
5. Children do not need to be baptized until they are accountable (eight years old).
6. There are three degrees of glory in the heavens, and people will be rewarded according to their actions on earth.
7. Family relationships can be eternal through the sealing power of the priesthood.
8. The temple endowment and sealings are available for both the living and the dead.
The Church of Jesus Christ Will Never Be Destroyed
Since its restoration in 1830, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has grown rapidly in membership. There are members in nearly every country in the world. The Church will continue to grow. As Christ said, "This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations" (Joseph Smith--Matthew 1:31). The Church will never again be taken from the earth. Its mission is to take the truth to every person. Thousands of years ago, the Lord said he would "set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, . . . and it shall stand for ever" (Daniel 2:44).
- Read Doctrine and Covenants 84:76. What can you do to help spread the kingdom of God?
- Revelation 14:6; Daniel 2:44-45; Isaiah 2:2-4; 2 Nephi 3:6-15 (Restoration foretold)
- D&C 110; 128:19-21; 133:36-39, 57-58 (restoration of the gospel)
- Ephesians 2:20 (Jesus Christ the cornerstone of the Church)
- D&C 20:38-67 (duties of officers of the Church)
- Matthew 24:14 (gospel to be preached to all nations)