Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and Joseph Smith each started a new gospel dispensation, which is a period of time in which the Lord has at least one authorized servant on the earth who bears the keys of the holy priesthood. When the Lord organizes a dispensation, the gospel is revealed anew so that the people of that dispensation do not have to depend on past dispensations for knowledge of the plan of salvation. The dispensation begun by Joseph Smith is known as “the dispensation of the fulness of times” (D&C 112:30).
The dispensation which commenced with the restoration of the keys of authority to the Prophet Joseph Smith will continue until the second coming of Christ. Although Father Adam holds the keys of all dispensations, Joseph Smith stands at the head of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which is a welding together of the keys, powers, and glories of all previous dispensations.
From the doctrines describing the importance of the dispensation of the fulness of times, one must have a special feeling of being privileged to be part of this final dispensation, when all things are to be accomplished in preparation for the return of our Lord and Savior. Our interests must surely be piqued as we consider where we fit in this divine plan.
As we look at the periods past and our own era in the Church, it is our responsibility to participate in the ever-reaching destiny of the Church. It would seem to me that as we follow the direction of our present prophet, this will be a time of declaring the word of the Lord to the people of the earth with more boldness and more courage than we have ever known before. We have the doctrinal base; we have the organization. We have built from centers of strength a leadership base to spread throughout the world. In a talk given in the October 1995 general conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley certainly sounded the cry for all of us as we approach this next great period in this dispensation of the fulness of times. He said:
“We see some around us who are indifferent concerning the future of this work, who are apathetic, who speak of limitations, who express fears, who spend their time digging out and writing about what they regard to be weaknesses which really are of no consequence. With doubt concerning its past, they have no vision concerning its future.
“… There is no place in this work for those who believe only in the gospel of doom and gloom. The gospel is good news. It is a message of triumph. It is a cause to be embraced with enthusiasm.
“The Lord never said that there would not be troubles. Our people have known afflictions of every sort as those who have opposed this work have come upon them. But faith has shown through all their sorrows. This work has consistently moved forward and has never taken a backward step since its inception. …
“How glorious is the past of this great cause. It is filled with heroism, courage, boldness, and faith. How wondrous is the present as we move forward to bless the lives of people wherever they will hearken to the message of the servants of the Lord. How magnificent will be the future as the Almighty rolls on His glorious work touching for good all who will accept and live His gospel, and even reaching to the eternal blessing of His sons and daughters of all generations through the selfless work of those whose hearts are filled with love for the Redeemer of the world. …
“I invite every one of you, wherever you may be as members of this church, to stand on your feet and with a song in your heart move forward, living the gospel, loving the Lord, and building the kingdom” (“Stay the Course—Keep the Faith,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 71–72).
You are a part of this special generation. It is not by chance that you are here at this important time in the history of the Lord’s work. It is your opportunity to declare this message of the Restoration with greater force and effect than any of the previous generations. You have been preserved and prepared for your time on earth to be a part of this great army, to make this the most exciting period in the history of mankind in declaring the gospel of our Lord and Savior to our Father in Heaven’s children. You are better educated and trained for this responsibility than any of the other generations which have inherited the earth. If your declarations are to have any force and effect, your words must be backed up by your actions. The Lord has established the standards and values you must live by to receive His blessings. The world is struggling today to understand the benefits of living His standards.
After we learn all we can about the course we must follow and have proceeded on the path to gain eternal life, we have an obligation to others of our Father in Heaven’s children who need help. Gaining a knowledge of God’s plan leads to many consequences—one of the most profound being an incredible sense of incurred debt to the God of this world, Jesus Christ. The plan of salvation balances on the need for a redeemer. Jesus Christ performed this role. He atoned for our sins, and in the words of Isaiah and Peter, “With his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5; see also 1 Pet. 2:24).
The Apostle Paul felt deeply this sense of incurred debt when he wrote this in his letter to the Romans: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1).
I challenge you to use all of the power and enthusiasm your souls can muster to move forward with this great opportunity which is ours. Let us again hear the Prophet Joseph Smith’s words ring in our ears: “Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage … and on, on to the victory! Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free” (D&C 128:22).
We have prayed that the hearts of the leaders of nations would be softened to the proclaiming of the gospel in their lands. We have literally seen doors open to us that have been closed for generations. The Church’s message is of joy and salvation, and it must be presented to all of the inhabitants of the earth. That same testimony Joseph Smith bore to his neighbors in upstate New York must be heard in many languages declaring that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that His ancient gospel has been restored, and that the Church of Jesus Christ is again available to all mankind. May we accept the challenge that we have been called to assume in this great day.
Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions. The following questions are for that purpose or for personal reflection:
Why are we obligated to help further the work of the kingdom?
What can we do to better prepare ourselves for opportunities to share the gospel?
Amid all of the difficulties we face, how can we develop a greater vision of the future of the Lord’s work?