From the days of Adam, all the prophets looked forward to the dispensation of the fulness of times, that time when the Lord would “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth,” which are necessary for His Second Coming and millennial reign (see Ephesians 1:10).
Now is the day that they anticipated. The Restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith marked the beginning of the dispensation of the fulness of times.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has told us: “Be thankful to the Almighty for His wonderful blessings upon you. You have … the marvelous blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, which has come to earth in this the dispensation of the fulness of times, this great final dispensation when the God of Heaven has reintroduced all of the great truths, blessings, and authority of all past dispensations” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley , 157).
Following are some of the most important events of the Restoration.
When God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared to young Joseph Smith, the true nature of the Godhead was revealed anew.
“I at length came to the determination to ‘ask of God.’ … I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day. … I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. … I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell 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 1:13–17).
Through the visits of the angel Moroni, Joseph Smith learned where to find the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, a book tied to fulfillment of the ancient prophecies in Joel 2:28–32 and Malachi 4:1, 5–6.
“After I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, … for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one.
“While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air. …
“He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do” (Joseph Smith—History 1:29–30, 33).
The Book of Mormon stands as a second witness that Jesus is the Christ and is a reminder that God’s covenant people still walk the earth.
As the Prophet Joseph Smith translated the gold plates, Oliver Cowdery served as scribe. Of this experience, Oliver wrote: “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim … the history or record called ‘The Book of Mormon’” (Joseph Smith—History 1:71, endnote).
“God ministered unto [Joseph Smith] by an holy angel … and gave him power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon. …
“Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old;
“Thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Amen” (D&C 20:6, 8, 11–12).
The priesthood, or power to act in God’s name, had been lost from the earth during the great Apostasy, but it was once again made available to chosen servants. (See D&C 20 and 107 for the duties of offices of the priesthood.)
Aaronic Priesthood. “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness” (D&C 13).
Melchizedek Priesthood. “And again, what do we hear? … The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times!” (D&C 128:20).
Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord revealed the same organization that He established on earth during His mortal ministry to assist God’s children in obtaining salvation. Preceding the Prophet’s record of this revelation, he wrote in April 1830: “We obtained of him [Jesus Christ] the following, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation; which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise day upon which, according to his will and commandment, we should proceed to organize his Church once more here upon the earth” (D&C 20, preface). The presiding officers of the Church were addressed by name, and the full name of the Church was revealed in Doctrine and Covenants 115:1–5.
With the Church once again restored to the earth, the gathering of Heavenly Father’s scattered children could move forward according to His covenant with ancient prophets (see Ezekiel 28:25).
“This church have I established and called forth out of the wilderness. And even so will I gather mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, even as many as will believe in me, and hearken unto my voice” (D&C 33:5–6).
“Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins; Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer” (D&C 29:1–2).
The Book of Mormon revealed that many plain and precious truths had been taken from the Bible (see 1 Nephi 13). The inspired translation of the Bible that Joseph Smith was commanded to undertake restored many of these truths.
On March 7, 1831, the Prophet was instructed by the Lord to begin the translation of the New Testament: “And now, behold, I say unto you, it shall not be given unto you to know any further … , until the New Testament be translated, and in it all these things shall be made known; Wherefore I give unto you that ye may now translate it, that ye may be prepared for the things to come” (D&C 45:60–61).
The First Presidency was initially organized in March 1832. “Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church” (D&C 107:22; see also D&C 81).
The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was organized in February 1835. “The twelve traveling councilors are called to be the Twelve Apostles, or special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum, equal in authority and power to the three presidents previously mentioned” (D&C 107:23–24).
The Quorum of the Seventy was organized in February 1835. “The Seventy are also called to preach the gospel, and to be especial witnesses unto the Gentiles and in all the world—thus differing from other officers in the church in the duties of their calling. And they form a quorum, equal in authority to that of the Twelve special witnesses or Apostles just named” (D&C 107:25–26).
In the latter-day revelations found in the Doctrine and Covenants, which were chiefly revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord restored important doctrines and covenants by which latter-day Israel could accomplish God’s work in preparation for the Second Coming.
On April 6, 1830, at the organization of the Church in the Peter Whitmer home in Fayette, New York, the Prophet and others unanimously voted to organize all of the revelations given thus far. The Prophet received the following revelation at that time: “Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith” (D&C 21:4–5; see also the preface to D&C 1 and D&C 67).
Ancient prophets appeared on April 3, 1836, to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to deliver important priesthood keys that opened the door to gather Israel and bind families together forever.
“The veil was taken from our minds, and the eyes of our understanding were opened.
“We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us: …
“After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.
“After this, Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed.
“After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet … stood before us, and said:
“Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—
“To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—
“Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands” (D&C 110:1–2, 11–16).
“And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For [our ancestors’] salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers—that they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect” (D&C 128:15).