We live in the dispensation of the fulness of times. This final gospel dispensation opened with the First Vision. President Joseph F. Smith taught: “The greatest event that has ever occurred in the world, since the resurrection of the Son of God from the tomb and his ascension on high, was the coming of the Father and of the Son to that boy Joseph Smith, to prepare the way for the laying of the foundation of his kingdom—not the kingdom of man—never more to cease nor to be overturned” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 495).
The First Vision began a restoration of truth, authority, scripture, sacred ordinances, and the true Church organization from God through the Prophet Joseph Smith. We share this message with the world by duty and sacred privilege.
God called Joseph Smith to be the prophet of the Restoration.
Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and brought forth other scriptures by the gift and power of God.
The Book of Mormon helps bring people to Christ.
The Book of Mormon is convincing evidence of the Restoration.
Under the direction of Jesus Christ, the priesthood and the Church were restored through His servants.
■ One of the glorious events of the latter days is the appearance of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, to the Prophet Joseph Smith. The First Vision opened the work of Joseph Smith as a latter-day prophet and the Lord’s anointed to usher in the dispensation of the fulness of times.
Joseph Smith was not the first prophet called of God. As discussed in chapter 8 of this student manual, God has always called prophets. Through His prophets He gives or restores truths, authority, ordinances, and scripture. He organizes His Church on the earth for the benefit and salvation of His children. If, through apostasy, the truth and authority of the gospel are lost, God eventually calls another prophet at the appropriate time and place to restore His authority and truth. The Prophet Joseph Smith was called to usher in the gospel dispensation that will lead to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the Millennium.
■ President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught about the restoration of essential priesthood authority:
“Jesus called and ordained Apostles and gave them the keys of the kingdom. These keys authorized them to bind the ordinances for eternity. …
“The Apostles were martyred, and in time an apostasy took place. The doctrines of the Church were corrupted and the ordinances changed. The keys of priesthood authority were lost. This universal Apostasy required a restoration of authority—of the priesthood keys, of doctrines, and of ordinances.
“Joseph Smith was visited in person by God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. They told him they had a special work for him to do. Through him the keys would be restored, and the Church, as had been established by Jesus Christ when He was on the earth, would be restored. …
“Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood by John the Baptist (see Joseph Smith—History 1:68–69). They were ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood by the ancient Apostles Peter, James, and John (see D&C 27:12). These ordinations restored the authority and the keys for the kingdom of God, never again to be taken from the earth.
“In April of 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The true church of Jesus Christ was once again among men, with authority ‘to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof’ (Articles of Faith 1:5)” (“Restoration,” First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 2003, 2).
■ President Alvin R. Dyer, who was a counselor in the First Presidency, emphasized the important and unique character of this final gospel dispensation: “Joseph Smith was informed that he had been foreordained and consequently called to be the instrument through whom God would work to establish his kingdom here upon the earth as it had been in former intermittent dispensations. But this, the last of all dispensations, is to be characterized by even greater truth, a depository period when all truths, all laws, all covenants, all promises planned by God our Heavenly Father in the pre-existence and revealed to man in part at various times in mortality for the redemption and exaltation of his spirit children, were now to be fully revealed and made available to mankind. The Lord had thus spoken unto the Prophet Joseph Smith” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1963, 50).
■ The Prophet Joseph Smith stated: “The ancient prophets declared that in the last days the God of heaven should set up a kingdom which should never be destroyed, nor left to other people. … I calculate to be one of the instruments of setting up the kingdom of Daniel by the word of the Lord, and I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 365–66; paragraphing altered).
■ We may not know all of the details about how the Prophet Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, but we do know that the process was inspired. Spiritual gifts, combined with Joseph Smith’s faith and diligent work, enabled him to accomplish the divine purposes for the translation. He was also instrumental in bringing forth additional scripture, including the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Joseph Smith Translation of the King James Version of the Bible.
■ Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about the remarkable accomplishment of translating the Book of Mormon and bringing forth other revelations by God’s power:
“Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God!
“Compare this unique accomplishment with that of other scriptural translations. The King James Version of the Bible, for example, was produced by 50 English scholars who accomplished their work in seven years, translating at the rate of one page per day. Expert translators today do well if they can also translate scripture at the rate of one page per day.
“In contrast, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon at the rate of about 10 pages per day, completing the task in approximately 85 days! …
“Such a pace is even more remarkable considering the circumstances under which the Prophet labored. In that same period, while enduring constant distractions and incessant hostility, Joseph Smith moved more than 100 miles from Harmony, Pennsylvania, to Fayette, New York. He applied for a copyright. He received revelations comprising 12 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. Heavenly beings restored the holy priesthood. Yet he completed the translation in less than three months” (Helping Missionaries Understand the Role of the Book of Mormon in Conversion [address at seminar for new mission presidents, June 23, 2000], 4–5).
■ Elder Neal A. Maxwell, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, also referred to the impressive rate of translation accomplished by the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“The process of translation was truly ‘a marvellous work and a wonder,’ or, as rendered in Hebrew, ‘a miraculous miracle’ (Isaiah 29:14). Depending upon his sequence of translation, scholars estimate that Joseph in 1829 was translating at a rapid daily equivalent of from eight to thirteen of today’s printed pages (see John W. Welch and Tim Rathbone, “The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Basic Historical Information” [Provo: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1986], pp. 38–39). An able, professional translator recently told me he considers one page a day productive.
“From Joseph the translator—untrained in theology—more printed pages of scripture have come down to us than from any other mortal” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 54–55; or Ensign, May 1992, 38).
■ President Ezra Taft Benson referenced the timing of the Book of Mormon in the Restoration as evidence of its importance:
“A … powerful testimony to the importance of the Book of Mormon is to note where the Lord placed its coming forth in the timetable of the unfolding Restoration. The only thing that preceded it was the First Vision. In that marvelous manifestation, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned the true nature of God and that God had a work for him to do. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon was the next thing to follow.
“Think of that in terms of what it implies. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon preceded the restoration of the priesthood. It was published just a few days before the Church was organized. The Saints were given the Book of Mormon to read before they were given the revelations outlining such great doctrines as the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, or work for the dead. It came before priesthood quorums and Church organization. Doesn’t this tell us something about how the Lord views this sacred work?” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 3; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 4).
■ President Benson emphasized that the Prophet Joseph Smith brought forth scriptures in addition to the Book of Mormon: “‘This generation,’ said the Lord to Joseph Smith, ‘shall have my word through you’ (D&C 5:10). And so it has through the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and other modern revelations” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 104; or Ensign, May 1987, 83).
■ Elder Robert K. Dellenbach of the Seventy said: “All over the world people are seeking the witness of Jesus Christ as found in the Book of Mormon. They come from every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. As was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, ‘The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name’ (D&C 122:1). And why are they seeking after the name of Joseph Smith? Because the Book of Mormon testifies of the divinity and atonement of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Because Joseph is the prophet of the Restoration” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 11; or Ensign, May 1995, 11).
■ President James E. Faust, a counselor in the First Presidency, taught that “a confirming testimony of the Book of Mormon convinces ‘that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God’ and also spiritually verifies the divine calling of Joseph Smith and that he did see the Father and the Son” (“The Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Jan. 2004, 4).
■ Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained why the Book of Mormon is important in bringing people to Christ:
“This inspired book of scripture is the heart of missionary proselyting. Conversion to it is conversion to Christ, because this book contains the words of Christ. The very title page of the Book of Mormon proclaims its purpose: ‘To the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.’
“Additionally, conversion to this inspired book is conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, because it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord told Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants, ‘And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel’ (D&C 42:12)” (“The Book of Mormon: The Heart of Missionary Proselyting,” Ensign, Sept. 2002, 14).
■ President Ezra Taft Benson described the Christ-centered influence of the Book of Mormon:
“The honest seeker after truth can gain the testimony that Jesus is the Christ as he prayerfully ponders the inspired words of the Book of Mormon.
“Over one-half of all the verses in the Book of Mormon refer to our Lord. Some form of Christ’s name is mentioned more frequently per verse in the Book of Mormon than even in the New Testament.
“He is given over one hundred different names in the Book of Mormon. Those names have a particular significance in describing His divine nature. …
“… Let us read the Book of Mormon and be convinced that Jesus is the Christ. Let us continually reread the Book of Mormon so that we might more fully come to Christ, be committed to Him, centered in Him, and consumed in Him” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 101, 104; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 83, 85).
■ The truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is evidence for other truths about the Restoration. The Book of Mormon stands as a witness not only for Jesus Christ, but also for His servant Joseph Smith, who translated it and laid the foundation for the latter-day kingdom of God.
■ President Gordon B. Hinckley explained the importance of the Book of Mormon in relation to the Church and the Bible:
“If the Book of Mormon is true, the Church is true, for the same authority under which this sacred record came to light is present and manifest among us today. It is a restoration of the Church set up by the Savior in Palestine. It is a restoration of the Church set up by the Savior when he visited this continent as set forth in this sacred record.
“If the Book of Mormon is true, the Bible is true. The Bible is the Testament of the Old World. The Book of Mormon is the Testament of the New. The one is the record of Judah, the other is the record of Joseph, and they have come together in the hand of the Lord in fulfilment of the prophecy of Ezekiel. Together they declare the Kingship of the Redeemer of the world, and the reality of his kingdom” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1959, 119).
■ President Ezra Taft Benson testified that the Book of Mormon is the keystone to a testimony of the truthfulness of the Restoration: “The Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true—and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true—then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it” (A Witness and a Warning , 19).
■ President Benson also offered inspired counsel regarding how to use the Book of Mormon to respond to objections investigators may have to the restored truths of the gospel:
“We are to use the Book of Mormon in handling objections to the Church. …
“… All objections, whether they be on abortion, plural marriage, seventh-day worship, etc., basically hinge on whether Joseph Smith and his successors were and are prophets of God receiving divine revelation. Here, then, is a procedure to handle most objections through the use of the Book of Mormon.
“First, understand the objection.
“Second, give the answer from revelation.
“Third, show how the correctness of the answer really depends on whether or not we have modern revelation through modern prophets.
“Fourth, explain that whether or not we have modern prophets and revelation really depends on whether the Book of Mormon is true.
“Therefore, the only problem the objector has to resolve for himself is whether the Book of Mormon is true. For if the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus is the Christ, Joseph Smith was his prophet, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it is being led today by a prophet receiving revelation.
“Our main task is to declare the gospel and do it effectively. We are not obligated to answer every objection. Every man eventually is backed up to the wall of faith, and there he must make his stand” (A Witness and a Warning, 4–5).
■ Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave counsel that we can follow personally and share with investigators: “Try reading the Book of Mormon because you want to, not because you have to. Discover for yourself that it is true. As you read each page, ask, ‘Could any man have written this book, or did it come as Joseph Smith testified?’ Apply the teachings you learn. They will fortify you against the evil of Satan. Follow Moroni’s counsel. Sincerely ask God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, with real intent, if the teachings of the Book of Mormon are true (see Moroni 10:3–5). Ask with a desire to receive a confirmation personally, nothing doubting. … I know that you can receive a spiritual confirmation that the book is true. You will then know that Jesus Christ lives, that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church (see introduction to the Book of Mormon, especially the last paragraph). You will confirm that the Savior guides His Church through a living prophet. These truths will become a foundation for your productive life” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2003, 45; or Ensign, Nov. 2003, 42–43).
■ The Restoration dispelled the darkness of the Apostasy. Priesthood authority was restored. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord organized His Church again upon the earth so that the saving principles and ordinances of the gospel could be correctly administered in order to help people come unto Christ.
■ President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke reverently of the Melchizedek Priesthood Peter, James, and John held and restored:
“No king, no president, no head of state, no man of business or secular activity of any kind has such authority. … And yet it was given to these humble men who walked with Jesus as His Apostles.
“Three of these chosen apostles—Peter, James, and John—appeared to Joseph and Oliver somewhere ‘in the wilderness’ along the Susquehanna River. They placed their hands upon their heads and conferred upon them this holy authority.
“We do not have the date, but evidence points to the fact that likely it was late May or some time in June of the same year 1829” (address given at the Priesthood Restoration 175th Anniversary, May 16, 2004).
■ Elder David B. Haight, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, testified: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims to the world that this church is a restoration of Christ’s church. A restoration was necessary because prophets and Apostles, who were the foundation of the Lord’s original church, were put to death or otherwise taken. The Church today is built on a foundation of prophets and Apostles, with Jesus Christ as its chief cornerstone. It is therefore not a reformation, a revision, a reorganization, or a mere sect. It is the Church of Jesus Christ restored in these latter days” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 7; or Ensign, May 1986, 7).
■ President Gordon B. Hinckley also bore witness that the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored:
“This is the restored Church of Jesus Christ. … We testify that the heavens have been opened, that the curtains have been parted, that God has spoken, and that Jesus Christ has manifested Himself, followed by a bestowal of divine authority.
“Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of this work, and it is built upon a ‘foundation of … apostles and prophets’ (Ephesians 2:20)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2002, 87; or Ensign, Nov. 2002, 81).
In what ways is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints different from other churches?
In what ways has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to the Savior?
How will you use the Book of Mormon to help others gain a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Restoration?
How do you feel knowing that the Lord has shared priesthood authority He gave to Peter, James, and John with young elders?
Teach one or more of the principles covered in this chapter in a home evening or other appropriate setting. Use basic scriptures and bear testimony of the truth of these principles. (It would be good practice to make a lesson plan before teaching.)
Memorize the two paragraphs of the introduction on the Book of Mormon title page.
Select and memorize key verses in Joseph Smith—History.
“Restoration of the Gospel” (pp. 135–39)
“Joseph Smith” (pp. 89–90)
“Priesthood” (pp. 124–28)
“Aaronic Priesthood” (pp. 3–4)
“Melchizedek Priesthood” (pp. 101–2)