Chapter 14: Dispensations of the Gospel

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 92–99


God established and taught his gospel in the beginning, revealed it anew in various dispensations amid periods of apostasy, and has now restored it in this last age. President Brigham Young rejoiced over this final “dispensation of all dispensations,” which, he said, “will excel in magnificence and glory every other dispensation that has ever been committed to the children of men upon the earth” (DBY, 442).

Teachings of Brigham Young

God first revealed the plan of salvation to Adam in mortality and since then has periodically restored His kingdom through His prophets.

The great plan called the plan of salvation—the system of doctrine, ideas, and practices that pertain to all the intelligence that exists in eternity (DBY, 56 ) … [was] devised in the heavens for the redemption of mankind from sin, and their restoration to the presence of God (DBY, 448).

When this Kingdom is organized in any age [on earth], the Spirit of it dwells in the hearts of the faithful, while its visible department exists among the people, with laws, ordinances, helps, governments, officers, administrators, and every other appendage necessary for its complete operation to the attainment of the end in view [see Moses 6:7; D&C 22:3] (DBY, 441).

Adam. God was once known on the earth among his children … as we know one another. Adam was as conversant with his Father who placed him upon this earth as we are conversant with our earthly parents. The Father frequently came to visit his son Adam, and talked and walked with him; and the children of Adam were more or less acquainted with him, and the things that pertain to God and to heaven were as familiar among mankind in the first ages of their existence on the earth, as … our gardens are to our wives and children, or as the road to the Western Ocean is to the experienced traveler [see Moses 3:15–21; 4:14–30; 5:4–5, 9, 12; 6:51] (DBY, 104).

We are safe in saying that from the day that Adam was created and placed in the Garden of Eden to this day, the plan of salvation and the revelations of the will of God to man are unchanged, although mankind have not for many ages been favored therewith, in consequence of apostasy and wickedness. There is no evidence to be found in the Bible that the Gospel should be one thing in the days of the Israelites, another in the days of Christ and his Apostles, and another in the 19th century, but, on the contrary, we are instructed that God is the same in every age, and that his plan of saving his children is the same. The plan of salvation is one, from the beginning of the world to the end thereof [see Moses 6:51–68] (DBY, 103–4).

The Gospel was among the children of men from the days of Adam until the coming of the Messiah; this Gospel of Christ is from the beginning to the end [see Moses 5:58–59; D&C 20:25–26] (DBY, 103–4).

Enoch. Enoch possessed intelligence and wisdom from God that few men ever enjoyed, walking and talking with God for many years; yet, according to the history written by Moses, he was a great length of time in establishing his kingdom among men. The few that followed him enjoyed the fulness of the Gospel, and the rest of the world rejected it (DBY, 105).

Enoch had to talk with and teach his people during a period of three hundred and sixty years, before he could get them prepared to enter into their rest, and then he obtained power to translate himself and his people, with the region they inhabited, their houses, gardens, fields, cattle and all their possessions [see Moses 7:68–69] (DBY, 105).

Enoch and his party were taken from the earth, and the world continued to ripen in iniquity until they were overthrown by the great flood in the days of Noah; and, “as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man” [see Genesis 6:5; Moses 6:26–7:69] (DBY, 105).

Noah. In the beginning, after this earth was prepared for man, the Lord commenced his work upon what is now called the American continent, where the Garden of Eden was made (DBY, 102).

The Lord sent forth his Gospel to the people; he said, I will give it to my son Adam, from whom Methuselah received it; and Noah received from Methuselah (DBY, 105).

In the days of Noah, in the days of the floating of the ark, he took the people to another part of the earth; the earth was divided, and there he set up his kingdom [see Genesis 6:1–8:21] (DBY, 102).

Abraham. Abraham was faithful to the true God; he overthrew the idols of his father and obtained the Priesthood after the order of Melchizedek [see D&C 84:14], which is after the order of the Son of God [see D&C 107:2–3], and a promise that of the increase of his seed there should be no end; when you obtain the holy Priesthood, which is after the order of Melchizedek, sealed upon you, and the promise that your seed shall be numerous as the stars in the firmament, or as the sands upon the seashore, and of your increase there shall be no end, you have then got the promise of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the blessings that were conferred upon them [see Genesis 12:2–3; 13:16; 14:18–19; 15:5; Abraham 1:2–4, 18–19; 2:9–11; D&C 84:14] (DBY, 106).

Moses. The Gospel was among the children of men from the days of Adam until the coming of the Messiah; this Gospel of Christ is from the beginning to the end. Then why was the law of Moses given? In consequence of the disobedience of the Children of Israel, the elect of God; the very seed that he had selected to be his people, and upon whom he said he would place his name. This seed of Abraham so rebelled against him and his commands that the Lord said to Moses, “I will give you a law which shall be a schoolmaster to bring them to Christ” [see Galatians 3:24]. But this law is grievous; it is a law of carnal commandments [see D&C 84:23–27] (DBY, 104).

If they had been sanctified and holy, the Children of Israel would not have traveled one year with Moses before they would have received their endowments and the Melchizedek Priesthood [see D&C 84:23] (DBY, 106).

Jesus Christ. Jesus undertook to establish the Kingdom of God upon the earth. He introduced the laws and ordinances of the Kingdom [see Matthew 16:18–19; Ephesians 1:22–23; Ephesians 4:11–15] (DBY, 29).

Peter, James, and John ordaining Joseph

Artist’s rendering of Peter, James, and John restoring the keys of past dispensations. The dispensation of the fulness of times, President Young said, “will excel in magnificence and glory every dispensation that has ever been committed to the children of men” (DBY, 442).

The priesthood and the full gospel of the kingdom were lost from the earth in the period of the Great Apostasy.

In the early days of the Christian Church we understand that there was a good deal of speculation among its members with regard to their belief and practice, and the propagation of these speculative ideas created divisions and schisms. Even in the days of the Apostles there was evidently considerable division, for we read that some were for Paul, some for Apollos, and others for Cephas [see 1 Corinthians 1:10–13]. The people in those days had their favorites, who taught them peculiar doctrines not generally received and promulgated (DBY, 107).

Why have they wandered so far from the path of truth and rectitude? Because they left the Priesthood and have had no guide, no leader, no means of finding out what is true and what is not true. It is said the Priesthood was taken from the Church, but it is not so, the Church went from the Priesthood and continued to travel in the wilderness, turned from the commandments of the Lord, and instituted other ordinances [see Galatians 1:6–8; 2 Timothy 1:15; 3 John 1:9–10] (DBY, 107).

But that was the time they commenced little by little to transgress the laws, change the ordinances, and break the everlasting covenant, and the Gospel of the kingdom that Jesus undertook to establish in his day and the Priesthood were taken from the earth [see Isaiah 24:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12; Revelation 12:6; D&C 1:15] (DBY, 107).

Peter Whitmer home

The interior of the restored log home of Peter Whitmer, in Fayette, New York. The Church was organized in the original home on 6 April 1830.

The Lord has restored His gospel and priesthood authority in this final dispensation through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Generations have come and gone without the privilege of hearing the sound of the Gospel, which has come to you through Joseph Smith—that was revealed to him from heaven by angels and visions. We have the Gospel and the keys of the holy Priesthood [see D&C 1:17–23, 30; 27:5–13; 110:11–16; 128:18–21] (DBY, 107–8).

We are a people whose rise and progress from the beginning, has been the work of God our Heavenly Father, which in his wisdom he has seen proper to commence for the re-establishment of his Kingdom upon the earth (DBY, 108).

But as it was in the days of our Savior, so was it in the advent of this new dispensation. It was not in accordance with the notions, traditions, and pre-conceived ideas of the American people. The messenger did not come to an eminent divine of any of the so-called orthodoxy, he did not adopt their interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven in power and great glory, nor send his messengers [armored] with aught else than the truth of heaven, to communicate to the meek, the lowly, the youth of humble origin, the sincere enquirer after the knowledge of God. But he did send his angel to this same obscure person, Joseph Smith, Jr, who afterwards became a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and [the Lord] informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day, for they were all wrong; that they were following the precepts of men instead of the Lord Jesus; that he had a work for him to perform, inasmuch as he should prove faithful before him [see Joseph Smith—History 1:11–26] (DBY, 108).

It was decreed in the counsels of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he, Joseph Smith, should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people, and receive the fulness of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eyes upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch, and from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. He was fore-ordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation [see 2 Nephi 3:6–15] (DBY, 108).

The Lord has been operating for centuries to prepare the way for the coming forth of the contents of that Book [the Book of Mormon] from the bowels of the earth, to be published to the world, to show to the inhabitants thereof that he still lives, and that he will, in the latter days, gather his elect from the four corners of the earth. … The Lord has dictated and directed the whole of this, for the bringing forth, and establishing of his Kingdom in the last days [see 1 Nephi 13; D&C 20:6–16] (DBY, 109).

Here is the Book of Mormon. We believe it contains the history of the aborigines of [the American] continent, just as the Old Testament contains the history of the Jewish nation. In that book we learn that Jesus visited this continent, delivered his Gospel and ordained Twelve Apostles. We believe all this, but we do not ask you to believe it. What we do ask is that you will believe what is recorded in the Holy Bible concerning God and his revelations to the children of men. Do this in all honesty and sincerity, then you will know that the Book of Mormon is true. Your minds will be opened and you will know by … the Spirit of God that we teach the truth (DBY, 109).

What did Oliver Cowdery (one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon) say, after he had been away from the Church years and years? He saw and conversed with the angels, who showed him the plates, and he handled them. He left the Church because he lost the love of truth; and after he had traveled alone for years, a gentleman walked into his law office and said to him, “Mr. Cowdery, what do you think of the Book of Mormon now? Do you believe that it is true?” He replied, “No, sir, I do not!” “Well,” said the gentleman, “I thought as much; for I concluded that you had seen the folly of your ways and had resolved to renounce what you once declared to be true.” “Sir, you mistake me; I do not believe that the Book of Mormon is true; I am past belief on that point, for I know that it is true, as well as I know that you now sit before me.” “Do you still testify that you saw an angel?” “Yes, as much as I see you now; and I know the Book of Mormon to be true” (DBY, 110).

Joseph Smith has laid the foundation of the Kingdom of God in the last days (DBY, 458).

I feel like shouting Hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet whom the Lord raised up and ordained, and to whom he gave keys and power to build up the Kingdom of God on earth and sustain it. These keys are committed to this people, and we have power to continue the work that Joseph commenced, until everything is prepared for the coming of the Son of Man. This is the business of the Latter-day Saints (DBY, 458).

This kingdom they [the wicked] cannot destroy, because it is the last dispensation—because it is the fulness of times. It is the dispensation of all dispensations, and will excel in magnificence and glory every dispensation that has ever been committed to the children of men upon the earth. The Lord will bring again Zion, redeem his Israel, plant his standard upon the earth, and establish the laws of his Kingdom, and those laws will prevail (DBY, 442).

Suggestions for Study

God first revealed the plan of salvation to Adam in mortality and since then has periodically restored His kingdom through His prophets.

  • How did President Young describe the “great plan called the plan of salvation”? (See also Abraham 3:21–28.)

  • When the Lord reveals the plan of salvation to men and organizes His kingdom on earth, what is essential for its “complete operation”?

  • According to President Young, when did God introduce the plan of salvation and the priesthood to His children on the earth? (See also Moses 5:58–59; 6:7.)

  • What was the special calling of each prophet who headed one of the major dispensations of the gospel?

The priesthood and the full gospel of the kingdom were lost from the earth in the period of the Great Apostasy.

  • According to President Young, why was Christ’s early Church withdrawn from the earth?

  • What are some evidences that Christ’s early Church and priesthood were lost from the earth? (See also Joseph Smith—History 1:17–20.) What did members of the early Church do to wander “so far from the path of truth”? How has the priesthood been a “means of finding out what is true and what is not true” in your life?

The Lord has restored His gospel and priesthood authority in this final dispensation through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

  • God communicated His truth to a meek, lowly youth of humble origin, a “sincere enquirer after the knowledge of God.” What does this mean for you and all others who sincerely seek the truth?

  • What characteristics did Joseph have that helped him fulfill his calling to be “the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people”?

  • What role does the Book of Mormon have in the restoration of the gospel? (See also D&C 20:6–16.) What can you learn from Oliver Cowdery’s testimony of the Book of Mormon?

  • What was President Young’s testimony concerning “the business of the Latter-day Saints”?