God Is Your Loving Heavenly Father
God is your Father in Heaven. He knows you personally and loves you more than you can comprehend. He wants you to be happy in this life and in eternity.
To accomplish this purpose, Heavenly Father provided a plan called the gospel* of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Son of God; His life and teachings are the guide to peace in this life and joy in eternity.
The Gospel Blesses Families and Individuals
The gospel of Jesus Christ blesses all who accept and live it. One of the best places to teach and apply the gospel is in families. God has established families to bring happiness to His children, to allow us to learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and to prepare us to return to Him after we die. Although family relationships can be challenging at times, Heavenly Father blesses us as we strive to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. These teachings help us strengthen our families.
Heavenly Father Reveals His Gospel
As part of His plan, God chooses prophets, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Prophets:
Teach about God and are special witnesses of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Receive revelation, or direction from the Lord.
Teach the gospel to the world and interpret the word of God.
Prophets receive the priesthood, or the authority to speak and act in the name of God to lead His children. People who follow the prophets receive the blessings God has promised. Those who reject the gospel and God’s prophets lose those blessings and distance themselves from God. Those who reject the prophets and abandon their commitment to follow God are in a condition called apostasy.
Even though many of His children have repeatedly rejected Him and His prophets, Heavenly Father continues to love His children. He wants to give us everything we need to be happy now and to return to Him after we die. The scriptures reveal a pattern of God repeatedly reaching out to His children, even though we do not always listen:
God chooses a prophet.
The prophet teaches the gospel and leads the people.
God blesses the people.
The people gradually disregard or disobey the teachings of the prophet. They eventually reject the prophet and his teachings and fall into apostasy.
Because of apostasy, people lose knowledge of the gospel. Priesthood authority is taken from among them.
When the time is right and people are ready to follow Him again, God chooses another prophet, restores the priesthood and the Church, and directs the prophet to teach the gospel.
Jesus Christ Established His Church
From the time of the Creation, the children of God looked forward to the coming of the Savior Jesus Christ. As He had promised, Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to earth over 2,000 years ago.
Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sinless life. He established His Church, taught His gospel, and performed many miracles. He chose twelve men to be His Apostles, including Peter, James, and John. He taught them and gave them priesthood authority to teach in His name and to perform sacred ordinances, such as baptism.
When Jesus established His Church, He received instructions from Heavenly Father. He then instructed His disciples. Jesus taught His followers that revelation from God was the rock on which He would build His Church.
At the end of His life, Jesus Christ suffered and died for the sins of everyone who has lived or who will live on earth. This sacrifice is called the Atonement. Through His suffering, death, and Resurrection, the Savior made it possible for us to be forgiven. Those who have faith in Him, repent, and keep His commandments receive forgiveness of sins and are filled with peace and joy.
After His Resurrection, Jesus Christ guided His Apostles through revelation. The Bible records many ways in which He continued to direct His Church (see Acts 10; Revelation 1:1). Thus the Church of Jesus Christ was led by God and not by men.
The Great Apostasy
Following the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted and killed many Church members. Other Church members drifted from the principles taught by Jesus Christ and His Apostles. The Apostles were killed, and priesthood authority—including the keys to direct and receive revelation for the Church—was taken from the earth. Because the Church was no longer led by priesthood authority, error crept into Church teachings. Good people and much truth remained, but the gospel as established by Jesus Christ was lost. This period is called the Great Apostasy.
This apostasy resulted in the formation of many churches with conflicting teachings. During this time, many men and women sought the truth, but they were unable to find it. Many good people believed in God and Jesus Christ and tried to understand and teach truth, but they did not have the full gospel or priesthood authority. As a result, each generation inherited a state of apostasy as people were influenced by what previous generations passed on, including changes to Christ’s gospel.
Some inspired people, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, recognized that practices and doctrines had been changed or lost. They tried to reform the churches to which they belonged. Without priesthood authority, however, Christ’s gospel could not be returned to its original form. A restoration was needed.
God knew there would be an apostasy. Through an Old Testament prophet, He said:
“Behold, the days come … that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord:
“And [people] shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.”
The Restoration of the Gospel
In 1820, as He had done throughout history, Father in Heaven again chose a prophet to restore the gospel and the priesthood to the earth. That prophet’s name was Joseph Smith. As a young man, Joseph was confused by the differences among the many churches in his area and wanted to know which church was right. Knowing he lacked wisdom, he followed the counsel found in the Bible, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
Joseph Smith decided to ask God what he should do. When Joseph prayed to know the truth, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. Jesus told Joseph not to join any of the churches, for “they were all wrong” and “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19).
As God had done with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other prophets, He called Joseph Smith to be a prophet through whom the complete gospel was restored.
The Restoration of the Priesthood
In 1829, Joseph Smith received the same priesthood authority that Jesus Christ had given to His Apostles. John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus, appeared to Joseph Smith and conferred on him the Aaronic Priesthood, or lesser priesthood. Peter, James, and John (three of Jesus Christ’s original Apostles) later appeared to Joseph Smith and conferred on him the Melchizedek Priesthood, or higher priesthood.
After he received priesthood authority, Joseph Smith was directed to organize the Church of Jesus Christ again on the earth. Through him, Jesus Christ again called Twelve Apostles.
Just as Jesus Christ led His Apostles through revelation after His Resurrection, He continues to direct the Church today through living prophets and apostles. The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the chosen prophet of God today. He, his counselors, and the Twelve Apostles hold the priesthood authority held by all the prophets and apostles of previous times. These men are prophets, seers, and revelators.
The Book of Mormon
As part of the Restoration of the gospel, God brought forth the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. By the power of God, Joseph Smith translated this book from an ancient record written on gold plates. The Book of Mormon is “a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel” (introduction to the Book of Mormon).
The Book of Mormon is a powerful witness of Jesus Christ. It helps us understand His teachings, including those in the Bible.
The Book of Mormon is convincing evidence of the Restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith. You can know for yourself that the Book of Mormon is true. To gain this knowledge, you must read it, ponder its message, and desire to know if it is true. You must ask Heavenly Father to confirm that it is His word. As you do so, He will reveal to you through the Holy Ghost that it is true.
As you come to know that the Book of Mormon is true, you will also come to know by the Holy Ghost that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through him, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by a prophet and apostles today.
How Can I Know?
You can know this message is true. If you ask your Heavenly Father in prayer, you can receive an answer from Him through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is also called the Spirit of God, and one of His roles is to witness, or testify, of the truth.
This knowledge can be miraculous and life changing, but it usually comes as a quiet assurance, without spectacular displays of God’s power. The Holy Ghost confirms the truth through feelings, thoughts, and impressions. As taught in the Bible, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). These feelings from the Holy Ghost are personal revelation to you that the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through Joseph Smith is true. You will then need to choose whether you will live in harmony with the knowledge you have received.