The Unauthorized Investigator's Guide to
The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints

Lesson 1

The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith

The Missionaries Will Teach...

After a long night of spiritual darkness, the circumstances were finally right for Heavenly Father to reach out to his children in love.  He called a young man by the name of Joseph Smith to be his prophet.  Through Joseph Smith, God's plan of happiness was restored to the earth.

In the early 19th century, the United States was arguably the only nation on the planet with religious freedom.  In the Eastern United States, it was a time of great religious excitement.  Joseph Smith's family was very religious and constantly searching for truth.  Several ministers claimed to have the true gospel, and Joseph Smith wanted to know which of them was right.  The Bible taught that there was "one Lord, one faith, and one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5).  Joseph attended their various churches, but was confused about which one was true.  He wrote:

"So great were the confusions and strife among the different denominations, that it was  impossible for a person young as I come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others. In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or are they all wrong together? If any one of them is right, which is it, and how shall I know it?" (Joseph Smith--History 1:8-10).

Joseph Smith sought guidance in the Bible.  In James 1:5 he read, "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."  This passage inspired Joseph to ask God what he should do.  When he was 14 in the spring of 1820, he went to a grove of trees and prayed.  He later said,

"I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me...  When the light rested 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!" (see Joseph Smith History: 1:15-17).

God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ visited Joseph Smith.  Jesus told Joseph not to join any of the churches because they were all wrong.  Jesus said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “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)

Many good people believed in Christ and tried to understand the gospel.  Nevertheless, they inherited a state of apostasy, believed false doctrines, and didn't have the authority to teach Christ's gospel or perform the ordinances necessary for salvation. But just as God did with prophets such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, he called Joseph Smith to be a prophet and restore the true gospel to the earth.

After the visitation by God the Father and Jesus Christ, angles visited Joseph Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdrey.  John the Baptist visited them, and gave them the Aaronic Priesthood, which gave them the authority to baptize.  They were also visited by Christ's apostles Peter, James, and John, who gave them the authority of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which Joseph Smith used to organize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Joseph Smith later called twelve apostles to help him lead the Church.

The church is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because these are the last days, and this is the last dispensation before the second coming of Jesus.

A living prophet and twelve apostles manage the church today.  The prophet is the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is the authorized successor of Joseph Smith.  These men trace their authority in an unbroken chain of ordinations all the way to Joseph Smith, who was ordained by the angels Peter, James and John, who were ordained by Jesus Christ himself.

Some Additional Thoughts...

Satan was the first entity that visited Joseph Smith that day.

The Epistemology of Prophetic Revelation.  Can we trust prophets?



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