“What are the basic principles that make your church distinct from other Christian faiths?” Ensign, Aug. 1974, 84–85
Julian C. Lowe, President, Annandale Virginia Stake: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is often called the Mormon Church, does not fit into the categories of Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish. It is the church that Jesus Christ himself organized on the earth in the meridian of time restored to the earth in the last days.
The restoration of the Church in these “latter days” began with Joseph Smith’s humble inquiry of the Lord in 1820. A young man not yet 15 years old, he wanted to know which of all the religious sects competing for his attention was correct. His prayer was answered with a glorious vision:
“… I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
“It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. 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!” (JS—H 1:16–17.)
In this great vision young Joseph was told to join none of the churches. His experience teaches us two great truths that are unique to the Lord’s church. First, God the Father and his son Jesus Christ are separate, distinct, loving beings—two personages—not one undefined being. Second, that vision established the principle that the Church is guided by direct revelation from God. Not only can we rely on the scriptures for truth, but we can also look to his latter-day prophets for counsel received directly from Jesus Christ.
In the years following his vision, Joseph Smith was visited by a heavenly messenger who directed him to a volume of ancient scripture—the Book of Mormon—which he translated by divine assistance. Other heavenly messengers conferred upon him the priesthood—the power to act for God on earth—and instructed him to use this power to organize the Church. The authority of that priesthood remains as the directing power at every level of church operation.