“Lesson 1 Class Preparation Material: Prelude to the Restoration,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)
“Lesson 1 Class Preparation Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material
After the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, His Apostles continued to lead the Church as it expanded. President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained how the Church of Jesus Christ eventually fell into apostasy:
The New Testament indicates that the early Apostles worked hard to preserve the church that Jesus Christ left to their care and keeping, but they knew their efforts would ultimately be in vain. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Saints, who were anxiously anticipating the second coming of Christ, that “that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first” (2 Thes. 2:3). …
Eventually, with the known exception of John the Beloved, Peter and his fellow Apostles were martyred. The Apostle John and members of the Church struggled for survival in the face of horrifying oppression. To their everlasting credit, Christianity did survive and was truly a prominent force by the end of the second century A.D. Many valiant Saints were instrumental in helping Christianity to endure.
Despite the significance of the ministries of these Saints, they did not hold the same apostolic authority Peter and the other Apostles had received through ordination under the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. When that authority was lost, men began looking to other sources for doctrinal understanding. As a result, many plain and precious truths were lost. (M. Russell Ballard, “Restored Truth,” Ensign, Nov. 1994, 65–66)
The prophet Nephi saw the Great Apostasy in vision. He saw that during this apostasy, wicked people would “[take] away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away” (1 Nephi 13:26). He also saw that “many plain and precious things [would be] taken away from” the Bible during the Great Apostasy (1 Nephi 13:28). An angel told Nephi, “Because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them” (1 Nephi 13:29).
After centuries of apostasy, during which very few people had access to the scriptures, inspired men and women did what they could, often at their own peril, to help others seek truth. In the late 1300s John Wycliffe started a translation of the Bible into English and was consequently condemned as a heretic by the religious authorities of his time. The invention of the printing press in the mid-1400s made affordable copies of the Bible available to many more people. In the 1500s the Spirit of the Lord moved upon Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, John Knox, Ann Askew, and many others who began to speak out against the errors of the predominant churches of their day. William Tyndale and others also made new translations of the Bible. Many of these reformers paid for their actions with their lives. Their efforts led to the organization of new Protestant churches. Because Europe lacked religious freedom, the creation of these new churches led to significant conflicts.
Religious persecution prompted many of these and other individuals to find a new home where they could worship freely, including the Pilgrims, who traveled from England to the Americas in the early 1600s. The prophet Nephi saw in a vision many such religious reformers who would eventually settle in America.
Descendants of the Pilgrims and other immigrants who were seeking further freedom separated from Great Britain, leading to the American Revolutionary War. One soldier who fought on the American side was named Asael Smith. Asael, the paternal grandfather of the Prophet Joseph Smith, is noted as having said on one occasion, “It has been borne in upon my soul that one of my descendants will promulgate a work to revolutionize the world of religious faith” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. , 1:4). Asael witnessed the founding of a new nation, one with religious freedom at its core.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that the founding of the United States of America was a step in preparing the world for the Restoration of the gospel:
Religious feeling guided founders of a new nation on the American continent. Under God’s hand, they secured religious freedom for every citizen with an inspired Bill of Rights. Fourteen years later, on December 23, 1805, the Prophet Joseph Smith was born. The preparation was nearing its completion for the Restoration.
… I testify that [Jesus Christ’s] hand has been over the work of the Restoration from before the foundation of this world. (Robert D. Hales, “Preparations for the Restoration and the Second Coming: ‘My Hand Shall Be over Thee,’” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 90, 92)
President M. Russell Ballard taught the following:
Joseph Smith Sr., the prophet’s father, suffered financially. … [He] went into business with a partner. The business partner took the money and lost it. They bought a farm that failed. They bought another one, and that failed; bought another one, and that failed. Finally Joseph Smith Sr. moved to Palmyra. The hand of the Lord was at work, moving the Smith family to where He needed them to be. (M. Russell Ballard, “The Tapestry of God’s Hand” [Joseph Smith Memorial Fireside, Feb. 13, 2011, Logan Institute of Religion, Utah State University])
By divine design Joseph Smith was born at the right time, in the right place, and under the right conditions to initiate the founding events of the Restoration. President Brigham Young testified:
[Joseph Smith] was fore-ordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young , 96)