Lesson 1: Prelude to the Restoration

“Lesson 1: Prelude to the Restoration,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material (2018)

“Lesson 1,” Latter-day Saint History: 1815–1846 Teacher Material

Lesson 1

Prelude to the Restoration

Introduction and Timeline

The Savior established His Church during His mortal ministry. After the Savior’s death and Resurrection, the Apostles continued to direct the Church as guided by revelation. However, when the Apostles were killed, priesthood keys and authority were lost from the earth, and the original teachings of Jesus Christ and His Apostles were changed and distorted. These events led to a period called the Great Apostasy, a time when Christ’s Church and the authority to administer it were not on the earth (see “Apostasy,” Gospel Topics, During the Great Apostasy, the Lord prepared the way for His Church to be restored through events such as the European Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the translation of the Bible into English and other languages, and the establishment of religious liberty in the United States through its Constitution. Joseph Smith was born in a time and place that made it possible for the Lord to raise him up as the Prophet of the Restoration. The Lord magnified Joseph Smith to fulfill His divine purposes in restoring His gospel and Church to the earth.

Around 1450German inventor Johannes Gutenberg developed movable type for printing, allowing books—including the Bible—to be widely available to the public.

1500–1611New translations of the Bible in English and other languages became widely available.

1517–64Martin Luther and other individuals in Europe called for religious reform.

1620–1750Many European Protestants immigrated to North America to find religious freedom.

1787–91Freedom of religion was established by the Constitution of the United States.

1805Joseph Smith Jr. was born in Sharon, Vermont.

Note: Some dates are approximate.

Suggestions for Teaching

God prepares the way for the Restoration of the gospel

Display the following statement by Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud:

Ronald A. Rasband

“Elder Neal A. Maxwell once explained: … ‘[God] does not do things by “coincidence” but … by “divine design”’ [Neal A. Maxwell, “Brim with Joy” (Brigham Young University devotional, Jan. 23, 1996), 2,]. …

“Significant events unfold in the gospel and in the Church that further the kingdom of God on earth. They are not by accident but by God’s plan” (Ronald A. Rasband, “By Divine Design,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2017, 55).

  • What are examples of events that some may consider coincidental but that you believe occured by divine design?

Invite students to look for principles in today’s lesson that illustrate God’s hand in moving His work forward on the earth and in the lives of His children.

Jesus Christ ordaining the Apostles

Display a picture of the Savior ordaining His Apostles. Remind students that during the Savior’s mortal ministry, He called Apostles, gave them priesthood authority and keys, and established His Church.

Invite students to summarize how the Lord’s Church fell into apostasy. (If necessary, help students understand that before and “after the deaths of the Savior and His Apostles, men corrupted the principles of the gospel and made unauthorized changes in Church organization and priesthood ordinances. Because of this widespread apostasy, the Lord withdrew the authority of the priesthood from the earth” [“Apostasy,” Gospel Topics,].)

  • How does understanding that an apostasy occurred help us better understand the need for the Restoration?

Point out that during this period of widespread apostasy, God continued to inspire His children through the Light of Christ and the influence of the Holy Ghost (see D&C 84:46; see also “Statement of the First Presidency regarding God’s Love for All Mankind,” Feb. 15, 1978). This divine guidance inspired individuals to help bring about significant events and change that prepared the world for the latter-day Restoration of the gospel.

Divide students into pairs or small groups, and give each student a copy of the accompanying handout, “The Renaissance and the Reformation.” Ask students to read the handout aloud in their groups, looking for examples of individuals and events inspired by God that helped prepare the way for the Restoration of the gospel.

The Renaissance and the Reformation

Robert D. Hales

“Making the scriptures available and helping God’s children learn to read them was the first step to the Restoration of the gospel. Originally the Bible was written in Hebrew and Greek, languages unknown to common people throughout Europe. Then, about 400 years after the Savior’s death, the Bible was translated by Jerome into Latin. But still the scriptures were not widely available. …

“… Through the influence of the Holy Ghost, an interest in learning began to grow in the hearts of people. This Renaissance or ‘rebirth’ spread throughout Europe. In the late 1300s, a priest named John Wycliffe initiated a translation of the Bible from Latin into English. …

“While some were inspired to translate the Bible, others were inspired to prepare the means to publish it. By 1455 Johannes Gutenberg had invented a press with movable type, and the Bible was one of the first books he printed. For the first time it was possible to print multiple copies of the scriptures and at a cost many could afford. …

“… In the early 1500s young William Tyndale enrolled at Oxford University. … Through his studies, Tyndale developed a love for God’s word and a desire that all God’s children be able to feast on it for themselves.

“At about this time, a German priest and professor named Martin Luther identified 95 points of error in the church of his day, which he boldly sent in a letter to his superiors. In Switzerland, Huldrych Zwingli printed 67 articles of reform. John Calvin in Switzerland, John Knox in Scotland, and many others assisted in this effort. A reformation had begun.

“Meanwhile, William Tyndale believed a direct translation from Greek and Hebrew into English would be more accurate and readable than Wycliffee’s translation from Latin. So Tyndale, enlightened by the Spirit of God, translated the New Testament and a portion of the Old Testament. His friends warned him that he would be killed for doing so, but he was undaunted. Once, while disputing with a learned man, he said, ‘If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou dost’ [quoted in S. Michael Wilcox, Fire in the Bones: William Tyndale—Martyr, Father of the English Bible (2004), 47].

“… Aware of the divisions within his own country, English King James I agreed to a new official version of the Bible. It has been estimated that over 80 percent of William Tyndale’s translations of the New Testament and a good portion of the Old Testament … were retained in the King James Version. In time, that version would find its way to a new land and be read by a 14-year-old plowboy named Joseph Smith” (Robert D. Hales, “Preparations for the Restoration and the Second Coming: ‘My Hand Shall Be over Thee,’Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 89–90).

Handout: Renaissance and the Reformation

After sufficient time, ask students to report what they found to the class.

  • Why do you think making the scriptures available for God’s children to read was an important step to prepare the world for the Restoration of the gospel?

Display the following statement by Elder Robert D. Hales (1932–2017) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud. Ask the class to listen for additional events that prepared the way for the Restoration.

Robert D. Hales

“Religious persecution in England … prompted [many] to seek freedom in new lands. Among them were the Pilgrims, who landed in the Americas in 1620. … Other colonists soon followed, including those like Roger Williams, founder and later governor of Rhode Island, who continued to search for Christ’s true Church. Williams said that there was no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person authorized to administer any church ordinance, nor could there be until new Apostles were sent by the great Head of the church, for whose coming he was seeking.

“Over a century later, such 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” (Robert D. Hales, “Preparations for the Restoration and the Second Coming: ‘My Hand Shall Be over Thee,’Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 90).

  • Why do you think religious freedom was necessary for the Restoration of the gospel?

Display the following statement by Elder Robert D. Hales, and invite a student to read it aloud:

Robert D. Hales

“As a young man, Joseph ‘was called up to serious reflection’ [Joseph Smith—History 1:8] on the subject of religion. Because he was born in a land of religious freedom, he could question which of all the churches was right. And because the Bible had been translated into English, he could seek an answer from the word of God. … This humble farm boy was the prophet chosen by God to restore the ancient Church of Jesus Christ and His priesthood in these latter days” (Robert D. Hales, “Preparations for the Restoration and the Second Coming: ‘My Hand Shall Be over Thee,’Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2005, 90–91).

  • What can we learn from the inspired events that occurred in the centuries leading up to the birth of the Prophet Joseph Smith? (After students respond, write the following truth on the board: In His infinite wisdom, God prepared the way for the Restoration of the gospel.)

  • How does understanding God’s foresight and infinite wisdom, illustrated in His preparation for the Restoration, help you have greater faith in Him?

Church history illustrates that God performs His work through ordinary, imperfect people whom He inspires and magnifies

Remind students of William Tyndale’s statement to an educated clergyman: “If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou dost” (in Robert D. Hales, “Preparations for the Restoration,” 90). Explain that after sharing this statement from Tyndale, Elder Marcus B. Nash of the Seventy related the following account:

Marcus B. Nash

“In a curious parallel 300 years later, Nancy Towle, a famous itinerant preacher in the 1830s, visited Kirtland to personally observe the ‘Mormons.’ In conversing with Joseph Smith and other Church leaders, she sharply criticized the Church.

“According to Towle’s record, Joseph said nothing until she turned to him and demanded that he swear that an angel had shown him where to find the golden plates. He good-naturedly replied that he never swore at all! Failing to rattle him, she tried to belittle him. ‘Are you not ashamed, of such pretensions?’ she asked. ‘You, who are no more than any ignorant plough-boy of our land!’

“Joseph calmly responded, ‘The gift, has returned back again, as in former times, to illiterate fishermen’ [Vicissitudes Illustrated, in the Experience of Nancy Towle, in Europe and America (1833), 156, 157]” (Marcus B. Nash, “Joseph Smith: Strength Out of Weakness,” Ensign, Dec. 2017, 60).

  • Based on what visiting preacher Nancy Towle said to Joseph Smith, why did she have difficulty believing that he saw an angel and was called of God to be a prophet?

  • What message do you think the Prophet Joseph Smith conveyed by referring to “illiterate fisherman” in his reponse to Nancy Towle? (If necessary, point out that “illiterate fisherman” refers to the original Apostles of Jesus Christ, several of whom were humble fisherman.)

Invite two students to take turns reading 1 Corinthians 1:26–29 and Doctrine and Covenants 124:1 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what these passages teach that relates to the calling and prophetic mission of Joseph Smith.

  • What did you find in these passages that relates to the calling and prophetic mission of Joseph Smith?

  • Why do you think the Lord calls the “weak things of the earth” to perform His work (D&C 124:1)?

Display the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and invite a student to read it aloud. Ask the class to look for what Elder Maxwell taught using President Lorenzo Snow’s personal interactions with the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Neal A. Maxwell

“Lorenzo Snow said that he had observed some imperfections in the Prophet Joseph Smith, but his reaction was that it was marvelous to see how the Lord could still use Joseph. Seeing this, Elder Lorenzo Snow—later President Snow—concluded that there might even be some hope for him!

“One of the great messages which flows from the Lord’s use of Joseph Smith as ‘a choice seer’ in the latter days is that there is indeed hope for each of us! The Lord can call us in our weaknesses and yet magnify us for His purposes” (Neal A. Maxwell, “A Choice Seer,” Ensign, Aug. 1986, 14).

  • Why did observing imperfections in the Prophet Joseph Smith give Lorenzo Snow hope for himself?

  • What principle can we identify from Elder Maxwell’s statement? (Students may identify a principle similar to the following: The Lord calls weak and imperfect people and magnifies them to fulfill His purposes.)

  • How could this principle help someone who struggles with his or her faith because of the human failings they observe in current or past Church members and leaders?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

M. Russell Ballard

“Too many people think Church leaders and members should be perfect or nearly perfect. They forget that the Lord’s grace is sufficient to accomplish His work through mortals. Our leaders have the best intentions, but sometimes we make mistakes. This is not unique to Church relationships, as the same thing occurs in our relationships among friends, neighbors, and workplace associates and even between spouses and in families.

“Looking for human weakness in others is rather easy. However, we make a serious mistake by noticing only the human nature of one another and then failing to see God’s hand working through those He has called” (M. Russell Ballard, “God Is at the Helm,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2015, 25).

  • When have you seen the Lord inspire and magnify someone to do His work despite that person’s weaknesses and imperfections? (Consider sharing an example of your own. If necessary, caution students not to criticize others or share anything too personal or private.)

Explain to students that in this course they will study the history of the Latter-day Saints from the time of Joseph Smith’s boyhood to the dedication of the Nauvoo Temple in 1846. They will learn how ordinary and imperfect people accomplished God’s work as they received His grace and sought to do His will.

Display a copy of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846. Explain that all student readings will come from this resource. You may want to show students how to access this volume on and in the Gospel Library app.

To provide a brief overview of the contents of Saints: Volume 1, display the “General Timeline of Church History Events: 1805–1846,” or provide it as a handout to each student. Point out some of the significant events on the timeline that students will learn about as they study this volume.

Encourage students to read all of Saints: Volume 1 and to look for how the Lord worked through ordinary and imperfect men and women who put their faith in Him and strived to obey His will.

Invite students to prepare for the next class by reading chapters 1–2 of Saints: Volume 1.

Handout: Renaissance and the Reformation