“Lesson 1: The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (2018), 31–46
“Lesson 1,” Preach My Gospel, 31–46
The Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
God Is Our Loving Heavenly Father
God is our Heavenly Father. We are His children. He has a body of flesh and bone that is glorified and perfected. He loves us. He understands and feels our sorrows and rejoices in our progress. He wants to communicate with us, and we can communicate with Him through sincere prayer.
He has given us this experience on the earth so we can learn and grow. We can show our love for Him through our choices and our obedience to His commandments.
Heavenly Father has provided us, His children, with a way to be successful in this life and to return to live in His presence. However, we must be pure and clean through obedience in order to do so. Disobedience moves us away from Him. Central to our Father’s plan is Jesus Christ’s Atonement. Jesus Christ’s Atonement included His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane as well as His suffering and death on the cross. Through Christ’s Atonement we can be freed from the burden of our sins and develop faith and strength to face our trials.
The Gospel Blesses Individuals and Families
The restored gospel of Jesus Christ blesses individuals and families. It helps husbands and wives, parents and children as they strive to develop stronger relationships and spiritual strength in their families. These blessings are available now and in eternity. The gospel of Jesus Christ provides help with current concerns and challenges.
The message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that all individuals are part of God’s family and that families can be united now and in eternity. Because families are ordained of God, they are the most important social unit in time and in eternity. God has established families to bring happiness to His children, allow them to learn correct principles in a loving atmosphere, and prepare them for eternal life. The home is the best place to teach, learn, and apply principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. A home established on gospel principles will be a place of refuge and safety. It will be a place where the Spirit of the Lord can abide, blessing family members with peace, joy, and happiness. Through prophets in every age, including our own, God has revealed His plan of happiness for individuals and families.
Heavenly Father Reveals His Gospel in Every Dispensation
One important way that God shows His love for us is by calling prophets, who are given the priesthood—the power and authority given to man to act in God’s name for the salvation of His children. Prophets learn the gospel of Jesus Christ by revelation. They in turn teach the gospel to others and testify of Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer. The teachings of prophets are found in sacred books called scriptures.
Our Father’s plan for us to be successful in this life and to return to live with Him is called the gospel of Jesus Christ, with Jesus’s Atonement at the center of that plan. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can receive eternal life if we exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, are baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. “This is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ” (2 Nephi 31:21). All people have the gift of agency, which includes the freedom to accept or reject the gospel as taught by the prophets and apostles. Those who choose to obey are blessed, but those who ignore, reject, or distort the gospel do not receive God’s promised blessings.
Whenever people choose to disregard, disobey, or distort any gospel principle or ordinance, whenever they reject the Lord’s prophets, or whenever they fail to endure in faith, they distance themselves from God and begin to live in spiritual darkness. Eventually this leads to a condition called apostasy. When widespread apostasy occurs, God withdraws His priesthood authority to teach and administer the ordinances of the gospel.
Biblical history has recorded many instances of God speaking to prophets, and it also tells of many instances of apostasy. To end each period of general apostasy, God has shown His love for His children by calling another prophet and giving him priesthood authority to restore and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ anew. In essence, the prophet acts as a steward to oversee the household of God here on earth. Such periods of time headed by prophetic responsibility are called dispensations.
God revealed the gospel of Jesus Christ to Adam and gave him priesthood authority. Adam was the first prophet on the earth. By revelation, Adam learned of mankind’s proper relationship with God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost; of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ; and of the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Adam and Eve taught their children these truths and encouraged them to develop faith and to live the gospel in all aspects of their lives. Adam was followed by other prophets, but over time the posterity of Adam rejected the gospel and fell into apostasy, choosing to be unrighteous.
Thus began the pattern of prophetic dispensations that makes up much of the recorded history of the Old Testament. Heavenly Father revealed His gospel through direct communication to prophets such as Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Each prophet was called by God to begin a new dispensation of the gospel. To each of these prophets God granted priesthood authority and revealed eternal truths. Unfortunately, in each dispensation people eventually used their agency to choose to reject the gospel and then fell into apostasy.
The Savior’s Earthly Ministry and Atonement
A few hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ, people again fell into apostasy. But when the Savior began His mortal ministry He established His Church again on the earth.
Heavenly Father sent His Son to the earth to atone for the sins of all mankind and overcome death: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son … that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16–17). Our Heavenly Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to take upon Him, by His suffering, the sins of all who would live on this earth and to overcome physical death. The Savior made an infinite atoning sacrifice so that if we have faith in Him, repent, are baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end, we can receive forgiveness of our sins and enter and follow the path that will lead us to eternal life in God’s presence (see 2 Nephi 31:13–21).
During His earthly ministry, the Savior taught His gospel and performed many miracles. He called twelve men to be His Apostles and laid His hands on their heads to give them priesthood authority. He organized His Church, fulfilled prophecy, and was rejected and crucified. Most important, He completed the Atonement. The Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, completed all that His Heavenly Father sent Him to do.
Before the Savior’s death and Resurrection, He gave His Apostles authority to teach His gospel, perform the ordinances of salvation, and establish His Church in the world.
The Great Apostasy
After the death of Jesus Christ, wicked people persecuted the Apostles and Church members and killed many of them. With the death of the Apostles, priesthood keys and the presiding priesthood authority were taken from the earth. The Apostles had kept the doctrine of the gospel pure and maintained the order and standard of worthiness for Church members. Without the Apostles, over time the doctrine was corrupted, and unauthorized changes were made in Church organization and priesthood ordinances, such as baptism and conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Without revelation and priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. False ideas were taught as truth. Much of the knowledge of the true character and nature of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was lost. Important parts of the doctrine of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost became distorted or forgotten. The priesthood authority given to Christ’s Apostles was no longer present on the earth. This apostasy eventually led to the emergence of many churches.
After centuries of spiritual darkness, truth-seeking men and women protested against current religious practices. They recognized that much of the doctrine and many of the ordinances of the gospel had been changed or lost. They sought for greater spiritual light, and many spoke of the need for a restoration of truth. None of these people claimed, however, that God had called them to be a prophet. Instead, they tried to reform teachings and practices that they believed had been changed or corrupted. Their efforts led to the organization of many Protestant churches. This Reformation resulted in an increased emphasis on religious freedom, which opened the way for the final Restoration.
The Savior’s Apostles foretold this universal apostasy. They also foretold that the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church would be restored once more upon the earth.
The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith
When the circumstances were right, Heavenly Father once again reached out to His children in love. He called a young man named Joseph Smith as a prophet. Through him the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth.
Joseph Smith lived in the United States, which was perhaps the only country to enjoy religious freedom at the time. It was at a time of great religious excitement in the eastern United States. His family members were deeply religious and constantly sought for truth. But many ministers claimed to have the true gospel. Joseph desired “to know which of all the sects was right” (Joseph Smith—History 1:18). The Bible taught there was “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). Joseph attended different churches, but he remained confused about which church he should join. He later wrote:
“So great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was … to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. … 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 be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (Joseph Smith—History 1:8, 10).
As Joseph sought truth among the different faiths, he turned to the Bible for guidance. 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” (James 1:5). Because of this passage, Joseph decided to ask God what he should do. In the spring of 1820 he went to a nearby grove of trees and knelt in prayer. We have four different accounts of what followed, recorded by him or scribes under his direction (see Gospel Topics essay, “First Vision Accounts”). In one account, he described his experience:
“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!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17).
In this vision God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith. The Savior told Joseph not to join any of the churches, for they “were all wrong” and “all their creeds were an abomination.” He stated, “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). Even though many good people believed in Christ and tried to understand and teach His gospel, they did not have the fulness of truth or the priesthood authority to baptize and perform other saving ordinances. They had inherited a state of apostasy as each generation was influenced by what the previous one passed on, including changes in the doctrine and in ordinances such as baptism. As God had done with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and other prophets, He called Joseph Smith to be a prophet through whom the fulness of the gospel was restored to the earth.
After the appearance of the Father and the Son, other heavenly messengers, or angels, were sent to Joseph Smith and his associate Oliver Cowdery. John the Baptist appeared and conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery the Aaronic Priesthood, which includes the authority to perform the ordinance of baptism. Peter, James, and John (three of Christ’s original Apostles) appeared and conferred the Melchizedek Priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, restoring the same authority given to Christ’s Apostles anciently. With this priesthood authority, Joseph Smith was directed to organize the Church of Jesus Christ again on the earth. Through him, Jesus Christ called twelve Apostles.
The time in which we live is referred to by Bible prophets as the last days, the latter days, or the dispensation of the fulness of times. It is the period of time just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is the final dispensation. This is why the Church is named The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A living prophet directs the Church today. This prophet, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the authorized successor to Joseph Smith. He and the present Apostles trace their authority to Jesus Christ in an unbroken chain of ordinations through Joseph Smith.
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
Knowing that doubt, disbelief, and misinformation would remain after centuries of darkness, our loving Heavenly Father brought forth an ancient volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible, which contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. This volume of holy scripture provides convincing evidence that Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God. This record is the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.
Joseph Smith was directed by a heavenly messenger named Moroni to a hill where golden plates had lain hidden for centuries. These golden plates contained the writings of prophets giving an account of God’s dealings with some of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. Joseph Smith translated the contents of these plates by the power of God. The prophets in the Book of Mormon knew about the mission of the Savior and taught His gospel. After His Resurrection, Christ appeared to these people. He taught them His gospel and established His Church. The Book of Mormon proves that “God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:11). In order to know that the Book of Mormon is true, a person must read it and ponder and pray about it. The honest seeker of truth will soon come to feel that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.
Reading, pondering, and praying about the Book of Mormon are critical for an enduring conversion. Those who begin reading the Book of Mormon for the first time take important steps toward coming to know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that the true Church has been restored to the earth.
Pray to Know the Truth through the Holy Ghost
This message of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ is either true or it is not. We can know that it is true by the power of the Holy Ghost, as promised in Moroni 10:3–5. Consistent study of the scriptures (particularly the Book of Mormon), regular church attendance, and sincere prayer help us feel the power of the Holy Ghost and discover truth. After reading and pondering the message of the Book of Mormon, any who desire to know the truth must ask our Heavenly Father in prayer in the name of Jesus Christ if it is true.
Because God is our Father and we are His children, He will help us recognize truth. When we pray with faith, sincerity, and real intent—a commitment to act on the answers we receive—God will answer our questions, guide our lives, and help us make good decisions.
When we pray, we address our Heavenly Father. We thank Him for our blessings and ask to know that the message of the Book of Mormon is true. No one can know of spiritual truths without prayer.
In answer to our prayers, the Holy Ghost will teach us truth through our feelings and thoughts. Feelings that come from the Holy Ghost are powerful, but they are also usually gentle and quiet. As we begin to feel that what we are learning is true, we will desire to know all that we can about the Restoration.
Knowing that the Book of Mormon is true leads to a knowledge that Joseph Smith was called as a prophet and that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through him.
Ideas for Teaching
This section has ideas for you to use in preparing for and teaching the information in this lesson. Pray for the Spirit’s guidance as you decide how to use these ideas. Add the ideas you select to your lesson plan. Keep in mind that these ideas are suggestions—not requirements—to help you meet the needs of those you teach.
Questions to Ask after You Teach
What questions do you have about what we have taught?
If there were a prophet on the earth today, what would you ask him?
Do you feel like God hears your prayers? Why?
Would you like to find out that the Book of Mormon is true? Why?
Agency: The ability and privilege God gives people to choose and to act for themselves.
Apostasy: A turning away from the truth by individuals, the Church, or entire nations. It includes rebellion against authority and rejection of prophets. Evidence of apostasy includes transgressing God’s laws, changing gospel ordinances, and breaking covenants (see Isaiah 24:5).
Dispensation: A period of time in which the Lord has at least one authorized servant on the earth who bears the keys of the holy priesthood. In addition to Jesus Christ, prophets such as Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Joseph Smith have each started a new gospel dispensation. When the Lord organizes a dispensation, the gospel is revealed anew so that the people of that dispensation do not have to depend on past dispensations for knowledge of the plan of salvation. The dispensation begun by Joseph Smith is known as the “dispensation of the fulness of times.”
Priesthood: The authority and power that God gives to man to act in the name of Jesus Christ in all things for the salvation of mankind.
Prophet: A man who has been called by and speaks for God. As a messenger of God, a prophet receives priesthood authority, commandments, prophecies, and revelations from God. His responsibility is to make known God’s will and true character to mankind and to show the meaning of His dealings with them. A prophet denounces sin and foretells its consequences. He is a preacher of righteousness. On occasion, a prophet may be inspired to foretell the future for the benefit of mankind. His primary responsibility, however, is to bear witness of Christ.
Redeemer: Jesus Christ is the great Redeemer of mankind because He, through His Atonement, paid the price for the sins of mankind and made possible the Resurrection of all people. To redeem is to deliver, to purchase, or to ransom, such as to free a person from bondage by payment. Redemption refers to the Atonement of Jesus Christ and to deliverance from sin. Jesus’s Atonement redeems all mankind from physical death. Through His Atonement, which includes His suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross as well as His Resurrection, those who have faith in Him and who repent are redeemed from spiritual death.
Reformer: To reform is to make changes to something in order to improve it. The term reformers refers to those men and women (such as Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and John Wycliffe) who protested the practices of the existing church, which they felt needed to be reformed.
Restoration: To restore means to return to a former condition, or to bring back. The Restoration, as used by Latter-day Saints, means that the true Church of Jesus Christ, which was lost through apostasy, was brought back as it originally existed when organized by Jesus Christ. Unlike the Reformation, the Restoration was accomplished by divine authority through revelation.
Revelation: Communication from God to His children on earth. Revelation may come through the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost by way of inspiration, visions, dreams, or visits by angels. Revelation provides guidance that can lead the faithful to eternal salvation in the celestial kingdom. The Lord reveals His work to His prophets and confirms to believers that the revelations to the prophets are true (see Amos 3:7). Through revelation, the Lord provides individual guidance for every person who seeks it and who has faith, repents, and is obedient to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Other Terms That May Need to Be Explained to Those You Teach
Atonement of Jesus Christ
Endure to the end
Gift of the Holy Ghost
Obedience and disobedience to commandments
Ordinances of salvation
Return to live in His presence