Some Features That Identify the Church of Jesus Christ
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been led by sixteen Presidents, eleven of whom were “born into the Church.” Of the five Presidents who were “converts,” the first four were only separated by seven years in age, Brigham Young being the oldest. Only six years younger than John Taylor, Lorenzo Snow was the last President to join the Church as a convert. With the exception of Joseph Smith, baptized in 1829, the other four were all baptized within four years of each other, between 1832 (Brigham Young being the first) and 1836 (John Taylor and Lorenzo Snow, baptized a month apart).
An idea came to me that it might be fun to view this lesson through their eyes as investigators of Christ’s true Church. And it was - - for me. Hopefully it will be for you too. Because it was so fun, be forewarned that there is way too much material herein to use in one lesson.
A terrific resource for this lesson was Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual. It is available online at “institute.lds.org” then click (upper-left corner) on “Institute Courses & Manuals.” If you prefer, it can also be purchased at Distribution Center for $8.25. It is well worth every penny, especially online. As usual, the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church… were also helpful.
In this first section, Articles of Faith # 6 is quoted. It may be important to have class members pay attention to the footnotes, especially for pastors (c - - Bishop) and evangelists (e - - Patriarchs). These offices will also be discussed in the section, “The Church Organization” (p. 89).
A quote from this section reads:
Jesus taught His followers that revelation was the “rock” upon which He would build His Church (see Matthew 16:16-18). (p. 87).
It may be important to note that the Catholic Church reads these verses differently than we, with restoration knowledge, understand them. In the Bible Dictionary when we look under “Peter” we find first a one-word sentence, “Rock.” This is because the Greek word for Peter is “Petros” (meaning “rock”) and the word for rock in Greek is “petra.” Both words are similar in meaning. From the Bible Dictionary we read:
His Aramaic name, Cephas, of which Peter is the Greek equivalent, was given him by the Lord (John 1:40-42).
In John 1:42 Jesus states:
Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
So Jesus gave His disciple Peter a name which signifies “stone” or “rock.”
Again from the Bible Dictionary we read:
The words then addressed to him [Peter], “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church,” have been made the foundation of the papal claims. But it is the Godhead of Christ, which Peter had just confessed, that is the true keystone of the Church.
So the Catholic stance is that Jesus saw Peter as the “rock.” Peter was the Lord’s Prophet and “chief apostle” (see Bible Dictionary, “Peter”) in the Church Jesus Christ established in New Testament times, and certainly was an important part of the foundation referred to by Paul (Ephesians 2:20 - - see p. 89, “The Church Organization”). However, modern scriptures clearly explain that this “rock” was not Peter.
Concerning the gold plates, Nephi stated:
And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation. (1 Nephi 13:36)
To the early Church, Jesus Christ counseled:
Wait a little longer, until you shall have my word, my rock, my church, and my gospel… (D&C 11:16)
To Hyrum Smith, the Lord said:
Build upon my rock, which is my gospel; (D&C 11:24)
To Oliver Cowdery, the Lord stated something very similar to what He told Peter:
Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you. (D&C 18:5)
In another place, Jesus Christ declared:
Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall. (D&C 50:44)
From the above scriptures it is clear, as the manual states, that revelation (or the gospel of Jesus Christ as He reveals it to His Church thru revelation) is the rock which will never fail.
As Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, Himself proclaimed to Enoch:
…I am Messiah, the King of Zion, the Rock of Heaven… (Moses 7:53)
In 1838 Joseph Smith answered a series of questions which had been asked of him for a newspaper article, three of which concerned revelation and the Bible:
Second -- "Wherein do you differ from other sects?"
In that we believe the Bible, and all other sects profess to believe their interpretations of the Bible, and their creeds.
Eighteenth -- "Is there anything in the Bible which licenses you to believe in revelation now-a-days?"
Is there anything that does not authorize us to believe so? If there is, we have, as yet, not been able to find it. (History of the Church, 3:28)
Nineteenth -- "Is not the canon of the Scriptures full?"
If it is, there is a great defect in the book, or else it would have said so.
The following from the life of Brigham Young illustrates the role of revelation in his conversion:
Because of the missionary efforts of Joseph Smith’s brother Samuel, Brigham Young’s family obtained two copies of the Book of Mormon in April 1830, just one month after the book was published. Some of Brigham’s brothers and sisters read it and declared its truth, but Brigham himself did not immediately accept it. “‘Hold on,’ says I. … ‘Wait a little while; what is the doctrine of the book, and of the revelations the Lord has given? Let me apply my heart to them.’ … I examined the matter studiously, for two years, before I made up my mind to receive that book. I knew it was true, as well as I knew that I could see with my eyes, or feel by the touch of my fingers, or be sensible of the demonstration of any sense. Had not this been the case, I never would have embraced it to this day.”
Brigham Young had to know for himself. He later taught the Saints that God did not intend them “to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve. It is my duty to know the mind of the Lord concerning myself,” he told them. “It is your privilege and duty to live so that you know when the word of the Lord is spoken to you and when the mind of the Lord is revealed to you.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 2-3)
An inspired missionary was also instrumental in Brigham Young’s conversion:
In 1852, President Brigham Young shared the following about his conversion: “If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like the smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking who could only say, ‘I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,’ the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true.” (Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, 25)
This story should give those of us who feel inadequate in our understanding of doctrines hope that the Holy Ghost is the most important help in our missionary work. This experience of Brigham Young is also wonderfully dramatized in an old VCR tape available in some ward libraries entitled Teachings from the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History (# 3 “A Man without Eloquence”).
John Taylor experienced revelation on his journey to conversion:
In 1830 John Taylor’s parents and other family members emigrated to Toronto, Canada, leaving him behind in England to sell the family farm and settle other family business. When finished, he left England on a ship bound for New York City. During the voyage, the ship encountered a severe storm that had already damaged several ships in the area. The captain and officers of the ship expected that they would sink, but the voice of the Spirit testified to John Taylor, “You must yet go to America and preach the gospel.” President Taylor recalled: “So confident was I of my destiny, that I went on deck at midnight, and amidst the raging elements felt as calm as though I was sitting in a parlor at home. I believed I should reach America and perform my work.” He arrived safely in New York, and after a few months rejoined his parents in Toronto, where he continued in the Methodist faith and began preaching. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, xiii)
Wilford Woodruff received revelation in his search for truth:
Wilford Woodruff hungered after righteousness in his youth. He was an avid student of the Bible and desired to know and do the will of the Lord. He wrote: “In my zeal to promote good, I got up prayer meetings in our village and prayed for light and knowledge. It was my desire to receive the ordinances of the gospel, as I could plainly see by reading the Bible that baptism by immersion was a sacred ordinance. In my eagerness, yet being ignorant of the holy priesthood and of the true authority to officiate in the ordinances of eternal life, I requested the Baptist minister to baptize me. At first he refused because I told him I would not join his church as it did not harmonize with the apostolic church which our Savior established. Finally after several conversations, he baptized me on the 5th of May, 1831. He also baptized my brother Asahel. This was the first and only gospel ordinance I sought for until I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
“On one occasion, after praying most earnestly to know about the people of the Lord, if any such there were on earth, he [Wilford Woodruff] says: ‘The Spirit of the Lord said unto me: “Go to my Word and I will there show thee my will and answer thy prayer.” I opened the Bible promiscuously, praying the Lord to direct me to that portion of his Word which would answer my prayer. I opened to the 56th Chapter of Isaiah. I was satisfied it was in response to my prayer. I felt that the salvation of God was about to be revealed and His righteousness come forth. I was also satisfied that I should live to see the people of God gathered. From this time on until the gospel found me I was contented and felt that I should trouble myself no more about the churches and the ministers.’” (Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, 60)
Authority from God
In the conversion of Wilford Woodruff the concept of authority from God played an important role:
“My soul was drawn out upon these things,” he said. “In my early manhood I prayed day and night that I might live to see a prophet. I would have gone a thousand miles to have seen a prophet, or a man that could teach me the things that I read of in the Bible. I could not join any church, because I could not find any church at that time that advocated these principles. I spent many a midnight hour, by the river side, in the mountains, and in my mill … calling upon God that I might live to see a prophet or some man that would teach me of the things of the kingdom of God as I read them.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, xix-xx)
The Church Organization
A quote from this section states:
The Bible does not tell us everything about the priesthood or the organization and government of the Church. (p. 90)
Most Latter-day Saints respond to the above with, “Well, that means the Bible was translated incorrectly.” While that may be a factor here, there is at least one other possible explanation. The New Testament Church may have needed to be different than what we need today. Encyclopedia of Mormonism seems to imply this:
However, Latter-day Saints do not claim an exact, one-to-one correspondence between the primitive Church and the restored Church. Continuing revelation provides for continual adaptations of the basic ecclesiastical pattern. For instance, in the early New Testament Church the three leading apostles were part of the council of the twelve, while in the latter-day Church they generally are a separate quorum. In the early Church, elders appear to have been older members of a congregation, while in the LDS Church they are often, or usually, younger men. Deacons and teachers were adults in the primitive Church (1 Tim. 3:12) and in the early LDS Church. (p. 1051)
The following is a quote from this section:
The New Testament shows that this Church organization was intended to continue. (p. 90)
The call of Matthias to the apostleship is then discussed. If needed, more names can be added to the list of apostles who were called. From the Bible Dictionary:
The title [Apostle] was also applied to others who, though not of the number of the original twelve, yet were called to serve as special witnesses of the Lord. Paul repeatedly spoke of himself as an apostle (Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1). He applied the titles to James, the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19), and also to Barnabas (1 Cor. 9:5-6; cf. Acts 14:4, 14). The New Testament does not inform us whether these three brethren also served in the council of the Twelve as vacancies occurred therein, or whether they were apostles strictly in the sense of being special witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ. (p. 612)
The organization of the New Testament Church was important to Brigham Young:
Brigham and Miriam joined the Methodist Church the year they were married, but Brigham continued to wrestle with religious questions. He sought a church organized according to the pattern Jesus had established, after the pattern of the New Testament with a “system of ordinances” and all the gifts of the gospel. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 3)
New Testament church organization played a role in the conversion of Wilford Woodruff:
When Wilford Woodruff was a child, he and his family befriended Robert Mason, a man who was known for his distinctive religious beliefs. President Woodruff recalled:
“He believed that it was necessary to have prophets, apostles, dreams, visions and revelations in the church of Christ, the same as they had who lived in ancient days; and he believed the Lord would raise up a people and a church, in the last days, with prophets, apostles and all the gifts, powers, and blessings, which it ever contained in any age of the world. … He frequently came to my father’s house when I was a boy, and taught me and my brothers those principles; and I believed him. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 1)
Later in the journey of Wilford Woodruff in his studies:
“I could not find any denomination whose doctrines, faith or practice, agreed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or the ordinances and gifts which the Apostles taught. Although the ministers of the day taught that the faith, gifts, graces, miracles and ordinances, which the ancient Saints enjoyed, were done away and no longer needed, I did not believe it to be true, only as they were done away through the unbelief of the children of men. I believed the same gifts, graces, miracles and power would be manifest in one age of the world as in another, when God had a Church upon the earth, and that the Church of God would be re-established upon the earth, and that I should live to see it. These principles were riveted upon my mind from the perusal of the Old and New Testament, with fervent prayer that the Lord would show me what was right and wrong, and lead me in the path of salvation, without any regard to the opinions of man; and the whisperings of the Spirit of the Lord for the space of three years taught me that he was about to set up his Church and kingdom upon the earth in the last days.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, xix)
First Principles and Ordinances
During the conversion of Lorenzo Snow, principles and ordinances played an important role:
“Previous to accepting the ordinance of baptism, in my investigations of the principles taught by the Latter-day Saints, which I proved, by comparison, to be the same as those mentioned in the New Testament taught by Christ and His Apostles, I was thoroughly convinced that obedience to those principles would impart miraculous powers, manifestations and revelations. With sanguine expectation of this result, I received baptism and the ordinance of laying on of hands by one who professed to have divine authority…(Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, 78-79)
Ordinances Performed for the Dead
In this section of “Ordinances Performed for the Dead” the references for 1 Peter and D&C 138 are given. It may be helpful to read D&C 138:1-10 to show how President Joseph F. Smith pondered the concepts in 1 Peter as a prerequisite to receiving the wonderful revelation about work for the dead.
The following account about Wilford Woodruff fits here as well as under “Spiritual Gifts” (p. 91)
One who had significant influence on Wilford Woodruff even before Wilford heard about the Restoration was Robert Mason, a godly man who yearned for the full gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord had mercy upon him, and through a vision he was enlightened concerning that which would soon be accomplished on the earth. Wilford Woodruff wrote the following about the vision:
“Father Mason did not claim that he had any authority to officiate in the ordinances of the gospel, nor did he believe that such authority existed on the earth. He did believe, however, that it was the privilege of any man who had faith in God to fast and pray for the healing of the sick by the laying on of hands. He believed it his right and the right of every honest-hearted man or woman to receive light and knowledge, visions, and revelations by the prayer of faith. He told me that the day was near when the Lord would establish His Church and Kingdom upon the earth with all its ancient gifts and blessings. He said that such a work would commence upon the earth before he died, but that he would not live to partake of its blessings. He said that I should live to do so, and that I should become a conspicuous actor in that kingdom.
“The last time I ever saw him he related to me the following vision which he had in his field in open day: ‘I was carried away in a vision and found myself in the midst of a vast orchard of fruit trees. I became hungry and wandered through this vast orchard searching for fruit to eat, but I found none. While I stood in amazement finding no fruit in the midst of so many trees, they began to fall to the ground as if torn up by a whirlwind. They continued to fall until there was not a tree standing in the whole orchard. I immediately saw thereafter shoots springing up from the roots and forming themselves into young and beautiful trees. These budded, blossomed, and brought forth fruit which ripened and was the most beautiful to look upon of anything my eyes had ever beheld. I stretched forth my hand and plucked some of the fruit. I gazed upon it with delight; but when I was about to eat of it, the vision closed and I did not taste the fruit.’
“‘At the close of the vision I bowed down in humble prayer and asked the Lord to show me the meaning of the vision. Then the voice of the Lord came to me saying: “Son of man, thou hast sought me diligently to know the truth concerning my Church and Kingdom among men. This is to show you that my Church is not organized among men in the generation to which you belong; but in the days of your children the Church and Kingdom of God shall be made manifest with all the gifts and the blessings enjoyed by the Saints in past ages. You shall live to be made acquainted with it, but shall not partake of its blessings before you depart this life. You will be blest of the Lord after death because you have followed the dictation of my Spirit in this life.”’
“When Father Mason had finished relating the vision and its interpretation, he said, calling me by my Christian name: ‘Wilford, I shall never partake of this fruit in the flesh, but you will and you will become a conspicuous actor in the new kingdom.’ He then turned and left me. These were the last words he ever spoke to me upon the earth. To me this was a very striking circumstance. I had passed many days during a period of twenty years with this old Father Mason. He had never mentioned this vision to me before. On this occasion he said he felt impelled by the Spirit of the Lord to relate it to me.
“The vision was given to him about the year 1800. He related it to me in 1830, the spring in which the Church was organized. Three years later when I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, almost the first person I thought of was this prophet, Robert Mason. Upon my arrival in Missouri with Zion’s Camp, I wrote him a long letter in which I informed him that I had found the true gospel with all its blessings; that the authority of the Church of Christ had been restored to the earth as he had told me it would be; that I had received the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands; that I knew for myself that God had established through Joseph Smith, the Prophet, the Church of Christ upon the earth.
“He received my letter with great joy and had it read over to him many times. He handled it as he had handled the fruit in the vision. He was very aged and soon died without having the privilege of receiving the ordinances of the gospel at the hands of an elder of the Church.
“The first opportunity I had after the truth of baptism for the dead was revealed; I went forth and was baptized for him in the temple font at Nauvoo” (Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, 61)
It may be important to note that Chapter 22 will later be devoted to the subject of “The Gifts of the Spirit.”
Spiritual gifts were important in Brigham Young’s conversion:
As a young man, Brigham Young earnestly sought a religion in which all the gifts of the gospel were manifest as recorded in the New Testament. Before his baptism he received a powerful testimony of the Church when the Holy Ghost illuminated his understanding. During his first meeting with Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Brigham Young was blessed with the gift of tongues. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 251)
The Church of Jesus Christ in the Americas
It may be productive to note that in 1987 President Ezra Taft Benson, as President of the Church, opened April Conference with a talk entitled “The Savior’s Visit to America” and proclaimed:
The record of the Nephite history just prior to the Savior’s visit reveals many parallels to our own day as we anticipate the Savior’s second coming. (Ensign, May 1987, 4)
A brief discussion on some of the patterns between the appearance of Jesus Christ to the Americas and His return in the Second Coming may be interesting.
Apostasy from the True Church
The following quote from Brigham Young is very instructive concerning the Apostasy discussed in this section:
In the early days of the Christian Church we understand that there was a good deal of speculation among its members with regard to their belief and practice, and the propagation of these speculative ideas created divisions and schisms. Even in the days of the Apostles there was evidently considerable division, for we read that some were for Paul, some for Apollos, and others for Cephas [see 1 Corinthians 1:10-13]. The people in those days had their favorites, who taught them peculiar doctrines not generally received and promulgated.
Why have they wandered so far from the path of truth and rectitude? Because they left the Priesthood and have had no guide, no leader, no means of finding out what is true and what is not true. It is said the Priesthood was taken from the Church, but it is not so, the Church went from the Priesthood and continued to travel in the wilderness, turned from the commandments of the Lord, and instituted other ordinances [see Galatians 1:6-8; 2 Timothy 1:15; 3 John 1:9-10].
But that was the time they commenced little by little to transgress the laws, change the ordinances, and break the everlasting covenant, and the Gospel of the kingdom that Jesus undertook to establish in his day and the Priesthood were taken from the earth. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 95-6)
Brigham Young recognized apostasy as a young man:
I recollect when I was young going to hear Lorenzo Dow preach. He was esteemed a very great man by the religious folks. I, although young in years and lacking experience, had thought a great many times that I would like to hear some man who could tell me something, when he opened the Bible, about the Son of God, the will of God, what the ancients did and received, saw and heard and knew pertaining to God and heaven. So I went to hear Lorenzo Dow. He stood up some of the time, and he sat down some of the time; he was in this position and in that position, and talked two or three hours, and when he got through I asked myself, ‘What have you learned from Lorenzo Dow?’ and my answer was, ‘Nothing, nothing but morals.’ He could tell the people they should not work on the Sabbath day; they should not lie, swear, steal, commit adultery, &c., but when he came to teaching the things of God he was as dark as midnight. . . . I would as lief go into a swamp at midnight to learn how to paint a picture and then define its colors when there is neither moon nor stars visible and profound darkness prevails, as to go to the religious world to learn about God, heaven, hell or the faith of a Christian. But they can explain our duty as rational, moral beings, and that is good, excellent as far as it goes. (Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, 25)
Brigham Young took apostasy into account in his search for truth:
“Before I embraced the Gospel, I understood pretty well what the different sects preached, but I was called an infidel because I could not embrace their dogmas. . . . There were some things they preached I could believe, and some I could not. . . . As far as their teachings were in accordance with the Bible, I could believe them, and no further.” (Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, 24)
John Taylor understood apostasy early in his search for truth:
John Taylor and a few close friends discovered from their studies that their faith differed significantly from the New Testament church and teachings of Jesus Christ. Of this experience he later said: “Not being then acquainted with this Church [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints], a number of us met together for the purpose of searching the Scriptures; and we found that certain doctrines were taught by Jesus and the Apostles, which neither the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, nor any of the religious sects taught; and we concluded that if the Bible was true, the doctrines of modern Christendom were not true; or if they were true, the Bible was false. Our investigations were impartially made, and our search for truth was extended. We examined every religious principle that came under our notice, and probed the various systems as taught by the sects, to ascertain if there were any that were in accordance with the word of God. But we failed to find any. In addition to our researches and investigations, we prayed and fasted before God; and the substance of our prayers was, that if he had a people upon the earth anywhere, and ministers who were authorized to preach the Gospel, that he would send us one. This was the condition we were in. (Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, 42)
John Taylor also utilized his knowledge of apostasy from Bible teachings as he approached baptism:
John Taylor said: “About this time [May 1836] Parley P. Pratt called on me with a letter of introduction from a merchant of my acquaintance. I had peculiar feelings on seeing him. I had heard a great many stories of a similar kind to those that you have heard, and I must say that I thought my friend had imposed upon me a little in sending a man of this persuasion to me. I, however, received him courteously as I was bound to. I told him, however, plainly, my feelings, and that in our researches I wanted no fables; I wished him to confine himself to the scriptures. We talked for three hours or upwards, and he bound me as close to the scriptures as I desired, proving everything he said therefrom. I afterwards wrote down eight sermons that he preached, in order that I might compare them with the word of God. I found nothing contrary. I then examined the Book of Mormon, and the prophecies concerning that; that was also correct. I then read the book of ‘Doctrine and Covenants;’ found nothing unscriptural there. He called upon us to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, and, we should receive the Holy Ghost. But what is that? we inquired; the same, he answered, as it was in the Apostles’ days, or nothing. A number of others and myself were baptized [on 9 May 1836]” (Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, 42)
John Taylor had an interesting time dealing with apostasy in the life of the missionary who taught him the gospel:
He visited in Kirtland during the dark days of apostasy there and defended the Prophet Joseph Smith with his testimony before gatherings of apostates who threatened death to anyone who spoke for the Prophet. He also met with members of the Church whose faith was failing and who had begun to be critical of the Prophet. Among their number was Elder Parley P. Pratt, who made it a point to express his complaints and criticisms. To this Apostle and missionary whose teachings and testimony had, only a short time before, brought him into the Church, John Taylor replied: “I am surprised to hear you speak so, Brother Parley. Before you left Canada you bore a strong testimony to Joseph Smith being a Prophet of God, and to the truth of the work he has inaugurated; and you said you knew these things by revelation, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. You gave to me a strict charge to the effect that though you or an angel from heaven was to declare anything else I was not to believe it. Now Brother Parley, it is not man that I am following, but the Lord. The principles you taught me led me to Him, and I now have the same testimony that you then rejoiced in. If the work was true six months ago, it is true today; if Joseph Smith was then a prophet, he is now a prophet.”
Elder Pratt “sought no further to lead Elder Taylor astray; nor did he use much argument in the first place. ‘He with many others,’ says Elder Taylor, ‘were passing under a dark cloud; he soon made all right with the Prophet Joseph, and was restored to full fellowship.” (Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, 43)
Wilford Woodruff received revelation about apostasy in his quest for the truth about religion:
Wilford Woodruff was in his youth when he first desired to serve the Lord and learn of Him. He said, “At an early age my mind was exercised upon religious subjects.” However, he chose not to join any church. Instead he was determined to find the one true Church of Jesus Christ. Inspired by the teachings of his parents and other friends and by the whisperings of the Spirit, he became convinced “that the Church of Christ was in the wilderness—that there had been a falling away from pure and undefiled religion before God and that a great change was at hand.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, xix)
Lorenzo Snow also recognized apostasy in the religions of his day:
Lorenzo Snow studied a year at Oberlin College. Although by nature he had a tender regard for people, he had never been particularly attracted to institutionalized religion. He wrote to his sister Eliza near the end of his term, “If there is nothing better than is to be found here in Oberlin College, good bye to all religions.”
His mother and a sister were the first members of Lorenzo Snow’s family to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Later, his sister Eliza joined. Lorenzo had deep respect for Eliza’s opinions and judgment, and he wrote to her at Kirtland, Ohio, and asked many questions about the newly revealed religion. She responded to his questions and requested that he come to Kirtland and study with Professor Seixas, who had been engaged to teach Hebrew by the leaders of the Church. In the spring of 1836, Lorenzo left Oberlin and moved to Kirtland. (Presidents of the Church Institute Student Manual, 77-78)
A Restoration Foretold
Elder David A. Bednar gave a wonderful illustration of how, as Joseph Smith utilized faith to anticipate the Restoration, we can apply this same principle in our lives:
The classic example of asking in faith is Joseph Smith and the First Vision. As young Joseph was seeking to know the truth about religion, he read the following verses in the first chapter of James:
“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.
“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:5-6).
Please notice the requirement to ask in faith, which I understand to mean the necessity to not only express but to do, the dual obligation to both plead and to perform, the requirement to communicate and to act.
Pondering this biblical text led Joseph to retire to a grove of trees near his home to pray and to seek spiritual knowledge. Note the questions that guided Joseph’s thinking and supplicating.
“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? …
“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join” (Joseph Smith—History 1:10).
Joseph’s questions focused not just on what he needed to know but also on what was to be done! His prayer was not simply, “Which church is right?” His question was, “Which church should I join?” Joseph went to the grove to ask in faith, and he was determined to act.
True faith is focused in and on the Lord Jesus Christ and always leads to righteous action. (Ensign, May 2008, 94)