Saturday, January 30, 2021

Book Review: Moroni - a brief theological introduction, by David F. Holland

 Book Review: Moroni - a brief theological introduction, by David F. Holland

published by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute



 Moroni: a brief theological introduction


The Maxwell Institute at BYU has been busy providing theological introductions to the books in the Book of Mormon. Below are links to my previous reviews on the other books available.

 Holland divides his book into 7 chapters and a conclusion. The chapter titles are:

  1. Resolute and Unsure
  2. The Gifts of Sacred Community in a Time of Chaos
  3. A Sacrament of Multiple Gifts
  4. To Gather Among and to Rely Alone
  5. The Sermon, Part One
  6. The Sermon: Part Two
  7. The Letters
  8. Conclusion

The Book of Moroni is the last of the books in the Book of Mormon. It is comprised of ten, seemingly different chapters that seem to be a hodgepodge of ordinances and letters tacked onto the end of the gold plates, almost as an after thought.

Holland suggests that the collection of chapters and topics that Moroni brings to the table are a well thought out series of important themes and issues, that link them and their specific sequence together.

First, Holland notes that Moroni is offering us a grab bag full of gifts from God. In fact, the words "gift," "give," or similar terms are found about 30 times in Moroni's ten chapters. Among the gifts that Holland discusses are: priesthood, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Sacrament, faith, hope, charity, meekness, miracles, and gifts of the Spirit. Moroni wishes us to recognize the great gifts that God is ready to impart to us. As Holland notes, "the giver leads us toward the Giver."

Holland notes that Moroni lives in a time of great uncertainty. His nation is destroyed. The Lamanites are in constant battle around him, decades after the demise of the Nephites. They kill Christians, and since Moroni will not deny the Christ, he is forced to wander continually. Twice before, he thought he would finish the Nephite record and bury them, but third time is the charm. 

Holland writes, "Severely isolated, with only the records of previous generations as his companions, Moroni knows more about the past than about what is happening in his present moment." Instead of chronicling his own life experiences, he shares important teachings from past prophets in the Nephite record. 

He recognizes the weakness he has in writing. Several times in the Jaredite record and in completing his father's history, he noted the weakness they had in writing. Holland describes it as a constant "handwringing" that Moroni shares. He worries about the imperfections in the record. He worries that the future Gentile readers will mock at the sacred text. "Everywhere Moroni appears, this issue comes up."

Holland expresses that in Moroni's first words, we learn two very important and inextricable truths, "The first two theological declarations of the book of Moroni intertwine in its opening verses: Jesus is the Christ, and uncertainty is an unavoidable part of our existence in this mortal world."

Interestingly, Holland notes that the following chapters on priesthood, baptism, etc., are issues for an organized church. "These things come from a man who is well aware that he will not live to see a church community capable of implementing these practices."

As Moroni looked four hundred years into the past to share the Church organization and ordinances that the resurrected Christ taught the Nephites, now he is looking centuries into the future, when the Lamanites and Gentiles will perhaps be ready to organize Christ's church again.

In discussing the importance of the church doctrine, organization and ordinances, Holland jumps ahead momentarily to chapter 8 (child baptism) and chapter 9 (the evil desecrations of the Nephites and Lamanites). He suggests that Moroni is using these letters from his father Mormon, as "guardrails" for organizing the church. Chapter 8 warns us about being so formally and logically strict in keeping/making commandments that we do away with the grace and love of God. Chapter 9 warns us about allowing things to go completely in the opposite direction: chaotic emotion and de-evolution going from children of Christ to children of demons.

It is an interesting suggestion, which definitely helps me personally to tie Moroni's writings together. Instead of thinking he randomly grabbed a couple of his father's letters, Moroni carefully selected two letters that would help guide the future church of Christ, warning them to avoid excesses in either direction (rigid logic and chaotic emotion).  Holland calls these ends of two poles, "dead works" and "disorder." The challenge is to manage to be centered in the middle of these two poles, rather than on the extremes.

Holland returns to discussing the priesthood, and the ordinances. He breaks down and analyzes each piece of the ordinance, and explains how they relate to today's Church. He notes the careful balance the modern Church seeks to maintain between the power and guidance from the official hierarchy and the gift of personal revelation and gifts of God. In fact, he finds that the restored gospel has the "audacity" to make such an effort of balancing between the two. 

In partaking of the Sacrament and other gifts, Holland shares a keen insight from Saba Mahmood's study on Muslim rites, that the people had to constantly remind themselves,

"...that an act of [ritual] performed for its own sake, without regard for how it contributes to the realization of piety is 'lost power.'"

The Sacrament, according to Holland, provides us with two important gifts that can transform us, as long as we do not drift into "thoughtlessness": "the gift of repetitive discipline and the gift of supernatural grace." He notes that the bread and water are sanctified, touched and made holy by the hand of God through his priesthood bearers:

"Before, they were unblessed and unsanctified; by the time they enter my mouth, they have been touched by the sanctifying power of the living God. This is not just a reverence that humans give them; this is a quality God imparts."

In one of his deeper theological discussions, Holland shares the tension between agency and God's foreknowledge. He briefly explores the background behind Calvin's predestination versus free agency. This discussion is brought about by Mormon's teaching that a good fountain cannot bring forth evil water, nor vice versa. This brings about a discussion on whether mankind are born completely evil (as Calvinism suggests) or as the children of God. How can we be both good and evil, a gray area, where Mormon only sees black and white? If we are sinful, can we change ourselves? Or can only God bring about change within us? Holland's discussion and his suggested answer are interesting to consider, as he discusses the miracles of change and agency.

In Moroni 7, we find certain common issues for Latter-day Saints and other Christians: understanding the differences between grace and works, and faith and hope, and understanding how each pair work together.. Mormon ties them inextricably together. Holland explains how they relate and how they relate to each of us.

On discussing faith and hope, Holland explains that

"...if faith is the belief that God is good, hope is the belief that he will be good to me."

This is a very interesting definition, given our modern context of faith and works. For many years in the 20th century, some Church leaders pressed works to the point that some members felt they had to earn their own salvation. Several times in his book, Holland expresses the balance, rather than the extreme, and that the gifts of God shared by Moroni are available to all. I've known members who believed Jesus is the Savior, but they doubted whether the atonement could actually save them from their sins. Here we find that faith and hope must go hand in hand: not only must we believe that Jesus is the Christ, but that he is my Savior!

Holland then shares an excellent discussion on charity. He especially notes that while most love is natural, charity (the love of Christ) is "supernatural." It clearly is a gift, as Mormon explains it is given to those who pray diligently for it (Moroni 7:48).

Again, he returns to chapters 8 and 9. Mormon lays bare his feelings on child baptism and the depravity of the Nephites.

"Mormon's unflinching gaze at the crimes of his own people, unobscured by the justifying instincts of nationalism, offers us a lesson in moral reasoning that elevates the low brutality of his description into a call to higher ground."

The danger didn't come from without, as Holland notes:

"...the people's precipitous transformation into savagery did not come through the corrupting presence of external forces. It came in a moment when his people seemed most liberated from structural constraint. It came from within."

Perhaps a deeper and more introspective study into these letters could offer us greater understanding of the processes ongoing in our nation today (Jan 2021), as we grapple with extremes of government excess and abuse on the one hand and chaotic rioting on the other.

Holland continues with several great insights into the remaining chapter: real intent, gifts of the Spirit, etc. In his final comments, he discusses the 

",,,formulation of the doctrine of the gift. These are offerings (offered independently of human ability), and we have the chance to choose them."

As Holland notes earlier in the book,

" is difficult to appreciate a gift or its giver until you realize how desperately you need them."
Moroni lived in desperate times. He saw the future and knew we would also live in desperate times, times that could easily reflect his own. Times when we would desperately need the supernatural gifts of God. Gifts like priesthood, remission of sins through baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, faith, hope, charity, and the redemption of Jesus Christ.

Over the past many months, I have read and reviewed several of the books in this series. I have not been disappointed in any of them. David F. Holland shares a Moroni that is very real and personal. I can now see how Moroni carefully chose what to place in the sacred plates. It is a gift that Holland has opened my eyes to. There is so much great information and concepts to consider in this book that I know I will be going back to it time and again to consider and ponder each of the teachings Moroni desperately wanted us to read and embrace.

I highly recommend this book. While there are a few deeper discussions, most of the concepts he shares are very accessible to the average reader. It will help each of us to read the very short book of Moroni in new ways.

Now available at

Maxwell Institute


Deseret Book


 My previous reviews on the series

1st Nephi, by Joseph Spencer

2nd Nephi, by Terryl Givens

Jacob, by Deidre Nicole Green

Enos, Jarom, Omni, by Sharon J. Harris

Mosiah, by James Faulconer






Sunday, January 24, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 6-9

 Come Follow Me: D&C 6-9


This lesson focuses on sections 6-9 of the D&C, which explain several things about receiving revelation. Some of our more familiar scriptures are found in sections 8 and 9 regarding receiving revelation.  Here, we will focus on some background.

Oliver Cowdery was a schoolteacher, who had heard of Joseph Smith.  Oliver believed in personal revelation, because he received it by using a divining rod. It is believed that he would ask "yes/no" type questions.  In doing so, it is likely the rod would point up for "yes", and down for "no." 

This rod was also known as a "rod of nature" or the "gift of Aaron."  In the revelations we find that the Lord approved of Oliver using the divining rod as a method to receive revelation.  The ability to receive revelation (at the time via the rod) was the gift the Lord had given him.  From what we read in the sections, it seems Oliver used the rod to determine if Joseph was truly a prophet of God.  The rod also seems to be the source of revelation to send him to Joseph and work as his scribe.

This brings the scriptures into a new context regarding the gift Oliver had:

"Behold thou hast a gift, and blessed art thou because of thy gift. Remember it is sacred and cometh from above—

And if thou wilt inquire, thou shalt know mysteries which are great and marvelous; therefore thou shalt exercise thy gift, that thou mayest find out mysteries, that thou mayest bring many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, convince them of the error of their ways.
Make not thy gift known unto any save it be those who are of thy faith. Trifle not with sacred things.
If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time." D&C 6:10-14

Just as Aaron, the brother of Moses, received power from God via two rods: the staff of Moses and the budding rod, so Oliver would also have this great gift.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.

Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?
And now, behold, you have received a witness; for if I have told you things which no man knoweth have you not received a witness?
And, behold, I grant unto you a gift, if you desire of me, to translate, even as my servant Joseph." D&C 6:22-25
Here, the Lord showed Oliver another way to receive revelation, through the Spirit speaking peace to his mind and heart.  Oliver was then granted the gift of translation.  However, Oliver was used to the idea of just asking a simple question and having his divining rod give a quick reply of yes/no.  Translation through any means is a much more difficult and complex process.  As we read in D&C 9, it required working it out in one's mind until one found a probable answer, and then asking if it is right (the yes/no question).  Oliver skipped the first part.  And it may be he did not understand how the Spirit works on the higher level of speaking to the mind and heart, as the Lord also had to explain this to him:

"Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.
 Now, if you had known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now." D&C 9:7-10

We should not be surprised that the Lord allows mankind to use props that can assist them in knowing God.  Joseph Smith used both the Urim and Thummim and his seer stone in a hat.  Moses and Aaron used his staff.  Jesus once used clay to heal a blind man's eyes. 

It is likely that Oliver used his divining rod less and less, as he learned to receive revelation without it, just as Joseph learned to receive revelations without his seer stone and the Urim and Thummim.

Section 7

In section 7, we learn of a revelation given to the apostle John, which he wrote down and hid under a rock in his day. Such a revelation as this for Joseph and Oliver opens up some interesting concepts for us. 

First, Joseph's process of translation. In translating the Book of Mormon, Joseph often had the plates closed while he was "translating." In making his "translation" of the Bible, he used a German Bible and not ancient texts in the original Hebrew and Aramaic. Many of the sections "translated" in the Bible were new teachings that could not be found in any documents of Joseph's day (Book of Moses, JST on Abraham and Melchisedek). Now, we have a document that was hidden, but not in Joseph's vicinity to touch, hold, or translate. Again, we will see similar events with the Book of Abraham - where the text of the papyri do not match with Joseph's translation. Still, the Book of Abraham is amazing, because it brings up many ancient concepts that were not available in Joseph's day.

Clearly, the "translation" process for Joseph was unlike normal translation process used between two languages by modern scholars. Instead, documents and questions seem to be catalysts for receiving revelation regarding ancient texts truths. 

 Why did God not just give Joseph a "normal" revelation to answer this question regarding the apostle John's being changed/translated (interesting pun on the word we're discussing)? Why did John hide his document under a rock?

From learning about the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient Near Eastern document, many were hidden in caves, literally under rock. Moroni hid the gold plates "under a rock." Here is yet another pattern. Ancient knowledge comes up from the dirt to enlighten us in our day.

In our own search for personal revelation, which Pres Nelson has encouraged us to seek, we will find that events, trials, blessings, and study bring forth important questions. Such things become catalysts for our own revelation. As with Oliver Cowdery, we cannot just seek yes/no answers. Some things, in fact, many things require complex answers. Such things we need to study out in our minds and hearts, seeking for possible answers in scripture, talks of the prophets, guidance from parents and Church leaders, and from the knowledge God has revealed to the world. In doing so, God can catalyze the best answer for us, sometimes bringing direct revelation to us, occasionally bringing the answer though others.

The more we search, the more God can reveal to us.



Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 3-5

 Come Follow Me: D&C 3-5

In section 3, Joseph Smith is again chastised for not having his "eye single to the glory of God" and "fearing man more than God." 

The Lost 116 Pages of manuscript were probably as much as 300 pages, according to Don Bradley in his book, "The Lost 116 Pages." It contained the writings of Lehi and everything that Mormon had abridged of the large plates of Nephi from Lehi through the ministry of King Benjamin. Our current Book of Mormon has just over 500 pages. Imagine losing half of that amount, due to not listening to the Lord!

 No wonder the Lord called Martin Harris a "wicked man." Yet, how often have we done something similar? Many of us have given in to the temptations of the world at least once in a while. One of the major lessons here is we can repent. Martin Harris would repent and become one of the Three Witnesses. He would bear a solid testimony of the gold plates and the angelic visit for the rest of his life.

 Background for Section 5, Lucy Harris took Joseph to court, claiming him to be a fraud, swindling money from her husband Martin. Martin wanted proof to bring to the court. As with the 116 lost pages of manuscript, he sought to have something in his hand that he could show the court. However, the Lord was not giving anything to Martin this time, he would have to provide his own evidence: a solid and unwavering testimony. This would occurred prior to his becoming one of the Three Witnesses, but certainly became a solid step for him in becoming such a witness. His faith and belief were the witness to be provided in court. His wife, Lucy, lost her case.

The Book of Mormon is the "keystone" to our religion. I'm not sure if we fully understand all that means, as it is a revelatory book with layers of understanding.

Out of all the revelations given in the last days, the Book of Mormon is the most important.  Many see the Book of Mormon as simply a rip off of Isaiah, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, and Solomon Spaulding.  However, there are so many intricate things within the book that continually reveals itself in new and important ways to us.

First, it witnesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. From the very first chapter, we find Lehi in vision, seeing God on his throne and learning about the coming Messiah. In the final chapter, Moroni invites us to "come unto Christ and be perfected in him." In a world that grows ever more disbelieving, materialistic, and contentious, the Book of Mormon can recenter us on the Savior.

Second, the Book of Mormon teaches us that God still speaks to mankind.  The heavens are open!  Revelation still occurs.  This is a big part of the "new covenant" of the Book of Mormon - God speaking to man in all times and places. In Alma 29:8, we read that God gives to all nations and peoples the amount of truth they are ready to receive.  But if people do not believe God can speak with them or send new prophets, then they severely limit the truth God wishes to give them.

Third, the Book of Mormon teaches us the "doctrine of Christ".  In 2 Ne 31 and 3 Ne 11.  The doctrine of Christ is that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are "one God" or one in all things, and we are to learn to be one with them and each other.  It is a process.  We begin to develop faith in Christ.  We recognize our sins and repent.  We receive baptism or other ordinance, as it is through the ordinances that the "mysteries of  godliness" are revealed (D"&C 84:19-21). Finally, we receive the Holy Ghost, which sanctifies us to a higher level of righteousness.  Then we repeat the process, growing in faith and righteousness, until we become one with the Godhead.

Fourth, it warns us of secret combinations and the enemies of God. God's primary enemy is Satan, the father of contention. Those groups or organizations or people who seek to get gain by any means are the enemies of God.  They can include secret signs and oaths, and involve getting gain by using violence or other criminal means.  When such combinations take control of government, the righteous become the enemies of the state, or are punished for their testimony of Christ; while the wicked are viewed as popular and good by society. We learn that eventually, these combinations lead to the destruction of society, often to genocide or mutual annihilation.

Fifth, the Book of Mormon defines and shows the pathway to a personal theophany, or visitation of God to the individual.  From Lehi's seeing God on his throne in 1 Nephi 1, to the Vision of the Tree of Life, to Alma's suffering in hell and then being redeemed into the presence of God's throne, to the Brother of Jared seeing the finger of God, we see the purpose of the Book of Mormon: to show us how to become like Christ, so we can return into the presence of God.  Today, Latter-day Saints practice the theophany in the temple endowment, as the temple and Book of Mormon are closely linked by this new covenant and purpose.

There are other truths in the Book of Mormon, but these are definitely among the most important concepts.  Without the Book of Mormon, there would be no second witness of Christ and his divinity. There would be no understanding of modern revelation.  We would not understand fully the process to become one with the Godhead, and we would not understand the importance of entering into the presence of the Lord.




Don Bradley, The Lost 116 Pages:

My Book Review on Don Bradley's "The Lost 116 Pages"


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Come Follow Me: D&C 2; JSH 1:27-65

 Come Follow Me: D&C 2; JSH 1:27-65


In this lesson, we learn more of the early history of the Church and Joseph Smith. It had been three years since the First Vision. Joseph spend the time using a seer stone.  He found the stone at the bottom of a well, after looking into someone else's stone, which only allowed him the ability to find his own stone.

This was a time when society was beginning to move from magical items to know God (such as seer stones and divining rods) to the era of Science and Reason. Over time, Joseph would learn to straddle the line between a vertical relationship with God (revelation) and a horizontal one (using reason). It was during this time that he worked for Josiah Stowe, looking for hidden treasure, and encountering his beloved Emma Hale.

His worldly life led him again to question his standing before God. He knew he again needed forgiveness of sins. At the age of 17, he pondered that divine relationship. It was while laying in bed thinking on these things that Joseph was visited by an angelic messenger, Moroni.


Moroni was the last of the prophets in the Book of Mormon. He took the compilation of scripture his father Mormon made, and kept them safe for decades, until he was able to travel from the last battle place of the Nephites (probably in Mesoamerica) to what is now upper state New York. In his forty year travel, he dedicated future temple sites, like the one now in Manti, Utah.  

As he finished up his record, Moroni focused much of his writings (including the Jaredite story) on the gifts God wishes to give us. In his new book on "Moroni," David F. Holland notes:

"Moroni's theology--embodied in his ministry and expressed in his writing--unmistakably points us to the generosity of God. A giver leads us to the Giver." (Moroni: a brief theological introduction, David F. Holland, Maxwell Institute).

Now Moroni was giving the world God's greatest gifts: the eternal gospel of Jesus Christ, the Restoration, the Book of Mormon, eternal covenants, modern revelation.

Among the great gifts shared by Moroni was the promise of the return of Elijah (D&C 2). The promise of Elijah's return is found in all four volumes of Latter-day Scripture (Bible, Book of Mormon, D&C, PoGP). It is the only scripture basically quoted in all four. It would be more than a decade (1836) when this promised would be fulfilled.  In a future lesson, we'll study D&C 110, where the Lord appears in the newly dedicated Kirtland temple to accept it. In a series of succeeding visions, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery would see Moses, Elisha, and Elijah, all restoring priesthood keys to the earth. Elijah's keys would be the sealing keys, which includes sealing families together for the eternities and bind them to the divine family of God. This was the door that would not only open the Celestial Kingdom (which comes through baptism of water and the Holy Ghost), but to become divine. 

As Joseph would learn through the Book of Mormon and later revelations, man can become divine as children of God through Christ, by obedience and entering into holy covenant with God. In doing this, mankind would receive the greatest of all the gifts of God, eternal life (D&C 14:7).

The Plates

It would take Joseph four years to obtain the plates from Moroni. The new book, "Saints, vol 1" well explains why it took so long: Joseph needed to learn strict obedience. In his first attempt, Joseph's mind was on the prospect of having gold in his possession. Shocked several times in trying to take the plates out of its stone box, Moroni had to reiterate to Joseph the importance of obedience and keeping his mind firm.

Moroni told Joseph that he could get the plates on the second trip, if he were to bring his brother Alvin. Alvin was a very serious and dedicate person. Though old enough to live on his own, he stayed to help his parents and family succeed, who had gone through many financial difficulties over the years. He was the type of person who could help Joseph protect the plates and stay focused on the divine purpose of Joseph's divine mission. 

Alvin died. Joseph's hope to obtain the plates the second year were dashed. Why would God, through Moroni, give Joseph direction to bring Alvin, if Alvin wasn't going to survive? Some possibilities include:

1. Joseph needed to learn patience and diligence on his own.The death of his brother would teach Joseph to endure for another year, and gain more experience under Moroni's guidance.

2. Some believe that God does not know the future in detail, but only all things knowable up to the mom ent. Events can surprise God, but not frustrate his eternal purposes, as he can be as a master chess master and prepare several paths to success, in case circumstance and agency occur differently than he expected. It may be that Alvin got sick and died, simply because many people unexpectedly get sick and die. 

3. Alvin's unexpected death would cause Joseph much wondering and pondering over the years. Later, he would see a vision of the heavens, wherein he would see Alvin in paradise. Marveling over this, as Alvin had not been baptized, the Lord explained that those who would have accepted the gospel in mortality but didn't get the chance, were blessed to still be saved. This would lead to more revelations on baptism for the dead, and the temple ordinances.

It would take 4 years for Joseph to obtain the plates.A few more years to have the chance to translate them. In them would be amazing stories about prophets, kings, warriors, and at its core: Jesus Christ. It is a gift that would change the lives of millions over the last 190 years. It is a second witness of Jesus Christ. In this time of pandemic and political chaos, its teachings on faith in Christ, hope, charity, forgiveness, miracles, revelation, and the dangers of contention and anger, are very needed today more than ever.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Come Follow Me: JSH 1:1-26

 Come Follow Me: Joseph Smith History 1:1-26

The Great Apostasy and the Reformation

What is the Great Apostasy? Apostasy is defined as the abandoning of what one believed in. It comes from the Greek words: apo -"away" and stasis - "a standing." In other words, to stand away from what one once stood by. An apostate is someone who does more than just stops going to church. It is someone who once strongly believed in a cause, then vehemently opposes it and fights for its destruction. Noted apostates in the Bible include: Cain (Genesis 4:1-16); the people in Noah's day (Genesis 6-8); Tower of Babel (Genesis 11); Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19); Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16:1-35); fallen Israel (Isaiah 1, 3, etc.); Hymenaus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:19, 20); Anti-Christs (1 John 2) and wicked Judah (Matthew 24).

The idea behind the Great Apostasy is a "falling away" of not just a nation, but the entire earth from accepting the fulness of the gospel. They accept portions of it, but reject key points of Celestial law and covenant. In the Book of Mormon, the Nephite covenant with God was constantly at the forefront. If they obeyed and followed God, they would prosper in the land. However, if the Nephite nation forsake the covenant, they would be cast out of God's presence.

History is full of the terrors of the Dark Ages, a period when faith in the covenant was at its lowest. "Christian" leaders were corrupt, often enriching themselves, engaged in the politics of the day, while most floundered in extreme poverty. The idea that no growth or advancement really occurred in the Christian world for more than a millennium is exemplified by the plow being used in Christ's day was the same one used a thousand years later.

Not until God prepared the world for the Restoration, did the Light of God instill in the minds of men to question the current situation and seek for a higher truth. This came about in the Reformation, when knowledge, both secular and spiritual came bursting forth on a world which had loitered in shadows for centuries.

The doors were being opened for the Restoration. The printing press was invented. Tyndale translated the New Testament into English at the cost of his own life. The Bible was being distributed in many languages to the masses. A middle class was forming, taking power from the royalty and religionists of the day to themselves. Literature and new scientific discoveries were leading people from superstition to in depth inquiry into the facts. New worlds were discovered, allowing a nation based upon religious freedom to be established for the first time in history. Such intense growth and change have only been matched in our own day, in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Biblical Foretelling of the Great Apostasy

The Bible contains many predictions of a Great Apostasy. Earlier apostasies foreshadowed and typified  the Great One to follow the murders of Christ and his apostles.

Isaiah discusses the apostasies of Israel in his day, but also of the last days. He warns of their changing the ordinances and breaking the everlasting covenant (Isaiah 24:5). In chapter 29, he predicts the falling of a people whose words would later come from the ground (Mormons contend these were the people of the Book of Mormon), but only after an obvious apostasy occurs-

"this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of man....And the multitude of all the nations that fight against Ariel, even all that fight against her and her munition, and that distress her, shall be as a dream of a night vision. It shall even be as when an hungry [man] dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, [he is] faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion. Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered." (Is. 29:7-10).

This is followed by a prediction of the Restoration. More on that in Predictions of a Restoration of the Gospel.

The prophet Amos tells us:

And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day: And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only [son], and the end thereof as a bitter day. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find [it]. (Amos 8:9-12).

Christ predicts it in his parable of the wheat and tares, where the enemy sows tares among the wheat at night (Matthew 13:25). And in his great prophecy of the last times, the Savior tells us of the following things:

Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here [is] Christ, or there; believe [it] not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:23-24).

And the Apostle Paul was very busy predicting the Great Apostasy:

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30).

NOW we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and [by] our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (2 Thes 2:1-4).

So, there will be a falling away (in other versions of the Bible, the word apostasy is used) prior to the Second Coming of Christ! Satan will set himself up as a pretender to God's throne, and won't be fully revealed until he is consumed at the Coming of the Lord (2 Thes 2:8).

Paul specifically tells us when these things will happen, and what wicked things will occur:

THIS know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all [men], as theirs also was. (2 Timothy 3:1-9)

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

John the Beloved receives this counsel to give to one of the 7 remaining churches in Asia (had all the rest apostatized already?):

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. (Revelation 3:15-17).

He predicts that the enemies of God would make "war with the saints" (Rev 13:7) just a few verses before a prediction of the gospel being restored in the last days! (Rev 14:6).

So, a Great Apostasy was predicted for the Last Days. This does not mean that all things were lost, but many plain and precious parts of the everlasting covenant and gospel were removed or replaced. The results of which were evidently described by Paul and others, as they warned of the false preachers, prophets and Christs which would come into the world.

Statements by the the Early Church Fathers and Great Christian Reformers on the Apostasy

The great Reformers of Christianity also saw the destruction of the Church and the need for a restoration:

John Wesley realized that the gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer found:

It does not appear that these extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were common in the Church for more than two or three centuries. We seldom hear of them after that fatal period when the Emperor Constantine called himself a Christian;...From this time they almost totally ceased;...The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other heathens....This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left. (Wesley's Works, vol 7, Sermon 89, pp. 26-27).

Wesley's point is interesting to note, when one considers what the early Christian, Justin Martyr, stated to the Jewish priest, Trypho: that the only difference between the Jews and Christians was that the Christians had revelation; and if the day ever came that the Christians were to cease having revelation, they would be no better than the Jews.

The early Church Father Eusebius of Caesarea also spoke on the apostasy that occurred not long before him:

The Church up to that time [the death of the apostles] had remained a pure and uncorrupted virgin, since, if there were any that attempted to corrupt the sound norm of the preaching of salvation, they lay until then concealed in obscure darkness. But when the sacred college of apostles had suffered death in various forms, and the generation of those that had been deemed worthy to hear the inspired wisdom with their own ears had passed away, then the league of godless error took its rise as a result of the folly of heretical teachers, who, because none of the apostles was still living, attempted henceforth, with a bold face, to proclaim, in opposition to the preaching of the truth, the ‘knowledge which is falsely so-called’ (Eusebius [270-340] quoting Hegesippus [110-180] in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Series 2, 1:164).

For him, he noted the actual attacks which occurred from within the change the early Church by Christian teachers. It was this reason that Paul insisted that prophets and apostles continue until the 2nd Coming of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-14).

Predictions of a Restoration of the Gospel

In predicting the restoration of the gospel, we see both biblical and reformer statements.

Christian Reformer Roger Williams put it this way:

There is no regularly constituted church on earth, nor any person authorized to administer any church ordinance; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking. (Picturesque America, p. 502).

So, he realised that apostles had to be sent anew. Perhaps he recognized the apostle Paul's words on the importance of having apostles:

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone]; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:19-21).

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we [henceforth] be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive (Ephesians 4:11-14).

Paul stated that apostles and prophets are necessary as the foundation to build the Church of Christ, and are needed until all are unified in faith, are perfected in Christ and know Christ. And why? So we aren't tossed about in the apostasy!

Even the great President, Statesman and Deist, Thomas Jefferson, realized that the Christian Church was severely lacking and awaited the Restoration:

The religion builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies, and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers....Happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity, I must leave to younger persons to encounter and lop off the false branches which have been engrafted into it by the mythologists of the middle and modern ages. (Jefferson's Complete Works, vol 7, pp 210, 257).

The Apostle Peter put it this way:

He shall send Jesus Christ, whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:20-21).

In other words, God would send Christ for his Second Coming, but only after the gospel is restored!

The apostle John saw it this way, after having beholding the apostasy:

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. (Revelation 14:6-7).

It is interesting to note, that when the angel Moroni first appeared to Joseph Smith and told him of the metal plates containing the record of an ancient american people (what is now the Book of Mormon), Moroni told him that the record contained the "fulness of the gospel."

Ezra Stiles, seventh President of Yale University, 1778-1795, predicted the following:

There are three coetaneous events to take place whose fruition is certain from prophecy, the annihilation of the Pontificate, the reassembling of the Jews, and the fulness of the Gentiles. That liberal and candid disquisition of Christianity, which will most assuredly take place in America, will prepare Europe for the first event, with which the other will be connected, when especially on the return of the twelve tribes to the Holy Land, there will burst forth a degree of evidence hitherto unperceived and of efficacy to convert a world. More than three quarters of mankind yet remain heathen. Heaven put a stop to the propagation of Christianity when the church became corrupted with the adoration of numerous deities and images, because this would have been only exchanging an old for a new idolatry. Nor is Christendom now larger than it was nine centuries ago. The promising prospects of the Propaganda fide at Rome are coming to nothing: and it may be of the divine destiny that all other attempts for gospelizing the nations of the earth shall be fruitless, until the present Christendom itself be recovered to the primitive purity and simplicity. At which time, instead of the Babel confusion of contradicting missionaries, all will harmoniously concur in speaking one language, one holy faith, one apostolick religion to an unconverted world. At this period, and in effecting this great event, we have reason to think that the United States may be of no small influence and consideration.

It was of the Lord to send Joseph into Egypt, to save much people, and to shew forth his praise. It is of the Lord that "a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet," and upon "her head a crown of twelve stars," (not to say thirteen) should "flee into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God" (Rev 12:1,6), and where she might be the repository of Wisdom, and "keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus." It may have been of the Lord that Christianity is to be found in such great purity in this church exiled into the wilderness of America; and that its purest body should be evidently advancing forward, by an augmented natural increase and spiritual edification, into a singular superiority--with the ultimate subserviency to the glory of God, in converting the world. ("The United States Elevated to Glory and Honour", Ezra Stiles, 1783.)

In Isaiah 29, the prophet predicts the bringing forth of a book in the last days, describing it a marvelous work and a wonder. The learned would not read the book because it was sealed, but the unlearned would not have such a problem. And in Ezekiel 37, we read of two books being combined: one is the "stick of Judah", or the Bible. The other is called the "stick of Joseph". What is this stick of Joseph? The only book known to man claimed to have been written by descendants of Joseph, Jacob's son who was sold into Egypt, is the Book of Mormon! No other book qualifies. The New Testament was written by Jews (Judah) not Joseph. So it can't be the book. The Dead Sea Scrolls were also written by Jews. Only the Book of Mormon satisfies both Isaiah's and Ezekiel's prophecies. The Book of Mormon will be discussed further in next week's lesson.

The First Vision

For the early Church, the First Vision did not become an important sign of the Restoration until Joseph Smith wrote the official version in 1838.  The earliest version was in 1832, written by Joseph Smith himself. It focused upon Joseph's receiving forgiveness and mentions Joseph seeing Christ, but does not mention the Father. This is likely due to Joseph's focus at the time on his personal need for redemption and that the Father only introduced the Son, then let Jesus respond directly to Joseph.  Sadly, many disbelievers use these other versions to attempt to discredit the Church. The reality is, Joseph described the vision differently at times, because of his purpose in telling it at the time. Also, many of the other retellings were by other people, who may have gotten some events incorrect. His 1832 example (the earliest) still includes a divine visit by the Lord.  Joseph had seen a vision!

That later revelations were shared experiences by Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, the Three Witnesses and hundreds at the Kirtland Temple dedication, show that the visions of Joseph Smith were not a fraud, nor a hallucination. He in fact saw a vision, and went to his death witnessing of the Restoration of the gospel.