In High School Abby and I took a Humanities class— it covered religion, philosophy, music, art, architecture, and other aspects of history and culture. Living in the South the large majority of our friends were southern Baptist and some were relatively devout in their beliefs. However it was interesting to observe their testimonies and beliefs waver throughout the year as we studied the philosophies of Socrates, Aristotle, Augustine of Hippo, Dante, and Laozi, the religions of the Buddhist monks, the Muslims, the Greek religious cults, the Mesopotamians and the African tribes in class, amongst others. Many fell, at least briefly, into a period where they did not now what to believe or what to think— a crisis of faith. They joked that they were going to become Buddhist, I think, reflecting some inner worries about their faith. After particularly heavy classes with a lot of good discussion, that evening Twitter would “catch some feelings” and it would be filled with discussion of philosophy and religion for a couple hours. It was interesting to see their thoughts and different opinions as they struggled.
However, for Abby and I, all of this discussion and learning strengthened our testimonies of this Restored Gospel that we have. Learning all these different philosophies and religions reminded me that there are bits of truth in every religion, but that we are the only one that truly brings it all together in fullness.
The Restoration returned Christ’s Church as it was when He was on the Earth. With only the Bible on the Earth, doctrine was open to the interpretations of man, rather than the voice of God. Which gave rise to much confusion and many many denominations for 100s of years. And as the story goes, due to this “war of words and tumult of opinions” Joseph Smith asked a simple question that would begin the 7th dispensation and the Restoration of the true Church to the Earth. This in turn led to the eventual translation and publication of the Book of Mormon. Here is an analogy to illustrate this a little better from Tad R Callister—
“The Bible is one witness of Jesus Christ; the Book of Mormon is another. Why is this second witness so crucial? The following illustration may help: How many straight lines can you draw through a single point on a piece of paper? The answer is infinite. For a moment, suppose that single point represents the Bible and that hundreds of those straight lines drawn through that point represent different interpretations of the Bible and that each of those interpretations represents a different church. What happens, however, if on that piece of paper there is a second point representing the Book of Mormon? How many straight lines could you draw between these two reference points: the Bible and the Book of Mormon? Only one. Only one interpretation of Christ’s doctrines survives the testimony of these two witnesses.”
For many of my friends they attended a church where it was a simply a man teaching them religious doctrine. A man that may or may not have gone to a religious school and learned from other mere men. We are church that claims, indeed the only church that claims, and can rightfully claim that we are directed by the Lord. The power of the priesthood allows us to be directly led by the Lord and by his servants. It is scary almost and a little sad sometimes to think that many of my friends are learning from any old person off the street. Some man who decided he knew what was up with God and wanted to share it with others. The gifts of the priesthood are such a blessing in our lives as members of this Church.
With the introduction of the Book of Mormon, there can only be one sound doctrine which connects the two Holy Scriptures. I love how the Bible really does connect with the Book of Mormon, in doctrine, in emotion, in feeling, in truth… They are both such amazing works of truth and light. And when used and studied together, complimenting each other back and forth, we can come to an ultimate knowledge of our Savior and the plan our Father has for us. They are so beautiful, it makes me so happy. I can’t wait to share this happiness with the people of Bolivia!
The Restoration also allowed for the return of prophets— a man of God that can literally say “and thus saith the Lord.” The Church brings me so much peace and understanding because of the 3 connections to the will of the Lord via the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and modern day revelation.
In that same Humanities class I remember studying the Dark Ages. When we started studying this period of history, a couple of other students and I started a side conversation about why the Dark Ages began and why they lasted for as long as they did. I said with some confidence and authority, “oh well, its because of the Great Apostasy.” And all I got was blank looks and questioning faces, so I explained it a little more and kept saying “ya know, the Great Apostasy? After all the apostles died and there wasn’t Christ’s church left anymore? The Great Apostasy?” Finally, a friend said, “Erin we have no idea what you are talking about.” I eventually realized that they really didn’t! It had never once crossed my mind before that other people didn’t believe in the Great Apostasy! I thought it was a known and accepted fact! Anyways, with the Restoration and the following translation of the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith many truths were once again restored for our knowledge, use, and growth.
For example, the world again knows that baptism by immersion is necessary for salvation and that God does speak to prophets today. With the loss of Gospel truth, baptism by immersion was cast aside by many denominations, despite the Savior’s example of baptism by immersion in the Bible. The Book of Mormon teaches, in 3 Nephi 11:26, that the priests should “immerse them[AKA new converts to Christ’s church] in the water”. In some cases baptism is cast off entirely, never mind baptism by immersion. But the Book of Mormon again restores the truth that “all men… must repent, and be baptized in his name, … or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God”(2 Nephi 9:23).
I have a couple of brief baptism stories that relate quite well to all of this too. Living in the South, I did have one opportunity to go to a Southern Baptist baptism. The prayer was shockingly similar to our own and it was a full immersion, what was sad however was the lack of the Spirit as our friend was baptized. I did not feel that quiet Spirit I felt at the two convert baptisms I attended this school year.
For many of other faiths they do not understand why they must be “baptized again” when they become interested in the LDS church. My dad had an experience with a friend who asked “What do I have to do to become a Mormon?” My dad’s natural response was “Be baptized.” The friend responded “Ive already been baptized.” And end of discussion. On the other side of this coin we had a brother in our ward who was from the Ukraine. He had been baptized 3 times. First he was baptized by sprinkling as an infant into the Catholic church, again as a teenager into a Lutheran church, and finally as a young adult into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He clearly understood the need for baptism as a commitment to a religion and his search for truth.
A troubling truth for my friends of other faiths that I have found is the need for a prophet. As more than one friend has put it “the reason the Israelites of Moses’ age needed a prophet is because they were wicked sinners who got lost in the desert for 40 years due to a vengeful & wrathful God. We don’t need a prophet because we are too wicked too.” My response is and always will be “The world is probably more lost and wicked and confused now then it was then. I need that guidance from a mouthpiece of the Lord, just as much, if not more than the Israelites did! But if they were wicked and had a prophet to speak for the Lord, why don’t I, as a righteous person deserve a prophet too!?”
Right in the palm of your hand you have the wisdom of the ages—more importantly, the words of the prophets, from Old Testament days to President Thomas S. Monson… Neglecting to connect to this power should be unthinkable to us. ~ Randall L Ridd
Upon further discussion about prophets and our apostles and General Conference they again get confused saying “so you can’t even pray for yourself? Why do I even need a prophet if I can pray directly to God and get answers?” This one is a little harder to explain beyond the fact that the Lord is unchanging– He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The prophet speaks to the entire world on behalf of the Lord, but the Holy Ghost speaks to us on behalf of the Lord when we pray. To put all of this a little more coherently let me quote Tad R Callister again.
“Many believe that revelation ended with the Bible even though the Bible itself is a testimony of God’s revelatory pattern over 4,000 years of man’s existence. But one incorrect doctrine such as this is like a domino set in motion that causes the fall of other dominoes or, in this case, the fall of correct doctrines. A belief in the cessation of revelation causes the doctrine that “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever”(Mormon 9:9) to fall; it causes the doctrine taught by Amos that “surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets”(Amos 3:7) to fall; and it causes the doctrine that “God is no respecter of persons”(Acts 10:34) and thus speaks to all men of all ages to fall. But fortunately the Book of Mormon reenthrones the biblical truth of continuous revelation: “And again, I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations. … Do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever … ?”(Mormon 9:7, 9). In other words, if God, who is unchangeable, spoke in ancient times, He will likewise speak in modern times.”
I love this Gospel because it speaks to the soul. It speaks to the deep down inside parts of a person. It speaks to that spark that we sometimes see in others who may be prepared for the Gospel. I know this because I’ve felt it, in my studies and in my friendships and in my prayers and in my preparation to share it with others. The Gospel has given me peace and hope and happiness in the easy times and when things get a little harder. I can only imagine where I would be without it. I have seen where people go when they turn their backs to it. I am excited to see where people go when they willingly receive this light and truth in their lives when they previously had none. I want to be a usable vessel for the Holy Ghost to guide me to people, I want to help them so they can have the immense joy of the Gospel too. I am grateful for the truth of the Book of Mormon and again, how it compliments and completes the words of the Lord found in the Bible. I am thankful to be alive in this fulness of times with the whole truth and nothing but the truth and prophets that speak for us and to us today.
en el nombre de Jesucristo,