Sunday, October 11, 2009

Apostasy and Restoration: Svithing* my talk

*Svithe is a word my brother-in-law coined. Svithe is a portmanteau made by combining seven and tithe--the idea being that one day in the week, this blogger devotes himself to what he hopes is a higher sort of something.

Earlier this week I was asked to give a talk in church today on the apostasy and restoration and to focus on Daniel 2 and how King Nebuchadnezzar's dream related to the latter-day kingdom of God. As I was writing my talk I had WAY more info. than I needed, so it was hard to wheedle it down to this. I love, love, love giving talks because it motivates me to research a topic in depth and really come to understand a gospel principle better. This ended up being a little more "removed" (not as many personal applications) than my talks usually are, but I think that's how the spirit steered me. I tried to document my sources, but I may have missed one here or there.

King Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

Around 600 BC Lehi prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed. He then took his family and crossed the ocean to the Promised Land and began writing what we call now the Book of Mormon. It was only a few years after their departure that Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylonia devastated Jerusalem. Among those taken was an intelligent and God fearing teenager named Daniel. As Daniel served in the King’s palace, he remained faithful to God and was able to win the favor of the court.


Shortly after Daniel’s arrival in Babylonia, King Nebuchadnezzar was plagued with a reoccurring dream. Because he was unable to remember what actually happened in his dream, “the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king." He was furious when they were unable to fulfill his request and he commanded that all the wise men of his court, which included Daniel, be killed. Daniel petitioned for his life and the lives of his Hebrew friends Shadrac, Mishac and Abednego and asked that they be spared if he told the King his dream and the interpretation. The King agreed and Daniel later gave this account and interpretation that was revealed to him by the Lord:


In the dream the King saw a magnificent statue of a man. The head was made of gold, the chest and arms were silver, the belly and thighs were brass, his legs were of iron, and his feet were a mixture of iron and clay. [2] He then saw a stone cut out of a mountain that “smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces…And the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. ” [3]


“The dream revealed events that would take place over a long span of time.”[4]The different body parts represented world governments. The Lord revealed to Daniel that the head of Gold represented Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. History has shown us that “the Medes and Persians, an inferior kingdom to Babylon, were the arms and breast of silver. The Macedonian kingdom, under Alexander the Great, was the belly and thighs of brass; and the Roman kingdom under the Caesars was the legs of iron.” The legs were divided just as the Roman Empire was divided. “Elder Orson Pratt, in explaining why the toes were shown as being partly iron and partly clay, said that ‘the feet and toes were governments more modern to grow out of the iron kingdom [Roman Empire], after it should lose its strength.’”[5] President Kimball further explained, “Rome would be replaced by a group of nations of Europe represented by the toes of the image…And in the days of these kings [that is, the group of European nations] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed . . . This is a revelation concerning the history of the world, when one world power would supersede another until there would be numerous smaller kingdoms to share the control of the earth. And it was in the days of these kings that power would not be given to men, but the God of heaven would set up a kingdom—the kingdom of God upon the earth, which should never be destroyed nor left to other people.” [6] The stone in the dream ended up smashing the toes, or the latter-day European governments and it grew into a large mountain filling the whole earth. It was the final kingdom, which would never be destroyed or overcome. This final kingdom was not set up by men, for it originated from a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, or by the will of God.


Apostacy and Restoration

During Christ’s mortal ministry, He established the kingdom of God on the earth. He organized the church and “sent His disciples into the world to preach His gospel.”[7] After His crucifixion the Apostles maintained the church, but after a time most of them were killed and many of the truths and teachings of Christ were altered or lost. This period of time is known as the Great Apostasy. As Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “This Great Apostasy followed the pattern that had ended each previous dispensation. The very first was in the time of Adam. Then came dispensations of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others. Each prophet had a divine commission to teach of the divinity and the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ. In each age these teachings were meant to help the people. But their disobedience resulted in apostasy… Thus a complete restoration was required. God the Father and Jesus Christ called upon the Prophet Joseph Smith to be the prophet of this dispensation. All divine powers of previous dispensations were to be restored through him…It would not end in apostasy, and it would fill the world.”[8]


Latter-day Kingdom of God

As a 14-year-old boy, Joseph Smith desired nothing more than to know the truth concerning God and what church was correct. He wasn’t seeking to set up a new church. He wasn’t looking for worldly fame or recognition. He merely wanted to do what was right and know what the Lord wanted him to do. So he asked a simple prayer. He, however, received no simple answer. That day he felt the awful power of Satan as well as saw God the Father and Jesus Christ in the flesh. They told that no church currently on earth was correct and forbid him to join any of them.

The restoration of Christ’s church did not happen that day. Rather, it was a series of events and heavenly manifestations over the course of years. Concerning the restoration, Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “That lost authority could not just be repossessed. It had to be restored by those who held the keys of authority anciently. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a remodeled version of another church. It is not an adjustment or a correction or a protest against any other church.”[9]


In the October General Conference of 2007 President Gordon B. Hinkley noted the amazing growth that has taken place in relatively short period of time. “Now, as we look back 177 years to the organization of the Church, we marvel at what has already happened. When the Church was organized in 1830 there were but six members, only a handful of believers, all residing in a largely unknown village. Today, we have become the fourth or fifth largest church in North America, with congregations in every city of any consequence. Stakes of Zion today flourish in every state of the United States, in every province of Canada, in every state of Mexico, in every nation of Central America and throughout South America.” Truly this is the stone cut out of the mountain that King Nebuchadnezzar saw over 2500 years ago.


But what was it, exactly, that was taken away and restored? What do we possess as a church that makes us the latter-day kingdom God? The authority to act in God’s name. The Aaronic and Melchizidek priesthoods had to be and were restored to Joseph by John the Baptist and the ancient apostles Peter, James and John. With that restored authority, Joseph was able to organize the church as Christ’s church was organized as noted in Ephesians 4:11 “And he gave some apostles, prophets, pastors [also known as bishops], Teachers, [and] Evangelists [also known as Patriarchs].” The restored priesthood authority also enables us to properly perform baptisms, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and receive the ordinances of the Temple and further knowledge that are required to gain exaltation. Because of the restoration of the gospel, I have had the opportunity to be sealed in God’s Temple, by men who hold His Priesthood and authority, for time and all eternity to my husband Matt and my two sons Dean and Walter as well as any future children we may have. What a blessing and comfort that is!


The restoration of the gospel set up this latter-day Kingdom of God that will never be overthrown. But why? And what does that me to me? President Ezra Taft Benson firmly stated, “We solemnly declare again that the God of heaven has established his latter-day kingdom upon the earth in fulfillment of prophecies. Holy angels have again communed with men on the earth. God has again revealed himself from heaven and restored to the earth his holy priesthood with power to administer in all the sacred ordinances necessary for the exaltation of his children. His church has been reestablished among men with all the spiritual gifts enjoyed anciently. All this is done in preparation for Christ’s second coming. The great and dreadful day of the Lord is near at hand.” We, brothers and sisters, are here to prepare ourselves for and warn others that Christ’s second coming not far off.


In 1845, the Quorum of the Twelve issued an epistle to the heads of state in the world. I quote from one paragraph:


“As this work progresses in its onward course, and becomes more and more an object of political and religious interest and excitement, no king, ruler, or subject, no community or individual, will stand neutral. All will at length be influenced by one spirit or the other; and will take sides either for or against the kingdom of God” (James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75, 1:257).



That time is now. We only have to turn on our TVs, cell phones, or computers to see how morally corrupt the world has become. Pornography, infidelity and immorality are seen as commonplace and “normal” behavior. Our youth and members are often ridiculed for being “uptight” or “goodie-goodies” because we don’t participate in such behavior. Elder Boyd K. Packer made a frightening statement concerning the perilous time we currently live in. He said, “I know of nothing in the history of the Church or in the history of the world to compare with our present circumstances. Nothing happened in Sodom and Gomorrah which exceeds in wickedness and depravity that which surrounds us now.”[10] No, brothers and sisters, we, as latter-day saints, cannot stand neutral in the moral arena. As Sister Barbara Thompson of the General Relief Society said this past conference, we need to mind “the gap between believing in Jesus Christ and being valiant in the testimony of Jesus Christ.”[11] Are we, as Elder Bednar admonished last Saturday, bearing our testimony and consistently living it? [12] “Who’s on the Lord’s side who? Now is the time to show.”


Luckily for us, if we choose to follow the restored gospel, the Lord is on our side. Yes we live in a perilous and wicked time, but as we stand together as brothers and sisters and with God, we are strengthened in our unity. Elder James J. Hamula Of the Seventy noted, “To ensure its ultimate success, the final restoration of God’s kingdom has been commenced with unprecedented spiritual power and is being sustained by that same spiritual power and something more. Reserved to come forth in these last days and labor for our Father and His Son are some of the most valiant and noble of our Father’s sons and daughters. Their valiance and nobility were demonstrated in the pre-earth struggle with Satan. There, “being left to choose good or evil,” they “[chose] good” and exhibited “exceedingly great faith” and “good works.” Such are the traits that are now needed to sustain the work of God in the earth and to save the souls of men from the intensifying wrath of the adversary.”[13]


Because of the restoration I know that there is a purpose to this life. I know that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me and has made it possible for me to overcome my weaknesses through the atonement of Jesus Christ. I know that the Book of Mormon is an inspired text that testifies of the divinity of Jesus Christ and contains the fullness of His gospel. I know that Christ restored His church through His Prophet Joseph Smith. The 15 men who succeeded Joseph as Presidents of the church, including our Prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson, are and were men of God. What they say we need to hear and do. The Kingdom of the Lord is on the earth today and will never be overthrown. I know that we will find comfort and peace in the gospel if we truly live it. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



[1] Daniel 2:2



[2] Daniel 2:31-33



[3] Daniel 2:34-35



[4] O.T. Institute manual


[5] Journal of Discourses, 18:337


[6] In Conference Report, Apr. 1976, p. 10


[7] Russell M. Nelson, “The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” Liahona, Nov 2006, 79–82


[8] Russell M. Nelson, “The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” Liahona, Nov 2006, 79–82


[9] Boyd K. Packer, “‘The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected’,” Liahona, Nov 2003, 24–27


[10] Boyd K. Packer, “The One Pure Defense” (address to CES religious educators, Feb. 6, 2004), 4 as quoted in James J. Hamula, “Winning the War against Evil,” Liahona, Nov 2008, 50–53


[11] http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-1117-38,00.html


[12] http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-1117-6,00.html


[13] James J. Hamula, “Winning the War against Evil,” Liahona, Nov 2008, 50–53



2 comments:

Th. said...

.

I've had restoration on my mind lately because one of Oliver's new friend's comes from a Swedenborgian family, and Swedenborg was definitely one of those who helped ready the world for Joseph Smith.

And today in ph we talked about contemporary's testimonies of Joseph Smith. Remarkable man.

Remarkable story.

Fun topic.

well done.

Celia Marie (W.) B. said...

thanks