During the month of April, I have been studying the doctrinal topic of the Apostasy and the Restoration. Russell M. Nelson explained, “Prior to His Crucifixion, the Lord Jesus Christ had established His Church. It included apostles, prophets, seventies, teachers, and so forth. And the Master sent His disciples into the world to preach His gospel. After a time the Church as established by the Lord fell into spiritual decay. His teachings were altered; His ordinances were changed. The Great Apostasy came as had been foretold. … 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, all previous dispensations were limited in time and location. They were limited in time because each ended in apostasy. They were limited in location to a relatively small segment of planet earth. 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. This dispensation of the fulness of times would not be limited in time or in location. It would not end in apostasy, and it would fill the world.”1
This explanation helps us understand that neither the apostasy nor the restoration were one-time events. So how do they each apply in our lives today?
When we hear that we live in the dispensation of the fulness of times, do we appreciate the significance of it? While disobedience caused each previous dispensation to end in apostasy, meaning the loss of true doctrine, ordinances, priesthood power and the gift of the Holy Ghost, with the Restoration came the reality that there would never be another time when the blessings of the gospel would be unavailable to God’s children. Of course wickedness will continue to exist as it always has, and maybe even more, so we must always be vigilant in guarding against personal apostasy. We have been told that in the last days even the elect will be deceived. Safety is found in cherishing and honoring our covenants, studying and living the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ, hearing and heeding the Holy Ghost and following the prophet.
The Bible Dictionary defines restoration as “a reestablishment of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth in the last days, with the powers, ordinances, doctrines, offices, and all things as they have existed in former ages. It means a gathering together of the house of Israel from its scattered condition. Thus it is frequently spoken of as the restitution (or restoration) of all things, as in Acts 3:19–21. The time in which all these things are accomplished is called the dispensation of the fulness of times.”2
President Nelson taught, “As prophesied by Peter and Paul, all things were to be restored in this dispensation. Therefore, there must come, as part of that restoration, the long-awaited gathering of scattered Israel. It is a necessary prelude to the Second Coming of the Lord. This doctrine of the gathering is one of the important teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord has declared: ‘I give unto you a sign … that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion.’ The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a sign to the entire world that the Lord has commenced to gather Israel and fulfill covenants He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We not only teach this doctrine, but we participate in it.”1
When we talk about gathering Israel, we most often think about missionary work. And while that certainly is an important aspect, there is another. Since becoming our prophet, I have been intrigued at how often President Nelson uses the words on both sides of the veil. However, he hasn’t only been using that expression recently. The concluding sentence for the paragraph quoted above says, “We do so as we help to gather the elect of the Lord on both sides of the veil.”1 As I have studied his talks, it has been very clear to see the importance President Nelson places on gathering all our Heavenly Father’s children. Last year he said, “Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.”3
Several years ago, he reminded us that it is our responsibility to “help fulfill the Abrahamic covenant. Ours is the seed foreordained and prepared to bless all people of the world. … After some 4,000 years of anticipation and preparation, this is the appointed day when the gospel is to be taken to the kindreds of the earth. This is the time of the promised gathering of Israel. And we get to participate! Isn’t that exciting? The Lord is counting on us. … The Book of Mormon is a tangible sign that the Lord has commenced to gather His children of covenant Israel. This book, written for our day, states as one of its purposes that ‘ye may know that the covenant which the Father hath made with the children of Israel … is already beginning to be fulfilled. … For behold, the Lord will remember his covenant which he hath made unto his people of the house of Israel.’ Indeed, the Lord has not forgotten! He has blessed us and others throughout the world with the Book of Mormon. One of its purposes is for ‘the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.’ It helps us to make covenants with God.”4
Speaking to the youth last year President Nelson said, “Every prophet commencing with Adam has seen our day. And every prophet has talked about our day, when Israel would be gathered and the world would be prepared for the Second Coming of the Savior. Think of it! Of all the people who have ever lived on planet earth, we are the ones who get to participate in this final, great gathering event. How exciting is that! … [T]he gathering of Israel ultimately means offering the gospel of Jesus Christ to God’s children on both sides of the veil who have neither made crucial covenants with God nor received their essential ordinances. Every child of our Heavenly Father deserves the opportunity to choose to follow Jesus Christ, to accept and receive His gospel with all of its blessings—yes, all the blessings that God promised to the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who, as you know, is also known as Israel. My dear extraordinary youth, you were sent to earth at this precise time, the most crucial time in the history of the world, to help gather Israel. There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that. There is nothing of greater consequence. Absolutely nothing.”5
The only way one can accept and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ with all its blessings is to have access to the ordinances of the temple. It is evident that this is important to President Nelson. Since becoming the prophet, he as announced the building of 27 new temples! He once taught that the doctrine of salvation for the dead is “a pivotal part of the promised ‘restitution of all things.’ … This doctrine and its ordinances are laden with love and are intended to perpetuate the sweetest of all relationships—in families forever. … No mortal mind could have conceived this divine work. It is evidence of the restoration of the gospel in its fulness.”6
In a recent interview after the dedication of the Concepción Chile Temple, President Nelson said, “The Book of Mormon teaches over and over again that you need to have the ordinances. And of course, that’s why we have temples so that all the potential that God has in store for His children can become a fact, a reality. … No one else can offer perpetuation of the family unit beyond the grave. And that, according to our Heavenly Father, is the greatest gift that He can give to His children.”7
President Nelson also said, “We’re witnesses to a process of restoration. If you think the Church has been fully restored, you’re just seeing the beginning. There is much more to come. … Wait till next year. And then the next year. Eat your vitamin pills. Get your rest. It’s going to be exciting.”7
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The ninth Article of Faith states, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”8 The prophet reminded us in our last general conferences that “revelation continues in this, the Lord’s Church. It will continue until ‘the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.’”9 He said virtually the same thing last October.
This next quote is powerful! Think for a moment about what it means to you personally, especially as it applies to our topic of apostasy and restoration. “Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory.”10 No wonder President Nelson says it’s going to be exciting! To me, this clearly indicates there will be on-going revelation and restoration. He continues, “But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”10 Surviving spiritually is the opposite of apostasy. And what greater safeguard can we have against personal apostasy than the constant influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives?
It is a glorious blessing to live in the dispensation of the fulness of times! We have a living prophet to lead and guide us. I love him and know he is truly a prophet of God. With proper priesthood authority, the ordinances of the gospel can bless our lives daily, including the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. There are now temples all around the world, with more being built. Temple blessings are unmatched!
We are so very blessed! And with such incredible blessings come significant responsibilities. We have a great work to do in preparing ourselves and the world for the Second Coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ. President Nelson shared how. He said, “Anytime you do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel. It is as simple as that. … Pray daily that all of God’s children might receive the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You and I are living to see, and will continue to see, Israel gathered with great power. And you can be part of the power behind that gathering!”5
He also gave us a challenge at the end of our last general conference, “God’s objective should be our objective. He wants His children to choose to return to Him, prepared, qualified, endowed, sealed, and faithful to covenants made in holy temples. … May we dedicate and rededicate our lives to serving God and His children—on both sides of the veil.”9
As we do our part to serve God and His children, we have been promised we “will be blessed now and forever.”4
1. The Gathering of Scattered Israel – Russell M. Nelson
2. Restoration – Bible Dictionary
3. Let Us All Press On – Russell M. Nelson
4. Covenants – Russell M. Nelson
5. Hope of Israel – Russell M. Nelson
6. The Spirit of Elijah – Russell M. Nelson
9. Closing Remarks – Russell M. Nelson
10. Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives – Russell M. Nelson