Home Page Slide Show Explanation
This portrait of Jesus Christ is entitled Christ the Teacher by Nancy Harlacher who, for many years, was an artist for Price Publishing Company and worked at the Restoration Bookstore. This painting of Christ was chosen for the first slide because of the strength shown in His face. Some paintings of Christ portray Him as weak in character, but He was anything but weak. His facial expression in this painting shows that He was steadfast and immovable in His mission. Yet, His eyes show His great compassion for His creation and sadness for their wickedness—characteristics attributed to Him in the Scriptures.
The phrase used in the slide, "I will build my church," comes from Matthew 16:19. The vast majority of Protestant Christians today do not believe that Christ built a specific Church with His doctrine, commandments, teachings, and ordinances (administered by authoritative priesthood) by which mankind, through obedience to them, might attain eternal life with God the Father through the atonement of Jesus Christ. But, we who believe in the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ understand that Christ did build His Church upon the rock of the revealed word of God as expressed in Matthew 16:14-19, with Him being the cornerstone of that Church.
We also understand that His Church went into apostasy, and even though the reformers tirelessly tried to reform the ills of that apostasy, they could not restore it to its perfect form. Several admitted themselves that for Christ's true Church to again be upon the earth, God Himself would need to restore it. We, of course, believe that He did so through His Prophet Joseph Smith Jr. The following three slides show the three key events that brought Christ's Church again to earth from eternity.
The above painting, Joseph in the Grove by Joseph Lewis, is of Joseph Smith Jr. receiving a vision of the Father and the Son, as well as receiving an answer to his prayer as to which church he should join. In Joseph's own words he describes this event, as well as those leading up to it.
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions [during the religious revival meetings in Manchester, New Your, in 1820] 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?
While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: "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." Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God I did, for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passage so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by all appeal to the Bible. At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs; that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to "ask of God," concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture. So in accordance with this determination, to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.
After I had retired into the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction, (not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world who had such a marvelous power as I had never before felt in my being,) just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun; which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two personages (whose brightness and glory defy all description) standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, (pointing to the other,) "This is my beloved Son, hear him."
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. No sooner therefore did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right, (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong,) and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; "they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they teach for doctrine the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof." He again forbade me to join with any of them: and many other things did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. (RLDS History of the Church 1:8–10; Times and Seasons 3:727–728, 748)
From this event in 1820 until Christ restored His Church upon the earth on April 6, 1830, Joseph experienced many spiritual manifestations—including angel visitations, the receiving and translating the Book of Mormon by the power of God, spiritual gifts, and the receiving of both the Aaronic and Melchisedec priesthoods through angelic ministry. For more information about these experiences in Joseph's own words, you may read Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story, which is available from the Restoration Bookstore.
This painting by Nancy Harlacher is entitled Organization of the Church. The Lord's Church was restored at Peter Whitmer Sr.'s home in Fayette, New York, on April 6, 1830. The six men who organized the Church are depicted in the above painting. In a clock-wise direction and beginning at the left, they are Joseph Smith Jr. (standing), Oliver Cowdery, Hyrum Smith, David Whitmer, Samuel Smith, and Peter Whitmer Jr. In his own words, Joseph describes this event.
Having opened the meeting by solemn prayer to our heavenly Father we proceeded (according to previous commandment) to call on our brethren to know whether they accepted us as their teachers in the things of the kingdom of God, and whether they were satisfied that we should proceed and be organized as a church according to said commandment which we had received. To these they consented by a unanimous vote. I then laid my hands upon Oliver Cowdery and ordained him an elder of the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," after which he ordained me also to the office of an elder of said church. We then took bread blessed it, and brake it with them, also wine, blessed it, and drank it with them. We then laid our hands on each individual member of the church present that they might receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and be confirmed members of the Church of Christ. The Holy Ghost was poured out upon us to a very great degree. Some prophesied, whilst we all praised the Lord and rejoiced exceedingly. (RLDS History of the Church 1:76–77; Times and Seasons 3:944, 945)
After the death of Joseph Smith Jr. in 1844, the Church went into apostasy and split into many factions under various leaders such as Brigham Young, Sidney Rigdon, William Smith, Lyman Wight, James Strang, Charles Thompson, and others. At the time of Joseph's death, Church membership was estimated to be from 150,000 to 200,000 worldwide, with about 30,000 in and around Nauvoo, Illinois. Of these, about 10,000 went west from Nauvoo with Brigham Young to Utah. Those remaining in Nauvoo, northern Illinois, and southern Wisconsin joined with several of the faction leaders, trying to find the original Church. Unfortunately, none of the factions taught the original doctrine—with no additions or subtractions.
In November 1851 Jason Briggs went to the Lord in prayer on the plains outside of Beloit, Wisconsin, because—after investigating several of these factions—he could not find the original Church in its fullness. At that time the Lord spoke to him and told him that He would bring one of Joseph's sons to lead His true Church again and that he was to join none of the groups that had formed. The Lord also told Briggs to write the revelation and to send it to the various branches that were seeking the true Church. The Holy Spirit testified to these branches that the revelation was from the Lord, and they began to meet in conference to unify on this revelation and dedicate themselves to upholding its counsel.
As soon as they took this action, the Lord returned the spiritual gifts to the branches and the conferences in order to authenticate to them that they were doing the Lord's will—and not their own. At the April 1853 Conference, the Lord directed them by the power of His Spirit to reorganize His true Church with its higher quorums, except for the First Presidency. After they had reorganized, the Lord poured out His Spirit upon the Conference, confirming to them that they had done His will. According to Jason Briggs, after he was chosen Conference President,
an appeal to heaven was agreed upon in solemn prayer on the evening of April 7. This meeting is memorable in the history of the Reorganization. It was at this meeting that [there was] an exhibition of power, light, and unity of spirit, above any ever before witnessed among us. Tongues were spoken and interpreted; hymns sung in tongues and the interpretation sung; prophecy and visions were exercised here for the first time to the writer. Many sang in tongues in perfect harmony at once, as though they constituted a well practiced choir. Angels appeared and were seen by some, and a testimony of their presence given by others affirming one of them to be the recording angel, who exhibited a partially unrolled parchment as an unfinished record upon which we were assured should be recorded the act we were called to perform in the reorganization of the church. (RLDS History of the Church 3:222)
This organization now functioned as the Church, reorganized with the higher quorums of Apostles, Seventies, High Priests, and Bishops. While the First Presidency was not chosen, a Conference President was appointed until Joseph Smith III would accept his calling to Prophet, Seer, Revelator, and President of the High Priesthood and Church. Joseph Smith III accepted his calling and was ordained to this office at the Amboy, Illinois, Conference on April 6, 1860. This action fully reorganized the Church as Christ's true Church on earth.
The above painting by Nancy Harlacher depicts this ordination, and it is aptly entitled Ordination of Joseph Smith III. Shown in the painting are the priesthood who ordained Joseph III (seated) to be the Prophet-President of the Church. From left to right they are High Priest George Morey, Apostle William W. Blair, Apostle Zenos H. Gurley Sr., High Priest William Marks, and Apostle Samuel Powers. (For more detailed information on the apostasy of 1844, the factions, and the reorganization of Christ's Church previously restored in 1830, see RLDS History of the Church 3:1–274.)
Unfortunately in 1958, the leaders of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints began to purposely teach liberal Protestant theology and direct all Church functions toward those teachings. In other words, they began to indoctrinate the membership with doctrines that the Lord told Joseph Smith Jr. in the Grove "were an abomination in his sight." Eventually, the leadership apostatized and took many members with them—morphing their part of the RLDS Church into the Community of Christ. However, the Reorganization and its authority from God still remains with those who refuse to embrace that liberalism and today worship in independent Restoration branches that embrace the fullness of the Gospel—as restored by the Lord in 1830 through Joseph Smith Jr. and as continued in the Reorganization of 1860.
As stated at the first, Jesus Christ said, "I will build my church." Because He did so in the meridian of time, and He restored it in its fullness after the great apostasy, and He reorganized it after the apostasy of 1844, we have the promise, the pattern, and the hope that He will set His Church in order again in its fullness with a prophet from the father-to-son lineage of Joseph Smith Jr., as well as the higher quorums (see DC 52:4b). He will do this in order to fulfill the promises He made with Enoch (see DC 36:11c–d; Genesis 7:67–73 [Inspired Version]), Noah (see Genesis 9:21–23 [IV]), Abraham (see Genesis 22:19–22 [IV], 16–18 [KJV]; 1 Nephi 7:17–25), and His Church through Joseph Smith Jr. (see DC 1:4, 38::4d–f) that He would establish His Kingdom Zion again upon the earth and gather to it His people and His elect (see DC 45:13–14, 28:1–2). May we ever seek to keep His commandments that when the Lord fulfills His Everlasting Covenant—bringing Zion again to the earth—we may be a part of that great and marvelous work.