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History of Mormonism 101: The Beginning
Where is the Beginning of Mormonism?
Most people would tell you it started with a boy by the name of Joseph Smith who had a question about religion. Most people have heard this name before; some will tell you he was a fraud, a liar and a money grubber. Others will tell you he was just a good man, but not much more. I will testify that he man called and chosen of God himself to take on a great mission: To bring back the fullness of the Gospel to the world.
Message of the Restoration
When you hear the word Restore, what comes to your mind? The word is easiest defined as to bring something that was lost back to an original state. Restore a painting, restore a house...So what does it mean when we talk about the Restoration of the Gospel? Using the definition given previous, it means just that: To bring back the Gospel of Christ to its original state.
Now I know what you're thinking: Since when was the gospel ever lost? We have God's word in his Bible! Yes, and its a miracle we even have that! However, the Bible by itself isn't complete. Over its course of time its been attacked, shredded, torn apart and picked at to a point where it can be defined in so many different ways. Have you ever wondered why there are so many different churches if they all read from the same bible? We all call ourselves Christian, but yet, we believe things so differently.
Now I'm getting off on a tangent. Lets start from the beginning, shall we? As stated earlier, to restore is to bring something back. So...if Joseph merely restored something that already was, instead of creating it anew, where did it begin?
Adam and Eve
Adam was the first Prophet on the earth. After being cast out of the Garden of Eden, God sent Angels to minister to Adam and Eve, to teach them everything they needed to know about earth-life, God, repentance, sacrifice, the coming of Christ and so forth. Adam and Eve then taught these same principles to their children. Adam was given authority to teach the words of the Gospel, expound the scriptures and administer the ordinances within. This authority is what we call Priesthood. As their children began to multiply and get older, Adam passed this priesthood on to his worthy sons, who continued that priesthood line all the way to the sons of Moses
"And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father-in-law, Jethro; And Jethro received it under the hand of Caleb; And Caleb received it under the hand of Elihu; And Elihu under the hand of Jeremy; And Jeremy under the hand of Gad; And Gad under the hand of Esaias; And Esaias received it under the hand of God. Esaias also lived in the days of Abraham, and was blessed of him—Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah; And from Noah till Enoch, through the lineage of their fathers; And from Enoch to Abel, who was slain by the conspiracy of his brother, who received the priesthood by the commandments of God, by the hand of his father Adam, who was the first man—Which priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years." -Doctorine & Covenants 84:6-17
So, What Happened after Moses and His Sons?
Well, we know as the story goes, Moses went up to the mountain to pray, and the sons of Aaron got bored and decided to turn to idol worship like the Egyptians. They took all their gold, melted it down and made a golden calf that they proceeded to hold feasts around and make merry.
Well, Moses came back and wasn't happy, and neither was God. So, as punishment for their foolish actions, the sons of Aaron were denied the full priesthood (which we call the Melchizedek Priesthood), and instead were confined to a smaller privilege of the priesthood (which we call the Aaronic Priesthood) It was with this priesthood they could participate in various actions and ceremonies in the Temple as well as the passing of the sacrament and baptizing individuals, but were denied the privilege of anything more, This lesser priesthood continued on the earth up to the time of John the Baptist (which is why Christ walked about 60 miles to be baptized of him: Because John held that authority).
Getting off that Tangent Train: Since the time of Adam, prophets have been called and ordained to lead the people in some way or another. With Noah it was the flood, Moses was Egypt and freeing the Children of Israel (among many other things) But all throughout history Prophets come and go, all teaching and testifying of Christ who was to come. Finally Christ did come in the meridian of time. He lead the perfect life. He was baptized, received the higher priesthood from God the Father, called twelve apostles to follow him and restored back the higher priesthood as he ordained them ministers, performed the atonement, died for all of us on the cross and rose again three days later. Without that sacrifice all hope would be lost. It is because of Jesus Christ that we can return to live with him again, and our Father in heaven.
His words and ministry were written down and kept in the record we now have as the Bible. Before Christ ascended to Heaven, he sent his apostles into the world to preach to those people who hadn't a chance to hear his words. Hence, the day of Pentacost which gave the apostles the gift of tongues (which does NOT include babbling), or the ability to speak and understand another language, which they could use as they parted ways to go into other countries
And Then What Happened?
Well, what seems to be the pattern with people and prophets? Sometimes they're accepted, but eventually, if not at first, they're often rejected. Such became the case with the Apostles. Some died of old age, some were killed. Peter was crucified upside down, Stephen was stoned...John still lives, but he was taken up to heaven for a time because he too was rejected
And Then There Were None
Not only were the apostles and Christ off the earth, but so was that authority to teach and preach the scriptures taken with them. While the writings of the apostles were still (mostly) around, that ability to discern the scriptures and teach the meaning of the doctrine correctly wasn't. So what did that mean? People started forming their own ideas, teaching things to their wants/desires. The formation of the bible became jumbled. Again, its a miracle we HAVE the bible today as it is! But it's incomplete. Have you ever tried reading the Old Testament?
Because of these gaps, people interpreted things so differently, but nobody had the power to expound them correctly. Pretty soon many churches started to come about, each teaching the way they felt was right. Now, Christ only taught one gospel, so...whose to say who is right? Who in the entire universe knows the answers to everything? That's right: God. Its his Gospel, his word, right? You can talk to him, you know. "Seek and ye shall find. Ask and ye shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened unto you" That's exactly what Joseph Smith did.