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Prophet of the restoration
Let me start by explaining what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint's definition of a restoration is since there are two aspects of the word by which we apply scriptoral meaning. The first being the restoring of the Gospel, and the second is the restoring of the Priesthood.
There are several examples of American idealisms which pointed to the restoration of the priesthood, and began to take shape throughout 1800's quite literally setting the stage for the coming of a Prophet such as Joseph Smith. In this period of American history there were many religious revivals going on (and I take note that when Joseph mentions in his early accounts of an unusual uprising of religious excitement in the area, that he really understates the enormity of what was going on.)
For instance; Roger Williams who founded The city of Providence became convinced that the ordinances having been lost in the apostasy could not be validly restored without a special divine commission, making the following statement upon his departure from the Baptist sect:
"There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking." (Picturesque America, p. 502.)
Later in 1838, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote another Ecclesiastical criticism in his divintiy school adderss;
"It is my duty to say to you that the need was never greater for revelation than now. The doctrine of inspiration is lost; miracles, prophecy, and the holy life exist as ancient history only. Men speak about revelation as somewhat long ago given, and done as if God were dead. It is the office of a true teacher to show that God is, and not was; that he speaketh, not spake."
And in an even earlier event, Charles Wesley, breaking ecclesiastically with his more famous brother John Wesley over the decision to ordain without any authority to do so, wrote;
"How easily are bishops made By man or woman's whim: Wesley his hands on Coke hath laid, But who laid hands on him?"
So even in the early days of America, people were begining to effectively take hold of the true meaning of religious freedom and step outside of the Christian based norm. It was in this particular age when mankind was given the right to question and criticize the authority and authenticity of the established religions of the day; having moved past the threat of inquisitions, and witch hunting. So the timing was just right for the restoration of the priesthood, and for some it was long awaited. One might think that if the restoration of the priesthood would have happened in the dark ages, it wouldn't have gotten very far.
Where prophecy is absent, apostasy reigns. We believe that the the apostasy occurred shortly after the death of the original apostles of Jesus Christ. Amos predicted a famine of hearing the words of the Lord, Paul predicted divisions among the people, and later stated that there would be a falling away before the return of Christ, along with the rise of false prophets, and false Christs "having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof." followed by wars, contentions, and all manners of wickedness abounding.
It is a constant theme throughout the old testament that as soon as the people will continue without the guidance of the Lord and his prophets, they will immediately go astray and turn their hearts to their own desires. Such was the case in the times of Moses, through to the days of the mortal ministry of Jesus, and again to these last days.
Jesus bestowed the priesthood on the apostles, giving the divine declaration; "Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven."
And with that priesthood held by those men throughout the eternities, he sent those same Apostles, Peter, James, and John, to restore the priesthood keys to mankind through the Prophet Joseph by divine inspiration and by the laying on of their hands.
The Priesthood is for any worthy man who desires to follow the teachings of Christ and partake in the eternal blessings of Heaven. It is not obtained through status or worldly accomplishment, it is not prepetuated through a theological degree, it is the power of God deligated to man, different from any other power on the face of the Earth, without it there could be a church in name only, and it has to be given to us from the hands of God himself. Above all the priesthood can not be used by principles of unrightousness, only by patience, meekness and longsuffering, and love unfeigned.
Alma 41: 13-15,
"But the meaning of restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish,-good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful.
Therefore, my son, see that ye are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things, then shall ye receive your reward; yea ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored to you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.
For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all."