Over the past century, Mormonism has evolved to be known around the world. From the missionary’s knocking on every door to being able to find famous plays being made about the religion, and over 158 operating temples today Mormons have become a household name. But how exactly did they become so famous a little over a span of 100 years? The answer lies in the complete restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith.
Through the founding of Joseph Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days saints has been able to grow faster than any other religion on the Earth. There are five parts of this restoration comprised of the Book of Mormon, Priesthood Restoration, Plural Marriage, and Heavenly visitations. These five components are what allowed Joseph to restore the Gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints today. Without any of these components, the frameworks for the Church may not have been possible.
The first piece of this master puzzle begins on a small farm in Palmyra New York. In the Spring of 1820, A young fourteen-year-old boy pondered immensely the welfare of his soul. A particular scripture left a lasting impression on him which said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraided not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). This scripture prompts Joseph to take action and “ask of God”.
Taking initiative Joseph enters the Sacred Grove one early Spring Morning. Joseph began to pray and while he did God the Father and his Son appeared to him. After appearing to Joseph God said unto him, “Joseph <my son> thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy <way> walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucified for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life (Joseph Smith Papers 1832). This visitation from god set a chain of events that would forever change millions of people’s lives.
Three years after this visitation, on the night of September 21, 1823 the young prophet was laying in his bed wide awake. Joseph was contemplating all the sins he had committed and asked for forgiveness from God. As an answer, an angel named Moroni appeared by his bed and began to describe a set of golden plates made located in a hill nearby. The angel arrived three times, each time further giving counsel to Joseph. Joseph was told he must wait a certain amount of time before retrieving the plates and even when he tried to retrieve the plates for the first time he could not due to impure intentions for the plates. After four years Joseph was finally spiritually ready to collect the plates. He retrieved the plates and brought them back home for initial translation.
However, many obstacles such as translation, money and community opposition. On one occasion a mob marched to the home of Joseph to try to reveal the plates. When Joseph would not show the mob, he was tarred and feathered. One early contributor to the plates was Martin Harris. Martin Harris contributed a large amount of money and resources to the endeavor. Assisted from Martin and Emma, Joseph was able to translate a substantial portion of the Book of Mormon of a very short period of time. During this time a slight mishap occurred where Martin Harris lost part of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon.
As a result, God gave Joseph the revelation, “For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words- “(D&C 3: 7). This was a very important scripture for joseph spiritually because he realized that he had to put all of his earthly desires aside and promptly serve the Lord with all of his might, mind, and strength. After this mishap Joseph begins his work once more with the addition of Oliver Cowdery. Olivary Cowdry was also a very valuable piece of the translation of the Book of Mormon. Much like Martin Harris, Olivary Cowdry contributed many resources towards the translation and as a team Cowdry and Joseph Smith translated a whopping 588 pages in just a span of 65 days.
During this Time Joseph and Oliver taught many sermons about the Book of Mormon to try to spread the word all around. Finally, in March of 1830 the official Book of Mormon was translated for all to read and a total of 5,000 copies were printed. The Book of Mormon took America by storm testifying to all of its truthfulness. As of today, a staggering 150,000 copies of the Book of Mormon has been sold to the general public.
During and After the success of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon many revelations began to be made known unto Joseph. While Joseph was translating the sacred book, he asked the Lord concerning baptism. To receive his answer, one morning on the 15th of May Joseph and Oliver Cowdery went down to the banks of the Susquehanna River. Due to Joseph sincerely seeking the truth John the Baptist appeared to the two stunned companions. John the Baptist began preaching to Joseph and Oliver and said, “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness” ( JS History 1:69).
These instructions first introduce the priesthood being restored upon the Earth once more. Doing as John asked, Oliver and Joseph, preformed the procedure of baptism following which they ordained one another to the Aaronic Priesthood by the laying on of hands. Soon after the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, through the visitation of Peter, James, and John the Melchizedek priesthood was also restored to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Along with this priesthood, all the keys and authority for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was restored. The Lord presented the priesthood to Joseph to further progress the work of his church. The priesthood is not just a sacred tool given to Joseph, but all worthy males are entitled to this sacred responsibility.
In a general conference talk of April 2015 President Monson says, “As bearers of the priesthood of God, we are engaged in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have answered His call; we are on His errand. Let us learn of Him. Let us follow in His footsteps. Let us live by His precepts. By so doing, we will be prepared for any service He calls us to perform” (“The Priesthood”). As mentioned here by the beloved prophet we have been called in these Latter Days to take advantage of the restored Priesthood just like Joseph did. By doing so we will help continue to further the work of the Lord.
The next aspect of the church was introduced in the early 1830’s and is a very controversial subject to this day. This concept first emerged when Joseph was studying examples in the old testament of plural marriage. joseph asked of God about this concept and in return, the Lord explained to him about a covenant they had made to enter into the practice. joseph received the revelation that plural marriage was to be practiced.
The purpose of this practice was to help spread the seed of all Latter Day Saints so that the church could grow faster and help care for the many widows amongst the church. At first, joseph was very against implementing this commandment. He put it off as much as he could until finally, an angel appeared to Joseph three times demanding that he proceed with this commandment or be destroyed. Finally, Joseph swallowed his pride and began practicing plural marriage in the 1830’s. This commandment of plural marriage was part of a much larger revelation that families can be together forever.
Through plural marriage woman who did not have a spouse for whatever reason were able to still be sealed by the power of the priesthood. This allowed links to be created both vertically and horizontally. What this means is that a parent could be sealed to a child and families could be sealed to other families. Many saints during this time had to obtain a testimony for themselves of this practice. One of Joseph’s spouses named Zina Jacobs who says, “I searched the scripture & by humble prayer to my Heavenly Father I obtained a testimony for myself” (Church History Library).
Thousands of accounts from this era have testified of the peace felt after finding out on their own that this revelation was from God. Vilate Kimball also testifies of this power by saying, “ “she never saw so happy a man as the father was when she described the vision and told him she was satisfied and knew it was from God” (Church History Library). Ultimately this was Avery hard principal for Joseph Smith to introduce to the church. However, this principle allowed millions of saints to receive their own celestial glory so that they can live forever with their loved ones in heaven. Plural marriage is no longer practiced in this modern time, and we do not try to hide our past, but embrace it as it helped put the church where it is today.
There is one crucial factor that allowed God to speak with Joseph and allowed him to establish the church. During this important era of restoration, Joseph was filled with immense amounts of heavenly visitations. Through these visits, angels and other Heavenly messengers were able to convey information through Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith received his first heavenly visitation at the very young age of 14 when he saw God the Father and the Son in the Sacred Grove.
However, one period time gave birth to enormous amounts of Doctrine and Revelation. This was during the Kirtland Temple period. During this time Joseph received more visions and heavenly visitations than ever before. One just specific example was when Joseph was in the School of Prophets. While in this room Joseph witnessed his brother, Alvin standing in the Celestial Kingdom. He also beheld many prophets standing amongst his own father and mother.
This visitation taught Joseph a very important principle. Doctrine Covenants 137 verse 10 says, “I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the Celestial Kingdom of heaven” (D&C 137:10). This is one small example of the many visitations that Joseph received. These visitations provided valuable information that often resulted in the Doctrine Covenants. While even building the Kirtland temple many such as Peter and John were Present. Many other prophets of old made themselves known to Joseph during the Kirtland period. Without important heavenly messengers, such as the one in Kirtland, the Church could not have been established.
Many people wonder how our great church has become so successful over the years. Only through the restoration of Joseph Smith has this great feat been made possible. The five integral parts that made this happen are comprised of the Book of Mormon, Priesthood Restoration, Plural Marriage, and Heavenly visitations. Through the hard work of Joseph, early Saints, and the will of the Lord we have been able to live in an era where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is thriving. The gospel has never touched so many lives.