Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Explaining the Apostasy and Restoration

                Most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will have the opportunity to share gospel truths with others.  We need to explain the truths of the Apostasy and the Restoration to others because they are essential principles of the restored gospel.

                Elder Dallin H. Oaks instructed new mission presidents how to share the gospel boldly but kindly:  “Our first responsibility and purpose is to testify of Jesus Christ to a world that suffers to know of His divine mission.  As my response to that great responsibility, I will speak about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the only true and living Church.  In doing so I know I speak against the powerful tide of what is called `political correctness.’
                “The fashionable opinion of this age is that all churches are true.  In truth, the idea that all churches are the same is the doctrine of the anti-Christ….

                “A revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1831, soon after the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of those who had been given `power to lay the foundation of this church.’  The Lord then referred to the Church as `the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord am well pleased’ (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30).

                “Because of this declaration of the Lord, we refer to this, His Church – our Church – as the `only true Church.’  Sometimes we do this in a way that gives great offense to people who belong to other churches or who subscribe to other philosophies.  But God has not taught us anything that should cause us to feel superior to other people.  Certainly all churches and philosophies have elements of truth in them, some more than others.  Certainly God loves all of His children.  And certainly His gospel plan is for all of His children, all according to His own timetable.

                “So what does it mean that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true Church?
                “Three features – (1) fullness of doctrine, (2) power of the priesthood, and (3) testimony of Jesus Christ – explain why God has declared and why we as His servants maintain that this is the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth.

                “Fullness of Doctrine:  When Jesus Christ was upon the earth, He taught the fullness of His doctrine, which is the plan that our Heavenly Father has outlined for the eternal progress of His children.  Later, many of these gospel truths were lost through being diluted by the principles or philosophies then prevailing in the world where Christianity was preached and through the manipulations of political leaders. We call this loss of the fullness of truth the Apostasy….

                “Because so much had been lost in the Apostasy, it was necessary that the Lord restore the fullness of His doctrine….
                “The fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ begins with the assurance that we lived as spirits before we came to this earth.  It affirms that this mortal life has a purpose.  It teaches that our highest aspiration is to become like our heavenly parents….

                “The doctrine of Jesus Christ, understood in its fullness, is the plan by which we can become what children of God are supposed to become…. This is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of His gospel.

                “Power of the Priesthood:  The second and absolutely essential characteristic of the `only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’ is priesthood authority.

                “The Bible is clear that priesthood authority is necessary and that this authority had to be conferred by the laying on of hands by those who held it.  Priesthood authority did not come from a desire to serve or from reading the scriptures.  When that priesthood authority was lost through apostasy, it had to be restored by those resurrected beings who had held it in mortality and who were sent to confer it.  That happened as part of the Restoration of the gospel, and that priesthood authority, together with the keys necessary to direct its operations, are in this Church and no other….

                The keys of the priesthood, held by … every prophet and President of the Church, entitle him to revelation in behalf of the entire Church.  This Church is `living’ because we have prophets who continue to give us the word of the Lord that is needed for our time.

                “Testimony of Jesus Christ:  The third reason why we are the only true Church is that we have the revealed truth about the nature of God and our relationship to Him, and we therefore have a unique testimony of Jesus Christ.  Significantly, our belief in the nature of God is what distinguishes us from the formal creeds of most Christian denominations.

                “… `We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.’  We have this belief in the Godhead in common with the rest of Christianity, but to us it means something different than to most.  We maintain that these three members of the Godhead are three separate and distinct beings and that God the Father is not a spirit but a glorified being with a tangible body, as is His resurrected Son, Jesus Christ.  Though separate in identity, They are one in purpose….

                “So what does our testimony of Jesus Christ cause us to affirm?  Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God, the Eternal Father.  He is the Creator of this world. Through His incomparable mortal ministry, He is our teacher.  Because of His Resurrection, all who have ever lived will be raised from the dead.  He is the Savior, whose atoning sacrifice paid for the sin of Adam and opened the door for us to be forgiven of our personal sins so that we can be cleansed to return to the presence of God, our Eternal Father.  This is the central message of the prophets of all ages….

                “Priesthood authority had to be restored by those resurrected beings who had held it in mortality.  That priesthood authority, together with the keys necessary to direct its operations, are in this Church and no other.  We are not grounded in the wisdom of the world or the philosophies of men.  Our testimony of Jesus Christ is based on the revelations of God to His prophets and to us individually.”

                Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught to bear testimony frequently because this is one of the most powerful ways to invite the Holy Ghost and to help others to feel the Spirit...  A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost.  When we bear testimony, we give a simple but direct declaration of our belief – a feeling, assurance, conviction of gospel truth.

                When we bear testimony, we add a current and personal witness to the truths taught in the scriptures.  For a testimony to have convincing power, it must be a sincere statement of belief.  President Thomas S. Monson said, “Regarding one’s testimony, remember, that which one willingly shares he keeps, while that which he selfishly keeps he loses….  Teach and testify.  There is no better combination” (Pathways to Perfection [1973], 100-101).

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