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the earth, and authority to administer the essential and saving ordinances of the Gospel had been lost. The condition of spiritual darkness was foretold by prophets who lived prior to the meridian of time, as also by Jesus Christ while in the flesh, and by His Apostles, who were left to continue the ministry after the Lord's departure.
Furthermore, the fact of the great falling away or general apostasy is admitted, and indeed affirmed, by high ecclesiastical authority. Consider the forceful declaration of the Church of England, embodied in her official "Homily Against Peril of Idolatry," first published about the middle of the 16th century, and still in force as "appointed to be read in churches."
"So that laity and clergy, learned and unlearned, all ages, sects, and degrees of men, women, and children of whole Christendom-an horrible and most dreadful thing to think -have been at once drowned in abominable idolatry; of all other vices most detested of God, and most damnable to man; and that by the space of eight hundred years and more."
Prophets of olden times were permitted to look beyond the black night of apostasy and to behold the glorious dawn of the restoration. John, the Apostle and Revelator, having seen the events in vision, wrote of the realization as then already attained:
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." (Rev. 14:6-7.)
We affirm the literal fulfilment of this gladsome promise
through the ministration of angels in these latter days, by which the Holy Priesthood has been renewed to man. Thus, in 1823, an angelic personage ministered to Joseph Smith, and later delivered to the mortal prophet the ancient record from which the Book of Mormon has been translated. This record contains "the fulness of the everlasting Gospel" as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants of the Western Continent.
Then, on May 15, 1829, John the Baptist, who held the keys of the Lesser or Aaronic Priesthood in the earlier dispensation, appeared in his resurrected state and ordained Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to that order of Priesthood, comprising "the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins." (Doctrine & Covenants 13.)
Later, the presiding three of the ancient Twelve Apostles ordained these men to the holy apostleship, conferring upon them the Higher or Melchizedek Priesthood, which comprises all authority for the administration of the prescribed ordinances of the Gospel, and for the building up of the Church of Jesus Christ in the current dispensation, preparatory to the coming of the Christ to reign on earth.
This is the distinctive claim of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Being under Divine commission so to do, the Church proclaims these solemn truths, with full recognition of the individual rights of men to believe or disbelieve according to their choice.
DIRECT AND SURE
The Church Bold Yet Tolerant
HE establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was no experiment. no experiment. Its actual organization as a body corporate was preceded by visitations of heavenly beings, by definite revelation, by prophecies as to the unfolding plan of the Divine purpose in these latter days, and by the publication of the Book of Mormon -a volume of Scripture which, though comprising the record of ancient peoples, was new to the modern world.
These and other heavenly manifestations, including the bestowal of the Holy Priesthood with its expressly defined authority and appointment to organize and build up the Church, were made through Joseph Smith, who at the time of the first visitation was a lad in his fifteenth year.
To the earnest student of this unprecedented series of events a certain dominant characteristic is apparent-the positiveness and certitude with which the successive avowals of the youthful prophet were set forth. From his testimony of the glorious theophany by which the dispensation of the fulness of times was inaugurated, down to his last inspired utterances immediately preceding his martyrdom, his doctrinal teachings, his affirmations and prophecies were unweakened by qualification or ambiguity.
Plain and unembellished by studied rhetoric or dramatic effect, his solemn averments were free from even the shadow of the tentative or provisional. He voiced his message fearlessly and in the strength of simplicity, with no restraining afterthought of opposition, ridicule or persecution.
True to the character of a real prophet, he gave out only as he received-line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. And behold, the precepts have arrayed themselves into a scriptural unity; the lines have fallen into order as verses of a revealed epic; and the little has grown to the fulness of the everlasting Gospel.
The mission of Joseph Smith and that of the Church he was instrumental in founding have from the first been before the world in their true colors. Though the unity of unalterable purpose and unchanging plan is impressively apparent, there is nothing in the latter-day Scripture that savors of policy or obscure intent.
Granted that the claims of the Church are bold ones, even strikingly so, and that some of them when first enunciated stood in disturbing contrast with certain theological dogmas long regarded as orthodox. Nevertheless, they were presented with an assurance such as only the certainty of their Divine source could justify or sufficiently explain.
In this age of free speech and liberty of conscience it is surely allowable to put forth views and publish affirmations relating to religious belief, even though the doctrines be opposed to earlier conceptions, provided the rights of men to accept or reject be duly respected. Consider the following instances of the solemn avowals made by Joseph Smith.
He declares that in answer to prayer, in the spring of 1820, he was visited by two Personages, in the form and likeness of perfect men and amidst light and glory indescribable, who were none other than God the Eternal Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; and that the former pointing to the latter said "This is my beloved Son, hear Him."
Then on September 21, 1823, Joseph Smith was visited by the angel Moroni, who disclosed to him the depository of the ancient records from which the Book of Mormon has
been since translated. Part of the angel's message on this occasion, as recorded in the words of the latter-day prophet, was "that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people." (Pearl of Great Price, p. 89.)
Is it conceivable that an unschooled youth, of obscure parentage and humble surroundings, would venture to assert such future distinction without the assurance of unmistakable commission?
Another of Moroni's predictions is thus stated by Joseph Smith: "He informed me of great judgments which were coming upon the earth, with great desolations by famine, sword, and pestilence; and that these grievous judgments would come on the earth in this generation."
Furthermore, the angel cited Scripture from both the Old Testament and the New, relating to the gathering of Israel, vicarious work for the dead, and other characteristics of the last days, declaring that all these earlier prophecies were about to be fulfilled.
In 1832 a revelation was received by Joseph Smith definitely foretelling the civil war in this country, and specifying the defection of the State of South Carolina as the beginning. This portentous prediction followed: "The days will come that war will be poured out upon all nations," and that by bloodshed, famine, plagues, as well as by earthquakes and other destructive natural agencies, the inhabitants of the earth would be brought into mourning and humility.