“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3)
The Savior’s church had not been organized very long before apostasy began to enter in among the organized body of the church. It compelled Paul to write to the early saints, “I marvel that you are soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel.” (Galatians 1:6)
The early Christians suffered much persecution, but by the first quarter of the fourth century, Constantine the Great was converted and made Christianity a state religion. But instead of humbly following the Savior who established the church, people began to seek church offices for social honor and for wealth that accompanied them.
Pomp and ceremony became a part of the church. The ordinance of baptism was perverted. The sacrament was altered. Public worship became an exhibition of art. Men without authority exercised the prerogative of the church in leading the people.
In addition, the doctrines of the church became convoluted and subject to the interpretation of man. Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to address—among other things—the “trinity in unity” doctrine. What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known as the Nicene Creed.
The age of darkness was upon the Earth, and a period of great apostasy reigned over man.
Over the next several hundred years, many reformations and reorganizations, took place, including the Protestant movement. But while the motives of many of these movements were pure, they were all lacking in authority to act in Christ’s name. Many earnest seekers of truth became frustrated with their inability to find Christ’s true gospel—and church—on the earth.
“Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4: 3-5)
In the spring of 1820, a 14-year old boy named Joseph Smith was confused about religion. He had strong faith in Jesus Christ, but was disturbed by the competing claims of the various Christian sects. He turned to the Bible for inspiration, and while doing so, found a verse in the New Testament that changed the course of his life—and millions of others.
It said: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” (James 1:5)
Young Joseph, full of faith, went into the woods near his home in upstate New York and prayed to his Heavenly Father for guidance about which church to join. What happened next was as unexpected as it was miraculous.
According to his own word, after he began to pray:
“I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
Joseph enquired which church he should join, and was told to join none of them. He soon realized, to his complete astonishment, that he was to be called to become a special witness of Jesus Christ, and that he had a very important mission to accomplish.
Over the course of the next several years, Joseph had additional visitations from other heavenly messengers who instructed him on his mission to become the prophet of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
During those next few years, Joseph Smith accomplished the following:
Joseph Smith was martyred by a mob in Carthage, Missouri in 1844. Since then, priesthood authority has remained in the church, and an unbroken succession of prophets and apostles have led the church.
Today, the church continues to be led by Jesus Christ himself through his appointed prophets. The church is actively engaged in its three-fold mission of perfecting the saints, preaching the gospel, and redeeming the dead.
The Restoration of All Things – James E. Faust
The Message of the Restoration – L. Tom Perry
The Scriptures and the Restoration – L. Tom Perry
Are You Sleeping Through The Restoration? – Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Restored Truth – M. Russell Ballard
Apostasy and Restoration – Dallin H. Oaks