"The fulness of times is a period of restoration and of gathering.
"At the conclusion of the visits of Jesus, Moses, Elias, and Elijah in the Kirtland Temple, Elijah said to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery:
Therefore the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands.' (D&C 110:16.) And a few months later the Lord said to Thomas B. Marsh, president of the Quorum of the Twelve, D&C 112:30-32:"For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times. Which power you hold, in connection with all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation; For verily I say unto you, the keys of the dispensation, which ye have received have come down from the fathers, and last of all, being sent down from heaven unto you.'
"Next from Elder David W. Patten of the Council of the Twelve, writing in The Elders Journal in July 1838:
" `. . . The dispensation of the fulness of times is made up of all the dispensations that ever have been given since the world began, until this time. Unto Adam first was given a dispensation.. . . And unto Noah also was a dispensation given. . . . And from Noah to Abraham, and from Abraham to Moses, and from Moses to Elias, and from Elias to John the Baptist, and from then to Jesus Christ, and from Jesus Christ to Peter, James, and John, the Apostles - all received in their time a dispensation by revelation from God, to accomplish the great scheme of restitution, spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world began; the end of which is the dispensation of the fulness of times, in the which all things shall be fulfilled that have been spoken of since the earth was made.
" `Joseph Smith, the leader of this dispensationT must be clothed with the power of all other dispensations, or his dispensation could not be called the dispensation of the fulness of times, for this it means, that all things shall be revealed both in heaven and on earth; for the Lord said there is nothing secret that shall not be revealed, or hid that shall not come abroad and be proclaimed upon the house top, and this may with propriety be called the fullness of times. . . .'
"Elder Patten's words bring us an awareness of the high calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and also of each of his successors, right down to President Ezra Taft Benson. It is not a matter of personality, or of popularity, not a charismatic thing, it is a matter of holding the keys of the priesthood, being the Lord's anointed.
"How many dispensations have there been? We often hear that there are seven - Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Joseph Smith. However, this list is far too shallow. The seven are only a few of the dispensations mentioned in the Bible (what about Melchizedek, Elijah, John the Baptist?), and it completely ignores what we know about the gospel being among the Nephites, the Jaredites, and the Lost Tribes. There have been many, many dispensations, and the fulness of times is a combination of them all." - Robert J. Matthews, BYU Dean of Religious Education, "What is the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times"