In accordance with prophecy, the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored in latter days by Joseph Smith, and people once again have the opportunity to know and accept the gospel's message, said President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency.
Speaking Sunday morning, President Faust detailed the apostasy of Christ's Church and its subsequent restoration centuries later. He began by testifying of the fulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, "which adds to the religious beliefs of other denominations, both Christian and non-Christian."
The gospel's fulness was established by the Savior during His earthly ministry, President Faust said. But then there was a falling away.
"With this falling away, priesthood keys were lost, and some precious doctrines of the church organized by the Savior were changed," he explained. "Among these were baptism by immersion; receiving the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands; the nature of the Godhead that They are three distinct personages; all mankind will be resurrected through the Atonement of Christ, 'both the just and the unjust'; continuous revelation that the heavens are not closed; and temple work for the living and the dead."
That period of apostasy became known as the Dark Ages. Such a falling away was foreseen by the original apostles. In the centuries that followed, many religious men including the Reverend John Lathrop and Roger Williams recognized that there had been a gradual falling away from the church organized by Christ. But the Apostle John's vision of the restoration would be fulfilled, President Faust said.
"We now have in the restored Church apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists as spoken of by Paul to the Ephesians," President Faust declared. "These priesthood offices were established by the Savior when He organized His Church in the meridian of time. We recognize the two orders of the priesthood and the offices contained within them: the lesser priesthood is the Aaronic Priesthood named after Aaron; and the greater priesthood is the Melchizedek Priesthood named after Melchizedek, to whom Abraham paid tithes."
Both priesthoods were restored in 1829 to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.
"Thus those possessing the priesthood today claim the power to act in the name of God through the priesthood, which power commands respect both on earth and in heaven," President Faust affirmed.
The Church leader then recounted the visits of Moses, Elias and Elijah to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836.
"Thus, prophets of previous gospel dispensations presented their keys to the Prophet Joseph Smith in this, 'dispensation of the fulness of times' spoken of by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians," President Faust said.
The law of tithes and offerings was also restored, he added. "By keeping the law of tithing the windows of heaven are open for us. Great are the blessings poured down upon those who have faith to keep the law of tithing."
Temple worship has long been a significant part of worship, by which the Lord's followers show their desire to come closer to their Creator, President Faust said.
"The temple was a place of learning for the Savior when He was on the earth; it was very much part of His life. Temple blessings are available once again in our day. A unique feature of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is its teachings concerning temples and the eternal significance of all that occurs within them. Our majestic and beautiful temples now dot much of the earth. In them the most sacred work is done."
The solemn mysteries of where man came from, why he is here, and where he is going are answered more fully in the temples.
"Of transcendent significance is that within the sacred walls of the temple, husbands and wives make eternal covenants," President Faust said. "These covenants are sealed by priesthood authority. Children of that union, if they are worthy, may enjoy an eternal relationship as part of a family and as children of God."
All mankind, living and dead, should have the opportunity of hearing the gospel either in this life or in the spirit world, he added.
"This is the reason we do ordinance work in temples for our deceased ancestors. No person's choice or agency is taken away. Those for whom the work is done may accept it or not, as they choose."
President Faust said the Angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith and directed the young prophet to the place where the golden plates were deposited. Joseph translated these plates by the power of God and the Book of Mormon was published.
"This is a record of two groups of people who lived centuries ago on the American continent," President Faust said. "Little was known about them before the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. But more importantly, the Book of Mormon is another testament of Christ. It restored precious truths concerning the Fall, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and life after death."
Thus, the heavens that had been closed for centuries were opened. Many revelations to the Prophet Joseph Smith were written down in a book that came to be known as the Doctrine and Covenants. The Pearl of Great Price was also brought forth, revealing additional gospel principles, President Faust said.
"We believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of the original Church established by Jesus Christ, which was built 'upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.' It is not a break-off from any other church," he said.
Church members believe the gospel of Christ has been restored but that is not reason for anyone to feel superior in any way toward others of God's children, President Faust said. "Rather, it requires a greater obligation to invoke the essence of the gospel of Christ in our lives to love, serve, and bless others."
The Church respects the sincere religious beliefs of others, and "we . . . appreciate others extending the same courtesy and respect for the tenets we hold dear."
President Faust concluded with his personal testimony of the gospel's restoration through Joseph Smith.
"I am grateful that the restoration of the fulness of the gospel has taken place in our time," he said. "It contains the pathway to eternal life."