For I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things, and make known unto you all things in due time.
D&C 132:45.Restore. The word has a solid, proper ring to it, a sense of things lost but now found, of hope fulfilled, of order.
The world uses the word "restore" in many ways. Consider a few of them that have been in the news lately:
- To mean bringing back to its former condition. Michaelangelo's great masterpiece, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, was dulled by the accumulation of centuries of smoke and pollution. Painstaking, laborious work by master craftsmen restored it to its original condition, and it astonished the art world with its vivid original colors and brightness.
- To mean coming back to health. A debilitating disease left a father in critical health, unable even to work. But a donor was found, his heart replaced, his health restored and he once more can provide all the needs of his family.
- To indicate a return to a former condition. For decades the smaller countries of Eastern Europe have yearned for democracy to be restored to their lands. This spring many are holding free elections for the first time in years, taking their destinies into their own hands.
But in the Church, the word restore, particularly when referring to the restoration of the priesthood and the gospel has much deeper meaning. Restitution, replacement, repair, rejuvenation, righting, reinstatement, resolution: all these meanings come under the umbrella of restoration. No wonder the word carries such a strong emotional appeal.
Those meanings come to mind this week as members of the Church ponder the implications of the restoration of the priesthood to the earth.
When Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery asked about the priesthood while translating the Book of Mormon, the Lord's great answer was to restore it to the earth, sending John the Baptist to confer the Aaronic Priesthood on May 15, 1829, then Peter, James and John to restore the Melchizedek Priesthood in June of the same year.
It was a momentous event, done without fanfare in a corner of the American frontier. What had been missing for more than a millennium and a half was now back among men: the authority to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, to perform ordinances that would be binding on earth and in heaven. That authority, originally given by Christ to His apostles, had been withdrawn as the world slipped away from the purity of the teachings of Christ. A darkness fell upon the earth, which became enveloped in shrouds of ignorance and superstition.
But now, fulfilling His ancient promises, the Lord had restored the priesthood. A lost treasure had been replaced. The understanding which men had of their relationship with God was restored to its former clarity, dazzling with the depth of its insights. And the foundation for the Church's governance was in place. And so the restoration had in a literal way fulfilled the meaning we attach to it.
A priceless gift was returned, refurbished and in its original condition, giving life to the Church and granting men control of their own destinies.
M oreover, with the restoration also came a new understanding of the obligation of all who receive it to render service. The priesthood embodies within itself the concept of service to others, and that service must be given freely, unselfishly and without any expectation of reward. The Lord made this clear to Joseph Smith in a revelation that all who honor their priesthood must take to heart:
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love, unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile-
Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou has reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. (D&C 121:41-45.)