A bridge to a grand awakening

And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.

— Moroni 10:34.

After Moroni engraved these last words on the golden plates, he laid them gently in the ground. His work was finished. He had kept his promises to his father, Mormon, to finish the plates and seal them up for a future time — known only to God. But he had also seen the complete destruction of his kin and people and was now, himself, hunted by warring Lamanites.

What eventually happened to Moroni, one can only speculate. This, however, is known. That same Moroni, as a resurrected being, appeared to a boy in New York State in 1823 — some 1,400 years later. That boy, Joseph Smith, was shown a stone box in a nearby hill in which lay those same plates. The publishing of the translation of the plates into the Book of Mormon ushered in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, a restoration of all things "which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." (Acts 3:21.)

Those interim 1,400 years, nearly a millennium and a half, might be called a bridge during which the Lord prepared the world for a grand awakening from a long, cold winter. Speaking of this time period, President Gordon B. Hinckley said during the October 1999 general conference: "The centuries rolled on. A cloud of darkness settled over the earth. Isaiah described it: 'For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people.' (Isaiah 60:2.)

"It was a season of plunder and suffering, marked by long and bloody conflict. Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Romans in the year 800. It was an age of hopelessness, a time of masters and serfs."

The second millennium began much as the first, President Hinckley explained. The deadly plague during the 14th century took some 25 million lives, one-third the population of Europe. When the disease struck, death came quickly.

"But this was also a season of enlightenment. As the years continued their relentless march, the sunlight of a new day began to break over the earth. It was the Renaissance, a magnificent flowering of art, architecture and literature. Reformers worked to change the church, notably such men as Luther, Melanchthon, Hus, Zwingli and Tyndale. These were men of great courage, some of whom suffered cruel deaths because of their beliefs. Protestantism was born with its cry for reformation. When that reformation was not realized, the reformers organized churches of their own. They did so without priesthood authority. Their one desire was to find a niche in which they might worship God as they felt He should be worshiped."

During this "season of enlightenment," the desire to worship freely was accompanied by a desire to study the word of God. With the invention of the printing press and movable type — as well as increased literacy in the world — came the possibility of the common man reading the Bible. The first Bible printed from movable type was the Gutenberg Bible, produced by Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany, in the mid-1400s, according to The World Book Encyclopedia. The King James Version, used by English-speaking Latter-day Saints today, was first published in 1611.

The invention of the printing press and the various translations of the Bible enabled monks and friars to carry the Bible throughout the world, according to the Jan. 5, 1991, Church News. "This established an awareness of the covenant relationship of the Lord to His followers." During the years of Renaissance and Reformation, other wondrous happenings were on the horizon. In his October 1999 address, President Hinckley said: "While this great ferment was stirring across the Christian world, political forces were also at work. Then came the American Revolutionary War, resulting in the birth of a nation whose constitution declared that government should not reach its grasping hand into matters of religion. A new day had dawned, a glorious day. Here there was no longer a state church. No one faith was favored above another.

"After centuries of darkness and pain and struggle, the time was ripe for the restoration of the gospel. Ancient prophets and had spoken of this long-awaited day. All of the history of the past had pointed to this season. The centuries with all of their suffering and all their hope had come and gone. The Almighty Judge of the nations, the Living God, determined that the times of which the prophets had spoken had arrived."

The glorious day dawned in 1820, President Hinckley said, "when a boy, earnest and with faith, walked into a grove of trees and lifted his voice in prayer, seeking that wisdom which he felt he so much needed. There came in response a glorious manifestation. God the Eternal Father and the risen Lord Jesus Christ appeared and spoke with him. There followed the restoration of the holy priesthood, first the Aaronic, and then the Melchizedek, under the hands of those who had held it anciently.

"Another testament, speaking as a voice from the dust, came forth as a second witness to the reality and the divinity of the Son of God, the great Redeemer of the world. Keys of divine authority were restored, including those keys which were necessary to bind together families for time and eternity in a covenant which death could not destroy."

The fulness of times had dawned, and with it came other scriptures — the Book of Commandments in 1833, which in 1835 became the Doctrine and Covenants; and the Pearl of Great Price, containing the books of Moses and Abraham; the Joseph Smith Translation of Matthew; the Joseph Smith History; and the Articles of Faith. These, with the Bible and the Book of Mormon, constitute the Standard Works of the Church today.