Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas & the Restoration

"He was the lowly babe who came to earth in the meridian of time and brought to us the gift of Christmas. He was the Resurrection and the Life, who brought to us the wonder of Easter. And it was He who in this most glorious of dispensations was introduced to the boy Joseph by His Father, the Almighty Elohim, the God of the universe. And this same Joseph has become the preeminent witness of His living reality in this season of earth’s history.

"Some years ago I was assigned to the Rochester New York Stake conference. On Saturday I said to the brethren who were with me, “Let us get up early in the morning, early Sunday morning, and go to the Sacred Grove before the conference.” They all agreed. Accordingly, very early on that spring Sabbath, the mission president, the stake president, the regional representative, and I went out to Palmyra and walked into the grove. No one else was there. It was peaceful and beautiful. It had rained during the night. Tiny new leaves were upon the trees.

"We spoke quietly one to another. We knelt upon the damp ground and prayed. We did not hear an audible voice. We did not see a vision. But in an indefinable way we were told in our minds, each of us, that yes, it happened here just as Joseph said it happened. It was here that God our Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, appeared to the 14-year-old boy and spoke with him. Their matchless light rested upon him, and he was instructed in what he should do.

"That sublime occasion, the First Vision, parted the curtains through which came the restoration to earth of the Church of Christ. It came out of the wilderness of darkness, out of the bleakness of ages past into the glorious dawn of a new day. The Book of Mormon followed as another witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. His holy supernal priesthood was restored under the hands of those who held it anciently. Keys and powers were bestowed upon the Prophet and his associates. The ancient Church was again upon the earth with all of the blessings, powers, doctrines, keys, and principles of previous dispensations. It is His Church. It carries His name. It is governed by His priesthood. There is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved. Joseph Smith, whose birthday we also commemorate at this season, became His great testator.

"Declared the Prophet, without equivocation, without uncertainty, but with the confirmation that came of actual experience:

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father — That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:22–24).

"And so at this glad season we lift our voices and sing, “Glory to God, glory to God, glory to God in the highest; peace on earth, goodwill toward men” (“Far, Far Away on Judea’s Plains,” Hymns, no. 212)."

So today, amidst the spirit of Christmas, we also celebrate the birth of Joseph Smith. In D&C 135:3 it says “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it”.

To read the full article, go to Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and James E. Faust, “First Presidency Christmas Devotional: ‘My Redeemer Lives’,” Ensign, Feb 2001, 70–73