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Cover Image: Come Let Us Rejoice by Walter Rane.
A little over two years ago I was sitting in a protestant church waiting for a conference with my twins’ kindergarten teacher. A woman introduced herself, and I learned she was the pastor’s mother. We had an enjoyable conversation during which I asked how her daughter became a pastor and learned about the many wonderful activities her church had to offer. She invited me to join their weekly women’s group that met every Friday morning. She even gave me a brochure listing a bible study group, service projects, youth activities and the Sunday worship services.
She was absolutely the kind of person I wanted to say yes to and be with. When it was my turn for the parent teacher conference, I thanked the pastor’s mother for the brochure and her invitations.
On my drive home I wasn’t thinking at all about what was said during the conference, instead I was thinking about everything that was said before the conference. I had a spiritual experience
I hope I never forget. I realized that I had been the recipient of genuine missionary work. A friendly, sincere Christian woman did a wonderful job reaching out to a complete stranger. She offered me so much good. Yet, it hit me and hit me hard that if I were to leave what I have and accept what she was offering me, I would be giving up so very much. I had an immense feeling of gratitude pour over me. In my mind I made a list of the blessings my family and I have being members of this Church. As long as that list was for me, it could accurately be summed up in two words: “the restoration.”
President Hinckley said in a 2002 General Conference talk, “We love those of other churches. We work with them in good causes. We respect them. But we must never forget our roots. Those roots lie deep in the soil of the opening of this, the final dispensation, the dispensation of the fulness of times.”
My conversation with the pastor’s mother came at a meaningful time for me. I had spent that year teaching about the restoration in Gospel Doctrine class and had studied and pondered it more deeply than in any period of my life. I gained a greater understanding for the process and the many personal sacrifices.
For example, when the prophet Joseph Smith received the revelation to move the Church from New York to Ohio, as recorded in section 37 of the Doctrine and Covenants, it happened to be in December, and his wife Emma happened to be six months pregnant with twins! What faith and sacrifice to move 250 miles! In February of 1831 the Church’s headquarters became Kirkland, Ohio where many sacred events of the restoration occurred; among them the first temple.
What also struck me deeply in studying the restoration were the many, many centuries of preparation necessary to lay the foundation. In an October 2005 General Conference talk Elder Hales outlined the long process and paid tribute to the key people and critical events beginning as early as 400 A.D. that laid the foundation for the Restoration. Just getting the Bible into the hands of the common man took centuries of courage, struggle, invention and sacrifice.
One of the key people was William Tyndale. Enlightened by the Spirit of God, he translated the New Testament and a portion of the Old Testament from Greek and Hebrew into English. His friends warned him that he would be killed for doing so and ultimately he was. But, Tyndale was undaunted. Once, while disputing with a learned man, Tyndale vowed, “If God spare my life…I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou.” How prophetic that was. A boy, who drove a plough in upstate NY in 1820, read from the New Testament, pondered James 1 verse 5 and earnestly prayed. That prayer resulted in the First Vision and ushered in the restoration.
My ancestors on my father’s side suffered through the apostasy and awaited the restoration.
My ancestors were a part of a group called the Waldensians. Predating the Protestant Reformation by several hundred years, the Waldensians preached that Christ’s early Church had fallen into apostasy. They believed in the authority of the ancient apostles. They translated the New Testament into a French dialect and believed everyone should have the scriptures. They separated themselves from the Roman Catholic Church and were declared heretics, driven from cities and many were slaughtered. For over seven centuries the Waldensians endured extreme persecution.
In the year 1560 the Pope decreed that these heretics should be entirely wiped out. Those who escaped continued to band together and hold fast to their convictions. They held religious services in a cave that could hold up to 300 people, but eventually the Pope’s soldiers found out about this cave and built fires at the two entrances suffocating those inside. Many, including my ancestors, found refuge in the Alps of Northern Italy. Amid their great suffering, their creed was the Light Shineth in the Darkness. They were blessed with revelation and dreams, even among their children, as they waited for the light to come.
In 1847 my great, great, great, great grandfather, John Combe, told his granddaughter, Mary, shortly before dying that “The old may not, but the young will see the day when the gospel shall again be preached in its purity, and in that day, Mary, remember me.” A year later their region of Italy was granted religious and political freedom.
A year after that Pres. Brigham Young directed Lorenzo Snow during the October General Conference “to establish a mission in Italy and where ever the Spirit should direct.” Elder Snow had already served several missions. He had brought his family to Utah only a year earlier. Just before crossing the Atlantic, he wrote a letter to his sister, Eliza. “Many conflicting feelings occupied my bosom. … We were hastening further and still further from the mighty magnet—HOME! but we knew that the work in which we were engaged was to carry light to those who sat in darkness, and in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and our bosoms glowed with love, and our tears were wiped away.”
In 1850 Elder Snow opened the Italian mission where he and his companions were led by the Spirit to this brave group of Christians in Northern Italy. My great, great, great grandfather, John
Daniel Malan welcomed them into his home. His oldest son John asked to be baptized that very night. The next day the rest of the family were baptized in a freezing river. More baptisms followed and some 20 families joined the Church and emigrated to Utah.
My son Michael spoke of his frequent missionary opportunities at a Catholic high school over the last four years and of receiving the Religious Achievement Award. In addition to Michael’s award, Ryan received the Christian Character Award. What a contrast!
Our Italian ancestors risked their lives for centuries just to live their religion, where Michael and Ryan are honored during a school Mass for doing the very same thing. What AMAZING opportunities we have to live and share the gospel, which our predecessors simply did not have.
It is easy to think of the Restoration as something that has already happened, but it is happening, and there is much to come. Prophecies are found in all of the standard works. BYU Studies says the restoration spoken of in the scriptures involves more than a reestablishment of Christ’s Church and the function of saving ordinances. The restoration will result in the culmination of ALL of God’s purposes on the earth. Scattered Israel will be gathered, the second coming of Christ will occur, the Millennium will begin, the kingdom of God will be established throughout the world, the islands and continents will go back together as prophesied in D&C 133:23-24 & Gen. 10:25) and the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory as promised in the 10th Article of Faith.
Joseph Fielding Smith says, “the gift and promise of the Restoration is that every gospel truth and blessing, and all priesthood authority, keys, ordinances, and covenants necessary for mankind’s eternal salvation have been, or will be, restored in this dispensation. In this manner, the blessings of dispensations past will ‘flow into the most glorious and greatest of dispensations, like clear streams flowing into a mighty river’” (DS 1:168).
Last year in Relief Society, President Smith helped me understand how all past dispensations flow into the dispensation we now live. Sometime before September 6, 1842 when Joseph Smith recorded section 128, he was visited by all the prophets who have headed dispensations. President Smith says, “It was not sufficient that John the Baptist came with the keys of the Aaronic
Priesthood, and Peter, James, and John with the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, by virtue of which the Church was organized, but there had to be an opening of the heavens and a restoration of keys held by all the prophets who have headed dispensations from the days of Adam down to the days of Peter, James, and John. These prophets came in their turn and each bestowed the authority which he held.11
As I think about the glory that was bestowed upon the prophet Joseph Smith with these experiences, I find it compelling that as he ends section 128, which is a letter to the Nauvoo saints, he says Brethren, I am, as ever, your humble servant and never deviating friend. Often times we focus on Joseph Smith’s humility through trials like when he’s a prisoner in Liberty Jail, but this is a powerful example to me of his humility through glory.
As we try to comprehend the scope of the restoration—the past and the future—where do we fit in to this glorious plan? In a 1999 General Conference talk President Hinckley asked us, “My brethren and sisters, do you realize what we have? Do you recognize our place in the great drama of human history? For some reason unknown to us, but in the wisdom of God, we have been privileged to come to earth in this glorious age…This is the greatest of all ages of human endeavor and human accomplishment. We stand on the summit of the ages, awed by a great and solemn sense of history. This is the last and final dispensation toward which all in the past has pointed.”
President Faust said in General Conference, “we believe that the fulness of the gospel of Christ has been restored, but this is no reason for anyone to feel superior in any way toward others of God’s children. Rather, it requires a greater obligation to invoke the essence of the gospel of Christ in our lives—to love, serve, and bless others. Indeed, as the First Presidency stated in 1978, we believe that “the great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.”
Being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in our day is a tremendous gift. We accept this gift by living it—by coming unto Christ and helping others come unto Christ.
I am grateful for the spiritual wake up call I had two years ago when I met the pastor’s mother. That experience helped me have a deeper appreciation for what I have been given, and helped me realize that I needed to be more like her in reaching out to others.
I have tried to be a better member missionary with the help of the temple. I keep pass along cards of the Visitor Center, which has a picture of the temple on it by the front door of my home, by my laptop in the kitchen and in my purse to remind me to share them. I try to remember to pray for missionary opportunities. I have been amazed how easy it is to initiate a conversation about the temple with complete strangers. I was in a store recently and the man helping me struck me as a spiritual person. I gave him a Visitor Center pass along card. I asked him if he has ever seen this temple, and he said his friend Mike Smith used to clean the spires of the temple. He volunteered that he was a spiritual person, but thinks man has messed up religion. I encouraged him to check out the Visitor Center.
President Hinckley had a wonderful way of inviting others to come unto Christ. He said in General Conference and during his interview with Larry King in 1998, “bring with you all that you have of good and truth which you have received from whatever source, and come and let us see if we may add to it.” The restoration is what we can add, and I pray that we will find ways to do it.